Category Archives: Anecdote

My Dad And My Guitar


Related Content from And There Came A Day


My dad was addicted (in a good way) to sharing his talents. Perhaps addicted is not the best word. Rather, I should write compelled. He was compelled to assist. Compelled to help. He shared himself with people he barely knew, with people he’s just met, with people he knew well, with people at church and, more importantly, with his family.

Dad and MeI’ve written accounts of Dad doing this many times before.

This is not one of those stories.

This is the story of the 12-string guitar I purchased for myself almost 10 years ago now, right after I got divorced. I don’t know what made me want a 12-string or why I thought I could handle such an instrument then – I really can’t all that well almost a decade later – but I got it in my head that I wanted it, I got it from amazon (naturally) and got right to playing it when it arrived at the door of my condo one afternoon.

It was a “Stellar” brand guitar, not a “Stella” brand, meaning it is a rip off, but that was okay. Post-divorce, the fact that it was a knock off is why I could afford it. It was cheap.

The guitar had a very nice sound and, because it was a 12-string, it made me sound like I knew more about playing than I actually did. It also had a built-in pickup meaning it didn’t need to be mic’ed, just plugged into a sound system or amp. That was also very cool.

One day at church – during a mass at which my dad, a deacon, was on the altar – I dropped the guitar and the instrument cable which was plugged into the pickup rammed its way into the guitar itself. The wood on the base of the guitar splintered and popped and the input mechanism (about 3 inches wide and three inches deep) ended up inside the guitar floating loosely, jostled from its mounting by the force of the drop.

The Stellar was trashed. That’s what I thought.

Stellar.

Dad told me to bring it home to my parents’ house after mass and asked me if I wanted him to try to fix it.

I was skeptical. I’d seen him fix many-a-thing before. I’d even been pressed into service to help him. A light switch, he could fix. An underground sprinkler? Sure. My guitar?

“It’s broken now. What are you going to do? Use it as firewood?” He said.

Good point.

We unstrung the guitar and he got out his tools and his glasses, the ones he had that lit up at the temples so he could shine light on whatever he was working on. He grabbed a drill and pulled out a round rubber disc from somewhere in his toolbox, a circle the size of a half-dollar and about an eighth of an inch thick. And he got to work.

Of course you know where this story is going. Dad fixed the guitar and I still play it today. He fixed it with skill I didn’t possess and with confidence I didn’t have. He remounted the pickup, drilled a new hole for the instrument cable input and patched the splintered hole in the side of the guitar with the rubber disc.

The rubber disc... you can still see the crack from the guitar's fall.

The rubber disc… you can still see the crack from the guitar’s fall.

I think of Dad every time open the case, strap on the guitar and plug an instrument cable in. The guitar has become a physical reminder of Dad’s presence in my life.

Today marks four years since Dad died. Four years really fly by, don’t they? Moment-by-moment, time may seem to be ticking quite slowly, but when you hit a day such as one like this – a day where a flag has been forever planted – there’s a cold-water splash in the face about just how quickly time moves on.

In recent days, I’ve been talking with family and friends about Dad as my parents’ anniversary was last week (it was their 50th) and I’ve said more than once “I think about him every day”.

And I don’t just think about what he would have said (although I hear his voice in my head quite often) or what he would have done (although, every time I am confronted with a household task or a car issue, he’s very much around), I am reminded of Dad by what he did say or things he did do.

Like the simple act of fixing my guitar.

I can’t imagine all the other things he fixed in his lifetime. I can imagine how much better the world is that he shared himself with it.

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Filed under Anecdote, Dad, Family, Fathers and Sons, Fathers Day, Guitar

My Parents’ Anniversary – August 7, 1965

When my father passed away almost four years ago, I was humbled to deliver his eulogy. In those comments, words that can never sum up who he was, I mentioned something I found important: my dad and mom had lived a love story.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of their marriage and it’s a time to celebrate their journey together – some of the blessings of which are in me and my sisters, our spouses and our children, to celebrate the testament of their lives together and, finally, to celebrate their love.

True love never dies,

It only gets stronger with time…

DSC00626

DSC00621

IMG_0015

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Filed under Anecdote, Anniversary, Dad, Family, Fathers Day, Mom, Mothers

Chocolate Cake And Circumstance – HJ jr At Graduation

On a June day eight years ago, I had a conversation with HJ jr that went something like this:

“Hey, I wonder if I can remember every piece of chocolate cake I’ve ever had.” HJ jr said.

Sure I had misunderstood him, I asked for clarification.

“What did you say?”

“I wonder if I can remember every piece of chocolate cake I’ve ever had.”

“Umm, I don’t know. Can you?” I asked.

We’d just picked up a chocolate cake for my sister’s birthday party (so HJ jr’s musing wasn’t as out-of-nowhere as it might seem) and we were alone and driving across town. It was a rainy, wet day and the trip took about 45 minutes. As the wipers sluiced rain from the windshield and I negotiated the rain-fearful drivers we encountered, HJ jr proceeded to recount to me his memory of every piece of chocolate cake he’d ever had.

