Thursday, November 10, 2011

Having a son...in an evil world populated by Predatory Paternos...

Today, I took my son to school knowing I was leaving him to get on an airplane for yet another meeting out of town. Granted, it's only an overnight trip to Portland, OR; however, I was gone for two nights last week and one night earlier this week.

Over the weekend he admonished me that I need to get a different job such as a "mechanic because they know how to do cool things, make lots of money, and don't have to travel."

It is heart breaking enough to leave my family even for short periods, but it's been even more difficult as our son matures enough to think about time. And he is getting older by the minute it seems from First Grade to losing teeth to learning to read.

But, as he gets older, all the evils of the world descend into my psyche. Today, when I left him at school, he walked toward the gate, turned, and waved goodbye. I could see the love in his face. I hoped he didn't see the tears and fears in mine.

"Fears" because like parents throughout time, I worry about him. It goes beyond simple happiness. It is fear of basic physical safety in these troubling times.

When I was a kid, for the most part, we didn't worry too much about evil in the neighborhood. We didn't think twice about riding bikes and walking to school. I was in the Cub Scouts, and who would have known that 42 years later, the very first responsibility I have as a parent of a new Cub Scout would be to read him the first chapter of the Cub Scout handbook that outlines his expected responses to inappropriate sexual advances. Wow....

So, today as he walked away from me, my little boy with his bright smile, his camo backpack, and his bountiful future in front of him, I thought not only of the Cub Scout hand book that now mandates I confront my son with evil before he even turns 7 years old, but also of the disgusting debacle that is the Penn State sexual scandal involving men in authority who sacrificied young boys at the altar of collegiate athletics.

Men who did disgusting things to little boys like my son were shielded from retribution by people like the fallen Joe Paterno because glory, championships, and money were more important than integrity and protecting young boys.

And, I watched in disgust as pretentious, elitist students protested the necessary Paterno ouster evidently believing that Paterno and his staff turning a blind eye to the rape of little boys by a member of his staff was OK so long as the team was winning. These myopic idiots should look at their own kids, nephews, cousins, etc. and ask "What if it had been one of them?" I think their stupid defense of molestors and their co-conspirators would wither away in embarrassment and realization of the devasting facade on which their athletic success was based.

There will be a special place in Hell for Paterno and his ilk. Prior to taking the elevator to their just rewards, those most culpable for this disgusting horror story will, hopefully, spend the rest of their lives in prison where they can pin their certificates, pennants, and accolades on the walls of their cell.

At least Paterno is old enough that his date with destiny is at least imminent. The boys he essentially allowed to be victimized have years left to live with the horrors he helped inflict by his indifference as he sought money and accolades at their expense.

But for me, it reminds me again about how important it is to protect my little boy who waved goodbye to me this morning as he walked into school. How will I know? What more can we do to make sure he is safe?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Catholic First Grade


Little Ethan Dunham has entered his second week of parochial school filled with the inspirational sweet spirit of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. 

He is excited about the structure. He loves wearing uniforms. He relishes the opportunity to wear socks everyday. He looks forward to tucking in his shirt. And Mass! Wow! It is uplifting and engaging. He rushes home every day to assure his pagan parents that we are well on our way to damnation as he sets the table in anticipation of leading us in the blessing. 

He is overjoyed each morning to awaken – early -- with the knowledge that he has a full day of learning ahead of him. And the fact that he doesn’t know any of the other children in the class (all of whom but one went to Sacred Heart last year for Kindergarten so have their established groups) is not a downer for him at all as he looks forward to the challenge of making new friends at the same time he is adjusting to a different school, a new routine, learning Catholic lessons, and enjoying school lunches for the first time…even as we drive past his old school and friends on the way to the new adventure of Sacred Heart.

Now, the fact that he on occasion has said things such as the following should not give you the wrong impression about his fervor for this new life:

“This is the WORST day of my life.”

“Why do people even wear socks! They are so itchy and I can’t run fast anymore.”

“School is a complete waste of my time.”

“We are NOT going to church on Sunday’s because it will mess up my weekend.”

Included in this post is a picture taken of the future Monsignor Dunham taken just this morning as we tore him away from “Looney Toons” so I could take him to school. This picture is a test however. If you believe the object he is gripping in his sweet little hands (almost poised for prayer) is a Bible, then the first paragraph should resonate with you. If, on the other hand, you believe the object is the more secular Nintendo DS that he played on the way to school in a last ditch effort to have fun and avoid the reality that he has at least 12 more years of school ahead of him, the latter part of this e-mail may be more appropriate.

