Adventures with Tool Time Out Tim.

In Wmstn, I try to do anything requiring a functioning brain before noon. Largely because later in the day I’m getting tired and irritable. That’s when I get really tired of the obnoxious stupid things messing with me. Not that I take it personally though. It’s when I’m pissed that I didn’t take out those last two nails on a board or the jagged metal plaster corner bead, that snags my shirt or pants or tool cord that I’m working with and I then have to dick around trying to get free. Or I can deeply impale my forehead on the meanest eighty year old board in the house that the crease becomes my new pencil holder. It’s when the extension cords become this complicated paradox of tangles. It’s a time when special things happen. 

When the kids were young, we took then to oodles of fairs, carnivals and amusement parks. I would play those games of chance to win that big-ass Teddy bear. Throwing the ring onto the bottle tops. Pitching to knock off those obvious clowns. Using the glass encased hydraulic shovel to lift and drop the coveted prizes into the drawer. I wanted to be that bad ass alpha guy walking around strutting his male prowess; showing off that huge stuffed animal. “Yeah baby! I AM a provider!” But did I ever win those prizes? Hell no.

But in Wmstn in the late afternoon there is some funky shit going down. I become a master of the paranormal, Bob Villa on steroids. Or Norm the Crack Master. I deploy my latent Jedi skills, mystically defying all odds and decimating statistical probabilities. When I have that last flat head screw, perfect for the job on the second floor, I can drop it 8-10 feet and through the tiniest crevasse in the wall or floor, never to be retrieved. I can drop my hammer from a second story ladder, that performs the most complicated gymnastic tumbles, bounces and twists through cords and boards to eventually rest two floors down on the basement floor. I throw a piece of scrap wood behind my back and smash the only light bulb on the table. A board on the saw table will mysteriously move so that I cut it one foot shorter than what I needed. Or when I’m not looking, the miter saw rotates 45 degrees cutting an inverted angle, the opposite of what is needed. I make tools disappear before my eyes, or levitate and fly at the speed of light across the room.

It becomes a spiritual enclave that knows no earthly bounds nor yields to laws of physics. Where all inanimate objects become alive. I am Mickey the Wizard in Fantasia. Except these animated bundles of matter do not do the dishes or my bidding, instead acting of their own accord, despite my constant swearing. And I morph into the artistically uncouth poet, Beelzebub, and effortlessly string together paragraphs of the obscene that would make Linda Blair blush. And the innocent pedestrians who pass by the open windows and doors are captive to my poetry reading. An incendiary barrage of ear lobe frying expletives. I expect, any day, to see extra crossing guards directing children away from the haunted Swearing House at 302 E. Grand River. 

It’s true. This really truly happens. And then I know it’s time to go home.


