Another One Bites The Dust

packing

Stephanie, my middle kid, is heading to college on Friday.

I’m not sure what else I can do to prepare her.  We’ve covered sex, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, credit card abuse, #metoo, diversity, opioids, hygiene, tattoos, the benefits of making your bed each day, getting involved and academics.

Our conversations go something like this:

Me:  “Opioids killed 2,500 people in North Carolina last year.”

Stephanie:  “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Me:  “Often folks get addicted after having surgery because they use them for pain.”

Stephanie:  “Then don’t use them for pain.”

Me:  “I won’t.  You don’t either.  They may be running rampant at Elon.  I’m just not sure.  Please don’t take them.”

Stephanie:  “I won’t.”

I’m not sure if these lessons are seeping in.

I have such hopes and dreams for this kid.  She’s like the best kid in the world, and I’m about to toss her into the ocean of life.

Thankfully she will only be an hour away.  I can get to her quickly if I need her.  I guess I could just drive over there each morning to make her bed – just to ensure it gets done.  I’m sure she’ll be up early.

No, that’s ridiculous.  I wouldn’t really do that!  I’ll just see her on Sundays when she comes home to go to church with me.

OK – I’m going to be brave.  I’m going to unpack her stuff, drop her off and drive away without tears or a scene.  And I’m not going to drive to Elon to see her – until the second week when I’m “passing” through to go to Charlotte.  I mean seriously, I’m gonna drive RIGHT by the Elon exit on I-40, what do you expect me to do?

Finding the Parking Lot

nrhd_stmarys

I woke her up at 7 AM which was the usual time.  At 7:35, I walked to the bottom of the staircase to give instructions for the afternoon before I left the house.

“Stephanie, please pick Michelle up from school at 5:15.  I’ll be home at 6.”

I heard a scramble.  She had to be at school by 8 and her feet had not yet hit the ground.  She grumbled that she would indeed pick up her sister as instructed.

As I got in my car, I received a text message.

Dad, I don’t know how to get to the parking lot at school.

This was her first day driving alone to school.  This was the first time she had to find her parking space.

I texted back, Didn’t you ride with DJ to school your entire freshman year?  Didn’t you park in that lot for 180 consecutive school days???

The three questions marks that followed my words would come back to haunt me.  They clearly sent the message that I thought she was directionally deficient.  Which she is.  But I didn’t need to remind her at 7:38 AM when she was clearly having a worse than average morning.

She called.  “You are so mean to me!”

“I’m sorry.  I just thought after being at St. Mary’s School for girls for three years, you would know how to get to the parking lot.”

The for girls was unnecessary.  It was like my dad calling me by my first, middle and last name when I was in trouble as a child.  I could have just as easily said school or St. Mary’s.  The for girls was my way of sharing my exasperation that she wasn’t attentive enough to be able to master this seemingly simple task on her own.  Perhaps it was even a dig at women in general, my connotation being that all were directionally inferior to men.

Although I know that not to be true, my youngest daughter perhaps has better directional intuition than I, I did spend the first 18 years of my life with a woman who could hardly find her way out of our driveway.

At one point my mother was driving by herself down I-95 to her parents’ house in Florence, SC, 85 miles due south of Fayetteville, NC, where we had lived for ten years at the time.  She had made the trek with my father monthly for that decade; a minimum of 120 trips.  Likely many more.

In Lumberton, she got off of I-95 south to go to the restroom.  She then got back on I-95 north to complete her trip south.  Forty-five minutes later she was shocked to see road signs welcoming her to the City of Dogwoods.  Yes, she was back in Fayetteville.

There was also the time she drove back from Florence and missed Fayetteville altogether realizing her mistake around Benson, a good 45 minutes north.

I told Stephanie to call me once she got to Hillsborough Street.  That I would try to talk her to the back entrance of the school.  It was a difficult conversation.

“Stephanie, the school is on a square block.  You simply have to follow the streets around it to get to the back.”

She needed more.

