After the shock, and the pain, life goes on

It has been about eight months since my stepfather died. My mother has been talking about getting her house in order for a while, but now she has reached the point of putting her thoughts into action. The question is what to keep, what to sell, what to pass on to the kin, what to donate, what to burn, and what to take to the landfill. We are outside, taking a brief and informal inventory. Plus, it’s the second day of summer and nice out, so it is just good to walk off a breakfast of pancakes and bacon with a little time in the sun.

Bourdain’s death puts depression in spotlight

I was only vaguely aware of who Anthony Bourdain was when news of his suicide swept the internet last week. Even though his show “Parts Unknown” had been on the air for the past five years and he had developed quite a devoted following during that time, somehow I had missed out. All I knew was that he was a television personality of some sort and his show had something to do with food. I guess I had foolishly dismissed it as just another of the scores of cooking shows and didn’t bother investigating it further.

The party’s in there, and we’re out here

My wife and I are introverts who pretend to be extroverts, both personally and professionally, which means that we are the kind of people who plan a party, and then immediately regret it once the invitations are sent.  

It’s prom, and my daughter is trying on adulthood

My daughter has become the person she hoped she would be at age seven. We should all be so lucky.

“When I was seven, I had a vision of my junior year in high school,” she said. “I wanted a car, a boyfriend and a nice dress for the prom.”

Owen Gibby calls roll for the last time

The first time I met Owen Gibby, he immediately reminded me of my favorite television character of all time, Deputy Barney Fife, and as I got to know him, that impression only intensified. They are about the same size and are both prone to exaggerated bug-eyed facial expressions, double takes, and dramatic pauses. I suspect that they learned at a very young age that being the funniest guy in the room has a lot of advantages for smaller guys trying to find their way in the world. Not only is being funny disarming, it turns out to be a better way to meet girls than anybody could have guessed.

Make the most of every day

When I was a student at Appalachian State University, I could have made the walk from Anne Belk Library to Sanford Hall in my sleep and often did, or nearly so, on those mornings after a late, coffee-drenched night writing a paper on one of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories, or working through the impossible genealogy of a William Faulkner novel, or racing the sentences of James Joyce toward the dawn.

The best reason of all to play

It’s one of those late March days that can’t make up its mind whether winter is really over or might hang on for another of weeks. When the sun elbows through a patch of low, gray clouds, it’s warm enough to take off your jacket, but then the wind picks up and you put it back on.

Can’t we just talk about gun legislation?

Last week, a United Airlines flight attendant forced a passenger with a small dog to put the dog in an overhead storage bin during a flight, even though there were no vents for the dog to breathe. The dog did not survive the flight, and in less than a week, legislation was introduced into Congress to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. The bill is called the WOOFF Act — the Welfare Of Our Furry Friends.

When a defenseless puppy dies on an airplane, Congress is almost instantly roused to action. Why then, are our legislators so reluctant to provide the same level of care and concern for our children, when we have already lost so many to gun violence? How many mass shootings will it take before we see some meaningful legislation that could begin to turn the tide and make our schools, theaters, malls, and other public places safer?

‘Your everlasting summer. You can see it fading fast’

Half the battle is just getting out of the house and on the road. Whenever we travel, we all understand that if we need to leave at 8 a.m., we will pretend that we really have to leave at 7 a.m. so that we can actually lave by 8:45 a.m. 

We set the alarm clock an hour earlier than any sane person would deem necessary, more than enough time to pack the car, eat a nutritious breakfast, run through the checklist of things that need to be turned on and things that need to be turned off, water the plants, leave a note for the house sitter so excruciatingly detailed that it resembles a manuscript, and say ‘goodbyes’ to our pets in a fashion that is so cute and so urgent that they seem confused, and probably alarmed, at what is unfolding here in front of them.

We can change, as the past has shown us

My grandfather loved guns. He had a magnificent collection, including a dazzling array of pistols, shotguns, and rifles, some very old and exotic. These he kept locked in a gun cabinet that was strictly off limits not just to children, but to anyone. Most days, he wore a pistol strapped to his side just like Wyatt Earp, though his was more likely to be used to shoot a copperhead or water moccasin than some rounder in a saloon.

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