Monday, November 11, 2013

Future Loss

     I've seen the future in a field of fresh-fallen snow,
tiny, little footprints made from stumbling to and fro,
shallow sled tracks up and down a gently sloping hill,
and over there a small, spastic, fantastic snow angel.
     Then I have seen that future never see the light of day,
and seen that snow go untrodden til it melted away.

     I've seen the future in seeds of a dandelion fluff,
along would come a tiny, clumsy hand to pluck and puff,
and life would flow on the wind like in maiden from fellow,
then that little hand and a field of yellow would grow.
     Then I have seen those white fluffs get tossed and lost in the wind,
and seen that future tear far too badly to ever mend.

     I've seen the future in a woman's pair of empty arms,
she would gently rock and coo and use her motherly charms,
and she would be rewarded with a giggle and a smile,
and a tiny hand wrapped around her finger awhile.
     Then I have seen that future disappear like a blood stain,
scrubbed out of some clothing until nothing does remain.

     I've often grieved these futures that never came to be,
but it is like trying to grieve an unknown mystery,
or grieving an imaginary friend once forgotten,
or an apple core once it is discarded and rotten.
     Still I try to honor futures that never came to call,
by caring for what will be and it standing for them all.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

I Am My Mother's Son

     I've been doing the Facebook thing where you put something you're thankful for as your status everyday in November.   Every one of mine has followed the format of I'm thankful for____ women with the blank filled in with different adjectives.   I've been talking about my mom every time.  I've used eight words to describe her so far and they have been inadequate of course.  Truly no amount of words can describe how I feel about her or how grateful I am for her.  Still on this ninth day of November, her birthday, I'm going to write a bunch more words to attempt to explain how appreciative I am of her and also because I have no money to buy her a present.
     My earliest memories of her bring to mind a word I haven't used in my Facebook statuses; patience.  When I was four I can remember having just learned right from left but not understanding that they didn't change no matter which way I faced.  So while my mom was hanging clothes on the line in our yard I asked her which was right and which was left.  Then I turned another way and asked again.  Then again and again and again.  In my mind it seems like I faced fifty different directions and asked her which way was which fifty different times.  She looked at me and answered each time.  I suppose she could have explained to me that right was right and left was left no matter what but I think it amused her watching me figure it out.
     The other memory I have of her from when I was four that brings to mind patience is Uno games every afternoon.  We'd get my pain in the butt brothers off to school then I'd watch cartoons or read while she made us while she did what she needed to do and then made us lunch.  After that it was Uno time.  We played and laughed and she never rushed me as I stratigized to beat her.  I almost never did beat her but it was good times just being with my mom and her being patient enough to play with me.
     Patience isn't a word many people would associate with my mom but as I grow older I realize how patient she was and is.  She was a working mom for most of my life.  She had three boys that were always on the go with sports and stuff.  She had no time for herself that I could see.  Then there's the matter of the men in her life.  There have never been four men love a woman more than my father and his sons love my mother and we show it often in our separate ways.  We are, however, four of the most frustrating, smartass, and at times insensitive men that have ever lived.  It's a wonder of patience that she never burned the house down with the four of us in it.
     If this seems a little rambling it's probably because that's my style.  It's also because I don't know where to start or go or end with Mom.  How do I pick and choose memories when every memory with her seems important?  Besides, she seems to be in almost every memory.  Mom is the constant, the strength, in my life so to do this right I'd probably have to write an autobiography.  So if I bounce around a bit I apologize.
     I got my revenge for the Uno games when we got a Nintendo.  Mom wouldn't play Super Mario much because she claimed that the little man wouldn't jump when she pressed the button but when we got Dr. Mario she was right there with me.  She could rarely beat me but she tried a lot and we had much fun.  It felt good to be better than Mom at something because she was so good at everything.  I think that's why I play Candy Crush Saga  now.  It's similar to Dr. Mario and I still get to brag to Mom about how much farther I am in it then she is.
     Of course, Mom didn't always have time for fun and games with me and her other sons but it seemed like she did.  I'm not sure how she did that.  She went to work when I started school but she would never consider herself a feminist.  She's the reason I consider myself one, though.  Growing up with her as my mom there is no conceivable way I could ever feel like a woman isn't as strong or as capable at anything as a man.  She never had that working parent's guilt either. She never worried about a work/life balance.  She was working because her family needed her to.  After work she was cooking, cleaning, running kids to sports, and generally wearing herself out because that's what had to be done.  She didn't worry about not having much time to herself because her family needed her time more than she did.  It's from her and Dad that I learned the most important lesson of my life.  You do for family.  That's it. That's the secret of life and that's what I try to do.  I do for family like Mom and Dad did though I rarely live up to them.
     It wasn't all fun and games, of course.  Life isn't that way.  I've written before about how she held me after her mother died and told me she would be my buddy now.  She is too.  As a parent I realize now that she was drawing comfort from comforting me but it's still remarkable to me that while grieving for her own mother she was able to remember what her mother had said to me when her grandma had died.  Then again my mom's mom had thought to say it to me in the first place when her mom died so I guess it runs in the family.  I'm blessed with strong women that do for family.
     I can remember bawling like a baby in Mom's arms when she told me my best friend Brad was going to move after his father died in third grade.  She held me and told me that it would be alright and promised me I would still see him.  She knew how important Brad was to me even at such a young age and she didn't try to tell me that I'd make new friends or anything like that.  She told me I'd still see him and obviously she kept that promise because I ended up naming my son after my friend.  Once again, and always, she did for family.
     When I was a teenager and my girlfriend had to move away after her own mother died my parents were instrumental in me still being able to see her.  Again, they didn't tell me I'd meet other women or anything like that. Again, they knew how important she was to me.  I wish I knew how they did that. Then when things weren't going well for my girlfriend at her father's house Mom saw this and told me we've got to get her out of there.  So then she moved in with us.  Sherri and I had been working on this for months but it wasn't until we got the force of Mom behind us that it happened.
     Sherri wasn't the only friend of her sons that Mom moved in with us or fed or took care of over the years.  She's Mom to many children she didn't give birth to.  I learned from Mom not only do you do for family but that the definition of family is flexible.  Family can be anyone that needs a helping hand and deserves it.  If they feel like a son or daughter or neice or nephew or mom or dad or aunt or uncle or grandma or grandpa then they are and that's that.  Of course, they can never replace blood so it's a hard balancing act but Mom balanced that like she balanced everything else in life.  Long before Nike thought of the catchphrase Mom was just doing it.
     Still, it was hard for her years later when Sherri and I went through troubles and ultimately a divorce.  Sherri had truly become like a daughter to her.  That didn't stop Mom from talking me through all of it and having my back the whole time.  It did hold her back from saying anything really bad about Sherri though and I love Mom all the more for that.  I could feel her holding back.  It wasn't that she thought I was right and Sherri was wrong.  That wasn't why she wanted to say anything about or to Sherri.  It's just that one of her son's were hurting and in Mom's world that's not supposed to happen. Still, she loved and still loves Sherri so she never said anything too bad about her while still managing to never give me less than I needed. I know it's not but Mom is a remarkable woman whose balancing seems effortless.
     I reached out and got help from many family members and friends to get through my divorce only because I knew how Mom felt about Sherri and I didn't want to burden Mom with all of it.  It was still Mom, though, who ultimately got me through it.  I'm not the only son she's done that for either.  We have our philosophical and religious conversations with Dad and our emotional conversations with Mom and it seems to work out alright.  The funny thing us that these conversations with both of them always come down to the same thing.  You do for family.
     Sometimes my doing for family now leaves me sounding a lot like Mom; screaming my eyeballs out.  It wouldn't seem right to talk about Mom without talking about her ability to project her voice.  Her ability to scream is such that it still leaves my friends with a healthy fear of her even as they express how much they love her.  Everyone knows Mom is remarkable and a sweet, caring woman and that you don't, above all else, want to piss her off.  I've come to realize her loudness is just another expression of her love.  I focused when I was playing sports to such an extent that I didn't hear any of the spectators except for Mom.  She could always make herself heard when she needed to.  Even in anger her screaming was from love.  Every Cardinals manager and closer mysteriously gets the middle name Fucking when she's watching a game because she loves the Cardinals and wants her to win.  Even when she went into one of her legendary screaming fits at Dad and her boys and their friends and whoever happened to be around it was out of love.  She wanted us to shut up and listen and do what she needed us to do so she didn't have to kill us because she loved us and didn't want to do that.
     Whether she says it loud or quietly Mom always seems to know the right thing to say to me.  I already talked about her telling me she'd be my buddy now but I also remember when at my grandpa's funeral, her father in law, I saw her by the casket so I walked up and put an arm around her.  When I did a button on the electronic poker game I had hidden in the inside pocket of my suit got pressed and it made a jingling noise.  I was mortified but Mom just looked at me and said that Grandpa would've loved that. Then we laughed and hugged and wiped a few tears from our eyes.  The best example of her say the right thing at the right time has to be at my wedding.  I was a nervous, not quite twenty one year old groom and I was wondering the crowd before the wedding trying to greet everyone and not let on how nervous I was.  I needed to relax and Mom saw this.  Letting me know how she felt about my bride and using humor to relax me she said, “Paul, I have a question.  Should I sit on the groom's side or the bride's side?"  I often give credit and blame for my humor to Dad but Mom taught me a lot about getting off a good one too.
     I could tell Mom stories for thousands of more words.  She has done for family and if that requires laughing or crying or shouting she does it.  If that requires trips hours away on short notice to help her boys with their kids she does it.  If that requires the right words on the phone or just being their she does it.  She really is the perfect mom and I'm so thankful she's mine.  I'll call her today and wish her Happy Birthday and apologize for not being able to see her.  She'll say well Paul you've got to pay your bills and feed my grandson.  You do for family.  She'll make me feel better on her birthday because that what she does.
     I asked my son what he would say about his grandma.  He said, “She's one of the nicest people I've ever met and without her my life would not be the same."  Perfect.  While I ramble on like my dad he says exactly what needs to be says and goes on about his business.   He is his grandma's grandson.  Happy birthday  Mom.  I love you.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Memory of My First Girlfriend

