Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Next Guy

To my son Tommy,

If you want someone to clean up your mess who will do so carefully with as much consideration as you would, then you have to clean up your own mess.

To the next guy, it doesn't mean what it would to you. To the next guy it is just junk and he is pissed off that he has to clean up after you. The next guy doesn't know or care about your best intentions when he has to clean up an unfinished project. The next guy doesn't consider your dream or vision as he cleans up. The next guy doesn't know how much it cost or how much time and effort you put into it. Even if the next guy is the most compassionate and considerate and comes at the clean up with the most delicate touch and best intentions, he will still make mistakes. The only one who will care as much as you, is you.

When I clean up your mess, things get thrown out that I think are trash. Unfinished Lego projects (or even finished ones from time to time) left on the floor are broken down to fit back in a Lego box. Drawings you left around might end up in the recycling. I don't know if this sword is from a teenage mutant ninja turtle or some other pantheon of characters so it might end up in the wrong box, and "lost" forever. You see, I am the next guy.

When Mommy runs the vacuum cleaner, and the vacuum makes that tell tale rattle of a small toy piece, she doesn't think twice. If it was important, it would have been cleaned up already. When we clean out the car, and throw out that special rock that you saved, if it was important you would have moved it somewhere safe. This might seem harsh, especially when talking about a first grader, but this is a tough learned lesson that will happen throughout your life.

You got problems in your department at work? And someone has to come in and fix your department? They are going to change and move and adjust and throw out things without any consideration for you. They are there to clean up the mess and the fact that you put so much effort into this or that means nothing to them. They just know what you were doing as a whole was not working. So they throw out the good with the bad. They don't want to have to be there, and you don't want them there, but because you left a mess that needs cleaning or fixing, there they are. And they will put in senseless rules and senseless solutions to fix the mess and make more of a mess and there is no one to blame but yourself. Just ask any VA employee.

We are going through this with the move dealing with two households of "collecting" junk. We try our hardest to be considerate and compassionate, but unfinished projects, un-given presents, unused supplies, etc., all junk to me. I don't care that it was bought nine years ago to hang in this one spot, if it was important it would have been hung. I don't care that you could write on the backside of this half used old paper, it is taking up space. If it is so important, how did you live without it for the twenty years while it was boxed up downstairs? I don't care about the vision of how it could be used or how it was used in the past. I bring my own visions and my own feelings and my own memories and my own sense of value. They aren't going to be the same as other peoples. I have seen too many times all those "valuables" selling on a table for twenty five cents at an estate sale.

Will really valuable items be thrown out because I don't know their real value? Sure. I was stopped in my efforts to donate some clothes because evidently I was donating a thirty year old burberry jacket that is probably worth one thousand dollars. I didn't know, and if it was so valuable, why was it stuck in the closet downstairs in my old bedroom that I had to gut to get ready for the move in. Of course, I left my donation project unfinished at that moment, but I think someone else, the next guy, came by and completed the donation. So some lucky St Vincent De Paul beneficiary is walking around in style! Didn't fit any of us, anyhow. Got an old Apple IIe computer (and an old Texas Instruments computer and an old Atari) that I am about to throw out. Probably worth money some where to someone who collects vintage computer stuff...but I don't have time to look it up and it is taking up space. Out it goes. Then there is the priceless, which is a code word that means junk with no real value other than sentimental. Yep, some of that might go too. Will I have to go spend real money to replace something that we will find out we really did need a couple months after I throw it out? Probably! But oh well.

So if you want to keep your toys, if you want to keep your future jobs, if you want to keep your priceless mementos, clean up your own mess. Make sure everything is kept orderly and neat so the next guy sees that someone cares or at least cared at one time. Because in the end, you can't take any of this crap with you. My next guy is going to be you when you inherit all my crap. My advice to you, quickly make the garbage collector the next guy in the chain. For hopefully I will have passed on something more important to you. And those items at my estate sale?...well that is just things, material things. Take a picture of it, share a memory, and off it goes. Then look for what was really left to you and hopefully you will know that you were and still are loved.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Can I Pee Please? Jeez!

To my son Tommy,

"Come on. Homework out of your book bag! Let's get this done!" I barked soon after getting home yesterday.

"Can I pee please? Jeez!" you responded with the attitude of a teenager.

Let me tell you, it is a little too early in your life cycle for that attitude. But I could tell you were just testing the waters with that little outburst because when I shot you "the" look, you responded meekly, "Sorry Daddy, I just have to go real bad."

I chuckled internally trying to keep that stern face. "Go ahead and go, then homework, then some cleaning up, then some dinner." I love the power of "the" look though I know one day soon its power will fade.

I think I heard you mumble something about how Mommy is a bit easier when you come home from school. But she was at the hospital with your PopPop. They took him there in the morning by ambulance. And that is why you got me busting your balls yesterday. After everything was done... potty, lunch box cleaning, homework, math, reading, dinner, living room cleaning, a load of dishes, etc... you and I got some play time while we waited for Mommy to come home.

Today, we found out that PopPop has an infection called cellulitis that had spread and was really getting the better of him. He will soon be on some very serious antibiotics, like flagyl which evidently the napalm of the antibiotic world. So he is in store for a rough couple days, but I think he will end up getting better quickly.

As for the orderly manner of doing things after school, I apologize. In times of crisis I don't have time for pleasantries or time wasting. Things need to be done and I don't want them looming if plans have to be changed at the last moment. So I get a bit commanding and demanding.

Unfortunately our lives seem to be in constant crisis. It is a rare moment when at least one person in our circle of family and friends is not in mortal peril. But through the turmoil, I have learned a lesson. You still have to make time for those moments, like playing Minecraft PE with your son, or heading off to Sweet Frog, or cuddling while watching a movie or better yet while reading a book. Because life is (or can be) a series of constant crises and sometimes you just have to make those moments that make it worth living through each and every challenge.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Saturday, September 5, 2015


To my son Tommy,

"Am I a smoker now?" you asked with a whimper and tears in your eyes. I couldn't help but chuckle as I tried to reassure you that you had not smoked. You had found your Great Great Uncle Mickey Slagle's pipe (pictured above) and stuck it in your mouth.

We had to go to YouTube so you could see all the things necessary for smoking a pipe. Since you didn't have fire and tobacco, you were fine. But it still hasn't sunk in.

We had a long conversation about smoking and how you shouldn't start and how your mom and I smoked and how lots of people used to smoke. We had constant reassurance that you didn't have to check mark "smoker" on any future applications and how it is best never to start. We talked about how your mom and I quit because we wanted more years in our life to continue to get to know you. Not sure how much sunk in, but you nodded and then asked with tears coming back, "Do I smoke now?" 

Sincerely with love from your dad,