The Silent Nurture

My grandfather was a tough sonofabitch. “Bonding” with a tough sonofabitch isn’t chatting about your day or hugging him around the neck and saying, “I love you.” Bonding is turning on a ballgame, sitting beside him on the bed or couch and keeping your mouth shut.

But my grandfather was from a different era. Despite those alleged deficiencies in intra-personal relations, you didn’t just love my grandfather. You revered him.

Mind you, he wasn’t an introvert. Much of my outgoing personality comes from him, in fact. He was quick witted, always had a one-liner or story handy and was often the center of attention, the life of the party. But privately, he was stoic, tired and suffering.

Granddaddy, Grandmom and Jean

Aunt Jean, Grandmom and Granddaddy – The way I last saw him.

Granddad was a World War II veteran. He lost a leg, part of the bone in one arm and all traces of a normal life thanks to shrapnel that tore through the French fox hole that held him one day in 1943. Away from the public, he was simply in pain. More pain than any of us can likely imagine.

So there were no fireside chats. No checkers games. No long walks with the dog. There was the occasional card trick, a once-in-a-while joke and, if you were lucky, a smile and a wink before bed.

My grandfather was my hero. He should be everyone’s hero. But in today’s world, sans the veteran status, his nature would be scoffed at as cold, impersonal and not nurturing. But I got all I needed right beside him on his king-sized bed, lying on the TV pillow watching the Red Sox or Celtics via grainy satellite long before ESPN was in every household in Central Virginia.

My grandmother summonsed me to Roanoke early in my freshman year of college. Granddad wasn’t going to make it much longer. Now confined to a hospital bed in a nursing facility, my hard-ass, stoic grandfather looked gaunt and pale. He didn’t smile or say much during that last visit. But he didn’t have to. He was my grandfather. I was his grandson. End of story.

I leaned over him as I left, kissed his forehead — for the first time ever — and said, “I love you, Granddaddy.” As I pulled away a single tear dripped out of the corner of his eye.

That was all the nurturing I ever needed from the greatest man I’ve ever known.

July 19, 2014  Leave a comment

My Memorial Day

Charles Mason Falls Sr., served in the United States Army for three weeks in France in 1944. He was in the hospital for three years following. No, he didn’t die serving his country, so technically Memorial Day isn’t about him. But any chance he had at a “normal” life passed away in a foxhole in France 71 years ago.

My grandfather lost his leg just above the knee, a portion of the other leg and one arm (though linearly, so he had both arms and hands) and nearly became the subject of Memorial Day thanks to shrapnel from a German bomber. Had he died, my father would have never been born. Easy to understand, then, why I think of Granddad on Memorial Day.

CharlesMFallsSr

Actually, I think of him a lot. Every time I hear the National Anthem, I get chills and look up, envisioning my Grandfather looking down on me. It’s one of the reasons I love sports so much. By the grace of God, I got to spend time with him. He died when I was in college. Unfortunately, I wasn’t smart or brave enough to really get to know him.

Visiting my family farm last year, I saw a familiar relic in the umbrella stand by the front door. It was Granddad’s old black metal cane. It clicked as he took a stride, the metal inserts in the adjustable shaft hitting the holes like a drumbeat. I could almost count the measures until he emerged from the hallway coming from his room to take us to dinner.

That cane gets a little use now and then at my house. I don’t need it. But I like hearing the click. It reminds me of my hero, my Grandfather, who gave so much so I wouldn’t have to.

To those who died serving their country — ours or theirs — I hope they and their families know that we are all humbled and thankful for their service and sacrifice.

Pity that man must resort to the horrors of war only to later regret not being better before it.

May 26, 2014  Leave a comment

Anger Is A Choice

As my family and I drove to church yesterday morning, we all remarked and commented on what a beautiful day it was. A sunny, cloudless sky hung over a bright landscape of green and dotted colors in people’s yards. The warmth all but made this year’s treacherous winter disappear.

I declared, “It’s impossible to be in a bad mood on a day like this.” Everyone agreed.

Coincidentally, I’d  had a bit of a brow-furling conversation with someone online that morning. It’s the type of argument that normally sets my mood as feisty and aggravated for the day. But I’ve been working on letting go of things I can’t control and dismissing people and their actions who produce that kind of reaction in me. Life is too short to let someone else control your mood.

