Daddy’s Christmas Carol Part 4

(With apologies to Charles Dickens)

Stave Four: The Ghost of Daddy Future

I looked and saw a figure about my height, a little taller. He was dressed elegantly in a three-piece suit that looked like it came out of a steampunk store. I liked it.

I looked down at myself, I was anxious to see if I was wearing the same clothes I had on when I was with the last spirit. To my surprise, I had on nice clothes: slacks, a nice shirt and a sweater. At least now I didn’t feel out of place… Not that anyone could see me.

“Let me guess,” I said. “The ghost of Christmas future.”

The ghost nodded with a smile. “Right you are,” it said. “Are you ready?”

“I guess so,” I shrugged.

“Well then,” he said. “Have a seat.”

I took a seat in the room I found myself in. I looked around. I had never seen this room before. I noticed it was decorated nice for Christmas. There was a tree, decorations throughout the room and, from what I could see, in the next room. There were some voices coming from the kitchen. I saw someone come into the living room, a man. Something about him seemed familiar. An older man followed him into the room. I could tell it was me! I still had some hair and I had finally lost some weight.

“So, how’ve you been, Dad?” the first person asked.

I couldn’t believe it. It was The Boy. He was grown up and he had finally gotten out of the house. It really was Christmas.

“I’ve been well,” my shadow said to him. Both were talking for a minute when two kids came into the room and began to climb on The Boy. It didn’t take much for me to figure out these were his children.

“Ow!” The Boy said. “What the… Will you get off me?”

I smiled. The Boy was finally getting a taste of his own medicine. It took a couple of decades, but he was figuring out what it was like to try talking to someone and be pestered by children. As my uncle told me when kids were hanging on me when trying to talk to someone: The torch has been passed.

The Boy continued to rid himself of the monkey-child while talking to his father. I was enjoying the interference he was getting while trying to do something. “Oh my God!” The Boy said, “Will you go bother your mother, please.”

While all of this was going on, a woman came into the room. She was dressed nice for the occasion. I could tell it was The Oppressed.

“What are you doing to your father?” she asked the child. The child didn’t answer. He just laughed while he continued to throw himself at my son.

A man, the husband of The Oppressed followed his wife into the room. A girl also came into the room and approached The Oppressed. She informed her mother she wanted to watch something.

“You watched something on the way to your uncle’s,” The Oppressed informed her daughter. How about you spend some time playing with your cousins?”

I think that was one of the worst things the child could have heard, and she lost her mind. She was furious and threw herself on the couch and began to cry.

“I just want to watch something, Mom!” she protested. “Why can’t I?”

The Oppressed rolled her eyes and muttered, “Oh my God!” I was enjoying this, and I could tell my shadow was enjoying it as well. I thought back to many times when I thought I could do something, and my children wouldn’t have it.

The Boy looked at my shadow and asked, “Dad, what’s so funny?”

“Nothing,” my shadow said as it sipped on some Christmas cheer. “Absolutely nothing.”

The Oppressed left the room, followed by her daughter who was continuing to clamor for a screen. Just then, Lovie entered with a carrying case in her hand. She met everyone with the greetings of the season. After extending the warmest of wishes to everyone, she set the case down on a table and removed her coat. An impatient meowing could be heard from the case.

“Alright,” she said. “Alright, let me get my jacket off.” She took off her jacket and hung it up. She then opened the case and removed her cat and held it close to her, praising her for being such a good kitty during the ride. She looked around the room and greeted everyone individually with a smile and a, “Hello.” After greeting everyone, she took a seat and continued to hold her cat. People asked where her dog was. She told them the dog was home alone and she would be back in time to be able to feed and walk it.

While The Boy was trying to talk to Lovie about how things had been, his son kept jumping on him, not giving a minute’s peace to hear the answer to her question. I was enjoying this and asked the spirit if it had any beers with it.

“Beers?” the spirit asked. “Why would I have beers? I’m a Christmas spirit.”

I was going to mention the previous spirit, and the many generous gifts that adorned my house compliments of that spirit, but I didn’t. There was too much going on in front of me, I didn’t want to take my eyes off of the action going on at The Boy’s house.

The daughter of The Oppressed continued to protest her cruel life without a screen. In the middle of the lamentations, Slick and Slugger made their appearance. They drove together in Slick’s car. Everyone said hello to the boys, even the younger children who were pestering their parents much to my delight. The Boy was about to say something to me, but his son continued to assault him. The Boy saw me laugh.

“It’s not funny, Dad.”

“Yes, it is,” I corrected him.

“How is it funny?” he asked me. “He doesn’t do this until I need to talk to someone.”

