Sunday, June 19, 2011

Rolling for Dollars

He was just a little guy, shiny blonde hair, not all that evenly cut; with big brown eyes and wearing a long sleeve blue shirt and brown corduroy pants, staring at the world in wonder around him in the very early 1970s.  His mom loved him, and he was with her wherever she went, and when his dad was around, something special was clearly going on.  Oh yes, the bond between mother and son was obviously there.  Mom would sit on the couch and watch TV on the big Zenith floor model tube that sat on a brown carpeted portion of the linoleum-decked livingroom, and it didn't really matter what was on.  He would lie down there with his head on his mom's lap and just enjoy her company.  But when dad was around, he would go off on a different little world.

His dad and him would go out on walks around the neighbourhood, breathing in the fresh air of the multitude of surrounding trees in the summertime, with everyone in the houses around sitting outside on their lawns or porches on nice days, mingling among one another.  Everyone knew each other in those days.  There wasn't a neighbour on the street that you didn't know by name.  The houses on the street and all the roads around were populated with war-time houses that weren't all that old at the time, but were built to be around for what seemed like forever.  The dad and his youngest son would walk to different places, and Dad would stop by to see a friend sometimes, and the little guy would gleefully tag along.  There was something about those two.

The kid was raised as the youngest of seven, and as you might think, it would prove to be a bit of a challenge, as he would show up in the world late in his mom and dad's lives.  But he would be no less loved than the others.  Maybe even a bit spoiled; a lot even at times.  He would come to love Saturday nights when most of the family gathered together around the the big Zenith, as the crew all awaited Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling to air on the Moncton channel.  The dad would make his legendary fried clams for everyone, and it was like a party atmosphere every weekend.  The family would prove to be a tight one in the years ahead.  No one would come between them, no matter how they tried.  Somehow, the father of the family laid the groundwork early on to make sure that everyone knew their place in the framework of the kin and where they belonged.  One day, all five boys and the two girls would marry and have families of their own.  Even if this dad didn't realize it, despite his faults and shortcomings, he would be programming family unity in his kids during those close and intimate times with his wife and kids.

The youngest... oh, he got away with a lot though!  He especially loved the trips that his dad took to the Dominion grocery store and brought him along.  Because the little guy actually knew how adorable he was, and he used it to his advantage to get things that he really wanted.  Like that jar of Schnoogle peanut butter spread, that box of ice cream, or the cans of Flair fruit dessert or root beer you could make yourself at home, even if it sucked.  Why not a chocolate bar or some sugary junk cereal too!  He'd get it all.  His dad couldn't say no.  But his mom wouldn't be too impressed when they got home!  Oh well, it didn't happen all that often.  When the little fella got to go to the grocery store with dad, it was rare and always a treat.

And it was always a treat at 4 o'clock every weekday for the little packrat chihuahua/terrier mix dog named Mitzi they had for a pet at the household, because when the whistle blew at the CN Shops on those days, she would march happily to the end of the hallway in the house to the back porch door and wait for her master to come home.  Boy, that dog just loved her daddy.  And shortly after 4 when when he got home, she would hear him come up the back steps, and her ears would fold back, her tail would wag and she would lick her liver lips waiting to give daddy kisses when he came through the door.  And what a sweet sight it always was when those two were reunited after a long day of separation.  To the little black packrat of a dog, the house wasn't really a home until her daddy got back.  Then all would be well with the world.  She would get his leftovers after supper, on top of her Dr. Ballard's dog food or Gaine's Burgers that I or one of my siblings would feed her.

The little blonde son would make his allowances by rolling up cigarettes for his dad on those old ancient cigarette making machines.  One made them one at a time.  You would stuff tobacco in a slot, put an empty filter sleeve on a despenser side at one end, and turn a crank handle to stuff the tobacco into the sleeve.  The other cigarette maker was a longer one, about 8 inches long, where you press tobacco into a groove covered by a leather sheathe, which you would then roll with a slip of cigarette paper and then cut the mother cigarette after it was made on the grooves at the edge of the maker.  Each cigarette made would net the little guy 2 cents.  Sometimes there would be quite the stockpile of smokes!  But the father didn't mind.  Sometimes payment had to wait until payday, but he was always good for it.  I'd often get a good two dollars out of it.

On Father's Day, the little fella didn't have any real money to buy anything for his pop, so he would make a big batch of cigarettes for him, and do any errands that he could.  He would make homemade cards for him out of lined loose leaf, and maybe go to the corner store to fetch him a Mars Bar and a can of Coke, his favorite snack.

