Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wasted Or Not

I took my eldest daughter to the emergency room the other night.


Suddenly in the middle of dinner, Alannah started grabbing her foot and howling that it was broken. It came out of nowhere, although she had complained of cramping earlier in the day. When I tried to massage it at the table (a manners faux pas for certain), she screamed even louder.

I told her to wash her hands and face, brush her teeth and go to bed. But before she even started changing her clothes, she started howling even louder.

I grabbed my coat and put on my shoes and said, “Well, Darling, I guess we have to go to the emergency room”. I was certain this would scare the howling out of her. But instead she got up on her good foot, and hopped down the stairs to get her coat.

Okay”, she said between sobs.

Now you might think me heartless for not believing Alannah, but she’s not above faking an illness to get out of the next day’s school, especially when that next day is the first day back after a four day Easter weekend holiday.

So we hopped in the car and we drove to the hospital. Not a howl or even a whimper from Alannah sitting in the backseat. Instead she was talkative as Tiger’s baseball talk with Pat Caputo was on the radio.

Hmmm.

I parked on the street – because it’s free and I am cheap. Alannah climbed out the car and started to hop to the Emergency Room down the street. I couldn’t see her hopping the whole way – although I was tempted to let her try – So I picked up her seventy pound frame and put her up on my shoulders.

I put her down as we entered the building. The attendant at the door – the guy predisposed to telling everyone to wash their hands before entering – pointed to a wheel chair in the corner that my again hopping daughter could use.

Then he told us to wash our hands.

Inside, the place was packed. The waiting room at this hospital is perpetually packed. So we took our seat and waited the twenty minutes or so to be seen by the triage nurse, then to get admitted at the registration table.

What’s wrong sweetie?”, asked the Triage Nurse.

My foot hurts”, said Alannah – simply stating what in her mind was a fact.

Does this hurt?” asked the Triage Nurse as she squeezed and poked different parts of the foot.

Ouch”, exclaimed Alannah, as calmly as an “ouch” can be exclaimed.

The Triage Nurse looked at me, and I simply raised an eyebrow in reply.

We found the only two seats left in the waiting room, very close to the cubical the Triage Nurse occupied. And we waited.

And we waited.

Alannah formed my coat into a pillow, and we waited. It was now midnight and Jimmy Kimmel was on the waiting room TV, although the sound too low to hear back in the corner we camped in.

And we waited.

After Jimmy Kimmel was over – and most of the same faces still waiting in the room, the traffic into the room picked up. Alannah woke up and started taking notice.

Daddy, why is that man wearing a dress?”, she asked of a Shiite Muslim man wearing a turban and robes, and clearly not feeling well.

Daddy, why is that baby crying so much?”, she asked of a newborn who appeared to me to simply have a bad case of colic.

Then, in came a mother with her seventeen year old daughter. The daughter was distant and clearly stoned and out of sorts as the mother was guiding her like one would guide a child who fell asleep on the couch to their bed. The girl was despondent and nearly incoherent.

From our location we could not help but hear the conversation. “

She took my pills!", exclaimed the Irritated Mother to the Triage Nurse.

The Despondent Daughter simply stared into space. She listed off what seemed like a list of narcotics and blood pressure medicine and sleeping pills.

The Triage Nurse became panicked and started yelling instructions to the already Irritated Mother, and time was wasted as they argued about who to call to bring the pill bottles from home, and why hadn’t the Irritated Mother thought to do so.

After the arguing – the Triage Nurse asked the Despondent Daughter why she had taken all these pills.

Who cares”, replied the Despondent Daughter. “Because, I guess”.

In a few seconds more – two attendants rushed over with a gurney to rush the girl to an area called Poison Control to have her stomach pumped.

Alannah heard all this. And twice I subtly nudged her to look straight ahead instead of staring at the girl, who looked like the kind of girl that under different circumstances Alannah would have looked up to.

And then we waited some more.

Finally, Alannah’s name was called, and we were ushered into a second waiting room. Alone, I asked her what she thought about the Despondent Daughter’s predicament.

She was dumb Dad”, she said. “I don’t get it”. Alannah was kind of shaken up by what she witnessed.

So we sat and had a conversation about how sometimes people try to hurt themselves thinking it will make others around them take notice. And that people do take notice, for all the wrong reasons, and that person is then looked upon differently. And that sometimes the person’s plan … backfires. They go to sleep and don’t wake up.

Alannah looked at me with big eyes. And she hugged me and I hugged her back.

