That NEW Adage

A pressure-relief valve about God, and just about everything else.

When God’s will and mine, serenely intertwine

I have three sisters. No brothers. ALWAYS wanted one.

My father, who was raised as an only child and found out at age 35 that he was adopted, had three sisters and no brothers. One of them had died when they were in high school.

That is a long, good story that Kathy insists I write down.

I have a cousin whom I first met back in the late eighties. He and his wife, Shelene, own a martial arts training studio in Pasadena, Ca. Were he alive now, he would be in his early sixties and would look maybe 38.

He made a profound impact on me from the first. When I did a series of  gigs out west back in ’92 (during L.A. riots), he came and got me and showed me the sights and introduced me to family who treated me like a visiting dignitary. I will NEVER forget that. A few years later, he did the same thing, taking me to Venice Beach, his studio, Rose Bowl stadium, and many other places. We almost hit Kareem Abdul Jabbar when he pulled out in front of us.

He was a multiple-degreed black belt martial artist in many different disciplines, and trained with Bruce Lee. He trained English Mastiffs and Rottweilers to respond to hand signals! Very impressive! And with all of this, he was the most mild-mannered, peaceful dude you’d ever seen!

He and Shelene met Kathy soon after we were married at a family reunion that I missed because I am known for not missing gigs. (I missed out on a lot of things because of that. I’m going to change.)

They swept her up and made her like one of their own! But Kathy has a personality that will do that to you…

A couple of years ago, they said he had cancer. But when I talked to him, he said everything was fine. Never thought I would never see him again.

His death hit me harder than anything I had ever felt. I have been blessed to have all my cousins, both parents, all but one uncle, and all of my aunts still here. My mother’s father died when I was a child. I was grown when my grandmothers died, but one was in her nineties and afflicted with Alzheimer’s, and the other… long, tough story.

I could not go to the funeral. It was in L.A., and I couldn’t afford a ticket, and I had to work. But really, I just couldn’t bear to see my cousin not alive when I still had so many things to learn from him. The funeral was broadcast online, and while Kathy watched it and said how beautiful it was, I couldn’t do it. I lay in the other room — in earshot — and cried so hard my head hurt. All day. Between bouts of vomiting because Max had gotten me sick when he threw up all over me three days earlier. (And I had to go to work.)

His name was Steve Hearring.

 

I don’t think anyone in this entire world loves my daddy as much as I do. And I know he’s flawed. Who isn’t? But, as with God, my cousin, and all my heroes, I admire strength and power. That’s why leopards, bulls and rhinos are my favorite animals. And my father epitomizes strength and power.

Despite the rough time I had growing up (which is a positive story in light of the way things turned out between us) I always sought his approval and respect. I heard the stories about the things he did as a boy and as a man, and I wished I could be as tough and as calm. Indulge me one story…

Back when he was in his twenties, as a high school coach, he and his team had an Away game against a heated rival. My mother, known for her tactlessness in awkward situations, was — according to her — talking some trash in the stands.

Apparently, one of the guys behind her took offense. Someone pointed him out and whispered to my mom that he had a gun and ill intentions toward her. When the game ended (Home team won), my mother made her way to the locker room with the guy following her through the crowd. When she got to the locker room and walked in sheepishly, my pop, who was mad about the team losing and in no mood for foolishness, asked her what she was doing there. She NEVER went back there.

Out of fear for the OTHER guy(!) she refused to say. He made her tell him. Mom pointed the guy out still lurking outside the locker room.

Daddy acted out for me what he did next: Ma had an umbrella — the kind with the point on the end. He, unarmed otherwise, took it from her and went to find the dude.

The thug had his right hand in his pants pocket and Pops figured he was holding the gun. He went up to the guy, grabbed a handful of wrist and pants (He almost sprained mine acting this out. Adrenaline…) so he couldn’t get the gun out!, shoved the umbrella deep up into the soft meat under the guy’s chin and proceeded to threaten his very life with well-chosen words that I can’t repeat! He held the guy until the cops got him, and there was indeed a gun in his pocket!

It was all so unbelievably smart and strong! Even with his finger practically lifting me from the ground, I was smiling HARD! “That’s MY Daddy!” I thought! “Did I inherit any of those guts?” My daddy was like a cross between 007 and Jim Brown!

I’ve got a bunch of those stories — all true — and he won’t even tell me any more. He is so understated and modest about it all, saying that he was just crazy.

He was the biggest, the strongest, the toughest, the bravest, and the fastest, according to those who grew up with him. Yet he stressed reading and learning with my sisters and me. As did my mother. He took pride in figuring things out, he loves brain teasers and The Discovery Channel.  He got up every day and went to work, sometimes spending too much time working his players. They would have basketball practice at 5 AM before school AND after school. But he single-handedly turned them from chronic losers to winners.

He never called in sick, he taught me how to use wrenches and how to box. He taught me stuff that I don’t have the heart to do unless my life is threatened. He made me do push-ups, lift weights, run track, and fight when scared.

He hated, I’m sure, when I focused more on model cars and cartoons and being in the band than trying out for teams, but he loves it now. He was hard! Hard as steel.  Scared me to DEATH!! But he changed.

He learned and I learned. And from the first time I knew what it meant, I always said that I wanted to name my son not after ME, but after him! His name is Horace.

