Childhood Lost

I was challenged the other day with the following question. When was the first time you really felt like a grown up (sic) (if ever)? Questionable spelling and snarky implication aside, the question is something I’ve pondered before.

The problem I face in answering such a question is complex. I have no true memories of my early years. The first true memories I can recall started when I was about six. Anything before those memories are memories I created based on the stories told about an incident.

I had many interesting childhood experiences, beginning with a near-death experience. I was six months old, and my great-grandmother almost killed me. That was my first trip to a hospital, and I carried the physical scars of that incident for decades. If that were not enough, my little brother dropped a brick on my head a few years later, again sending me to the hospital.

Of course, that one also made me the butt of many jokes as I grew older. Any memory lapse, odd behavior, or whatever was blamed on the brick. Luckily, I was reportedly wearing a sturdy leather cap at the time of the assault, or the jokes might not have been funny.

Early near tragedies aside, I cannot remember when I was not expected to be a grown-up, at least part of the time. The first clear memory of my childhood was alluded to in the first paragraph. I was five years old. That memory resulted in another trip to the hospital and laid the groundwork for prepubescent adulthood.

Surviving my early childhood was no mean feat. I made it, though, quickly transitioning from preschool boyhood to being the third adult in our little family. That may sound pretentious or over the top, but it was my reality. When I think of those years, two country songs come to mind, “Peter Pan” and “Love Triangle.”

Dad was so much like the guy Kelsea Ballerini wrote about in her song “Peter Pan” that it hit me immediately. Then there is Raelynn’s song “Love Triangle.” I was the anchor point in my family’s little love triangle. I was caught between Mom and Dad, trying to love and calm them or ride out the storms that often raged through our lives.

Being the oldest child, babysitter, and shoulder to cry on was interesting. I manned the confessional for Dad’s rants and raves. I was the kid who wanted to play ball but had to hold Mom’s hand or stand by and watch her wilting because of things done, not done, said, or not said that left her empty. I was the big brother who had to act like a dad when my little brother acted like a little brother.

Yes, I was grown up, long before I was old enough for others to think of me as an adult, much less a grown-up. That’s probably why I took every chance as an adult to experience something akin to the joy I saw in the faces and eyes of my children and grandchildren.

In closing, I acted the part and had to be the adult in the room years before I wanted to have that job. However, the first time it truly hit me that I was fully grown up was one night not long after I graduated from high school. That was when my father asked me to care for my mother because he was divorcing her to marry his much younger girlfriend.

© 2023

Posted in family, infidelity, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Could Be; Should Be?

Writing prompts are such fun. Whether the prompts come from events happening around you or funneled to you by one muse or another. Take the one below. It came from a Happiness Engineer but triggered a memory from decades ago.

What principles define how you live?

Back in the dark ages, 1981 to be exact, the United States Army first adopted the slogan “Be All You Can Be” as a recruiting tool. Now, that is a great-sounding principle. It was so great at the time it was recognized years later as one of the best advertising campaigns ever, which is why it was resurrected earlier this year.

One of the things I enjoyed the most during my years as a police chief was addressing a police academy graduating class. Looking at all those eager faces, young and not so young, inspired me to make my comments meaningful yet entertaining.

Who wants to sit there and listen to some old fuddy-duddy repeat things you’ve already heard from instructors and training officers more times than you want to remember? So, I always tried to say something unexpected or different, and this prompt reminded me of one of the last curve balls I threw at a class of graduates.

Yep, I took a shot at the idea that being all you can be is a principle to live by. Now, why would I do that? Who wouldn’t want to be all they can be in life? Isn’t that a principle to live by?

Sadly, as with all slogans, mottos, admonitions, etc., it is very subjective. That is why I changed it when I spoke to academy graduates. My slogan was, “Be All You Should Be!”

I am sometimes a hairsplitter; some people even see me as a bit of a Chicken Little guy. They see me running around shouting, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” whenever the stuff hits the fan.

