Our Sweet Girls

 

 

Ten years ago this month, we brought these two adorable bundles of joy home from the animal shelter:

image 04924CEF-20A4-4194-B2FF-679644702E6A

Cute, right?

We don’t know their exact date of birth, but they were estimated to have arrived late March/early April. These two sisters. Lizzy and Izzy, as we so cleverly named them.

They looked so much alike, we put a drop of white-out on Izzy’s head, so we could tell who was who. (Not even noticing that Lizzy, as she does today, had more white hair in her little ears.)

A6B03992-20D3-4086-9A2A-FA9288CE1B31 BDEA03E5-BCBE-473D-A5D3-8E67451D81C7

We’d only planned to adopt one cat, but when we learned these two were sisters…well, we just couldn’t break them up, you know?

And, like any two sisters, they have their own individual personalities, along with their times of getting along and not getting along.

Mostly, thank goodness, they get along.

49D1CC66-AB90-42BC-B4C2-9BE0E1A86729

And they have given us so much joy in these ten years. We can’t imagine life without them.

23B8C9FE-A7EA-45BC-A81F-97409D92E3A6

I wrote part of this while sitting on the couch with my feet propped up and Izzy lying comfortably between my legs. Life is good.

Izzy is definitely Daddy’s Girl. She runs to greet me when I get home from work, accompanied by her audio stream of “Meow”, which she can say about a hundred different ways. She’s probably the most eloquent “meower” I’ve ever met. I don’t know what all those meows mean, but I think they all have the same basic subtext: “Give me ATTENTION!”

Although she may be Daddy’s Girl, Izzy is Mama’s Sleeping Buddy. She’ll come get in bed with us at night and, though she may visit Dad for awhile, she eventually gravitates to Mom and lies down next to her, because she knows Mom will cover her in a blanket, so she can stay good and warm while she sleeps. Only thing is, if you ask Mom, she’ll say Izzy takes up too much space in the bed. She’s sweet, but she’s a bedhog.

And, in the morning, brother, that girl is ready to eat! (Izzy, I mean, not Mom. Well, maybe, Mom, too.) You had best get her some breakfast right away. Fortunately, she’s not picky; pretty much anything you set in front of her will do. But you will hear from her until she gets it.

Izzy always wants to be where we are: in bed with us at night, on the couch with us while we watch TV…whatever you’ve heard about cats being antisocial, she ain’t that.

73B6C858-3EFD-4A98-9521-989DC13C2D78

One thing about the couch, though: she gets up on top and lays there while she whips us in the head with her swishing tail. Gets a little annoying. Well, not when she does it to my wife, just me.

Then there’s Lizzy, Mama’s Baby. Our quiet girl. Relatively speaking, anyway. She has gotten a lot more vocal than she used to be, we’ve noticed. Used to just be a cute little peep now and then, but she’s, um, found her voice now.

She’s slightly bigger than Izzy, so we call Lizzy our “full-figured kitty.” Like I said before, she’s still got the white hair in her ears. And whiskers that go nearly to the floor. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.

7E681F3B-5BD4-47A8-8E5D-3D572D8678B0

Lizzy’s much choosier than Izzy about where you may pet her. Izzy’s basically an “anywhere, anytime” gal, but Lizzy prefers Mom’s closet. Sometimes Dad’s. No, I’m serious. I guess she wants privacy; she wants to feel like there’s no other cat but her in our world. They can both get pretty jealous of our attention.

And Lizzy never passes up an opportunity. When she hears one of us get up from the couch, that’s her cue to come from wherever she is in the house to the living room, where she will shamelessly try to guilt someone into taking her to the closet for some well-deserved petting. Shameless, I tell you!

Oh, and Lizzy and Izzy both love weekends; Mom and Dad are home, instead of at work all day, so they have more time to pet those kitties!! And these girls will take full advantage of that. Hey, can you blame them?

