Happy Thanksgiving, you guys. Today I'm thankful for you. You keep coming back. You keep supporting my writing habit. I really appreciate that. I'm off for my first Bloody Mary whilst preparing today's meal. I invite you, today, to be thankful for... something. Love you guys.
Planned Parenthood, and a History of Dumbasses
If flying by the seat of my pants is what made me moderately successful on a moderately successful television series, then how I lived my life to that point had certainly prepared me for what I was asked to do on a weekly basis. Namely, make it up as you go along. While I admire people who have long-range goals, and can see the arc of their life and plan accordingly, I am not one of them. I have issues planning weekly meals at my house. I never learned how to set goals or look ahead, and I have, quite frankly, lived longer than I thought I was going to. (Not that I have ever entertained thoughts of suicide, mind you. But being un-ambitious and reactive as I am, I kind of thought natural selection would have caught up to me by now.) I am the living embodiment of the great line delivered by Indiana Jones who, on being asked by his companion how he intended to steal the Ark of the Covenant from the Nazis said, “I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go.”
But I can point to one very specific moment in my life where I decided that I would – nay I must – plan ahead and set goals. When I learned I was going to become a father, something shifted. Suddenly, I was going to be, not only responsible for another human life, but also largely culpable for the kind of human being that she would become. I have always overcompensated for my lack of higher education by being a voracious reader on just about every subject there is, and parenthood was no different. My wife and I burned through every book by every author, covering every possible angle of pregnancy, infancy, toddler years, tweens, teens, young adults, adulthood, middle-agers, seniors and death. We had (we believed) an understanding of every stage of her life, from the moment she would shoot out of the birth canal like a hazel-eyed cannonball, until the moment she shuffled off her mortal coil. I planned. I prepared. I was ready.
“Everybody has a plan. Until they get hit.” That was, and remains, the only coherent thought that Mike Tyson ever uttered. It’s kind of how I feel about the experience of having my daughter come into the world. All that reading and planning and preparation, and within twenty-four hours of bringing our new infant daughter home, I took every single one of those here’s-what-you-need-to-know-about-having-a-baby books out back, piled them high, doused them with lighter fluid and set them ablaze. There is nothing – I repeat, nothing – that can adequately prepare you for being a new parent. The good news is that your only job for the first year or so is not to do anything that might kill the child. The better news is that babies are surprisingly hard to kill. I am awed and very thankful that my daughter survived her first few months with me as her father. In fact, her very first word was “Daddy.” She even pointed at me when she said it. But I believe what she was trying to say was “Dumbass.”
Our family has a history of dumbasses. One that immediately springs to mind is that of an uncle I had. Let’s call him George, because I’m not sure if he’s still alive, or if he even learned to read, but why take chances? My Aunt Lillian owned a ranch in Marble Falls, which is smack dab in the middle of the Texas Hill Country and is some damn pretty scenery. It’s also good deer hunting, and Aunt Lillian had a deer lease. Of course every year she gave preference to family, and I remember being at the ranch one year when my dad was on a hunt, and my Uncle George was with him. Now, I cannot verify the accuracy of this story, because the main players are dead or off of my grid. But the way my mom tells it, Dad and George had gone off early in the morning, and had split up to each take a deer stand. A couple of hours later my dad heard a shot ring out. He vacated his stand and headed in George’s direction, to find him standing proudly over a recently deceased deer. The problem, my dad saw right away, was that George had killed a doe (a deer. A female deer.) As Dad and George only had licenses to shoot bucks, this was a flagrant violation. And, as Aunt Lillian’s lease backed up to the Lower Colorado River and was frequently policed by the Game Warden, Dad was none too happy with George. “Dammit, George, you better throw that thing in the river. We can’t take a doe back to the ranch or we’ll get fined,” Dad said.
But Uncle George was unfazed. According to the story, he presented my dad with what he believed was an elegant solution. “No need to do that, “ he is reported to have said. “I’ll cut her head off and throw that in the river. We’ll take her back to camp, and if the Game Warden shows up he’ll never know it was a doe.”
Evidently there was a long pause in the dialogue, during which time I like to believe that my dad was desperately waiting for a punch line that never came. When it became clear that Uncle George was serious about this course of action, my father is reported to have said the following: “George… are you trying to tell me that if I cut off your head right now, threw it in the river, and dragged your dead ass back to camp, that when the cops showed up they wouldn’t be able to tell if you were a male or a female?”
I do not know how that story ended. I only know that it serves to prove my point that we have a decided lack of the common-sense gene in my family. Which brings me back to why I have a strong belief that what my daughter was really trying to say for her first word, as she was pointing at me, was “Dumbass.”