Thursday, May 29, 2014

Popping the Question

     On June 6th my wife and I will celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary.  16 years.  If we were a person we would be driving a car.  If we were a fine sippin' whiskey we'd be about ready for consumption.  If we were a dog, we'd be dead.  16 years.  That's a long time.  I still remember way back in the day when 6 months was an accomplishment when it came to a relationship.  16 years.  Lots of stuff can happen in 16 years, and I like to think that we have improved with age.  Kinda like some old cheese or something.  Maybe wine would be a better analogy, because old cheese can get funky.  I'm one funky white boy, but old cheese is not the best adjective to describe my wonderful marriage.  Today I want to go back to when it all began.  The day I actually proposed to Miss Cheryl, and the events that led up to that proposal.  16 years.  We're just getting warmed up.

     The marriage proposal is one of those things that can make or break you as a potential suitor.  You really need to think about how you're going to sweep her off her feet, and show her just what kind of awesomely romantic fellow you really can be.  Flowers and candy are to low brow for this event, and I have always fancied myself a romantic guy at heart.  I met Miss Cheryl in court way back in the day while I was working in Law Enforcement.  That's right I said, "court."  I always tell folks that she was arrested for resisting arrest and assault, but the truth is she was doing her kind hearted Cheryl thing, that I have got to know very well over the years, as a volunteer family violence advocate.  Bottom line is:  We crossed paths, went to Taj India for our first date, and the rest as they say in the movies is "history."  True story.  Well after almost a year together we walked down the aisle, but as I mentioned earlier I wanted to come up with a grand idea to propose to my potential bride.  Stuff was about to get real.

     My idea was to recreate our first date.  The first date consisted of eating at the best restaurant in the greater Birmingham area, Taj India, and then attending a movie at the famous Alabama Theater.  We didn't go to just any movie mind you, but yours truly took her to see "Breakfast at Tiffany's."  Audrey Hepburn at her finest.  George Peppard prior to his A-Team turn as Hannibal.  Great movie.  Kind of romantic too, if I may say so myself.  My plan was to do all that over again, and then work something out with the guy who played the "Mighty Wurlitzer" organ before the movie started so I could get up on stage and propose in front of all the people in attendance as a surprise.  She knew it was coming, but she didn't know when.  Technically it was already a formality, because we had already been ring shopping.

     Levy's fine jewelry was the establishment where we looked for the "estate" piece that Cheryl wanted.  She's not your cookie cutter ring type of gal, and she wanted something different.  Well, we found it.  However a road block stood in our way.  I was 25 at the time, and already had a good 2 or 3 years in the Law Enforcement field behind me, and I assumed that I was a pretty established guy.  Well we all know what happens when we assume.  Two months salary is what you're supposed to spend on one of these gimmicks, and I couldn't let De Beers and their "A Diamond is Forever" promotion down.  I've come a long way from stealing a ring out of Mama's drawer to give to the little girl down the street, let me tell you.  However, I may have been a little too confident about my financial footprint.  The guy at Levy's said that the ring would be a certain amount of money, and I surely didn't have that kind of cash on a Policeman's salary, so I did what most folks do and attempted to buy it on credit.  I told the guy that it wouldn't be any problem, because I had fantastic credit.  Which was a true statement, as far as making payments on stuff, and never being delinquent- but undoubtedly that's not all they look at.

     I figured that having a credit card at all those stores like McRae's, Macy's, Rich's, Parisian, Penneys, and even Hickory Farms would put me over the top.  You could imagine my surprise when the guy said, "I'm sorry.  You have good credit, but not enough for this purchase."  Here's the kicker- Cheryl had to buy her own ring.  Or at least, we had to use her credit, because she had much more than I.  Thanks a lot instant credit to buy Reeboks at the mall, a lot of good you did me.  Hold on a minute, I skipped ahead.  The reason we had to buy the ring at that particular time had a direct effect on my proposal ideas.