A doctor came to see Alannah, looked at her foot and sent her away for x-rays. As we waited, Alannah was still and quiet. After another long wait the doctor returned.

The hands of the clock on the wall read 4:05 AM.

Honey, there is nothing wrong with your foot”, said the doctor. “You can go home now”.

Oh, that’s good”, said Alannah and she got up out of the wheel chair and started hopping down the isle.

I thanked the doctor – who reconfirmed to me that she really is fine. It could be growing pains but there is no sign of anything at all on the x-ray. I picked Alannah up and put her back on my shoulders. As were leaving we passed the stall where the Despondent Daughter was recovering having had her stomach pumped. Her Irritated Mother sitting beside her, looking more put out than concerned.

Then we passed Alannah’s x-rays on the light table, so we stopped and I pointed out to her that all her bones looked strong and no lines showing breaks – and nothing was swollen.

That’s good, right Daddy?

That’s very good.

Are you mad at me Daddy?

No, I am relieved. But I hope you weren’t pretending for attention and to get out of school?

Alannah didn’t answer, but she hugged my head as she rode on my shoulders.

We got home at 4:30 AM. Alannah went to bed as did I. But when the alarm clock rang at 6:30, I didn’t wake Alannah. Instead only Ashley-Rae got up with me, and we got ready for work and school.

But if you ask me if that was a wasted all-nighter at the hospital that night, I would say no. I think maybe … just maybe … Alannah was supposed to be there with me – to witness the Despondent Daughter and her Irritated Mother, and learn a lesson.

A lesson about how dangerous looking for attention can really be.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Call Me Magoo

For the last several months, my eyes have been getting worse.

Likely the result of looking at a computer monitor all day.

I did it to myself really. No matter how large a monitor, I have this disposition to set it to the highest resolution so that I can see more information on my screen.

But now I can barely see any of it.

Up until a few years ago, I was always so proud of how perfect my eyesight was. I could read traffic signs on the highway a mile ahead of me.

It came in quite handy.

But then my eyes started getting blurrier and blurrier when things were close up. The prescription glasses I got four years ago don’t even make a dent in the blurriness. I have to get new ones.

I bought a pair of those off-the-shelf reading glasses you can buy at the pharmacy. They work great – when I’m wearing them. But they are not the most stylish things in the world. And when I take them off I get a headache and things are twice as blurry.

I realized they were getting bad a couple of months ago when out for lunch with some of the boys from work. I couldn’t read the menu.

The light in here is really bad”, I said as I moved the menu closer and farther away from my face, shifting around in my seat.

You know the menu by heart, just get the usual!”, said one of my work buddies. So I did.

I realized this again the other night driving home through our neighborhood in the dark.

There used to be a stop sign at a three-way stop. I pulled up to the three-way and stopped. As I drove off, the guy in the big pick-up truck behind me (which could have been nearly every occupant in our little neighborhood) honked, and passed me screaming

There’s no stop sign there anymore, you idiot!”. He was right. I went back the next day in the daylight and the guy who called me an idiot was right.

It wasn’t there anymore.

There have been countless other examples, of reading personal emails, and other bloggers blogs, and assuming the blurry text said this when in fact it said that. And I responded to this and not that.

I think even my favorite sports writer, Pat Caputo has grown tired of my misinterpretations.

I just hate to wear those stupid pharmacy reading glasses.

But today was the kicker.

I was instructed by my lovely wife Darlene to go to the grocery store.

Make sure you get the lean ground beef, okay? Don’t get medium, don’t get regular … it has to be LEAN!!!” , making her point quite clear.

So as I was making my way through the usual list of items, I found myself at the meats section of our local super-mega grocery star.

I looked up and down the hamburger section and found the lean section at the very end. I looked all of the packages over and they all seemed … pale. Not bright red, but more of a pinkish tinge.

Hmmm ... they forgot to put the red food color in these”, I said as I picked up the best looking package.

I thought nothing more about it.

When I arrived home I unpacked the bag, took the lean meat out of the package, threw it in a frying pan, and started browning it as per the directions on the can of Manwich I was following. I love sloppy Joes, Darlene hates them, but she was not eating with us.

My lovely wife Darlene, on her way out the door for a meeting, noticed the browning beef.

This beef is awfully pale?

I know, all the packages were like that. I think they left the food coloring out”.

Are you sure this is beef and not ground turkey?

Wha?

This doesn’t look like beef to me”, she continued. “Let me see the package”.

I threw it away already”.

