Archive for Dylan

Gaining even more respect for my father

Posted in Family with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2019 by macmystery

A week or so ago, after picking my kids up for the weekend on Friday evening in Columbia, we stopped for dinner at Lizard’s Thicket near the airport.

For the unfamiliar, Lizard’s Thicket is a small chain of meat-and-three style restaurants in the Columbia area. Like Cracker Barrel, Dylan and Ella are fond of their food.

As we entered, I noticed and elderly man and his wife – I assumed – sitting opposite one another in a booth near the front of the restaurant. There was a walker stationed at the end of the table, and the woman looked quite frail, leading me to believe it was her walker rather than his.

I took notice because he looked tired, like a caregiver. I recognize this from watching my father descend over the years as he cared for my mother. By the time my mother passed in 2012, my father was a shell of the man I knew growing up. He had aged 50 years in 15.

Though he tried, the smile wasn’t the same. He dealt with blood pressure issues and depression, and my mother’s situation, and stubborn streak born out of fear, contributed to the accelerated demise of my father’s professional and military careers.

But he soldiered on. I heard my grandmother tell my mother once that she was lucky. Most men would have left and my father did not.

Statistically speaking, she was right. Noted and bloated TV psychologist/talking head Dr. Phil says 100 percent of relationships where one partner is a caregiver end in failure. I don’t think that’s 100 percent accurate, but I’ve no doubt it’s close.

As I watched my father, the best man I’ve ever known, struggle, I was not much help. I just hoped the strain and stress wouldn’t win. Once when my mother was being particularly difficult about something, I told her that if she killed him before she lost her battle to the myriad illnesses that were slowly taking her, I would never forgive her.

I haven’t endured what my father did, but my divorce several years ago and, more recently, the end of a serious relationship have hit me hard. I deal with anxiety, struggle to sleep, and quite frankly, I’m admittedly depressed.

Almost seven years ago, a freak occurrence – my mother banged her leg on the pole under a table at a restaurant – led to a heart attack and, eventually, my mother’s passing.

In the seven years since, my father is again the man I knew when I – and he – was younger. He smiles more, talks more, and his wonderful, dry, sometimes dark sense of humor is back. Despite a knee replacement several years ago, he is more active than he was 10 years ago.

He was lucky. My sister and I are lucky. If my mother had lived another 5 years, there is no doubt in my mind that my father would not have. I’m not sure if that would make him among Dr. Phil’s 100 percent or not.

Back to the couple at the Lizard’s Thicket. Though their interactions went unnoticed to my kids, I watched. I do this often in public.

The woman was lost. She could barely feed herself and appeared on the verge of tears the entire meal.

He did things for her. But he was not kind. It troubled him. It was like he had somewhere else to be, something else to do and she was keeping him from it. He was annoyed. He once yelled at her that the potatoes were not hot.

Then, when it came time to leave, he stood and waited for her to get up, while holding her walker at the ready. When it took more time than he anticipated, he banged her walker on the floor repeatedly in frustration.

I wanted to cry.

As bad as a look as it was for him, I don’t blame him. I don’t know that he’s a bad person. It’s quite possible that he’s just tired. Beyond all human limits. He’s at his end, and the fact that’s he’s still going is in itself an accomplishment.

That didn’t make it better for her. You could tell she was struggling emotionally, not just physically. She just couldn’t “do” anymore. And like most people in this country, they likely don’t have the means to make things any better for themselves, to get care for her above what he can provide himself.

All of this makes me even more grateful for my father. I’ve never told him that enough.

He never bailed on my mother, though at this point in my life, I can’t say I would blame him if he had. He could have tried to make his life better. He instead tried to make my mother’s better. And is still trying to do the same for my sister and me.

If I live to be half the man my father has been, it will be an accomplishment.

Rakim, minus Eric B., of course, but not all by himself

Posted in Journalism, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2018 by macmystery

https://www.npr.org/templates/event/embeddedVideo.php?storyId=622595890&mediaId=622597776

While procrastinating late Monday night, as I so often do when I have a viable writing topic, I found myself listening to music.

It’s not an uncommon activity in my life. A large percentage of my disposable income (and a lot that should have never been disposable) has been spent on music, not to mention my time, both disposable and indisposable, as well. Concerts, records, tapes, CDs, road trips.

