The Cougar

At the local mall, there is a Chick Fil-A.  While all jobs have their down sides, an upside at this job is both of my sons could work together.  As a parent, this kept us from having to add another car to quickly to our entourage of vehicles.  And, it gave the boys time together.  It was interesting to hear their stories of the “name of the day” (We would need to guess what name came up the most times as the name to call when the order was ready on that day.) or we would listen to the whiny customer of the day story.  (The one I remember most  distinctly is the person who wanted them to double cook chicken – not a normal menu item.  And, when the chicken was not overcooked to his satisfaction after they tried twice, he returned it and wanted a full refund.)  Occasionally, there would be the story of a regular customer who thought my boys were nearly as special as I do.

Enter the cougar….

While their relationship started with her being a little snarky with my son when he was working the register at Chick Fil-A, they now have had a post Chick Fil-A relationship for nearly a year.  Please understand, this is not the normal “cougar” relationship. She exceeds his age by probably 40 years.  And, although she is married, she seems to like to be social with my little cub.  She makes him tea and offers him a few snacks as they meet and discuss his recent accomplishments and/or activities.

The relationship has included a few phone calls while he is at school.  When he is home for breaks, he tries to fit a visit in.  The past visit involved him taking his camera to show off the pictures from our recent trip.  Although some details are sketchy, it seems she is very complimentary of his ambition and the direction he is taking with his life.  I have warned him to not be surprised if she attempts to introduce him to any of her daughters or granddaughters.  (This would remove the cougar title and have it replaced with “matchmaker”.  Since it is a family joke, the “cougar” title is likely to stick regardless of the pseudo-grandmother/grandson relationship.)

As with our recent trip, Jeff does very well talking to adults of all levels.  He has told me she is Catholic.  If his relationship with his “cougar” friend gives him an opportunity to show what his relationship is with our Heavenly Father, that is a good thing.  If his older friend sees how my son’s relationship with God is different than her own, then it is a better thing.  And, if at the end of the relationship, my son has practice talking to future mother-in-laws OR grandmother in-laws, then it certainly will not be time wasted….I think every son-in-law has room for improvement in this area.

The Incident

As we wound down a very full day of softball, we were tired. The girls had played 3 games. We were challenged to think of small talk to keep the parents of the other girls chatty, and we had to watch both the good and bad innings pass by while attempting to cheer enthusiastically for both.  It was a long day and we realized some areas of our lives may have received less than adequate attention.

This became quite evident later that evening. My wife received a text from one of our friends who have twin children the same age as our son and who also attend the same college. The wife’s text read, “where were you tonight?”  After a slightly confused look from my wife, the words penetrated the days haze. A few weeks before, these friends had asked us to attend a charity event. They had bought a table’s worth of tickets. Without thinking, my wife had accepted their invitation. After pulling her thoughts together, my wife did text back and apologize. She was very short on providing the details as to why we weren’t there.

The next day was Sunday, so as we almost always do, we attended church. Once my wife saw this couple sitting behind us a few rows did she find the need to caution me, “Don’t let them know you didn’t know about the dinner we were invited to.” As the service continued, I had my best, “We are so sorry line” all worked out. When we walked out after the service, we looked for the couple. My wife went back in and tried to see if they were still talking. They must have left early. Our need to give a personal apology was unmet.

Typically, we would not feel as guilty as we do.  This family has been so good to our son at school. When they visit their kids at school, they will typically include our son when they go out to eat.   . Even while going to high school together, they made extra effort to invite our son to interesting things. As I write this, I truly hope our visit to see our son at college can allow us a chance to take their son out to eat as well. Our hole may not be as deep as it feels, but doing something nice for their son might will help fill in the “guilt” hole we are carrying around.

The Propeller

Tonight, getting a walk was a bonus.  I was at my daughters softball tournament most of the day.  I left them with a 3 hour break between their last win and their final game for the championship.  (Please don’t judge me as a parent for not staying for the whole day.  I am an addict and had to get my walk on.)

As with most walks, this one was almost entirely unmemorable…..until the home stretch.  As I went into the last half of the final mile, I saw a couple of familiar bodies coming toward me.  (This is not the only time we have crossed paths.  The crossings have been almost as frequent on the front end of my first mile as the back end of the last mile.)  They admitted once the “crossing” occurred they thought it was my stride coming at them.  Once I was convinced it was them, I put my arms out in a symbolic hug combo shoulder shrug.  Translated:  “It’s you?!”

I have seen these folks in a variety of different modes.  They have passed me in their car as I walked thru their neighborhood.  They have been seen pushing their granddaughters while walking their well-behaved leashless dog.  On a nice Sunday following a big rain, the husband was seen pulling uncut grass from “our” side of the fence and feeding them to the grateful longhorns on the other side of the barbed barrier.  I have seen them walking their dog with two others rescued dogs.  They were paid to walk the two rescued dogs by one of their neighbors.  They tried to tolerate the dog-hating, blue-eyed, wolf-like dog, but his owners decided they really only felt obligated to rescue one dog.  Now, they only walk their dog and NO rescue dogs.

What greeted me tonight was not new to the trail, but it certainly was new to my friends.  The male of this duo has been known to have a bad back and a bad knee.  To keep his wife company and to minimize the pain, he was sited straddling his bicycle.  While he may have got some “normal” riding in, his primary mode was propeller-mode.  With his legs extended, he was doing a pushing off move with his legs while balancing on the bike.  It allowed him to roughly maintain the same pace as his wife with the option to race ahead to catch any purse snatchers who may have wandered into our otherwise low crime park.

We did talk for a few minutes before parting.  We talked about the network (also Amazon and Netflix) shows we were proud and not so proud to be fans of.  They encouraged me as I parent my kids (Their kids are older….note the granddaughter comment above), and they let me know I am probably not the first parent to make a mistake or twelve on their kids.  Lastly, we just gave each other a little encouragement from someone we don’t share a home with  (Admittingly, they are much better encouragers than I am.  The wife is such a nice person.  She quickly flips every flaw into a reason to be optimistic.)

As the time came to move along, we said our goodbyes.  The husband propelled himself as he stayed near his wife.  And, I smiled broadly thanking God for the people he sneaks into my life.


Leaf Swishing Memories

It was rather a cold day yesterday for yet another one of “our” walks together.  The construction along the normal path forced us to take our “old” normal walk, but we were both fine with that.  It gave us the chance to walk side-by-side and get caught up on the “House of the Month” and the day. (Spouses are supposed to do that.)

The cold weekend had made most of the trees decide the leaves were optional attire.  Many of the oaks were still maintaining some modesty.  As winter progressed they would also shed their old clothing in anticipation of the new clothes awaiting them in the spring.  And, it was these old clothes covering many of the sidewalks that gave my wife and I much pleasure.

One of the earliest dates I can remember was a walk through my wife’s neighborhood.  It was just after a brief rain.  Because I was still more boy than man (I likely still fit that description in most categories), I found humor in grabbing the trees lower branches and shaking them as we passed under the low hanging limbs.  Granted, I may have gotten a little wet as well, but my future wife did take the brunt of the trees premature shedding of the accumulated rain.

Today’s walking date had leaves that were not going to be holding any rain for young lovers to shake onto each other’s heads.  The leaves were mostly all spread out on the sidewalk.  They were content to sit idly by awaiting any slight breeze.  Or, they were content to lay their all snug with their kindred who had enjoyed a season together enjoying the blue Texas sky.  As we walked through the older congregants of St Oak, the leaves swished together to remind us they were there.  In our wake, they whispered their concerns until the motion of our footsteps  was a memory.

As we walked through more seasoned piles of leaves, we enjoyed the special earthy smell reserved for dampened leaves. Some of the leaves decided to rustle together, appearing to have slightly more disagreement about the their present roles. If they were to far gone to rustle or less trusting of the pedestrians determined to disrupt their retirement, the leaves may have yielded an occasional crunch as a secret stash of acorns was revealed.

As we neared the end of the walking route, we knew it was not the leaves or the breeze or the mistletoe (Yes, we are not too old to notice) growing in many of the trees that took us out on this post-dinner walk.  It was time to enjoy each others company without having to share each other with those we had left at home to clean up the dishes.  It was time to realize and remember the commitments made and the life shared.  And, it was time to burn a few of the extra carbs eaten during dinner….



Knuckle Grapes


A visit to Sam’s brought a new 3 pound container of green grapes into the house.  While not all past vine dwellers were as welcome, I am happy to say my daughter picked very well today.  The texture gave slight resistance and the skin was just the right firm.  The only thing slightly wrong with them was their size!  Most of the grapes were as large as the top half of my thumb!  As we ate some of them with lunch, the smaller mouthed individuals made each grape last for 2 or 3 bites before the grape was fully consumed.

After lunch, my son decided to participate in a game we occasionally do to assist in father-son bonding.  Usually the game consists of tossing M&Ms into the air on an arc toward his head.  If I do my job correctly, a couple small neck adjustments will allow the M&M to easily be caught in his mouth.  Because we apparently needed to do some “power bonding”, we attempted the M&M trick with these over-sized, under-seeded fruit ovals.  My sons skills were quickly evident.  He adjusted how far he opened his mouth (he had to open it ALL of the way), but otherwise, it was the same eye-mouth coordination as before.  The first two grapes followed this pattern.  He zeroed in on the grape, caught it in his mouth, and he was careful not to choke on the green projectile.

Although I did not consciously want to “mix it up”, my sub-conscious was likely a little bored.  The third grape did embark on an arc just like the other grapes, but as it knuckle balled (my fingers planned this without my realizing it) toward my sons mouth, it ended up being to great of a challenge-the “center” of the grape was to hard to calculate .  It smacked him in his upper lip as his mouth was anticipating the impact.  We did allow a “knuckle-less grape” do over which was much more successful.

While fruit does not always bring people together, I am glad my son and I can “rework” old games with grapes as a centerpiece.  I have not always been a perfect father, but on the days when I “know” I have done a pretty good job, it usually involves a bit of laughter and a dash of ridiculous.


Courting An Old Friend

I don’t know if I truly have fewer friends now then I did when I was younger. (I am certain I see them less often.) I have very good relationships with my kids, so that is likely where the focus of my friendliness has been directed.  However, as the kids get older and I get glimpses into what the crib/nest/home will look like when it is just my wife and I consistently sitting down at dinner together (my wife and I do get along well so it is not very disturbing), I start wondering who will be in my “friend circle” when the kids are all out stretching their early adult wings.  And, is at this point I consider the “courting” of an old friend…

This specific friend and I have known each other for over 40 years.  It is no exaggeration to say we were very good friends back in “the day”.  We both attended a small Christian school together for most of elementary school.  And, while we went to different high schools, we usually saw each other once a month or so.  When it came time to go to college, we both joined the National Guard and went through Basic Training together.  (The tuition reimbursement was the reason I served our country – sad I know.) Due to different health issues, neither of us finished our obligation, but both did make the effort to serve.  As we moved into early adulthood, we developed different interest and different friends.  While I dated less often, I became engaged and married first (he was in the wedding).  My friend was better looking then me. He wanted to make sure he didn’t miss the right gal when she came along.  So, he made it through his 20’s without getting married.

When our 30’s rolled around, my wife and I were having kids.  He came to visit a few times, but the relationship was certainly changing.  Where I had been fortunate to marry a woman with a career that far exceeded my potential, he continued to work hard and not get any great breaks.  I am sure I may have lacked sensitivity sometimes. I am sure I said some things that may have been taken much more personally than they were intended. I am sure life’s experiences have made me a better person than I was then.

In our 40’s, my wife and I did foster care.  We had quite a few different kids in our house.  And, if our friends didn’t have kids and didn’t like lots of kids, they were even less frequent visitors than they were in our 30’s.  Our kids grew and stayed active in soccer or gymnastics or whatever other activity was appropriate for young girls and boys.  The last half of my 40’s was spent in Texas, so social ties from my previous life were even scarcer.

With the arrival of a new decade and a new set of life’s events, I wonder if our friendship can still find enough mutual energy to be revived?  After getting your number a few months ago, it took me multiple months to text you.  When the text sat idle for a couple weeks, I figured I had the wrong number or there was no mutual interest.  After your eventual reply, I find you now have a Facebook account.  It doesn’t look like you have changed much at all!

Truly, I am not sure if friendship revival is a likely outcome.  While I selfishly crave the sincere compliment of a very old friend and the memories of the good old days that would unavoidably occur, I am concerned that his emerging out of the time machine into my life anew might be better in the virtual than the reality.  LOTS of time has past and LOTS of experiences have been lived and forgotten.  We are no longer the same people.  Assembling the puzzle pieces of our previously shared lives and connecting them to our present lives might be more challenging than either one of us has the energy to expend.

If we don’t ever really reconnect, I wish you the best.