Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Talkin' Baseball

I resurrect this one every once in awhile. The arrival of the 1973 Strat-o-Matic cards as well as the inclusion of the 1973 card design in Topps Archives set have me waxing nostalgic for the early days of my love for baseball.



I have the 1971 All-Star game on the telly this afternoon, sat down at the laptop with my Strat-o-Matic 1973 cards, and I was immediately trapped in a time warp. The years started melting away...2004- the Boston Red Sox win their first World Series in 86 years...2001- Barry Bonds hits 73 home runs and the Seattle Mariners win 116 games...1998- McGwire and Sosa... the years are flying by faster now, and so are the players...1995- Cleveland Indians in the World Series...1980- will George Brett hit .400?.... The time machine is slowing down now- 1979, 1977, 1975...

1971. The year before the Oakland A's three-year run as the champions of the world began. On this particular day a 58-year-old gentleman is sitting in the grandstand, his 28-year-old son beside him, and his 5 and 3-year-old grandsons along as well. It was batting helmet day, or t-shirt day, or some such promotion; the batting helmet would have shattered with one of Vida Blue's slowest pitches, but that didn't matter to the five-year-old; all he cared about was that he was there, at the ballpark, eating peanuts from a giant bag and dropping the shells gleefully on the concrete. Were we allowed to do that? he wondered. But it didn't matter- his grandpa was doing it, his father was doing it, so he did it too. The names of the players were magical- Blue Moon Odom, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers. He laughed every time he saw Rollie's handlebar moustache. The field looked enormous and the players looked small from the nosebleed seats. The green and yellow uniforms may look hideous to those looking back from a vantage point of forty-three years, but to that five-year-old, they were a fashion statement. He wore his souvenir helmet and t-shirt with pride.

Fast forward four years. In 1975 our protagonist was now nine years old and living in Ohio, as far away from the Oakland A's as they were from their next appearance in the World Series. The Milwaukee Brewers were in town, and that meant a chance to see Hank Aaron, the newly crowned home run king. This nine-year-old boy thought it would be a simple thing to walk onto the field, present Mr. Aaron with a paper and pencil and get him to sign. Get used to disappointment, kid. Whether Hank Aaron hit a home run that day or not is a fact lost to the sands of time, but to the nine year old, it didn't matter; he was there.

Have you guessed? That boy was me. I have been to many ballgames in the 39 years since I ground those peanut shells into the concrete in Oakland. I've lived through great Oakland teams, mediocre Detroit teams, and great Cleveland teams (although I had to swim through a lot of mediocrity to get there). Classic moments- George Brett's .390, my brother waking me up to tell me that Len Barker had pitched a perfect game, Jack Morris pitching a no-hitter in 1984, and the Detroit Tigers winning it all that year. And calling the action, whether he did so in real-life or not, is the late, great Ernie Harwell, a man who personified class, a man who took time out of his day to write a letter to a friend simply because I wrote to him and asked.

I am a baseball fan. I have seen a lot of teams and a whole lot of players pass through real-life on the way to my memories, some for a cup of coffee, some for a full-course meal plus seconds. For every Joe Charboneau there's a George Brett; for every Marvin Freeman there's a Clayton Kershaw. Well, maybe for every 100 Marvin Freemans :) There are good players and bad players, good times and bad times. When the players went on strike in 1981 I was heartbroken, but I stayed a fan, playing Strat-O-Matic and APBA baseball day after day, and several times on Saturdays. When the players went on strike in 1994 I wanted to turn away from the game completely. Then the Indians had to go and play their way into the Wold Series in 1995. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

And you want to tell me Barry Bonds brought the game to the brink of ruin? I think the game has been on the brink of ruin for the past... well.... how many years has professional baseball been around? Let's say 143 years, since the National Association in 1871. The baseball cranks of the nineteenth century lived through the National Association, the American Association, the Union Association, the Player's League; they saw the National League expand to twelve teams and shrink to eight; they saw the arrival of the rebel Western League as it morphed into the American League and challenged the Senior Circuit for the best players. The twentieth-century fan saw some of the best players in the game denied admission to the dance because of their heritage, the defiling of the sacrosanct World Series in 1919, the blossoming of a portly pitcher and slugger from Baltimore, Maryland whom veterans like Tyrus Raymond Cobb looked upon with disdain. "He has ruined the sport!" he cried, when in fact he helped to save it. The ball has been juiced more times than a mother's breast and spat on more times than a bartender's spittoon; the game has been proclaimed dead more times than Paul McCartney, yet it staggers on and even thrives.

I know, it's only baseball, but I like it.

The players haven't ruined the game. They can't. If a steroid-influenced ballplayer hit a juiced ball into the upper deck and no one was there to hear it, would it still leave an asterisk? The players may play the game, but the fans make it live. If the fans hadn't taken a shine to Joltin' Joe DiMaggio, then a 56-game hitting streak would mean about as much as a three-dollar bill. Babe Ruth? Without a legend behind him people would just as likely remember Grover Cleveland's daughter more. When Kirby Puckett died, his legal troubles were relegated to a sentence or two, because he was so well liked. When Marge Schott died, her racism was still a story, because she wasn't well liked.

The game will live because of Dan Okrent. The game will live because of Topps. The game will live because of Ethan Allen and Richard Seitz, because of Hal Richman and Pete Ventura, because of men like Ernie Harwell and Red Barber, because whenever three or more children get together the candy wrapper can still be first base, the bookbag can still be second, the leaves can still be third and the tree stump can still be home. Mom may have been more powerful than Kenesaw Mountain Landis, but there was always tomorrow, always one more chance to be Gorman Thomas or Albert Pujols or Ken Griffey Jr or Hank Aaron.

If you love it, they will come.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

#YesMeToo

40 years ago. 2014 to 1974 doesn't really seem all that long when you have lived through the entirety of it; 1974 to 1934, on the other hand, seems like an eternity, especially when you weren't born until 1966.

40 years ago. We lived in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan then; my father was in the Coast Guard and that was our current three-year tour. I can picture the surroundings all these years later. Two streets came together in sort of a triangular fashion, and our house was at that corner. Two blocks away was a soda bottling plant from which we stole drinks on occasion. Across the street in the backyard was an abandoned high school. We used to throw rocks at the windows and imagine what it would be like to get in there and play.

One morning I woke up to find fire trucks and police cars congregating in the back. The school was on fire. When all was said and done the place was a total loss. Just a pile of rubble. The front steps were largely intact, and there was a crawl space underneath that we could use as a hideout. Us kids, of course, loved it. One more cool place to play.

I was six, possibly seven years old. Not entirely sure. It's been 40 years. Other things I remember all too well. Like the older boys taking their clothes off. Like the older boys making us take ours off. Like... yeah, maybe you should just use your imagination on this one. Mouths, and genitals, and no permission granted. I was six. Maybe seven. I didn't know what oral sex was. I did know that I didn't want to get my ass kicked by a neighbor boy who was bigger than me. So... yeah. Just use your imagination.
____________________________


It was abuse, all right, but it was 40 years ago. The consciousness of people regarding sexual abuse was not the same as it is today. You didn't talk about it. I sure didn't talk about it. I didn't want to get in trouble. Yeah, I said it. Kid makes me put my mouth on him and I'm the one worried about getting in trouble.

The years went by. We moved, and we moved again, and we moved again. Sault Ste. Marie was a distant memory. I let what happened fade off into the distance. Never brought it up with anyone, until I started becoming friends with women who had been sexually abused. Then I began to wonder. Was I abused too? I quickly stomped such thoughts into the mudholes of my mind. It didn't happen to boys. Boy on boy abuse was just some bully neighbor kid being an asshole. So I let it go.

Life becomes much more complicated when you become an adult. At a certain point I started seeing a therapist. I was suicidal, depressed, and my marriage was collapsing. The therapist and I got along. I had been seeing her for a few years when I brought up Sault Ste. Marie. I wanted to get a professional opinion. Did what happened to me "count"?

She listened, we talked, she spoke. Did you give your permission? Well hell, I was six, I had no concept of permission. Were you coerced? Well... yeah. I didn't want to get my ass kicked. I was timid. I couldn't defend myself. Hell, I was six. Then yes, she said. It "counts".
____________________________
 
 
In 40 years I have only talked about this with two people. It wasn't as severe as some women I am very good friends with. It didn't seem like I should bring it up for fear of being accused of hijacking someone else's story. This doesn't happen to guys. Keep quiet, let women tell their story. Which I do.
 
But yeah, it does happen to guys. Please remember that.
 
Because it happened to me.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

#YesAllWomen

Really? You don't like the hashtag #YesAllWomen , huh? Doesn't seem fair? Seems like they are blaming all men for their problems?

Got a full tank and some chips
 It was me and a gun
 And a man on my back
 And I sang "holy holy" as he buttoned down his pants
 You can laugh
 It's kind of funny things you think
 at times like these
 Like I haven't seen Barbados
 So I must get out of this

---"Me and a Gun"

Little ten-year-old girl gets enrolled in a private Christian school about 40 minutes from her home. A long-time family friend is the principal. He built the house that her parents bought when they got married. To save the family some time and effort, he offers to drive the little girl to school. Didn't take long for him to stick his hand down the front of her underwear while he was driving. And so it began.

Yes I wore a slinky red thing
 Does that mean I should spread
 For you, your friends, your father, Mr. Ed

---"Me and a Gun"

A 17-year-old girl is admitted to the hospital for attempting suicide. A hospital is a place for healing, a place to get your troubles resolved. A male orderly is in charge of taking her to her next group therapy appointment. Instead he takes her into an unused examination room, drugs her, binds her in the stirrups and rapes her. And the next day. And the next day. She is put on suicide watch. Whenever she has the chance, she attempts to kill herself. Death would feel a whole lot better than this.

Cause what if I'm a mermaid
 In these jeans of his
 With her name still on it
 Hey but I don't care
 Cause sometimes
 I said sometimes
 I hear my voice
 And it's been here
 Silent all these years....

---"Silent All These Years"

A young woman is in her second year in college. Her friends begin to have a "can you top this?" session, with alcohol as the topic du jour. "Remember when we partied with those guys at Cedar Point that one weekend? Man, I got so wasted!" "I remember when I went to my first party- dude kept giving me shots... damn, I don't remember anything after the fifth one...." The young woman keeps quiet. Her first memory of alcohol certainly wasn't her first exposure to it, just the first one she remembers. It was of her rocking on her bed, door locked, as her father went on a drunken rampage with her mother as the target.

walking home in her wrapped up world
 she survived but she's feeling old
 cuz she found all things cold
 strange little girl
 where are you going?
 do you know where you could be going?

---"Strange Little Girl"

Really? You don't like the hashtag #YesAllWomen , huh? Doesn't seem fair? Does it seem fair that these women that I love have endured the most horrid bullshit from men in their lives? Is it fair that a girl who knows nothing about sex has sex forced upon her, and then isn't believed by her family?

How about we come up with a hashtag a little more palatable for you, then.
#FuckYouAsshole
#DealWithItBastard
#YourePartOfTheProblem

Because ultimately, you're right. We shouldn't need hashtags such as this. Women should be able to just tell their stories. Women shouldn't have to worry about whether their partner is going to give them a black eye or a broken arm that day. Women shouldn't have to worry about whether they are going to be used and discarded at the end of the night.

IT ISN'T FUCKING FAIR.

So here's a thought- just shut up and listen.

And do you know Carolina
 Where the biscuits are soft and sweet
 These things go through you head
 When there's a man on your back
 And you're pushed flat on your stomach
 It's not a classic cadillac

 Me and a gun
 and a man
 On my back
 But I haven't seen Barbados
 So I must get out of this

---"Me and a Gun"

(song lyrics by Tori Amos. Stories are true; names have been left out.)





Friday, May 23, 2014

That peculiar institution

Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us togethew today. Mawwiage, that bwessed awwangement, that dweam within a dweam. And wove, twue wove, wiww fowwow you fowevah and evah… So tweasuwe youw wove...
---The Impressive Clergyman, The Princess Bride

So why do people get married?

When I was younger I didn't think two thoughts about marriage. That's just what people do. As I got older, of course, and became more educated and interested in the ways of life, I knew what marriage was for.

Sex, of course. And hot damn, I couldn't wait.

Never occurred to me that people were having sex without being married. In my limited worldview you got married, then had sex.

And hot damn, I couldn't wait.

"Look, in my opinion, the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you. The right person is still going to think the sun shines out of your ass. That's the kind of person that's worth sticking with."
---Mac MacGuff, Juno

The winter of my discontent turned into the spring of my discontent... and then the summer of my discontent. I was having a hard time connecting with someone. Junior High was horrible. I realized at that time that something's happening here, but what it is ain't exactly clear. But I wanted in. So to speak.

Problem was, no one wanted to open the door.

I liked girls. Oh did I like girls. I liked them so much that I would write dirty stories about them and shove them in their locker. Smooth move, Ex-Lax. Yeah, that will impress them. But I just couldn't talk to them. I froze big time. So I thought... hmm, how can I make them notice me? With 35 years of hindsight I realize that I just didn't know how. Certain things that should be obvious in dealing with people weren't that obvious to me. High School was more of the same. Only this time my literary career got me suspended several times.

But wait... there's more.

“The marriage institution cannot exist among slaves, and one sixth of the population of democratic America is denied it's privileges by the law of the land. What is to be thought of a nation boasting of its liberty, boasting of it's humanity, boasting of its Christianity, boasting of its love of justice and purity, and yet having within its own borders three millions of persons denied by law the right of marriage?”
― Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom

I became a born-again Christian when I was in high school. It helped me as far as my debilitating shyness goes; I was finally able to speak before a group, I became one of the first teenage lectors that our parish ever had, I even gave talks to young people on retreats. The shyness issue was fading into the background.

But me and girls still didn't hit it off. And it depressed the hell out of me.

I was still pursuing the golden ring, the holy grail, my eyes firmly fixed on the prize. In my eyes at that time a relationship with the opposite sex could only lead to dating, the altar, and... well, use your imagination. I was horrendously naïve. In high school I finally started to be able to talk to girls. I took a speech class which had most of the popular girls in the high school in it. And I found that I could talk with them. Didn't get me any dates, mind you; but I had my foot in the door.

I entered college still not ever having had my first girlfriend. Heck, I hadn't even had my first date yet. I started attending a lot of Bible studies, as a good born-again Christian is prone to do, and I met women there. And I finally learned how to be friends with women there, without trying to make every relationship with a women proceed to something more. (Women, not "girls".)

I fell in love in college, two times. And I fell hard. When I received the "just friends" talk, it was time to pull out "The Wall" by Pink Floyd and lose myself in the haze. I was first diagnosed as clinically depressed when I was in college.

My naivete about Christians and sex took a beating in college. Christians were having sex! Huh? How could this be? And getting pregnant? Everyone knows that you always wear a raincoat when you go out in the rain!

My friends were now getting married, some of whom out of love, some of whom out of necessity. And as is common when people get married, they tend to go off the grid for a time, and you don't have the same kind of friendship you had during the single years. So I continued to make relationships and marriage my goal. My idol. My golden calf, if you will.

“I have to wonder at what point the people fighting to protect marriage will realize that traditional couples haven’t exactly been doing too good a job of it so far.”
― Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

I finally had my first date when I was 29 years old. Met a woman through a classified ad. We stayed out at a bar until 2AM. And 8 days later, on our second date, we had sex.

Some Christian I was turning out to be. The whole experience wracked me with guilt. No more waiting until marriage, huh? Yeah, that ship finally sailed, although I had pulled the anchor on that one a long time ago. We didn't stay together long, maybe a couple of months. Just long enough for her to pull a fake pregnancy angle on me. When I figured out that was false, we were done. I ended up in a hospital for three days. Just wanted to opt out at that point.

I was done. Through. I wasn't going to pursue dating anymore. I was tired of the whole game, and a game it really was, because people were playing each other to get what they wanted with little concern about caring for the other person. At least from my observation.

And there's no one there to dry your tears. I could hold you for a million years, to make you feel my love.
Bob Dylan, "To Make You Feel My Love"

So why do people get married?

In 1997 I met a woman named Laura Rose. We got along. We became friends. We quickly became boyfriend and girlfriend. And on August 16, 1997, I knelt in the dusty gravel outside of her father's office and asked her to marry me.

(SPOILER ALERT: She said yes.)

So let's step back from the personal story for a moment and ask ourselves a few questions.

Why did you ask Laura to marry you?
Because I loved her. I still do.

If you hadn't asked her to marry you, does that mean that you didn't really love her?
No, because I loved her before I asked her.

Did you have a wedding?
Yes, on August 8, 1998, in a Baptist church in Medina, OH.

If you already loved her, and everyone knew that you loved her, then why did you have a wedding?
Because.... umm....
________________________________________

Where there is love, there is life.
Mahatma Gandhi

So why do people get married?

My belief for a long time is that people get married to have sex. You ain't got a thing if you ain't got that ring. It was a trick question, of course. First of all, people do have sex outside of marriage. Second, you may start off a marriage having sex four times a week, 2AM sex, afternoon-in-between-appointments sex, cancel-the-appointment-and-pay-the-penalty-fee sex.... But ask people who have been married for more than ten years how much sex they are having. Go ahead, I'll wait.


Yeah, I thought as much. People don't really get married to have sex. Married people stop having sex after awhile. Go ahead, deny it.

So why do people get married?

"Out of love", some will say. "We love each other, we want to commit ourselves to each other for the rest of our lives. We have a wedding to proclaim our love and demonstrate our commitment to each other amidst a gathering of our family and friends."

You can't commit yourself to a person without getting married? You can't love them deeply and fully without exchanging vows, rings, shoving cake in their face and having your automobile vandalized by people who if they had done that in another context would be up on charges? Obviously you can. People do. But where else are you going to get to wear formal clothes and have a hell of a party? And get showered with toasters and money? And be the center of attention?

A related question is "why do people get a marriage license?" I mean, if you are together out of love, why the need of a piece of paper? Why the need of that legal recognition?

Wait, I'm going somewhere with this.

If ever a man had it all
It would have to be me
I love you

Climax Blues Band, "I Love You"

The topic of allowing a man to marry a man, or a woman to marry a woman, has been bandied about a lot in the past few years, and everyone has an angle. On one side are people who defend marriage as "a sacred institution", although they get divorced at the same rate as other couples do. On the other side are those who want "marriage equality". It shouldn't matter who you love! You should be able to marry the one that you love!

Yet they both have something in common.

If God is the one who sanctifies a relationship via marriage, then why the need to have the state recognize it? I have the feeling that God hasn't recognized a lot of "official" marriages, and has blessed a lot of couples who are doing their own thing.

If all that matters is that you want to celebrate your love, then why the need to have the state recognize it? If a man loves a man, or a woman loves a woman, then be together! Have a party if you want, exchange gifts, celebrate however you like. No one is stopping women and men from loving other women and men.

The one thing both sides have in common are the benefits. Social Security. Visitation rights at hospitals. The government recognizes marriages and extends certain benefits to those entering that state of life.

People say they get married out of love, but ultimately they want to get married out of what they can get from the union. At the core of the issue seems to be those federal and state benefits.

Men and women can love who they want. In that there is equality. I didn't have to get married to love my wife. I already did. But if the government is extending benefits to those couples who are committed to each other and happen to be men and women, and they aren't extending those benefits to those couples who are committed to each other and happen to be two men together or two women together? Then that government is in the wrong.

A lot of people are complaining that gay and lesbian couples can already have civil unions. "Isn't that enough?" Well, let me ask those people something. Isn't that enough for you? Why do you pursue legal recognition of your relationship? Isn't it enough that God recognizes it? And if they are being totally honest, the answer would have to be "No". They want that legal recognition for the benefits it provides. And if our government is extending that legal recognition to them, they should also extend it to gay and lesbian couples who are every bit as committed to each other. There is really no legitimate reason not to do that.

The exclusion of same-sex couples from the benefits and responsibilities of marriage, accordingly, is not a small and tangential inconvenience resulting from a few surviving relics of societal prejudice destined to evaporate like the morning dew. It represents a harsh if oblique statement by the law that same-sex couples are outsiders, and that their need for affirmation and protection of their intimate relations as human beings is somehow less than that of heterosexual couples.
Justice Albie Sachs, Minister of Home Affairs and Another v Fourie and Another, 1 December 2005

So why did you get married?


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Now that I have your attention...

I stumbled upon a blog recently, one which was written by women and apparently geared toward women, and I saw a letter from "Dear Amy" being discussed. The letter-writer was offended that her partner knew that they had sex 76 times last year. And he was grading her. I would hate to see that report card.

But it started me thinking. Sex. No, nothing lewd, nothing pornographic, but I've always been fascinated; by the act, most certainly, but also by the attitudes people carry towards it. Sex can be good, and really damn good; it can be evil, and pretty damned evil. It's a noun, a verb, probably an adverb too if I could remember what an adverb was. One singer wants your sex, another wants to sex you up. It can be a weapon, it can be a reward, it can be a punishment. You can think about it too much, or not enough, or both at the same time, depending on your perspective. One gender stereotypically only has their mind on "one thing"; another gender stereotypically pretends that they are above that kind of talk but over glasses of wine and "chick flicks" they can embarrass a sailor.

My wife attended a wedding a few years ago. I got out of going by the fact that we were told that no kids were invited, although the bride's family was apparently an exception to that rule. Her father is the pastor of the church. Anyway, being a man who is prone to uttering inappropriate comments, every 20 minutes after my wife came home I wondered aloud, "Hmm... I wonder what she and her husband are doing now?", knowing very well what they were likely doing, but wanting to embarrass my wife just the same.

But seriously, folks. How do a woman and a man who have been brought up believing that sex is off limits, having abstinence instilled in them from the very beginning- how do they go about suddenly flipping the switch? Now they're allowed to see each other naked? Now they're allowed to grope and moan? Sex is just not talked about in fundamental Baptist circles. They obviously have it- the plethora of kids running around at the end of every service testifies to that- but do they enjoy it or just tolerate it? Maybe Baptists have sex with their clothes on.

Stay with me here- there's a point to be made. I spent several years as part of a couple of fundamental Baptist churches, and the point was hammered home every other Sunday- we do not live by our experience, we live by the Word of God. Quite often people who enjoyed certain experiences were talked about as if possessed by Lucifer himself. No guitars or drums- can't have that sensual beat enticing our senses. So how do they turn the page when the tie comes off and the bodies go horizontal? Do they know that it isn't JUST about procreation, that they're allowed to like it, that it's a good thing?

Experience is woven into the fabric of life. Roses have color and scent. Anchovies have taste. (Oh, do they!) And sex is not merely functional. If it was merely for procreation, then a man could just fill some test tubes and keep them in the freezer. Procreation is obviously a function of sex. But oh, is it so much more. The experience. When you don't have the experience you consider yourself to have failed at it. Men who don't have "the experience" take drugs. Women who don't have "the experience" read magazines, get therapy and talk to their girlfriends about their dissatisfaction. "The experience" is part of the package, thereby proving that God approves of pleasure and excitement- He created them.

And yet... is that all there is to it? "Getting yours"? Seems like if that was your whole perspective than you could accomplish the same thing by going into the can with a magazine. A large part of it, it most certainly is... but not IT.

I'm not naïve. IT isn't always some metaphysical, ethereal thing. Someone falls asleep, someone farts, someone remembers that the garbage didn't go out yet; the cell phone rings, the bed collapses, little Johnny or Susie walks in and sees Mommy and Daddy "wrestling". Sometimes you just realize that you're just not that into it and stop.

But let's not pretend here. We all think about IT, we all talk about IT. Hopefully with our partners. I certainly hope with our partners. If you are complaining to your friends or your blog audience that your husband wants IT all the time, then you probably need to talk to your husband first. If you are sharing "locker room talk" over some cold ones with the guys, perhaps talking about how your wife won't "give you any" because you insulted her mother or something, then the person you need to be talking to is your wife, not your buddies.

And I haven't even scratched the surface of the subject. Other people with vaster vocabularies and more varied experiences have written about IT. I am only speaking from one corner of the universe here, and my vision is limited.

Now let's get back to the beginning. Was the guy who kept track of the number of times he and his wife had sex wrong to do so? Well... I would definitely say that he was kind of crass in putting out report cards. That certainly isn't helping matters. Throw the report cards away, dude. Wash the dishes, cook every once in awhile, take a shower and change your undies more than once a week- there are a whole plethora of things that you can do to build up capital in the love bank. But geez, report cards? Your bank account is overdrawn, dude.

And to the wife? Well, I'm not a wife, am I? So I really can't speak to the subject. I would suggest, though, that if the wife isn't at least trying to talk with her husband about this, if she is just writing to advice columnists or bloggers about it, than she also needs to back up and communicate with her husband. Her husband isn't wrong for wanting it, but she also isn't wrong for not wanting to reward crassness with concupiscence.

Gotta talk with each other before you can do other things with each other.

Monday, May 12, 2014

And so it begins....

4/22/2004

Matthew was seen for neurologic follow-up and was accompanied by his mother. He is a 4-year-old boy with significant developmental delays. Testing today has not provided a clear identifiable etiology. He continues making nonspecific noises. He has not had much interest in peers. He still finger feeds. He puts carpet strings in his mouth. He has hand regard behavior. He likes watching computer screen showing the image of a certain level of a game for up to half an hour. He sleeps about seven to eight hours and smears stool. He gets speech therapy twice a week and attends school four days weekly for 3-1/2 hours per day. He has an attendant.
Today’s exam finds a weight of 18 kg, height of 105 cm and head circumference of 54.5 cm. He makes nonspecific noises while jumping and pacing around the room. Eye contact is inconsistent. Overall tone is unchanged. No words are heard. He has no focal neurologic deficit.
Matthew continues to have significant developmental impairments. I agree with his father that he clearly shows some features within the autistic spectrum. This label can be useful for identifying his areas of need. He has had some other lab tests, results of which will be checked. He will continue with his school programming. Family will call if there are problems, otherwise follow-up will be in one year.
Max Wiznitzer, M.D.
Pediatric Neurology
 
(Amazing how something can be so concisely worded but not even come close to the depth of what we would experience in the 10 years following. Here's how it should have read:)
 
4/22/2004
Mr. and Mrs. MacNair;
I believe that your son exhibits characteristics consistent with those on the autism spectrum.
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You had ideas, goals and dreams for your son? Toss them in the crapper my good friends. Your new life begins today, a life filled with ambiguity and unknowing. What causes autism? We don't know for sure. How should it be treated? There are various and manifold ways, not all working the same for every child. Is there anyone who can help you navigate the waters? Sure, there are several people with various areas of expertise, and they will all tell you something different. Then there are the people with no expertise- amazingly they seem to have more to say than the educated ones. It's a jungle out there, Mr. and Mrs. MacNair, and I've just handed you a butter knife. Have fun navigating the forest.
Welcome to the wonderful world of autism, my friends! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!
Max Wiznitzer, M.D.
Pediatric Neurology
 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Home

My son puts a hole in the wall...

"Why don't you put him in a home?"

My son bloodies his head...

"Do you think you'll put him in a home someday?"

My son attacks me...

"He's out of control. He's going to end up in a home."

My son is in a home. My home. Our home.

Do you think making the decision to have your child live somewhere apart from you is one that comes easy? You might as well take my brain and ask me to think. Or take my lungs and ask me to breathe. Or take my heart and ask me to live.

My son and my daughter are a part of me. They are as vital to me as any vital organ in my body.

My son was hospitalized twice in a psychiatric wing of a children's hospital. I did it when he first exhibited aggressive behavior, on the advice of a medical professional. The first time I dropped him off I went to the parking garage and wept fiercely. I felt like the worst parent in the world because I couldn't solve his problem so I was dumping off the responsibility on someone else. The second verse was as same as the first. Neither hospital stay did a thing for him, and it is not something that I will do again.

We have had Children's Services involved in our lives. Two years ago when we were robbed, the policeman taking our report turned around and called Children's Services on us. They came to our house three days later and accused us of neglect because our house was messy. No amount of conversation would convince this woman that we do take care of our kids, it's just that life is hard and sometimes they mess the place up faster than we can clean it. She gave us two days to clean the place before she came back.

You had better believe that we busted our asses cleaning that place. My wife was worried that they would take our kids away. Me? Not so much. I had a contingency plan that involved me taking the kids and hitting the road. If they wanted to try to take my kids they would have a fight on their hands. It was not going to happen. Would I really have gone on the lam with my children? You bet your sweet bippy I would have.

The advice flows freely from the lips of those who don't have to make the decision. But the decision to place a child in a group home is not one that comes as easily as what to watch on TV or how many anchovies to put on the pizza. (Hawaii Five-O, and double.)

An adult child? Different story altogether. It can be a good thing, when a child reaches adulthood, for them to learn independent living skills and develop social relationships outside the home. But even in that case, it is still up to the parents and no one else.

"Shouldn't you put him in a home?"

He is in a home. My home. Our home. Matthew, Rebecca, Laura and myself. And as long as we are alive and capable of doing so, my son and my daughter will have a guaranteed place in my home. If I am changing diapers when my kids are 20, I might not like it, but I will do it. My commitment to my children is that strong, that deep, never to be questioned.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Church or something like it

Palm Sunday. The Sunday where church people across this great land of ours burn their old palms, pick up new ones after the service, their kids play with the palms until strands of them are all over the living room floor. The service in liturgical churches is usually longer than most Sundays, because they read the entire story of THE PASSION out of one of the gospels. Sometimes it's the only time women get to read from the gospels in front of the church the entire year. In entertainment-style churches they likely rehearsed the whole scene and plan on presenting it live, maybe even with a donkey if they really feel adventurous. In fact, if the donkey craps on stage they consider it a bragging point and will talk about it for the next year. And atheists? They are just now rolling out of bed, grabbing a cup of joe and trying to decide if they want to mow their lawn for the first time this season.

Palm Sunday. The Sunday in which you know that there is only one more week in the Lenten season. Moms everywhere probably have some chocolate hidden in the cupboard for the time when she is freed from her Lenten vows and can consume her sweets with passion. No pun intended. Dad has been cranky for lo these 40 days of Lent, and now sees people as giant walking cigarettes. He almost smoked his son's shoes last night. Junior and Juniorette just want Friday night pizza nights to continue. Officially. Unofficially they have been consuming meat-laden slices from Mr. Sally's Pizzaria the whole time.

Palm Sunday. The Sunday in which every year I celebrate by posting a picture of my palm on social media. Hee hee hee.

Church. Something that at one time in my life consumed my attention and desires. I started this blog back in 2005 because a friend of mine wanted to know what I got out of all the diverse types of churches I've been to, and the resulting essays became too long for standard emails. I've seen them all. Greek Orthodox. The traditional Latin Mass. Non-denominational. Baptist. Really, really Baptist. As well as the Catholic Mass I grew up with.

I was 15 years old when I was born again, when I renewed my baptismal promises, when I was saved, when I went through a conversion experience. I don't care what terminology you use, I just know that at that time it meant something to me. It changed my life. I threw myself into Bible reading, church attendance, and surrounding myself with all of the trappings. Christian music. Christian books. Never had Christian toilet paper but I can guarantee you that somewhere, someone has made it.

But it's 32 years later. And 32 years later, at the age of 47, I can't say that I really give a shit.

This morning, Palm Sunday, I woke up at 2:30AM to discover that my son had opened all the cupboards and raided the refrigerator. We were up until 4:15AM. At 7:30AM I got up again to get my wife up so her and my daughter could get ready for church. At 8:00AM the storm began and I had to once again clean my son's head of blood and pieces of wall. At 8:15AM I was scrubbing my son's bedroom floor of poop. At 8:40AM things had finally calmed enough that I could finally give my son his medicine, medications that are becoming less effective by the day. But I still give them.

Now tell me. How am I supposed to take seriously an argument about the proper type of communion bread? Should I care whether baptism is carried out by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion? Should I believe that God is checking my attire as I walk in the door to make sure I am wearing a tie? (And I'm sorry, but ties are the devil's noose and I hate wearing them.) Is listening to a song by The Who wrong? And is listening to a cover version of a song by The Who performed by a Christian band any different than enjoying the original? How am I supposed to take seriously a sermon about the sanctity of marriage when the same pastor is having wild, sloppy, sweaty animal sex with the secretary who is not his wife?

I don't.

Hey, I read the Bible. And I take seriously the teachings of Jesus the Christ. But the organized version of it can burn to the ground for all I care.

Of course, there's a problem with that approach. Suppose I eschew church attendance for a coffee clatch at the local Starbucks. Every Sunday I choke down a latte and muse upon the issues of the day (which for me are autism, autism, and, well, autism). Soon I meet another parent who gets it, and we have coffee together. After awhile another joins us. We've developed a community at this point, something that church is supposed to be but often is not.

Our community becomes too large for the Starbucks, so we move it to the food court at the mall. Soon we decide that we want to get some input from doctors and others who can give us something we can use with our kids in our daily life, so we rent an empty school on a weekly basis where we can have childcare and invite even more parents. Life is good, the speakers are edifying and people are happy.

Inevitably discussions arise about the nature of our little coffee clatch. The original Starbucks group want to go back to the simplicity of having coffee, and don't care for the organized approach. The next generation want to get some name speakers and not just local doctors. A small group of parents start reading Jenny McCarthy's new book and eventually start a Tuesday meeting for Jenny fans. Another group suggests that we are going about this all wrong, that instead of considering autism as a burden and something to fight against, we should celebrate the diversity of all things autism. They start their own Sunday meeting for parents of that stripe.

And BOOM. You have now done exactly what you fought against when you stopped attending church. Only difference is the absence of a deity. Except for the people who worship J Mc instead of JC.

I can't take these kinds of divisions and petty bickering seriously, whether from church or other factions, because I have real things I have to take seriously. I take my son and daughter and their care seriously. This is my full-time job; hell, this is my full-time life. This morning I scrubbed real crap off the floor. I can't take time to deal with metaphorical crap. You want to convince me that the Pope is the antichrist? Keep on walking, and don't let the door hit you where the good Lord split you. Communion wafers vs bread, wine vs grape juice, pews vs chairs, organ vs guitar? Repeat after me. "It just doesn't matter! It just doesn't matter! It just doesn't matter!"

_____________________________

"Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? Men, women, boys and girls, The Lord has told you what is good. And what does the LORD require of you ? To do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?"
---Micah 6:7-8

"Greater love has no one than this, that they lay down their life for their friends."
---John 15:13

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Acceptance

I had a friend on Twitter retweet something to me, a question she was asked. (and for the record, I hate the word "tweet" to describe communication, but when in Rome....)

"Who are ASD Acceptance and why are they boycotting Autism Speaks ?? Did I miss something?"

I've written about why I don't support a boycott of Autism Speaks (right here), so I don't need to rehash that. But ASD Acceptance? Sounded like an organization or a Facebook page or something I should check out.

ASD Acceptance is indeed a Facebook page. (ASD standing for "Autism Spectrum Disorder"). They believe that what the world needs now is acceptance, sweet acceptance; they want Autism Awareness Month to be about the fact that Autism shouldn't be promoted as a disorder to be "cured" but rather a diversity to be celebrated. To that end, if you want to see autism end... yeah, they don't like you.

They reposted a picture from another Facebook page which was a collection of quotes from other Facebook pages and blogs, one of which read this way:

I just feel like I am supposed to accept this horrible thing with a smile on my face and pretend that it doesn’t suck and I am tired of it.  I am supposed to pretend that all of the uncertainty, all the frustrations, all the tantrums and all the pain is just something that I accept and happily deal with.  I read a comment the other day from a mom that said she “wouldn’t have her son any other way.”  I don’t mean to discredit this mother at all, but that’s just something you tell yourself to make it not hurt so much.  I love Mara exactly as she is, but if I could do something to take away her autism, I would do it in a heartbeat.

The comments were plentiful:

Karla's ASD Page BTW: It took me about 10 min to find and make this poster. Not hard in Autism Awareness month.... Anyone still have questions about the hate?

Jill Canner McCormick I cannot believe the pure Ignorance! I have 3 kids and 2 have autism and we embrace them for who they r! So many people want to fix those that have autism!! Why?? UGH!! They SUCK!!! :((

Angie Melissa Whoever the parent is who wrote that I wonder if they'd cope with any child without whinging.

Jonathan Clement I don't think autism is the problem. I think the problem is fault-finders.

Kirsten Oswin Oswald Thow Whoever made this blog sucks!!!! 'Austism is unacceptable..' Uneducated douche.

Hollin Sutherland Goodwin They are awful parents. I know it's frustrating at times and autism is hard on those of us who have children who are more severe, as my son is, but I don't hate autism. I couldn't hate any part of any of my children. I worry for his future-will he ever be independent or will he ever TALK--I want him to have a happy life. Not one filled with people hating him because of his autism. It's so so sad. (emphasis mine)

They are awful parents. Okay, Hollin Sutherland Goodwin, them's fighting words. When someone insinuates that I am an awful parent, I am going to have something to say about it. And another something. And another.

Neither of my children talk. Of course, talking is not necessary for communication, any one of a number of methods will suffice- pictures, Ipads, assistive communication devices. My son is good at being able to show me what he needs; of course, I have had years of practice in learning to anticipate his daily routine. My daughter, on the other hand, does not communicate well at all. Her method of communication is to pull your hand, or push you from behind, and if you don't get the hint right away she whimpers. Then cries. Possibly even screams. And when that happens, all hell is about to break loose.

BANG! BANG! BANG!


That sound means only one thing- a new hole in the wall. I rush back to the bedroom where my son is holed up (pardon the pun) and try to calm him down. It isn't working. BANG! BANG! BANG! If I am lucky, I can keep him away from the furniture. But not this day. BANG! And blood pulses from an inch-long gash in his forehead.

He finally calms down when I explain to him that I have to clean his head. I press a towel to his head once, twice, three times. I get the blood to stop flowing, but it is obvious that he and I are off to the emergency room. I pack the diaper bag, I pack the Ipad and Nook, and off we go. ER trip number five this year.

When we get home he wants me to go back to the bedroom with him, but he doesn't want me to leave. He wants me to kiss him. Again. And again. Whenever I ask him what he wants, he leans in for another kiss. I stand there and kiss him as long as he needs. Finally the Ipad beckons, and he gestures for me to leave.

I check on him later to clean his wound, change his bandaid, and... oops- what did I just step in? A rhetorical question, for I know what I just stepped in. He took his diaper off, and the poop that he didn't try to cover with a t-shirt or a bedsheet is now on the sole of my foot. I hop to the bathroom, clean off my foot, and then grab the scrub brush and laundry soap and head back for my umpteenth cleanup job.

My daughter emerges from her room. What's this? She's nude? I shield my eyes and call for my wife. The brush and soap do not leave my grasp. I know what is coming up.

And Hollin Sutherland Goodwin thinks I am an awful parent because I think that autism sucks. Hollin, are you listening? Autism sucks. AUTISM SUCKS. It has robbed me of my livelihood, it has robbed us of our family life, it has robbed my children of their future.

Hollin Sutherland Goodwin, how in the world can you participate in a site that promotes acceptance and listening to each others stories, and be so quick to dismiss mine? How can you decry judgmentalism and then tap that same well of judgmentalism to dismiss the concerns of my life and my family? How can you talk about diversity yet leave no room in the discussion for any stories other than your own and those who agree with you?

Hollin Sutherland Goodwin, I am not an awful parent. I don't do many things well, but I believe I am a damned good parent. When parent-teacher conferences come up, I am there. When my children are sick, I am there. When my son took an accidental overdose of medication, I stayed up all night long with him, slept for an hour, and then went back and stayed with him some more.

When the road gets hard, and it gets hard a lot, I don't bail. I am committed to my children. I AM THERE.

I hate the infighting that seems to be frequent among those parents of autistic children, and those with autism themselves. I generally don't like getting involved. But when you question my parenting desires and skills? I come out shooting for bear.

I don't accept my children because I hate the condition that has robbed them of so much? On the contrary. I love and accept my children more than anyone could possibly know.