Jun 25, 2011

Criminals Are Getting Younger Every Day

This week a dear friend of mine posted something rather unsettling on his Facebook account.  While he was away on a business trip, and his wife was at work, four neighborhood children, all less than 9-years-old, broke into his house, stole four grocery bags worth of his children's toys (including Wii games, books, arts and crafts supplies... they were choosy) AND the family cat.

These are children my friend, Chris, knew.  They have lived on the block for years. They have been in his house previously. He has fed them, watched them grow up, taken photos of them.  These were not strangers to his family.

Chris's wife, in searching for the "lost" cat (not knowing he had been stolen) heard that these little girls were seen carrying him around the neighborhood.  She went to their house thinking that they had found Mal the cat and were trying to return him. Upon speaking to one of the children's mother, the whole story unraveled and the truth came out.  Most of (but not all) of the stolen items were returned but, sadly, Mal the cat is still missing. This mother, upon seeing her children with a "stray" cat, ordered her little darlings into the house and unleashed her dogs on the cat. No one has seen him since.

These children had planned, plotted and executed a break-in of Chris's house.  They knew when the house would be vacant. They knew what they wanted to steal. They had their cover stories planned (they received the toys from a church giveaway and from a yard sale, the cat was a stray they found).  For an opening foray into criminal activity -- they planned big and they went bold.

Upon meeting with these children and their parents, Chris' wife was assured that they would be punished. There were tears. They said they were sorry. They gave Alexa, Chris's daughter, their ice cream money. And, apparently, that was the end of things.

Ummmmm. No. No no no no NO!  I adore you Chris, but this just simply isn't enough. Not by a looooong shot.

As I said on Chris's Facebook page, "I know this is none of my business -- but I would see these children charged. If it were my children -- I would want someone to charge them. This is more than just a prank. This required planning, plotting. They lied, they stole, and they may have had a part in the death of a beloved pet. Tears and an "I'm sorry" and giving up their ice cream money (when you know their parents will just give them more) is NOT enough."

"I have kids and I would want these children charged. Having two of my own and helping to raise Peter's two I can tell you -- tears and "I'm sorry" come too easy and it really doesn't mean anything. Emm can cry on command. I'm sorry -- but I would have them charged. This is more serious than stealing someone's pencil..."

The more I think about this, the more upset I get. And these aren't my children. Or my cat. But... these are the children out there in the world. And they're getting away with this shit.

No. Just... no.

Peter and I actually sat all four of our kids down and told them this story. And told them that if they ever even thought about doing something like this -- we would make sure they would be arrested.

See... I have a little experience to share.

When I was three-years-old my mother caught me stealing penny candy from The Market Basket.  In my defense I don't think I knew it constituted "stealing". It was delicious candy and it was right at three-year-old eye level.  In the grown-up world they would call this entrapment but in my mother's world this was most definitely thievery and she marched my ass home, parked it in my bedroom and warned me with those most terrifying of words, "Just you wait until your father gets home!"


When my father got home, he came up to my room, allowed me to select one toy, and bundled me off to the car. Having expected to be, at best, yelled at and at worst, spanked, this was a surprising turn of events.  But I took Pinky the teddy bear and my rosary and loaded into the car for destinations unknown.

The destination ended up being the local police department.


I cannot accurately express to you how absolutely terrifying it was to be escorted into the police department at the ripe old age of three.  My father had a friend on the police force.  He spoke to me quite sternly.  I confessed that I took the candy.  He explained to me that was stealing, and it was criminal.  And then he escorted me and my teddy bear and my rosary into a jail cell. And he shut the door. And he walked away.

I really have no idea how long I was left to contemplate my short-lived life of crime in that jail cell. I know it was probably only long enough for my father and his friend to enjoy a cup of coffee and discuss their golf games. But in my three year old mind it felt like an eternity.  And it was absolutely, unequivocally terrifying.  And, it worked. I never knowingly stole something again. I say knowingly because I admit that at times I have walked out of the grocery store and have forgotten to pay for the toothbrush my kids had been chewing on when they were teething infants.  But I have also run back into the store when I've discovered I forgot to pay for the bottled water under my cart.

Police departments these days can't (or won't) do what my dad's friend did. And, frankly, I think that's a shame. There's nothing wrong with a little "scared straight" when you're young and impressionable.

I don't have a funny, clever, or witty end to this story. There's nothing about this that I find funny, or clever. It pisses me off. And I hope, dear Reader, it pisses you off. And I hope that, should your little darling ever do something similar to what these children did, you would do more than take away their ice cream money. As my daughter said, "my butt would be purple!" 

