Out of the nest

Out of the nestI’m not very nostalgic.  Purging old stuff from my basement and garage is usually only difficult because of the work involved, not because of the sentimental value of the treasures buried in dust and cobwebs.

I don’t attach much emotion to things – which is good from a hording standpoint, but probably not when it comes to kids artwork.  I remember getting caught by one of my kids once when I threw out one of their masterpieces from Kindergarten.  They were mortified that I didn’t want to treasure every object they came in contact with.  I’m just not wired that way.

The same ideology applied to how I raised my kids – there was never a time that I sat up late at night, rocking one my precious, fevered little darlings back to sleep where I thought ‘I wish this feeling would never end’.  In fact, I couldn’t wait to see what great adventures were laid before us – what these smelly little diaper destroyers would eventually become.

I also wished I remembered what a full nights sleep felt like.

When we brought our first-born home from the hospital, I remember sitting in the living room after the whole birth ordeal, wondering ‘what do we do with him now?’.  For me, it was far more exciting to see what would happen next, than clinging to things past.

I guess I just associate more with the here and now, than the days gone by.  I’m pretty sure all the Facebook psychologists will have a field day with these thoughts.

I don’t want to suggest that I’m not the proudest Dad in the world at how they’ve turned out.  I am!  Heck, based on how I saw my parenting skills, I’m actually surprised that they beat the odds!  I guess my wife was the tipping point factor for them.

We’ve been dealing with our Son’s transition to adulthood for the past couple of years as he’s been living in another city while going to University. This fall, our daughter will be doing the same.

Our ground school lessons are over – now it’s time for the kids to fly.  Amazing, exciting times.

We’ve been frantically completing all her applications, payments, etc., with a mix of frustration and excitement for the past few months.  These are incredible times for her and for us.  It’s also been hectic enough that we haven’t (okay, I haven’t) really stopped to think about what this means.

Yesterday though, it hit me.

We were at the store, getting some kitchen supplies for her new home on campus.  As we filled the cart with dishes and tea towels, the sudden weight of what was coming hit me like a school bus.  Our baby will be leaving home.

It actually surprised me, feeling like I did.  Maybe it shouldn’t have, but there I was, staring down at this pile of independence; cutlery, dishes, a can opener.  I think it was the stupid can opener that got me.  That’s the clear sign that she’s leaving.  You can mentally quantify the other stuff, but a kitchen gadget like a can opener means they’ll be doing things on their own from now on.

Again, I’m not nostalgic, so I’m trying to think of all the upsides of not having a kid in the house.

No more checking in to see that she’s up in the morning, or cleaning up the kitchen after you’re pretty damn sure you cleaned it up before you went to bed last night.  No more of your stuff being moved from where you left it.

No more lights left on all night, or having to close the bedroom door because the ‘night owls’ don’t sleep like normal people do, and they wake you up with their stomping around all night.

We’ll be able to eat dinner where we want, when we want, and what we want.  We won’t have to think about anyone else (except the dog, of course).  GROCERY BILLS CUT IN HALF!

So, why am I so stuck on that stupid can opener?  Have I suddenly tapped the nostalgic emotion, hidden away all these years? Will I suddenly find myself digging through old pictures and trophies, recalling how I felt at the time, creating a shrine of what my kids used to be?

That can opener, I think, is a metaphor for where we are with our kids.  They will use the tools we’ve given them to leave the ‘can’ and set out to start their own lives.  It’s out of our hands now.  They’re turning the crank, not us.

Like I was almost 2 decades ago, anticipating what will come next, I’ll be cheering on my kids and underestimating just how awesome they’ll turn out, but those 2 decades left a legacy.  You can’t ignore how profoundly your life changed because of them.  For the better.

Maybe I am getting a bit nostalgic.  Maybe I’ll spend a little time looking through old pictures, remembering how I felt at the time.  Maybe that’s what I’ve learned from my kids.  That time we spent together, figuring out life as we went along, was the stuff of life.  Those crafts from Kindergarten weren’t just construction paper and glue – they were the milestones that I kept looking for – those ‘next great things’ that I couldn’t wait to see.

