Monday, February 21, 2011

Past, Present, Future

One of the advantages of working for a bank is getting to take holidays such as Presidents' Day. A three-day weekend was just what I needed.

It was especially nice because we didn't have a crowded calendar. Wife and I went and watched part of Younger Son's rugby scrimmage Saturday afternoon, then that night went to a little Mexican restaurant we enjoy from time to time.

Sitting across from us at another booth was a family with three young boys, probably ranging in age from 5 - 10. When we first saw them I kind of internally rolled my eyes, assuming they would be loud and rambunctious, interrupting our quiet conversation.

They were plenty rambunctious, as little boys are and should be, but they were also just as cute as they could be and very well behaved. Wife and I couldn't help but look over at them. I asked her if she remembered when we used to go places with our three when they were so very young.

Funny thing is, we do remember, but it seems like such a long time ago. And in many ways it seems like just yesterday. In reality it wasn't that long ago that we couldn't just leave the house and/or go out to eat at our leisure.

The cool thing about this family was that the parents were engaged with the boys, having real conversation and laughing. They weren't texting or talking on phones, which is more and more the norm in public places for adults and teens alike. That was nice to see.

After Mexican food we went to a little neighborhood frozen yogurt place. Sitting across from us there were four young couples who could not have been much older than Older Son and FDIL. Oh, the vibrancy of youth. Their fresh faces, absent from worry lines, made us again reminisce of days gone by. We were parents scarcely 18 months after we married, so it's definitely hard to remember those days.

Sunday afternoon we went to Sonic, one of our almost daily rituals. Just love that Sonic ice. Pulling out of the stall next to us, in a convertible, were a couple who were in their 70s if they were a day, laughing as the wind blew through the white hair of each of them.

"There we are," said Wife, "in just a few years."

To which I replied, "But will you let me drive the convertible?"

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Revolving Door

Twenty-seven years ago today, I asked Wife to marry me. That was quite romantic of me, wasn't it, to propose on Valentine's Day?

I have had varying degrees of success at the romance thing since that time. It means different things to different people and quite often means something different to a man than a woman. Nothing profound there, of course, and there have been whole books written about it. You know, the whole Mars and Venus thing.

I have never had formal counseling or therapy (no wise cracks, please) but the minister who performed our wedding required that we meet with him four or five times before our big day. He had us fill out some type of personality analysis and said that, on paper, we were really not very compatible. He was quick to tell us, though, to our relief, that "on paper" didn't mean that much to him, it just gave him a frame of reference.

As time went on, he gave his wholehearted endorsement to our union. He had some good insights too, anticipating some of the things that might trip us up along the way. I remember he had us write down some of our "expectations" and I can't tell you today what one of them was. I do remember that some of the things I was concerned about before we got married ended up being matters of no concern.

For instance, I just knew, since I had lived alone, that having someone there with me all the time would get on my nerves. I warned my intended that I would need my personal space. Two weeks after we were married, she went over to her parents' house to do laundry (we had no washer and drier at the time) and after she was gone for about and hour and a half, I went over there. I was way over the needing my space thing and have been ever since.

I do know that when we said, "I do," we said it was for keeps. Wife has jokingly said she might consider murdering me, but never leaving me. (Remember, that's a JOKE). FDIL told us the night she and Older Son got engaged that the longevity of our marriage, and that of her parents, gives her a strong heritage and foundation on which she and Older Son begin their life together. I consider that a very high compliment and I know her folks do too.

All these years later Wife and I find ourselves on the home stretch, I guess, of raising a family. Older Son's getting married in June. Daughter graduates from college in May. Younger Son graduates from high school in May and is off to college in August, probably passing Daughter coming in the door as he goes out.

Ralph the Dog, now at least 13 years old, is no doubt beginning to wonder if there will ever come a time when he can just find his little spot in the sun and lie there peacefully, without having to preside over the ever revolving door.

Yes, Wife pronounced us in the "Revolving Door years" some time ago, accurately labeling this period of life in which we now find ourselves. They come in, they go out. And even when they go out, many of their "things" remain. Just this weekend Daughter brought home a bin full of winter clothes and put them in her little area of the basement, that area that she promises to go through and condense just as soon as she gets home again. Just for grins, I'm going to suggest a specific date and time for her, just to help her along.

I have pronounced more than once that, for every item that goes in the basement, two items must come out. I have quit saying that so I'll be less discouraged at the futility of those words.

I talk a big game. In reality, of course, they and their stuff are always welcome. I will be appreciative of any efforts at efficiency but I'm not going to get too worked up over it all. We can all just keep revolving together.

And I'm really thankful today that on that Valentine's Day 27 years ago, Wife agreed to revolve with me.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


We've had another big round of snow here but, according to meteorologists far and wide, we are about to have the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

Tomorrow it's supposed to get above freezing, then into the 40s and 50s this weekend. Sunny next week and we'll hit 60. I will welcome it.


Daughter is coming home tomorrow night. She has faithfully worn her retainer for about six years, ever since she got her braces off. Bless her heart, she is just very conscientious about it. When she left her orthodontist's office for that final time and he said, "Wear your retainer," well, she took him seriously. She's always been a rule follower.

