Family: Just a dinner table away.

A rare respite on a warm Saturday night. Seems so easy right now but I can’t for the life of me figure out why I don’t sit in the cul-de-sac and write more often. Girl is riding her scooter, Milo T Dog is at my feet, my long lost friend Diet Coke is losing it’s battle with the melting ice. We’re approaching some sort of Norman Rockwell worm hole.

Of course it’s not like the heyday of the Sac. Those were the lazy hazy nights, and some mornings, as we sat out in the darkness night-drinking, fixing American politics and Tennessee Football. That gang is gone now but we have to start anew at some point.

Americana in the South.

So today, at the precipice of the dog days of August, I decided was the day to take a seat and fire off something that’s been buzzing in my head since an old friend passed through town not too long ago.

I’m gonna ask your forgiveness for this obvious point, family is a great thing. A lot of you are aware I had a huge family growing up. And still do. Holidays were great. They still would be if not for the almost 700 miles separation between me and my family in Jersey. I love living in Knoxville but there are time’s I’d rather be in South Jersey. But it’s tough to complain. I’ve been spoiled my whole life. I grew up with seven brothers and sisters. My mom hasn’t skipped a beat and my father lived into his late 80s, sharp as a tack until the moment of truth.

I was born into another big family when we decided to settle in Knoxville and raise our kids there. Staying in the Sac has been one of the better decisions I’ve made. Lifelong friendships have been forged on those weekend nights in the street. But like all things, change is inevitable. Several Sac-ites have moved off, and now my forever Friday golf partner is moving to Arizona to run a church.

Honestly my first thought was how much I’d miss him. A millisecond later my next thought was how great the golfing in Arizona is and when am I slated to visit Amarillo for work again. Arizona is just a quick plane ride from the Panhandle. And I know John would be disappointed in me if I thought otherwise. And a big thanks to those of you who have reached out to check on me. I’m fine. And as John and I both agreed a long time ago, if one of us died on a Monday the other would still tee it up that Friday. And while I’m aware people will not believe this, it’s not the golf. The lunch at Soccer Taco after or the breakfast at Waffle House when we get rained out that makes the Friday meet up so enjoyable. Tough to quantify the last nine or so years breaking bread with the same dude every Friday.

And of course I lucked out again with my work family. New members are added almost daily it seems these days. And as the family “down the plant” gets bigger, and the lunch table more crowded, it keeps getting better. Like I said, spoiled rotten for as long as I can remember.

But the family roaming around my thoughts right now is my military family. Normally I’d say Air Force but now after 22 years in and almost nine retired, it occurred to me my military family not only spans different branches, it spans different countries. Hey Bernie, Go Les Habitants! I’ve been spoiled there too. Not just with great lifelong friendships but with great mentors.

I named four friends/mentors in the bio of this blog. Click on my name next to the link that says Home and you can read about them. A person could not dream up a better start to their military career than I had. That continued on during my time at the NCO Academy. I have no idea why I was granted such advantages, but I was and I’m a better person for it. I can’t imagine the giant ass I would have become without those family members in my life.

Well, yes I can.

Part of that family rolled through Knoxville a week or so ago and immediately extended an invite to dinner to catch up. I had not seen Chief Joseph E Thornell, or JET and his wife Kerry, in a long while. He was the commandant I served under the longest when I was an instructor at the NCO Academy. To this day I cannot call him Joe. Regardless of differences in opinion he will always be my commandant and will always be Chief to me. But more importantly he and Kerry will always be family.

house1

Birthday time for the then unknown Warden.

In Jersey my whole family spent hours around the dinning room table. That’s where life happened. Witness the birthday of my youngest sister. You may know her by her given name Kathleen. But those special few know her by her real name, The Warden.

That’s me wearing a white belt on November 30th. I was a fashion risk taker even back then. I’m also sub-consciously flipping the bird. The verbalization of that gesture has become the foundation of my vocabulary.

Anyway the point is family’s just don’t eat. They break bread. They commune. The commiserate. The food is so secondary. What’s special about that space in the picture is no matter how old we got, no matter how far we moved away,  when we came to visit we gathered there.

