cur•mudg•eon kərˈmʌdʒ ən - [ker-muhj-uh n]
A bad-tempered, difficult, cantankerous person
[Origin: 1570–80; unexplained; perh. cur- repr. CUR ]
—Synonyms grouch, crank, bear, Arby, sourpuss, crosspatch.
I’ve often wondered what my children will say when they put their heads together as adults and complete the sentence, “Dad is a...” I wonder how long it will take them to figure out that underneath all of the layers of Dad, underneath all of the one-liners, the wrestling on the floor in the middle of Kmart, his obsessions over baking the perfect loaf of bread and making lump-free gravy, and a multitude of other quirks and idiosyncrasies, there lays a crank. At heart, I’m a really grumpy person. I was born a toothless, wrinkly curmudgeon. It’ll just take another 30 or 40 years for my features to catch-up.
Yesterday I had one of those days that are ideal for blogging about if I can get up a good head of steam, but I have no steam today. I’m steamless. I lost all of my steam yesterday. It was one of those days where I found myself spinning in circles. Captain Chaos took the opportunity of my being momentarily distracted by laundry to locate a large purple crayon and a freshly painted wall. Her artwork extended from the base of the basement stairs to the very top. I’m thinking that if I can teach her to sign her name at the bottom I won’t have to wash off her artistic endeavors. While I scrubbed away her mural she went into our classroom and began her daily task of dismantling the shelves. While I cleaned up her mess in the classroom she ran into our den in order to stand in front of the TV and wet her pants. In the middle of all of this came the perfectly normal cries of “Dad, I need some help with this problem!” I cleaned her up, helped the General, and then took the opportunity during the momentary lull in the action to cut and hang a few small pieces of drywall for my a-little-bit-at-a-time basement remodeling project. Captain chaos decided to help by using my drywall saws as drum sticks and then dumping a bucket of drywall screws on the classroom carpeting.
Major Havoc made his presence known. His one goal in life yesterday was to play Mousetrap with his brother and then ride bikes. He made his wishes known by asking every thirty seconds, “Is he done yet?” There was no amount of alternate activities that I could offer that would distract him long enough to give me five minutes without saying, “No, not yet.” and “I’ll tell you as soon as he is done.” And so the cycle of clean a room, move on to another room, have the previous room messed-up by the kids, teach a lesson (and yesterday was a day for remedial work) and get something productive accomplished like doing the laundry was dotted with six “accidents” by the Captain and I spent a good portion of the day fighting the urge to dive head-first into a quart bottle of Old English 800 which you can still get for a dollar forty at the local distillery complete with mandatory brown paper bag wrapping.
After dinner, we attended the activity that General Mayhem and the Boss had been waiting for, for an entire week. Last night was the General’s first-ever Boy Scout meeting. We finally found a Boy Scout troop in a five-hundred mile radius of our home that doesn’t meet on Monday nights. On Monday nights the General has his Karate class. It was love-at-first sight for the kid. He walked in, was assigned to a patrol, and instantly started learning about extreme cold weather survival tips for the camping trip that he is attending this weekend while I absorbed Boy Scout sticker shock and the knowledge that I, too, would be enjoying Jack Frost and the great outdoors from Friday night until Sunday evening. I fought the overwhelming urge to shout “You’ve gotta be #$%*%$# kidding me!” It was so cold last night my nipples had stiff nipples. The novelty of cold weather camping wore off twenty years ago when a group of Aussie survival specialists dropped me off with four other guys, two shovels and an ice saw, on the arid plains of Antarctica with the line, “We’ll come get you sometime tomorrow.” We had plenty of snow, plenty of ice, and plenty of sunshine to build an ice house for five and start thawing dinner.
The General looked at me expectantly and asked “Can I go?” and I flashed a reassuring smile that hid my initial deeply seated skepticism and otherwise sour outlook on a weekend sitting with nine complete strangers in sub zero temperatures for two days and confidently said, “We’ll talk to your mother,” knowing full well that she would say, “I’ll pack your bag.”
We returned home and talked to his mother and sent him to bed. I hit the wine bottle for a couple of glasses of White Zinfandel, safe in knowledge that drinking liquor from a bottle that has a cork is far superior and more socially acceptable than consuming a liquor that is stoppered by a screw-cap.
The funny thing is that the Boss knows the cranky side of my personality and she loves me in spite of it. I’m blessed that way. We talked about the coming weekend and she let me say everything that I wanted to say, knowing that I wasn’t really putting up a fight about going camping. I just had to get the crankiness out of my system. It had been a long day. She listened patiently and assured me that I will have a good time and then said, “I’ll pack your bag.” So I’m going camping this weekend.
My biggest fear in acknowledging that I am, at heart, cranky, is that we tend to have our true natures exposed and magnified in our elderly years. I do not wish to be an old difficult person dependent upon my wife and children for care only to have them dread being around me because I am cranky. So I work regularly on approaching life through prayer and humor, softening my otherwise surly disposition. It has to be working. I don’t think the Boss would have me if it wasn’t. And my little girl, who wormed her way into my heart the first time I held her, can soften the distempered beast with a quick smile and a soft “Daddy!” in her sing-song voice; although, I still reserve the right to stand in front of her TV set when I’m 96, wet my pants, and skip merrily through her house.