I've gone from "Dad" to "Dude."

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I’ve gone from “Dad” to “Dude.”

Although sometimes he keeps it in the family and calls me “Bro.”

As in, “Dude! Bro! You don’t know how to dance the Floss?! You really don’t know anything do you?”

He’s too young to talk smack, isn’t he?

And when did it become okay for him to make fun of me?

Okay, I’ve never been able to dance. But still.

Wait, how does he know that I can’t dance and how could he possibly know that it touches a nerve? I’m lanky! These arms have nowhere to go. I don’t need to justify myself to him yet do I? How long can I be the cool dad?

All those cliches’ about “where did the time go” and “those were the days” and “I remember when you didn’t even have arm hair”. They are real. I made up the arm hair one. Coining a phrase.

But the arm hair! When did he get arm hair!? I still have to remind him to use shampoo on his head hair. One step at a time here.

And when did he learn to get himself dressed? And how does he know what looks cool? Wait, why does he care if he looks cool? Where did my little boy go?

I think he looked cool when I dressed him in clothes that made me look cool.

“Aw, he’s wearing a little Pink Floyd T-shirt. He’s such a cool little baby.”

Actually, I’m the cool one stranger. He can’t dress himself you know. I may even be his bro one day.

Those were the days. When he wore shirts that matched my musical style.

As long as he doesn’t pick out a Sublime shirt one day. Or Coldplay... The horror.

He has favorite TV shows now. And he knows all the characters. When did this happen?

Where did the time go? He just started recalling his home address accurately but now he can tell me all the names of the cast of the Full House remake. I tell him I watched it when it was just “Full House.”

“Dude, Bro! It’s Fuller House. You really don’t know anything do you?”

“You know these people aren’t real right!” I said.

I then blew his little mind when I showed him behind the scenes shots of them filming on YouTube. At least he still thinks TV shows are real. Well, did I guess?

I forced that growth spurt.

I gave him a million dollar bill a few weeks ago that a passenger gave me in exchange for a safe flight. (I told the passenger I’d give him a safe one either way… you know, self preservation.)

The boy didn’t buy that it was actually a million dollars. Not even for a second.

“This isn’t real.” He said hardly even looking at it.

Not even a tiny suspension of belief?

“How do you know?” I asked him.

“Well, it doesn’t have Donald Trump on it. Million dollar bills have the president on the front.”

I didn’t know where to start.

I simply offered, “Dude, you’re just a little kid.”

He replied, “I know Bro.”



My Father Will Forever Watch Over The Florida Aquarium

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I was humbled to be able to take part in the unveiling of an incredible statue honoring my father at the Florida Aquarium this week in Tampa. The Aquarium commissioned artist Yeins Gomez for the project and the result took my breath away... a beautiful metal bow-tie wearing Stork standing above his three little Storks calling to mind his three grandchildren. Mr. Gomez was able to capture so much of my father’s spirit and our Stork proudly stands outside near the Children’s play area of the Aquarium. So often when my dad talked to me about what they were working on at the Aquarium it wasn’t always the animals or conservation efforts he was most excited to talk about… it was the work they did to capture the attention of kids.

One of my father’s last projects at the aquarium, in addition to the remodeled children’s Splash Pad and the Carol J. and Barney Barnett Learning Center, was a partnership with the Havana National Aquarium in Cuba on coral research. Having Cuba’s Mr. Gomez put so much of his heart and attention into this sculpture would make my dad feel blessed for sure. He had plans to fly with his team on their first trip to Havana but was unable to make it down and as fate would have it I operated one of those Tampa/Havana flights with some of his team on board. Instead of my father making it to Havana, Yeins was able to bring a little bit of Cuba to him.

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And a Stork! Obviously, this long-legged bird has played a huge role in our story. Growing up my dad had stationery made that read “From the Desk of Thom Stork” with a bird drawn into the S. We had NY’s Stork Club memorabilia scattered about our house. The front door of that home had big glass panels with Storks etched into the glass. As you can imagine, both my father and I (and now my son I hope) have always been called “Stork”. My dad told me he tried to get the license plate STORK once but it was taken by an OB/GYN.

My favorite part of the unveiling ceremony was after it concluded and I watched guests approach my Father’s statue and witness them take pictures with him and read the inscription on the bottom.

“A child reminds us that playtime is an essential part of our daily routine.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson.


My words of thanks .

Coincidentally, it was 14 years ago last night that my father spoke at my wedding to my wife Susan right here at the Florida Aquarium. Right over there.

It was from right here that he would call me every New Years Eve at midnight to wish me a great new year. This is where we honored his life on the night of his funeral. This is where he loved to take his grandchildren. When I visited town he would bring me by to show me the latest offerings. This is where he loved to interact with the families and the guests of the Aquarium. They were all his guests. He welcomed them in like he was bringing them into his own home.

I can’t think of a more perfect place for him to be honored. For this statue to be placed here where he gave so much of his heart. Our family has so many memories here and I’m certain we will have many more in the future.

This was his home and where his heart was and I am humbled to know that this is now where he will be remembered forever.

Even before this day and before this gift to him, and us, when I’ve come by, this is where I’ve most felt my father’s presence. I look down at the Aquarium every time I fly into Tampa and think about him. I am grateful that that feeling can be shared by all every time they see our big Stork here.

He loved us all and as I mentioned, he loved his grandkids. He cared so much for all the children who visited. He was always most proud when he told me about the work the Aquarium was doing with education, field trips and in the camps offered here. He would often tell me about the school groups that would come by. I love that this statue shows that. A proud Papa Stork standing over his three little birds. He kept us safe under his wing and like the little storks under his wings here he will stand and watch over all of them.

He will be here forever watching the kids when they are at their youngest as they play outside. And he will still be here as they grow and as those same kids mature and make their way to the exhibits inside. And then when they are older yet, when they come here for summer camp maybe they will come out here to say hello. He will still be here when they return to visit as they grow older. And then when they have children of their own they will tell their little birds about how they used to play out here with Papa Stork watching over them too. I love that he will always be remembered this way. More importantly, he would love that too. He really loved it here and he really loved all of us.

And personally, on my wedding night 14 years ago last night he spoke of sending me off with my wife to start our new life. I was stepping out from under his wings that kept me safe. With this statue, every time I fly out of Tampa I’ll be able to look down past the aircraft's wings and see him here protecting and watching over each generation.

From Donna, Ericka and me. My wife Susan and Brother -in- law Kemel. My father’s two sisters and my Unlce Doug. And of course from Tajai, Judah, and Imani. With all our hearts. Thank You so much for this gift. It really is an honor to be able to celebrate my father’s life like this.

Thank You






Approaching the One Year Anniversary of My Father's Passing

My father was dying this time last year. I knew it. He knew it. We all did. The difference though was that he handled the news so much better than we did. Unlike us, he never complained or expressed the unfairness of the situation. He never said “too soon.” We did. Everyone who came to visit did. Even when he must have been in pain, my father never winced. I would wince. He’d tell me to stop it.

He stoically lived each remaining day and only occasionally addressed the matter. A thought would cross his mind like he was running a checklist before an upcoming trip. He would remember a chore my stepmom would soon inherit.  “Remind me I need to teach her how to use the digital camera.” I nodded “okay” but broke down inside each time.

She and I handled that checklist with significantly less grace. Like when we were resetting their email password and it was his phone that rang for the restore option. Silently, but with welling emotions, we both looked at each other knowing his cell number would soon be silenced as well. What other accounts are associated with that number? There was so much to do. Too soon.