However, those young men and women were preparing to start careers in a very difficult and complex profession. Telling them to “be all you can be” might be misleading. Instead, I suggested striving to be all they “should be.”

For instance, there are various formulas for being a winner and champion. Wouldn’t most of us think being a winner and champion is close to being all you can be? If that is what you think, here is one of the formulas that may lead you to that goal.

  • Winners and champions are passionate about what they do.
  • They are committed to what they do.
  • They have a strategy or a plan.
  • They have clarity of purpose.
  • They are willing to take action.
  • They have the energy to get things done.
  • They have bonding power and the ability to communicate.

Would you agree that if you had all these traits, you would have a good chance to be all you could be? Can you think of people who had these characteristics? People who did their best to be all they could be.

To me, names like John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Mother Teresa fall into that category. They weren’t perfect, but they were loved and respected. However, others did their best to be all they could be and are not held in such high esteem.

People like Adolph Hitler, Charles Manson, and Jim Jones come to mind. They had passion and commitment. They had a plan and clarity of purpose. They had energy, bonding power, and communication ability. They sought to be all they could be.

Hopefully, we can agree they were not all they should be.

© 2023

Featured Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

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Chief Disappointment

Science and medicine have come a long way since sage smoke was used to help heal and ward off evil spirits. In most cases, advances have been beneficial and productive. Still, there are times when even the most well-intentioned advancements can lead to disappointment.

For example, the advances made through the study of DNA resulted in all sorts of benefits. From helping identify potential health risks to reuniting siblings separated at birth or helping provide justice for the victims of horrible crimes.

DNA analysis also made genealogy a big business. Today, anyone who wishes can spit in a test tube, and one company or another will begin tracing their genetic history. Of course, there are downsides to almost any scientific breakthrough, and those researching their heritage through the scientific method are not always happy with the findings.

Take my family for example. My mother’s side of the family tree was proud and vocal about their Native American heritage. I remember hearing stories of our Cherokee and Choctaw heritage from a young age. One in particular was told regularly.

It was the tale of the young Cherokee cousin who decided to leave Oklahoma and move to Florida. He became a successful entrepreneur in the hotel business and was the family’s pride.

No one could provide any evidence that the story and heritage were true. However, if looks meant anything, they were spot on as far as ancestry was concerned. My grandmother’s features and bearing would have allowed her to play a Native American matriarch in any Hollywood Western.

Thankfully, my mother and grandmother passed before DNA tests became a feature of the modern world. Otherwise, they might have received devastating news when I took two DNA tests to learn more about my lineage.

The reason for my research had nothing to do with my mom’s family history. No, I was checking on my dad’s side of the family. My goal was to identify my father’s lineage. His biological father was known only to his mom, and she never shared the info.

I still receive notifications about potential relatives and ancestors from the services I used. Most of those are worthless or validate what I already knew. However, the original DNA tests answered a question I did not ask.

As expected, I discovered that my dad’s heritage was likely Scottish-Irish, with some Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA thrown in for good measure. I also found there was not one small percentage of Native American DNA in my body. The closest I came to Native American DNA was Asian.

The Asian DNA match makes sense. Most experts agree groups from Asia originally populated the Americas. Still, as much as I’d like to think otherwise, there is little chance I am probably related to Sitting Bull, Geronimo, or any other famous Chief. *

* I know! None of the most well-known chiefs were Cherokee or Choctaw, but one can dream, can’t he?

© 2023

Posted in family, Humor, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

Friday Follies: Burnouts and Burgers

Working nights, 1100 to 0700 hours, was one of those good news-bad news things. You were either going to be bored out of your mind or scared out of your wits at some point. In between those extremes was routine patrol. Occasionally, there were also little incidents that made you wonder how some people managed to get dressed in the morning.

For example, one night shift, I was camped out watching the infamous Fry Street area in Denton, Texas. I was parked where I could keep an eye on the local “stop and rob,” the head shops and bars on Fry, and the Jack in the Box. The Box was where the stoners and drunks would go to scarf down greasy burgers and fries.

Shortly after the bars closed, I heard what sounded like a car at the drag strip warming up the tires.* There was that loud screeching sound and the noise of an engine revving up, ready to launch, but there were no loud exhaust noises.

Now, that was strange. Who, in those days at least, did burnouts without loud pipes? Nobody! Yet, for a few minutes, there would be loud screeching and engine noise but no movement. I could not see anything to match the noise and was about to drive down the street to see if I could see something.

Then there was movement. From behind the Jack-in-the-Box, a car appeared. It moved in jerky stages. The engine would rev, the tires would screech, the front end would raise up, and it would move a few feet. Then the noise would stop, and the strange show would start again. When it reached the street, I was there, red lights flashing.

Of course, I expected some drunk kid or local stoner to stagger out of the car. Instead, a nicely dressed, polite young man stepped out when I asked him. He and his three buddies had those “Oh, no! What am I going to tell my mother” looks on their faces.

After checking them out, checking the car out, and realizing what happened, I had to laugh. However, I did not laugh until I let them go on their way.

The driver and his friends were new students at North Texas State University. The driver’s parents surprised him with a brand-new Chevrolet Monte Carlo and had it delivered to his apartment in Denton. Since it was a delivery, the driver dropped it off and left the keys at the office, and no one familiarized the kid with the car.

The display of smoking tires and revving engines was not due to drugs, alcohol, or a desire to show off his powerful new hotrod. Rather, it resulted from not releasing the parking brake before putting the car in gear.

The look on the kid’s face when I pulled the release and the parking brake pedal popped up was priceless. The muffled laughter of his friends was sad.

*Image by LEEROY Agency from Pixabay

© 2023

Posted in Humor, Police, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Speaking of Brands

I’ve been asked a lot of questions in my life. They ranged from the rather petulant ” Just who do you think you are?” to the whiney “Are you really going to arrest me, officer?” Until this week, no one ever asked me, “What brands do you associate with?”

Did I suddenly become a social media influencer or a rising hot commodity in the entertainment or sports field? I don’t think so. Though, I have been asked what’s your favorite brand of this or that sometimes. In most cases, such questions were for surveys, but occasionally, they were statements in disguise.

For instance, a friend asked me not long ago, “Do you still wear Levi’s?” He wanted to say he quit buying Levi’s when he heard Levi’s moved production overseas. First, though, he needed me to clarify my position, just in case.

So, where does the question inspiring this piece stand? Well, it is a bit open-ended. The question probably refers to manufacturer’s brands like the one I referenced. However, I’m from Texas, and I might think of a cattle brand that was pretty nifty, such as the Four Sixes.

The bottom line is this. I do not associate with any brand. I might drink a particular beverage brand more often than others, but I don’t associate with the brand. Others may associate me with the brand, but that is their bias, not mine.

Beyond having some fun with words, my point is that using the term associate here makes one question its use instead of addressing the question’s intent. Unless, of course, the goal was to flush out hairsplitters like me.

© 2023

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Monday Musings: A Lesson Learned

Have you ever had the experience of wishing you’d learned something earlier in life? I do not mean knowing the Theory of Relativity or not making the mistake the character below made.

I’m talking about life lessons. Something like how time-wasting it is to carry a grudge or allow someone’s actions to make you feel bad or hold you back. If we’re honest, most of us had that “if I’d only known” thought at least once.

For me, it allowed others to impact me negatively and feel powerless or less than at times. I learned that as a child, and it stuck with me for years. In some ways, it was a blessing but an exhausting one.

It was a blessing because it made me work hard and be the best I could be. That was exhausting, but it was even more exhausting when someone put me down, played games to take credit for something, or kissed the right butts to get the promotion I deserved.

