Big Fish – My Father’s Death: Take 2 (An excerpt)

It’s been a LONG time since I have written anything…

But in re-reading one of my favorite books that is full of many good stories and excerpts; I wanted to share one of my favorite sections here.

A fella by the name of Daniel Wallace wrote the following in his book, Big Fish.  “Big Fish” is a little book that chronicles the life and death of Edward Bloom from his son’s perspective. It is an incredibly imaginative tale and I enjoy the style and format of the book.

The section that I feel compelled to share is nearly the entire chapter appropriately named, My Father’s Death: Take 2. The setting is the son sitting beside his father’s death bed in the guest room of their home, and it reads:

Slowly we lose our idiot smiles and just look at each other, plainly.

“Hey,” my father says, “I’ll miss you.”

“And me you.”

“Really?” he says.

“Of course, Dad. I’m the one -”

“Still here,” he says. “So it figures that you’d be the one doing the missing.”

“Do you,” I say, as if the words were being willed by a force inside of me, “do you believe-”
I stop myself…

“Believe what?” he asks me, fixing me with those eyes, those small blue eyes, trapping me there. So I say it.

“In Heaven,” I say.

“Do I believe in Heaven?”

“And God and all that stuff,” I say, because I don’t know. I don’t know if he believes in God or life after death or the possibility that we all come back as someone or something else. I don’t know if he believes in Hell, either, or angels, or the Elysian Fields, or the Loch Ness Monster. We never talked about these things when he was healthy…

And I expect him to ignore it now. But suddenly his eyes widen and seem to clear, as if he were siezed by the prospect of what awaited him after his death – other than an empty guest room. As if this is the first time the thought has occurred to him.

“What a question,” he says, his voice rising full. “I don’t know if I can really say, one way or the other. But that reminds me – and stop me if you’ve heard this one – of the day Jesus was watching the gates for St. Peter. Anyway, Jesus is giving him a hand one day when a man walks shuffling up the path to Heaven.
‘What have you done to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?’ Jesus asks him
And the man says, ‘Well, not much really. I’m just a poor carpenter who led a quiet life. The only remarkable thing about my life was my son.’
‘Your son?’ Jesus asks, getting interested.
‘Yes, he was quite a son,’ the man says. ‘He went through a most unusual birth and later a great transformation. He also became quite well known throughout the world and is still loved by many today.’
Christ looks at the man, embraces him tightly and says, ‘Father, father!’
And the old man hugs him back and says, ‘Pinnocchio?'”

He wheezes, I smile, shaking my head.
“Heard it,” I say.

“You were supposed to stop me,” he says, clearly exhausted after the telling. “How many breaths do I have left? You don’t want me to waste them on twice-told jokes, do you?”

“It’s not like you’ve learned any new ones lately,” I say. “Anyway, this is sort of a best-of thing. A compilation.Edward Bloom’s Collected Jokes. They’re funny, Dad, don’t worry. But you didn’t answer my question.”

“What question?”

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Hes lived his whole life like a turtle, within an emotional carapace that makes for the perfect defense: there’s absolutely no way in. My hope is that in these last moments he’ll show me the vulnerable and tender underbelly of his self, but this isn’t happening, yet, and I’m a fool to think that it will. This is the way it has gone from the beginning: every time we get close to something meaningful, serious, or delicate, he tells a joke. There is never a yes or no, what do you think, here, according to me, is the meaning of life.

“Why do you think that is?” I say out loud, as though he can hear me thinking.
And somehow, he can.

“Never felt comfortable addressing these things head-on… Who really knows for certain? Proof is unavailable. So one day I think yes, the next no. Other days, I’m on the fence. Is there a God? Some days I really believe there is, others, I’m not so sure. Under these less than ideal conditions, a good joke somehow seems more appropriate. At least you can laugh.”

“But a joke,” I say. “It’s funny for a minute or two and that’s it. You’re left with nothing. Even if you changed your mind every other day I’d rather – I wished you’d shared some of these things with me. Even your doubts would have been better than a constant stream of jokes.”

“You’re right,” he says… as though he can’t believe that I have chosen now, of all times, to give him this assignment. It’s a burden, and I see it weighing on him, pressing the life right out, and I truly can’t believe I did it, said it the way I have.

“Still,” he says, “if I shared my doubts with you, about God and love and life and death, that’s all you’d have: a bunch of doubts. But, now, see, you’ve got all these great jokes.”