     Alabama Theater.  Roses.  Audrey Hepburn.  Breakfast at Tiffany's.  Sappy proposal in front of several hundred people while an organ played.  This deal was going to earn me points that would last for quite some time or at least until that Captain Morgan incident on the honeymoon- another story for another time.  What I didn't know is that my soon to be wife had such an affection for the ring that she had picked out, that she had took to visiting the piece of jewelry on her lunch break.  She even brought friends and co-workers with her to admire this ring.  The only problem was that it wasn't her ring, at least not yet.  The fear of someone else coming in at the last second and buying this ring out from under her was reason enough to get this show on the road, and so as I mentioned earlier we went ahead and bought the ring.  Cheryl would not wear the ring, because she said it wasn't "official."  Minor formality that was about to be remedied at all costs.

     I remember it well.  It happened in Hoover, Alabama on U.S. Highway 31.  I could have wrote a song reminiscent of the Allman Brothers mixed with a little "I Swear" by John Michael Montgomery.  The main lyric would be, "I swear by the moon and the stars in the sky, while rollin' down HWY 31......"  That's right, after all of this planning for a super duper awesome proposal at the Alabama Theater with Audrey Hepburn and Indian food.....I ended up proposing in my Jeep while driving down Highway 31.  Romantic son of a gun ain't I?  You bet.  Well it is what it is or it was what it was.  Bottom line.  Cheryl needed a ring, and we had to buy it pronto.  A man has to do what a man has to do, and I did just that.  The rest is history.  No roses, no Audrey Hepburn, no George Peppard, No "Mighty Wurlitzer" playing at the Alabama Theater, and no memory that will last forever in the annals of romantic proposal ideas.  Oh well, like I always say, "Best laid plans are the devil's handiwork."

     I have to say that even though I've been married to my wife for almost two decades, and we've had some ups and downs over the years.  I wouldn't change one single thing.  That unplanned proposal has led to two beautiful children, and a lifetime of happiness.  If I were to get hit by a truck tomorrow, it would be OK.  I've lived more in my 16 years with Cheryl Ann Bruess Perry than I could have in 100 years alone.  I'm one lucky fellow, and that's a fact.  16 years?  We're just getting started.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Banana Maddie and The Jolly Rancher Kid

     This is a story about a happy graduation day that took a terrible turn.  Happiness and joy were changed into chaos and sheer terror.  I truly believed that nothing could bring me down from the high that I was on watching my sole male heir Jesse graduate the 5th grade, but an unexpected right hook from one of my old foes and arch enemy did just that.  That's right, after months of avoiding the horror that is Sam Walton's home for the everyday low prices, I had to walk down that treacherous road once more.  I was not alone.  I had children with me.  You see, I live by a certain code.  I will not back down from any challenge, and I am a firm believer in Spartan law.  Spartan law dictates that there is "No Retreat and No Surrender," and by Spartan law I will fight and I may die.  The Wal-Mart is a place of unspeakable horrors and the walls of this hell on earth should only be breached if there is no other choice.  On this day.....I had no choice.  The line in the sand had been drawn, and as usual I stepped right across it.  Hold on tight.  Things are gonna get rough.

     Even though I almost knocked over a lady with a walker, and had to use my ninja stealth to escape a bottleneck of epic proportions in the sanctuary of the church- Jesse's graduation ceremony went great, and I am extremely proud of that young man.  To be honest, he could do just about anything and I would be proud, but he's proven that he is just as good at Algebra as he is at baseball.  Well almost.  We left intact and safe, but danger was lurking.

      The first thing we did was take Jesse out to eat as a reward for graduating and a year of making A's and B's, and just being a fine young man.  He chose Mexican, mainly because of the cheese dip.  We sat and ate our food, and despite a false alarm of Maddie spewing said cheese dip all over the table, things were looking good.  How in the world could this day go bad?  Outside of paying $8 dollars for cheese dip- my pocket contained the answer.

