Tag Archives: family

A Little Challenge between Friends

Last Friday evening, while looking through my Facebook feed, I took a call from my nephew.  He had gotten me into rideshare driving a few months ago.  In the course of our conversation it became obvious that we would both be heading out to do a little “driving” that night.  Not sure why I put quotes around that word since we would, in fact, be driving vehicles.  Anyway, there’s this thing between he and I.  It exists because we’re guys.  It exists because we’re family.  It also exists because apparently we’re competitive and didn’t realize it.

“Wanna’ make a friendly wager?” he asked.

“I’m not making any bets,” I said, “but it would be fun to see who could earn more on the night.”

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Nephew, drink with me… to RIDESHARE!

We agreed to certain parameters.  He’s an hour ahead on the East Coast, I live closer to a major airport.  These factors and many others kind of evened us out on the starting scoreboard.  We agreed to a two hour window since neither of us really wanted to be out driving on a Friday night.  We laughed about how we’d both much rather be at home with our wives but that they had ditched us with other plans.  In his case, his young bride went out with friends.  For me, my darling wife took out kids to a talent show.  There was only one more word of encouragement from my nephew.

“You kind of need to hang up the phone so we can get started…”

Right…

I hit the road.  Or perhaps the road hit me.  Man what a bizarre night.  First up:

Curry Catfish and the Quarter-mile Crawl

Alliteration is so amusing.  I promise I’ll stop now.  My first call was to an Indian restaurant for a food delivery.  Perhaps I’m showing my racist lack of tolerance and sensitivity here but perhaps it wasn’t exactly Indian.  It was some kind of South Asian.  I can’t tell you with certainty.  My employer won’t offer South Asian sensitivity training until 2018.  I walked into the restaurant to discover a white board with the specials written on it.  “Brain Masala,” it read.  I know I didn’t read that wrong.  And there’s pretty much nothing else that could be.  After waiting ten whole minutes I snatched the food order out of Hop Sing’s hands (I promise you that was his name) and hit the “begin” button.  Do you know that the lazy sonofabitch who ordered this nasty food that was going to smell up my car for the rest of the night lived across the street?  I really just kind of took my time delivering that one.  “Oh, I can only turn right out of the parking lot and then I have to go around the whole big block?…  What a shame.”  This brought me to my second ride and:

No Lines, No Waiting

The second ride was boring.  Let’s skip them.  As I dropped them off I discovered that I was not only near the entrance to the airport but that the airport queue looked small.  My plan was to drive into the airport, park in the rideshare staging area, and grab a smoke before being pinged.  I never had that chance.  The queue went from 55 cars down to 1 in the time it took me to go through the toll plaza.  I literally got a call as I was about to drive past the terminal where the passenger was waiting.  No surge but it was certainly efficient.  And she was going downtown so it wasn’t a terrible fare either.  Shows what you get for planning out a smoke break.  And since one airport was good to me, why not try:

Feeling the LOVE at the Other Airport

I totally didn’t just give away my location or anything.  Where my last passenger had me drop her was close enough that I could see the queue for the other, smaller airport on my app.  And the queue there was also dropping like the f-word at a family reunion.  What?  Must be just my family.  I pulled into that staging area.  I texted my nephew (who is an awesome guy, by the way, and I just wanted to state that here).  Sent him a picture of my earnings thus far and the fact that I was waiting at an airport with an active surge.  Unfortunately, my surge went away three cars before I was called but that’s OK.  If I hadn’t waited I wouldn’t have met the greatest passenger of all time.

Before I put my car in gear to drive to the terminal I got a text in a warm tone instructing me how to locate him.  The text described the logo on his hat and the fact that he was a big dude with a big red beard.  “This is going to be fun,” I thought.  Truthfully I can always tell before I collect them who’s going to be college-drunk and likely to vomit in my car (which has not happened yet, thank God) and who’s going to be respectable-drunk like he just came off a flight and he’s nervous about the take-off cycle because he’s watched too many air disaster shows and who are you to judge me!!?

