Saturday, March 18, 2017

When Bad Food Produces Strange Results

Surprisingly, I turned out to be a pretty good cook.  There's no particular reason for this, except for the fact that my mother and my grandmother both did  outstanding work in the kitchen.  Maybe I absorbed technique.

At any rate, I shoulder a sizable fraction of the cooking duties around this place.  And I am quite pleased with the fact that on more than one occasion I have presented my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, with a meal that she has said she didn't like, only to watch her gobble it up with relish and ask for more.
I even made her the best sandwich she had ever had in her life.

But last week, I blew it.

She had selected a turkey tenderloin as the entree. It came packaged in a tube; we've had it twice before, once with bad results, the second time with great results. This time, though, I read the instructions on the package. It clearly said "Place on grill for 45 - 60 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees."

I didn't even consider the difference between a regular grill and the George Forman grill we have. If I had thought for ONE minute, I would have realized that the two sides of contact heat from the George Forman resulted in MUCH faster cook time than a regular grill.
Fortunately, I didn't let it go 45 minutes before I checked it, but I DID burn it to a crisp, almost. There was still some edible meat on the inside.

I apologized profusely to Vanessa.

And she smiled. SHE SMILED!

And I realized she was GLAD that I had burned the food!

On reflection, I recalled that on all the occasions when she was eating something I'd made that she really enjoyed, she was rather....reserved in her praise. Particularly when I made something for someone else to eat, such as the members of our home group.

She was JEALOUS.., sort of.

It's like...how dare I come inter her domain and do well? Men are SUPPOSED to be LOUSY in the kitchen, particularly redneck bikers! Grill a steak? Sure, that's okay. But make a pasta dish with broccoli and chicken? No, that's invading her turf!

So, when I burn a $10 piece of meat...

...order is restored to the universe!

Well, I aim to please!  

Friday, March 17, 2017

Techie and technophobe: a Marxian dialectic


At one point, I made a paltry living off computers.  I was a reseller of IBM mainframes and peripherals, and I also built desktop computers from components.

When I moved into what became my last job, I was still endowed with that techie glow.  People would come to me for advice on computers, and frequently asked me the fix whatever problems they were having.  I even wrote a scheduling package to assign new students a classroom schedule based on class sizes.

Years went by, and I was able to allow that skill set to elapse into obsolescence.  Then more years went by; and in time I, too, became obsolescent.  So I retired.

I owned a telephone, and I owned a desktop computer, and I had no interest in staying current on the latest digital trends.  If my phone broke, I went to the nearest Big Box store, and bought a replacement for $14.00.  When my desktop computer broke, I replaced it with a laptop computer; when that broke, I went to the pawnshop and picked out the best candidate that I could get for $200.
And that system has worked pretty well for me for the last 10 years.  I was happily settling into my role as a technophobe.

Then, a few years ago, my firstborn son bought me a tablet.  I discovered it was an excellent backup device for reading and watching movies on netflix and Amazon. It disturbed me, a bit, to find these digital things useful, but I'd just murmured something about the kids on my lawn, and let it go at that.

Then my phone broke again.  This was serious!  I wasn't receiving text messages!  And that's how I know when I am supposed to baby-sit for my grandchildren! O, woe is me!

I went to the AT&T store. And when I left, hours later, I had a new phone plan, a new internet plan, Direct TV, an iphone, an ipad, and a somewhat stunned look on my face.

She looked so innocent!

I never could be sure that I was pronouncing her name correctly. It might have been spelled 'Inayah' but I'm pretty sure there was another syllable or two in there. She stood about three feet tall, weighed maybe fifty pounds, and had huge brown eyes, and a delightful smile she bestowed on me when I made a good choice.

Actally, she looked like one of Alicia Ann's fifth grade classmates who was substituting at work for her mother.

She understood, much more quickly than the store manager did, that I wasn't interested in TV in the slightest. However, it came bundled with the super-speed internet, so okay. I took it. She was not, by any stretch of the imagination, an un-intelligent young lady. Just...a bit naive.

For example, she took me over to one of the phone displays and told me that she regarded this phone as the most masculine looking phone. She tells me, in this sweet, little girl voice, that she thought this phone would go well with the most manly of men.

I looked at her, bemused. I am, after all, the redneck biker. I pulled into the parking lot, driving a huge truck, and strolled into the store wearing my leather biker cap, pony tail, sunglasses, big bushy beard, leather jacket, AND OVERALLS,  and she thinks I need a fashion item to help me feel more masculine. I told her I could carry a Hello Kitty phone, and it wouldn't bother me.