I would be carrying the same baggage today if I had not encountered a personal development program that helped me look at myself and others differently. In that program, my years of higher education and experience in dealing with the training and managing of people came together.

Suddenly, I was looking back from a different perspective. I realized I had allowed the flaws in others to make me feel flawed. People who would stab their best friend in the back to get a promotion were the ones who were hurting. And I had let their negativity and inappropriate actions affect me.

Thankfully, my childhood gave me the tools to keep moving and succeeding in the face of negativity, backstabbing, and rumor-mongering. However, it would have been a much easier path to travel if I’d known what I know now.

© 2023

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Friday Follies: Another Humpday Night

It is so nice that people I’ve never met and probably never will meet are interested in my life. Yes! My little online muse posted a note wanting to know what I was doing that evening. That is so sweet!

Okay, whoever came up with that question is just trying to keep me writing, hoping it’ll help my and WordPress’s numbers. That’s fine because it also allows me to stroll down memory lane again and visit the past.

For those reading this in countries other than mine, I do not know if Wednesday is considered “Hump Day” in your world. Here, it is the traditional midpoint of the five-day workweek. So, it is the day you get over the hump and start sliding toward the weekend.

In this household, it is also the last night of traditions that started when we were kids and television was still in its infancy. Like many of our Baby Boomer friends, we were hooked on television variety shows as kids. Shows headed up by people such as Lawrence Welk, Ed Sullivan, Jack Benny, and Steve Allen, to name a few.

Some, including some of our children, cannot believe we’re wasting time on such shows. But there is a reason for our becoming couch potatoes on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights. Beyond reminding us of childhood time spent with our families, we have another connection to these nights and these shows.

They came back to us at a poignant period in our lives. Cancer raised its ugly head in our home. For months, our formerly active lives were dedicated to dealing with surgeries, chemo, and all that goes into surviving such a challenge.

Nights out with family and friends or inviting someone to dinner were on hold. Shows such as American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, and The Voice took our minds off the challenges and reminded us of days gone by.

So, the day this question was posed, it was Hump Day. We dined at home, enjoyed some decent entertainment, and remembered sitting on the living room floor watching Elvis, the Beatles, or comedic action on black and white television.

© 2023

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A Question of Distance

I was recently asked to write about the “farthest” I’ve ever traveled from home. Immediately, a short list of locations ran through my mind. And I pondered, “Which was the farthest from home?” With the help of Google Maps and a little patience, I started comparing distances.

Of course, my contrarian persona threw me a curve ball before I was finished. It whispered, “What did they mean by farthest?”

I know! Farthest usually means distance, but not always! Take New York City and Toronto. I spent time in both the late ’80s and early ’90s. They are less than 500 miles apart by car but might have been on different planets. The difference between Ottawa and Toronto was not as dramatic, but they could have been on different continents.

I could go on with the comparisons. I’ve been blessed to travel to wonderful places thousands of miles from what I’d call home. If you’d like, click the links below to read about some of those experiences. However, none of those trips meet the farthest I’ve traveled definition I have in mind.

The farthest I ever traveled from home was a round-trip of almost 2,000 miles that lasted several weeks. It was a sad journey, though it could have been a sadly amusing tragic comedy movie in hindsight. What made it sadly funny was where it ended.

My mother, brother, and I left home in the summer of 1963 and headed to my grandparents’ home in Indiana. It was not a vacation or a normal trip to see the relatives. It was a relocation journey. Thankfully, the relocation did not work out. After a few weeks, we returned to Fort Worth, Texas, our hometown. Unfortunately, we weren’t going home.

Mom and I ended up in a small house about a mile from where we lived when we left Fort Worth. While we were away, Dad moved to a garage apartment near my future stepmom, and my brother joined him. When the dust finally settled, the term home had a different meaning to all of us.

Before, the four of us lived in a large ranch-style home with a few acres, a barn, and two horses. The horses were not ours, but we cared for them. You might say we were their foster family. Mom and I were still within walking distance of the place, but it might as well have been in another universe.

Yes, farthest can mean something other than distance.

© 2023

A Question of Beauty

Speaking of Travel

A Reason to Give Thanks

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Monday Musings: Oops! I did it again!

If the title of this piece has you humming a Britney Spears song for the rest of the day, good! I wish I’d had it running through my head the other day when I did something I promised myself I would not do again.

Yes! I bought into a clickbait post concerning a topic near and dear to my heart. How those who serve our country in uniform, military or otherwise, are often treated when they are out in public.

I wore Army green in the late ’60s, police navy blue for almost thirty years after that, and buried my little brother with military honors during the Vietnam War. So, I am interested when someone tells a story about how anyone wearing a uniform is mistreated.

Sadly, as in the case attracting my attention, many of those stories are simply internet con games. This one started with the tale of a soldier who lost a close friend in combat.

Like my brother and one of his friends, they made a pact to get together when they made it home from ‘Nam. In both cases, the post and my brother’s life, only one made it home.

In the piece of trash doled out by the post’s author, the two buddies agreed to celebrate their reunion at a high-end restaurant the one who met his end in ‘Nam loved. The post was about how the survivor tried to honor his friend by dining at the restaurant.

The author of this piece of trash doled out the story in paragraphs separated by advertising, earning a few bucks for dragging people into his con game. Then, after a gut-wrenching tale of a soldier treated like dirt because he dared to wear his uniform in a “high-end” restaurant, the author explained the whole thing was a sham.

By then, I was expecting the “Hey, this is all a fairy tale I made up to get clicks” disclaimer. Still, using a story of this nature to make a few bucks or pick up a few followers is tantamount to the bullies many of us knew in school or hear about today. People who inflict pain on others to make themselves feel good about themselves.

And don’t give me any BS about the writer wanting to highlight how those in uniform are sometimes mistreated. Or how they can be supported in their post-deployment days or come together to help one of their brothers or sisters out in a time of distress.

I had the honor of meeting one of my brother’s buddies from ‘Nam and spoke with another several times by telephone. I also worked with many veterans of that and other conflicts. Few, if any, would find much solace in fake stories like the one inspiring my post.

© 2023

Posted in Ethics, Journalism, Morality, Uncategorized, Vietnam | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Monday Musings: Nice Butt Bubba

Well, I guess I should have expected it. In some ways, it began with the attack on Boomers. It wasn’t an all-out assault, but it was an attack. Posts began appearing on social media with titles such as “50 Things Boomers Should Quit Doing.” Suddenly, our traditions, our hobbies, our vocations, and our clothing were under attack.

Even our manners were under attack. Take the practice of holding a door open for someone who presented themselves as female. According to an issue of Cosmopolitan, a study conducted in the United States found a man holding a door open for a woman was likely an act of ‘benevolent sexism.” 

The current trend appeared more recently and first manifested itself in business attire. I still remember a high-end men’s clothing store salesperson trying to convince me that a suit coat that fit me like a second skin was the right size. I wasn’t buying, but many of my young colleagues were.

When your suit coat is so tight you can barely button it, that’s a bit of a stretch. (pun intended) When that wasn’t enough, trousers began to be half a size too small, and legs were tapered to the point a thin younger man looked like a stick figure.

Recently, I made the mistake of clicking on a post touting the latest version of men’s shorts and trousers for work or leisure wear.  They are, to be kind, one step away from being stretchable workout attire. In fact, one advertisement even touted how they fit the wearer’s hips and legs.

The picture to the right is a pair of “Athletic Fit Stretch Suit Pants.” They are not as workout-looking as some others I’ve seen, but do you really want to wear slacks that are so thin and tight people can see how much change you have in your pocket?

OneOldCop -2023

Posted in Daily Life, Humor, Manners, social media, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment