Thursday, June 14, 2012

To Dad

This Sunday is Father's Day, so I’d like to take a moment to honor mine. As fair warning to you all, I’ve never actually written something dedicated to my father, so this may get a bit long and personal.

You’ve been warned.

My father was a pre-Baby Boomer, born to parents who were wide-eyed, innocent teens at the start of WWII and strained, world-weary citizens by the end of it. My grandmother was all of 18 when she married Dad’s biological father, Tom, and less than a year later, my father came into the world. Unfortunately, “Grandfather Tom” was a free-spirit artist who had more talent with a brush than he had with his pocketbook. The family bounced from place to place following art gigs, but they were never able to do more than eke out a meager living.

Dad was ten when Grandmamma finally had enough of living on the edge. She divorced Grandfather Tom, something unique in that day and age, and survived as a single mom for several years before finally marrying Chuck, the man that Dad calls his Pop. “Pop”, a long-time friend of the family, had served in the Marines during the war and had a steady job with Wonder Bread. Dad likes to say it was the first time he had a father-figure in his life that provided any direction.

In the years between the marriage and Dad leaving for college, Granddaddy Chuck provided not only financial support for Grandmamma and her three kids, but also moral support. The family followed Chuck’s career all over the globe, but everywhere they went, Chuck ensured they enjoyed life experiences while saving for the future. He worked long hours, but unlike life with Tom, there was always food on the table and heat in the house. Occasionally, the family would even splurge for English Muffins.

Most important, there was always laughter and love within the walls.

Unfortunately, Dad inherited a lot of his father’s free-spirit and college-life quickly went from fun to failing. With the prospect of being kicked out hanging over his head, he opted to follow in Pop’s footsteps and enlisted in the Marines. He spent a miserable three months at Parris Island, enlisted in the MARCAD (Marine Corps Aviation Cadet) program, attended flight school, and found himself three years later with a pair of wings on his chest, a set of “butter-bars” on his collar, and orders to Vietnam in his hands.

The year was 1967.

The late sixties were a bloody and awful time for the Marines in country. Unlike the war in Iraq where at the peak, America was losing approximately 75 warriors a month, U.S. forces in Vietnam suffered over 30 deaths a day. According to The Wall-USA*, total losses for the war were over 58,000**. Between 1967 and 1968, when Dad was in country, losses neared 28,000. To put things into perspective, my war has seen total losses of 4474 in Iraq and another 1966 in Afghanistan***. That’s over ten years of combat and it’s still only 25% the number of deaths covering the two year span that enveloped Dad’s 13-month deployment.

Vietnam affected every combatant personally and Dad was no different. His best friend and co-pilot was killed in the seat next to him during a hot-extraction, his base was shelled constantly, and for the last half of his tour in country, he was assigned as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) to a large airbase called Khe Sahn. He arrived ten days before the siege began and finished his tour two weeks after it ended.****  

What surprises me is not so much that Dad survived, but that he came home in tact. He’s never been closed-lipped about his experiences, but rather views them as a chapter in his life. Granted, it is one that was full of excitement, terror, loss, and boredom, but it was a chapter none-the-less. And when that chapter was finished, he moved on to the next one. First it was finishing college (Dad was the first graduate in the family) followed quickly by Law School.

And then a family.

As a kid, I viewed my father as not only the bread-winner, but also as an authority figure. Ours was a “traditional” household insomuch as Mom stayed at home with us kids while Dad inched up the ranks of the company. Hours were long and he was often gone before we got up in the morning and home right around dinner. He and Mom ran a tight ship, but not once did he bring “the office” home with him. When the tie came off, the stress and politics of the career went with it.

The interesting thing is that despite these long hours, Dad was always around when we needed him. Any time my sister or I had a band concert, play, or sporting event, Dad was there. Sometimes he’d be late, but I can count on one hand the number of times when he didn’t show. In high school, the folks attended every single home rifle meet. Afterwards, they’d invite the entire team over to the house where we’d watch Star Trek: TNG and Dad would bake cookies. For a lot of my friends, he was a surrogate father-figure who treated my peers like human beings and not like a bunch of dumb kids.

Amazingly, my friends seemed to take a shine to that.

