Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Real Neighborhood

Crazy Train (of thought)

If wisdom is the wealth of the wise, I just might be poor.

Well, the belly dancing didn’t go over very well the other night. Jill said I looked like a whale with hiccups.

The way you travel through life is the greatest legacy you can leave to those who follow you.

Why is it that when I don’t water the shrubs it won’t rain, but almost immediately after I’ve spent two hours soaking the ground, there comes a downpour?

Drug testing chess champions? I thought they had to take stimulants just to stay awake during that game.

Best quote I’ve heard in a long time (from a Mom to a daughter during a talk about sex): “You can be like those girls in less than 30 minutes, but they can never be like you.” Now that’s wisdom.

Am I the only one who is beginning to wonder of Fox & Friends is really a commercial for the books written by the hosts?

Book Report

As I’ve mentioned, I’m working on a project that I hope will result in a newspaper column. Here’s a sample:

A Real Neighborhood

What makes a neighborhood? Is it a collection of homes on the same block or the people who live next door?

I’ve lived in several homes, all within neighborhoods, but my experience was different at each address. For example, at our last address I knew the first names of only a few neighbors. Although we lived in that house more than five years, we were never invited by a neighbor to come over for a meal. The only time my neighbors came to our door was when there was a quota to meet for a school fundraiser. No one waved as we drove past. My family was not connected to anyone outside our four walls; there were no friends in our neighborhood.

Today we live at an address where everything is different.

In this neighborhood, neighbors watch out for your children when you aren’t looking, grab your newspaper from the sidewalk and toss it onto the porch while you are on vacation, and rescue your mail on a rainy day if they see it sticking out of the mailbox. They wave when you drive past, and sometimes stop you to ask how you are doing.

Perhaps it is because we now live on a cul-de-sac rather than a through street, or maybe it is the time we spend with our neighbors in the park watching our children play fetch with our dogs, but here our neighbors are indeed our friends.

When I say friends, I don’t mean casual acquaintances, I mean people you trust, people who are important to your heart. Our neighbors are the kind of friends with whom you exchange house keys, to whom you lend your car or a stick of butter, even if it means they go into your refrigerator when you aren’t home.

In the last two years we have had more meals than I can count with our neighbors, our friends. It is during these meals, in that time spent together, when we get to know our friends better. It is when we share our life stories, major announcements, concerns for our children, and sometimes our tears. It is when I am reminded of how happy I am that we live in this neighborhood.

So what makes a neighborhood? The close proximity or similarity of the homes on either side of yours? Or the people who are your neighbors? It is the neighbors, I think, the ones who become your friends. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Selective Memory

Crazy Train (of thought)

You know the old saying, “Walks like a duck, talks like a duck, looks like a duck, must be a duck”? Get real people - acts like a terrorist, talks like a terrorist, looks like a terrorists, might be a terrorist. Yes, it might be rude to stare, but I’m watching you until the darn plane lands safely.

Laura is visiting us for dinner tonight – I’m making a Middle East/Indian style vegetable soup. I’ve already started it; the smell of curry and garlic is wafting about me right now. My ladies are both a little under the weather so I’m planning on belly dancing for them after dinner. I’m sure I’ll make them feel better or accelerate their sickness. Either way, the soup will be good.

There is something profoundly disturbing about seeing a 40 year old man posting a shirtless photo of himself on MySpace and claiming he is a big fan of my book about daughters. I wish I could forward a Google alert to the sex crimes unit.

I’ve been told several times recently I look a lot like Kevin Spacey. It conjures images from Se7en, The Usual Suspects, Pay It Forward, and worse, Lex Luther. I see plastic surgery in my future, my near future.

This coming weekend we neighbors join together to decorate the park in our cul-de-sac for Christmas. I can already taste the spiked hot cider. I can’t wait for the part when the husbands pretend to be Santa and the wives - well, I’ll skip that part.

Marital Bliss

Jill likes to watch those weird reality shows just before going to sleep. Last night she saw an episode about a woman burying her dog. There was a wake complete with wreaths and organ music, a pink casket, a eulogy and a reading of goodbye letters at graveside. My wife sits up in bed and declares we are going to have such a ceremony for Princess. No, I protest, a wooden box and a hole in the backyard will be just fine. At this moment she teared up and asked me to promise I would plant a red fern on the grave. On the one hand I’ll do anything for my wife. On the other, some things are asking just a little too much.

