Friday, June 27, 2014

Living the Dream Here at Nuptials Inc.

Suddenly, for no discernible reason, my computer has slowed to a crawl. As a result, I am forced to type this verrrrrry sloooowly. Perhaps the slower pace will result in a more thoughtful, enlightened post. Or, more likely, it will result in me hurling this laptop through the window. Anyway…

The wedding planning extravaganza has warped into overdrive here at Nuptials Inc. We are at T-minus 15 days and counting, and the air is thick with deadlines. I feel like one of those B-17 pilots over Berlin in WWII, only those black puffs of steel and smoke aren’t flak but rather…bills, which seem much more dangerous. Now that Kaitlin is done with teaching for the summer, she is on board full-time. So, now I have two crazed women in the house. But, now that it is officially crunch time, they have brandished a new, terrifying weapon…the color-coded flash card.

Yes, my wife has devised a new level of organization into her witches’ brew of spreadsheets, websites, and three ring binders. She has assigned Kaitlin and herself several note cards with THINGS TO DO screaming menacingly at the top of each. Then she has chosen different color pens to write out the required action that needs to be taken, signifying the level of urgency needed…blue = soon, green = by the end of the week, yellow = no later than July 10th, and red = immediately or I will kill you.

It disturbs me greatly that I have not been included in this new protocol. My jobs have been listed on a mere note pad entitled, Dad’s Jobs. So far, there are only two items, “replace shower head in guest bathroom” and “Hang curtain rods in breakfast nook.” No mention has been made of my other real jobs throughout this great adventure which are to pay each bill that comes with good cheer and to stay the heck out of Pam’s way.

Every day we seem to be confronted with some near catastrophe. Two days ago it was the great lantern fiasco. It seems that the white lantern centerpiece that we have chosen for the tables at the reception have become the hottest retail item since the invention of sliced bread. A trip to the IKEA store yielded exactly 5 of the 20 we need and dire warnings that future shipments might already be spoken for. During  a brief moment of total insanity Pam considered buying the black lanterns and spray painting them white. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. Upon returning home, Pam got on the interwebs and found 35 of the white lanterns at an IKEA in College Park, Maryland. Faster than a speeding bullet, she was on the phone to my brother’s wife in Gaithersburg. To our profound and eternal relief, in less than three hours, they had fought beltway traffic and rescued us from the great lantern shortage of 2014.

Then, just yesterday, the plan was to take Kaitlin over to the venue for her bridal portrait. Around noon I get this text message from Pam:

“Having panic attack. Can’t find K’s wedding shoes. She is babysitting, not answering phone. Need them for portrait. Hope they weren’t left at David’s Bridal!!!!!”

The first thing that popped into my head to say was, “Why do you need her shoes for a bridal portrait?? Her gown goes all the way to the floor and then trails a half a mile behind her? Who is gonna see her feet??”

Luckily for me, I said no such thing, but instead told her where I had seen them last. Crisis averted. When she later texted me a few pictures from the shoot, Kaitlin looked amazing…but not a foot in sight.

Yep, I’m just living the dream.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

My Soccer Take

My nephew Ryan is one of them, and now my son Patrick is becoming one of them. My friend Al has been one for years now. It used to be that the only people who were really into it were little kids and their over protective mothers. Now, fully grown men and women sit for hours in bars watching it, and once, sometimes twice during the proceedings, erupt into a maddening roar when something actually happens. Yes, soccer has taken over the world. Wait, or is it futbol? I never can keep them straight.

Every four years there’s this huge international tournament called the World Cup. The very best players in the world come together from all of the professional leagues and play for their home countries, sort of like the Ryder Cup in golf only with much louder fans. I must admit that I have watched more soccer over the past couple of weeks than in the rest of my years combined. I say “watched” when what I really mean is “stare at the screen, mouth ajar, trying desperately to understand what all the fuss is about.”