And from thereafter, it was all about what SHE wanted ME to have. She has an iphone, and likes it, so she sold me one of those. She has an i-pad, and this one had a special promotional price of $49, so she sold me that, too.  She said the pelican case was the best protection for my iphone, so she sold me that.  She sold me the unlimited text, data, and voice plan, the high speed internet, the Direct TV, and I STILL came out of the store paying $170 per month less than what I have been paying.

Of course, that night my firstborn son and I balanced baby-sitting for his two boys, with him setting up my iphone and ipad so I could have them linked and other things. It was still fun, even if it did take several hours.

And that's how I was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the Information Age.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Visitors from Sodom & Gomorrah

This is what happened a week ago. I think. I've been sick, so it might have been two weeks, but I think it was just one week.
Daughter Bess lives in Screven, way down in southeast Georgia; and she and husband Sam had a new little baby on February 13. Baby William Isaac Blackstone spent his first week in the intensive care unit in Savannah, and followed that up with another week of quarantine, so we didn't get to go visit until last weekend.
We packed up Claire's Truck with our stuff, except for the fat black Manx cat SugarBelly, and headed down there: my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA; 12 year old Kenneth, 10 year old Alicia, and me. The plan was: arrive in Screven on Friday, do  a day trip visit to my friend Billy & his wife Vicki on Saturday, and on Sunday.....

...yeah, on Sunday. There's the rub. What would we do on Sunday?

We are an inter-racial family. We live in metro Atlanta, where anything goes, and we attend a church where we blend in nicely. Nobody even looks at us twice, unless I am singing loudly, in which case they look to see where the beautiful bass singing is coming from. But: that's in metro Atlanta.

South Georgia? That's different. I grew up in middle Georgia, and I've lived in south Georgia (thirty years ago), and things are different there.

I assumed.

And I was as wrong as wrong could be. First Baptist Church of Screven is a place where people love each other.

The people in the Sunday School were MOSTLY wanting to see baby Isaac, but they had PLENTY of affection left over for Vanessa and for me. We were enthusiastically greeted, and offered food and coffee and water and a place at the table. We got to hear a great teaching by Brother Lloyd, and sat in amazement as he put together, on the spot, a 500 mile round trip visit to see a member who had been missing for two weeks, because her child was in the hospital in Atlanta.

We were SO impressed, that we stayed for church, even though we had planned to leave right after Sunday School. LOTS of people came up to meet us.

And they sing beautifully. So I sang loud. It was great!

So, lovely people of Screven, I am sorry that I decided, based on where you live, that you were going to have a problem with my family. I hope that I can show a stranger the same generosity of spirit that you showed us; you humbled me, and taught me that I need to be a better Christian.

Thank you!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

And Are We Yet Alive?

There is no way that I'm going to be able to give these words the power of what I experienced this weekend. I just want you to know that up front. I am sitting here amazed; there is no font or alignment that represents the way I feel.

I have been blessed with a few TRUE friendships in my life. I've had numerous friendly acquaintances, even some dear relatives. However, I can only think of three life-changing, perspective-clarifying friends in nearly 64 years, and Billy Doniel was the first of these.

He and I first met when we were in the same Cub Scout pack, which I think was age 9. My family moved out of state then, and after that, I moved out of my family, so it wasn't until we were 16, in 1969, that we were neighbors and began hanging out together.

Neither of us had a GREAT home situation. Both of us had people that loved us, but he was being raised by his grandparents, who were also tasked with caring for his angelic younger sister who had Down's Syndrome.  For my part, I was at war, constantly, with my step-father.

And it was 1969.  I had already broken into the drug experience, thus becoming the 'WOW!' guy in the neighborhood, and I dragged others along with me. Drugs weren't easy to get at the time, but alcohol was, and Billy seemed to have infinite resources when it came to procuring beer, wine, and the hard stuff.

That's PART of the reason that his house was the center of activity. Another part was that he lived in the basement of his house, and had it all to himself; his grandparents never went downstairs. The real reason it was the center of activity, though, was because of Billy. He was such an incredibly powerful personality, and anywhere we went, the leadership role always fell to Billy. He ALWAYS had a beautiful girlfriend. He attracted them like a magnet. Some of that probably was just his audacity; he was never the least bit insecure, or afraid, and he had incredible powers of persuasion. He was a heck of a salesman. At one point, he persuaded me to quit my comfortable minimum wage job in the K-mart shoe department, and become a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. It was good experience; if you can do THAT job, you can do anything.

