Were We just tougher back then?

All across Michigan, schools have been canceled due to the extreme snow and cold. This means that Facebook will light up with us older, tougher folks complaining about school never having been canceled for snow and cold when we were younger. I might have joined in on the chorus, but truth be told, I’m jealous.

When I was younger, school was never canceled because of extreme snow and cold. If it had been, I might still have my best friend, Jimmy.

Jimmy and I would walk together to the bus stop, which was eight and a half miles away. Neither of us had coats, so we would steal newspapers from driveways and paper boxes along our trek to stuff in our clothing to act as insulation. On the worst of the cold mornings, we would light our newspaper coats on fire for extra warmth . . . it’s just what you did back then to survive.

On one particular minus-forty-two degree day, Jimmy and I were making our way through the chin deep snow towards our bus stop. We had already successfully warded off an attack from one of the roving packs of rabid neighborhood dogs, and escaped the gang of kidnappers who would prey on children walking to the bus stop. . . . so it had actually started out a good morning. Making the morning even better, we had just found the last roadkill carcass needed to strap to our bare feet to act as snowshoes. After fashioning our carcass snowshoes, Jimmy and I continued on our way.

A mile later, we in the middle of our third frozen-river crossing required to make it to the bus stop, when suddenly, the ice began to crack, and Jimmy fell through. He flailed wildly, trying to keep his head above the frigid water, but despite his efforts, he was beginning to go under.

Using a technique that I had learned earlier that year from a bus stop safety film, I fashioned a rope out of thread pulled from my burlap underwear, and was able to pull Jimmy from the icy river waters. He crawled to the shore, thanking me repeatedly for saving him, but deep inside, I knew it would probably have been more humane to simply let him drown.

Even if he did survive, I could tell from the pale blueness of his fingers that he would no longer be able to use them to complete the eleven hours of homework that was assigned to us every night, let alone, be able to hunt the possum, needed during our walk to the bus stop, for food to keep himself alive. I kept these thoughts to myself.

It was still another mile to the bus stop, so I knew I had to keep Jimmy moving. I switched out his wet insulation newspapers with some of the dry ones from my shirt and covered his head with a hat I made from some of the corn husks that my mom had sewn together to make the pants I was wearing.

I did my best to prod and encourage Jimmy’s shivering body to keep walking. I gave him bits of carcass jerky that I had ripped from my roadkill boots, but he was fading fast.

When we were a few hundred yards from the bus stop, Jimmy finally collapsed from exhaustion and hypothermia. I tried to get him back on his feet, but to no avail. I could see the headlights of the bus in the distance. There was no way I could get Jimmy there in time.

“I’ll never forget you, Jimmy!” I said tearfully, as I quickly covered him with the remainder of my newspaper insulation and lit it on fire to keep him warm in his final hours.

“Please don’t leave me,” he pleaded. But I knew that if I missed the bus, it would be Jimmy who would succumb to the kinder fate by freezing to death.

I kissed him on the head, and skin tore my lips having frozen to his icy hair . . .  and then I ran the rest of the way to the bus. As I sat down in my seat and looked back down the road through the window, I could see a truck stopping near Jimmy’s collapsed body. I knew I would never see him again.

Back in those days, there were greedy opportunists who would drive the roads on such dangerously cold mornings looking for the bodies of kids who had frozen to death along the bus routes. They would load up the victims and sell them to dog food manufacturers to be ground into dog food.

For thirty-five years now, I have sadly thought about Jimmy every time I fill a dog dish with food. So complain about school being canceled due to cold? Not I. I thank the Lord that my kids will never have to live the rest of their lives with the image of poor frozen Jimmy being loaded into a dog food truck.

 

Being a Cool Dad.

The other day, while driving my daughter’s home from school, the discussion was centered on one of the girls friends, Christiana and how much fun it was to stay at her house.

“What makes it so fun to stay at Christina’s house?” I had to ask.

“They let us watch horror movies,” Natalie answered.

“Christina’s parents are cool, too,” Hannah added.

“Yeah, her parents ARE cool,” agreed Natalie.

The horror movie answer was a bit concerning to me, but had not nearly the sting of the cool parents statement. What made her parents so cool? . . . I had always considered myself to be a cool parent.

I never wore dark socks pulled up to my knees while wearing shorts like my dad had done. And I was always doing fun and entertaining things when my daughters had friends over, like playing my hilarious DVD of Star Trek episodes that had the dialogue dubbed over in German, or performing my famous word-for-word reenactment of Walter Cronkite’s moon landing newscast, using a high falsetto voice. But apparently, it takes something far less substantial to be considered cool to this generation of kids.

In the days that followed the overheard conversation in the car, it would bother me every time I thought about it. I remembered when I was a teenager, and how some of my friend’s parents were so much cooler than others. I couldn’t stand it . . . I had to be a cool dad.

I felt certain that it would not take much to push my stature well into the “cool” dad category. I mean it’s not like I was some socially stunted hermit who was completely out of touch with the youth of today. So for the next few evenings, I plotted the grand unveiling of my coolness.

….

That Friday, I pulled up to the front of the school ready to impress. I knew that some things never change when it comes to the teenage requirements for coolness, so the first thing needed was some loud bumping music.

I would have preferred to have picked out one of my daughters CD’s to blast, but since my 1998 Buick had come equipped with a cassette deck, this was not an option. Luckily, I still had a few tapes in a shoebox in the garage, and luckier yet, some of my sisters old tapes had gotten mixed in with mine . . . teenage girl music is teenage girl music, I figured.

As I slowly drove along the student lined sidewalk in front of the school, I put in my sisters tape that I had picked out, a band called Menudo, and let it rip. The music was loud and had a catchy beat, but apparently teeny bopper music in my sister’s day wasn’t any better than what my daughters listen to, because I couldn’t understand a word they were singing. It was almost like they were singing in Spanish or some other language.

I had my hat on sideways, and despite the pain in my back, I was leaned way over into the middle of the car like I had seen other cool young people doing. I tried my best to bob my head in time with the catchy, loud music. I spotted my girls standing in the row of students, and stopped in front of them.

Wanting to fully display my new found coolness, I cranked the poorly vocalized music even louder and got out to escort my daughters over to the car. As I approached the sidewalk, I noticed quite a few students laughing and pointing in my general direction. There was a particularly criminal looking group of teen boys that began yelling things like “turn that crap down, grandpa!” My oldest daughter seemed to be upset, and possibly crying.

My youngest daughter marched up to me and screamed, “DAD! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

“What?” I said calmly, “Do the rules of coolness not apply to guys over 40?”

“Why are you blasting 60’s Spanish music loud enough for the whole town to hear?” She shrieked.

“It’s not from the 60’s, it’s from th- . . . wait, that really is Spanish?” I mumbled.

“And why in the world would you walk around in public like that?” she demanded, sounding even angrier.

I assumed she was talking about my hat being sideways and my underwear showing a bit, like I had seen every other boy at the school wearing.

“Dads can’t sport a little sag?” I asked while making gang-like hand gestures that teens nowadays seem to use while talking.

“You have your underwear pulled up, not your pants sagged down!” (By now she was yelling.) “And they are white fruit of the looms with the elastic band half ripped off!!!”

Unconvinced that hiking my undergarments up was any different than pulling my pants down, I turned to walk back to the car.

As I stepped off the sidewalk, the pain caused from leaning over in the car seat intensified and my back suddenly went out, causing me to collapse down on to all fours. The violence of the fall tore my underwear band the rest of the way so that the band was now completely detached from the rest of the underwear. And although I couldn’t turn around to look, it felt like there might now be some butt cleavage showing.

Meanwhile, a boy with purple hair from the group of criminals had broken off one of the Buick’s windshield wipers, and was using it to whip me across the buttocks as I helplessly crawled back to the car and into the driver’s seat. Several students lined up along the sidewalk had their phones held up and I could only assume they were videoing the whole event.

With a bit of difficulty, I managed to get the car door closed and then quickly drove away with agonizing back pain, two sobbing daughters and a pair of stinging butt cheeks.

After several video versions of the whole incident had been posted and viewed on YouTube, it was decided by my daughters, my wife and the principal that I would no longer be picking the kids up from school.

My oldest daughter, Hannah, has finally started talking to me again, and hopefully Natalie will follow.

I have decided that my level of coolness is what it is, and like nature, shouldn’t be messed with.

 

*If you enjoyed this story, there is a whole book of them waiting for you at Amazon!

Single Family Asylum

 

Jesus Loves Me or Highway to Hell.

It’s inevitable. The song that your daughter will sing infront of her preschool class during show and tell will not be “Jesus Loves Me” or Barney’s “I Love You” which she has heard no less than a thousand times.

The song your daughter will choose for her impromptu solo will be “Highway to Hell”, which she had only heard for the seven seconds it took you to vault over the mounds of boxes in the garage to reach the blaring radio and switch the station so that she wouldn’t end up singing “Highway to Hell” to her preschool class.

Absent minded parenting.

It is no secret amongst people who know me that I can tend to be a bit absent minded. I’m not sure if it’s a matter of just being forgetful, or more a matter of my mind wandering causing me to forget to remember things in the first place. Or more than likely, it’s a combination of the both. Being an absent-minded dad has its advantages and disadvantages.

One advantage is I tend to forget things that I probably should worry about. So I often deal with a lot less stress than some other parents. It is not uncommon for people I come into contact with to say something like, “So how is that situation with Natalie going? I know it has had the both of you pretty worried.”

This usually is followed by me simultaneously answering “Ummm, it’s going ok . . .” All the while searching my brain frantically for what it is about Natalie that I should be concerned about.

Later, when I ask my wife what it is about Natalie that I am supposed to be concerned about, I would get an answer something like, “Did you forget that she claims to be a Wildebeest and has bitten four kids in her class . . . . and the teacher?”

I would, of course, then remember my daughter’s specie identity crisis and the biting incidents, and realize that I had not worried about it as much as I maybe should have (probably because none of the victims had reported needing stitches).

So things such as my darling youngest child biting students and teachers tend to cause a lot less stress for me than perhaps the average parent.

But then I’m always reminded of the disadvantages as well.

A few days ago, I had to drop off a book that my older daughter, Hannah, had forgotten to take to school. Feeling like a responsible, caring parent, I proudly marched into the school’s office and asked the secretary if she could make sure the book would get to my daughter.

“What grade is she in?” she asked.

“Ummm . . . I’m not sure,” I said a little embarrassed.

“Well, how old is she?”

I was even more embarrassed that I couldn’t remember how old my daughter was.

“Well . . . . Uhhh . . . she’s about this tall,” I sheepishly answered, holding up my hand.

The secretary gazed at me with a look of bewilderment.

I was, however, able to provide her with my daughter’s first and last name.