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.
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)
Batting is a miraculous thing. Players who were tired and dying of thirst are suddenly filled with newfound life and energy. Boys who couldn’t stand up are suddenly men with vigor and gusto who are ready to grab a bat and face danger.
The sun is shining. The weather is getting warmer. Birds are singing. It means baseball season is arriving again. It also means a new crew of children to whom I will pass on my love and knowledge for and of the National Pastime.
It also means trying to nail down the names of six or seven new players, which usually means an afternoon of, “Hey!” since I need to get a message across to somebody fast. I might need to bring somebody’s attention to a ball thrown in their direction or wake somebody up who is not paying attention while they are on base and another baserunner is heading for that base. Who knows with this crew?
What I do know is this: There are some future managers on this team. I have a bunch of players who aren’t much for listening, but they love to remind the others where they need to be. They also like telling me who has already played first base and they haven’t hit yet.
Let’s start with my team on the field. The Boys of Summer take the field. Three of them are standing on first base. One might be catching. One or two might be somewhere else on the infield and ask if it’s alright where they are. My first order of the inning is to convince two of the boys on first that they need to play somewhere else. I usually tell them something like I can’t waste their arm at first base or I need someone with their speed somewhere else on the field. Something motivational that will convince them to move from the prized first base. This usually includes a promise that they can play first base later in the game.
That’s done. Players are in position. I look around to see my crew and make sure they’re ready. One is making a sand castle. Two more are practicing ninja dropkicks on the grass. My teams usually include different players doing the same things every year. I just guess who it’s going to be doing what.
Now we’re ready. Players in position. One is looking back at the concession stand. They smell something. Burgers. Chicken fingers. French fries. I remind the player they need to face forward and get ready in case the ball is hit to them. The ball is hit. The fielder fields it and the ball goes sailing over the first baseman’s head. I take this opportunity to remind everyone on the field (again) that the object of the game is to reach the first baseman’s glove, not to show how strong they are. I tell them it’s alright. There are no girls around. They don’t need to show off their strength and can save that for recess the next day.
Sometimes there will be two or three players chatting with each other in the middle of the game. Something urgent and compelling, I’m sure. These are Kindergartners and first-graders so I’m sure what’s being discussed is Earth-shattering. I break up the roundtables and direct the children’s attention to the man at the plate. I don’t need another player threatening to quit because they weren’t paying attention when the ball was hit to them and they took one on the leg or the arm. Our time on the field mercifully comes to an end and it’s our turn to bat.
Batting is a miraculous thing. Players who were tired and dying of thirst after 10 minutes on the field are suddenly filled with newfound life and energy. Boys who couldn’t stand up are suddenly men with vigor and gusto who are ready to grab a bat and face danger. I am met with “Can I hit?” “Is it my turn?” “When can I bat?” This is when I am reminded by numerous people who didn’t get the chance to hit first in any inning last time.
I give the order. This isn’t an actual “game” so it’s a different order every inning in order to make sure the same person isn’t hitting first or last every time. I give the order and, throughout our turn to bat, remind my men who is hitting next and who is on deck. I’m at home plate, sometimes; making sure the feet are where they should be, hands are positioned right, elbow bent. My player is relaxed and ready. I check his feet. I remind him of the batters box (I draw one so they know where to stand) and tell him to stay there and wait for the ball. Level swing. This is what I tell them. Bats go everywhere. Players swing at angles Trigonometry Professors have never seen before. Some players want to stand behind the plate. They draw a box where the catcher normally plays and, since there’s a box there, it’s perfectly alright for them to be there. I explain that’s not the way it works and they need to stand in a Regulation batter’s box. Sorry, Slugger. Rules are rules.
Sometimes I pitch to the budding baseball battlers. These boys are still learning how to hit without a tee, so I am careful and cautious when it comes to pitching. Sometimes, however a pitch goes awry and I hit a batter. I hate that. Not as much as the one who gets hit, but I hate it. I run to the batter, make sure they’re alright and we don’t need to amputate. He’s alright and, after some prodding and convincing from the parents, returns to the box to finish his time at the plate.
