August, 2014 Archives

Off To College We Go

August 20th, 2014

Can you hear that? A deep, loud, echoing, quiet resounds through the house. My baby daughter — the one who was so small, she used to sleep sideways on the pillow next to me during naps — has up and gone away to college. She’s much taller than me now, and sleeping three hours away […]

Can you hear that?

A deep, loud, echoing, quiet resounds through the house. My baby daughter — the one who was so small, she used to sleep sideways on the pillow next to me during naps — has up and gone away to college.

She’s much taller than me now, and sleeping three hours away instead of on that long discarded pillow. That evil, wicked institution known collectively as “Higher Learning” has snapped her up in its jaws and probably won’t spit her out for four more years (or until she comes home over Labor Day).

I bless our oldest daughter who knew we’d need some comforting. She flew in to stay with us for a few weeks before jetting off to study abroad this fall.

But I can feel my fatherly duties slipping away. Well, not slipping away but changing. For the past 20 years I’ve been there by their side, cooking, cleaning, nurturing. I did it pretty darn well (except for those ugly months in the hospital back in the Dark Ages). That’s a role I took a lot of pride in. Sure, I’ve been a photographer, writer, teacher and husband, but it seems like the things I did best, just enrolled in Growing Up U.

I feel like I got hit by a Mack Truck (or at least a MacBook).

Before she left, I made a surprise for her dorm room. They were pictures almost two decades old. I found them in our files of her as a little kid. With humor and love, I combined words of advice and made little inspirational posters for her wall. They were beautiful and touching. And they kept falling down. No matter what kind of newfangled adhesive hooks I used, my advice just didn’t hold up. No metaphors there; my advice didn’t stick. The past fell down behind her bed.

Now we have to rely on her. Well actually, she has to rely on herself. Sure, we’re the safety net and financial backers of her latest scheme to mature. But a lot of this she’ll have to do on her own.

I’ll have to do a lot of things on my own too. Instead of using the excuse that my first and greatest role is “Father,” I’ll have to find other roles to fulfill. Maybe they are roles that already exist; anybody need anything edited, photographed, written or taught? Inquire within.

Maybe there are new roles out there requiring a humorist or blogger, sports fan or public speaker. Heck, let me know if anyone has a job opening requiring you to eat pizza and watch the Tigers. My rates are very reasonable. Anchovies need not apply.

Another job teaching journalism has fallen through, but journalism has sort of fallen through too. I have every confidence that something new and cool, bright and shiny will pop up ahead of me. Just as I have every confidence that my daughter will thrive in school.

Both of us are learning new roles and on new adventures. Hopefully we’ll both have the right books, pens and highlighters in place. I’ll do my best to pay attention in class. No late night partying for me. And speaking of that …

Here’s one final thought: I have no other place to put this, but it’s too important to ignore. I’ve been wondering for the last little while what crazy, nutty residency/housing board in the 1960s came up with my daughter’s dorm name?

A Minor Achievement

August 3rd, 2014

Catching some class A baseball (and Triple A ball as well)

“Mancation.” That’s what my brother Scott called it. It was our vacation designed just to do guy things. We golfed a little, laughed a lot and took batting practice on random fields we found along the way before getting kicked out.

Sure, there was a small bit of gambling and an impossibly large basket of bacon that we left half-finished on a table somewhere in Mid Michigan. But the real reason for our trip was to visit Minor League baseball fields around the state and in Ohio.

Cousin Chris, brother Scott and I had been talking about it for a while, so when Chris found a spate of games that all lined up — with the teams at home — we took off. Our itinerary included the Great Lakes Loons in my old Midland stomping grounds. Next up was a noon game played by the Lansing Lugnuts, followed by an evening contest played by the West Michigan Whitecaps in Grand Rapids. We’d end our saga the following night watching the Toledo Mud Hens play.

I don’t think we ever paid more than 11 bucks for a ticket and we basically could’ve sat anywhere. My daring cousin and brother tested that theory by sitting as close to the field as they could without actually putting on a uniform. In Lansing it seemed like we were sitting right in the on deck circle. It was so close that scaredy cat here had to move a row back, using Scott as a human shield while I worked on my enGROSSing hotdog topped with mac & cheese and french fries on a pretzel bun.

Did I mention that eating was important on this trip? We each came up with places to dine ahead of time. In the final tally — Toledo’s Tony Packo’s Cafe, made famous by Corporal Klinger on M*A*S*H — edged out Grand Rapid’s Anna’s House and their #1 Breakfast in Michigan as our favorite. There’s a complicated voting process that Chris does on all his trips. It’s based on NCAA brackets and we’ve determined everything from the best experience we’ve had on vacation to whom in the extended family was going to marry next. The brackets don’t lie!

Minor League ballparks like to keep everything family-friendly, so there are always mascots roaming the stands or strange activities between innings. Mark your calendars; coming up on August 15th, the Loons and the Whitecaps are going to feature — I kid you not — a cowboy monkey rodeo. I was about to tell you about a “rat screen Friday” in Lansing but I misread the minutiae. Turns out it’s flat screen Friday, but with these stadiums, anything’s possible.

The one promotion they should have, though, is “Pay Your Players Better” day. Baseball players on Minor League teams are paid below poverty-level wages. They make lousy paychecks until when/if they get to the Big Leagues. I’m sure all the fans wouldn’t mind paying an extra buck per ticket if they knew the players were getting the money. Lord knows we simply couldn’t ask the owners to pay a little better and maybe not give away as many rat screens.

Regardless, if you like baseball, you really should spend some time in a Minor League park. There are four, alone, here in Michigan; we missed catching a Traverse City Beach Bums contest. Next trip, next time.

It was fantastic bonding with my brother and cousin. Next time we hope our other siblings will come along too. And this was an absolutely zany thought, coming from my cousin, “you know, I’ll bet our wives would like this as well.”

Hmmm … when did I say the cowboy monkey rodeo was scheduled?