Where’s the receipt?

In the bag over there”, I said as I continued stirring the browning meat.

Darlene read the receipt and started laughing.

Enjoy your Manwich , Daddy!”.

Wha?

You bought a pound of lean ground PORK!

Crap, really?

She giggled all the way out the door. I dug the package out of the garbage. The only word I could read was “LEAN”. I pulled my reading glasses out of my briefcase and read the smaller print. It said “pork”.

I made it anyways. And some French fries and green beans, and I laid it out before the waiting girls at the dinner table.

They loved it. They loved the lean pork sloppy Joes, and they had seconds. My girls never have seconds. When those were gone they were upset there weren’t any more. I ate mine, and you know what, that Manwich even works great with ground pork.

But still, my failing eyeballs did it to me again.

Or is it my eyes? Maybe it’s my brain? Maybe it’s just me getting old? Maybe all my synopses aren’t firing on all cylinders.

Because this morning I arrived at the office wearing my sneakers.

Growing older really stinks.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Tale of the Left Handed Boxer Shorts

The other day I received a phone call as I was packing up to come home from the office.


It was my lovely wife Darlene, and she had a list of things for me to pick up for her at the grocery store.

One of the items was a bottle of non-acetone nail polish remover.

Now, after ten years of holy matrimony, I am immune to embarrassment when picking up wifely products at the store.

But sometimes I do have go back a second time correct the mistakes I made the first time.

In the store, I found the non-acetone nail polish remover all by myself. I was proud of that. But I had no idea which one my lovely wife required – the kind that comes in a bottle and you pour out – or the kind that comes in a little jar with some type of sponge inside so you dip your nails in.

Since I had seen – and smelled – her dipping her finger in just such a jar – I figured that must be the one. So I picked up the jar and added it to my collection of other wifely products – and continued on my appointed rounds.

At the house, I put the bag down on the table, and proceeded to make a drink. My lovely wife poured through the bag, mentally grading my accuracy in obeying her shopping directions.

Oh, you got the jar of nail polish remover, not the bottle? I asked you for the bottle, I already have a jar.

I pointed at the jar “its non-acetone, just like you asked for”, and I showed her my list. “If you already have the jar, then why did I have to buy more?” I asked,

That stuff costs four bucks you know.

My jar is empty, I wanted a bottle to pour in the jar”, Darlene replied.

Well, I saved you a step”.

You never listen when I tell you things?” replied my lovely wife. As true as it was, I didn’t need to hear it again.

Well, listen my dear”, I said, thinking quick on my feet and stirring my vodka and lemonade. "For ten years now you have been buying me the wrong boxer shorts. But do I complain? Not a word. I say thank you because I appreciate you doing that for me”.

The wrong boxers, what the hell are you talking about?” her eyes opened wide and her head slightly tilted – looking at me.

Well, I am right handed, right?

Yes, of course you are .,. but what’s that …

Well you keep buying me left handed boxer shorts!” I said – in my best straight faced look of being hard done by.

Left handed boxer shorts … what are you talking about?

You always get the ones on sale … don’t you … or in some special bin of some sort, right?

Well, yes” replied my puzzled wife, “But how can boxer shorts be left handed?

Darlene, please … think about how they are constructed …

Huh? What the …

The flap … the flap on the front … you know … how the materials lays over top of each other

Okay …?

"Well, it overlaps one way for right handed people and the other way for left people. You know … as you … well ,,, gain access …”, I continued.

C’mon … really?

Imagine if you … really have to go …. and every second counts …. you know what I mean?”, I pointed out as I pantomimed my imaginary predicament.

Get out … oh my God … I never knew that!” she gasped.

Darlene, you’re an Emergency Room Nurse”, I continued even further – still straight faced – taking a sip at the points where my face might give my farce away. “Didn’t you ever have to assist a patient … like with a bedpan?”.

No, I was an emergency room nurse, I just cut the damned things off!”, she answered. “How do you tell?

There’s an L or an R on the package for God’s sake!”.

My lovely wife spun in her chair to her laptop – “I have to ask everybody on Facebook about this!” – and she reached for the keyboard.

Now, there is nothing that would have made my prank more rewarding that to actually have seen her post go out on Facebook. Something like “Did you all know that boxer shorts are made for left handers and right handers?

I would have pressed the “Like” link on that status update. But instead – I intervened and asked …

Are you sure you want everyone to know you didn’t know that?