Well obviously, I could just go on about these two. They’re our precious babies, and we love them so much. We’re happy they are in our lives, and we sure hope they are a while longer.

F5F543B8-4211-457B-BA0B-54A1E3801494

One last thing: Studies have shown the benefits for people with depression and anxiety of having a pet, and I can definitely vouch for the wonderful “kitty therapy” I’ve received from our girls. You listen to the blissful purring of a cat sometime, and tell me it doesn’t just make your heart melt.

Or, if it doesn’t, don’t tell me. I’d rather not know.

Do yourself a huge favor: Go to your local animal shelter and find somebody (cat, dog, whatever you choose) that’s so anxious to give you all the unconditional love he or she has to give. I guarantee, you’ll gain a new best friend.

Here, kitty, kitty, kitty…

5BA7A6F7-427E-4E87-A9C4-FFD7FC3882B9

 

 

The Fab Four

 

Okay, show of hands: How many of you became an uncle or aunt before your eighth birthday?

My hand is up.

By virtue of my two brothers being so much older than me (so much older!), my first of three adorable nieces showed up in January of 1967. Yeah, I know, I’m old, too. The other girls showed up in 1970; one in March, the other in July. Last to arrive was the nephew, just before Christmas, 1971.

(Don’t tell any of the girls this, but by the time that boy came along, I was elated!)

I was taken with all of them from the start.

I’m not sharing any pictures here but, trust me, they all were cute.

And, I had fun with them. I guess it was good that I was close to their age, so I could match them in energy. Most of the time. We did plenty of running around, indoors and out. And, I always loved making them laugh, usually by being silly some way or other.

Of course, to hear them tell it, I did cruel and terrible things to them when they were little.

Believe all of it. I could be kind of a devil sometimes. Couldn’t help it. 😈

But, they were all sweet kids, and I enjoyed our time together. Naturally, it’s just in retrospect that I understand exactly how much they meant to me, then.

They still mean a lot to me, of course. They’re all adults now with their own families and obligations, so I almost never see them anymore, but I think of them, often.

And, I love them all very much.

You hear that, guys? Your old uncle loves you, like he always has.

I promise, I’ll try to do better at staying in touch, but always remember how special the four of you are to me. And always will be.

 

Oh, and that also goes for the two nieces and nephew on my wife’s side. Y’all are pretty darn special, too. I don’t know why the nephew’s always last to arrive, though; what is up with that?

Say, Your Ties Are Loose

 

But, last night, I thought, what is a family, anyway? They’re just people who make you feel less alone, and really loved.

Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore), “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”

 

So, when was the last time you spoke with certain members of your family? The ones you’ve been meaning to contact, but time just got away from you?

Yeah, it’s been awhile for me, too.

I have tried, in the past, to reconnect with some family members I haven’t spoken to or heard from in years, with very little success. It seems, at times, like I’m the only one trying to reach out. Nobody wants to reach me.

That’s how it feels, anyway.

Now, please understand me. I don’t blame anyone for this condition. I fully realize, we all have our own lives to lead, with our own schedules and activities and appointments and such. We’re all busy; I get it. And that’s good. We shouldn’t just be sitting around, watching weeds grow.

And I’m sure, in some cases, we simply don’t know how to get ahold of each other, or we surely would.

Besides, trust me, I let the time get away from me, as well.

But…I don’t know, I just wish we were all closer to each other. Maybe with age, there comes an undercurrent of urgency, a keener awareness of the sands of time running out, and a greater need to connect.

Plus, doggone it, I miss these folks. They’re blood, they’re family. I’m tied to them. Part of all of them is in me, and vice versa.

And, I’d prefer to not wait until someone’s funeral to catch up with them. That’s how it usually works, sadly.

Is it like this with your family?

If it isn’t, if you’re all in close contact with each other and the ties are strong, bless you; I admire you. (And envy you, a little)

If it is, perhaps it’s time to ask yourself, as I am, “What am I doing to get us closer together? Do I need to just quit waiting for someone else to take the lead? What if I keep waiting until it’s too late?”