“They’re not all so great,” I say…

His eyes close and I’m scared, my heart jumps,  and I feel as though I should get Mother, but as I begin to move away he grips my hand lightly in his own.

“I was a good dad,” he says. A statement of not unassailable fact he leaves hanging there, as if for my appraisal. I look at him, at it.

“You are a good dad,” I say.

“Thanks,” he says, and his eyelids flutter a bit, as if he’s heard what he’s come to hear. This is what is meant by last words: they are keys to unlock the afterlife. They’re not last words but passwords, and as soon as they’re spoken you can go.

“So what is it today, Dad?”

“What is what?” he says dreamily.

“God and Heaven and all that. What do you think: yes or no? Maybe tomorrow you’ll feel differently, I understand that. But now, right now, what are you feeling? I really want to know, Dad, Dad?” I say, for he seems to be drifting away from me into the deepest sleep. “Dad?” I say.

And he opens his eyes and looks at me with his pale baby blues suddenly full of an urgency and he says, he says to me, he says to his son sitting beside his bed waiting for him to die, he says, “Pinocchio?”

So there it is…
Does it hit you anything like the way it does me?

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Posted by on June 15, 2013 in Book Reviews, Musings


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Red. Flannel. Comfortable.
And it was mine. My jacket. My favorite jacket. My precious.
Don’t act like you don’t have one (or your husband, brother, father; it’s definitely a guy thing).

Red Flannel Jacket

It was my favorite, most comfortable jacket; arguably the most comfortable jacket ever made.
This jacket was the ultimate – regardless of the weather or formality of the occasion – this was the jacket for me.

Sure, it was torn a little.
Maybe a lot.
Maybe the left sleeve was about to fall off. So what?

It’s fine…

I’m still not sure what happened. All I know is I went to bed (probably wearing it) with my jacket torn, but when I woke up my favorite jacket was miraculously healed and whole. In the night a patch was applied to the torn shoulder. Someone knew how much I loved that jacket and – instead of replacing it or discreetly tossing it away – they took time to repair it for me… And so I got years more use from my jacket.

(Ungrateful Author’s Note: I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the jacket. Thank you. )

Like Father, Like Son.
A lion. A tiger. A bear. A deer. A Tyrannosaurus Rex. Most often a horse.
My son has been anything but a normal boy. When he imagines himself as an animal he does not and will not stop until he sees fit. Luckily he always sees fit before nature calls.

There are a few unpleasant side effects to his wild imagination, though: awkward moments in the grocery store, church, mall, any public space; trying to learn the language of a 2-year-old T-Rex, 6-year-old lion, 11-year-old horse; and (most often) pants with holes worn into both knees.

Knee Hole

Luckily we have pretty much outgrown the awkward moments in public and have overcome the language barriers. The holes prove to be more difficult to conquer.

The silver lining in this is that the boy has his favorite pair of jeans that he likes to play in. These jeans are precious. They’re magical. They turn my son into a horse.

Just the other night he was cantering around the ottoman when I heard him neigh, “Aww man. These are my favorite jeans…” I look up to see him examining the frayed edges along fresh holes and his bony white knee caps shining through, “Mom, can you replace these patches?”

Yes. Replace the patches. Don’t give the pants away. Don’t throw away the jeans. Don’t get rid of them.

Patch them.

Smiley Patch

They come in different shapes and sizes.
Some blend in with the garment and are inconspicuous.
Some stand out and cannot be hid.
Some are cool. Some are gaudy.
Some are proud of their patches.
Some are embarrassed by them.

Usually there is a warning before a patch is needed.
There’s a fringe where there didn’t used to be.
If you ignore it, it doesn’t go away.
If you play with it, it gets worse.

Worn Knee

It becomes a small hole. Things start to get lost in the fray.
One thread here.
One thread there.
This one is barely hanging on.

FrayedThen a larger hole.
And a draft – where things come in that are best left out.
Where things poke through that are best left covered.

Patches are necessities in my world.
Because sometimes we get snagged by something sharp that tears a hole in our sleeves.
Because sometimes we pretend to be something we’re not.
Because we get worn out.
Because of neglect.

I have stopped talking about clothes now.
I’m talking about relationships. Marriages. Hearts.

Why not just toss them away?

Because some things are comfortable.
Because some things are valuable.
Because some things are precious.

What is fraying in your world?
What relationship is coming apart?
What has gotten snagged? Torn? Neglected?

Who cares how it looks? Cool or uncool? Accepted or not?

If it’s precious – don’t toss it away.