“You don’t say,” I said, pretending to be surprised. “You mean things are quiet, and then you want to say something and then, suddenly, he needs to run his mouth over you?”

He opened his mouth like he was about to say something, but nothing came out of his mouth. He looked like he was about to think of something, but his son crashed into him again, much to the delight of me and my shadow.

“Tell you what,” The Oppressed said to her daughter. “Let’s play with the present you got for Christmas. You brought it with you so you could show everyone and play with it.”

She didn’t want to. She wanted to play with a screen that The Oppressed had brought with her.

“This is why I don’t have kids,” Lovie said with a smile. “I just have my kitty, and she loves me!”

“Your cat’s stupid,” Slugger said.

“Shut up!” Lovie said. “I’ll teach you some manners in front of our nieces and nephews.”

Slick didn’t say anything. He just sat down and talked to my spirit about his job and how life was treating him. The Boy’s son proceeded to run across the room and just missed the wall as he left.

“Crash!” The Boy yelled. “Will you take it easy indoors?”

I saw Wife enter the room with The Boy’s wife. She took a seat next to my shadow. The Boy moved over to make room for his wife to sit down. As soon as she did, their son got between the both of them and pushed his father away. The child wanted time with his mother.

“Sweet justice,” I said.

The Oppressed and her husband announced to the guests that it was time for dinner. Hostess, host and guests made their way into the dining room. There was a large table beautifully decorated and set, with food from one end to the other. There was a beef roast, mashed potatoes, three different vegetables. Bottles of wine were placed here and there on the table. Some of the men were having a beer before dinner and brought their beers to the table instead of having wine. The kids were drinking Coca-Cola. Everyone sat down to dinner. Adults helped children make their plates. The Boy helped his son make a plate. His son took one bite of the food and started to run around the house.

“Oh my God,” The Boy said. “Will you sit for five minutes and eat?”

I was enjoying this. I could tell my shadow was enjoying it too. Wife reminded him that he did the same thing when he was his son’s age.

“Stop!” my son said. “You’re going to get hurt.”

“Our time grows short,” the spirit said. “We must leave soon.”

I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to see what else my grandchildren were going to do. I wanted to see what my children were going to do. I wanted to see what else people were going to say. I wanted to see what would be served for dessert. Would there be presents? There was so much I wanted to see, but I couldn’t see. I felt a yawn coming. I closed my eyes when I had to yawn. I was tired and I felt a blanket on me before I could open my eyes.

Daddy’s Christmas Carol Part 3

(With apologies to Charles Dickens)

Stave 3: The Ghost of Daddy Present

I was back in my bed as if nothing had happened. I looked at my clock. It was 1:55. I had five precious minutes to rest before the next ghost came to visit me. Farley certainly didn’t care much if I got any rest on the night before the most wonderful time of the year. I put my head back down and thought of everything I saw and witnessed with the first ghost. These beings certainly had a lot of energy. I wondered why they were haunting me instead of my kids. The kids had more energy than me or anyone else in the house. Why should the ghosts haunt me?

As I was thinking about this, I noticed a bright light flashing from downstairs. The light made its way up the stairs, in the hall and under my door into the room. I looked at my clock just as my phone made the sound of the bell signifying 2:00. Maybe if I stay here the ghost will come upstairs and find me. That would give me a couple more minutes before I’m forced on to the next display of shadows I need to see.

A voice from downstairs boomed, “Gregory!”

Again with the “Gregory”. What is it with these people, or ghosts, or whatever it is Farley sent to me?

“Gregory!” the voice called again.

“What?!” I yelled back, remembering that no one can hear anything as long as the ghosts are around. It’s like asking my kids to do something. Say it as loud as you want, they’ll never hear you.

“Come on downstairs, and bring your robe. Polite company tonight!”

Wonderful, we’re leaving the house again. I got out of bed and put on my robe. I went to the stairs and it looked like all of the lights downstairs were on. Again, it’s like my kids are around.

The only thing was, none of the lights in the rooms downstairs were actually on. I followed the stairs to the living room. Whatever the light was that lit the whole house, it seemed to be coming from the tree. These ghosts sure liked messing with the Christmas Tree.

I looked out at the room and saw kegs and bottles of beer. everywhere. There were small kegs and large kegs. There were bottles of all sizes. I didn’t know where they came from. I didn’t care where they came from. Over the kegs and bottles were chilled glasses resting on shelves. I adjusted the belt of my robe and marveled at the sight before me. It was like Christmas. Wait… I reminded myself it actually was Christmas!

I briefly took my eyes off the hoppy glory and goodness to notice who the voice was coming from. He was sitting in a chair, dressed in jeans and a hoodie. He had his feet up. No shoes, just socks. I wondered where this polite company was coming from if he was just in jeans and a hoodie with no shoes. He was sipping from a glass. Judging by the looks of the glass and what was in it, he was drinking a dark beer, maybe a stout.

