The Good Old Days

 

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks thinking and talking about “the good old days”, years gone by when everything seemed so much simpler, so much happier.  A mythic period in time that I’ve realized isn’t as static as it used to be.

My friend Chris is in the process of moving his family overseas, a military posting in Europe doubling the already large distance between us and leading to a number of phone calls that we both wish we’d been making all along. We’ve over thirty years of memories together but our “good old days” are the mid 1980s. Days of tree forts, Little League and all day bicycle rides. We listened to Def Leppard and Run DMC, watched Top Gun and played RBI baseball. I traded him my baseball cards for his comic books. We shoveled horse shit and hauled hay bales at our friend’s horse farm for Big League Chew money and loved every minute of it.

I was fortunate enough to be able to spend some time with my other friend Chris this past weekend, also living in another part of the country now but in town for a few days visiting family. It didn’t take more than a few beers before conversation turned to the early 1990’s. Nights spent driving around, looking for girls, Ozzy’s “No More Tears” album on regular rotation. We had our first loves, our first heartbreaks and our first tattoos but had yet to get our first clue about what life was really about. We bagged groceries and stocked shelves for beer and gas money but somehow still spent our weekends shoveling horse shit and hauling hay at our friend’s horse farm on weekends. We loved every minute of it.

 

no idea why I”m wearing a Michigan hat

 

My wife’s birthday was also this past week. I’m smart enough not to tell you how old she is, but we had a nice night out at a restaurant/bar that we hadn’t been to in quite a few years. Its far from our current home, closer to the house that I owned when we first met. She worked nights then, her mother watching the daughter I’d yet to meet, and often would choose to spend the night there instead of driving back to  her own home, a five minute drive as opposed to forty five. This was done purely to save on gasoline of course.

They were late nights. We’d tape Nip/Tuck and South Park on VHS tapes to watch after work or play pool in my basement until the sun came up. More often than not we’d just sit outside on a rickety picnic table, talking under the stars and playing Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban loud enough for the whole neighborhood to enjoy. We hadn’t met each other’s friends or family, co-workers had no idea that we were together. It was illusion, a shared fantasy that there was no outside world to bother us, but it was a moment in time over a decade ago that I sometimes miss and I know that she does too.

 

The Good Old Days
both a lifetime and a minute ago

 

It’s not just something that us adults feel. A few mornings ago my daughter asked if I could make her a chocolate milk and sit on the couch with her as I drank my coffee, like “we used to do.” When she’s overtired and emotional she tells me that she misses the days before school when we could play together all day long. Six years old and she already has her own version of “the good old days.”

It’s easy to understand how we fall into this trap, this romanticizing of the past. Memories can be malleable, molded into whatever we want them to be. Bits and pieces can be chosen, others tossed aside. The future is scary, unknowable. We tell ourselves to “stay in the moment” but that moment is slippery, a part of our past before we’re able to firmly grasp and appreciate it.

There’s a balance that needs to be found, one that isn’t always easy to find. An ability to look back and smile at where we’ve been, appreciate where we are, and look forward to what’s to come. In 1983 Billy Joel sang that “the good old days weren’t always good, tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.” I listen to these lyrics as I sit in my backyard, enjoying my home and loving all those that inhabit it. I’m drinking a Zima and remembering when this was my drink of choice, something that wouldn’t be smelt on my breath when I returned home, hopefully before curfew. Like most things nostalgic it’s nowhere near as good as I recalled it being.

I think about “the good old days” and am thankful that there are so many different times in my life that this term can now apply to. I hope that I’m blessed with many more.

 

cheers

 

 

Profane When Provoked

 

Hello everyone, my name is Thirsty Daddy.

Crowd : “Hello Thirsty.”

I’m here today because I have a problem, an anger problem. It’s not that I get angry often, far from it. The older I get the less things that I seem to care enough about to get angry over them. I’ve mastered the act of “picking my battles” to the point where I’m actually afraid that I’m missing battles, that I’m slowly becoming something of a pushover.

My problem isn’t that I’m violent or destructive when angry. I’ve never hit anybody that didn’t swing first, don’t have holes in the walls of my home or broken IKEA projects that never got put together. I did get mad at myself and broke a golf club three years ago but it’s no longer an amusement that my playing partners look forward to.

 

follow @angrygolfhulk on twitter

 

No, my problem is this: I swear when angry, an avalanche of F-bombs that spew forth completely uninhibited. I use it as a noun, verb, adjective, just about in any manner possible outside of subordinating conjunctions. I swear frequently, I swear creatively, and sometimes unfortunately, I swear loudly.

Most of these outbursts are directed at the television, a politician, pundit, or newscaster igniting my wrath. Referees and officials at sporting events are also often responsible, particularly during football season. Even if its not my team suffering for their presumed incompetence there may be fantasy or other monetary considerations at play.

