Sunday, November 20, 2016

Talking to a dead man

Today, November 20, is -- would have been -- my father's birthday. I was holding his hand when he finally succumbed to cancer in January of 1992. I like to think I'm not alone in saying I was glad he finally died. Anyone who has seen a loved one wither away from that horrible disease would likely understand. Toward the end, my dad was skin and bones, wracked with pain no meds could control, and had totally lost his mental faculties. At last, a merciful end to all the suffering.

At the same time, 1992 seems like last week and a very long time ago. Has it actually been almost 25 years since my pop passed away? Doesn't feel like it. On the other hand, back in 1992 some Arkansas yahoo named Clinton was making a run for the Presidency against an incumbent -- one George H. W. Bush. No way, right? We know how that turned out.

It was also about the same time the Detroit Lions won their one and only playoff game since Super Bowls started a half century ago. Yours truly just happened to be at that game, played in the long since defunct Silverdome. The Lions completely trashed the Dallas Cowboys 38-6. To this day, I blame that experience on my hearing loss. It was so incredibly loud in there. Couldn't have been the pipes from all those thousands of miles on the Harley and probably 100 rock concerts over the years. Could it?

My dad was a Lions fan back in the day and got me hooked at a very young age. Every Sunday (after church of course) they were on TV, we'd retire to the very small den he had crafted upstairs in our equally small house, and tune in while eating pickled bologna and crackers. It was dad/eldest son quality time, dammit. No mom or pesky little brother allowed. I'll get back to that.

But as we all know, life goes on for those fortunate enough to still be here, and on this Sunday yours truly settled into his usual routine. Sitting down with my NY Times Sunday crossword, a tall glass of V8 juice, and firing up the 55 inch flat screen to pig out on sports.

Click. What's that? The Lions taking on the woeful Jacksonville Jaguars? Talk about a snooze fest. These two teams have been deader than my pop since he took his last breath. No thanks. Click.

It was then 2:53 in the afternoon. The programming said the green flag at the final NASCAR race to determine a champion will fly in exactly 7 minutes at 3 o'clock sharp. They lied. I hate liars. My dad never lied to me -- far as I know. He hated them too.

Fifteen minutes later the drivers still hadn't even gotten in their cars. Just a lot of pomp and talking heads blathering away. Finally, some handsome young stud trotted out to sing the national anthem. He seemed more inclined to show off his singing skills than honoring the premise on which the song was based. In other words, he jazzed it up. No doubt, somewhere pretty girls swooned. It earned him a click halfway through from me. Sing it like it was written or get the hell off the stage. Is that so difficult? 

My dad couldn't much sing either. I found that out in the above mentioned church. While dressed up in my monkey suit, with a quarter in hand to eventually drop into the offering plate, listening to my father trying so sing along to the hymns was brutal. 

Click. Oh man. Judge Judy? Is that shrew still around? My mom, who I lost just a couple months ago, sweet and peace loving as she was -- would have gouged this hag's eyes out. Click.

I learned a lot from my dad in my formative years. He had spent a great deal of his own youth learning to be quite the hunter and fisherman. Those were skills he attempted to pass along to me, whether I liked it or not. It's not every 12 year old that can field dress a deer or scope out an ice fishing spot. 

That would seem odd for a man who was an executive at the former General Motors subsidiary of Fisher Body. But I learned never to underestimate the various skills my father had. He once told me (bragged) that he could type faster than his secretary. Pretty sure I didn't believe it at the time, but OK, I knew better than to question him. As fate would have it, somewhere along the line I actually met that secretary at some sort of company function/party/get together. At great risk -- I had to ask. 

"Excuse me, Mrs. Cooper. My name is John and I'm Larry Leach's son. My dad tells me he can type faster than you. Is that true?"

She blushed and I thought I was in big trouble. Finally, she smiled and said, "It's true. But let's keep that our little secret, OK?" Wow, dad hadn't lied to me even about that.

A man of many talents indeed. He could also swing a mean belt when I got out of line. Downstairs in our house was this certain rocking chair. When I had it coming for misdeeds, yours truly was made to bend over that chair and take a few whacks on the posterior. In hindsight, no pun intended, I suppose it shamed me more than it actually inflicted any physical damage. I had let dad down again. Nevertheless, the four words I dreaded most in my youth were -- head to the basement.