“Have a beer,” he said. “And hurry up. We need to go soon.”

I walked up to a shelf and grabbed a glass. I poured myself an ale. “Where are we going?” I asked as I poured.

“You’ll find out,” he said to me. These ghosts just love to keep me in suspense. Oh well. At least there’s a glass of something nice to keep me busy while I’m finding out.

We drained our glasses and he got up from his chair. “Let’s go,” he said. I put my glass down and went with him to the door. He opened the door and said, “After you.” I walked through the door and, instead of stepping outside, I immediately found myself at my in-law’s house where my family goes every year for Christmas.

I looked around. Everything was the way it is when we visit. The table was set. I could smell dinner cooking in the kitchen. I looked over at the ghost. It was dressed up for dinner. New pants, nice shirt, nice shoes. I looked down at what I was wearing. I was still wearing the same robe I put on when I got out of bed.

“Hey!” I said to the ghost. “Where are my nice duds?”

The ghost just shrugged. What was this about? Ghosts can wake me up. They can decorate my house as they see fit. They can transport me to different houses without me leaving my own house. Is it too much to ask for me to wear something nice even if people can’t see me? I mean, it’s important enough the ghost gets to change its clothes.

Spirit and I found our way to the living room where the family was seated. We were talking away about the year we had and what the kids got from Santa Claus Christmas. I could see everyone seated in the room, including me. I was on the couch with Wife.

Suddenly, The Boy came into the living room. He jumped on the couch, landing, between me and Wife. I tried to move The Boy so I could be next to my wife, but he wasn’t having any of that.

The ghost looked at me and asked, “Does this always happen?”

“Just wait,” I said. “We just got here.”

I saw myself trying to say something to Wife. I was glad that at least my shadow had nice clothes. Every time I was talking to Wife, The Boy just had to say something. My mother-in-law announced dinner was ready and we all went to the dining room for dinner. We made our way to the room and found our seats at the table. I tried to take a seat next to Wife, but The Boy pushed me away and informed me that was his seat. I went to the other side of her, but I found Lovie already seated there. She looked at me with a smile. I needed to remind myself that it was Christmas.

The ghost shook his head. “Wow,” he said. “Do you ever get to see your wife?”

I told him that if I was lucky, we’ll get a night or two without children infiltrating our bedroom.

We all sat down to dinner. My mother-in-law is a great cook. We passed this, took that, and took, poured, and scooped food and gravy on our plate. The Boy insisted on a lot of this and a lot of that. The ghost noticed what The Boy was taking himself and what he wanted other people to put on his plate for him.

“Is he going to eat all of that?” The ghost asked me.

“Dear God, no,” I said to it.

We made our plates and began eating. The Boy got bored not long after we sat down to eat and started to walk around the room, and then the house. The ghost looked at me. I just shrugged.

I tried to say something to my wife, but every time I tried just happened to be the same time one of my children needed to say something. Even The Boy went back to the table to “say something” to my wife if he thought I looked like I was about to say something.

Dinner finished. Everyone helped to clear the table and bring things to the kitchen. After things were cleared, we retired back to the living room where we rested on chairs and couches with full hearts and stomachs. I thought this was my chance to sit with my wife, but The Boy and Lovie already settled in on either side of her. I found another place to sit that wasn’t as close to Wife as I would have liked. I asked The Boy for a hug. He said, “No.” I asked Lovie for a hug. She just looked away from me and snuggled in closer with my wife. Slick and Slugger were on their phones. The Oppressed was playing with one of her new toys.

I looked at the ghost to make my point, but it was gone. I looked around. No ghost. No house, even. I looked and saw a house I had never seen before. It was decorated for Christmas, alright. There was food cooking. I could smell it.

“Hi there,” a voice behind me said. “Merry Christmas!”

Next: The Ghost of Daddy Future

Daddy’s Christmas Carol Part 2

(With apologies to Dickens)

Stave 2: The Ghost of Daddy’s Past

I woke up in the middle of the night. I looked at my clock. It was 12:59. It was dark and quiet. Wife was sleeping. I couldn’t tell if any supernatural beings were in the house. That was fine with me. Maybe the whole thing with Farley was just a dream. Maybe nobody or nothing was going to come visit me after all. I didn’t hear anyone coming up the stairs. I didn’t hear doors opening or closing. It was a nice, quiet night with Wife and no children.

Then, despite my eyes being closed, I could tell the lamp on my nightstand was turned on, although it wasn’t as bright as it normally was. I opened an eye and looked in the direction of the bright and gleaming interruption to my slumber.

I rolled over and saw a being no taller than The Oppressed. It was dressed in a heavy winter coat. Its cheeks were ruddy, as if it had recently been outside for a walk. Gloves were tucked into a pocket. It just stood there, looking at me like it was one of my children.

This one had woken me up so, like an idiot, I was waiting for it to at least introduce itself or maybe tell me why it had decided to come and disturb me in the middle of the night. Finally, realizing it wasn’t going to volunteer anything to me, I asked, “Who are you?”

“I am the ghost of Christmas Past.”

“Long past?”

“No,” the ghost said. “Your past.”

“Well,” I said, “Things happened and I can’t do much about that now. After all, it’s in the past. I wish I didn’t take the ‘Over’ last week, but I did. That’s in the past now,” I said again as I laid down and pulled the blankets over me.

“Besides,” I continued, “I think Farley gave you the wrong house. I mean, I’m not saying I never met the man. I did, but I don’t think he meant to send you to me.”

I noticed the covers being removed I looked up and saw the spirit standing by an open window. I was trying to figure out if it opened the window from my bed or removed my blankets from the window. Either way, how was it able to do two things at once. I should introduce it to my children. Anyways, at this point I realized I wasn’t going to convince the prying poltergeist to leave me alone, and I was awake anyway. I got out of bed and put my robe on. I wanted a jacket but the ghost said I didn’t need one. I loved how the beings with the coats and jackets were telling me I didn’t need to wear anything to keep me warm. I was also trying to figure out why the lamp was dimmer than usual. The spirit could tell I was puzzled by the dim light by my bed.

“I turned it on but dimmed it for you,” it explained. “I know you’re always talking to the children about leaving rooms without turning off the lights and how high the electric bill is, so I dimmed the lights so you wouldn’t complain about the electricity.”

The ghost was right, but how did it know I was saying this. Who else was spying on me in my home?

“By the way,” the spirit said, “You kind of sound like your father.”

“Shut it,” I said.

The ghost floated out of the window. I was jealous. If I had to endure supernaturals and lose sleep, I should at least be able to do something different, like float or fly. I walked to the window like a mortal and looked down at the ground from the second floor. I looked at the spirit, who waved me over. I rolled my eyes, hoping gravity wouldn’t kick in. I stuck one leg out of the window and looked at Wife before bringing up the other leg.

If I had to endure supernaturals and lose sleep, I should at least be able to to something different, like float or fly.

I brought up my other leg and turned to face the window which had disappeared. I wasn’t sitting on the window sill in my bedroom in my house. I was standing in the living room of the apartment Wife and I had lived in. I looked around. Everything was decorated for Christmas. I looked at me sitting next to my wife – girlfriend.

“What’s this?” I asked?

“It’s Christmas Eve,” the ghost said to me.

It was late at night. I saw the shadows of me and Wife exchanging presents. It was late and we had decided to open our presents that night because it was going to be a busy Christmas Day for us. We’d be running around from our apartment to my family’s house to her family’s house; possibly visiting some other houses en route. Some things never changed for us.

I saw my shadow go to the kitchen and come back with two bottles. My shadow gave one to his girlfriend. They clinked their bottles wished each other a Merry Christmas.

Lights in the apartment turned off by themselves. Soon, only the tree was lit. I looked around as I noticed the lights turning off and I saw it was daylight. I looked back and saw the shadows emerge from the bedroom and make coffee. I saw my shadow enjoy a happy, pre-children tradition where I put a little something delicious in my coffee. Wherever we were going first that day, my girlfriend drove. I took advantage of this with said tradition.

“Not bad,” I said. “It’s nice and quiet.”

“Just the two of you… For now,” The spirit said.

“Yeah,” I replied. “The kids are coming soon enough.”

“That’s not what I mean,” the spirit said. I was confused. I turned to ask what the spirit meant, but before I could ask, I noticed the surroundings had changed again. This time, we were at my in-laws’ house. We were seated at the dinner table and about to eat. It was quiet; just adults sitting at the table eating their meals and having quiet conversations. No kids running around the table. No yelling. I was sitting next to my wife. I was talking to my wife. It was incredible. I didn’t remember the last time We were able to do that.

“This is nice,” I said.

“One more Christmas,” the spirit said, “and then we must part.”

“Wait,” I said. But before I could finish, the room changed. We were still in my in-laws’ house, but there was something different. We had a baby with us. This was when I realized it was the first Christmas Wife and I had with The Oppressed.

“Our first Christmas as a family of three,” I said.

“Your first Christmas Eve as a family of three,” the ghost reminded me.

“Christmas E -,” I started to say, and then I remembered something. “Wait a minute. What time is it?” I asked the ghost.

The ghost looked around the room. “I don’t see any clocks.”

“You don’t have a watch?” I asked.

The ghost shrugged. “I’m a ghost,” they said to me. I don’t really need to be anywhere. Besides, if I do need to be somewhere or with somebody, I’m summoned.”

“Well, summon a clock,” I said. “I need to know what time it is.” I looked at me and Wife. “Hey!” I screamed. “Check the time and start packing up!”

The spirit touched my arm and said, “Don’t bother. These are but shadows.”

I rolled my eyes. That wasn’t helping at all. I started knocking on the wall, hoping to get the attention of me and Wife. Wife’s mother thought she heard something. She went to the door and came back after a moment.

“I think there’s a fire on our street,” she said.

A fire? Wife’s mother opened the door when she thought she heard someone knocking. She saw and smelled smoke when she opened the door. I saw my shadow look at Wife. Wife looked at my shadow. Before anyone could say anything, a fire engine turned onto the street and parked right in the middle of the street in front of the house. That was it. No one was leaving the house for a while.

“I could have used some help,” I said.

The spirit shrugged and said, “They can’t hear us. These are-“

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I said. “These are but shadows.”

The shadows of Wife and me stayed over my in-laws that night, just as we did with The Oppressed on that first Christmas Eve many years ago. Later that night, my shadow went to bed. I laid down on the couch. I looked over and I was in bed with my Wife, just as I was when the spirit had come into my room.

Living with no electricity

It’s a rough day here in the northeast. Rain. Howling winds. We lost power hours ago. It’s the kind of day I like to pretend we’re settlers trying to survive on the unforgiving wilderness. We (Wife) made coffee outside by the grill. Slugger went outside to gather firewood for when darkness covers us. He made three trips. I think there are five or six logs for us.

Wet firewood on a rack.
Our store of firewood

The Oppressed and The Boy are at a friend’s house. That leaves us with only three kids for now. They now have eight, I think.

Being a history buff, I like these brief episodes without electricity and the other modern conveniences. It’s our own chance to camp in. We have shelter and a healthy supply of non-perishables. It’s easy to “rough it” for a day or two. No electricity. Light a couple of candles. Read by candlelight. Write by candlelight. In the meantime, there’s daylight.

Wife made some coffee for our neighbors. I drove up to them with the coffee and checked on our own children. I charge my phone for the short drive to keep the battery full. I get back home and return to my reading and writing and continue to pass the time.

A book, notebook, pen, and glasses on a wooden table.
Passing the time

Slugger has resumed his firewood duty. He’s winded after one trip. All of the children are suffering, really. Nintendo Switches didn’t get charged. WiFi is spotty. I tried to convince The Boy and The Oppressed to play an unplugged game of something. That was when they booked it to the neighbors.

I’m googling how to boil water. There’s another mountain of dishes to be washed and we’re running out of space on the counters again.

A girl standing on the street with no jacket in the rain.
The future of our country.

I’m not saying I’m going to wash dishes today. I’m saying I want to be prepared if I will. I don’t see power coming back any time soon. What did come back was The Oppressed… without a jacket.

“Where’s your jacket?” I asked.

“I forgot it.” 🤦‍♂️

It’s dark. We have candles lit all around the house. Flashlights for moving around. Lovie takes the flashlights and puts on a light show. We have a fire in the fireplace. Still no power. I may pour a beer and pretend I’m a traveler in a tavern.

A fire in a fireplace behind a screen.
Nighttime at home.

Neighbors brought us dinner. They have a generator and we’re able to cook with electricity. Dinner was great. I was planning the evening with the children. They’ll be home, I’m sure. We have cards. We have board games. I have a case of beer. This is going to be great. A fire and some games with the kids. I find out The Oppressed and The Boy are staying over the neighbors. Oh well, a man can dream.

On the plus side, The Oppressed and The Boy are away tonight. Two kids down, three to go.

We’ve had dinner. I’m having a beer and just grabbed a book. Children are going stir-crazy because their phones are losing power. They don’t know what to do with themselves.

A book and a bottle of beer on a table with lit candles.
My night.

Protecting your Treats from Nosy Children

Quickly eating before being caught.

You read stories of American colonists hiding stores of ammunition ahead of the British army coming to seize it. Pirates hid treasure. People would secretly make then hide booze. People did whatever it took to make sure someone else didn’t take what was theirs.

photo: gotrum.com

I’m seriously considering these practices in my house. As you know, I’m usually the one who does the grocery shopping. Sometimes I need to go to the wholesale store. This is necessary when you have five children, three of them are in athletics (if you count cheerleading).