     We didn't think of each other as boyfriend or girlfriend.  Heck, we were six.  We didn't think much at all.  My older brother and her older brother were friends, they played together on the soccer team that my dad coached, and our families lived close; so we were friends. We liked each other though.  If there is one memory of Jaime that I'm absolutely certain of it is that floating feeling in your stomach, like just when a roller coaster has began a big drop, that a boy gets around a certain girl.  Does that mean I'm not absolutely certain about the rest of this memory?  Yes, yes it does.  It seems too clear to be a memory from when I was just six and it seems too similar to a thousand scenes in books and movies to have actually happened.  Sometimes, I think this is just something my imagination wishes had happened.  So I doubt it but then when I close my eyes and think about it, it feels like a memory.  I am certain something similar to this happened and this is the way I remember it.
     We had been best friends for as long as we both could remember, which isn't long at that age, but we were always more than best friends.  We would hold hands when we thought no adults were looking and when we were absolutely certain no brothers were looking.  Our brothers would kid us about being boyfriend and girlfriend and we hated it mostly because it was probably true.  We didn't talk about it or think about it, though.  Somehow we knew that would have ruined it.  So we just played together at soccer games, worked together in school, and held hands when we thought no one knew.
     It was coming to an end, however.  My family was moving.  We were together for one last playdate.  I don't know if our parents did this special or if it had just worked out that way.  I don't know why it seems like we were alone on the playground.  I don't know if our parents were giving us privacy by watching from afar or what.  Neither my memory nor my imagination will supply these little details.  I think it's because when it comes to memories it isn't the how nor the why that's important but just the what.
     At the beginning of the playdate Jamie looked at me and said, "So you're moving."  For a moment she looked as if she might cry.  I felt like I might cry.  Then she hugged me.  It was a quick hard squeeze and I barely had time to return it before she let go and grabbed my hand.  The times for tears was past.  She was smiling again, as it seems like she always did, and she dragged me away to play.
     So we played.  We went down slides and climbed monkey bars and played a few of our favorite games that I sadly I can't remember what they were.  It seemed like that afternoon lasted a day or two.  We just played like children do.  The only difference was that we held hands even more than normal.  It seems like we knew that day was the last day so we didn't care who saw.
     Then we heard an adult's voice call out.  It was one of our fathers and in my memory it seems like it was mine.  It didn't matter who said it, or what they said, the message was the same as it always was when an adult called out to us.  It was time to go.  That always made me sad.  That's the other thing I'm absolutely certain of with Jamie in my memories.  I was always sad when I had to leave her.
     We sat down on a bench and ignored the adult for a little bit and the adult let us.  That and the privacy given us most of the afternoon are much of the reason that I think it was my dad was with us.  He has always been the kind of guy that understands things like that, the importance of moments like that in a child's life.
     "So you're moving," she said to me again as she looked at me on that bench.
     I nodded my head, pushed my big old glasses back up on my nose, and looked at her.
     She sort of smiled and then bit her bottom lip and stared at me.
     I could tell she was thinking really hard about something and it made me uncomfortable. I thought she might cry so I took he hand again.
     Then she kissed me.
     It was like the hug at the beginning of the afternoon.  It was quick and hard and over almost before I had time to return it.  We stared at each other's smiles for just a beat of a moment and then she let go of my hand and ran off towards whatever adults were with us.  I stayed sitting for a moment longer.  My stomach was doing that floating thing again and I was afraid it might fly away.  Then I ran off in the direction she went.  She must have already been in her parents car and gone because I don't ever remember seeing her again after that kiss.
     I don't know how much of that memory is real and how much is imagination but I know something similar to that happened and most importantly I know Jamie and the feelings I had for her when I was six were real.  It amazes me the way things like that from our childhoods stick with us.  Since the end of my marriage I've been dating a different type of woman than the girls I chased as a teenager.  Some of that is being older and having more confidence in myself than ever before.  Some of that is the invention of internet dating and the advantages it gives me because I can charm most anyone with the written word.  Some of that though, and I didn't realize it until I started writing this, is Jaime.  For the most part, I've been dating blondes with blue eyes who are intelligent beautiful women that smile warm inviting smiles quite often; like the kind of woman I imagine Jaime became.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Assuaging the Doubts of Single Fatherhood

     All parents have doubts.  We sit around our apartments or trailers or little bitty houses and look around and ask "Is this it?"  "Is this really the best I can do for my child?"  Or we put in another long night at the office and kiss our kids goodnight when they're already asleep and sit there watching them sleep wishing we had more time with them and ask "Is this it?"  "Is this really the best I can do for my child?"  No matter what we do or how well we do it we wonder "Is this it?  Is this really the best I can do for my child?"
     Single parents have more doubts.  When a married parent isn't at their best they have the comfort of a partner to pick up their slack.  When a single parent watches television for too long before telling their child to do their homework or in an exhausted state in the morning forgets to yell at their brat about putting socks on there isn't anyone else there to help.  Their child stays up too late or doesn't get their homework done.  Their child goes to school without socks.  Then later the parent realizes this they doubt themselves.  We single parents ask ourselves "Is this it?  Is this really the best I can do for my child?  Would my child have been better off with their other parent?"
     Single fathers have the most doubts.  We're conditioned from birth to believe that women are the better caregivers and the better parents.  Television, society both perpetuate the myth.  Even in my case, where I was raised by two parents so amazing that I'm not sure what I would have done without either of them, the belief still persists in a tiny hole in my mind that somehow gender equates to quality of parenting.  Even though I know that having a penis instead of a vagina proves nothing about how good of a parent I can be I still question myself.  I still ask "Is this it?  Is this really the best I can do for my child?  Would he be better off with his mom?  Would he be better off with a woman around?"
     I'm constantly complimented about what a good dad I am and it helps.  I tell people that is the best compliment I can receive and it is.  Still the doubt is there like a toothache or a nagging woman.  It gets me a little down sometimes and parenting is so exhausting anyway, if you're doing it right, that it's all too easy to get down.  So sometimes I have to give myself a pep talk and that what this is.  I'm not fishing for compliments or trying to convince anyone else.  I'm trying to convince myself.  I'm talking to myself, as I am during most of my blogging, but as always you're welcome to read along.

