NOT NOW, DAD – Rich Paschall

A Father and Son Tale, Rich Paschall

As he was nearing the end of his life, Mr. Fine often reflected on the past. He could not help but do so. As for his health, he had good days and bad. Sometimes he felt as if nothing was wrong. On other days he could just feel that his body was wearing out, and the illness was doing him in. He tried to keep the situation as a private matter between his wife, his doctor and his lawyer. Before it would be too late, his wife knew there were others to tell.

Work room

Mr. Fine’s contemplations were mostly about his son. He wondered if he should have done anything differently. Should he have been more strict? Less? Should he have pushed him into certain sports? Music? Something else? Should he have made him work harder? Perhaps he should have been less demanding regarding work. He just could not decide if his parenting decisions were correct.

When Samuel Fine was young he seemed to enjoy watching his father work. He would follow him around and stare at the things Mr. Fine was doing. At times, he just seemed to be “under foot” but Mr. Fine tried to be patient with this.

“Now just stand over there son so you will be out of the way, and I will tell you what I am doing.” At that Mr. Fine would explain the work.  He would explain each step of his painting projects. He would give detailed explanations of how he was fixing anything mechanical or electrical. He wanted his son to understand the importance of maintenance and the value of repair rather than throwing something away. Mr. Fine was under the impression that his son was learning from all this.

When Sam was a little older, Mr. Fine had determined that the boy was big enough to assist with his projects so he invited the boy to partake in whatever he was doing.

“Sam, do you want to help with this painting project? Today we will prepare the front porch and stairs for a new coat of paint.”

Front porch

“Not now, dad. I have to meet the guys, we are going to play a game at the park.”

“OK, son. Maybe next time we can work together.”

The next time, however, Sam would have something else to do. In fact, every “next time” Sam would have something to do. Every request for help by the father was met with “Not now, dad.”

For Sam, life was too busy for dad. He had a game, a school event, a meeting with the guys, whatever that meant.  He had homework to do or he just did not feel well.

“Son, can you cut the grass today? I am feeling rather ill and the weather is nice.”

“Not now, dad. I am not feeling too good either.”

For many years, this was the way of things. Mr Fine would ask for assistance and Sam had a reason not to help. Sometimes the father would gently try to push, even insist, that Sam help around the house. Sam would push back, then go off to do whatever he thought was more important.

University

When Sam was done with college, he left home for an apartment with friends. After a few years, he got married and had a family of his own. He had a nice job, a nice home and children who were expected to do their chores.

Sam would come around to visit his parents, but usually picked a time when his father would not be home. He just did not want to face his dad. He could not explain the feeling, but it was something that he knew went back to his youth.

“Sam, why don’t you come around when your father is here” Mrs. Fine would say.

“Oh mom, he will just want me to help with some project that I have no time for. I just hate to have to say no and see that look on his face.”

“What look is that?”

“You know, mom, that wounded look.”

“That disappointment look you mean, don’t you, Sam?” Mrs. Fine responded. Sam had no answer. He said his good bye and went on his way.

The final test results

When his doctor advised there may be just a few months left for the father, Mrs. Fine disobeyed her husband’s request and told Sam of the situation. She had hoped they would end on a better note than in recent years when Sam rarely saw his father.

One afternoon Mrs. Fine found her husband staring out the window. “Mort, what are you doing?” He looked around as if he was in great pain and could barely turn his head.

“I was just thinking that tomorrow I will cut the grass. It looks like it’s time.” Mrs. Fine just shook her head.

After a few moments, the doorbell broke the silence in the room.  Sam had arrived to see what he could do. He did not want to give up his mom’s confidence so he carefully chose his words.

“Hi, dad. I heard you might not be feeling too good today so I thought maybe I could help with something.”

Mr. Fine just stared at Sam as if he must be kidding. It was an odd sort of look that Sam had not seen before. At first, he did not know what to say and the two spent a few moments just staring at one another.

Lawn

“Perhaps I could mow the grass or something,” Sam tried out on his father.

Mort Fine stared at the man before him. He was assessing what his son had become. He flashed back through the years of Sam’s life. He remembered the good things and the bad. He remembered his school days, his friends, his activities. He remembered his dreams and his goals. The memories of Sam washed over him like the ocean tide in a storm. Finally, Mort Fine knew just what to respond to Sam’s offer.

“Not now, son. I don’t need you anymore.”

