Tag Archives: family

All the Things I’ll Never See


Often times we stand in the here and now and we believe that we understand what brought us to this point. We take for granted certain things about ourselves and our world. We have seen the past and we look forward to the future. In reality, we have personally experienced very little in our own lives and we rely heavily on the stories of others to tell us about the things we will never see.

All the things we will never experience for ourselves, and all the times we have never been a part of, must be learned again. These unseen events and people are nothing more than pages in a book, or words leaving someone’s lips. The story is recorded, either physically or mentally, and then passed down to us, but we can never truly know what it was like to stand in the middle of that moment and be moved by it.

Here are just a very few of the many things that I will never be able to see, but nonetheless shape me and the world I live in. The moment has passed and it will never come again. Though I may understand that this past does exist, in essence, I am completely ignorant to the truth that can only be fully known by someone who was there or who lived in a world much younger than the one I currently occupy.

I’ll never stand under the stars and look up at the moon and wonder what it is made of or how far away the stars are. People just like me have been there and stood under the stars looking back at the rest of us. They drove around, jumped up and down, and hit golfballs across the face of a dead lump of rock. Mystery solved, no more imagination necessary.

I’ll never walk down a hallway and see separate bathrooms for “Whites” and “Blacks.” I will never truly grasp what it was like to experience this void of separation that ran so deep for so long. My young life views this culture as it is now and the truth that it wasn’t always this way can sometimes seem a little absurd.

I’ll never stand in the crowd as John, Paul, George, and Ringo come out on stage and send the waiting crowd into a frenzy. As strange as it may seem, the simple gathering of these four guys playing music didn’t just change the lives of a few fanatical teenage girls. It did change things in a noticeable way and sent the world culture in a new direction.

I’ll never see my parents as teenagers falling in love for the first time. I’ve heard stories about their younger selves , playing drums and singing Janis Joplin songs, but it seems like it must be so long ago. I wonder if it seems like that far in the past to them? As I grow older will my memories get further apart, and harder to reach, or just more compressed so that the trip further into the past takes the same amount of time?

I’ll never come to the crest of a hill, look out across the other side and see land that is not already owned by somebody else. No matter how far you go you are never far from everyone else. When you get there you may find a soda can or some dirty socks under a shrub. Gone are the days when there was a wilderness to be “tamed,” when you could strike out towards the country to start anew.

I’ll never stand in front of a Washington D.C. monument and hear a speech about dreams. Will there ever be a moment again when someone speaks so passionately and effectively about something that is so important to them? Or have we become so jaded and cynical of everyone and everything that when they speak we ask ourselves what is their real agenda, or what’s in it for them?

I’ll never stand on the beach and stare into the vast expanse of ocean and wonder what is on the other side. Everyone knows what is there and we all have seen the pictures to prove it. There are other people very much like us over there and they are standing on their own beach. No monsters, no demons, no edge to fall off of.

Absolutely everything we learn about the past is told to us by someone else. The separation between what we know and what we have experienced is vast indeed. We do not inherently know that the Earth revolves around the Sun, we have never seen this happen. Most of us have never actually witnessed penguins diving off the Antarctic shelf or felt the heat radiating from the mouth of an active volcano. Yet, we take for granted that these things happen.

We do not even know everything about our own past. We must be told about the times we spent before we can remember. We are nothing without a past even though it is a past we largely have no personal knowledge of. I will soon become the bearer of the past for others, but how much do I really know?

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3.. 2.. 1.. Kill Your Little Brother


Me, Danny, and some baby.

Danny was still unconscious when the paramedics took him out of our living room. They carried him out on a hard stretcher, his head immobilized with a series of straps over his forehead and chin. The other families who lived in our apartment complex stood outside on the lawn we all shared to get a better view of what the commotion was all about. The lights atop the multiple emergency vehicles, now parked in front of our door, lit up the summer evening in intervals that flashed off and on through neighbor’s windows in alternating blues, reds, and whites. They carried his little body out to the ambulance, lifted him into the back, and shut the doors behind him. They drove away and my mother followed, leaving me in the living room with only my aunt and the horrifying guilt that I had just killed my little brother.

