Stop Laughin’ Momma!

I have often written about my mother. I could go on and on about her many enduring qualities. She was incredibly wise, unbelievably supportive, and the most loving creature you’d ever meet. However, of all the positive traits that I saw in Momma over and over again, there is one attribute that constantly comes to mind. Momma was a good sport. I’d like to think that she was that way all of her life. It’s quite possible that she was. However, by the time I met her she was already 25 years old (I’ll have to go into the day we met some other time). The truth is she most likely HAD to be a good sport just to endure the average day in the McAfee home.

My father is a man who, like me, has a very warped sense of humor. My father uses this trait to do many things. We have all fallen prey to Poppy’s practical jokes, southern sarcasm, and zingers that became a staple in our house. This sometimes meant that my Dad would exercise his humor at my mother’s expense. Momma took this all in stride. She usually gave Poppy a dirty look or sometimes laughed as much as he did. The downside of this is that my parents saw fit to reproduce. This meant that while my brother, sister, and I inherited our mother’s diplomacy, we inherited our father’s warped sense of humor. We all took playful verbal jabs at each other. We also would occasionally set out sites on Momma. So, along with tolerating my father’s antics, she would bear the behavior of her three darling children (who were just like their father). Like I said, Momma was a good sport.

Momma was a little over a year older than Poppy. In addition, her hair greyed prematurely. Momma got her first grey streak at 12 years old (it’s not ALL my fault). This meant that Momma was subjected to a lot of jokes about her age. Most of these jokes were at the hands of her loving husband and offspring. For example, my sister, a high school senior at the time, was making decorations for the homecoming senior float. She asked Momma to help with the decorations. My mother replied: “I’m not a senior.” My sister quipped: “Yes, you are. You’re a senior citizen.” I was beet red with laughter. Mind you, it was my sister that made the snide remark. It was me, however, that got the dirty look (for laughing so hard). I once asked my mother if Methuselah was her prom date (read the book of Genesis if you don’t get that joke). My Dad would get his jabs in once in a while as well. My mom knew that, one day, she would get to see all of us have our comeuppance. Once, in a restaurant, Poppy was teasing the waiter. The waiter playfully (but unexpectedly) returned the fire. My mother not only laughed at the waiter’s response; she applauded.

These days, the tables have turned. I am 44 years old as of this writing. I am older than my mother was when SHE was getting jokes about HER age. I work in a technical support environment. Most of my nearest co-workers are at least 15 years younger than I (some are more than 20). Needless to say, the old people jokes fly left and right at my expense. I get jokes about enjoying movies with sound. I get jokes about not being able to use my mobile phone because it has no crank. I even get jokes that it’s OK to tell these jokes because I’ll just forget them 5 minutes later. Today, however, my comedic colleagues hurled this greatest jab of them all. It went like this: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Neither, SHANE did”. I couldn’t help but hear Momma laughing and applauding.

Mr. Watson, Come Here, I Want To Text

Today was a milestone day for me. My younger colleagues may scoff at me and think of me as an old geezer who graduated from Pangaea High School in a year that had a 19 in front of it. Let them scoff I say. For today, I became an integral part of the 21st century. Today, I acquired for myself a mobile phone. Now, I can go anywhere in the world I wish. As long as I have my mobile phone with me, I am easily accessible for people to bug the ever living tar out of me. That’s OK, because with my new phone, I can also call anyone I wish and return the favor. This is provided that I stay within the minutes allotted in my monthly plan, OR call between 9:00 PM – 6:00 AM, OR call during the weekend, OR call someone one the same mobile phone carrier. Other than that, the sky’s the limit.