First of all I must admit that the fans are awesome in soccer. They dress up, they scream, they sing, they cry, they riot, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. Also, it must be said that the players are amazing athletes and in fantastic shape. There’s probably not an ounce of body fat on the entire roster of these teams. I’m told that the average player runs the equivalent of 6-7 miles each game. It seems like much more than that. Either way, C.C. Sabathia wouldn’t last five minutes out there!

I also love the accent of the Scottish guy who does the color commentary on the radio, (yes I have actually listened to some of the action in my car…what is happening to me???).

Truth be told, I might eventually warm to the sport if not for a couple of huge annoyances. First, there’s the flopping thing. Listen, every sport has players who act like they’ve been fouled to try to influence the refs into a call. Even Derek Jeter was not above lying when he pretended to be hit by a pitch that time when replays showed nothing. Basketball is full of floppers, none better than the best player in the world, Lebron James. But these soccer players are the Sir Lawrence Olivier of athletes. In real time you see two players get close to each other, then suddenly one of them will fall to the ground as if he’s been shot through the chest with a high powered rifle. You see him writhing on the ground in agony clutching what surely must be his severed limb. But then you watch the slow motion replay only to discover that the two players didn’t actually, uh…even make contact. This happens at least twenty times per game. Listen, I get the whole gamesmanship thing, but come on soccer player…grow a pair.

The second thing that turns me off about soccer isn’t really soccer’s fault. It’s the fault of the sports media. They are constantly hectoring me about why I’m not a bigger fan. We Americans are considered hopelessly provincial for not being in love with the “world’s game.” Don’t we know that more people watch soccer, play soccer, and adore soccer than any other game? Hey, sports media guy, let me answer that question for you. As a matter of fact we are aware that soccer is the most popular game in the world, we just don’t care! Generally speaking, we Americans prefer games that allow players to use their God-given opposable thumbs. We also like scoring, and lots of it. From the looks of it, the best soccer players in the world do most of their scoring off the field.

Far be it from me to actually critique the physics of the game, but it appears to this untrained eye that the scoring problem is a function of the fact that the field is too big. Trim that baby down to the size of an America football field and eliminate a couple of players per side and presto…more scoring.

So, God bless soccer, futbol, and the World Cup. One of these days I’m going to sit down and watch an entire game from beginning to end. It’s on my bucket list.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014


The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles announced today that their project to repair seven bridges and overpasses on I-95 around Richmond has been completed, three months ahead of schedule and 3 million dollars under budget.


In other news…reliable sources close to Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness, reveal that hell has in fact frozen over. The long predicted meteorically event took place with no warning and at break neck speed. “Yeah, it was so weird,” said a demon who asked not to be identified. “One minute we’re sitting there chipping away at the moral underpinnings of western civilization and the next minute, bamm, the whole place is a block of ice!” A spokesman for Beelzebub declined to answer questions about relocation plans, saying only that all options are on the table, and that Las Vegas and Washington DC were part of the discussion.

On a related note… Spokesmen for the Federal Aviation Administration as well as NASA have confirmed that numerous reports of UFO sightings were called in today, all of them originating from the rural community of Hayseed, Virginia close to the Old McDonald farm. Around noon, Old McDonald himself called authorities to report that Nester, his prize-winning hog along with no fewer than six other pigs had taken flight right before his eyes. The flying pigs were also seen by several other people in town along with many travelers passing through on highway 6.

In Washington DC today a hastily called news conference shocked the political press, when both Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner both admitted that they are probably the worst Congressional leaders in the history of the Republic. “I mean, come on, it’s obvious, right?” Pelosi began. “We’ve accomplished like, nothing since I’ve been here, and all we do is blame everyone else for our failures.” Boehner agreed. “Nancy is right, we suck big time. We’ve always cared more about ourselves and our party than we have about actually doing anything positive for the American people. After a while you just have to admit that you’re a miserable failure.”