Sure, having the house to ourselves will be great in many ways, but I figure it’ll be about a week before we wish they were back home again.  Maybe the can opener won’t work, and we’ll have to swoop in and save her from her independence.

As much as I might wish that, I sure hope it doesn’t happen.  Leaving the nest is just another step for kids.  A painful, thrilling, sad, exhilaratingly huge step.

And I couldn’t be more proud.

Advertisements

Dads – Perfectly imperfect

dumb dadsSince the beginning of time, the male of the humanoid species have endeavored to achieve awesomeness.  Early man created tools of hunting, war, and fixing broken toasters.  They did this so they wouldn’t have to call on someone else to do what they had no business doing on their own.

Fiercely proud, even early man insisted on being the sole ‘go-to’ guy for his families needs.  Tracking wild game never included pulling over to ask a stranger for directions.  They’d rather die of starvation in a quarry than admit they lost the scent of the animal.  No, even our ancient ancestors had a keen sense of stubbornness.  It’s a wonder we ever made it this far!

Luckily, today’s Dad’s don’t often die in quarries looking for food for their families.  We still won’t ask for directions, though.  In fact, even with super high-tech satellite guidance systems, we’ll decide our route is better than the one on the Navigation system we payed hundreds of dollars for.

‘That stupid machine doesn’t know anything!’

Our hunting is usually limited to parking spots – another task that has it’s own weird science to it.  My SUV has retractable side mirrors.  I love this feature!  Because of this sweet little bit of modern technology, I can shoe-horn my gas guzzler into spots reserved for mopeds.  Opening the doors is a bit of a challenge, but hey – look how close we are to the mall entrance!

tight parkingOne thing today’s Dad’s share with our ancestors is the need to pass along life-skills to our kids. It’s this disposition that drives Dads to teach their offspring on how to survive. It’s a fundamental need, developed deep within ourselves as a pseudo immortality, ensuring the manly skills of our forefathers are passed along.  Strangely enough, this need has a blow-back effect, in that while we try to pass along life-saving skills and advice, those very lessons usually involve tasks that could, in themselves, have fatal consequences.

Take swimming lessons for example.  While few can argue about how learning to swim is a significant survival advantage, it also provides great health and recreational benefits.  Where it gets dicey, is in how Dads help us to develop that skill.  It would stand to reason that a parent would register their children for board certified lessons, in a supervised and well equipped swimming pool, that had been tested for cleanliness and life-saving equipment.  It would stand to reason….except for Dads!

That could take years, and cost hundreds of dollars.  Why?  How did we learn to swim?  Pushed off the dock in a semi-polluted pond with no life-saving equipment, ladder, or detailed dry lessons on how to kick your feet.  It was sink or swim, mister!  It built character, and possibly a paralyzing fear of H2O.

They were practical lessons.  We didn’t learn about power tools by taking a class in safety, followed by simulations and ‘role-playing’.  Dad would fire up the saw, hand us a piece of wood, and say ‘don’t cut off any fingers’.  Instant carpenter.  If you were successful, you had the run of the tool shed.  If you weren’t, well, you were learning to write with the other hand…and it was your fault.

Dads don’t live as long as Moms, statistically speaking, so we have limited time to do our data-dump of life knowledge.  Some things just need to be taught on the fly.  We don’t know when our number will be up.  Waiting for little Billy to decide if he wanted to learn a sport was a waste of time.  It was ‘Here – catch!’.

hit with ball…and if you didn’t?  Your fault.

There’s also some key differences in how Dads give advice from how Moms give the same advice.  A Mom might say, ‘Don’t do anything that we wouldn’t be proud of’.

A Dad, giving the same sage advice, would make one small change to that suggestion; ‘Don’t get caught doing anything that we wouldn’t be proud of’.

