A morning off from work

If there is a time of day that is consistently more peaceful than any other, it is the morning. Everything seems more optimistic as our neighborhood gets going.

I had the morning off from work today, so I took the opportunity to brew some coffee and settle myself on our front stoop to watch as the world around me woke from its slumber. A couple of our neighbors walked by on their morning constitutionals. The kid next door dashed to his car, started it up and drove away. The birds happily chirped and the dew glistened on the weeds in our yard.

The weeds. It briefly crossed my mind that I should probably make my wife happy and do something about them. I took a sip of coffee from the mug in my hand and dismissed that chore as something best left for another day. My thoughts then turned to our son.

The kid doesn’t start classes again at West Virginia University until the fall semester, but I took him back to Morgantown last week. He’s back months early because the new wallet I wrote about the last time I posted here made him go. The lease he signed on the house we moved him into started June 1st. My wallet strenuously objected to shelling out rent money while he lived in our basement for the summer. Besides, he’s got a job in Morgantown slinging deli sandwiches for hungry, lunchtime customers. He can make his own money there instead of relying on hand-outs from me if he remained home.

I suspect the days of our son sleeping deep into the afternoon and then wandering around our house in his boxer shorts looking for a snack at all hours are over. His roommates will have to put up with that now. His life is with them – in Morgantown – not here at home in Martinsburg. I suppose that’s as it should be, but I’m still coming to terms with his absence.

As I was ruminating about our son and the “Circle of Life,” I heard something rattling above my head. I looked up to see that a Blue Jay had alighted on the gutter that runs the length of our house. I watched as it skipped along for a second and then it made a short hop over to the Bradford Pear tree that stands in the front yard several feet from our dining room window.

It must be wonderful to be a bird in the morning. They seem so cheery as the sun comes up. But then that Blue Jay took a dump right in front of me and flew off.

The spell was broken.

I tossed the dregs of my coffee into the yard and went back inside the house.

I’m still trying to figure out if that bird was trying to send me a message about the “Circle of Life” and how shitty it can be.


What NOT to do at the Macy’s Parade

If there is one thing I learned following our Thanksgiving trip to New York City for the Macy’s Parade, it’s this – don’t abandon your wife for a hot cup of coffee.

I made that mistake.

I will never make it, again – not that I’ll necessarily have the opportunity. My wife will likely see to that. And in any case, we probably won’t ever have as good an excuse to join the huge Macy’s crowd as we did this year.

My wife and I gave up the traditional turkey dinner for the bright lights of Manhattan to see our son, the college freshman, march in the Macy’s Parade with his crew – the nearly 400 other members of the West Virginia University Mountaineer Marching Band, more popularly known as The Pride of West Virginia.

The Pride had the honor of kicking off the parade, leading a long line of other bands from around the country, plus the floats carrying celebrities we were barely familiar with, and giant balloons of cartoon characters we generally recognized. And of course, Santa and his reindeer brought up the rear to herald the Christmas season.

But I almost mucked up the whole thing because – coffee.

I’m actually a latecomer to the joys of coffee. Despite the round-the-clock work schedule of a radio journalist, I didn’t really start brewing it regularly as part of my daily wake-up routine until several years ago.

Now, I’m a zealot – a convert who can’t do without a steaming mug, or in this case, a sturdy take-out cup.

Which is why I developed coffee envy shortly after we found the parents of another WVU band member. My wife had made plans to meet them along the parade route..

After greeting each other and enthusing about having kids in the Macy’s Parade, I zeroed in on a woman making her way through the press of people that lined our side of the street. She was using one of those handy carriers to deliver several take-out cups of coffee to a group standing near us.

The temptation was too much to overcome.

I sidled over to her and conspiratorially asked, as one coffee enthusiast to another, for directions to the nearest coffee shop.

I then did the polite thing and asked if anyone in our group wanted a cup before setting off with our daughter, who is never one to refuse a warm, cozy drink.

The walk to the coffee shop passed without incident. The only thing that briefly troubled me was having to cross the parade route in order to get where we were going.

I should have been more than briefly troubled. I should have been downright alarmed.

On our way back with a well-stocked coffee carrier of my own, I joked with our daughter about the possibility that we wouldn’t be allowed to cross back over to her mom’s side of the street.

But the joke was on me. New York’s finest really weren’t allowing anyone to cross the parade route.