It had only been a few minutes earlier that Danny and I were playing in the living room as the evening was winding down. We were watching TV and intermittently pestering each other and roughhousing during commercial breaks as young boys might normally do when they are bored. Nobody was planning on anything eventful happening in the very near future.

It was late summertime in southern California and since there was no school yet, we had spent most of the day outside, as usual, playing games like Tag and Hide-and-Go-Seek with the neighborhood kids. Most of the kids we played with were a bit older than us, the bigger kids being around nine or ten, while Danny and I were around four and seven years old. After thoroughly exhausting all of the standard childhood games, including all the sub-variations of Tag, such as Freeze Tag and Cartoon Tag, the older kids showed us a new game.

The Rocket, as they called it, required only two people, preferably one would be a bit smaller than the other. Perfect, Danny is just the right size, he has no idea how awesome this is going to be! The larger of the two lies down with their back on the ground, pulls their knees to their chest and creates a little seat with the bottom of their feet. It resembled the fetal position with the bottom kid’s legs pulled in tight to the chest, ready to spring up and out forcibly. The smaller kid sat on the upturned feet, like a barstool, and prepared for launch. As the kid on the ground pushed powerfully up and out, the lucky little human projectile on the other end soared through the air and landed somewhat gracefully, and upright, about 10 feet away. The keyword is upright.

Understandably, my four-year-old brother was not too keen on being flung helplessly through the air by my feet, and he refused to let me test my launch capabilities on him. Since he was the smallest kid in the group and I was the second smallest, there was no one else I could play with. Why does he always have to be such a baby? After arguing with him for a while – as a young boy this means throwing demeaning insults his way – and trying to convince him he wouldn’t get hurt, I gave up and went inside to watch some TV. What could possibly go wrong?

Once inside however, I refused to waiver in my coercion techniques. During commercial breaks I used all of my advanced seven-year-old name calling tactics that usually worked on Danny when I wanted him to go along with one of my little schemes. I called him a wuss, a baby, a scaredy cat, and a slew of other tried and true names that kids use on one another to play on their fear of being too young to do something in life. Our mother half-heartedly scolded me from the couch on my crude behavior, but eventually it worked and he caved. They were both tired of hearing my voice. Just wait till everyone sees how cool this is…

Grinning from ear to ear because I had got what I wanted, I assumed the position in the center of the living room and my wary little brother eased his backside onto my waiting feet. The countdown was initiated… 5.. 4.. 3.. 2.. 1.. BOOM! I thrusted my legs up as hard as I possibly could, just as instructed. There was quite a bit of up however, and not a whole lot of out. He was also much lighter than I originally anticipated. Coincidentally, it’s the forward and outward motion that is truly pivotal if your goal is to get your flailing little bro to land on his feet instead of his neck…

He went straight up. He came straight down. Woah. His neck and head hit the ground first and hit it hard, followed by the rest of his body buckling down on top of him and causing further contortion of his spine. The look of shock and awe upon my face must have been laughable if you were unaware of the seriousness of the situation I now found myself in. Danny had just enough time to emit a blood-curdling scream, roll over and off his neck, grab my dirty barefoot, and sink his teeth as far as he could into it before his eyes rolled back into his head and he passed out. To this day, we really have no explanation for this unexpected biting move on his part, except that maybe it was a defensive retaliation for his sudden pain.

I was frozen in utter stupor. Mom moved like her hair was on fire. She picked up his limp body and screamed for my aunt to come downstairs and call 911. He looks dead. My brain instantly registered a massive amount of fear, took over control of my body, and made me move. It did the only thing it knew how to do, which was hide, and I did it behind the couch. I squeezed into the space and began hoping it would all just go away. Of course it didn’t work and a few minutes later my aunt and I stood staring out the front door as the flashing lights turned the corner and disappeared. He’s dead. I’m dead.

I awoke very early the next morning and slipped out of my bed in the room that Danny and I shared. Once upon a time, before I killed him. It was still dark but I could see that his bed remained empty. I silently opened our bedroom door and crept along the wall toward my mother’s room. The whole apartment was dark and quiet and my footsteps were louder than I would have liked. I peaked around the door and saw two lumps under the covers of her bed. She must have heard me and turned her head to look at me… she motioned for me to come closer and whispered that everything was going to be okay. The other lump was Danny sporting a brand new foam neck brace. It was just a precaution, as he had a few strained neck muscles. No bones sticking through his neck. She told me to get back to bed and I did what I was told.

