Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The World According To Dee

Mother’s Day is over five months away, so the following story is not meant to serve as any kind of flowery tribute befitting that day we set aside to keep FTD and chocolate companies in business. Instead, it is simply a long overdue introduction for whoever reads my blog to the most amazing person I have ever known. My mother.

Dolores Mae Peroli Bryan, born February 21, 1927. Child of the depression. Married Charles Herald Bryan on February 12, 1949, and remained his devoted wife until his death in 1997. Mother of four more-or-less normal children. Everyone knows her as Dee.

I, of course, know her simply as Mom.

Dee is now 81 years old. At that age she is not the person, either physically or mentally, that she once was – who is – but even at this age she does things that astound. I will get to that shortly. I am her youngest child, and as such share what I believe to be a unique bond; much of which was forged when I was a child, but transcends just that closeness. We are kindred souls with very similar views on politics, sports and how to interact with the world in general. Virtually all that I am as a person can be directly traced to her, and that is not an exaggeration.

In 1974 Dee was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to have a radical mastectomy. In those days that meant not only removal of her breast, but most of the muscles in her upper right arm. The night before the surgery, people came over to visit with her, and I still remember how everyone arrived concerned for her welfare, but left feeling energized by her spirit. To her, it was just one of those things that sometimes happens, and you just face it head on, deal with it, and move on. What I am trying to say is that the word ‘pity’ is not part of her vocabulary.

Her politics are liberal, she thinks LeBron James is a ‘nice young man,’ thinks Romeo Crennel is cluelessly over his head as coach of the Browns, believes that family is the most important asset that a person can have, and you always balance your checkbook to the penny. Not surprisingly, I share all those views.

Dee is perpetual motion. It infuriates us to this day how she simply refuses to sit still, that we fear she will take a fall or simply wear herself out. And even when she is sitting in her chair watching her Cleveland Cavaliers or Indians, she crochets. Ravenously. Like, afghans-for-the-world levels. And while this may not seem unusual, it is worth noting that due to a rough patch of circulatory problems, she has two fingers & half a thumb missing on her right hand and one finger on her left hand.

How much does she crochet? Well, each of us kids have at least five of her afghans, all her relatives, most every neighbor on the street, half the city, and over 300 sick kids in local hospitals. She has donated over 300 afghans to Project Linus, which is a program to basically give sick kids a blanket. Even with about a third of her hand missing, she cranks out about an afghan a week. There are hundreds of children in the greater Akron area with a Dee Bryan-original afghan.

These days, Dee is forgetful and often repeats herself. She often asks which day it is. She will tell you a story at least a dozen times, and in the spirit of quid pro quo, it is best to repeat stories to her so that she will remember them. The onset of dementia perhaps? Nah. She’s just old. And what do I do when she repeats herself? I give her the same patience she always gave me when I was ripping through parts of my life; times where I knew I was causing her to lose sleep fretting over my welfare. I smile and nod, laugh at the appropriate time, and show her the respect she has earned. Not that she has demanded, but earned. Hers has been a life well lived, and one that anyone through emulation would dramatically improve their own life. She is the embodiment of attraction rather than promotion – never boastful, just an example of grace, courage and dignity.

One day in the future – one I hope is still well off – there will be a funeral. It will be an event. Hundreds will be there, because I am not sure she totally realizes it, but the scope of her positive impact to others is vast. And on that day the world will become a far crueler, selfish place with her no longer occupying it. There is no doubt she will be in heaven, as she has lived her life as an angel within our midst.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ode To The Semicolon

I have always rooted for the underdog, which would help to explain my devotion to a team that has never made it to a Super Bowl in their existence. But now I am going to take this cheering to a level of subliminty heretofore not expressed. I am going to talk punctuation.

More specifically, the misuse of punctuation. It truly shocks me the pervasion of sloppiness in writing. With the proliferation of e-mailing, texting and other 'shorthand' versions of writing, a subculture of punctuation paucity has flourished. And don't even get me started on texting acronyms like lol, roflmao & gtg (Question: Does anyone truly 'roll on the floor laughing their ass off'?). But aside from this bastardization of the language for brevity's sake (or to save money on texting charges), proper punctuation seems to have become a lost art.

I see you rolling your eyes. Stop it.

Punctuation, when used properly, delivers the message or the story in the proper timing; in the way the writer intended it. If not used properly, the message gets garbled, or worse, misunderstood. Hey, wars have happened over misunderstandings, so let's not trivialize punctuation, mmmkay?

Which brings me to the bastard stepchild of punctuation. The semicolon. It's sort of a colon, sort of a comma. And totally misused, or worse, ignored. Semicolons are very important in writing. They are used within a sentence to express a shift in thought yet still having connection to the initial thought, like the following: "I like to eat cows; however, they don't like to be eaten by me." Alas, such sublety is lost on many.

But let's talk about the poor semicolon for a moment. First off, it's a terrible name. Semicolon. It doesn't even rise to the level of a full colon; it's existence is to be only partially like a symbol that has the same name as the body part that carries human waste. How sad. "All I want to be is sort of like the punctuation mark named after the duct for carrying feces from the body."

Such humility.

We could all take a lesson from the humble semicolon and try to emulate its acceptance as a forgotten punctuation mark. The semicolon has been dealt an unfair hand, but it still sits there, ready to be used in its proper place. In fact, look at your keyboard right now - note that the semicolon shares a key with the colon (right side of the keyboard, next to the L). But a closer look will reveal that you do not have to hit the shift key to attain the semicolon, but you DO have to in order to get to the colon. What are the QWERTY creators telling us? That the semicolon is more important than the colon perhaps? That's how I choose to understand it.

So next time you are searching for that right punctuation mark, give the humble, underused and totally misunderstood semicolon a try.

But if you misuse it I will rof and lmao.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What's It To You?

I have never been one to wrap myself in the American flag. Instead, I have looked askance at the injustices of our society with a jaundiced, sarcastic view and wondered, ‘What the hell is our problem?’ To elaborate, it consistently galls me this absolute obsession we as a people seem to have in making sure we have a group to hate. For some bizarre reason, it seems to make us more comfortable with our shortcomings.

Time was - less than fifty years ago in fact - we used to hang blacks from trees for looking at white women. Women have had the right to vote for less than a hundred years. Seems like the newest wave of immigrants are ostracized by those that passed through Ellis Island before them, as if to say ‘The door closed behind us, bub.’

But over time, the assimilation of these peoples, and the simple adherence to our founding principles has rendered the heinous injustices to these people more or less to the history books. Racism still exists, but at least they aren’t lynching negroes in Mississippi anymore. Women still have glass ceilings to break through, but the cracks are extremely evident – it's just a matter of time there.

So the pool of people to pick on has shrunk. But we are a creative bunch, we Americans. Don't tell us we can't do something. Don't tell ME that we are all created equal. By golly, we will find someone to turn our unjustified bigotry and anger towards. And we’ve seem to have found our latest group. Gays.

I am not gay. And I am also about the least homophobic person you will ever meet. I am firmly of the opinion that if someone can find another person to love, honor and cherish to walk hand-in-hand through this sometimes very dark dirge we call life, it matters none whether they share the same sexual organs. If two people are happy, what’s it to me.

And what’s it to you?

Really. If you are a person that is against equal rights to gays, or ever worse, harbors anger towards gays, what the hell is your problem? What is it that makes you hate two people finding love and happiness? Is this a sociopathic streak that you’re secretly fermenting towards people that seem to find a happiness that has somehow eluded you? Does everyone have to be as miserable as you? Does the idea of two people of the same sex copulating repulse you - is that it?

Or do you just need someone to hate? If so, welcome to America. You’re fitting in quite nicely.

