Friday, December 1, 2017

Rest Assure

I was sick. Real sick.

I’d worked eight days in a row and had only one upcoming day off before Christmas. I needed that day off to rest. But I’d already designated the time to Christmas shopping and helping my wife get ready for our big Christmas Eve party.

The problem with wives is they have our best interests at heart. Aside from wanting to buy the more expensive dryer because it had 10 more features (10 features I knew we’d never use), my wife is always looking out for me. Even that duvet cover for the bed was really for me.

“Don’t you know you’ll be happy if your wife is happy?” she said. “Happy wife, happy life.”

Now my wife was proposing something else that was good for me -- rest.

“How do you expect to get better if you don’t let your body recuperate?” she asked.

She didn’t have to tell me. I’m a huge fan of rest. Some people look at sleep as something you do to relax. I look at it as an art form. Beautiful things come out of sleep and relaxation -- great ideas, more energy, fantastic trains of thought and an immune system with the troops and firepower capable of fighting off a flu that, in my body, was currently looking like the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“OK, I’ll rest,” I promised my wife when my day off finally arrived. But, like I said, she didn’t have to force me to sleep. Sleeping is my true passion.

 That morning she woke and announced her plans to take our 11-year-old son out for a full day of Christmas shopping and errands, giving me all the peace I needed to rest and recuperate. My wife is so thoughtful. Except she left me with myself.

Once she was up, I was up, and I was thinking about all the Christmas shopping I had to finish. I was also thinking of the nativity set I never got a chance to put up.

That nativity is a centerpiece for Christmas in our house, I thought. I can put that up real quick -- no problem. Then I’ll get back in bed and get to that resting I know I need.

I waited for my wife and kid to depart and then I shot out of bed and, without even changing my clothes, went to the garage for the nativity set. It took me less than two hours to set up the scene of the birth of Christ. All I needed was an extension cord to power the Christmas star in the sky, and then I’d rest.

One quick thing always leads to another real quick thing. My plan was to run down to the store real quick and get an extension cord. How can you not have a Christmas star in a nativity scene?

Once I’m up and on the move, I have a hard time getting back to sleep. And once I’m at the store for an extension cord for the nativity, I have to knock down some Christmas shopping. I’d be quick.

I saw the video game my son wanted, only it was for the wrong video game system. I’d have to go elsewhere to get the one we needed. I could do that -- the video game store was only across town.

While I was on my way to another store to get another gift real quick, my wife called. I couldn’t let her know I was out of bed. I answered like I’d been sleeping.

“Um, he-llo,” I said in a groggy voice.

“How are you feeling?” she asked.

“Good. I was just sleeping. Rest is definitely what I needed.”

“I’m calling you from home where you’re not sleeping, not from my cell,” my wife informed me.

“Well,” I said with a few coughs I couldn’t control, “I got my Christmas shopping done (cough), and I put up the nativity, although I still have to plug in the Christmas star (cough, cough), which I can do real quick when I get home with the extension cord I just got (ha-chew!).”

“But now the day is over, you haven’t rested, and you sound worse than before.”

She was right. I had to get home, eat dinner real quick (I’d light up the Christmas star without her knowing), and get to bed.

Before I knew it, morning arrived and my alarm was screaming in my ear. One quick snooze leads to another real quick snooze. And once I’m down and that sick, I have a hard time getting back up.

I snoozed my alarm way too many times. I barely made it to work on time. By the time Christmas showed up, I felt fine and totally capable of helping my son play with the toys he got.

The real problem is that wives have our best interests at heart. My wife was going to make me get that rest I knew I still needed. So on New Year’s Day, my next day off, I made plans to sleep all day. First, I’ll take down the Christmas decorations. I’ll be real quick.

-December 2014

Road Trip

It was going well -- too well. So three vicious dogs ruined it by charging my 11-year-old son from behind a fence and practically eating him and his bicycle whole. I knew there’d be trouble along the way.

“I want you to be able to take care of yourself. I just wanna help,” I told my son before the trip.

This is my boy’s last year as an elementary school student. Next year he’s off to junior high. And while he rides his bike to and from the elementary school, the junior high campus is a lot farther from home and the route seems a bit sketchy.

“I think we’re gonna have to drive you next year,” I told the kid when the discussion came up. “I’ve driven to the junior high before, and some portions of the way don’t even have sidewalks.”

Daaaaad,” my son said in that tone of voice that let me know he was almost a teen. “I already know there’s a bike trail to the junior high. My friends told me it was back near the wash.”

Great! I thought. A bike trail! Near the wash, though? Great.

I was about to call off any consideration for riding when my wife, coincidently, broke in with a story about some friends who wouldn’t let their 20-something-year-old kids fly alone for the holidays.

“I flew by myself when I was 13,” I said.

Come to think of it, when I was my son’s age, I rode my bike longer distances and in worse areas than this alleged bike trail near the wash to the junior high.

So it was set -- my son and I would ride this trail beforehand and check it out. Over the weekend, we got the bikes in tip-top shape, packed some sandwiches and a couple bottles of electrolyte-enhanced water, cued up the GPS on my smart phone, and set out on our odyssey.

Right away my son wanted me to know he was old enough to lead the mission.

“I’m steering this ship,” I said.

“But, Daaaaad,” he said in that tone of voice again. “I already know how to get there. My friends told me. We have to go this way.”

“It’s good you’ve got confidence,” I said, “but I’ve got GPS. We go this way.”

At one point, he insisted I was taking the wrong path.