“I’m on Hawthorne Street.  How do I get there from here?”

“I don’t know.  I am unfamiliar with Hawthorne Street.  What do you see around you?”

“Houses.”

“That is unhelpful.  Do you see any other streets?”

“There is one here called… Beneful or something like that…”

“Beneful?  That’s the powder I put in my juice to stay regular.  Just drive toward the school!  You’re bound to find it.”

And she did, making it to class on time.

I need to watch my words and my tone.  But dag gone, sometimes I just can’t think like they do.

Our Facetime Friend

It started in October.  A guest joining us a night or two each week for 30 minutes or so.  Now, she’s here almost every Sunday – Thursday night, for hours on end.

I don’t know when she gets here although on many evenings, I’m the reason she leaves.

After dinner, Stephanie heads upstairs to her room to begin to slog through her homework.  She’s a smart kid in a school that is extremely challenging.  Kimmy is in most of her classes.  They “study” together most nights from 8 – 11 PM, sometimes later.

Kimmy’s head is perched on Stephanie’s phone screen lying in the middle of the bed night after night after night.  It’s an app called Facetime, I think.

Often, they don’t talk.  They’re doing their own thing.  When the occasional question arises, they are there to answer.

I pop into Steph’s bedroom perhaps in my boxers.

“Dad, Kimmy’s here.  Put your pants on!”

I run away in shame holding my hand over my groin in case.

I might bustle in with a piece of juicy information, “Sarah’s mom told Sarah’s dad that Mrs. Phiserdine’s daughter was drinking on Friday night.  Do you know anything?  I promised Phil I wouldn’t say anything so mums the word!”

Too late.  Kimmy was hiding under the quilt.  I hear them giggle as I walk back down the stairs.

The other day I came in to unload some laundry.  I walked over to the bed.  It was empty.  Well, almost.

Hello Mr. Tanner.

I looked up.  Gabrielle?  I’m here.  I’m ready to go.  No.  No.  It’s Kimmy.

“Hello Kimmy Gibbler.  So nice to see you tonight.”

Stephanie’s in the shower.

“Yes.  I know.  I live here.  How’s school?”

It’s good.

“I’m just gonna go back downstairs now…”

OK.

When I hit Stephanie’s room late to unpack the day and encourage sleep, we often get into our best conversations.  I often look down, and Kimmy is with us.

“Don’t worry dad.  I muted her.  She can’t hear anything.”

“She’s sitting here, and she can’t hear anything?”

Stephanie turns her off.

“Aren’t you going to say goodbye?”

“Nah.  Usually one of our phones dies.  That’s when we stop.”

There is no official goodbye.

I pick on them, but I sort of think it’s nice.  It’s company and friendship, the 21st Century kind.  Technology can be relational.

Lordy, Lordy, Driving Up I-40 (with a teenager at the wheel!)

Lucy driving

Number 2 got her driver’s permit this week.

Whew.

There are so many times I look at being a father and think, I’m going to miss this so much when they grow up.

I’m not thinking that with this particular task.  I HATE riding with people who don’t know how to drive!

After our two and a half hour visit to DMV (nah, we didn’t even have to take the driving test, and it took that long), I had a choice to make.  I could toss her behind the wheel immediately, or I could let her bask in her glory and put off the pain ‘til later.  I compromised.

I just couldn’t get the courage to let her drive down Wake Forest Road in Raleigh on the way home.  The lanes are as wide as the Food Lion ketchup aisle; even I grip the wheel a little tighter when riding by the TGI Fridays.  Instead, I drove a bit closer to the house and pulled over to switch seats.  That took 15 minutes.  Since there is a good foot between our heights, every mirror and seat setting had to be massively adjusted.  And, I had to remind her to put the car in drive – which is so very important.

After the switch, we headed up a fairly steep hill.  The car behind us was on our tail, because we were going 7 miles per hour.

“Give it some gas baby! Your grandparents are expecting us for Thanksgiving dinner, and we don’t want to be late.”