I am grateful that during the month and half that elapsed between his diagnosis and passing I was able to be at my father’s side for the milestones that marked the progress of his final days. To ride with him the last time he drove . To then become his driver. To help him eat. To help him walk.

During that time it was not lost on me that the circle of life was spinning. I was back in my home town driving my dad on the same streets where he taught me to drive. That wheel was spinning each time I grabbed him a towel like he did for me so many years ago… so many times. Once he was my humble caretaker. I was now honored and blessed to become his. To return the favor. Circle.

I was there with him when he patiently told his cancer doctor he didn’t think treatment was the best option and “we’ve” decided quality of life at this stage is better for us all. “I’m going with the four month plan you mentioned.” He was referring to the estimated time he was given. He was at peace with this decision and a stop at the hospital chapel confirmed that for me when he joked that you can’t light the candles… because of the oxygen tanks. Turning on the candle brought us peace.

Four months? He didn’t make it that long. Too soon.

I was there for his last meal and his last holiday.

On New Year’s Eve as my father was just a few days from passing he lay in his bed… as he wished and as we had planned. Family was there and the neighbors were celebrating. Sitting alone with him in his dark room as the New Year soon rang in we could hear fireworks outside. I could see the occasional burst of lights through the curtains. I think he could see them too. The sounds and the lights, though sometimes chaotic, enhanced the sense of peace I was feeling from him.

I am forever grateful I was able to be with him that last month and especially those last days. My father, through it all, put me at ease.

So now that I am in the first anniversary of those times I reflect each day on what little milestone we were passing. How we each dealt with the inevitable. How my father gave us strength even when his was fading.

A Pro and Con to Having Just One Child.

Pro: You only have one mouth to feed.

Con: That same mouth often only has one person to talk to.

I am his entertainment. I am his captive audience. I am his sounding board for his really great ideas about really great things that really can’t wait until later.

I find that as I attempt to disengage myself from a conversation that is growing mundane or trivial or monotonous it feels like I am yanking on the starter cable of a lawn mower hoping to get it to catch so his words can be his own muse and his engine can run on it’s own. Every few sentences I give it another tug until the motor catches and it runs at full tilt.

“You know Dad. I think I would like to get a family of worms to keep as my pets.” He interjects into my quiet drive time.

“Oh, that sounds like a great idea.” I respond.

“I’m going to name the parents Wormy and Brownie and the kid worms will be called Squirmy and Turkey.”

“I don’t really think Turkey is a good name for a worm.” I say.

“No Dad. It’s a really good name. A really good one. Turkeys live in fields and fields are full of dirt and worms live in dirt. Turkey is a really great name for a worm. You don’t know these things. I do. I know everything about worms.”

“No. I think you named it Turkey because right after you said Squirmy your little kid brain went up the alphabet to the next letter which is T and you took the sound of Squirmy but with a T in the front so you stumbled on Turkey.”

“You’re wrong Dad. I didn’t name them yet. We don’t even have worms yet. See, you don’t know anything about worms like I do.”

Just a little tug on that lawn mower starter cable. Pull the choke out some. Yank a little harder.

“I think worms bite.” He says.

“No. They don’t.” I answer.

“Well, some do. You don’t know about worms. Remember?”

Full pull on the cord. The motor catches. I’m out and sit back to let the perpetual motion machine that is his seven year old brain whirl on it’s own for a bit.

“I guess some worms bite. They have mouths because they have to eat. So if they have mouths I guess they bite. But they eat leaves and dirt and little pieces of trash so their mouths must be so small. So cute! Maybe they sleep with their mouths open like I do sometimes? Their eyes must be so tiny! Wee!! I can’t wait to get worms! I’m going to put them in this cup. This would be a good cup for them. It even has a lid. But what will I drink out of? Can we share the cup? No. That’s dirty. I will wash them first. Wee!!! I can’t wait to get worms!”

Listening to him talk gives me an idea. Maybe I’ll invent a white noise generating machine for parents. It will have a microphone and a speaker and it will take in their little voices and generate an equal and opposite audio wave than the ones that comes from their little face holes. Equal and opposite? Didn’t Newton say something about that? The sounds that come from a kid's mouth will have an equal and opposite reaction inside the brain of a parent?

And then I realized something. We are the same. He and I are the same but with one huge difference. At some point you learn how to flip that switch that allows you to disconnect your thoughts from your mouth. He just says everything he thinks!

“I think I’m going to strap a Fitbit to your face and see how many times your mouth moves in a day.”

“That’s a really great idea Dad.” He says.

I guess I said that one out loud.

“Okay then. Let’s go dig up some worms!” He says.

“Yes Son. Let’s do it.”

On Grieving

After our son was born I called friends who already had kids and apologized to them for not being more excited for them when they became parents. I didn't know until I saw our own son how awesome it was. How could I?

I did the same after my father passed. I called friends who had already lost a parent and apologized for not being more sympathetic for them at the time. How could I have known?

And then I became acutely aware of the grieving of others. A mention of a loss or a diagnosis stops time and puts me back in the moment when I heard the news. The news that changed things. While a smell can take your mind back to summer camp just a few words arranged in the right order can transport your heart back the same way. The day I heard the news. How I held it together for a few minutes and then cried on the shoulder of the first person I saw. I didn't know her too well but she was older and could see it in my eyes. She was part of the club.

That's the club you join when a parent dies. A club that every human throughout existence who has outlived a parent has joined but yet it can still can feel like a party of one. While you are told many cliches when you are in the fog of it the one that is never overused is the one that comes from a club member. "I know what you are going through."

The thing about grief is that it comes out of nowhere. Sure there are the moments that come up that you'd really like to share with them. There are the moments when a question arises in which the answer literally has been taken to the grave and you will never know the answer. But then there are the surprise moments when your mind hits an infinite loop of a memory. You lock in for a bit. My mental record skips and that last note is played over and over again. Luckily, my soundtrack is full of great songs.

For me my mind will stumble on a memory and it will replay in my head as if I was there again. I think it's memory’s survival strategy. My brain is making a back-up rewriting it a few times to ensure it sticks even as my record gets scratched with age. In many of these flashbacks, I'm the only one alive who knows the story now and I think my brain is ensuring it doesn't fade away.

I think I've been good with this. I don't think I'm callous or avoidant or unengaged. I think I'm good. I think being there with him when he needed me most and being able to say goodbye has allowed me to look forward and cherish the memories. It has allowed me to carry his lessons of fatherhood into my own family.

Watching my seven year old and remembering my times with my dad when I was that age have helped me look to the future. The memories I will make for my boy. To etch those into his permanent record.

Being a father to my dad’s grandson has helped me grieve.

Teaching Irony through Sarcasm

  I have the luxury of working weekends and being able to pick up our son from school most weekdays. I watch with joy as he bounces down the steps from his school happy to tell me all about the things he did during the day. Rarely does he come out upset. Never has he come out needing comfort. Until this week. I was waiting with the other parents as we stood around making fun our kids behind their backs… as we do. The doors opened and he came flying out full of wails and tears. He looked inconsolable. The other parents parted making a red carpet like path for him to have easy access to my welcoming arms. He collapsed to the sidewalk at my knees gasping for air between his breathless screams of agony.

“Oh my son. What happened man?! What’s going on?!” I cried back to him.

“I didn’t have time to finish my stress ball!!! My stress ball! I didn’t have time when the bell rang!!!” He cried out at what to me appeared to an incommensurate amount of tears.