Behold, I will not deceive you: we spent most of our time doing things that would get us into trouble. And any time we would meet up with a couple of girls, Billy ALWAYS, ALWAYS got the cute one, and I got the one with personality.
Billy loved fast cars. He drove a Le Mans, wrecked it; then had another, newer Le Mans, and wrecked that one, too. In 1972, he got a GTO, and took me out on the Interstate to show me how fast it would go. The speedometer had crossed past 120 mph, gone around past zero, and was quivering on '30' when we flashed past the Monroe County Sheriff's Department car. He talked his way out of the ticket;  he told the cop he had just bought the car, and that they had told him to take it out on the interstate and 'blow out the pipes.' And the cop told him to slow down. (Umm, this has nothing to do with my post from yesterday. Speeding with no ticket = just coincidence.)

I can't recall the exact sequence now, but mixed in with the life of alcohol, drugs, and fast cars, Billy and I both had a profound encounter with Christ. We had each separately come to a cataclysm in our run to burn the candle at both ends, and each had reached the same conclusion: we were no good at running our lives, and we were much better off letting God do it.

And we each, on our own, decided to return to our old ways for a bit. And things got worse, and while we were both drifting toward the rocks, I made the decision that saved my life, and took me away from my old playgrounds and playmates: I joined the Army. And that was essentially the end of our time together. I think he visited me once in Atlanta, where I moved after the Army was done with me, but I don't know that we had any contact after that. For twenty years.

And then he wrote a book; it's a love story, wrapped around the truly nasty tale of contractor misconduct in the building industry. It was temporarily the number one best seller in Savannah, GA, which is where the story took place. Through the book, I was able to find his address, and we corresponded.

Once.

And what with one thing and another, twenty more years go by. We made contact again (through our high school reunion page) several months ago, and I find he has a small horse farm in Canoochie Creek, GA, which happens to be 90 miles north of where my daughter is living, in Screven. And last week, in our trip to see my new grandson, I sandwiched in several hours to drive to visit my best friend, Billy.

I had no idea what his new life was like. Scared me a bit, actually. Neither of us really had much of a chance to make it to age 21. For BOTH of us to make it to this age? No one would have seen THAT coming. Whether we were together or apart, we ALWAYS pushed the limits. When we drank or drugged, we drank until the booze was gone, until the drugs were gone, or until we were unconscious. I didn't know how much was going to be left of him, or even how much of our past life he remembered. Yes, we were close, spent lots of time together, but we ingested a TERRIFIC amount of substances. Were the brain cells going to be firing for him?

And I met this beautiful, sweet-spirited man, and his gloriously beautiful, humble, sweet Christian wife. She and my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, hit it off like long-lost sisters IMMEDIATELY.

I found a man at peace with himself. The demons that had driven him to wild excess were gone. Instead of picking a party girl, he has been married for 23 years to Vicki, a solid Christian woman. He retired as a Master plumber last year, and now has a small farm, with three horses, two sheep, and a big honken mastiff. He fishes in his pond, and he showed me where he will plant his garden. And for lunch, he made incredible hand-formed rolls, and spaghetti with home-made sausage and marinara sauce, and a Caesar salad. (Hamburgers and chips for the kids!)

The kids (Kenneth and Alicia, plus my 2 2/3 year old grandson Josh) fell in love with his mastiff, Buddy. They fed carrots and apples and celery to the horses. They threw rocks into the pond. And it was good.

I cannot tell you what a gift it was to me, to see this man who I had loved so much as a teen, and gotten into so much TROUBLE with, being at peace with God, and happily married to the woman who was right for him.

And here's what I thought, and I wish I had remembered all the words on Saturday:
And are we yet alive,
And see each other's face?
Glory and thanks to Jesus give,
For His almighty grace!  

 The Doniels and the Pattersons
March 4, 2017

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Georgia State Patrol Trooper

Greetings, to all my friends out there in Internet land!

We just got back from a sort-of last minute trip to south Georgia last night around 8:20 or thereabouts. I have MUCH to share, but some of it needs further meditation in order to process.
My daughter and her family; my best friend from high school; First Baptist Church of Screven; and singing "Darktown Strutters' Ball" with my 89 year old mother; those will all have to wait. Today, you get to hear about my encounter with the Georgia State Patrol, on the road from Screven to Canoochie Creek.

