Thursday, March 30, 2006

King Kong and the Alan Thicke Incident

di•dac•tic adj.

1. Inclined to teach or moralize excessively

I love to know stuff. I love knowing stuff so much that I went to school an extra four years just to know more stuff. I even have a special plaque on my wall just to let other people know I did go to school for those four extra years and because of that I have mad skillz when it comes to knowing stuff.

You better recognize.

My brother Roger has the same skills. Many times at parties, we’ve discussed and debated a subject for hours, each of us elaborately offering up bits of stuff we know, until someone points out that a) we’re both saying exactly the same thing, and b) the party is over and everyone else has gone home. That’s how important knowing stuff is to me.

At the moment, Bridget is recovering from surgery. Since she’s stuck on the couch, we decided it would be nice to make some snacks and watch the new King Kong movie with the kids. At about an hour into the movie, the cast of adventurers had just been captured by skull-wearing islanders when Gabriel asked me an unusual question:

“Dad, why do Canadians hate us?”

Wow, I thought. What an odd question from a six year-old. It certainly deserved a thoughtful answer.

“Gabriel, the Canadians don’t hate us. And we don’t hate them. In fact, Canada is one of our largest trading partners.”

Bridget spoke up. “Gabriel isn’t interested in hearing about Canada, Richard.”

Obviously, the pain medication was affecting her. Gabriel wouldn’t have asked about Canada if he wasn’t curious, so I continued.

“Canadians are just a bitter than we have both the NFL and the NBA, while they only have hockey. Plus, there’s the infamous Alan Thicke incident.”

“He doesn’t mean “Canadians”, Richard,” said Bridget. “He means “Cannibals.””

“Cannibals?” I looked at the television where skull-wearing natives were industriously killing off the cast members of King Kong.

“Oh,” I said and turned bright red. It seemed that the teacher had been taught a lesson. This was a turning point, a moment when I could re-evaluate my need to overwhelm people with facts.

Or not. Knowing stuff is always better than self-awareness.

“Cannibals don’t really hate us, Gabriel. Their dietary choices are often a result of limited food resources or superstition.”

Gabriel looked at me. “Are they mad about that Alan Thicke thing, too?”

“Who isn’t?”

Friday, March 24, 2006

Lost in Transition

My grandmother has Alzheimer’s. I saw her recently at a get-together celebrating her fiftieth wedding anniversary. She looked exactly the same as I’ve always remembered her, a short woman with the kind of silver, curled hair only weekly visits to the beauty parlor can give you. I think she called me Mike or some other name, but that didn’t bother me; I knew what she meant.

Usually, I avoid thinking about my grandmother’s illness. I have this feeling that I should be doing or saying something more. Until this morning, though, I had no idea what that might be.

As I do almost every Thursday morning, I buckled all of the kids into the car and headed toward Gabriel’s school. We had twenty minutes to kill, so I decided to explore the old Thoroughgood neighborhood around the school.

Our detour bothered Gabriel. The further we drove away from our established route, the more bothered he got.

“Dad, we can’t be late for school,” he said. “Let’s go to the school like we’re supposed to. You’re getting us lost.”

Gabriel was right, actually. We were lost at one point, but I didn’t tell him that.

“We’re not lost,” I replied. “There’s more than one way to get there.”

Sure enough, I eventually guessed at the correct turn and we threaded our way back to more familiar streets. We made it to the school with minutes to spare and Gabriel relaxed instantly when he saw the brick building.

The second Gabriel relaxed, I thought of my grandmother and her fiftieth wedding anniversary. I wished I had taken Gabriel up to my grandmother and said:

“Gabriel, this is my grandmother. Sometimes, she doesn’t remember me, but I remember her. She used to be a school teacher. When I was a kid, she told me that it was okay that I liked books more than I liked sports. She told me that being smart was way better than being popular. She told me one day I would do something important, right and good. She told me who I was, back when I didn’t even know. She doesn’t remember, but I remember enough for both of us.”

And even though I don’t think it would make a difference, I should have said, “Grandma, I know you’re lost. I know you’re confused. I know you can’t remember how you got here. But try not to be scared; I think we’re all going to the same, good place and there’s more than one way to get there.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Desperate Onions

My wife is so serious about marriage and monogamy that we’ve actually come to the following understanding:

If she dies before I do, I am not allowed to re-marry.

And it gets worse. Not only is re-marriage out of the question; so is sex of any kind – for the rest of my life.

“What happens in heaven if you get re-married?” Bridget asks me. “Which wife would you be with?”

Bridget has given much thought to the issue, apparently. And now, so have I.

“If it’s heaven, then I doubt I’m married,” I say.

This is both a really, really funny thing to say – and really, really the wrong thing to say to Bridget.

Bridget woke up one morning recently and announced very seriously that she had dreamed that I had adulterous sex with Teri Hatcher from “Desperate Housewives.” My wife seemed to want an explanation.

Whoah. A husband should not be held accountable for his wife’s dreams. More importantly, my wife is clearly having the dreams I’m supposed to be having. This is amazingly unfair to me – and Teri (We’re having dream sex, what do you want me to call her? Ms. Hatcher?).

A week later, Bridget dreamed that I had sex with three female ghosts which, unfortunately, is only slightly less likely than me sleeping with Teri Hatcher. That same night, I think I dreamed about…onions. Again, this was unfair. But her dream did give me an idea.

“Bridget, if you die before I do, I think I can promise not to re-marry or have sex with anyone else…” I said. “…on one condition.”

“What’s the condition?” she asked.

“You have to have ghost sex with me.”

Laugh all you want. We have a deal.

Somewhere in California, Teri Hatcher is meeting with her therapist and saying, “I keep having these dreams that I’m having sex with a strange man while his wife is watching.”

“Do you recognize the man?” asks the therapist.

“No,” says Teri Hatcher. “But he smells like onions.”

Friday, March 10, 2006

Insane in the Membranes

My wife is near insane with hypochondria – for my children. If six year old Gabriel develops a cough, I usually think, “Hmm. Gabriel’s getting a cold.” If my wife hears the same rough hacking, she automatically escalates the diagnosis to pneumonia or pleurisy. This is important because:

Yesterday, Gabriel kneed his younger brother in the, ahem, testicles.

I apologize for the bluntness. I know the official Southern Family rulebook demands that my family come up with cute euphemisms for body parts i.e. “kiki”, “tatas”, “cha chas” or my personal favorite, “tallywhacker.” I, however, enjoy the horrified look that neighbors get when one of my kids busts out the word “vagina”, so we stick with the classics.

So, anyway…yesterday, accidentally or not, Gabriel hit three year old Julian way, way uncomfortably low in the stomach. Julian told his mother, “Mom, my testicles hurt.”

I’m sure it did. Heck, my testicles hurt just typing the sentence. But it’s one of those things that every boy learns the hard way. Bridget, though, was worried. First, she called me. When she couldn’t reach me, she did what any rational mother would do – she called her stepfather in Florida….to ask about my son’s testicles.

Now, whenever I’m bored, I like to imagine that awkward conversation.

This morning, though, my smugness was tested when Bridget rushed Julian over to me. She was frantic.

“Julian says there’s something wrong with his penis.”

“What’s wrong with it?” I asked. Panic rose in me. What if Julian’s testicles had really been hurt yesterday? What if, God help me, something was broken and I had just smugly blown it off?

“I don’t know what’s wrong with it. I can’t understand him,” she said.

“What’s wrong, Julian?” I asked.

He said something about his penis, but I couldn’t hear it clearly. I leaned in closer.

“Dad, my penis…”

“Yes, Julian?”

And then he said, I swear to God…

“Dad, my penis is big….”

Instantly, Bridget’s face went from anxiety to irritation and she stood up. I looked Julian in the eye with as much commiseration as I could muster.

“So is Dad’s, Julian. So is Dad’s.”