This wouldn’t be the last time I would accidentally cause my brother life-threatening injury…

8 Isn’t Enough


The supporters of proposition 8 have collectively thrown their hands up in the air in anger, disgust, and frustration. They share in a bewildered disbelief that a law they saw as legitimate, a law voted on and passed by a majority of the public, could be struck down and rendered invalid in one fell swoop. This perceived gross injustice was carried out, presumably, on the whim of a single judge who had the arrogance to deny the will of the people and render one of our greatest freedoms useless. What does my vote count for now? They ask. What gives him the right to do this to us?!? They scream.

Well, in case you haven’t been paying attention to our democratic system of government we’ve instituted here for the last two and a quarter centuries, he was simply doing his rightful job. The job that he, and every other judge before him, has sworn to do. The entire existence of the judicial branch is predicated upon the idea that someone must hear disputes concerning laws and that they must objectively decide whether certain actions should be defined as legal or illegal, and whether or not those standing laws are constitutionally sound. Those who disagree with this decision are so quick to rush to the defense of their all-powerful vote that they are willing to simply trample over the responsibility and charge of the judges who have sworn to interpret the laws and uphold the spirit of the constitution. The very same document that they hold in such high reverence as the backbone of the country is simply ignored in an attempt to enforce their own will.

The underlying issue, once again, is that some people have an inherent inability to separate their own concepts about the morality of an issue from the strict legality of it. No matter who you are, everyone carries with them a moral compass that is guided by their own personal, and sometimes religious, beliefs. Many people take it a step further and feel that these personal moral fundamentals should be directly reflected in the laws of the country. They feel that in order for this nation to continue functioning properly and to stand strong it must mirror the beliefs of its righteous citizens. In almost all cases they get their way, but not always. Alcohol consumption, gambling, and prostitution are just a few examples of acts deemed extremely immoral by many, but nonetheless legal in many parts of the country. Laws are laws and morals are morals. There is absolutely nothing that states they have to match up exactly with one another. No matter how saintly you consider yourself to be, someone else probably thinks you are a godless deviant. That person is probably over the age of 70 and watches you leave your house through a crack in their living room drapes.

Opponents of gay marriage seem to be missing the point entirely, insisting that apples and oranges be compared to one another. You cannot fight legal wars with morality swords. Continually ignoring the fact that, at its core, this is simply a legal matter, they muddle the discussion with talk of nature and procreation. Not only does the opposition try to change the subject entirely, they often try to instill fear in the minds of those people who may be undecided. Fear, that if you allow these marriages to take place that somehow your children will follow suit and become gay as well. They scream that it tears at the very fabric of our society and will cause the disintegration of the family unit. Apparently, they are oblivious to the fact that there is currently no law that forbids people from actually being gay, having live-in partners, having kids, occupying any profession they wish, being openly gay in public, or any other actions that already expose the public at large, including your children, to their lifestyle.

By their own admission, opponents to same-sex marriage say that same-sex couples already experience many of the rights and protections as married couples. Ah…. you can’t have it both ways though! On the one hand, they say that marriage is sacred and special and not to be made irrelevant by these unnatural pairings. On the other hand, they ask what the big deal is all about. Why complain? You share all the same rights and privileges as we do. So what exactly are we talking about here? A legal document? That’s what concerns you? Are we to believe that then the entire dynamic changes because two gay men are wearing similar rings? That standing in front of a justice of the peace for a few minutes and saying I do makes your impressionable kids sit up and take notice… I wasn’t going to be gay before, just because my biology teacher was, but now that he has a piece of paper in a filing cabinet verifying his homosexuality, I’m giving it a second thought! Also, the slippery slope argument that to allow the union of two people of the same sex will eventually lead to all sorts of strange combinations and pairings (man to dog and woman to chair apparently) is not only logically invalid and ridiculous, it completely ignores the discussion altogether, turning a serious topic into a joke or a laughable exaggeration. It’s a red herring to distract the general public from the true debate.