While it was but a baby step in a long road of learning how to master this, yesterday I succeeded. Someone tried to make me angry. But I didn’t let them. I chose to be happy.

You should try it. It’s quite empowering.

May 5, 2014  1 Comment

Let’s Make Roads Safer With #OutOfReach

Distracted driving is not only hurting people. It’s killing people. And I’m as guilty as anyone of checking my texts, Facebook and Twitter messages while driving as anyone. I’ve even composed 300-word emails while driving. It’s scary and it’s dangerous and I want to stop. But I don’t want to do it alone.

So thanks to some wild inspiration, spurred by the heart-breaking story of Courney Ann Sanford who died moments after posting a Facebook message about how happy Pharrell’s song “Happy” made her., I’ve decided to start using the hashtag #outofreach on Facebook and Twitter. This is going to remind people that while driving, we should keep our phone #outofreach.

No phone call, text message, Facebook post, Tweet or picture is worth your life. Put the phone away while driving.

If you’d like to join me, here is the #outofreach pledge — a simple reminder for us all to run through each day to keep our streets and highways safe:

The #OutOfReach Pledge

I promise to keep my cell phone out of reach while driving in order to protect myself, my passengers, other drivers,  passengers and pedestrians. Distracted driving kills 10 people every day. That’s 10 people too many. While I may think I can control both my car and my phone at the same time, I know that in reality I cannot. Thus, putting the phone Out Of Reach is the only safe solution.

And here’s how the practical solution works:

  • Place your cell phone in the glove box, back seat or even trunk while driving or turn it off completely.
  • Never reach for it or check it while the vehicle is moving.
  • The only acceptable phone call to take or make while driving is on a 100% hands-free device (and I reserve the right to retract this one as your mind isn’t on the road while talking on any phone call).
  • Except where law prohibits it, you may check your phone quickly, but not respond to anything, at a stop light. If you need to respond, pull over and put on your hazard lights. No one will fault you for that.
  • Don’t allow friends or family to practice unsafe driving with their phones either. Be a good influence and tell them what #outofreach stands for.
  • When appropriate (we suggest at least once per day) remind your social channels on Twitter, Facebook and other channels that they, too should join the #outofreach movement and make the roads safer for us all.
  • Use the #outofreach hashtag on Facebook and Twitter. If we all do it, trending topics and the like with bring more attention to the effort and help more people remember to be safe.

If we all do that fewer people will die each day from distracted driving. I promise.

The first step? Share a link to this post on your social networks or email it to friends and family asking them to take the pledge, too.

Be safe people. If we have to come to your funeral because you didn’t keep it #outofreach, we’ll be sad and it will be your fault. Let’s make that scenario #outofreach, too.

April 27, 2014  3 Comments

If Reincarnation Is Possible …

Fish tank bourbonThe bar at Al J’s Conservatory in Louisville is a fish tank. There are dozens of live goldfish encased in the 30-foot or so glass bar topper that serves as the resting spot for your beverage. It’s a heck of a conversation piece and one of the unique features of the bar between the buildings at the Galt House, a legendary, historic hotel on Louisville’s river front.

I sat at said bar on Wednesday after a presentation at the hotel, waiting for a meeting, when it dawned on me:

If reincarnation is possible, and you’re a bourbon drinker, the worst possible thing to come back as would be a fish in this tank.

Having stumbled upon this revelation, however, I simply laughed at the torture I was potentially putting our ancestors through.

Cheers!

April 2, 2014  Comments Off

Looking Out

Standing in line at McDonald’s Monday, I noticed a teenage boy who walked behind the counter, grabbed a cup and served himself a drink. Apparently arriving for his soon-to-start shift, the young man came around to the customer area and seemed to be waiting to talk to one of his co-workers.

He was dressed as most teenagers his age are these days — fly tennis shoes, black socks, dry fit shirt, Beats By Dre headphones and calf-length shorts pulled down below his butt. I’ve become rather ambivalent to how young people dress and it’s not my place to say anything, but the pants below the waist thing just makes them look stupid.

