Thursday, July 23, 2015

Seeing the Ocean for the Macaroni.

What's a good term for my situation?

Existential crisis? Nah, too dramatic.

It could be more of a midlife malaise, only that would imply I'll live to be 104, which would be fantastic. Problem is, if I'm currently peeing every morning in five languid installments, by the century mark I'll need a tasteful prostate pram to wheel around that leathery gland that partially popped free of my body in 2038.

No, I'll just assess this situation using a system to which we grew accustomed back in the Bush years—Irrelevance Alert Level Orange, or more formally defined as "a high risk of becoming paternally insignificant."

When I started keeping this journal six years ago, my children were ages fourteen and nine. I was fully immersed in nuclear family Americana, rarely poking my head through the surface in an ocean of macaroni, cheese and hot dog pennies.

Year after year, the fatherly importance threat level hovered at its lowest stage—Green—and only occasionally would it elevate to Level Blue, or "guarded." This slightly higher risk of irrelevance occurred only when one of my daughters did something unusually independent, like replacing toilet paper.

I coached soccer, I went on field trips; Costco wasn't a place to hit up real quick for a few odds and ends, it was a destination rivaling only the IKEA ball pit in kid curb appeal. Nearly every visit, after watching my grubby cherubs stuff their rosy cheeks with enough fro-yo to illicit unfettered shivering, I'd wrap them in their pink or purple jackets as we cruised the aisles looking for enough Gogurt and Goldfish to make it through another week.

My younger daughter was a bubbling aquifer of verbal treasures:

"I'm sorry. I just feel fragile today."

"When can I drink coffee? I want to try a crappuccino."

"You don't know how I feel! You're not inside my heart!"

Sure, life had its routines back when I started writing this weblog, but with kids in the house, the mundane could explode into the insane in the blink of a pink eye. Ever had someone vomit in your slipper...while it's still on your foot? Ever pulled a Barbie out of your coat pocket on the bus and wondered if you should try to explain it to the lady next to you?

Anyway, I think you get my point. I'm obviously still a dad who does a lot of dad stuff, but now I'm more the key grip than the director. During those days of high energy and overwhelming fatigue, I yearned for a future that allowed for a bit more breathing room. It happened. And with it came an abundance of time, and a heightened fear of irrelevance.

The Mayo Clinic defines empty nest syndrome as "parental feelings of sadness and loss when the last child leaves home." I disagree, since it's still another three years until my younger daughter goes to college.

I'm feeling it now, maybe not as severely as I will, yet still I never could have imagined the meaty chunk of my personal identity that's permanently and irrevocably embedded in my dad self. And currently, while it does make me sad, this is not yet the time to step aside.

After all, while the nest may be half empty, it's also half full.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Creamsicles and Copperfield.

Hi! Holy Crocs-in-the-mud, it sure has been a while, eh?

For me, writing is one of those deals that, when things are rolling, when I've got lots of ideas, can be very, very, very, very fun. Yet for every muse that whispers fragrant gifts of inspiration, a lazy Lucifer lurks. He taunts me with Netflix series, reality shows and naps, and it is under this douchebag demon's spell I have been moldering these past thirty-eight days. This must stop.

So let's review—how much do you remember about what's gone down in the last month-and-a-half? Actually, don't worry about it, because I looked it up, and let's just say that fortunately it's closer to the Bellagio buffet than Roy's Chuckwagon. So, just to refresh your memory:

On June 6, two inmates at Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York David Copperfielded their way out of the maximum security facility and stayed on the lam for over three weeks. One of them ended up with a tap-tap to the temple while the other was shot twice in the torso, survived and was recently remanded to Supermax to spend 23 hours a day in a box for the remainder of his life.

Meanwhile, Andrew Cuomo's casting call/cocktail parties continued every Thursday evening in the governor's mansion. Whomever is going to play Cuomo in the ABC Monday Night Movie of the Week is still too close to call, but so far, Alan Thicke leads after killing it in his press conference monologue. Hasselhoff, desperate and trying to show his chops by summoning tears, blew it in Cuomo's stern eyes. You could tell the gov's frowny grin that The Hof had blown it.

Remember the Rachel Dolezal affair? Spokane's NAACP leader was outed (by her own parents!) as being whiter than my brother's calves. I'm not going to judge this woman. I don't doubt what she says is true—that the situation is complex. But inevitably my mind strayed. Every time they showed those split-screen before/after photos, delicious Creamsicles hijacked my consciousness.

On the political front since June 3, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry and Donald Trump have lobbed their greazy top hats onto the rug of presidential candidacy, joining an already crowded field. I'll save the jokes for later posts—so many possibilities—but I did hear that Christie is still undecided. He actually showed up thinking he was in the line for maple bars.

Seriously, let's face it, good or bad, we can't have a president who wears his pants like Homer J. Simpson.

But shit got real on June 26. In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court proclaimed same-sex marriage legally enforceable in all fifty states and Florida. Amazing, isn't it? Especially for this fiftysomethinger who grew up in an era when the other F-word was tossed around with the frequency and ease of a Nerf football.

Oh, yeah, and chalk up another "W" for the good guys during June. In another 6-3 vote, the black-robed priests of the Temples of Syrinx upheld the Affordable Care Act, ensuring health insurance for ten million newly-insured Americans.

For all the messed up stuff that happens in this nation—the shootings, the religious and political polarization, it feels like together, we still seek a more enlightened society, which is heartening.

Next stop: fracking. Hopefully, we're able to become fully enlightened prior to becoming fully submerged.