That would be a crying shame. Literally.

So, I’m just going to have to work harder at this. I can’t help but think it’ll be worth it. Whether they want to hear from me or not, if I can help it, they’re going to. And hopefully, I’ll hear back from them.

 

One other thing: Even when we don’t correspond as often as we probably should, I still know I’m extraordinarily lucky to be part of a family that I love, and that loves me. If you’re alone, and have no family, or you have the kind you’d just as soon never hear from, my heart goes out to you. I can’t even begin to imagine how that must feel. I can only hope that you can find a family somewhere, a group of loving, caring people you can be a part of.

The essence of why we’re all here, I believe, is to give and receive love. Don’t cheat yourself out of it.

 

Don’t Blink, You’ll Miss 33 Years

 

July 7th. A searing hot, typical Texas summer Saturday.

That morning, I went and washed my car, a clunker with a squeaky fan belt.

That afternoon, I married the girl of my dreams.

All in all, a darn good day.

After the reception, we changed into our travelin’ clothes, ran the traditional Gauntlet of Rice, climbed into my clunker with the squeaky fan belt, flashed our biggest smile for the photographer, and drove off under the blazing sun, on our way to the much more pleasant climes of Vail, Colorado.

Our life together, like the Colorado Rockies, lay stretched out before us…

 

And then, thirty-three years happened.

Just like that. I swear to you, just like that.

I don’t mean to be cliche, but honestly, had I known it would go by this fast, I would have tried to enjoy it more. I would have squeezed more juice from the sweet, luscious fruit of life. (oh, brother, let’s just stop here, okay?)

Still, the time moved just slowly enough for me to gather a whole basket load of wonderful memories, which I will cherish all my days.

And that cute girl standing next to me on that July 7th afternoon has been right there beside me through everything, good and bad, funny and sad, easy and tough. And I couldn’t be happier, or luckier.

Happy Anniversary, darling. I love you more every fleeting year. Thank you for being my wife.

Alright, All You Mothers!

image

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there!

We all owe our lives to you. Without you, there is no us.

So, thank you for going through the exquisite pain of bringing us into the world, and the more excruciating pain of bringing us up.

Sometimes, we wouldn’t listen to you. Sometimes, we willfully disobeyed you. Sometimes, we openly defied you. And occasionally, we just hated you. Maybe even told you so.

But, through all those times, deep down, we always loved you.

Because, we sat in your lap while you read to us. We played games and sang silly songs with you. We settled into our beds while you tucked us in and kissed us goodnight. We ran to you with our skinned knees, bloody noses, bee stings and broken hearts, knowing you would make it all better, as only you could.

Some of you are just amazing. All you single mothers, who do your best to fit a job (or more) in with the daily care and feeding of your children. All you moms who adopt children and welcome them into your family, loving them as though they were your own. All you “soccer moms,” endlessly shuttling your kids to this activity and that one, so they can have fun with other kids and get yelled at by all the insane parents.

Unfortunately, some of you have gone through the most painful experience there is: burying your child. You’ve lost them to disease, or to violence or, more and more lately, to suicide. I absolutely can’t imagine how deeply that must cut into your soul. I know you miss them every single day, and would sacrifice anything to bring them back. I’m so very sorry for you and your families. I wish you comfort and strength.

Bottom line, all of you are just extraordinary women, and you have certainly earned your own day. I hope you spend it in the company of your children.

Mothers around the world, I salute you. Many, many blessings on you all.

Looking With a Different Eye

501638050832

 

Okay, kids, here’s a fun little experiment for you to do:

Look at some object in the distance. Focus on it. Then, close one eye, hold up your thumb and position it so that it blocks your view of that object.

Got it? Great! Now, without moving the thumb, close that eye and open the other one.

Holy smokes! What just happened??

The object didn’t move, the thumb didn’t move, everything stayed the same. Only now, that object is right out there in plain view. Cool!