KAYAKING ON THE BLACKSTONE – Garry Armstrong

And so on a particularly warm and bright June day, we took ourselves down to the Blackstone in Rhode Island.

Not knowing what we would find, this time we met two kayakers. Each had his and her own kayak, one blue and one red.  There was a lot of discussion about whether to paddle up or downstream.

A general consensus existed that there wasn’t very far upstream one could paddle … that it was too rocky or possibly too narrow, but they decided to give it a try anyway. I don’t know how far they got, but it was a beautiful day, so why not?

Getting the kayaks ready
Paddling up the river

URBAN LIFE – A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Urban

So the subject of the exercise is “urban.” I thought I’d start off with a picture of where we currently live. We didn’t always live in the country. In fact, until 19 years ago we lived in Boston. Before that, I lived in the city of Jerusalem and was raised in New York, in the borough of Queens.

With some years in Hempstead, which is a semi-urban suburb of New York, until we moved out here, we were always city folks. it has taken a bit of getting used to!

Be it ever so humble

So here’s a bit of Boston — Fenway Park, Beacon Hill, the Wharf … and more.

HANDSOME WITH A CLASSY SASHAY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Sashay

Garry and I were just talking about attractive people we knew to whom we were not attracted. He said when he started at Channel 7 and they were beginning to “diversify,” the station hired three really gorgeous brown-skinned women, one of whom was so exceptionally beautiful that she had pretty much all the guys drooling.

She knew it, too. She dressed for it. When she sashayed into the station in the morning, the temperature in the room went up. She liked the attention. She sought it. But she left messes, Garry told me, that other people had to clean up. He didn’t appreciate the poor work ethic, so while he was not immune to her charms, he was uninterested in her in any other way.

This got us talking about attractive people we’d known to whom we were unattracted. I remember one guy, after hanging out with him (I like him, I just didn’t like him “that way”) finally looked at me and said: “You don’t find me attractive at all, do you?”

“No, I guess not, ” I admitted. “I like you, but there’s no chemistry for me.” I didn’t try to explain that for me chemistry wasn’t merely physical. It was also mental. He could look great (and he did) and had lots of ladies interested in him. I just wasn’t one of them. Why not? Because he was an artist and very focused.

I liked art, but I had other interests too. History, writing, music, philosophy. I was a serious reader and wanted to natter on about the 14th century and current politics. It was Vietnam and there was a lot going on.

D-Day at the Mumford River

But in that area, we had no meaningful connection. Many artists are highly focused on their work and that is how it should be, but at that age, I was interested in everything. I was about as unfocused as anyone could be. There was almost nothing in which I was not interested.

It would take another 20 years before I settled down mentally. I think Garry was also a slow starter that way. It took him years of working to fully emerge as a personality.

It’s a hard thing to explain to someone that you need more from a relationship than physical attraction and the ability to have fun. Especially when you are still not sure yourself what you need. That attraction is nice, but it’s only a piece of the thing. There also needs to be intellectual compatibility and a sense that both of you agree on essential things. Those were as important in the 1960s as they are today.

Home in the trees

A sexy body and a bit of a sashay in the walk are enjoyable, but not — by themselves — something on which to build a life.

That is also why, now that we are older and not so beautiful, we can still be happy. The foundation things keep you together. Even when you scrap about who takes out the trash and who forgot to turn out the lights.

STANDING ON THE ACHING SHOULDERS OF THE PAST – Marilyn Armstrong

Don’t you absolutely love pithy quotes? They always get me thinking either because I agree with it, or because I don’t.

Today I went wandering down the mental pathways of history because someone repeated something I’ve heard a million times before, the ubiquitous quote everyone has heard and at which, we automatically nod in agreement. Everyone says it, so it has to be true, doesn’t it?

Everything that is happening or will ever happen, has happened before. That most people don’t remember and have never read any history is sad. Yet I have come to believe that ignorance of history has little bearing on what we (collectively) do.

I love history. I want other people to love it as much as I do, if for no better reason than to give me more people to talk to who share my passion. As a history buff, I want to believe if people knew history, they would not repeat the same bad behavior, make the same errors as we’ve made in the past.

That’s wishful thinking. We think a lack of knowledge is the root of the evil but there are other reasons. The biggest one? Ego.

Hitler (for example) wanted to be Charlemagne or Napoleon. He knew history. He was not unaware or unread. He wanted to rewrite history, stand on its shoulders and laugh at the past.

