Father's Day Reflections

The newspaper featured one story of a UT athlete and his dad and another told of a relationship between a father and son that strengthened through the automobiles they first bought. US Open winner Rory McIlroy greeted his dad on the eighteenth green with a hug and a “happy Father’s Day.” My son Dallas traveled from Chattanooga to spend some time with me, and we shared breakfast with Amy at I-Hop, where tables and booths were filled with dads and their families. Father’s Day is a wonderful day for us guys, but it brings about some serious thoughts.

I also turned the paper to the obituary section. Listed there are dads who’ve passed in the last few days. For their survivors, future Sundays in June will bring about emptiness and sadness. It’s the same for all of us who’ve lost a dad. Ours died in 1965 when Jim and I were thirteen. For the last forty six years, I’ve thought about that man hundreds of time and wondered what might have been if he’d lived to be older than fifty three.

Also in the obituary section are pictures and messages to lost dads. Some families need to express their undying love in form of tributes. The fact is that no accolades can bring back dads who have passed. It’s also true that with each year the pain of loss ebbs just a bit until living without such important people is bearable. Even today, many of us think of our dads and tell them they’re missed and wished they’d been parts of the greatest things in our lives.

Father’s Day is much different from that special day that honors mothers. For one thing, moms deserve a much more serious and grand celebration. They are the glue that holds families together through the roughest of times. The big presents are showered on them, again rightly so. I’ve seen a mother’s job, first as my own mother and then my wife Amy and daughter Lacey performed a grocery list of duties and chores each and every day. I’ve never wanted to swap places. So, making Mother’s Day a bit more extravagant is fine with me.

Dads are happy spending their day home with family. A burger or hotdog on the grill is exquisite cuisine for us, and with just a little luck, we can find a good baseball game to watch until a Sunday afternoon nap swallows us. I put a coat of polish on Dallas’ car before he aimed the vehicle toward a Chattanooga landing. For supper I ate a couple of bologna and cheese sandwiches and washed them down with a refreshing drink. The less fuss made, the happier dads are.

My last thought on this Father’s Day is a reflection. I know what I did as a dad when my children were small. Many of those acts weren’t the best I might have chosen. I regret some things I did, felt, and said. Now I wonder what, if anything, I might do differently if given the chance to have a “do-over.” After much consideration, I admit to myself that I probably would change little. I did the best I could at the time. Because my children are blessed with a wonderful mother and are watched over by a loving God, they’ve turned out to be good, solid, lovable individuals of whom I am proud. They serve as undeniable proof that even my worst parenting didn’t keep them from turning out right.

I am thankful for Father’s Day. I’m also thankful that I’ve been allowed to be around to watch my children grow and become the good folks that they are today. I still miss my dad but thank God that I have memories of him from so many years ago. Today is a time for celebration, not only of dads but also of family. Dads, continue to do the best you can and always give thanks for your blessings.

Tennessee Political Morons

It’s been a while since I riled up friends and readers with something I’ve written. However, when I look at some of the work of the Tennessee legislature in its 2011 session, refraining from making comments on the absurdity of some of its bills becomes impossible.

The most embarrassing bill presented this past session came from Bo Watson, a Republican representing portions of Hamilton County. Bill 893, nicknamed the “anti-evolution” bill, would suggest “effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies.” Those topics include cloning, global warming, and yes, evolution. Watson might possibly have missed the news from Dayton, a nearby county, where the Scopes Monkey trial was held almost 100 years ago. That trial brought about the ground swell for the teaching of evolution even though fundamentalist tried to legislate the idea out of schools. Sen. Watson should get over it. Too many other problems in this world exist for him to be wasting the state’s time and money on an issue that was settled long ago.

Next came the most ridiculous bill, sponsored by another moron, Stacey Campfield. This individual is widely known for his propensity to bring to the floor absurd bills. This year’s version is unofficially known as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” which prohibits the teaching of homosexuality in the classroom. This publicity-seeking half wit doesn’t even know that homosexuality isn’t even taught in the grade school curriculum. Of course, this bill passed 5-4, and it brought national attention to Tennessee for all the wrong reasons. Hey, remember this nitwit is the same person who introduced legislation to replace taxes on food with taxes on pornography and requiring the state to issue death certificates for aborted fetuses. He is also the same person who was booted from a UT football game for allegedly being drunk and refusing to remove a Mexican mask from his face. He probably wore the thing to keep people from recognizing him and horse laughing him out of the stadium. Somehow, the people in his Knoxville district continue to send him to office where he makes a fool of himself and them as well.

The biggest faux pas of the year came when the legislature one-upped Wisconsin and killed teachers’ collective bargaining rights. Supposedly, teacher unions (TEA, NEA, etc.) were hurting students and the state’s educational system by representing teachers at the bargaining table. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In Knox County, the Knox County Education Association has been the recognized spokesman for teachers. Over the years, the organization has done little to help teachers. How could they have done otherwise? Teachers don’t have a right to strike, and without any kind of leverage to use, the KCEA told the school board what it wanted, the board said “no,” and KCEA said, “thank you so much.” That doesn’t sound like much of a threat to education.

The truth is that Tennessee ranks 46th in its spending per student and 41st in student achievement. However, local systems such as Knox County score much higher in achievement than the state. That doesn’t happen because of administrators or board members or union representatives. It’s a reality because teacher here do a tremendous job for some of the lowest pay of any system. Every time a raise for them is voted down, it shows how important education is to the people of Knoxville. Some of the state’s politicians want to run the schools, even if their ideas are archaic or harmful. It’s that old idea that “I know what to do about schools because I was a student.” Yeah, right!

In too many cases, we, the citizens of Tennessee, have elected clowns as our state’s leaders. They’ve shown their incompetence time and time again, but for some reason, we still ship them off to Nashville, where they waste time and resources with obnoxious legislative ideas that make our state and its people look like fools to the rest of the world. Hasn’t the time come for us to send them packing and to at least try to elect a senate and a house that care more about the state and its people than they care for party politics and self aggrandizing?

Curing a Nasty Cough

It’s that time of year when pollen coats furniture, cars, and anything that stands still outside for more than a minute or so. Especially in East Tennessee, folks barely survive spring as they snort, sniff, cough, and hack from allergic reactions.
Grandson Madden spent his birthday with a fever, snotty nose, and fatigue as Mother Nature sprinkled a variety of things in the air. When he has a cold, doctors won’t prescribe anything to ease the symptoms. Instead, they tell parents to just let the thing run its course. Now, remember that those physicians aren’t going to spend the next several nights sitting up with the sick child as he or she coughs and struggles to catch a breath through a stuffy nose.
When our children suffered from allergies and bad colds, doctors showed better sense. They were careful not to overprescribe medications, but they did have the good sense to offer their small patients, and their parents at the same time, some small relief. Decongestants helped, as did doses of Tylenol. The best medicine that MD’s gave quieted coughs so that children could sleep and allow their bodies to remain strong enough to fight off those colds and allergy symptoms. On those occasions when nose drainage or mucus in the lungs turned green, prescriptions became necessary. For what seemed an eternity, Lacey and Dallas took “bubblegum” flavored medicine. Amoxicillin came to the rescue and zapped illnesses in short order. We celebrated when the kids crossed to the other side of illness into recovery and good health.
Long ago in another world without fear of giving medicine to children, parents used things passed down from generations before, and they worked well. Never mind that today those remedies might be looked upon with frowns. For instance, when an ear ache that felt as if spikes were being driven in to our brains hit, our parents had us stand close to them. They’d take a long slow drag from a cigarette and then blow the smoke into our ear canal. A cotton ball plugged the opening, and within a couple of minutes, the pain subsided. Stopped up noses opened after application of a cool, damp wash cloths or a rubbing of Vick’s on our upper lips. For chest colds, a glob of mentholated goo was rubbed onto our bodies. Its strong smell was matched in disgust only by the way pajamas stuck when it touched the stuff.
The worst of all medicines came when uncontrolled coughing hit. On one occasion, I swallowed a two-fingered scoop of Vicks. It worked well for a while, but eventually, the hacking returned. Daddy would hear us and go to work making a magic elixir. He’d blend honey, horehound candy, a touch of lemon, and several ounces of whiskey. Soon, he’d be standing by our beds with the concoction and a spoon. Even though we protested, he made us take a hardy dose of stuff. We held it in our mouths as long as possible before swallowing and feeling the fires of hell travel down our throats. Within minutes, the coughing stopped, and we drifted off to sleep.
These days doctors, lawyers, and politicians would scream abuse if parents used such barbaric remedies. Children would do as we did: hide under our blankets to squelch coughs so that the cure wouldn’t be offered. The fact is that those things did work, and none of us seemed to suffer. Today’s physicians and parents could learn a thing or two from past generations. If they did, children would receive treatment for their misery, and everyone in the family would sleep better.