This is one father who loved his garden in the backyard.  And his youngest little boy often spent time back there helping him pull weeds or pick vegetables, or whatever it was he wanted him to do.  His dad took great pride in this garden work of his.  It's where he spent a great deal of time in the summertimes when he wasn't working.  He prized his cucumbers, carrots, beets and rhubarb, and his wife would prepare them for the family when they were picked and ready, and they were always the best tasting veggies you could imagine.

Those two... the dad and his youngest... were two peas in a pod at times.  The dad would always have hugs and kisses for the little fella.  He'd tickle with his 5 o'clock shadow beard, laugh along with his deep, throaty smoker's laugh.  The two would just sit and talk about whatever came off the top of their heads at times.  "You know what, dad?" the little guy would chirp.  "You're fifty years old right?"

"That's how old I am.  I'm an old guy," he would affirm gently.

"Well ... people live to be a hundred!  Did you know that?"

"Sometimes they do," now knowing what he was getting at, dad responded.

"So then your life is only halfways over, right Dad?  You're going to be here a long time!"

The dad let out a hearty laugh and a smile ear to ear, and reached out and hugged the boy, offering his kisses and little beard tickles.  An example of the multitude of sweet moments.

But sadly, only seven years later, Mitzi would wait by the back door in the hallway and Dad would not be coming home anymore, and Dad would pass away.  I was 12 when it happened on February 28, 1978.  When Fathers Days come around now, each one that takes me further away from the last time I could be with my dad on that day makes me reflect a bit more.  I look around and see people whose dads are still alive, and tell them to be grateful for their time with them.  Because one day, they will have to see it through the same eyes as I do now.

My Dad had his troubles, and trying times, but I choose not to focus on that.  I remember my father for the good in him.  For the things he did to make me feel like I mattered.  For teaching me to love my future daughter in that same way he loved me.  I remember my dad for being a family man, for doing whatever it took to make a house a home.

And now, it's up to me to be that dad.  To perhaps replace those fried clams with chicken wings!  To bring my little girl to the store and let her con me into getting something dietarily questionable.  To form that unbreakable bond that will always be in our household.

I thank you, Dad, for helping to make me who I am.  I know you and Mom are waiting for us to come home.  I'm sure you're feeding Mitzi plenty of leftovers.  One day, we'll go shopping again at that big Dominion grocery store in the sky!

I love you, Dad.  I miss you.  Happy Father's Day.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Random Thoughts 8

An awful lot of super hero movies out these days, eh?  Most of which really aren't that great.  We saw "Thor" a while ago, it was good.  Not great.  It's really just a setup movie for a bigger one called "The Avengers", which is a group of heroes:  Iron Man, Captain America (his own movie out soon), Thor himself, Nick Fury and maybe the Hulk, though Hulk might wind up being the villain.  Maybe I forgot one or two or more.  Anyway, I don't like the idea of a bunch of heroes in one movie.  I like them to be in their own 'universes', so to speak.  The reason I like the last couple of Batman movies so much is because they're plausible, if not necessarily probable.  Batman himself has no powers.  He's just a very rich guy bent on avenging the death of his parents by trying to wipe out the mob, and other weirdos pop up along the way.  Of course, the writing, acting, directing, cinematography and soundtrack make it a stellar film, my most favorite ever.

If you're wondering why Charlie Brown is on my facebook profile picture these days, it's because I identify with the fellow.  He's always looking for a break but can't quite seem to get one, but he forges ahead anyway.  There are a lot of nuances to that character that I completely am in synch with.  God bless Charles Shultz.

On the way home from work tonight, we heard a song on the radio that jarred our memories, one that we hadn't heard in probably at least 20 years.  I forget the name of it now... but it's amazing how some songs take you way back and transplant you in another frame of mind.  THIS ONE takes me back to October 1986, when a girlfriend left me and I was in a dreadful tailspin.  They say the first cut is the deepest.  I got together with someone else right afterward and THIS SONG reminds me of her.  And this WEIRD FUNNY ONE brings me back to a train trip me and some friends took in '88 to Toronto to see KISS.  I could go on and on with a nostalgia trip here but then it wouldn't be just Random Thoughts anymore.

Seek out Breyer's Banana Cream Pie All Natural ice cream.  Man alive that stuff is wicked!  Real bananas and graham cracker pie crust pieces in it make this one a whole new reason to keep hitting the gym.

