Tuesday, January 24, 2012

One Final Life Lesson

The most recent kerfuffle between the TSA and a US Senator - in this case the very conservative Rand Paul (R-KY) - has brought up memories of the last time this happened to a sitting senator.

Longtime readers of this little chucklefest - bless both your little hearts - will know all about the passing of my dad, which Buddha help me, is now just a few months shy of four goddamn years ago. Relax - I'm not treading that ancient ground, although it's safe to say I'm still as broken as when I wrote about it the last time.  

He kept his marbles till the very end, despite having some curious low spots in his intelligence-map.  Not only was he the real word-man of the house (a voracious reader and completer of his daily crossword puzzle quite literally until the day he died), but he was a genius spatially, as well; was one of those guys who could take an elevation drawing and and draw a top-view, for example.  But ask him to cook 1 1/2 cups of rice by adapting a recipe for 1 cup and he'd be lost.

To paint an accurate picture of the man would require too much ink; suffice it to say that at the end of his life he was a sweet old man who delighted in seeing, and being seen by, his family, whom he loved beyond reason. 

He was also, in direct contrast with me, a gun-toting far righty ultra-conservative whose political ideals were the complete opposite of mine, though (of course) they were well thought-out and he kept his bullshit detector on with every politician, Democrat and Republican alike.

Because of Dad's delicate health, I made it a habit to head over to the house for dinner, which I did every Wednesday for eight years. It was dinner at, say, 6, and laughs and stories about the disappointing Red Sox before heading to poker night chez Très Josie, where I'd usually regale the table with stories about my mother.*

Well, one day, this was August of 2004, I found him in full rant mode about the terrorists and the new reality that they forced the US of A into.  I asked him what the matter was and he asked me, "Did you hear what happened to Senator Kennedy?  They turned him back from a flight - wouldn't let him board.  A United States Senator, for Christ's sake!  How dare they?"

"I thought you hated Ted Kennedy," I said, with a smile curling about my lips.

"This isn't about the man," he said.  "It's about the office. He's an elected official to the US Government and he deserves respect, especially from some shlemaz'l with a plastic badge.  Gary, this is an honest to God outrage.  He's one of the most powerful, highly-respected men in the entire country! I still can't believe it.  If I were his boss I'd have him fired so fast his water pistol would start leaking!"

And on and on and on.

And of course he was right.  And at the age of 71, and me at the age of almost 36, it would be, as memory serves me, the last big life lesson he would teach me. It's also why it doesn't matter that this guy's politics are antithetical to mine.  This is more than one man's politics and the endless game of "gotcha" that the two political parties and their adherents play ad nauseum. It's about respect for the office.  It's why I always called him "President Bush" when everyone else was calling him "Dubya" or something pejorative and demeaning.  Because one can - I believe that one must - respect the office and respect the man, even if you make no secret of your intention to vote for the other guy.

Don't get me wrong: a full-throated criticism of the party in power is the very lifeblood of a vibrant democracy. But you can do with with respect, and forcing a US Senator to succumb to a patdown is neither respectful nor honorable.  I mean, just from a pragmatic point of view, Senator Rand has been subject to background checks more comprehensive than "What's in your pockets, sir?"  My God, he walks the halls of the Senate every working day - crosses paths with the President dozens of times in a year. If he's been cleared to do that, you think there's any reason whatsoever that he shouldn't be cleared to fly a commercial airliner?  You're right, Dad - it's an outrage.

And thanks for the lesson.  And all the others. God dammit, I still miss you.

And the rest of you: thanks for listening, as always.


Maybe someday.  There are some real doozies.  Jo, if you're reading this, give me your two or three top stories and perhaps I'll start with them.


  1. "the endless game of "gotcha" that the two political parties and their adherents play ad nauseum. It's about respect for the office. It's why I always called him 'President Bush'"

    Amen brother. Although I'm closer politically to you dad, I couldn't agree more with your statement above.

    Sounds like your dad was one smart cookie! What happened to you? :)

  2. Great story and so true. Well said.

    Thanks for adding both my blogs to your roll, especially because they have absolutely nothing to do with poker (sadly, I'd love to play but haven't in close to a year).

  3. @Duckman, yes, he was very smart. He was a guy who went to work every day in a blue shirt with his name on it, then come home, wash the stink of work off of him, and write a treatise on the story of Jacob and Esau and its importance to observant Jews. He was truly a renaissance man, and I've gotten my lifelong love of learning directly from him. I wish you'd have gotten to know him.

    And @Cranky, you're quite welcome. I like you; fair or unfair I gravitate towards people who bear a burden stoically. It says a lot about someone, IMO, especially insofar as I seem unable to do so with similar grace.