Deers Are Stupid

November 30, 2007

Deers are stupid. For one thing, they don’t know how to pluralize their name properly. Do they think they are fish or something?

Also, how do deer get driver’s licenses? Where does it say in the driver’s manual to stand in the middle of the road when they should run?

Monday night I was driving home from work on our country highway at the speed limit of 50 mph. The lights from an oncoming car momentarily obscured my already poor night vision. When I saw fully again, a deer stood about 30 feet in front of me. It was too late to stop or swerve successfully.

The deer did not have a good time that night. Neither did my car, which now needs a new hood, a new headlight, and new turn signals.

(My tired old self is still in one piece. This is the second deer in a couple of years. We have to stop meeting like this.)

7B Tasks for RG

November 25, 2007

I read every comment my readers have posted and I appreciate them and find them stimulating and useful, though I do not always reply right away, or sometimes at all.

I mentioned earlier that my granddaughter had gone to get her flu shot and offered her arm for the needle without concern or demur. Mommy (her birth mom and my daughter’s partner) told me that she is  trying to prove how gown-up she is and she should be allowed to make more decisions for herself.

I mentioned this behavior during our visit. My daughter offered a slightly different take on it.

“RG has learned to trust adults,” she said. “She believes they have her best interests in mind.

 “For example, recently she went to the dentist to have her teeth cleaned. She sat back in the dentist’s chair and opened her mouth wide when directed.” I thought that it isn’t necessarily natural for a three year old child to allow a strange man to stick sharp objects in her mouth and start scraping.

This may be well enough for a three year old.  However, I will have to work on changing this attitude as she gets older. By the time she is four, she should be cringing in a corner and whining in terror when a strange adult approaches her.

By the time she is five, I will pay for her to take trips to Maine to take self-defense lessons from my niece who teaches martial arts. My instructions will be that when she returns, RG should be able to break the kneecap of any strange adult who approaches her.

7A Tasks of Life

November 24, 2007

The story of my aunt Henriette is not fiction. It is ongoing in real time. I don’t know how it will turn out. I will keep you posted on what is happening. Based on how things have gone so far, I am not very optimistic.

In the meantime, I am contemplating what I consider the five tasks of life and how they have affected me and (though it’s a little presumptuous on my part), David Rochester.

The five tasks of life are:

  • Journeying from being a child to being an adult
  • Being a life partner
  • Being a parent
  • Making a living
  • Journeying through the end of our life

Not everybody engages in all of these tasks. The first and last are required, though some people never really become adults. Some don’t survive the journey. Some just become large children.

Not everybody gets a life partner (what is often called a “romantic partner”). Some get many and never establish a successful relationship with one in particular. My father in law was married five times. (My wife’s mother was his first wife.) His fifth marriage turned out fairly successfully, though in the last year of their lives their lives and relationship unraveled.

Today my wife and I celebrate our 42nd wedding anniversary. We will go out tonight to a restaurant (where we have never eaten before) on the island where we live.

Some people do not become parents. Sometimes they are unable to bear children. Some adopt children. My daughter can’t bear children. She has adopted her partner’s daughter and become a co-mom. She is taking great delight in the experience. It pleases me to see her happiness in this regard. Some people choose not to become parents. Sometimes they create children but are separated from them. I worked with a person once who told me that he had fathered a child, but the mother had moved to Alaska before it was born and he had never had any contact with the child.

When I was a small child, my aunt Rose, who could not herself bear children herself, took me in for a year. It’s quite possible she saved my sanity. When my daughter was a little girl she had two unrelated “aunts” who could not bear children but who were a marvelous influence on our child. Our granddaughter has at least one marvelous “aunt” as well. Her sperm donor plays a role like an uncle in her life.

Some of us make a very good living, though many of us are very unhappy in our careers. Some people do good work (in various senses) with or without making much money at it. Some spend their lives doing one career task; others move from one job to another throughout most of their lives. Some are born with a silver spoon in their mouths; some live as bums or derelicts.

Although I have been married for 42 years, and I seem to have a pretty relationship with my daughter, I have never had a “good” job. I figure two out of three ain’t bad. For that matter, I have never been a very “good” employee. Superficially, my current job looks like a good job, but at the moment, it’s a bad mess. I have about a year or so go to retirement, but I don’t know if I will make it that far.