“Fine, you want the reigns?” I said. “Lead away. But when you get lost, don’t come crying to me.”

It wasn’t long before he knew he’d made a mistake. He simply turned around.

Why isn’t he freaking out? I wondered. When you’re lost, it’s natural to flip your lid.

“Do you want me to retake the lead?” I asked.

“No, we’re almost there,” he said with even more confidence than before. That’s when the three vicious dogs attacked from behind that fence. Maybe they were only pugs, but they were snarling.

My son got a whiff of death as he hit his brakes, swerved into some trashcans and smacked a tree.

He stripped off his helmet and searched for blood. “I hope I don’t have a concussion.”

“You barely even tapped your head,” I said. “And you were wearing a helmet. Where do you come up with these gross exaggerations?” I asked, trying to shoo off the “hounds from Hell.”

Clearly I needed to lead our exploration again. Cleary I’d be driving him to school next year.

“I knew there’d be trouble along the way,” I said, constantly checking on my boy behind me as we rode on. “You don’t just have to know where you’re going. You also have to look where you’re going. You never know when dogs will jump out like that or a car will come flying out of a driveway--”

“Dad, watch out for that light post!”

The crash reminded me of the Light Post Incident of ’88. I was my son’s age, constantly checking on my younger brother riding his bike behind me on our way home from school one day, when I clipped a light post, spraining my right wrist. I rode home left-handed. I survived. But I remember hiding the sprain from my parents for fear they wouldn’t let me ride to school anymore. I could handle it. My son could, too.

“OK,” I told my boy. “Lead us home.”

He took the role seriously and led with great ability.

The wash wasn’t so bad either. It looked like an enchanted lagoon next to the washes I remember as a kid, but my boy was on alert for any danger that might’ve been lurking within. I couldn’t help but miss the baby my boy used to be, always in need of my help.

As we turned down our street, we passed a lady with a stroller, struggling to calm her really loud, bawling kid. I couldn’t help but be glad my kid was growing up.

-December 2014

Feast of Burden

Overeating makes no sense to me. Unless there’s competition involved.

My younger brother and I used to try to out-eat one another at buffets and Thanksgiving feasts, and we’d eat so much we’d make ourselves sick for days to follow.

But it’s been years since we’ve been to a buffet or spent a Thanksgiving together due to the more than 1,000 miles between us, so now I simply enjoy my meals -- I don’t stuff myself.

“Dad, you can Skype Uncle Tom on Thanksgiving and then we can finally see who eats the most,” my 11-year-old son said.

I’d told my boy about past food fights between my brother and me. He wanted to see, firsthand, one of these showdowns -- to the death.

Can you imagine Skyping a Thanksgiving meal? No civilized, decent human being would consider it. And then God created brothers.

My brother was definitely up for Skyping a feast-off. He never got over being younger than me. I certainly couldn’t back down or I’d be undoing all the “older brother” work I’d put in over the years.

And so began the final engagement of war between my brother and me.

My stomach had other thoughts. It was used to consuming human-sized portions. Going back to oversized helpings just for Thanksgiving would be like running the L.A. Marathon with no training. My stomach was so out of shape it couldn’t even handle double-decker burgers anymore.

To test the waters, I went to Fatburger and ordered their famous XXXL burger. I couldn’t even pick that thing up. It was magnificent. A crowd gathered to watch it eat me.

By this point my brother was most likely eating entire hamburger stands. He was younger, had more stamina. I thought about starving myself like I’d done in past campaigns to see if an uncontrollable hunger would turn me into a beast. I tried to turn down a meatball sandwich from my favorite Italian deli.

It’s amazing what man can do if he puts his mind to it. I just couldn’t put my mind to it. I couldn’t look that beautiful sandwich in the roll with all that provolone cheese and say no. That fortress of marinara-covered meatballs seemed more rewarding than beating my younger brother in a battle of appetites -- again.

So I ate the sandwich. It was so good I had another. I thought I’d never get full, and like a ferocious beast I kept devouring more food.

Then something magical happened -- I got so full, and so sick that I wanted more. It’s like at the gym when the pain is a sign of gain. I was taking in so much food I don’t think I was taking in any air.

“I can’t talk, I’m not breathing, hand me another pizza,” I told the guy at the deli. When I ran out of money to buy more food, I went home and stuffed my face with anything we had in the kitchen.

A whole loaf of bread?

The thought of it hurt.

You call that pain? Two loaves, please.

I ate my wife’s wheat bread, which I usually hate next to my sourdough. Together, though, it wasn’t so bad. The last few slices didn’t even have taste. I just shoveled everything and then anything in. By Thanksgiving I was going to be a legitimate dumpsite for anything that’d fit in my mouth.

The local media would break the story of my victory, and when I made national headlines, my brother would still be looking for a knife to carve the turkey.

 Unfortunately, the ferocious beast in me scurried off and left me in so much agony I couldn’t even cry. I knew then I’d done permanent damage to my digestive system. The medical community would have to invent a new doctor to surgically remove the food I’d swallowed, and I’d be the spokesperson for a new disorder that makes the act of eating impossible.

I had to call my brother and call off the feast-off.

I couldn’t get to the phone. I was that weighed down. My son brought me the cordless and before I could dial, it rang. It was my brother.

He was also marooned to the floor, his daughter holding his cell to his own food-stuffed face so he could talk.

“I’m calling off the Thanksgiving Day battle,” he said. “I won’t eat again till Christmas.”

I agreed, but I said in my older-brotherly way, “Guess you lose in a forfeit, then, huh?”

-November 2014