Shopping with Batman

We’re going out of town soon, and the Boy needs some clothes.  My son’s a goddam oddity when it comes to dressing.

Where the other 15-year-olds are wearing those old man plaid or checked shorts that I used to laugh at when I was fifteen, or they’re wearing the oversized silky basketball shorts, or they’re low-riding and showing their underwear in either ridiculously baggy or ridiculously skinny jeans (low-riding skinny jeans are my favourite…you just can’t walk in those, so it’s a lot of fun to watch) or, though dwindling in number, there’s still some die-hard goths out there with the black and the mascara and the nail polish and the hair and the tattoos.  I have no problem with any of it.

Well, okay, I’ve got a real problem with the asshole that works at Taco Bell and I get to stare at his purple underwear because his goddam jeans are hanging south of his anus.  Do that on your own time, not while you’re making my gordita crunch, dude.  It’s just gross.

Anyway, I have no problem with it.  But then there’s the Boy, who always carves his own path.  Hot summer weather, and he’s in long jeans, socks, a t-shirt and a long-sleeved, button-down shirt that’s actually button-downed.  I mean, seriously.  Heat stroke much?

But that’s the Boy.  Fair enough, so off we go as a family to buy him some new jeans and shirts.  Now, the Boy and I have his clothes shopping down to a fine, manly art.  We know the exact brand, style, waist and leg length for jeans.  So it’s a case of finding and grabbing.  Maybe three minutes.

As for shirts, I have a decent sense of what he likes, and he’s vocal if he doesn’t.  So it’s a quick process as well.  I think our record is six pairs of pants, four shirts, four t-shirts, socks, underwear and new shoes in twenty minutes.  And that’s three different stores.

But last night, we were with the Wife, who was in a particular mood.  And she was looking for clothes too.  God help us.  I’ve already noted my shopping miseries with her in great detail here.  What I’ll tell you here about last night was a sense of deja vu that I experienced.

About nineteen years ago, the Wife and I entered the hospital to have our first child.  We went in at around six in the morning Saturday June 12th.  Over the ensuing 36 hours, I watched at least ten other couples come in and get rolled out as a new family of three.  I think there were four couples from our Lamaze class.  They’d come in, I’d be in the hall running an errand, getting a drink or something, and there’d be some greetings between the fathers-to-be.  “Hey!” they’d say.  “How long have you been here?”

I learned to dread that question.  Then, a couple of hours later, out they’d go, throwing looks of commiseration over their shoulder as I stared wistfully at their new baby, wondering when mine would come.

Last night was like that.  The Wife went into the changeroom with a small mountain of clothes.  Other guys would line up and wait as their women-folk went in to try on their selections.  Those other women would then come back out and they’d be on their way, the guys throwing looks of commiseration over their shoulder as I stared wistfully at their new purchases, wondering when my wife would come out with hers.

Instead, she would occasionally pop out, have a chat with the clerk, who would then go and fetch more clothes.

I saw at least six women come in after my wife and leave before she did.  When she finally finished, the Boy and I fairly bolted from the store.

Anyway, finally it was his turn.  We grabbed his pants.  The Wife went of to the entirely wrong brand name and had no clue that he liked relaxed fit.  She slowed the proceedings considerably, but we tried to make her feel like part of the team.  We finally got the pants sorted out, then it was time for shirts.

Now, the Boy’s grown a solid since we’ve bought him shirts.  So there was a little guesswork happening with neck size and sleeve length.

We found a shirt that we figured would fit and had him try it on.  I’m going to try and paint as accurate a picture here as I can, because I know it’s going to be a challenge to visualize this.

When I put on a shirt, I slide one arm in, grip the shirt, pull the second arm hole within range, plunge in the second arm and shrug it into place.

Not the Boy apparently.

He did some weirdass Karate Kid leaping-pelican-with-a-broken-wing-and-suffering-from-post-traumatic-stress-disorder move.  Instead of dipping the first arm in, he shot the arm upward into a still-mostly-folded shirt.  Then, with the first arm almost straight up, the shirt mostly jammed into a flat, yet slightly expanding glob of fabric, he sort of hooked his other arm into the tangle and pushed.

This shirt was black.  Picture a 6’2″ kid with both arms trapped above his head in a black cowling shape.  Now imagine him holding the pose and dropping his voice to a gravelly whisper and saying, “I’m Batman!”

Now imagine me giggling ferociously and squirting tears from my eyes.

The Wife’s furiously yanking at the tangle of material, trying to free him from his ad hoc batwing handcuffs, to no avail.  He’s pushing and thrusting and flapping.

Now, imagine him, still in this ridiculous arms-over-the-head pose, struggling vainly, then crying out, “What sorcery is this?!”

Now imagine me not being able to breathe from laughter.

I love that kid.

