Sunday, June 29, 2014

Public Speaking

        Not many Americans enjoy public speaking, my family included, probably because it is such a difficult, unnatural task to do well and the contrast between outstanding and horrendous performance is so obvious to see: A capable speaker casts a spell over the audience that awaits with baited breath each captivating utterance; an incapable speaker mumbles uneasy and indecipherably, fails to establish meaningful audience rapport, and is viewed and remembered unfavorably. And no one wants to perform on the lower end of that spectrum.
     Several months ago, my daughter read the scripture verse of several sentences at church service which was held for a change in our church's fellowship hall. She had a microphone but it being her first time, she mumbled through at near record speed so it sounded a bit as though she were gargling salt water for a sore throat. I could barely hear her utterances, much less comprehend what she was saying despite my familiarity with the bible. But she hadn't stressed at all, which was the main thing, so overall, for her first time, she did fine.
     (The first time I read scripture at church—a different one—I was a wreck, getting virtually no sleep the night before. An attempt to get out of it failed when the guy I called refused to substitute. The reading went fine without a hitch but I'd been so apprehensive that taking communion on stage prior to reading didn't happen: I palmed the tiny cracker, held the tiny cup to my lips, and hid the undrunk vessel beneath my seat. Thank God that was the last time I ever got asked to read.)
     A few days following her recitation Penelope shared that she'd be participating with four fellow students in an upcoming district speech festival. They devised their own excellent script for the The Empty Pot story in which Ping is unable to grow a flower from the Emperor's (secretly) cooked seed, whereas all the other kids display fantastic flowers despite also having received identical (cooked) seeds. So the Emperor appoints honest Ping—the only child with an empty pot—his successor.
     Penelope's role was the pivotal Emperor, made all the challenging because lines were to be memorized, costumes weren't allowed, they were required to look at a single point above the audience throughout, and there could be no direct contact between actors because it was a group interpretation, not a play. Since she was group leader and it was a G.T. class, and since I knew it would be challenging for them to do well, I decided to coach Penelope at home.
     (Note: G.T. = Gifted and Talented, an inaccurate moniker, since all kids are gifted and talented. We had declined invitations for her to join the program in prior years due to it offering much added homework and little added benefits and at her age and academic standing such optional classes ought to be fun! fun! fun!  This past year, we let her decide if she wanted to enter and she said yes, which worked alright, I guess.)
     To help her then, we did a practice read-through of the script with Braden and I playing the roles assigned to her teammates. Right away, problems with Penelope's performance surfaced: mumbled, rushed lines delivered without voice modulation, pause, or drama as if she were hurrying to finish; a slouched and twisted posture; and fidgeting hands, legs, and shoulders suggesting gross unease. After stopping repeatedly while going over the first few lines to redo them (I gave her rundowns on background, setting, cultural significance, and an Emperor's mindset, and acting pointers such as head positioning, hand gestures, voice control and technique, and how to get into her role—lots to cover but important to help her develop stage command and to keep her mind on-task while performing), her frustration began to show, her attitude became petulant, her lips began to quiver, and eventually she quit trying altogether. I asked, “Do you want my help or not?” She didn't answer, looking down with tears now spilling over. When I asked again, she shook her head no, so I got up to go, then said, “You're the one that wanted to go to G.T. I'm very disappointed, those other schools are going to have it together and if you rush through like this, it's going to show that you don't care. As group leader, it's your responsibility to make it happen. I expect best effort and you want to settle for this shoddy I-don't-care stuff.” Turning to leave I said, “I'll be in my room if you change your mind.”
     She later came by and asked for help and we made good progress, but left off at bedtime with a long way to go.
     The next night I said shall we try again? and she said no thank you. I shook my head, snickered at the thought that she thought she was mature enough to assert her independence, and walked away.
     But she came by later and asked for help and we had a productive practice session, leaving off at about mid-way through the script but with still lots to cover. In the coming two weeks, we worked it, honed it, and even modified gestures: extended fists held straight out front coming apart suggested the unrolling of a large imaginary scroll; up and down and left to right head movements suggested the reading of the scroll; a raised arm signified Ping's appointment; and fists on hips and an angry frown showed that all the children who dared attempt deceive the Emperor were in for it.
           I missed the performance because I had to sign Jaren and Penelope up for Summer Fun that morning, but Deanne said she did fine—lines spoken loud and clear, though rushed in parts due to understandable stage jitters. And their group did well overall, too—the story line intelligible if not moving. Another group from their school performed even better. “Of course they did better,” I told her, “because they practiced three times as much as your group.” (Her group members were neither as available nor as committed.) “Yours would have done just as well had it practiced as much.”
     More recently, she was asked to recite scripture at church again. This time I asked her to do it for me just the way she intended to. A mumbled jangle of gibberish spilled forth and I asked do you understand what you just read? She said yes, but when I asked her to explain it in her own words she looked at it and said, “I don't really understand it.” So we went through word by word, learned and relearned definitions, and eventually comprehended what Apostle Paul was saying in each clause of the long, complicated sentences. Through tears aplenty she re-recited many times, things improving markedly after I underlined key words for her to emphasize and told her where to insert pauses to give listeners the chance to absorb what they just heard.
           The night before the recitation, for the first time, the poetic proclamation of God's immeasurable love came through. And the following morning at service, they came again—beautiful promises spoken perky and alive. “You did superb,” I told her afterward with an arm about her shoulders—tall praise coming from me. She smiled and thanked me.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Tooth Fairy—Part II