A couple of weeks ago, however, it apparently came out of her mouth in her sleep. She stepped out of bed and stepped on it the next morning, and broke it. She called Wife, quite upset, and Wife called the orthodontist who said she's probably OK, that she should just come in and get impressions for a new one next time she's home.

Well, she just feels her teeth beginning to space apart, so she managed to get a day off her student teaching Monday so she can get the new retainer. It will be good to have her here for a few days.

Speaking of Daughter, she is writing a blog now, mostly about her teaching experiences. I'm prejudiced, of course, but "Delighfully Living," listed over on my blog list, is delightful. I highly recommend it:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pistol Packin'

Debby recently wrote about an experience at work that disturbed her a little.

Seems a regular customer, by all accounts a nice guy, walked into the store to get some hardware. Nothing unusual about that. Only this time Debby eyed a handgun sticking out of his pocket.

She had no reason to believe this customer was up to anything out of the ordinary but it gave her a little bit of a jolt and she kept her eye on him, and on that gun.

I am not a hunter. I can count on one hand the times I have shot a gun in my life. It’s just not my thing. But I have countless friends and family members who love to hunt, and a few who don’t hunt but just love guns and go to these ranges where they shoot for sport. Sometimes they go to gun shows.

As I have told them when I have received an invitation to accompany any of them, they have my blessing. I fully believe in their right to “bear arms” as the Second Amendment says; it’s just not a hobby I’m interested in.

As I told Debby when I commented on her blog, I consider myself “pro-gun” but I am also “pro-common sense.” Is there really any reason to carry a handgun into Tractor Supply unless you’re a law enforcement officer? The fact of the matter is that exposed weapons scare people.

And maybe I’m missing something, but I just don’t see any reason this guy needed to be toting his gun into Tractor Supply and making good folks like Debby uncomfortable. I just don’t see the point.


Debby’s story reminded me of something that happened to me a number of years ago when I was working at a law firm in Little Rock.

There was a young lady who worked for us doing title and lien searches, if I remember correctly. Her name was Emily and she was a tiny little thing, maybe a hair over five feet tall.

I was working in my office one morning when my phone rang.

“Mr. McKinney,” the male voice on the other end said in a serious tone, “this is the U.S. Marshall’s Office.”

The guy then proceeded to tell me that he had Emily there in their holding unit. She had set off the alarm when going through Security in the Federal Courthouse. Upon inspection, a handgun had been found in her purse. That’s right, this little wisp of a girl was packing iron. After being taken into custody, she told them to call me.

Now you must understand that the call to me was almost laughable. The only experience I had ever had with Criminal Law at that time was (a) the course I had taken my first year of law school and (b) entering a plea for a client of one of my colleagues, something that took about a minute. I knew nothing of how to get someone out of jail or anything like that.

As I recall, I asked the guy in the Marshall’s office what I should do and he rather sarcastically said he didn’t know, but Emily wasn’t going anywhere until somebody showed up to, I guess, get her sprung -- however that was supposed to have happened.

I asked him if I might be able to talk to her. He put her on the line. She said “hello” as if I had just called her at home.

“Uh . . . Emily,” I said, “the guy tells me you had a gun in your purse – like a loaded handgun,” just knowing there was some mistake.

“That’s right,” Emily said in a very matter-of-fact fashion.

I know I was taking a risk asking the next question, but I proceeded with a really stupid one. (To say I was winging it would be 100 percent accurate.)

“OK Emily, can you tell me why you would be taking a handgun to the courthouse?”

“Oh yeah. Well, I’m going out of town later today.”

“Not sure you understood me there, Emily. What I asked was, why did you take a handgun to the courthouse?”

Emily repeated that she was going out of town later that day. She had forgotten she had to go by the courthouse first when she stuck said handgun in her purse.

At this point I was just wishing the gun were readily available so I could put myself out of my misery but I just told Emily to hold tight and I would see what I could do. She put the officer back on the phone, who again told me that Emily would be sitting right there and would be booked if somebody didn’t soon appear on her behalf.

What he did not tell me was what in the world I was supposed to do once I got there. I didn’t much think my showing up and saying, “Emily didn’t really mean anything by it, have a nice day,” would go very far.

I hung up the phone and went looking for my colleague, Jack, the only guy in our small firm who practiced criminal law, the one for whom I had gone to court a couple of years earlier.

His secretary told me he was in a hearing and, as it turned out, he was in the same courthouse where Emily was being held. Somehow I found him, told him what was going on and, when he was done with whatever he was doing, he and I went to the Marshall’s office.

And there sat petite little Emily with her legs crossed, reading a magazine as if she might have been sitting in a doctor’s waiting room. She smiled and waved at me, seeming not the least bit unnerved by recent events (unlike me).

From there Jack did the talking and my memory completely fails me from there. But I know he got her out and I guess she got her gun back.

I did ask Emily again what the point of having that gun might have been and she, beginning to lose patience, told me a third time that she was going out of town later that day.

To this day I still chuckle, picturing little five-foot Emily with that gun, just ready to take out anybody that might mess with her on the roads of Arkansas.

It definitely takes all kinds.