See the difference? Mom’s advice is absolute – no wiggle room.  Dads are more pragmatic than that.  They know you’re gonna do dumb stuff.  They just don’t want you to get caught doing it.  If you do, they have to make an example out of you, and that means repeating a lesson they already taught.  Dads HATE having to do things twice.  Any time a Dad can cut a corner on something, the better life is.

That probably explains this:

Dad cutting cornersEven fixing that toaster often had a unique and dangerous aspect to it.  If you’ve ever seen footage of a brain operation, the surgeon often has the patient awake, so they can be sure they’re snipping the part of the cortex that is causing the problem, and not the one that controls breathing.  Well, Dads tend to follow that same logic.

If the toaster is unplugged, how will you know if you’ve fixed it?  Common sense.  If it’s good enough for a brain surgeon, it’s good enough for Dad.

fixing toasterDads have a way of getting things done without those pesky instructions.  Sure, there’s the odd extra bolt left over, but the mental triumph over stupidly complicated directives more than makes up for the questionable safeness of said project.  This is what Dads teach us.  Sometimes you just have to throw away the script, wing it, and rely on your ancient instincts to guide you.  Trust in your gut.  Those thousands of years of evolutionary trial and error suggests that your gene pool is deeper than most, just by the fact that you’re alive and reading this.

It’s those shortcuts and bypasses that really are the fruit of living, aren’t they?  How boring life would be if we didn’t get the crap scared out of us once in a while.  Take the path less traveled – even if it’s less traveled because it leads to quicksand or some other potential catastrophe.  These are where our great memories are formed.

We all should thank our dangerous, spontaneous, and sometimes insensitive Dads this Father’s Day.  They keep the spark alive…sometimes with a knife in the toaster.

…’With a little help from my friends’…

min·ion
ˈminyən/
noun
plural noun: minions
1.
a follower or underling of a powerful person, esp. a servile or unimportant one.
synonyms: underling, henchman, flunky, lackey, hanger-on, follower, servant, hireling, vassal, stooge, toady, sycophant;

I wish I’d thought of it years ago, but hindsight is 20/20 as they say.  I need some minions.  I need unquestioning followers who will do my bidding without reservation, complaint, or hesitation.

Imagine a world where all you had to do was ask, and whatever you requested would be granted; where obedient subjects blindly take all orders and execute them without delay.

Oh sure, I had kids who I could order around for a while, but eventually you see that look in their suspicious little faces, questioning simple requests;

“Go get Daddy another beer.”

“Hold this while I start up the chainsaw”

“Don’t tell Mom I broke it.  It’ll be our little secret.”

You know, the usual stuff. That’s when you know that they know something isn’t quite right with this symbiotic relationship, and your hope of having a permanent underling to do your dirty work is done.  They’re so ungrateful, those kids!

I have lots of friends…well, a few friends, but they’re all too smart to go along with any wild world domination plans I might have.  I need to wear dark sunglasses when I ask them to get me the necessary parts to make a death-ray.  They can see the crazy in my eyes which is a giveaway that I might not be quite right.

I’m too broke to hire a personal assistant, like they do in Hollywood.  That looks like a pretty sweet gig!  Imagine having someone walk the dog, pick up laundry, cook supper, clean the pool and massage your tired feet after a long day of shouting ridiculous orders at them.

I have a dog, who I guess would be a good minion since she has unwavering loyalty to me, except that it kind of works in reverse for us.  I feed her, carry her down the stairs, walk her, pick up after her, brush her fur….hmmm.

I might have looked at interns, but big business has ruined that sweet little free labour pool for the common man.

Even Dr. Frankenstein had Igor, but you could tell that the poor hunchback would shiv the bad doctor at his first chance, given the way he was treated.

The only thing left for guys like me are ‘minions’, but where do you start?  Is there a ‘Minion Mail Order’ website?  Where do these minions come from anyway?  How do you know that they’ll stupidly accommodate every insane request you make without hesitation?  Is there a vetting or interview process?

