Thursday, January 12, 2006


It’s usually around the age of three or four when a young man’s mind begins to turn over the concept of heroes. Invariably, these thoughts center on men – I’m not being sexist – who seem to possess superhuman qualities. Even if the individual we choose to be the center of our universe is, in some strange turn of events, an actual non-fictional being, we endow him with abilities and powers beyond the reaches of man. For example, I went through a period when my kindergarten teacher, Mr. Drork, was my hero, and I would have estimated him to be somewhere near 9’6”. He was tall – he didn’t have a problem with our calling him Mr. Stork because of his height – but looking back, he was probably somewhere around 6’4” and the rest of us were all about the right height to bite his ankles. However, in all the time I was in his class, I never saw a pack of NBA scouts hovering around the monkey bars waiting for the moment to get him alone and steal him away to play center or power forward.

Throughout my youth, the list of my heroes was broad: John from CHiPs (never thought Ponch was all that cool), Shazam, Indiana Jones, Hank Aaron, Shaft (“he’s a bad – watch your mouth”), Murdock the helicopter pilot from the A-Team, Lee Majors (because he was married to Farrah Fawcett and because he played both “The Bionic Man” and “The Fall Guy”), James Bond (as played by Sean Connery), Aquaman, Richard Nixon, Cary Grant (no one cooler with the chicks), Han Solo, David Letterman, and Mr. Peabody (the time-traveling dog who had a pet boy named Sherman). Depending on the stage of life in which I found myself, or the circumstances I was facing, my “hero worship” would vary.

Now that I’m officially old (I have a 401k, attended parent/teacher conferences at school, passed kidney stones, found a certain degree of relaxation in turning off the TV and reading a book, etc.), my fascination with these many people whom I venerated for so long has waned. The “real” people I still respect for their accomplishments, and the fictional ones still give me reason to smile and/or laugh. However, I can now safely say I have chosen heroes far more worthy of my esteem and their popularity with me will never fade: my sons Jack and Sam.

Allow me to list their heroic qualities:

1. Faith – this may be hard to imagine (as it is especially so for me), they believe I know what I’m doing. Their faith in my abilities to put a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, and food in their mouths is steady.
2. Humility – they defer to me when they don’t know the answer to a question. They’ll readily admit they don’t have the knowledge and then display their first heroic quality and believe I do.
3. Strength – they ably bear the burden of putting up with my shortcomings and never falter in supporting me.
4. Honesty – more often than I would like to admit, they’ll make statements like, “Dad, you’re weird” or “that shirt makes your belly look too big”. No hidden meanings there.

To sum it all up, they have the superhuman ability to see beyond reality and to move on to the higher plain of accepting me for who I am and loving me for being their dad. That’s what I want to be like when I grow up!

Sappy Holidays 2005

Original and creative thought takes a little effort, for sure. For example, when you meet someone who has a pet, and you learn that they’ve defaulted to using descriptions in the naming process (e.g. “Midnight” for a black cat, “Chocolate” for a brown dog, “Snowball” for a white bunny, etc.), you wish there was some type of incentive out there that would force them to put a little more thought into the naming chore – perhaps they face the prospect of being spayed or neutered if they don’t. With that specter in mind, it is our sincere hope that you enjoy the “effort” we’ve undergone for this year’s letter.

Sam turned five this past February, thus reaching the magical age when he’s able to do all the things he’s been forced to watch from the sidelines. He began 2005 on the soccer field – however, one would be hard pressed to say he actually “played” soccer; his actions on the field would be better classified as chasing imaginary squirrels. The spring brought tee-ball, which could have been a continuation of squirrel chasing but for the prospect of swinging a large metal bat with virtual impunity: a five-year-old’s dream. And this fall (actually, it was late July), Sam started kindergarten. I swear I witnessed the birth of this child, so I can attest to the fact he’s our son, but body snatchers must have pulled a switcharoo sometime between birth and kindergarten because on the first day of class his teacher reported that Sam was asking for homework. That’s just not right!

For those who are keeping track, Jack turned eight in January. This means he’s still ten years away from his federally sanctioned right to vote – much to his chagrin – but upon turning eight he had the chance to be baptized. Although we were unable to play “Which Vegetable Would You Rather Be?” for the after-party (time constraints), it was a great experience. As Jack began third grade this year, his new teacher gave his class a writing assignment. Jack decided to write about being on the Magic School Bus and traveling through the digestive system of a boy’s body and ending the journey in the toilet. Although she didn’t want to encourage potty humor by giving Jack a good grade on his essay, she reported to us that she was constrained to commend him on his proper usage of the term “digestive system”.

Erin’s latest project has been to roam the neighborhood in search of dogs that look like celebrities. So far, she’s found a St. Bernard that looks uncannily like Brad Garrett from Everybody Loves Raymond, a Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog that bears a strong resemblance to James Carville, an Italian Greyhound that could be Sting’s twin, and a Corgi that looks like Kevin Bacon. She thought she found a Chihuahua that looked like Paris Hilton, but it turned out to be Paris without her makeup. Well, when Erin’s not engaged in her hunt for the hounds, she’s busy working at Jack and Sam’s new school, presiding over the women’s service organization at church, and keeping order at home.

This past year has given me the chance to confirm a long-held belief: people are nuts! Dozing on a flight to Reno recently, I was wrenched from the ethereal mists between unconscious stupor and wide-awake alertness when I heard the woman behind me tell her seatmate, “So I had the rest of the afternoon to argue with the cat.” Oh, I was awake. I swear. Walking through the Costco parking lot a few months back, I found myself beside two men when one said, “I saw that movie Sahara on the plane the other day.” Not yet having seen the movie I was mildly interested in hearing more, but my curiosity was not to be satisfied – the movie-watcher’s friend made sure of that as he asked, “Is that the one in the desert?” Are these the same people who program the gas pumps to tell you to “replace nozzle when finished”? I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t drive around with a spare nozzle in my car for these events – I’ve always operated under the assumption that these items were capable of being used numerous times.

It’s been a great year for us! We hope this finds you warm and well. For your own personal amusement, ask your children, nieces, nephews, or random children while walking through the mall to name Santa’s reindeer. We did this recently and learned that Santa’s made some changes. Not only has he whittled the team down to four, there’s been quite a shakeup: he’s riding now with Rudolph, Tootoff, Shotoff, and Dixon. There’s bound to be a new claymation TV show on this by next year – I’m guessing the title will be something like Santa’s Posse. Until then, we wish you a very Merry Christmas, a wonderfully Happy New Year, and a fair to moderately exciting Ground Hog Day!