Yeah, I know, it’s nothing you didn’t already know, what else ya got, this was lame, yada, yada, yada…

But, really, how much of your time did that just take up, a few seconds?

And it’s a good reminder of how different the same picture can appear when viewed from a different eye.

 

One of the toughest things in the world to change is…an attitude. Especially the longer you cling to it, and the more comfortable you get with it. To change the way you look at something is risky, but oftentimes necessary.

One of the symptoms of depression, which I’ve had for years, is the tendency to get easily irritated by everyone and everything. All the time. Little things can just drive you nuts.

I’m around certain people, on a regular basis, who say things and do things that aggravate me to no end. Sometimes, I dread even being around them, for that very reason; I know I’m gonna get annoyed. 😠

Which is sad, considering they’re family.

I realize, I need to look at them with a different eye. They simply are what they are. The picture will not change; my view has to. Instead of resenting their idiosyncrasies, I need to accept them, to embrace them. I need to remember, these are people I love, that I’m glad I have them in my life, that it’s important to cherish the time we spend together, as long as we have it.

Besides, I know I’m definitely no day at the beach, either.

So, to whom it may concern:

Just a reminder, I love you all dearly. I’m glad you’re here. I will work on getting annoyed by you less and appreciating you more, because you are family, and family is priceless.

I’ll try to be less of a pain, too. Thanks for tolerating me, in the meantime.

Now, to the rest of you:

If you find yourself around some family members over the holidays who stir up the same emotions, try your best at looking through a different eye at them. I know, it’ll be tough. Remember, they didn’t get to pick you, either. Family is, or at least, should be, a refuge in the turbulent storms of life. We need each other, now more than ever.

Then maybe, we can summon up the courage to train that different eye on the rest of the world, and see something we never did before.

Who knows what can happen, then?

Oh, yeah…you can put your thumb down, now. 😏

 

Pass the Antacids

501453849179

 

Thanksgiving Day is approaching, America. 🦃  The time of year to reflect on things and people in your life to be thankful for; chief among them, elastic waistbands.

Because, no doubt, you’re gonna be shoveling in a lot of tasty food. If your family is like mine, they make absolutely certain there is no possibility whatsoever of running out of vittles. Even if a hundred guests come over.

I’m reasonably sure Thanksgiving is a holiday that was created by the makers of Rolaids.

Anyways, as you gather this year with the ones you love, (or the ones you don’t, but were forced to be with, anyway) here are a few things on which to ponder:

Exactly who and what am I thankful for?

If they’re people, do I ever tell them I’m thankful for them?

Am I thankful all the time, or just one day a year?

Do I ever give anyone reason to be thankful for me?

Am I sure I’ve got no room for one more slice of pie?

Where has Dak Prescott been all my life? (Go, Cowboys!!)

Seriously, though, I hope all of you get to spend some quality time with people who are special to you, and truly enjoy the pleasure of each other’s company. (Might want to avoid the political discussions this year, though. 😬) If you’re driving somewhere, be careful on the road. If you’re flying somewhere, I sincerely hope you have no baggage to claim. If everybody’s coming to your place, stock up on Charmin.

 

One thing you should NOT be thankful for: retail stores that start their Black Friday on Thanksgiving Day.

All those workers deserve a day home with their families, and to deny them that is to demonstrate just how greedy and heartless these retailers are. I’m not giving any of them my business on Thursday, and I hope you don’t, either.

In fact, why don’t we just eliminate Black Friday, altogether? I mean, nearly every one of them begins with some poor shopper getting trampled to death by a mob in front of a store when it opens its doors. It’s just insane. Honestly, stores, if you’re that dependent on one really big sales day, your prices are obviously too freakin’ high the rest of the year.

Put that on your register and scan it!

 

Well, enough about that, friends. I’d like to wish y’all a Happy (urp) Thanksgiving. 🙂

Don’t let the grandkids club each other with the turkey legs.🍗

And if liquor is part of your celebration, please designate a driver so everyone stays safe.