In sports news, the Chicago Cubs made baseball history today when they won their 27th consecutive game, eclipsing the record of 26 set in 1916 by the New York Giants.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dad's Funeral

My Father’s funeral came at the end of a 72 hour whirlwind. First, my sister Paula and I met with the funeral home people, then made a trip to the cemetery. Later, all of the kids met with the Pastors of our church to plan the service. In between were trips to the bank, long telephone conversations with County clerks and hastily arranged meetings with other members of the Death Industry. There was a viewing at the funeral home, a two hour celebration of awkwardness which is at the same time absolutely necessary, and impossibly uncomfortable. All the while, my neck was giving me fits, the bulging disks within made worse by the stress of the moment. By the time the funeral started, I was a ball of twitching muscles and riled emotions, dressed in a suit.

The family was marched in and seated in the front rows directly in front of the flag-draped casket. The service began with congregational singing, three of Dad’s favorite hymns. Paula then rose to speak. She was poised and delivered her prepared remarks with cheerfulness, which was a mood we were determined to project. We’ve had enough crying in our family over the last two years to last a lifetime so, enough with the crying. Then she and Donnie performed a beautiful arrangement of “I’d Rather Have Jesus.” My turn came and as I rose from my seat to head to the pulpit, I felt a twinge of jumpiness in my upper back just to the left of my troubled neck. Uh-oh.

I don’t remember much about my eulogy except that I departed from my prepared remarks too many times. There was a lot of laughter when I spoke, which later I regretted. Maybe I was too flippant? I sat back down carefully and listened to Linda speak. The amazing women who had directed Dad’s care every step of the way for two years was standing before me with a broad smile and bright confidence. When she finished, she sat down at the piano and banged out dad’s favorite piano song, “Chariots of Fire.”

Then, the pastor opened up the floor to any family members who wanted to say a word. First Christina spoke, then Becky, then Pam rose and finally Zoe. All of them were wonderful. Then the microphones were opened to anyone in the congregation who cared to speak. This is always a dangerous thing to do. But, with one notable exception, everyone was heartfelt and reasonably brief.

About this time, I began to feel very uncomfortable. Sitting still and trying to be somber had taken its toll on my neck and back. Suddenly, there was no position I could sit in that took pressure off of the spasm-ing muscles back there. I whispered to Pam, “I’ve got to go out into the foyer or I’m going to have a problem.”

So, there I was, walking out of my own Father’s funeral! By the time I made it outside, my back was a hot mess. I could hear my brother speaking and I didn’t want to miss it, so I took the elevator up to the balcony and spent the last 30 minutes of the service laying flat on my back on the red carpet gazing up at the ceiling, listening to Donnie sing an arrangement of “He Lifted Me.”  I remember thinking how bizarre a thing it would be to tell my grandchildren that I was laying on my back in the balcony at my Dad’s funeral. For an instant I imagined that Dad was standing over me, shaking his head from side to side, laughing. “You never could sit still in church,” I heard him say.

So, two hours after it began it was over. It was too long. But, it was never going to be anything but… too long. The Dunnevants are a family known far and wide for their passionately held opinions and a famous eagerness to share them. Frankly, I’m surprised it wasn’t longer. But, I think we did alright. I think that Mom and Dad were proud of us, or at least I hope they were.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Untouchables