This guy…  Dave.  Yes it’s his real name but what of it?  You don’t know him. and lot’s of men have that name.  Before I had left the airport and started out on a 25 mile ride (love those airport trips) Dave had told me about his flight, his reason for travel, and his job.  The flight from the state capitol an hour south was fine.  He taught the passenger next to him how to play blackjack.  She was connecting on to Vegas.  He was in town to visit his dad and his sister.  I believe his mom and dad are divorced.  It’s sad really.  He caught her cheating when Dave was 11.  It was an ugly mess.  Keep in mind we had not hit a traffic light yet and this is a small airport.  All the while I’m nodding my head and saying things like “Yeah, I completely understand.  Isn’t that just the way?”

His job?  This deserves its own paragraph.  Our friend is a military biologist.  I thought he was joking or I had misheard him.  I was waiting for him to tell me that he was responsible for putting Jaime Sommers together after that freak accident.  In reality, he told me enough about viruses and other biology-y stuff that I knew he was serious.  I asked what he loved about his job.  Why not?  He had already discovered I was a teacher.  They always ask what I do for my “real job” and I tell them.  He told me “It’s so cool but we’re working on a new treatment for burn victims!”  I just about fell out of my skin.  This sounded awesome.  I have known burn victims and it is among the most painful and horrifying things to undergo (being a burn victim, not simply knowing them).  Not wanting to sound too forward but hoping he could divulge some information I spoke up.

“Is it a pill, or something topical, or…”

“Nah,” said drunk Dave.

“It’s a fuc*ing laser!”

“A what now?” I retorted.  “A laser!  Isn’t that so cool?”  “Well, Dave,” I rejoined, “Isn’t it always the thing you totally don’t expect?  I mean, someone’s skin just got crisped worse than good bacon and to cure them…  let’s burn them some more with a laser.”

“DUUUDDDDD,” he said.  I was really thinking he would hurl at this point but he took a deep breath instead.

“DDEEEEEEEE, I’m gonna’ be famous for this.  I mean we still gotta’ get FDA approval which we might not get but you know what?  F the FDA, right?  What do they know?  Look at all the workout supplements out there.  They’re not FDA approved.”

“I know, Dave, I know all too well,” I said looking down at my pathetic arms.

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I removed Identifying stuff (town names, company name, etc.).  I win.

A laser?  Man, that just made my night.  I got young Dave safely to his single dad’s house in suburbia, even made sure he stumbled up the right steps before driving away.  I think he had it.  The guy who answered looked just like him but older.  Then I thought of my dad and wondered if he’d get a kick out of any of these stories.  He’d probably ask why I’m doing this in the first place.

Then I thought of the burn victims of the world who are likely to be incinerated by the Dave-zer® sometime in the near future.  Man, that’s gonna’ be fun to watch.

Oh, I beat the nephew by $4 but I really think I won in so many other ways this night.  Now is where I bury something for a particular reader.  A while back I shared my referral code with a friend.  He admits to having driven somewhere around 19 times.  If you’re reading this, buddy, take the 20th ride, for me, please?  There’s a cash bonus for me when you do.  You want me to be able to write more laser-curry-catfish-airport stories, don’t you?

Thought so.

Another Anniversary

Two days ago we celebrated the 35th anniversary of my twin sister’s passing.  I say we “celebrated” yet I did little more than treat myself to a few hundred extra calories.  But that’s part of a new bulking diet and I’ll write more on that in another post.  Those calories, by the way, came from sprouted grain wheat bread, natural peanut butter, and hard boiled eggs; not exactly a trip to the Dairy Queen.  In years past I actually celebrated the day with more festivity.  We’d go out to dinner at least.  But times are different and after shelling out quite a bit to cover travel expenses for Dad’s funeral, a low-key remembrance is fitting.

me dad smoking

Like father, like son. Harvey’s old man in the late 1950’s (age 21?) and Harvey in 2009 (aged 31) Dad switched to a pipe not long after.  I guess that’s one way to be more like him.

Today was the anniversary of my brother’s passing.  That would be my older brother Owen who was six when he died as a result of the same house fire that claimed my sister.  There’s one more in two days and I’ll cover him then.

Imagine, if you will, what that week was like for our family.  Put aside for the moment the absolute tragedy and shock of losing your home and all your worldly possessions in the middle of the night (not to mention the trauma of how it went down).  Now imagine you’re a relatively young couple with an enormous family.  My parents were in their early 40’s.  For Dad it must have been hell.  Before the fire’s even out your wife is lying critically injured from a jump out the second floor window, your children are being loaded into ambulances to be dispersed to multiple hospitals in the area, your house is gone, it’s cold, there’s snow on the ground, you’re in your boxers because that’s what you went to bed in.  And you’ve just realized that your four year-old daughter is dead.