Bless you all. I’m putting on my stretch pants.

 

501454361950

The Secret

 

image

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.

You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines.

“Time”, Pink Floyd

Songwriters
ANDREW WRIGHT, SIMON SMITH

Published By
Lyrics © T.R.O. INC.

First time I heard those words, I was 14 or 15 years old. I didn’t grasp the significance of them back then, obviously.

I sure do, now.

I recently wrote a post about commemorating yet another birthday, and I alluded at one point to how getting old scares me a bit, so I should probably explain myself. You may not want to read on unless you’re really happy today, because this one’s a bit of a downer.

I see my folks, they’re getting old
And I watch their bodies change
I know they see the same in me
And it makes us both feel strange
No matter how you tell yourself
It’s what we all go through
Those eyes are pretty hard to take
When they’re staring’ back at you

“Nick of Time”, Bonnie Raitt

Songwriters

BONNIE RAITT

Published By
Lyrics © BONNIE RAITT

First of all, and I know this is going to sound so shallow, but have you seen what old people look like? With their wrinkled up faces and age spots on their hands and turkey wattles on their necks? I know, I know, I’m sorry, I really am, but I just can’t envision myself looking like that. Not me. My hair is definitely grayer, and there’s less of it than there used to be, but I’ve accepted that, more or less. Those other cosmetic changes are gonna be much harder to face.

But, it’s not just the looks; it’s the health. I dread what the future holds for this steadily deteriorating shell I walk around in. Will I get slowed down by arthritis? Will I be felled by a debilitating stroke, like my father, and bedridden for the last years of my life? Or will my worst fear come true, and Alzheimer’s slowly and mercilessly steal my mind, piece by piece?

It’s stuff like this that, whenever somebody says getting old “beats the alternative”, makes me think, “Are you sure?”

And, yeah, I know, none of those things may happen; I may just get hit by a truck, instead.

But, I’m the kind of guy who thinks, my life has gone pretty well so far, something’s gotta happen sometime to screw it up. The Law of Averages dictates that the scales eventually have to tip the other way.

What can I say? It’s how I roll.

 

Truthfully, though, I think the worst part of getting older is how everyone else gets older. So, the older I get, the more funerals I’ll be attending. Funerals of friends and family members. People I’ve known and loved for years, for decades, for pretty much my whole life. I want to keep them around forever; I don’t want to say goodbye to any of them, and it will seriously break my heart when I have to. I am really not looking forward to that part.

I mean, I know that’s all just part of it; we’re born, we live, we get old and die. That’s how this thing works. It’s never bothered me as much as it has lately, though. I know, I should probably just shut up and accept what’s coming, because it certainly doesn’t come only to me.

Just feels like it, sometimes, that’s all.

So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older,
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

“Time”, Pink Floyd

Songwriters
ANDREW WRIGHT, SIMON SMITH

Published By
Lyrics © T.R.O. INC.

On the bright side, though, friends, (yes, there is one) I am working towards reconciliation of these issues, because I know a life lived in fear and dread is really no life. It’ll just take some time for me to reach the state where I can believe what singer James Taylor said years ago:

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time

“Secret O’ Life”, James Taylor

That’s the goal for me. Hope I attain it. Sooner, as opposed to later.

My (So Much) Better Half

What attracted me first was the eyes.

I met her when we were in our early twenties, in the college age Sunday School class at our church. I led the singing one Sunday, when I was home from school, and she played piano for me.

Then, I traveled back to school later that day, and pretty much forgot about that encounter. So, our story really didn’t begin there; just a footnote, more or less.

Fast forward a couple of years. I was graduated and back home, and we were in a different Sunday School class together. She was having some of us over to her apartment for her birthday. I was the first to arrive, and so we had time to talk awhile.

And that’s when I noticed those eyes. Those big, beautiful eyes. The kind you could just gaze into all day.