If I could live the rest of my life without hearing the names Lois Lerner and John Koskinen again, and even more importantly, never seeing these faces again:
I would be a very happy man. Unfortunately, their images have been burned into my consciousness. These two represent everything that I loathe about government. They are career bureaucrats, part of the tribe of people most responsible for the contempt I feel for our government. Look at them carefully. Peer into their eyes for a minute. Both of these photographs were taken when they were giving sworn testimony to a Congressional committee charged with oversight of the IRS. Ms. Lerner was taking the Fifth when asked pertinent questions about her role in the targeting of conservative political groups for unfair scrutiny. Mr. Koskinen was explaining how it was that two years worth of emails from Mrs. Lerner had suddenly vanished without a trace. At least, that’s what their words said, but those eyes…those eyes say something else. They practically scream, “Screw you, Congressman. I’m untouchable and you know it. I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be here long after you lose an election and become a lobbyist. I’ll never lose an election, baby! I’ll be cashing a government paycheck forever, and there isn’t one single solitary thing you can do about it. So, have your fun calling me a liar all you want because what you and I both know is this…there is no such thing as “government oversight.”
No matter how incompetent, no matter how corrupt, the machine of bureaus, departments and agencies keeps chugging along, getting away with stuff that would have put you or me under the jail. Try to imagine what the IRS would say to you if in the middle of an audit you were to say, “Hey guys, you know those receipts for all of those business trips I took back in 2012 that you want? Funny thing happened when I went to find them on my computer. The darn thing just crashed, and poof, just like that, they are gone forever. Bizarre, right?” And yet, that’s exactly what the Director of the IRS said during sworn testimony. When incredulous Congressmen sputtered and screamed and questioned his credibility, they got this blank, contemptuous stare. There would be no apology. There would be no regret. There would only be smug, supremely confident arrogance.
The machine of government keeps running. It perpetuates itself. The mountains of new rules and regulations passed each and every year by Congress are its fuel. It will never run out. And it is the Lois Lerner’s and John Koskinen’s of this world who make it go.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Circle of Life?

Knowing what to say to someone who has just lost a loved one is almost as difficult as knowing how to reply. This fact makes a “viewing” at a funeral home probably the most awkward social setting known to man. After enduring two of these events in two years, here are a few thoughts.

First of all, I appreciate more than I can say every single person who takes the time to show up at these things. The fact that you make the effort to attend is in itself comforting, no matter what you say when you get there. Seeing old friends and family is a welcomed diversion from the sadness of loss.

Most people say the same thing, some version of the following:

“So sorry for your loss. He was a great man, and he’s in a better place.”

But, on several occasions people would say, “So glad that you have Kaitlin’s wedding to look forward to. It’s like the circle of life.

Uh…no. It isn’t.

My father didn’t live a circular life. He lived a linear life, like all human life is lived. He was born, grew into a man, and then died when his body stopped working. You want to hear about the circle of life? I’ll tell you about the circle of life.

The circle of life is what happens when a hungry lioness stalks a herd of wildebeests looking for the most vulnerable, preferably a disabled calf. At the precise moment of maximum efficiency, the lioness springs into action and plunges her powerful teeth into the jugular vein of her weaker prey. Fifteen minutes later her face is buried, jowl deep, into gimpy’s intestines. After eating every muscle, tissue, and internal organ, our lioness takes a giant dump somewhere on the plains of the Serengeti. A couple of days later, her bowel movement is covered by dung beetles and maggots who after their feast get devoured by some larger predator who eventually gets blindsided by another hungry lioness.

That’s the circle of life. To compare the nobility of the life and death of a human being to the law of the jungle represents either the Disney-fication of our culture at best, or the devaluing of the human experience at worst.

But Doug, but Doug, human beings are part of the animal kingdom and just another member of the ecosystem. We’re no better or worse than other animals.

Well then, by all means please introduce me to the Shakespeare of the great wildebeest civilization. I’m anxious to hear the dolphin communities’ version of Johann Sebastian Bach. Please show me the great architecture of the elephants. Whence the Rembrandt of the cockroach community?

No one is a greater lover of dogs than this writer. My great Golden Retriever, Molly, was like a member of my family and equally loved and adored. But there is one enormous difference between my dog and my daughter. Kaitlin has a soul because she was created in the image of God. Molly does not and was created in the image of….a dog.

So when I hear the term circle of life thrown around carelessly, it bothers me. Anything that elevates the animal kingdom to moral equality with human beings is a dangerous idea that left unchallenged will have the effect of degrading the nobility and uniqueness of human life, making us as expendable as that limping wildebeest calf. When I see those old photographs of ditches full of naked Jewish bodies from the Nazi labor camps, I see how the German people were reduced to a view of life that made no distinction between Jewish life and that of the cockroach. When a news story pops up about newborn babies being found in dumpsters still alive, it worries me that we are just as capable of such a fall from grace.

No, my Dad’s death was not part of the circle of life. It was the physical end to a noble life, well-lived.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Dad's Eulogy

I must here confess that I am done with grief. I rose in this very spot almost exactly two years ago to talk about my Mother. Since then it has been my privilege to care for my Dad. It has been a long goodbye, full of tender memories but also some disappointment and heartbreak. But now it’s over, and I’m done with grief.

So, today, I prefer to share some happier observations about my Father that hopefully will give us all a better appreciation for who he was.

Psalms 32:2 says this, “Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” My father was such a man.

 Dad was a man free from calculation. You never felt like he was ever using you as part of some grand strategy to accomplish some hidden agenda. How amazing must it have been to live a life without the misery of manipulation? To him, everyone he met was someone created in the image of God, and therefore worthy of love and respect. This explains why so many people when describing Dad use the word “gentle.” As a kid, it helped to have such an uncomplicated man as a father.

But Dad was not a modern parent in any real sense, in that he was incapable of coddling. When we kids did something stupid, (and for some of us this was quite often), he let us know about it in no uncertain terms. Dad was appallingly disinterested in the level of our “self esteem.”  He figured that our self esteem would improve once we learned to do something well, or better yet, when we learned to do something well for someone else. You’ve heard of “helicopter parents?” Well, our Dad was more like a submarine parent. When he showed up we knew we were in big trouble because he always brought the torpedoes with him. He told me one time that if I wanted self esteem I should do something “estimable.”  Until then, if I felt bad about myself it was because I was a knucklehead and I SHOULD feel bad about myself.  But, because he never lied to us about how great we were, we learned that we could believe him. Our Dad could be depended upon to tell us the truth.

Although no one worked harder than Dad, he never had any money. The reason was that money never had him. Dad never bought in to the concept of being a consumer. He was much more into manufacturing. Anything “store-bought” was inferior so he was famous for making things himself. From putting in a huge garden every year to building things out of wood, to constructing window fans from scratch…I’m not kidding, we called her Bertha, the window fan of death. Dad consistently rejected consumerism all of his life.

Growing up as Preacher’s kids, we were all very sensitive to what Dad would say from the pulpit. It didn’t take us long to figure out how the church business worked. We kids knew who the big shots were and we were very aware of the kinds of touchy subjects that might get Dad in trouble. We kids would look in the bulletin; see that the sermon was from Malachi, and roll ours eyes at each other. This is why we all spent half of our time visibly wincing in church listening to Dad preach. Even though I knew that certain subjects were guaranteed to get him in trouble, I was always secretly proud of him for bringing them up. Dad believed that the job of a Minister of the Gospel was to bring great comfort to the afflicted and great affliction to the comfortable. He was the kind of preacher who you don’t run across very often anymore…totally and completely fearless. If you were waiting for an apology from him for exposing hypocrisy in the congregation, you were in for a long wait.

My brother-in-law, Bill Schwartz, reminded me yesterday about something Dad said to him that is a perfect illustration of Dad’s character. Several years back Bill bought a bright red van. Dad confided to Bill that he had always wanted to buy a bright red car. When Bill asked why he never did Dad said, “Well, it just wouldn’t be appropriate for a minister to be driving a red car, especially as part of a funeral procession. It would attract too much attention and no preacher should attract too much attention to himself.” This was no false humility, this was just who Dad was, a servant, not a headliner. But Dad, since I am not burdened with humility, false or otherwise, my bright red Cadillac will be leading the procession to the cemetery a little later…so get over it.