Life is hard

A few months back, I wrote a blog called Life is beautiful, where I talk a lot about the shitty things life can throw at you, but how you can also rise above them.

I know that life’s hard.  Believe me, I’ve been through a lot of it myself.  I’ve survived an alcoholic father, a drug-abusing brother, my parents divorcing when I was five, another ugly divorce when I was seventeen, a heartbreaking child abuse case where I and my wife seriously considered adopting my nephew and many, many other things.  Any one of those is enough for one lifetime.  Yet, still they came and, I’m sure, more will yet.

Still, I came through them all and I’m stronger, wiser and, I hope, a lot more humble for it.

But right now, as of today, I’m finding myself worrying about a few friends and family going through a lot of pain.

One man I know is desperately trying to hold on to his marriage.  He’s gone through a lot in his life and I think he’s going through something I went through a while ago.  He thought he had many of the rough elements of his earlier life under control, only to find out they’ve just gone underground, but still exert their influence on him, just more subtly.

Then there’s another friend who lost his daughter in a horrific car accident five years ago today.  She was only trying to get a couple of friends home safely, but instead she paid a terrible price for her caring deed.  That man has turned to talking to groups about impaired driving and what it can do.

My mother has, in the last year, broken her arm up near the shoulder where it couldn’t be cast, and in the past few months, has had first one, then a second, then three more discs collapse in her spine, leaving her in pain for months.

And finally, there’s a brave little boy in Clarkston, MI who’s been battling brain cancer since he was four.  He defied the odds and celebrated his tenth birthday this past Thursday.  After seven surgeries and several chemo and radiation treatments, he decided the toll they took on his body was too much and refused further treatment for the tumors that showed up late last year.  He decided to take on the rest of his life on his own terms.  An unbelievably adult decision for a nine-year-old boy to make and an equally hard one to honour for the parents.


That little boy died a few hours ago.

I’ve seen so many heroic people fighting for what’s important to them.  Happiness,  accountability for past sins, love, teaching others, grappling with age, dignity.

In that previous post, I said

Sometimes we just feel like giving up, packing it all in. How can it get worse that it already is, right? And that’s when we can see how much more hurt can be piled on. There’s always more. But you know what? It’s never more than we can handle. We can think that we’re done, that we can’t handle it. But we can. And then something will happen–something really bad, something really good, something really earthshaking, or something small–but something, and you’ll feel alive again.

And you’ll open your eyes like it was the first time.

Don’t ever give up. Life is beautiful.

I still believe what I said.  It’s a little harder tonight, knowing there’s one less bright spark on the planet with that little boy’s passing.  It’s hard to understand why this can even happen.

We see people like Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston and hundreds of others who are given every opportunity in the world and they piss it away and wind up face down in a tub.  All that talent, all that potential, gone.

But what did a little four-year-old boy do to deserve five years of hell?  What did a 21-year-old woman at the start of her life do to deserve what happened to her?  What about their potential?  What about their talent?  Why were they not allowed to explore them?

I wonder sometimes at the cruelty of this life.  I wonder that life can be this hard.

And yet, I see a man turning the tragedy around.  Doing what he can to ensure her short life made a difference in the lives of others.  I see a little boy who ultimately brought a community together.  He spawned a worldwide cancer awareness campaign on Twitter.

We’ll never know why these things happen, but at least we can point to what came after and know there’s hope.  There’s always hope.

And we can realize, when we look at our own family members, our friends and those loved by us, that, even at least for today, we have them with us.  We can look at them and smile.  We can tell them we love them and that we’re happy they’re in our lives.

We can tell them that, because of them, these people who may not have done anything particularly special other than just be who they are, because of them, life is beautiful.  That they are our heroes.

Go tell someone you love them.  Right now.

Adonis and the blind date

I’ll beg forgiveness for my absence from this blog lately.  There’s events going on in the background that have taken up a lot of time that, hopefully I’ll be able to talk about shortly.  In the meantime, you have to settle for the same old idiocy that makes up my life.

Before you ask, I’m going to state right up front, that all of the below is true.

Way back, long before the days when I became the studmuffin I am today (okay, I can’t eventype that without choking), I was terribly shy when it came to asking girls out.  Pathologically shy.

Okay, I flat out couldn’t do it.

A friend of mine at the time, a very sweet and funny Irish girl known as Dee-Dee decided she had a friend who would “be perfect for me.”  I’ve since learned to dread those four horrible words and, anytime anyone has suggested them to me about someone, I’ve learned to run screaming in the other direction.  I also learned to never go on blind dates again.  All because of the events I will now illuminate for your enjoyment.

Because I was reasonably awkward, I only agreed to the blind date if Dee-Dee came along with her boyfriend.  Turns out her boyfriend couldn’t come, so I got a male friend of mine to tag along to make it a nice even boy-girl-boy-girl thing.  There was no romantic intentions considered between my friend and Dee-Dee.  To protect his anonymity, let’s refer to my Scot-born friend as “Al” and leave it at that.

The arrangements were made and at the appointed time, I picked up Al, then, still in sweating trepidation, went to meet Dee-Dee and my date.  I confess I’ve completely forgotten her name, so let’s call her Eve.

I’ll admit, I was pleasantly surprised when she came to the door.  Petite, with long brown hair and a pretty face and prettier smile.  I’m sure the happiness I felt was balanced by the disappointment on her end seeing a 6-foot, 3-inch tall, 140 pound stick man as her date.  Oh yeah, she hit the jackpot all right.  But she seemed pleasant enough, and we all clambered into my 1972 dark green, ugly-as-sin, big-as-a-cruise-ship Ford LTD.  By the way, this would have been around 1984 or so, and those dozen years had not been kind ones to the Green Monster (as it was known).  So, I’m guessing that may have been strike two against me with Eve.

Now, what you need to know about Dee-Dee and Al at this point.  Dee-Dee was a very happy, bubbly jokester with a thick Irish accent and a hilarious sense of humour.  Al had fully adopted a Canadian accent, having come over as a very young child, but could break into a thick Scottish brogue at the drop of a hat, and his sense of humour, while a little on the nerdy side (like mine) was razor sharp.  While not the most comfortable around girls, when there was no pressure on him to be an Attractive Male Companion, he could relax and be himself, which he did here.

As for Eve, parked up front in the passenger seat with yours truly, she seemed a little quiet, but I put that down to the same nerves I felt at having two observers in the back seat scanning for any signs of romantic spark.

The plan, as devised by Dee-Dee, and in retrospect, should have  been my first clue that the night would not go as planned, was to go to a bar in the north end of Oshawa.  Full disclosure here: I don’t drink, I don’t smoke and I don’t do drugs.  Never have.  So a pre-anti-smoking law smoke-filled bar full of patrons consuming alcohol?  Not my best location for wooing.  And while my dancing skills are on par with a three-legged dog cursed with a case of the shits, it would at least have been a good distraction here.  No dance floor.  Can I get a strike three?

Amen, brother.

Anyway, I parked the Green Monster around the back of the bar and we headed in.  Dee-Dee and Eve ordered up some drinks, Al ordered a Coke (he also didn’t drink) as did I.  I dutifully bought the first round.  I mean, good lord, I was rolling in the dough, working at Arby’s at an astronomical $6.25/hour.

Oh, I didn’t mention I worked at Arby’s did I?  Strike four.

Anyway, to give us some “get to know you” time, Al and Dee-Dee moved over to another table, actually one of those table-top Pac-Man games.  Al was addicted to the damn things.  As I heard him play and Dee-Dee whooping, I turned my attention to the attractive girl in front of me.

Again, full disclosure, I  was lousy at talking with women, so my guess is the conversation was awkward, stilted and horribly boring.  We quickly determined that we have extremely little in common but resolved to make the best of it and at least have a fun night out.  You know what?  I was fine with that arrangement.

If only she had stuck to it.

I think the mistake I made in the verbal contract was not spelling out that we at least have a fun night out as the group of four.  Instead, she quickly mentioned getting a refill on her drink.  I offered to buy, but she said no, don’t worry about it and, glass in hand, headed to the bar.

And never came back.

She found a rather stunning male specimen at the bar and chose to at least have a fun night out with him instead.  Now, I didn’t give a shit that she wasn’t interested in me, but at least have the decency to tell Adonis that she’s kinda stuck with someone tonight and get a number.  Or come back over and say the plans have changed and she’s hanging with Adonis and the other Gods for the evening.  Either would have suited me.

After a while, Dee-Dee became aware of the situation and, though the three of us had a good time, I could see her consistently happy mood fall away by degrees as she became increasing peeved at Eve for her rudeness.

After a couple of hours, we decided to pull the plug on the evening.  Dee-Dee went over and told Eve we were leaving and Eve told her she would just be a minute.  We gathered our coats and headed toward the door.

After fifteen minutes of standing there like a group of losers, no Eve in sight, Dee-Dee said she was going to go get her.  I said I’d do it.

I walked up to her and Adonis, got the obligatory stare from the God where he measured me up and down and found me wanting.  I ignored him and spoke clearly and firmly to Eve.  “Dee-Dee, Al and I are leaving,” I said.  “Now.  If you want a ride home with us, you need to come.  Now.  If you want to stay and hope that Studley here offers to take you home, fine.  Decide.  Now.”

She said she would come with us.  She just wanted to get his phone number.

The three of us left the bar and headed around back to the Green Monster.  Eve took another solid ten minutes to drag her now-nowhere-near-as-attractive ass out to the car, with Studley in tow.  I figured she was going to tell me she had decided to ride with him instead, but no such luck.  Dee-Dee, by this time, was alternating between fuming in anger and apologizing to me.

The two of them, Studley Adonis and Eve stood in front of my car and talked.  “Fuck this,” I said and started the car and put it in gear.  Eve gave me the stink-eye, but got the message and stomped–yes, honestly stomped–to the car and got in.  She plopped truculently in the seat.  Dee-Dee proceeded to tear a strip off her and, well, to be honest, I enjoyed it so much I forgot to drive.

Then, Dee-Dee stopped and stared out the front window in disbelief.  Adonis had pulled his car out and blocked me.  He drove a very new, very nice, very shiny, jet-black Trans Am.  The kind that had the gold trim.  And he was blocking me.  Dee-Dee began swearing a rather endearing stream of Irish-accented invective, Al expressed disbelief in a rather profane way, and Eve…yeah, Eve smiled.

Adonis sat in his high-performance machine, staring at me and then he laughed.  He pointed at the Green Monster and he laughed.  I looked over at Eve, and she smiled wider.

I looked back at Adonis, brought my hand up, shoved it sideways and very clearly, so he could easily read my lips, said, “Move.”  I can still see his perfectly-shaped head with its stylish blond hair as he tipped his head back and laughed again.

I looked back at Eve, also sporting a wide grin.  “You honestlylike this asshole?” I asked, but didn’t give her time to respond.  I pulled the stick down toDrive and hit the gas.  The Green Monster met the Trans Am in a squeal of metal, lurched a bit, but I fed the gas a bit more and couldn’t help but laugh maniacally at the look on Adonis’ face as I pushed his car out of the way with mine, slid past him, the entire driver’s side of my car squealing against his front passenger-side fender.  I finally broke clear of him and, all the side trim on my car dangling like broken insect antennae, I sped out of the lot to the screams of Eve.

“Are you crazy?” she yelled.  Dee-Dee kept yelling, “Right on!  Right on!” and Al howled with laughter.

Truth to tell, once I got out to the street, the logic portion of my brain reasserted itself and I immediately thought of several things I should possibly have considered sixty seconds earlier.  Eve had his phone number.  He probably got my plate number.  I willfully destroyed his car.

But seriously. His car versus the Green Monster? What did he think would happen?

Eve refused to talk to me the entire way home.  Dee-Dee and Al congratulated me all the way home.

I never ever did hear anything from Adonis.  Either I lucked out or it was too dark to get the plate. Or maybe it was just the universe levelling back to true.

Surprisingly, I never got a second date with Eve, either.

But I gotta say, every time I went out to my car and saw those massive front-to-back scrapes and dents along my car?  I smiled.

Eat shit, Adonis.  I won.


Hard to believe yet another year has gone by.  Today, I’ve been married exactly 21 years.

I can’t believe it’s been a year since I wrote the My Thanksgiving post and yet, here we are.

I don’t know what more I can say about my wife that I haven’t already said, and I’ve also got a bit of a surprise for her over here as well.

I guess I’ll just say this.  I’ve been with this same woman for virtually half my life.  She’s taught me a lot about life, about success, about perseverance, about believing in someone when that person didn’t even believe.  She’s shown me what hard work and honesty can bring.

She’s made me laugh until tears ran down my face and I couldn’t breathe.  She’s held me when I’ve cried and I felt like I couldn’t go on.  She’s supported me, and stuck by me long after someone else–probably anyone else–would have left me behind.

She laughs at my stupid jokes, she holds her own in that department too.  Though she can be aggravating and has some habits and mannerisms that drive me nuts, I’m sure they’re nowhere near as bad as what I do to her at times.  Yet still, she puts up with me.

She never gives herself enough credit.  She’s the most caring person I’ve ever met, she’d give you the shirt off her back if you needed it.

She and I have been through a hell of a lot over the past 21 years and I’m sure the ride’s going to be just as crazy for the time we have left as well.  But Karen makes it fun.

I know there’s some out there that have never accepted my wife, for whatever reason, but in the end, hell, that’s their loss.

She’s been my friend, my lover, my confidant.  She’s raised me up when I needed it and she’s slapped me down when I deserved it.  She’s damn near killed me but in the end,, she saved my life. She’s an amazing woman.

She’s my wife.

Every time I hear this song, I think of us.

When I was younger man I hadn’t a care
Foolin’ around, hitting the town, growing my hair
You came along and stole my heart when you entered my life
Ooh babe you got what it takes so I made you my wife

As my head was comin’ round
I gazed into your eyes
And thought ooh I want you

Thanks again for being my friend
And straightenin’ out my life
’cause ooh I need you

Since then I never looked back
It’s almost like living a dream
And ooh I love you

Happy anniversary, Karen.  I love you.