And what exactly is the justification for all of this opposition to same-sex marriage that we continue to hear time and time again? Homosexuality is unnatural, evolutionarily invalid, and does not result in reproduction. The evidence brought before the judge involved testimony from anthropologists discussing millions of years of human evolution, philosophers discussing human nature, and doctors explaining that, of course, two individuals of the same sex cannot physically produce offspring. I don’t think that anyone could honestly dispute any of these experts’ testimony. Once again, and apparently much to the surprise of many people, it has absolutely nothing to with whether or not same-sex marriages have any legal validity whatsoever. It would have done just as much good to bring in a mechanic to testify on what he felt the speed limit should be on the highway. It has absolutely no relevance. I also find it humorous that areas of study normally perceived as having a liberal bias, such as philosophy and evolution, were used as evidence in support of the conservative argument. I guess they’ll use whatever means necessary as long as the desired result is achieved.

Those also trying to find some sort of legal precedent, that will help back them up in their fight against gay marriage, point out prior decisions by judges from 30 years in the past or the fact that the Supreme Court refused to hear a similar case nearly half a century ago. You see?! They say. Why must you continue to push the issue? It has already been decided upon, give it up! Well it’s a good thing that we, as a country, are not bound in iron chains to the decisions of judges from decades ago. Segregation would live on to this day, and the women’s suffrage movement? Nonexistent. A precedent is all well and good to use as a starting point or a reference when trying to find examples of similar cases, which a judge can then use to justify a decision. Luckily, however, it is not mandated that any judge must always follow the narrow-minded and biased rulings of people living several generations in the past.

The cry of the patriotic American says freedom isn’t free! This is very true, but not always in the ways people think. You have freedoms, you have rights and privileges as citizens of this country and they definitely come at a very expensive price to some people. Some paid the price with their lives, some paid through lifetimes of service to the country which allowed others to benefit. But one of the rarely mentioned costs is tolerance. You sometimes pay to live your life the way you wish by agreeing to allow others to live the way they see fit, even if it is in direct conflict with your own beliefs. This doesn’t just mean live and let live, separate but equal, you do what you want, I just don’t want to hear about it or see it. It means everything that I have as a result of being a member of this country, every benefit and legal avenue that I have taken advantage of must also be afforded to you in return. If this basic contract is not upheld, then what, exactly, is this country all about?

Let’s face it, for much of our nation’s history the full rights and privileges afforded by our constitution could only be taken advantage of by a select few individuals who were usually white, male, and land owners. This exclusive club, time and again, tried to keep out anyone else at all costs. In small increments they eventually, and very reluctantly, were forced to bring one group after another into the fold. First non-land owners wanted to get a piece of the pie and the club was forced to concede. Then women demanded equality and justice and they couldn’t be stopped. Soon, America’s black population followed suit and beat down the door, but not without a fight. Now another group wants in and even those who once stood outside the doors of privilege now look back through the peephole and question if it should be allowed. How soon we forget.

Change never comes easy. The pendulum of public opinion swings slowly from side to side. It is a slow and sometimes painful process, but history has shown us that it is almost impossible to halt progress or withhold human rights from any one group for very long. The conservative side will stomp and huff and puff and put up the “good” fight, but in the end they will concede and go kicking and screaming into the future. They always do. The examples of hard fought attempts to stem the tide of cultural movements that eventually failed and faded from memory are too innumerable to mention. Proposition 8 was the latest attempt, but when it’s all said in done, it isn’t likely to be enough.

“You say you’ll change the constitution. Well you know, we’d all love to change your head. You tell me it’s the institution. Well you know, you better free your mind instead.”

Mindset List Highlights


Every year Beloit College releases its “Mindset List.” This list is basically an overview of the cultural world that this year’s college freshmen live in. It began in 1998 when Professor Tom McBride and Ron Nief created the list to help teachers and faculty better understand the basic differences between the world they grew up in and the one that the students now knew. It really is eye-opening when you come to the realization about how different our culture is now as opposed to 20 years ago and how an 18-year-old today might view the world.

This year is the class of 2014. These students were born in 1992. For example, these students have never lived in a world without color T.V. or CD’s,  and they likely have never even seen a drive-in movie theater. It’s strange to think, but actually being aware of little things like this can help teachers and students better communicate and relate to one another. I picked out a few of the most interesting and surprising from the list to share with you today:

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO THEM…

The terms “caramel macchiato” and “venti half-caf vanilla latte” have always been used and understood – Coffee is taking over the world!!! I, for one, am perfectly happy with it, of course. Coffee is not the devil. Coffee just told me to say that. All hail coffee. (Blank stare)

Few, if any, students know how to write in cursive – This was kind of already going out the door when I was a kid, thank God. Really unnecessary if you ask me, especially since most people can’t even spell properly in the first place. One thing at a time here people.

Colorful lapel ribbons have always been worn to indicate support for a cause – Holy crap, let’s pull it together here people! Your empathy and compassion levels are not in competition with anyone else’s and they are not measured by the amount of ribbon magnets you have plastered on your trunk or wear on your chest. Don’t get bamboozled by breast cancer awareness lawn mowers and autism shoelaces. It’s a pink nightmare out there.

Email is too slow for them – I have to admit I’ve been sucked into the texting game. I wonder how the whole thing is going to start affecting people’s patience levels? Everything seems to be available at a moment’s notice these days.

Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess – I’m sure the latter was thrilled with the emergence of the “lovely lady humps” version of her namesake. If you don’t even understand this one, it’s okay.

They never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone – Oh man, I had completely forgotten about that! Those things never stayed coiled properly for longer than a week out of the box. Somewhere there are just heaps of tangled phone cord disasters that will never be undone. Don’t pull on it, you’ll just stretch it out! So what? Now home invaders have to bring their own restraining devices? Not cool.

They’ve never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day – The watch industry must be seriously tanking in every direction. Look at your wrist. Are you wearing a watch right now? If so, you are definitely in the minority. I haven’t put on a watch in about 6 years and it was only because I was in the army and they have this funny thing about being on time. Go figure.

“Viewer Discretion” has always been an available warning on TV shows – Not only that, but what about those channel logos in the corners? When the hell did that start up? I had never even seen one of those until I returned to the states about 10 years ago and they were on every channel. I know I’m watching Spike TV!!! Stop it with the explosions in the corner!

Czechoslovakia has never existed – I know, and I miss it so much everyday.

The dominance of television news by the three networks passed while they were still in their cribs – End result? We now have the fair and balanced FOX News! Great.

Nirvana is on the classic oldies station – Awesome. Does that make it any cooler to listen to the classic rock stations? God, I hope so. I’ll be the coolest dude around.

Having hundreds of cable channels but nothing to watch has always been routine – Hey, when I came home from school I only needed one channel. As long as that channel was the one with Duck Tales, Rescue Rangers, Tiny Toons, and Animaniacs. C’mon people, you know what I’m talkin’ about.

Their parents’ favorite TV sitcoms have always been showing up as movies – C’mon Airwolf!

…and the final mind-blowing revelation about this year’s class is??????

The artist formerly known as Snoop Doggy Dogg has always been rapping – Ouch! This one really hits home and shows my age. Seriously?!? He’s been rapping that long? I was in high school damn it! I don’t know… I guess I just always loved his doggy-style…

For the full list read on here: http://www.beloit.edu/mindset/2014.php

Aliens Vs. Apparitions


There I was, 11-years-old, brushing my teeth in the bathroom mirror, getting ready for school… and terrified out of my gourd. Toothbrush slowly shaking across my front teeth, back and forth, over and over the same spot as my bulging eyes darted between the open door leading to the dark hallway and the wall behind the shoulders of my reflection, just knowing something evil must be near. I leaned over to spit out some excess toothpaste, taking my eyes off the mirror for only a split second and when I straightened back up, there was my mother standing behind me. Her bed-head hair was twisting in contorted directions, her bloodshot eyes stared blankly at me, and her jaw lay slack from a mid-yawn pause. All in all, the most terrifying, gut-wrenching, thing I had ever seen… that morning. I screamed like I was Macaulay Culkin putting on aftershave. Toothpaste-laced spittle was flying to and fro and my hands flew up in a defensive position across my face, toothbrush bouncing off a wall somewhere, no doubt. I pushed past her and her confused face, knocking her aside as I leapt in one swift motion out of the bathroom, thorough the dark hallway, and into my bedroom where I slipped under my blanket like a poof of smoke and began sobbing uncontrollably.