Yes it would, honey. Yes. It. Would.

Jun 23, 2011

Kids Are Not Toasters

My kids, ages 8 and 10, got back yesterday from a week long visit with their father. As usual, they enjoyed themselves, he bought them a ton of stuff, they ate way too much candy and... they came home emotional wrecks. Awesome.

In his defense (sort of) he doesn't mean to make emotional wrecks out of them. I don't think. Actually, he probably does but in an effort to be nice and not scream obscenities at him (again) I'm going to believe he doesn't do it intentionally.  This is truly the key to being successful divorced co-parents -- lie to yourself.  It's kind of like the key to a successful marriage except you don't have to see the person who most pisses you off day in and day out.

I'm not going to go in to what he did -- this time -- since it's really not much different than what he does every time and I'm just glad I can get the kids in therapy. Because, really, that's all raising children is. Fostering them to be productive members of society and hoping you can afford a lifetime of therapy for them.

Most of my evening and morning have been spent undoing the damage that was done (not intentionally intentional of course) over the course of the past seven days.  The problem is, I'm not great at the giving of platitudes, "Your dad and I both love you very very much and we realize how hard this is for you and why don't we discuss your feelings in words, song and interpretive dance?"  But, at least I'm smart enough to NOT say, "Your dad and I both love you very very much and we realize how hard this is for you and I'm sorry your father is a selfish jackass."

Although, in my mind, I'm screaming that.

I sat both kids down and started out with, "Your father and I both love you very very much. And... "  I ran into the wall. What should I follow that with? I'm so not smart enough for this stuff.  So, my "I know this is hard..." speech ended up being a discussion about... toasters.

"Your father and I both love you very very much. And... you want to know something? When you buy a toaster, it comes with a whole book. It tells you how to plug in your toaster, how to make toast with it. It shows you what all the buttons and settings do. It tells you it can also heat up waffles and bagels and what the settings are for that. It tells you how to fix your toaster if it isn't working properly.  It has pages of how to troubleshoot it.  A whole book."

"When I had you in the hospital, they gave me a baby. That's it. A baby. You. You didn't come with a book. You didn't come with diagrams showing me what all your "buttons" do.  No one told me how to troubleshoot you.  I got a baby."

"So basically, what I'm telling you is -- your father and I have no idea what we're doing.  We're just winging it. You didn't come with a book and we're doing the best we can. We love you, but we're going to make a ton of mistakes. It's why God created therapy -- because no one knows what the hell they are doing.  So. We love you very very much and we're just hoping we don't completely screw you up. Because, well... you're not a toaster."

I don't know what the hell I'm doing but I do know that they laughed until they fell down. They hugged me and told me they loved me. And then they went off to play and everything seems okay.

Who's hungry for toast?

Jun 9, 2011

Dear Dad,

My Father. Gary Gordon.

One year ago today, my father was undergoing open heart surgery.  Having never in my life witnessed my father take so much as a sick day, I cannot describe to you, Dear Reader, how this scared the supreme, peewaddling crap right out of me. 

Okay... truth time. I wasn't really REALLY scared.  Mainly because the idea of my father, my cantankerous old fart of a father, actually being a mere mortal was so absolutely unfathomable to me that I never gave much thought to what could happen. I just assured myself that nothing bad would happen.  And that was that.

Of course, my father didn't go the normal path to open heart surgery. Noooooo.  He knew he'd had an under-functioning gall bladder and when he started having chest pains he thought it was related to that.  But finally, when the pains weren't going away, he went to his internist to get it checked. 

Now, a lot of doctors would have looked at my dad, how healthy and active he was, his blood pressure, and all those other things and, knowing his gall bladder was failing, just passed it off as that.  We are very VERY lucky that he has an incredibly conscientious and thorough doctor who dug deeper.  And when he did, didn't like what he saw.  And made arrangements for my dad to go to the cardiac hospital IMMEDIATELY. 

Of course, my dad being my dad, was asking, "Can I go to the grocery store? Can I mow the lawn? Can I... wash the car... trim the trees... pour new cement... re-shingle the house???"

Yeah. It's hard to keep a good man down.  Less than a week before he was rushed to the cardiac hospital he was out in the State Park taking my children on a 4 MILE HIKE!!!  In the middle of the freakin' sand dunes.

When I think of what could have happened out there in the middle of nowhere, with only an eight and a ten year old for help, I absolutely shudder.