Last Friday I met Chief Thornell and Kerry and some other old friends from my Academy days and we sat ourselves down at the dinner table. Now that table was in Calhoun’s, a restaurant in Maryville TN, but dinner is where the food is.  And family is where the dinner is.

Chief JET

Sorry Chief, still can’t call you Joe.

It was like the years since we’d seen each other never happened. We told old war stories to be sure, but the bonds between all of us showed no signs of time or distance. It seemed to me as I drove home thinking about all of that and paying zero attention to the road, sorry lady at the Kroger intersection, real family is like that.

Time is different for family. Time doesn’t have the same impact, it doesn’t move in the same way. It’s not linear. Time in familial bonds happens all at the same time regardless of distance and frequency. And then time restarts when that family sits down to eat. In fact if it wasn’t for the gray, and or lack of, hair there would be no sign that time had passed between any of us.

The restaurant itself had changed over time. Chief was quick to point out we had all gone to a lunch in this joint way back when it was a Ruby Tuesdays. I remember it as the site where part of my family, who will remain anonymous, Hupp, Stoudt, and Kumes, bet I could not take down the deluxe ice cream cake sundae on the menu. It was the kind that came with four spoons. I said, “Remove the other three my good man as I will be doing desert alone this afternoon.” That was a situation where winning quickly became losing.

Chief Davidson

Chief Davidson on my right. Ramey on my left. Family.

It must be the dinner table. Maybe it’s a time machine that turns back the clock when family members gather round. Honestly the conversation wasn’t even that profound. But the visit with Chief JET and Chief Davidson, my last commandant, and some of the gang from the academy, left me with a feeling of wonder on the ride home. I have been spoiled with some great families in my life time.

Ironically this little weepy screed is the product of time. Surely my age has left me to take stock of my life lived so far. I’m only 50 so I have no designs on the big dirt nap yet. But enough time has passed to take stock of what life has been so far. And so far, no matter where I’ve lived or served, it’s been dinner tables and family.

As far as life goes, that’s not too shabby.

 

 

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Milo T. Dog: A Reluctant Epiphany

No. I don’t want a dog. I don’t like dogs. I am not taking care of no dog!

This is more of an update to the original story found here: Yeah, so we got a Mutt.

Let me be clear on this point. I don’t like any animal if it means harboring it in my house and then caring for it. This is not a singular objection to dogs alone. Simply a practical objection to what any baggage a creature might bring with him/her into my house of clean carpets and breezy crisp fresh air.

I may have mentioned this once or twice before, but when I put my foot down around here people get to jumpin. Of course they usually jump to do the very thing I put my forbidding foot down about but that’s another story all together.

This particular foot putting resulted in getting the very thing I didn’t want; a dog. Milo T Dog to be exact. The T stands for his middle name, The. As in Milo The Dog. And yes Dog is his last name. You need only inquire with his vet down the street to verify that little fact. If she refers to him with my last name she does so only in the presence of my wife. And she does that at her own peril.

So yeah, breezy freshness gone, clean carpets, gone. Enter Milo. The carpets didn’t stand a chance. He immediately did the very thing I hate about dogs. He licked me. Hate may be too strong a word. Repulsed might be better. Yes I am repulsed by dog licking. At least I was. Now, god help me, Milo licks me with impunity. To his credit Milo employed that old prison axiom. Find the biggest dude in the joint and kick his ass. It’s the only way to establish dominance and improve your survivability.

Milo11

Watch out, he’s a dangerous beast.

Milo clearly marked me as the alpha in the house but instead of going the tough guy rout he came at me with his cuteness. I mean look at this freaking mutt. Even I could not resist that. And I’m from Jersey.

So yeah I admit it, I was warming to the idea. What of it. As much as I hate to shatter myths about myself, I am not a godless, inhumane, dog hater. I’m just lazy. Dogs, specifically six week old puppies, cut into my laziness at a 45 degree angle. But again I refer you to the photo of Milo the day he showed up. All of six weeks old we think, he was oozing cuteness.