My wife had a very bad time as a child with her father. She says he wasn’t really one at all. From the moment she met my parents, she loved them to death. She raves about how great her in-laws are. But she loves my daddy to the point that I sometimes feel that I have not a wife, but a fourth sister as it relates to him. She sees him as HER father, and is not ashamed to tell it.

 

I love Diana more than my life. But when Kathy got pregnant this current time, I prayed hard for it to be a son. I never had that brother I longed for, and I wanted Max to have someone with whom to stand back-to-back in this sickening world. I wanted him to have that thing that brotherhood means.

I wanted Diana to have two boys to keep the fools at bay! I wanted to be a little bit like Jacob with all those sons.

And I wanted to give my father that legacy. I wanted his name to continue.  Since he was adopted, he was the only Williams. And until I got married and had Max, it was looking pretty bleak for the team! But God apparently said otherwise…

Now we can be sure that there will be more Williamses.

My sisters all named their kids after their maternal grandfather — which is cool! But what about my daddy?

And Kathy, having loved Steve so much for the same reasons I did, saw this as an opportunity to honor what she described as two honorable and strong men. She has already said that the new baby has the pressure of keeping that great name clean!

Two weeks ago, in a dark room, God granted our sweated prayers! We are having a boy. And it means so much more than just having somebody to throw to and wrestle with and teach about girls and smoothness and heartbreak and fidelity (although it is all of that, too!). It means that God actually DOES know me, and LIKE me, and that He does actually act in my life. He is faithful and true!

And if this minor thing is real, I shudder at the thought that He DID create the universe and that He meant — means — all that stuff in the Bible! He is not an illusion or a figment. He is my friend. In every profound way. I am undone.

With that, we await the healthy arrival of Steven Horace Williams!

I’ve got so much to tell him!

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August 31, 2009 Posted by | Babies, Baby Names, Birth, Childhood, Children, Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, Faith, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, God, Heroes, Jesus, Kids, Parenthood, Parents | 2 Comments

Work and Family: All I Do

Max, Diana, and Ryan   Max       Diana  Work

Sundays @ Neil's  Gotta Be Somebody's Baby!

  I'll Kill a Brick!

                 On the Job

 

KWEST   I've got a better son than my parents have!

Rich, Ryan, DJ, Allissa, Max, and Diana  

Election night. 

December 12, 2008 Posted by | Babies, Childhood, Children, Christian Life, Christianity, Daughters, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Daughters, Fathers and Sons, Home Life, Kids, Life, Marriage, Music, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents | 6 Comments

What They Taught Me

Boys love their fathers. I am no exception. No one loves his father more than I love mine.

But my mother is equally as excellent in my eyes. They taught me so much — they still do — and now that I am a parent, I want to be the same thing and show the same things to mine.

I know that in this age, it is not as vogue or common to have parents or be parents. If that is you, feel free to change the trend and use my example. There are many more, but these are the ones I can recall.

1 Tough it out. My folks never quit anything. They got up and went to work well or sick every day. I didn’t miss more than a dozen days of school in twelve years.

2 “Don’t let nobody hit you and you not hit ’em back!” My MOTHER told me that before my father got the chance to! Life doesn’t put up with cowards.

3 “Burn the midnight oil.” Ma drilled this into my head. And I saw her raise four kids five and a half years apart from top to bottom while teaching school in the daytime, night school at night, and getting her Master’s degree!

4 Share. Daddy was tight with his Tang (remember Tang?), but to this day, I can’t say, “Ma! That waffle iron is great!” without her trying to give it to me! And when I needed eye surgery in my late twenties and didn’t have the money (I was just starting out as a road musician), my pop paid for it out of his pocket.

5 Know how to fix stuff. My daddy showed me how to work with tools, fix faucets and change alternators. Even though he didn’t have a father to show HIM.

6 Don’t procrastinate. My mother would scold me to death on those perpetual Sunday nights as I wrote my term papers and handed the pages to her to type at three and four in the morning.

7 Be helpful. Be willing to give until it hurts.See number six.

8 Don’t ever hit a girl. I had three big-mouthed sisters. I failed at times, but I got it before it became crucial.

9 Know the answers. My folks stressed education. Bad grades were met with pain, and later with disappointment.

10 Sit up front and shut up unless you have a question. “I’m sendin’ you to school to learn, not to be no clown!” The night before my first day of school.

11 Read. Read everything.

12 Do YOUR job. No matter if no one is looking. Don’t let the next man have to carry your load. Got that from Ma.

13 The worst thing in the world is a thief, and a liar is the second. Ma.

14 Don’t kiss behinds. (I cleaned that one up) Yep. Ma.

15 Family sticks together. If your family member is in a fight, I don’t care if he’s winnin’, you pick up the biggest stick you can find a knock the…Nosy neighbor, Mrs. Burrell to my mother: “Allie, high come I jus’ saw yo’ kids walkin’ up tha street carr’n sticks an’ thangs’?”  I was in a fight up the street.

16 Stay married. No matter what. December 23, 1963 and counting…

17 Don’t argue in front of the kids. Don’t yell. They never did.

18 Don’t be weak. Don’t show fear.

19 Speak up! I still hear my father saying this in my ear!

20 If something’s on your mind, get it off. And be through with it. I get this from my mother. It kills Kathy, but she knows it is a good thing.