There’s lots I need to research, to be sure.

How many do I need?  Do I start with a half-dozen and see how things are going?  Do I have to give them names?  Maybe they all get the same name and somehow can just figure out who I’m talking to, kind of like George Foreman did.

What about feeding?  Do they need a special minion diet, and if so, do I get a minion to serve it to himself?

I know they’re all ‘him’s’ because no girl minion would be dumb enough to blindly follow me around all day.

What if they unionize? I’d hate for them to be carrying me over to the treadmill then stopping halfway because of a negotiated coffee break.  I’d be stuck there for 15 minutes!

Where do they sleep?  Do they sleep?

If one gets away, do I go after it like a lost sheep, or just call up my minion supplier and order a replacement?

Wow.  This is getting to be a lot of work!  Maybe this whole minion thing needs a rethink.  Maybe I should just depend on me to do my dastardly deeds.  At least I know I would do things exactly the way I wanted them done.

Maybe that’s the fatal flaw with minions.  The movies prove it.  Every time a super villain (not suggesting I want to be one) has minions do his dirty work, something goes wrong and they end up failing in their bid to blow up the moon or detach California from the rest of the continent.

I think villains should aim a little lower, at least to start.  Pretty sure that if you want to vaporize a planet, a lot of people are going to try to stop you, but if you wanted to take a shopping cart past the store parking lot, you might go unnoticed.

That’s a job even the simplest of minions could handle.

My insidious little plan?  Why do I really need minions?  I haven’t figured that one out yet, and it would spoil the surprise, but you have know that being the master of a bunch of mindless followers has it’s appeal.

Regardless, I’d start out small, maybe washing the car if the weather gets above freezing.

I won’t work them up to continental annihilation until I’m sure they can follow basic direction.  There’s nothing worse than commandeering every television station in the world to give the nations notice that if they don’t comply with my demands, I’ll blow up Iceland, only to find out that the minions forgot to plug in my death ray.

Or, maybe I just need to stop watching sci-fi reruns and go outside…it’s been a loooong winter!

Yeah, forget the minions.  I’m the only one who can do things my way.  I’ll be my own master, and serve my dog mindlessly.

P.S. – I tried to warn you about winter in my last blog, but nooo!  You all thought my little petition was a hoax, and now we’re stuck digging out of another lousy storm.  Well, you can’t complain if you didn’t vote.

The Red Suit Conspiracy – believing in Santa

WARNING:  THIS BLOG MAY MAKE FOR AN UNCOMFORTABLE CHAT IF LITTLE ONES READ IT.

As a kid, I was pretty gullible.  I tended to think that what anyone told me was the truth, otherwise, why would they say it?

I also spent a lot of time getting sucked in to things.  Maybe that’s why I hate gambling so much.  Not that I have a moral stance on it, but just because I’m lousy at it.

When you’re really little, like pre-school or Kindergarten aged, Santa is like God to you.  What an incredible being, who rides around at night in a sleigh being pulled by flying reindeer, leaving presents under the tree for every kid in the world. It’s no wonder kids run screaming from him at the mall.  He’s super human!

Of course, toddlers don’t think in practical terms.  We are told about Santa, we see the gifts, so therefore, Santa is real.  Simple.

As you get a bit older, you start to see some cracks in the Santa story, though.  Mostly, it’s from older kids laughing or beating up some poor sucker who blathered that they still believe.  Who wants that kind of Christmas gift?

I remember when I lost my ‘Christmas Virginity’.  It took a while, much like my rea…..never mind.  Anyway, it started out with little things like opening the gifts with Santa’s signature on them, then going to our cousins house to see similar Santa gifts with different hand writing on the presents.  That sure seemed odd.

Then there would be Christmas Eve when we were tucked not so neatly into our beds, and I’d hear what sounded like Mom and Dad stumbling down the stairs with something big.

