a beautiful lake sunset

It was the twilight of a beautiful late Spring day. The sun was setting, the sky golden and the water still as glass. From the deck of the seasonal home, the chairs the two men were sitting in were mere silhouettes in a painting that could be found in any New England Art Gallery. The woman leaned on the rails of the deck and watched the men for a few moments, decided that all was well and went inside. It looks like their ‘little talk’ is going well, she mused to herself. The chairs were placed in the water, several feet off of the shore just before it dropped off. Small waves gently lapped at their feet. The older man splashed his bare feet in the cool water. He stared at his pale legs, revealed by his rolled pant legs and laughed to himself.
“Can’t wait to get some sun on these legs. Been a long winter.”
The young man on his right nodded in agreement.
“Now where were we? Oh yes, respecting my daughter.” He paused and chewed on a unlit cigar and stared straight ahead.
“I had reservations about you. But my daughter asked me to give you a chance. She saw something in you. Me, I didn’t see it. But here’s the thing, son. It doesn’t matter if I see it. It’s up to me to support my daughter. So I just figured, and this is going to be blunt so I hope you’ll forgive me, but I figured she’d see what I saw eventually and dump you. With me so far?”
The younger man nodded in agreement.
“I taught my daughter, who you know means fucking everything to me, to not only insist on a man respecting her but to respect herself. Girls need to be tougher than boys and I raised her tough.” He paused to chew on his cigar, spitting a few scraps of wrapper. “And I told you when we met that you and I will get along just fine if you respect my little girl.”
The younger man on his right again nodded his head.
“Now, as a father that means that I have to stomach the idea of you sticking your tongue down her throat, and doing worse things than that, when my instincts are to wrap her in bubble wrap. To protect her from this world. Because my daughter will always, no matter how long I live, be my little girl. It’s a tough thing to let go of.”
He stopped to observe a mama duck and her ducklings paddle by them, unafraid of them despite their closeness.
“Then I saw the bruises on her arm.” He paused, clenching his fists until his knuckles were white. “She said you two were playing around, that I shouldn’t worry about it. But I knew she was lying to me. And that I cannot handle. So I pushed until she told me the truth. And you know what, I’m worried about it.”
He looked for the ducks. They had disappeared from sight on the twisted shoreline.
“I’m so worried in fact that I simply have to, I just can’t live with myself if I don’t, do something about it.” He leaned to his right, stared intently at the man and said, “You get that, right?”
The younger man frantically squirmed in his chair, rocking it back and forth.
The older man placed his unlit cigar on the wooden arm of his chair and stood up. He walked around and behind the other’s chair and made sure the ropes binding the hands together were secure. He went around to the front and checked the man’s bound feet to see they were secure as well.
He leaned in to the young man’s face, placed a 9mm against his temple and raised a finger to his own lips, shushing him. He then tore off the thick slab of duct tape that covered his mouth and stared into his eyes.
“Don’t speak. It’s waaaay too late for that. Just look at my eyes. This is the face of a father. A man that loves his child more than you will ever know. I tried to explain such a love to you but you didn’t get it. Maybe you thought I was joking.”
He walked to the rear of the young man’s chair.
“See, when I said ‘You and I would get along just fine’, that’s another way to say that ‘I won’t have to kill you’. But you hurt my daughter, and I really have no choice now, do I? After all, I am a man of my word.”
“Please don’t, please…I’ll do anything!” the young man pleaded.
The older man kicked the chair forward, plunging the young man face down into the water.
He sat in his chair, struck a wooden match and lit his cigar. He took a deep drag, marveled at what a beautiful night it really was. Despite the splashing sounds as the chair in the water rocked and thrashed frantically.
“How’d it go?”, his wife called from the deck.
“Good. Good talk” he loudly replied. “Be in in a minute.”

As soon as the bubbles stop, he grinned.

the agonizing bystander

The hardest thing for a parent to do is to sick back and watch their children struggle. For all of the struggles that my family as a whole has endured my children have emerged relatively unscathed.