I was not swayed at first mind you. Me and this mutt had some dancing left to do. Once again I put my foot down. My declaration went something like this, If I have to take this dog out once in the middle of the  night to pee, I will throw a rib-eye steak out into on-coming traffic, however light that may be at 3am in Knoxville, and I will not look back nor lose one second of sleep over it. And once again that little rant went largely unheeded. A fact I contemplated while standing in the yard at 1:30 one morning at the end of a leash waiting for Milo to take care of business. One thing can’t be denied, no matter their effectiveness, I can throw down a good rant.

milo1

Big deal. Do the dishes, fold laundry, then I’ll be impressed.

Needless to say his first few days did not impress me much. That’s him in the second pic. Sleeping sitting up. Yeah I get it. That in itself is impressive. What dog sleeps sitting up? At least he wasn’t barking or crapping. Small victories I guess.

It may have been his reluctance to bark that first started to change my mind a bit. One thing is for sure, the dog is not dumb by any stretch of the imagination. He obviously sensed my animosity toward him, especially after he licked me with his dog tongue. He had a tough road ahead if he was going to remain in the house.

Then one evening he made his move. It felt a bit like a set up after I saw the pictures. Mind you I was asleep. This was all orchestrated by Mrs Frank’s Place. Since she’s the one who did dirty getting Milo in the house in the first place I guess she figured she needed some photo evidence to continue her case.

Milo T

Sneaky bastard. Tracy I mean, not the dog.

Behold. Milo T Dog violates my personal space. It may not be clear in that picture, but I was sound asleep. He knew it. Tracy knew it. Then apparently the entire neighborhood knew it as she texted out further evidence to the Sac. What’s also clear in these two shots is how comfortable that mutt is.

That was his first time on the bed and he had to be helped up there. But once there he quickly realized how cushy the adults in the house have it in the sleep department. That isn’t some rock hard, prison mattress we’re sleeping on. Since that night the dog has slept on my side or Tracy’s.

Thankfully he’s not much larger. He’s put on weight but he’s not much longer. He fits on the bed still and it appears that he’s grown as large as he gonna grow. I mean look at that mutt. He has not one care in the world in that picture.

Milo and me

Yeah we were both sawing the lumber that night.

Again, he ain’t dumb. He found a crack in my armor and he exploited it. I do not recall how long we were like that. But it is safe to say this was the beginning of a season of mutual understanding between me and Milo T.  He followed that up with sitting the first time a yelled SIT at him. I was just curios to see what he would do. The damn dog sat. He wasn’t three months old yet. With a few more tips from the neighbors he started to heed other commands as well.

That, more than being my new sleep buddy, endeared the mutt to me. No one else in the house listens to me. So to have a living organism not only listen but obey was a huge plus in Milo getting to stay. Also, surprisingly, the dog has a heart.

Milo Frank

Milo the comfort dog.

When one of the kids goes to bed upset from any number of idiotic actions they take that gets them chastised during the go to bed routine, Milo sleeps with them instead of me or Tracy. So apparently bad bedtime choices gets you a visit from Milo for the night.

Look, I’m not saying I want to let the dog lick me on the mouth. After all he does lick his own butt. Do people who kiss dogs on the mouth realize that? Anyway, I’m not ever going to be a dog lover to that level, but I clearly have warmed to Milo and he to me. He got the better of me. I’m big enough to admit it. Am I a dog person now?

Well yes by simple definition I am a dog person by virtue of having a dog. But am I a dog person? Not really. Currently I’m glad he’s more house broken than he was and still obeys when I speak to him. Will I ever be a dog person?

Sure, the minute he stops eating my dirty laundry.

Yeah, so we got a mutt.

Who could hate that face? Well, not me. But cute or not it still poops.

Who could hate that face? Well, not me. But cute or not he still poops.

Before I go one sentence further let me say I do not hate animals. I do however hate the messes they leave behind and the aggravation they cause, the extra expense they incur, and the overall upheaval that ensues when you bring one of God’s creatures into the home.