I spent some serious time contemplating this dilemma.  I mean, on one hand, for every Christmas up to now, the manifestation of the great and powerful Santa was clearly evident.  Shopping malls had him on display, Christmas specials confirmed his existence, and our parents and older family members assured us that he was very real.  Then, as sure as the sun would come up, presents were littered around the tree.

Being the gullible kid I was, and knowing I was gullible, meant that I had to take serious stock of things.  I didn’t want to be that kid getting beat up in the school yard for believing – especially if it wasn’t true.

So, I weighed the evidence before me.  The gifts showed up as promised every year, with no trace of them in the house before I went to bed, and all the television, radio, and adult conversation said he was real.  It’s what I was raised to believe.

On the other hand, the idea that one man could circumnavigate the entire globe in one night flying around with magic reindeer, stopping at virtually every house on the planet, and little elves making cool toys like etch-a-sketch and rock-em-sock-em robots didn’t seem very likely.

So, it came down to one key factor.  Was the Santa story a magical truth or an elaborate hoax?  When faced with this at the age of 8 or 9, I decided that the only logical explanation was that he must exist, simply because I concluded that there was no way an entire adult world could support such an elaborate ruse for that long.  Not a chance!

I was happily resolved with my results until one day when I was playing at a friends house, and he said to me, “I don’t believe in Santa.  Do you?“.  Gulp!  The acid test.  Could I stand behind my conviction?

No!  Of course not.  I blurted out, unconvincingly, “No, I don’t either.

Just then, my friend’s mother walked in and scolded us for telling the secret when his little sister was just in the other room.

Wait a minute.  I was lying when I said that I didn’t believe.  Now, this lady unwittingly confirmed my worst fear.  Santa didn’t exist after all.

I was quietly heart-broken.  All those dumb adults really could keep the secret.  So much for logical deduction!

Through adolescence and early adulthood, I was wise and smug about Santa.  I would mentally criticize parents who tried to convince their kids that the jolly old elf was working hard up at the North Pole, so they’d better be nice…..or else!

That is, until I had kids of my own.

When you have children, your cynicism about things starts to soften.  You start to immerse yourself into their wonderful little fantasy worlds.  And along with that, you begin to rethink your stance on the whole Santa conspiracy.

I took a logical approach to Santa, just like I did when I was 8. Putting aside for a moment, just who Santa is, lets look at things:

  • He still comes late at night, delivering gifts to children – CHECK
  • He works all year in his ‘workshop’ so the kids will have gifts under the tree by Christmas – CHECK
  • He brings joy and amazement to little children on Christmas morning – CHECK

I think that if you put a few details aside, like the little reindeer, and the North Pole, Santa is every bit as real as us.  I think we, in our smug, all-knowing youth, had it completely wrong.  The little kids were right after all.

Santa does exist.  There is no conspiracy after all.

Great, old St. Nickolaus, the Bishop of Myra in Turkey who is said to have given gifts to children at the time, was only the first in a very long line.

Now, those honoured enough, and who have a hint of that childhood belief, work all year long in their own ‘workshops’ (office), along side the ‘elves’ (co-workers), and deliver gifts on that magical night to their little children.

What an awesome job to have.  Being Santa Claus. If all those parents slogging away all year, then standing in line at the mall don’t believe in Santa, they are as lost to the magic as any child who stops believing at an early age.

Let me stress that Christmas is NOT about giving and getting presents, or going into debt while burning through your credit limit at the mall.  Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  In that spirit, however, bringing joy to children seems like a pretty nice way to celebrate God’s love for us.

Don’t give up on Santa.  He’s real, and he’s in each of us.  The sleigh and red suit may be gone, but what he did, and what he represents is as real as ever.

Merry Christmas!

The Long Goodbye

I’ve been told that I’m not very good at saying goodbye.  It’s true.

In my younger High School and College years, when I was ready to leave a party, I would tell people that I was going to the bathroom or something, then slip away for the night.  I found this easier than having to deal with the awkwardness of justifying why I was leaving so early, being pressured into staying a bit longer, or feeling like I had to set up the next get together before I left.