That’s it!My mothered yelled at me, following my flaming smoke trail into the bedroom. You’re taking those books back today!

You see, the week before my class took its regular excursion to the library so that we could all browse around and read or checkout a book or two to take home. Trying to stir the imagination, I suppose, was the intended goal of the teacher, but her noble intentions did not take in to consideration the twisted little mind of one of her students and the near nervous breakdown it would cause an 11-year-old to have just a few days later.

Two books sitting side by side caught my attention immediately. One was about the evidence that aliens might be visiting our planet from time to time and the other was about the possibility that ghosts may be all around us, all the time. Tons of photos of smokey body shapes and eyes lurking in the background of family photos, or bearded men dressed in civil war era clothing leaning against tress. I took them both home and opened up a little can of crazy on the rest of my family.

The alien book I found very interesting and not at all scary. Little slimy midgets wearing sunglasses hurdling through time and space in flying muscle cars seemed pretty awesome to this little 5th grader. Lifeless corpses who watch you from the shadows with their dead eyes and the power to possibly posses your very soul, all while moaning and spitting blood? That seemed a little less appealing for some reason.

I was incapacitated by abject fear for weeks. Every open window into the night contained flesh rotting corpses hovering and waiting for me to look their way, so they could stare at me with deadpan eye sockets. The mirror became a portal to the netherworld where a turned back could get you a one way ticket to hellish death. Every creak and crack  was a limping, dragging, foot and every breeze a whisper or moan from a tortured soul. I was inconsolable.

I eventually got ahold of the reigns and straightened out, but to this day sometimes I just cannot control the fear once my brain turns something over. I saw the movie “The Ring,” which I understand is laughable to some people, and I couldn’t go to the bathroom or down my hallway by myself for a couple weeks… and I was 26! I mean, the hallway light was a long florescent bulb that flickered on and off! How scary is that? I was living alone with my cat (totally hetero thing to do) and I had to pick him up and take him with me at night whenever I had to go to the back of the house. After all, cats can sense spirits right? Hey, I know all about it, I saw Ghost too. Pathetic.

But when I stop and really think about it, it seems like in this world you generally fall into two categories: you’re terrified of ghosts OR you’re terrified of aliens. I know there is the group that is scared of anything and everything, and then, of course, the “I ain’t a-skeered a nothin!” group which we all know is bullshit posturing, but for the most part I think people would definitely choose one over the other.

My wife lands on the alien paranoia side. Sure she has a healthy respect for possibly ill-intentioned ghosts, but you can hardly let the word “alien” roll off the tongue without igniting a little terror and sending her fingers plunging into her ear canals. La-la-la-la-la I can’t hear you!

In basic training she was woken up in the middle of the night to pull her guard duty shift. She emerged from her tent, rubbing the sleep and exhaustion out of her eyes, only to see three moonlit shapes slowly marching towards her in the dark. They were all holding rifles, of course, and were wearing hooded gas masks as they creeped across the clearing in the woods, towards where she was standing. She was legitimately horrified that they were alien invaders for a moment and almost screamed out… which of course would not have made for a pleasant ending to her military exercise.

What is the difference? Why do I think aliens are cool, but she might need adult diapers if we ever watch “The Fourth Kind?” (Never going to happen) It seems to me that the answer to the question about which you are more fearful of might have to do with a deeper, hardwired, response that you have to fear itself.

Aliens represent an external unknown. Aliens come in and observe you from a distance or they swoop in and steal you away from your own home and place of safety and comfort. They are truly unknowable and foreign. They experiment on you in very inhuman ways and represent something that is beyond anybody’s control.

Ghosts, on the other hand, are very internal and a somewhat known variable. They are basically you, but a different version of you, a possibly evil version of you and others like you. They don’t come from afar, they come from within, and could possibly be sitting next to me as I type this out (… stop saying stuff like that.) They are dead, lifeless, cold, lost souls… and you might become one of them. You know that you could, because if ghosts are evil, you understand that you have that propensity for evil within you right now and you can see it in humanity as a whole.

So which are you? Do you pull the covers up to your eyeballs when you sleep alone at night because you’re afraid someone might come in and take you or because they are already there sitting at the foot of your bed? (stop saying things like that!)