Tag Archives: Personal

Where No Man Has Gone

The sun was shining down from between the fluffy cumulous clouds on that summer’s day in 1974. I remember it was summer mostly because I was with my dad at his job and it was just the two of us. We were on the deck of the U.S.S. Nimitz when it was docked in Newport News Virginia, dad having finagled a tour of the massive ship. As big as the ship was, the corridors, gangways and berths all seemed cramped even to an 8-year-old. The bunks seemed smaller than my own bunk bed that I shared with my brother. Everything was gun-metal gray and industrial looking. There was no way someone could spend a whole year on this ship without going insane. Now my dad was talking to one of the crew and, at 8, I didn’t pay attention to details so he could have been a boson’s mate, a deck hand or the captain for all I knew. My ears did pick up when my dad asked one question: “Is she as big as the Enterprise?”

USS Enterprise on maneuvers in the Pacific in 1972. image courtesy Wikipedia

The Nimitz was launched in 1972, and my dad was stationed at Newport News in 1974, which is when he got us on board. But as impressive as the 100-plus thousand ton supercarrier was, there was no way she was as big as the U.S.S Enterprise. Granted, the Nimitz was big. Dad led me up stairs that were more like permanent ladders, down narrow corridors through bulkheads with giant wheels that locked them like safe doors, into areas that began to blend into one long grey room. The Galley looked like the sick bay except for the appliances. Dad showed me the berths where the sailors slept when they weren’t on duty. Not too comfortable looking stacked three deep as they were. Definitely not what one would expect on a ship as famous as the Enterprise.

After all, the Enterprise had warp drive and shuttle craft and flew among the stars. She was the flagship of the United Federation of Planets. She was commanded by Captain James T. Kirk. There was no way that this hunk of cramped metal rooms could compare to the Enterprise. Besides, the Enterprise was science fiction. Even I knew that.

The way he asked it, however, so matter of factly, gave credence to the fantasy of there actually being a real starship and that one day, my dad would finagle a passage on THAT Enterprise. We would explore those oddly curving, day-glow painted corridors, walk through doors that shushed open and closed without being touched and maybe even beam down home when we were finished. Maybe the Klingons or the Romulans would attack while we were on board. Maybe dad and I would be given a Starfleet tunic and drafted into the crew. My dad was a captain in the Army, so he would naturally be one of Kirk’s senior staff, and I could be the youngest helmsman in the fleet. Oh, the day we would have. But why was he asking if this ship was bigger than the Enterprise?

Of course, I was to find out later that he was referring to the eighth in a long line of war ships bearing the name Enterprise. At 94,000 tons, the aircraft carrier Enterprise was indeed smaller than the Nimitz, but not by much, and it never went to warp speed and never fired a phaser at a Klingon battle cruiser. Even so, I was far from disappointed at my tour of the Nimitz. It was some quality father-son time with my dad. As one of four kids, I ate up the one-on-one time when I got it. It is one of the strongest memories of my childhood and one of the memories that have been coming to mind since Alzheimer’s claimed my father a few years ago. It’s my job to remember them now. It’s how he stays alive and it is the only way my grandchildren can ever get to know their great granddad.

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Having Is Not So Pleasing…

People are flawed. It has been this way from the dawn of time, from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden throughout history even to today. It will continue. It is inevitable. I know this because I am one. I am flawed. I have issues. I have baggage. Heck, I have steamer trunks with leather straps and brass fittings. I can be difficult. I have been told in no uncertain terms by many people throughout my life just how messed up I can be. There are dozens of people I have left in my wake that will regale anyone who listens about my shortcomings.

I am pompous—affectedly and irritatingly grand, solemn, or self-important, according to dictionary.com—and according to a colleague of mine in college. I express myself as if everything I say is ultimate truth, as if it holds the weight of scripture. Heck I even write it down so it can be a lasting testament to the ages.

I am condescending and think everyone else is stupid—if you ask my first wife, anyway. I never give credence to the ideas or thoughts of others, simply because they are clueless and ignorant of the reality of any given situation. I talk to people as though they have the intellect of a grade-schooler because, compared to me, they do.

I am a slob according to an ex-girlfriend who used to live with me (and I think my mother would agree—at least when I was living in her house). I never bother to pick up after myself and I seem to think the dishes will wash themselves. My laundry will suffice until the clothes walk to the laundry room on their own power.

Yes, I can be hard to live with. I hate cooking, I waste money, I am selfish and only looking out for my own interests and ignore any and everyone else’s. I don’t communicate and I keep my feeling bottled up inside. I am a brick wall; inflexible and unyielding to change. It’s always my way or my way—there is no highway option. OK, anyone who knows me knows this last bit is patently false. These statements are no truer than the first part. I love cooking, I am adaptable and I am quite expressive, but it doesn’t seem to matter. My great flaw is that I am impossible to live with.

Or am I?

Am I pompous or just self-assured? Am I condescending or just trying to be clear? Am I a slob or just disorganized? These are just degrees of the same character traits we all posses. One thing I do know is that I am a self-actualized man who knows what he wants in life and will do whatever it takes to accomplish his goals. Does that make me pompous? Does that make me impossible to live with? Perhaps it does. If so, I guess everyone will just have to learn to accept it.