Even now, I don’t have the leaving thing figured out.  I tend to linger too long at the door, or talk  too long with people with my jacket in hand.  I can’t just shake hands, say thank-you and goodnight, then leave.

It seems there’s a sense of urgency to cover all the ground you didn’t get to during your visit, and let’s face it, it’s a point in the get together when you have the hosts undivided attention.

I wish I could do it like they do in the movies.  Grab my coat and hat, open the door with a wide wave, and announce to the entire party, “Goodnight everyone!  Until we meet again”.  Then I’d take a deep bow, turn and leave.  That would be a classy thing to do, but it’s not very realistic, and my hosts would probably take away the car keys and call me a cab.

I feel like I have to tie up all the loose ends before I go – to reconcile my relationship, ensuring our next encounter starts on a good footing.

There’s a direct correlation between the length of the exit and the closeness of the people I’m with.  When meeting strangers, a simple ‘nice to meet you’ and a handshake is just fine.

For most other farewells, I stumble over the words, and linger too long.

Saying goodbye to our son when he went off to school last year was excruciating for all of us.  We all went with him and got his new dorm room set up, picked up some last minute things at a store, took him out for lunch, then headed back to ‘tuck him in’.

Standing in the lobby of his residence building, we hugged, and choked down our goodbyes, barely able to speak.  Finally, standing with tears in our eyes, I looked at him one last time and weakly squeaked out ‘Go’, then gestured for him to head back to his room.

It was a very quiet and somber drive home.  I can’t imagine what it will be like next year as we send our daughter away to school – our baby.

I know I’ll be seeing them again, but it still breaks my heart.  How do you say ‘goodbye’ when it will be the last one?

As my father’s health is stolen away from him, we visit him in the hospital, sitting next to his bed.  We talk to him, hopeful that he can hear us and knows we’re there for him.   We hold his hand, and feel the strength in his grip, even though he can’t really open his eyes or talk to us.

Dad is not a huge man, but was every bit a ‘man’s man’ when we were growing up.  He ruled our household as most fathers did back in the ’60’s, with authority and control.

With four sons and no daughters, our home was testosterone soaked, and Mom would do her best to balance things emotionally.  Family hugs were not part of the landscape, but we didn’t lack in connectedness.

Dad was tough on us, but he was also the first one to do almost anything for us.  Any sport we wanted to try, he would do his best to scrape together enough money to buy us the equipment, then stand, often in the freezing cold to watch us play.

Our house was loud and busy.  I was in our old neighbourhood a couple of weeks ago, and drove by the house we grew up in.  It’s still standing proudly, and has weathered the storm of 50 years of life and of us – a testament to the builder.

So many memories, both good and bad, came flooding back to me.  Playing in the yard, or on the street with our friends or getting into trouble with them.  I wonder what became of all of them? We’ve long lost touch.

One of the things that stands out for me, was how Dad was able to instill in us a sense of loyalty, pride and duty to our family.  We tried our best to stand up for each other, and were the first to call each other out when one of us went off the rails.  Nothing was more important than taking care of each other and keeping our good name.  One bad deed reflected on all of us.

We still have that instinct, many years later.

We come together, the ‘Pulchinski Boys’, to check in on him when we can, hoping that Dad will be awake and talking.  Those hopes are fading, and we know it.  I think the reality is that we are now gathering at Dad’s bedside, not so much to visit him, but to be together for him.  To show him that what he instilled in us so many years ago, about the importance of family, has not been lost or forgotten.

When words often fail us, actions speak.  We all probably wish we had that elegant speech or comforting word that you see in the movies, but the reality is, our most admirable, loving thing is to simply be there for him.

The word ‘goodbye’ will have to come soon enough.  For now, simply being present, either in person or keeping in touch with each other is about as noble an act as can be expected.