     We left the restaurant and I reached in my pocket to retrieve my vehicle keys, and I pulled out a list.  Not just any list, but a list that would take me to the very gates of hell.  A Wal-Mart list.  I prepared the children for what was to come.  A trip to Wal-Mart in peak afternoon/lunch business time.  The only thing worse is weekday evening or Saturday night.  There's some freaky stuff going on in Wal-Mart on Saturday night.  I would rather drive a nail into my skull than go into that freak show, but I had to do what I had to do.  We needed stuff to make wraps for a baseball tournament this weekend and food to eat the remainder of the week.  There was no other option but to hit this beast in the mouth and get nasty.  State law requires us to feed the children, so I really had no choice but to ENTER THE WAL-MART!

     It started in the parking lot when a lady driving one of those scooter things almost ran over my foot.  She did apologize, but I knew this was a shot across the bow from Sam and his minions as a warning.  Right inside the door the buggy's were jammed up and wouldn't come apart, as usual.  I had to do some serious pushing and pulling to free the shopping cart from the almost welded together row.  Right inside the door were princess gummies that Maddie wanted, and I made a deal with her.  I told her if she behaved well while we shopped I would buy them for her.  This prompted Jesse to tell me about his desire to purchase some Jolly Ranchers.  We continued ducking and weaving through traffic to find our desired items.  Toothpaste, Wrap Stuff, Potato Chips, Maddie throwing all sorts of things in the buggy that I have to return to the shelves.  Wait there's a sale on peach flavored air fresheners.  Who doesn't need peach flavored air fresheners?  Hold on, me!  That's who.  Damn you Sam.  Moving on.  Coffee creamer, Greek yogurt, Milk, Eggs, Provolone Cheese, man those Cosmic Brownies look good.......keep on task!!  We were actually making pretty good progress with very little evil resistance, but was this all a trick to  lull me into a false sense of security?  Maybe.  I almost ran over a lady in yoga pants in the spaghetti aisle, and I saw two young guys going all mack daddy on some gal over by the bacon.  I told Jesse to go and get PowerAde or whatever drink he wanted for the weekend, and lickety split he was there and back.  That boy is fast.  I used his speed to get the pound of hamburger and chicken strips, but it was around this time that I noticed that Maddie had disappeared.

     After a few moments of panic I finally found her hanging out in the candy aisle holding a package of those single serving Macaroni and Cheese things and some kind of chocolate cereal.  I told her not to run off again and she agreed.  We continued.  However, Maddie continued her rebellion and demanded that we buy flowers for her mother.  I told her, "Your mother doesn't need any flowers!"  This prompted some nasty looks from the women that were in my general vicinity at the time.  I wanted to say, "Like you would let a 5 year old buy a bouquet of flowers," but I resisted the urge.  I went toward the ice cream, and I almost ran over yoga pants again.  The next stop was produce.  I had a certain kind of spinach to buy and it took me a while to find it, and I saw Jesse trying to herd Maddie away from the Banana stand out of the corner of my eye.  I found my spinach and moved on to tomatoes, but some dude was serious about his tomato purchase and he took a long time to make up his mind.  I am a firm believer in grocery store etiquette, and I won't reach across someone who is looking at a certain item unless it is absolutely necessary.  I had to this time, and as I was picking up my tomatoes I raised my head up to see.......Maddie standing literally on top of the banana stand thing.  She was like the queen of the banana mountain.  Jesse was attempting to coax her down, but she wasn't budging.  Sort of looked like one of those police shows where the officer is trying to stop someone from jumping off a building of something.  I know folks were thinking, "That poor child, she can't help it.  People just let their kids run wild."  Problem is, I don't.  Wal-Mart brings out the worst in us.  Heck, it made Maddie climb to the top of a Banana display.  Who knows why people do what they do?  Sam Walton knows.  Don't you doubt it for a second.  I ran over and pulled Maddie down from her banana perch, and I heard a few "bless his heart" comments, but I tried to stay on task.