I get this. I played sports. I rode a bike. You sweat. You need to hydrate. It happens. I understand this. What I don’t understand is why one of the Gaggle needs to pack four sports drinks in the morning. He needs to stay hydrated. Do the water fountains not work in the school?

The Boy is one of the children in sports. He needs to hydrate. That would be fine if he actually finished his hydration. He doesn’t and he’s not the only one. Wife and I are constantly finding half-full (or half-empty) bottles around the house. They belong to nobody, of course. All of the children are perfect and they finish and properly dispose of everything they consume.

Sometimes I see something I think Wife will really like when I’m shopping so I grab it. Something nice to give her while she overworks at her job. I make sure to give it to her while the little pillagers are at school. If they’re home, I’ll tuck it under something in a bag, then retrieve it and, with great stealth, slip it under some papers or behind a book so she can enjoy it without having it poached by one of the Miracles of Christ.

Wife has seen what’s going on as we find depleted supplies of tonic and juice and assorted treats. She has resorted to taking some of these rations and storing them in special hiding places so she can enjoy a little something when she feels like it instead of gobbling up something for the sake of getting something she’d like before the children conduct their raid and it’s gonna forever.

Interestingly enough, my store of fruits and vegetables hasn’t been pilfered 🤔. It’s a fascinating thing that occurs at my house, but I haven’t had the need to hide apples, oranges, peaches, plums, or carrots. It’s a phenomenal situation, but this is one of the reasons they’re called the Miracles of Christ.

The colonists hid guns in woodpiles, bullets in sacks and barrels. Bruce Wayne has secret passages at Wayne Manor. Heroes have ways to hide and store necessary supplies for when they need it. Wife has taken to these tactics before the locusts – I mean, children – descend upon the spoils of a shopping trip. If we’re lucky, they’re absorbed in a screen that provides some mind-numbing experience for them. This allows us to find a place to hide something being saved for a special occasion or something that’s planned for a meal. Either way, we have our system. It may not be as elaborate of a system used to warn of British coming into Boston Harbor, but it does allow me and wife to preserve our stores and hold off the grocery shopping for another hour.

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My Poison Ivy Rash and Recovery

My poison ivy is on the mend. It sure has been an interesting couple of weeks. Then again, weeks here with me, Wife and all of our miracles of Christ usually are interesting.

Doctors and nurses did a good job of taking care of me and making sure I was as comfortable as I could be with this onset of poison ivy. Rashes and itching weren’t fun. I’m glad I was able to provide a nice topic of conversation for people at practices and impromptu meetings with family and neighbors. Everything seems to be going away. I’m very happy for that. I’m definitely not going to miss this. The itching and discomfort was bad enough. Worse was the medication they gave me. This stuff was known to give you some stomach pains. Another side effect of the medication was increased appetite. I don’t need that. My appetite is healthy enough without the medication. I don’t need any more help in that department, especially since I spent all summer trying to lose weight, and I was losing weight. Trips to Six Flags (or any amusement park) usually include pizza, ice cream, fried dough, and other staples that are required eating when you’re at a fair or an amusement park. Now that we are in September, it’s almost time to check out local fairs and the delicious fare being offered at the fair (See what I did there?). The point is, I was doing a good job if controlling my weight until I was prescribed these medications and now my appetite is coming back. I’m hoping my willpower will be able to hang in there while the medication runs its course and does its job.

Itchy

I’ve been told to take it easy since I came down with the rash. That’s hard to do. I’m coaching The Boy’s flag football team. I take The Oppressed to cheerleading practice. Pickups and drop-offs at school. Sports practice for The Gaggle. Things are busy. Medication had side effects. I’m hoping being busy will take my mind off of eating and the schedule will give me other things to do besides eat.

Speaking of eating, I got a nice fruit basket from an aunt who wanted to make sure things were alright here. Some of the fruit was covered in chocolate. Again, I’m trying to control my appetite, but there always seems to be other things popping up in front of me when I’m trying to walk the straight and narrow, or slim and lean. There’s always something here. If there isn’t something requiring out attention at home, there’s something away from home that requires our attention and efforts. On the plus side, I have a few more good stories to tell. The people watching at the hospital was interesting. Sometimes, I thought there would be authorities involved. People telling hospital staff they didn’t know what they were doing or they were wrong. I kept my family looped in with the drama that occurred as I went from Emergency to my room. I was also glad to have my books and phone with me so I was able to keep up with my work while waiting to be looked at by the GSH staff. Thanks to all those who had a hand in my recovery. And to the nice people at the walk-in clinic at the start of this adventure, I’m sorry if what I had on my arms and legs creeped you out at all.

Something nice from my aunt and uncle to forget my suffering.