And I don’t think it is too much to ask that we learn to accept this. Everybody has flaws. There is no perfect person walking this planet—even in Hollywood. The chances of finding a perfect person diminish with each step you take, since a perfect person would not associate with imperfect people. It’s like the old saying: I won’t have anyone as a friend who would have me as a friend, or I wouldn’t want anyone who would want me. It may just boil down to knowing what you want. If you don’t know what you want, then you will never attain it. It is even more ironic—and sad—when you finally discover what you want only to learn that you had it and cast it aside. I know what I want. The greatest flaw many people have may very well be not knowing their own heart. They are clueless and want to spend their life looking across the fence for the greener pastures—never satisfied with what they have, because they don’t know what they want. That is a tragic flaw.

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Is Santa here yet?

Christmas is just around the corner, in case you missed all the fuss. Commercials barrage us with Holiday sales, Stores drown us in holiday music, and the lonely Salvation Army ringers make us feel guilty as we walk past them. But for parents, those are not the surest signs of the approaching holiday. No, the most reliable indicator for any parent is the energy level of a child. Kids start bouncing as soon as Thanksgiving is over and the closer to Christmas, the higher the bounce. A chorus of “Is Santa coming yet? Is it Christmas yet?” is all parents hear for the better part of the month.

When I was a child, my sisters, brother and I would search the house for presents, eager to uncover the treasures we would garner on Christmas morning. Diane was particularly good at ferreting out the latest hiding spots. My skill was being able to unwrap presents just enough to see what was being covered up, then rewrapping them to hide the evidence of my espionage. Did we get in trouble? Of course. Many was the time we were threatened with getting no presents as Mom assured us that there were plenty of kids who would love to get our gifts if we didn’t shape up. Besides, Santa surely would know we had been dishonest and skip our house that year. We heard this threat virtually every year as kids. Once we grew into adolescence, snooping wasn’t as much fun.

But no matter the age, we found it difficult to sleep Christmas Eve. One year—I think I was 12—it was the middle of the night and sleep was eluding me. At least it felt like the middle of the night. My bedtime was 8 pm, so it may have very well been 10 pm. Anyway, it was late and I swear I heard jingle bells out my window. By my reckoning, Santa was due to be in our area (my reckoning figuring that Santa would be at our house at precisely midnight) so it seemed not only logical, but highly probably that those jingle bells were the very same bells that adorned Santa’s reigns! Surely he was near; probably over at someone else’s house, but he would soon be at ours!

I sneaked out of my room. My younger brother was sound asleep in his bottom bunk and I made sure not to jostle the bed as I climbed down from the top bunk. I tip-toed across the floor and opened the door; pausing to peer outside down the darkened hallway. No light was visible from my parents’ room next door or my sisters’ at the other end of the hall. I crept down the hall and looked around the corner down the stairs. I could tell the Christmas tree lights were still on from the colorful hues on the walls. I knew we set out milk and cookies for Santa, along with a carrot for the reindeer. If the cookies were still there, then I would know I hadn’t missed him. I started down the stairs as stealthily as a 12-year-old could. The staircase had walls on both sides from the second floor to halfway down on one side. The rest of the way was open to the living room aside from a banister. If I could make it to the banister, I could see the tree and the presents.

I was less than three steps from my target when my dad rounding the corner at the bottom of the stairs. He saw me. I was caught! His scowling gaze took control of my body and I turned around and climbed the stairs significantly faster than I had come down them. Santa got a reprieve that Christmas. I would have to try harder next year. The next day, all four of us were up and in Mom and Dad’s room at 5:30 to get them up to go down to open presents. Every year, we would wake them on Christmas morning long before the sun came up, and every year, they would make us wait until 6 and until they had the coffee pot going.

But the next year, something else happened. We went through the traditional routine on Christmas Eve: touring lights, reading the Nativity story in the Bible, singing carols; then off to bed with the long period of no sleep and trying to figure out how to catch Santa. The next morning, I awoke feeling refreshed and took a long stretch while I blinked open my eyes. The sunlight was filtering in through the curtains and I turned my head to see my mother opening my curtains and looking out the window.

“Good morning,” I said wondering why she was in my room.

“Good morning sleepyhead,” she answered. She had a bemused smile on her face as she watched me thinking. “I just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas,” I automatically answered before it dawned on me. “CHRISTMAS! IT’S CHRISTMAS!”

I was out of the top bunk in a bounce, and out the door to find my siblings gathered at the top of the stairs looking quite impatient. Mom made them wait for me and wouldn’t let them wake me. This was the latest I think we ever got to open gifts.

From then on, we all slept in a little later and once I became an adult, I slept in on Christmas. That is—until I had children. Once my son was old enough to understand Christmas, he ensured we were up at terribly early hours. This was payback for all the years we rousted Mom and Dad.

Now I have no problem sleeping in on Christmas as my sons are out of the house. I actually miss the anticipation of a child yearning for Christmas morning; but I get to hear the stories of my grandkids rousting their parents, and that brings back wonderful memories. Memories of bouncing off the walls waiting for Christmas to come, waiting for Santa to show up, waiting for Mom and Dad to get up. I know that my parents never needed to ask when Christmas was coming.

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