July 4th Reality Show Showdown

Image result for trump at july 4th speech photosAnother July 4th celebration has come and gone, but this last one was much different from those in the past. For the first time in our history, the nation’s birthday was used as a centerpiece for praising militarism. Don’t get me wrong; I proudly support our armed forces, troops, and veterans. However, other days are on the annual calendar for celebrating those things. What happened on July 4, 2019 was that a reality show showdown took place. In one corner was the president; in the other was A Capitol Fourth Celebration. So many differences between the two were apparent.  
The crowds were both large and hearty. The president’s turnout was tempered by downpours of rain and thunderstorms. Spectators were covered with ponchos and umbrellas, and many headed for the exits. Later in the evening, the other crowd dealt with a few showers, but nothing like the deluge from just a couple of hours earlier. The Lincoln Memorial crowd was wowed by all sorts of war planes, along with road-crushing tanks and other armored vehicles. The president read off the prompter an elementary, historical tale of our country, complete with some gaffes that still have folks shaking their heads. Capitol crowds were entertained by the Muppets, who have for 50 years taught children to count, read, love, and accept. Additionally, well-known entertainers, as well as new talents, sang, danced, and talked about our great country and the many reasons that we have to be hopeful for the future.   
a capitol fourth
What many are confused about is the reasoning for having a new type of gathering for July 4th. For years, A Capitol Fourth has thrilled crowds and swelled their souls with pride and thankfulness. The new event displayed the mighty show of force at the disposal of the country, but rolling out such equipment made the thing look more like something we watched the old Soviet Union do on a regular basis. Was such an extravaganza worth the millions of extra dollars it took to put the thing on?  
All loved the fireworks, at least until the overkill ruined them. The mixture of storms, clouds, and too many explosions obliterated the view of the finale. Just like in so many instances, we seem to screw up a good idea by trying to “one-up” a similar type of thing.  
Still, the 4th is a day to celebrate liberty. Americans no longer found themselves subject to the whims of a dictator. Over the years, folks in this country have been able to express their beliefs and to disagree. However, in times of distress, they put those differences aside and stood united in defense of this country. Whether you were a weapons fan or a Muppet fan, I hope you enjoyed the latest celebration of this country’s independence. I pray that we will continue to enjoy those gifts that the founding fathers gave us, and I hope that we will be able to join as one should any person or country ever try to take away those liberties which we love and celebrate every year on July 4th.   

Porch Music

Nothing is much better for us older folks than to occasionally discover new ways to enjoy things that were once so much a part of our younger lives. That happened just the other weekend, and it’s thanks to my nephew Brandon that things worked out as they did.  
Years ago, our family always enjoyed having older brother Dallas and his wife come home for a visit. We also looked forward to traveling to Nashville to spend a weekend at their house. Dal had been the father figure in our lives from the day that Daddy died in 1965. That must have been a heavy burden for a boy of 18 to carry so early and for so long.  
In Knoxville, all of us settled in around the large round table in the kitchen. We drank coffee, beer, and cokes by the gallons, and snacks and meals filled the table. When Mother was still here, she always put on a giant pot of pinto beans and made a cast iron skillet of cornbread. Dal and Brenda usually arrived in Knoxville late on Friday; meals were served way past supper time, but no one minded.  
Sometimes, Jim, Dal, and I would climb in the car and travel to Clinton Highway. We’d drop in at the Krystal and by a couple of dozen hamburgers and several orders of fries. At home, we spread everything on the table and dove in. Nothing was ever left. 
In Nashville, we’d order food in, cook hamburgers, or go out for a meal. Usually, Dal had a new place that he wanted us to visit so that we could listen the to the musicians who performed. For such a quiet, shy person, he made friends with so many local performers, and he supported them with his presence as often as possible.  
The center pieces of all our gatherings were large tables and music. Many times, we sat together until late in the night on a screened porch. A variety of conversations on all sorts of topics took place. Also included were jokes, many of them slightly off-color or offensive in the view of others. That made no difference to us; we just wanted to spend time together and enjoy each other’s company.  
Behind it all were the steady rhythms of music playing. Dal loved all genres and had stacks of vinyl records and cassette tapes. He introduced us to the latest country artists and popular folks like Jimmy Buffett or Dan Fogelberg. Even after the rest of us dragged our weary bodies to bed, big brother would continue to listen to that music. 
Brandon contacted Jim, my son Dallas, and me about coming to his house. He stated that the evening would include drinking beer, talking, listening to music. We jumped at the chance to do just that. When we arrived, Brandon ushered us to his covered deck outside. He’d bought plenty of food as well, and we sat down to eat with music playing loud enough for the neighborhood to also enjoy.  We listened, joked, laughed, and talked the evening away.  
The get together at Brandon’s house was the first time Jim and I and our sons had been together at some place other than a ball field. It was a memorable time. I discovered that my son Dallas and Brandon have many things in common. I learned that my nephew is a funny guy who can keep a group laughing for hours. I also saw that Brandon is as much a music lover as my older brother was. He literally has thousands of songs, although his are housed in a cellphone library.  
I can never express to the three just how special the evening was. Brandon said he thought about Uncle Dal and how much he enjoyed that kind of time with family. I’m pretty sure that my brother’s spirit was right there among us and approved of renewing a tradition that was so important to us. It’s nice to include the next generation.  

