Nit Nat History of the World

Okay, who farted?

                Preface.  Or “Prologue.”  Or “Introduction.”  Or “Forward.”  Who TF knows?  Just read, already.

                I have always wanted to write a history of the world.  Yes, yes…sigh…I know.  It’s been done plenty of times.  Even by Mel Brooks.  As cool as that movie was.

                No, I wanted to write my version of the history of the world.  Trust me, while I may change some small elements of the past millions of years (e.g., I’ll bet “Xerxes the Great” didn’t have a kid brother named “Herschel the So-So”), it will be done solely in the pursuit of comedy or whatever this is.   

                I’ll leave the major bits intact, though.  For instance, Rome was sacked (hee hee hee…sacked) by the Goths, who were an actual “barbarian” tribe, not a group of angst-ridden teenagers who painted their faces black, sported multiple piercings, and dressed head to toe like Morticia Adams.

                Hmm, come to think of it, that’s pretty good.  I may use that.

                I’ll pretty much rely on that which I’ve gleaned from my education by the good sisters of Saint Stanislaus Elementary School and the Stratford, Connecticut, public school system.

                NOTE:  Now you know where to forward your strongly worded letters of protest.

                Since I’ll be relying on what I’ve already learned, there will be a minimum of scholarly research.  Mostly because scholarly research requires scholarly work and, well, screw that.  My point is, I am positive I’ll get some things wrong along the way.  Meaning, sue me.  If you’re using what you read here to ace the History Advanced Placement to get you into an Ivy League school or a good table at Red Robin, I can’t help you.

                Who knows?  Maybe I’ll turn this into an actual book someday.  That would be a lot of fun and will give you the two of you who read this a chance to tell the two who buy an actual book that you were here on the ground floor of a Nit Nat History of the World.

                Just don’t hold your breath.  You’ll die.

                Oh, one more thing.   I’ll no doubt insult pretty much all elements of society here.  So, don’t get your knickers all in a twist.  If I haven’t mentioned your favorite target of scorn and derision, be patient.  I’ll get to them eventually.  Except those who behead people.  Because behead people.

                Just kidding.  I’ll get to them, too.

“Go ahead. Jump, infidel frog, jump.”

            So, check your brain at the door and prepare to be educated entertained whatever this is.

The Beginning

“IT’S A STRUGGLE! DON’T HATE ME!!”

            A long time ago, defined as 14 billion years (give or take a billion or, for evangelicals, last weekend), there was a cataclysmic explosion the likes of which wouldn’t be seen until Chris Christie fell while chasing that ice cream truck in front of a Trenton Dunkin’ Donuts (talk about your basic conundrum).

“It was an Earth-shattering kaboom!”

            The result of this massive explosion was that the cosmos began racing outward at breathtaking speeds (once again, think Chris Christie and the ice cream truck) towards the outer edge of the universe where it will no doubt meet Arya Stark. 

NOTE:  If you don’t get that line, watch the last episode of Game of Thrones.  Hey, I can’t do everything here.  

Arya Stark. Inventor of Colonialism. Picker-Upper of smallpox blankets.

            For some reason, some things decided to remain.  No, I don’t get it.  Why would anything hang around after such an explosion?  Sounds like a crappy neighborhood, if you ask me.  Stephen Hawking would probably know, I suppose but, well, you know.

Likewise, Gary Coleman is unavailable to comment.

            Too soon?

            No one really knows what happened, mostly because no one was alive back then, with the possible exceptions of Keith Richard and Betty White. 

            So, with that in mind, let’s just chalk it up to…

            Anyway, the bits of cosmic jetsam left over by the kaboom coalesced into the planets, moons, and suns of which we are familiar (even Pluto, that Mickey Mouse planet).  Some would be hot, some would be cold, some would be in the pot nine days old.  Some would be gassy (those planets never get invited to Planetary Barbecues) and some would be punchlines for junior high school kids (e.g., Uranus).