21 Nobody’s better than you. But treat them like they are.

22 Don’t half-do a job. (Cleaned that one up, too.)

23 God knows your max. “The Lord doesn’t put more on us than we can bear.” Ma says this to me every time something bad happens. I can’t stand to hear it, but I know she is right.

24 Choose wisely. There was a family that lived on the corner when I was a kid. The husband was always beating his wife up. He would beat her, she would leave him, and every time, she would return. He shot her. She left him, and returned. I remember overhearing the grown folk saying that he was going to kill her one day.

One summer day — I was watching my sisters since my folks were at work on their summer jobs — I was outside on the driveway when I saw the oldest daughter, Cynthia, run out of the house in her night clothes shouting, “He killin’ her! He killin’ her!” She ran across the street to her best friend, Bridget’s house.

Sure enough, there he was, in the living room (the front door was open) stabbing her to death. I was about eleven. I saw it happen. When the police came and got him — he didn’t try to run — he had on white painter’s overalls that were now more red than white.

When my folks got home, my father sat us all down and told us to choose our mates and our friends wisely or else the same thing could happen to us. It’s a cold, hard world.

25 Be loyal, even if they are not. My folks seem to go to a funeral a month now. And when my mother’s rather, I’ll say… “elitist” co-worker got sick, my mother went and served her like a slave, only to have her continue to treat Mom like she was less-than. Ma was confident that SHE did the right thing.

26 Don’t raise brats. My father saw a young child acting bratty and resolved to not let that be the way his kids would act! I can’t stand a brat!!

27 Dance. Be social. If you’re shy, fake it.

28 Don’t let an unlearned lesson come around and hit you in the back of the head. Learn from the past. My mother was abused as a child. She vowed not to treat her children that way, even though that is how the pattern regenerates itself.

29 Fat meat is greazy! Ask your black friends.

30 If you’re gonna fight, don’t talk about it. Do it. In my ninth grade summer, my sisters and I were made to walk, every day, to the park that my father oversaw as his summer job. It was in the serious hood! Kids from all around went there in order to stay out of trouble. My sisters and I were Fauntleroys compared to these kids! It was ROUGH!

In me, they smelled raw meat! I was bullied every day in front of my own father. Being who he was, he must have been thoroughly ashamed of me. It wasn’t that I was scared, I just hated to fight. One kid in particular, Tyrone (his name WOULD be Tyrone, hunh?), made it his mission to build a reputation off of me.

Nothing he did got me to fight. (He never hit me) One day, though, my baby sister was riding a skateboard down a steep hill, and purely to provoke me, he pushed Kim off the board.

Every kid in the park ran up the hill to tell me what happened and to see the fight they knew was coming.

My pops, whose JOB was to keep order, leaned calmly on the monkey bars and watched…

“Yeah, I did it!” Tyrone proudly proclaimed. This was it. Everybody was looking, and I was nearly blind with rage. I put up my guard as daddy had shown me years ago.

Tyrone started swaying confidently, back and forth. “You ain’ gone do nuthin’, punk,” smiling.

Left hook — POW! The world seemed to stop. Tyrone was in the dirt, getting up.

Left hook — POW! He went down again, rubbing his right jaw and blinking back tears. He got up slower this time. He wouldn’t swing. He just stood there with his hands up.

From behind me, I heard a familiar adult voice, “HIT him again! H*ll, HIT him. If you gone fight da**it FIGHT!” His exact words. I turned and looked at my father, the keeper of the peace, urging me on to beat this kid up. “Aw, h*ll! He waved his hand and walked away in disgust.

My heart wasn’t in it, and Tyrone’s heart was in my pocket. It was over. I had won, and hadn’t even taken a lick! I heard the kids who had taunted me all summer consoling Tyrone, ” Man, he didn’t even wanna fight you.”

I thought they would hate me, but they didn’t.

Talking to my father years later revealed that he, in all his ruthlessness, wanted me to beat the brakes off that kid to make up for all that stuff I took all summer. He was proud of me, though.

I had learned: Keep your mouth shut, and don’t put your dukes up until you know you gotta fight. And those who do the most talking often have to eat the most words.

31 Protect your home. I was never more secure than when at home because I knew Daddy was the baddest beast in the forest.

32 Work hard. Don’t make yourself look bad.

33 “Keep your name clean like it was when you got it!” Ma PREACHED that!

34 Don’t bring home no dumb girls. First thing they ever told me about girls.

34 Show love. That’s all they did, and all I try to do.

September 12, 2008 Posted by | Adage, Advice, Boys, Christianity, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, Kids, Life, Life Lessons, Motherhood, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents, Proverbs, Quips | 4 Comments

Max’s Mother’s Day Sentiment

This is the card Max “wrote”* to Kathy yesterday:

This is Max

*Actually I wrote it (he dictated…) with my off hand. It took almost an HOUR! My hand is still hurting! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 12, 2008 Posted by | Childhood, Children, Christian Life, Christianity, Family, Fatherhood, Humor, Kids, Life, Mother's Day, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents | 2 Comments

No, No, No Ya Don’t…

I had to change the words to that familiar children’s song, ’cause every time I turned around, Max was getting into something else he shouldn’t have.

Like just today, he pulled ALL the clothes out of Kathy’s bottom drawer, threw them onto the floor, and put his toy remote control in it. And when he was supposed to be taking a nap, he instead threw all the blankets out of the bed, and was sitting upright with the liner from his dirty clothes hamper on his head. Smiling at me.

Last night, he came into the living room with the vaseline jar on his hand like a glove, and a jar full of vaseline in his hair. He has broken tusks from elephant statues at my folks’ house, phones, and computer keypads, and he has eaten a Christmas light. He tried to climb up into the automatic swing that Diana was sleeping in. He mistimed it, fell, and the swing began mindlessly hitting him until he could get up and out of the way.

Monday, when he was supposed to be taking a nap, I heard him in his room talking. (He knows not to do that) When I burst into his room, I saw him sitting, still as a mailbox with his blanket over his body. “Max! Lie down and go to sleep!” No movement. I walked closer: “Max! YOU know you’re not supposed ta be in here talking! Lie down!” No movement. I pulled the blanket off of him, ready to chastise him for not doing what I told him to do. He was just smiling up at me , all sixteen teeth showing.

In a hurry, I put the blanket up to my face so he couldn’t see me laughing. I laid him back down. See, HE thought that, even though he was sitting up, I couldn’t see him sitting up! His little child’s mind told him that to be very still under that blanket made it impossible for him to be seen. It was sooo funny! That’s my boy!

My mother and sister bought him one of those motorized trucks that you can sit in and drive for Christmas. Now, he is only one year old, and I tried to tell them not to do it, but it was no use. He can’t even associate pressing the gas pedal with making the truck go yet. Well, the other day, I brought it home from my folks’ house (it was too big to fit in the car, I thought…), and when I took it out, Max jumped in it and proceeded to slam it into the car repeatedly. “No, no, no, Max! Stop! Wait! Don’t…!” We just laughed

So in that spirit, and for that reason, I have changed the words and the meaning to that singalong:

No, no, no ya don’t

Don’t you mess with that.

Don’t put that upon your head,

A shoe is not a hat!

No, no, no ya don’t

Don’t you eat the keys.

When Daddy has to go to work,

He’ll be needing these.

No, no, no ya don’t

Poke your sister’s eye.

She needs that to watch for you

You’re a dang’rous guy.

And so on…

April 3, 2008 Posted by | Childhood, Children, Christian Life, Family, Fathers and Sons, Humor, Kids, Nursery Rhymes, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents, Uncategorized, Writing | 2 Comments

For Unto US (Kathy and Me) a Child is Born

Diana, our new daughter, was born on Good Friday! She weighed nine pounds and one ounce, and was 21 1/2 inches long. Even though she was in pickle juice for nine months, she is beautiful. (She looks like the little “Ice Age” baby) Kathy was basically in labor from Wednesday on, and we went to the hospital at 4:45 AM. Diana was born by c-section at eight PM!

Many beautiful things happened, but as I am just getting home and getting adjusted to the exponential increase in work and DEcrease in sleep, I will have to write about it all in detail in a day or so.

You can see pictures of the process at  http://kiralisa.wordpress.com/2008/03/22/a-precious-baby-is-born/where my friend and churchmember, the great photographer Lisa Thomas, has chronicled our experience.

March 24, 2008 Posted by | Birth, Children, Christian Life, Christianity, Family, Fatherhood, Kids, Life, Motherhood, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents | 16 Comments

It Takes a Village to SPOIL a Child!

“Max just put a battery in the toilet upstairs,” young Demetrius calmly said to the adults who were downstairs watching the game and having adult conversation.

Exasperated, Kathy looked at me and sighed, “Go up there and get it out.”

“There’re some yellow gloves under the sink you can put on to get it out,” Daddy said, laughing.

As I made my way through the kitchen to the stairs — about eight boys were having a sleepover/party for my nephew, Ryan, who just turned ten — I heard a yell from up in the gameroom, “THASS OKAAAY. MAX GOT IT OUUUT!”

What? As if THAT’S better! So I get upstairs just in time to snatch the wet battery from the soaked hands (and arms) of my boy an inch before he put it in his mouth! I couldn’t be angry at him. I had to shake my head and laugh. He’s incredibly curious, and I know this curiosity will pay off for him in the future.

We were at my folks’ house tonight since I didn’t have to work.

My parents were the most no nonsense parents in the world when they were raising my sisters and me. I said “WERE.” I get most of my parenting techniques from them — with a few modifications. They did not stand for spoiled behavior in us. They spanked WAY more than we do. We didn’t drink Kool-Aid with meals — only water. We did as we were told with no backtalk, no “whys” and no stomping off into another room. We toed the line, no exceptions.

Now, as grandparents, they are doggone marshmallows! You know what I mean…

At home, and in stores, and at church, etc., we have Max pretty much locked down, behavior-wise. He does as he is generally told the very first time. If I say, “Max don’t go in that room,” he turns right around with no whining. We don’t have to get after him that much.

On most Sundays, our family gathers at my folks’ house for dinner, and as soon as we get there, Max, somehow sensing the change in the rules, does what HE wants to do.

Tonight, as every time we visit, he wanted to go upstairs and play with the teen-agers, who were playing video games, pool, and wrestling. Kathy — rightly — felt that those boys shouldn’t have the responsibility of watching a nineteen-month-old Super Ball bounce from one new discovery to the next! It was their time to play and have fun, so we, to the great chagrin of the former wicked witch (NOT in an evil way!!!) of MY childhood and the current jellyfish of my adulthood (Ma) declined to let him go upstairs. He whined and cried all night. To the guests who had never seen him, I’m sure he looked like a brat.

Max is a LOT of work at my parents’ house. There is so much more room, so many more things to get into. Rather than acquiesce to our commands, he chooses to pout, and we — to our fault — sometimes give in to the peer-pressure and the possibility of being seen as mean parents and don’t cut the bad behavior off quickly like we do at home.

My parents have spoiled that boy and he knows it and they won’t admit it. If I did to Max what they did to us, they would probably cut me out of the will like a cancerous tumor!

So, Kathy and I went to the store, and asked Ma to watch Max for us. “Yeah,” I said resigned, “You can go ahead and let him go upstairs, but I’m gonna make him come back down when I get back.”

That’s how he ended up being up there. Kathy and I were only proven right. And as further confirmation, there’s this:

After I took off his shirt and washed all tha HEPATITIS off his hands and arms(!), Ma took him with her into her bathroom while she put up some towels. “Come on, Max! You can stay with me!”  As soon as I got back to the adult conversation and to my four years pregnant wife (that’s why I was doing everything… She can’t MOVE!), I heard Ma in the back; “No Max! No. NO! When I got back there to to see what cat as trophy he had wrought, I saw my mother laughing and wringing water out of the silk-lined shower cap that she hangs on the faucet of her jacuzzi which just happens to be just the right height for a nineteen-month-old baby to reach!

All the adults in the living room, even Daddy, chuckled and agreed: “Thass what she GIT!”

March 15, 2008 Posted by | Childhood, Children, Christian Life, Family, Fatherhood, Grandparents, Humor, Kids, Life, Life Lessons, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents | 2 Comments

The Night the Lights Went Out

Never in my life. Never has this happened to me.

Kathy and I were watching tivo, and Max was playing destructively, as is his bent. “Bent” being anything he has touched.

Karen from the church gave us one of those easels with the chalkboard on it, for the kids to write on. There is a tray under the board that goes from front to back which is to hold supplies — crayons, pencils, etc. The tray also serves to support and strengthen the easel. Its base is pressboard. Not very sturdy at all.

Max likes to crawl inside of stuff… When Kathy had a contraction last week and slightly panicked and started packing hospital bags and asked me to quickly put the bassinet together, Max crawled into the little space at the bottom where the baby supplies are kept.
Well, we were watching tivo, and Kathy tapped me on the leg and whispered, “Look at that li’l boy!”

He was crawling, legs sticking out, hanging down, onto the tray part of the easel. It was about two feet off the floor. I forgot to tell you that of the four butterfly wingnuts that hold up the tray, only three were actually in service. One being unfindable.
Max is nineteen months old, but he is as big as some three-year-olds. He weighs about thirty-five pounds. I know he will bump his head in life, and I don’t generally rush to save him from every skinned knee and fat lip. I didn’t move. Just watched him…

He pulled himself up into the tiny space, and as soon as he tucked his legs in, in slow motion, the tray began to break apart and collapse. Verrrry slowly. You could hear the pressboard crackling like giant graham crackers. Max, who is MOSTLY head, rolled head-first onto the floor amid a pile of what was now kindling! (I’m laughing now. But I’m scared to laugh anymore…)

Kathy and I howled like two wolves. More like two hyenas.
I laughed so hard. So hard that I couldn’t breathe. My eyes began to roll back, and my head felt like it was floating…This has happened before when I have laughed really hard, but what (apparently) happened next never has.

I was frozen. All I remember is that I was holding my glasses limply in the crook of my thumb and forefinger. I remember that when we started to laugh, we both lifted up the blanket that covered us to hide our faces. And our shame at laughing so hard at our boy.

Now, though, my fingers were curled as though I were still holding it, but it had dropped.
“What happened?” I asked. “What’s going on?” I didn’t feel any pain, but I felt as though I had just awakened. It felt as though days had passed but the same tv show was on.

Kathy was crying, but I couldn’t remember if she was crying from laughing, or crying from crying. So many unformed questions swirled, alphabet soupy, in my head. The fog began to clear when I saw Max walking around swinging a stick that looked like it came from a tray that attached to an easel.

Kathy was leaning over me, scared to death, and now crying from crying. “What’s wrong?!? Don’t play with me like this! You can’t leave me now! We got too much goin’ on!” (I wasn’t dying or anything. She was just scared.)

I was still trying to get it together. “A B C D E F G… Now, smile… okay, I can smile. Move your left arm… okay. So I didn’t just have a doggone stroke!” I knew what had happened… I laughed so hard that I lost oxygen and freekin’ blacked out! (It’s called “hypoxia.” I looked it up online as soon as I got up!) I have gotten that light-headed feeling a lot of times in the past when something reeeeeally funny has happened, but I have never gotten to the point where I lost consciousness!

I asked Kathy what let her know something was off since Max was on her side of the room and she was looking away from me. She said that she knew something was wrong because I had suddenly stopped laughing and it wasn’t time for it to stop being funny yet. She said that when she saw me, I was staring up into space, “What’s goin’ on? What’s happ’nin’?”, as though I had just seen Jesus or an alien. Seriously, I wondered if I had just gotten back from a summit meeting with God.