I was to meet a builder at 9a over at the Williamston  house today so we could get started moving the stairs. I got there about 815a and decided I better head over to McDonalds to use the bathroom before he arrived. When I arrived, the parking lot was full which was a little discouraging. Maybe it was Senior Day I thought. Sure enough, when I went in, there were Seniors everywhere. Knowing their penchant for bathroom hoarding, I wasn’t optimistic. I went into the Men’s room and was amazed there was no one. Locking doors in bathrooms is just a reflex from growing up with five sibs. If it wasn’t locked, some smart ass would open the door and walk away. Then you had to do the penguin across the floor to close the door again. So of course I locked the stall door. When I went to leave, the door wouldn’t open. I turned the handle this way and that and nothing. I pressed the lock button as though that might help and it got stuck inside the handle. I turned it several more times. I started lifting and banging at the door since pounding the shit out of things always seems to help. I looked at the door and thought “I’m going to McGyver the shit out of this”. I checked the door hinge pins to see if I could pop them out but the bottom hole was the size of a pinhole. The physical laws of the universe didn’t stop me from thinking I could fit one of my keys in there despite the fact they were twice the size of hole. No luck. I got out a credit card and tried to jimmy the lock just like Jack Bauer. It didn’t work. I thought it would be embarrassing to call the McDonalds I was stuck at to ask to be rescued from the bathroom stall but I had to get over to the house to meet the builder. Then I remembered my phone was in my car. Throughout this time no one had come into the bathroom. I won the Latrine Lottery on Senior Day no less. There was a space under the door and I was measuring it in my mind and then looking at my middle girth and of course I thought I could fit under the door. And of course that would be when someone came in. Now there is nothing appealing about getting your body down on the pissy floor of a stall at McDonalds. It would give some dry heaves. But I could see no other way out. I was wearing my working bibs so I had to try it. I laid down on my back and slid my head through and started shimmying on the bathroom floor. I got past my chest, and kept squeezing and sucking in my stomach and managed to get right to the middle where my pens and reading glasses were. But on the outside of those pockets is a stupid button so you can snap the pocket shut. So when I decided this strategy was not going to work I tried to back out. But the bottom of the door was sticking on one of the pocket buttons held in place by my glasses and pens. So I was stuck by that damn button. And worst, I couldn’t get my arms up through the bottom of the door and put my hands through to move the button. So I Iaid on the floor contemplating giving up. But then I tried to puff out my chest or suck it in. I could imagine the conversation I could’ve had with a bathroom patron as I lay on the floor, part of my torso sticking out underneath the door. But I decided that I would act like I was passed out or dead, lying still with my eyes closed. They would wonder what happened but I didn’t care because I would be passed out or dead. When the paramedics got there I would come to and ask what had happened. But then I would be taken out on a stretcher and then to the hospital where I would spend the afternoon. At that point, no one was getting into the stall until I got out. Then I thought about that really fat Senior with really loose bowels coming in and having to use the stall. I had visions of having to be rescued by the Fire Department which of course would end up somehow on the Internet. At this point I was getting pissed off (pun) and started flailing my legs back and forth and lifting up my hips in a wild frantic effort to move my torso and get that damn button unstuck. Finally it worked and still no one had come in that bathroom. I got up off the floor and looked around the ceiling because I was sure this was being filmed by some sick bastard. At this point I had no idea what I was going to do. I rubbed my pockets again, trying to find some McGyver material and then I felt my phone that had slid sideways in my pocket. That’s why I didn’t feel it. I asked Siri to find the McDonalds in Williamston and pressed the call button. A young girl answered.
“Hi, I’m stuck in the Men’s bathroom.”


“I’m at your McDonalds and I’m stuck in the bathroom because the door is locked and will not open.”

“Oh geez.”

“Can you tell your manager so he can rescue me?”

“Of course!!”

Some kid comes in the bathroom.

“Are you stuck in there?”

“Yes, I’m STUCK in here. Can you get me a screw driver, a hammer and Allen wrenches so I can try and get out of here?” By now it was about 855a.

He came back and slid the tools under the door. I took off the door handle and opened the door. I left everything on the floor, handed the kid my business card and told him I expected his manager to call me and I wanted cheeseburgers for a year.

They still haven’t called.

Quote challenge d3

“If you ask me what I came in this life to do, I, an artist, will tell you: I came to live out loud.” – Emile Zola, French writer

Living out loud can mean many things. I choose to interpret this quote as having many interests and trying and learning as much as possible in the brief time we call our life. It also means embracing who you are; what you think and feel, your experiences whether sadness, happiness, travails and overcoming them, or victories. To go through them, not around them. Pain and happiness mean we are alive. And whether you consider yourself an artist or not, sharing your experiences with others. From my religious youth, I chose to embrace the concept of witnessing what it is like to be human and eschew shame in doing so. Perhaps to the chagrin of my family and friends. It means being interested in many things. Life should be a fertile endless field where you can plant as much as you want of anything you choose. But I suppose the challenge is to tend the field, to maintain some sort of balance which is easier said than done. We all cannot or will not be recognized for our creative endeavors. But maybe the true value lies not in the accolades from outside but the insights we absorb on the inside. And whether we can use those insights and experiences to comfort and reassure to others that they are not alone. Because ultimately, this is what we fear the most. To me, this is living out loud.

Refocusing Blue Jeans

I’ve decided to revamp my blog. Writing isn’t the only thing I do; though I’m retired, I’m in the process of remodeling a 1400 square foot, two story, 1936 Dutch Colonial Revival house.

When I’m working alone at the house, I write in my mind. Unless I have a power tool in my hands and need to focus on the job at hand because I’m adverse to losing a digit or appendage, or my life. But if it’s a repetitive no brainer job, this is when I write. I obsess about a piece I’m writing, a topic, emotion or a problem, a poem, song lyrics, a sundry other things which amount to pounding bleached dead horse bones into powder. Unless I have a satori and then I need to write it down because I’m a sixty year old netting butterflies before they disappear.