Basketball (and a Mix of Hockey) in the Summer

Boys playing basketball on the court.
A nice day with the family.

One of the Gaggle has taken a liking to sports, especially basketball. This is most welcome news to me. When I was a teenager, sports was a focal point of my life. Even if my favorite teams weren’t in the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA, or Stanley Cup Finals, it was an obligation for me to follow the playoffs and watch or listen to the final round or game. This particular child has taken a particular interest in basketball and has signed up to play in an organized team this season.

This new activity means going to games. This is nothing new to me or The Boy, as we have spent many Saturdays going to games and bonding. My favorite part is when we talk about the game and whatever else is going on in his life over chicken fingers and french fries after the game. For the record, when I ask, he does “nothing” at school, with his friends, and “nothing” is happening with his life.

Back to the Gaggle. This child has games that stretch over the weekend. It’s usually one game on one day and two on another. That’s fine with me. It means a chance to get something to eat and catch up with the other children who are at the game with me. It’s a nice little bonus for me. I get to watch sports, eat with my kids, and talk with them and find out how their life is.

Speaking of bonuses, there was one nice little surprise that happened for us, or me, on one day we were enjoying a day of basketball. The Gaggle had a game at a prep school one weekend. This school just happened to have a hockey rink across from the basketball gymnasium. This hockey rink just happened to have a hockey game during the time between the two basketball games. It was too good to be true. I recruited The Boy to go with me to the rink to check out the game. He lasted about 30 seconds before he decided it was too cold and he couldn’t stay there. The Oppressed, on the other hand, didn’t seem to mind the ice and cold and watched the game with me. She seemed to like hockey, especially the hitting.

It was a great day for me. I got to see one child play in one game and got to see another game with another child. There have been other games that I have watched the child play in. I look forward to all of them. I like to watch the games and then talk to them about the game and what they thought about how they did. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, there will be another game for me and someone else to watch.

Boys playing ice hockey.
A nice little bonus between basketball games.

Family Fun at Fenway Park

There was another recent milestone for The Gaggle. They saw their first game at Fenway Park. This was a special moment for everyone because their first game was against the New York Yankees.

Wife wanted me to pick the seats. I knew this would be a special moment so I knew the seats had to be just right. I picked bleacher seats behind the bullpen. I knew this would give the children, all children a special experience and it did… But more on that later.

We drove into Boston that night and parking wasn’t as bad as you would expect. We made it to Fenway Park with time to spare. We got food. I got a score book because I like to keep score when I go to a Red Sox game. There wasn’t a lot of time to get to our seats and we wanted to get our food and get settled. I grabbed a pre-made Italian sausage. Don’t buy the pre-made Italian sausage.

A few innings in and The Boy already had to use the bathroom. It was the first of multiple trips to the bathroom during the game. I stopped keeping score. I was missing too much to keep up.

It also rained. Usually, when sitting in right field, I am under the porch where the retired numbers are. I picked seats that were directly behind the bullpens with no shelter. I was so occupied with finding good seats, I didn’t think about the weather. This was a lack of foresight and I assume full responsibility for this. My family got wet because I did not plan. Luckily for my family, my wife planned and provided ponchos for us.

Fenway Park

Another trip to the bathroom for The Boy. Another episode of standing up, making other people stand up so we can get out. Finding our way through the crowds getting food, finding their seats, standing in line. Fenway Park is small and I would like to see the Red Sox play in a bigger park with room for people to move around without walking into each other or having to walk through a line of people waiting for their food. Yes, I said it. I would like to see Fenway Park replaced.

The game went on. The Boy and I returned to our seats. I got a refill on my drink while I was up. Just Coca-Cola tonight. The boy and I returned to our seats. We were in the middle innings. Things were getting a little tense between the Red Sox fans and the Yankees fans. People started chanting their standard slogans. I thought the Red Sox winning World Series lately would put an end to razzing the Yankees and their fans. I guess it’s been a while since I’ve been to a Red Sox-Yankees game.

More rain. This time it was enough to cause a delay. Rain ceases. Play resumes. More chanting. More razzing. Yankees fans yelling. Red Sox fans yelling. Things escalate. Security comes. Police come. Fans are escorted out of the park. Fans cheer and now I feel like Wife and I have truly given our children a real Fenway experience.

Some of the children aren’t feeling well so Wife leaves with them. I offer to go and suggest we should all go. Wife disagrees. Children have been looking forward to this and it’s their first time there. I remain with the other children. The Red Sox win, 5-4 in 10 innings.

The Red Sox celebrate a win. My kids were there.
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My new book “Down on the Farm” is now available on Apple Books.

