You heard it here… well other people’s writing sucks. I should qualify that, other peoples writing sucks worse than mine does, but since I write a boatload more than any of my housemates, and I mistakenly suggested that I like to write, all writing chores for the family, come my way, one way or another.
Holiday letter- This is the time of year when candy cane striped stationary arrives in the mail with updates on what all the friends and family have been up to over the last year. This means that, like clockwork, Mrs S will suggest that “we should do that”.
The suggestion that we should publish a holiday letter has been a topic of conversation in our house since 1991, when the oldest was born. Back then I think we even sent out cards, I’m not sure we even do that anymore, as they say Not My Area Of Responsibility. One of the great things about being male, the ability to compartmentalize things, if I’m not responsible for it, I purge it from my thoughts.
So, once again Mrs S has suggested that we write up the letter and update everyone on what clan Sankary is up too. And uh.. “you should write it.” Typically I would pretend not to hear her and after a while she’d give up, the amount of time between her asking and giving up getting shorter and shorter over the years. This year I had a different approach. “Can you write a letter for the cards?” “Done”
She stared at me. “really?” “Really dear; finis, complete, done, over.” “Can I read it?” “sure”. I grabbed a card and wrote on the bottom, under the greeting:
“We’re not doing that”. Actually we are dear, most of your family, it turns out, already read the blog and there is no better chronicle of this families existence than Old and In The Way. If she wasn’t depressed about the holidays already, that pushed her over the edge. “Do you still use the “F” word on your blog?” “do I use it in casual conversation?” ‘OMG”.
Middle Kid- the concussion survivor. One of the things we got from the brain injury clinic was a note to send to schools about his recovery. The note explicitly says he was to miss a week of school, after which he could return to normal activities, but slowly, a few hours at a time and with limited work. “Makeup assignments should be limited to only those that are absolutely necessary.” Absolutely necessary.
Kid can’t really participate in Phy Ed for about 4 weeks and even then can do nothing that could result in any kind of head injury. Phy Ed teacher, apparently not clear on the concept of “absolutely necessary”, or perhaps has an over-inflated sense of importance, has assigned the kid six 500 word essays on the role of sport in society. Seriously.
Mrs S, blew a gasket. She called the school and was painted as a hovering parent by someone over there trying the defend the moron Phy Ed teacher. This, made her even happier. “SANK” she yelled when she got off the phone with the administration, “you have papers to write.” I looked up from what I was doing; scooping the caramel out a carton of pralines and cream ice cream on the couch while watching TV and looking at the computer at the same time, all in my beater t-shirt and boxers. “huh?”
“Eric is being assigned busy work by the school and you’re going to do it you hafta blah blah blah..” I already went to school, why me?. “Do I have to cite references?” “no”.. K.. and I went back to what I was doing. But still, I’ve been to high school, I’m not sure why I have to write this stuff. Later on, Mrs S mentioned this turn of events to the physician at the clinic, which happened to be at the Hennipen County Medical Center, our local Trauma 1 facility. The physician there went ballistic at this news. Because it’s HCMC and because they’re used to dealing with the community, the kid was instructed “not to worry about it, ‘we’ll take care of it’”. Chilling statement. About a week later Mrs S got an apology from the school and the assignment was excused.
Turns out they were visited by a state social worker who wanted to understand who the “physician” in the Phy Ed Department was and why the would counter indicate medical orders. Better yet, since the school obviously didn’t understand concussions and brain injury treatment, an assessment of their athletic programs was probably needed to see where else there might be issues.
Of course I have 5 essays written now, maybe I could turn them into blog posts. Look for the first one, “Which sport has the dumbest athletes” coming soon.
The Tuesday night I had a thing. Being the dutiful husband and family cook, I did the following. I took the bus home, whipped up a quick dinner, got back in the car, drove to St. Paul, only to find that no one was where I expected, quick call and I learned that the meeting was actually in Minneapolis, drove to the new meeting site, ½ mile from my office. BIGG Circle. Fun.
During the time I was home making dinner I was approached by the daughter.
“I haf’ta write a summary of my Torah portion, can you help me?” The Bat Mizvah is on the way.
“Sure.. when’s it due?”
She [-] it.. I sort went after her on this… Opened Sanks’ Guide to Parenting, Vol 3 page 145- Last Minute Help Requests. There are several appropriate responses-
“Your crisis is not my problem”? Didn’t quite capture my feelings..
“What the HELL”.. Closer
“You wanted my help and I’m just finding out about this NOW?” Perfect.
That’s the one I went with. I had a thing that night. “I do NOT have time to look at this”.
“Bud DAAAD. I DIDN’T HAVE TIME.”
Ooooo She’s still young and I’ve been hardened by 25 years of marriage to a woman who I have still to best in any argument, but I’m getting better. “are you going with that?” She looked at me, all doey eyed, “what?”
“Is that your answer, ‘didn’t have time’.” She sort of teared up a wee bit” clearly she knew that there was no good answer. Mrs S even had no pity for her. She came back with a meek “yes”. Hanging curve, easy one. “WE WERE SNOWED IN ALL DAMNED WEEKEND YOU 48 HOURS OF SHEER BOREDOM”.
She looked at Mrs S for a life line. “He’s right”.
Whoah.. stop back up the truck a minute. I asked my wife, “What did you say?” The girl looked at me, I looked at my wife, my wife looked at both of us, “what did you say?” The girl asked again “what” Three people asking each other what the other had said when in my mind, there was but one question on the table now, “Did you say I was right?”
The girl looked at me “who was right”. The wife, realizing she’s made a slight error, looked back at me, “you were accurate in your assessment” could that be the smell of victory? “but as we’ve discussed, you being right is irrelevant”. Big exhale. awwwww..
Still, in her case “I need help” is her way of saying “can you do this for me”.
I went to the meeting, came home and sat with her. “Crack open Bamidbar (Numbers in English) and lets take a look. I dragged an ancient copy of Rashi I have and a modern Hebrew translation and we dug in. As I was explaining some of the themes she kept reminding me, “Dad, it has to be two pages”. More analysis on my part, “Double spaced Dad”. K. “DAD.. To much”
“Dad, it feels like you are doing the work not me”.
Not only is it faster that way, it’s less frustrating for me.
Confused I sat with her and, in complete surprise watched as she actually scratched out a couple of decent pages about her portion, including the rather bizarre citation about a magic ceremony a man can have his wife endure should he suspect that she’s been cheating on him. I wasn’t sure she’d get that, apparently not a problem.
So in her case, actually being a writer wasn’t the problem, she just needed to be in the presence of one who writes. That, I can do.