We have two functional vehicles. One is a 2010 Econobox which is the daily vehicle of my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after, trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA. It gets 7,532 miles per gallon, and two adults and two very small, very naughty children can fit inside, as long as everyone promises not to think deeply and thereby use up all the oxygen. Luggage? Ummm...two pair of socks and one set of clean undies. Not EACH! No, for the whole family. It's about SHARING, ya see?

The other is Claire's Truck, so named in honor of the generous benefactor who willed this 1991 Suburban to my firstborn son some years back. He passed it along to me about a year and a half ago, when he realized I'm taking everyone to church in the Econobox. The Suburban, which is in near-showroom condition, has a 350 cubic inch V-8 engine, gets 12 miles per gallon, and weighs slightly less than an M1 Abrams tank. Elements of the Red Army could have used it to invade whatever country they were looking to acquire at the time. Umm...that last part isn't true. It IS true, however, that it's a favorite of the Secret Service, FBI, executive security firms, and that no Mary Kay salesperson anywhere has been able to get one painted pink.

Here's the downside: because it is so heavy, and has that big honken engine, there is not a lot of feedback from the highway about how fast it's going. Sure, the speedometer works just fine, but it is my experience that mostly people drive by how it FEELS. If everything is calm and quiet, assuming traffic and road conditions allow it, you go a little faster. If stuff is rattling and it feels like the windows are going to blow out, you slow down. In Claire's Truck, the rattling doesn't START until around 90 mph.

Even on Georgia country roads.

Our one-way trip was around 270 miles, from Woodstock, through Atlanta, Macon,  Lothair, Uvalda, Baxley, and other smaller locations you may not be familiar with, to Screven. For MOST of the trip, Vanessa had some advice for me:

"1. Slow down, you're going too fast!"
"2. You are going to get pulled over, and"
"3. You are going to get a ticket!"
But we made it safe and sound to Screven, and we didn't get a ticket.

We arrived to hugs and kisses, played with the baby, played with 2 2/3 year old Josh, played with the dog, were inspected and approved of by three of the four 25-pound cats. And went to bed, with big honken fat cats sleeping on and with us. It was a good night's sleep; we NEED cats to sleep.

Next morning, we reload some few items into Claire's Truck, including Josh's car seat, and Vanessa, Kenneth, Alicia, Josh and I set out on a 184 mile round trip to visit my best friend from high school, Billy Doniel, who has a horse farm in Canoochie Creek. We went through, Baxley, Lyons, Vidalia, plus other small places you haven't heard of, with miles and miles of country & no people or cars to speak of. And Vanessa had some advice for me:
"1. Slow down, you're going too fast!"
"2. You are going to get pulled over, and"
"3. You are going to get a ticket!" 
Now, I wish it to be made known here that I was NOT going too fast for conditions. Visibility was unlimited. No rain. Flat, straight roads. No traffic. I was running between 70 & 80, and Claire's Truck was just purring along, all the gauges had smiles on their faces. But it WAS a 55 mph zone.
And so, somewhere on US 1, after the turn off for Cedar Crossing and before you get to Santa Claus, when I saw the State Patrol car we passed make a U-turn in the road behind us, there was no question in my mind about what was on his.

"Looks like you were right,"  I said to Vanessa. "That State Patrol car is coming after us."
"I TOLD you to slow down!" she replied, with a bit, just the TINIEST bit of vindication in her voice.

So, I found a nice wide place in the shoulder, and pulled over.

You ought to know at this point that I have held a Georgia Concealed Carry permit for about 15 years. It was a necessity back in the days when I rode my motorcycle to the .22 pistol target competition, and has been a convenience and comfort ever since. Never had the need to use my concealed firearm, but I am a firm believer that it is better to have one and never need it, than need one and not have it. And on this particular occasion, I had my pocket pistol, plus my car gun, as well as 3 unloaded .357s in the luggage compartment. Two of those were six-shooters I bought last summer for Cowboy Action shooting, and never had the opportunity to shoot. I was taking them to Billy's farm to see if he wanted to try them out with me. The third one is a Dan Wesson that I stuck into my gun case for no particular reason. BUT!!!! There is a FORMAL and ESSENTIAL procedure you MUST follow when you encounter a cop, and you are carrying concealed. So I followed it.