     That's Brad wearing my hat and trying to look like me.  He wouldn't want to look like dear old dad if I were so bad, would he?  It isn't what he looks like in this picture that makes me proud, though.  It's the memory of what we were doing when I took this picture.  We were listening to a talk show on the radio that had people talking about times in there lives when people have said the most without saying anything at all.  Brad saw the irony in that and laughed at it.  That alone would be enough for me to know I'm doing a good job with this one.
     It was our reaction to a particular segment of the show that makes me smile, though.  A black man was telling about his childhood attending a Catholic school in Chicago.  He had lived in a neighborhood that was mostly white to begin with and the school was ran by white nuns.  As white flight set in, though, the neighborhood changed but the staff at the school didn't.  He described the nun that ran the school as a short Irish woman that managed to carry herself in such a way that her authority was unquestioned and unchallenged by a bunch of black children.  The he talks about a morning when that short, Irish, nun walked into the class he was in carrying a box of crucifixes.  She moved a chair to the chalkboard and stood on it so she could reach the crucifix that was already hanging above.  It was a crucifix that portrayed Jesus as a blonde haired, blue eyed, white man.  The nun took that down and laid it gently in the box and her hand emerged from the box holding a crucifix that portrayed Jesus as a dark haired, black man.  She hung this above the chalkboard, stepped down from the chair, and left the room.
     Brad was quiet for a moment after hearing this story and then said, "I can see why that would be a big deal for him."  We talked for a moment about how much that would mean to a black child to be able to imagine that Jesus looked like them and he completely understood.  Then he paused again and asked, "But Dad wasn't Jesus actually brown?"  I explained to him that Middle Eastern was probably the proper way to say it but that yes Jesus probably looked a like like the current inhabitants of where he lived.  Then he paused again, spoke slowly like he does when he is trying to say something serious, and after a few false starts managed to say, "But Dad it doesn't really matter what Jesus looked like.  What matters is who he was.  Really Dad, it doesn't even matter what anyone looks like.  It's who they are."
     I beamed.  I smiled with pride both for him and myself.  These are things I've taught him but not by spelling them out for him but just through discussions and examples.  And he got it.  He freaking gets it at just eight years old.  Now my only real job is to make sure he doesn't forget it.  I'm sure there are some of you reading this that don't realize what the big deal is.  The big deal is that he was able to put himself in someone else's place and understand it.  The big deal is that he is learning facts beyond what he is told and thinking about them.  The big deal is that he is an eight year old boy who isn't superficial in the way he views people.  He's a deep little dude even if he does talk about the Legend of Zelda most of the time.
     Speaking of the Legend of Zelda, I bought him Wind Waker HD on the day it came out.  See that look on his face.  That's why I work, right there.  Sure food and electricity are nice but that joy is it man.  It is the meaning and the beginning and the end.  What I'm most proud of about that joy is my son is just as likely to feel it and express it over reaching the top of a hard rock to climb or being told he's going to see his grandparents or seeing a friend or a good book as he is over getting a new video game.  Brad is an easily joyed boy and shares that joy and that has to have something to do with me.
     There's more to that moment than just being able to buy him a game that makes me proud of my parenting.  There's a woman I've been seeing that is a woman I like to hold and talk to and hug and kiss among other things.  She wanted to see me the night that game came out.  I explained to her that I had promised my son that I would buy him the game and play it with him that night.  It seems like such an easy thing to do; keep your priorities in order and put your child first but every parent knows it isn't as simple as it sounds and every single parent knows how tempting it can be not to because we have to do it every single moment of everyday.  Still, I manage to do it pretty well and I love myself for that.
     This picture is another example of that.  It was taken by my ex-wife the last time she was in town.  We attended Brad's football game together and then both took Brad to a barbecue festival.  We got a long well and managed to keep our differences confined to joking remarks.  We get along well enough that neither of us really minded but I do think there was a point in the day where we were both thinking enough was enough.  We hung in there until Brad was done, though, because that's what was best for him.  It's good to assure him that we aren't enemies and proving that has to be a priority.
     Then the next weekend Brad and I went down to visit my ex-wife's family.  I'm not sure what to call them.  Technically they're ex-in-laws but that's one hyphen too many and besides as one of them said I didn't get divorced from them.  Whatever I call them we had a good visit and it was good to see them.  They also watched Brad overnight for me so I could visit the woman I mentioned before.  Despite what a person or two implied that wasn't the point of the visit for me.  I squeezed that woman into our weekend visiting them not the other way around.  I didn't need to drive two and a half hours away to find a a babysitter and go on a date with a woman who only live forty-five minutes from me.  Anyway, this post is supposed to be bitterness free.

     And there's the cure for bitterness right there.  Brad's team won their first game of the year last night.  My stomach was in knots until time ran out and then...well his joy in those pictures doesn't compare to mine.  If I feel like that because he feels like that then I must be some kind of father.  And this is the part where Brad would say something smart like "yeah but what kind?" and I would laugh and call him and turd and hit him in the gut.  Just like any good father would with his son.

Monday, September 23, 2013

a short untitled poem

     The plan was to keep working on this poem and maybe submit it somewhere I might get paid for it.  I never get paid for my writing here because no one clicks on ads. lol.  I've started on a short story, though, that I think will turn out much better, and will be more likely to make me money, than this poem.  So you dear blog readers get the poem for free. I don't have a title for it.  Maybe someone could suggest one.  Also, in case anyone wonders, it isn't about anyone in particular.

     Her soft touch is like just before a thunderstorm when the breeze dies down but I still feel it blowing.
     When she embraces me it is like she is cocking a powerful gun without even knowing.
     Her soft kiss brushing across my lips is like feeling the petals of a rose with just fingertips.
     When she kisses me passionately my toes can somehow feel the curvature of her lovely hips.
     They say attraction is mystery but mystery cannot be unless I bother to ponder.
     When we are alone I can't think clear enough to question the sensations as through me they wander.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

I Am An Ex-Husband

     A pretty cool exchange of messages happened between my ex-wife and I at the beginning of this week.  It's a conversation I think the two of us should be proud of and since not much happens between a man and a woman in the aftermath of a divorce that they can be proud of I figured I'd take the time to preserve it here.  I hope my ex won't mind but since I don't want to call her at almost midnight to ask and since her part of this was a public post on Facebook, I'm going to go ahead and assume she won't care.  I often made mistaken assumptions during my marriage, though, so I hope I'm not wrong.
     Our son was with his mother last weekend and when I met them to pick him up we ended up eating together at Waffle House.  During the meal we were discussing another couple we know going through a nasty divorce and my ex-wife looked at me and said that she had come to realize in our situation that the divorce wasn't really either of our faults.  We just went through some terrible times and we grew apart instead of together and we just weren't there for each other like we should have been.  She said she wanted me to know she was sorry that it happened like that and that she was sorry for her part in it all.
     I really didn't respond.  I didn't want to get too deep into the divorce with our son sitting there because when you start a conversation like that with your ex-wife you never know which direction it's going to go.  Also, it just caught me off guard.  I hadn't expected her to say anything like that just then.  Mostly though, I didn't say much because I didn't realize it was a big deal to her to say something like that.  What can I say?  I'm a guy.  We're often clueless about stuff like this.
     The next day I got a few messages from some of our mutual friends on Facebook.  No matter how many times I tell some people I don't need to know someone always manages to inform me of things my ex-wife posts.  The weird thing is it isn't the same people all the time either.  I wonder if she goes through the same things with stuff I post here.  I'll have to ask her sometime.  Anyway, I guess I'm glad they informed me this time because otherwise I would have never known about her status update.
     "Just ate dinner w my Ex and apologized for my part in our "Falling Apart" after losing Three Babies. All I can say is God heals all situations if we forgive others#feelinglikeaputz# LOL"
     Then later in the comments she wrote;
     "I look back and realize that we should have handled ourselves better but Hind sight is 20/20. and Poor Paul tried his best with me. Looking back, how many 16 year old boys do you know that would wipe the tears away from their crying girlfriend after her Mother died a horrible death, stick by her, get married and not very long into marriage get news of cancer and how many 22 year old guys would work all night at a gas station during the midnight shift (after being at the hospital with their wife all day) and go right back to the hospital without any sleep, be there through radiation treatments, and then I have the audacity to blame someone for not being perfect after losing three babies? Now it's like I'm older and realize how ridiculously high my expectations were. Sure, Paul may have gotten comfy and taken me a bit for granted and he definitely made his share of mistakes, but geez, he probably deserved that in hindsight. All we can ever do is own up to our mistakes, apologize, and repent to God and try not to make the same mistakes ever again."
     Now yes, I am a guy but I would have to be a complete imbecile not to realize how big of a deal it was for her to write that and I felt like she deserved a response.  I probably over thought my response.  I wanted her to know that I appreciated what she wrote, that I'm sorry for my part in it too, that she is forgiven for her part in our marriage failing, and that I hoped she could forgive me too.  I couldn't just write that, though.  I felt like that wouldn't be enough effort.  Also, if I'm being honest, I probably think too much about anything I write before I write it except when I don't like right now.  Anyway, this is what I texted her.
     "Just wanted to say that I appreciated your apology yesterday. I just didn't want to start a huge discussion in front of Brad. I hope you know that I'm sorry for my part in our falling apart too. We both made mistakes and hopefully we have both learned from them. Also, I saw your Facebook post because of course someone would tell me to look at it and I want you to know I'm touched. It's good to know that you haven't forgotten everything I did for you Even though things fell apart and I hope you know I remember and appreciate everything you did for me. There was a period of time I don't think we would have made it through without each other and it's a shame we didn't remember that time when the going got rough again. There's no going back but it's good to know that going forward we can both put the past behind us and maybe be as good of friends as we once were lovers."
And that was it really. Things were said that needed to be said and then we went back to talking about our son and the things he needs and how school is going and how much of a pain in the butt he can be. We could rehash things endlessly and be angry and hurt but there would be no point in that. I think we both knew for a while now that we needed to truly let go and move on but we both had to be at a point where we were ready to do that at the same time and I'm proud that we got there. I'm proud of her too that she was the one that initiated it. Mark that on your calendars, folks. It isn't often that you'll hear any ex-husband say he's proud of any ex-wife for anything.
Just a few more notes. For the few of you out there that may be still harboring any hopes let go. None of this conversation means in any way shape or form that there's a chance of us getting back together. What it does mean is that we both know we meant a lot to each other and in one way or another are going to mean a lot to each other for the rest of our lives. I haven't given this post the title it has just because it goes along with the titles of several of my other posts. I gave it the title because the title is true. I was with Sherri for fifteen years and married to her for ten. As she often says, we grew up together. I can deal properly with her and the memories but I couldn't get rid of them even if I wanted to. Maybe someday I'll be a husband again but even then I'll still always be an ex-husband.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

