Larry’s last days

Trees at dusk.
Trees living their best life.

I’m sure you are aware of the loss we all experienced last year when we needed to have a tree removed from our property. If you are not aware of Larry the Tree and the memories he provided the entire family (The Oppressed), allow me to once again share the story of our beloved tree and the day he was taken away from us in a cruel and heartless decision made by Wife and me. Here is the story that honors his memory. Larry the Tree – Drink your juice (and Other Crimes Against Humanity) (brave-daddy.com)

The Oppressed continues to remind me of what happened to Larry and how he is in a better place, no thanks to her parents. I thought it would be nice if you got it straight from the fingers of my daughter. Here it is, the life and times of Larry in her own words.

My father thought I should write a story on his blog (I am The Oppressed). I decided I will write about the famous Larry The Tree (from the perspective of The Oppressed). Now to begin:

One day I was doing schoolwork and I heard my parents were hiring someone to kill my good friend Larry the tree. They told me he was dead but he was still standing and dead things can’t stand; not to mention they killed him on this birthday, Earth Day. They also said they’ve never heard of the tree being named “Larry”. Well, if they took the time to pay attention, they would know his name. It was brutal. I mean, watching your friend die is 100% not ideal. Not to mention the same day Larry was killed, a Barbie doll (named “Tom”) was buried after suffering injuries from a head ripping. Larry’s funeral was small. I put up a grave, put flowers down, and prayed. Only me and two of my friends were there. I wore a black dress.

This is the true story of Larry.

A potted tree.
R.I.P. Larry

Larry the tree

April 7, 1966 – April 22, 2020

Last words: “I don’t want to die.”

(The birthdate and final words are accurate according to The Oppressed)

Super Powers (Children vs The Elements)

All five of my children have super powers. Your children may have powers too and, for all I know, our children could share the same super powers.

I have only recently noticed the gifts bestowed upon the Miracles of Christ. These gifts, however, are not present at all hours of the day and night. It is only on certain days and during certain times of day.

One such power/gift is thick, viscous blood that will keep the Miracles of Christ warm in all types of weather. This is a curious gift possessed by The Boy and one or two of the Gaggle. The Boy will run around the neighborhood with friends sans jacket or any additional layer over his shirt. He doesn’t need it. It’s not cold. The thermometer is near freezing but that is an issue for mortals such as you and I. He doesn’t need it. Unfortunately, this power seems to escape him when he is sent outside to retrieve something he was supposed to put away or bring back into the house with him. At this point, he will need a jacket or a sweatshirt, usually something that is tucked away in the back of his closet upstairs in his room. Way back in his closet, under something. It has to be this particular item of clothing or he won’t be able to get warm enough to do a task that would be done faster than the time it takes to put on a jacket or sweatshirt.

Mantle of mortals

And then we have The Gaggle. One of whom goes to work in pants and a tee shirt. That’s it. Nothing to cover his arms. His reasoning for this is that he is riding to work in a warm car (I love my children) and from the car, he is going indoors where he works his shift. There is also the added burden of needing to remember a jacket when he is finished work and he may forget it. Then he will be bothered by the fact that his jacket is at work while he is at home. I try to tell him that seeing the weather outside will make him grateful for having a jacket, therefore remembering said jacket. This mnemonic device is useless to him. He’ll just forget it anyway. I will remind him of a jacket when he climbs into the car and shivers off the cold after closing the door. He tells me he’s, “Okay.” I doubt that.

Superheroes need their rest…. Sometimes. The Boy will be up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning with his keister parked on the couch watching YouTube. He will be well into a marathon of Roblox or a walkthrough of a video game he is either still trying to master or doesn’t even play. No matter. These digital offerings no doubt provide secrets that will unlock the mysteries of the universe. He will need to wake up hours after this on a normal school day. This is where the mystery of his powers comes in. The ability to get up out of bed on his own eludes him. The ability to just get out of bed eludes him. I wake him up three, four times. Still nothing. He is weak. Feeble. It’s all he can do to get out of his warm bed.