     Penelope must take after me. The other day Jaren loses a tooth and shares this fact at the dinner table. Penelope shares that she lost a tooth a month earlier and got nothing from the Tooth Fairy for it.
     “Did you stick it under your pillow?” I ask.
     “Yes,” she says.
     “Where is it now?”
     “In my drawer.”
     “You have to tell us,” Deanne says with a smile.
     “Just like last time, she must have missed it,” I say more for Jaren's sake than hers.  (See my prior Fire the Tooth Fairy! essay for details regarding.)
     What bothers me is her blabbing about her unclaimed tooth in front of Jaren, even though inside, I'm somewhat impressed by her scientific inquiry that seeks independent verification of facts via experimentation—which was exactly what I'd done when I was about her age and had doubts about the Tooth Fairy story—instead of assuming things one way or another. 
     That night the Tooth Fairy visits both Jaren's and Penelope's rooms and exchanges their lost teeth for U.S. currency.
     By contrast, older brother Braden at about Jaren's age, was so unsophisticated and slow, missing so many truths behind stories and events, and so hypersensitive besides that I felt compelled to let him in on the little secret for his benefit. I pictured him sans truth asserting to playmates that the Tooth Fairy does exist—Mom and Dad said so!—to their guffaws, teasings, and cruel revelations. Then he'd later ask us is it true? and deem us untrustworthy liars for leading him on if we admitted yes it is, or unreliable double-talkers if we said, “The Tooth Fairy exists if you believe in her.” The subtle differences between good and bad lies, half-truths, and stories would be far beyond his ken and not something I'd have dared share for fear of misapplication, for it's tough enough teaching a youngster not to lie, much less when and how it's okay to not always tell the full truth.
     So here's Braden with deep concern asking, “How does the Tooth Fairy get in our apartment?”
     “I guess she flies in,” I say.
     “Thorough the balcony?”
     “I never saw her, I suppose so.”
     “How does she know I lost a tooth? Or does she check every night?”
     “I don't know, but she somehow does. I guess it's magic. She doesn't check every night.” By now his stranger anxiety has set in, his voice wavering and his eyes searching mine—we taught him well about the need for home security, but sometimes he takes it too far.
     “Does anyone ever call the police?”
     “What for?”
     “The Tooth Fairy?”
     “But she's not stealing.”
     “But suppose someone wants to keep it?”
     “Then they shouldn't stick it under the pillow. But then they wouldn't get any money for it, right?”
     “Yeah... But suppose they just want to keep it there?”
     At this point, I can see where the conversation is headed so I say in quiet tone, “Come,” gesturing for him to sit before me. Hand cupped over his ear as if I were blowing soap bubbles, lips pressed to the circular opening, I say, “The Tooth Fairy is really Mommy.”
     His body jerks to, then eases with limp knowingness. “Noooo....” he says with a smile.
     I nod and whisper, “Yes, she is. But only for your teeth.” Here his posture perks up again, keen and alert. “There's no such thing as magic,” I continue. “She doesn't grow wings or fly around or anything like that. She's still just Mom—just like we see her right now doing dishes.” I pause to gather my thoughts while he looks on and nods. “When you're asleep, she goes into your room, feels under your pillow for the missing tooth, and leaves money behind for you to find when you wake up in the morning. Neat, huh?” He nods. “Don't tell Mom I told you, okay?”
     “Can I play now?” he asks.  His eyes show a readiness to move on to matters less profound.
     “Sure,” I say.
     Later I tell Deanne what happened and she smiles, knowing Braden is happiest when in on the truth.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


