11/13/11

I'm in trouble, you guys.

The other day I stopped over to my dad's house after work, just to catch up and see if he needed a hand with anything. We ended up getting the leaves off the pool cover. He bought this net that goes over the cover and the idea is that you're supposed to be able to just peel back the net and all the leaves will come with it. It works, kind of, but the problem you have is by the time you've pulled them all to one end, you've got about a hundred and fifty pounds of wet, slimy leaves that you aren't sure what to do with. We eventually hauled the swampy goop out on to the grass, then scooped it into some garbage cans, then put the net back. By the time we were done, my arms smelled like I had just given a deep-tissue massage to the creature from the black lagoon.

After we washed up, we went upstairs because he had some computer questions for me. First off, computers and my father do not get along. It's like he emits some sort of anti-energy that just makes electronics do bad things to good people. I'm not sure exactly what it is, but I've fixed his computer many, many times over the years, from DOS 5.0 on up. I think the worst stretch was probably Windows Me. That OS was such a steaming pile of crap I finally told him that unless he let me upgrade him to XP, I wasn't going to work on it anymore.

Anyway, that's all in the past. Now he has a newer Dell, a flatscreen monitor, and a CPU that more than meets his needs. There hasn't been much in the way of computer support lately other than a question here and there about getting pictures in and out of the thing. He has three grand-kids now and they keep him pretty busy taking pictures. So I sat down and flipped the power on and waited for his machine to boot while he went and changed his clothes.

Here's where the story gets interesting. There was a folded piece of paper on the desk, and I picked it up. It had two things written on it, and they were:

johnnyvirgil@nycap.rr.com
15minutelunch.blogspot.com

Oh, shit.

My father had finally found my blog. I'm not sure exactly why I feared this, but I wanted to immediately kill the person who told him about it. I wasn't sure if he had already read it, or if he was just planning to check it out and hadn't gotten around to it yet. When and if he did, the next domino that would fall is that he would find out I wrote a book. You're probably wondering why I never told him I had written a book, or that I write a blog. I'll get to that in a bit, if you're still reading by then. (I have no idea where I'm going with this post, just so you know.)

I had a very strange reaction to this news. I immediately felt like I was 10 years old again, and in the dog house, waiting for my dad to get home from work. Like I had done something wrong, which is an odd reaction to have about something I've put so much time and effort into over the years. Even now, this entire chain of events mystifies me, and I've spent the last few days trying to figure it all out, because intellectually, I find it patently ridiculous, but there's this little kid part of me that still doesn't want him to read it.

I've been trying to figure out what this says about our relationship, given that I'm not living in his basement and delivering pizzas part-time or anything. I mean, I'm a responsible, modestly successful adult with a decent job, a lovely wife and a nice house in the woods, right? So why the hell would I care if he read my blog or my book? After thinking about this for a while, I've come to the conclusion that it's because my father is a lot of things that I'm not.

My father has always been my biggest inspiration. He's done some amazing things in his life, and I've always held him up as an example of how to be a good man, a good husband and a good father. He joined General Electric when he was fresh out of high school, and was accepted into a sort of work-study program they offered at the time. You'd work during the day as an apprentice, and they would pay for you to take college courses at night. Their goal was to turn you into an electrical engineer or something else they could use. If you didn't do well in class, all bets were off and you were out. My grandfather didn't have the money to send my father to college, so this was his only way to get there, and he was determined. He worked his ass off and made it through, and he and my mother were married shortly thereafter.

Our childhood seriously couldn't have been better, and I'm thankful every day for the fantastic memories he's provided me, and the sacrifices he's made throughout his life to make our lives easier. He and my mother raised four children to adulthood, and I really couldn't ask for a more involved father, or a better role model, when it comes to that. And therein lies the rub, I think. Sometimes, his expectations (or my perception of them, at least) can be hard to live up to.

First, let me tell you a little bit more about my dad:

1. Staunch Roman Catholic
2. Right wing conservative
3. Thinks most TV sitcoms are offensive
4. Thinks all R-rated movies are trash
5. G-rated sense of humor
6. Strict moral philosophy

So you can see where we might be at odds a little bit. For instance, I don't personally think that R-rated movies and raunchy sitcoms are going to cause the end of civilization as we know it. (I think it's probably going to be China, and reality TV, if you care.) I've been writing this blog since 2005, and I'm not above going for the easy laughs, as you are all probably aware. Basically, any absurdities I see that make me crack a smile, or anything that makes me wonder if we're all insane will usually end up here. To me, these pages are a harmless diversion that allow me to vent with some degree of anonymity about the crap I see every day. I think my reaction to finding the address of my blog written down on a piece of paper on my dad's desk was mostly related to the above list.