Warm bed. This reminds me of The Oppressed. Another child who can run around with no jacket. Another one who is immune to the whims of fickle Mother Nature. Rain? I don’t need a jacket. Cold? Bah! I don’t need to put a jacket on. Time to wake up? I’m cold. Let me stay in bed for five (more like 20) more minutes. If I could just warm up a little (she’s been in bed for eight or nine hours), I will be warm enough to face the day. I direct her attention to the array of warm clothes strewn about her room (We’re still learning how to use a dresser) and remind her that, if she gets dressed, she will be warm and ready for the day. Again, I’m talking out of my butt. What do I know? I know nothing about what a child needs, especially first thing in the morning. I’m making them meals but I don’t know what children need. I’m getting them ready for school but I don’t know what children need. It’s a miracle they’re alive, really.

Children need sleep. We all do. We need it to function everyday. Some need more sleep than others. If people don’t get sleep, they can’t do their job. Sleep helps you recharge your batteries and your super powers. If that’s the case, The Gaggle should be faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive. The Gaggle have been gracing us with their presence around 11 each morning. Brave children. Strong children. Poor, mistreated children. Wife and I have reminded them that school is starting again and they will need to be out of bed before some people are ready to have lunch. Sometimes they do and when they do, they look like someone starting their day in a North Korean labor camp. Why must they be up so early? What is there that could possibly be so important they need to be up in the A.M? They need sleep. They have to charge their superpowers. This is cruel.

Superpowers need to be charged. You never know when you will need them and when they could leave you like an angry god or goddess. Speed is one of these superpowers. I sometimes need to remind the Miracles of Christ to wash their hands after using the bathroom. They did. They just did it fast. I didn’t hear water running. Of course not. I don’t have super powers. They need to brush their teeth. They did. They just did it fast. I didn’t hear it because I don’t have super powers. The toothbrush is dry. It dried fast. The toothbrush has super powers. Can I see their teeth. No. They’re busy.

We’re all busy, just not as busy as our superheroes. The superheroes and their powers come in handy everyday. They need their super powers or they will be lost or worse without them. One of The Gaggle sits silently still in front of the PS4 for hours without moving. Ever hear of Medusa? She would turn you to stone. If you sit still like stone, she may think you’re already a statue and pass you by. There he sits, like a ninja, in case the evil goddess passes by and then he sees her and then… Well, I guess super powers only take you so far.

Wife and I are not privy to such powers. We are mere mortals in this landscape of titans and marvels. We get our needed rest, put on a jacket when the temperature drops. Eat a meal when we are hungry. One child with a super power of boundless energy would rather run around the house when it’s time to sit down and eat. Time to go somewhere? He’s tired. Super powers are tricky things.

Just me and… Forget it (A Marriage Story)

We’re a busy family. We always have been. Wife’s work schedule is insane. The kids have sports, doctor’s and dentist appointments, drivers ed. We travel here and there to visit family and sometimes help family with various things around the yard. There’s things around our yard that need attention. We’ll get to it. Sure.

We’re busy just like you. Everyone has their obligations and to-do lists. It’s nice to get away for a while but even then it can be tough for me and Wife. Our children can be territorial; Not with me of course. I could be missing for a month and they wouldn’t care as long as screens are charged up and the Wi-Fi is working. I’m talking about their mother. That’s right. Their mother. I have been reminded numerous times that Wife is their mother. My mother is not in the house and therefore they get to have her and not me. People don’t own people and they should be able to spend time with whoever they want. I’m still working on that message for the children.

One time we took a vacation to a resort. This was before we became foster parents. There was me, Wife, The Oppressed, and The Boy as well as some of my in-laws. One week at an all-inclusive resort. No cars. No going anywhere except the beach and the restaurant. During that entire week Wife and I had a 20-minute lunch together. That was it in the entire seven days.

A rare photo of Wife not surrounded by children.

I know you’re reading this nodding your head. You’re dealing with the same thing. Or you had the same thing once and don’t anymore. You may miss it those days and for that, I pray for your mental health.

It’s not all bad. Sometimes when when we need to go somewhere and have to take two cars, the kids want to go with Wife. This allows me some quiet time. Sometimes the cars are so packed one or two of the children have to go with me. That’s when they show Wife how they can contort themselves in the car and still be able to go with her. They are willing to do anything if it means going with their mom and not going with me. I’m looking forward to one of the children getting their license. Maybe then Wife and I could go together in one car and the children could go in another. Maybe then we could get some alone time. It would just be for an hour or so but I’ll take what I can get.