Chocolate Cake

Though he was only 10 years old at the time, it turned out he’d remembered (and remembered) A LOT of pieces of chocolate cake.

Flashforward 3 minutes, and we’re driving him to his high school graduation ceremony.

On another rainy day a few years later, Stretch had a soccer game and HJ jr and I were in attendance. I was cold and wet and returned to the car. HJ jr went off to wander and roam. He’s always loved the rain. After a few minutes, I received a call from him.

“Hey,” he said, “can you come get me? I’m in a hole.”

“I’m sorry, you’re what?”

“I’m in a hole and I can’t get out.”

I discovered, after I found him, that he’d slipped into a bowl in a skate park, the cement icy-slick from the rain.

I pulled him out.

“Want to come back to the car?” I said.

He wanted to wander some more.

Indy Car

I returned to the warmth of the mini-van, settling in until the end of the game. Then the phone rang.

“I’m back in the hole.”

Flashforward 2.5 minutes, and we’re in our seats in the arena, trying to see him as he marches in with his class in red robe and mortar board.

During the fall of his freshman year, I am sitting with him at the dining room table and we’re work our way through his homework. As an English teacher, I have no trouble with freshman level humanities assignments and an incredible amount of trouble helping him with his Algebra. He struggles there because of long diagnosed learning issues and through the course of the year, it becomes clear that he’s not getting the support he needs to succeed in math and the class is an academic disaster for him.

He decides he wants to transfer from my alma mater and bravely tells The Cinnamon Girl and me that things aren’t working.

He moves on to Eaglecrest High School with confidence, going from a class of 175 to a class of 600. He doesn’t miss a beat. He excels.

Graduation Screen

Flashforward 2 minutes, and he’s sitting a few hundred feet from us, ready for his name to be called and, in the graduation program, the asterisk by his name denotes that he’s graduation with highest honors.

HJ jr set very high goals for himself, especially after what happened in math his freshman year. He wanted to be in Advanced Placement Calculus by the time he finished high school and wanted to take the AP test. In order to do this, he would have to convince his new school to let him take concurrent math classes. Following that, he’d have to teach himself a year’s worth of calculus in an online course. After that, he’d have to prove to the teacher of the AP Calculus class that he knew enough to succeed in the course.

Diploma

He did it. He did all of it.

Flashforward 1.5 minutes, and he’s standing up, handing his name card to a diploma reader, ready to walk.

I am sitting with The Cinnamon Girl and we’re reading his yearbook. What his teachers have written is incredible. Both The Cinnamon Girl and I are teachers, and we’ve inscribed hundreds of yearbooks between us. I’ve never read what I’m reading.

“It will be generally impossible, in my opinion, to find another student as hard-working, as motivated, inquisitive and respectful as you.”

“… so few are there of your caliber.”

Indy Fall 2014

I couldn’t agree more.

Flashforward .5 minutes, and his name is announced, he’s got his diploma in hand and I am tearing up.

There is no other kid like HJ jr. I can think of no other young man as reflective and confident. When I married his mother, I got an amazing bonus son in bargain. My life is more rich and more full because he is in it. From chocolate cake to Pomp and Circumstance, the journey has been both quick and rewarding. And I will miss you as you move on to college.

Thank you for who you are.

Sous Chef and Stretch are lucky to have you as a brother.

I am lucky to have you as a step-son.

teasing

I K M final

I J C Final

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Filed under Anecdote, Celebration, Family, Graduation

A Reader’s House

I was guest lecturing in The Cinnamon Girl’s Sociology class last week (speaking about The Portrayals of Women in American Comic Books) and I found myself – as I always do when I am in front of a captive audience – joking around. I teased the students about reading in the 21st Century, explaining to them what a “book” is and telling them they should try opening one for pleasure and fun sometime. Following the class, I was gently taken to task by two students who identified themselves as “life-long read readers.”  They proceeded to tell me about all the books they were currently reading to make their point.

It was a fun exchange and made me realize two things: I love opportunities to talk about reading with kids and I, too, identify myself as a life-long reader.

bookshelves

When I was young, I would descend the stairs in my grandparents’ house, always careful to be sure the lights were on in the basement to ward off any ghosts or other scary things before I did.  I would creep down through the hallway, past the telephone table and into the big room beyond. There were three or four large shelves packed with paperbacks in there and those shelves were what drew me to that recess of their house. They were both readers, Grandma and Grandpa, and they had hundreds of novels. I would switch on the light and scan their shelves, looking for something to catch my interest. From those shelves, I pulled and read Coma by Robin Cook and The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton. I found The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy and Trinity by Leon Uris. I borrowed Centennial by James Michener and The World According to Garp by John Irving.

More than a few of these books made indelible and lasting impacts on me, especially my reading of The World According to Garp, and I know that I never thanked my grandparents for opening this world to me for who recognizes how important these moments in our lives are when we’re living them? I also don’t remember what happened to their collection when my grandmother moved out of her house years ago. I am sure it was not as vast a gathering of novels as I recall, but it was a fairly large one to be sure. I ought to have grabbed a couple paperbacks for myself.