My Son Is A Lineman

     My son was on the ground.  He wasn't bouncing back up like normal.  The coaches gathered round him, unsnapped his helmet, and took it off.  One of them looked like they said "breath."  I didn't panic.  That's a luxury a man can't indulge in.  I didn't worry either rather I started thinking about worrying.  It wasn't time yet to worry but it was time to find out what was going on.  I reluctantly walked onto the practice field to where my son still lay. He wasn't holding a body part but he was in obvious pain and seemed to have trouble catching his breath.  By this point it had become almost a scary moment.  "He got hit in the balls," I heard one of the coaches say.  I laughed and my son, seeing me laughing, smiled. He was up soon, I told him to get back at it, and practiced resumed.  I felt sympathy for his pain but pretty much felt relieved.  A nutshot, while painful, isn't often serious.
     This is my son's first year of tackle.  I didn't agonize over the decision to let him play.  I'd actually made the decision a few years ago when I first let him put on a helmet and play flag; when I first saw the gleam in his eyes as he did the dirty work on the lines and fell in love with the game.  I've never tried to discourage or deter his feelings towards the sport even though I was always a baseball man myself.  He has his own personality and football fits it.
     That doesn't mean I don't second guess my decision.  There is growing evidence, and more evidence, of the long term health effects of playing football and sportswriters are questioning the morality of watching football and writers and players both are questioning whether to let their children play the game they make their living off of.  Long before I ever had a son I had a doctor I trust, a doctor who played college ball himself, tell me he didn't think kids should play football when he looked at the number of people with permanent pain in their knees and backs from their glory days of high school football.  He didn't think it was worth it even in the days before we learned more about concussions and other brain injuries.  The risks of the sport are great.
     It's a personal concern for me too.  It isn't just an abstract idea.  My brother is walking around with knee and back injuries partially caused by football.  Neither of my grandfathers were football players but they did both suffer from Alzheimer's and because of watching their declines that disease is probably my life's greatest fear.  So given his genetic predisposition, why would I let my son do anything that would increase his risk of getting something I fear so much for myself?
     I could rationalize the risks away.  Thousands of football parents and fans do that every day.  I could say that more kids get brain injuries from riding bikes than they do from football and I wouldn't be lying.  I'd just be ignoring the fact that that's because a whole lot more kids ride bikes, and for longer periods of time, than play football and that riding bikes is therefore far less risky.  I could say that everything we do in life is risky and that my child has as much of a chance of getting hurt during the car ride to his game tomorrow as he does playing in it and I might not be lying.  I'd just be ignoring the fact that car rides are a risk I have to expose him to while football is not.  I could share an amusing anecdote about how in the middle of my son's first season of flag football, when the decision to let him play was still fresh and weighing heavy on my mind, he broke his foot not during football but while playing on the monkey bars at school and it would be true.  I'd just be ignoring the fact that its is an ironic coincidence and nothing more.
      I sort of envy the parents that can ignore the risks of their children playing football by using those methods and the parents that are ignorant of the risks in the first place.  I'm not a stick my head in the sand can of parent or person, though.  If I'm going to put my son at risk, or let him put himself at risk, it is going to be because I've carefully considered the risk and decided the benefits are worth the risks.  I've decided football is worth the risk for my child.
      A few days before the nutshot he was playing in a scrimmage and getting bounced around like a pinball.  He's big for a third grader, if a bit short, but he plays in a league of third and fourth graders so he isn't often among the biggest players on the field.  He is often lined up across from the biggest players on the field and he tries his best to block them or get around them depending on what he's supposed to do.  Sometimes they knock him down, although not as much as they should given the size differences, but he gets up and goes back at them.  Mostly he makes the plays he should make and he does it with a smile on his face.
     I tend to parent differently than most people and sometimes I explain to my son the way I'm parenting, and why, when I'm doing it.  It's an approach that wouldn't work with most eight year old kids but it works with my thoughtful son.  After that pinball practice I broke a sports parenting rule and actually told him why parents encourage their children to play sports.  One, it gets the kids they hell off our backs for awhile and burns up some of their energy.  Two, it's a way for them to learn lessons they don't even know they're learning.  I told him playing sports was sort of stealth teaching of life lessons.
     "If you approach life the way you approached the scrimmage tonight," I lectured, "you'll have a good life.  You got back up when you got knocked down and tried again.  Whatever obstacle was in front of you, you tried to go through it and if that didn't work you tried another approach.  You did everything you could to do what needed to be done and, most importantly, you did it with a smile on your face and said it made you feel like a boss.  If you live your life the way you played football tonight you'll be in good shape."
     Ultimately, football isn't the riskiest thing I let him do.  We go rock climbing as often as we can and I let him take try things sixty feet in the air that are risky so that he can know the exhilaration of doing something he thought he couldn't and appreciate the rewards of effort.  Of course, while rock climbing I can be right behind him.  I'm teaching him to handle firearms and how to hunt so that he can understand how a disciplined approach can make him safer and better at some things and so that he can share the bonding experience of hunting and shooting with myself and the other men in his life.  Of course, while shooting I can be right beside him.  I can only watch the football from the sidelines.
     Could he learn the same lessons and get the same benefits from less riskier behavior? Most kids probably could be my son wouldn't.  He plays on the line because when he played flag football he saw right away that the line was where kids made the most contact with each other and he likes contact.  He like physicality.  That's why the only other sport he still competes in is wrestling.  He likes the line mostly because of the contact, sure, but it's also because I've explained to him that the line is a dirty job but someone has to do it.  Lineman don't always get the most recognition and most kids don't want to play there.  My son, though, likes the idea of doing things that have to be done that no one else wants to do.  He takes pride in his own accomplishments and it doesn't much matter to him if anyone else notices or not.  That's who he is.  That's his personality and I try to let him be who he's going to be.  So for better or worse, I let my son play football because he is who he is; my son is a lineman.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