Dad was also always a well-spring of cliched, yet amazingly accurate advice. When I was an awkward teen pining about how a girl was out of my league, he sat me down and said, “Son, no woman is out of your league. After all, someone has to date the supermodels and it might as well be you.” When my sister complained about an overly dramatic and needy friend, Dad offered up, “People are like car batteries: There are those who will charge your battery and those who will drain it. The goal in life is to surround yourself with the battery chargers.”

Yup, that’s the kind of stuff I grew up with.

But he was more than just someone who spouted fatherly advice. He was also a man who walked the walk of fatherhood and one of the most glaring examples of this happened when I was ten. I became horribly sick and spent three months on the children’s ward of a mental hospital. From Thanksgiving through Valentines Day, my world was the sterile walls of the hospital and not the crackling fireplace of our home. It was lonely, scary, and demoralizing, but Dad was there every single day. No matter if he had a meeting or client, he would always come by the hospital for a few hours before heading home. We’d play Foosball in the activity room, watch movies on the Betamax, or just sit in my room and play with matchbox cars. We even saw Top Gun for the first time on a projector screen in the gym.

The longer I stayed there, however, the more I came to realize that mine were the only parents to visit regularly. The other troubled or sick kids saw their folks on holidays or, at best, every couple of weeks, but Dad was there 7 days a week. Rain or shine.

The impact that kind of parenting makes on a kid, especially one alone and afraid, is dramatic and it was certainly a defining moment in my life. It was an example of what a strong, loving father should be and Dad went from being just a father to being a man I wanted to emulate.

When I expressed an interest in joining the Marines, Dad emphasized I shouldn’t feel the need to follow in his or Granddaddy’s footsteps. Instead, he wanted me to pave my own way in life, whether or not that included the Marine Corps. But the thing was, the path I wanted to pave was influenced by the leadership and the fatherly example he instilled in me as a kid. So I signed up and shipped out.

What’s funny is that when I finally returned home, he and I spent many late nights sipping wine and recounting tales from our different wars. It was both a bonding experience and something internally cathartic. Sharing that unique bond did more for my own mental health than any post-deployment vacation ever could. And when I finally decided to end my own chapter in the Marines, Dad was right there to give me a hug, hand me a beer, and join me in a toast to the Corps that so greatly shaped the both of us.

Over the years, our relationship has evolved from parent-child into something more akin to family-friends. We don’t always agree, but Dad is part golfing buddy, car fanatic, parent, leader, and wine connoisseur*****. As a kid, I didn’t realize how special the man was, but as an adult, I thank God every day for being one of the lucky ones.

Recently, CobraMrsFit and I started having The Kids talk and while I’ll admit the prospect is a little intimidating, I feel a lot more confident staring down that path thanks to Dad. And if I can be even a fraction of the man to my children that my father was to my sister and me, I’ll count myself extremely lucky.

So here’s to you, Dad. Thank you for forgiving me when, as a baby, I had my first bowel movement on your chest and for not killing me when, at two, I ripped the needle out of the record player. Thank you for being an excellent role model, a humble hero, a passionate patriot, a dauntless leader, and a roll-your-eyes goofball. Thank you for playing with hand-puppets at the end of the bed, telling bad jokes, teaching me how to cut down a tree and chop firewood, always screwing up 'Twas the Night Before Christmas so that Sis and I laugh until we cry (even though Mom hates when you do it), encouraging us to love and accept others who are different than us, and showing us how to stick to our morals and stand by our friends, even when it’s not the popular or easy thing to do.

But above all, thank you for being an amazing father.

Dad and I on the Yard of Bricks at Indy this year


**These numbers start in 1957 (1 death) and run through the period of 1980-1995 (66 deaths).

****For an outstanding and completely horrifying read about the siege, I highly recommend The End of the Line: The Siege of Khe Sahn by Robert Pisor.

*****And by connoisseur, I mean we drink only the finest cheapo wine.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Tweets of the (egads! many) Week(s): 08 Jun 12

Pardon me while I brush the dust off this here blog....
Wow, it's been a while, so apologies to the scores (aka tens) of worshipers feeling lost without an update. You know how it goes: work, training, finishing a WIP, revising, writing a query letter, ripping up the query letter, redoing the query letter, wondering if you should take up bowling instead of writing, conquering small patches of earth that are left unguarded, ruling that patch of eath with an iron know, normal stuff.

Anywho, no better way to get back into the swing of things than with:


@SamSykesSwears: It is not legal to slap someone who brags about not reading books, but it is the right thing to do.