Okay, with the PETA public service announcement out of the way let’s move on.

Meet Milo Dog. Absolutely the cutest damned dog I’ve ever seen. And as far as pets go I’m really a cat person. Never had a dog in my life. Always liked cats mainly due to their attitude.

Cats could really give a flying rat’s behind about you as long as the water and food bowls are full and the litter box is clean. Their aloofness resonates with me for some reason. I like the fact they are fairly low maintenance and they sometimes look at you with the “I wouldn’t pee on you if you were on fire.” glare. Gotta respect that.

But back to Milo Dog. He was left at a shelter when he was a few weeks old by some dude who obviously didn’t want him. The shelter named him Milo and my kids didn’t want to change his name. Milo comes to us by way of deception and guile.

I did not want Milo. I did not want any animal. I made my objections clear; money, time, effort, poop. All sound arguments punctuated with the putting of my foot down. As you can now tell my word and the weight of my foot have no meaning what so ever. My foot being put down means so little I actually took a break from typing this very sentence to take Milo out for one of his many pee breaks.

So the guile first. For months my wife has been texting me pictures of dogs left at an animal shelter. Sometimes she would make her supplication with the written word. Most of the time she would just text me the shelter mug shots of these lost mutts. However, once she realized I was too strong willed to be worn down in that fashion, she sent in the kids.

Out of the blue one or two of my midgets would come at me about getting a dog. One day I called their bluff. Go a week without me having to tell you to clean your room and we can get a dog. That was easy money. They never got close to a week. Barely made two days. No mutt for them.

Then the littles tried to guilt me. “We’re the only house on the street without a dog daddy.” Insert sad face and use whiny voice. Just to get a little fun out of it I responded in my best mocking voice, “Well Frank that makes us unique. I like unique.”  Quick aside, we were soon not the only house without a dog. RIP Khaki. Still no mutt for them.

Really? That's all he does? Besides poop I mean.

Really? That’s all he does? Besides poop I mean.

On their last attempt I sent them packing before they opened their cake holes. Still the kids made one more push. My reply, “Tell mommy to get a job and she can pay for the dog.” Somehow they interpreted that as me saying if we could get more money they could get a dog. So my well meaning albeit comprehensively impaired kids ran to their rooms.

Two piggy banks smashed later they were asking if they had enough. Then I fired off a terse text to the master mind herself explaining the hazards of using the kids as emotional pawns in her little game. Still no mutt for them. Daddy – 1 Kids – 0 Piggy Banks – (-2)

Then a deal was presented. She would no longer use the kids as human shields if she could check on the availability of one dog they all liked. If he was no longer up for adoption she promised she would stop damaging our children in her quest for another mouth to feed.

And que the deception.

As she is laying out this silly plan she literally gets a call from the shelter. Her application for Milo has been processed and approved. The mutt was ours if we wanted him. For anyone trailing behind, she had applied to adopt Milo long before she ever mentioned the deal. Trump isn’t even that deceptive.

Well as you can obliviously tell we adopted Milo Dog. Yeah, no. He will not have our last name. If you question the veracity of that claim, just dial up the animal hospital a mile up the street from our house and ask the vet what Milo’s last name is. Her answer will be Dog or NLM. (No Last Name). And I would bet her voice cracks a bit when she tries to answer. Let’s just say me and the vet will not be exchanging Christmas cards anytime soon.

Me and Milo Dog.

Me and Milo Dog.

Yeah Milo has grown on me. He listens to me almost without hesitation thanks to a few tips from our neighbor’s JB and Becky who have a similar dog. He nipped at me one time and another solid piece of advice from JB cured that instantly. He wags his tail so hard when I get home from work his whole little dog ass moves back and forth.

And yeah he sleeps on the bed on Mrs Frank’s Place side now that he can sleep through the night without getting up to pee. Our kitchen floors have never been cleaner. He obeyed even when I started calling him No Nuts Milo after he’d been neutered. He’s sitting at my feet right now as I type about him. But he’s not one of our kids. He’s still just a dog.

He’s Milo Dog. And he’s all ours.