Kid-bytes

Funny how the girls forget most of what I ask them to do, my birthday, what time to be home, phone messages they took for me, to turn out the lights, where they last used their cell phones, homework and more, but never fail to remind me when it is allowance time again.

Book Report

I hope you enjoyed the Book Report yesterday. As I mentioned, I’m rewriting a book and working on other projects due soon. Actually, I’m up to my ears with deadlines before the end of the year so blog entries may be more brief than usual. Please bear with me and I’ll reward you with previews of books to come as I finish them in the next few weeks.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thanks So Much!

Crazy Train (of thought)

Thanks to everyone who has helped me by posing for the new books. I had a short timeline and that could have spelled impossible, but with the support of my friends and family, I think I’m going to pull another rabbit out of a hat.

Speaking of family, at Thanksgiving I looked up and realized we had five generations around the table. Now that’s something to be thankful for.

Someone recently asked me what is the difference between a duck egg and a chicken egg. I told her in the duck species the males laid the eggs.

The best inheritance parents can give to their children is a few minutes of their time each day.

One of life’s most challenging tasks is to show your love to someone who doesn’t love you back at the time. The good news is that later that moment pays off in big rewards when that someone realizes just how much you have loved them all along.

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of anyone else.

Kid-bytes

Like many parents, we are constantly amazed at the remarkable differences in our two children. One is contemplative and thoughtful, on the verge of tears at every emotionally tugging commercial, always has her nose in a book and stays up late working on term papers, and will stop in the middle of the road to help a little old lady change a tire. The other is in constant motion, takes the word “fidgety” to a whole new level, reads only with threatened with detention, is a persistent negotiator to obtain her wishes, and has the most amazing wit you will ever hear. One needs to learn to be more suspicious while the other could use a lesson in restraint. But either way, these characteristics, temporal or permanent, these lessons learned or ignored, our girls are at the center of our hearts. We love ‘em both beyond measure. And we plan to save our grandchildren by kidnapping them as soon as possible after birth.

Book Report

Alas, my publisher doesn’t like the introduction I wrote for my upcoming book “Thank You: A Child’s Expressions of Gratitude,” so I have to try again. Since my first draft has been rejected and won’t appear in the book, I see no harm in letting you read it. I hope you enjoy:

“I have much to be thankful for – the love and support of my family, my health, my many friends, my material comforts, my success as a writer, and more. Yet, even though I am thankful, it would be easy for me to succumb to pride and look at what I have accomplished, experienced or acquired and say to myself, “I did this.” I am indeed sometimes tempted to take credit for what my life has become, as if I alone had a plan, a vision, and the intellect to make everything happen as it has. I know I am not alone in having this weakness.

Fortunately, I also realize the folly of such thinking and step back a minute to assess how I really got to where I am. I then quickly admit I did not get anywhere only by my own means. I have had the help of my family, friends, mentors and advisors, I have had some good luck, and I was given a good foundation on which to grow up and learn. It is that foundation, the one my parents gave me, this book is about. It is that foundation I grow increasingly thankful for as the years go by, especially now when as a parent myself, I truly understand what is required to set into place all the building blocks necessary to support and nurture a child for a lifetime. It is with this book I thank my parents for doing all they could to make sure I had a good life and the support and opportunities that led to who I have become.

Who I have become in large measure is a devoted parent, a loving father of a teenager. I cherish my experience as a parent; it has been fulfilling, heartwarming and fun. It has at times also been challenging, frustrating, stressful, and once or twice, completely exhausting. I spend hours a day thinking of what to do for my daughter to bring her joy, assure her health, comfort and safety, give her experience and opportunity, and show her lots of love and affection. My child does not know all of what I have done for her, nor do I intend to list those things for her to see, for I do them because of the love a parent has for his or her child, not for recognition and reward. I do them because I want my child to live as carefree and innocent as she can while she is still young and in my care.