@shannynmoore: Campaigner knocked on my door & asked to "talk to the man of the house". I brought him my Mr Coffee maker.

@GeorgeTakei: Budweiser's "Platinum" beer is an edgier, more alcoholic version of what we were used to seeing. Kind of like Lindsay Lohan.

@SuzBrockmann: I want to order a pair of pants for the waitress.

@wizdom: God doesn’t have Twitter, but I follow Him.

@Scotzig: Writing is a job, a talent, but it’s also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.

@victoriastrauss: A-plus again! RT : You piqued my curiosity. Can we get a peek at whatever brought your irritation to a peak?

@JensBookshelf: How do non-daydreamers get through the day? If I don't spend time in my imagination, I'd go stir crazy.

@longshotauthor: I used to be a practical joker, until I took a whoopee cushion in the knee.

@TyrusBooks: If you insist you don't believe in the power of books, I'll insist you haven't read the right ones.

@AH_AdamHuges: There are some truly amazing, wonderful people in this world. And, there are some who, in defiance of the laws of physics, both suck & blow.

@Papa_Kosh: H: I need to get a closer look at those girls. Me: you're gonna be saying that for the rest of your life.

@QuietMountain: " A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something." ~Frank Capra

@scalzi: Wait, a social network I barely use has bought an app I don't use at all with money that's not mine? THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.

@Broslife: Sometimes I wish I didn't live with this curse of being so awesome.

@Pres_Bartlet: The First Amendment means you have the right to make an ass of yourself. It doesn't ensure that your employer has to keep paying you after.

@jimchines: Reminder to self: the first draft does not have to be perfect!

@Petermball: It's worth shouting NINJAS! randomly every hour, just in case some are hiding nearby. 99% of the time you look crazy, but that other 1%...

@McilroyRory: If anyone is having a bad day, remember that today in 1976 Ronald Wayne sold his 10% stake in Apple for $800. Now it's worth $58,065,210,000.

@TeresaMedeiros: Writing Facebook status updates and tweets won't make you successful. Writing books will make you successful

@DiscordianKitty: If you lose one sense, your other senses are enhanced. That's why people with no sense of humour have an increased sense of self-importance.

@scalzi: Just watched "Moneyball." SPOILER ALERT: The balls are not, in fact, made of money.

@AbielleRose: If a zombie outbreak happens in Vegas does it stay in Vegas?

@Regan_Summers: P.P.P.S. If the Invisible Woman was into bondage, could Mister Fantastic tie her up...with himself? Because that *would* be fantastic.

@chavelaque: "Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact." -- George Eliot

@Todd_Roy: Meh! Shrimp missing their eyes will now be called "Shrmp" A tasty new food treat!

@BronxZoosCobra: Today is National High Five Day! So everyone come by the zoo today and give me a...oh, right. Nevermind. Stupid national human holiday.

@geardrops: At airport, surrounded by businessy doodz on their iPads. Using my iPad as a hard surface for my My Little Pony Coloring Book.

@DeathStarPR: If Force choking idiots is wrong, then I don't want to be right.

@AuthorMJFifield: Well, it's a good thing a certain delivery guy's shorts are brown because I'm pretty sure my dogs just scared the shit out of him.

@Colin_Hanks: Ever wonder what they called "Buddy Holly" Glasses before Buddy Holly? I'll tell you the answer: GLASSES.

@Harkaway: I still read "bear with me" as "please put on a furry costume and roar alongside me".

@MensHumor: "I think I am going to have sex with the guy who is wearing his cell phone on his belt." Said, no woman ever.

@therejectionist: Is it normal to experience continuous feelings of loss and anguish that Corporal Hicks is not a real person?

@DavidRoads: Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. -Helen Keller

@DeathStarPR: If you don't have anything nice to say, you're probably just being realistic.

@slackmistress: Everyone SAYS they want a fairytale wedding but when I show up and curse their firstborn suddenly I'm the jerk.

@wilw: From dinner: LeVar says, "How many times did Wesley save the ship?" I reply, "as many times as Geordi got laid. ZING!" many LOLs were had.

@wilw: Another from dinner. Me to LeVar, re Hunger Games: anything that gets kids to read is awesome... But you don't have to take my word for it.

@JenBookshelf: When I am god emperor of the universe, mornings will be outlawed.