            One such planet we named “Earth,” because, seriously, who else would do it?  This didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense because most of the planet which was third in line from Hot Bright Thingie (an accurate, if clumsy, moniker) was water. 

“Oh, yeah? What would you call it then, Mr. Smarty-Pants Mog?”
Also “Mars.” Named for the Roman god of Candy Bars. Remember when I told you I’d change a few facts here and there along the way? Yep, here’s one.

                        The infant Earth went through billions of years or an afternoon (once again, evangelicals) cooling down, solidifying what little ground it had, and putting up curtains until something in the water (which was maybe hit by lightning or fertilized by aliens) decided to get jiggy with themselves and reproduce.

Wrong aliens.

           

That’s better.

Reproducing was probably pretty difficult, though,  because Barry White music hadn’t been invented yet.  Anyway, reproduce and multiply they did until we see the oceans teeming with life:  fish, seaweed, Aquaman, primeval mob hits, you name it.

            Eventually, one of these fish, growing weary of being munched on by prehistoric sharks (which would go to evolve as lawyers) or wanting to escape Mrs. Fish, decided to give what looked like legs a try.  So, with great effort, he (okay, I’m assuming gender.  Shut up) heaved himself on the shore and became our great-great-great-great (insert a shitload of “greats” here) grandfather.

“Here, let me put you in your favorite chair, Aunt Edna. Matlock’s almost on.”


            He actually would have preferred identifying as a great (and so on) grandmother, but his neighbor, Caitlynopitheticus, already cornered that market.

            Not only would this set the stage for the future of the planet, it goes a long way toward explaining why Great-Aunt Edna looks like a fish.

Next time:  The Dinosaurs and Flintstones…. 

Looks Good On Paper

Rockin’ that dad bod.

                David Harbour is an American actor who plays police chief Jim Hopper in Stranger Things (I probably should watch that show.  I bet I’d like it) and has recently appeared with Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow as the Red Guardian.

                In a July 3rd interview with the pro-socialist British newspaper, The Guardian, Harbour, among other things, expressed admiration for the views held by his Soviet super-soldier.  After all, he said he was big into Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov while in college.  That apparently gives him mad Russian cred, so he must know what he’s talking about.  He simplistically wishes we could live in a kindergarten-type society rather than the one in which we live now.  That way, everyone could share everything with each other instead of killing each other to get “stuff.”

Wrong Chekhov

               

Ditto.

That’s more like it.

How could anyone disagree with the concept of socialism, he genuinely wonders.

                Of course, like many other out-of-touch elitist scolds, he fails to grasp the incredible disconnect that his net worth is about $6 million.  Or, roughly, about $5,800,000 more than me.

                Mind you, I DO NOT BEGRUDGE HIM THAT.  Hey, if you can parlay whatever talent you have into serious cash, go for it, big fella.  I’d love it if Nit Nats gave me the wherewithal to afford to super-size my meal at Wendy’s.

                The problem is, if viewed in a vacuum, I kinda agree with him, typical Hollywood hypocrisy notwithstanding.  I implore the two of you reading this (one of the reasons I can’t buy large fries with my spicy chicken) to hear me out.

                Merriam-Webster, one of America’s most trusted dictionaries (well, as trusted as these things can be) offers up the following definition:

                Socialism:  A system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed.  Oh yeah,  and socialism also requires elimination of private property.  So there’s that.

                Put simply, to quote Karl Marx (a lesser-known Marx brother), “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

                Even more basic…”All for one and one for all.”

Okay, seriously, now we’re getting silly.

                Personally, I’m a big fan of Captain John  Smith’s credo of, “Those who do not work, shall not eat.”

Okay, this is the real John Smith. But the actual one wasn’t blonde. Or sounded like Mel Gibson.

                But, for the time being, let’s just stick with Marx and his likeminded numbskulls.

                If lived strictly by this utopian ideal, then, sure, every day would be kindergarten. 

                “I’ll trade you my baloney sandwich for your peanut butter and jelly.”

                “Cool beans.  Hey, how ’bout we give Jimmy some of your Cheetos?  All he has is pea soup in a baggie and a few pickle slices.”

                Problem is, when this textbook definition is brought out of the college classroom or hookah lounge, it runs smack dab into a reality which comes crashing like a wrecking ball.  And that wrecking ball has a name.  People.

                If every person on this planet genuinely wanted nothing more than to help their neighbor, if we all pulled for the common good, then socialism (or even its ugly brother brother, communism) would be ideal.

                Be honest.  When has that truly worked for society as a whole?  You know, without that troublesome death of millions?

                Let’s look a little smaller into this, instead.  Think about it, aren’t families small socialist units?  Don’t parents strive for the greater good of all, without question?  If a child has needs, don’t the adults rush to their aid?  Then, as the children grow, don’t they nurture those who nurtured them?

                NOTE:  There is no denying that not everyone falls into this category.  Some families are screaming dysfunctional nightmares, to be sure.  However, while most aren’t the Waltons, neither are they the Bidens.  I hope you get my point.

“Absolutely, The Waltons are responsible for that evil racist Walmart.”

               

“Whoops! My bad. I like ice cream.”

If the world operated like a [functional] family, churches, or similar charitable organizations, then the principles championed by Karl Marx would make sense.  We would all link arms, sing Kumbaya, and never think of anything other than what is best for each other.

                I honestly wish that were so.  But, it is not.  And never will be.

                There will always be those who will seek to game the system.  They may have the ability to work, but if they can benefit from the work of others, then, by all means, they will benefit from the work of others.

                “That socialism thing is meant for thee, not for me.  I’ll keep my three houses, thank you very much.”  I’m talking to you, Bernie Sanders.

“But, they’re just small mansions.”

                If you doubt that, how is it that far too many people are content to sit on their ass at home, receiving money from the government when “Now Hiring” signs dot the landscape?  How is that otherwise fit-looking looking individuals haunt the medians of our streets with their hands out, hoping to score a few dollars from those shamed into handing them a few bucks?

                Full Disclosure:  I readily admit that I don’t know the full story behind every panhandler.  Some of them may not genuinely be able to work.  Some of them, on the other hand, may be making a killing off guilt-ridden motorists to the point that a dishwashing job looks lame by comparison.  Call me heartless, but I look straight ahead when I’m stopped at a traffic light.

“Go ahead, go ahead, keep moving. I think the Denny’s down the street is hiring.”

                In the abstract, socialism looks darn appealing to the likes of millionaires such as Harbour, who thinks that if you make a cup of coffee at Starbucks, you should own Starbucks.  I wonder how his tune would change if he was required to divide the fruits of his labor among those who want nothing more than to play video games in their basement.  For it is then when the abstract will become very real to an idealist.

                Once again, I don’t believe he should share with lazy slack asses.  Why should he?  And I’ll bet he doesn’t believe he should, either, if push came to shove (and it never will). You though?  Yeah, you should totally give until it hurts.

                Here’s the thing, though.  I would most definitely help the helpless.  Just as I definitely would not help the feckless.  Screw those guys. To me, it’s “teach a man to fish” not “give a man a fish.”

Or however you interact with fish. I won’t judge.

                A great number of good people see socialism as the panacea to what they perceive as the evils of capitalism.  They honestly believe that we should all pull together, that if we only did it right this time, socialism would bring paradise to a troubled world.

Yeah, they’re idealist dreamers, but they’re wrong. So, until we can come up with something better, I’ll stick with capitalism, thank you very much.

                I’ll bet you that many Cubans would agree with me, too.      

Pound This

I wonder if there’s a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow? Or Skittles?

Today’s Vocabulary

Verbal Diarrhea:

1. (n) Annoying tendency to say in 500 words when 10 will do.

2. (n) Seizing on one innocuous factoid and turning it into an overly long screed.

3. (n) www.nitnats.com

            This past week, I’ve been watching my cousin’s dogs and house while he takes his family on vacation in the middle of nowhere.  It’s a lovely, quiet place (his house, not the middle of nowhere.  Which I’m sure is lovely in its own way) with a beautiful waterfront view, relaxing pace of life, and clean sheets.  Too soon, though, I’ll return to the rat race of home.  Of course, since I’m retired, said rat race consists of little more of waking up for breakfast before it’s time for lunch.

            It’s a struggle.

            Anyway, this peaceful solitude has caused me to be reflective on many issues.  You know, when I’m not taking advantage of the many streaming services he has on his television (in case any of you are interested-you pigs-no porn).  Those things cost money, yo.

            For instance, what is the meaning of life?  Is the president a demented muppet with oatmeal between his ears?  Should I bother watering the plants when a tropical storm is on the way?

            And, most importantly, why is the “#” on a telephone keypad called the “pound” key?  Wouldn’t it be more accurate to call it the “number” key, instead?  I can certainly understand why “*” is called the “star” key, because it looks like a star (even though I think it looks more like an asterisk).  In any case, the asterisk looks a helluva lot more like a star than a “#” looks like a “pound.”

            Isn’t the symbol for “pound” supposed to be “lb?”  Yes, I know, Mr. Smarty-Pants Dead Language Guy, it’s an abbreviation for a Latin phrase, “Lardassius Buttocks” or something like that.  I could be wrong, though.  But, as anyone who knows me, I’m generally too lazy to figure out the exact meanings of things.  Which is pretty darn pitiful in this day and age of “Google,” “Yahoo,” “Duck Duck Go,” and “Bing” (which surprisingly, has nothing to do with the deceased crooner).

            Even so, I’m guessing that sticking an “lb” on a keyboard already cluttered with numbers and letters would be confusing.  You could imagine the mix-ups which might ensue while trying to dial phone sex (as I’ve heard some people do).  You might end up with a “Lardassius Buttocks” breathing heavy in your ear, asking, “Are you gonna eat that?”

“DON’T HANG UP! DON’T HANG UP!!”

             Still, it bothers me that it’s called “pound.”  Although, I must admit, it could be confusing calling it what it really is:

            “When you’ve completed your transaction, press the ‘number’ key.”

            “Number key!!??  What the hell are you talking about??  They’re all numbers!!  Which one do I frikkin’ press!!??” 

            Considering this, I realized that the good folks at AT&T, Bell Atlantic, and Wal-Mart had to call the “#something.  The word “hashtag” hadn’t been invented yet.  I mean, use of the word “hashtag'” not the word “hashtag” itself.  You know what I mean.  Shut up.

Although, it’s probably a good idea that in places like Twitter, that cesspool of hatred and butthurt censorship, the common practice is to use the word “hashtag.” Can you imagine if something like #sand was pronounced “Pound Sand”?

“Or #womenssoccerteam!!!”

            Since calling it the “TIC TAC TOE” key would be silly or calling it the “Cartesian Grid” key would be both silly and pretentious, they flipped a coin and went with the “pound” key.

            I’m just happy they didn’t go all metric on us and call it the “kilogram” key. 

            USA!! USA!!

            What I’m saying is, go right ahead and continue to press that “pound” key with confidence.  All things considered, it’s probably a good thing your phone uses “#” instead of “lb.

            Because, if it did, you might have to worry about dialing up the ghost of Orson Welles for phone sex.

UPDATE:  Because I couldn’t resist, I did look up the origin of why it’s called the “pound” key and how the word “hashtag” came into common usage.  Not surprisingly, the internet once again held the key to great knowledge.  It really is a fascinating write-up (okay, not particularly) and has something to do with the British and, no shit,  the “lb” designation.  Still, I don’t feel like getting into that whole mess here.

            After all, I’m going to double check whether my cousin has a porn streaming service hidden somewhere go outside and revel in the glory of nature.

            Okay, this was well over 500 words.  Sue me.

The Great Unmasking

“STOP SMILING AT ME, YOU RACIST!”

                Where does the time go?

                It seems like only a month since I wrote a post about masks.  Mostly because it’s been a month since I wrote a post about masks.  Since then, I have attended another wedding.  This one was for my nephew and was attended by up to one hundred guests in Long Island (New York still having crazy limits on indoor gatherings).

                Essentially….

                What’s more, I’ll be going to another wedding in Seattle at the end of August.  I plan on not dying there, as well.

                At the time I wrote my column last month, I expressed my opinion that the more people see other people with their features uncovered, the more they will gradually follow their lead and shed themselves of the idiotic face diaper.

                Just as it was a gradual covering of the face (reluctantly gradual for the likes of me), so it will be a gradual return to normal.  It’s human nature to watch the other guy stick his toe in the water before you follow suit.  Not me, mind you.  If a sign says “recommended,” that’s all I need.   

                As cases of COVID drop while the vaccination rate climbs, more and more folks have divested themselves of this modern-day Scarlet Letter. We’re actually able to smile at one another again, while at the same time having to resist the impulse to stick our tongues out at rude salesclerks.  Or, in my case, shave and use mouthwash.  To say nothing of not being able to disguise a cold sore anymore.

                There are some holdouts, to be sure.  A day never goes by that I don’t see someone sporting the mask.  Inside and among other people, I could maybe understand (but not agree with) their reluctance.  Despite CDC guidance, though, they continue to hold on to their badges of subservience, no doubt feeling superior that they are doing so.

“Some haters just refuse to follow the science.”

                There even remain those who insist on wearing  (sometimes double) masks when outside by themselves.  Or, heaven help us, driving alone in their cars.  More than a few of them have had vaccinations.  Which begs the question, why in the world did they even get the vaccine?

                I really am curious about what their end game is.  Will they ever feel safe?  Are they vainly holding out for the complete eradication of diseases (even those with a much higher mortality rate)?  Do they honestly think they will never die?  Seriously, I don’t get it.

                Still, if we are to insist this is all about personal freedoms, I suppose it’s also their freedom to look like jackasses.  As long as you don’t try to push your slavish devotion to the State on me, hey, you do you.  Plus, I’ll make a deal with you.  I promise to not snicker at you.  I’ll still think you’re a knucklehead, but I’ll keep that to myself.

                I will say, though, that I am loving this gradual return to normalcy.  It became second nature to throw a mask on whenever I walked into an establishment.  Even though I felt it was a ridiculous trampling of my rights, there was no way I was going to force a store’s employee to correct me.  They  had enough problems.

                Outside, though?  Especially away from crowds?  Yeah….NFW.

                Well, I’m happy to report that it has now become second nature for me to walk inside most businesses bare-faced.  Where once it had seemed odd to not wear a mask, now it seems odd to wear a mask.  I’m surprised that it was a relatively quick shift in my mind set, but I’m thrilled about it.

                Unfortunately, as a Multi-Venue Consumption Transportation Representative (for Uber Eats), I am required to wear a mask from start to finish regardless of vaccination status (once again, what was the point of the vaccine then?).  Technically, that means I’m supposed to have my face covered even when I’m alone with the food in my car.  Technically.

                Now, dropping meals off is one thing.  Most times, all I need to do is leave it at the front door.  Except when I’m delivering alcohol.  Then I have to check for sobriety and ensure that they are old enough to consume said booze.  No customer has ever worn a mask when I’ve done so.  I do, of course, because that’s what I’m required to do, but I don’t care if anyone else does so.  As long as they’re not hacking up a lung or licking my face, it makes no difference to me. 

                For other deliveries, many people want me to leave their food at the door because, incredibly, they’re skittish about personal interaction.  Yeah.  Whatever.  Although, to be honest, I think this has more to do with millennials not wanting to pause their video game or put on pants to answer the door.  Once again, whatever.

                It’s when it comes to actually picking the food up that I feel self-conscious that I’m masked while most (even staff) are not.  In fact, I feel kind of silly at times and wonder if the other customers consider me a sheep who is terrified of catching a virus with a 98% survival rate.  I want to hold up my hands and insist that I am supposed to wear a face covering, even though I think doing so is just so much political kabuki theater.

“Wait, did I read that right? 98%? Yer shittin’ me. Pussies.”

                In fact, I was at a restaurant last week which purports to be the international headquarters of yummy breakfast foods when an elderly gentleman gently reminded me that masks were not required for those who have been vaccinated.  I smiled (although he couldn’t see it) and told him that I was aware of that.  However, my job requires that I still do so.  And there was no way I was going to run the risk of some Karen (they’re still out there) snapping my picture to send to Uber along with a nasty note that I want to kill Grandma like a New York governor.

                Another instance this week occurred after I made a delivery at an oceanfront  hotel room.  Since I was “on the clock,” so to speak,  I had my mask on.  And, since the drop-off point was on the eleventh floor, yeah, I’m taking that elevator.

                After I stepped inside and the doors started to close, they were stopped by one of the ladies from housekeeping.  She took one look at my mask and, apparently feeling I was a nut who was scared of his shadow, stuttered that she would take the next car.

                Scoffing, I waved her in and explained that I didn’t believe in that nonsense.  But, as a food delivery worker, I had to continue to play the game.  I insisted that she join me for a pleasant sojourn to the lobby.

                Once I stepped into the oven of a late June sun, though, I whipped that mask off as if it were burning me.

                I hoped no one noticed I hadn’t shaved that morning.

UPDATE:  The loons from the World Health Organization have consulted their Magic 8 Balls and issued dire warnings about the spread of the Delta Variant of COVID-19.  They recommend that people continue to wear masks, especially indoors, regardless of vaccination status.  Well, giddy up, here we go.  Will Delta end up placing us back on Double Secret Probation? 

I hope I’m wrong.

Poppy Memorial

Any man can be a father. Not all of them can be dads.

            As the two of you who read this blog may have noticed, I usually follow up a “Dust Bunny” with an “Observation.”  I don’t particularly know why, I just do it.  Maybe it’s an OCD thing.  Not so this week.  Since Father’s Day is in a couple days, I thought I’d offer up an homage to a man who became a father to my brothers, sister, and I.  Too many years have passed since he was in our lives and the only fathers left among us are…us.  Still, we remember those special men who were fathers to us. Incidentally, my brothers and I have found that we’re too old to play wiffleball anymore.

             The idiot in the White House can wait another week, after all.

 

           “Kids, I’d like you to meet Ray.”

            Reluctantly pulling my eyes away from a Star Trek rerun, I regarded the unfortunate soul standing in our front doorway.

            Raising his right hand, he gave the five of us a cheery, “Hey, guys.”

            Without a word, I nodded and returned once more to the TV.

            As unenthusiastic as my greeting was, it was better than what he got from the others.  My brothers and sister pretended they didn’t hear him or our mother.

            Slowly lowering his hand, Ray turned to our mortified mother and shrugged.

            “Well,” I could hear the irritated edge to Mom’s voice, “we’re going out for a few hours.  Don’t forget, church tomorrow.”

            Fixated on Kirk’s trouble with tribbles, I heard them step to the door.

            Vainly hoping for anything, Ray said, “Nice meeting you.”

            Coldly deciding I wouldn’t give in, I called, “Bye, Mom.”

            I guess you could say our first meeting had gone about as well as Donald Trump at a BLM rally.

            The past few years had been rough for our family.  Even though we didn’t know why, it was plain that something was terribly wrong between our parents.  From muted snarls in the living room to flying ice cube trays in the kitchen, we knew our world was whirling apart.

            Deciding that raising five children on her own was far superior to living with a man who was the embodiment of Ralph Kramden, Archie Bunker, and Fred Flintstone, our mother finally asked our father to leave.  Before she asked for a divorce.

            It wasn’t easy.  She had her hands full, whether fighting with my sister over joy-riding in her boyfriend’s black primer Volkswagen or helping my little brother make papier mache puppets of the Founding Fathers.  Through it all, though, she pulled off the single parent role as well as anyone.

            Even so, it was clear Mom craved more than a life of runny noses and missed homework assignments.   

            Steeling her nerve, she convinced a man at work that dating a woman with five kids really wasn’t much worse than a prostate exam from Edward Scissorhands.

            We kids, on the other hand, treated the newcomer as an invader.  Our father, while given to belching in church and scratching his back with a fork, was still our father.  How dare our mother replace him?

            I’ll give Ray credit.  Ignoring our sullen indifference, he continued to try to foster a relationship with us.  Even after they got married and he became our stepfather, we stubbornly refused to let him get any closer than the milkman.

            Still, Ray would go out of his way to ask us how our day went when he got home from work.  Whenever we struggled with homework, it was he who insisted on helping us.  Rather than bark out commands for yard work, he’d pick up a rake to help us.

            “Wow,” my brother whispered to me one Sunday as we yanked weeds, “I never saw Dad out in the yard when football was on.”

            I watched Ray scoop a handful of muck from underneath a garbage can.  Hmm, come to think of it, neither did I.

            One of the games we played constantly throughout the summer was wiffleball.  From dawn to dusk, my brothers and I smacked a little white ball with a little yellow bat all over the yard.  It wasn’t the World Series, but it wasn’t smoking cigarettes and playing in traffic, either.   

            The only problem with playing as much as we did was that we tore up the yard.  Our constant shuffling on the pitcher’s mound and at the plate had worn the grass away to two rock-hard patches of dirt.

            Needless to say, this drove our mother crazy.

            Of course, we still played, ignoring her pleas that we go to the park.  She never understood that the real fun of wiffleball was that you had to play around backyard obstacles.  Swimming pool, picnic table, trees-all enhanced the fun factor.    

            One afternoon, I was engaged in a heated contest with my brother.  Already jacking one off the dog to the base of the pine tree for a double, he’d sent another whizzing by my head like a rocket-ship.  You could say I was in trouble.

            Suddenly, from inside the house came a shrill, “Are you two playing wiffleball in the yard again?  You’re tearing up the grass!”

            My brother and I looked at each other.  We shrugged, figuring she’d eventually come outside if she was really mad.

            As I began my windup, the back door banged open.  Ray stood on the porch, frowning at the two of us.  Oh, great, I thought, she sent out her muscle.

            Just when we figured the game was over, he held up a three-foot length of broomstick wrapped in electrical tape.

            “Looks like someone needs to teach you two how to play.”

            Ray beat us.  What’s more important, he became part of our family from that day on.

            We all grew up, moved out, and raised families of our own.  Even though we lived in different parts of the country, we never failed to return home to visit our mother and the man who became father to five kids.

            Even when Mom was taken at an insanely early age by cancer, it was Ray, or Poppy as he became known to our kids, who was there for us.  He may have thought onion dip was fancy cuisine and Howard Stern was Masterpiece Theater, but he was the epitome of a real man and father.

            When he succumbed to cancer himself, we were overwhelmed with grief at the loss of someone who had guided us into adulthood and sadness that our own children wouldn’t come to know the man.

            The pain eventually faded, of course, as we all went about our lives.  We still missed them, but life went on.  Life has a funny way of doing that.

            Several summers ago, our families got together for the 4th of July.

            For old time’s sake, we decided to have a wiffleball tournament in my backyard, which I called Poppy Memorial Park.  The games lasted all day and even included my son and daughter, who were the same age as we were when we started playing so long ago.

            Slowed by too many years and too many beers, we couldn’t best the youngsters, especially my son.  As he fired the final out past my wildly flailing bat, he raised his arms in triumph and strode triumphantly to where my wife was setting up supper.

            Pulling her attention from the grill, I heard her shout from the deck, “Look what you did to my lawn!  Couldn’t you go play in the park?”

            I followed her outstretched arm.  The grass where we’d played had worn away to two raw patches of dirt.

            As my eyes began to water, I wondered if she’d mind if I cut up a broomstick.

In case any of you are wondering where I got the idea to tie my shoe in random pictures, it was from Ray.