I felt my face slipping into a laugh – so I put my drink up to my mouth for a big swig – but I couldn’t hold it – and I did a spit-take like the comedians on TV – all over the kitchen sink.

Oh, you’re so full of …”, and my lovely wife said a bad word.

I was almost on the floor laughing at this point, my lovely wife looking at me in disbelief that she fell for such nonsense.

We will never speak of this again”, I promised as I wiped the lemonade out of my mustache and beard.

Oh, I am sure this will turn into a headstuffing story”, replied my lovely wife Darlene.

I would never do such a thing”, I replied.

I was wrong. I would.

But in the end, my prank really got me nowhere.

I’ll likely be back in the store buying mini-pads before the week end. And during that endeavor, I am certain to ask the following:

Does she want the ones with wings or without wings?

Monday, April 04, 2011

My Open Letter To Tiger Woods

It’s Masters Week again – and all eyes are on the happenings at Augusta National Golf Course.

I love this weekend – if I could, I would hang little yellow flags and green jackets on the trees and bushes in my front yard.

But this year, I feel I just have to write an open letter to my favorite golfer – Mr. Tiger Woods.


Dear Mr. Woods,

I say this with all the sincerity I can muster.

It’s very hard to watch you play this way. The way you’re playing at this time.

It’s like watching somebody that looks like you. Red shirt and black pants and Nike cap. But it’s not the Tiger Woods that changed the way golf is played or the way golf is watched.

I’m sure you’ve had your fill of advice from know it all fans, and perhaps you may simply write me off as another. I hope not.

But if I may, please don’t approach this weekend thinking that you have something to live up to. Instead, approach this weekend again as the next opportunity to show everyone how great you still are. Expect every drive to be longer than anybody else. Expect every time you find yourself in the trees that there will be another occasion to show off how incredible you are at turning trouble into opportunity.


Every amazing shot I ever watched you hit – you hit because you knew that you were going to hit it.


You need to know that again. You need to believe in yourself again.


Masters Win 2005
Perhaps you could gain some inspiration from watching the highlight reels of your own play. Highlight reels of your first Masters win, your first British Open win at St. Andrews, your US Open win at Pebble Beach. And while you watch yourself – pretend you are not that guy on the screen. Imagine you’re a fan – a guy like me – watching a guy like you – who after watching you – has to grab his golf clubs and head to the range to try to hit like you.


Then pretend to be you.


Because I know you’re still in there Tiger.


Put everybody else out of your mind. Everyone but your Caddy.


Perhaps you could start scoring your rounds differently. Instead of counting over / unders – count high fives, hand slaps, knuckle punches and fist pumps.


Play for fun again. Play to show off again. Play for the love of playing again.


You do not owe golf anything. You have paid your dues to golf like few others ever have. And golf owes nothing to you – as you have reaped rewards from golf the greatest from years gone by cannot imagine.


Your slate with golf is clean. Your debt to fans is paid and up to date.


You don’t owe anybody a damned thing. And nobody owes you.


But you owe yourself the chance to fulfill your mission – perhaps it is to hold the most Majors in a career. But I think your personal mission is to beat everybody you play against – every time you play against them. Simple and plain.


And unyielding.


Just do it.


Do it for the passion you had as a kid. Be that kid again. Find that kid again inside you.


I know I can’t imagine what you have been through this past 18 months. I can’t fathom it one iota – whatever an iota is.


You’re too damn good to simply be content to be a middle of the pack player. The guy who makes the cut to play the weekend only to finish tied for 19th. But unless you somehow change your mindset – the Sunday announcers will reduce every great shot you hit in the future to be “glimpses of the Tiger Woods of old”.


If that passion is lacking, if golf isn’t fun anymore, if that kid inside you really did grow up and is now lost to you well, that’s a different story.


If you find that you cannot put all that has happened behind you soon and move on – and get your head back to the level of focus you had before – get your intensity back to the level that only you could find – well, I would like to offer the suggestion that … well …


Then Tiger, it pains me deeply to say – it’s time to hang it up.


With all due sincerity, I’ll be rooting for you Tiger. Me and a gazillion other golf fans just like me.


We’re still out here too.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Kicking Your Heels Up Gets You Cut

When I was a younger man, I played a lot of softball.


Fast pitch, slow pitch, it didn’t matter really. I just loved to play ball. I played up until I got married and had kids ten years ago.

One team I played for was a fast pitch team that played in London Ontario’s old PUC premier “Blue” League. A couple of friends of mine put the team together, and asked me to come try out.