You be the judge. And executioner as the case may be from his perspective.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mortality



We all go through life interacting with people. We have family, we have acquaintances, we have professional relationships, and we have friends. I've been blessed in my life to have a lot of friends and even more acquaintances. I suspect that many of the people I consider to be acquaintances consider me to be a friend.


I don't mean to sound ungrateful or snobbish, but the term "friend" is pretty sacred to me. I've had things happen to me throughout my life that lead me to value a "friend" at an exclusive level. Richard Bach in his book "Illusions" noted that ""Your friends will know you better in the first minute you meet than your acquaintances will know you in a thousand years." I can count my true friends on my two hands yet I bet I have a thousand acquaintances.


My wife and I have a standing bet that I owe her $15.00 every time I know someone when we are out of town. I should clarify: "Out of State." She says I know everyone. And sometimes I feel as if I do. But not many people know me. This core group of friends know me, and despite the years and the miles -- and sometimes great spans between communication -- that bond of true friendship sustains me.



It is also something I take for granted, so today, when I learned that a dear friend whom I met in college and had the privilege to work with professionally on many occasions was disclosed to have a degenerative brain disease. As his awesome wife wrote of her husband who was diagnosed with "FrontoTemporal Dementia (FTD)" in December, FTD is “a brain disorder that is characterized by behavior, language and/or motor symptoms and an inevitable, deterioration in a person’s ability to function.” While, there is some hope that “perhaps the progression of the disease can be delayed,” it is “incurable.” What do you say? She went on to write "How can this happen to our Matt? He is so young – he just turned 50 – and so smart, and so athletic and so fit! It is even harder for Matt to accept and understand what is happening to him."



I'm having trouble accepting it. I have so many awesome memories of this amazing man including parties, his wedding, his daughters' births, Trivial Pursuit marathons, BSU games in the snow, professional meetings where he was like a laser beam of insight and talent and intellect, discussion books and politics and issues, the two of us sitting in a dive bar in Georgetown where a bum slammed a shot of whiskey and yelled "God Bless Frank Church!" He has a great laugh, movie star looks, an amazing family, an intellect that is frightening, and a future that should be limitless. Too many to think about. Too much emotion. Too much to lose.



If I am hurting today, I cannot fathom his wife and three teenage daughters. I have been blessed to have him as a friend, and I ache that he is in Washington DC while I am here. What to do? What to say? Richard Bach also wrote ""Can miles truly separate you from friends... If you want to be with someone you love, aren't you already there?" I wish I was. I never dreamed that it would be more than miles that would ultimately separate me from a friend. Dammit.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Can you go home again?

My family moved to Twin Falls, Idaho in August, 1964, and we moved into a house on Falls Avenue East. We were one of six brick houses, and, in those days, we were pretty isolated...surrounded by farmers, fields, and nothing between our back yard and the Snake River Canyon.

We left that house in the Winter of 1969 when my parents divorced, so I lived there from three years old until I was eight years old. I have some great memories of the place but also some unpleasant ones as the deterioriation of my parents' marriage is inextricably entwined with that home.

The other day, about 41 years after I last set foot in the place, my mother arranged for me to visit the house. I did so out of curiosity, and it was surreal.

Of course, it was MUCH smaller than I remembered. Even now looking at old faded photos taken in the house, it seems bigger than it did when I walked in last weekend. The other thing that struck me is how much had NOT changed.

When I buy a house, I have always wanted to change it. The owners of our old house seem to enjoy the early 1960's decor because, with the exception of some new kitchen counter laminate, NOTHING has changed at all other than a couple of wall colors.

The major change, other than the view out the back windows which no longer overlook an expanse of fields and sage brush to the canyon but rather huge houses and fences, is that I felt suddenly sad yet happy at the same time.

Certainly, there are great memories:

My brother Dan running from the front door when we arrived that hot August day in 1964. He scooped me up in his arms and ran into the back yard where we picked a carrot out of the garden.

Playing in the sand box made from a tractor tire.

Watching my brothers' band practice on the patio.

But, the other memories of the final Christmas when my dad drove away make that house a place of pain for me.

When I drove back to 2109 11th Avenue East where I moved on February 28, 1970, when my mom married my step-father Karl, I walked in, hugged Karl, and said, "Karl. That place means nothing to me. THIS will always be my childhood home." Proof that home is where a kid feels secure.

Thanks Karl.....

Thursday, January 27, 2011

6 years ago today....

At 7:55 a.m., on January 27, 2005, our son Ethan Stanford Dunham was born. He was born yelling, crying, and peeing!

We didn't know if we were having a boy or a girl, but his mother not-so-secretly just assumed "critter" (as we called the unborn hiccuper) would be a girl. After all, Heather is "#5" in a group of 7 sisters.

When Ethan first emerged, the doctor said, "It's a boy!" Heather retorted in a rather plaintive voice, "A boy? Are you sure? It was supposed to be a girl."

I was more worried about 10 fingers and 10 toes to worry about that other appendage!

Ethan would have weighed 9 pounds had he not decided to pee upon his birth. When we woke him this morning by signing "Happy Birthday, he jumped up yelling "Red Alert! Red Alert!" which is his usual urgent announcement that he has to go to the bathroom. There was no such warning 6 years ago this morning.

After he was born, I cut the cord, and marvelled at that little tiny being. He was whisked away to NICU for a bit, and I followed behind beginning my first "helicopter parent" action. Once he was secured, I was told I could leave to be with Heather in recovery.

"Recovery" was relative because it took longer than normal for the doctor and his staff to handle Heather's C-Section.

As a result, I sat outside her operating/delivery room by myself for almost an hour. Sitting quietly on a little bench in a dark and cold hallway, I thought about Heather and our new son upstairs taking his first breaths.

What would he be like? Where were his eye lashes? Would he have blue eyes? Why is his hair black? What the hell am I going to do now? Who should I call now because no one knew we were having him today? I've only changed one diaper in my life, and now look where I am!

Millions of thoughts rushed through my mind it seemed.

But I was overwhelmed with love for my son and for Heather.

I felt the same this morning six years later.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Time Away....

I've spent too much time away from my blog, and I feared that would happen with the advent of Facebook. Our son turns 6 this week, and we've been busy with him during this first year of school. Kindergarten has been OK, but he misses preschool! "I got to do a lot more fun stuff there. Now they just make us work." Since my last posting in September, here are some random "Ethanisims" from recent Facebook postings as well as references to the burglary at our house in early December:


January 23, 2011: Our son Ethan's 6th Birthday Party is today. He just told me that he's on his way to 7.

January 17, 2011: A particularly sappy Celine Dion song blasted from the car radio yesterday when I turned on the ignition causing our soon to be 6 year old son to yell "Oh COME on Dad. Turn that off and put on some real music!" I am so proud.


December 31, 2010: Ethan wanted a Mohawk for New Years Eve. Stylin'

December 25, 2010: ‎2:48 on Christmas Day. Our son is exhausted and napping after saying "Daddy! This is the BESTEST Christmas ever!" He's had so many....

December 22, 2010: The losers who broke into our house are in custody and we joined other victims at what the police call a victims garage sale where we retrieved much of what they stole from us though some is lost forever....my sense of disgust is intact and we hope they enjoy the holidays behind bars...for years to come.

December 22, 2010: The Mall to see Santa followed by a trip to "Planet Kid" certainly equals two of Dantes' nine levels of Hell.


December 21, 2010: ‎1st in line for Santa. 2 page list. "Santa doesn't need money because his elves make everything."

December 16, 2010: Happy 10th wedding anniversary today to my incredible wife Heather! I'm a very lucky guy.

December 15, 2010: The Boise Police have arrested the 2 women who burglarized our house along with about 9 others. We will recover some of our stolen goods but some things aren't recoverable -- nor replaceable. Even more creepy now that we've seen the faces of the freaks who rummaged through our stuff.

December 8, 2010: So...our house in a great neighborhood was robbed today: 2 laptops, jewelry, camera, flat screen TV & and a 5 year old's sense of security. Somethings can be replaced.

December 1, 2010: Boise Schools Closed for Snowday on December 2, 2010. Ethan asks "Why doesn't Daddy get a snowday so we can play in the snow?" Great question.

November 11, 2010: Our son woke up early today because he dreamed that "Devasators are taking over the world." If he thinks Kindergarten is tough, wait till first grade....

November 1, 2010: On Saturday, October 30, 2010, Ethan (the red-masked Ninja) and some friends enjoyed trick or treating with Governor and Mrs. Otter at the state capitol. Fun time!

October 23, 2010: My oldest brother turns 60 today. Wow...he's old.

October 17, 2010: Before promising a 5 year old a trip to a Halloween corn maze, make sure they are open on Sunday.


October 8, 2010: Grandma climbed into Ethan's treehouse despite his sign saying "No Grown Ups Allowed." A 78 year kid....

October 7, 2010: Our 5 year old declined to show his 78 year old grandmother how to play Wii by saying "No, it wouldn't be any fun cuz I'll beat you every time."

September 25, 2010: Headed to find a bar near the White House to watch the BSU game. The Obamas didn't invite me to their tailgate.

September 7, 2010: Ethan responded to my discussion about chores such as taking out garbage & emptying the dishwasher with "My allowance will be $10 a day."

September 4, 2010: Labor Day weekend. Absolutely no plans. Perfect.