Click. Back to NASCAR. Jimmy Johnson, Joey Lagano, Kyle Busch, and Carl Edwards were the Final Four competing for the championship at Homestead. Who to root for? Actually it was quite simple to eliminate two of them. JJ drives a Chevy. Joey a Ford. Busch and Edwards pilot Japanese products.

My dad never would have tolerated that. As a World War II vet, he once told me, "I fought the Germans in the war. Your Uncle Jim (his older brother) fought the Japs. No way would either of us ever drive a car associated with either one of them. And neither will you. Got that?"

Um yeah, I got it. And I never have. I wound up working at GM myself. They taught me a great trade (electrician) which provided me a pretty decent middle class living for my career. Sure, I had a couple a-hole bosses along the way -- don't we all? -- but no complaints. The least I could do was purchase their products as opposed to foreign competition.

Turned out, Jimmy Johnson would go on to capture his 7th NASCAR championship, tying him with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhart Sr. for the most of all time. Hurray Chevy. On that note, Ford and Chrysler make some mighty fine products themselves. But boo, hiss Toyota and the drivers that sold out to them. If the Daytona 500 is the "Great American Race" and NASCAR events, as in NATIONAL Association of Stock Car Racing are held on American soil, how can these guys look themselves in the mirror running around in foreign cars? Hypocrites of the highest order.

Click. College football "experts" telling us, in their infinite wisdom, who the Final Four are going to be in a couple weeks. Alabama's pretty much a lock to get in. We all know that. Not far behind is Clemson. Unless they stumble badly, not likely, they're in as well. But these geniuses had both Ohio State and Michigan in their top four.

Well duh. They play each other next Saturday and one of them has to lose. With such a high profile game that everybody, especially including the Selection Committee, will be paying close attention to, whoever comes up short will be out of the running. There's no way both schools can get in. It's mutually exclusive. These experts are far from it. More like short-sighted and stupid. Click.

Well then. Enough of that nonsense. I headed into my local watering hole to have a couple brews and be enlightened by the true geniuses that always hang out there. One learns something every time they set foot in that place -- whether they want to or not.

I dunno dad. Sometimes it's a strange world out there these days. Nobody has a home telephone any more. There are these things called "cels", flat little gadgets you can stick in your pocket or clip on your belt. Besides being a phone, it has a video screen. As I understand it, these things send out a sort of radio signal to a sort of radio tower nearby, which in turn relays it up to a satellite overhead. That satellite relays it to another satellite somewhere near the person you're trying to call, which relays it down to a tower near your desired party, and on to their cel. And all this happens faster than you can spell r-o-t-a-r-y. Amazing stuff actually. An added benefit is no more party lines, so people like that Mrs. Miller down the street can't pick up her phone and listen in to you any more.

You can actually play video games, watch TV, and listen to music on these doodads. Unbelievably, they're also hooked up to this thing called the internet. It's sort of like a giant computer system where you can find out any and every fact ever known to mankind in a matter of seconds.

Here's a kicker for ya. They have a flat keyboard where people can type out messages to each other. Kind of like the old teletype but without the wires. It's called texting. Nothing like that set of encyclopedias you bought me when I was a kid. Know what's really weird? Most people would rather take the time to type out a message than push one button to get hold of the person and actually talk to them. Very strange stuff, but people are addicted to these devices. They walk around these days like a nation of zombies with their eyes glued to the mini-screens like nothing else exists. Unbelievable, I know. It's a wonder we've survived.

Oh yeah. TVs are flat these days, as big as our old kitchen table, have super clear pictures, and thousands of channels to choose from. I kid you not, pop.

At any rate, I still like pickled bologna and crackers, but I gave up on the sad sack Lions not long after you passed. They still haven't done anything of note since, but the legion of suckers remain always convinced this will be the year, and it never turns out to be. You know -- the usual.

I have my own rocking chair now, but think of you and those, ahem, heady times in the basement once in a while. Ah yes, those were the days.

And you wouldn't believe who just got elected President.

It's probably best I hold that one back. After all these years in peace, it's no time for you to start rolling over now.

1 comment:

  1. Great article! had to read it three times..very enjoyable!