     I was able to get all the items on my list and I thought I was going to make it out alive, but I still had to check out.  I know this will be hard to believe, but they didn't have nearly enough check-out lines open.  Wal-Mart is known for always opening another register when more than 3 people are in a line, right?  Yeah, right.  My ice cream was melting while Maddie was screaming about princess gummies and Jesse was putting a Jolly Rancher package in my face.  What the heck is a Jolly Rancher anyway?  Can someone explain that whole deal to me.  Are ranchers really jolly?  Is a take off on the Jolly Roger of pirate lore?  Maybe it all makes sense, because if I was one to partake in an adult beverage, I'm not, but if I was I might be drinkin' up me hearties yo ho!  Especially, after this trip to Wally World.

     Finally, another register was opened.  We were able to check out before either my perishables perished or I came unglued.  Between an attempt to fetch the desired "Frozen" princess gummies, and a lively discussion about fruit (fitting if you ask me) with the lady checking me out at the Wal-Mart I was going in all different directions.  I tasked Jesse "Speedy the Flash" to do his thing and retrieve said gummies, and just like always he did not disappoint.  The lady at the check out wasn't sure what my mangoes were, and asked me to name that fruit.  I did, but I have to admit, many times in the past I have either purchased or wanted to purchase fruit and I did not know the correct way to eat it.  That's what Google is for I suppose.  We did escape, with all the items on the list!  My ice cream melted a little more when we stepped out into the 90 degree heat of an Alabama afternoon in May.  I reckon that was like a good bye kiss from Wal-Mart.  Until we meet again!  Next time, I'll have one of those kid leash things to prevent one of my children from climbing any fruit displays.  That's all I got.


Monday, May 5, 2014

The Ballad of J-Jam

     Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages.  The Uber Dad Chronicles proudly presents to you the multiple time baseball champion, tougher than nails linebacker, super duper big brother and all around cool dude Jesse Perry!  Now, I know I may be just a tad bit biased here, but this almost 11 year old young man is pretty awesome.  He came into this world as an underdog and could have easily been counted out due to his two month premature birth, but he prevailed.  He has shown time and time again that no matter what adversity he faces that he is up for the challenge, and not only does he handle his business and hit it head on, he'll  put on a show doing it.  Faster than greased lightning, sharp as a tack, and a kind soul are just a few ways he has been described over the years.  This entire post is a celebration of Jesse Perry, because my main dawg and sole male heir is turning 11 on May 12.  I've got a few stories that will provide direct evidence to prove Jesse Perry ROCKS!  Lets get ready to Rumble!!  I know J-Jam is ready, because he's always sitting on g and waiting on o.

     I remember the day that young Jesse was born, two months premature as I mentioned earlier, and one of the nurses told me, "Hold on tight, don't drop him," when I held that little guy for the first time.  I remember saying, "There is no way that I will ever let go of this little man."  That has been the truth pretty much from the jump, and even though I've gotten on his nerves plenty- I've been holding on since that day.  It's been one hell of a ride let me tell you.  I've embarrassed him with Guns-n-Roses up at the schoolhouse, and once told the nice lady that was going to cut his hair, "No, I don't need a haircut, we're here for my son" after she said, "There's a cute boy here to get his hair cut."  The boy is my hero, and he continues to prove this fact every single day!

     I could write an entire book on his athletic exploits, but I won't do that.  I'll let him tell those stories one day, and hopefully his war stories won't be as boring as mine- have I ever mentioned my fumble recovery that resulted in a  50 yard touchdown against Pleasant Grove in 1989 or that a Quarterback sack highlight of mine made the TV once.  Sorry, I'll proceed.  One of my fondest memories was watching young Jesse hit his first ever homerun around the age of 6 for the 5-6 year old Mt. Olive White Boys.  I know it's a funny name, but we had three teams in the park that year, and our team was the white team, as in color (the others were blue, and gray)- thus white boys. Back to the homerun.  It was a blistering line drive that almost decapitated the poor 2nd Baseman.  Jesse literally flew around the bases I think.  He doesn't get the nickname "Flash" for nothing.  I was screaming with everything that I was worth!  Hollering "RUN!!!" at the top of my lungs!  I'm kind of a loud guy anyway, and I have patented a certain volume of my voice that I have dubbed, "Police chasing derelict level," and if my screams were measured on that scale it would have hit 11 out of 10.  I didn't realize it at the time, but folks were staring more at me having a screaming fit than Jesse running around the bases.  Regardless, that was the start of what has become the beautiful symphony of watching Jesse play baseball.  He can make a routine play look fantastic, and he always gives you everything he has in the tank.  He leaves it all on the field every time.  Many days of fun and absolute joy have been spent at the ballpark, and that has been a blessing.  Like my father before me, and I'm sure when Jesse becomes a father down the road, wayyyy down the road.  I ain't ready for all the Grandpa stuff just yet, but I digress.  There is something really special about fathers and sons spending time together learning a great game like baseball, and the most important thing is that it's not really about baseball at all.

     Jesse is quite the student too, and to be honest that is much more important than anything he could ever accomplish athletically.  He's actually helped his old man out from time to time with math and science, and I am grateful that he has obviously taken after his mother Dr. Cheryl in that respect.  I suppose he gets his brains from her and his looks from me......wait for it....yep Cheryl just hit me in her mind.  He is also the kind of kid that will turn himself in for talking in the lunch room when it's supposed to be a "silent lunch."  Now, I'm a little out of touch these days, but what in the heck is that?  Isn't a "Silent lunch" an oxymoron or something, maybe a double negative.  How in the world can a bunch of kids and adults sit in a lunch room, eat lunch, and not speak.  Have we lost the art of the spoken word these days, not to mention social skills.  It is what it is I reckon, or maybe it ain't what it ain't.  I'm confused.  Regardless, Jesse is one smart cookie, and he has always done very well in school.  The one thing that I am most proud of is that Jesse has done everything on his own.  We help with giving him a direction, but the execution of whatever activity it may be is all up to him.  He has performed at an elite level, and that's a fact!  I can still fool him with the old "I accidentally left Maddie at home trick," though.  Got him good on that one.  He truly believed that I had left my poor sweet daughter at home all alone when I turned around and saw an empty car seat.  She was with her mother that day, but I thought I would have a little fun with Jesse.  Turned out to be too much fun, Jesse was screaming, "No, Dad!  What?!?!?  We have to go and save her!"  Sweet kid.

     I've read stories about heroes and legends while studying history, and some of the stories are pretty good.  However, I've come across a real hero.  A young man who has saved my life, and due to his influence I have become the man I am today.  No doubt about it.  When Jesse came along I was going through some pretty rough patches in my life.  Losing loved ones and not really knowing how to deal with it.  Jesse and his mother were the proverbial silver lining in my dark cloud, and what sustained me in my times of trouble. (Quick side note, I haven't mentioned Maddie, because she wasn't around at that time, and since her birth she has become a heroine all her own.  Another story for another time.)  Since that amazing day in May when that little fellow (all 3 lbs of him) came into this world, all I have to do is look into those beautiful blue eyes of his and I know that miracles happen every day.  My only hope is that I can be half as a good a father to him, as he has been a son to me.  Second to none.  Top notch.  I'm not just saying that because he can steal home like Jackie Robinson.  Jesse don't need no stinking past balls.  He steals it all legit like.  He is not only a thief of bases, but he is a thief of hearts.  He stole mine a long time ago, and that's the bottom line cause PerryDawg said so!  I love you J-Jam!  Happy Birthday!  I can't wait to see what your next act is going to be.  I know you will be a champ.  Just like always.