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Friday, July 28, 2006

Right As the Mail

A few little things, which are really, when you think about it, the big things, in that they linger in our memories long after the social events and Important Meetings and sermons have faded:

I let the older boys wash my truck last weekend. They like washing my vehicles. Please don't tell them that this is actually work. I set about mowing the yard on the other side of the house, pleased with myself for getting labor out of a four and six year-old on a Saturday, when so many other fathers suffer the daily affliction -- well-deserved, mind you -- of teenagers slouched on couches, letting their brains dribble out of their ears as they play with videogames.

After some time, however, I noticed whenever my mowing path brought me to the front of the house that I could see no activity. Where were those boys?

Finally, I turned off the mower and walked over to the truck. Now that it was quieter, I could hear two things: the hiss of the water hose, and giggling. As I got closer, I saw that they had rigged the hose so that it was spraying into the bed of my truck, on full blast. Then they popped up from the bed, like two little otters.

They had turned the bed of my pick-up into a swimming pool.

The older boy, Caleb, is so confident. I hope one day it serves him well. We were leaving the grocery store recently -- the Wal-Mart, and remind me to tell you bellyaching Wal-Mart-is-going-to-ruin-the-world upper-income types about the sweet old Mom-and-Pop grocer near my house when I was a kid, the ones who charged me five dollars for a gallon of milk because they knew we just had the one car and that my mother was at work, and that my baby brother needed milk, and how these are the people I think of when I hear about Wal-Mart driving small businesses into bankruptcy, which is why I always mutter "good" under my breath when I hear that, because Wal-Mart is like a tax cut for poor people, but all that is another story, and not the one I'm telling here.

Anyway, we had walked halfway down a packed aisle before I realized that our minivan was on another aisle. I directed our caravan that way, and as I did Caleb said: "Dad, somebody moved our minivan."

"No, buddy, I just led us down the wrong aisle."

"No Dad, I am true. This is our aisle. Somebody moved our minivan."

I am convinced that everything is my fault, yet my boy believes that every choice he makes is the right one. Now I just have to figure out how to teach him to make right choices, because little is more annoying than a man who makes disastrous choices while telling himself that he is as right as the mail.*

Or I could buy him an Xbox and ship him off to government school and pretend I'm not responsible when he emerges from childhood a nihilistic, cynical slacker. Not to put too fine a point on it.

I'm running in the mornings, which is an elaborate and sweaty means of finding time to listen to music. Sometimes a song will stick with me for days, and not in that Barry Manilow, "Mandy" kind of way, but in a good way, like a whispered secret from a friend, a happy secret, just for me. And in that spirit I thought I'd whisper a little of it to you:

Don't believe the lies
That they told to you
Not one word was true
You're alright
You're alright
You're alright

Maybe you didn't need to hear that. But in case you did, well, there you go.

* My friend Brett Hinkey and I had a running debate about whether Doc Holliday in "Tombstone," one of the finest movies ever made, by the way, and far better than Kevin Costner's ridiculous "Wyatt Earp," says "right as the milk" or "right as the mail." I was certain that it was the former, since Doc is clearly a libertarian, and could therefore never believe any government-provided service is efficient or effective, while my friend Brett insisted it was the latter, which of course he would do because he is a direct-mail genius and therefore thinks about all the private-enterprise components of the mail system that make up for the fact that its operational core is a government monopoly that has long since outlived its usefulness and justification. Brett and I would have been happy to let this dispute continue for years, because it essentially afforded us an additional reason to watch "Tombstone" from time to time, but then his lovely wife suggested we watch that scene with the sub-titles on, and this is when we learned that Brett was right, and the phrase Doc utters is, in fact, "right as the mail." It is, therefore, in Brett's honor that I use that phrase, and include this footnote, which has now quite possibly grown to be as long as the entire bloody post preceding it.

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