I understand the potential frustration of those driving nearby.  And yet, I don’t think they get the danger that abounds.  I want a Driver’s Ed sign on the top of my car so that there is an excuse for our roadway behavior.

We were driving down Wade Avenue to church this morning, and Stephanie was using the curbs like bumper cars.  There is more passenger side tire on the curbs in the 27607 zip code than there is on my car!  Why must she drive so close to the curb?  She practicing for a career as a street sweeper?

I never realized how difficult merging could be.   I think her Driver’s Ed teacher chickened out and spent the whole six hours they rode together in an empty warehouse parking lot.  Clearly he failed to make her road ready.

Yesterday I pondered two options for how we could get home.  I chose the one that went closest to the hospital.  The thought literally went through my head: which street would I most prefer to die on?  Lake Boone Trail or Edward’s Mill Road?  Well, Lake Boone is closer to the hospital, and we likely won’t clog up as much traffic there.  Plus, there is a Starbucks, perhaps I could pass through on my way up to heaven – offer Simon Peter a cup o joe… just in case.

I slept on my shoulder wrong last week and have had a massive crick in my neck for eight days.  I think it’s getting a bit better, and then I get in the car with my adolescent chauffeur.   Before we’re out of the driveway, my neck is so stiff I can’t nod.

Plus, she’s teeny!  Too teeny to drive.  She looks like the “Where’s the beef” lady from the old Wendy’s commercials.

I had my Sunday School class put us on the prayer list.  I’m not sure if we are going to die in an accident or if we’re going to kill each other in the process of trying to learn to drive.  Either way, things don’t look good in the Tanner household.

Sunday Post 180: One-on-One with the Kid

For the past three years, when Stephanie and DJ head to overnight camp for a month, Michelle and I take at least one fun trip.  We did New York last year.  This year we decided to hit DC.

On the first day of our adventure, we decided that we were going to talk with British accents, even in front of others.  Typically, we’d stick to our plan for an hour or two.  But we sort of got into it for the whole blooming trip.

This is how we rolled:

“Father?”

“Yes daughter?”

“Can we speak like William and Kate for the duration of our trip?”

“I don’t see why not.  Let’s make a go of it ole’ chap.”

“Shall we speak like this alone or in front of others?”

“As we’re gallivanting around, let’s consider speaking like this the entire time regardless of who is listening.”

“Jolly good.”

I’ll have to say that it was quite enjoyable to pretend to be something we weren’t – people with manners.

We saw almost all of the monuments…

Jefferson

Jefferson

 

Washington

Washington Monument

 

And MLK.

MLK

I’d never seen that one.  It was bloody beautiful!  But by the time we got that far, Michelle was fagged out.  So I had to entice her with a spot of tea and a ride on the Tidal Basin paddle boats.

We didn’t boat too far.  I began to realize that the further we moved from the docks, the more leg power it was going to take to get back.  Plus it started raining.

“I’m tired father,” my little one complained.

“Rubbish!  Poppycock!  We’ve got much more to see.”

“But father…”

“Don’t get cheeky with me princess.  Sit on your bum a bit and rest your pins.”

She regained her energy with a lemonade and a bot-le o water, and tickety-boo we marched on to the Roosevelt statue.

Roosevelt

By the end of the day we were zonked out.  We showered and had a nice dinner where Michelle ordered surf and turf (from the kid’s menu) and sucked down three Shirley Temples.

Although the sites were amazing, one-on-one time with my girl is what took the biscuit!

 

Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

If you have read the book and are willing to write a short review, it would be helpful:Click here. And thanks

 

 

My Political Dynasty

Like Joseph Kennedy, I’m working to build a political dynasty.

When DJ announced that she was seeking the position of Student Body President at her all girls’ school, I wondered where she found the confidence to put herself out there like that. I guess she thought she had a chance to win. At that age, I would have simply pondered the potential to lose.

She put together a cracker-jack campaign committee with representatives from all the grades. She handed out home-baked cookies (the whole family helped decorate them), and bacon. Yea, we got up at the butt crack of dawn one morning, cooked bacon and shoved each piece in an individual baggie with her campaign slogan written in Sharpie marker on the Ziplock.

“Why are you handing out bacon,” I questioned.

“Do you like bacon,” she retorted.

“Yah. Everybody does.”

“Well there ya go.”

I gotta give it to her. It worked. Plus, she had a really good speech.

I can already see her in the White House. She’s pretty good at problem solving.  And, her sisters would say that she’s mastered bossing others around.

A few weeks later, Michelle followed in her footsteps by running for Secretary of her middle school. This was her speech:

Roses are red, my granny is swell,

If you want a good secretary, vote for Michelle!

 

I am an honest girl, never committed a crime,

I’ll be prompt, and I’ll get to the meetings on time.

 

I am not very good at basketball, I can’t really dribble,

but when I take notes I am neat, and I do n’t scribble.

 

Student council sells biscuits, they’re only a dollar,

I’ll serve them hot, and you will holla.

 

I’ll be quick with communicating, I won’t be slow,

I’ll work really hard to keep you in the know.

 

I am very dependable, don’t worry about me,

If you vote for Michelle, you will see!

 

I could see her being the Ambassador to Spain in her future. Don’t they just throw parties and stuff?

And the middle kid? Well, the Peace Corps might be in her future, Stephanie has such a heart for serving others – she sincerely cares about people.

This is her on a mission trip attempting to demo a ceiling:

I’ve been told that tearing out ceilings was not her sweet spot but that she can spread insulation like a champ!  Talk about confidence, this kid left home to go to New York with 30 other teens, most 3 to 4 years her senior.

I was pondering their recent accomplishments as I opened their report cards this past week.  When I was their age, I was solidly churning out B’s and spending my free time watching Gilligan’s Island.   I would have no more run for office or gone on a mission trip without my best friends than I would have hang glided over the Grand Canyon.

They may get their humor from me, but I think the rest of their genetic makeup came straight from their mom.  Wish she was here to see all this.

 

 

 

 

Experiencing Jodness

lunchbox

Often an experience brings you joy or sadness. Today I experienced both wrapped up in one.

As I washed Stephanie’s lunchbox out today, it dawned on me that if my calculations are correct, with half school days for exams, honor student lunch, and previously placed lunch orders, today was the last time I’ll ever pack a lunch for that kid. Next year she’ll be in high school, and food is included in the tuition.

When it first hit me, I was elated! Hot damn! One less miserable thing to do before 7 AM. I don’t have to hear, “Dad, you got my sandwich and Michelle’s sandwich mixed up again!! I like ham. She eats turkey!  Got it?”

No longer do I have to search for a vegetable or fruit to ease my conscience – something to toss between the Cheetos and Pirate’s Bootie so they appear less unhealthy. No longer will I be searching for her cold packs at the crack of dawn, realizing I never returned it to the freezer to re-chill. I’ll never have to wash her lunchbox again or futz with the ornery zipper. Only three more years and Michelle will complete the cycle.  I’ll be fully out of the lunch making business! Whoa whoa.

And then it hit me… no longer will Stephanie rely on me to fill her mid day belly. I won’t have the option to tuck in a funny love note to surprise her at school. I remember the first year I made her lunches.  She wasn’t much bigger than her lunchbox.  I tried my mom’s go tos – tuna and egg salad; Vienna Sausages; cold, dry bologna sandwiches – she didn’t complain.  She just returned home with tuna and egg salad; Vienna Sausages; and cold, dry bologna.

“Stephanie, you didn’t eat your lunch baby.”

She’d smile and sweetly confess, “I didn’t like that stuff.”

No longer is my baby in middle school. She’s growing up. She’s moving on.

I got a lump in my throat – a lump about packing lunches. Lisa would have popped open a bottle of champagne. Not me.  I’m too damn sentimental.

I think this phenomena of jodness (joy + sadness) might become a regular for me. Graduations are in my future. There could be a wedding or three. Maybe a wonderful career opportunity for my kid that isn’t within walking distance of Dellwood Drive.

Oh the joy! Oh the throat lump. I just feel jod tonight.

Not a Creature was Stirring…

08klass-blog480[1]

The eight grade fall dance was coming.  I knew we had to act fast!

“Stephanie, do you want to host a sleepover the night of the dance?”

“Yea Dad!”

“We’d better get an email out quickly before some other parent decides they want to have twelve thirteen-year-olds over for 20 hours.  We don’t want to miss this opportunity.”

I actually don’t mind hosting.  I’m up late most nights anyway and… if you sit quietly and listen, you garner so much information in a really short period of time.  Which is good for a clueless father.

It took me, my afternoon sitter and another mom to get the dozen, and their stuff, to the house after school on Friday.  The excitement was palpable.

As the girls ate dinner, I was affirmed when one girl chirped up out of the blue, “I’m mean, like, abs are nice but some guys just take it too far.  I don’t like it when those muscles are all stickin’ out and stuff.”

How refreshing to hear.  I hope that 48-year-old women feel the same way.

One mom who ran by the house to drop her kid’s outfit off said, “You’re a brave man Danny Tanner.”

“I’m not afraid of no eigth grade girls.  I ran a Y day camp for five years.  They got nothin’ on me.”  And they don’t.  I can dish out as much as they can, maybe more.

As we neared the school for the drop off, two SUVs packed with adolescents, panic ensued in both cars.

“It’s only 7:02!  We can’t get there yet!  We have to be fashionably late.”

I had just pulled into the driveway of the school when I got the word.  “Stop!”  We pulled over, a good football field from the drop off point.  The windows flew open, One Direction’s The Best Song Ever cranking from my Dolby speakers, turned up to max decibels.  Bodies were hanging out of the windows, one or two popped out of the sunroof.  Of course, I couldn’t let a beat like that pass by – I too jumped out of the car and got my groove on, a couple of other parents passing us by in wonder – or disbelief.

When we picked the crew up, and the car doors closed, I think the dance was summed up by one of the wisest of the crew, “Boys are jerks!”  It was then qualified with, “You’re a man Mr. Tanner, you don’t count.”

“Yeah.  It’s always more fun getting ready than actually going,” Stephanie pitched in.

“I asked Bobby why he didn’t ask anyone to dance.  He said it would mess up his mojo.  I told him, ‘You’re at a small, private school.  Any mojo you had went out the door when you made the decision to attend this institution.'”

As the girls got into their PJ’s, one asked, “Mr. Tanner, do you have a wash cloth so I can get all of this makeup off?”

“Yea.  I have a paint scraper and a chisel too if you need it.”

About 10 PM I pulled Stephanie into my bedroom.  “At 1:30, the girls need to be quiet.  If they’re not, I’m coming out of my room in my underwear and yelling, and you don’t want that do you?”

“Ah, no.”

“Great!”

About 1 AM, it was like the night before Christmas – not a creature was stirring, not even Kimmey Gibler.

Oh, my car still smells like cotton candy.

BBBBBBBBBBBBB

report card

Apparently Miss Stephanie had a tough semester.  She realized Friday that the quarter was coming to an end on the following Tuesday, and Little Bit’s six A’s from last semester were appearing to turn into one A and five B’s.

Thankfully, it is not her fault.

“This quarter was not a full nine weeks.  It was shorter,” she argued.

“Stephanie, I assure you that the third quarter is exactly ¼ of the school year.  It is the same length as the first and second ones.”

“No dad.  It isn’t.  This one was like four weeks!”

“So it was an eighth?  I see.  The school calendar has two quarters and then an eighth, probably followed by another quarter, and then possibly another eighth.  Makes perfectly good sense to me.”

“Besides, the teachers didn’t give us enough graded assignments this time.  We had like two grades in each class!”

“Two?   Only two graded assignments in each class the entire semester?”

“I don’t know exactly.  But it wasn’t a lot.”