I Am Drunk

     I'm drunk.  Obviously not too type to drunk, drunk but still pretty drunk.  It occurs to me that I've never drunken blogged.  My spell check keeps wanting to correct blogged to flogged but I have drunken flogged.  That is, however, a whole nother story that I'm not drunk enough to tell.  Still, now I will drink and blog and this will be the first time that I've sat down to write a post with not even a clue of what I'm going to write.  It should be interesting.
     So what do I think about when I'm drunk? Women.  Women.  Norm from Cheers was right; "Women.  Can't live with them....pass the beernuts."  I passed up three or four women in the bars of Herrin tonight that I know I could have gone home with mostly because they were women in the bars in Herrin.  Still, it was partially because I was more concerned with texting a woman in Carbondale who told me two months ago that she doesn't want to date guys that are bald, wear glasses, have beards, smoke, or have kids.  Still,  I've become friends with her and was texting her tonight while she was out on a date and we were both making fun of the youngster she was on a date with.  Am I stupid?  Are women stupid?  Is the answer to both those questions yes?
     Maybe the whole thing about wanting what we can't have is true but I don't think so.  If that were true then why don't I want my ex wife?  She looks better now than she ever did when we were together.  That includes when she was sixteen and twenty one and all those ages when women think they look their best.  Still, when I look at her now there's just nothing.  Why the hell am I writing about any of this?  I'm drunk I guess.  Why don't I use the delete button in my moments of self awareness?  I'm drunk I guess.
     So I guess that begs the question who the hell ever begs for a question?  Wait, no, that's not it.  It begs the question; what am I looking for in a woman?  I don't know.  Love is like the Supreme Court justice said about porn, "I'll know it when I see it."  See, I don't want to limit myself, in love or porn, and I'll consider almost any kind.  They just have to be strong; women that is not porn.
     I like strong women.  That's what I grew up with and that's what I want.  Some assume that means I'm a weak man but you know what they say about making an ass out of ume. The deal is that I'm not going to fix anyone's life.  Hell, I've barely got my own life together. I don't expect anyone to fix my life, either.  When I find the right woman together we will makes each other's life better and that's it really but that's a lot I think.  I also think that the previous sentence's structure probably only makes sense when I'm drunk.
     That's another thing; writing.  I know I'm a pretty decent writer and a lot better than some people that make a living off this shit but get off my back about it.  I know those of you that are encouraging me only want what's best for me but I only want what's best for my son and I can't afford to take the kind of risk, i.e. quitting work and trying to write for a living, that would be necessary for me to write for a living.  So I'll keep writing this blog for the pleasure of writing, to help me sort out feelings, and for as much as it attracts women to me and that's it.  I'll write a story from time to time when I just can't get the idea out of my head but then I'll do nothing with it once I've written it.  If that disappoints you then now you know how my ex wife felt most of my life.
     So what do I really have to offer a woman then?  Not my writing because well; is this kind of drivel really much to offer?  Not a better life because she'll have to work with me to get that.  I'm a nice guy.  I'm a different sort of guy.  I am capable of winning the understatement of the year award.  I have a beard that I insist is kick ass no matter what anyone else thinks of it.  I'm an intelligent man.  I have a few other traits that I won't mention in a public forum even when I'm drunk that are a positive.  Oh and I've got blue eyes like the Colorado/Texas/Arizona sky or the Atlantic Ocean take your pick.  That's it really and if that's not enough then fuck it.  I'm drunk.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

I Tell Myself To Remember This

     Here I'm am again awake when I should be sleeping.  I couldn't tell you if I feel like the days just blur together or it all just seems like one long unending day because I'm too tired to tell the difference.  Even my whining has become repetitive.  Still, I fight sleep like a little kid and rebel against nothing and I just don't care.  Even my faults have become boring to me.  I want to write, though.  I want to write.  It's been seven days since I posted anything and I received a wonderful compliment from a complete stranger on my last post and the motivation is always there anyway.  I have plenty of things to write about too. There's how quickly a day of remembrance turns to crass commercialism in this country but everyone knows America is too materialistic.  I went on two dates with a woman and then she decided she doesn't want to see me anymore because of something she knew about before we ever met.  That should be good for a diatribe or two but I would just be writing once again that women are hard to understand.  We have an employee appreciation day coming up at work and I'm ready to rage about about the irony and fallacy and farce that is but...well actually that one I'll probably write but it needs to marinate in my mind another night or so.  Still, it seems like even my writing, my escape from the same old song and dance, has become repetitive.
     It is easy to see why some people think it's all meaningless and on a night like this, as I listen to the water from a leak drip without any motivation to fix it, that is a tempting philosophy to embrace.  We wage slaves go away from our homes everyday and slave away just to pay the car payments that let us keep doing it.  We shuffle our kids to and from school and their activities and shovel food we can barely afford into their mouths just so that they too can grow up and do what we do.  Life is hard and it comes to the same end for us all no matter what.  It is almost understandable to think that the grind never ends up grinding anything to anything resembling a point.  In the middle of a night like tonight the meaning of life seems as thin and easily vanishing as the steam from my coffee and the smoke from my cigarette.
     Last week one evening when I wasn't feeling good my son put down his video game controller and asked me if there was anything he could do for me.  I see him look at me a certain way sometimes and I know he's wondering if I'm okay and if he can help in anyway. He wants to take care of me almost as much as I want to take care of him.  Sometimes I think about myself and my ex wife and the ways we've fucked up his life and I wonder where the hell this sweet boy came from.  I wonder about a lot of things he does and I mean that with the emphasis on wonder because that's what he is.  This past Friday my ex had to cancel visitation because of car trouble and I could see the disappointment in his eyes but he told her it was alright because he didn't want her to feel bad.
     I tell myself to remember this.
     That cancellation lead to some scrambling.  I had to work Saturday and had a date and night out with old friends planned for that evening and no babysitter because I wasn't supposed to have Brad.  My biggest worry, though, was the disappointed child on my hands. Forget my stuff.  I needed to find a way to make him feel better.  My family rode to the rescue.  They took Brad for the weekend, I was able to do everything I wanted and needed to do, and since he was getting a weekend with Grandma and Grandpa Brad wasn't disappointed anymore about not seeing his mom and he didn't miss me one bit.  I don't think he'd care if he missed meeting the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles if he was with Grandma and Grandpa.  After all the fighting and cussing we did when I was growing up my family will still do that much for and mean that much to my son and I and my parents are still trying to take care of me.
     I tell myself to remember this.
     During that Saturday night out with old friends I had a blast.  My one friend took the opportunity to ask me, as he always does, if I was ever going to write a novel.  I can't help laughing at him because he's stupid enough to still believe in me.  My other friend shocked us both by showing us something we never thought we'd see from him.  I can't really go into details but I'll just say that I can't help laughing at him because he's stupid enough to still believe in love.  Yes, I just called my two oldest friends stupid mostly because they must be to still be friends with me.  They'd say the same about me and we'd all laugh and know we meant it as a compliment.  I'm pretty sure we did say such things to each other that night just not in so many words.
     I tell myself to remember this.
     Monday, at work, the heat and the stress and the overtime got to myself and a coworker of mine.  We had an argument that almost came to blows.  Two guys with ginger beards arguing is almost as bad as two women.  We barely spoke to each other the rest of the day. Still, as we walked out of work we were joking and laughing and he still called me at four in the morning the next day to make sure I was awake and coming to work.  Stuff happens and then you forget it because if you don't then you can't work together and tell me if that isn't just the way life is supposed to be.
     I tell myself to remember this.
     Just since I've last posted I've marveled at how defensive my friends became of me when I told them the way that woman I dated treated me, even though it didn't much matter to me.  I've had a complete stranger compliment my writing and yes I was just looking for an excuse to mention that again.  All of these amazing little moments of meaning have happened in the last week that, until I thought about it, seemed like a meaningless slough to me.  If this is how everyday is going to be the same and how my life is going to be repetitious; I should be thankful for this.
     I tell myself to remember this.
     Yesterday, when I picked Brad up from school he threw two books he'd borrowed from the library into my truck and exclaimed, "BOOKS," with a smile I recognized from the mirror on he face.  Tonight, he had a football scrimmage and went against kids bigger and older than him.  At times he resembled a pinball but he got by them when he was supposed to and they didn't get by him.  At the end, when I usually give him my tips and pointers I only had one thing to say.  "The most important thing is Brad; did you have fun?"  "Dad," he shouted with that same damn smile on his face, "I feel like a BOSS."  I laughed and smiled that same damn smile and knew life couldn't possibly be pointless when I can see myself in him.  It all begins and ends with my son; my happiness, my joy, my stress, my exhaustion, my purpose and my meaning.  Everyday begins and ends with him.  I wake him up in the morning and tuck him in at night and I know that any day that begins and ends that way can't possibly be meaningless.
     I may have to remind myself from time to time but I remember this.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

