My Father's Eyes

Today is a special day to me. For some it's the day that a guy was crucified and then came back to life three days later. I'm not getting into religion or messiahs in this post. But I do want to spend a few minutes talking about a hero.

It is borderline cliche to point to your father and say that he's your hero. Or to say that he's absolutely not your hero. While I may be borderline, I try to stay away from being cliche. My Dad is not a perfect man. And the word 'hero' gets bandied about a little too much these days for my particular liking. That being said, the man that is my father, is very special to me. He is an inspiration. He is a rock in my life. And he is one of my best friends and fiercest supporters.

But that wasn't always the case. Now, before you get all huffy, I need to clarify. My dad always believed in me. He loved me with a heart that was bigger than I ever knew as a child. He sacrificed things that I have no way of ever comprehending for me. Someday I may tell you more about them. Today is not that day.

This is a picture of my dad in 'Nam.

This guy graduated high school early. He went to college at 16. He had an interest in marine biology and poetry. And then a few years later he went to war. Because, that's what the Skaggs men did. There is a stretch of highway in Kentucky that honors my papaw and his 4 brothers. Every single one of them served. My dad served. He was assigned to Americal, 23rd Infantry Division. My dad, a printer by trade, assigned to the unit with one of the highest casualty rates at the time. He wasn't my dad yet. And, he might not have been if something crazy hadn't happened. If he hadn't been talking to an officer the day before he was due to meet up with his unit, he might have still reported to the 23rd, and who knows what this tale would look like. But no, that officer learned that Dad was a printer. And he had need of a printer at the base at Long Ben. He told my dad to not get on the bus, that he would get the orders changed and get Dad reassigned. Keep in mind, this sort of thing never, and I do mean never, happened once a soldier was in-country. So, it was natural that the officer on the bus was upset that this scrawny puke from who-the-fuck-cares Kentucky was insisting that his orders were to be changed. I don't know for sure, but I suspect Dad was close to being busted for disobeying orders.

Then the transfer papers came through. I don't know who that officer was that needed a printer, or even if he's still alive. If I ever meet him, I buying him a drink. Or 7.

To say that his time in Viet Nam changed my father is the grossest understatement I can imagine. Only, I didn't know it. I never knew him before.

I can say that growing up the son of a Viet Nam vet wasn't particularly easy. And I never did look at things in a normal way as a child (I really still don't).

Growing up, my dad always seemed...gruff....short...quick to anger. He yelled a lot. Only, it wasn't yelling, because if he was yelling, I would know it. I cried a lot. Still do I guess. In the Father's Manual of the 70's and 80's there were entire chapters devoted to 'Why are you crying? I'll give you something to cry about." I'm not making any judgement about it. I was salty for a while (like pretty much my teens and twenties).  We didn't talk a lot. He didn't come to all that many of my school events, but I never felt like he didn't care. More like he was just busy running a family business and too tired to be bothered with some of those frilly things. We communicated through my teens via Star Trek, M*A*S*H, Robert Redford movies, and later through China Beach. Any time something came on about Viet Nam, I stared straight at the TV and pretended to never noticed the streaks on my dad's cheeks.

I did some stupid things in my teens that I won't really go into here. But there were legitimately a few moments where I was thankful my mom was in the room because I thought my dad would go off. Instead he just sighed, left the room and left me to my own internal punishment. My thoughts were harsher most of the time than any whipping he could give. Still are.

I got married pretty young. I don't really regret it. The best thing that came from it was my daughter. And with that came some insight into what being a father meant. Dad was still a bit gruff...but softened with the arrival of his granddaughter. Things with us were still...somewhat tense, but civil. There were certain things I didn't talk to him about, Politics being top of that list.

In my twenties I think it's safe to say that I still felt like my dad didn't truly 'get' me. But, thanks to having a child of my own, I was starting to understand him a little better.

I'm skipping a whole lot here (mostly because this really deserves a book), but somewhere along in my 30's, on a trip back from the Farm, Dad gave me some insight into the perception I had of him as a child.

It was mind blowing. And every single thing clicked. It was harder for him to tell me than it was for me to hear (which is incredible, because it was a pretty fucking intense conversation to have anyway), but him telling me was the foundation that brings us to today.

Today my dad is not my hero, but there are aspects of his life and what he went through that would render boring any origin story in the comics. He is someone who is an inspiration for me. I know unequivocally that my father has my back. That he will support me no matter what I do. And that I never have to worry about him judging me or believing in me anymore (this was a very real thing I struggled with as a child).

Dad was never big on celebrating his birthday when we were growing up. It wasn't something he had a child and I truthfully think it makes him feel awkward when people make a fuss about him (I get that). Sorry, Dad...but I'm making a fuss.

I can say, with complete honesty and sincerity, that I would be nowhere near the man I am today without my Dad.

And it kills me that I can't go see him today. That I can't hug him. That I can't through choked tears tell him how much he means to me while pretending not to see the tears well in the corners of his eyes.

All I can do is have a glass of Knob Creek, FaceTime him later, and hope that as he reads this, I've done a halfway decent job of expressing how much he means to me and how much I love him.

Happy Birthday, Day.



My Kingdom for a...Hug?!?

We are in some strange times. For example, if I keep going the way I am currently headed, you will get one post on this blog every month. For some I know, that's probably one post too many. That's fine. You don't have to read it. For the other 7 of you that stop by on a regular basis, all I can say is this. I'll try to do better.

In theory, I should have more time, right? Isn't that one of the things people are on about with our current pandemic-con? BTW...WORST CON EVER.

I don't know that I actually have more time to be creative.

I really don't have any idea where this post is going. At this point, it's kind of a freeramble. Or it will be as soon as I go cut my nails. Excuse me for a moment, will you?