       I cut everyone's hair in my immediate family, including my own (what little is left). Now, before assuming that we must all look like crap, consider that my family and I have received far more compliments for their haircuts (never mine) than we ever have for my writing and guitar playing combined—this despite having spent tens of thousands of hours more mastering (bungling) the latter than the former. This disproportionate share of hair cutting compliments must mean something.
     Perhaps the kids' and Deanne's hair really do look like weed-whacked vacant lots and the “compliments” were more commiserations? But such compliments often were accompanied by the question where did you get your hair cut (as in which salon) and astonished expressions upon learning the source. Deanne has even received requests from lady friends that I cut their hair. It hasn't happened yet, but perhaps one day it will.
     Hair cutting is fulfilling in a very non-serious way: it's practical, convenient, saves tons of time and money, and I get to sculpt—one of the few visual art forms (not counting photography) with which I feel comfortable. The tools all came in a hair clippers (Wahl) kit purchased from Sears a dozen years ago for thirty-five dollars: mechanical clippers (buzzzzz...) for the boys, and scissors and comb for the girls.
     Here's how I did it when Braden was a toddler: Line the bathtub with newspapers. Have him sit inside wearing only the plastic cape (to be followed by a bath). Work from back to front, bottom—nape of neck to over the ears and sideburns—with short comb spacers first, then up top with longer spacers. There is an upward and outward pull away wrist flick from the scalp that creates a smooth medium–length transition in the in-between sections between shorter and longer hair. Instructions were included in the kit, but recalling what our barber did when I was a child, I just imitated. Lastly, trim off side burns and back using clippers without spacers and touch up as necessary.
     For the girls, have the kitchen dining room floor lined with newspapers with a chair placed atop. I'm not a fan of cutting with the subject's hair wet because it's not how it normally looks or falls (no one wears gel these days). Have her comb her hair natural (wash and wear is best—no elaborate blow drying, curling, or perms necessary). And, again, start from the back.
     At first when Penelope had rather thin hair, her hair in back naturally fell like a water fall, so the cut merely enhanced it with the sides cut to match. Short straight bangs set off her chubby Squirrel Nutkin cheeks. Later when she grew a fuller head of hair, a careful chop—block cut in back that fell evenly to a soft point at the spine worked well with her shoulder-length hair. By “chop-block” I mean cut all about the same length from neck on outward.
     When I was a youth it was deemed ugly to have a “chawan haircut.” A chawan is a tea bowl. Picture a large tea bowl placed atop the head with hair cut all the way around to match the bowl's rim. Ugly, right? I did not cut Penelope's hair to look that way. Hers would have had an angled canoe shape toward the back with a cute manicured duckling tail. Long, eyebrow-level straight bangs softened her maturing oval face. The sides came up at an angel with the tips of her earlobes peeking through. Shorter hair on the front sides were just out of reach her eyes—practicality always coming first.
     With Deanne, a more layered, feathered look helped thin out her full, thick pate. I had previously used this technique with Braden since he had been afraid of the clippers at first, and modified it for Deanne's much longer hair: Comb and scissors in right hand, use the comb's end tines to separate a pencil–barrel's worth of hair away from the scalp, flatten between straight fore and middle fingers of left hand pointing down approximately parallel to scalp, palm facing in. (This process may take a few passes to create nice even spacing of hair between the two fingers, the object being cutting all this hair approximately equal length.)  Transfer comb to left hand by gripping between thumb and forefinger, then cut hair as close as possible to the left hand fingers holding the hair, nice and straight. (I'd observed hairdressers doing this for decades whenever I went in for a cut.)
     After cutting the back, cut the sides and lastly the front to match. Altering them with each new cut helps keep things interesting.
     Another technique is to view the silhouette of the head and hair from all sides and cut to shape a pleasing profile. This softens the effect of rogue strands (no one's hair falls identical everywhere throughout). Such shaping means not all hair will be cut the exact same length at each given latitude (given distance below the head's North Pole top center), but that's okay because good irregularity can add personality and character. Also rather than a perfectly even helmet-shaped look, recent fashion trends have created jagged edged bottoms and cleaved crevices (like Charlie Brown's zigzag shirt design), whereby zigzag intervals, lengths, layering, and depths vary according to taste—from quite severe to barely noticeable. (Youth on the bus and downtown workers serve as Hawaii's fashion models for these and other cuts—fun to notice.)
     Very short cuts tend to be tricky on Deanne because of her full head of medium thickness hair. Certain strands of late tend to bow out, creating unsightly tufts up back. I'll never cut her hair so short again unless she's certain she'll gel it to keep it down, or unless that “look” happens to be “in.”
     Best thing about cutting is enjoying looking at my subjects—God's handiwork touched up—everyday.
     Tip: Start off with guys or an infant while he or she is asleep in the crib using a children's safety scissors because these just don't sweat their appearances much. The first time I cut Deanne's hair was shaking–hands stressful—especially when things started looking botched halfway through. But as the cut progressed, things improved and by cut's end, all looked well (to me at least).
     Cutting a resistant daughter's hair takes a measure of gall, insistence, bull-headedness, arrogance, or confidence—especially when she's crying. This happened twice with Penelope because she wanted longer hair so she could better tie it up in a pony-tail, pig-tails, or braids. I had no problem with that, but both times I warned her twice not to eat her hair or put it in her mouth—a vile habit I have no tolerance for—lest I cut it. So both times when I caught her, I followed through, cutting all the way around just out of reach of her mouth (plus the usual shaping and balancing). Both times she walked away smiling, pleased with her new “look.” (Maybe it'll become a hot new hair cutting technique—at least for the longest strands within mouth's reach?)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Temper, Avoidance, Lying, and Laziness