I don’t know if there is such a thing as a “good death,” though probably some people live too long. Some people believe that humans have a soul that lives after death. I do not find that belief convincing or persuasive. When I was in my forties, I thought I would die soon of a heart attack. I actually had some mild panic attacks. I think this was a combination of knowing my father had died young of a heart attack. In part it was a reaction—I’m not sure what to call it—to my father dying a day after we had a fight where I had stood up to him for the first time in my life. In part it was because some blood pressure medication I was taking at the time had some unfortunate side effects.

In January, I will turn 64. I am quite surprised I lived that long. I can think of lots of things to complain about (and do frequently) but my life has turned out much better than I expected or had any right to expect.

How Funny Can Not Funny Be?

November 22, 2007

For a couple of answers:

Try this.

Then try this.

At dinner Saturday night, Random Granddaughter only ate a few bites of her food and then asked to be excused from the dinner table. Whether her difficult relationship with food as a preschooler is something her parents will just chuckle about when she is older or is a hint of later dangerous difficulties to come in teenage years such as anorexia and bulemia I have no way of knowing.

In any case, as RG was having difficulty settling down and was talking about wandering the house at night will little cat Sylvie, she complained about being hungry. Neither Mommy offered to feed her.

The next morning, after sleeping in her bed as a little girl should do (properly leaving the job of wandering around the house all night to Sylvie), she was in a better mood and ate some breakfast. Later she invited Mommy (Out of law partner and birth mother), Mamma (Random Daughter), Grandma, and Grandpa for a picnic at the beach. She examined the very cloudy sky and told us the sun was shining brightly. (Having been warned of the bright light in the sky, I put on my hat and sunglasses.)

RG brought in a hamper containing food for the beach picnic. I was a bit curprised to see her pull out a wooden knife and begin slicing a wooden apple which obligingly opened up into slices. Examing my apple slice revealed a bit of velcro in the middle (instead of a worm).

After we ate our wooden food, we went for a swim in the ocean on the floor. No sharks attacked us. When Random Daughter was a little girl, Mrs. Random pretended to be a “land shark” so convincingly she scared her daughter, though as an adult, Random Daughter seems to have recovered from her childhood trauma.

Later, we went for a real walk outdoors, eventually ending up at the playground.

Tinkle, tinkle

November 21, 2007


After Random Granddaughter finally fell asleep on Saturday night, after saying she would rather wander the house all night like Sylvie (the little black with a little white cat), my wife and I got ready for bed. My daughter and her partner were upstairs in their bedroom. My wife was in the downstairs guest bedroom. I was in the downstairs bathroom brushing my teeth.

We heard a little bell jingling. One of Sylvie’s cat toys is a small plastic ball, like a whiffle ball, with a bell inside. Sylvie, perhaps taking a lead from RG’s rebellious comments, had come downstairs to play with her toy and was batting it around on the hardwood floor. Tinkle, tinkle went the little ball.

Ever solicitous of her guests, my daughter came downstairs and spoke to her mother. “Is Sylvie bothering you with her toy? I can take it away from her if she is bothering you,” she said.

“No,” I heard my wife answer. “I like hearing the sound of Sylvie playing with her toy.”

A few minutes later I joined my wife in the guest bed. For a few minutes we heard the little ball with a bell inside rolling and tinkling, and then it stopped. Cats don’t have a long attention span with toy prey, though they will watch for a real mouse or bird for a long time. After a little while, we fell asleep.


November 19, 2007

We had a good visit, but Random Granddaughter is going through adolescence or something. When it was time for bed, she couldn’t get into it. Eventually, to get her calmed down, Mommy began singing to her.

It was going pretty well, until she suddenly burst into the middle of a song to ask, “What are shepherds? And why were they watching?”

I was surprised to see Sylvie in the bed. But Mommies told us, Sylvie sometimes sleeps with RG. RG wanted Sylvie to stay and sleep with her last night, but RG started petting Sylvie and playing with her a little too enthusiastically, so Sylvie (as any normal cat would) got up and left the bed.

A little later, RG said, “I don’t want to sleep. I want to get up and walk around all over the house all night just like Sylvie does.”