And then a funny thing happened.

A UPS driver who was finishing his meal and putting away his tray came over to the young man and whispered something. The young man pulled his pants up and apologized to the man. A few minutes later after the pants had fallen back down below the waist, an elderly gentlemen standing beside me got the young man’s attention and said, loud enough for me to hear at least, “Pull your pants up, young man. Have some pride.”

Again, the young man obliged and respectfully apologized. He didn’t even appear to have an eye-rolling, begrudging compliance. He was respecting his elders.

While obvious to some of you, it’s fair for me to point out that all three men in question here were African-American. Typically, I don’t think race has anything to do with stories I tell. But this time it does.

A white person would never say something like that to young white man. I even pointed out in the story that it wasn’t my place to say anything. Perhaps I feel that way because the young man was black and I am not. But even if he were white — and I’ve seen plenty of young white men dressed the same way — I wouldn’t have said anything. I would have just rolled my eyes (at most) or ignored him (at least).

But these two older, black gentlemen care about how young, black gentlemen represent themselves. They care about their community. They know that history or circumstance already works against them, why exacerbate the problem by letting young people give society more reason to pile on?

While what I noticed was a distinct difference in their race versus mine, it made me feel more proud to be a part of the same community as them rather than different.

I envy those two older men. They have a more pronounced sense of community pride — or perhaps it’s racial pride, but I don’t wish to confine it that way — than I. I also envy the younger man. Because he has a community looking out for him.

Here’s hoping we all see and appreciate that more, regardless of what color we are.

April 1, 2014  3 Comments

I Hate Poodles

Frankly, I’m surprised Child Protective Services didn’t see them. They were deep gashes across each ankle and big, bloody pokes along my heel. Every time I returned from my grandparent’s house, I was barely able to walk. It was clearly abuse.

By my grandfather’s poodle, Louie.

I hated this fucking dog.

Piece of shit Louie

Granted, my grandfather was a decorated veteran of World War II, severely injured in service to his country. He was a stoic man who, while personable and friendly in crowds, lived most of his life in his head, in his bedroom, watching satellite television before any of us had it, while petting Louie. The dog kept my grandfather calm and happy, and probably from blowing his head off.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to slice its off with a jagged yard spade.

If you got within six yards of my grandfather’s bedroom — which happened to be the radius that skirted my bedroom, the den where I watched TV and the bathroom — Louie would erupt into a barking fit, snarl and spit and snip at you until you left. It didn’t matter if my granddad swatted or yelled at him to stop, he would just go into attack mode.

When I ventured in to granddad’s bedroom to watch Red Sox or Celtics games with him, Louie would hide under the bed until I got down and bite the living shit out of me.

Yes. When granddad wasn’t looking, I kicked the shit back out of him.

I hated that fucking dog.

You’d think I would have mellowed over the years. Louie died of natural causes around 1987. I like to think as he took his last gasp, he was only thinking of one thing: Me kicking the shit out of him. I haven’t mellowed. I hate that little ratty ass, butt nugget as much now as I ever did. Only I have something Louie never had:

Besides opposable thumbs.

I have the Internet. And the ability to file for an LLC.

All I’ll say about my new project is this:

Poodles are the piraña of canines and should be eliminated from  existence. They are a public nuisance, neighborhood menace and threat to national security. The breed originated in Germany, allegedly when Adolph Hitler had sex with a sheep. They are the official pet of France, which has a history of thumbing its nose at International peace by refusing to allow the U.S. military to fly through it’s less-than-sweet smelling air space. Thus, it is honorable and lawful to eliminate the poodle.

More to come, Louie. You fucking piece of dog shit.

March 25, 2014  1 Comment

When Adjectives Are Wrong

Writers write writery things. Many of us, especially journalists, are taught to be concise but descriptive, to choose words carefully. Simple is better.

For many, this means removing many adjectives and adverbs. That’s a lesson both writers and non-writers could use in certain contexts, too.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the following adjective ceased to be important?

  • Black
  • Asian
  • Hispanic
  • Gay

I’m not sure how educated you are about sports, but I’d be willing to bet my family jewels who Michael Sam loves has no effect on how many tackles he makes come fall. My confidence is equally as bold to say that not a single gold, silver or bronze medal will be determined based on the gender of the person the medalist finds attractive.