Another friend of mine got wind of the tryouts – and asked if he could tryout too. A phone call later, and my friend was also invited to be on the list of recruits.

I wasn’t too worried about the tryouts. I had a lot of confidence in my fielding – infield, outfield, hitting, base running - I wasn’t too worried.

At the tryouts, we lined up for some simple drills after an opening talk about how the team would be run and what kind of schedule and commitments we would be asked to be available for.

I lined up at short stop – and my invited friend lined up at second. Some ground balls were hit to us. Some pop flies over the infield, and I handled all hit to me pretty cleanly.

The coach hitting the ball miss-hit a pop fly to my invited friend at second – resulting in a soft line drive slightly above his head. The kind you merely reach up and catch as if playing catch in warm-ups.

But my friend didn’t simply reach up and catch the ball.

No.

Instead, the friend I had asked to be invited did this silly kind of jump in the air and caught the ball in front of his chest. While in the air, he kicked up both his heels so they hit the back of his bum.

And he landed with the ball.

Everyone stopped – and stared at my invited friend.

What the &$%@# was that?”, shouted the coach holding the bat at home plate.

Ball coaches swear … a lot.

What?”, said my invited friend.

That little girlie jump”, said the coach.

What?”, repeated my invited friend.

Are you playing ball or trying out for the $@*&# lead in Swan Lake?”, yelled the coach.

What?”, my invited friend repeated yet again.

The matter seemingly exhausted – the coach flipped the ball in the air and hit a shot to first base.

After that drill, we came off the field and grabbed a bat to take some swings.

The coach was standing over to the side with a couple of veteran guys from the team, one of them my buddy who actually invited me to try out. My buddy looked over at me, and waved me over into the conversation.

I walked over and joined the group.

What the %$&@# was that little ballerina move your buddy made over there at second?”, the coach asked me.

Uh … yeah … I saw that. I forgot he used to do that a lot.”, I said. I had no idea how to defend my invited friend.

Maybe if we told him not to do that anymore?”, offered my buddy.

You tell him”, the coach said to me.

Okay”, I said. I looked over to my invited friend who was taking practice swings with the bat. His back was arched way back and the bat was swung from his ankles to over his shoulder – as though he was practicing home run swings.

Oh #%#@, he’s practicing home runs over there”, mumbled the coach as I tried to get my invited friends attention to join our conversation. He was intentionally ignoring us, hoping his grand slam swing would change the coach’s minds.

Send him home”, said the coach. And he walked away.

I walked over to my invited friend, with my buddy behind me.

I gotta talk to you”, I said to my invited friend.

Wassup?”, he saw my buddy there with me.

Coach wanted me to ask you if you wouldn’t do that jumping kick thing anymore …”, I started.

What’s the big deal, I always played that way?”.

Then he saw you over here swinging a bat …”, I continued.

Oh yeah? What’d he think?

He wants us to tell you to go home”, said my buddy.

Huh?”, said my invited friend.

You’re cut”, I said simply.

I am? I’m an all star? I played on the travelling team at home?”, said my friend, loud enough to be sure the Coach heard him.

It’s that jump thing, man. It did you in. I forgot you did that”, I said. He and I had talked about this a few seasons before, on a different team, where he informed me that was his ... style. He didn't change then. He wasn't about to change now.

My invited friend argued with us for a couple more minutes. The coach finally came over and said “You’re cut!”, turned around and went back pitching to other guys still trying out.

My invited friend picked up his bag, a hockey back, and stuck his glove and his bat inside, and turned to walk away. He looked back at me …

Aren’t ya coming?”, asked my invited friend.

I’m not cut yet”, I replied. “And I didn’t do that silly kick thing in the air”.

He turned to walk to his car … mumbling things under his breath as he left.

I thought you said he was pretty good?”, said my buddy.

He’s not bad. I guess I forgot that jumping kick thing”, I replied.

I made that team. And we had a great year. On the first of July we played under the fireworks at Labatt’s park, where the then Double A London Tigers played home games. It was really a great experience.

Except for that first day of tryouts.

I remembered this the other day, at the office, when one of our new developers was trying too hard to show me how good he was – or thought he was. And all I could think of was that guy – the friend I invited to try out for the London Blues division fast pitch team. The guy I had to tell that he was cut.

I guess the moral to the story is that – if you’re good – and you know you’re good – don’t try so hard.

If you’re good, people will see it. You don’t have to show boat it.

But I do still feel bad about that day. My invited friend never did talk to me again.


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