Eventually, she did fall asleep.

Off to See

November 17, 2007

The most frightening child in America. Well, maybe the second most frightening child in America.

OK, grandparents are wont to brag a lot, and think their grandchild is especially special.

RG may only be the 1,713,042nd most frightening child in America. But that’s my final offer. And she can probably beat up your 3-year-old granddaughter because she is very big for her age.

She’s cuter, too.

6I Meanwhile

November 16, 2007

After high school, I went to the University of California and flunked out a year before the Free Speech Movement. (Speech is safely back in jail.)

In the meantime, Henriette had a baby. I don’t know if Carl was an accident or a purpose. Perhaps, realizing that she was not going to be an opera singer at the Met, Henriette decided to have a soap opera.

As Henriette had been supporting her husband Morton, it may be that he was not happy with sharing life with another baby. In any case, they separated for a while. Henriette came out to California with her baby and lived with her sister Naomi for a while. I met baby Carl but I don’t remember him saying anything interesting. (When baby Random Daughter came along a few years later, I thought every gurgle and burp and scream was fascinating. Amazing how that works.)

Eventually, Henriette and Morton got together again in New York City. Eventually, my rich cousin Joanna flew everybody to Vermont for a family reunion and I met nephew Carl. With Morton as a daddy, I was not surprised that he did not seem much of a happy camper. A bit like my youngest brother J, Carl was a bit of a computer geek who seemed uncertain of how to relate to other human beings.

Eventually, Carl moved out to the western United States, in part to separate himself from his parents and try to find a life for himself.

My granddaughter recently told Mommy (her birth mother and my daughter’s Out of Law partner) that she is almost grown up and should be allowed to decide more things for herself. This indicates to me that she is three years old going on 15.

That was a few weeks ago. More recently, my wife sent RG some stickers. For a preschooler, getting some stickers in the mail is like for an adult getting some bags of gold dust or small diamonds in the mail. Not quite like winning the lottery, but pretty good. I don’t know what winning the lottery would be like for a preschooler—perhaps learning that you inherited Disneyland.

Last weekend, we found a phone message on our voice mail from Random Granddaughter. It wasn’t entirely clear to us what she was saying, but it did indicate she wanted us to call.

I called yesterday from my job. As we were having our second windstorm/power outage on the island, my wife didn’t get around to giving RG a call.

I called during RG’s nap. Mommy indicated she would have RG call me after she awoke and recovered from waking up. About four or so I received a call. Her telephone skills have progressed quite a bit from “Hello,” and “Hello, Grandpa.” Now she delivers messages of some complexity and thoughtfulness over the telephone. I often can’t understand them, but I can tell that they are complex and thoughtful by the serious and portentous way in which she delivers them.

I did ask her how Sylvie (my Barely Extended Family’s small cat) is doing. RG told me, “Sylvie did not go outside the gate.”

“Is Sylvie being a good cat?” I asked.

“Yes, Sylvie is a good cat,” said RG.

“Do you tell Sylvie what she should do and not do?” I asked.

“Yes, I tell Sylvie what do,” said RG.

“Does she listen to you?” I asked.

“Kitty cats don’t listen to people,” said RG.

Only three years old, and she has already discovered some of the major laws of nature, I thought with admiration.

Eventually, Mommy came back on the line. “RG went down with me and we got our flu shots,” she told me.

She went on. “She didn’t cry or anything. In fact, she just held her arm out with a nonchalant expression for her shot.”

“That’s very impressive,” I said.

Mommy said, “She doesn’t say much more about it, but it’s clear now that almost every action she takes is to show us how grown up she is, and how she doesn’t need us to decide much more for her.”

I thought about this. A three year old child who doesn’t cry or even wince when a doctor sticks a needle in her arm because she wants to show she is a grown up. What kind of child is this? What kind of calculations are going through that little mind?

Her Mommy is not named “Rosemary.” Her Mommy says that her best friend, Mia, is probably more intelligent than she is. Mia’s mommy is not named “Rosemary” either.

I am going to visit RG this weekend. This may be the most frightening child in America. If not the most frightening child, the second-most frightening child, in close communication with the most frightening child in America.

If you don’t hear from me by next week, send out a search party.