Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Fifty pounds of mud in a five pound sack.

Yet, amazingly, little in the way of clean up.

Friday evening, Boy to park—I have become so bumfuzzled by everyone’s competing schedules that even with it all written neatly on the magnetic marker board calendar stuck to the fridge, I still get it wrong. His practice is supposed to be at seven. It’s on the schedule. I know; I’m the one who takes him, and I'm the one who wrote it on there.

So, Reba was home with the little ones after six Friday and I was near apoplectic because, well, you know, his practice starts at SIX. I was running around trying to get his stuff together and get him to get his sneakers off and his shin guards on and his water bottle filled and “I’m hungry, Daddy” and throwing a hunk of meat at him and trying to get out the door and the van needs gas and AAAAHHHHH out the door. At six-thirty. Race to the park, screech into a parking space, wonder where all the kids are, see a likely group, start walking toward them and…no. Well, it must be the other kids on the lower field. Walk all the way down there and…nope. “Buddy, where’s your team?!” Surely they hadn’t cancelled practice! Where COULD they be?

“Is it seven o’clock yet, Daddy?” “NO, son, it’s after six-thirty and… and… ::sigh::… Your practice starts at seven, doesn’t it?” “Yes, Daddy.” What a dolt I am. It’s on the calendar. But at least I had an explanation for why no one was there yet. It also made me feel really bad because he didn’t get to eat any supper and we actually had plenty of time for it. Bad daddy. “Well, let’s go on back up to the concession stand and wait on everyone.”

Trudged back up the hill and tried to get a few empty calories into him—a Pop Ice and some Airheads Extreme seemed to do the trick and get him suitably hopped up on sugar. Called Reba to let her know that I knew now that I was a real big goof. She agreed, but she was nice about it.

We sat on the benches for a while and watched it get dark and greeted his teammates as they arrived. Sure is one snotty bunch of smart-mouthed brats. I don’t know what it is, but he sure seems to get on the teams with the most DDD kids (Discipline Deficit Disorder). The other kids’ parents don’t even seem to notice. The coach will wind up ten minutes into practice and have to make a whole clot of them run laps for not paying attention or fighting or acting generally stupid, and the moms and dads just sort of laugh it off. “Didja git in trouble, son?” “Yeah.” Oh. Well, ha-ha, then. Obviously, the kids wouldn’t act this way unless they were allowed to by their parents—their gape-jawed progenitors ought to have to run laps with them.

Jonathan’s not perfect, but at least he knows that you say ‘ma’am’ and ‘sir’ (even to Mom and Dad), and you treat others the way you want to be treated, and you don’t pick on kids littler than you, and you listen to your coach, and you do you best. Having to put up with the normal crew of little monsters could be one reason why he doesn’t want to play soccer anymore, I don’t know. But, this might be his last season for a while—he wants to try something else—he has his eye on taking karate lessons. Might be good for him—good exercise, and the kids are generally much more disciplined. And, they have those kool karate outfits.

Anyway, the rest of the team showed up and moved on to the field and I set up my folding chair on the sideline. It was getting close to sunset and there was an absolutely beautiful sky overhead. The tail end of a storm system (I think it was that Frankish Henri) was just moving out to the east and there were every different kind of cloud spread across from horizon to horizon. I know I’ve used the analogy before, that it looked like something Maxfield Parrish might paint, but I hardly know a better one since he was so good a painting huge, dramatic, golden clouds. The big stadium lights hadn’t clacked and buzzed on yet, and it was nice and tranquil, and just then the sun dipped down below the level of the clouds on the western horizon—the tips of the bottoms suddenly began glowing like a blanket of flame and after another minute or two, all the sky was like gold, the holes between the clouds dark blue. Absolutely gorgeous. Ten minutes later, it had all faded back to normal twilight, and the big halide lights had come on. Off toward the sunset, I could hear the distinctive low rumble of one of the KC-135s from the 117th ARW on approach to the airport.

I don’t suppose it will ever change. That sound, superimposed on the sound of kids playing.

On a Tuesday evening a couple of years ago, that was the only sound in the sky. I was sitting on a set of aluminum bleachers on another field across the road, watching my girls cheer at a football game—kids laughing and whistles blowing. I hear that rumble in the distance, and feel that cool breeze, and hear those kids, and that terrible morning with its terrible aftermath comes back. Trying to live our lives just as planned, but knowing that plans would never be the same afterwards.

Writing about that day is part of what got me started writing this journal. Trying my best to make sense of something totally senseless. Trying to make sense of seeing my boy running around chasing a soccer ball, knowing there are evil men in this world who would rejoice in his death, just as they danced in the streets when their brothers killed 3,000 innocent civilians on that bright morning. Trying to make sense of a world that continually tells me that Arabs are a peaceful people, and that Islam is a religion of peace, yet I look around and see a world in which ‘Arab moderate’ seems to be defined as one who hasn’t blown anything up yet.

One part of me has given up trying to make sense of it. I can do nothing but pity a empty ideology and people unwilling to denounce the evil in their midst. I know there are good people of all faiths and races, but at some point those good people are going to have to quit giving aid and comfort to the ungodly. They will have to understand that their women and children have died, not because we are trying to kill them, but because the supposedly brave defenders of their faith and race boldly hide behind the skirts of their mothers and daughters.

I have no sympathy for those who would squall and cry about the infidelic desecration of holy places, as they methodically turn them into armories or go about blowing them up themselves.

What sense can be made of someone who blames all their troubles on dark conspiracies of the Jews, or Christians, or the West, or anyone who disagrees with them; their minds seemingly warped by congenital paranoia?

At some point, the idea that ‘yes, they are evil, but they are our brothers and worthy of protection’ must end. Stop it with your own hand, or it will be stopped for you, but it cannot go on. Such a prospect gives me no thrill or satisfaction, and it is not out of vengeance or malice that it is said. It is simply that justice has a grim inexorability—recognize it while there is still time to change.

That is what I thought of, sitting there in my folding chair, under the lights under a cool September sky, watching some kids kick a ball. As this time rolls around in the coming years, I suppose I’ll always get that odd little icy bit of melancholy in my stomach, and think those thoughts, and give thanks for the men and women, endowed with sense of duty and honor far beyond that of many of their fellow citizens, who willingly place themselves in danger so that the most my kids have to worry about is what flavor of Pop Ice they want.

It got to be quitting time and Jonathan gathered up his stuff and came walking over. “Good practice?” He wearily nodded his head up and down and we loaded up and went on back to the house for a bite of supper. Bathtime, then to bed.

Up again early Saturday—Rebecca had a game over in north Shelby County again, the same place as her tournament. This time we were all going however, so everyone had to get up and get dressed, which, as always, took forever. Out of the house, on to McDonald’s for some nice cholesterol and sodium, and a special treat for Miss Reba, who wanted one of their new yogurt parfaits. I told her at first that I didn’t think it was on their breakfast menu, so she pouted. But, when I asked at the window if they had it, the voice answered in the affirmative, so she was very happy. Good thing, that.

On to the park, found a close by parking space and we all took up our places on the bleachers. The girls played well, but wound up getting beat 4-1. They seemed to have forgotten all the good stuff they did during the tournament—no passing, no stealing, precious little scoring (obviously). Oh well.

Flew back home so I could get the grass cut in time to watch the Auburn game, but made the mistake of a side trip to Lowe’s to look for nutgrass killer once more. Which involved EVERYone getting out to the van and wandering through the garden shop looking at all the pretty plants and costing me valuable grass cutting time. Found myself something that I hope will do the trick on the nutgrass—they make some really tasty aspirin, so maybe it’ll work—then got everyone rounded back up with their pretty plants and got them loaded in the van.

Back to the house and started the mad dash around and around the yard—started at 1:00 and finished right at kickoff, very nearly dead. Much too hot to spend an hour and a half wrestling a lawnmower.

Especially to watch such a craptacular game. Absolutely no offense at all. Missed plays, stupid high-school level mistakes, a billion penalties. The defense wasn’t much better. On the other hand, you have to give a lot of credit to Georgia Tech—they played their hearts out and executed very well, with a good mix of plays and a very poised young freshman Reggie Ball under center. Looking at the raw stats for yardage, time of possession, and first downs, it’s hard to believe we lost, but one of the crucial differences was in sacks—GaTech got us behind the lines SEVEN times for a total loss of 49 yards. We play Vanderbilt next Saturday, the perennial whuppin’ boy of the SEC. I sure hope we can beat them.

After that, it was time to break out the pump-up spray can and do the weeds. We’ll see, but from reading the safety label, I’m in greater danger than the nutgrass. Finished up and decontaminated myself (more or less) and helped get the kids scrubbed and in the bed.

Sunday, another busy day—Rebecca had another game down in Riverchase, so we had to leave directly from church and she changed in the van on the way (again, if you buy a van, make sure it has tinted windows) and I made a long detour because I forgot to take the I-459 loop. Which worked out fine—I turned around in Irondale, anticipating going over the mountain there and hitting 459 again, when a tiny voice peeped from the back, “Daddy, did you get my shin guards?” ::sigh::


So we stopped at, you guessed it, Wal-Mart. Reba ran in and got what she needed and took Catherine to the bathroom to pee, then it was off again, on to the correct interstate and we wound up first at the park. Which means we probably would have had time to go back to the house rather than Wal-Mart, but you know, you just never know.

Everyone else finally got there and we first sat on the bleachers, which faced the sun and were about the temperature of a blast furnace. Especially uncomfortable since we still had on our good clothes, so we wound up sitting in our chairs out in the gravel area beyond the end zone. Terrible view, but at least it was in the shade. And not that there was much to see—they played the same team that scorched them in the tournament last week, and it finished up being almost a repeat, except this time we did manage to score one goal. (They scored about 9 or so.) Rebecca played her usual good games both Saturday and Sunday—for such a sweet, shy girl, she is a hoss on the field.

Loaded up, then swung back by the house to let her bathe and let the kids rearrange stuff, then it was right back to church—Reba and I both had meetings exactly one hour after the game finished up, so getting back and forth was a test of patience. But we did it.

Evening services were over quickly, then it was some supper, then home, then the bed. Managed to cram a lot in this weekend, and judging by the schedule on the refrigerator, the rest of the month is going to be exactly the same. For some reason, I feel very sleepy. I think it must be the weed killer.

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