Do I sometimes say things in my blog that might not be appropriate in polite company? Check.

Do I write some stuff my father wouldn't find funny in the slightest? Double Check.

Do I write some stuff he might find morally offensive? Check. Check. Check.

I think each of us contain multitudes -- we are different people to our friends, spouses, co-workers and parents; our personalities and behavior somewhat depend upon the moment in time we find ourselves in. Like the parent of a toddler who curbs their use of crude language when the child is within earshot, or the feigned politeness we show to the cop who pulls us over, we vary our behavior -- in effect, who we are at that very moment -- to fit our current situation.

Take, for instance, the father-son dynamic. I believe the framework of this relationship is built when you are fairly young -- and good or bad, it continues to exist at some level, unchanging, regardless of how old you both become. I will always be my father's son, and as a result, that fact transforms me to some extent. I will always be the kid, he will always be the parent. I modify my behavior in an effort to fit into this particular version of me that I think he expects to see. For instance, I very rarely swear* when I am around him, and I only share humorous stories if they are solidly G-rated. I basically become Opie Taylor from Mayberry, and that's how it's always been. My brothers and my sister do it too. Hell, maybe everyone does the same thing around their parents and I just never realized it.

On the other hand, there's always the possibility that it's not what he expects. I don't know. Maybe he wouldn't give two shits if I made a off-color joke or dropped an f-bomb in conversation. I'm not really sure, to be honest. When the four of us were growing up, we very rarely subjected to physical discipline. An occasional, well-placed spanking wasn't out of the question, but mostly it was the sternly uttered words, "I'm really disappointed in you" that really caused us to feel remorse for whatever we had done.

So I think my initial reaction was nothing more than the deep-seated, subconscious echo of a dorky 10-year-old kid desperately scared of disappointing his old man. Interestingly enough, however, knowing that on an intellectual level doesn't necessarily make the feeling go away. My father is the kind of person who makes you want to strive to be a better man, which is an amazing trait to have, however I think the problem is we don't always agree on what constitutes "better." And I think I'm finally OK with that, and I hope he is too.

I remember one time when I was in college, I was doing a series of cartoons for the school paper. One of the characters was named Joshua Stone, and he had a tall basketball playing roommate named Sky, and the joke was that Josh had recurring flashbacks and for some reason, Sky could see them. I put Dr Ruth's face on a spider's body once. (Trust me, it was hilarious.) Anyway, my father came and talked to me about it one night, concerned that the cartoons I had been drawing were becoming drug-related. I assured him that I was not, in fact, taking drugs, and that I was just drawing a stupid cartoon for the paper, and I understood that he probably didn't find it funny. Also, as you can probably guess, that was my last cartoon for the paper. Intentionally or not, our conversation had sucked the fun out of it for me, and made me believe that perhaps it wasn't the best use of my time. I've always kind of regretted giving that up so easily.

That was then, and this is now. So, my father knows about my blog, and I assume he also knows about my book. For all I know, he's already read it just never said anything. So the big questions become these: (1) Am I going to continue to write this blog, and (2) Will I write differently, censoring myself, always with the potential audience of my father in the back of my mind?

The answers are "Yes, I will continue as long as I find it fun," and "No, not if I can help it." I'm pretty solidly me, and I guess at this point, he has probably accepted (if not always approved of) all aspects of the person I've become. He did his best, and I think we're both pretty confident that I turned out OK. (For the most part, anyway.) Besides, I figure it's always his prerogative to simply stop reading if he doesn't enjoy my particular brand of humor. Maybe I'll even give him a copy of my book for Christmas.

I'm just hoping he doesn't ground me.



*I've often wondered about this mystical power that we give words. Who decides the relative order of crudeness? What makes "shit" worse than "crap" and "crap" worse than "poop" and "poop" worse than "feces?" It's really funny when you think about it. As far as I can tell, it's all the same shit. Different day, perhaps, but still....


38 comments:

  1. if i had to wager, i'd say he'll be proud of you for it. doesn't mean he isn't going to glare at you for the crunchy language...

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  2. I don't know what it is, either, but I suspect your Dad will be most impressed that you still care so much what he thinks. The striving to live up to the old man's standards is more of what makes us who we are than I think we would like to admit.

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  3. You are so going to have your car keys taken away! My parents have a vague idea that I write a blog, but they don't ask about it and I don't talk about it, so it works out pretty well for now. I'll probably meet my own Waterloo someday.

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  4. For what it's worth, your book has been a big hit in my family. Even my mother, who is pushing 90 pretty hard, liked it.

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  5. And lookit you, finding out he knows about your blog and then writing a pre-emptive 'oh wow, my dad is my hero' rant just in case he reads it soon.... smart, dude. Really. Genius, in fact. ;)

    p.s. Love the book...

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  6. Upstate Broad6:07 PM

    I hope you know how lucky you are to have had a Dad worthy of the respect you've shown him. And how lucky he is that you have the wisdom to accord him that respect.

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  7. Did Dad intentionally leave your email and blog addys out there for you to see? You may not be the only bright guy with a keen sense of humor in the fambly!

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  8. I agree with you 100% on the idea that words are just words. I know some of them have varying amounts of history attached to them, but all in all, I think it's the emotion behind the word that really gives it meaning.

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  9. In anyone else, I would automatically peg this as a CYA post. But I only know you a little, and I know better than that, so I bet your dad is going to see this post - and all the others - for what they are: musings on life from a good guy. It's hard for parents and kids to see each other as just people, outside their relationship. Maybe the blog will help with that. I'm sure he's as proud of you as you are of him, and I'm going to laugh my ass off when he orders some autographed books to give as Christmas gifts.

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  10. I can totally and completely identify with this (except mine's Southern Baptist, not Roman Catholic). I've thought on more than one occasion that we had very similar childhoods and probably would've been good friends had we grown up in the same 'hood in the '80s. This pretty much confirms it.

    I once had my folks say something about worry about my drinking too much because of "the things you write about your partying on the internet." I didn't dig deeper to try and see if they read my blog or not. I think I was afraid to. I poured another drink instead. My reasons for not wanting to know were the same as yours.

    I have, however, found out that a neighbor has found it and reads it, and it has changed how I write. In fact, I hurt their feelings with a post once, which made me feel like complete shit. I also found out that our 16 yo (my step daughter) knows of the Muskrat. That positively made me drop my bottle (we were at a wedding reception at the time) and rethink a lot of the stories I used to tell and even consider shutting the damned thing down.

    Ultimately, like you, I figured I'd write when I feel like it--because I enjoy it--but I'm not as crass or prolific as I used to be (having the Humor Blogs site shut down contributed to that, too). Maybe, deep down, both our dads think we're funny, even if neither would admit it publicly.

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  11. Anonymous1:45 AM

    Why am I only now hearing about your sister? The Snitch, Houdini, and Me, and all that after all? Was she as excluded from your childhood misadventures as she was from the book title?

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  12. I feel like I have to write reserved as well because my family does follow the blog, at times I have to leave out the lewd vulgar humor that helps get us through these long ass deployments, I've been disapointed at times in myself for not putting it out there. Your humor is great though and its not to over the top, you make people laugh and sometimes that 15 minute lunch can stick with you for the rest of the day. At times you've inspired me to get back on the blog wagon, and you and your followers have supported me in some pretty bad times. I'd have to agree with everyone else that he would be proud of you.

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  13. I freaked out when my parents found out about my blog, too. Not that I've ever written about them in a poor way, but I didn't want to feel like I had to censor myself if I continued writing there.

    Ask him to respectfully stay away from your blog. I've managed to keep my blog (more or less) private from family members for over three years, largely in part because I asked my parents to not visit my blog. Hopefully he'll understand.

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  14. Just so you know, no one in my family knows about my blog. No one.

    Secondly, I am the parent of four grown "kids" and it's difficult for them to separate their childhood interactions with us as "Mom" and "Dad" with the adult interactions with us as Mom and Dad. They're constantly amazed at our lack of criticisms, our acceptance of f-bombs and our not questioning decisions they make, regardless of how bad they may seem to us.

    Give your Dad a chance. He just might surprise you.

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  15. My parents are exactly the same as your dad. I actually wanted my dad to read your blog because there are a lot of things that he would find absolutely hilarious. The swearing however would make it not funny to him at all. I ended up editing the stories I wanted him to read and e-mailing it to him. I guess I compromised, but after knowing my dad for as long as I have, I just try to continue making him think that he did a good job bringing me up, and that includes using lady-like language.

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  16. I write my blog knowing full well that my parents read it from time to time. And while I censor myself when I'm around them, I have no such device in my writing. So when they read my stuff, they often see a side of me that they didn't know existed.

    And they still love me.

    I'm sure the same is true with your father.

    And if he's as conservative as you say, he'll probably stop reading your blog eventually.

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  17. I think your dad will love reading the posts about you and your brothers antics as children so I think he will like your book a lot. It will probably be interesting to see things from your POV as opposed to how he remembers things happening.

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  18. Anonymous1:04 PM

    OMG, OMG the Google Search posts - my toenails are curling at the thought of your old school father reading them, but they're some of my favorite posts and I'd be devastated if you stopped writing them.

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  19. Wow, JV, that is really thought-provoking. Yes, relationships with parents certainly are complicated... my father is gone now but my mother and I are still working things out after 40+ years.

    I was absurdly proud of my blog when I first started and mistakenly thought my mother would be pleased that I was doing something productive with my Communications degree (I'm not in my paid employment at the moment, unfortunately). There was one photo of her in my initial post, ca. 1965, where I thought she looked beautiful. (I was starting at the beginning of my career in my chosen sport and she's the one who introduced me to it, so that's the only reason why she was pictured) Unfortunately, Mom did not agree. I was told not to use any more pictures of her under any circumstances and furthermore, why would anyone care/want to read what I wrote??? To say I was crushed would be an understatement. I was so proud and with one well-aimed shot she took the wind right out of my sails.

    Fortunately, I decided that I wasn't going to quit writing and if she didn't want to read anymore, well, then she didn't have to. And I don't think she's looked at my blog since. However, any time I have mentioned my parents I've been careful not to say anything that might "upset" her, just in case. Don't need the headache.

    Of course this is also the same parent who once told my brother that she "owned" me, and whose answer when I asked her when I might "catch up" and finally be viewed by her as an equal adult was "Never." >.<

    I understand completely your angst and worry about your dad reading but please, please, JV do NOT start censoring yourself or God forbid, stop WRITING. Your faithful followers would be so very sad and you would lose a very important outlet for your thoughts and feelings. I believe your dad probably knows more about the "real" you than you think, and I truly believe he loves you an awful lot anyway. Keep on, man!

    [P.S. You have a sister????]

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  20. Daisy, I'm not sure you'd win that bet.

    Chris1, I'm pretty sure you're right.

    Chris2, I can never find them anyway, so it doesn't matter

    CM, your grandmother is cool.

    JC, naw, it's really just me trying to wrap my head around the ridiculousness. You just get to witness it! :) If I wanted to avoid it, I could have just modified his local host file so it would override his dns so he couldn't get to it.

    UB, well said.

    Semky, I never thought of that. I doubt it, but anything is possible!

    Cory, it's weird, right?

    KC, oh god. I hope not. ha

    Muskrat, thanks for that. Interesting perspective for sure. We should have a few beers sometime.

    Anon, she's in the book! I mention her in the intro, but she was 8 years younger than I was, so we didn't interact much.

    BG, the funny part is, I think my mom would have probably been ok with it.

    Awesome, how the heck did you manage that feat?

    Theresa, that's really funny! I'm glad he still got a laugh out of it, editing and all.

    Ross, yeah, you're probably right.

    Amiboo -- He'd probably remember it completely differently.

    Rider, dear god, that sounds horrible! good luck.

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  21. My mother died 6 years ago and my father just died a few weeks ago. I am a 42 year old orphan. I know it is silly, but it feels that way. I feel way too young to not have any living parents.

    I did not start my blog until after my mother died and I was always afraid to tell my father about my blog, mainly for fear he would not read it or enjoy it. As much as I fought with him and disagreed with him, it is human nature to crave the approval of your parents.

    I have to remember that as my son grows - my job is to love him unconditionally and support him in all he endeavors, even if I think it is silly or it is not my taste. As long as it does not involve hacking up bodies and burying them in the backyard, I will be his number 1 fan and supporter!

