Sunday, June 17, 2012

Who's Your Daddy?

            The first few years after Dad’s death, I used to get frustrated because I never dreamed about him. Obviously, I missed him and wanted a few more minutes even if it was in the dream realm. The worst part about losing Dad was sometimes something really funny would happen like the time Rags got us booted off the Today Show and I’d reach for my phone while laughing to call. Then it would hit me. Damn.

            I finally did dream about him in a dream that I’d rather not recant but it did change my life. The important part was while we stood in a back room of Sharp Memorial Church back in Young Harris, Dad chuckled at my frustration (like he was prone to do). He didn’t understand why I was so upset. I told him I had been looking for him and he wasn’t around.

            Dad made one his funny sounds and told me,” Son, look around. I am right in front of you just like I have always been.  All you have to do is just pay attention which you never do.” He laughed that big laugh that we all remember, hugged me and said, ” Now if you excuse, kind sir, I have to go find you sister and your mother.” He walked off but not away.
Hell Freezes Over Party also known as  My Grad Nite 1995
123 Cunningham

            Ever since then, I dream about him a lot. So much, in fact, it is normal that we hang out in my dreams and I don’t even remember he is gone until I wake up. My frustrations are gone about this too. I usually wake up and smile. I just hope he visits Mary and Mom too.

            As I began the first few paragraphs a little while ago, Roni came up to me and gave me a big hug. “Good morning, Step-Papa,” she said. “Happy First Father’s Day with your new family.” Awesome-sauce.
My little girl. I get to say that now. Awesome.

            Today is the first time in 13 years I have not dreaded this day. My new family has gone out of their way to make me feel special but they do that every day. I appreciate the fact that I now have a day but to be truthful, every day is Father’s Day for me. From scolding Roni for talking back to her mother to yesterday when I yelled at Jude during the yard sale because he couldn’t stay away from my box of action figures I had collected for Mary’s Geek Nativity Scene several years back. You take the good; you take the bad……

            Today is also Jude’s 8th birthday so we have taken to calling this day, “Man’s Day.” Later we are grilling burgers by the pool and I plan to smoke a few cigars with a nice glass of Maker’s Mark. The only way life could get any better would be if Jimmy Buffett’s tour bus broke down in front of the house and he offered to play Jude’s Birthday Party because he smelled my amazing Cheeseburgers in Paradise and had to have one. But I digress.
"Sir, you rock."
"No, sir, you rock."

            My wish for you today is that you get to find some way to spend time with your father. Whether y’all have something special planned or you just sit around and laugh about that time when. One thing I have learned now that I am Dad is that I can guarantee he is thinking about you. That is what Dad’s do.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hour Three

            My old Carrollton buddy, Scooter and I used to sit around while drinking copious amounts of cheap booze and would get all creative. For a brief period, we wrote comedy shorts.

            One of my favorites happened to be a spoof on The Wonder Years mashed up with Pete and Pete.  In these shorts, our 8 year old protagonist would go through his trials of life but in a more realistic sense. The one I remember the best was the family vacation in the old station wagon.

            Hour One: The shoot opens on our Happy family in a loaded up station wagon. It is crammed with luggage; a cute dog is snuggled up in the storage space while happily wagging his tail. Songs like, Row, Row, Your Boat and John JacboJingleheimerschimdt would be wafting along the highway as the camera pans along the open road. The Happy Family would be shown to be all smiles and laughs. “I love you Mom and Dad”, would be repeated by the various three children all getting along in the back. Mom and Dad would look clean and pressed as they smile at each other. They know it was a smart decision to take this trip. The camera blacks out as two hands are squeezed over the front seat. It would the family everyone would want to be a part of.

            Hour Two: As our fearless roadster tears across the open plain of interstate, things have gotten quiet. Little sis is reading a Nancy Drew book. One brother stares out of the window, lost in the magic that is Americana. The last brother entertains himself by reading billboards. Dad is repeatedly asking Mom for better directions as she reads an enormous folded out map. Things are well but minor tensions are beginning to create cracks in the foundation.

            Hour Three:  Mom is passed out snoring against her passenger window. Little sis keeps reminding everyone about her need to find a potty. The brother who used to stare out at the magic of America is now making spit wads. The last kid continues to read billboards, loudly. The dog has begun to bark but it is not a regular dog bark. About every 45 seconds, a “yarp” is heard.  The camera moves onto Dad. Pit stains have appeared on what was a freshly ironed shirt. Both hands are tightly gripping the steering wheel. Dads eye have glossed over and one begins to twitch. The viewer can tell a fuse has been lit and awaits the explosion.

            The Billboard kid exclaims, “See Rock City! Can we, Dad?”


            “I gotta go potty!”

            Loud snore pops up from the front passenger seat. At that moment someone rips a loud fart which crop dusts the entire car.

            “Would you damn kids shut the hell up, for crissakes! I am trying to drive here!!!” screams the old man. The car becomes silent.

            “I am trying to find a clean place for you to go pee, Dammit! So shut the hell up, Lizzie! No we can’t go see Rock City because it’s five states in the other damn direction and Tommy, if I see one more spit wad, you will not live to see your next birthday.”Helen, Jesus Christ! wake up and roll down a damn window. You’re killing me here. “Dad is not a happy man.


            Dad begins to fumble for a cigarette which he lights with a shaky hand. He unscrews the thermos lid for some coffees. He drinks it like a man lost in the desert with his last cup of water. Dad takes a long drag on the cigarette only to hear a loud snore again and…


            A soothing male voce comes over the air waves. He evokes memories of Daniel Stern’s narrations in The Wonder Years. “Dad used to drink a lot of coffee on those trips….”

            A few days into the marriage, Kim informed how she hated we were living apart even though we had been married for about a week. It was sucking. Our plan was to get married, Kim would finish the semester at SCAD. I would get out of school and then we’d get everything moved over in time for us to take off on the honeymoon. Some plans sound better on paper and we both were miserable.

            It’s no fun being newlyweds and not getting to be together. Kim packed the essentials and moved into the Geeky Hut a few weeks earlier. Over the past two weeks, she has been bringing their belongings over one van load at a time. It’s been slow work but Kim has done an impressive job. I have been arriving home each afternoon and seeing the fruits of her labor. Tables, paintings, and kid’s toys have become to mingle with my former bachelor lifestyle. It’s awesome. We are finally a family under one roof.

            As frustrating as this may sound, the one good thing about this has been how there is no rush to get out of the Richmond Hill house. That was until earlier in the week. Kim received a text from her ex or as I like to refer to him, Satan’s step son. He has decided to move into the house and he’s doing it on Saturday. So much for the idea of a leisurely move.
These bastards are lying to you. No move is this simple.

            Yesterday was the last day of school after one of the roughest weeks I’ve had in a while. It was announced on Wednesday that we’d be having an end of the year meeting at Tubby’s Bar and Grill. Due to dialysis, I have missed every single Tubby’s meetings this year, I was psyched. Until Kim texted me.

            Apparently Satan’s step son arrived at the house with a trailer full of junk. Kim was almost in tears as she described the scene like Sanford & Son. She was embarrassed and felt horrible for the neighbors who were going to have to deal with the impending arrival of the Redneck games. Kim asked me to come over and help after Tubby’s. I knew the right thing to do as a husband was to come over afterschool which I did. Kim was very explicit in saying I could come over later. I also know that Kim can take care of herself but in my heart, I knew I had to be there. If anything, I could be supportive if SSS showed back up with his new girlfriend.

            I also hate moving. Flashbacks of watching the Big Guy freaking out would shortly be arriving in my collective memory. I still remember the melt down of 1974 when I dropped a box of Mom’s crystal while trying to get to my comic books to read. Between the last week of school with horrible children, SSS’s newly rescheduled move-in date, and my hatred of moving, my nerves were shaky.

            I pulled up to the Richmond Hill House to see a 15 foot trailer in Kim’s driveway. Have I mentioned how her Ex is also so redneck that he makes the mountain men in Deliverance look like Harvard Men? The trailer was stuffed with broken boxes, rows of cracked plastic containers, and a jeep that looked like Jude had taken it apart and never bothered put it back together. The only thing missing was a rocking chair tied to the top.  The Sanford & Son song began to go through my head.  

            I don’t really want to go into how the next two hours went. Suffice to say, it went about as smoothly as a move can when two adults have tunnel vision on packing up while two children run underfoot. Kim took Roni’s room while Jude and I worked together on his. The kids’ rooms had the same appearance of the North Pole if Al Qaeda carpet bombed the place.

            It was rough evening. Kim was on edge because she knew SSS would probably pop up at any moment.  He has no real visitation rights because SSS never bothered to complete the court requirements. Instead, SSS likes to put Kim on the spot in front of the kids. He’s a peach.  

            Getting the kids to quit playing with their toys and actually pack them was the social equivalent of scooping up water with a spatula. The cracks on my nerves began to widen.

            I could hear Roni shouting at Kim from the other room as Kim went through the mountain of stuffed animals.  Meanwhile, I was trying to keep Jude focused but all he wanted to do was play with the baggy of army men we had finally put together. For every few army men I could get in the bag, Jude had to “examine” at least one. More fissures appear.

            We load up my car and I’ll go on home and pick up dinner somewhere. I’ve had a few outbursts but nothing bad at this point until…

            Kim came up to the car and asked Jude why he didn’t want his Bionicle collection. Jude looked confused and said he did. We have only spent an hour and half going through his toys. The final breach on my nerve had begun. Crazy Robby is live and reporting on the scene.

            “Are you kidding me? We only spent the whole damn afternoon going through everything,” I heard a crazy man yelling in my car. Hour Three had arrived.

            “I forgot,” a small voice replied. Tears were on the way. Kim just smiled and told Jude not to worry about it because she’d take care of it. She also insisted it was time for us to go and get dinner. Roni began to start in because she was tired.

When Roni gets tired at the end of the day, she begins to channel a little girl who has many of the same qualities of the kid from The Exorcist. Of course it’s worse because after all, Reagan was a little girl possessed by a demon. I have a tired,  hungry eleven year old going through puberty. I’ll take Lucifer if I had my druthers.

Let’s also factor in Jude who is now upset about our new “Fun Friday” might not happen because I told the kids not to bother Kim whom I know is already exhausted and just needs to be left alone to rest up. Jude was crushed because he had been looking forward to pizza, movies, and a game of Star Wars Monopoly all day.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Hour Three. It was an eventful car ride but not one I plan to share. Let’s just say opinions were shared. None were positive.

I woke up this morning feeling a bit ashamed of myself. I could remember how I felt when my father would yell at me out of frustration. I am older now recognize how many of those rants were well deserved on my part. But it still hurt.

I love these kids but for the first time yesterday, I was really mad at them. I have a horrible temper which only comes out maybe once or twice in a year. Yesterday was pretty close and those kids didn’t deserve that.

This morning upon reflection, I realize they did many things wrong but I am not justified in my anger. Those kids love that house and yesterday Roni and Jud were forced to say goodbye to a part of their childhood in a rushed manner. It must be hard for the kids to see their toys just thrown across the floor and then leave them. I was trying to force closure for the sake of getting on home.

Roni also had to be close to tears because she desperately loves her real father but he shows no interest in her except when it makes him look good. She knew her father was in town but he made no attempt to see her. Meanwhile the guy who has been trying to be a real Dad to her is acting like an asshole.   

I can’t go back in time to stop what happened but I can learn from mistakes. I know that I am my father’s son which makes me prone to crazy outbursts. Frankly, I am surprised it has taken this long for a meltdown to happen.

One thing I do have that the Big Guy could not do easily is to admit I am wrong. Today, we are taking the day off from unpacking. The kids are going to sleep in late. I haven’t woken Kim up this morning. Today is going to be laid back day. Cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch.

Tonight, I am hosting our first “Fun-Friday-Night-even-if-it’s-Saturday. The theme will be Jimmy Buffett Concert in honor of missing the show up in Atlanta tonight. We are going to have an old fashioned tailgate by the pool. I’ll grill burgers and make some fruity drinks for the whole family while Jimmy sings over Radio Margaritaville.

Sorry guys, about yesterday. I wish I had been more considerate of what you and your brother were going through. Unfortunately, I have tunnel vision when it comes to your Mom. I guess I need to learn how to widen that scope and let you two in as well. I know my heart has plenty of room now if I can just get my brain to listen.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

And Back Again......

             1977 was a banner year in my development. Many blogs ago, I talked about how my Cousin Maria introduced to a little space opera written by one, George Lucas. Later in the fall, the Big Guy would also follow suit.

            Every Tuesday and Thursday s, the Big Guy would pick me up from Northside Elementary. I always loved and hated those days. The Big Guy was notorious for getting caught up in a project which would make him late to the car line for pickup. On the other hand, once picked up, I’d get to go back and explore the Georgia College Library where he was Circulation Director. The stacks were scary to me but also an unexplored area to be tamed by the young fearless explorer, Robby Richardson, Archaeologist to the Stars.

            It was early in November when we walked into his office. An advertisement for a cartoon later on the month was on his some library magazine on the Big Guy’s desk.

            What’s this?” I asked.

            “It’s about that Hobbit cartoon coming out n a few weeks. Looks good,” the Big Guy surmised.

            The picture had a bunch of short guys that I guessed to be dwarves climbing a mountain pass. In the background was a gloomy sky filled with lighting and a dragon that appeared to be screaming. “What’s a hobbit?”

            My father had a look as if I asked who the first president was. “You trying to tell me that you can rattle off these space alien names like Dark Raider, Han Solo, and Dr. Spock but you can’t recognize a classic piece of literature? “

            I stared blankly as I fought the urge to make corrections in a long line of pop culture references exchanges between us. I choose wisely.

            “We can fix this.” The Big Guy leapt up from behind his desk and took my hand. We headed to the library stacks.

            We searched for about 5 minutes when I heard him exclaim in triumph. The Big Guy handed me a book which would change my life. It was by some guy named Tolkien and was called simply, ‘The Hobbit. What the hell was this hobbit guy?

            Over the next few weeks I would discover and then watch the cartoon which mesmerized me. My favorite part was toward the end when we see Bilbo Baggins as an older “hobbit” and he had written his book, There And Back Again: A Hobbit’s Tale.

            Many of those elements hit notes with young Explorer Robby. How could I not enjoy dwarves seeking gold against a backdrop of goblins, elves, and a talking dragon? I was looking over this today and wondering how I have not re-read this since college. When I finish this last Game of Thrones book, I am going to read it to Jude.

            Yet The Hobbit struck a chord in me which opened up a whole other can of worms in my life. The process of the journey. I loved how Bilbo left the comfort of his home, made this perilous journey, and then returned a better person and got to live on to become fat and happy. For the rest of my life, I became obsessed with “journey” stories. My bookcase is filled with them from A Walk Across America to Prince of Tides.

            Yesterday was the five year mark for my return to Savannah. Back on 2007, I was pretty broken up. I had lost my job, forced to begin dialysis, divorced, and my dog, Belle, was just holding on due to old age. She would have to be put down a few weeks later. Second worst day of my life.  Using the word broken fells melodramatic but it’s an apt description.

            I was angry too. I joke about being married to Satan’s Step-daughter but she did screw me over without the courtesy of lube. I was pissed about my kidneys going. I was pretty much Peter Piss Off. I hated my new school and trying to learn the bullshit politics. Everything just blew.

            Yesterday, I threw out the coffeepot I had to go and buy at Wal-mart to replace the one Satan’s step-daughter ran off with. In its place sits a fancy Cuisinart courtesy of my new wife. I look around the forest of boxes, tables, piles of household ends as I try to help in merging of two separate households. I have to stop and take a breath just to realize just how far I have come in five years.

            I didn’t out riddle  Gollum for my life, fight my way out a giant spider’s web or even float out in a barrel to escape Rivendell. A few comparisons could be drawn between outwitting the talking dragon and dealing with the ex but she’s had enough screen time here.     

Over the past five years, I have finally made my own personal journey. I hit the bottom hard and not even on my own two feet. Somehow through some amazing friends, family I can count on, and the love of a good woman, I stand here today in front of my own hobbit hole.

Don’t bother looking for dwarf gold, it’s been replaced by two hysterical kids who love to interrupt me and always make me laugh when I am trying to be an adult. You won’t find any magic spells or angry wizards. The only magic in this house are the looks Kim and I exchange when she looks up from what she is doing and I begin to feel flush. That, my friend, is mojo.

           And the one ring to rule them all? I’m wearing it……