Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Unfinished Ever-Changing Picture 

He's still the same kid.

He still has the same smile. He will still surprise us. He will still learn, grow, change and do great things we could never predict.

It's not that the experts are wrong. They've just drawn a blurry, unfinished map to the way he sees the world. A map, not a wall.

I don't know how hard it will be, how much work it will take. But I suspect it will be tough, and I don't think there's a way to make this easier without sugarcoating it.

But he's still our Jack. He will still get so excited that he crouches down, clenches his fists and seems to almost explode because he's sharing that secret grin with you.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


If you watch the movie, "The 'Burbs", there's a striking moment when Corey Feldman is describing his neighbors: he describes 'Art' as the fat guy. Looking at him now, sure, he's a little bit overweight, but fat? But I'm sure back in the 80s, that was fat.

I think that the expansion of the American waistline -- why did I lapse into that cliche? Let's just be blunt: I think that the fattening of America can be linked, symbolically, to the change to how soda is distributed. In the 80s, there weren't so many glass bottles anymore. It was a lot of cans. People were pretty slim. Then sometime during the 90s, we were introduced to the "big gulp" top. I remember people being surprised and a little bit excited about this -- it was a little easier to get more soda down one's throat faster! Now, if you come across a can, it's a surprise when it doesn't have a big gulp top. But I don't see too many cans. Soda seems to mostly come in 16 oz plastic bottles. At restaurants, large sizes (64, 80 oz) dwarf this. People are ordering buckets of soda.

I'm not making some grand statement that if we all just stopped drinking soda, we'd be slim again. But we seem to have gotten used to getting fat.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Talking About New Life with The Boy 

I'm not sure why my wife tried to climb this mountain . . . .

The Wife: Your Aunt Amy is going to have a baby, so you are going to have a new cousin. And your buddy, Jack, will have a new brother or sister.
The Boy: Where the baby now?
Wife: It's in Aunt Amy's tummy. And when she has the baby, it will come out and be your cousin.
Wife: No, the baby is just in her tummy. Then it will come out and be Jack's brother or sister.
Wife: No, Aunt Amy doesn't eat babies. You can see her this weekend and talk to her about it. She might show you the baby she has in her tummy.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Let's All Just Step Away from the Revolution 

I think we've all taken it a bit too far with the word, "revolutionary". Everything is revolutionary these days: mp3 players, coffee makers, bras, pens, shoes, siding, and the list goes on and on. I heard an awful song lyric the other day about starting a revolution of love. Maybe it was Lenny Kravitz. Sounds like something he would write, doesn't it?

But as trite as that is, the straw that broke this camel's back was my Lean Cuisine dinner tonight. Sure enough: it included a "revolutionary" grilling plate to use in the microwave.

I think I have a pretty good idea of what a revolution is. It's dark, bloody, awful, and forever changing. Thank God, my Lean Cuisine sandwich was none of the above.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Keeping Up with Our Shadow 

The Green Bay Packers were always an embarrassment to me. I associated them with one image: my father on the floor of the living room, slapping the carpeting with his hand, lamenting our awful predicament. Because for nearly 25 years it was almost always an awful predicament.

That all changed in 1992, my sophomore year of high school. The newspapers were excited about the new GM and Coach. And they thought that the team might finally have a real quarterback.

I began seriously watching games then, and reading the paper during the week. I watched games in the living room of our new house with my dad and grandpa. The Packers began playing well for the first time in my life. I remember the excitement of Chris Berman on the postgame shows. My dad stayed up late to watch those shows even though he knew exactly what had happened during each play of the game.

I graduated high school and entered college, and continued watching games, this time in my dorm room with my roommate. It was my first introduction to aggressive rival fans from the other side of the state. I had never had any thought of that team until that first year. As years passed, I watched games at our college house with friends. I remember an older friend of ours who had graduated, but was still in town, would come by on game days. I always thought that made it a little better when he just showed up unannounced and watched with us. I probably haven't seen him since the '98 season, but I still miss him not showing up for games. Win or lose, it was communal. And we all had something worth cheering for again. And behind the whole team, there was someone to believe in, making it all happen. After the team won the Super Bowl, I walked outside and kissed the cold, Wisconsin ground. Everyone should be a winner once in life.

There was a coaching change in '99, and I began watching games in my new apartment with a friend. It was a tougher year, but worthwhile. I graduated, moved back to Milwaukee, and started a job.

My grandpa was no longer with us to watch games. There was another coaching change, and I watched with my sister and my dog at her house, back in Milwaukee, and occasionally at my dad's. I lost my job, then watched at our new house with my girlfriend wondering why I spent so much time watching football, reading about football, and wasting my life on football. We got married, and we watched as the team came so close, then missed.

We moved again and I watched at my new house. There was another career change for me and another coaching change for the Packers. I had been back in town a half-decade by then. My kid was born, we got a new dog, and I watched with my boy and the new dog. I still liked going to my dad's house and watching with him every once in a while. There was no more carpeting to slap; they'd gotten an addition with hard tile heated floors.

But it wasn't just living rooms and family or friends. Each year I would make two or four trips to Lambeau and sit in our seats next to strangers, watching the team play. I saw the great games, and some bad ones too. I slapped hands and screamed with strangers. I heard all sorts of debate over whether they had a chance, whether he still had it, or whether they should move on.

Throughout this entire period, I had picked up running, gotten good at it, just missed my chance at the State meet, began college racing, raced the fastest I would race in my life, began writing, slowed down, finished three manuscripts, stopped running, gained weight, lost it, began running again, got my consistency (and some of my speed) back, and put writing on the back burner.

And finally, this year, he did it -- he had the greatest season any 17-year veteran had ever put together, proving time can be beaten back.

Some people say that it's a good thing, or that we're making too much of this. They might be right. It's a game that will keep going along with constantly changing characters. A month or so ago, one of my friends from another state berated a group of us Wisconsinites for devoting so much of our time to football. He derided us for wasting our lives on a game.

I didn't say this to him, but I pitied him for that comment. This whole time he thought it was just a game. This whole time he just saw what happened out there on the field, not believing it was tied to anything outside of it, or anyone watching it. To him it was only rules and numbers; not tradition, community or symbolism. Maybe you have to grow up in Wisconsin to appreciate it.

The season will start again. Brett will move on to something else. And we'll continue to watch. But everyone who has followed it together for all these years from place to place, through tough times and great times, will know that something important has passed. This one person -- who throughout this entire time has never stopped -- has tied so many improbable events, experiences and people together into an era that is over.

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