Heart Patch

Maybe you don’t see anything wrong with the tear.
It’s worth patching up.  There is a Friend that will take care of it for you.

Maybe you have a cheap replacement option.
Patch up what you have already invested in.

There are things being lost in the fray.
It’s not worth ignoring or playing around with it.
You’ll just make the problem bigger.

The key is to get a patch bigger than your problem…
And I know ONE.


Posted by on January 11, 2013 in Musings


To Do in 2012: Happy New Year

Twenty-Twelve is history.
The Mayans have disappeared…
Twinkies have disappeared…
The Federal Government has solved all of our economic woes…
Oh.  Wait.  Maybe not.

At least I don’t have to answer for the government.
Let’s see how I did on my goals…

1.  Drop the PMI on the mortgage.                                                Goal #1 – Check. 

2.  Sell the boat…  SOLD!!!!                                                           Goal #2 – Check.

3.  Remodel the master bathroom for the wife…                           Goal #3 – Check.

4.  See Italy.                                                                                   Goal #4 – Check.
Still haven’t blogged about it though.

5.  Put ONE of my million dollar ideas into action.                         Goal #5 – Well…
Well…  Well…  Well…  Got it started, but I allowed it to fizzle.
Which is good – it gives me something to do in 2013.

6.  Learn to be moved with compassion…                                       Goal #6 – Check???
You can read a little about this by clicking here.
This is more of an intangible goal.
I’m not real sure how to simply check this off.
Next year I’ve got an idea of a bit more concrete way to accomplish this.

7.  Read the Bible through in chronological order.                        Goal #7 – Check.
Finished is yesterday, actually.
Time to use today to decide which plan to use for 2013.

8.  Make sure AFT Sunday School hits that top branch…                Goal #8 – Check???
Another intangible.
How do you measure it?

So, out of 8 goals – 5 are undoubtedly accomplished, 1 stalled, and 2 are difficult to measure…
All in all…  I’ll take it.
2013 – maybe I’ll have 2,013 items on my list…  That would be something!

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Posted by on December 31, 2012 in My Life


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FCC IX: Cough & Cold Edition

Mucus Man

About two weeks ago I came down with a cough.
A not so enjoyable hack that produces things we will not
talk about on this blog.
Yet this cough also led me to something great…


The Medicine Closet.

To combat my cough I went to the medicine closet.  The closet held a few remedies for my ailment.
The first tool to combat the cough – Mucinex Maximum Strength Expectorant…

An innocent looking little bottle that claims to hold 14 magic pills to cure me.

Mucinex Pills

Inside what I found were 14 impossibly massive capsules that no human should be able to swallow without first crushing, chewing or breaking them into ingestable pieces…
But the instructions on the label clearly stated “do not crush, chew, or break tablet.”

Looking at them in the bottle I was reminded of the VW Bugs you see at the circus – that somehow contain 14 full grown clowns.  I set the bottle back – I was not going to choke to death to get rid of my cough.

Clown car Comic

Next, there was a large economy sized bag of salvation by the name of Halls.  This golden bag promised triple soothing action to sooth my sore throat, relieve my cough, and cool my nasal passages – just what the doctor ordered.  When I unlocked the magic of the “fresh-lock” seal I found even more magic than promised…
I found –

A Pep Talk In Every Drop.
As I unraveled the first of many relief drops of the day I noticed a message that read – “A Pep Talk In Every Drop.”  My first drop held three inspirational messages that spurred me forward:

Halls BagGet back in the game.
You’ve survived tougher.
Buckle down and push forth!

I followed those fortunes with:

The show must go on. Or work.
Put your game face on.
Keep your chin up.
Bet on yourself.
Let’s hear your battle cry.

(It was more of a battle squeal that day though.)


You got it in you.
Dust off and get up.
Elicit a few “wows” today.
Go get it.
March forward!
Take charge and mean it.
Don’t try harder… DO harder!
It’s yours for the taking.
Be resilient.
Get back in there champ!
Go for it!
Put a little strut in it. (you don’t want to see that – I promise)
Hi-five yourself.
Turn “can do” into “can did!”
Get through it.
Impress yourself today. (That’s a tall order.)
Seize the day.
Flex your “can do” muscle. (Now, that is a sight to see.)
Inspire envy.
Tough is your middle name.
Be unstoppable.
You can do it and you know it. (Clap your hands.)
Push on!
Fire up those engines!