I felt pretty good about my new acquisition. That is until it was time to start using it. I sat there as my two daughters, Shayna and Brianna (along with Shayna’s boyfriend Mike), came to my assistance. They pointed out that the first thing I needed to do was add people to my contact list. That sounded simple enough. You just select “Contacts”. Then you select “Add Contacts”. Mike then explained that I now need to type in the name of the contact I was adding. Ok, I could see this little box with its cursor blinking as if to taunt me. How, I asked, do I “type” anything? Mike then took my phone and pushed the side of it upward. I thought for a moment he had demolished my phone. It turns out, opening the phone up to expose a nice miniature QWERTY keyboard. “TOO COOL!”, I said. Shayna rolled her eyes and told me that NO ONE says “TOO COOL!” anymore. I pressed onward. I am ready to add my Dad’s mobile number to my contacts. Yes, I understand that my 68 year old father had a mobile phone YEARS before me. Now that we have all had a pleasant giggle over that, let’s get back to the story. I decided I wanted to type “Poppy’s Cell” for the contact name. I slowly, but persistently navigated my buffalo fingers over the tiny keyboard. I got as far as “Poppy” and started to panic. I couldn’t find a way to add the apostrophe in “Poppy’s Cell”. After all, even in today’s technology, punctuation is still important. “Poppy’s Cell” is completely different from “Poppys Cell”. There is only ONE Poppy. MY KINGDOM FOR AN APOSTROPHE! Brianna chimed in: “It’s right there, Dad. You just have to press the Eff-En key.” YOU WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE, BABY GIRL! As everyone was now laughing uncontrollably at me, Brianna gently pointed to a key labeled “Fn”. I simply pressed that key then another key. My long sought apostrophe finally appears. I was then able to save my Dad’s contact information successfully. Shayna, Brianna, and Mike were extremely proud of me.

The next step was to get an earpiece to allow me to safely drive and use my phone simultaneously. I went to an electronics store and a nice young salesman offered assistance. I told him that I needed an earpiece to do hands free driving on my new mobile phone. This way I can use my phone and not be cast into next year’s defensive driving video. The salesman then gave me the device I needed. This doohickey was barely large enough to fit into my ear and stay in place. The nice young man showed me how to get this device to “pair up” with my mobile phone. I got that little thingamabob home and immediately tested it out. It allowed me to use voice commands. I said “Call Wife” and my phone did exactly that. Man, that was TOO COOL. I felt like Captain Kirk and James Bond rolled into one.

So look out, folks. I am a mover and shaker. I have a new mobile phone and a new earpiece whatchamacallit. I even have a custom ringtone. I can now be reached by friends, loved ones, and collection agencies anywhere in the world. Hello, 21st century. Sorry, I’m late.

Fly On, My Fine Feathered Friends

It has come to my attention recently that there are actually people who enjoy my writing. I’m not just talking about my wife saying “That’s funny, honey”. I’m not even talking about my daughter Brianna who has shared my writing with friends on occasion. I am talking about people outside of my house. I must admit that I find this gratifying. I feel something of a bond with those who follow my writing. It is with that very bond in mind that I feel the need to once again inform and (hopefully) entertain.

I am going to use this particular writing so that I pay tribute to one of God’s finest creatures. I do not know exactly when it was that this creature earned its rightful place of respect in my life. I just know that over the years, it has made its way into many areas of my life. I speak of none other than that great majestic waterfowl —the duck. That’s right, I said it; the duck. I am not ashamed and I feel better for getting it off my chest. The duck has made its way into many parts of my life. From as early as I can remember, I have referred to my four kids as “the ducks”. I don’t know why I started doing that. Maybe it was the vision of a drake with four ducklings marching in line (or thinking of myself as a drake). All I know is that it became a term of affection toward my kids that stuck. I have even referred to my kids individually as Duck I, Duck II, etc. If I call for Duck I and Duck IV, Tom and Caleb will acknowledge me. Shayna and Brianna will go about their business (as they are Ducks II and III respectively).

About a year ago, my son Tom was shopping with his girlfriend in a party supply store. Apparently, they had a clearance sale on miniature rubber ducks. Tom’s girlfriend then graciously gifted with about 10 of these cool collectibles. I have a trucker ducky, a hunter ducky with a pith helmet, a pirate ducky, a nurse ducky, and even a Hawaiian ducky (wearing a very nice lei). From there, the collection has grown quite nicely. I have duckies that light up when you tap them. I even have a game of “Duck, Duck, Goose” that my son, Tom, got for me. I don’t know who it was that said this but it’s true: “With a rubber duck, one’s never alone”.

Now it would be easy for anybody on the outside to say that I am just suffering from a duck obsession. I would contend however that my duck fixation is kept in a healthy balance. After all, I am certainly not above eating of those fine feathered creatures. I rather like a fine roasted duck. Nonetheless, the idea of how they make duck sauce keeps me awake at night. In addition one cannot ignore the way the duck has permeated our popular culture. We have ducks as cartoon characters (most of which have a speech problem; bless their hearts). There is even a sports team named after ducks. I am not too sure about that one. I’m sorry, Anaheim. I just don’t find a duck to be a very intimidating creature. Then again, neither is a maple leaf (forgive me, Toronto).

So, mock me if you wish. I can take it. I shall continue to find great delight as I stare at my rubber ducky collection. All I can do is look to the skies and see this fine creatures flying in a fine V formation. Fly on, my fine feathered friends. I salute you. Now, if you fine readers will pardon me, I am going to call for some take out.

My Awards Speech (Just in Case)

I really like watching awards shows. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter what kind of awards they are. They could be movie awards. They could be TV show awards. They could be awards for written works such as plays or books. They could be music awards. Well, actually, I might have to split some hairs there. There are WAY too many music awards shows. These include but are not limited to the following: American Music Awards, Grammy Awards, and MTV Video Music Awards (which is audacious given that they haven’t played any music in at least 10 years). I have even been known to watch award shows for commercials (which is challenging because it’s hard to tell when you can go to the bathroom).

Awards shows have some historic moments. I have made no bones about the fact that I am not a huge fan of soap operas. Nonetheless, it was beyond cool to watch the Daytime Emmy Awards in 1999. Shemar Moore stood at the microphone and opened the envelope and yelled “THE STREAK IS OVER! SUSAN LUCCI!” Susan Lucci had been nominated 19 consecutive times and had finally won. I enjoyed watching Michael Bolton accept his Emmy. That was a very noteworthy moment. Michael Bolton has recorded numerous cover songs. These covers range from a soulful recording of “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” to an insulting interpretation of “Georgia on My Mind”. But on that night, Bolton got an Emmy award for a song HE WROTE. It’s a shame he never got the hint. Mind you, Mr. Bolton has won other awards since then. I doubt my opinion will cause him to lose any sleep (or royalties).

Then, of course, there are the speeches. We have cherished the moment when Sally Field enjoyed the fact that we really, really, really liked her (which is actually a legendary misquote). I was ecstatic to watch Cuba Gooding, Jr. literally do acrobatic stunts and tell everyone within the sound of his voice: “I LOVE YOU!” Then there was that poignant Grammy Speech by Bob Dylan when he said…actually I have never been able to make out a blessed thing he has EVER said.

Now is the time for me to be honest with myself. Sometimes, I would like to have the experience of making an acceptance speech. I guess it is just a fascination with the idea of such public acceptance (because a handpicked committee of judges has told the public that my work is acceptable). The reality is that my writing is not intended to set the world on fire. I will probably never even be present at an awards show for my writing unless I happen to be the guy printing up the tickets that year. But, just in case, I have included below my award acceptance speech. Give me a second please to find that napkin I had in my coat pocket. AH, there it is.

My Award Speech (Just in Case)

Thank you all very much for that warm (pre-recorded) round of applause. It is truly an honor to be, not just nominated, but standing here today accepting the award for Best Use of Parenthetically Enclosed Phrases (and Bulleted Lists). There are many people for me to acknowledge and thank. I wish to apologize, in advance, for anyone I unintentionally omitted. For anyone I have intentionally omitted, if I went on any further you would not be omitted (DUH!).

  • I’d like to thank my dearly departed mother — Norma Jean McAfee. You are the greatest steel magnolia to bloom from God’s garden. While my writing did not truly kick into motion before you passed, your influence is in every piece I have written. Thanks for not becoming a nun all those years ago.
  • I’d like to thank my father — Lawrence Hugh McAfee. Thank you for all your encouragement over the years. Your gift of warped humor and sideline sarcasm has clearly been inherited (by my four children).
  • I’d like to thank my wife Renee and my kids: Thomas, Shayna, Brianna, and Caleb — Thank you for all the times you told me you liked my writing (and all the times you told me you didn’t). Thank you also for all the times you pointed out typographical and spelling errors (often after I have already posted it on the Web).
  • To my former English teachers: Sandra Bath and Mary Thomas Arbee; and to the great guru of grammar Mignon Fogarty (aka Grammar Girl) — Thanks to all three of you for introducing me to a world of great writers and proper writing. I’d also like to apologize to all three of you for giving the appearance that I’ve apparently not learned a thing from any of you.
  • To everyone has followed my blog and continues to do so: Thank you very much. It is a pleasure to share my work with people who obviously have exhausted any other form of possible entertainment.
  • To a person I consider to be a mentor and a friend: Kevin Cummings………..

Oh, I am SO sorry they are asking me to wrap it up and I can barely hear myself over this infernal orchestra. Oh but I have to be sure and thank [segues immediately to a commercial].

Well, there you have it folks. Thanks for indulging me. This way, if the napkin winds up in the laundry, I won’t feel so bad.