Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tasting the Sole of Time

I am certain that it resonates less humorously outside of the four walls of our humble home but for reasons that are of no significance to you (trust me they are not), the expression du jour in our house the past couple of months or so has been "I'll kick you in the face." For far longer than that I must confess I have said it in mock anger at any of our animals when one is either doing something it should not be doing or refusing to do that which it is supposed to be doing. Margaret noticed about forty-five days ago or thereabouts that I finish an alarming number of sentences when speaking to one of the animals with the phrase, "I'll kick you in the face" (such as, "Rosie stop barking or I'll kick you in the face" or "Boo, stop sitting in front of the door and screaming or I'll kick you in the face".)

I know not why I started to say it. I know not how it has morphed into my baseline disciplinary threat as against my household pets. Before alienating anyone who is a fellow animal-lover out there, I should point out that I have never kicked anyone or any living thing in the face, either intentionally or inadvertently. In the interests of full disclosure though I must confess that while playing soccer in high school there were at least two occasions I can still recall at least a quarter century after the fact on which I used my left foot to propel a soccer ball directly at the center of an opponent's face, with both malice aforethought and predictable results. One could make an argument I suppose that certain opponents deserve such treatment. But my dog or my cat? Never.

I suppose I say it a lot because it is a comically absurd threat to make. When I was a child, my father had two favorite things to say to me in an effort to correct behavior of which he did not approve. One was a question. If crying for a reason he deemed to be unworthy of tears (and while I never saw his unabridged list I always presumed there were not a lot of things upon it), he would ask, "Do you want me to give you something to cry about?" Even as a small boy, I thought that was more than slightly silly. After all, I was in fact already crying so anyone - especially an educated adult like my old man - could readily tell that no outside assistance was needed. Moreover, unless he fancied me an idiot he could not have possibly thought that at any time on any day I hoped for more things to sadden, frighten, upset or anger me than whatever had already reduced me to tears.

His second favorite thing to say was a threat whose absurdity apex might even be too high for my pet (pun intended) phrase to aspire to attain. He would look at me squarely and tell me that if I did not stop and/or start doing a particular thing that he either wanted done or not done at all, then he would take away my birthday. Take away my birthday; really? I kid not. After a few times of him saying it I learned not to laugh in response - regardless of how idiotic it sounded - because whether he was serious about it or not, he had zero tolerance for being laughed at for saying it aloud. Perhaps if he and I were both Pirates of Penzance - and I had been born on February 29 - he would have had the wherewithal and the resources to make it happen. Since we were not and I was not, he did not.

It turns out that while I have never done so myself, there are any number of things that can indeed kick one in the face. Foremost among them for me is time. I am beholden to it by the nature of my profession and while I spend most of my time awake, I used to think I never had enough of it. Sadly, I have come to realize that it is not that I lack time but that I fail to manage it as well as I should that leads to me being on the receiving end of a face full of a flying foot.

This weekend while Margaret and I were enjoying the company of the Sisters Kizis we finalized our plans for the invasion of Washington D.C. on Halloween weekend. Gidg and I are running in the 10K race that the United States Marine Corps puts on as part of its Marathon weekend. The race is at 8:00 a.m. on Halloween morning, which is a Sunday. We shall cross the Delaware and watch as the Garden State disappears into the rear view on Friday afternoon in an effort to get into D.C. prior to that evening's rush hour traffic. We are all going to stay in a hotel hear the National Mall, which should set us up nicely for Saturday.

Margaret has never been to D.C. I do not know if Gidg has but I know that Lynne has been there often enough that she moves about the District with a native's ease, which is why when she was out of the room we appointed her Troop Leader for this excursion. Suz is coming with us as well and she has never been to D.C. Both Joe and Uncle Mike - who is Margaret's uncle and Suzy B.'s brother - are coming. I do not think either of those two gents has ever been there. I know that Joe is looking forward to the trip. I am looking forward to showing him some of the stuff that I think he will really enjoy. It is a trip that I am happy we are all going to make together.

And yet it is a trip that feels a few too many years too late in its undertaking. Margaret's parents were among the families who sent a photograph of a loved one who died in World War II for inclusion at the Memorial way back when it was being constructed. Pat Barbato, Margaret's great-uncle (an uncle of Suzy B and Uncle Mike) served in the Army in WW II and was killed by friendly fire. Among the photographs that one can view as part of the WW II Memorial is one that Joe and Sue sent of Pat in his dress uniform. On more occasions than I care to admit between the time the Memorial was built and the time she died, my mother-in-law expressed a keen interest in visiting D.C. if for no other reason than to see the WW II Memorial. On more occasions than I care to admit, I made a vague promise to take her (and Joe) down there to show them the sights, including the WW II Memorial. If you were paying attention a paragraph ago you know that his trip in late October will be Joe's first such visit to our nation's capital. Thus, you know what an abjectly poor job I did of honoring that particular promise.

Time can kick you in the face if you pay less than adequate attention to it. I am among the worst offenders I know in terms of ensuring that I have time sufficient to do what I must do for work even if it means pushing aside family stuff to do it. Had I been as dedicated to the latter as I have been to the former all these years, then Suzy B would have made her trip to D.C. I was not. She did not. Once an opportunity is blown, it is gone forever and contrary to the ever-burgeoning number of 12-steppers we are growing nationwide, I do not buy into the notion that amends can always be made. Some things cannot be fixed. We simply to turn our attention to fixing something else. It is something akin to remedy by analogy I suppose.

Not quite the same. But not altogether different either. A reminder to keep one's guard up because time does indeed kick like a mule. And perhaps a reminder to wear a cup as well since, like a mule, it does not always aim for the face.

-AK

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