A few weeks ago we received an invitation to come to “grandparents day” at the School for Very Bright Children where our bratty, trouble-making grandchild attends kindergarten. Are we going to attend? Does the Pope bring all his Cardinals to watch the bull fight?

Perhaps we will wear t-shirts that say

We don’t know Random Grandchild!

There is no Genetic Connection between us and this child!

Will adopt your grandchild for food (as long as food is organic)!

I have been told that RG is hanging out with the worst child in her kindergarten and giggling inappropriately.

My theory is that her peer is an extrovert and a show-off, and that RG  (very introverted)  has turned herself into a “sidekick” and “hanger- on” to get attention and applause in a parasitic manner.

I have also heard that she is being mean to other kids, and becoming a bit of a bully.

No doubt, there is probably some little David-like child in her class, and she is turning on this poor child to torment him or her.

As her Mommy (birth mother) is a teacher in the same school, Mommy is hugely embarrassed by her daughter’s behavior.

This reminds me of a story, and a possible strategy, though it is one that would horrify the mommies.

As a child, I was bullied by my father, as was my mother. I don’t think he was aware of bullying his family, and after he got done with my brother and me, he stopped with the three younger siblings who are puzzled why the two of us resented him so much.

As a school child, I was not especially bullied, but I was aware of bullying and aware of being the kid next in line to be bullied. Children who are bullied send out signals of being good targets. This is not fair, and not really their fault, but the phenomenon clearly exists. When I was a public school teacher I could often tell within a day or two which students were likely to be bullied.

I did get beat up a couple of times as a child. I never learned boxing or karate or similar martial arts skills, so I’ve avoided physical combat situations all of my life. However, anyone can be thrown into such a situation unexpectedly. My first instinct would be to call the  police, but if I had to I would strive to hurt a threatening person, no matter how feebly.

I have been in a couple of scary situations in my life. This is sort of a “Seinfeld story” in that it is about nothing and nothing happened. I tell it in honor of the pledge drive, so if the story fascinates you for a second or two, send a buck to David.

About 15 years ago, I was working in downtown Portland. I rode the bus to and from work. One day after work I was standing on the sidewalk among many other people waiting for busses. I noticed a man and woman engaged in quiet but intense conversation.

He was white and fairly large. She was small and Asian—for no particular reason I imagined she was Vietnamese. I could not tell if they were in a relationship—husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend. They looked as if they were in their thirties or forties.

Although I could not hear the conversation-they were about half a block away and speaking quietly—it was clear to me that he was berating or threatening her and that she was frightened. Angry and threatening was how I would describe his demeanor. Cowering and terrified would be how I would describe hers. There was no physical contact between them, but there was a feeling of threat in the air.

There was no visible reason to intervene or to call the police, but my sense of the tone of their conversation and their body language told me that there might be a need to do so. This was before the time when cell phones were so popular and I had none. There was a phone booth about a block away. There were quite a few people standing around waiting for busses, but I seemed to be the only one noticing the situation.

I decided to stay and quietly observe the tense couple from a distance until the situation resolved peacefully on its own or called for action. I made up my mind to miss my bus and catch a later one if need be.

A few minutes later a bus arrived, apparently the one the woman was waiting for. She scurried over and boarded it with a look of relief on her face. He looked angry but made no attempt to follow. I inferred there was no relationship between them.

Men threaten women all the time, both women they know and women they don’t know, for various reasons, mostly unsavory. Why a man would threaten a woman he evidently didn’t know in the midst of a crowd of people in a very public place remains perplexing to me.

As the bus left I turned my attention away. My bus arrived a few minutes later, and relieved that I had not had to engage in senseless heroics, I boarded and headed home. As I say, it’s a story about nothing. If it held your attention for a moment or two, set aside a dollar for David’s pledge drive.

Two Great Themes of my Life

October 20, 2008

Two of the great themes of my life are:

  • I hate bullies and bullying.
  • I love to play matchmaker.

My brother and I were bullied by our father. I tried very hard as a father not to be a bully toward my daughter. I am not in close contact with my brother and his children-he lives across the country from me-but I think he has made a similar effort for his three children.

My wife and I met by accident, and we are not particularly well-suited to each other, but so far we have made it work. “So far” will reach 43 years in November. Our motto is: We are too weird for anyone else to put up with, so we might as well stick together. After 42 years of marriage, we got brave enough to say, “I love you,” to each other.

When I was young, I read a science fiction story about psychic powers. I don’t remember the title (as usual), but I do remember the author’s name: Keith Laumer. (He was a talented but very tragic person, by the way.)

The protagonist develops a psychic power-he can detect people who need each other. Not necessarily romantic need-though sometimes that is the case. However, each party has some quality or characteristic the other needs. The protagonist puts them in touch with each other and something marvelous happens.

I thought it was one of the most wonderful stories I ever read.

I don’t know that I have ever matched people up successfully in a romantic relationship. However, at times I have brought people together who benefited from knowing each other in other fashions than romance.

My pledge drive for David Rochester may be my magnum opus for working on both of these themes. It’s too early to tell if I will have success on either in his case. While I am working on it, I will tell two stories, one on each theme. One where nothing happened from over twenty years ago. That nothing happened was probably good.

The other incident was quite recent. Only a little tiny thing happened, but it was good.

I will write these stories in the midst of incessant pledge drive badgering. I am eagerly waiting to hear about money coming into David’s mail box next week.