Perhaps I misunderstood him?

“Say that again? What’s this about?”

“We were making stress balls and I didn’t get to finish mine! It’s not done! The bell rang and it’s not done! This is the worst day of my life!!!” He yelled.

I stood stunned. The other parents watched on trying to listen in to get a clue as to what horrors must have happened inside. Several seemed to be bracing themselves for what they may face when their little bundles were released from school.

Once I understood what was happening all I could do was laugh. A lot.

“This isn’t funny! This is horrible! This is the worst day of my life!”

I restrained my laughs but spoke through a smile. “You know what you need son? A stress ball.”

“I know! I need a stress ball and I couldn’t finish mine in time. Oh!!! Why me!!!”

“No.” I added. “What’s funny here is that you need a stress ball because of this stress ball situation.”

He didn’t get the irony. I promised him we’d make some when we got home.

“But you don’t know how! You’ve never made one! This is so horrible.” He argued.

I told him we would google it. I'm sure it's just flour and balloons. We can handle that.

But I didn't watch the youtube video result on how to make them. I actually didn't read anything more than what was in the search results. At home I improvised how to get the flour into the balloon by using the nozzle from a cake decorating kit. I filled it with flour and forced the powder into the balloon by blowing really hard into the nozzle. Really hard. The balloon was now full of flour and my compressed air. Once the stress ball was inflated and after pulling my mouth and nozzle from the balloon all the flour erupted from the contracting balloon back into my face. It really was a pretty spectacular scene. It was like a stylist shouted “Powder!” and then some stranger hit me with a pillow full.

The boy laughed out at what to me appeared to an incommensurate amount of joy.

And I stood there stunned, looking at him through my flour covered glasses and he said, “Now you could really use a stress ball huh dad?”

I think he learned irony.

My Father's Eulogy

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My father passed away on January 2nd of this year. I've had several posts in mind but haven't had the energy to put them down. This is the eulogy I read at his service. Maybe this will help me sleep a little better until I can get something better down.

My parents visited the Vatican last year. I have no proof of this but I think there was motivation behind the trip. I think it was a job interview. If it was... he got the position. The new VP of marketing for the rebranded Pearly Gates... and Gardens. He’s probably already had turnstiles installed and is calling each evening for the days attendance.

My father was born into a farming family in rural Nebraska and spent his first 12 years there until my grandmother moved him and my Aunt Suzanne to her hometown of Savannah after their father passed.  In 2012 my wife, son and I along with Donna and my Uncle Doug had the privilege of joining my Dad and Aunt on a return visit to Nebraska. This was the first time they had been back since they were children. On that trip I watched my dad explore where he came from. Miles and miles of perpendicular roads with hardly another human in sight.

My father never budged at a challenge. You can’t just call it work ethic because it’s how he lived his life. From grade school to fatherhood, whenever I talked with him about a struggle he would guide me and help me figure out how to get through it. Often we would walk away with an inside joke about the event that we would share and laugh about for years later. Even after being told he had cancer he never complained or fussed about the card he was handed. It was after I saw that farm and imagined what his life was like there in Nebraska that I was able to start putting the pieces of his character together. Farmers work in harsh environments. They create things from barely nothing and work with the resources they have at hand. They start with a seed. I have many brothers and sisters here in Tampa that got their professional start through my dad. We were all his seeds.... And all of you became family. From Busch Gardens and Adventure Island and Sea World to most recently the Florida Aquarium. You took all of us into your family as much as my dad brought you into his. Thank you all for everything you did for us over the years. I’ve joked before that Ericka and I grew up in a theme park. That makes many of your our baby sitters.

I’ve taken many vacations to his second hometown of Savannah. My family and I were there just this weekend. Savannah is a social town. Especially when you are a descendant. It is a Catholic town where everyone knows each other, looks out for one another and barter with what they have. Your character is as much your currency is as what you have to offer. Add these skills to the work ethic my father learned from the farm and you are starting to get a better picture. He was always looking out for his Tampa, his Florida and all of us here. And he was never without a free ticket. When he’d give out a few to a family... if asked he’d simply say he worked at The Aquarium. Or Busch Gardens. Or Adventure Island. Or Sea World.

My father was humble. He was honest. He worked hard and taught me that work is not work when you love it. These are the things I will pass on to my son.

I know I’m not alone in saying that since being told of my father’s diagnosis… today, this service and the idea of his passing have been on my mind and in my heart constantly. I would wake up in the middle of the night and it would take me a few seconds to remember why I felt so horrible. The feeling would be there before I could remember why. But one night I fell asleep and had a dream about this day. I was here at his service. We all were. We were all here to celebrate my father’s life and accomplishments. But in my dream he was here at the altar too. He was loving you guys. All of his people. Many of you… his seeds. When I awoke from that dream knowing he was happy... I felt at peace. And finally slept.

I now know why I had that dream. Because he is here. I think one of his other initiatives at the newly rebranded Pearly Gates and Gardens is a hand stamp program for return visits back to see us and check on us. And this is exactly the kind of inside joke my father and I would have shared. And now it’s one I hope to forever share with my son. Going forward, whenever he feels like someone has been looking out. Whenever he feels that someone has his back… I’ll suggest it was his Papa.... and that he must have gotten his hand stamped.

A 1980 Tampa Tribune Article Featuring My Father on Parenting

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By BESS ADAMS COLEMAN

"With my 5-year-old son, I'm experiencing the greatest love affair I’ve ever had,” said 31-year-old Thom Stork. "There are lots of rocky roads, no question about it, but you can say that I’ve really found my child. I’ll freely admit that for four years he was there and I loved him and we did things together. But I didn’t know him. I wasn’t his best friend.”

“I recently took my 7-year old son out to lunch to talk about my plans to remarry,” said Alan Baker, 38. "I wanted to know how he felt about it. He said, 'Well, Dad, once in awhile you have a really good idea.’

I said, ‘Well, thank you, and I’d like you to be the best man at the wedding.’ He said, 'That’s wonderful — what’s a best man?’ ”

“There’s no way to know when something really special will happen between you and your child,” said Dr. Joseph Ferrandino, 38. "Not long ago, I sat in the audience while my 8-year-old daughter auditioned for a part in a play. As she stood on the stage, they unexpectedly asked her to sing a song. My heart stopped, thinking she’d be afraid or embarrassed, but to my surprise she said OK, and began to sing 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in a strong, clear voice. It was a touching moment I‘m glad I was able to have.”

“Through my son, I discovered the child in myself,” said 29-year-old. Joel Hunter. "I remember once getting all excited over a kite I bought for him when he was about 5. We were out running with it against the wind. I was having a ball, but when I looked down he was crying. I asked him what was wrong, and he said, 'Dad, you won’t let me hold it.’ I was so involved and having such a great time, I almost forgot to let him participate.”'

Four special moments in the lives of four Tampa fathers. These fathers however, represent a new and increasingly prevalent breed of men who, either by choice or circumstance, are raising their children alone.

While the number of such men is growing, the percentage is hardly mind-boggling.

Steve Sessums, a Tampa attorney who limits his practice to marital and family law, found in a recent study in Pinellas County that mothers received custody in approximately 75 percent of all contested cases. Sessums points out that these figures would probably closely reflect those for the state of Florida as well.

"While accurate statistics are hard to come by, my experience tells me that in well over 90 percent of the cases that never reach the court (by far the greatest number), the divorced woman also assumes sole custody,” Sessums said.

In the last few years, several factors have begun to change this traditional pattern. Some divorcing couples decide the husband should take the children because he makes more money.