My daughter and I weren’t the only ones stuck on the wrong side of the street. There were other stranded coffee addicts, too. And, no amount of pleading with the police helped. They remained unmoved, even when I tried to appeal to the married officers among them by whining that I couldn’t just leave my wife to watch the parade without us.

I was just starting to resign myself to a difficult drive home when I overheard one helpful officer say he believed his colleagues a few blocks away may be more sympathetic.

He was right.

We had to go well out of our way, but after what seemed like an eternity, we finally broke through and made it across the street.

And, not long after we rejoined my wife, The Pride marched by playing their signature tune, “Country Roads.” .

I was never happier to hear that song. And thankful to be standing near my wife as we yelled at our son as he marched by.

And I learned an important lesson.

If you are compelled to cross the street for a stupid cup of coffee just before a parade watched by millions kicks off, make your wife go with you.

Latest newspaper column – the top ten things we won’t miss now that our son is away at college

The day after West Virginia University’s Ginny Thrasher won the first gold medal of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, I was in Morgantown.

But I wasn’t there to help celebrate.

I was there to move our son into his dorm room.

Our eldest kid is no longer living in our basement. He’s out of our house and on his own, albeit still on his parents’ dime.

Our son started his WVU career a week early. He’s a trumpet playing member of the Mountaineer Marching Band, “The Pride of West Virginia.” The Pride requires members to show up a week early for band camp.

I admit to being somewhat apprehensive about turning him loose on Morgantown. And my eyes may have even welled up a little when I left him on his own. I’m not saying they did, just that they MIGHT have.

But now that it’s been nearly a week since the last time I saw our son, I’m starting to see the bright side of this college thing.

And so is my wife.

A couple of days after our son left she called me from her office. With sirens wailing in the background, she said “it’s nice not to have worry about him being in a car accident every time I hear an ambulance or fire engine.”

That got me thinking about several more things we won’t miss:

  1. Bellowing down the basement stairs each morning because we don’t trust him to set an alarm.
  2. Having to continue bellowing because he didn’t hear us the first time.
  3. The morning bathroom fight between him and his younger sister.
  4. Scrambling through a lukewarm shower before it turns frigid because he used most of the hot water.
  5. Being distracted when guests are over out of fear that he might wander into the family room wearing nothing but boxer shorts.
  6. Trying to pry information from him and only getting a series of grunts and a shrug for our trouble.
  7. Our weird relationship with the pizza delivery guy who, until last week, rang our doorbell on what seemed like a near daily basis.
  8. Having to buy frozen pizza in a misguided effort to satisfy his craving and keep the pizza bill within reason.
  9. Wrapping a pillow around our heads because he decided that 2am is the perfect time to practice his trumpet.
  10. Putting up with his sleeping until 2pm because he was up all night – PRACTICING HIS TRUMPET!

This list is hardly exhaustive, but it doesn’t mean we are gleeful that he’s gone and no longer interested in keeping tabs on him.

The fact is, we are getting sort of desperate. He’s been largely silent since he left. He hasn’t even been sending us many text messages, his preferred method of communication. My wife and I have been reduced to searching for him in the pictures the WVU band posts on social media.

That will likely change, though.

After all, his penchant for pizza means he’s bound to eventually run out of spending money.

Stalking our college son

Our son hasn’t really been in touch with us since I dropped him off for band camp at West Virginia University in Morgantown.

Not surprising. He’s a fairly independent kid.

Thanks to social media, though, at least we know he made it to rehearsals on Wednesday.

My wife found this picture posted by @WVUMarchingBand on Twitter. She helpfully circled our son, marching with nearly 400 of his new best friends. He’s just left of the 40 yard line, part of the “V” in WVU.img_1406.jpg

Marching band dad

A day after West Virginia University’s Ginny Thrasher won the first gold medal at the Rio Olympics, I’m in Morgantown.

Our son is starting his college career a week early. We’re here for band camp. He’s a freshman member of  the Mountaineer Marching Band, otherwise known as “The Pride of West Virginia.”

Today was registration day.

No more basement living for our oldest kid. Tomorrow, it’s sink or swim. We’re moving him into his dorm room and then I’m leaving him to it.

He probably won’t ever win Olympic gold, but I feel like there should be some sort of prize for parents who have gotten their kids this far.