But I’ll admit that over the last few years of my marriage, which LEGALLY ended in 2016, aside from time spent in the car, music had all but disappeared from my life. And maybe that should have been a sign. But that’s another story for another day.

Anyway, as I said, I was listening to music, something I do again, typically late at night. A strange mix … Dierks Bentley, the Cowboy Junkies, Henry Mancini, Metallica and Dave Brubeck. (I’ll admit, there was 10 minutes of George Carlin mixed in there, as well.)

I was listening to this strange mix as I put off writing something more substantial than my Facebook post from earlier Monday evening about former two-time National League Most Valuable Player and longtime Atlanta Braves standout Dale Murphy. Ironically, I’m still going to write that post, but it’ll be another day now, at least.

That’s because, while perusing Facebook, I came upon the New York Times story (How an Affair Between a Reporter and a Security Aide Has Rattled Washington Media) about the relationship between its reporter Ali Watkins and a man who handled security for many years for the Senate Intelligence Committee.

So, of course I was going to write about that. Being a former journalist — being a former journalist is like being a former Marine … there’s no such thing — the story presents some interesting and frustrating dilemmas during a time when the press is badly needed, as well as badly maligned.

And then Rakim happened.

Someone I know from high school, a lifetime ago, had shared the latest installment of National Public Radio’s Tiny Desk Concert. Featured for June 25, 2018 was Rakim, initially, at least, of Eric B. & Rakim fame.

I’ll admit it. Aside from straight up classical music, the least represented major genre in my music collection is rap. Or hip-hop, if you will. Old school Run D.M.C., some Sir Mix-A-Lot, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar … but not much else. A lot of it doesn’t interest me. A lot of it I respect but simply don’t enjoy.

I have read a lot about Rakim. But I haven’t listened a lot to Rakim.

But I did Monday night.

And I was treated to 9 minutes and 37 seconds of brilliance that maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for 30 years ago, when Eric B. and Rakim were on top of their game. Kind of the same way I have a different appreciation for jazz now than I did as a young man.

And in a lot of ways, comparatively, Rakim’s style is jazz, at least vocally. His lyrics and voice are his instrument, and while aggressive, he is not necessarily loud and not in a hurry. Much as Willie Nelson brought jazz phrasing and guitar to his otherwise solid country gold lyrics, Rakim in some ways does the same thing.

It’s evident with the live band, rather than a DJ, backing him in the small NPR studio. The musicians are tight and work infectious grooves through three songs, allowing Rakim’s lyrics to shine as his instrument.

I was impressed. I had a moment, really. Usually, though, it’s when I hear something new that blows me away. I am admittedly not used to, at this point in my life, hearing songs more than two decades old, performed by the original artists, that pique my interest so completely.

My son, Dylan, possibly in the wrong place at the wrong time, can attest. He walked in the room in a moment of boredom after his computer crashed, expecting to wander in and wander out.

Instead he was detained by me and forced to surrender 9:37 of his evening, too, to sit and watch this Tiny Desk Concert. Not surprisingly, to me, he found himself, like I did, enjoying the video, foot tapping and hands popping.

The final two songs of Rakim’s three-song set, were “Paid In Full” and “Know The Ledge,” … classics and songs I will now seek out. But they followed “King’s Paradise,” a song released a few days ago and featured in Season 2 of Marvel’s Luke Cage on Netflix.

“King’s Paradise” is Rakim’s first new release in a decade. Suddenly, seemingly, I’m hoping it’s not his last.

I swear, we’re not crazy

Posted in Education, Family with tags , , , , , , , on November 2, 2010 by macmystery

I haven’t posted much on this blog since having a health scare in late April that affected my everyday schedule, particularly my schedule at work, for a while. Some things have returned to normal, but others will never be the same.

Most of my posts have been reposts of stories, photos, videos, etc. But basically little that I’ve written myself. This post is a break from that recent trend.

My son, Dylan, began his second year at a charter school this fall. He attended a different school in our district for 4K and 5K, but we made a change before first grade.

Dylan is ahead of his grade level, and my wife and I felt that the charter school offered flexibility that his regular public school couldn’t. Namely, the ability to work ahead to his level, rather than be held back with the class (A product of No Child Left Behind … rather no child gets ahead.).

Aside from a few hiccups here and there, which I’m sure most parents go through, the school has been wonderful and Dylan has thrived academically.

But socially, that hasn’t been the case.