I’m not sure when the fortune cookie writer decided he needed a second job writing “Pep Talks” for Hall’s Cough Drops…  but I am grateful he did!

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Posted by on December 10, 2012 in Fortune Cookies


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I Am Not A Vegan…

Plant Food

*First I will say, the title is misleading…  But I’m sure it made you wonder.
*Second, there are many reasons people eat the way they do. Instead of explaining why I eat what I do, I thought I’d take some other people’s perceptions of my dietary decisions and explain it backwards.

So here it is…  All the reasons I am not vegan.

I am not a vegan because I am on a diet.
South Beach, Atkins, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutri-System, HCG Diet, Apple Cider Vinegar Diet (seriously)…  They come and they go.  I don’t do diets.

Actually.  We ALL do diets – some are good, some are not.  Some have a catchy name and some do not.
Some have a book written by a doctor, some do not.  Some are balanced, some are not.

We all have one though… I guess.  But I am not ON a diet.

I am not a vegan because of the unethical treatment of animals in our food supply.
While I’ve heard and read a lot about horrible conditions the American livestock industry maintains for their stock; I simply cannot bring myself to become outraged and indignant at the inhumane treatment of an animal that was brought into the world for a single reason: To be killed, eaten and digested.

These are not pets that are being abused, they are food being grown –
Not to mention (or maybe I will) it seems to be a great hypocrisy that an individual can care so deeply for maltreated species; yet do very little (which most humans – including vegans) to help the billions of maltreated human beings they pass everyday.

*I sincerely apologize if this offends any vegan that does hold to the PETA (or similar) stance.
Please understand I am an uneducated clown.  And this happens to be my opinion and my blog –
Please click here to read my disclaimer for more information.

I am not a vegan because it is cool.
Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Bill Clinton, Pamela Anderson, Ellen DeGeneres, K.D. Lang, Bryan Adams, Avril Lavigne, Alec Baldwin, Ozzy Osbourne, Woody Harrelson, Ben Stiller, Carrie Underwood, Mike Tyson, Jaci Velasquez, Meredith Vieria, Venus, Serena, and Vanessa Williams, Brad Pitt, Prince, and “Weird Al” Yankovic  – have NEVER been my role models.

Okay…  Maybe “Weird Al” has had some influence on my life, and I definitely look a whole lot like Brad Pitt – but I promise I am NOT vegan because of them.

Sometimes I think vegan-ism may be popular in Hollywood only because it gives famous people a viable excuse to look gaunt in their tabloid pictures – aside from the dope they’ve been snorting. (I should have deleted that. There is no evidence that any of the people listed are addicts. More readers offended – please click the disclaimer link above.)

I am not a vegan because it is popular.
I realize that is probably real mayonaisse and therefore NOT vegan...NONE of my close friends or family – excluding my wife & kids – are vegan.  I have a few that eat vegan dishes regularly, but most just make fun.  Which is totally cool, because I have a great sense of humor.

However, I have noticed that invitations to dinner have dramatically decreased in the past six months.
Come on people!  I still eat, and I still eat out at most of the restaurants you do!

I am not a vegan because I am intellectually superior to you.
No explanation needed – if you’ve read this far you’ve figured it out already.

I am not a vegan because I am spiritually superior to you.
While a you can make a strong case for biblical vegan-ism using Daniel’s stand when taken to Babylon, the Garden of Eden and descriptions of Heaven; it does not take a Bible scholar to learn that eating meat, and drinking milk is far from sin.  I can bring out scripture after scripture to prove both diets are acceptable in God’s sight.

Thankfully, though, these spats have been going on for mellinium and Paul addressed it almost two thousand years ago when he wrote Romans 14:1-4

“Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.

For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.”
(I reluctantly quoted The Message after reading it in several versions)
To quote my incredible Pastor who said it more succinctly:
“Diet doesn’t dictate fellowship.”

I am not a vegan but – I am a vegan.
I am not going to go on a long rant and cite statistics and articles to argue my case for eating a plant-based diet…  I could.  The benefits are real.  Maybe one day I will expound and rant and cite articles, journals and statistics in a post titled “I Am Vegan,” (be warned) BUT I don’t want this site to turn into some health nut homepage (I’ll start a different blog if I decide to do that).

Two recent posts about eating habits is more than enough.
Suffice it to say I eat vegetables, fruits, nuts, and grains.

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Posted by on December 3, 2012 in Musings, My Life


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Through The Looking Glass: December 2012

Readings by day for December.  For past readings click here.