The dog gets sworn at a lot. A year later and he’s still not a very good listener. He also likes to grab food off the counter, chase rabbits and stand on tables. Its possible that he’s a bit confused about his name. He only seems to answer to MFer.

 

a sweary father
dumb ass dog

 

My kids? Well, that’s why I’m here today, that’s the problem. I also swear at them.  I’ve done what I feel is an admirable job removing profanity from my everyday conversation but when I get angry those expletives still fly.

Part of the challenge to changing my vulgar ways remains it’s effectiveness. Since I’m not prone to shouting or losing my temper, a sternly voiced curse word and some bulging temple veins informs the object of my ire that I’m serious. Mouths shut, steps get quickened and behavior changes. Whatever outcome I had been previously unable to achieve is suddenly successful.

 

A Sweary Father
learning new words

 

I don’t want to have to be that guy, I want people to listen to me the first thirty seven times I say something. So far the youngest hasn’t started expressing her displeasure in this manner but it’s only a matter of time. I need to be better, to set a better example and to learn to control my tongue.

There may be an economic motivator coming. While attending a picnic this past weekend our shy little girl took it upon herself to chastise an adult for telling another to “shut up.” She was reminded to keep her nose out of adult conversation but not before the amused perpetrator handed her a quarter. Apparently there is a “swear jar” in their household, an idea that appealed to her entrepreneurial nature. She’s intelligent enough to wait for the storm to pass before levying her fines but thankfully not enough to make the correlation between poor behavior and future earnings.

This could get expensive.

 

 

 

A New Way To Nap

 

The early days weren’t easy of course, they aren’t for anybody, but for the past several years Alaina has been a great sleeper. It never takes more than forty five minutes of arguing to get her to lie down at night and more often than not needs to be woken in the morning to prepare for school. I find it strange that many of her toys seem to re-arrange themselves during the night, but as long as I don’t hear anything I just assume it’s another case of my memory not being as reliable as it once was.

What she is not very good at is acting like a reasonable human being when she doesn’t get the amount of sleep that she needs. It’s a common phenomena, not limited to her or even to children, but because I still remain in the unique position to have some semblance of authority over her I have taken a bold step to try and combat this emotional roller coaster. I’ve re-introduced nap time. For both of us.

The first few times went great. It’s happened less since she’s gotten an upgraded, much more comfortable bed in her room, but there are still a few nights a month when I wake up to an extra person beside me, usually breathing directly into my face. She loves our big bed almost as much as I do, loves sleeping almost as much as she does eating, and took surprisingly little convincing before joining me in a ninety minute afternoon siesta.

Today was different. A very late night and an early morning. Three hours spent swimming in the hot sun leading to nonstop whining interrupted only by the occasional yawn. Her own whining nearly as bad. A cold shower and I was ready for a rest.

She appeared to agree. We changed into our PJs, Tom and Jerry for her, Batman for me, and brushed our teeth.

That’s when the bombshell was dropped. She wanted to nap in her own bed, by herself, loaning me a few of her stuffed friends in case I got lonely.

 

Napping Alone

 

I won’t say that I was disappointed to have the bed to myself, but her words stung. Was this just another example of her increasing independence? A trick to get into mischief while I slumbered unawares? My wife makes outrageous claims about my snoring and cover stealing, surely that couldn’t be a factor?

I’m afraid I’ll never know. She says that she slept, but I have my doubts. Two hours later a tapping on my shoulder from a hungry little girl led to a quickly prepared PB&J and a rush out the door towards our next adventure.  Another summer night leading to a missed bedtime, another early awakening in store for the morning, and hopefully, another afternoon nap tomorrow.

It appears that my cuddle buddy has yet to be determined.

 

napping alone

 

 

 

 

Life Love and Dirty Dishes

100 Years of Healthcare Debate

 

 

Although neither has been remembered kindly by history, Vietnam and Watergate forever tarnishing our memories of them, both Democrat Lyndon Johnson and Republican Richard Nixon left very successful domestic legacies. Johnson’s War on Poverty helped millions, Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency, and both were instrumental in many of the civil rights gains and anti-discrimination laws of the time.

They also both understood the importance of healthcare, Johnson establishing Medicare in 1965 and Nixon expanding the program to those under 65 with long term disabilities in 1972.

They weren’t the first US Presidents to understand the need to help the uninsured. Republican Teddy Roosevelt called for a national health insurance system in 1912 but had almost all of his progressive policies blocked by an obstructionist congress. During his second term Democrat Harry Truman attempted the same, with the same result.

A smaller part of that bill signed by Johnson, mostly ignored at the time, was something called Medicaid, a program designed to provide federal funding help for state level assistance to those unable to obtain private health insurance. It goes by different names in each state, with different qualifying criteria and coverages, but the goal is the same – a means for unemployed, underemployed, disadvantaged and lower income people to have access to preventative and primary healthcare. It’s used in one form or another by one in five Americans at some point in their life and four out of ten children.  Under the Affordable Care Act, ( Obamacare ),  legislation influenced heavily by failed Republican proposals in the mid 1990s, eleven million people were added in the 32 states that chose to participate in the law’s expansion of eligibility.

