Sunday, August 20, 2006

for today is his big birthday

Happy B-Day, Admiral! I hope they got you a cake or something at work to celebrate the glorious event.

The Admiral is a decent guy. Born in New Jersey, he quickly picked up stakes and left the Garden State to move to sunny Dade County, Florida. Raised in the southern sun and with entirely too much sea air, the Admiral mostly spent his days filling buckets with gasoline, throwing in handfuls of bullets and adding a lit match. Perhaps this was his way of trying to escape from the shadow of Uncle B (International Man of Mystery) who had made such an impression on most of southern Florida.

The Admiral up and joined the Air Force, where he found himself working on radios and a good tan out on the flight line. This was, of course, before he was deployed to a mysterious land we know today as Vietnam, where the admiral spent his evenings ducking for cover and his days trading cigarettes for Ho-Ho's.

From Vietnam The Admiral was then sent to the Mid-West where he was accidentally stationed at KI Sawyer AFB in the snowy wastelands of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was here, in a drunken stupor, that The Admiral first caught the eye of the KareBear. They're still beer-goggling it almost 40 years later, God bless 'em. Legend has it that the KareBear was a mean, mean dancer in her day. Word has it that the Admiral was four-sheets to the wind in order to gather up the courage to talk to my Ma. Well, he got in the first word, but she's still chatting on 40 years later.

We're a little hazy as to the next 25 years or so, but here's how we think it went.

The Admiral was more or less honorably dischared from the Air Force, got engaged to the KareBear at some point, and then headed back to Florida to make quick use of his GI Bill dough. So, some community college and a wedding later, The Admiral nabbed KareBear, removed her from her native habitat of igloos and polar bears and dropped her into South Florida.

At some point The Admiral was accepted to U of Florida, where he earned his bachelor's degree and rolled right into his MBA, which the Karebear was bankrolling on her fat public teacher's salary. Karebear got her Masters in Reading Ed, and this is pretty much where I start to feel uncomfortable about having not completed my post-secondary education. Anyway, The Admiral became an accountant of sorts and went to work at an aerospace company crunching numbers. Jason came along about that time, spawned from the swamps of Lake Okeechobee, and The Admiral decided that Ford might provide some opportunity. So, they loaded up the car and moved back to Michigan.

They were lucky enough to be blessed with what I like to believe was my completely planned-upon arrival about a year and a half-later.

I have two very early memories of my Dad: 1) Going to see Star Wars and 2) Going to see Superman. I have no idea why KareBear wasn't there, but The Admiral knew what a young mind needed to see to grow properly. I also remember him being there for Empire, Superman II, and taking us to a sneak preview of "The Last Starfighter." He is a sci-fi geek, The Admiral is.

Anyhoo, for some reason The Admiral skipped out on Ford, and when I was four we moved to Dallas where I have my first memories of The Admiral walking around in ill-fitting shorts. That was a lot of Saturdays. He was game and got involved in Indian Guides (the least PC, but most entertaining organization I've ever been involved with).

Shortly thereafter we wound up in Houston where the Admiral decided I needed to learn to mow the lawn. I've never really forgiven him for that. But he did give me one really good bit of advice: keep your fingers away from the blades. In Houston the Admiral became a linesman for my soccer matches, and I have very firm memories of seeing him zipping up and down the sidelines wearing a baseball hat and putting a lot of dramatic flair into letting folks know who last kicked the ball.

Also, the Admiral read the paper a lot. I have lots of memories of standing behind the paper while the Admiral tried to relax in his easy chair, while I tried to figure out how to get his attention without causing too much noise.

Always up for getting out of the house, he took me to see "Bambi" instead of "Delta Force" when I was 7 or 8. And he took me to see Footloose, The Black Stallion and a whole bunch of other movies that had nothing to do with being manly.

In 1984 we all picked up and moved to Austin for the first time. The Admiral accidentally selected an odd blue color for our house, believing he'd picked a slate-gray. I've never forgotten that particular family spat. However, it did make our house easy to find.

It was in Austin that The Admiral began to refer to The League as "Boy". As in "Boy, get out there and mow the lawn." A practice which continues to this day.

The Admiral worked a lot, and I recall spending some Saturdays up at his office playing with the photocopier and taking tours of the data center at Martin-Decker. Everybody knew The Admiral and seemed to like him, so that was always sort of fun.

He was both our Indian Guides "Chief" and a "Den Mother" for our Cub Scout Troop that year when Karebear was sick of gluing popsicle sticks together and handing out badges. We attended camps together with lame names like "Dad and Lad", but we had fun trying to fish, hiking about in the woods, and the cruel, cruel joke of sending myself and the other scouts on a snipe hunt. I was 17 before I realized there was no such thing as a snipe.

Wisely, The Admiral put a healthy fear of guns into Jason and I by taking us out with a .22 rifle and letting us shoot at a cliffside, only to hear the bullets ricocheting all around us. I've never been interested in handling a gun since.

We weren't nearly close to injured enough, so the Steans Men took up scuba diving and that made for some grand vacations. And nobody (I tell you, NOBODY) looks better in a wet suit than yours truly.

Later, the Admiral would teach me to drive in our neighborhood, constantly referring to other drivers as if they were enemy planes. I'm not sure what exciting WWII picture he had running in his head, but I was always shocked that he never asked me to wear a little leather flight-cap and goggles when we got in the car. To this day I wonder what The Admiral is seeing and hearing when the rest of us are just sitting in traffic.

We all moved to Houston (well, not Jason) in 1990ish. I mostly remember The Admiral pointing out that the garage needed a storage space, then pointing to some sheetwood, a power saw and a ladder and telling me not to cut anything off we couldn't reattach. Again, I was forced to mow the lawn. This time Jason was not there to edge and trim.

The Admiral was originally dubbed "The Captain" at some point around 1992. Why this occured has been lost to time. But I think it came after a lot of trial and error, including the names: Pops, Pumpkinhead (I have no idea where that came from either), Old Man and a host of others. Somehow, "The Captain" stuck.

At this point I recall The Admiral was around a lot, still reading the paper, obsessed with CNN during the first Gulf War, and always lending a hand during my goofy high school thespian days. And, honestly, I can't tell you what a relief it was when he completely didn't care that I quit the basketball team.

Luckily, the Admiral and KareBear's hard work and insistence that I do my homework paid off, and they footed the bill for college. Mostly. I mean, eating was out for whole days at a time when I moved out of the dorm, but you'd be surprised how long you can stretch a bag of beef jerky. I felt like a pirate on the high seas. But, like a pirate, I worried about scurvy.

Upon Graduation and after having had stretched his dollars as far as they would go, The Captain was promoted to "The Admiral", as leader of our fleet.

SInce that time The Admiral has been both a VP of finance for a really big company that makes valves (it's true!), as well as continuing to lead our tiny fleet.

Well done Admiral. Today, I hoist a flag in your honor.

At the risk of being a complete sissy: I am your son, and I love you.

Now go out and there and tie one on for the team.

No comments: