Why You Got To Be So Rude?

There is a fairly new pop song that the radio stations play endlessly right now.  It’s called Rude, and it’s about a young man who goes to ask his girlfriend’s father for her hand in marriage.

It starts like this:

Saturday morning jumped out of bed
And put on my best suit
Got in my car and raced like a jet
All the way to you
Knocked on your door with heart in my hand
To ask you a question
‘Cause I know that you’re an old-fashioned man, yeah

Can I have your daughter for the rest of my life?
Say yes, say yes ’cause I need to know

In the music video, the father shakes his head and apparently says, “Nah, you ain’t marrying my daughter.”

You say I’ll never get your blessing ’til the day I die
Tough luck, my friend, but the answer is ‘No’

The young man then asks the dad, Why you got to be so rude?

Every time I hear that song, it takes me back to a similar conversation with Lisa’s father.  I’m not sure if it’s still an expectation in other parts of the country to ask a girl’s father for her hand in marriage, but in the south, it is.  At least in my circles.

So, I, being raised in a respectable family, knew what I had to do when I made the decision to take the plunge.  I called my father-in-law to be ,who I didn’t know very well, and asked him to go to lunch.  I admit I was a bit frightened.  It was a really awkward situation.  I was sitting there with a dude I didn’t really know, basically asking if I could defrock his daughter, spend Christmas with him, and go on his family vacations for the rest of his life.  All over a burger and fries.

I didn’t even know what to call this person.  He hadn’t told me I could marry his daughter yet so “dad” would have been presumptuous.  And, it seemed a bit formal to call my likely father-in-law Mr. Katsopolis – I’d likely see him in his underwear before the year was over.  But David or Dave was out of the question.  He was my elder, more than two decades my senior.

I don’t think I addressed him by name that day.  In fact, I don’t think I addressed him by name until there were grandchildren, at which time he became Pops, a comfortable name for all.

After small talk, he isn’t much of a small talker, and some awkward silence, I finally popped the question letting him know that I was planning to pop the question.

“Ahh, I think I’m gonna ask Lisa to marry me.  You OK with that?”  There was no going back now…

I was pretty sure he liked me but she was young, 23, and I was five years her senior.  I knew there was a possibility that he would beg me off for a while.  Surprisingly his response was rapid:

“Son, you don’t know what a burden you’re taking off of me.”

I gulped.  Were there things about my future wife that I didn’t yet know?  Did she have multiple personalities?  Financial baggage?  Perhaps an anger disorder?  Why was he so relieved?

As my mind raced working to figure out what I’d missed, Mr. Katsopolis gazed into nowhere, and as if his brain and mouth were one, his thoughts became audible:  “Her sister is going to be harder to place.”

If believe he picked up the check and bounced out of the restaurant as if he had just sold me a car without an engine.

I’m not sure how I’ll respond when some serious suitor comes to call for one of my girls, and I’ll have to admit I’ve wondered which of my daughters will be the most “difficult to place.”

Will I play hard to get with the fellas, or jump at the first offer?  DJ recently taped me singing my own version of Rude.  

I hope it doesn’t come to this!

Two Dads One Mic

Two dads one mic

A month ago, I was fortunate enough to spend an hour with two really interesting guys, Jake and Joey.  These dudes do a weekly podcast:  Two Dads One Mic, and they look at parenting from a father’s eyes.  It’s actually pretty interesting.

Their site describes their perspective as follows:  Two dads talk parenting, beer, babies, news, sports, food, and more, and they bring unsuspecting guests along for the ride. 

I was fortunate enough to be one of their “unsuspecting guests” and the ride was interesting.

Catch our conversation when you have a few minutes to listen  Two Dads One Mic, Episode 15  (click on Podcast Episodes, choose Episode 15, and be prepared for a 60 second intro).  Oh, they use my real name, Bruce, not my Real Full House name, Danny.

Wanted to give a little shout out to Jake and Joey for inviting me to tell my story.  Oh, and thanks to Uncle Jesse (Hayes) who helped line up this interview.

Finally – in the interview they talk about my upcoming book, Laughter, Tears and Braids.  I got the formatted proof this week – should be out soon!

Sunday Post 122: Fun-sucking Father

I think part of being a great father is really trying to put yourself in your kids’ shoes, trying to get into their psyches, working hard, hard to understand.  Too often, I miss that mark.

We were at the beach this past week with my extended family.  Each year, mid-week, we head to Calabash for seafood.  There are about six restaurants down there, I think they all serve the same food.  We go to the one my grandfather took us to when we were young.  It didn’t matter which beach we went to in North or South Carolina, he’d toss us all into his Lincoln Continental, which was equivalent in size to a 15 passenger van, and trek us down to Captain Jacks.

“It’s the best seafood on the east coast and cheaper,” he’d point out.

“But it takes three hours and two tanks of gas to get there and back,” we’d complain.

“It’s worth it.”

When Granddaddy Tanner made up his mind to do anything, there was no reasoning.  You just jumped in the back of the car and cracked the window so as not to choke on the smoke from an always lit cigarette.

After our family works ourselves into a gaseous fried food trance, we head to the year-round Christmas shop right up the road.  This year it started before we could get back to the car, Michelle turned on the full, annual, sales pitch.

“Dad, can I get a Hermit crab?”

Anticipating her move, I was ready for battle.  “Absolutely not,” I barked.  “It’s a ridiculous waste of money.  Don’t even start with me.  The answer is no!”

This year I would be firm from the get go.  We had three empty cages in the attic back home from conch pets of years’ past – nameless memories of nothing.  The little boogers don’t do a thing except sit, eat and poop.  You can’t pet them.  You can sleep with them.  You can’t take them for a walk.  We should release them all back into the wild, not paint their shells embarrassing colors with the Christmas shop’s owner’s fingernail polish.

“But daaaad.  I really, really want one.  I’ll take care of it this time.  I’ll feed him.  I’ll play with him.  I promise.”

“NO!” my voice got louder, “YOU CAN’T PLAY WITH A HERMIT CRAB!  Get a pet rock.”

It’s my brother’s fault, I thought.  He let his kids buy these damn varmints every single year.  My kids now think it’s the norm.  He such a pushover!

I looked at DJ hoping for an ally.  “You went through this stage.  What is it that compels every Tanner child to have this insatiable desire to own an oceanic crustacean?”

“Dad.  You won’t let us have any animals.  Maybe if we had a dog or a cat or even a bird, your kids wouldn’t be obsessed with getting a crab.  It’s all we can shoot for!”

“I guess you’re right.  We all need something to take care of.”

“Yeah.  And as a ten-year old, it feels really good to be able to purchase something alive that’s within your price range.  You can buy it, set it’s house up and care for it – all on your own.”

“Hum.”

I thought for a minute and the light bulb went on.

“Michelle, come here.”  She drooped over anticipating my next harsh words.

“Honey, I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have reacted so negatively to your crab request.  It was wrong of me.  If you want to buy one with your money, I’ll support you.  You have to take care of him, but it’s your decision.”

“You don’t really want me to get one, do you?”

“It’s okay.  It’s your decision.”

You would have thought that I told her she could have a pet giraffe.  She was so excited.

Maybe I was a pushover.  Or maybe, after a ridiculously knee-jerk reaction to a simple request, I got my wits about me.

I do that all too often.  My kids call me the fun-sucker.  That’s not who I want to be.  I want to add fun, not remove it.

How do we, as adults, so often forget what it was like to be a kid?  Our kids just want to be loved and to give love.  They want our time – a dad who hates cold water to be in the pool with them.  Or an animal that they can shower with affection and care for on their own.

And yet, so many times we rob them of the opportunity.  What was I thinking?

Sunday Post 120: Where is my father?

Where did my parents go?  Especially my dad.

I remember as a kid attending a lock-in at our church.  My dad, being a minister there, somehow drew the short end of the stick and had to chaperone.

They tossed all of the third grade boys into a room called “The Parlor.”  At the time, I wasn’t  sure what a parlor was, I thought it was a formal name for the scariest place in our church.

Nearing the midnight hour, we moved all of the antique chairs out of the way and laid our sleeping bags out.  My dad turned out the lights and barked at us to go to sleep.  There was one little problem with his plan.

In the front corner of the room, on either side of the fireplace, were portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Snyder.  The church was named for these dear old people, Snyder Memorial Baptist.  I’m sure they were lovely, but at midnight, in October, to a ten-year-old, they were just plain creepy.

Mr. Snyder wore a black jacket with a black tie and white collar that popped up on the ends.  Mrs. Snyder’s hair was gray, she wore a blue Sunday dress complete with matching lace.  A hat donned her head.

Where ever you walked in the room, both Snyders’ eyes were directly focused on your head.  Move to the left, so did their eyes.  Move to the right, they followed.  You couldn’t get away.  It was like a Scooby Doo episode.

It took one good howl from Edwin Martin, and we were done.

“Ahh!  They’re coming!  Help!”

My dad stood up and let us have it!

“They’re dead for heaven’s sake!!!”  He could have chosen different words, for that’s what was freaking us out.

“They can’t hurt you!  It’s just how a good artist paints eyes.  It’d be the same if it were a picture of you.”

He went and got some sheets and draped them over the portraits, as if they couldn’t peer through a thin layer of cotton.

This man who struggled for patience when we were young will let a ten-year-old granddaughter stay up late and eat extra ice cream!  His legs are stiff, and yet he’ll play with them in the floor.  Read the newspaper?  Who cares about that when a grandkid wants to play Old Maid?

Now I’m not saying my dad never played with us when I was a kid.  He certainly did and was a really great father.  But I’ll tell you this, my brother and I didn’t receive the same level of tolerance when we did something stupid that our children do now.  And a game of Battleship seldom outranked Walter Cronkite!

I nearly believe there was a twin at birth – and that perhaps they have been switched.

Sunday Post 77: Raleigh Dad Finds His Stride

Posted by Danny

The following article was published in the News and Observer on Father’s Day – a nice honor for me and the girls.

By Chelsea Kellner – ckellner@newsobserver.com

RALEIGH — The first time Danny Tanner took his oldest daughter shopping after his wife died, he thought he’d grab a chair with the other dads, like he always had.

Then he noticed the other teenage girls in the store, the ones shopping with their moms. They had someone to debate skirt length and help them match up colors, figure out which top to put with which jeans.

He’d never so much as flipped through a fashion magazine. But he got up from his chair and asked his daughter if he could help her find the right size.

 “The other girls may have moms in the dressing room to help them, but I think she’s gotten comfortable with having a dorky dad waiting for her just outside,” Danny said.

For the past two years, Danny has had to fill two sets of shoes for his three daughters, DJ, 14, Stephanie, 11, and Michelle, 9. His wife, Lisa, died in 2010 of colon cancer at age 39. Since then, Danny has been thrown into a world of ballet lessons and curling irons, boy drama and Justin Bieber. He’s now his daughters’ after-school chauffeur and fashion consultant, as well as disciplinarian and confidant.

It’s been hard, they agree. But the tough times have left dad and daughters with a deeper bond.

“He used to be out of the loop. We used to tell Mom more stuff, at least certain kinds of stuff – Mom knew all the girl-things,” DJ said. “Now he knows everything.”

‘Heartbeat of her family’

Danny is a soft-spoken man with gentle brown eyes and a quirky sense of humor. Lisa was a dark-haired firecracker, outgoing, outspoken and kind. They met at the YMCA when Lisa was 17 and Danny was 20, and married several years later.

With the birth of their three girls, the couple developed a balance in their parenting. Lisa, with her long, press-on fingernails, was the better back-scratcher, their daughters agree. Danny is a better tickler. Danny was always the nurturer, the one who would’ve been happy to have all three of his girls live at home forever. Lisa encouraged independence, Danny said, “gave the girls their wings.”

Then, in September 2009, doctors told Lisa she had stage four colon cancer. She started on a grueling regimen of radiation and chemotherapy. A surgery in December to remove the tumor brought hope, but by January, the cancer had spread to her back. Lisa died Feb. 24, 2010. DJ was 12 years old. Stephanie was 9, Michelle 7.

Danny and Lisa didn’t talk much about parenting in the last few months of her life, Danny says. They thought they had more time. But one of the last things Lisa did was write out each girl’s schedule for the summer, so Danny wouldn’t be overwhelmed and her daughters could get where they needed to go without her.

Just before Lisa died, her brother, Jesse Katsopolis, moved in with the family to help out. The men started a blog together titled “The Real Full House,” after the ’90s TV show chronicling a dad and two uncles raising three girls after their mother’s death. The blog’s tagline is “missing Mom but moving on…one day at a time.”

“He took about 24 hours for himself,” Katsopolis said. “Then it became clear early on that he decided he had more important things than himself to worry about.”

‘Party people, crazy-cool’

Danny’s daughters are typical sisters, giggling and bickering and dancing in their own choreographed music videos filmed on DJ’s laptop. Danny hashes out boy problems, relationships and girl dynamics with his daughters – “things their mom would talk to them about, but now it’s me,” he said. That part hasn’t been as hard as he thought it would be.

“We obviously respect our dad and do what he says, but we’re also friends with him,” DJ said.

“We’re like this,” Michelle said, holding up two fingers crossed at the knuckles.

Lisa had always handled the scheduling and logistics for their busy family of five. After her death, Danny had to learn fast. He’s senior vice president of development at YMCA of the Triangle, but her ability to juggle their daughters’ fast-paced lives left him breathless when he tried it for himself.

He also works to maintain traditions Lisa started, like home-cooked family dinners with cloth napkins and keeping fresh flowers around the house.

“I don’t want them to grow up watching sports all the time and eating spaghetti from a jar,” Danny said. “I’ve refocused my priorities, started paying attention to things I wouldn’t have before.”

He’s had his challenges, his daughters say with giggles when he leaves the room. Girl stuff, like clothes and hair, hasn’t come easy.

“Sometimes, he picks out the ugliest outfits for (Stephanie and Michelle), and I have to save them from wearing them,” DJ said.

“She has to say, ‘Dad, no,’ and we’re glad she does,” Stephanie said.

When Stephanie got her thick, dark hair cut into a bob that immediately started to frizz, Danny learned to handle a blow-dryer and round brush. It took time. He held the dryer between his shoulder and neck at first, DJ said, because he couldn’t figure out how to navigate dryer, brush and hair with just two hands.

“We were afraid he would burn himself,” DJ said.

Since Lisa’s death, the Ham household has slowly regained its groove. Dance parties are back. So are funny accents. A couple of months ago, they baked a purple-frosted birthday cake for teen pop star Justin Bieber.

“We’re odd,” Stephanie said.

“We’re party people,” Michelle corrected her. “We’re crazy-cool.”

‘How grief hits you’

Danny sees Lisa in his daughters every day, in DJ’s strength and leadership, in Stephanie’s looks and nurturing spirit, in Michelle’s peppy popularity. Their facial expressions sometimes mirror Lisa’s exactly, as much of a leap back in time for Danny as finding the occasional pack of his wife’s press-on fingernails forgotten in a jacket pocket.

“It’s the little things that you don’t realize will be difficult emotionally – and then you find yourself tearing up over something like a stroganoff recipe,” Danny said. “It’s foolish, but that’s how grief hits you.”

Despite the difficulties that have sprung from his family’s personal tragedy, Danny says he considers himself lucky.

“I don’t think there are a lot of dads who get to experience the depth of connection with their kids that I’ve gotten to experience,” Danny said. “We’re a tight group. We’ve weathered the storm. We’ve got each other.”

Kellner: 919-829-4802

http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/06/17/2142859/raleigh-dad-finds-his-stride.html

Sunday Post 76: A Proud Father

Posted by Danny

I was never the best looking kid, just average.  I’m not much of a sports guy – ran cross-country in high school but not in the top 5 and that’s what counts.  I was in a few school plays but never the lead.  I missed the National Honor Society at Terry Sanford Senior High School by 2 points – just didn’t quite apply myself enough.  And yet, with all that – or better yet, with only that, I always felt like my father was proud that I was his son.

He grew up with an alcoholic father.  His dad didn’t heap on the praise.  In fact, I don’t think he told my dad he was proud of him until my dad was 40.  And even that was in writing.  Yeah, that was about the extent of Granddaddy Tanner’s praise.

As I look at my father, I see the good pieces of my granddad – strong financial sense, good at tinkering with things, generous.  But I also see that he avoided all of the mistakes my granddad made.  My dad doesn’t drink – a lick.  He’s pretty open with his feelings.  He outwardly loves and respects my mother.  And he is the first one to tell his kids he loves them – regardless.  Yea – just regardless.

If my girls don’t know anything else in life, they know these two things:

1) Their dad loves them more than any human could ever love another

2) Their dad is proud of them just like they are

Yea, I push them on grades a bit.  There are times I’m disappointed in their actions, and I make my opinion known.  They don’t readily help out around the house very often, and their bickering drives me nuts! 

But in no way do their actions affect my love for them.  It’s just too deep.

I think God’s like that too.  Maybe that’s what being a father is all about.

Sunday Post 74: The Dead Wives Club

Posted by Danny

Every third Monday of the month for the past 18 months, I’ve driven to Chapel Hill, NC.  I’m a NC State man, I’m not going over there to support the Heels.  That’s actually where I meet with The Dead Wives Club.  That’s not our actual name; however, it probably best describes the group.

Two UNC psychiatrists were bored and looking for something to study.  I’m not sure how they landed on us.  I think they ran across one of the dudes in the group not long after his wife had passed.  I imagine the conversation went like this:

Doc 1:  “How ya’ holding up?”

Widower Dude:  “Not so well.”

Doc 1 to Doc 2:  “Interesting.  Let’s study this.”

Doc 2:  “Got anything better?”

Doc 1:  “Nah.  Not really.”

Doc 2:  “OK.”

And that was the beginning. 

There are about 8 of us in the group.  All under 50, all with kids still in the house, all who lost our wives to cancer around the same time.  We gather in an office building – we eat, we share. 

The first year, we cried – a lot – one of the few safe places I’ve found where men cry in front of other men and it’s fine.  We all know each other’s pain and for us, tears are NOT a sign of weakness.

We’ve shared about our kids.  We’ve talked about guilt.  We each, at varying times, removed our wedding rings.  And we found that the lonely nights and the empty bed were difficult for us all. 

I really don’t think that we have that much in common.  We’ve only seen each other 18 times in our entire lives.  And yet, in a way, we know more about each other than we know about most of the people we run across on a daily basis. 

How is that possible?  I believe we can walk into the room and sense exactly what the other is feeling.  It doesn’t really take words.  It’s in the eyes.

Over our time together, we’ve seen great progress.  We’ve moved from discussions on dealing with our incredible losses to discussion about Match.com (no, not yet). 

I didn’t think I was a support group kind of guy.  I’m probably not.  But there has been something incredibly comforting about this oddly matched group of men. 

I’m not sure how long we’ll meet.  We each will move forward and perhaps outgrow the need.  But walking into a room of young dads who lost their wives to the same damn disease has been one leg of my healing journey.  And I’m thankful for that.

Tinkle Tinkle Little Old Man

Posted by Danny

The older I get, the more I pee. 

I just don’t understand it.  Not only do I pee more, but it also takes longer to evacuate an equal amount of fluid.

In my younger days, if I stood before a urinal, I immediately started to go.  The only exception was at the Dean Dome at UNC.  They have long troughs – they herd you in and you stand shoulder to shoulder to the Tarheel next to you.  I stare at the tile wall in front of me, scared of what I might see if I turn my head the least bit to the left or right.  In those instances, I work hard to imagine something happy and peaceful, like my grandmother’s fried chicken.  It takes a lot, regardless of your age, to pee with dudes bumping your arms on either side.

But that’s not what I’m talking about.  Be it the Dean Dome or my own private toilet, I stand and wait.

There really ought to be some sort of iPad designed to hang from the wall behind a man’s toilet.  Might as well do something productive as much time as I spend there.  Sometimes I make a call – but then its awkward when I forget I’m on the phone and flush.

“Bruce, was that a toilet flush?”

“Ahh – I don’t think so…I’m outside, the wind is incredible here.  Gotta go.”

And I probably do “have to go” again, because it won’t all come out on the first try.

Sometimes I pee three or four times before I go to sleep.  Pee, lay down.  Man, I think I need to go some more.  Ridiculous!  You JUST went.  Go to sleep.  Dude, there is still more in there.  And back up I am. 

It’s never a false alarm.  Every time I’m in front of a toilet, something comes out.  It might only be a teaspoon full – but there’s pee.

I think there might be a catch in my urethra.  Sort of like when the yard hose gets bent and water won’t come out.

I knew I was peeing more than ever, but last year it became apparent how my bladder was changing. 

The family was on a road trip, and we pulled in to a rest stop.  Jesse, my father-in-law and I all approached the urinals at about the same time.  As I stood there, I heard Jesse – his flow was quick and strong.  He’d clearly had a lot to drink that morning, but his exit was clear.  His thirty year old self finished and washed his hands.

About that time, I began…

Dribble, dribble, dribble…

Flow… Stop.  Flow… Stop.

Dribble, Dribble.

Drop, Drop, Drop.

When I arrived at the car, Jesse was in the driver’s seat listening to music with another soda in his hand.

A few minutes later, the seventy year old headed toward the car.

And thus is life.  Twenty years from now, I’ll be the last to leave the bathroom.  Jesse will be in the middle and Michelle’s stinkin’ husband will be through and throwing the football by the picnic table with my grandson.

I never dreamed I’d spend this much of my life in a bathroom.  Maybe I’ll try standup Sudoku.

Sunday Post 51: Building Them Up

Posted by Danny

Sometimes I see my kids get torn down – right to their core.  Occasionally it comes from me…

“Just get your homework done!”

“You’re wearing that?”

“I can’t right now – maybe later.”

Each phrase I carelessly toss out, I later regret.  It’s often not what I say, but how I say it. 

“You’re wearing that?”  Stupid!  I don’t actually say it, but the implication is certainly there.

I hear my girls rip each other down day after day.  I’m sure it’s natural – but I hate it nonetheless.  “Lord knows we’ve learned that the world is a tough place. I tell them.  “Within the walls of this house, we should all be safe.”  Safe to be who we really are without the pressure of living up to another’s opinion.  We should encourage and show each other grace, not cut down or use terse tones.

My argument works – for about an hour.  And then, it starts right over again.

And the hardest for me is when other people tear my kids down.  It usually occurs with a girlfriend – a snide comment about clothes or leaving one out in the lunchroom.  I’m sure my kids do it too.

With all that’s coming at them, I’m not sure how to ensure that my kids grow up feeling good about themselves. 

Periodically, I play a little game with my kids at bedtime.  We list ten things that we love about that kid.  I throw in ideas and they agree or toss in suggestions of their own.  We try to avoid vanilla things like “Stephanie is nice.”  And if we do, we try to break it down to define what nice really means.  And the list is easy – I can think of hundreds of things I love about my girls.

Sometimes my younger girls will say, “Dad, can we make that list about me?”  Come to think of it, I might ask my boss to do the same for me tomorrow.  Sometimes you just need someone to tell you how great you are!

I worry about them.  I want to pummel anyone who doesn’t build them up.  But I guess I can’t.  It’s just not the way you handle life, and, I’m not a very good fighter.

I want to set a foundation that lets them know their father likes them and not just because I have to.  I want them to be able to point out their assets and unique talents.

And maybe, just maybe, the negative things that come their way will more easily slide off.

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