                  A hot temper is perhaps my most visible if not greatest weakness among many that include (to varying degrees) pride, vanity, lustfulness, fretfulness, lack of faith, lack of generosity, unforgiveness, and inflexibility. (Sorry to burst anyone's bubble: I'm not perfect.) It is usually born of impatience or irritability over small preventable things that don't resolve timely. (Yes, I can be petty: tsk, tsk, tsk.)
     An example of a recent flare up follows. At the time, Braden is already in the doghouse for having gotten a fourth quarter grade of C+ in social studies, not staying on top of his grades as promised, lying about it repeatedly, dumping his social studies binder, lying about why he dumped it, and giving me loud, disrespectful b.s. to confuse and steer me away from the evidence. After ascertaining the truth through diligent (angry) questioning, I make him retrieve the binder from the nearby dumpster, ground him for three weeks, and assign him nightly dish washing duty. This background does not exonerate me from my impatient rantings described below that were far from honorable or dignified. I have since (and once again) prayed for God's help to relieve me of this habitual sin because I can't do it alone.

My Impatient Rantings
 (Setting: one recent evening)

     “I read the other night something about someone saving the Natatorium,” says Braden.
     “Where did you read this?” I ask.
     “In the Midweek.”
     “Who's saving it?”
     “The government.”
     “Which government?”
     “Congress or...?”
     “Congress?” At this point, I know he's wrong. I question in disbelieving tone to get him to correct his error, for a man's word is important and he should always speak truth to the best of his knowledge and ability and not knowingly substitute convenient erroneous misstatement.
     “Oh, I forgot... The state house.”  
     He's close, but no cigar. “The state house?” I ask incredulous.
     “The state house and state senate.”
     “What's that body called?”
     “The state...lezijlature.”
     “It's not state lezijlature,” I mock because I'm the parent and that's what impatient parents with short tempers sometimes (always) do.
     “...The state...lezijhlature.”
     “Go look it up!
     He disappears for awhile and I later see him perusing a children's dictionary. I say use the regular one. “I can't find it,” he says. Since it's dinner time I say do it later.  
     But later, as is his wont, he still hasn't done a thing, instead settling into a state of near suspended animation. So from my room I shout to him to pronounce it.  
     He shows up hours later and says, “Legislature.”
     “Which legislature?” I ask because sometimes when he adds a word or two in front he gets tongue-tied and mispronounces.  
     “The state house and state senate.” 
     “Not the state house and state senate, the state what?” Legislature, I intone to myself soundlessly and without moving my lips, my face altering hues like an octopus in heat as I increase toward maximum amplitude my mental telepathy thought wave transmissions.  
     The oscillating fan on the floor, beside my bed rubs up against the drapes causing an irritating, vibrating, flattering–lips sound that goes: “ppppppstatepppplegislatureppppp...”
     “The Hawaii state legislative branch,” Braden says with conviction.
     “That's not right! What body makes the laws?” A long pause follows. “Well?”
     “I don't know.”
     “You don't? What did the article say?” Here I regain some composure, having given up for now my extrasensory communications powers because my internal omni-directional antenna transmitter is obviously malfunctioning, causing painful reverberations within my cranial cavity. The fan now sputters: “Ststststatelegleglegislaturenahnahnahnah...”
     “I don't...remember,” he says.
     “Then read it!”
     He leaves the room and returns thirty hours later. “I couldn't find it,” he says. 