Because you are far from alone in that neanderthal view. Laws are being passed in scores of states banning gay marriage. Now please ponder that for moment. Our legislators & by extension the people they represent feels we need laws preventing something that does not impact you in any way. If gays are allowed to marry, it does not affect your marriage or your life in even a remote way. If you're happily married, you are free to remain that way whether gays receive that same right or not. If your marriage is a mess, why not allow gays the same chance at that misery? For that matter, why are you defending something that only about fifty percent of the participants are successful at? As Anna Quindlen stated in a recent issue of Newsweek, "As for the notion that allowing gay men and lesbians to marry will destroy conventional marriage, I have found heterosexuals perfect willing to do that themselves."

Again I ask - What's it to you?

Opponents to gay marriage say its about not allowing people a loophole to receiving health insurance benefits. Well heavens no – we can’t actually have MORE people freed from the anxiety that a broken leg could mean financial ruin, can we? Others cite religious reasons and Bible passages as their justification. Well look – I’m not a Theologian, and as such do not want to delve into what this Book of Solomon says or that Book of Job says. Those that profess to know what God thinks (Here's a piece of advice: avoid these people) would say that homosexuality is a sin, punishable by eternal damnation.

That seems a bit harsh for committing an egregious act of love. But maybe that’s just me. Instead I would just offer this simple & very un-religious-trained observation over this whole ‘religion’ angle – 

What would God think? 

I believe the answer is that He (or She) wants us happy, and as such would be pleased at two people finding love and companionship. I really don’t think flesh-burning in eternity is what is in store for those who have found a life partner to live, love and laugh with simply because Tab A doesn't fit into Slot B. My guess is that God would smile at such an event.

A friend of mine says the reason for our ongoing search for a group to hate is because we are a ‘young’ country, in that we have not yet gotten through our growing pains. I can kinda hang with that. My guess is that most more ‘mature’ countries laugh at us for our teenaged impetuosity & predisposition to hate.

I see only one answer. We need to grow the hell up. There's really no need to hate anyone, and any two people that enjoy each other's company to the point that they wish to make a lifelong commitment to each other should be honored, not derided. 

And certainly not made illegal.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Advice for DA

So…in an extremely disturbing case of déjà vu, a struggling Brows Quarterback got hurt & some fans cheered. Player gets upset. The knee-jerk opinions are the fans are classless jerks, and pity the poor player who is just trying his best under trying circumstances.

A bit of perspective is in order.

First off, the victims here are the fans, not Derek Anderson. The fans are the ones that have shelled out the $50 for the ticket; during an extremely disappointing season & in an economy where the purchase of pro football tickets cannot be a very high priority. That money could be far better used for like, oh I don’t know, maybe Christmas gifts or simply paying bills. Instead, they spend it to watch the Browns play football. Very lousy football.

Secondly, has DA considered why the fans cheered? Does he have the ability to look in the mirror & ask whether HE’S the reason that the ‘fans don't like him’ as he put it? Does he really think that he was doomed to be the bad guy just because the team drafted Brady Quinn? Psychologists call this a ‘victim mentality’ in that a person never looks at how he contributed to a situation but rather how he has been victimized by it.

Lemme help him out. The fans booed you, DA, because they were fed up with your mediocre play & were relieved that they did not have to witness any further of it. An excuse for their behavior? Perhaps. But an understandable one for anyone who cares to put themselves in the shoes of a Browns fan for five minutes.

A pro player that in any way shape or form blames the fans for anything lives in a bubble. And here’s DA’s bubble: He is a very wealthy young man playing a game. The reason he’s wealthy are those booing fans that chose to spend their money on tickets. All his medical bills will be paid for in full – no co-pays, no premiums. He will heal & be healthy in the span of about two months. He will be 25 years old with a number of suitors willing to give him a lot of money for his skill set. He will be financially set for life.

Meanwhile, those nasty booing fans will, if they’re lucky, go back to their $35k a year jobs & scrape change together to pay the electric bill. If they’re not that fortunate, they will hope they don’t get hurt – not because someone will cheer their misfortune but because the resulting medical bills will bankrupt them since they do not have medical insurance.

So DA got hurt & some fans booed. Here’s my advice to him: Get over it. And be thankful you’re not here in the real world with the rest of us.