@aeroplanegirl: Dear people who question why girls go to the bathroom together: Hermione went alone and got attacked by a troll.

@adamolsen: I turn the other cheek cause it's my good side.

@anmatcoburn: Hipster Mennonites know about bandsaws you've probably never heard of.

@pattonoswalt: Meh. MEHHHHHHHHHH!!! -- hipster ghost

@DeathStarPR: Bad news: Kim Kardashian MIGHT be getting her own sitcom. Good news: if that happens Earth WILL be getting a laser to the face.

@ImTracyMorgan: What's the point of a high school reunion? I have Facebook. I already know you got fat.

@ChuckWendig: The only way to write is to write.


@thesulk: Dancers must have been super excited 34 years ago because it was almost 5/6/78...

@TheMarkTwain: It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

@ChuckWendig: When we say our characters do things we don't expect, what we mean is our subconscious mind is awesome and wants control for a little while.

@LopoLaugh: You can never be good at things you say you're not good at.

@BigPoppaMatthew: What doesn't kill you makes you wish it did.

@Rachel_Aaron: Sometimes you have to write the book in order to learn how to write the book

@acetachyon: New Higgs rumor: The Higgs boson is dating Snooki.

@DianeDooley: Crap. Coffee down my cleavage. How the hell can I miss a mouth the size of mine?

@JensBookshelf: A list of things you don't need to find in your toilet when you really need to pee. 1. A frog. 2. I hope that is all.

@Storymoja: Comics are a gateway drug to literacy.” ― Art Spiegelman

@JaninePreacher: A friend of mine said onions are the only food that could make you cry. That was before I hit him in the face with a watermelon...

@KalebNation: So for all the writers out there wanting to be published: no it never gets old, and yes it's 100% worth all the work you're doing.

@raecarson: Growing as a writer means nothing you've written in the past satisfies. Here's to a long career of wincing at previous work. *raises tea*

@NotAbsoluteWrit: Despero, the AW wine. Flavors of coffee, printer ink and tears; an aroma evoking old flame wars and half-forgotten rejections. Coming soon.

@AuthorMJFifield: "Always remember to be yourself. Unless you suck." ~Joss Whedon

@cerebralbalsy: You guyssss. You don't have to send me a link. Just tell me you want me to block you.

@AlanHungover: Next time you're at a McDonald's Playplace and someone asks you, "Aww which one is yours?" Say, "I haven't picked one out yet..."

@JustMindBlowing: 20 years ago we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Cash, no Hope and no Jobs. Please dont let Kevin Bacon die.

@DeathStarPR: If someone sends you a long text and you reply with, "K", we get to blow up your planet.

@djpaultavares: How to Save the World: 1) Make a document titled "The World". 2) Save it.

@alan_tudyk: I want to replace, "thank you for your service." you can say that to the waitstaff. How about, "you've kicked more ass than I'll ever know."

@ActuallyNPH: A heartfelt thank you to all of the men and women who serve(d) in our military. What you did, and continue to do, is awesome.

@DavidRoads: The secret of success is to be ready when your opportunity comes. - Benjamin Disraeli

@AuthorMJFifield: You know you spend too much time playing Angry Birds when you see a picture of someone's house & immediately look for weak spots.

@dawnmetcalf: Grant me the strength to accept the edits I cannot change, the courage to hit the delete key, and the wisdom to know the difference.

@BoobsRadley: Sex life getting boring? Try a trail of rose petals that leads toward your bed but veers into walls and over some marbles, because ahahaha.

@Janet_Reid: Querier just assured me "recommendations don't sell books". Honey,'word of mouth' is exactly what sells books. R is a fancy way to say that.

@geardrops: Bought a Yoo-Hoo. Didn't notice the safety cap was already popped. If this is how I go, remember me as a hero.

@SuzBrockmann: "This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man." Shakespeare

@DeathStarPR: Life is like a Jawa: short, hard to understand, mostly about collecting junk and usually ending with getting thrown on a bonfire.

*And by "week" I mean all the stuff since the end of March. Hang on, kids, this will be a lot of 'em.

*Note: As with all TotW, time is very fluid. Also, all tweets are occasionally as they appear in my feed to include RT credits (when able), trends, misspells, poor punctuation, lies, knick-knack, paddy-whack, and give a dog a bone.