As a young parent, I stayed awake at night hoping that my children would never struggle in school, with bullying, or addiction or any other gremlin that would rob them of their happiness. I have known so many kids, my peers, and even their children, who were promising and well-adjusted kids until they crossed paths with that one force that eventually led to them dropping out, giving up or worse. It is a subject that I am well versed in.

When I was in 5th grade I was given a double promotion because I was breezing through my curriculum. My mother resisted the idea, fearing that such a leap would put me with kids much older and larger than me. I liked the idea and I entered a new school, we called it Junior High where I’m from. I was immediately the target of every asshole in the school. I was called names, slammed into lockers and my books were constantly knocked to the floor.
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Within the first full year of 6th grade, my grades plummeted. I was called “stupid” so many times I started to believe it. My parents, God bless them, didn’t pick up on the signs and I didn’t mention it. They were too busy focusing on the trainwreck that was my sister, who we had just adopted at 7, and all of the drama she could provide that the Nuns didn’t prepare us for. Long story short, my interest in school faded and I was a C student until it was too late to make a difference that any college would care about. Fortunately, I was a decent artist and got into college by means of my portfolio.

My oldest 3 children had a few scraps on the playground but nothing life-altering. They were taught that if hit, to hit back. They did and bullying was not an issue. Academically, they were solid and to my knowledge never had a taste for alcohol or drugs. My youngest, however, had to deal with some mean girls at an early age.

She began to come home from 3rd grade crying. Some of her classmates called her “the poor kid” and made fun of her clothes. One even went so far as to say “your father must not have a job”. I was particularly incensed at that one considering that I spent a lot of money I didn’t have so that she wouldn’t get a shitty crack like that.
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So we went the diplomatic route. We met with the teacher who could offer no help except to say that she knew it was happening but not in front of her. We knew the parents, all were wealthy high-profile families in town. Not particularly concerned about our own popularity my wife and I went to the Principal and asked for a meeting with them. It was granted and we all got in a room together, at which time all parents denied that their sweet little cupcakes would ever do such a thing. So I stood up and said:

“OK, I’ll make it easy for all the fathers in this room. If my fucking daughter comes home in tears one more fucking time I’m coming to your house. And then you’re going to cry”.

We were asked to leave. But it only took 2 school days to realize that it worked. Still, I will never forget the helpless feeling up to that point watching my little girl going through such a thing. It was heart-wrenching to see her cry because of heartless, cruel children. I was so very relieved that it never happened again.

I flashed back to those days last night. My little girl, now 16 has hada terrible patch of dry skin around her eyes. Red and swollen it really is concerning, She went to the Dermatologist yesterday and fortunately made a diagnosis and provided a treatment. But the caveat is no make-up. My daughter loves her make-up and to her knowledge, none of the kids in her new school have ever seen her without it. She told me she would have to go au natural for a week and her eyes, no joke, looked like a raccoon. With our shared hatred of the mean girls, I felt bad for her. Kids can still be cruel.

In addition, she was dealing with a mean teacher who refused to meet with her and explain why she had rejected a thesis topic, leaving her in a frustrated panic last night. That was something I could help her with. I told her to stand up for herself to the teacher and explain that she needs an alternative idea or an explanation otherwise she would go to the Dean of Academic Affairs. She kept refusing to do it until I finally convinced her to face her fears (she was afraid of this nasty teacher) or she would fail the assignment.

This may not all sound like much but I was on the phone with her for 2 hours last night and she went to bed very upset. I didn’t sleep well. I wanted to snap my fingers and make her rash go away, I wanted to storm into her classroom on a white horse and vanquish her enemy but I couldn’t.

She texted me at 3 to tell me that her face had almost cleared up overnight with just one dose of medication and that she gave her teacher the riot act and she now has a new topic and an extension. It worked out. I’m proud of her.

The world can have all the fun it wants with me. Just don’t fuck with my kids.