First, as I was waiting for him to catch up with us, I rolled down my window, and stuck both of my (empty) hands out, so he could see them. Then, when he got close enough to hear me, I said "Officer, I have a concealed carry permit, and I have a loaded .380 in  my pants pocket and a loaded 9 mm by my seat." Actually, I think the first thing I said was "I was going too fast, wasn't I?"

So the GSP trooper tells me just to leave them right where they are, and asks me where my driver's license is. And I told him it was in my hip pocket. And the whole time, I'm keeping my hands out the window, where he can see them.

I did NOT want that trooper to have nay reason WHATSOEVER to be concerned for his safety.

So, we chat a bit. He asks for my license, and I hand it to him along with my concealed carry permit. He wants to know where I'm headed, and I explain about my grandsons in Screven, and my high school buddy in Twin Cities, and that's why we are where we are on this fine Georgia Saturday morning.

So he tells me to wait right there, and heads back to his car with my license and weapons permit in his hand. And I turn to Vanessa, and say "I'd bet there is at least a 50% chance he's not going to give me a ticket."

"REALLY!!?"

"Yup! He's running wants and warrants on me right now, and I'm clean."

I can't describe the look she gave me then. It had a bit of the look you might have when you eat an oyster for the first time. And a bit of the look you give the person who told you to eat it.

And sure enough, when the trooper comes back with my license, he is NOT carrying a clip board.  He gives me a warning, and asks me to slow down for him, which I am happy to assure him I will do.

And then he comments on a window sticker on the back of Claire's Truck.
"Are you really members of the Single Action Shooting Society?"

I assure him we are, and mention I have two unloaded cowboy action guns in the back. And he politely asks, if I have the time, if I wouldn't mind showing them to him.

Oh, HECK yeah! There's nothing more that gun enthusiasts like than showing off their guns! So, we step around to the back of the truck, and I open the case, and show him the Uberti Single Action Army revolvers are unloaded, and let him handle them, and we comment on the beauty of the case hardening, and I tell him about our plans, and how they changed, and how we all have aliases: Alicia is Sparkle Dancer, Kenneth is Serious Ken, Vanessa is Sweet Pecan, and I am Papa Pat. And after our little sharing session, we leave to go our separate ways, with my assurance that I will keep the speed down.

And as we motor off, I have to laugh. Reason: Vanessa is MAD at me, because I didn't get a ticket! And I'm smiling right now as I type this, with my fat black Manx cat sitting on my left hand. See, I DESERVED a ticket, and she had been warning me the whole trip that I was driving too fast, and that I was going to get pulled over, and get a ticket: and I DID, but then I DIDN'T!!! Now, it was impossible for me to eat humble pie. I did, after all, have an encounter where I was guilty, guilty, guilty; and when you come out of that unscathed, it feels GREAT! But I did, however, attempt to console her by pointing out that she was right all along.

It was the best I could do.

But there is no way she is ever going to like the fact that us gun guys love our guns enough that we will cut each other some slack.

I don't know how much of of a factor, and which way it worked, that I'm a long-haired, white bearded grandfather biker with a black wife, with a car full of grandchildren of various colors.  That could go either way, depending on how many times the trooper sang "Jesus loves the little children" when he was a boy.

In all seriousness, though, I am betting that the biggest factors in my favor were that I showed him my hands before he ever got close, which likely kept him thinking safe thoughts, and the fact that I admitted up front, before he said anything, that I was driving too fast.

YMMV.

Now, this was the LEAST significant moment on our trip. I'm sitting here with a cat on my lap, and my heart is full of joy as I think about Billy and Vicki, and what God has done for them; and my daughter & her family; and my precious sister and my dear old white-haired mother, who will turn 89 in three days. But those are experiences I need to cherish in my heart for at least one more day before I am able to share them with you.

Be at peace!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Guest Post by Firstborn Son, Eli Jordan Patterson

My firstborn son is an instructor and administrator at a private school north of Atlanta. About a month or so, I wrote a brief rant about school choice. I then followed that with an appreciation of the work home schoolers do. And I offered my son the opportunity to provide a rebuttal.
Instead, he wrote about something that was more important: pickles, tickles, and family.
Here it is:

I have never been fond of receiving pickles.

My beautiful wife will remind me that I do like fried pickles and she is right…technically.  But I like things that are fried much in the same way that she likes things that are chocolate covered – it isn't really about the filler.  The cucumber just doesn't hold a great appeal to me in the same way that other chemically pickled foods do: corned beef on a camping trip, for example, is a culinary delight that aims to “wow” no-one but may very well surprise you.  But pickled cucumbers taste to me like sadness steeped in vinegar.  I've been a good sport, I even let Chick-Fil-A leave the pickles on my sandwich until I receive it, now; not forcing that poor cook back in the kitchen to make a special CFA just for the bald, yuppie, cripple.  So you can say, pickles and I are at least on speaking terms.