If ever there was a case for daily mass, this moment proves to me where the man got his strength.

Two days later with your wife and many of your children still in hospitals being treated for broken bones from being tossed into the snow from the second floor porch and while you’re planning a funeral for your child, your six year-old son succumbs to the smoke inhalation.

As with my twin, I have no memories of my brother.  Years later I did use his middle name for my son (and to honor the pope).  Yet, he is the brother I always wished I’d gotten to spend more time with.  He was the next closest sibling to me in age (after my twin).  Thinking of all this three and a half decades later I’m completely in awe of my father.  When my kids get sick I freak out.  I can’t imagine losing either of them, let alone both.

Do you know what Dad did?

He planned a double funeral.

These are my first conscious memories.  Standing in the funeral home I remember the thousands of people who came, and to the church for the mass.  I remember it was Catholic Schools Week and the principal of the parish grade school halted whatever activities were scheduled.  Close to 700 children in perfect uniform in the church with us.  I remember a procession of priests that, to me, seemed to go on forever.  The Benedictine abbot from my father’s alma mater, I think, was there.  I’m sure one of my siblings will correct me if he wasn’t but I remember seeing a mitre.  Coincidentally, I think this is where my love of Catholic schools was truly formed and to this day it is my life’s work.  I remember things like the drive to the cemetery with a line of cars stretching well past where I could see.  And I remember feeling like this was huge, like my life was completely different now.  And I remember gray skies, light snow, and cold.  And from their grave I could see the Twin Towers and I was a twin and that was cool.

He never talked much about it.  It’s a wonder the stress of that week didn’t kill him outright.  The thing is that he was a man.  He was an honest to goodness, genuine man; without swagger, without false machismo – the kind of man we used to hear about and read about and see in Frank Capra films.  He wasn’t soulless, he wasn’t a robot.  He cried.  But he knew and lived his faith.  These two were safe and supremely happy.  The rest of us needed love, protection, and support.  Who had time to wallow, though that wallowing was more than deserved.  The fact that he lived another 35 years is a testament to his faith.

And I’ve realized I need to be more like him.  I need to return to mass every single day without exception.  I need to provide more for my family.  I need to show my children what true strength is.  From my dad I learned that it involves a healthy dose of having a lot of fun with your kids.

There’s a reason for that.  Dad used to say (especially in the last few years):

“Some men invest in their retirement plans.  I invested in children.”

Well, I started out talking about my brother’s anniversary and wound up talking about Dad.  Please forgive me for these posts of late.  I certainly don’t intend to be morbid or to depress anyone.  I walked into a friend’s classroom the other morning before school started and he was crying.  “Why’d you do that?” he asked, almost angrily.  Turns out he was reading my last post about my sister.  “Do you enjoy making me cry?”  Sidenote: if I told you he’s also the trainer-friend I’ve mentioned before then you can imagine it was a kind of payback for the tears I’ve shed that I’ll never be in his shape.  But I never want to make people cry.  “Some men can move heavy weights around,” I said.  “I guess I can move words?”

Truly I am celebrating the beautiful lives of the people in my family and I do rejoice for them.  I’m also realizing so much more now that he’s gone how very special a man my father is.  And I’m seeing now so acutely just how much I’ve wanted to be like him.  And for now I’ll stop writing.

The Other Half of Me

I couldn’t let this day go by without pausing to wish someone very close to me a happy anniversary.

35 years ago today, my twin sister went home to heaven.  Although I have no real memories of our short time on earth together, the bond between twins is very powerful and I know she has been with me in spirit all this time.

twins crib

One of the few pictures of me and Teresa.

Now she has a long-expected visitor with her.  I imagine the moment Dad breathed his last and his soul entered the heart of his Creator that the first thing he did was to behold the face of his little girl.  What joy that must have been for both of them!  She, along with my three brothers, have waited patiently for him in a place where there is no time nor space.  They welcomed him home as if no time had passed.  I imagine whatever the spiritual, body-less equivalent of a young, vigorous Daddy running toward his children and wrapping his arms around them is; he did it.  He had faith all these years on earth that he would be with them again.  It’s strange to me that all of these things happened around the same, dark, cold time of year.  The five of them now have anniversaries within weeks of each other.  That’s nice in a way.  We on earth can saunter through their remembrance of their lives all at once.

Thinking back on this particular day I remember the last time I saw Dad.   When I leaned in to give him a kiss and say good bye I whispered “Tell her I said hello.”

I know he did.  And I know that joyous reunion is going to go on in heaven for as long as eternity will allow.

And I am happy for them.

The Card in the Spray

One year ago almost to the day I posted a picture.  It was an image of a beautiful arrangement of red roses and baby’s breath with exquisite ribbon intertwining throughout.  It was a floral spray that sat atop my brother’s casket.  The flowers were placed there by my mom and dad.  They had just lost their oldest son at the age of 51 to pancreatic cancer.

The words on that card were almost unimportant compared to the realization that no parents should ever have to write such a card.  And yet, he was the not the first child they had buried.

Remarkable people, Mom and Dad.  Strong, faithful, resilient.

Last Friday night I stood in the same room of the same funeral parlor.  I looked upon the man in the casket and he looked so much like my brother.  Peacefully reposing was the body of my beloved father.  DNA’s a funny thing.  Last year when my brother died and Dad, already 79 years-old, I think he knew it was OK to grieve a bit.  You see, the first time they lost children, three of them, we had had a house fire in the middle of the night.  Mom’s injuries were severe enough that she could not attend wakes and funerals.  And Dad, well he was marvelous but he had to return to work, hold the family together, and help us move forward.  He couldn’t grieve then.  He was 46.  This time he could experience the terrible pain he could not give into then.

It came as a shock to no one when the slowing down of his life and the “letting go” seemed to hasten.  It was time.  He knew where he was going and he wanted to go there.  Listen, the man was a daily mass-goer.  By my estimation he received Holy Communion somewhere in the neighborhood of 27,000 times in his life.  He fought the good fight, ran the race extremely well, and left a legacy of Wisdom, who is always vindicated by her children.

Turning toward the same casket spray I had seen the year before I stooped over to read this card.  Different man, different message.

We expect that spouses will die and leave one behind.  What she wrote, though, summed up the man perfectly.  a “man with true convictions, undying faith,” and one who “provided our family with love”.

The signature?  I don’t ever remember a time when my father didn’t refer to my mother as his “child bride”.

Forgive me for posting so many times about this.  Daddy (that’s what I always called him except when I was calling him by his first name, Dick) was a man among boys.  People simply don’t live the kind of life he lived anymore.  But that didn’t stop him from insisting that his children try.  He took care of us.  He loved us.  He loved my mom – she was everything to him.  He loved playing with his grandkids who were the joy of his old age.  I had moved away about ten years ago.  My children didn’t know the joy of that special relationship and spending time with their grandfather.  The best I can do is to try feebly to be like him so they can see who he was.  But I was doing what he taught me to do.  I was trying to teach the faith and provide a loving home for my wife and children.

It’s only been a week.  Trust me, I’ll have much more to post about him.  For the moment, though, look at that card again.  I mentioned this to a close friend.  Showed him the picture.  He’s a younger guy, mid-20’s, married a few year – long enough to know the value of sacrifice but not long enough to see its fruits.  Then I asked him this question.

Wouldn’t you die to know that your wife could say that of you when you die and truly mean it?

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Mom and Dad at my wedding. Dad always made good choices.  The best was asking Mom to marry him.

Miss Me?

So I’ve been away for a while.

Sue me.

I’ve got to stop inviting that upon myself, the lawsuits.

So how’ve you been?  Everything good?  Oh me?  Where’ve I been?  Funny you should ask…

It all started back around Easter when I heard from someone that a mutual “friend” thought that my writing was not very good, that in fact I was the only one who believed it to be decent in quality.  I had also heard around the same time that another friend believed I had used my brother’s death as a way to garner sympathy.

So, 1) I don’t need sympathy from anyone for anything.  To clarify what this person was saying… I posted a picture of my brother – the last picture from the last time I would see him alive.  I mentioned how I hadn’t known him all that well.  What I was trying to say was that I hadn’t actually known him that well and this was a source of sadness.  But I was thankful that God had given us this time in the final moments of his life to spend any time with him.  To be of any service to my brother as he lay dying was a blessing to me.

And 2) who cares if you don’t like my writing?  I like it.  My kids will like it when they eventually get around to reading it.  That’s all that matters.  So there.

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So here’s the deal…  I was captured by aliens and trapped on the pages of a coloring book.

Want to catch up?  Work’s good.  Still teaching.  Nothing new on that front.  Running?  It’s still hard as hell.  But I’m sticking with it.  I forget sometimes to celebrate the accomplishments.  I ran five miles the other night.  That’s a PR for me.  I also learned that this is runner-speak for “personal record”.  Hey, I’ve never run that far before in my life.  It was slow but I did it and I’m happy.  Trainer’s been busy so I haven’t had a chance to get a tune-up on my routine – you know, see what needs tweaking and the like.  Of course trainer’s still rockin’ the fitness world.  I’m still not sure how he finds time to teach and pose for covers of men’s fitness magazines while raising a family.  Perhaps we’ll get to catch up before my body catches up to my schemes and starts hiding fat in places I’ll never find.

I also noticed that my feet have grown.  Ain’t that a bitch?  But I looked it up and it’s apparently for real.  When people start running on a regular basis their feet can actually go up a size.  This would explain why my now-size 12 feet are stretching out my size 11 dress shoes.

Finally, my amazing son just had a birthday.  He turned 8.  I don’t know where the time went.  It’s like I blinked one day and a young man was standing before me sharing his ideas for what we should get Mommy for Mother’s Day.  I love him so much (and my little girl).  We had a party for him, a small affair.  In fact, it was even smaller after the Texas-tornado-season weather forced a few people to drop out.  He didn’t mind.  We went to play lunar mini-golf.  Yep, there’s a place in the mall that does glow in the dark miniature golf.  My mother-in-law found and booked the place.  We both determined that it was the kind of place that would be occupied by a different business the next time we were at this mall, like a Christmas-all-the-time shop or something.

While playing “golf” one of my son’s friends expressed a desire to use the bathroom.  Being the only man in the group of adults, I was given the task of taking him.  Being a fly-by-night operation, this place did not have it’s own facilities.  Out into the mall we headed, me and a kid I had just met, who’s name I wasn’t quite sure I had remembered.  To top it off, he wasn’t really listening to me and my pleas that he walk a bit faster and keep up with me as we headed down a mall corridor to a public bathroom.  Gee this is sounding like a Dateline special.

I walked into the men’s room and saw my little party guest head for a stall.  Being a dad I jumped in front to check the cleanliness of the stall.  Three stalls later I allowed him some privacy.  And then it happened.  I stood outside a bathroom stall while its occupant began making the most ghastly whining noises I’ve ever heard.  “You almost done in there, buddy?” I asked.  “NO!  My stomach hurts,” came the reply.  “And what time is it?” he bellowed.  “About 7:15, kid,” I replied.  He shouted back “It’s almost my bedtime.”  Fifteen minutes later I think he must have finished.  Either that or cholera is a quicker moving malady than I thought.

We walked back to the party where our little friend proceeded to lie on the floor.  What he was doing there I know not.  My wife did happen to reveal to me that his mom had mentioned that this was his first time going to a party by himself.  “Aha!'” I thought.  “Time for me to slip into best friend mode.”  And that’s something I’ve always done well.  I think it comes from my childhood.  Growing up without my twin I always felt a little out of place in the world.  I’ve been extraordinarily blessed to have such wonderful people surround me through those times where I’ve felt more alone than others.  My sisters taught me great kindness.  Always.  My best friend Dan (I’ve mentioned him before) has been a kindred soul, a brother to me and ever since we met in college is always around with a bawdy joke or an encouraging word.  A thousand mile distance only means it’s usually by text.  And more recently trainer has been a good friend, albeit one who pushes me around (in a good way) when he has a spare minute between running mud marathons.  Why the tangent?  Because these people have given me example and reinforced what I always knew – that sometimes people just need a little bit of kindness.  So I sat down with our son’s guest and started with the questions.  “So, kiddo, got any brothers or sisters?…”  And like that, he opened up and after a few minutes, the dysentery was gone.  Our little friend was happy for a moment.  And all because some people in my life were kind to me and I could extend a little of that kindness to another.

Forgive me for my length.  I wanted to say thank you to my dear sister Maureen.  We spoke the other night and she asked why I’d stopped writing.  “[My daughter] and I both agreed it would be a shame for you to stop writing.  Trust me your words help all of us.  We laugh.  We cry.  We share.  It all helps.  I found myself needing to read your work today.”

Someone needed me.  And that’s reason enough to keep going.

Thanks, guys, for sticking with me.  Now tell your friends.

Who’s Watching You?

As a teacher, I know what it’s like to have to perform in front of an audience.  I do it several times a day, five days a week.  I have often compared my job to that of an actor on the Broadway stage.  And as a fan of theater I can tell you that when you see the same performance twice or even a third or fourth time (with the same cast) you notice different things.  Hopefully you notice the performance getting better in some way.  The pace changes based on the audience and time of day, jokes that bombed the first time out are retooled, etc.

It can be scary and it can be stressful.  Fortunately, I love my job so it isn’t really either of those things.  But when I first started teaching there were, I admit, sleepless nights here and there.  So tonight’s prompt reminds me of my career.  Here it is.

When you do something scary or stressful — bungee jumping, public speaking, etc. — do you prefer to be surrounded by friends or by strangers? Why?

I love having friends and family around me all the time so I would probably go with that option.  The moral support is always appreciated.  However, I am so comfortable doing things (like teaching) completely on my own that it doesn’t really bother me to be surrounded by strangers.  In fact, in many ways it’s preferable.  Let’s say I’m doing something at which I am absolutely no good.  Most athletic endeavors fall into this category.  Better, I think, to do them in the presence of no one in particular than to embarrass myself in front of my loved ones.

Those who witnessed me run my first 5K a month and a half ago can attest.  When I’m running I resemble an elephant hopped up on Percocet chasing a squirrel on a field of butter.

Speaking of painkillers, your truly had that tooth extracted earlier this evening.  Fun.  Not really.  But it wasn’t too bad.  The dentist did a good job of numbing me.  After a few moments I couldn’t feel the right side of my head.  Still, owing to the fact that large teeth and even longer roots run in my family, he had to bust out the big tools.  First he pulled the crown off.  That was an interesting sound.  Then he sawed, chipped, and drilled the rest of this molar from my gums.  At one point he actually used his free hand to brace my head against the chair for leverage while pulling my tooth with the other.

Suffice to say I spent most of the evening with gauze packed in my mouth feeling like I’d had a stroke.

Greco Holy Family

St. Joseph is one of these dudes.  El Greco doesn’t make it quite clear…

Before I leave you, please stop and say a prayer for my brother.  The hospice nurse informed my sister that his decline is now rapid and if we are to honor his wish to die at home we should bring him home.  My sister, normally a little more stoic when hearing medical news, cried.  Of course she did.  Whereas I never had much of a relationship with my brother — he is still my brother and I love him and want him to be at peace — this was her baby brother.  She saw him as a child, played with him, grew up with him.

I’ve already stated that his time on this earth is limited.  It may be a day or he may hold on for another week or two.  Please pray.  Here is a link to a prayer to St. Joseph, patron saint of a happy death and of the dying.

The Half-Anniversary

On Epiphany Sunday of the first year of my marriage my eyes were opened to a few things.  The first was that my wife (and thus the both of us) would be celebrating the Epiphany as a tradition and with slightly more pomp than I was used to.  In fact, in my family, we never observed the Feast of the Three Kings as anything more than a solemn feast day in the Church.  My wife and I, however, would be carrying on the tradition she grew up with of exchanging at least a small gift.  The second was that we would indeed be creating our own traditions to share as a young family.

Epiphany that year fell just shy of our six month anniversary.  My wife was just shy of six months pregnant with our son.  He’s what one could call a “honeymoon baby”.  As she headed out that Sunday afternoon on her way to an out-of-town, three day business trip she handed me a card.  The note read: “On Friday, pack your bag.  We’re taking a surprise trip.”  She kept her word and that following weekend was spent at a Bed & Breakfast in Pennsylvania’s Amish Country.  It was a lot of fun; and thus the tradition of a weekend, half-anniversary getaway began.

In subsequent years we would visit Charlottesville, VA, home of Monticello; Baltimore; even a weekend in Austin touring the capitol and eating BBQ.  We moved from New Jersey to Virginia to Texas and we never thought to exclude our children from the fun.

But something happened in the past few years and the tradition, in its infancy, fell apart.  I mentioned it to my wife before Christmas.  To my surprise she gave me a card on this year’s Epiphany that read: “Pack your bag, we’re taking the trip.”  The only problem was that we couldn’t decided where to go.  Texas is a big place with much open space between the large cities.  We’ve already seen about all there is to see here.  We’ve got to think of something…

Late last week my wife texted me something very funny.  She was testing something out on Priceline and entered a ridiculously low figure for a higher-end hotel in the DFW area.  Unexpectedly, the bid was accepted.

“Looks like we’re spending a night in Frisco!” she said.

Frisco.

Frisco is home to Dallas’ more recently affluent exurbs.  There’s not much in Frisco except a large (lovely) shopping mall, plentiful shops, shops galore, an abundance of shopping, and an Ikea.  And one would only have to shell out $57 in tolls to get there.  Oh, and Sunday’s are no-shopping days for us on principle.

This afternoon we arrived at our hotel.  Our kids thought the whole idea was lots of fun.  We didn’t really have a plan other than to take the kids to the nearby Dave and Buster’s for lunch and some games and then head back to the hotel for the evening — watch TV and play some games.  We brought some wine for when the kittens pass out.

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Any children’s board game with a tiny revolver is A-OK with me.

While puttering around the hotel suite this evening my daughter asked if we could play Clue!  You remember how they got this board game-gem for Christmas.  But did you know how frustrating it can be to play a detective-y murder-themed deductive reasoning board game with a 6 and 7 year-old?

My daughter lucked out and got an extra card.  That happens with four players.  Already she was up on the rest of us.  Still, it came as somewhat of a shock when she boldly announced in the middle of the second round: “Um, I want to make an accusation…  It was Mrs. White with the rope in the beach house.”  We warned her that if she was wrong she’d be out of the game but she was so sure of herself.  She slid the cards out of the envelope and carefully looked at the first two.  Her eyes grew wide.  Then they sank and almost appeared full of rage when she saw the third card.

“You missed one, didn’t you, sweetheart?” her mother asked.  “Sorry, honey, but you have to sit there without playing until one of us wins.”

She got downright hostile and beligerant.

Just before she threw her cards down and stamped away into the bathroom (the only other enclosed room in this place) she bellowed: “But why can’t I be right with only two things?  Like, why can’t I just say ‘I have the right weapon and room but not the person?!”

“Sugarplum,” I replied calmly, “Didn’t you watch Making a Murderer with Daddy?  We can’t just pin this on whomever we want.  We are not the Manitowoc Police.”

She gets crazy eyes when she doesn’t win…

Casting aside that drama my wife took her turn.  Failing to make an accusation, play passed to my son.  Last week we all watched a movie on the life of Philipe Petite, the French wire-walker who walked a high wire between the Twin Towers in the early 1970’s.  Son fell in love with the movie and now claims to want to be a wire-walker.  What you may not know about Petite, who is a madman and genius at the same time, is that he was also a street performer in Paris before taking to the ropes.  There’s a scene in the movie where he drew a large chalk circle on the sidewalk and pantomimed for crowds.  I don’t care much for pantomime.  There’s not even much to get about it.  You do a bunch of crap and don’t speak.

You know who found this schtick fascinating?

If you said my son, give yourself a gold star.

And do you know when he decided to be a mime?

If you said it was during this particular round of Clue!, then give yourself another star.

“Son, roll the dice,” I said.

He shrugged his shoulders.

It only took us three minutes to divine that he wanted one of us to pass the dice to him.  His sister had left them across the table when she stormed off after we told her that Miss Scarlet might actually be the murderer despite her dress being “pretty”.

He even found a way to correct me (in mime) about the correct singular form of dice.  How do you mime “smart ass”?

Play continued for another round.  At one point, son resorted to a notebook to sketch out his moves for us.  This was getting painful.  He would point to murder weapons and rooms and players so that I could move them.  Eventually I asked outright.  “Why don’t I just play your turns for you?”

In the end, he was victorious.  He identified the murderer, murder scene, and weapon.  That dastardly Col. Mustard.  I spent a good few minutes wondering how my son could find the will power to be this quiet when he normally speaks at a dull roar.

Look who won!

And all four of us returned to a tradition of fun, joy, and bizarre times at a hotel in Frisco.

Happy eight and a half years, sweetheart.  Thanks for these two nutjobs that make life so much better.