Car Trouble and New Neighbors

Me, Wife, five kids, a dog, and a cat. Between all of us there are two schools, four jobs, and countless extra-curricular activities. We, like you, have a busy family and life throws us plenty of curve balls and we deal with those curve balls the best way we can.

A look at the parts under the hood of a car.
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Sometimes the curve balls lead us to new things. That’s what happened to me recently when I was running around trying to get things done one particular day. I ran into a little trouble with the car. Luckily for me, everything was still under warranty. I just needed to wait things out a bit for a courtesy vehicle to come. The weather here in Massachusetts has been oppressively hot or rain and more rain. On this particular day, it was oppressively hot. I wasn’t far from home; just a few blocks away. I took this opportunity to answer emails from work and words of praise from adoring readers and social media followers. I’m good like that. I was standing outside the car since I was told it wouldn’t be long before the courtesy vehicle would arrive. I kept a keen eye up and down the street looking for the nice person who would come to my aid. While I was standing outside, a nice lady came out to check on me. She had noticed my car parked on the street for a while. In our neighborhood, no one parks on the street and if they do, it’s only for a minute or two before continuing on their way. I explained to her what was going on and she invited me into her family’s house with central air for a bottle of water while I waited things out.

I appreciated the invite. I went in and we started talking. I explained I lived a few blocks away. She immediately knew which house I was talking about. She and her husband liked what our house looked like and they were considering putting an addition on their house. I told them the work we had done on our house. They loved the lending library we had outside. I told them that was the brain child of my daughter, The Oppressed. We both had dogs. Our dogs run around a fenced-in yard. We talked about our children and the unique challenges they present.

A black minivan sitting in the driveway.
Back on its feet (wheels) and ready for more.

The courtesy vehicle arrived and it was nice of the couple to invite me in because the vehicle arrived over an hour after they said it would. It was hot that day and I’m delicate. The most random things can happen and that day was an example of that. We made preliminary plans to meet up on night for beers and a fire pit. On that night, Wife can meet the nice people who saved me from oppressive heat and gave me another story to tell on what otherwise would have been a routine day, even though “routine days” with this family can be exciting ones in their own right.

Later that day I saw a post on social media. Someone who was my age was wondering how they can meet people. They were lamenting about how no one talks to anyone anymore. I explained to them I met someone through virtue of some car trouble. Totally random and unexpected. With me and my family, that’s just another day in life.

My new book, “Down on the Farm” is now available on Apple Books.

Well-behaved Adults and Grocery Shopping

(Language in this post has been watered down for the purposes of proper decorum.)

Being a parent means being responsible. Not all the time, just when the kids are around. It means eating healthy instead of eating junk or sweets to set a good example for your children. It means Continuing on your way when someone is making a scene in public because it’s not polite to stare at people.

There are some people who don’t watch when something is happening in public, regardless of whether they’re alone or their children are with them. I’m not one of those people. If something is happening, chances are I’m standing off to the side pretending to do something or look at something when the truth is I’m watching the drama unfold out of the corner of my eye. Some people like reality TV. I like reality.

There was one recent episode that took place while I was out shopping one morning. My children were all at school, so it was another trip to the store by myself. A chance to take a little drive, play a little music, and get some things done and out of the way.

As I was making my way through the parking lot, my head turned in the direction of someone who was shouting. I saw a man walking with a cell phone in one hand. The other hand was fending off a woman who was walking with him, visibly (and audibly) upset over something that involved whoever was on the phone.

I went into the store like a mature adult who, “wasn’t interested in other people’s drama.

The woman was trying to maneuver past the fending hand. She stretched her neck as far as she could to the phone. “What the heck did that lady say about me? Come down here and say that to my face, you bawd!”

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

“Ignore her,” the man said on the phone. “She’s upset.”

“You’re darn right I’m upset,” the woman screamed. “I’m more than upset. I’m hopping mad! Tell that woman to come down here. I’m right here in the parking lot, you hag! Come on down here and say that to my face!”

The woman continued to shout past the man to the phone. The man still had the phone to his ear, trying to prevent the woman from getting to his phone. A part of me wanted to know the backstory. It was entertaining, to say the least. If I had children with me, I would have hustled them through the parking lot faster than I was moving by myself, but there were no kids with me so I was able to watch the entertainment during my stroll to the store. On my way to the store, there was another woman who was walking with her daughter. The child asked, “What’s that?” The mother said, “Nothing,” and ushered her along so the child wouldn’t be caught gawking. I exchanged glances with the parent, who was trying to answer her daughter’s questions as vague as she possibly could. Meanwhile, I was wondering what parts of the conversation I had missed as I went into the store like a mature adult who, “wasn’t interested in other people’s drama.”

My new book “Down on the Farm” is now available for purchase on Apple Books.