I Am Needy

     Here it is.  I'm going to be as honest and blunt as I can be.  I make a lot of jokes as if my heart has never been broke but it's just a cover, a front.  I talk more about my emotions than most men but I'm still uncomfortable with them.  I find it awkward to talk about my feelings or to even acknowledge them.  Still, here it is.  Here's the truth.  I am needy.  I want love.  I need love.  I love love.
     Sometimes since the separation I've been so lonely I could barely stand it.  Men have accepted ways of handling this.  We use work as a distraction but mentally my work isn't very distracting.  We turn to alcohol and meaningless sex but meaningless sex is meaningless and I couldn't take the chance of turning to alcohol.  If I became an alcoholic my love may never have been able to come back to me.
     I haven't told anyone this but my love did come back to me sometimes.  Gone for a week, back for a week.  Sometimes gone longer, sometimes with me longer.  Then my love was here longer and longer and gone for only short periods and I got used to love again. Then summer came but it was winter in my heart.  Love was gone again for so long it became possible to imagine a life without my love.  It wasn't a pleasant possibility.
     Love leaves us all I guess or we leave it.  There's some comfort, though, I think when it happens naturally over time.  It's the abruptness that kills me.  Even when I know it's coming it happens suddenly.  It sneaks up on me.  I should be used to it, immune to it, by now but love doesn't work that way.  Love always manages to get to you.
     I have to learn to accept it.  This is the way it's going to be.  My love will be here then gone.  It would help if I could tell my love everything I'm writing here but I can't.  Who can really say these things aloud?  Besides, right now it wouldn't be good for my love to hear and right now my love wouldn't understand.  Someday, though my love will read this and I know, I can hear clearly in my heart, what my love will say.
     "Wow, my dad was such a girl."
     There are all these romantic notions of falling in love, finding someone we can't live without, and spending the rest of our lives with them and some of those notions are probably true.  There's this concept of soulmates but I find it hard to wrap my head around it.  I can't imagine a bond deeper than the one I share with my son.  I can't imagine a love more true.
     Here it is.  Here's the truth.  I am needy.  I need my son, Bradley.  He needs me a little more I hope because I need that, too.  When he's gone I don't feel quite right, quite happy, quite me.  When he's here I often feel exhausted and frustrated but I'm most likely smiling, too.  He's most likely smiling also and the smiles and laughter of each other only makes us smile and laugh more.  When he's here we are happy, I am happy.  To paraphrase Edgar Allan, we love with a love that is more than love but it is not I and my Annabel Lee.  It is I and my Bradley.  If that sounds cheesy or trite or kooky or melodramatic, future adult Bradley, I hope you'll forgive me.  I told you I am needy and besides maybe this will guilt you into coming to visit me. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

At Work Today

I really wasn't at my work today,
but in a galaxy far, far, away.

I was with my son as he sat in school,
knowing he was daydreaming of Hyrule.

I was reliving a sweet, soft, sweet kiss,
a kiss that my lips do already miss.

I was singing at a Tom Petty show,
singing loud all about what you don't know.

I was debating whether war or peace,
as around me Congressmen took their seat.

I was riding along with gunslingers,
to kill King's king because evil lingers.

I was at home devising poetry,
that shamelessly ripped off Walter Mitty.

Still, I was able to do my job just fine,
and still able to claim my soul as mine.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Ten Things I'll Try to Do Different in My Next Relatioship

     There has been an article floating around Facebook called  beautiful-advice-from-a-divorced-man-after-16-years-of-marriage.  I spent my last two posts mocking this article but the author shouldn't take it personally.  I mock almost any kind of list or advice like this. Love is a complex mystery somehow wrapped up in day to day mundane living and most of the advice people give about it is simple, paper thin, and unrealistic.  Usually, I argue against pop culture influencing society.  If our movies and games are violent it is because our world is violent and they reflect this; not the other way around.  When it comes to love and romance, though, maybe our movies and books have created and distorted ultimately unfulfilled and unfulfilling expectations.  When a man makes this argument it's always seen as saying lower expectations but I don't think that's what I'm going to say.  I'm going to try to say expect different, expect deeper, expect more real.
     As much as I mocked the man, he did put himself out there with his thoughts and his heart and now I will do the same.  I will fail to convey what I mean about love but hopefully not as badly as he did.  You might think it would be a strange feeling to start writing something being pretty sure you're going to fail but it isn't.  That's just how a lot of writing and a lot of life and lot of love is.
     Before I start my list, though, I want to share the most romantic moment I've ever seen in my life, the one moment I can point to more than any other and say that is love.  I want to share this because I think it will drive home the points I'm trying to make more than any other words I can write.  My writing may fail me but this memory never will.
     My grandma Mary was dying.  She wasn't my biological grandma.  She was my friend Brad's grandma but she was Grandma nonetheless and her husband is still Grandpa to me.  It was painful to watch.  She had developed Alzheimer's and had decided to stop eating and no one could convince her otherwise.  I was sitting in her hospital room with her husband and her son-in-law.  My wife and her daughter were in the hallway whispering and crying.  A doctor walked into her room and told her husband they needed to talk about feeding tubes and other possible life saving measure.  Her son-in-law and I started to leave the room but the moment and the discussion were over before we could even get to our feet.
     "There's nothing to talk about," Grandpa said, "She doesn't want any of that."  Then he walked over to his wife in her deathbed, kissed her gently on the forehead, dabbed at the few tears that leaked out of his eyes, and took her hand.
     That is love right there.  One spouse being strong enough to do what needed to be done for the other, what the other wanted to be done, even when it hurt.  It is something that I failed at once in my marriage and I regret it but I try not to be too hard on myself.  So I don't measure up to a hardheaded, hardworking German who grew up in the Great Depression, fought in World War Two, and still as he approaches ninety after a triple bypass will shingle his own roof.  Few people live up to that.  Few people are that strong.  Or perhaps the love I thought I had at the time wasn't that strong.  Regardless, in the words of Forrest Gump, I know what love is.  I witnessed it firsthand.
     From watching Elmer and Mary's marriage, the marriage of my parents' who are over forty years now, my own failed marriage, and those of many others the single biggest lesson I think I've learned is that nothing works for everyone.  All people are different and all relationships are different.  I think there are few, if any, absolutes  and that's why I'm usually dismissive to lists of love advice.  Still, there are a some things I plan to keep in mind during my next marriage, if there is one, and here they are.  I considered putting them in some kind of order that makes some sort of sense but life and love are not orderly so I give you my advice numbered randomly one through ten.