The warmer weather and longer days can only mean one thing... cottage time.  Looking forward to whooping it up another summer with the fam.

Speaking of summer, it looks like a staple has made its way into our fridge in the form of Moose Light Ginger.  We've gone through almost three 12 packs in three weeks!  I don't binge though.  That stuff is very smooth and tasty for beer.  I love my ML Lime too, but this one I think I like even more.

"Super 8" is coming.  Been waiting a long time for this one.  I hope it's good.   Roger Ebert gives it 3 1/2 stars out of 4, or a thumbs up.

My Red Sox have hit their stride in the last few weeks after a rocky start, but I knew they'd come around.  I'm loving it too.  I remember how they lost a bunch of games to start the season and the haters were writing them off already.  I was saying "just you wait".  The wait is apparently done.

Looking back, I realize I feel like I've grown as a person since I started attending St. Bernard's parish a few years ago.  I see things differently and just feel better in general.  Father Carroll is a really good guy whom I've learned a lot from, from his weekly sermons, which are more often than not short but to-the-point offerings on how we can get closer to God.  I love doing readings at the masses I get to do, too.

I find it amusing hearing all of the backbiting going on regarding the Vancouver vs Boston battle for the Stanley Cup.  "Bring the Cup back to Canada!" one faction says.  "There are more Canadian players on the Bruins than on the Canucks!" says the other.  Me, I don't know, I don't care much.  But here's what I think about that dilemma:  I understand both sides.  I get that Canadian hockey fans want the cup to 'belong' to Canada again.  And I get the whole Boston homeboys thing too.  I mean, Canucks is a euphemism for Canadians anyway, so I get the whole bring-it-home thing.  But let me say this... I get railed at for being a big Boston Red Sox fan in baseball while turning my back on the Toronto Blue Jays.  Fact of the matter is, the casual fans may look at it as a country or province or state loyal thing, while the hardcore fans will appreciate a team for their characters and history.  I got into baseball back in the late 70's when my friends around the neighbourhood were Boston fans before I got into it, so I got to know the team through them.  Around here, we got a lot of Boston coverage, so that was the team people around here gravitated to, and for me, it stuck.  I see a lot more Red Sox shirts and hats than any other team, then it's the Yankees, then the Blue Jays.  Die-hards don't care about geography, they care about the team they like.  Where I'm just a casual-at-best hockey fan, I guess I might side with the Canucks, but I sort of like Boston because of the Maritime connections and they're brothers to my Red Sox.

Our Prime Minister Stephen Harper showed up at one of the games in Boston... via a government jet.  That's your tax dollars hard at work, ladies and gentlemen, getting the country's boss to hockey games with his family, 'stick'ing it to us.  He's gonna get called for misconduct in the House of Commons I hope.

The U2 show is edging closer and closer.  It's gonna be one hell of a blast, and if you're reading this and you're not going, or you're on the edge (pun intended), lean toward going, because you'll regret missing out on this, even if you won't admit it.  This is the most successful tour in history, being seen by over seven million worldwide, with the biggest stage show ever produced.  But there's more to it than that.  U2 puts on a very involving show, one like you've never experienced.  If there were no theatrics at all, you would still get treated to a spectacle and be left with a show to be talked about endlessly.  We saw them in Montreal in '05.  We know.

With the post office strike in full swing at the moment, my wife is wondering about her future where she works.  She's not employed by the post office, but by Shoppers Drug Mart, but she loves what she does as manager of the outlet.  The future is somewhat uncertain and I can tell it worries her, but I know she'll be okay.  She's one of the smartest people I know.  I can only dream of being half as smart as she is.

The KFC Double Down is coming back!  I've tried them in the States and here in Moncton, and I could swear that the ones we have here in Moncton are at least twice as good.  Hey, so maybe we should call it the Double Double Down eh?  Or the KFC 3D Sandwich.

With all due respect to other Shoppers Drug Mart stores, I have to say that our cosmetics department has THE hottest looking babes working there of all of them.  Although at Janice's store, there is one ... I'm talking about YOU JJ ... that would fit right in there amongst the beauties.  I feel blessed every time I get a cosmetics order in receiving and have to walk it to the makeup counter.

I guess that's all I have to say for now.  Have a good summer folks... I'll be back plenty of times throughout.  And I genuinely say, Thank You for reading.