He makes contact. Infielders pile upon each other for a chance to get the ball and throw the ball. They can finally do something. The batter runs. I remind him to run the other way. He changes course. I remind him to run without the bat. He flings the bat. Suddenly, I’m Pepper Martin diving out of the way in order to avoid the incoming bat. I’m in my forties and I still have my agility.
The day comes to an end. We line up at home plate, walk past the other team, and say, “Good game.” No handshakes because of the ‘Rona. I end our session with some words of wisdom. Something to inspire the troops. The Boy and I head home where he tells me about what I need to improve on.
My children are unhappy with the choices before them when it comes to meals. There are always better options. I just don’t share them with my poor, unhappy children. I keep them locked away while presenting them with the swill they are forced to consume every day.
One morning, The Oppressed wanted Carnation Instant Breakfast, just not the disgusting vanilla we had tucked away in the pantry. I asked what was wrong with the vanilla. She told me, “It’s disgusting.” She wanted chocolate. I told her vanilla was fine and there’s nothing wrong with vanilla. Here we have another obvious example of how I do not love my children. A truly loving parent would go to the store and buy chocolate or strawberry or another flavor of Carnation Instant Breakfast. One that a child would really like.
Much to her chagrin, I informed The Oppressed I would not be buying another flavor of Carnation Instant Breakfast until what we had was finished. This upset the child. It was another vivid example of how I do not love my children and do not see that they are fed and taken care of. She wanted a flavor other than vanilla. She really wanted “Carnation” and now she can’t have it. I remind her that’s not true. She can still have it. “I’m not drinking disgusting vanilla!” she exclaimed.
This brings us to my favorite part of the mealtime stories I share with you. We have cereal. None of the cereals we have taste good. They’re disgusting. We have granola bars. Disgusting. There is fruit. There is always plenty of fruit at our house. Disgusting. Disgusting. Disgusting. Everything is gross. She wants Carnation Instant Breakfast and she doesn’t want vanilla.
I inform my children the car will be leaving soon and they will be going to school with or without breakfast. The Oppressed chokes down a granola bar. A nasty, disgusting granola bar and washes it down with a glass of water. The juice we have is disgusting and she won’t drink milk. Disgusting. We drive to school. The Oppressed curses my name for making her eat disgusting subpar, un-tasty food. She asks when I will buy more Carnation. I will do so when the children finish what we already have. She looks forward, hoping someone will take one for the team and choke down the vanilla Carnation so the entire household (her) can get something tasty to have for breakfast soon.
Children are learning things every day. Sometimes they learn on their own and sometimes Wife or I need to teach them.
We had one such teachable moment with one of The Gaggle. They wanted to get a coffee. I stopped at a drive-thru so they could get one. The order was a little difficult as they kept changing their mind as to what it was they wanted. God bless the poor person taking the order. They never lost their temper or raised their voice once. Upon receiving the coffee, I drove away. I could see the look of disappointment in The Gaggle’s face as we made our way home.
“This is black,” they said.
“Yes. You wanted a black coffee,” I reminded them.
“They don’t put cream in a black coffee?”
I put my hand on the child’s shoulder and said no, they don’t put cream in a black coffee. That’s why they call it a “black coffee”. If the child had wanted cream, they should have said, “coffee with cream.”
“That’s dumb,” they said. “I should sue Starbuck’s”
I tell the child to go ahead and try, but Starbuck’s doesn’t care what just happened where we were.
“I mean McDonald’s.”
“Again,” I say, “Knock yourself out, but it’s not McDonald’s fault.”
“Wait,” they say as they look behind them, hoping to catch a glimpse of where we were. “Where were we?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “I’m driving. I need to look forward so I can see where we’re going.”