Because my dad's cardiac arteries were clogged. And not just a little clogged.  99-100% clogged.  They were so backed up that one artery created its own pathway around the blockage -- something that most people would find excruciatingly painful.  But noooo. Not my dad.  He just complained of "mild chest pains."


I am, in every conceivable way, my father's daughter.  From his anti-social tendencies, to his bluntness, to his unwillingness to soft sell anything -- those are all my traits too. 

I haven't always gotten along with my Dad, mainly because we are two peas in a pod.  But I have always loved him, admired him, and respected him.  He's part of the reason (but certainly not all) that my relationships don't work out so well -- no regular man can match up to who and what my dad is. 

My dad's 72nd birthday is next week.  And with Father's Day right around the corner, I thought I would write a little ode to Dad and share a few of my favorite highlights about my father, much the same way I did with my mother.

I love you, you old coot.


Being a "tween" is an awful thing.  You're not quite a teenager, not quite a child, and firmly stuck between both.  I was no different from any other prepubescent girl as evidenced at Christmas when I was twelve years old.

Several days before Christmas a huge box appeared under our tree.  As in most things, size matters, and that enormous gift drove me crazy.  Who was it for? What could it be? I asked and asked and asked -- to no avail.

Christmas morning, the last present was distributed.  The huge one. To me. I was shocked and surprised, I really never thought it would be mine and couldn't imagine what was inside.

I ripped open the paper, tore in to the box and discovered a very large teddy bear -- gold with brown ears.

At the ripe old age of twelve, I should have been too old and too cool to be excited about a teddy bear.  Except, I wasn't. My father wasn't quite ready to let go of his "little" girl and apparently, I wasn't quite ready to grow up.  I was so touched, I cried.

That teddy bear went everywhere with me for years.  When I would drive home to visit my parents, he would be buckled in to the passenger seat riding shotgun. Years later, my apartment was broken in to a few weeks before Christmas.  The thieves got a little bit of money, a few small pieces of jewelry, and took that bear. Made me cry all over again.  I hope that thief took my bear home to his little girl that Christmas and she loved him as much as I did.

Thank you for my bear, Dad.


Having never been a very good math student, I tended to be a tad rambunctious in my high school algebra class, much to the dismay of my high school algebra teacher.  About midway through my freshman year the teacher, being totally fed up, called my father to complain about my behavior in class, saying I was distracting and controlled the classroom.

My father, in typical Gordon fashion replied, "You know, as a 35-something year old man, I don't know if I'd be admitting that a 14 year old has more control over things than you do. I'd keep quiet about that if I were you."

And hung up.

Thank you for sticking up for me, Dad.


When I was a teenager, my dad used to LOVE to embarrass me by driving through the beach, "cruising through G-Park" as it's referred to here by the locals, where all my classmates and crushes would be hanging out.  Mortifying in and of itself but, to up the ante, so to speak, my father would spot the kids he knew I knew and would honk the horn, reach over and grab my hand, and wave my arm at them.

Thank you for making me laugh (years and thousands of dollars in therapy later), Dad.


Thank you for my Zippo lighter with the engraving of Mickey Mouse flipping the bird, Dad.


When I was planning my wedding 13 years ago, I would ride the train in to the city and practice my thank you speech that I was going to give at our reception.  For five months, I would get through almost the whole speech but would choke up when I would get to the part where I thanked my father.  See, my dad and I are not what you call demonstrative people and we're not much for talking about our feelings.  I love my father, he loves me, but we really don't need to talk about it.

On my big day, it was time for the thank you speech and wouldn't you know it, I got to the part about my dad and started tearing up.  The only way I could keep from becoming a blubbering mess was to immediately move on and make fun of my brother about actually showing up... in a tux.

Thank you for being a man worth tearing up for, Dad.


All my life, on the rare occasions that my dad would call me, he would announce himself by saying, "Yeah, Andrea? This is your father. Gary Gordon."  For years, whenever he called, that's what he would say.  It always struck me as hilarious, but I didn't, not for years, say anything to him about it.  I would just wait to see if he greeted me the same way next time he called. Which, sure enough, he did.

Finally, it got to be too much and I responded with, "As opposed to my father, Mick Jagger?"

I'm not sure my dad even knows who Mick Jagger is.  So I explained how it was funny that he always made sure to tell me it was my father calling. And then say his whole name. Like I couldn't figure out who he meant if he just said it was Dad.  He laughed a bit, not completely understanding why I thought the whole thing was funny.

And next time he called?  "Yeah, Andrea? This is your father. Gary Gordon." 


Thank you for being my father. Gary Gordon. I couldn't imagine any man better for the job.