Lack of awareness or failure to remember is a symptom, not the problem.

It’s our human determination to prove history wrong which is so destructive. More to the point, we — humankind — want to prove we are above or outside history, not subject to its rules. This stubbornness is at the core of many of the most monstrous, terrible things we do. We keep trying to prove we aren’t subject to the same forces that have directed the past.

Not remembering history does not condemn us to repeat it. Refusing to accept the outcome of history because we want what we want — usually in combination with greed and a lust for power — that is what condemns us.

OOPS! – Marilyn Armstrong

So there I was. The chief and only salesperson in a lovely furniture store. A charming couple came in looking for new furniture for their recently renovated home. I congratulated her on the (it was so obvious) upcoming birth of their child … and she said, “Don, I really do need to go on a diet.”

I thought I would die of embarrassment. All my attempts at apology just made things worse.

72-OOPS_001

The most humiliating part of the experience — a cautionary tale for anyone who might ever find themselves in a similar situation — was that these were such sweet, non-judgmental people. They bought thousands of dollars of furniture. I worked on commission, so this was a paycheck for me. They apparently didn’t hold it against me.

But I held it against me. I still do. It was awful. It happened more than 29 years ago and I still feel bad about it. It was right before Garry and I got married and it was one of the hardest admissions I’ve ever made to him. I felt like a complete jack-ass and remarkably, still do.

To this day, I remain wary of making assumptions based on something I think is obvious. Because in this case, it was obviously wrong. Never assume you know something unless you are sure you know it.

Appearances can be deceiving.

DELAY WITH GUILT – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Friday: DELAY

I have not refilled the bird feeders. The birds think we are just late. Or really, yesterday they thought it must be a brief delay because the food is always there.

Goldfinch

Today, they were back. The squirrels and a wide variety of birds, trying to find a few seeds on the deck they could eat. They were like people who have just discovered the last two decent restaurants have been closed. Some of these birds and baby squirrels have possibly never eaten anywhere else.

A few Brown-headed Cowbirds

It’s pathetic, sad and I feel guilty. Even though I know I have no choice. I have to take them down, guilt or no because we need to fix the deck. I have bought special waterproof paint. My son is readying the powerwasher.

Cardinal

The birds weren’t getting much from the feeders anyway because the cohort of squirrels had taken over the feeders, the railing, and the deck and weren’t letting the birds near the feeders except during the hour or two a day when I managed to chase them away for a little while so the birds would descend and try to get some seeds.

Lady Cardinal on a branch

Apparently, there is no way for a human to balance this relationship between birds and squirrels. I thought the squirrels would like the flat feeder and the birds would prefer the tall mesh feeder. The ground feeders could clean up the pound or so of seeds we always drop while filling the feeders.

Big Red-bellied Woodpecker

Instead, the relentless pressure of squirrels against the birds never stopped. First, there was one squirrel. Then there were two. Eventually, there were squirrels everywhere. Waiting in the trees, hiding under the deck, lurking on the stairs, waiting in rows on the railings.

Mourning Dove on the rail

With each day, they became less afraid of us and I was beginning to think it was going to become of physical confrontation, something I absolutely did not want.

Tufted Titmouse

When they started announcing on the news that the recently-arrived bears were tearing down decks to get to bird feeders and began warning homeowners to take down the feeders now, my choice narrowed from very little to none at all. I can still throw some handsful of seeds onto the back lawn, but really they should remember to be wild.

Chipping Sparrow

Today, there were only a few very small (probably baby) squirrels urgently poking around hoping something edible remained. And besides the two little squirrels, there was a big red Cardinal, a few rather tiny Nuthatches (also probably babies — about half the size of full-grown Nuthatches) and a few forlorn Mourning Doves.

Rosefinch

The delay is not permanent. In the fall, as the air chills down, we’ll put the feeders up again and hopefully by then our furred and feathered friends will have forgotten us and the feeders and will start anew. We’ll have a few months before the battle to control our feeders gets fully underway.

I guess this proves once and for all that sharing is not the way of the wild.

Squirrel just holding on to the feeder cage

It seems we don’t actually have much to say about it. This is a bird and squirrel match. We watched while the flocks of Goldfinches got bullied off the feeders by the Cowbirds and woodpeckers. How the bigger woodpeckers chased away the smaller ones. And how the squirrels chased away everything that wasn’t a squirrel.

Nuthatch

And I don’t want to hang around until a black bear drops by and chases me away, too.