In it he spoke about a movie he did called Nothing in Common starring a young Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason as a father and son. He said that men will stop him in restrooms and say something like this to him: “I hadn’t talked to my father in years, until I saw that movie. Thank you.”
When I heard him say that, I wanted to talk to my father. I can’t. He’s been dead for nearly fifteen years.
But guys, some of you still can. Call him up. It’s not Father’s Day which makes this a perfect time to talk to him, simply because it’s not expected.
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Side note: He also said that no one could curse as beautifully as Julie Andrews. I didn’t see THAT coming!
Before breakfast Monday morning, I drank three cups of coffee in honor of my daughter. In fact, every cup of coffee I drink is in her honor. That, though, is a story for another day.
The connection between my daughter and coffee centers around the bi-weekly games of chess we play at local coffee shops, a tradition at least five years old.
This Monday afternoon we took our game to a new level of fun-ness.
My daughter, brilliant girl that she is, has a clever strategy. She takes so much time between moves that if I ever have a coherent plan, it is, by the time my next move comes around, long forgotten. So, just before Christmas I decided that ‘we’ needed the discipline of the chess clock.
A chess clock consists of two timers connected by a switch that switches one off when the other is switched on. Thus, when black, for example, is contemplating his move, his timer is counting down. At the end of his move, he pushes a button which stops his timer and starts white’s timer. A player can take all the time he needs for any particular move, but if his time runs out before the end of the game, he loses.
When I last used a chess clock, the Beatles were still a band, Richard Nixon was still an honest president, and Americans were still dying in Vietnam. I had, no surprise, forgotten how the thing was supposed to work.
My daughter gave me an Amazon.com gift certificate for Christmas. I transformed this into a chess clock, and we were therefore armed and ready to go.
Monday was the first opportunity to use it. It used to be, my imagination tells me, that people would go home from a coffee shop and tell their families that they saw this strange sight: an old white guy and a young black girl playing chess. Now they will go home shaking their heads and reporting a yet stranger sight: an old white guy and a young black girl playing chess using a chess clock.
For our first game, we set the timer for 25 minutes. That is, each of us would have 25 minutes to make all our moves. Such a game would, you see, last no longer than 50 minutes. Ours probably lasted forty or forty-five. But the thing is, we finished it. With time to spare. We actually finished a game. A miracle.
With some of the consequent ‘time to spare’, we decided to try our hands at a ‘blitz’ game. This is the chess one sees being playing in Washington Park in the highly recommended movie Searching for Bobby Fischer.
In Bobby Fisher players play whole games in under two minutes – it is a sight to see. (See the YouTube clip below.)
We were more modest in our goals. We set the timer for five minutes each.
Oh, was that fun. Hectic, intense, sloppy, but fun.
The ranks of ‘grandmaster-dom’ are not threatened by our play. But I have this hope that many years from now, when my little girl is a mature woman of fifty and I am, presumably, long gone, that she will remember the day she and her dad broke out the chess clock for our bi-weekly game.
“My friend, if you are not able to leave your children a legacy in the form of money or goods, do not worry about that. And do not wear yourself to death either physically or spiritually in order to accumulate a great deal of property for your children; but see to it, night and day, that you pray for them. Then you will leave them a great legacy of answers to prayer, which will follow them all the days of their life. Then you may calmly and with a good conscience depart from them, even though you may not leave them a great deal of material wealth.”
What makes this quote uncommon is the context in which the author sets it, a context I find adds the encouragement to persevere that the mere exhortation lacks:
“Our family has been a believing and praying family for three generations. The elders have prayed faithfully for their descendants. During my whole life I have walked in the prayers of my parents and forbears and in the answers to these prayers. A quiet rain [of answers to prayer] drips steadily down upon me. I reap, in truth, what others have sown.”
A way to get my wife riled is to remind her of her traffic citation. Her one, sole, lonely, unique traffic citation.
She received it years ago, paid it, and to this day defends her innocence.
I’ve been guilty of all 682 of mine.
Anyway, my wife is the most scrupulous lawn waterer on the planet. In Florida, we have water restrictions due to a dwindling water table, proximity to vast quantities of salt water threatening to encroach upon our water supply, and recent diminished rainfall.
If you want to know what days are legal for watering and which days are not, don’t call the county. Call Barb. She knows. And she abides.
That’s what made it so surprising when our letter carrier delivered a certified letter a few weeks ago bearing a citation accusing Barb of watering the lawn on the wrong day.
Barb was out mowing the lawn at the time (is she a great woman or what?) and I wondered how she would take it.
The facts are that on Monday, we had new grass put in a small patch of the front yard. Doing this entitles homeowners to two weeks of daily watering. However, on Tuesday, the water enforcer came by and found our water feeding the lawn ON THE WRONG DAY. He therefore drew the conclusion that my wife (our water bill is in her name) was a water-use low life needing to learn her lesson.
She already had one (unjust!) stain on her record. No way she was going to let this one stand. So, instead of paying the $100 fine, Barb stood this week before a judge and challenged the justice of the charge and consequent fine.
She won. She proudly pointed out the court papers that labeled the charge as ‘dismissed’.
Message to Mr. Water Enforcer: You don’t tug on superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, you don’t pull the mask off that old lone ranger, and you don’t mess around with Barb.
I was wandering around the house the other night going from bookshelf to bookshelf trying to see if we had any “Hardy Boys” books for Colin, our now nine year old, to read. He has not read one before, so I told him that they were about a couple of brothers who are detectives and that he might like them.
So, he started helping me look. This is no mean feat. I haven’t counted how many books we have strewn around the house, but there are many, and the one who has the catalogue in her mind, my wife, was not at home.
Finally Colin, lying face down on the floor to see the bottom shelf of the bookcase next to my bed said, “Dad! Is this it?”