And, as we talked, I noticed a few other things. Her intelligence. Her honesty. Her smile. Her sense of humor. We had a pleasant conversation that afternoon.

And it still took me another month to ask her out (!) That’s how fast I moved.

But, it was the second best thing I ever did for myself.

The first was marrying that girl two years later.

 

The month of July is a significant one for me for two reasons. One of them is my birthday, which is sort of good news/bad news these days. It’s a commemoration of another year lived on this planet, and a reminder that I’m another step toward the grave. I’m on past middle age; I don’t imagine myself living to 114. I’m on the downhill side of my life, which explains the increasingly rapid pace at which it passes. Still, I try to be grateful for every year I’m still here.

(Incidentally, there are plenty of other July birthdays in my family. Apparently, October was quite an active month.)

The second big reason is my wedding anniversary. This year will mark our 32nd.

Incredible. It went by like nothing, but it’s also felt like we’ve been together our whole lives.

image

The fact that this woman has put up with me that long is worthy of a medal, if not a parade. Ain’t no doubt, this boy won the Lottery on his wedding day.

The wedding, incidentally, was somewhat eventful. Love birds escaped their cages and flew around awhile. A groomsman fainted just as I was kissing the bride.

Oh, well, give the people their money’s worth, right?

So, that’s how we started out, and it’s been a wonderful ride ever since. The more I’ve gotten to know this lady, the better I like her.

I’ve never known anyone so thoughtful before in my life, who thinks of other people’s needs as often as she does, and is so willing to do what she can to help.

She has a terrific sense of humor. She’ll come up with stuff sometimes that simultaneously cracks me up and makes me envious that I didn’t think of it first.

Like me, she’s a sucker for animals. She’s got a tender heart for cats, dogs, and all baby animals. (“Aren’t they cute?”)

She is absolutely devoid of pretense; she’s genuine. What you see is what you get. She’s honest to a fault. (As is the rest of her family, as I learned)

She has a very strong sense of fairness, and bristles at injustice anywhere she observes it. She believes in, and respects, the dignity of every individual, and treats them accordingly, as she would want to be treated.

And she loves me, as she’s proven over and over again.

And, oh yeah, she’s pretty, too.

 

We’ve had some wonderful times together. Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to visit several places across America, see beautiful things, and have unforgettable experiences. One that stands out to me is standing on the balcony of our hotel room on Waikiki Beach and watching the sun set over Honolulu. Never thought I’d actually get to do that. It’s just one of many dreams come true in my life.

image

Of course, we’ve had some experiences that were not so pleasant; such is life. But we’ve been there for each other through it all, and we always will be.

Does she drive me nuts sometimes? Sure.

Do I return the favor, in spades? Bet all your money on it.

But we both know, we’re in this thing for the long haul. We made a commitment to each other all those years ago, in front of God and several credible and semi-credible witnesses, to be with other for as long as we both shall live. And, 32 years later, here we are, looking forward to more wonderful years together.

And her eyes are as beautiful as ever.

Happy Anniversary, darling. Thank you for being my wife. You’re my very best friend, and there’s no one I’d rather hang out with. Thank you for sticking with me through bad times, as well as good. Thank you for your devotion and support. Thank you for your patience, which I constantly put to the test. Mostly, thank you for loving this lucky guy for all these years.

I Love You so very, very, very much.

 

Those Words

Hot summer evening in Texas.

I’m about nine years old, I think, outside in the front yard with Mom and Dad. They’re probably finishing up yard work, and I’m just playing, like nine-year-old boys do on summer evenings.

Dad loved working in the yard. Loved it. He took great pride in having a terrific-looking landscape, and he busted his butt for hours to achieve that goal.

This great love for yard work was a gene that definitely did not duplicate to any of his sons, I assure you. Just sayin’.