In other cases, the wife expresses a desire to pursue career interests or to find self-fulfillment outside the role of wife and mother. And some women believe that their husbands may do a better job of parenting.

Whatever the reasons leading more men to raise their children alone, those involved have found themselves thrown back on their own resources in new and challenging ways. They’ve experienced, as any new mother soon learns, the boredom, frustration and occasional pain of caring for young children.

However, with this newly found knowledge of the humdrum comes the joy of knowing unexpected moments of gentle ecstasy with their children that many say makes it worth the effort.

Thom Stork, promotions manager at Tampa’s Busch Gardens, has had custody of his 5 year-old son, Christopher, for almost a year. In many ways, his experiences closely parallel those of Ted Kramer in the recent film. "Kramer vs. Kramer," which depicts a young father coping with the business of raising his son alone.

"I cried through most of the Kramer film,” said Stork without apology. “To some extent, I identified with Dustin Hoffman as Ted Kramer because I am in the same business. He was in an ad agency, whereas am in a marketing department.

"I was also very work-oriented,” Stork continued. “I probably didn’t spend enough time with my family. Now leave work at 5, because I have to meet the needs of my child.”

After their 8-year marriage ended in divorce, Stork and his former wife agreed that he would have full legal custody. Both parents felt that Stork was in a better economic position to take care of their child.

"I said wanted him, and believe strongly that a son should be with his father,” Stork said.

"The first thing people said to me was, "My God, how are you going to handle this?” Stork said. "Sure there were questions, and it was confusing for me until learned how to budget my time, but from the very first day knew I could do it. I’d been raised knowing how to do basic things, such as cleaning, but didn’t know how to cook.”

Stork’s first attempt at cooking was almost as clumsy as the French-toast scene from the Kramer film. In the movie, Hoffman ineptly stuffed. bread into a coffee cupful of shell-laden batter under the watchful eyes of his son, whose deadpan reply was: "I don’t like it folded, Dad.”

What Kramer was to fench toast, Stork was to spaghetti. “We ate out a lot at first," said Stork. "But my first meal was scream. I wanted to fix spaghetti, but honestly didn't know how to cook the noodles. I called one of the women at the office and asked how to do it, and she said, ‘You dummy, you read the side of the box.’ At Christmas she gave me copy of the Joy of Cooking.

Another parallel to the movie occurred one night when Stork was going out. Any evening out for Daddy is always well-planned in advance,” Stork said. "Walking over to my neighborhood babysitter on one of these rare occasions, Christopher went into tirade of ‘Don’t leave me.’ We marched back home and sat down for about 10 minutes of talk and reassurances. When we went back, he pulled the same thing again. I flew off the handle, almost physically dragged him home, threw him into the bathtub, washed him and put him to bed with no dinner at 7:15. Was screaming at him, and he at me. I just shut the door and left.

“About an hour or so later I went into him and we talked. We talked about how Daddy has to have time for himself. I think that one night, even though it hurt us both, was a big step forward.”

One major difference in Stork’s experiences and the Kramer film was an absence of conflict between his job and the needs of his child. While Kramer ultimately lost his job because of this conflict, Stork credits his company with being very supportive of his decision to raise his son.‘ "My relationship with this company from the top man down to my immediate supervisor is that ‘If that little guy has doctor’s appointment or needs you, you go,’ Stork said.

While Stork received sole custody of his child, some men have joint or shared custody of children following divorce. This arrangement enables couple to develop pattern for dividing the time child spends with each parent. Usually, one parent will be the primary parent, or the one responsible for greater portion of the child’s care.

ThomChris1
ThomChris1

No longer an Airline Captain and I've Lost My Mojo

GolfHotelWhiskey.comAutopilotFromtheMovieAirplane I’ve been an airline Captain since 2001. With a recent airline change I’m a First Officer again. The copilot. Just like Kareem Abdul-Jabar… and the guy who sat next to Sully. I’m one step up from Otto the autopilot in Airplane. I should have made business cards that said “Cool Jet Captain” while I could. (Mental note - change my voicemail greeting from Jet Captain to Seat Filler.)

I’ve switched seats and I’ve lost my mojo. I don’t know where to put my pen. My right hand moves to push the buttons even though they're on my left side now. And damned if I can’t make passenger announcements anymore.

For years I’ve been saying the same thing to the people in the back.

THE.SAME.THING

“Folks, this is your Captain speaking. Blah blah blah. Weather is blah blah blah. There is going to be a few bumps on our climb out blah blah blah.”

But now I start in with “This is your….”

And I’m lost. Flatline.

My inner voice screams “LINE!”

But it’s just me. No cue cards. No teleprompter. Just me… your copilot.

And I think I’m pretty dexterous on my toes. I had a six grade teacher tell me I need to think before I speak. She didn’t mean it as a compliment.

I can’t think before I speak. It just happens. And without the normal cadence of “This is your Captain speaking.” I’ve got nothing. Flatline.

Oh, and you know those pilots that walk around the airport with their sunglasses on? You laugh at them on the inside because they think they’re so cool? Maybe they’re also new and have lost their mojo too?

I was on a dusk flight soon after I switched seats and titles and the sky was getting duskier on final approach. I even made a comment to the actual Captain about how dark this new cockpit I’ve found myself in was at night.

He agreed though surely he knew what the solution was.

And then I said something about the taxiway lights being an unusual hue.

And then I stood in the doorway and said goodbye to the passengers face to face. Eye contact.

And then I went up and got a cup coffee at Starbucks.

And then back in the cockpit I said something about how my phone screen suddenly had a reddish tint. “Maybe it’s reverted to some strange astronomer night mode?” I said.

That’s when the Captain commented on my rose colored sunglasses.

“I don’t know what to tell you Elton.”

article-2288331-060EFBB10000044D-785_634x419

Avoiding the Dad Stereotype

Mr. Mom (1983) Directed by Stan Dragoti Shown: Michael Keaton
Mr. Mom (1983) Directed by Stan Dragoti Shown: Michael Keaton

It’s been nearly seven years that I became a dad. Seven years and I’ve done the best I could to avoid being the bumbling dad stereotype on tv shows. You know the one. He pours orange juice in his coffee and puts sticks of butter in their lunchboxes. I’m the modern dad. I wore the baby. I carried his diapers in my back pocket and bottles in my backpack. (Blue bottle = formula. Red = White Russian.) I went to Mommy and Me. He's starting first grade and I've made it without knocking back the dad cause or erasing the gains my fellow dads have made. We changed Amazon Mom to Amazon Family! I’ve carried the flag well I hope. Except for that one time. I was tired. It was early. He was just beginning to make recognizable sounds. I was just learning to ignore him. We were rushing out the door for daycare and I was knocking things off my before takeoff checklist. Never rush a checklist. I was calling out the items from memory and he was finding his voice. It was white noise to me but still distracting. Up until recently I was able to do my checklist in silence. He used to watch and listen. “How does this man do it all!” Now he wanted to participate and he was bad at it. Out the door and in the car. Checklist complete. I thought. Off we went. He made an excited noise and gesticulated. “Yeah yeah.” I said. Surely he was pointing out something he recognized from the endless rounds of flashcards. “I know. I know. Bus. Car. Dog. Cat. Great job man!” He gesticulated more. Made more fervent noises. “I got ya buddy. Kind of in a hurry here. That diaper situation was an unexpected diversion this morning. I know. I know. Bus or monkey or cloud or rocket ship. Great job!” Again with the pointing. “Yep. So smart. That is an elephant or a tiger or a dinosaur. Nailed it!” And this was how the ride to daycare went. And then we got there and I rushed him out of the carseat and into the school. And his teacher pointed and said to him. “But where are your shoes?” And he pointed and gesticulated and spoke pretty clearly. And I said, “Oh…. shoes!” And he repeated it in a sweet and a so very nonjudgmental voice. “Shoes.” He said. And I said, “Uh, Checklist complete?”