“Well, wherever we were,” they say as they turn back and get settled. “We should sue them. They screwed up my coffee.”
Homeschooling for another day. I try to help. They say, “No way!” Instead they’d rather run away.
A morning meeting. Please sit still. It’s important. Can’t you chill? They leave the room. Run down the stairs. They don’t sit still. They won’t. They can’t. I’m just glad they’re wearing pants.
The door’s wide open. Of course it is. It’s cold. Who cares? Not my kids. I give a chase. Run down the flight. I’m pouring something strong tonight. Maybe bourbon. Maybe scotch. I don’t know. It’s not yet lunch.
There are meetings. Log on Zoom, Then get my kids back to their rooms And sit them down. Now, pay attention. It’s important. Did I mention That what is being said, you’ll need To finish your assignment, see? Now, be good children and learn how. It’s too early to think scotch right now. Sit right down. There’s nothing to it. You must anyway. Just sit and do it.
“But, Dad,” they say. “It’s way too hard. “I’m bored. Where’s my Pokémon cards?”
I don’t know and I don’t care. I can’t hear ’bout life’s unfair. You need to do your work today. Get it done, then you can play.
They settle down. They read and write. Then run like that word I can’t type. I know we’re all adults right here, But what if a little one sneaks near? Mom! Dad! What does that say? Nothing, Dear. Now go and play.
Their work is done. Lord, what a chore. They flee from academic bores. Again, forget to close the door.
Another day is done, at last. The evening will pass by so fast. I put the books and pens away. I think of what comes the next day. More of the same. More protesting. More resistance and more jesting. But I will help them, yet again. I’ll help them see it to the end. Reading, writing, Uncle Sam. Daddy sure could use a dram.
We’re all continuing to adjust to the added responsibilities Doggie has brought to us and our happy home. Being a puppy with a small bladder, she needs constant walking day and night. Ever the trooper, wife handles the overnight shifts. I’m gone; oblivious to the world. Wife once told me a story of one of our children climbing on me, crying, hitting me and screaming, “Dad!” I didn’t hear them. Didn’t feel anything. Wife asked, “Didn’t you hear anything?” Umm…. No.
I am, however, awake early in the morning bright eyed, bushy tailed, and ready to start the day. I spend these glorious mornings switching laundry, washing dishes, making coffee for me and Wife and pounding the keyboard about my glorious domestic exploits. So, as you read this, remember I woke up early to do this for you. You’re welcome.
If I am to take Doggie for a constitutional, I may or may not have one of the smaller children with me. There was one time The Boy and I were out to walk the dog around the block. There was some slight miscommunication as to how far we were actually going to walk. We both agreed we would walk around the block, but there happens to be a street that runs through the middle of our street. The Boy thought we were going to just walk around our half of the street but me being the taskmaster and architect behind the forced marches at Valley Forge and, closer to home, our own neighborhood after school, I decided we would walk the length of the entire block.
Keep in mind, this is the same Miracle of Christ who insists he doesn’t need a jacket in the middle of winter. I had Doggie. If the boy took her, I don’t think we’d ever see either of them again. I would miss the dog and would have to explain to wife what happened to The Boy.
We reach the intersection and The Boy is about to make a turn. I stop at the corner while Doggie sniffs curiously at a patch of grass or asphalt. Something incredible is down there and only she knows what it is. I call to The Boy and tell him we are walking the whole block. He eyebrows furrow. He looks at me with an open mouth. Do I not understand how cold it is? Of course I do. Why else would I invade his privacy everyday by telling him to put on a jacket. I’m not like other parents. I don’t love my children.
The Boy tells me we are curtailing this trek and heading home. It’s cold. There’s a YouTube channel that won’t watch itself. Why would I do this to him. Doggie hasn’t peed yet and I don’t want to clean the floor again. Plus, I’m still trying to work off the fruitcake that was calling my name and seducing me over the holidays. No excuses, says one of the child labor experts. It’s cold and he’s tired. My unfeeling ears hear none of this (They’re cold.) I tell him we need to walk the entire block. The Boy, in a fit of protest, sits down on the ground and removes his boots. Yes. Cold butt. Cold feet. That’ll show me.