    Keep writing! You are an inspiration to those of us who wish we wrote more!

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  22. Valgal10:56 AM

    I find that it's best for me to just put it all out there. I don't hide anything from my parents. About 5 years ago, I came clean to having a motorcycle, which my dad was totally against. A confession prompted by my husband, who didn't want to potentially have to explain to my dad someday why I was in the hospital and/or dead.

    The tattoos told on themselves, darn it!

    It was also difficult to tell them that I decided to foster and adopt 4 kids, knowing that they would disapprove of the risk we were taking since we already had a baby. However, four extra kids would be harder to hide than a blog. LOL

    Anyway, there is a lot of freedom for me in just putting it all out there. This is who I am and I want them to love me for me, not for who they think I am or want me to be.

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  23. Just be glad that you still have your dad and that you know that he cares enough to give a crap, one way or another.

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  24. JV - simple..I never told anyone about it. Couple that with the complete anonymity of my blog and there you have it.

    Wanna know why I did it? I wasn't sure my kids would approve! How's that for tables turned?

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  25. Chief Chicken1:49 PM

    I haven't read your book yet, but I've probably read just about every word on your site. This was the first time I've heard of your sister as well.

    Dad will be proud of you. He may not agree with some choice words or topic material, but he will be proud.

    And...if you're really concerned, I'm sure you could "ban" his IP address and he will be none the wiser ;-)

    Don't do that though, he should be allowed to enjoy this site as much as we all have. Some of the sailboat posts come to mind.

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  26. Anonymous7:16 PM

    jv - i can only imagine how your father must feel...i'm prolly around his age. he raised a kind hearted man, a loving husband, and a wonderful writer. i'd bet he'll digest all of this, and maybe just wonder why you didn't tell him about the book - so he could gloat to his friends. talk to him, gorilla. :-)

    dj

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  27. MaryR8:04 PM

    I could have written this myself (but not as well). Sounds like our fathers were cut from the same cloth. Am I your secret sister?

    A few days after my father died, my aunt sat me down and told me he was most proud of me---Yep, I curbed my behavior around him, but he wasn't immune to my sister and I laughing until we peed ourselves about a loud fart. Of course, we got "the look" from him.
    Your dad is beaming with pride, JV. Farts and all. They know what we are, and they passed their moral compasses down to us. For that, we are thankful, and for them, they felt it was their job. Mission accomplished. To our fathers: Cheers!...and thank you. We are lucky to have parents who set the right example. Sure, we didn't have to work half as hard to get through college, had wonderful childhoods etc, but I think that made them happy to be able to provide that for us.
    And they didn't complain........

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  28. MaryR9:20 PM

    Give your father a copy of the book for Christmas, JV. He will be thrilled to know you had such a happy childhood.

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  29. I think I had the same response when I found out that my dad read my Twitter updates...which led him to my blog. Granted, this is the man who once pushed a mouse clear off the desk before concluding, "This thing doesn't work." Nevertheless, I was caught off guard, all the more so because he realized that I was Tweeting from mere miles of his house...and I didn't even tell him I was in the state. Crap and hell. Good luck, man.

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  30. I get it. I still don't smoke in front of my dad. The first time I said shit in front of my grandma, I offered to wash my own mouth out with soap. I was 21 at the time. If my parents found my blog, I'd probably consider deleting it and moving it to a new location.

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  31. Wait 'till he starts commenting on your posts...

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  32. Anonymous12:39 PM

    I once was a son, but now I'm mostly a Dad. The kid thinks I'm a rabid conservative, and I regret it.

    But changing his mind about anything has never worked.

    It just keeps him farther away from me than I would like.
    -dad

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  33. I like your perception of the life

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  34. If you quit writing this blog I'll, I'll...Never read you again! Waaaaaahahhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

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  35. I hope my family never finds out about my blog. They don' t even know I' m a republican. They're all ardent lefties.

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  36. MaryR is right - you have to give your dad an autographed copy of your book for Christmas. Hell, give him 5 - I'm sure he'll want extra copies to give to friends.

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  37. Anonymous7:49 AM

    My dad has been a Baptist minister for over 50 years. He found my blog where I was discussing my de-conversion and new-found atheism.

    And yet we're still close!

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  38. Anonymous9:30 AM

    This is one of the best things you've ever written IMHO.

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