My Dad

The thunderstorms this past Father’s Day were a fitting remembrance for my Dad.  He used to watch the thunderstorms while bolts of lightning raced across the sky from the porch; unafraid, while we cowered indoors.

Dad could have been the prototype for the Rube Goldberg cartoon. Working for the signal corps on the Texas and Pacific Railroad spurred his originality in repairing household items. Our house had many one of a kind work-a-rounds that only he knew how to activate.

The wiring from our house to the garage was genius, protected by divine intervention. Electricity was required to heat the incubator for the baby chicks he ordered every spring. We prayed for the safety of the garage and its inhabitant during electrical storms.

He was a creative problem solver.  A neighbor’s barking dog outside his bedroom was far beyond nuisance irritation. Dad’s approach was original, non-confrontational and effective. During one of the pre-dawn barking sessions, he opened a window and blasted an air horn purchased for this purpose. The dog stopped barking; the neighbor experienced the trauma of an unpleasant jolt from a sound sleep. He never had to use the air horn again.

I wonder now if he had second sight.

On my wedding day, he surprised me as he and I prepared to walk down the aisle, he said: “It’s not too late to back out.” I didn’t but should have. Years later when I returned home with two toddlers in tow, he could have said, “I told you so,” but didn’t.

After his death, I dreaded going to the garage. It was his kingdom, with buckets and buckets of old nuts and bolts, and apparatuses whose purpose was known only to him. At the estate sale, I expected the contents of the garage to be hauled away by the scrap iron dealer. I was wrong. Most of Dad’s items, even the old buckets of nuts and bolts were purchased by people who wanted a remembrance of him.

He was a simple, quiet man, who never told me he loved me, but I never doubted that he did.

Power Outage is a Wakeup Call

The wakeup call from Dallas recent power outage was the discovery that we have outdated power structures. We are more obsolete than Alabama.  Of all the places in the universe, Alabama is one you don’t want to rank below. The local news quoted a utility repairman from Alabama who said our utility structures are inferior to theirs.

We were lucky, our power came on after twelve hours; others were without several days.

During the height of the storm my phone’s battery was on life support, spouse’s about half mast and the backup charger was at zero percent.

In Dallas, during the winter if there is an ice storm or snow alert, everyone heads to the grocery store. The power outage proved to be no different.

We raced to the neighborhood supermarket, for ice, and WI-FI, confident the coffee kiosk, Wi-Fi stations, and bagged ice machines would take care of our immediate need.

Occupants of the Wi-Fi stations avoided making eye contact with hopeful bystanders. Long lines of people surrounded the empty ice machines, eyes glued to their dispensers, waiting for them to yield bags of ice. We returned home ice-less with our dying devices.

Shooting me a look of superiority, as proof of his theory “we might need it one day” my packrat spouse unearthed a portable radio.  His glory was short-lived, the radio was alive and well, but the only station it received was a Chinese language station.

The neighbor, that I don’t like much, (but made soup for anyway during her recent illness), hiked to a fast food place, returned with dinner and sent me a text saying SHE had food.

It was a learning experience:

Moving forward, all our electronic devices are going to function at one hundred percent.

We are purchasing battery operated camping gear.

My neighbor does not like my soup.

Tequila and potato chips qualify as survival food.

And, if you have to live in Alabama, you deserve bragging rights about superior utility poles.

Who Should You Be?

I ran across this quote by Charles Bukowski “Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?” A thought-provoking and powerful exercise in self-examination. He got it wrong.

In the land before time, young women needed the world to tell us who we could be. Shoulds ruled and options were limited for young girls. No one questioned that all young girls aspired to be a “mommy” when they grew up.

However, before that magic milestone occurred, occupations were limited to nursing, teaching and secretarial work. Secretary morphed into an Administrative Professional, (which we all know is code for chief operating officer without the title and pay.)

As a child, I knew when I heard the word should, an admonition pointing out a character flaw I’d just as soon not acknowledge was about to swoop in.

Decades later, I still get the same anxious feeling whenever someone utters the word.

My annual physical results in many shoulds regarding diet, weight, exercise, and everything I either enjoy or detest.

The worst is the unspoken social should, like making soup for a sick neighbor that I’m not especially fond of. Or should volunteer for a worthy project that I don’t embrace. And, I know I should park far away from the grocer curbside pick-up when it’s raining.

I wish I had never read Bukowski’s quote. My exterior has changed considerably but inside there dwells a child who hates the word should.

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