“Probably ‘cause they only had half the time as the last quarter.”

“Yea.  Oh, and like the math tests had like 50 questions on them, and I could hardly finish.”

“That does seem like a lot of questions.”

“Yea.  And for every one you miss the teacher marks off 5 points from your grade!”

“Humm.  So if my math is correct, you could score as much as 250 points on that test?”

“What?”

“Well, if there are 50 questions and each one counts 5 points, it seems to me you could get a grade of 250.  If you did well on a test like that, it is bound to bring your grade up.  That’s a lot of points.”

“Whatever…”  she was getting ticked.

“Baby, four things:

1)       It’s not that big of a deal

2)      You need to keep up with your grades and figure out mid quarter where you’re struggling so that you’ll have time to pull them  up – two days just won’t do it

3)      You’re tired, you need to go to bed

4)      and I love you.”

Lisa would have checked her grades on a weekly basis.  This is partially my fault.  I guess we both learned a lesson this eighth, err, I mean quarter.

(Since writing this post, I think we may have actually pulled in a couple more A’s, like maybe four!  She probably got a 239 on her last math test.)

Merle Norman…

I wasn’t privy to the decisions about ear-piercing when Lisa was alive.  No, she was the one who made that decision.

Although she was Presbyterian and believed in baptism at birth, that was not her view on pierced ears.  There would not be a Tanner kid with piercings until at least a decade of their life had passed.  She thought it made them look too grown up.

When she was nine, DJ nagged her mom for a year for the lobe holes until finally, Lisa and her gaggle of women friends decided that ten was in and the countdown began.

I’m not sure how these moms came about that decision, but they unveiled their calendar as if they were the Misses Manners of preteen etiquette.  Not only did they determine the appropriate age for piercing, they also informed all involved as to the appropriate age for a Facebook page (12) and the point when a cell phone was needed (the start of middle school).  No one dared ask for an exception.  The Mother Mafia had spoken.  I believe they actually signed a treaty with one another and apparently a full on embargo would be imposed on anyone straying from the agreement.

When it was time for DJ to get her ears punctured, Lisa drove her to Crabtree Valley Mall and met another mother/daughter pair at the entrance to Merle Norman.  That is where Lisa had her ears pierced approximately 25 years prior.

DJ desperately wanted to wear earrings, but she also desperately did not want a hole punched in her ear.  She apparently sat on the piercing stool three times, chickening out as Merle approached with the lobe stapler.  Finally, Merle had had enough and kicked her out of the store.  DJ then threw the most massive temper tantrum my wife had ever seen right at the main entrance to Belk.  Lisa literally carried our ten-year old to the car and locked the doors because DJ threatened to jump out of the minivan and run back into the mall.

Stephanie’s journey toward earring mecca was very different.  She turned ten four months after Lisa died.  She reminded me that DJ got her ears pierced at age ten and asked if she could too.

I actually thought it was a law in Raleigh, and I didn’t want to break the treaty – so the two of us hit the mall quickly.  It was four months after Lisa’s death.

Sweet Stephanie was so excited!  Her father was so very, very sad.  As she patiently waited looking at her barren lobes for the last time in their handheld mirror, I fought back tears.  It was one of the first milestones I had tackled by myself.  What father takes his daughter, alone, to have her ears pierced?

I suggested the silver balls; her mother only wore silver.  She agreed.  There were tears that June night, but not from the kid.

Well today it was Michelle’s turn.  I had avoided the subject because I knew the costumer in A Christmas Carol frowned upon jewelry in the play.

“There were no piercings in 19th century England!” she announced last year as a warning to those who were bejeweled.

But when one of her best friend’s moms inquired about a joint trip to see Merle, I just couldn’t turn her down.   It’s sort of a rite of passage – one that can’t be denied.  So now my baby girl has her ears pierced.

I’m beginning to see something different in my daughters.  No longer are they 100% kid.  Now I see glimpses of young women.

I wish Lisa could see what I see – the slight changes coming month by month by month.

I will take it all in for her.

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