My father was not a perfect man. I didn’t always understand him, and he often didn’t understand me. He frustrated me at times, and I’m sure that I frustrated him most of the time. But despite his flaws, he remains the most gentle, loving, caring man I have ever known. He was the one truly great man of my life. He set the bar so very high for all of us who have followed, and for this reason, I will forever be in his debt.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Emmett Dunnevant 1924-2014

At 3:30 in the afternoon of June the 16th, my Dad passed away sitting in his wheelchair in the hall outside his room at the Westport Nursing Home. He had just spoken to a couple of the nurses and then he was gone. The last two times I had seen him, he had been asleep, the last time, exactly four hours before his death, when I had dropped in to check on him after a thirty minute meeting with the bookkeeper at Westport trying to figure out the complexities of the first ridiculous bill I had just gotten from them. I hesitated at the elevator entrance for a moment. I was running late for an appointment. At the last minute I decided just to swing by his room. It’s always the small decisions we make that seem large when the histories are written.

I found him in his wheelchair in the hall outside of his room. He was asleep and wouldn’t wake for me. Someone had just combed his hair. The nurse told me that he was having a sleepy day. I kissed him on his forehead and told him that I would be back at 7:30 to tuck him in. As I walked back to the elevator the familiar anger welled up in me and I pleaded once again with God to take him, for the thousandth time, to take him.

Linda called me at 4:30 with the news. I raced over and found her alone with him. His face was the color of egg shells. I reminded myself that this was what we had all been praying for, that he had finally escaped this half life, and his mind was finally clear again, that he was finally with Mom. Still, it all seemed so abrupt, so devastatingly final. For the first time in my life, I felt like an orphan.

There is no time for grief. Today plans must be made; the funeral home, the cemetery, and the bank all have to be dealt with. Then the viewing has to be arranged and the service planned. The business of death is a relentless and tawdry thing, but must be endured. Over the next few days we will take comfort in the outpouring of love from a thousand friends, taking full advantage of membership in a church that knows how to care for the bereaved.

Once it is all over, there will be a hole in me. The one great man of my life will be gone. For the past two years his care has occupied no small part of my life. My two sisters and my older brother have done everything humanly possible since Mom died to make him comfortable. We have done this not out of obligation or guilt, but because he deserved our finest effort. Because we have done our best, we have no regrets. Our father died knowing that he was adored by his children, loved and respected by all who knew him.

No regrets.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Dead Broke?

The next President of the United States isn’t having a very good week.

First there was her declaration of family insolvency that turned out upon further review to be less than accurate. Most Americans wouldn’t describe an income of over 12 million dollars for the year in question as “dead broke.” My gut tells me that there are roughly 50 million truly dead broke Americans who might take issue with Mrs. Clinton’s tale of woe about how tough it was to scare up enough money to purchase “houses” (plural) after leaving office. Luckily for her, our current governor was there to make it rain at the banks. No down payment, no problem. We’ve got a special low rate deal only for ex-presidents!

Of course, this is actually an American success story. The Clinton’s are the poster couple for the American Dream. Back in the day, Hillary managed to turn $1000 into $100,000 practically overnight by investing in that most ruthlessly capitalistic enterprise known to mankind….the cattle futures market. Now, perhaps the most hopelessly dull public speaker of our generation gets paid $200,000 to stand up in front of a room of people and talk for thirty minutes. Her husband, most definitely not the most hopelessly dull speaker of our generation commands $500,000 for his speeches (Hillary is always battling that glass ceiling thing). Along the way, Mrs. Clinton found time to write a book for which she was handsomely compensated without having to acknowledge the existence of her ghost writer. Now, she has released another best seller about her time as Secretary of State for which she cashed a 14 million dollar advance. Is America a great country, or what?

Then there was her testy exchange with what should have been the most sympathetic interviewer imaginable…a female reporter from NPR. The reporter asked a question about her “evolving” views on gay marriage and quite timidly suggested that perhaps Mrs. Clinton had made political calculations on the issue. Hillary was having none of it. In the current mad rush to rewrite the history of human sexuality on this subject, politicians on the left have turned themselves into pretzels trying to justify an almost unanimously held opinion from a mere 30 years ago, ie…that marriage was between one man and one woman. For Progressives, it has been a race to prove their bonafides. “I knew a gay person once back in 1972 and we were best friends!” “Well, that’s nothing; I once went to a Liberace concert!!”  Listening to Hillary lecture her interviewer brought back memories of my Government class in high school. “Today, we will discuss how a bill becomes a law.” It was tedious and totally untrue since at no time during the lecture did the word “money” come up. Same thing with Hillary’s interview, at no time did she say, “Are you kidding me? In 1993 gay marriage was the punch line of a joke, not a serious policy consideration. You’re busting my chops on this now? Me, the next President of the United States?”

Still, she will recover. She’s inevitable. It’s been in all the papers.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


You finish your dinner and watch a little TV with your wife. Then you get in the car and drive over to the nursing home to spend thirty minutes with your Dad. It’s only ten minutes from your house and in a situation that has rendered you powerless; it’s the one thing that you can actually do. Two months ago it was an agonizing ordeal. But over time it has become routine. You don’t smell the urine anymore. You don’t become nauseous upon encountering an accident cleanup crew in action. All you care about now is seeing your Dad for a while before he goes to bed. All of the nurses know you now and that helps. Most of them are angels.

When you first put your Dad in this place, deep in your heart you thought that he wasn’t like the rest of the patients. He was just too weak to care for adequately at home, that’s all. He wasn’t at all like everyone else there, all of whom seemed to fall into one of four categories.

The Chanters. These are the lost souls who sit for hours repeating the same words over and over.

The Screamers. These are the tortured ones who sit silently for long periods of time but then randomly begin screaming their discontent.

The Mumblers. These are largely sweet hearted folks who are constantly carrying on animated conversations with themselves or sometimes pieces of furniture or an occasional potted plant.

The Announcers. These folks sometime scare you to death with the abrupt nature of their pronouncements. Out of nowhere one of them will announce with great seriousness and energy, “When in the Sam Hill is somebody going to ring the bell for the dogs tonight?”

When your Dad first arrives it becomes your silent mission to protect him from these people. They all seem so terribly troubled and you don’t want your father to be negatively affected.

One Tuesday night you arrive at the usual time but can’t find your Dad. You talk to the head nurse and she informs you that he is in the “diversion room” a place so named by someone clearly unaware of the power of language. You hear “diversion room” and immediately ask, “Wait, what the heck is a diversion room? What is he being diverted from?”

“Oh no, that’s just a room where we take them to do activities and eat lunch and what not,” she explains.

“Then, why not call it the “activity room” for God’s sakes?!” She looks at you like you’ve got two heads.

You find your Dad sitting at a large round table in a room filled with 20 or so patients and four pink-shirted nurses’ aids. There is a huge flat screen TV hanging from the ceiling showing a DVD about Niagara Falls. You sit next to your Dad, and on this night he doesn’t ask you to immediately take him back to his room. He’s actually watching the movie. So you sit with him taking in the sights. There are two Chanters across the way, one constantly repeating the words, “thank you,” the other oddly stuck on the number “182.” You notice that your Dad is one of only three men in the room. One of the other men is a Mumbler. Luckily, the Screamers are silent.

Suddenly, a lady sitting at your table stands up and demands to be taken back to her room. The aid quickly sits her down and reminds her that the movie will be over in 15 minutes. However, this demonstration serves as a catalyst for all of the nascent Screamers in the room who proceed to chime in with full-throated hysteria. Above the roar, you hear a deeper voice, the voice of a man, clear and commanding, “Is everybody here? If we aren’t all here we’re going to miss the bus and then where will we be? The room becomes still. You hear only his voice. Your Dad is an Announcer.