     One: Question Your Anger
     We all get angry.  We're human.  Some have said that our anger is our problem, that it isn't other people that make you angry, and that's half true and half hogwash.  I piss off people sometimes and they piss me off sometimes and no one can piss you off like someone you love.  So if anyone ever tells you to never express your anger you should cuss them out and walk away.  Things just aren't that simple and easy.
     Sometimes, though, anger isn't about what someone did or didn't do but it is about ourselves and the way we're feeling that day.  Anger, like shit, sometimes flows downhill. There's an old joke about how a boss pisses a man off, the man takes it out on his wife, his wife takes it out on the kids, and the kids kick the dog.  That usually isn't the way it goes, though.  Usually, one spouse unloads on the other and the spouse on the receiving end uses that as an excuse to unload all of their own frustration and anger and somehow the entire family is fighting because a boss was a jerk and the idiot at the restaurant for got to put pickles on a sandwich.
     As I said, though, sometimes anger is legitimate and not ridiculous.  So how do you tell the difference?  The first step is actually asking the question.  Before you go off on your significant other take the time to question your anger.  Ask yourself if you're really mad about what you're mad about.  If you aren't don't take it out on your spouse.  Instead share with them what the world did to you and look to them for comfort.  That's what they are there for.
     If your anger is legitimate, if it is that bitch or asshole that you live with that pissed you off, you still shouldn't just start calling them a bitch or asshole.  You still need to question it. Expressing anger at your lover isn't something that should be taken lightly.  Ask yourself if whatever they did or said is really worth it.  If it isn't then just let it go.  If it is then do something about it.  Don't let it linger.  That's worse than the anger itself.  Still, try to do it gently.  Ask yourself if the level of response you want to give is actually in line with whatever caused the anger in the first place.
     More often than not, I think, all of this questioning will actually give time for the anger to dissipate.  Neither my ex wife nor I did this very well in our marriage.  I come from a family that communicates at the top of it's lungs sometimes and this has worked for my parents but it didn't work in my marriage and I plan on doing it differently next time. Besides being less angry and expressing less anger is a worth while goal in general.  Rage against the machine is a good band not a good way of life.
     Two: Have Lots of Sex
     I can imagine the eye-rolling and the mutterings of "it's always about sex to guys" now. As unimportant as you might like to pretend it is, though, sex is the primary physical expression of love.  Yes, there is kissing and cuddling and hugging and holding hands and all of that is important.  Even if there is a lot of loving contact like that in your relationship you should try to have more.  The thing is, though, you kiss your mother and cuddle with pets and hug your friends and hold hands with your children.  Sex is the one physical act of love that you only do with your partner and that makes it the most important one.  Don't you want to express to your partner that you love them in as many ways as possible?
     Just having sex isn't enough, of course.  It needs to be good sex.  Here is where I have to advise men and women differently.  I want most of my advice to apply to both sexes but it just can't in this case.  Guys, be unselfish lovers.  As crude as it might be to say, you are going to get yours.  Try to make sure she gets hers.  Gals, be selfish lovers.  Here's the deal ladies, our sexual organ is pretty simple.  Sure, there are acts that please one guy more than another but for the most part the same simple acts are going to please a man and quite frankly when you see a male erection it's pretty obvious what to do with it.  Yours aren't that simple.  We don't call it the Bermuda Triangle just because we can get lost in it but also because it's pretty mysterious to us to begin with.  Of course, over time and practice we learn a few things, at least some of us do, but then comes the complication that what works for one woman might not work at all on another woman.  Then comes the bigger complication that what works on a woman one time might not work on the very same woman the next time.  So women what I'm saying is take what you want from us in the bedroom and tell us what you want from us in the bedroom and if a man reacts negatively to this well that's one situation where it's acceptable to express your anger quite clearly.
     I'm sure there are many people out there that have had long and satisfying relationships without much of a sex life but they did it in spite of it.  Sex is important to most healthy relationships.  If you can give each other pleasure the hair in the sink and the bra on the bathroom floor won't seem like much to argue over or care about.  It's more than that though.  For a moment after good sex is finished with someone you love and you collapse into each other...well that's about as close physically, as intimate, as two people can be and that's what love is supposed to be about.  You can take my advice or leave it, think it's important or not, but this is my list of what I will do next time and I'm not going to have a relationship where weeks or months even go by without making love to the woman I love and if this isn't happening I'm going to be man enough to look her in the eye and ask why.
     Three: Address Money Issues
     Notice that this doesn't say don't worry about money because for most people that just isn't feasible.  It also doesn't say don't argue about money because that is going to happen. Ideally, what I mean is win the lottery but that probably won't happen so you have to move on to plan b.  However you decide to handle the finances in your relationship, and I've seen this work and not work too many different ways to tell anyone how to do that, when problems come up don't let them linger.  Of course, you won't be able to solve them right away but make the decisions that need to be made to solve them.  Make a plan, make a budget, decide between Johnny's football fee and Sarah's skeeball tournament, and do whatever else you can to lighten the burden of money problems.
     Then after you do that, and here's the hard part, stick to it.  If you and your spouse have decided that skeeball is more important than football or that to get the house payment caught up you'll forgo contributing to savings for now then don't complain about it later. Don't second guess the decision.  If you do change your mind have a calm discussion with your partner and go through the decision making process again but try not to do this often. Money is always going to be an issue for most of us but it only becomes as big of an issue in your relationship as you let it.  Again, lighten the burden and deal with the issue by actually addressing it instead of sitting around worrying about it.
     Let me share a personal story on the issue of money.  This happened not long before we separated.  Money had become tight, very tight, and though she usually handled the money she threw the problem in my lap.  I didn't mind.  Spouses are supposed to pick up your slack and vice versa.  I came up with a plan and showed it to her and she agreed to it.  One part of the plan was that we wouldn't buy anything for Valentine's Day.  Nothing.  We couldn't afford even ten dollars on each other that week if we wanted to pay our bills, eat, and pay for our son's needs.  We've made similar agreements before on birthdays and holidays and she never kept her end of the bargains so I stressed this to her.  She assured me that we wouldn't buy each other or our son anything for Valentine's Day.  We could celebrate the day by relaxing at home and enjoying our family love.  So the day before Valentine's Day she comes home with candy and cards for both my son and myself.  I actually followed the first bit of advice in this list for once and questioned my anger and whether it was worth expressing.  It was.  Even the ten or fifteen dollars she spent would put us in a tough spot where we had to borrow money from friends and mostly she had broken a promise.  Still, I could recognize good intentions when I saw them and tried to stay quiet but she could tell I was angry and kept asking me until I exploded at her.  I tried to make amends for my mistake the next day by buying her cards and candy from myself and our son, putting us even deeper in the hole, but she never tried to make amends for what she did wrong.  A month later when she asked for a divorce she would say that had been when I had broken her heart for the last time.  She didn't realize, and as far as I know never has, the burden I was under with solving our money problems right then.  I may have broke her heart but she broke my back and broke a promise.
     The point of sharing that isn't to reopen old wounds or old arguments.  I just want to illustrate how harmful money problems can become to a relationship.  I'm not letting that happen in my next one.  They are going to be addressed early and agreed on how to handle them and that plan agreed to or there won't be a relationship.
     Four: Use Your Secret Language
     This is actually something my ex-wife and I did well and that I hope to keep doing well in relationships.  The best example I can give of what a secret language is, is "I guess."  When I first met my ex wife she was a shy fifteen year old girl and after a few days of talking when I pulled her on my lap and asked her to be my girlfriend she was nervous and caught off guard.  She said, you guessed it, "I guess."  I always kidded her about this saying that it seemed at the time like she was saying I'd do until someone better came along.  She always went along with the joke and just said that no one better had come along yet.  She even, when I proposed to her, looked down at me on one knee and said, "Hmmm, I wonder if I should say I guess."  We joked about saying "I guess" instead of "I do" during the wedding vow and we should have.  That would've been pretty awesome.
     It was an inside joke but it became more than that.  "I guess" became our way of saying of course we'll do something because we love each other.  It became a secret way of saying "I love you" and an easy way to make the other smile.  It made her asking me to take out the trash romantic sometimes because I could say "I guess" and we could both think about love and pleasant memories for a moment rather than stinking garbage and the pile of dishes in the sink.  That's the point of the secret language; it's a small way of celebrating your love and how far you've come everyday.
    Of course, there were more phrases in our language than "I guess" and of course any relationship will have different phrases.  It doesn't even have to be words.  It can be a look or a touch.  It isn't something that has to be developed.  It happens naturally over time.  My advice isn't to make or discover the secret language in your relationship.  If you think about it you already know it.  My advice is to remember it and use it.  As corny as it sounds, it's a small way to keep love alive each day.
     Five: Get the Hell Out of the House
     It's hard, especially when you have kids, to get out.  Sitters have to be found.  Money has to be found.  Energy has to be found.  It's hard but you've got to do it.  They don't have to be big deals.  Take your kid to the park together.  Go for a walk.  Sit outside on the front porch in the morning and have coffee together.  As cliche as it sounds walls close in and you go stir crazy.  All your problems in life and in love are in that house just bouncing off the walls and bouncing back at you.  I'm not going to write much about this one because it's pretty self explanatory.  I will admit that I wasn't always good at this.  I was tired and just wanted to be left alone to relax.  I will be better next time.
     Six: Make An Effort to be Attractive
     Humans get older.  They gain weight and lose hair in some places and grow more hair in other places.  Stuff gets wrinkled and gray.  Your lover should love you anyway.  If you've made it all the way to marriage and your physical attractiveness is still among the things your partner loves most about you then you've married the wrong person.  So your physical appearance isn't a big deal in a marriage but...
     Guys, go ahead and lounge around in sweatpants but don't wear the ones that are ten years old with holes in the ass.  Go ahead and throw those away.  Gals, go ahead and walk around in just one of your guys old t-shirts, in fact we encourage it, but when you move the right way and we get a peek at something we'd rather it not be granny panties.  It's okay to go a few days without shaving but at least try to keep the places your partner likes shaved, shaved; says the bearded man.  Unless they inherited an amazing metabolism like mine, thanks Dad, everyone gains weight as they get older and many times a weight gain makes a person look more attractive, more adult.  Still, we all know there's a difference between being comfortable enough with someone that you don't have to worry as much about how you look and completely letting yourself go.  Let's all try not to let ourselves go.  Gals, guys like a phat ass not a fat ass.  Guys, no matter what the t-shirt says your beer gut is not an engine for a sex machine.
     I'm not saying slave away in a gym for hours or wake up three hours before work to get ready.  I'm also not saying physical appearance should ever cause a marriage to end because it shouldn't.  I'm just saying do the little things.  If your partner likes your hair back then wear your hear back sometimes.  If your partner wishes you'd wear slacks more put on a pair every now and then.  The more attractive you are to each other the easier everything else is.  It's harder to be angry at someone that just looks so damn good.  It's natural to cuddle and be intimate with someone that you can't keep your hands off of.  When you feel like you and your partner both have a partner to show off you'll both naturally want to leave the house more.  You should find each other more attractive with each passing day and year. Those gray hairs and wrinkles were earned and are memories of what you've been through together.  They should be loved not obsessed about.  Still, make an effort is all I'm saying.
     And before anyone gets to angry at me remember that this list is mostly things I'm going to do differently from now on.  That's why I grew the beard; it hides half my ugly face and now that it's the length I want I'm going to keep it trimmed.  I was terrible at this when I was married because I've never given a shit about my appearance but I know now that was wrong and selfish of me.  So I'm saying this is about me not you dear reader.  Unless you think it's about you then it probably is.
     Seven: Be Tired Together
     We work.  We have kids.  Laundry and dishes don't do themselves.  Stuff has to be fixed.  Stuff has to be bought.  Alarms go off way too early in the morning.  Life is exhausting.  Now some jackass is telling you to have more sex, get the hell out of the house, and try harder to be attractive.  Sure, I'll get right on that, moron, right after my nap.
     Sometimes, we're going to be too tired to worry about anything else.  It happens. Sometimes the boots or the bras or both have to come off as soon as we get home right before our asses hit the couch and don't move again until it's time to go to bed.  Sometimes we're all going to spend an evening watching bad television and wishing there was a minifridge in our living room.  It happens and I would go so far as to say it's necessary for human survival.
     So do it sometimes and don't worry about it.  Order a pizza and binge watch some show on Netflix.  Tell your kids not to bother you and just fucking take care of themselves for once in their damn life.  Here's the thing, though, do it together.  There's far too many shows available these days to say you can't find something to watch together.  Even if you are going to be doing different things do them in the same damn room.  If one of you is going to play video games and the other is going to read a book there's no reason you can't be next to each other on the couch.  Even better would be playing games together or reading together.  Still, it's just being together that is important sometimes.
     I tried to force this in my marriage.  I never wanted a television in any other room of our house except the living room so that we would be forced to do this.  Still, with phones and laptops it didn't matter.  Besides, looking back I can't blame my ex for not wanting to watch wrestling all the time even if I did suffer through many episodes of crappy reality shows with her.  If I get married or live with someone again I'm going to do a better job of enticing her to be close to me on these quiet nights at home.  There's an old country song that claims that "love grows best in little houses" and it's true.  Being physically close breeds emotional closeness or contempt but that's the chance we take.
     Eight: Don't Reject An Idea Without Having Another One
     We all know the conversation.  What do you want to eat tonight?  How about pizza?  No, I'm not in the mood.  How about Chinese?  Eggrolls in this weather?  How about Mexican?  I don't think a fajita would be good for my spirit right now.  How about a steak?  Red meat, are you kidding me?  How about I fucking eat whatever the hell I want and when you finally decide on just a piece of toast I hope you choke on it?  Toast doesn't even sound good tonight.
     Or to be fair, the other conversation.
     Let's go out dancing tonight.  Yeah, that's what I want to do after working all day.  How about a movie?  There's nothing good playing.  How about seeing what Mike and Jan are up to?  I don't want to listen to them prattle on about stuff I don't care about.  How about a walk in the park?  No, allergies are too bad right now.  How about I go to a bar, get drunk, and hope someone else takes me fucking home so I can escape from the hell I live in?  A bar would be too loud right now.
     We are all going to say no to our partners sometimes.  Just because we know someone well enough to read their mind doesn't mean we're always going to like what we find in there.  No one should just agree to what the other person wants all the time.  No one should be on a pedestal.  Still, don't just say no.  It's a good idea in all of life, not just relationships, not to reject one idea without suggesting your own idea.  For instance, my son wanted me to do something different than write this right now so instead of just saying stop he found out that the original Legend of Zelda was now available on the WiiU Virtual Console and I'm now completely distracted.
     Okay, I'm back but now I think this entire list should just be play Zelda together.  If you think I'm wrong that's fine but give me another idea.  I've played this for laughs so far, or at least lame attempts at humor, but it is more important than that.  It makes decisions easier and compromises more natural.  It's just good advice in general.
     Nine: Allow Each Other Alone Time
     I know, I know.  Get the Hell Out of the House and Be Tired Together and now Allow Each Other Alone Time???  Did you expect simplicity?  We're talking about human beings and love. Every religion in the world contradicts itself from time to time and human love is far more complicated than religion.  Everyone has different needs at different times and our job as someone's partner is to try our best to meet our partner's needs and to make it as easy as possible for our partner to meet our needs.  I think most people at least try at the former but most people don't think much about the later.
     What am I babbling on about?  When you need to be alone you need to tell your partner but here's the catch.  When you say it you have to mean it.  If you tell your partner that you just need to be alone and then yell at them later because they actually left you alone, how are they supposed to know when you actually need what?  I can foresee more eye rolling from the women out there and mutterings of "Do I have to spell everything out for guys?"  The answer to that question is yes.  If you haven't noticed most of this list has been about spelling things out for each other to avoid misunderstandings and complications.  I'm guilty of a little stereotyping and sexism when I blame this all on women, though.  Men do the same thing sometimes.  We're egotistical assholes who just assume women should know what we want because we think women are thinking about nothing but us even though we're too wrapped up in our own shit to think about them.
     That's the point of alone time, though.  We all get wrapped up in our own shit sometimes and we have to sort it out enough to get our heads out of our asses.  The whole two become one thing sounds nice and romantic but it doesn't and shouldn't happen.  We fall in love with someone because of who they are as an individual and then expect them to become less of an individual.  Does that make any sense?  In marriage two do not become one but they become a team and as the saying goes there is no I in team but there is an m and an e.  If someone feels as if they are losing themselves because of their marriage they will resent their partner.  So when you need some alone time take it and when you're partner needs alone time respect it.  We should make sure there isn't too much alone time, of course, but the real end of every marriage is resentment so we should do what we can to make sure our partner doesn't grow to resent us or their life.
     Ten: Make Shared priorities
     I wrote these in a random order but it must be human nature to end on a high note because this is the most important one on the list and it is also the one that my first marriage was lacking the most.  Marriage makes you a team, as I said, but the problem is that there aren't any agreed upon rules for the game we're playing or even any agreement on exactly what game it is that we're playing.  I sent this list without the explanations to my friend Tracy earlier this week to keep her from nagging me too much about writing this and she mentioned how she loves the us against the world vibe that good couples seem to cultivate.  At least, I think that's what she said.  She was a nagging woman so I didn't pay complete attention.
     That's what this advice is all about; not nagging women but cultivating that us against the world thing.  Some may see this as a repeat of my advice on money problems and in a way it is but it goes beyond money.  What are your goals as a couple?  Do you want to buy a house?  Spend more time together? Keep your children in activities?  Make sure they're prepared for college?  Advance your careers?  Live a more organized life?  All worthy goals and you might have several others in life but we all know we'll have to choose between them at times.  The world is going to throw obstacles at you that you and your partner are going to have to overcome to get where they are going.  How are you going to do that as a couple if you don't know or agree about where you're going?
     So if you don't know then talk to your partner and take as long as it takes to come to decisions about your priorities and then stick to them.  I'm not saying you can't change your mind but if you do talk to your partner about it and make your decisions again and then stick to them.  My ex-wife and I never did this.  We bought a house when she decided it was time to buy a house.  We ran ourselves ragged trying to keep up with our son's activities because I decided they were a top priority.  In the first half of our marriage it was easy and clear what our top priorities should be and we battled enormous obstacles and we stayed together and were in a love deep and true.  As we got older, had a child, and life got more complicated we never agreed where we were going and as a result we didn't go anywhere.  I know better now and I hope she does too but it's far too late for us.  Hopefully, it isn't for you.