We’ve now reached the point where I remind The Boy we could have been home already. He’s tired. He can’t do it. I need to carry him. I tell him I can’t I’m tired. He needs to carry me and walk Doggie.
The Boy picks up his boots and trudges onward. I’m imagining the story he’s going to have for his teacher at the next Zoom meeting. I interrupt my own train of thought to advise him to put his boots on. It might make his walk easier. After all, he did say he was cold.
We get back home. Doggie has done her business. The Boy stomps his feet to the television where he basks in front of the warm glow of some mind-numbing drivel showing a walkthrough of Roblox or a Nintendo Switch game. As he thaws from the 30-minute session (five of which were actually spent walking), he curses my name and cruelty. He swears he’s going to be a better parent than me. Oaths are made. This resentment only lasts so long as someone, I won’t say who, but someone needs to read to him that night.
One of the complaints about baseball is that it takes too long to play. In Major League Baseball, steps have been taken to help speed things along. There were some people who didn’t like the batter stepping out of the box after each pitch. The pitcher would walk around the mound, blow on his hands, wipe sweat off his forehead, grab the resin bag, motion for the hot dog vendor to bring him something to eat, run to the bullpen to see if anyone wanted something. There were little things that were taking time away from the game itself.
I think of this as I tell you about my son, The Boy, who can take the simplest task and turn it into a union project that makes the Big Dig look like a quick run through a fast-food drive-thru. For my friends who do not live in Massachusetts, look up The Big Dig.
We’re still not sure what it is exactly that ails The Boy. It could be Ants in the Pants, hyperactivity, boredom. Pick something. We’re open to suggestions so we can identify it and treat it.
One of the Gaggle first noticed it about the boy. When the family sits down to dinner, it will be a matter of seconds before he is out of his seat, running around the table, playing with the cat. It has now reached the point where The Gaggle will watch the clock and let everyone know how long he was able to sit still.
This constant need for movement and inability to stay in one place is not just limited to the dinner table. One of the underlying issues of The Homework Wars involves Boy Genius’ stroll around the bedroom after writing one word. After two words, he needs a snack. Three merits a bathroom break. Four? He’s tired and he needs to lie down on his bed.
Math involves the same. He does one problem and he needs the bathroom. Wait. I haven’t dressed yet. I need breakfast. (I made it for him two hours ago.) He wants to check on Kitty. He wants to see if Doggie is okay. He just needs to lie down on the floor because David had five apples and gave two to Omar. The mental stress of that calculation may have wiped him out. He needs a nap and maybe a snack. Maybe he just needs to use the bathroom. His room is upstairs. He needs the bathroom in the basement, of course.
As I patiently await him to complete the four-word sentence he merely needs to copy, he laments over his unfair lot in life. He throws himself on the bed and wails to anyone in the house who will hear. He slaves everyday on his work. He works so hard but his father doesn’t know it. He wishes he had a nice dad. Other dads don’t make their sons do this. I remind him every kid in his class has the same assignment as him. Of course, that doesn’t matter. His classmates have nice parents.
Time for another nap. Not in his bed, though. This time, he needs to go downstairs and lay down on the couch. One of the Gaggle, done with their work, is watching TV. The Boy thinks he’s no one will notice him under a blanket. He is found and he runs back upstairs. Hopefully is hiding in his room… At his table… in front of his work with a pencil in his hand. We all have our dreams.
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 during the winter. 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. It’s winter and 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 coat 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.
And then we have The Gaggle. One of whom goes to work during the winter 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 run the car so the heat is on. 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 coat 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 coat. 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 morning? 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 coat when the temperature drops in the winter. 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.