In a season of disappointment, this is a particularly painful revelation. It occurs to you as you pour his juice later that night that he really does belong here. You listen to him tell of his plans to drive the van into town tomorrow. But first he has to go put some gas in it, since there’s no gas in the two gas cans in the carport.

“Why do you need to go into town Dad?” You ask.

“Betty needs to sign up for that class in New Orleans.”

It’s the first time you have heard him say your Mother’s name in months. It makes you smile. You run a comb through his hair trying to correct the damage done by whomever it is that gets him up in the morning. They always part in on the wrong side, making him look like Adolph Hitler, had he lived to be 89. You assure him that you won’t forget to gas up the van before you come on Wednesday. He smiles at you and thanks you for coming.

You’ll never hear about the class in New Orleans again, because it’s not really your Dad who is doing the talking in any real sense. You’ll come back Wednesday and it will be something else. Against the ebbing tide of his sanity, you are powerless. There is only one thing that you can do. You can make sure that every night before he goes to sleep he sees his youngest, most rebellious child sitting at his bedside.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Nerve of Those Pesky Voters!!

Eric Cantor lost in the Republican Party primary election yesterday to a political novice named Dave Brat, a college professor backed by the Tea Party. To hear the chattering classes tell it, this outcome is akin to the arrival of the four horses of the apocalypse. Bold headlines with words like shocking, seismic, and breathtaking are everywhere. Cantor himself in the moments before his concession speech had that deer in the headlights look as if he was shocked at the nerve required of the voters to deny him his eighth term in office. For his part, Brat looked just as shocked, as if he couldn’t believe their nerve either for electing an economics professor with no political experience. What to think?

For the record, and I know that this will infuriate some of you, I did not vote yesterday. My reason is a simple and pragmatic one, I am not a Republican. This was, after all, a Republican Party primary, and for the same reason that I wouldn’t vote in a Democratic Party primary, I didn’t vote in this one. I feel that only Republican voters should get to decide who their nominee will be. I’m aware that the election was open to any registered voter, but this was a party squabble, and I considered it none of my business.

Now, about the outcome, a few thoughts… I have voted for Mr. Cantor on a few occasions during his 16 year run as Congressman, but it’s been a while. But the longer he has served, the more entitled he has become. This is often the case with politicians of all parties. They may start out with noble intentions, but once they begin to enjoy the benefits of membership in the elite ruling class, they become something else entirely. I am encouraged with the results of this election for the following reasons, none of which have anything to do with Dave Brat.

  1. If the result of this election puts the fear of God into entrenched incumbents of both parties, this will be an incredibly beneficial thing for the country. If politicians actually believed that all of them were truly accountable to their constituents, this will serve as a restraint against their more mendacious tendencies.
  2. Anyone who claims to desire a Congress that is more reflective of the will of the voters must cheer any dilution of the power of incumbency.
  3. Most of the political talking heads I have surveyed this morning all agree that Eric Cantor’s defeat will make any new legislation for the next two years virtually impossible, so spooked will everyone be that a false vote might come back to haunt them come election day. I submit that this is perhaps the happiest result of all. I can’t think of anything this nation needs more than a two year vacation from Congress passing laws!
  4. There is something delicious about imagining the horror that must have been coursing through the veins of every career political in DC when the results were announced last night. The prospect, once thought impossible, that their lifetime of privilege and entitlement, their permanently safe seats, their status as the country’s elite might actually be threatened by, er, uh…mere voters, must have been terrifying. The possibility that they might actually one day be forced to find gainful employment somewhere besides the public teat, just might clear the cobwebs. It is a good thing for the Republic to be reminded occasionally that public office is NOT and has never been a divine right, that the phrase, “We the People” actually means something.

No one should shed any tears for our retiring Congressman. He leaves office with an insanely generous pension and will land a seven-figure job with some beltway lobbying firm before Labor Day.