Probably much like I was, Dylan has the misfortune of being far ahead intellectually of where he is socially or emotionally. And this has resulted in behavior issues.

Phone calls home have been common. Detention has been served. He’s made a few trips to the office.

None of the offenses were serious, but they were beginning to add up. No matter how well he was performing academically, we were having troubles behavior-wise.

My wife has long desired to be at home full-time and has long expressed the desire to homeschool our children. I was, and am not, as enthusiastic as her about the notion.

My sense of people that homeschool traditionally has been that they are those with the means (either wealthy or extremely intelligent) or crazy (send your donations in care of David Koresh, the messiah). I didn’t leave much room in between. Honestly, I still don’t.

For all of the drawbacks of public schools, and there are many, especially in the progressive (using sarcasm font here) state of South Carolina, one thing they provide that cannot be replaced by homeschooling, or private schools for that matter, is a trial run at life experience. Definitely, not all of the experience will be good, but there is a value to learning to deal with people unlike you — people who don’t think like you, look like you, believe like you, worship like you, behave like you … or like you. And in real life, that’s what you’re forced to do every day.

That being said, Dylan’s behavior was causing a problem, and in the latest incident (though we can’t really get anyone to tell us what, if anything happened), he was labeled a bully by a woman who works at the school.

Forget the fact that the chances of Dylan being a bully fall right behind Ghandi being a war-monger. The woman who made the accusation is someone who was involved in the founding of the school and will be there for the duration of Dylan’s time. Translation: Dylan will be branded a troublemaker, and that label will stick and he’ll have to deal with it as long as he’s there.

Despite good grades and amazing test scores, Dylan has been miserable at school lately, and Brooke is now at home full-time after leaving her job at a nonprofit. This time, when she brought up homeschooling, I didn’t fight.

I’ll admit, I’m not sure how I feel about it. And I don’t know if we did the right thing. But at least for a while, Dylan will be homeschooled. We’ve taken the plunge, and I’m up to my neck. I’ve no choice but to swim.

Brooke has taken or is in the process of taking all the legal steps, making sure we follow the rules or our state and district.

And Dylan had his first day of school at home Monday, spending time on spelling, vocabulary, reading comprehension, reviewing math skills … as well as his first taste of long division. And he got a tutorial on voting, with Tuesday being election day.

I don’t know if we’re doing the right thing. And I’m sure that I’m not sure what I’m doing. But at the same time, I won’t let him down. If I fail him, it won’t because I didn’t give my all.

I don’t think this is permanent. I foresee Dylan returning to public school at some point. My wife and I both are big supporters of public school (despite this move), and I think it’s important socially, as well. But I don’t know when. (I know I’m not teaching him chemistry!)

I’ve heard my wife tell people that we’ve prayed about this decision. Honestly, that usually means she’s prayed a lot more about it than me, but I’ve spent a lot of time going over the pros and cons again and again in my head.

Maybe some of this is our fault. Dylan’s never been to day care. He’s always been with one of us. He’s always gotten one-on-one attention. At school, he doesn’t.

Dylan’s a really smart, happy kid. But he’s got some growing to do to catch up with the kids his age. And until then, I think public school was going to be trouble for him.

Hopefully, we can work on some things at home that weren’t getting attention at school. And God willing, we’ll do more good than harm.

Because I don’t consider myself one of the crazies. And I hope when I look back on this decision down the line, I don’t see a crazy then, either.

Like it or not, I’m back

Posted in Family, Uncategorized with tags , , on July 2, 2010 by macmystery

After successfully failing to post for the entire months of May and June (Heck, I posted just one day in April), I have returned. See how I made that sound positive.

Some health issues (well, one actually), a lack of computer access and a heavy load at work have conspired to keep me down, but I have prevailed.

I’ve missed a lot the last three months … a lot I’d have liked to comment on.

I saw a Neil Young concert, my third, that was downright nasty it was so good.

I went to camp for three days with my son, Dylan, and thought I was going to die.

I had some sort of episode at work and thought I was going to die.

And among other things, I really would have liked to comment on some people I admired who did die.

Down the road, I may get to some of those things, albeit a little late. But for whatever small number of people who read this and myself, it’s simply progress that I’ve typed these words. Any catching up I do will be icing on the cake.

Later this morning I leave for Washington D.C. and then New York City for my annual baseball trip. Hopefully, I’ll have some things to comment on from there.

Bye, for now.

The next Dick Weber

Posted in Family, Sports with tags , , , , , , on October 19, 2009 by macmystery

I took Dylan on a long-promised bowling trip tonight with Grandpa Bill at the Oasis of Loganville, Ga.

He had a blast, bowling three games and even breaking the century mark (102) in the third game.

Of course, he had rails, but he’s 6 and he gets it. After an 80 and a 75 in the first two games, I told him his goal was an 80 in the third game.

He was easily on pace, with a 69 through eight frames, when he hit a strike — with no help from the rails, I might add — in the ninth frame, which brought cheers from the bowlers three lanes down.

Then he opened the 10th with a nine, and I knew if he got a spare, he would break 100. When he picked up the 10 pin, he got high fives from one of the girls from three lanes down.

Of course, after the strike and the awesome spare, he closed with an anti-climactic 3 in his final roll.

(Not that it matters, but I bowled a 117, cursed my shoes, removed the left one and finished with a 203 and a 188 wearing only one shoe.)

Dylan spent $1 on some ski-mobile spy-action video game, which was quite entertaining to watch, especially when he repeatedly ran into gates, trees, walls, buildings, etc. Then I took him to Sonic for an orange slush and popcorn chicken.

A great night.

Dylan and Danny

Posted in Family, Sports with tags , , , , , , on October 19, 2009 by macmystery
Two of my favorite people -- Dylan and Danny Ford.

Two of my favorite people -- Dylan and Danny Ford.

I went to the Spartanburg Touchdown Club meeting on Friday at Wild Wing Cafe in downtown Spartanburg to hear former Clemson football coach Danny Ford speak.

Dylan loves Wild Wing, and since he had a big program at school (that his grade wasn’t even allowed to attend) and then early dismissal, I took him along.

He was excited to wear his Clemson jersey and take his clemson football to have Coach Ford autograph it, even though he has no real idea who Coach Ford is. Coach of the 1981 national champions somehow doesn’t mean as much to him as to me.

He got to eat chicken fingers, hang out with the grown-ups (the thrill of missing school played a role, as well) and get his picture made with someone who his daddy liked a lot. And he loved it, especially since Mommy and Ella didn’t get to come along.

The picture doesn’t mean a lot to him, but hopefully one day he’ll understand why it does for me.

Hogwarts, S.C.

Posted in Books, Family, Movies with tags , , , , , , on October 19, 2009 by macmystery
Dylan reluctantly pets the dragon. Hagrid would be proud.

Dylan reluctantly pets the dragon. Hagrid would be proud.

In yet another installment of  Daddy and Dylan Day, Dylan and I went all wizard last Saturday.

The Roper Mountain Science Center in Greenville County hosted “The Science of Harry Potter.”

The program, which is an excuse to get kids and parents into the science center, married its exhibits with themes from the Harry Potter series of books by J.K. Rowling.

The program, open from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., was a lot to take in. There was no way we would be able to see everything, and there was a lot.

Among the activities:

  • Hold mice, snakes and a dragon.
  • The chance to meet and hold these Hogwarts creatures … tarantulas, giant toads and a python.
  • Quidditch demos … Well, this is as close as you can come to quidditch without being able to fly. There was a Harry Potter day camp back in the summer where the kids played quidditch, apparently. Some of the pupils were brought back to demonstrate the sport. There were hula-hoops suspended from trees branches for the rings. Soccer balls were used, and a tennis ball was the golden snitch. And did I mention there was no flying? Dylan was not impressed.
  • Old-fashioned broom making
  • The younger kids made bitty brooms from small sticks and yarn.
  • Among several demonstrations at the planetarium, there was a chart showing how all the names of the Black family (as in Sirius) corresponded with astronomy.
  • The kids could take a tour of the forbidden forest and discuss the botany of wands.
  • There were readings from “The Tales of Beetle the Bard.”
  • Wandmaking … using pretzels, chocolate and sprinkles.
  • Learning to write with quills.
  • Herbology … making your own herbal tea bag.
  • Meeting a live barred owl.
  • Photo opportunities with the Sorting Hat.
  • Potions lab … activities such as making slime, smoke, etc.

Dylan loved it. Even if the ties to Harry Potter weren’t always so strong. Really, the whole point is just to get you into the science center. Once you’re there, there’s almost no choice but to learn. And it was well worth the $9 total it took for us to get in.

When Harry Potter camp comes up next summer, I think we’ll be there.