Saturday, June 02, 2018

Things I Have Learned: It Isn't Always Someone Else

On August 16, 2016, my older daughter checked into a heroin detox center. I hadn't known exactly what was wrong, but anyone who had seen her during her four or five year deterioration knew that something was bad wrong, and it had taken a very ugly turn over the six months before that day almost two years ago.
She spent her time in that detox unit, then moved to a half-way house here in Memphis. Shortly afterward, she was thrown out for breaking the rules.
That began a succession of relapses, detoxes, half-way houses, and repeatedly getting thrown out of the various places that continues, off and on, to this day.
She has been involved for several years with a man who has multiple drug arrests, and multiple domestic violence arrests. She refuses to deal with that situation honestly, just as she does her addiction issue.
She has been in a facility in Jackson or the last few weeks. I don't know why Jackson. People in the family have been convinced, yet again, that she had changed her direction and found a better way to get through life.
I learned today that she is no longer at that facility. She has been gone for a week. They don't know anything about where she is. Neither does anyone in my family, or her mother's family.
Shannon's son and my younger daughter are what every parent hopes for: both college graduates, both gainfully employed, both in solid, strong relationships that nourish their souls.
My older daughter is living every parent's nightmare. Unless it has happened to someone you love, you cannot imagine what this thing is. I want her to get well. I want her to care for herself. I want her to have a life. I want her to be the mother that she has never been to her little girl, my granddaughter. 
I want her to be alive. The only thing that she has said to me in the last 10 years that I know to be factually true is that "I'm over 18, and you can't make me" anything. I can't fix this for her. We can't fix this for her.
Unfortunately, when a person is in this circumstance, it doesn't matter what anyone else wants. Until my daughter wants those things, none of them are going to happen.
I can only hope that she wants them before she can't want them any more.
We are as well as we can be. Having lived with this for what seems like an eternity, we've moved through all of the stuff you go through. I have learned that it is not my fault. The accomplishments of the other two kids make a pretty strong argument that we haven't been complete disasters as parents (and when I say "we," I, of course, mean "I.") I have learned, the hard way, that if I let it, it will kill me. I have decided to not let it. 
We are taking care of our granddaughter. We expect that at some point fairly soon, she will, legally, become our daughter. We are committed to her and her well-being. She continues to deal remarkably well with the circumstances. She has seen her father (who also has multiple drug arrests) twice that she remembers, both times at the Christmas when she was 4, when her mother took her to see him as they visited family in the town where he then lived. She has spent very little time with her mother since...well, since she was born. But my family and the ex-wife's family have combined to see that she feels secure, loved, and knows her place among us and in the world.
I'm not really sure why I'm writing this. I don't have any particular interest in any sympathy. I don't mean that to be ugly. I am grateful for the friends I have in this world. But an awful lot of people are dealing with this same thing, or other things that are just as painful to them. I suppose that it helps just to say some of this out loud. I'm not ashamed of it. I honestly don't think I did it. I'm not ashamed of her, for that matter. I am disappointed. I am angry. I am frustrated. That's being a daddy who has a sick kid. But I have too much to do in taking care of my granddaughter to sit and stew constantly over all of it any more.
I hope, I genuinely, sincerely hope, that you never have to go through this with one of your children. But if you think your family is immune, you should rethink how you see the world.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Pathetic State of the Memphis Grizzlies

Just so we're clear, sports is nothing but an enjoyable break from the misery of the real world right now.
That said, our beloved Grizzlies aren't much of an enjoyable break right now. The front office made the conscious decision to bring in a bright young coach in the summer before the 2016-2017 season. David Fizdale was fresh off the Miami Heat bench, having served as Eric Spoelstra's Associate Head Coach during the whole LeBron James/Championship era in Miami. Under Fizdale's leadership, we were going to become a modern NBA team. We would play fast. We would shoot threes.
To that end, the front office decided to let Zach Randolph and Tony Allen leave through free agency last summer. Those two men were the grit and the grind in the Grizzlies' grit and grind.
Prior to last season, in addition to the NBA maximum contracts given to Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies signed Chandler Parsons to a third max contract. Parsons was the three point shooter who would loosen up the middle with his marksmanship from the arc. Only he was broken into pieces, and never made any contribution last year whatsoever.
Now, Conley is out, again, with his Achilles tendon. He has missed major portions due to injury three of the last four seasons. Gasol is making 41% of his shots this year, and either cannot or will not rebound or defend. He is 33 years old, ancient in the NBA. He won't get better than he is right now.
And Sunday night, as Gasol had shot 6 of 17 with 5 rebounds through three quarters against the hapless Nets, already seven games into a losing streak, Fizdale sat Gasol for the fourth quarter.
Gasol pitched a fit after the game. He talked to every media member he could find. He said he wouldn't put up with being benched. He said that it was only done to hurt him and make him look bad. He is, in a word, delusional. He does not deserve to be playing right now. 
Oddly, he never mentioned his on-going poor performance.
But yesterday afternoon, the front office heard their prima donna's hurt feelings, got the message, followed his directions, and fired the offending, offensive coach.
Gasol has spent every minute since making sure everyone knows that he didn't demand Fizdale's firing. He didn't have to. After his post-game performance, it was clear he wanted a different coach. NOW! 
He got what he wanted. 
Mike Conley was here before Zach Randolph arrived. Marc Gasol was here before Zach Randolph arrived. The Grizzlies made the playoffs three times prior to Randolph's arrival.
But they were swept each time.
The Memphis Grizzlies never won even one playoff game until Zach Randolph came to Memphis, much less any playoff series. Now, with him gone, and Conley incapacitated, and Gasol more effective at running the front office than playing, they likely will not even make the playoffs again for many years to come.
Not much of an enjoyable break from the real world right now. None, after Tiger football ends with their bowl game in a few weeks.
Never said that before!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Abusing women is unacceptable. Do we really have to tell guys this? Al Franken version.

Al Franken became a hero of mine through his association with Saturday Night Live, at first with his old comedy partner, Tom Davis, and, later, on his own. I was thrilled when he became part of Air America, in the effort to counter the massive right-wing media (Fox News, Limbaugh, etc.) with a liberal presence. His friendship with Paul Wellstone solidified Franken's interest in politics, and my desire to support him. I couldn't have been happier when he was elected, and re-elected, and his service in the US Senate has been exemplary. I can't imagine any US Senator with whom I would be in more complete agreement on issues. I have been hoping that he would run for President in 2020. I fully intended to vote for him.
But today, Leeann Tweeden told her story.
She told her story, and shared a photograph from a 2006 USO tour. Al Franken is 66 years old now, which makes him 55 in 2006. No 55 year old man can possibly think that it is acceptable to pose for that photograph. Ms. Tweeden is clearly asleep in the photo. Franken does not appear to be touching her in the photograph, but his hands are positioned in places where a decent man would not and cannot position his hands. And her story goes well beyond a photograph.
Roy Moore should not be in the US Senate because of his behavior with girls and young women while he was in his 30s. Al Franken should not be in the US Senate because of his behavior with a young woman while he was in his mid-50s. Franken should resign, and should resign immediately.
This behavior is not acceptable. It cannot be made acceptable. It must, invariably, be made public, and the appropriate consequences must be borne by the perpetrators of this behavior. Harvey Weinstein lost his company. Kevin Spacey and Louis CK have lost their careers. Roy Moore should not get a Senate seat, and Al Franken should lose his.
And I would simply ask, again, why is Donald Trump, a constant and unrepentant sexual predator, still allowed to be in the White House?

Monday, October 02, 2017

Our American Hobby, Las Vegas Edition, October 2, 2017

At 8:15 am on Monday, October 2, 2017, CBS is reporting the numbers out of Las Vegas as "50+ killed, 400+ hurt." Another white man. American born. No significant police record. With multiple automatic weapons, of course. There is no other way to kill and wound that many people, short of explosives.
We have seen this happen in elementary schools. We have seen this happen in high schools. We have seen this happen in movie theaters. We have seen this happen in nightclubs. What we have not seen is anything change after any and all of these previous incidents.
Now? I doubt it. 
Except, possibly, for one thing. 
This was a country music festival.
This attack on country music fans carries with it somewhere between a possibility and a likelihood that many of the dead and wounded are members, or are closely related to members, of the National Rifle Association. 
This is the NRA's strongest demographic.
Will this be the moment that Americans realize that the NRA gives not one shit about human life? That the NRA has not bought and paid for members of the House or the Senate to guarantee anyone's freedom? That the only interest that this trade association has is selling more guns? And the bigger, stronger, more deadly, therefore more expensive, the better?
Profits are all that matter to the National Rifle Association.
They don't give a damn about children.
They don't give a damn about young adults.
They don't give a damn about people in a nightclub frequented by LGBTQ men and women.
They don't give a damn about christians at prayer in their church.
They don't give a damn about people gathered in a movie theater.
They don't give a damn about our military personnel on their bases.
And we are about to learn that they don't give a damn about people gathered at a country music festival.
Their own people.
Their own demographic.
Their own gun owners.
They don't give a damn about anyone or anything but profits from the sale of guns.
And now, I would guess, we won't even give a damn when the NRA's fraud is finally left exposed for all the world to see. Their only interest in gun owners is as marks to turn over more money to gun manufacturers. Their only interest in your freedom is in your freedom to die at the hands of a gun nut.
No one outside the military needs automatic weapons. No one outside the military needs these voluminous magazines that makes it possible to fire so many rounds that the smoke in a hotel room becomes so thick that it sets off the smoke alarms. That, by the way, is how the police figured out where this shooter was. 
He shot so many times that the fire alarms went off.
We have decided that it does not matter that our democratic process was pirated by Vladimir Putin and his minions.
We have decided that it does not matter that we are led and represented by a raving lunatic who lacks the impulse control of the average two year old.
We decided long ago that it does not matter if numbers of our fellow citizens, including our children, are murdered indiscriminately on a daily basis.
Now we will decide if the NRA's own people can join this list of It Doesn't Matter, if, truly, no one and nothing matters but profits from selling guns.
I know what I expect that answer to be.
I sure would like to be wrong.

Sunday, July 30, 2017


I was a bit anxious at the outset. More than a bit, actually. Because when I first thought about this summer prior to school's dismissal in late May, I thought that it had been quite a long time since I had spent a summer responsible for a child. Sheer terror set in as I thought about it, because I quickly realized that I had never been at home, every day, all day, with a child for the entire summer, and, since Grandmommie teaches Summer School each year, that was exactly what was about to happen. 
And suddenly, late 50s did not seem like a good time to try to learn how to do that. Granddaddy was sweating it, big-time!
Three weeks would be simple. My parents take Kaly to Vacation Bible School each summer. They continue to choose to be religious, and that's their business, not mine. And you try to tell great-grandparents that they can't have their great-grandchild. Then, she had been accepted for a week of the school system's CLUE Camp. (CLUE-Creative Learning in a Unique Environment-is the Shelby County Schools program for gifted children.) Finally, Grandmommie had registered her for a week of camp at the Memphis Zoo, given her love for that wonderful place and its animals.
Kaly thoroughly enjoyed each of those weeks, especially Zoo Camp, and that just raised the bar for the remaining time of Hanging Out with Granddaddy.
I was determined that we wouldn't sit in the house watching TV all summer. Which was kind of silly, because one thing we have learned about our granddaughter, since she came home in mid-October, is that she really doesn't watch TV. So that one was easy. The iPad, however, was a genuine challenge. And I was no more interested in a summer of small screen than I was of giant screen.
I knew that one day would be Library Day. That is a summer tradition for us. Even when she wasn't living here, we did our best to have a significant library visit each week in the summers. Then, I knew that for at least a generation, Malco Theaters' Summer Movie Camp had played on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings throughout the summer, and the movies tend to be pretty good. They certainly were again this summer! (Rio 2, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Penguins of Madagascar, Trolls, and Horton Hears a Who) Hard to beat for $2 apiece per film! Also, the Orpheum Theater's Summer Movie Series always includes family films. This year, we caught the annual Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (That's the Gene Wilder version. You know, the GOOD one.), and The Princess Bride, one of the greatest films ever made.
And, in checking on options, I found that Memphis Botanic Garden was holding Mudpie Mondays and Adventure Fridays. On Mondays, the kids were able to make old-fashioned mud pies for the garden fairies who live in the My Big Backyard part of the Garden. Fridays brought a presentation on something fascinating about the natural world each week. (Mosquitos: why they bite us, and how to run them off, for example) Each of those activities was followed by some time in the Garden's spray park, where it thunders for two minutes to signal that the rain is about to fall, every 30 minutes. Then I discovered that our wonderful Brooks Museum held Wacky Wednesdays. The Brooks is our fine arts museum, and they had volunteers to help the kids make a piece of art (Wire Sculpture was her favorite), then they showed several short films from Caldecott and Newberry Award winners, then they provided a bingo game that encouraged the kids to tour the museum to find the pictures shown on the game cards. Then we threw in a few Saturday morning visits to the Memphis Zoo for animals, the Teton Trek fountain, and picnics. We also mixed in a few Lazy Days, just to take it easy.
I think that I have never had so much fun in one summer. It has been an absolute blast spending it with this delightful little girl, who has so much personality, so much confidence, such an intellect, and her mother's beauty. 
She made this intimidating prospect of a whole summer a great deal of fun for an awfully anxious old Granddaddy!

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Our Historic Good Fortune

We were incredibly fortunate that George Washington was on the scene when the Revolutionary War broke out, and again, when the Articles of Confederation failed miserably, and we moved to our present form of government.
We were incredibly fortunate that Abraham Lincoln was on the scene when the approximately 90 year struggle over slavery (referring strictly to the time when there was an independent American government) broke out into warfare.
We were incredibly fortunate that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was on the scene, first, when the Great Depression was at its peak, to restore a sense of hope and institute the New Deal to get the country moving again, economically, and then again when war came to America again in 1941.
We were incredibly fortunate that, in 1962, John F. Kennedy was on the scene when the Soviet Union put nuclear missiles in Cuba, and our military leaders wanted to attack them. His cool prevented World War III from breaking out, and got those missiles removed.
We were incredibly fortunate that Barack Obama was on the scene when the worst economic disaster since 1929 befell the world in 2008. His judgement and determination contributed mightily to saving the world economy.
We are incredibly fortunate that, in 2017, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are on the scene. Since the United States has decided to abdicate our responsibility to lead the world by inexplicably allowing in office an utterly ignorant and ill-mannered buffoon, we depend mightily and totally on these statespersons who know, and are committed to, the traditions, the values, and the principles that have sustained the western world in this post-World War II period. This critical moment, as each of those described above, is no time for ignorance and arrogance as policy.
At least the citizens of Germany and France know that.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Colin Kaepernick Exercises Freedom of Speech; "Patriots" Livid

I've seen many versions of this ignorant crap floating around since the 49ers quarterback sat out the national anthem the other night. Many of them have said something to the effect of, "Our military didn't fight and die so you can disrespect the flag." 
Yes, they did.
Because in this country, we are guaranteed the freedom of our speech, the freedom to dissent, and the freedom to seek redress of grievances. And the freedom of speech, in particular, is a guarantee to speech that is NOT popular, NOT the norm, and NOT what the majority of people think. Because you don't have to protect popular speech, normal speech, or the speech of the majority. That speech is protected by its bulk.
I've read others saying, "there oughta be a law..." It would be unconstitutional. And, before the case was decided by the Supreme Court, it would be a law that demanded to be violated. Just like the Jim Crow laws in the south that led to the Civil Rights movement. The prime defense in the Nuremberg Trials at the end of World War II, when the surviving Nazi bigwigs were put on trial for their war crimes, was, "I was just following orders." It didn't work. It never works. We are each responsible for ourselves. You abide by an immoral law, you are an immoral person. Such a law would never stand.
I admire Colin Kaepernick. He took a stand, or a seat as it were, based on his clearly articulated grievances with our country. I think he is right in his named grievances. Clearly, there are major issues for people of color in the United States of America. I also admire that he, apparently, made the decision to take the heat that will be heaped upon him now. There is no more draconian institution in America than the National Football League. Since Kaepernick has been a marginal player, at best, since the year he led the 49ers to the Super Bowl, he will likely be fined, may be suspended, and I doubt anyone in the league would criticize the 49ers if they released him. But, remembering the parallels again, John Lewis was beaten half to death, Martin Luther King was murdered, Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman were murdered, James Meredith was shot, Medgar Evers was murdered, and on and on and on, for standing up for what they believed. America may guaranteed the freedom of speech, but there is no guarantee that you won't be killed for it, either literally of figuratively, by the most un-American of Americans. 
But no matter how loudly the popular speech today may condemn Colin Kaepernick for sitting, this country was built precisely on the principle that he, indeed, could do it. And I'm grateful to him, and every other American, who has taken this country at its words. Those in the Constitution. Not the words of Fox "News" or Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump. But the words, largely written by James Madison, perfected by the Constitutional Convention, ratified by the original states, and accepted by every state that has joined the Union since. They are the only words that matter. And Colin Kaepernick was genuinely American and patriotic in trusting and relying on them.
Whether you like it or not. Especially if you don't like it.