Sunday, November 14, 2010

Some of My Boys

“I want to be a marine,” said my son after this year’s Veteran’s Day Assembly hosted by our high school. He looked me in the eye when he said it. He’s been looking me in the eye a lot lately, since he is officially taller than me.

Christopher always had an interest in soldiers and military history. I remember he read a story out of the American Diary series about a soldier and his time in war. Christopher cried when the main character buddy died. He shows me videos that various performers have done in support of our troops (Letters from War; Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue; and American Soldier are just a few). He and I have watched Band of Brothers, Windtalkers, and Flags of Our Fathers. But more than all that, he sees heroes in the kids from our school who enlist and serve. So, after seeing the presentation of faces of former students who have served and who are serving, I found his statement not surprising.

Before I could respond, he said, “I know. I have to go through college and ROTC so I start as an officer.” I laugh. We have had a few family discussions on this topic too. From one of those conversations last spring, I wrote this poem.

      Some of My Boys

Goofy, gangly and grinning,
some of my boys that sat in my classes
have not only enlisted,
but have been sent overseas
into the war, into harm’s way.

I see them on leave
or on a digital picture
grinning, maybe gangly still,
but goofy no more
due to the war, due to harm’s way.

“Hey, Mr. Sura,” they say,
“remember when..”
“…and you smiled and said...”
We were a brotherhood of goofy and grinning
before the war, before harm’s way.

My son reads and watches
about soldiers, brotherhood, honor and death
while he is goofy, gangly and grinning in life.
He has heroes, the boys I know,
in the war, in harm’s way.

He makes me proud that he cares.
He respects their call and their risk
while he and his high school buds
stumble around goofy and grinning,
away from war, away from harm.

And my goofy, gangly, grinning boys
stand watch afar and keep my son safe.
They say, “We got him covered, Mr. Sura.
“Your wife and daughter too.
For them, no war, nor harm’s way.”

All I am left to say is
“Love you guys,”
in my goofy, gangly, grinning way.
“Come home safe
from the war, from harm’s way.”

“I want to be a marine,” he said. I think of the faces that had flash on the screen. I know a lot of them, and I know more each year. I am proud of each every one of the men and women on that screen. Two of the faces are in memoriam.

I think of my son’s face on that screen.

Our guest speaker was a mother telling her story of her son’s enlistment, training, serving in Afghanistan and returning home. She spoke of her journey as a parent and how it involved pride, joy, honor and fear. Her words hit close to home.

“I want to be a marine,” my son had said.

My emotions and thoughts tumble about. It’s a jungle out there.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Breakfast Dates

It is said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And I could not agree more.

Yes, it is the meal that gets the day started. It is breaking your fasting from the night before. Scientifically, it gets the metabolism revved up for the day. And because of that, I have heard that eating breakfast helps one lose weight.

I think that may be a theory though. Yesterday, I went to a “King’s Men” Breakfast at a local church. We had stuffed (blueberries and cream cheese) French toast, sausage and hard-boiled eggs. It was fantastic. I thought it would be dangerous to eat like that then have a meeting, but the meal truly started us on a productive day.  I got things done.

Of course, part of it could have been the fellowship with the other men.  There were little jokes about being married that guys say, not in being mean or anything, but just being guys with a common ground. My favorite was the joke about the husband who had not spoken for seven years in his marriage. When asked why, he said, “I didn’t want to be rude and interrupt.” I had to chuckle at that one. And as not to accidently break any guy code, I will conclude by saying that guys getting together is good.

It’s the getting together over breakfast I like. Heidi and I have started having “Breakfast Dates.” All over Houghton Lake there are little diners with friendly, yet quiet, morning servers. I mention quiet because not everyone out for breakfast can deal with the really perky people. At least I can’t, I am not a morning person until after breakfast.

Anyway, we have breakfast. We, depending on what day it may be, plan the week, the weekend or that particular day.  For example, on Sundays, we pretty much know our routine for the day of family time, watching the Lions (in the fall), and computer work for the online classes we both teach. So, we will run through the week: meetings, appointments and things for the kids. This strategy meeting usually happens between ordering and getting our food. During the rest of breakfast, we chat about little, casual things from the weather to how to raise our children without causing serious physical harm or emotional damage to them or ourselves.

The neat thing about breakfast, even with the options, is that the choices are simple. “Do you want white, wheat or sourdough toast?” One has a certain amount of control and empowerment went ordering eggs to one’s liking, and it is not high maintenance for the server or the cook; there is no guilt or inconvenience when responding to “How do you want your eggs?” The server asked, and you respond.
Economy wise, breakfast is inexpensive if you, the consumer, allow it to be. For the price of a dinner entrée, I can get Heidi and I a breakfast we both will enjoy.

Lately, my kids want in on the Breakfast thing too. We have done them as a family, as parents with child, as father and son, mother and daughter and the various combinations that can happen. It is a quieter moment and easy to do. And, like most things, there is the Home Version, where we make that meal at home and enjoy it as a family. Dinner does not have to be the only family meal.

Earlier today, we had a sunny booth, a courteous waitress with a bright smile, two omelets and a nice conversation about the week and holiday plans. We had time with each other. No interruptions.

Yes, breakfast is the most important meal. After all, it is a jungle out there.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dog Poop and Cat Litter

Scylla and Charybdis. Rock and a hard place. Hell and high water. Dog poop and cat litter. All are tough places to be between.

The dog poop is in the yard, and the cat litter is in the basement of the house. In between these two places are where the daily battles are fought: bills, raising kids, lawn and car maintenance, laundry, the dishes etc, yet I find myself prioritizing the care of their daily constitutions.

Pets are one of the ironies of the American Dream. We pursue this happiness of a dutiful dog and a cuddling, purring cat, yet we dread the crap that comes with it.

Our dog, Duke, is a chocolate lab for the most part. We got him last spring, a year after we lost our golden, Padme (yes, Star Wars), to cancer. Duke’s name was a string of factors that included Duke kicking butt in the NCAA tournaments, Grace’s favorite movie G.I Joe had a character named Duke, and John Wayne, The Duke, is a favorite in the house. Chewbacca was a close second for a name.

For the most part, Duke is a pretty good dog. But, even after training him to go in the lower backyard, he still does is business where it suits him. And with the autumn leaves in its hues of browns over the yard, we have a virtual mine field of doggie bombs. One wrong step, and the victim’s shoes are tagged with a substance that does not stick to a dog’ rear end, but to everything else non-dog.

We have two cats too many. There is Chance; Christopher’s cat since he was three. He is a cantankerous feline that only let’s Christopher carry him anywhere, yet he insists on sleeping on whoever’s bed he deems most fit for his highness. Lo, thou darest disturb his slumber when you seek to rest. Thou will be hissed upon. I swear this cat actual grumbles inappropriate language as he shuffles off.

Princess, yeah that’s her name, is Grace’s cat. She may not be the king of the pets, but the name fits. She seems to know that someday that she will inherit the lands and dominate. Her favorite pastime other than lounging is to harass the dog when he is in his kennel by lounging out of his reach.

King Chance, Princess and Duke. I just realized that I just subjugated myself to my family’s pets. And I, the court jester, stands outside in the early morning dark dressed in my robe, stand dutifully by as his lordship leaves another gem in my lawn. And I, the stable boy, kneel before the throne of cat littler with my plastic scoop. I place the royal feces in small plastic bags and tie them shut so the order does not overpower the land.

I have this bazaar dream that thousands of years from now, archeologists will dig up these precious nuggets of bowel movements and determine that our culture held cat crud in high regard.

I must go. Duke is whining at the door and Princess is sitting in dignified repose by her food dish and eyeing me with a dour look. I am remiss in my duties.

Has anyone seen the pooper scooper?

I must walk carefully. It is a jungle out there.