Having said that, I must also admit there are days when I think there is little praise for what I do to support my child, days when I have to call on emotional and spiritual reserves to stay strong enough to continue to do what I think is in her best interest and necessary to prepare her for what she will face when she steps out on her own - when she is no longer a little girl under Daddy’s watchful eye. These are the days when I have wondered if I am the only one who notices how much I want to be a good parent, when I have thrown my hands in the air and screamed, “Why is this so damn hard!”

Recently, after a particularly argumentative day with my child, an uncle who observed the interaction said to me, “She reminds me of you when you were that age.” That simple, common statement brought me to the real reason I thought to write this book in the first place, to tell my parents I finally understand and am grateful for what they did and all they went though for me and my four siblings.

You see, I was a difficult child, a precocious teenager and sometimes a rebel without a clue. I tormented my parents with struggles for independence and shows of disrespect and disobedience. That is easy to admit because there were so many witnesses and my parents have forgiven me. More difficult to admit is I fear I rarely showed appreciation for what my parents did for me and gave to me; I simply did not say “thank you” when I should have. I think back to events that I know were hard on my mother and father and I first feel remorse that I brought pain upon them, but then grateful I have been given the wisdom to take full responsibility for my actions and the humility to recognize they loved and cared for me in spite of my conduct and ingratitude.

Now all these years later, wiser from having been in their shoes, I write this book to say thanks to my parents. With it I recognize and acknowledge the many sacrifices they made on my behalf and the caring gestures they have extended to me for over forty-six years. I am using these pages to tell them, “I can’t possibly thank you enough for everything you did, but I’m going to try.” Even then, the expressions of gratitude that follow, whether simple, silly or profound, are only the beginning of what I want to say to my parents, and what I believe other children want and should say to theirs.

To accompany my words and give life to these pages I have chosen the smiling faces of children to convey the absolute sincerity and unabashed affection that is included with each expression of gratitude. I did this because it seems each time I slip and think there are not enough rewards for being a parent, my daughter looks at me, smiles and says, “Thank you,” and then often follows that up with a hug and a kiss. That is when I am reminded of what my real reward is – having the love and respect of my child. That is when I am reminded of the power of a smile, a twinkle in the eyes and two short words. That is when I am reminded of what I am sure my parents wanted most from their children. Albeit late, I hope they find their reward in these pages.”

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A True Story?

One year at Thanksgiving, a mom went to her daughter's house for the traditional feast. Knowing how gullible her child is, the mom had planned to play an elaborate trick. She asked her daughter to go purchase a few last minute things she needed from the grocery store. When the daughter left, the mom removed the turkey from the oven, removed the stuffing, crammed it into a Cornish hen, and then inserted the stuffed hen into the turkey. She then placed the bird(s) back into the oven. Hours and a few glasses of wine later it was time for dinner. The host pulled the turkey out of the oven and proceeded to remove the stuffing. She reached in the turkey and pulled out the little bird. With a look of total shock on her face, the mother screamed, "You've cooked a pregnant bird!" To her surprise, her daughter started to cry hysterically. It took the whole family two hours to convince the distraught hostess that turkeys actually lay eggs.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Mountain Drive

Crazy Train (of thought)

Exactly when does push come to shove?

For your own peace of mind, resign your self-appointed position as general manager of the universe.

You know that song that goes “Tequila makes her clothes fall off”? Never have truer words been spoken.

Thanksgiving is coming! My favorite holiday, the time of the year when the whole family, all 80+ of us, get together for some redneck fun. I can’t wait!

Jill and I were chatting with a woman who told us how she had just run off her boyfriend. Later she admitted she owns 9 Chihuahuas. I thought about her dating future and then recommended she try to get the old boyfriend back.

This weekend we drove along a road in TN aptly named “Dragon’s Tail.” It has 318 curves in 11 miles; that’s 29 curves per mile, or worse, one every 182 feet. That’s too many gag reflexes to count.