Several years ago while having a conversation with a friend who was raised in the deep south, he told me a story of a guy, but then paused to look around, then whisper, “he was a black guy.” I stopped him and said, “Think about what you just said. Does that qualifier have anything to do with the story?” He said, “No, not really.” So I said, “Then get rid of the adjective.”

No, it’s not the adjective that is wrong. It’s the prejudice behind it. But if you find yourself using these adjectives when you speak or write, do the world a favor and get rid of them. It’ll help cover the fact that you’re wrong.

February 10, 2014  Comments Off

The Age I Hate Facebook

Today is my 41st birthday. Before you go all, “Happy Birthday,” in the comments, please know that I have reached an age and disposition where I hate my birthday. Call me cranky, call me a spoil sport, call me cynical but whatever you do, don’t call to wish me a happy birthday.

This means that Jan. 18 has now become the one day a year I really don’t like Facebook. While I realize the intent is good and am genuinely humbled that so many people take a moment to post a birthday message on my wall, I’m smart enough to call bullshit on them . If it weren’t for the fact that Facebook beats them about the head and face, telling them it’s my birthday as soon as they login in the morning and several times more throughout the day, not a single Facebook friend would know it is my birthday.

This doesn’t mean these friends are disingenuous in their wishes. But what kind of pat on the back are you willing to give someone who just blindly follows instructions?

fb-birthday

Nobody ever buys you a gift. Which is fine. You don’t deserve a prize because it happens to be the same day on the calendar your mother’s gynecologist induced labor. But a bunch of people will write on your wall. It’s quick, easy and, let’s be honest, enough.  More than 90 percent of the friends we have on Facebook are just people we know well enough to want to know how they’re doing and what they’re up to, but not well enough to want to ever actually talk to them.

Facebook has made high school class reunions obsolete. Now, we can get a snapshot of everyone’s life without the burden of having to show them how much weight we’ve gained or hair we’ve lost. My 48 X 48 avatar will have to do, dammit. They don’t need to see the effects of early onset liver disease.

Unfortunately, it’s also making birthday wishes annoying. God forbid you have text or app notifications turned on for Facebook on your birthday! Not only will you not be able to sleep in, your phone will go off every 32 seconds to alert you someone else has posted on your wall. The best you can hope for is front pocket, on vibrate and a sustained string of them all in a row.

The wall post is Meh. You want to do something for my birthday that I’ll really appreciate? Send over a stripper. Want me to never forget that it was you? Have her write your name on her ass. I promise I’ll never forget you remembered my birthday.

January 18, 2014  7 Comments

The Lights of My Life

I have this thing about lights. I don’t yet know if it’s part of a topic-based OCD or just the happenstance of the two dominant women in my life screwing with lights when I’m around.

Hey?! This is my blog and my neuroses. If you don’t like them, go watch another fucking cat video!

First example: Several times over the last few years, I’ve been in a room doing something — most likely in the kitchen washing the dishes — and my lovely wife will walk out of the room and turn the lights off. Mind you, I realize she doesn’t want me to be there — that’s a given — but I actually am there, and under the circumstances in need of vision considering the task I’m performing. Drives me fucking nuts.

Second example: This week, my mother has been visiting. My mother fucks with my lights. In each room, I have adjustable lighting. In the kitchen/pantry, I have a panel of three adjustable lights. Now, I didn’t install adjustable lighting. It came with the place. I like my lights on or off. On a rare occasion, I’ll set a mood with a middle setting, but for the most part, all the sliders are pushed all the way up and only the on-off switch is used to light the place.

Mom apparently doesn’t know that an on-off switch turns the lights on and off. She seems to have grabbed every slider on every switch in the joint and played rap deejay with it. I went to replace three different bulbs today only to find they weren’t burned out. Mom just had the adjustable slider all the way down. Drives me fucking nuts.

For the record, if you ever come over, it’s ON or OFF. If, when you turn the lights ON they’re on the middle setting, that’s your sign things are gonna get freaky.

Or that mom’s been over.

January 17, 2014  1 Comment

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