There are a lot of exciting things that a 16th year brings. Wealthy parents may shower their teens with an outlandish party, sometimes documented on MTV’s sickening show. Other kids receive a license and unleash hell on the local roads. But today, 16 marks a personal anniversary that isn’t so sweet.
I woke up to sirens the morning of Aug. 15, 1995. Mom sat at our dining-room table, head in her hands and crying softly. “Daddy’s had a stroke,” she said, and though my 8-year-old mind had no idea what that entailed, seeing a parent weep signals a sudden simultaneous sense of insecurity and understanding.
It was the morning of my third-grade orientation — at a new school, no less — and Grammy would take me to meet my teacher, Mom explained. I don’t remember if I cried then, but I do remember an overwhelming numbness. When adults talk to you, rather than around you, it often forces you to grow up yourself.
Gram took me to the hospital that afternoon. I held Brother’s hand and walked tentatively into the room. I will never forget what I saw and heard: Dad hooked up to beeping machines, doctors giving Mom information about local funeral homes, and Brother telling me that Daddy might not know who we are. Even now, it brings over a wave of emotion that I can’t quite control.
The following months and years brought fresh feelings of frustration and questioning. From walking to writing, and eventually driving, Dad had to relearn every basic function. As the sole southpaw in the family, I was tasked with helping him learn to do things with his now dominant left hand.
He still walks with a limp, and there are days when mobility is not its best. And, I am still selfish at times — worrying how he will walk me down the aisle or complete a father-daughter dance. We aren’t perfect in our relationship, and I don’t know that we’ll ever go back to what I perceived as the idyllic “Daddy & Me” situation.
But, I love him. I’ve learned from him. I respect him for the man he’s become. And I raise a glass to him this evening, 16 years into the new life that was thrust upon him.
I’ll always be your Mouse, no matter what this world brings upon us. 143
Father’s Day is right around the corner, and if your dad is anything like mine, buying a gift for him proves more challenging with each passing year. Fret not, dear friends: Here are some guy-friendly gifts that will please your papa.
- Apple iPad or other tablet
- GPS for his ride
- nook, Kindle or other eReader
- Jersey and framed magazine from his favorite team’s big win
- Autographed memorabilia from an online auction
- Tailgating snacks, face paint and tickets for the next home game
- Gear for his next big hike
- Supplies for the campsite, such as a new tent
- Map an unexplored destination where he can go rappelling or white-water rafting
- Personalized tool kit
- Gift card to home-improvement store and subscription to “This Old House”
- A season or two of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” on DVD
If your dad doesn’t fall within just one of the hard-defined categories, try mixing a few of the items above to create something truly unique.
The important thing, of course, is to spend time with Dad and thinking of him. He likely doesn’t need anything fancy, but it’s nice to show him your appreciation for all that he does.
Slick Rick, Brother and I on base: Savannah, Ga.; Christmas 1990
My Thanksgiving holiday essentially consisted of one shitstorm after another. To save you (and me) the trouble of a lengthy recap, allow me to sum up the weekend in the following helpful bullets:
- Left work at 1 p.m. Helped a stranded co-worker get her car towed, then drove her to Ocala to enjoy her holiday. Got to my house around 8:30 p.m.
- Drank more 2-4-1s than should be legal at Crapplebee’s with Brother. Played bear-ninja-cowboy and had to get a taxi (van) ride home. The mile-and-a-half trip cost $9 but I gave the guy $20 so he wouldn’t come back to kill us.
Thursday – Turkey Day
- Did not get to draw a hand turkey. Very upset.
- Lots of family and friends over for food and drink. Have I mentioned before that my family is insane?
- Annual pinochle tournament begins. No tears … yet.
- Massages with my mom, Maggie May. The woman told me I am tense all over and need to work on that. Thanks, lady.
- Saw “Morning Glory,” that one with Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford. Great afternoon flick to catch.
- Due for a phone upgrade, I went with the iPhone 4. Working very diligently to refrain from becoming obsessed.
- Pinochle tournament continues. My grandpa and 16-year-old cousin win and take the trophies home. Tears ensue.
- “Out” in Daytona: a pub, a gay club ($2 shots!), a lame bar and a strip club. Together again with old friends and a few drinks too many.
- Lunch with Maggie, a dear friend and her mom. Try to cover two years in two hours of talking.
- Shopping with Mags at the Mecca, Kohl’s. Spend $50 and save $75. This is the word of the Lord.
- Attend speaking engagement of grandpa’s. More tears ensue.
- Reunion at a quaint bar/restaurant with many old friends, including the entire band playing. Lots of drinks and catching up and smiles and hugs.
- Lunch with cousin and close friend; worst service endured in a very long time. Waitress was shit-for-brains and clearly had no desire to gain a good tip.
- Packed all too quickly.
- Pit stop in DeLand for a co-worker; back to Tampa after a roller-coaster weekend.
All in all, I had the best Thanksgiving I’ve experienced in quite some time. Although it got off to a very rocky start, I was so grateful to be home for more than 24 hours. My family is my rock — even when they make me crazy.
Spending time with loved ones rejuvenated my spirit and allowed me to take a break from the rat race, if only for a few days. I hope you each made your own special memories as you celebrated all of life’s blessings.
And if anyone drew a hand turkey, fuck off. No need to be an asshole at a time like this.