Last week we had a Zoom meeting with some friends. Wife and I were set up with drinks and snacks waiting for the host to join. Something went off inside The Boy as he sensed I was sitting too close to my wife. He sped into the room, jumped on the couch and crated a spot between me and Wife for him. He doesn’t want me to get too much time with my wife. He doesn’t want me to get any time with my wife.

A Thanksgiving Leftover Story

I hope you had a good Thanksgiving. If you don’t live in the United States, I hope you had a good week.

Thanksgiving has a lot of meaning for my family. Lately it’s meant something a little extra as one of the children in our house has a birthday that week. I love to share the story of how our child entered the world. Wife disputes some of what I’m going to share with you but the basic bones of the story, I think, we can all agree on.

We had been going to my brother’s house for Thanksgiving for years. This particular year it seemed like everyone was there. My brother and his wife had planned accordingly and bought the biggest turkey they could find. I don’t remember how big exactly but it was a big turkey. I was lucky. I got a drumstick. I love drumsticks.

We gathered around a table. It was a long table consisting of multiple tables one next to the other. There was stuffing. There was potatoes. There was gravy. Every vegetable imaginable. There was also turkey. Have I told you how big this turkey was?

We bowed our heads and said Grace. Following that, we proceeded to pile our plates high with the stuffing and turkey. the mashed potatoes and turkey. Corn. Yams. Gravy. I like gravy on my potatoes. I like to eat a turkey drumstick and I got one. When I was done making my plate, the tip of the drumstick was in some gravy, adding to how great this is, or is going to be.

I had the turkey in my hand. I could have used two but I wanted to keep all of the gravy on the turkey. It smelled wonderful. I was about to take a bite when I felt a tap on my arm.

“I think we need to leave,” My wife said.

It was time to go to the hospital. Of all the days. Of all the times of day. It was time to go to the hospital and welcome our first child. We got up to go. Everyone at the table wished us well. We drove to the hospital where wife was admitted. Two people went in that day. Three went out.

True story. Wife and the rest of the family dispute some of the minor details, but this is what happened.

Good Talk

We survived the summer. You did too, I take it. Congratulations!

I love talking to my children, especially when they get back from school or an activity. I like hearing about what they did, who they talked to. I like hearing about everything that happened in between the time they left the house and the time they returned.

My children have a way of downplaying whatever they did and wherever they went. They did nothing. No one spoke to them. They talked to nobody. They sit alone. They eat alone. They go to somewhere and just stand or sit there the entire time until it’s time for them to leave.

The Boy has a friend who has been going to school with him for a couple of years. I would pick them both up and take them home. Walking to the car, I would ask them what they did. The boy’s friend would answer, “Nothing! We did nothing!”

A new school year has descended upon us. I am excited for my kids. I am eager to know about their new rooms. Where they sit. How is the room set up with Coronapalooza? They don’t remember. School was okay. Great. We’ll be back tomorrow, Dad. Relax.

This week, I saw The Boy had a drawing in his hand. What was it? I asked what he had drawn? Was it a picture of something he did during vacation? Was it a drawing of the family?

“It’s just random coloring, Dad,” He said to me.

Good talk.

Doggie May Care

“Walkin’ the dog. I’m just a-walkin’ the dog.” – Rufus Thomas

My children are enterprising. They are constantly seeking new ways to be productive. Whether it’s a way to make money or a way to give back to the community, they are able to come up with ways to improve the world or save up for something they would like to buy.

The Oppressed is usually the one who comes up with these ideas. She thought it would be a great idea to have a lending library on our property. It has been a hit with people in our neighborhood and beyond. There is barely enough room to fit any more books sometimes. That’s when I make a few selections and make room for the next person who wants to come along and be generous. I help her help others.

The latest idea from The Oppressed was a dog-sitting service. Wife would see messages on social media from people looking for someone to take care of Spot or Fluffy for a period of time while they went away. They would come with their pooch a few days before the vacation so doggie and The Oppressed could get acclimated to each other. It seems like a good fit. Doggie returns at the set time for the actual visit and The Oppressed goes to work.

Wife and I help out at times with the dog. We have a little experience with keeping a dog. We had one a long time ago. This dog was a handful. He singlehandedly pulled up the floor on our porch. He chewed bookcases and clawed doors. I think we went through four rugs in our house because he kept peeing. I could go on and maybe I will in another installment of these fantastic adventures, but the point is that Wife and I are experienced when it comes to dealing with problem pets.