December 1, 2012: 1 Corinthians 12-14      December 2, 2012: 1 Corinthians 15-16

December 3, 2012: 2 CorInthIans 1-4      December 4, 2012: 2 Corinthians 5-9

December 5, 2012: 2 Corinthians 10-13       December 6, 2012: Romans 1-3

December 7, 2012: Romans 4-7      December 8, 2012: Romans 8-10

December 9, 2012: Romans 11-13       December 10, 2012: Romans 14-16

December 11, 2012: Acts 20-23    December 12, 2012: Acts 24-26

December 13, 2012: Acts 27-28   December 14, 2012: Colossians & Philemon

HhDecember 15, 2012: Ephesians    December 16, 2012:. Philippians

December 17, 2012: 1 Timothy    December 18, 2012: Titus

December 19, 2012: 1 Peter     December 20, 2012: Hebrews 1-6

December 21, 2012: Hebrews 7-10    December 22, 2012: Hebrews 11-13

December 23, 2012: 2 Timothy      December 24, 2012: 2 Peter; Jude

December 25, 2012: Matthew 1:18-2:23, Luke 2:1-20, John 1:1-14

December 26, 2012: 1 John

December 27, 2012: 2 John, 3 John    December 28, 2012: Revelation 1-5

December 29, 2012: Revelation 6-11     December 30, 2012: Revelation 12-18

December 31, 2012:

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Posted by on December 1, 2012 in Looking Glass


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Ring Tones: Holiday Edition.

Last January I posted about some special people that have distinct ring tones on my cell phone.

Here’s my holiday ring tone playlist:

1. The masses…
The default ring for everybody except the chosen few is one of my all-time favorite songs – “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow.” (Joe Nichols’ version)

2. My Wife…
I initially intended to use Lady Antebellum’s “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” but was convinced instead – at Repunzel’s suggestion – to use The Oak Ridge Boys’ “Christmas Cookies.”
Why the change?  Because the song absolutely could have been written by myself…
(IF I had any musical talent at all)
But mainly because –

There’s a benefit, to all of this
That you might have overlooked or missed
So now let me tell you the best part of it all
Every time she sticks another batch in the oven,
There’s fifteen minutes for some kissin’ and a huggin’

And who could beat that!!!!

3. Pastor & Assistant Pastor…
Again, these two giants deserve a herald-ing US Cellular cannot provide.  I am not convinced Josh Groban’s chorus from “Believe” does them justice.  However, the message of faith and powerful music shifts my mind and heart toward our Maker when I hear it.

Believe in what your heart is saying
Hear the melody that’s playing
There’s no time to waste
There’s so much to celebrate
Believe in what you feel inside
And give your dreams the wings to fly
You have everything you need
If you just believe

4. The Friends…
We have a couple of friends that are – um, uh – let’s say… Extremely resourceful.
If you want to find some bargains (like a $50 article of clothing) really cheap (like for $0.25) then this is the lady to shop with.  If you need an expert on any topic in the world (like small engine repair, fitness advice, scientific facts, really… any topic) then give this guy a call and if he doesn’t know the answer or can’t argue your own set of facts with you – he can call someone, has a friend at work, or used to know someone that can help you out.  If you want to make your own homemade anything (like a vacuum bag for example) out of duct tape and a paper clip these are the people to hang around.

I’m not naming names here…  But their ring tone for this season is – Leroy The Redneck Reindeer.
Just sayin’.

5. The Management Team…
I didn’t include this group in my initial ring tone post, but they’ve got a special tone year round and I promise I sigh every time I hear them calling.  I have 4 assistant managers that need me from time to time – and when they do I want at least the brief warning a special ring tone affords me.
I have chosen I’m Gettin’ Nuttin’ For Christmas…  Not because they’ve been bad.
Just because I sometimes think of them as my kids, and they’re a lot of fun to pick on.

6. The Boss…
While during the other 11 months of the year I greet him with “It’s a beautiful day!” I decided for the holiday season I would change it up to greeting him with:

You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile,
Mr Grinch.
Given the choice between the two of you,
I’d take the seasick crocodile.

He likes being called mister.
Maybe.  I can’t honestly say I’ve tried it yet…
Totally, 100% in jest – he’s a good boss.  And I am pretty sure he will never, ever read this – so don’t think I’m trying to score any points by saying he’s a good boss.

Anyhow, I couldn’t think of any other Christmas song fitting for a supervisor, so this is what he gets.

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Posted by on November 26, 2012 in My Life


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