     So that's my advice.  Take it or leave it but think about it.  Discuss it with your partner. Mock me mercilessly together if you must.  I probably would in your place.  The important thing is to work on your relationship and think about your relationship and care about your relationship.  The last thing is though, or at least the last time I'll say the thing is in this post, is that if you are thinking about it and working on it and worrying about it by yourself then you aren't really doing anything.  If you and you're partner find this difficult or things get heated while you're doing it then kiss your partner and tickle you're partner and have some fun.  I've used a lot of humor in this post, probably too much bad humor, but I wanted to remind everyone that above all love is supposed to feel good and be fun.  I probably should have put that somewhere on the list.
     It has taken me three days to write this.  I've gotten distracted by being a parent, doing chores, going on a great first date, the original Legend of Zelda, watching Animaniacs on YouTube, and a thousand other things.  Those distractions have made the tone of this uneven.  It goes from sad to funny to whatever with little or no transitions.  It isn't near as romantic as I would have liked.  I envisioned this being my magnum opus on love and marriage and I knew I would fall short but I think I fell even shorter than I expected.  I'm absolutely certain no one will call this beautiful advice and with the way I've rambled it might not even be useful or practical, just confusing.  All of that is probably fitting, however. Love has to survive distractions and delays.  Love is funny and sad and never as romantic as we'd like it to be.  Love often falls short of what we want it to be.  Love, when it is good, however survives all of that and is still more than worth doing.  I just hope this was worth reading.