I was sitting in Panera Sunday and there was an older guy and a teenager sitting 14 feet from me. Their conversation didn’t grab me until the man got louder and more animated. I couldn’t tell if the older guy was a father or grandfather.
For the next 10 minutes I listened and watched while pretending not to.
He repeatedly emphasized the word “responsible.” I assumed the kid did something dumb like teenagers tend to do, but I quickly learned the man was talking about being responsible on the baseball field.
“You guys have to be able to TRUST each other!”
“You’ve got to be RESPONSIBLE!”
The man was overweight and ugly. (I feel bad writing about his physical appearance, but it seemed to be an important part of the overall package–rough looks and rough speech.)
Then he said something like this:
I noticed something yesterday with you guys. When someone makes the third out, nobody picks him up. Do you know what that means? When I played ball, when a guy makes the last out, we’d bring him his glove and hat. Pick up Johnny! Hey, pick up Larry! That’s what we called it, Picking a guy up. You guys don’t DO that.
He was perplexed with “kids these days.” It’s fine, I guess; aren’t fathers supposed to have intense conversations with their sons? But it was one-sided and the man was just so goddamn SERIOUS and gruff about it. About baseball. Baseball is a fun game (double emphasis on both fun and game). The boy was silent and sullen.
(Below is a sad attempt at a graphical representation of what I saw. I got bored and didn’t want to create a “cartoon” teenager, so this poor kid (an actual high school baseball player) got pasted in. Those are cockroaches on the man. Don’t ask me why. Sometimes a picture is NOT worth a thousand words. Oh, and the guy did have shoes on.)
When Chloe is participating in volleyball, track, soccer, or whatever, I like to put her in a headlock, throw her down to the ground, and then drag her to the car by her hair. And that’s after she’s plays well.
No, really I put my arm around her, pull her tight, and ask if she had fun. Then I ask her questions, but not critically like “Why didn’t you blah blah on that one blah blah play?” I try to get her talking about her experience, even if that means playing dumb about the rules or about what I saw. It’s seems a good policy to NOT pretend I have all the answers. And If something funny went down, I’m definitely going to talk about that.
But I’m one father in a world of–well, I was going to estimate the number of fathers in the world, but I don’t want to look a fool, because, really, I have no idea. Point is: there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Though it feels … wrong to even type those three words: skin a cat. Eww. I can’t type it without picturing it. Speaking of cat, this morning on my bike I saw a pile of roadkill near our house and ’bout had a heart attack, because I thought I recognized it as a friendly neighborhood feline. Then I saw it was an opossum. Not that that didn’t make me sad though.
Up in that last sentence I wrote “this morning on my bike I saw a pile of roadkill near our house.” Obviously, I could have worded that differently. The pile of roadkill was NOT on my bike and my bike was not near our house. In other words, a dead opossum was NOT riding circles around our house, because that’s just weird.
But the opossum died under questionable circumstances. Our road has a 35 mph limit and this bloody scene was 10 feet from a stop sign! Oh man, I’m getting worked up like I did about that poor turtle. And this poor turtle. I need to take some deep breaths.
At that point in the street a normal driver is moving at, like, 5 mph. (I’m going to picture a man in a large vehicle as I rant.) I like to think HE was operating with brakes, steering, eyeballs, a brain, and a conscience, but obviously something was missing.
“It was just an opossum!” he might dare to say.
Oh, no you didn’t! (Oh no you di’int!)
That creature probably had a family and could have been a father like me. And even if this father opossum liked to bite his opossum kids (and I mean hard) for not keeping the burrow entrance swept, he was probably a decent marsupial just trying to make his way in this crazy world. And on the day after Father’s Day!
OMG! Read the paragraph below from Wikipedia; it’s exactly what I do when Jennifer wants me to work in the yard.
When threatened or harmed, they will “play possum”, mimicking the appearance and smell of a sick or dead animal. This physiological response is involuntary (like fainting), rather than a conscious act. In the case of baby opossums, however, the brain does not always react this way at the appropriate moment, and therefore they often fail to “play dead” when threatened. When “playing possum”, the animal’s lips are drawn back, the teeth are bared, saliva foams around the mouth, the eyes close or half-close, and a foul-smelling fluid is secreted from the anal glands. Their stiff, curled form can be prodded, turned over, and even carried away without reaction. The animal will typically regain consciousness after a period of between 40 minutes and 4 hours, a process which begins with slight twitchings of the ears