New Names

It’s for sure that I’m too old to deal with high school students. Nothing could make me go back to work a five-day week teaching them; about all I can take is three days so substituting. By the end of the third day, I’m exhausted and my patience has long been tried to the point of insanity.  
Just the other day, my temper was tested. The class had begun, and things were going along well. Students had their assignments and were working. One boy moved, and when I asked where he was going, the class told me that they were allowed to work in pairs. I said “okay,” but added that the first bit of goofing off or the first time I saw a phone out that I would send the boy back to his original seat. 
All worked well…for about fifteen minutes. Then I looked around the room to discover this same student had his head ducked and his eyes intently looking at something. Yes, he had his phone out. He also had the hood of his jacket up to conceal the headphone he was wearing.  
I quietly walked to his table and called his attention. He looked up and I instructed him to return to his original seat. That’s when he exploded. In answer to his question “why,” I reminded him of the conditions for his sitting with his friend.  
Let’s just say the child didn’t take kindly to my moving him. He began to mumble under his breath, and when I asked him what he said, the boy mumbled louder a string of profanities. Jumbled in there some place was his announcing that I was a “punk-*** n****r.” In all my 60+ years, no one has ever used those words to describe me. To say an old white man with thinning gray hair was shocked is to understate the situation.  
He next called me a “bitch,” another term that I found curiously used since the term refers to a female dog. I did understand the intent of the slur, looked at him, and answered, “but I’m not your bitch.” Then I instructed him to go to the office. To his credit, the boy did so and was sitting there when I called to check.  
Within five minutes, a girl walks to the desk. She asks to leave class. When I ask what the reason was, she said she wanted to go let in a friend of hers who was locked outside the building. I sat stunned for a couple of seconds. Too many times this year we’ve already heard of violence and carnage in public schools, and this girl wants me to dismiss her to let someone in locked doors. The look on my face must have answered her question, but I told her there is no way a person can release a student so that she can open a locked door for anyone. I added that the person would need to get into the building the regular way…through the front door.  
See why I no longer am able to work as a teacher?  During those earlier years, I’d have gone ballistic on the boy who cursed me. I would have personally escorted him to the office to make sure he arrived. No student would have opened a door for another individual because students didn’t leave during class time.  
I’m a relic who just doesn’t fit. However, this subbing job has opened my eyes to the differences in public education, and I don’t much like them. Additionally, my job has given me the opportunity to be learn new names for myself.  

Father's Day Thoughts

Yesterday was Father’s Day. I spent some time with son Dallas and talked on the phone with daughter Lacey and Josh Fritts, a former student whom my family claimed as one of our own when he was a junior in high school, thirty years ago. Most of the day, Amy and I enjoyed being together at home. I never take this special day for granted. 
When I was a boy, my dad didn’t have much time for Father’s Day. His shift work at the mill sometimes caused him to be absent on the Sunday when he was to be celebrated. We attended church when he was home, and I remember the one hymn that we always sang was “This Is My Father’s World.” We presented Daddy with things we’d made at Sunday School, and Mother always gave him some small gift. That seemed to be fine with the man because he never wanted any special treatment or gifts.  
The last Father’s Day with my dad was in 1965. He was in the last stages of lung cancer, and it’s possible that he spent the day in the hospital. He passed the last day of August that same year. Jim and I were 13.  
For years, the day honoring dads was gloomy at our house. We always remembered Daddy and agonized over his absences. On some days, I felt sorry for myself and whined about not having a dad like most of my friends. My attitude wasn’t admirable, but it was honest.  
I adopted a dad when I married Amy. Her stepdad, Vaden Netherton, and I became good friends, and I always enjoyed spending time with him. He loved our two children and spoiled them rotten. Vaden was also one of the best persons whom I had ever met. I only heard him speak ill of another individual one time. I enjoyed spending those special days with him and being able to give him presents that for so long I hadn’t been able to give to a father figure. The same kind of cancer that took Daddy stole him from us, and I grieved as much when he died as I did when Daddy died.  
One of my biggest blessings in life has been being a dad. I can recall most every moment of the days Lacey and Dallas were born, and the memories of my first looks at both of them still make me smile. My two children have always made my life fuller, and they’ve been quick to keep me in line when I’ve roared too loudly or fussed too much. Their mother’s guidance led them to being the kind of individuals whom others respect. I have always have been proud of “three” children, including Josh, and brag about them to anyone who will listen.  
Father’s Day is special for us men. Sure, we always appreciate the attention and gifts and meals that come with it. However, we know that it is we who should hold celebrations for the children in our lives and for the women who have brought them to us. Thank you for making my life better than it ever could have been without you, Lacey, Dallas, Josh, and ...Amy. I love you all.