Marital Bliss

While in the mountains of NC this weekend Jill looked at a map and remarked about how close we were to a trail she had hiked with her family when a little girl. She had to go do it again. I told her it was too far to drive but she insisted it was nearby, pointing to the map and holding her fingers up about an inch apart (that was my first clue to how this was going to turn out, but I foolishly ignored it). Against my better judgment but determined to please my wife, we loaded up and drove to the trail. We arrived three hours later. I told her. We found the trail and set out, only to walk the whole thing in less than 15 minutes. “I remembered it being a little longer,” was all my wife had to say. I had a few more words than that to say but I’ll not repeat them now. Don’t want to embarrass my momma.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

World Champions

Crazy Train (of thought)

People may doubt what you say, but they will always believe what you do.

What is the origin of the phrase “keep your eyes out”? Wouldn’t that mean you can’t see a darn thing?

Growing older is mandatory. Growing up is optional. Laughing at yourself is therapeutic.

Jill and I were returning home from the market with our selects for dinner when we passed Laura’s house. Limo Joe has just put her in the back seat and shut the door. We stopped alongside the car and rolled down the window to chat. She explained she was going out “high-assin’.” Now, Jill nor I had ever heard that term, but with one look at her pearls and sterling silver cup dripping with sweat from the chilled concoction inside, we knew what she meant. That lady has class. If good living were a competitive sport, she’d be a world champion.

Although there are nearly 150 homes in our neighborhood, there are only 16 on our cul-de-sac. I, as someone who works at home in an upstairs office that offers a perfect vantage for seeing everything that happens on our court, keep a watch on my neighbor’s homes and do such things as bring their packages in from the rain or chase down their loose dogs. I also greet the new folks that move in as soon as I see a truck unloading furniture, get to know them and then introduce them to the other neighbors. I thought this was a valuable community service, but somehow it has earned me the nickname “Gladys Kravitz.” Yesterday it was Erma, today it’s Gladys, tomorrow? Better not be Cprl. Klinger.

Marital Bliss

Toward the end of the evening Jill asked me to come up stairs. I looked at my watch – it was only 9 PM. Are you tired? I asked. No, she answers, just come upstairs. I did, and there I found a candlelit bubble bath waiting for us. We slipped in and talked until the water became too cold to tolerate any longer. I’m a world champion, too.

Kid-bytes

Meagan texted me to confirm our holiday schedule. When I asked why she needed to know, she explained she wanted to go to the airport to pick up a friend. I found out it was a young man, so of course I pressed for more information. They met at church camp. Good. He is an A student. Good. He is tall. Good. He is polite, like me. Very good. He is rich. That was when I told her to throw herself at him.

Book Report

Just a little something for fun:

Recently I was diagnosed with A. A. A. D. D. - Age-Activated Attention Deficit Disorder. This is how it manifests: I decide to water my garden. As I turn on the hose in the driveway, I look over at my car and decide my car needs washing. As I start toward the garage, I notice there is mail on the porch table that I brought up from the mailbox earlier. I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car. I lay my car keys down on the table, put the junk mail in the garbage can, and notice that the can is full. I decide to put the bills back on the table and take out the garbage first. But then I think, since I'm going to be near the mailbox, when I take out the garbage anyway, I may as well pay the bills first. I take my checkbook off the table and see there is only 1 check left. My extra checks are in my desk in the study, so I go inside the house to my desk where I find the can of Coke that I had been drinking. I'm going to look for my checks, but first I need to push the Coke aside so that I don't accidentally knock it over. I see that the Coke is getting warm, and I decide I should put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold. As I head toward the kitchen with the Coke, a vase of flowers on the counter catches my eye - they need to be watered. I set the Coke on the counter and discover my reading glasses I've been searching for all morning. I decide I better put them back on my desk, but first I'm going to water the flowers. I set the glasses back on the counter, fill a container with water and suddenly I spot the TV remote. Someone left it on the kitchen table. I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV, I will be looking for the remote, but I won't remember that it's on the kitchen table, so I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs, but first I'll water the flowers. I pour some water in the flowers, but quite a bit of it spills on the floor. So, I set the remote back on the table, get some towels and wipe up the spill. Then, I head down the hall trying to remember what I was planning to do. Soon I realize nothing got done today, and I'm really baffled because I know I was busy all day long, and now I'm really tired. I undress and get in the bed. Then I remember - I left the water running in the driveway!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

This and That

Crazy Train (of thought)

Speaking well of others is not only a good way to acquire friends, but to keep them.

The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.

I’m beginning to think dentists and barbers have something in common. They always think the last dentist or barber you saw didn’t do a good job.

Yahoo! I’m having conversation with a major newspaper that is interested in the column idea I’ve been shopping around. I imagined myself as a Lewis Grizzard type, but for some reason Jill and Laura agree I’m more like Erma Bombeck.

Marital Bliss

When I broke the news to Jill that I might be becoming a columnist, she jumped for joy and declared she saw a new dress in Princess’s future. Yep, that’s what I work so hard for.

Kid-bytes

When both girls are sick it is horrible around here. Lots of whining, lying around moaning, sleeping all day, snack crumbs between the sofa cushions and fights over what to watch on television. In the old days if I was too sick to go to school my mom surmised I was also too sick to get out of bed, so there I stayed until I felt well enough to return to school. Now those were the days before computers, CD players, cable television (heck, we only had one TV and it was in the living room, so a lot of good that was) and room service (I know, I spoil them). I had a near perfect attendance record; being in school was so much better than staring at the ceiling.

Book Report

Yes, I ranted a bit recently about someone’s critique of my book about adoption. Fortunately, there is balance in the world – I saw this new review yesterday:

“Moving on to more pleasant things, I just happened to be in Target this evening and stumbled upon this awesome book. It is called "Why I Chose You" and although it was in an out-of-the-way spot, the title made me stop the cart in mid turn so I could get a closer look. After reading the subtitle, "100 Reasons Why Adopting You Made Us a Family", I had it in my hands and was flipping through the pages faster than you could blink an eye. I fell in love with the book almost immediately and it is now sitting next to me as I type this message. The book is by author Gregory E. Lang and celebrates families that have been made complete through adoption. The phrases and photos are beautiful, and of course made me cry as I read through it. This will fast become a favorite book in our house, and I guarantee it will be read often.”

As you might guess, this reviewer is one of those wonderful people who chose to give a family and home to a child who had none. Bravo!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

New Look

I hope you like the new look of my blog. I spent most of the day yesterday working on it to make the transition back and forth between the blog and website seem more seamless, thus I didn’t have time to write an entry for today. Check back tomorrow for a new post. Thanks!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Coming of Age

Crazy Train (of thought)

It’s not how many hours you put in but how much you put into the hours.

A skeptic is a person who, when he sees the handwriting on the wall, claims it is a forgery.

Every man’s greatest battle is the one he fights with himself.

I get an itemized bill for the girls’ cell phones so we can make sure they are not using them when in school or too late into the night. On the recent bill I realized Meagan sends a lot of text messages each month – about 1800 in fact.

Linley asked when we were taking Princess to the vet and I announced I don’t believe in vets. They tend to prolong the life of smelly little dogs.

Marital Bliss

Jill and I went to the gym the other day and I insisted we work out together; I have been suspicious about her truthfulness when telling me how hard she works out. As we worked out on a circuit of four machines, I noticed she was moving pretty fast, finishing each routine in nearly half the time it took me. I paused to figure out why. Turns out she was counting her repetitions in even numbers.

Kid-bytes

One aspect of the art of parenting is knowing when to let go. I have watched Meagan pretty closely as she has tried her hand at dating. I am happy to say she has always done as I asked – making the guys come inside to meet me, giving me an itinerary, arriving home on time, etc. So in reward I have extended her curfew and allow her to have company in the house for a brief while at the end of a date. I can tell from her smile as I answer “yes” to her requests that she is enjoying these displays of trust. Sometimes it is hard for me, but I am slowly releasing my grip. My little girl is indeed becoming a young woman.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

More from the Porch

Sometimes what lifts your heart to high places is a welcome gesture or conversation you didn’t see coming. I had such an experience one evening last week. I called my family to say I was going to be late coming home because of airport delays, and I asked them not to wait up for me.

When I arrived home hours later and walked through the front door, Meagan looked up from the sofa and called out “Daddy,” the single word that when said with such enthusiasm has always made my heart flutter with delight. She lept up and scurried down the hall in a half-dance, half-somersault kind if skip and jumped into my arms. Although my back noticed sixteen year olds aren’t quite as light as toddlers, I spread my feet, found my balance and waited for what I hoped would come next.