I guess this is what they mean when they say, “I fell out laughing!”

Folks, don’t laugh at your kids. It could kill you..

March 13, 2008 Posted by | Childhood, Children, Family, Fatherhood, Humor, Kids, Life, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents, Writing | 4 Comments

Two Bears and a Cub

The Parents were both sleeping soundly when out of the silence, a horrified — and horrifying — cry shot like lightning through the dying darkness. The Mother immediately leapt into action, while the Father lay there not moving, thinking he was dreaming and praying it was not the Baby.

The Mother returned to the bed with the Baby in her arms. The Baby, wide awake now, and smiling, was unconcerned with the fact that the Father had only just two hours ago gone to sleep, and had to get right back up in two more small hours.

The Baby was talking to the Mother in a cute, nineteen-month-old kind of way and the Mother, unaware that the Father could hear it all, whispered back to him in an effort to soothe and drowse him.

“O-Mommee!” he said, as though he just realized she was there.

“Go to sleep, Baby.”

“Ohh Kayyy,” he whispered, resigned. This went on for minutes, as it does when he has a nightmare and the Parents go get him to put him back to sleep.

The Father was desperately trying to hold on to the greasy rope of sleep that slid, ever more rapidly through the fingers of his mind. His head was facing away from the Action and towards the clock, whose ten-foot-tall numbers screeched in neon, “5:38 am.”

“Well,” said the Father to himself, “Almost two hours… That’s a LOT of time left to sleep.” As though he would drop to sleep that very moment. The thing about sleep, though, is that you don’t get to experience all that good time when you are asleep. You go to sleep, and the next second, the alarm goes off. It doesn’t FEEL like eight or ten hours just went by.

In the waning darkness, the Baby realized that the Father was right there. “O-Daddee!” he said, elated.

Something that felt like a little Baby arm smacked the Father on the back of the neck.

“Don’t hit the Daddy, Baby. He has to get up in a little while.” It was a little Baby arm, then.

“Ohh Kayyy.”

They went back to their back-and-forth.

“5:47 AM!”

“I know, “ the Father retorted sharply, on the inside.

Something that felt like little Baby fingers began to wrestle through the tangle that is Sleeping Black Father Hair. “Aaa Da-Dee!”

“Leave your daddy alone, Baby,” said the Mother in a vain effort to forestall the inevitable. “You suuure love your daddy, don’t you?” she whispered rhetorically, as much to the air as to the Baby. The Father heard this and thanked God for giving him stewardship of a son who thought absolutely the world of someone so unworthy as he.

The Father, like the rolling of a tidal wave, at the rising of some leviathan, gave up on sleep and turned over and took in his arms this thirty-five pound wriggling onesie full of all that the Parents hold dear. “Come on, Baby. Time to go to sleep.”

Ohh Kayy!” smiling.

The Father began what was known as “The Kansas City Shake” which no baby could resist.

“Go to sleeping, Baby,” he said, in a lilting,  nonspecific, somewhat French, somewhat German accent.

His eyes soon began to slide closed. The Baby’s eyes did, as well.

In the bluing light of the morning, something like a little Baby arm reached up and lay on the Father’s neck. The Father looked and noticed that it was, in fact, a little Baby arm. And the Baby was asleep.

“6:24 AM!”

“Da-Dee…”
 

March 3, 2008 Posted by | Childhood, Christian Life, Christianity, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, God, Kids, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents | 10 Comments

Swimming Lessons.

My good-hearted 16-month-old son, Max, stands tottering on the shore of an ocean of sorrows. He has what appears to be the most friendly personality of any child in the world. He beams at the sight of other kids, never fights over toys, and when he smiles, he does so with his whole body! He loves to have fun, and possesses a wide-open heart. Life and this World are gonna KILL him!  Beat him to oatmeal! Waiting for him is a sea of sharks, jellyfish, and other predators seeking to drag him under and rip from him all the innocent, uncorrupted joy he now possesses.

Though I could bail him out and be a vessel by which he could navigate this ocean, I can only guide him while he swims alongside. It is with great sadness that I realize this. I have swum this way before, only barely making it without being consumed by rage, hatred, and selfishness. I didn’t know if I would make it, and I don’t know if Max will.

But God knows.

It is He who has given me the map by which I will lead my son. It is He who will instruct me as to what to say when the waves roll high and threaten to swallow him.

”Don’t let Life win, Son.

“Don’t let situations cause you to give up and become that which seeks to destroy you. Don’t be led by those unworthy. Make God your conscience. Know the right answers. USE them. 

“Every girl won’t like you. Some will hurt you. On purpose. Be nice anyway. Don’t let matters of the heart submerge you.

“Pain passes. Laugh when you need to. Cry when you have to. Keep swimming!

“Don’t let people be the riptide, the undertow that pulls you in an unGodly direction.

“Sit up front. Don’t back down. Don’t sell your friend out. You won’t have many.

“Life is hard. Often unfair. God is the prize. Know Him truly.

“Have your fun, but put in your work first. Stand flat-footed on your word.

“When you get tired, God will buoy you by the Spirit-shaped float inside you. 

“Keep this joy you have, only coat it with a veneer of strength with which to defend yourself. With this, you will be able to brush off the arrows hurled by those who will hate your love.” Daddy.

November 19, 2007 Posted by | Advice, Childhood, Christian Life, Faith, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, God, Life, Life Lessons, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents, Words of Wisdom | 2 Comments

“This is Gonna Sting a Little…”

They Don’t Hate You.Coaches.Fathers.

Teachers.

Drill Instructors.

I used to think they hated me. They were so mean. Making me do stuff I couldn’t do. Didn’t want to do. Pushing me. Frowning. Yelling.

They never told me they were trying to make me better, stronger, smarter, tougher. They never said that the purpose was to make a man out of me. I didn’t know the true purpose until years later. I just thought at the time that they wanted to win at whatever the game was, and that I was simultaneously failing and causing them to fail. I thought they were trying to live through me, or to get a raise or promotion.

Had I known, I might have tried harder at more things and not given up a little inside. Maybe then, it wouldn’t have taken me so long to realize I wasn’t a loser that nobody liked. I wouldn’t have had to find out for myself.

This, however, is not about self-pity.

It is about my son. My children.

And perhaps yours.

“Max, the world is hard, and soft things get crushed. Those who can’t take it get taken.

This world sniffs out weakness and devours it, and you will be strong. Some people will try to take advantage of you. I will try to teach you to discern friends from abusers. But learning takes effort. Soft muscles become hard under pressure.

The first time you try to throw a ball, shoot a basketball, or ride a bike you will fail. No athletic endeavor is perfected without hours of dedicated practice.

You will have to wash dishes, wash cars, cut yards, mop floors, learn manners, eat things you don’t like, and not ask ‘why.’ You will at times think me mean, but I will not be swayed by that. It is not my first desire to be your friend, but your parent. You will be a citizen. You will improve this world, not burden it. We can be friends when YOU have kids and understand why I did what I did.

The first, even the tenth, math problem you encounter will be difficult to solve. Your first sentence will sound funny. Repetition is what will bring you understanding. You don’t get to give up. You will learn.

You will learn when to laugh, when to cry, when to fight, and when to listen. You will know when to comfort, how to be loyal, how to treat a woman, and how to pick a friend. You will know the Lord, and show the Lord. Above all else.

We will have a lot of fun in life, but I’m going to push you sometimes. There will be things that I will make you do that you will not want to do. You will fail a little now so as not to become a failure. Just understand that I do it- they do it- not out of hatred, but out of a desire, a responsibility, to make you more than you can become on your own. A knife needs a stone to become sharp. A sword needs fire to be shaped.

Daddy loves you.”

September 6, 2007 Posted by | Advice, Childhood, Discipline, Fathers and Sons, Life, Life Lessons, Love, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents, Personal Responsibility | 1 Comment

Old Lion, Same Heart

“Within the chests of lions old,Beat hearts that made the blood run cold.” 

Derrick L. Williams

My father is in his sixties now. To most, he would be considered old (to HIMSELF as well!). When I see him, though, I see that same formidable force that l at once feared and loved. “My pop can lick your pop!”

This used to be an often-heard phrase in my and other neighborhoods in a strange, mythical time when fathers actually LIVED with their children. Boys idolized their fathers. I was no exception. The real exception was that, as it pertains to that phrase, my pop really COULD lick your pop. I knew this not just because he said so (which he did), but because everybody who knew him said so, too!

I have seen feats of courage and power and rage that made leaves crumple up and die, that made the sun turn tail and run at high noon! He was a huge, fearsome, fearless, not-to-be-messed-with kind of dude whose transmission had no reverse. He has left a trail on which I could never imagine even taking TWO steps. I mean, why don’t YOU try being the one whose father whupped EIGHT guys at a beach party! No lie. His friends and his own MOTHER told me about it. (My friends couldn’t STAND it when I tried to tell them about it. It was like trying to convince them that he was Santa Claus)

I remember this one time when I was a kid…. We were at my mom’s folks’ farm house in the country. Their house was off a dirt road, and whenever it rained heavily, the ”driveway” became a quagmire. My mother is one of seventeen kids, and it seemed that they all had come to visit on this day. The driveway was full of cars, and cats and dogs were falling from the sky.

When the rain slacked up, everyone prepared to return to their various homes. There was a problem, though: the nine or ten cars piled in the long unpaved drive were all pointed toward the house, and in order for anyone to leave, all the cars had to be turned around. Under dry conditions, all one had to do was simply pull forward and make a right turn around the smoke house. The rain had turned the entire place into mush, though, and my uncles and aunts commenced to getting stuck in mud all around the farm. The place looked like a junkyard. This was apparently a common occurrence down there (why is the country always “down,” and the city always “up”?), because country dudes l had never seen came from seemingly out of the trees.

The country quicksand gave up its captives one by one, and in maybe two hours,only a lone prisoner remained. As many men as could got behind the vehicle to push, but this one happened to be off to the left side of the road in the ditch and seemed to be sunk down to the bumper. They put planks under the rear wheel, but to no avail. I don’t know why I was standing out in the mud watching this except maybe for the fact that I, like all boys, loved mud and dirt and water.

For some reason, my father hadn’t been helping with this car, and after maybe thirty or so minutes of rocking this huge sixties-era behemoth back and forth, someone went and got him.

When he was about twelve or so, my father, being dirt poor in West Palm Beach, Florida worked on an ice truck and saved enough money to buy bags of concrete. He mixed it in a bucket, stuck a pole in until it dried, and repeated the process, making cement barbells with which he bulked himself up from a scrawny kid to a ”muscle-bound” one. He went out for the football team, and by the time he graduated, my father could bench-press 450 pounds, and squat over 700.  In the fifties! No steroids.I’ve got pictures, and the same weights. He played his way to a free college education. (After hearing all this, I was scared to step out onto the stage!)

“Somebody go get Horace. Maybe HE can hep us git tiss thang out!” Somebody did.

All l know is that within two minutes of Pop bracing himself under that bumper, that car was up out of that hole kicking mud all over everybody! My chest was ”swole” up big enough to hold a tractor motor! That wasn’t ANYBODY else’s daddy but mine. All those other daddies couldn’t get that car out of that ditch, no matter how hard they tried, but mine was so strong that a mere touch sent it flying like a smacked horse!

My father is physically -and mentally- stronger than I ever hope to be. To this very day 450 is the goal I hope to reach on the bench press. I mean, he WILLED himself to stop being ticklish! l almost peed on myself trying to duplicate THAT one! He could lift a Volkswagen end by end. He once locked himself in the bathroom with a rodent until he killed it. This was like slaying a dragon to me at the time. I was amazed!

Nerves of steel.

In the wee morning hours, a burglar broke into our house. I was about nineteen. He came in through an unlocked window on the back porch. I don’t know how he knew it was open. My mother had taken to walking in the mornings at the same hour, and it is a blessing that on this particular morning she had decided not to.

While in college, Daddy says that in order to create a draft in his dormitory room, he would sleep with his door open.

“Weren’t you scared someone would come in?” we kids would ask.

“Naw. Whenever somebody walked by the light in the hall, I would wake up.” He was an incredibly light sleeper! My sisters and I spent our entire childhoods trying to sneak up on him while he was asleep. We never could. We never worried about somebody coming in and getting us because we knew they couldn’t get past Daddy.

Apparently, the burglar went down the hall peeking into the bedrooms to see what he could get. I was quartered in the living room because my paternal grandmother,living with us, in the grip of Alzheimer’s, had my room. I learned later what happened here: there was a nightlight plugged in the hallway outlet in order that my grandmother could find the bathroom in the night.

He cracked open the door to my folks’ room. He closed it. This woke my mother, who would normally be awake now, around 5 AM. My father, the light sleeper, said HE heard the backporch door open and assumed that I was rustling around. I was, and am, a nightowl and a jokester.

The crook opened the door again. Here, my parents had two separate thoughts; My mother thought she would whisper, “Who is that?” while Pop thought to himself,

“The silhouette against that nightlight is too short to be Derrick. That’s a burglar. I’m gonna let him come in and jump him and break his bleepity-bleepin’ neck.” As soon as Daddy formed his plan, Ma blew it;”Who is that?”

“DURNit!” is close to what Daddy said.

The door closed slowly. Two seconds later, the crook swung the door opened, flashed the lights on and off again ( an ingenious move that still amazes me) momentarily blinding them, slammed the door shut, and ran out the patio door!

We had a dog at that time who, when he wanted to go outside, would scratch at the patio door something fierce. To prevent this, Daddy put the fan in front of the door. The burglar didn’t know this, and in his rush to escape, he tripped over the fan.

I wish I could tell you that Pop caught and dealt with the guy, but what happened was that I ran from the living room with this huge stick I had, and Daddy came from the bedroom and ran empty-handed out into the backyard in his drawz after the guy. Having been disoriented by the flashing of the lights, Daddy wasn’t able to catch him. I have never forgotten the cold, hard nerve it took to formulate a strategy in the midst of danger.(Could l do the same?) Not to mention the boldness that possessed the burglar to enter a house full of people.

My father isn’t Paul Bunyan, or John Henry, that steel-drivin’ man. They aren’t real. I saw him do these and other things. I never saw fear in his eyes. He ain’t smaller than ANYbody! I’ll never live up to the example he set. But I will always try.

Boys used to be CRAZY about their fathers. Are they still? Will my son see me as a lion, or as a wildebeest?

My father is in his sixties. More yesterdays than tomorrows. Some might say he is a little smaller now. Some might say he’s not as strong. But when I look at him, I only see that man pushing that car out of the mud when five or six others couldn’t. He still has the same heart, the same fire. And he still gets the same reverence from me. He is that same lion.

My pop can lick YOUR pop! Believe me or not, I don’t care. Feel free to think the same way about yours, if you are blessed to have one. If not, make sure that you become the kind of father a son will exalt and emulate.

Age will catch and clutch us all in his withering grip. When you see an old man and assume that that is all he is or was, think of your father and the invincibility he possessed in your eyes. Think about how he protected and fed you, how he killed spiders and ran the bogey man away. Remember the strength and will he had, and how he snatched his piece of the pie from the hands of this avaricious world. Revere that old man, if for no other reason than that he fought life, a formidable foe, and won seventy or eighty rounds.

July 14, 2007 Posted by | Aging, Life, Parents | Leave a comment