     “What do you mean you couldn't find it?” We store billions of copies of each Midweek issue on our kitchen storage cart, which means they outnumber our unit's cockroach population by three.
     “I mean I found it, but just scanned it.”
     “Then read the whole thing”—this said at peak volume. I can't believe he's wasting my time, not having read the entire article yet.  
     “No! I mean the first time I scanned it. This time I read the whole thing but it doesn't say the body.”
     “It doesn't?” Here I'm bit cooler, but skeptical. His nonsensical non sequiturs reassure me that he's the linguistically challenged one, not me (or is it I?) 
     “Are you sure?”
     “If I read it now, I won't find it?”
     “I don't think so.”
     “You don't think so?”
     “No, you won't.”
     This takes me aback. “Okay. Then would like to take a guess?”
     “Then go to bed.”
     I later call him back. “What answer did you give me the first time.”
     “The Hawaii state legislature.”
     “Well why didn't you just say it?” I shake me head to test for loose parts. Clackataclackataclackata go the Chiclets inside. This explains what happened to those Chicklets I accidentally inhaled and swallowed whole. No wonder Mom told us never to swallow gum. “Go to bed,” I say.
     Later, as I'm brushing my teeth and feeling the need to extinguish the angry burn still in my chest, I remember my friend Norm telling me that shouting at Braden over his academic struggles won't help. I ask Braden are you awake?, then call him over when he says no.
     “What's the law making body?” I ask.
     “The Hawaii state legislature.”
     “Write it down on a sheet of paper. Include the pronunciation. Is that the same as the legislative branch?”

     “Get a portfolio. Keep it in there. Whenever you have a word you need to learn, put it in there. This isn't the first time you struggled with this.”  
     “Yes, Dad.”

End of impatient rantings
(resumption of normal (abnormal) narrative)
            Later that evening, I explain to Deanne that what bothers me most is Braden's avoidance strategy—hiding his grades, throwing away his binder, avoiding the phrase “state legislature”, avoiding taking the most challenging courses, dropping out of honorary chamber orchestra in order to avoid having to practice harder to master difficult pieces (I only learn about this “honor” after his intermediate orchestra's final performance because his name is erroneously included in the program's list of honor chamber orchestra musicians), and failing to earn a single merit badge after nearly three years in scouting because avoiding difficult requirements is easier than working hard to fulfill them.
     “I have no tolerance for avoidance because something's difficult,” I say. “He has to do it over and over until he gets it right. Whether its guitar, violin, math, social studies, or whatever, if he does it enough times, he'll master it. When I know he's avoiding something, I purposely drill him on it to force him to learn it. He has to do his part, too, by thinking and trying, not avoiding.”  
     “When he's nervous, he gets flustered sometimes. Maybe we should sit down when we're all calm—.”
     “You do it. I'm doing my best. Please do it yourself sometime—whenever you want,” I suggest supportively.
     All his life we've been trying to instill in him an attitude of excellence in everything he does because taking care of small things leads to big things taking care of themselves and by doing well in school, he keeps his options open. It's his slackadaisical attitude and dishonest attempts to cover up that I find so disconcerting: grave character flaws that have and will continue to come back and bite him. I've seen it countless times in friends, acquaintances, and coworkers. Though some have managed to get by, few if any have had thriving careers or have come across as peaceful or content. 