Until that time comes, I will linger at the door, trying to cover all that ground that I could not say during the party, making it a very long goodbye, indeed.

When I grow up…

There’s a commercial on TV right now, with a little boy dressed up as a pirate.  He runs around the house, chasing a turtle with his sword or doing ‘pirate things’.  He ends up in a grocery store with his mother, and sees an old man with an eye patch.  As he prepares to do battle with the unsuspecting old guy, his mother quickly rushes him out of the store.

It’s very cute.  We all love watching kids play out these fantasies in their everyday lives – little girls riding their tricycles around my neighbourhood dressed up like fairy princesses, while dad patiently walks behind them holding their wand, is adorable.

When we’re little, we dream of what we’d like to be when we grow up, and it’s usually something none of us will ever aspire to; astronaut, movie star, super hero.

You sometimes hear about famous athletes or celebrities announce during a speech or after winning a trophy of some sort, how it’s been a dream of theirs since they were a little kid.

I can kind of get that when it comes to athletes, but for actors?  Did they really lay on the grass in their backyards as little kids, daydreaming of sitting in makeup at 4am for 3 hours only to find out that the catering truck didn’t show up, so they had to wrap for the day, or taking wild swings at the paparazzi that swarm them like mosquitoes?

Something happens to us as we get older.  Belief in things like the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny disappear, and along with them, other fantasies that sit in our memories.

We learn that Superman isn’t real, and the closest thing we have to real heroes now are random strangers who happen upon an accident, running into the dangerous situation that we run away from.  No capes or tights, which is probably a good thing, but nothing obvious to tell them apart from the rest of us.

I don’t remember what I wanted to be when I grew up.  We did a lot of outdoor stuff, and had an affinity to climb things.  I recall that we had a ‘Spider Man Club’ where we’d challenge each other to complete difficult obstacle courses on playground equipment.  I don’t know that I ever thought I wanted to be Spider Man when I grew up, though.  In fact, I don’t think I know very many people who have had a life-long dream, then went out and achieved it.

There is one old friend who, after suffering a back injury as a young teenager, decided he wanted to become a chiropractor after his first treatment where the conventional medical institutions could not relieve his pain.

He committed to it back then, and the last time I saw him, a few years ago, he was running one of the most successful sports injury clinics around.  Now that is following your dream!

Being in the hunt for work, I often get asked what it is I want to do, now that I’m free to chase my dreams.  In fact, it was one of the first questions I was asked by the guy charged with getting me back to work.  I stumbled over my answer.  I’m not even sure that I gave him an answer.

Mostly, I’m only able to give a list of the things I know I DON’T want to do any more;  drive in rush-hour traffic, sit in meetings all day, that kind of stuff.  If I was completely honest with myself, I’d say that for the rest of my life, my work would look like this:

Sleep in, pour a coffee, get my daughter off to school, read the paper, walk the dog, chat with the neighbours, cut the grass, go golfing, fix something around the house, do a bit of shopping, then prepare a fabulous meal for my family – Something barbequed.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to come up with a way to get paid to do those things.

See, here’s the problem with starting over so late in your career.  All those childhood dreams are long gone; dried up in the dusty old recesses of your mind, if they were ever there in the first place.

Even if you wanted to be idealistic about the rest of your working life, you will be tasked with verbalizing your grand plan.  Astronaut or super hero are not likely in the cards any more, and you’d more likely be sitting on a chair in a psychiatrists office than working with NASA on the next space mission if you ever brought those dreams up.

Six year old dreamers are cute.  Fifty year old dreamers are on drugs…or should be…or are Richard Branson.

I don’t know if, over years of being beaten down or having dreams dashed, that you kind of throw in the towel, or if it’s something more basic than that.  Maybe you just realize that at a point in your life, you see the kind of stress your boss is under, and know you don’t want that, and the things that are important to you have changed.  Good family, good neighbours, good friends, good health.