There is a realization here. Though The Cinnamon Girl and I have many books in our home, we don’t have anywhere near the amount we used to. Because of this, our kids and grand kids (grand kids who will arrive YEARS AND YEARS from now) will not be able to see what we’ve read by walking along the shelves of the living room. They will not run their hands along the spines of the books or pull them down from the shelves.  They won’t regard our home as an adjunct library.

And I think that’s a loss.

I love my Kindle app on my iPad. I love being able to read and night and not keep The Cinnamon Girl awake. I love being able to “shop” at any hour and download books in seconds to my device. The convenience is wonderful. I have also adjusted to feeding my weekly comic book addiction digitally though Comixology, an application owned by Amazon. I should be embarrassed to admit that I buy anywhere between 7-10 comic books a week. While one could have worse addictions, 7-10 physical comic books a week pile up. Literally. Having them on the iPad alleviates this issue.

I have embraced technology for my reading and, while I am a collector, I know that I cannot collect everything. The house isn’t that big and the desire to continue to collect may not be that healthy.

But I have come to realize that, while most of my shift to digital is positive, there is a significant drawback which I don’t really know how to address.

No one can walk through our living room and see everything we’ve read.

And yet, we still live in a reader’s house. Now we just talk with people more frequently about what we’re reading. That’s a plenty good thing, too.

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Filed under Anecdote, Books, Comic Books, Family, Literature, Reading

It’s Been 2015 For A Few Days Now… Here Are Some Sobering Thoughts…

2015-Calendar

Happy New Year!

The Junior Senator emailed me a terrific link from waitbutwhy.com that will make you look at 2015 in a whole different way.

For example… Born before June 1, 1972? You were born closer to the 20s than to today and the fact that the 1989 Batman movie came out closer to JFK’s presidency than to today.

It’s a great article, but, man, we’re all getting OLD!

You can read the article HERE.

JFK

 

batman1989

 

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And There Came Christmas Lists Part One – Christmas Characters

We’re knee deep in Advent and looking forward to Christmas.  HJ jr has a few more days of class before his penultimate (I love that word!) semester of high school ends, Stretch is taking his first semester of college exams, Sous Chef is wrapping up the first semester of her junior year and The Cinnamon Girl is completing administration of exams both in her in-person, traditional classes and in the two online classes she teaches. And me? I am anticipating a bit of down time from the new job and blogging about CHRISTMAS! Presented today, an AND THERE CAME A DAY Christmas List!

PART ONE: Christmas Characters I Love

These are presented in the order of my liking!

5.  Bea Arthur

image from starwars.com.

image from starwars.com.

Remember the Star Wars Holiday Special? I don’t really, either, but I do remember Bea Arthur was it in! That qualifies her for a space on this list!

4.  Mackles

image from googleimages.com.

image from googleimages.com.

My father always teased us when we were kids that Santa Claus wasn’t coming, Mackles was because we’d been bad.  Mackles would take our presents and leave coal behind! Of course, Dad just made this character up, but it never occurred to me to wonder where he came up with the name (because he came up with a lot of odd things!) but I was surprised to learn the definition of the word mackle: “a blurred impression in printing.” Dad was a newspaper pressman… perhaps that is where he learned the term. Either way, I miss Dad and his stories of Mackles, especially when he told them to his grandkids!

3.  The Grinch

Who doesn’t like the Grinch? You’ve gotta love him! I even love the Jim Carrey version of him… There are no better words about a Christmas character, I think, than “I wouldn’t touch him with a 39 and a half foot pole!”

2.  Ebeneezer Scrooge 

image from blogs.amctv.com.

image from blogs.amctv.com.

He’s the most literary character on the list, to be sure, and the one who represents the kind of change of heart that the Christmas season can bring in people. Bill Murray played him in Scrooged!  He really makes this list, though, because of the importance of A Christmas Carol in my all time favorite novel A Prayer for Owen Meany (time to read it again!).

1.  The Heat Miser 

Friends call him Heat Miser and he’s got a better song than the Grinch… enough said.

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Filed under Advent, Anecdote, Christmas, Family, Fathers and Daughters, Fathers and Sons, Holidays, Movies, Star Wars

And There Came A Gala

Last Sunday, Sous Chef and I attended her school’s Father/Daughter Gala. We had such a great time!

Father Daughter

 

The theme of the night was Denim and Diamonds and Sous Chef and I went all out.  We did a little better on the denim part than the diamonds part. We are on a budget!

Father Daughter 3

 

I had to commemorate the night with a Dancing Selfie (TM pending).  We were on the dance floor an awful lot and were at our most energetic during Shake it Off and Footloose.   Sous Chef  is a good dancer. Me… well, it’s not this:

(Though this is the image of myself dancing I have in my mind!)

There are very few people I’d rather dance with… actually, there are very few people I’d rather spend time with than Sous Chef. What a great night! It was a lovely start to these days of celebration leading up to Christmas and I can honestly say that I am wistful in anticipation of next year’s Father/Daughter Gala which will be our last…

Father Daughter 2 Next year, though, they better play Bust A Move

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