This house spoke to me, I bought it for a song and promptly tore it apart to make it better. To give it the attention it was asking for. Gutted it completely. Electrical, plumbing, lath and plaster. A grueling physical job and I was sore as hell for weeks. I have the requisite scars and dented fingernails. 

The sellers rented this house to the same tenant for over twenty years. They could have bought the house five times. This made me sad. The sellers did not put a dime into the house except to cover things up. I took down a suspended ceiling to find water leaks, rotted wood and a hole the squirrels were using to store nuts and pine cones in the ceiling. Eighty years of whole and half eaten pine cones fell onto my face. That pissed me off.

I have put in fourteen new windows and will be moving the stairs which are located in the middle of the house and take up 20% of the first floor square footage. My intention is to open it up completely. I cut out the back door to put in a patio slider that felt like eight hundred pounds. I put in a front door with side panels. Friends and passers-by ask why I’m putting so much time and money into the house if I’m going to sell it. Because it’s my baby, my hobby, a work of art and my reputation. This week I return to work after a three month recovery from rotator cuff surgery in January. Second surgery on my right shoulder while I’ve had the house. The surgeries and paying for our daughters wedding have caused significant delays.
Another project I completed last year. I saw a picture of this fence that I love and finally put it together.

The gate took a long time to complete as I had to individually rip sixty 1/8 inch strips for the weave.

Quote challenge d2

“The true measure of a man is what he does when no one is looking”.- John Wooden, basketball coach UCLA

When I first came across this quote I thought of the minimum wage kid in the back making my burger. Shudder. Or think embezzlement. Or maybe the diagnosed psychopath at the psychiatric hospital where I worked with a raging case of Hepatitis who was quarantined from the kitchen. He made several sandwiches (of course in the kitchen), put them on a plate and asked a confused patient to give them to the staff at the nursing station. Or the son-in-law of our lawn guy who stole my two-hundred dollar tie down straps off of my catamaran. The quote resonated with me because it’s true. We see it proven by surveillance cameras on a daily basis which offer a snapshot into a persons true personality. But there are also times when we actually observe an individual’s lack of integrity in person. I find these moments even more telling because these snapshots speak more about a person’s moral fiber in those distilled seconds or minutes than if we had observed them for a lifetime. Examples from my own life include a co-worker who had also won a bid for two of four shelving units. Two were damaged. He beat me to them and took the two pristine shelving units leaving me the two damaged units. I would never have done this, opting to take one damaged and one pristine. Another co-worker refused to make good on a ten dollar commitment several of us made to another co-worker, daring him to sit on the lap of our VP who was playing Santa Claus, and kiss him on the cheek. Or another staff co-worker who smashed the adjacent parked car in a parking structure and took off without leaving a note. I was a manager sitting in the passenger seat and took exception to his leaving. He was a claims representative who was responsible for hundred-thousand settlements. His excuse was that their insurance will pay for it. I never trusted any of them from that point on. Of course I take the high road in all of these incidents. But how do you know I’m not just blowing sunshine? 

Quote challenge d1

I’ve been nominated by my friend Citse to post 1-3 quotes for three days. I’ll push the envelope a little by posting a segment of a poem (She Walks in Beauty by Lord Byron). I read this a many  years ago and I fell in love with it, although I haven’t memorized the poem in toto. Yet. 

“She walks in beauty   

Like the night

Of cloudless climes and starry skies;

And all that’s best of dark and bright

 Meet in her aspect and her eyes..”

I would like to know more about the woman who inspired this line and poem. I think it’s a touching compliment and description. What do you think?

Back on Balance

A few years ago, a wonderful friend, lost her best friend suddenly and chose to divorce her high school sweet heart in the same year. She felt she had no choice and had to do this to survive. She was alone, lost and adrift and very depressed. She was homeless and unsupported. She cried when I spoke to her and expressed her despair and questioned whether she could go on. We discussed the future that was filled with her uncertainty and doubts. I did my best to encourage her but felt weak in my efforts. We talked from time to time and she cried. Every time. Today I saw her and she was ebullient and excitedly told me how she had been approved to purchase her own mobile home. I felt touched in my heart. She gave me a High Five and felt triumphant. She told me her balls were bigger than mine, a contest I would willingly concede. I gave her a hug that lasted forever. I asked if in her darkest hours, had she ever foreseen this possibility. She teared and said no. I am proud of her but I have no right to be. This is all her. That strong soul that won out against all odds. Today I realize that birth is frightening and painful no matter what age we are. Happy Birthday my good friend. 

Finishing in Clearwater

 “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”. Wait until you meet her kid.

Throughout my life I thought about having a man-to-man conversation with my biological father who vanished when I was very young. It came to mind during my favorite time with each of our three children: after their bath, when they were on the changing table, when I rubbed their chunky soft bodies with baby lotion. My heart was full and proud as I slathered their bellies, dimples, back and neck wrinkles and baby biscuits, all the while watching their heads bob up and down, curiously scanning the room. Then I would put on a diaper, dress them in their onesies and carry them into the living room, nestle into the rocker, all the while breathing in the sweet bath smell, my nose buried in their chubby cheeks and necks. And time and time again, I would ask the question: how could anyone leave such a beautiful miracle and give up these moments? My parents divorced and Bob had left by the time I was ten months old. There was a brief visit at the Dairy Queen, when my two brothers and I were expected to hug this stranger in Wayfarer sunglasses, who asked about school and sports. The only memories I had of him, mere slivers and slices: at the zoo with him, Grandma and Grandpa Hall, balloons, riding in a convertible. All perhaps conjured in my mind, eye of newt, bat wing and a wisp of a wish. When our last child reached ten months, I decided to have that forty-year-old conversation with Bob…if I could find him. He was getting older and if I didn’t follow through I might never have the chance to have the conversation. My mind was set even though I knew it would involve self induced pain and uncertainty. Either way, I would not sleep, I’d be pre-occupied, grumpy, and dodging anxieties like errant fast balls with all becoming exponential if a conversation was to occur.

I had a vague idea that he lived in Clearwater, Florida. I went to the library at Michigan State University to search for his name among the rows of phone books. When I found the Clearwater phone book, there were predictably many Robert Halls. I copied the pages of Robert Halls and began making calls, each time with that reminiscent adolescent feeling of asking for a date, anticipating rejection. Remembering that it was so much easier to be the “leaver” than the “leavee”, who is left unexpectedly to contend with a porcupine dumped into their lap.

I made several calls and not one of them scored. I remembered the name of my Aunt, who we always referred to as Auntie Ann. Her family had a unique last name and I went back to the library confident it would narrow the field. After finding one that I suspected may be correct, I went home and made the call.

I have always had a good auditory memory. If I had seen an obscure movie star in one movie, I could guess their identity from the other room just by the sound of their voice. The more popular they were, the easier it was. When I called the first and most likely number, there was an answering machine recording and I recognized Auntie Ann’s voice. We had not spoken in 30 years. I left a message of who I was and that I was looking for Bob’s phone number so I could meet him in the spring when our family would be traveling to Florida. She called back and was ecstatic. When she said “PRAISE JESUS!”, I remembered the Baptist brand of Christianity ran deep in this family. Bob had been a gifted Baptist minister, or so my mother had always said. I had heard stories throughout my childhood of his miracles, abilities and dedication to the Lord – all the while contrasted with the knowledge of a single mother raising three boys, who too frequently ate macaroni and cheese or oatmeal because we were too poor to afford anything else. We had a live-in nanny who stayed rent free, which allowed my mother to work as a secretary at Ford Motor Company. I had also heard that my older brother was the original poster boy, waiting-for-his-promised-birthday-puppy, sitting on the front curb for hours on end until called home. He would walk crushed and broken, empty handed, through the dusk and street lights to the house. Auntie Ann said they had been praying for so long that I would contact Bob, which made me wonder at the perversity of why the hell it had become my responsibility as the leavee?  She said she would contact Bob and give him my phone number. 

He called the next night. I had no memory whatsoever of his voice. He wanted to have an extended conversation as you would with an old friend you had lost track of over the years. He asked me about children and I told him we had three. He seemed elated that he had more grandchildren, which I let slide at the moment. I expressed my interest in meeting him while we were in Florida. We set a date and he gave me an address. 

For forty years I carried a childs shame of being left behind. I had believed I was the reason for the leaving. Nobody had ever said as much. I had soaked it up with my childish mind. I was the last to be born before the divorce. And for these years, struggled to come to terms with feeling unworthy of love, a burden of shame and guilt. And rage. Therapy and hours of mind-time, praying in my youth, writing and ruminating, had provided insight albeit never a resolution. I felt embarrassed I was still dealing with Daddy issues as a grown man.

Forgiveness had never come easy for me. It is the pinnacle and the most noble of disciplines, an almost Christ-like state of mind. A giving when it is least affordable or deserved. An act of unrelenting faith. Especially for someone you don’t even know. But forgiveness came to me through an unconventional writing exercise. It spontaneously started with me writing how much I loved to listen to a childrens chorus. If there was such a thing as angels, they were surely manifest on earth by those sweet innocent voices. However, the song “Jesus loves the little children”, that I was taught and sang as a child, had never felt true for me. It was propaganda. It was at this point, out of nowhere, that I began a conversation with Satan. There was no consternation on my part. No critical eye interfering, looking for just the right words. I had entered my mind through the back door, a 180-degree change in direction. Jesus didn’t give me answers, so maybe Satan would. Characteristically, he started immediately criticizing Jesus, claiming that in such dire times for man, it was his own sin for keeping silent. Perhaps he should be born again; the last time hadn’t worked too well for his followers since he was still absent. He could have come up with another way to provide reassurance. It showed his poverty of thought and lack of creativity. Because Bob was caught in flagrante delicto, Jesus, in all his power, should have caused Bob’s penis to wither and fall off. To allow him to live a life free of responsibility for the pain he had caused was unforgivable. I began to ask Satan questions. How could I expect him to be truthful with me? He wondered why I thought he could do anything now to make the experience more painful than it had been for a lifetime? That I thought too highly of myself, believing what had happened to me was unique. It was not. There were others who had suffered more painfully. I knew this was true. He said a ten-month old child does not have that kind of power. I was wrong to take personal responsibility for those events when I was so young. That was just unrealistic. Very little of what transpired had anything to do with me. With that simple exchange I experienced the first emotional movement ever. My mind shifted to visiting Bob’s grave and posting a note on his gravestone that declared he was not a good man. He was a fraud. Then I pictured him as a child. I wondered whether he sang too, with all the hopes, optimism and dreams that children hold. And what had happened to that child? I felt compassion for him for the first time. I had been moved over several pages of writing. And it was a lasting movement because the feeling of forgiveness I experienced for him has never changed, twenty years later. My Baptist relatives would never have recommended talking to Satan. No therapist or book had suggested it. It just happened. Of course it was logical that a snake knows best how to shed skin.

I didn’t realize it was a cloudy Florida day until I walked down the driveway to our van. Our family hoped for sunshine everyday after making the long journey from the frozen north. I looked up at the roiling clouds, various shades of swirling gray, but I didn’t feel cheated. Today the clouds seemed welcome, uncharacteristically reassuring, as though I had externalized fetid emotions into a tangible sky. I had waited for so long. Barely remembering the drive through my brothers neighborhood, I entered the highway thinking of a conversation with my therapist 20 years earlier. I wondered aloud if I should look up my biological father someday and how would I know it was the right time? My therapist answered, “Probably when you don’t want to kill him.” 

During the two-hour drive to Clearwater everything seemed poignant and symbolic. A car with a flat tire on the side of the Interstate. Cresting a hill to see the entire field on fire on the right side of the highway as the smoke obscured the road ahead. Some asshole monopolizing the left lane at 60 miles an hour so no one else could pass. Three feral pigs gathered at a fence post beside the highway. My fear was that during my man-to-man conversation with Bob, I would break down crying like a baby. That baby was in there somewhere but I was loath to show it to him. I was also a father in search of answers. That was where I was hoping to stay. I knew emotional reactions were not predictable, at least for me.

When I get anxious my stomach tightens and I struggle even with the involuntary function of breathing. I felt as though I was suffocating as the address numbers counted to the finish. I pulled the car over and reminded myself to breathe. I felt reluctant, panicky, and wanted to turn back. No one would think less of me. Except me. I would be angry and disappointed in myself for the rest of my life. And rather than dumping the life-long Bob Hall porcupine in my lap, I would add another of my own choosing; that I was too afraid to leave the first behind. I no longer wanted to be stuck in this childish loop. It was not going happen. 

I put the car in drive and crept toward the address of a modest Cape Cod on my left with a large and wise sentinel oak in the front yard. I pulled in the driveway and shut off the engine, got out and walked around the car with trepidation. As I approached the front porch Bob appeared, opened the door and greeted me with, “Are you Tim?” Of all greetings, why choose that one? Sarcastically I answered, “Are you Bob?” There was nothing about him that was familiar. He was tall and heavy and I could see a slight resemblance of one of my brothers, but there was nothing that looked like me. He extended the screen door and his hand. I shook his hand and walked in. To my left, near the kitchen, stood an older woman and a young man who appeared to be in his twenties. Bob introduced his wife Jingles. I had never met a Jingles. He introduced her son Tim, who walked towards me and with face grimacing, spoke unintelligible words. Tim was developmentally impaired. He seemed the embodiment of my own developmental delay. God has a wicked sense of humor I thought. Regaining my composure, I told Jingles and Tim it was nice to meet them and extended my hand to Tim, which he shook while saying something else. As if the strangeness of the moment was completely lost on him, Bob swept his hand toward the table, introducing the sandwich platter. Ham, turkey, two colors of cheese and halved buns.

“We figured you might be hungry so we bought a sandwich plate. Would you like something to eat?”

“No thanks. I’m good.” 

“Are you sure?”

“Really. I’m good. Thanks.” I would not keep it down although throwing up seemed aptly appropriate.

He gave me a tour of their home and showed me his office. He explained he had moved to California, graduated with a Masters Degree in Counseling or Social Work and worked as a therapist. Of course he did I thought. He showed me his bound thesis, which I thought was relatively thin, and a picture drawn by his other son who I knew existed but had never met. He asked if I would ever like to meet him and I was non-commital, one major life event at a time I thought. Before long he acknowledged that I was there to talk and suggested we step into the front yard and sit beneath the oak tree. A large branch ran perpendicular to the ground with a white swing tied by ropes. He sat down and the large branch started to swing. I had a pocket nightmare; the branch would break and fall, killing him instantly. Under the circumstances I would not have been surprised. But I would have been disappointed. Our conversation started with fundamentals. How long have you been married? What do you do for a living? He said he heard the tape of my original songs that I had sent to Grandma Hall (I remember being angry at his handwritten note that was signed “Dad”). Are you still singing and writing?

“Tell me about my grandchildren!” he said excitedly.

Not this time I thought. “Actually Bob, these are not your grandchildren. You have to be a father before you can claim grandchildren. My father was John, and he died in 1981 of renal cancer. These are his grandchildren. Before he died, I changed my last name from Hall to Johnides because he was my father.” He nodded as if he understood. I told him about our children, their ages and interests.

“I would love to meet them someday.” Which was not going to happen I thought. 

“You must have a lot of questions” he said. I recognized his training as a counselor, leading with a statement rather than a question, encouraging the other to respond with the payload.

“I do.” I lead with a statement: “Karen and I have been married for years. We have certainly had our ups and downs like other couples that have been married for a long time. But even if it were all to fall apart, wild horses would never keep me away from my children. I just don’t understand how you could walk away and not be interested in your first born children.” He started weeping. Heaving and gushing. I was surprised by his reaction. Rather him than me I thought. I had never considered the 40 years of pain he may have stored. I always assumed he was a cad who didn’t care, but now that had changed. I had been a child with no control over the past events. He had been an adult and equal partner in the responsibility, which he had avoided for years. I begrudgingly felt a cringe of compassion.

“I have not been a good father” he said between gasps. I let him cry it out, the large branch nodding in agreement.

“I was told you had an affair.”

“That’s not true” he said. The nuances of truth didn’t really matter. With most couples it was always fifty-fifty. He could tell me one thing, and my mom tell me another. I wasn’t going to find absolute truth.

“I just can’t understand how someone could have three children and never come around.”

“I was told by John and your mom that I was not to come around,” he said

“No birthday cards? No phone calls?”

He looked at me. “I was told never to contact you boys. I came to your brother’s graduation from college and it was a disaster.”

“It was a disaster because you just showed up. You never let anyone know you were coming.”

“And if I had, I would have been told not to come. So I just went.” There were the wild horses.

“Your mother and I were married in our late teens. We were much too young. I made mistakes and I always regretted them. You see Tim, I have never met another person in the world who could get under my skin, make me so mad, like your mother. I would get so angry. One time I kicked in the kitchen cupboards. That was not like me. I had never been that way. I became another person.”

He asked me if I had met my sister. I was incredulous. How had I never heard about a sister? She was not living with him. I wondered what she had been through, with and without him. I felt compassion and a bond, never even knowing of her existence.

“I never knew I had a sister.” He told me she lived in California. She was a year older than our oldest daughter.

I told him I should probably get back to my family. Forty years distilled into one hour, my questions unfettered and candid and exhausted. He followed me to the car when Auntie Ann pulled into the drive. She and I hugged and talked. Bob said that he was hoping we could stay in touch. I told him that was not likely. I was not there looking for a father since mine had died in 1981. I had only wanted this one conversation and I thanked him for that. He told me he would be there for me if I needed him.

As I drove away, I was grateful to Bob for a most significant gift. He was accessible, accommodating, accepting and remorseful. He had cried. He allowed me to express myself, and listened and never told me I was wrong. I knew it could have been otherwise. There was so much to think about and I was drained. I drove into town, stopped to buy a pack of cigarettes and found a restaurant with a back deck overlooking the ocean. I ordered a beer and lit a cigarette. Just a few hours earlier I carried a burden which I perceived as shameful, that I had hoped to cast off once and for all. When I started my trip to Clearwater, my mind was overloaded, my memories and feelings mingling with the outside world, which I viewed through symbolism. As I stared out over the ocean, there were no sailboats mooring after a long journey, no waterfowl smoothly landing on the water. It seemed unnecessary. I would never be free of my history because it was a part of me. The hope I could leave it all behind was perhaps the last vestige of a childish wish and naïveté. I had expected to finish, but what I accomplished was a transformation. My history had created the most important aspiration in my life: to have children of my own, to do it right. I wanted to straighten the legacy of twisted links of a cycle. To raise children in a stable loving marriage, to be a mindful parent, porcupines and all. I wanted to give them that which I felt I had missed and through which I had hoped to change myself. Our family is fortunate that we were able to accomplish what we had. Our children know how to hug and to love. They have grown into responsible adults. They have even said how much they hate their home town because it was boring and nothing ever changed. I find that reassuring, even if they do not. Years later, as I write these words, I am grateful and proud of the choices I have made. Most of all, for not turning back. I am grateful for what I have. For my children. They are glorious.

My Fantasy Revisions

I’m not being defeatist. Really. But while fantasizing about marrying Julie Andrews the other day, I conceded I may need to update my fantasies. Sure. In this world I know that anything is possible, even if it is unlikely. But being realistic, here is a list of things I may have to give up at 60:

1. Being six feet two and built like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
2. Becoming friends with Vic Morrow from Combat.

3. Appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show.

4. Being Shogun.

5. Being kidnapped by a tribe of over-sexed Amazon women (I was once cruised by a woman with blue hair in the elevator at the Traverse City Resort).

6. Being as handsome, classy and debonair as Omar Shariff.

7. Winning the Clearing House Sweepstakes.

8. Collecting enough S & H green stamps to get that car.

9. Being President.

10. Touring with my rockband.

11. Chucking it all to live in the wilderness like Jeremiah Johnson.

12. Winning an Oscar.

13. That my curly hair would straighten out.

14. Having a full head of hair when I get older.

15. Making that album with Joni Mitchell or James Taylor.

16. Living on my big, huge-ass yacht.

17. Becoming James Bond.

18. Buying an island.

19. Winning a Grammy.

20. Climbing Mt. Everest.

21. Playing for the Tigers.

22. Participating in the Olympics.

23. Being good at math.

24. Becoming a professional golfer.

25. Winning the Lotto and adopting a passel of kids.

26. Meeting Santa Claus (the Easter Bunny creeps me out).

Now that there is a huge gap in my future, the question is, what do I replace these fantasies with?

Golden 2.0

Forty years ago, I dreamt of hot women. In my dreams now, I’m looking for that damn bathroom that keeps moving. Back then I completely misunderstood “The Golden Years”.