I know that sounds really boring, and maybe it is.  But I also think you can still be a bit of that dreamer kid you once were, just on a more practical level.  Helping someone pick up dropped groceries in the parking lot, or cutting a neighbours grass when their lawn mower is kaput.

It’s never too late to be that guy or gal you dreamed of being when you were a kid, but it may look different, and be a bit less glamorous. In the end, though, we’re really here to help each other through life.  If that’s our only accomplishment, we’ve done quite well.

It may not be leaping tall buildings or swinging through sky-scrapers on a web, saving that damsel in distress, but it’s a lot safer, and you don’t have to wear tights.  Unless you want to.

They call me Mister

From the time we’re old enough to respond to our names, we’re able to pick up on the subtle differences between being called and being in trouble.

When your mother calls you by your full name, you know you’re in big trouble.  That kind of formality is reserved for serious infractions.

We never had trouble distinguishing things with our Dad.  He only called us by name if we were in trouble.  Otherwise, we got called ‘My Boy’ which was usually accompanied by a noogy.

There were 4 boys in our family, and he would just run down the list from oldest to youngest until we responded – and we had better respond, or else!  The more mad he was, the more convoluted the list sounded.  It’s no surprise that now with his condition, not remembering our names doesn’t come as any great shock.  For half our lives, he called us by the wrong name.

Out in the big scary world, there are names given to you that can be considered either respectful or condescending, depending on the circumstance.  Case in point;  Being called ‘Sir’ can be a show of respect from a youth, although it still stings a bit, since it means that you’re old. “Will you be getting the senior’s discount today, Sir?“.  Ouch!

On the other hand, being called ‘Sir’ by a police officer has a whole different meaning.  It’s on par with your mother calling you by your proper name.

When I’m introduced to people, especially someone of a generation ahead of my own, I tend to call them ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’ until they offer back a more relaxed option.  “Call me Harold.  ‘Sir’ was My father’s name”.

At home now, we generally refer to each other with pet names; honey, sweetheart, and so forth.  I know I’m in trouble or something has gone wrong when my lovely bride calls to me by saying ‘Troy’.  We call our kids ‘Boy’ or ‘Girl’, and refer to them as such with our friends.  I don’t know how that came about, but it stuck.

In my neighbourhood, there’s lots of kids.  Since we live smack-dab in the center of our street, our activities are almost always visible to curious little eyes.  This is also why we have good curtains.

The children next door to us call us ‘Mister Troy’ and ‘Missus Darlene’.  I guess our Polish last name was just too much for their little tongues to navigate.  I think it’s cute – as soon as we come outside or pull into our driveway, they compete to see who can say ‘Hi’ first.

Hi, Mister. Troy.  We’re going to the zoo today” the little boy would rush over and announce.

Somehow, even without introductions, our names are now known all around the neighbourhood, which is kind of cool.  But not today.

While I was picking up the mail, a kid who couldn’t have been more than 10 and doesn’t even live on our street was walking home from school, and as he passed, he said ‘Hi, Troy‘, with a casual wave of the hand.  No ‘Mister’ Troy, or Sir.  Heck, even ‘Mr. T’ would be better.

It came out of him with a familiarity like he was someone I had a beer with while fixing the lawn mower.  This was a little too cozy for my liking, especially from someone his age.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not one of those formal people who insists that people refer to them as Mr.  I’ve met people like that. “Hello, I am Mr. Stephens“.  Yikes!

It’s just that there’s something about respecting your elders that got lost on this kid.  You should follow a more formal introduction until offered otherwise.  Is that being stodgy or frumpy?

I know it’s not the kids fault.  He wanders the neighbourhood a lot, with little if any adult supervision, so it’s not like he’s getting a good mentoring.

Maybe ‘Mister Troy’ should take him under his wing and teach him about respecting his elders, and on properly addressing people he doesn’t know.  Who knows, maybe one day, he will be sharing a beer with me while fixing the lawn mower.  Then he can call me ‘Troy’.  But for now, he can call me MISTER!