I have also never been fond of receiving tickles.

Again, my beautiful wife will interject that I am not being entirely accurate here: I’m not ticklish.  I do recall having been ticklish at one time.  Moreover, my father recently related to my eldest son, Heath, that there was once a time when I would be rolled inside a blanket or rug and tickled while my arms were immobile.  Heath was not impressed as he was not able to duplicate the results to his satisfaction so I was relegated to being chased around the house wrapped in a blanket by a four-year-old carrying a foam sword and wearing a cowboy hat.  This, even my wife must concede, was an activity that Heath found impressive and worthy of repeating…much to my own amusement.

I am, however, very fond of silliness with my sons.

Being raised in a house where there would never be a time when I could not exercise my right to be downright goofy while playing and having a father who modeled the appropriateness (dare I say, the necessity?) of shamelessness when interacting with youth, I have no problem acting like a fool when my boys want to be silly.

So it was that I found myself riding through very crowded parking lots one Saturday morning after the weekly Daddy/Dude Day breakfast (or DDBD when the “Brave”, Eliott, is in attendance) listening to Arlo Guthrie’s “Motorcycle Song” at full volume; windows down and sunroof open.  (You can give it a listen here.)  The lyrics are simple: “I don’t want a pickle. I just want to ride on my motorcycle. I don’t want a tickle.  I just want to ride on my motorcycle.  And I don’t want to die.  I just want to ride on my motorcy…cle”.  We became “those guys”.  People stared.  They guided their children away from the crosswalk as we approached.  I think we even got a stern, “Tsk Tsk”.  Folks, here in the South, that’s about as close to the line as civilized folks can get before violence ensues.

And I realized something rather inspiring if somewhat humbling:  I didn't choose the family I was born into and my family (wife, Lord help her, excluded) didn't choose me. But I’ll be darned if it doesn't all start to make sense why God puts these imperfect pieces together so perfectly when you can look a total stranger square in the eye as you roll to a stop light and yell, “I don’t want a PICKLE!!!” knowing full well you will be backed up by a pint-sized version of yourself with the accompanying, “MOTORCYCLE!!!”

So maybe I need to re-evaluate my position on pickles, tickles, and the merits of parenthood?  I believe my wife would agree and I am always happier when she is happy.
Courtney holding Heath; Jordan holding Eliott

Friday, February 24, 2017

Thirty-four Years Ago

34 years ago, at this very moment, I became a father for the first time.

I had earned my master's degree in counseling just two months earlier, and when the doctor said "It's a boy!", my response was "I don't have a behavioral repertoire to deal with these contingencies!"

Everyone in the delivery room laughed; I laughed as well.  However, I was telling the truth, even if I didn't know it at the time.  I was just shy of my 30th birthday, and I knew nothing about being a father.  I knew some things I DIDN'T want to do;  everything else was just theory.

That turned out not to matter so much.  I really can't remember when I formalized my guidelines for being a father, but I know it happened well in advance of his first birthday.  It's possible that I had them in place even before he was born; I know that at least one of them was on my mind, even if I wasn't yet thinking of it as a  Basic Rule Of Fatherhood.

1.  My son was always going to know that I loved him.  I pledged to show him that with the way that I acted, and back up my actions with my words.
2.  My son was always going to know that I loved his mother.
3.  I was never going to be afraid to play and be silly with my son, even in public.
4.  I was going to be honest with my son, and any time I was wrong, I would admit it to him, and do what I could to correct my error.
5.  I would read to him, and play with him, putting his needs before mine.

Except for the very last item, I am confident that I complied  with the rules.  I might have had a shot at number five, if someone hadn't given him a wind-up locomotive that played music and made noise for all of 15 seconds before it had to be wound up again.

Over the years, I adopted new practices and applications of the rules.  However, the rules never changed, until the point that my marriage ended, and rule number two had the word "loved" replaced with the word "respected."

Did it work?  The answer to that can be found in my son's family.  If you were to watch my son, and his wife, and their two boys, you would see love in action.  He is a great husband, father, and role model.  That's due to him, and not to me; however, I did raise the child that became that man.

And so, in conclusion, I think I've dealt with those contingencies just fine.