     Yet for some reason, Braden's failings don't seem to bother him, which only disconcerts me more. “If you try your best studying five hours every night, I'll go to bat for you and talk with your teacher and figure out what's the matter,” I tell him. “But you don't. You got what you deserved. So don't tell Mom anymore it wasn't my fault. Excuses mean zero.”
     Long-shot goals that I share with him the following evening in hopes of motivating him to try harder and making him realize that what he does now is important: Air Force pilot and chef graduate (from Kapiolani Community College). Either could lead to an honorable, fulfilling career, if and when he gets his act together. “It's your choice,” I tell him. “Cruise now and work hard with tough low paying jobs the rest of your life. Or work hard now, and cruise with enjoyable, high paying jobs the rest of your life. I can't force you, it's up to you to decide.” Part of me fears he's still too immature to “get it.” Perhaps I'll force him to get a job soon. Perhaps he'll turn things around and get all A's and B's from now on. Or perhaps he'll continue as he has and end up with a thriving career far more successful than mine—stable (stuck) in a white collar below middle management supervisory accountant position.  (My middling writing "career" with hardly a reader doesn't count.) But at least I'm peaceful and content. For now.   

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


     I hated when my mom used to say, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” What she really meant was, “Not clean enough—do better, do more.” She'd go on these cleaning jags whenever special guests were to arrive, which I found hypocritical. Weren't we good enough, as is? For what purpose were we attempting to impress them beyond treating them well and with dignity?
     Besides having us clean toilets, mirrors, and sinks, she'd go over-the-top by adding jalousies, screens, windows, and sills. I'd say “Do you really think they're going to inspect?” After all, they were arriving at night and the drapes would be closed. She'd response, “It doesn't matter, I notice the difference.”
     “Then why now? They're hardly even dirty?”
     When she ignored the question that meant “Hush up and get to work, you're doing it because I said so.”
     Now, with older and wiser (foolish) eyes, I understand a bit better her motives, because I find myself becoming slowly cleaner.
     When Braden, our first, was a newborn, we let our place get pretty decrepit—toys left strewn across the floor along with burp cloths, books, papers, and diaper cleaning accessories and supplies, stains dotting the greater portion of our living room carpet. We were just too worn and exhausted to expend the energy to “do things right.” Only after those first few (they seemed forever) sleep-deprived months did I stop and think, “This is getting disgusting” and hand-cleaned the carpet and tidied up with Deanne's help the living room every night before bedtime.
     Things held steady like that for the next dozen or so years during which time Penelope came, then Jaren, and we raised them all through toddlerhood and beyond. Now that they are quite independent and helpful (one of the best ways to prepare children for adulthood is to assign them chores—see my prior Chores essay—which means less chores for Deanne and me as we offload more to them) we've got time on our hands. How to fill the hours?
     I, like my parents, am not one to sit idle for long—too much restless energy. While they filled countless hours watching TV and Dad read a fair amount, I watch zero TV now and instead play guitar, exercise, do some black and white digital photo processing, and odds and ends projects around the house. Even so there are still too many hours to fill. So, cleaning beyond usual chores (it never ends) is a productive, satisfying way to fill some of the void. Odd isn't it? I've become one of those that “enjoys” cleaning. My wife and I (mostly her) even do extra cleaning before the arrival of special guests and before we go on trips (to give ourselves the treat of a clean house to return to—always a pleasant surprise. This started for me when I was a bachelor fresh out of college and I once came home exhausted from a trip to a sink of filthy dishes—never again!) Such cleaning, I have found, makes the time go by faster before the anticipated event—not necessary, but quite harmless, though cleaning before the arrival of special guests is cultural: Don't look bad before others and always put your best foot forward; if they're impressed, so much the better.
     An engineer friend once said something that surprised me. I had been sharing about Braden's struggles in school and how I supposed it would be okay if he ended up doing yard work for a living. He said, “I'd do that,” smiling a rare heartfelt smile. “You would?” I asked, stupefied. He nodded. “I enjoy working in the yard. I find it relaxing.”
     It was then that I realized that my dad hadn't spent all those weekends and vacations doing yard work—mowing, trimming, and spraying poison; painting; wiping down the exterior walls with Clorox to free it of mold; washing and polishing the car; cleaning windows, screens, sills, and jealousies; and endless other chores ad nauseum because “they needed to be done,” as he had so often claimed, but rather because he had enjoyed them, all the while lost in thought, listening to his tiny transistor radio, earbud attached if he was operating noisy machinery.
     In that regard, I've become like my parents, sans radio (I work in silence), though not yet to their degree. And I don't know whether to feel proud or embarrassed.