I wasn’t disappointed. She gave me a big kiss on the cheek, the place where she has planted her smooches in the last few years after having proclaimed to me one day she was too old to kiss me on the lips. It was a moment I knew would come, one I dreaded. Since that day I have settled for cheek kisses unless I was able to steal one by turning my face toward her at the last minute when she wasn’t expecting it.

Meagan’s displays of affection are not all that has changed over the years. There was a time when she needed me for everything. I taught her how to tie her shoes, buckle her seatbelt, and use the microwave oven. Soon she wanted me to show her how to make her own scrambled eggs and shuffle a deck of cards.

As she mastered these tasks and continued to grow up, becoming more independent and less willing to turn to me for what she needed, I began to feel the loss of status in her eyes. Too soon it seemed I was no longer needed to read her to sleep, walk her to class, or help her with her homework. I moped around and wondered if I would still have a place in her life.

I had been the facilitator, the guy doing all the things she couldn’t do for herself. Then one day I became her protector, training her for independence and giving her more freedom but not before issuing the appropriate warnings, like the time I once told a young man who had come to take my daughter on a date that I could leg press 700 pounds, quite enough to stomp the brains right out of his head (since then he has referred to me as The Warden).

Things continued to change. I had to learn to be her friend, someone not too hovering or intrusive, but someone who could take a step back and allow her to grow. This role has had its own rewards, even if the beloved kiss on the lips is a thing of the past.

Recently I took her to visit a college campus. We toured the classrooms and dorms, asked lots of questions of our tour guide, picked up an armload of admission forms and information packets, and then headed out to lunch. Sitting in a little sidewalk bistro near campus I speculated about how much fun she would have living in a dorm. My self-reliant, independent teenager sat across from me and fiddled with her salad.

“Is something wrong?” I asked.
“Will you come visit me?” she asked.

My heart melted and I wanted to reach across the table to hug her. “Of course I will,” I answered, “at least once a week.”

That is when she started to choke on her salad. “Ah, that’s a bit much,” she managed to say. It didn’t matter. My little girl had told me she would miss me when she leaves home.

Just the other day I took her to the airport for her first solo flight. Along the way we talked about her turning eighteen in less than two years and leaving home to attend college. Once at the airport I got her bag out of the car and sent her off to check herself in, a task she was determined to do on her own. I hugged her and said my good-bye, and to my surprise, when I least expected it, she grabbed my head, turned my face toward hers, and kissed me on the lips.

She may have been the one on the plane, but after that, I was the one flying high.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Blessed

Crazy Train (of thought)

Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself.

A life of doing right is the wisest life there is. If you live that kind of life, you’ll not limp or stumble as you run.

I think Jill was delirious the other night. While we were eating sushi she started talking to me in Italian.

Jill likes those smelly soaps and shampoos. Today I am a fruity blend of fig, honey and pomegranate.

You can’t succeed in marriage until you prefer your partner to yourself.

Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility.

Marital Bliss and Kid-bytes

At church Sunday we heard of all the statistics about divorce, remarriage and subsequent divorce, and learned a few Biblically based strategies for making marriage work and keeping focus on the family, whether it be a first family or a step-family. Meagan, Jill and I smiled throughout; we’re not perfect but we do already live by those recommendations. At the end of the service we stood in the foyer in a tight family hug with “I love you” said between us all. I told you I am blessed.

Book Report

Recent reader email:

“I just finished your book, ‘Why A Daughter Needs a Dad,’ and I wanted to thank you for putting in words the things that all fathers of little girls need to know. Sometimes we forget about the little things we should do. I am 40 years old and have a daughter that is almost five. Our relation-ship hasn't been all that great, but I attribute that to myself for not being the father she needs. I look back on my conduct during those five years and I cringe sometimes. I love her with all of my heart and desperately want to be her ‘Knight in Shining Armor,’ and her hero. She is my precious baby girl and has been from the moment I first held her in my arms after she was born. All the things you have written about — I'm going to give it 100 percent to live up to those things and do them for her. Thank you again for your book. It's a great inspiration to me.”

Monday, November 06, 2006

A Tribute to Gibson Dean, II

Several weeks ago I wrote briefly about a fine gentleman whom I liked very much and even said I wanted to grow up to be like him. Regrettably, Gibson Dean II passed away a few days ago. I had the honor to write his obituary. In memory of the man in the fancy shoes, Fedora and suspenders, the best Caesar salad and Bloody Mary maker ever, and the beloved father of my dear friend Laura, I pay tribute to him today:

“Longtime Hall County resident Gibson Dean, II, prominent Buford attorney, known to his family and friends as “Gib,” died at home Friday, November 3, of natural causes. He was 73 years old.

A successful lawyer with the serious demeanor of Atticus Finch in his office and the courtroom but the comedic wit and timing of Jack Benny in the other walks of his life, Gib was well known and beloved by many as a snappy dresser, nimble dancer, self-deprecating humorist and all round charmer. He was the consummate southern gentlemen. Always greeting others with a firm handshake or warm hug and calling out, “Hello, darlin’” to the ladies, Gib filled the room with love and laughter. A stranger to no one, he liked everyone he met and all who encountered him quickly became another of his admiring fans.

Gib will be forever remembered by his devoted wife, Ann Newton Dean, and his loving children, Laura Burton Dean, Gibson Dean, III, Jim Newton and Rick Newton. He is also survived by his sister and brother-in-law, Eugenia and Legare Platt of Edgewater, FL, sister-in-law Sara Ann Dean of Walterboro, SC, as well as several nieces, nephews and cousins.

As a husband Gib adored Ann and showered her with unfailing affection, and as a father, he firmly raised his children with grace and character and playfully nurtured their individual spirits.

Born in Ridgeland, South Carolina in 1933, Gib attended the University of South Carolina where he obtained a business degree in 1955, and the University of South Carolina Law School, Columbia, where he obtained a law degree in 1956. Upon completing his studies he entered the United States Air Force where he served with distinction until 1967. He practiced law in both South Carolina and Georgia, and served on the Supreme Court of Georgia in 1965.

A generous contributor to his community and profession, Gib served as President of the American Legion of Buford and the 550 Development Association, President, Gwinnett County Bar Association (1970 – 1971), Member, Georgia House of Representatives (1971 – 1975), Member, Board of Governors, State Bar Association of Georgia (1972 – 1976), Deputy Assistant Attorney General, State of Georgia (1973 – 1984), County Attorney, Gwinnett County (1983 – 1987), Chief Litigation Counsel, Gwinnett County (1987 – 1991), and most recently, President, Old Warhorse Lawyers Club.

Among many other accomplishments, Gib was the proud recipient of the Albert M. Kuhfeld Award for Outstanding Young Judge Advocate, United States Air Force (1964) and the Outstanding Service Award, Federal Bar Association (1965).

Gib liked to repeat the motto of the Old Warhorse Lawyers Club, “I aim for nothing and seldom miss,” however, his distinguished record, crisp pocket-handkerchief, robust laugh and always well placed joke, would tell you otherwise.

A memorial service for Gibson Dean, II, will be held Sunday, November 5 at 2:00, at Flanigan Funeral Home, 4400 South Lee Street, Buford. If not flowers, contributions may be made in Gib’s honor to Eagle Ranch, Chestnut Mountain, or the Boys and Girls Clubs of Gwinnett County.”

I will miss you at the parties, Gib, but I’ll see you again at the Grand Ball one day, I’m sure.

Friday, November 03, 2006

More From the Porch

As we all sat on the front porch to enjoy the last warm days of autumn, Meagan turned to Jill and said, “Hey, you’ve been my step-mom almost two years now.” It’s true, just under two years have gone by since the day my life took a surprise turn in the road and headed down the aisle into matrimony.

Once a confirmed bachelor who vehemently vowed to never remarry, I had lunch with a high school friend in early 2004. She brought along a friend of hers, a beautiful woman named Jill. I fell in love with her within an hour. We wed that December and each brought a daughter into our marriage.

Jill and I had our share of concerns about combining our families; after all, each child had already lived all their lives as a doted on only child. Both girls had their own expectations, which they expressed without reservation, about what parent-child traditions would remain in place or be replaced, who would get the bigger bedroom or the final say in sibling disputes. My wife and I braced ourselves on the day we all moved into the new house together. We hoped for the best and prayed we had not just boarded a train destined to run off the tracks and into a dark and murky swamp.

Sure, we went through an adjustment period, when at one time or another each daughter cried tears of frustration about something the other had done or said. But Jill and I stood firm, united and expecting our children to work it out for the benefit of our newly blended family. We were determined not to be two families under one roof.

Now in retrospect, I could not have asked for a better experience putting our families together. I have only to think about scenes on our front porch or from our family vacations to find evidence our girls have indeed become siblings; not just two girls peacefully coexisting, but living together as sisters.

This summer while on vacation we rented three rooms at the bed and breakfast inn where we stayed. We did this to make sure the girls had their space and privacy, so they could take a break from each other if need be. Much to our surprise, they decided to sleep together in one bed rather than apart in their own rooms.

When I hugged them goodnight I realized there had not been one spat between them in spite of a mad rush at the airport, my annoyance when Jill, the navigator, got us lost, and all those hours spent in the car driving from Boston to our destination in upper Maine. I pictured them as they held hands to run across the street earlier in the day and when they shared ice cream on a park bench. In that moment I knew Jill and I were succeeding in giving the girls something special they had not had before - each other. We knew that by bringing them together through our marriage we were giving them a richer context for personal growth; we were better preparing them for their adult lives.

While each daughter retains many of her previous “only child” habits, they have also formed new ones, “sisterly” ones. They advise each other on what to wear, share their shoes, shop and get their nails done together, consult one another on boyfriend matters, keep secrets for one another, and laugh out loud as they make fun of the adults they must endure.

These moments reassure me that Jill and I are teaching the girls a valuable life lesson, that is, what a loving family looks and feels like. If there were only one thing we could do for the girls it would be to serve as the models for what marriage and family they will want for themselves one day.

So as we sat on our front porch together, planning weekends, holidays and future vacations, the sisters entertained themselves by making fun of each others’ habits, debating about which would end up a super model, and arguing with me about their need for a new suitcase just for shoes. Jill and I smiled at one another, delighted with what we have accomplished. Even Rusty seemed to grin as he listened.

Just the other day Meagan told me she looked forward to the day she would become an aunt, a role not long ago she thought she would never get to play. Yes, our home shelters one united family.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Last Words

Crazy Train (of thought)

Swallowing angry words before you say them is better than having to eat them afterwards.

My brother is coming to visit; it is his birthday Saturday. Jill and I are taking him to dinner to celebrate – sushi, baby!

Jill spared me the embarrassment and didn’t dress like Minnie Mouse for Halloween as she had threatened to do (she actually has the costume). So I went out onto the porch to join her for handing out candy, confident I would find a normal person waiting there for me. Well, only sort of. She had dressed Princess up like a lady bug. That stupid dog kept focusing her eyes on the antennas bobbing over her head, and she finally hypnotized herself. Jill thought she was dead. If only I could be so lucky.

When someone says “I regret my words were misinterpreted” they really mean it’s your fault for not understanding what was said. Not much of an apology, is it?

There’s a reason I go grocery shopping on Wednesday evening. That’s when they give out free samples in the wine department.

Jill calls me every day when she arrives to work to let me know she has gotten there safely. Some laugh at us and our assurances. Let them. I won’t be the one regretting the last words I said to my wife.

Marital Bliss

Jill had her hair done yesterday and she came home with that Kelly Preston – Rene Russo look that I like so much. Apparently the stylist knows I like it too, for as Jill was leaving she was told, “Now go home and play naughty teacher.” It was one of those occasions when I didn’t mind having to stay after school.

Book Report

Yesterday I saw this new review of Why a Daughter Needs a Dad on Amazon:

“Like the author, I'm a divorced dad of daughters so his introduction struck close to home. As if the words and pictures in this book weren't sappy enough, my daughters added a sentence or a paragraph next to a dozen or so of the author's text that resonated with them. I nearly cry every time I read it.”

So do I, and I wrote it.