At least three dogs who have entered our house during this endeavor have left us presents at various times in various places in our house. One dog tried to mark his territory on a mesh-wire wastebasket. We’ve also had some other problems like a dog whose breath was so bad we could smell their breath from the opposite side of the room. I bought some dental chews hoping it would help things. It didn’t. The dog would want to lick us and we would have a stench on our legs or feet or whatever doggie was trying to lick. We felt bad about it but the dog smelled bad.

Small dog

I sometimes will join The Oppressed on a morning walk with the dog of the moment. It gives me a chance to get some exercise and talk to the Oppressed. Of course, nothing in going on and everything is great. The same story, by the way, with the older children. You’re obviously reading from half of the greatest parenting combo in the history of Parenting. Our kids are great. Nothing is wrong. They’re great. It’s obvious Wife and I are wonderful.

Of course, there was one time my status as wonderful, perfect parent may have come into jeopardy. In the middle of one night, one particular tenant was being restless and whimpering. Wife and I were woken up by the sounds of a pained pooch. I thought the dog maybe needed to be walked, so I got dressed and took the dog for a walk. This was a strong, good-sized dog and they posed some challenges for me as we saw a skunk up the street. I was able to hold on to the dog and save the both of us from getting sprayed. We returned home. The dog was still whimpering but not as much as before we left the house. Wife and I told The Oppressed about the midnight walk and she was most displeased when she found out I walked the dog without her. This, of course, was her job and she should have been included in this situation that had arisen in the middle of the night. I thought I was doing her a favor. I should have known better.

Big dog

Fun and Games

School is out. Children all over are rejoicing. Home-schooling parents are rejoicing with them.

Now is the time for a glorious respite from the routines of math, English, and science. Attentions have turned to swimming and riding bikes. I have been looking forward to this time. It means I can stop being a taskmaster making children fix an inverted letter or number and start doing things and having fun.

Or so I thought.

I wake up to the same routine I had when we were home-schooling. I get my coffee, check mail and comments from adoring fans and readers, do a little writing and enjoy the time I have to myself before the Miracles of Christ make their appearance. Inevitably, they do and we begin the daily routine.

One of The Gaggle is usually the first one up. This child proceeds to find a screen to satisfy their minute attention span and begin their morning. Alas, the battery is dead or dying and the child comes to me with the disturbing news. Can I plug it in? I could but the child knows where the plugs are and could plug it in on their own. This, of course would require some effort and there is a smart TV plugged in and ready to be watched. Could I plug it in for them. I could but I am in the middle of something and, as I said before, everyone knows where the plugs are.

The Gaggle walks away huffing and rolling her eyes. I had the audacity to tell this poor, innocent child to do something on their own. The humanity. Who does that?

I return to my reading and writing for a few seconds. The Gaggle returns. Where is the remote? I have no idea. I don’t watch the TV in the living room. Can I help find it? I ask if they have started looking for it. “Well, I don’t know where it is.” I tell them to try looking for it. Another eye roll. More huffing. I hear muttering complemented by blankets being thrown about the living room. No one helps. No one cares.

I get up from my work to check on the latest Amnesty International case. I ask what the problem is. “I just asked if you could help,” is the answer. I direct The Gaggle to the arm of the couch where the remote has been the whole time. After the program has been selected, they ask if I can get them breakfast. I direct them to the pantry where the cereals are. “But I’m watching something.” That’s nice. This is a state of the art remote control complete with a “Pause” button. They can pause the show to get their cereal. Another eye roll. Previously, this same child was able to move a stool and get whatever they wanted on the top shelf of a cabinet or the pantry. Now they are helpless.

That’s The Gaggle. Let’s move on to The Boy. The Boy is in elementary school and this is the time I have been waiting for. No strollers. No high chairs. Summer is here and that means hours of throwing batting practice. Maybe a game of catch. Baseball or football. I don’t care. He can pick. A break for lunch and then some more playing.

Wrong. We play catch for a couple of minutes and then he is inside. He needs a break. He has to use the bathroom. He needs a drink. Whatever it is he is doing, the call of Roblox or Minecraft has captured his attention. Baseball can wait. Outdoors can wait. He has all day. We have all summer.

The backyard is to the right but The Boy has found something a little more interesting straight ahead and to the left.

Other members of The Gaggle are playing with Kitty and hanging in their room watching YouTube. The Oppressed has my phone and is trying to explain to me why most of my music is, at best, questionable.

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