Over a hundred  years of debate, entire political parties and even individual lawmakers repeatedly changing positions and unable to come to consensus on whether access to healthcare is a “right” or a “privilege”, failure to agree on what burden society as a whole should take on to ensure that access. Unable to fully decide whether or not they actually give a damn about the people they were elected to represent.

In the meantime we continue to get sicker.  The United States ranks dead last among the fifteen wealthiest nations when it comes to life expectancy, infant mortality rates and rates of chronic illness.

The good news, if you’re a stockholder that is, is that insurance companies continue to get richer. Sixty percent of Americans still receive their insurance through their employer but these costs and the amount expected to be contributed by employees towards these costs have increased every year for the past decade. Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, Humana and United Health Group, the five biggest for-profit insurers had a combined 4.5 billion dollars in net earnings for the first quarter of 2017.

Aetna, Humana and United Health are all leaving or have left the ACA exchanges now that sick people are actually going to the doctors and not being able to be denied for pesky things like pre-existing conditions. The other companies are making up for this lost money by raising premiums for Obamacare customers that don’t qualify for government subsidies by 25%, a number that was announced just prior to last year’s election.

It’s an absolute disgrace. I currently pay over $500.00 a month to insure my family of four and despite that, despite the fact that we are all blessedly healthy, outstanding healthcare bills now account for 30% of our total debt. When my daughter needed stitches in her chin the cost to me was significant enough to alter our summer plans. Seven stitches, placed not by a specialist but a physician’s assistant, at the hospital that I have worked at for almost twenty five years.

I cringe typing those words, aware of how incredibly fortunate I am to have that be our only sacrifice. It never occurred to me not to bring her in, but for a lot of families that would be a legitimate consideration. The number of yearly bankruptcies that are directly related to health care bills is impossible to verify and widely debated, but is accepted by most as being the highest precipitator.

We live in a country where millions remain uninsured, where those that have insurance are paying more and more while receiving less and less in return. Of those fifteen nations I referenced earlier, America is also dead last in doctor’s appointments made and kept. Those five insurance companies mentioned have spent 6.2 million dollars in government lobbying so far this year, pushing a new plan that seems to benefit absolutely nobody outside of their board rooms and a few mean old rich guys.

A hundred years after identifying the problem and we still can’t seem to get our act together, affordable or otherwise, and decide that taking care of sick people needs to be a national priority.

 

My Random Musings

I Don’t Want To Share

 

We all know that the single greatest influence of our children’s behaviors , at least in the early years, is ourselves. They are constantly watching our every move, listening to every word, mimicking both consciously and unconsciously. It’s a huge responsibility, the molding of a personality.

Some days we do a better job at being role models than others. For the past few weeks I have been a terrible example for one of the very first traits that we try and instill in them as future members of society. I have been a horrible sharer.

It’s not toys that I have been hoarding, not a secret stash of snacks that I have been hiding from the kids or an expensive bottle of scotch that I only drink when my wife isn’t home.

I’ve been bad at sharing my daughter.

Seemingly every day there has been a request for her presence. Texts, phone calls, e-mails from parents of her friends wanting to know what we are doing, when we can schedule play dates and sleepovers. I’ve been ignoring them all.

There have been some legitimate reasons. My wife and I both worked the holiday and will be on again this weekend. She spent some time with my parents, went to a few parties with her other grammie.  The Connecticut Tigers  have begun their minor league baseball season and have been gracious enough to schedule a lot of home games on nights that I haven’t been working. I can’t say enough times how much of a great way this is to spend a summer evening.

 

Selfish with my kid
best smile I could get

 

Mainly though, I’ve just been selfish. I’ve had a few extra days off and I’ve been enjoying them, enjoying the extra time with the kids.  Lazy days reading by the pool, music pumping. Cannonballs, water gun fights, underwater races. After getting the television stuck and spending a morning watching woman’s college volleyball Alaina has invented her own version of the game, though I’m not sure about her score keeping. Yesterday she claimed to have beaten me 120-14.

 

a bad sharer
playing “volleyball”

 

Sooner than I’m ready, these days will pass. The fall will not only bring an end to our water sports but a return to school and the dramatic decrease in our time that my job imposes, a situation not likely to change soon.

So to anybody reading this that is among the snubbed, know that it isn’t personal. I’m sure that it won’t be long before I join your ranks, desperate for somebody else to amuse her for a few hours. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t appreciate the few breaks that I’ve had, the blessed silence that is so unobtainable when she’s around.

Just don’t call me, I’ll call you.

 

 

 

 

Two Tiny Hands

Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms