My Condolences, Happy Birthday…

“The whole thing is a scam. Birthdays were invented by Hallmark to sell cards.”

-Ron Swanson

 

Going back to Valentines Day when I was kid, I can remember ripping those cards open like a raccoon rooting through rancid garbage in the middle of the night, looking for Sweet Tarts. FYI: Smarties were immediately discarded and the provider of said candy would be reprimanded for being thoughtless. These empty, arbitrary Valentine’s Day wishes weren’t evenSKIMMED, let alone read. Birthday and Christmas cards were more of the same – useless housing units for precious gift cards. 

 

No one ever quotes the last card they received OR gave. Cards are the empty calories of celebrations, that 4th Krispy Kreme donut you really don’t need. There was a time when I’d purchase condolence and Father’s Day cards on clearance and send them to people for their birthdays and Christmas. One Christmas, I printed pornography and lined it inside holiday cards, wishing everyone a happy and safe holiday. I didn’t even get ONE thanks for my efforts! Making special holiday pornography cards took time and wasn’t easy! You’re welcome, you fucking ingrates!

 

Chase, a coworker at my company, had a birthday recently. Tracy, the only coworker at my job that I actually like and respect, was making her rounds collecting everyone’s birthday wishes via a heartfelt card. So when asked if I would sign the card, I quickly replied to Tracy, “I don’t give a fuck about Chase’s birthday. Not signing that card.” A brief, awkward hush fell over the office. It became clear to me that my voice projected much further than the walls of my unacceptably small cubicle. The silence was quickly squashed as laughter followed. But it wasn’t just Tracy’s. Laughter from surrounding cubes joined in. “David, you crazy!” Tracy said. For a moment there, I thought I had said something offensive!

 

Now, don’t get me wrong; Chase isn’t a bad guy. But he’s not an exemplary worker by any means either. He spends more time socializing and, most likely, prioritizes tracking his steps over doing actual work. Basically, he’s getting paid to do nothing, butagain, he’s not bad guy. I once saw him actually doing SOME work. He became frustrated and aggressively ran his fingers through his hair, taking the famous “surrender cobra” pose. Let’s just say i found it more satisfying than the ending to Avengers!So fuck him and fuck his birthday. 

 

Katie, on the other hand, buys a card for every occasion. Your dog is a new grandfather? Katie will find a card and send it. I don’t get it, but who am I to crush cards enthusiasts’ passion for trivial, poorly written puns regarding special occasions? Hey, you want to send a card congratulating your cousin’s boss’ niece’s first communion, be my guest…well, not my guest. But this is one reason (of many) that I love this woman. She’s selfless. Unlike her egotistical, self-absorbed, borderlinenarcissistic partner, she always thinks of others…AND, if that wasn’t enough, she understands my perspective and doesn’t expect cards on her birthday! The relationship works!! I like to tell her that her path to sainthood is complete and no further action is necessary. 

 

Adjusting my facial expression to fake my appreciation of a birthday card is easily one of the hardest things to do in life. That and small talk about the weather. These two things tie for first place in the “shit I don’t give a fuck about” category. So when I get a card, I go with the old, “Ah, you shouldn’t have” followed by, “No, seriously, go get your money back and return with booze. I’m certain that Hell is me filling out cards (free of pornography, mind you!) congratulating dim people on the delightful weather they’re having in wherever the fuck they’re from AND getting thank you cards in exchange! But it changes nothing. I will always be a mangy, selfish animal looking for those Sweet Tarts and gift cards! The only exception would be if Hallmark started making pornographic cards.

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My Father, The Vaxxer

 

When I was younger, I was petrified of needles. The idea of a piece of fine metal being driven into a vein was cringeworthy. Sometimes (again, I was younger) it was even worthy of a few tears…

Katie’s health insurance through her company runs a promotion every year offering a cash incentive for getting bloodwork done. I call it fishy – no one offers up cash, let alone insurance companies, without an ulterior motive. But money is money, and who am I to pass up cold hard cash when all I have to do is give a few milliliters of blood? Early in the morning on the second Saturday of March, I waited for them to call my name at the Quest Diagnostics off Bestgate Road in Annapolis, when a memory (like most of my suppressed childhood memories) surfaced out of nowhere.

It was vaccination day in 1991. The doctor’s appointment was set and I convinced myself I was going to be fearless this time. My father had closed his workshop early to pick me up from school and take me. The wait was brief and we were called back. They sat me down and rolled up my shirt sleeve. I confidently smirked at the syringe with a “Come at me, bro!” demeanor. A demeanor that dissipated faster than a 30-pack of Keystone at a frat party at noon on a Tuesday the moment the cap to the needle was removed. When that shiny 22-gauge needle revealed itself, I jumped up, unable to mask my face in this “HOLY SHIT” moment and told everyone I was out. I didn’t walk back to the car, I ran. I could have smoked Barry Allen to the car!

My father is a no-nonsense kind of guy. So, leave it to me to behave like I did, wailing and blubbering like a kid dumped by his love on the eve of prom night. My old man doesn’t get embarrassed easily but he was mortified that day. He calmly followed me back to the car and told me that if I didn’t go back in there and get the shot, he was going to kick my ass. He also said that if he drove the car all the way home, it’d be worse. “Worse than an asskicking?” I thought, “Is there such a thing?!” With the recently seared image of the needle in my mind, I foolishly took my chances on going home.

The ride back home from the doctor’s office in that hideous 1988 Chrysler Fifth Avenue was tense but quiet, notwithstanding the occasional vocal reminder from my father that my life was going to end when we got home. “Te voy a matar, boludo! (I’m going to kill you, moron)” he’d say as we made a left on University Drive…then again as we made a right on Windsor Drive. Those words competed with the fresh memory of that fucking needle. I couldn’t decide what scared me most. 

We got home and he put the car in park. An ominous feeling loomed like an unclaimed silent fart in that car after a chili cook-off. He gave me a look that said, “End of the road, Bubba.” The tie was clearly broken at that point with what scared me the most. The urge to run (again) took over. I bailed out of that car like it was engulfed in napalm flames. My father chased me around that god damn 1988 Chrysler Fifth Avenue, reminding me every few seconds how he was going to ghost me. The reminder was a bit unnecessary…I get it, you’re going to kill me. The chase itself conveyed that message loud and clear.

I have to give it to the old man, he could cover some fucking ground! If the same chase had occurred around something smaller like a kitchen table instead of that ginormous jalopy, I would have ended up with a vaccine in the arm after getting a size 9 ½ work boot in my ass. It’s too bad we lived out in the middle of nowhere back then. Had it been in a suburban neighborhood, any bystander witnessing the Abbott & Costello routine in the driveway of our house would have been properly entertained.

I eventually stopped running, streams of snot and tears caked on my face, desperately trying to catch my breath. Exhausted and defeated, I told him I’d go back to the doctor and get the shot. That day I realized that regardless of my biggest fears, my father overshadowed them substantially. Given any ultimatum where I’d have to choose between confronting my angry father or “X,” I’d gladly embrace “X.”

As an adult, I still need to get myself psyched up for blood draws. Yes, those phlebotomists will try to distract me with my all-time loathed activity, small talk, but it never works. I know that needle is coming, you know it’s coming, talking about the fucking weather is futile! I’m going to hate you when this is all said and done.

I called my father up the other day to ask if he remembered this story. He most certainly did. He then told me about when he lived in Argentina when he was a little boy. He said he was about to get blood drawn and started crying. His father told him, “Men do not cry. You better not.” My father then said they missed his vein multiple times but he never shed a tear. Hence proving I come from a line of hardworking men of steel…and I apparently got the decaf version of those genes.

 

I Blame Steinbeck…

I often think about how Katie’s cousin once told me how he plays checkers/chess, board games (hell, even video games) with his kids and NEVER lets them win. That thought is always followed with laughter as I imagine him ruthlessly taking down his kids in Monopoly, making damn sure they leave the game utterly broke, reminding them that it’s not just the real world that will show no mercy when you enter it. 

I believe that letting your kid win in anything is a disservice. Nothing is learned from winning all the time… which would explain why I’ve learned so fucking much in my life. Seriously, if wisdom is gained from every failure, the Dalai Lama should be asking me for advice. 

Recently, Abby had a project she was working on for English class. They have been reading John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Little known fact: I have never read a word of Steinbeck, so Abby had to bring me up to speed on what part of Grapes of Wrath she was reading. She read a portion called “Plight of the Turtle.” The piece is incredibly colorful with similes, metaphors and analogies. The man was an artist with his words, no doubt. Her project was to write her own “Plight” piece: Pick an animal and write a descriptive paragraph that paints a picture for the reader. 

What Abby wrote wasn’t just good for a 15-year-old kid, it was college level writing. This overwhelmed me with pride. And from that Appalachian sized mountain of pride, a small lake of jealousy sprang. I thought to myself, “This writing is good….TOO GOOD. Your similes and metaphors were poetic, coherent and painted a magnificent picture. I kind of want to punch you for being so good at this.” In that moment, I saw this kid become what I wanted to be when I was her age. I’m certain she had already realized this, but it was the first time I had in my ongoing title role of “oblivious dad.

There are people that are just naturally gifted. There are people who you show a music sheet and they can memorize it within seconds and play it back. Having read only a few pages from Steinbeck, this girl adopted his style of writing and made it her own. “Wow” was the only word repeatedly bouncing around in my head. Is she going to work for the Washington Post tomorrow? Perhaps not in the literal sense, but the day when, not if, she passes me on a creative writing level, I can’t wait to be the first one to congratulate her…then kick her in the shins. 

There will come a day when the kid will beat the parent. It’s going to be a kick in the pants for sure, but the other side of this shiny coin will reflect that the kid is getting smarter and coming into their own. It will prove that the world may win one or two, but it will be short-lived and eventually the kiddo will gain control of that aspect in their life and overcome. It’s what distinguishes a version of Abby that’s passed her bar and is now an accomplished lawyer under the age of 30, as opposed to an Abby over 30 that passed out at the bar last night.

I’m certain, now more than ever, I will never become some acclaimed writer in any capacity and that’s okay. My hope is that Abby does something with this gift. Regardless, I’m still faster than Abby. In a foot race, it’s like Hussain Bolt against a toddler. I’m fully aware the last sentence was a shining example of pettiness, but just let me have it.

 

Operation: Banana Gah-Na-Chee…

In one of the latest posts on Trip Advisor, someone wrote that they had a great time at Level in Annapolis, a restaurant with small plate style dining. Apparently, the food was excellent and the drink menu left an impression. They also ordered the Banana Bread Pudding, which Level’s online dessert menu describes as “served with banana brulee and chocolate ganache. But today’s story isn’t about reviews of dessert menus online with elegant, French-word-riddled-descriptions.

One year, I believe it was back in 2005, my ex planned a surprise birthday party for me. We were supposed to go to Dallas for dinner. I remember she was acting strange, almost nervous and hurried about the plans. So, when it was time for me to get ready, I started the water and pretended to get in the shower. While the water was running, I snuck out of the bathroom and overheard her on the phone telling someone on the other end that we’d be out there to meet up with everyone at 7pm. Through my cunning sleuth skills, I was able to deduce she had arranged a surprise party where all my friends would be waiting. I jumped out buck naked and yelled, “I knew there was going to be a party!” to which she replied, “Great, you ruined your own birthday party, you stupid asshole.” At the time I was pleased as punch. Now I see that I was clearly a stupid asshole for ruining my own party. 

From then, I inadvertently became the destroyer of all birthday parties, even ones that weren’t mine! Historically, planning or being part of planning birthday parties has resulted in disaster, especially for Katie. It seems like every birthday we’ve celebrated together, I’ve screwed the pooch. But I told myself this year was going to be different. This year’s key to a successful birthday was a simple checklist. This January I was going to impress Katie.

The Checklist:

1. Bring flowers. (Easy promise to deliver on!)

2. Surprise Katie with a birthday dessert. (I’ll order cake. DONE!)

3. Be nice! (This one is going to be a bit more of a challenge, but can be accomplished!)

I just kept referring to this list and telling myself the simpler the plan, the less chance of failure.

We arrived at Level right on time with the reservation we set. Jonathan, our waiter, greeted us and gave a thorough rundown of the menu. A few small plates were ordered and the food was pretty good. I’m fully aware “good” is a lame description when you’re a writer. But I’m not a food critic. Food is hot or cold, good or bad. Anyway, as we dined, Katie asked if I had forgotten her flowers. I had. I told this woman earlier in the week I’d bring flowers, and I didn’t.

God damn it. Strike One. 

So failure, I guess, WAS an option. One more absent minded faux pas, and then it would be back to the drawing board. As long as dessert made it to the table and I was SUPER NICE (Mr. Rogers NICE) for the rest of the night, everything would be fine. 

Halfway through the dinner, I excused myself and pretended to go to the bathroom. I stopped to inform Jonathan that it was Katie’s birthday. He asked if I’d like him to bring a dessert with a candle and I told him that would be perfect. The choices were cheesecake or banana bread pudding. I was leaning toward the cheesecake as I’m pretty sure I know my wife and thought that’d be a safe bet. Just then, the chef walked by and interjected. He told me that the banana bread pudding is amazing. I’m not a fan of bananas in general, let alone banana bread pudding (insert the old lipstick on a pig comment here). I wasn’t sure even Katie would like banana bread pudding, regardless of how it’s prepared. But after a ringing endorsement from the chef himself, how can you even consider cheesecake? I told the chef to slap some Lancôme L’Absolu Rouge on that porker and let’s do it…not in so many words. 

For 10 minutes I asked Katie questions about dessert, lightly placing feelers out there to get some feedback on that bread pudding. I was playful in my probing. I would intentionally mispronounce “ganache” as Gah-Na-Chee. But Katie presented her case time and time again, bashing bread pudding, calling it disgusting (it is) and how no one would order it (they wouldn’t). My overall read made it very clear Katie wasn’t going to be too pleased when this banana bread pudding arrived.

I looked for Jonathan, like a lost child looks for a parent at the mall. I tried not to draw too much attention. I needed to notifyJonathan to abort Operation: Banana Gah-Na-Chee, but it was too late! Jonathan was coming to the table. I wanted to run to him and say, The chef fucked us! This is going to be a disaster! We’re talking Chernobyl! Abort! Abort, goddamn it! She’ll kill us both, you fool!” I imagined the plate hitting the table and the look on Katie’s face, riddled with disappointment. Another year ruined by my inability to make the correct executive decisions. Katie wasn’t going to be the only person disappointed. 

In reality, the unwanted, though well prepared, dessert arrived,and it might as well have been a dog turd with a candle on a silver platter. I could read Katie’s face as it landed. The face said, “Oh, that’s why you talked about banana bread pudding for so long. I feel a little silly after everything I said. But I still don’t want it. We looked at each other and started laughing. All the cogs fell into place and it became clear to Katie what was up with the incessant questions about this fucking banana breadpudding. The situation became funnier by the minute!

I thought to myself “Strike Two. See ya next year.” But Katieawarded me partial credit and said that my intentions were good. And the way it all unfolded made for a good story and a laugh. 

Strike that strike! We’re still in the game!

When we got home, Katie picked out a movie she wanted to watch, and we camped on the couch. Before the movie started, I pointed at her and said, “Hey, remember that time you were totally awful at your own birthday and ruined dessert? That was hilarious!” Then started laughing. 

Strike Three. Try again in 2020. As the French would say “Merde!”

Should’ve gone with the cheesecake.

Little Girls Who Don’t Answer Their Phone…

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A rush of that winter fresh 2019 air fills my lungs as I bid the yesteryear a farewell…almost. I’ve got one final story that sits on the razor’s edge of 2018 to kick off January’s article. So, let’s put our stupid New Year’s Eve paper top hats and noisemakers away and get to it.

 It’s become more and more difficult to schedule time with my teenage daughter. Nowadays, Abby’s busy with school, sports or her boyfriend (not necessarily in that order, though I wish it was). But that’s life. And while it’s a bit tricky to find time with her, I love that she’s becoming her own person as each day passes.

 I bought tickets to see Aquaman. Abby and I were set for Friday, December 28th at 11:15 am. She confirmed that she would be available and wanted to go see it. Katie bowed out as it didn’t interest her, so it was going to be another memorable chapter in the already bible-thick father/daughter book. I was up, dressed and ready by 10 am. I was, as I always am, excited to catch a movie with the kiddo.

 On the drive to pick her up, I decided to give her a call to let her know I was en route. The phone went directly to voicemail. This is a common, yet hair-ripping-scream in frustration-worthy, thing she does. I usually have to make a second (sometimes third) call until she picks up. This time, she didn’t pick up at all. I sent Abby a text kindly instructing her to pick up her phone…more or less…not really. I’m pretty sure I told her I’d kill her if she didn’t pick up.

 Upset that I would most likely have to cancel the show time, I decided I would grab some breakfast at Wawa while I waited for her to reply. I figured killing was going to be difficult enough, no need to be hungry while I do it. I reached out to Katie and see if she had heard from Abby. While on the phone with Katie, I helped myself to a bacon, egg and cheese bagel sandwich and 2 hash browns. Never had breakfast at Wawa? You’re doing yourself a disservice. Katie asked what I was going to do next. I told her I was certain we weren’t going to make the movie and that I was grabbing a breakfast sandwich while I waited for Abby to call me back. Katie asked if I was going to get Abby anything. My reply was simply, “Little girls who don’t answer their phone do not get breakfast.”

 My phone voice tends to ignore what society would consider appropriate and carries well beyond the normal range. So, when I said that, it was apparently loud enough for ears within 10 feet to hear it. Katie said that my approach was a little rough, but the reaction from shoppers in Wawa was laughter. But it was the Wawa clerk who quoted me as I checked out, “Little girls who don’t answer their phone do not get breakfast. That’s a solid philosophy, man!” It brought a smile to my face. I paid the man and told him to have a good day. Right as I stepped out, Abby texted me. She said she was awake and ready to get picked up to see the movie. I explained that the ship had sailed. I told her I’d still pick her up, but since she didn’t answer the phone, we’d have to catch a show time later that week or next.

 When I picked Abby up, she apologized for sending me to voicemail and said it wouldn’t happen again. I knew it inevitably would happen again, but nodded regardless. Some would probably chime in here and call me a cynic, but I’m a realist when it comes to parenting. She told me she hadn’t eaten and wanted a breakfast sandwich. I’m not sure what the alchemy is that can make me both rough and unwavering with her one minute and then an old softie the next, but I made a straight shot to the nearest place to get breakfast.

 We returned to Wawa, where she grabbed a couple of donuts, an iced tea and some fried mozzarella cheese sticks…a breakfast for champions. As we stood in a line at the checkout, I noticed that the clerk who had checked me out before was still working…and we were in his line! I thought maybe he wouldn’t recognize me. Granted, it had only been about 30 minutes since I last saw him, but it’s a Wawa off a major highway with lots of foot traffic and LOTS of faces. No way would he remember me.

 We approached the checkout. The clerk looked me, then he looked at Abby. The irony was not lost on that clerk. He immediately recognized me. Then he looked back at me and said, “I guess little girls who don’t answer their phones DO get breakfast?” I looked befuddled. I was conflicted between feeling upset by his remark, but also wanting to laugh, as I saw the humor in it. I went for the old rolling of the eyes and a shrug of the shoulders as if to say, “What are ya going to do?”

 Merriam-Webster defines embarrassment as “the emotional state of being made self-consciously uncomfortable.” I’d say that’s a pretty spot-on analysis of what occurred in line at that Wawa on Friday, December 28th at 11:00 am. Now don’t get me wrong, the child is not the source of this embarrassing moment – it was me. I created this with my big mouth and inability to use my inside voice. Had I just spoken a little softer, or not at all, the clerk of Wawa wouldn’t have remembered me and my flawed, high decibel “wisdom.”

 Having a kid, at times THIS kid, can be trying. I could’ve put a friend, any friend, in Abby’s position and see myself at the 11:30 am show time of Aquaman alone and not feeling remotely bothered by it. In fact, I would’ve told that friend what a great time I had. But when you’re a parent, the rules are different…except, perhaps in my father’s parenting book. I’m certain my father wouldn’t have given me a second thought and gone to see the movie after he called and it went to voicemail ONCE.

 We ended up seeing it later that night, at almost twice the cost and surrounded with loudmouthed buffoons that recited every line like some daft parrot. On top of everything, Aquaman was garbage!

Tears for Fears Xmas…

I usually don’t get caught up in the holiday hype – rather the opposite. Getting to the mall becomes harder than sitting through 5 minutes of “Johny Johny Yes Papa” (look it up, it’s fucking torture!) But this December is different.

At the Giant grocery store off Bay Ridge Ave in Annapolis, a crew of 3 (so far) Salvation Army bell ringers take shifts sounding off daily, collecting donations as they do every year following Black Friday. But one particular, and somewhat peculiar, man stands out. And I mean he stands out like a clean shaven, loose-fitting jeans sporting, carnivore in Portland. (That was a well written joke aimed at hipsters.) But this gentleman, in my book, shines a bit brighter than most. For proper context, we’re going to need a flashback and new paragraph.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, like everywhere else in America, the Chesapeake-neighboring town of Annapolis goes into full-on Christmas mode. Vibrant, seasonal lights coat the city and an invasion of bell toting carolers representing the Salvation Army set up camp in front of every grocery store. I, like many of you, notice them initially to later have my attention diverted by the next limelight-hungry group demanding my money for a good cause.

Abby and I wrapped up some grocery shopping and exited Giant, when an unusual ditty sideswiped us. A man singing the following stopped me dead in my tracks: “There’s a room where the lights won’t find you, holding hands while the walls come tumbling down…” I was in denial at what I had just heard. Yes folks, someone was singing in the correct key AND in rhythm with the bell! I’m telling you it seems as if the Salvation Army bell ringers got together and decided that the two previously mentioned skills are mutually exclusive. They most certainly are not. But since it’s the holidays, good cheer and whatnot, I’ll just put this in the nicest way possible…There’s the way this guy was belting notes in front of Giant and then there are the rest of the bell ringers who are complete shit.

When I paused, Abby did too. I asked her if she was listening to the song. She replied in her signature way, “Listening to what?” This just reaffirmed my original theory that this kid lives in her own little world and sound travels only on the outskirts of her ears, never in. I sang the lyrics I just heard and she immediately identified the Tears for Fears song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” It was interesting watching someone break out of traditional Christmas carols and try something new for a change. I regretfully never talked to him to give him kudos for flipping the festive script…until last Wednesday night.

After weeks of subpar, tone-deaf bell ringing carolers, I finally saw him again the other night! This time I decided to approach him and ask, “Excuse me, sir, a few weeks ago were you here singing Tears for Fears?” He turned to me and replied, “YEAH, I WAS! Tears for Fears is one of the greatest bands ever!” He was an older gentleman, around 65, with the most contagious smile that ran from ear to ear after I initiated conversation. His response and overall demeanor made me mirror his smile. No embellishments In today’s article, as you can see in the picture above. (yes, that’s really him).

 As I made my way back to the car, something came over me. I quickly dumped the groceries in the backseat and reached into the middle console and cleared all the change I had. I then jogged back to him and dumped every cent I had into that fire engine red bucket. I told him that I wasn’t a fan of this time of year in general, but told him he had made my year. He smiled again, wished me a Merry Christmas and I reciprocated.

I think about how Die Hard can arguably be the greatest Christmas movie in my opinion. Why can’t “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” be a Christmas song? In a time when Thanksgiving can be rejected by some and addressed as “the decolonization of native Americans” and “Baby, It’s Cold outside” is now considered “rapey,” it looks like a slot may have just opened up for a new holiday song. #ThanksMillennials

 Final Note:

I’ve never heard of New Year’s resolutions being abandoned BEFORE the new year starts, until now. I said earlier this year I’d be taking a break from The Moron Editorial in 2019, but I’ve had a change of heart. So with that, I’ll be back in January 2019. Now go open presents or whatever the hell it is you do.

Not Going to Stand on Ceremony…

Turkey

It felt like my writing stalled recently. I spent most of a creatively dry November with no ideas for articles, submitting my resume for Counterintelligence jobs at the NSA (seriously, when I get bored, I apply for jobs I have no chance of obtaining). Then Thanksgiving came…

A 13 pound turkey I had brined for 2 days hit the smoker on November 21st at 10 am. We were celebrating Thanksgiving a day early so there wouldn’t be any friction between the ex and me about who would have Abby on the actual day. The holiday back and forth battle has been going strong since 2008 and frankly, I’d welcome a colonoscopy over future feuding. So Katie and I now celebrate all the big holidays early to avoid any further confrontations for the sake of the kiddo and our sanity.

I texted Abby earlier in the week and told her she was more than welcome to invite her boyfriend, Cam, for dinner that day. I wasn’t sure if he would come, as texts to my daughter are replied to as often as the NSA regarding my resume. In fact, I’d bet there is a higher likelihood that the dog would vocally express his love for me before Abby will respond to a text. But Cam did end up coming over.

We sat down together to dig in, but not before I said, “We’re not going to stand on ceremony,” a phrase frequently uttered by my father-in-law. After dinner, we all gathered around the old PS4 and played Little Big Planet 3. It was about 10 minutes in when Cam decided he was bored and started sabotaging the team by killing the rest of us. I quickly realized I didn’t like playing games with this kid and an overwhelming urge to kill him in real life took over me. But I referred myself to last month’s article and recited “I want Abby to be happy. This kid makes Abby happy.” until the urge to kill him subsided.

Later in the evening Abby mentioned all the driving Cam had been doing since getting his license two weeks earlier. Between picking Abby up at her mother’s house two towns over, not to mention the joyriding, Cam was filling his tank twice a week. I felt for the boy and decided, on the down low, to slip him $20 and tell him it was for gas. It’s something my father-in-law (The Rick) would do.

The Rick…

My father-in-law has, as long as I’ve known him, been an easygoing guy. He enjoys beer, football and is incredibly social…and I mean social to a fault. This guy will introduce himself to everyone. “Become the known” is one of his favorite mottos. From the coat checker to the damn performer, if given the opportunity, he will say hello and ask you your name. For the sake of discretion in today’s article, we’ll just call him “The Rick.” There are many Ricks, but none like him. I know this sounds like some introduction from The Big Lebowski and I’m describing The Dude, but the difference is that this is a real person.

It’s only in the last month I have found myself trying to follow the blueprint my father-in-law indirectly laid out for me. The man is a master at the “how to” on almost anything. He is the most even keel person I’ve ever known. These days, it seems to be one of the rarest commodities.

I have never seen The Rick lose his temper ever…except, ironically, Thanksgiving 2012 when his dog, Rowdy, jumped up on the dinner table and took a turkey leg. I thought it was hilarious until I saw The Rick’s face. I’m almost certain that dog would’ve ceased to exist if he wasn’t hosting family. But I don’t blame him for being upset. If it were my dog, he’d STILL be sleeping outside. In his defense though, in 2015, I farted and blamed Rowdy at a family function. I regret nothing as I do not like Rowdy, but I digress.

I’d bet it’s a strange view from the outside looking in at the dynamic of a father looking out for not only his daughter, but the boy said daughter likes. But I look at it as being part of an elite club. Not being the father of a daughter, but being a strong father-like figure to another man that may require a little bit of guidance and advice (when asked for it). THAT’S what makes this club elite in my opinion. I know there may come a day in the future when Abby will bring home the man she’s chosen to spend the rest of her life with and I hope to have this father-in-law skill as fine tuned as The Rick.

I find myself now asking WWTRD (What Would The Rick Do)? If this man, father of two daughters, doesn’t know, I know I’m fucked.