Anyway, our dog, a little toy fox terrier, is out there with us. Not a good thing; he’s supposed to be in the backyard with the gate shut, or else, he’s got the green light to take off down the street, with me in hot pursuit. So far, fortunately, he’s chosen to just stay close to us in the yard, so Dad tells me to grab him (the dog, not Dad) and return him to the backyard and close the gate. (which, by the way, yours truly probably left open, causing this situation in the first place. oh, well…)

One problem: Just as Dad’s telling me this, the dog decides he has to pee.

So I stand there and wait for him to finish. Rude to interrupt him, don’t you know; I certainly wouldn’t want anybody grabbing me when I’m right in the middle of taking a leak. Besides, some of it may get on me. Ewww.

Well, you know what comes next. Soon as he finishes, he takes off running, and my chance to just grab him is lost. Great. Now I gotta chase him again.

That’s when I hear Those Words. The words that have stayed with me from that day to this:

You idiot!!

Why are you such an idiot??

 

Ah, fathers and sons. A historically complicated relationship.

My father was a good man. He truly was.

He worked hard all his life to provide for his family. He was determined his sons would all get a college education, something he never got; he knew a degree would open a lot more doors of opportunity for us. He had a big heart for people (and animals), and would help anyone in need as much as he could. His faith was a huge part of his life; he loved God and did his best to be a loyal follower.

He also had a wonderful, wicked sense of humor, always making wisecracks and playing pranks. He couldn’t help being the naughty boy. He was the court jester, providing those around him with a good laugh.

He took me to ball games. He took me fishing and swimming at the lake. He played catch with me. He played board games with me. He patiently listened as I recited TV commercials and comedy routines I had memorized. And he laughed at the punchlines.

He told me he loved me. Often.

I feel genuinely sorry for all the people who had fathers who beat them, or molested them, or abandoned them, or neglected them, or always came home drunk, or in any other way put their families through complete hell. I know I’m one of the fortunate ones; I was raised in a stable, loving family environment, for which I’m so glad. And my father was one of the main reasons for that.

I loved him. I looked up to him. I wanted to be just like him. He was perfect in my eyes. So, what happens when such a person looks you in the eye and calls you an idiot?

When you’re nine years old, it totally crushes you.

I went into the house and fell on my bed, crying. I was certain I had just failed him beyond measure. I hated myself for being such an idiot.

Unfortunately, as I grew, it was hard to shake that feeling. See, Dad had this…tone sometimes when he talked to you. It was very condescending. You could ask him a question, and he would answer in a way that made you sorry you asked. You would end up believing he thought you really are an idiot, whether he actually said it or not.

So I resolutely held on to the belief that he thought his youngest son was the dummy of the family.

And no amount of “I love you”‘s and “I’m proud of you”‘s could totally wipe that away. I still could seldom times look at him without imagining him looking back at me and wondering how he could have been stuck with such a stupid son.

If he ever told me he thought I was smart, I don’t remember. Selective memory, I guess; it wouldn’t have fit my perception of what he actually thought of me.

And, see, I know he didn’t mean what he said that day; he was angry, and don’t we all know, we say things in anger we never really meant to say.

But that doesn’t make it hurt any less to hear.

Now, please understand, this isn’t a Dad-bashing. I really loved the man, and am forever grateful to him for all he did for me. I don’t hate him. I don’t resent him. I’m not blaming any failures or missteps in my life on him; I own all that. I’m not wallowing in self-pity over a “troubled childhood”.

I just wish he’d never said Those Words. Or, at least, had apologized for saying them.

So this is for all you dads out there, about to enjoy Your Day. Even though I’m not a father myself, I had one once, and I’m telling you…

Please, please choose your words carefully when you talk to your children, even in anger. Especially, in anger. If you say something you don’t mean, apologize, and reassure your child you love him or her. Those Words have a much greater impact on a child than you can ever imagine.

Oh, and all you sons (and daughters) out there: show some love to your dad this weekend, and the rest of the time, too.

Happy Fathers’ Day, Dad. Sixteen years after your passing, I still miss you.

And I still love you. Like always.