[Shrugs to the camera. Cue the laugh track.]

Are We Still Putting Soap in Their Mouths?

a-christmas-story-soap2 Are we still doing the soap in the mouth thing?

I may need to go out and buy a bar of soap.

Better yet.

Amazon Prime. Soap please.

We use liquid soap here. Body wash really. How does that work? Do I loofa his tongue?

The six year old said his first bad word the other day.

Wait, shit. His second bad word.

About a year ago while we were watching Monster Truck videos on Youtube he said, “Well look at that damn thing!”

It was pretty fitting really. Trucks… John Deere hats. Lots of testosterone in the crowd. I may have been drinking a beer from a bottle. He pointed to a truck and said “Look at that damn thing!”

Actually, I was drinking a beer because I recall nodding my head and tipping the bottle towards him in acknowledgment.

From upstairs his mom yelled, “Don’t feed into it!”

And I didn’t. Well shit, I did. I winked and whispered, “Yep, those are some pretty sweet damn tires.”

It went away for a year. That is until the other day when his potty mouth came out of hibernation. And oh did it mature while it lay dormant.

He said something filthy while I was away from the house. I was made aware of it via text.

No emoji needed. It was pretty funny without adding a pictorial representation. Point made.

When I came home I confronted him about it.

“So what bad word did you say?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” He answered.

“I understand but I need to know what you said so I can tell you why it’s bad.”

And then he unleashed it on me.

The following isn’t edited for content.

This is exactly how it went down.

Hold on.

Make sure no children are present.

“I said, Hate and Suck and Stupid and Fart and Farty Face and of course, Mr Farty Face and Poop Head and Oh yeah, I also said Mr Poopy Head.

“Those are all really bad words. Really bad. But I heard you said something else.”

“I also said, Well Fuck It Then!”

“Wow! That is bad too. Those are all really bad words. We don’t say those words. We especially don’t say those words when we are mad. Okay? We talk about things. Diplomatically and politely.”

I think he got it.

I told him if says a bad word again he will go to his room.

His reply. “For how long?”

“This isn’t a negotiation.”

"What about diplomacy?"

"Not in this case." I answered.

“Will I go to my room for just a little bit? For a long time? Will I go to my room until I am old? How will I eat? What if I have to go to the bathroom?”

“For a hour! Say a bad word and you will go to your room for an hour.”

“An hour isn’t so bad.” He replied.

I guess I need to go buy a bar of soap.

We're taking it up a notch here.

Fuck it.

At 16 I Had No Muscles But I Drove a Muscle Car

barracuda
barracuda

I recently read Auto Biography by Earl Swift in which he retraces all the owners of a '57 Chevy and it's had me thinking about my first car.

It was a 1969 Plymouth Barracuda. I unwrapped it in the Fall of 1990. Twenty one years after it rolled off the assembly line. It was a cool car. I, on the other hand, was not cool car guy. Nor was I even a cool guy. In the movies a guy gets a cool car and then suddenly he has people following him around buying him pizza. That’s Hollywood. In real life I didn’t smoke or have a varsity jacket. No tattoos. I didn’t listen to cool music or have a cool haircut. I was tall and awkward. After my 16th birthday I was a tall and awkward kid driving a 1969 Barracuda with a slant six engine.

The car was a surprise. My father and I went car shopping in the months leading up to my birthday but unbeknownst to me, that was a ruse. My muscle car was parked in the neighbor’s garage the whole time. Interestingly enough, during the car shopping game I picked out several equally cool cars that neither fit my personality or my body type. There was an awesome topless Jeep whose seat belt wouldn’t have been able to restrain my lanky frame had I taken it off road like the trying-to-prove-something 16 year in me would have done. There was an equally preposterous MG that I had my eyes on even though at over six feet tall, my head touched the roof while seated and once inside the only way for me to exit would have been to recline into the passenger seat to get my legs out of from under the steering wheel.

So instead of those silly toys my father surprised me with 3000 pounds of banana yellow steel Detroit classic. If cell phones would have existed I would have had Heart’s “Barracuda” as the ringtone.

My car wasn’t necessarily a muscle car but just as I looked in the mirror hoping to see a muscle or two somewhere on my frame I called my new ride a muscle car. I bought a car cover fabric to protect it from the elements although it was over twenty years old and had proved it could survive just fine in the Florida sun. I installed a cassette player in the glove compartment to not damage the look of the dashboard and rocked out to very uncool music.

I think the plan was for the car to be a team building exercise for my father and I. It was a high ropes course for the two of us. Actually, it was more like going to a high ropes course with no ropes, helmets, gear or upper body strength. None of which we had.

But, we had a guide! Our guide had tools and knowledge and experience. And a sales pitch! A coworker of my father’s was a muscle car guy and explained to us how much fun it would be and how much we would learn about cars, the world, each other!

And then soon after I unwrapped the classic he moved out of state and we were looking up at the high ropes course without gear.

One of the first projects we undertook was replacing the master cylinder.

Yes, I know what you are thinking. “But the 1969 Barracuda had manual brakes. Are you sure it was the master cylinder you replaced?”

Before the Fall of 1990 I wouldn’t have known that either. The power brakes were an after market add-on a previous owner had installed.

With our guide out of state he sent us step by step instructions via fax.

Fax!

This was 1990 remember?

The nearest fax machine was at my father's office.

Follow up illustrations were a drive away.

“And where is this nut that we loosen to bleed the lines?” We would ask on the long distance phone call.

“I’ll send a drawing.” He would answer.

To the office! A fax awaits!

By the end of the project the faxed instructions were as stained with red brake fluid as our hands and bodies were.

But our team grew stronger.

I owned the car for a few years and then upgraded before I went off to college as I needed a more reliable car to make the journey out of state with.

I replaced the muscle car with a more practical VW Jetta that needed less maintaining and fit my uncool lifestyle a little better.

Rambling With Flashcards

learn-to-read-free-sight-words-2
learn-to-read-free-sight-words-2

We recently upped the ante on our nightly single sight word flashcard routine.

After recognizing the word on the card before him the boy has to use that word in a sentence. At five and three quarters old (his description) the words these days are short and typically monosyllabic. We’re giving him things like BROWN and CAME and FUNNY and DOWN to read to us between bites during dinner. Sometimes his sentences turn into paragraphs that take us far from the given word and down a long stream of thoughts. But in the end he finds a way to tidy things up and use the word on the card before him. Does he begin with a theme or does he simply ramble his way through a thought until he finds us nearing the end of our attention span and then clean up the loose ends with the given word?

His word was "DOWN".

“Um, after dinner and after I finish my words and my food and my milk and my applesauce and after I wash my hands and clean up and put my plate in the sink and everything then will you please get my Halloween candy so I can have a nice piece because I was good and did everything I was supposed to and when you do get the candy you will have to get my Halloween bag from on top of the refrigerator and you will have to get it down.”

My guess is regardless of the word getting candy was the objective.

And if getting candy was his goal then in his mind all he needed to do was turn any word we gave him into a story about how that candy was going to get into his hands.

Perhaps he’s been studying the presidential candidates and learning from the way in which they turn any question into a platform to spin their objective.

In the end they all just want candy.

Time... According to a Child

 
   

How amazing it must be to have no concept of time? How liberating.

Plotting our sons growth alongside the chart of mankind’s evolution, he is close to understanding that as the sun settles near the horizon it's time to get back to the cave.

Walking upright? Check.

Simple cave drawings? Check.

Charting the Suns movement across the sky and breaking it into 24 equal increments? Hardly.

Our five year old's time thumps to the rhythm of his own internal combustion engine... and the beat of his imagination. Unless it's a school day and his routine is orchestrated by our needs, he wakes when his body tells him he's had enough sleep. It's never the “groggy, rolling out of bed hesitant to start the day” look. His is the “I got exactly the amount of sleep by body needs to replenish the energy I lost on the previous day playing and doing kid stuff” look. It's our job though to manipulate his clock.

He has yet to fully comprehend that the numbers on the face represent the time of day. His only perspective is sun up versus sun down.

As his overlord, there have been a few days I've set the stationary teaching clock on the wall in his room to 7:50am and told him he can't get up until 8. It's nice playing god.

He has yet to figure out how morning fog can delay wake-up time.

“Nope. Sun’s not out yet… Back to bed.”

Curtains were invented not for privacy but to control a kids sleep patterns.

We've taught him days in how many sleeps he will have between now and the event in question. But that doesn't always stick. Maybe we need a slow burning rope with knots for days? Or an hourglass.

Mankind has come so far. Childkind? Not so much.

I told him recently I was coming to observe him at school the following week. The following Tuesday. That day was Friday.

“Are you coming to my school tomorrow?”

“No, tomorrow is Saturday. I will be there Tuesday. Four sleeps.”

“Tomorrow is Tuesday!”

“Well, it’s not. Today is Friday. Tomorrow is Saturday. If tomorrow was Tuesday, tonight would be a school night and you would have school tomorrow.”

“I don’t have school tomorrow! Tonight is not a school night! Are you coming to my school tomorrow?”

I told him to think that over.

On the news one morning he overheard the reporter mention an approaching nor'easter.

“Yay! Tomorrow is Easter!”

“Well, no. It’s not. Easter is always on a Sunday. Today is Friday… that makes tomorrow what?”

“Easter! I can’t wait. He said it was Easter! Did you know the Easter Bunny lives in the ground? Why do they live in the ground? Is it cold down there?”

He has it in his head that Halloween happens when it’s dark out. Occasionally, as the sun is setting he will exclaim! “Yay! It’s Halloweentime! I love Halloween. What am I going to dress up as tonight?”

When you have no concept of time the daily rotation of the earth determines the holidays. That and seasonal holiday decorations.

At the sight of Christmas lights up in March. “Yay! It's Christmas! I've been a good boy this year. I hope Santa comes.”

“It's not been a year. It's only March.”

“I don't like to march. I can do a somersault though. And skip.”

And blowing leaves means it's Fall.

“Yay! It's fall! The leaves are falling!”

“Well, it's actually spring. Summer will be here soon.”

“No it won't. It was hot yesterday. Summer was yesterday.”

To be unburdened by time. What a peaceful world.

He's watching the earth move and slowly assigning values to its position. And when that doesn't work… He pulls holidays out of the air.

“You're wearing red? Yay! It's Valentine’s Day! I love Valentine’s Day. Can we get some chocolate?”

“Not necessarily. But today is not Valentine's Day. It will be Valentine's Day in a year.”

“When I am six?”

“Yes.”

“Yay! When I turn six it will be Valentine’s Day. And my birthday! At the same time! Yay!"

Let's hope he doesn't see a turkey that day or we'll have Thanksgiving too.

 

Appropriate (and Inappropriate) Holiday Gifts for Your Flight Crew

moneycockpit
moneycockpit

It's the season for gift giving. That means it's also the season for scrambling to pay off your guilt by dishing out gifts to those who serve you and make your life easier… The trash collector, your postal worker, the Starbucks barista and of course, your flight crew. While there are many great and appropriate gifts to surprise your lowly flight crew with as you travel this holiday season there are also some inappropriate ones. You may think you're being cheeky and thoughtful if you present your crew with a nice holiday surprise as you board the plane but there is a chance you are wrong. Allow me to list some of the presents that make perfect gifts for us reindeer who are driving your holiday sled if you are heading out to the airport this Christmas. I will also give you a few that don't work no matter how cleverly wrapped they may be.

Great holiday gifts.

Single individual dollar bills.

In this line of work we are often in need of ones. We tip daily and are always asking for change. It's awkward giving a hundred to someone and asking for ninety nine bucks back. No no…. Not girls on a dance floor tipping. Each day we ride hotel vans back and forth to the airport and it is customary to tip the drivers for each leg of the journey. A gift of a few ones would go along way with your flight crew. No card needed. A great way to dispense of it would be to approach the cockpit and ask how the weather is going to be at the destination. While being told the answer throw up a handful of ones and yell out, “How about we make it rain!!!”

Hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes.

Airplanes are disgusting. The humans leave a filthy trail behind them. We breath the same dirty air all day that swims through that trail. At altitude and closer to the Earths yellow sun, bacteria grow into absurdly stubborn living organisms that multiply way more than on the planet. And there are the coughers. Don't get me started on the coughers. If I had my way all passengers would be required to don their seatbelt and face mask before departure. Our only defense is a regular dose of gut cleaning airplane coffee and hand sanitizer. An excellent Christmas present would be some disinfectant wipes. Either throw it up to us or handle it with one of the wipes. Germs and an associated illness is a horrible gift.

Astronaut food.

While we don't always have easy access to ovens, hot plates or microwaves we do have a steady supply of hot water. Aside from all the obvious advances that have come from NASA over the years, Tang and dehydrated foods must be near the top of their works of genius. Pilots and flight attendants are hungry. Actually, we're not hungry. We're bored. We do the same thing every day. It's a well crafted routine that has been perfected with time. Same checklists. Same boarding announcements. Same meals... Airport pizza, fried rice or Cinnabon. That's all we have to chose from. A steaming hot dish of rehydrated NASA approved beef stroganoff at 37000 feet? Now that's living! You know why no one gets astronaut ice cream in their stocking on Christmas morning? Because Santa steals it at 37000 feet on the journey from the North Pole. That's not true. I made that up.

Coffee shop gift card.

The best bang for your buck? Pick up a gift card before you board your flight. A happy flight crew is a happy flight and nothing makes us happier than free coffee. Sure, you can argue that the caffeine makes us more alert and ready for anything. Maybe it makes us eager and willing to safely operate the airplane? But free coffee also makes us very happy. The weather could be horrible and the plane is broken and we may get stuck on the road but all the while we will look at each other and say, “How about that lady who gave us the free coffee? She was really nice.”

Okay, on to the inappropriate Christmas presents.

Non cockpit friendly foods.

Sure. You make some incredible chili this time of year. I bet it has the perfect amount of spice and is delicious. Aw... So thoughtful. You even brought crackers for us to crumble up and pour into the topped off flimsy Tupperware bowl you packed it in. It's gonna make a mess. We're gonna hit a bump and it's going to be everywhere. The cockpit floor is going to be covered in cracker crumbles and we're going to have chili on the controls. I can always tell where a plane has been by the finger print smears. “That kind of looks like Paella. Miami?”

Heavy things.

Our suitcases are already maxed out. I will smile and appreciate the oversized hand made holiday sweater but I have nowhere to put it. The best option will be for me to wear it but the problem with wearing non-airline approved garments in the airport is you don't get discounted gum and you get hassled by the credit card hawkers who think you are just another passenger. We don't really need that. It's nice and generous but not appropriate. Same with heavy hard bound books, flatware and home electronics.

Booze.

If we carry anything through security they make us take a sip to prove that it's not a liquid bomb. Hard one to explain when you get pulled over on the taxiway. An nonalcoholic beer is not funny. An no eggnog either. Or those powdery cookies. Messy messy messy.

So this holiday season if you are traveling…. Keep your flight crews in mind. We are here to serve you and do so with a smile while secretly hoping for a gift.

If you're eating from a bucket of donut holes offer the pilot one and say, “Merry Christmas friend.”

If your eating a slice of pizza offer a bite to your flight attendant and say, “Happy Holidays.”

And if you happen to have some astronaut food offer it to the crew and say, “Bring some water to a boil… Looks like you could use a hot meal."

This Christmas... He's a Believer

10847745_10152624830838860_3903207579272294327_o
10847745_10152624830838860_3903207579272294327_o

This is his fifth Christmas and this year he’s a believer. We took him to see Santa last week. We went to the good one. The Friday night Mall Santa. Not the Tuesday morning B-Shift guy. Our guy was the real deal. At least the boy thought so.

We got to the mall early at five to beat the rush. It was shift change. Luckily they build in a thirty minute buffer between Santa’s so the kids don’t see one tap out for the other.

“You’re in John. Rough crowd today.”

“I can tell. Is that gum in your beard?”

Our A team Kris Kringle apparently started his shift at 5:30. It was five and we had to wait. I thought this would be an issue. Little boys aren’t known for their patience. I started pulling out the old tricks.

“Wanna go look at the train display?” I asked him.

“Nope.”

“Go look around the toy store?”

“Nope.”

“Get some ice cream and eat is real slowly?”

“Nope.”

“What do you want to do?”

“I want to sit here and wait for Santa.”

And sit and wait we did. For thirty minutes. Patiently.

He’d hear a phone ring in the distance.

“Oh! Is that Santa!”

“Nope.”

He’d hear the jingle of someone passing into the jewelry store.

“I hear Santa! I hear Santa!”

“Not this time, Son. Soon though. Soon.”

Never in his his nearly five years on Earth has he sat so still and eager.

In years past I’d review the script of what he was to do when he got up to Santa.

“And then you will walk up to that stranger and smile at the camera and tell him what you would like for Christmas and that you’ve been a good boy.”

Not this year. He wrote it himself. He only wanted one thing. And when he ran up and sat on Santa’s lap he delivered. He made fools of the crying kids after him. He high fived us when he jumped down and relayed the conversation to us.

It’s going to be a fun Christmas.

Luckily, we know what that one thing is.

National Adoption Month. Where Do Storks Come From?

stork-and-baby
stork-and-baby

“Father?” Said the almost five year old. “Listen, there is something I’ve been thinking about. You and I have been watching a lot of classic television programing lately. Shows like Tom and Jerry and Dumbo and I’ve noticed that in them, often a Stork drops off a baby to Moms and Dads.”

“Yes?” I answer while thinking, “Here we go. It’s time to talk about his adoption story. Where’s Mom? It’s something her and I have had on our to-do list but just haven’t gotten to. Damn you MarioKart.”

“So in these shows,” He continues. “The families always receive their babies from flying Storks. They are dropped from the moonlit sky and the little ones float in under a full parachute safely to land on the doorstep of their eager families. I’ve seen a Stork drop little elephants, giraffe and humans. All sorts of things. But what I’m wondering is this. Who brings the Storks?”

“Uh, I’m not sure I follow?”

“Well. A Stork flying around with a baby llama is quite a sight. Clearly that’s not the Storks child. It doesn’t look like her. It doesn’t even have wings. The same with a baby alligator. The Stork is going to drop off the alligator to an alligator family. Why would a Stork be flying around with an alligator if not to drop it off at its real family? But why would she deliver a Stork to another Stork? Wouldn’t they be able to deliver their own baby? Is this why we never see them flying around with a baby Stork in the basket?”

“There is a lot to cover here?” I said. “Maybe we should wait for your Mom to get home. I think I’m going to go play some MarioKart.”

“I guess my question is this. Where do Storks come from?”

“Just so we are clear here, Son.” I ask him. “We are talking about Storks right? The bird.”

“Of course we are Father. What else would it be? I understand that when a Stork is flying around with a potbellied pig in her basket or cloth sack no one would guess that it is hers because the pig looks so different. Same with a baby zebra. But if the reason we never see Storks flying around with their own is because Storks deliver themselves… where do Storks come from?”

“Okay. First of all. Families are made of all types of animals. Moms and Dads adopt children from other species and they make beautiful families. Even when they look different and have different features. Sometimes a bird may have a donkey for a son and that is just fine. Or a monkey. Second. Storks do fly around with other Storks. Just not in the basket. Baby birds can fly too so they just fly alongside their parents.”

“Surely they can’t fly at birth. How do they get to their parents houses?”

“Magic.” I said.

“That’s not true.”

“A Genie in a bottle.” I answer.

“Like Aladdin?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t believe that answer either.”

“Amazon Prime. They come in those brown boxes.”

“Oh. That makes sense. Amazon drops off all the babies that way right? Then on moonlit nights, the Storks fly them to their families?” He asks.

“Yep. You got it. Until the drones take over. They will put all the Storks out of business.”

“Oh. One more thing?” He asks. “Am I adopted?”

“Yes. And we love you very much.”

“Thanks Dad. Can we order a sister from Amazon?”

Future Daddy Blogger Support Group

Group white chairs
Group white chairs

The meetings are held in the basement of a church near an all-night donut shop. Although both are helpful, the location is more about the donuts than the man upstairs. The chairs are arranged in a circle. The donuts are placed on an end table in the middle. They are a focal point. The embers of a fire that never goes out. There are always more donuts.

“It’s time to start the group.” The host says. “Thank you all so much for coming today. I see a few new faces and many familiar ones. Who wants to begin today? Tyler? How about you start?”

Tyler was seated in the circle directly across from the host. Although he was a regular to the support group he was hard to remember. He had an unassuming disposition and talked in a hushed voice. The others leaned in when he spoke because he was barely heard over the buzz of the box fans. It’s not uncommon for the grown up kids of dad bloggers to shun the spotlight. Growing up online was enough. Tyler was the norm.

“Hi, I’m Tyler. You all may know me as “Little T” from the SometimesHePoopsInHisPants.com blog.”

“Hi Tyler.com” The group said in unison. Adding a dot com to their name was a joke that caught on. A way to mock their dads who’ve chronicled their lives online since birth.

“I’ve made some progress since last week when I told you I was ready to talk him about his blog and how it has always been the third wheel in my relationships. He acted surprised that employers ask about the site and that first dates do their research before we meet. Secretly, I think he was adding up the page views in his head. He suggested that I add his link to my resume to help with search engine optimisation. He even asked if he could make me a match.com profile and put it on his blog. But, he listened and was receptive but... I caught him recording me. I haven’t seen it pop up on any of his feeds yet. With our conversation recorded at least I know he may listen to it later. The last time I had a serious talk with him he spliced my words into a Beastie Boys song that went viral. “Whatcha Whatcha... Whatcha Want!” with me replying “No More Blog.”

“I like your optimism.” Said the host. “We’ve all learned that they will not change and unless you are ready to hack and delete their pages we’ve got to find a way to live in their world.”

“Thanks. I tried to vary my pitch and volume to give him little to work with. He’s always been pretty good at sound editing though.”

“I’d like to go next.” Said Rachel as she sat down with a fresh donut. “I’m Rachel from SheWillAlwaysBeMyLittleGirl.com”

“Hi Rachel.com.”

“My dad wrote me a letter this week responding to an email I sent him. All I told him was that I wished I didn’t have pictures of me online from every awkward age growing up. To him they may be cute and at the time maybe they were but now I can’t hide from them. I told him that when I look in the mirror all I see is every flaw from childhood. He seemed genuinely sympathetic and wrote me a poem.”

“That is really great, Rachel. Would you like to read it to us.”

What moon songs do you sing your baby?

What sunshine do you bring?

Who belongs? Who decides who's crazy?

Who rights wrongs where others cling?

I'll sing for you if you want me to

I'll give to you

And it's a chance I'll have to take.”

Tyler squirmed in his seat and spoke up. “Oh man, Rachel. Holy shit! Your dad’s passing a Smashing Pumpkins song off as his poem to you. Damn! That’s low! I’ve had damn near every 90’s alternative song used as the backdrop in my childhood home movies. I hate that shit.”

“I knew it was too good to be true. I bet he spent more time choosing the font. He’s always going on and on about fonts. I think he only speaks to me in headlines sometimes.”

“Sorry about that Rachel. That really sucks. To you all. I’m new to the group. My name is Mark from ItsGonnaLeaveAMark.com”

“Hi Mark.com.”

“I thought I was alone all these years in my feelings. I thought I was being too selfish and judgemental and then I realized that it was he who was being selfish and narcissistic. There isn’t a movie from my youth out there for me to enjoy because all I see is my face cropped into the movie posters. I think my dad must have taken every movie made during my childhood and spliced me into it somewhere. What gave him the right to take that from me?”

“Your anger is justified Mark.com and your feelings are valid.” The host said. “May I suggest you watch something that he didn’t use?”

“I have! All I can enjoy is Japanese Animation and I hate Japanese Animation! I don’t know what’s going on and I always think I’m gonna have a seizure.”

“Most of us have tuned out from the digital world.” Said Rachel. “We get together and play parcheesi. You should join us after group. We don’t take pictures and listen to vinyl so there is no digital record. God, my dad would love to stream my listening habits online."

"My dad blogger would love to write a post about that." Added Mark.com.

His First Joke

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For the first time in his life he has come up with something funny. Months later he still calls back to it. And it is funny. He’s had funny moments before. He’s pulled some physical gags and laughed at himself and then asked if it was silly. But this is his first joke.

Sometime late summer the subject of a sweet dessert came up. He was asking for it and I didn’t know what it was. He wasn’t saying it right. His pronunciation was off. It didn’t make sense. It was something he got somewhere and I didn’t know what it was. At four he’s too young to have things in his life I’m not aware of. We both laughed (hysterically) as I made it into a game of twenty questions. He caught on to the bit and riffed with me.

He was asking for something that sounded to me like “Fruit Myer”.

“Is it cold?”

“Yes!” He said laughing implying that of course it is served cold.

“Is it in the refrigerator or the freezer?”

“It’s in the freezer silly!”

“What color is it?” I asked.

“Green.”

“And what is it called again?”

“I told you. Fruit Myer!”

“I have no idea what this is! Maybe next time we are in the store you can point it out to me.”

“They don’t have Fruit Myer in the store, Silly! You are so crazy.”

"Also, Dude. Fruit Myer is not the preferred nomenclature." I added.

I have no idea what this stuff is.

My clues so far.

It’s green. It’s served cold. You eat it with a spoon. It makes a mess if you spill it. You get sick if you eat too much of it. Asking if it is bigger than a breadbox makes no sense to him. They don’t sell it at the store. You’d be crazy to think they did.

I’m guessing it’s some kind of green ice cream that my Mother-in-Law bought him.

She was also the source behind another mystery. One that I was able to solve.

That one was easier to piece together.

He asked for a popsicle from the freezer and when it was lemon instead of chocolate he demanded I put it under running water. “It will turn to chocolate!”

“No it won’t.” I said.

“Under the water! It will turn to chocolate! I don’t want lemon! I want chocolate!”

“That doesn't make any sense! That is impossible!” I yelled back matching his volume for affect. “Running water will not turn frozen lemonade into chocolate! It will turn it into more lemonade!”

I proved this and subsequently disappointed him in the name of science. His expression when I gave him a plastic stick that once held a popsicle was actual comedy.

“See!" I waved it. Again, for affect. "No chocolate!”

I may have over done it. He sulked. Tough audience.

My hypothesis. His Grammy makes him frozen popsicles with chocolate milk. She also makes him some from lemonade. My guess is to help extricate them from their plastic mold she runs them under water to loosen them up. Perhaps the lemonade variety doesn't need loosening? He must think we have a Willy Wonka sink that can turn anything into a chocolate popsicle?

But. To the current mystery. And joke.

Months later he will call back to the Fruit Myer bit and laugh knowing it’s funny.

It may begin with him chuckling, “Remember the Fruit Myer?”

I will laugh and start the round of the twenty questions again.

Even better is when I catch him laughing to himself and then when I ask him what’s funny he says snickering, “Fruit Myer.”

It’s a joke we share. A joke him and I wrote and one that I think he finds as funny as I do.

Maybe I don't want to ever know what Fruit Myer is?

My Son. My Chronological Yardstick

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spacegrowththinEvery memorable event in my life that happened before the spring of 2010 is filed away in my brain with a five year buffer. My mental calendar from the era before I had a child is ordered in half decade increments. When did I graduate college?

“I was done wearing flannel shirts by that time... mid to late 90's?”

Since my son was born he has become a yardstick on which I measure time. Instead of just inches marked off on the door frame I see months and the corresponding historical events. I look at his growth notches on the wall like a geologist sees the colors of a canyon.

My brother was married the month our son’s adoption was official. June 2010.

February 2011 he started scooting around the coffee table on his way to becoming bipedal.

In addition to tagging my memory with his chronology, I’ve watched the evolution of mankind as he’s inched his way up my leg. His descent from the crib akin to early man deciding that a tree wasn’t such a great place to raise a family. Soon after conquering land he began grunting and sketching crude drawings on the walls. This led to the use of simple tools and more complete sentences and an attempt to overthrow the established rules of the house. He assumed he was smarter than his elders but didn’t yet realize that we control the food and the bath toys.

It’s just a matter of time before I catch him sitting around a plastic round table with his playmates playing Rock Paper Scissors to decide who gets to be Braveheart this time.

“They will never take away our Freedom!”

I can’t wait for him to catch up with the 1960’s human and enter the space race in the backyard. Am I allowed to impart my wisdom onto him or do I have to let him fail in order to achieve global dominance? Does he need to lose a few model Estes rockets because my interference will disrupt the space time continuum? I’d hate to walk back inside after properly staging his rocket engines when he’s not looking to find my image fading in the few physical photos we have on the wall.

And when he actually becomes smarter than his elders I’ll be certain to hide the growth chart from him so he can’t rewrite history. It will be saved for posterity so I can remind him where he came from if his power becomes too great for him to handle.

“Right there. That is when you first inched up to my waistline.”

Hopefully he will still look up to me as he did then.

If not, I'll just take away his bath toys.