Much better. I don't know what it is, but if my fingernails are too long, it bugs the crap out of me when I'm typing.

If you know me at all, you know that I am easily annoyed by people. You may also have picked up that I suffer from one of the seemingly garden variety of social anxiety disorders. One of the key tenants of this flavor of mismatched brain candy is that I tend to overthink the shit out of everything. And I rabbit hole things. And I have a hard time believing that even though you asked me to come some place, that you actually wanted me there in the first place, or shortly after my arrival you immediately regret your decision to invite me, but are too polite to ask me to leave.

If I have ever cancelled on you within ten minutes of the planned time you and I had to do something, please re-read that last paragraph again. You may gain some insight into what was happening.

All of these can still happen. The meds are good, but they aren't great, and my mind is like that shitty Dark Side of the Force swamp on Dagobah. The Meds are like Yoda, fiddling with his stick, telling me I don't need a blaster. And my mind is all like Luke, strapping on that gun and diving down that dark hole.

So, you'd think that something like this Shelter-In-Place/Stay-At-Home thing would be right up my alley then, right? No plans to cancel because we can't actually meet up. Normally I would say you are right, but the number of House Party invites I've bailed on at the last minute would prove us both wrong.

It turns out that while I genuinely have difficulty getting to a social event, once I'm there I usually do OK until my Introvert Low-Fuel indicator kicks in and I have to go home and do anything other than be around people.

Something else that is weird, is this. While I do have a hard time in social situations (you may not believe me, but trust me when I tell you that I do. Those inner voices are like Kylo-Ren 13 minutes before the Prom), it turns out that I actually thrive off of being around people. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I need physical contact. Hugs, man. I'm talking about hugs.

I freakin' love hugs. Hugs can run the gamut of intimate and emotional intent. But it's fair to say that regardless of the hug, I'm a fan. Being on this lockdown scenario for the last...what...18 days has just been...well....kind of depressing, if I'm being honest.

But Todd...you're quarantined with your best friend, how can that be bad? Well..normally I would agree, my bestie is pretty awesome, but you're forgetting the flip side of that--she's quarantined with me. And I'm kinda moody sometimes. And I bottle shit up. And I...seriously...did you miss the whole paragraph about being on Dagobah? No. Honestly, it's been fine. But it's not like it's all cocktails and Magic the Gathering every night.

I still have to work during the day. So, I'm working from home. Monitors and my work computer have taken over my writing desk.

Before I fall deeper into this rabbit hole, I do want to say one thing. I know that I'm incredibly fortunate to be able to do my job from home. I know a ton of people don't have that option. I don't take it for granted, and I'm not bitching about it in the way you may think.

What I do want to say about working from home is this--it blurs the work/life balance thing. Prior to this whole thing, there was a clear delineation. I got up, showered, went into the office, did my job, came home, threw on some shorts and boom. The evening begins, Todd time. Oh, gosh...not like THAT. OK...I mean...sometimes like that, but mostly just binging Netflix and sorting through Magic the Gathering cards for the evening.

That structure isn't really there now. My home space, that place I come to unwind, is now also the place where I actually have to do the things that pay the bills. There's no decompress time on the drive home.

It's just....weird.

The other thing that's weird in all of this is that I had just started to figure out what it might be like to start dating. Honestly, I can't really tell you how much I miss watching a movie, snuggled up with someone on the couch who doesn't have 4 paws and tries to lick the popcorn salt off my fingers.

But how do you get to know someone without breaking quarantine? Chatting goes so far. But until you can hear the voice, pick up on the cues, it's a mine field. Seriously. The way my brain is wired, what might seem like a little harmless comment by the sender could have me wondering what I said, and how could I be such a terrible human.

There might be some esteem issues I'm working through. It's fine. I'm not 50 until next year. Still got time to get my shit together, right?

So...I guess that's where we are. Starting this week, I will be dressing Business Casual from the waist up and SO not business casual from the waist down. Because, you know...Teams meetings with the cameras on. So...yay for that.

I don't know what it's going to be like after COVID-19 gets corralled, whenever that may be.  But, I can't wait for the day when we can actually be around people. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm probably not going to enjoy talking to them any more than I did before, but I at least would like to be in the same room. And I can't wait to hug my friends. To hug my parents. To hug my Gramps.  To hug my daughter.

I fucking miss hugs. I can't tell you, because I don't know the word that describes the indescribable depth to which I miss hugs.  But I do.

And I can't wait for awkward conversations over coffee. At least I'll know much quicker if I'm truly a dork, or just imagining it.

I hope you are all holding up OK out there. Seriously. I see a lot of people joking about this being the shit that Introverts were made for. And maybe for some it is. For others, like me, it limits the chance for me to break the cycle. If I'm starting to go inward and spiral down, I could always go somewhere...break the cycle by changing the environment. The options for that are much more limited these days, so it makes it harder for me to break that spiral when it starts.

There have been some moments. We've come too far for me to lie about any of that. So, yeah. I'm hanging on. Somedays it's with both hands as I'm pulling myself up over the edge to the good side of the cliff. Other days, I don't know, man. I just don't know.

All I can say is, we can make it through this. And by we, I mostly mean me (because there's still a part of me that only things like 4 people ever read this). But WE  can make it through this.

Just be good to yourselves. Be good to each other. Be good to the people who can't Shelter in Place right now, because they are putting themselves at greater risk on a daily basis.

And...I say this with no intent to scare you...but if we are friends...you can bet your ass that I am giving you the biggest hug I can when hugs are again legal. Count on it.

Until then...I'll try to use all this free pandemic time that we're all supposed to have and get some more of these blogs posted.

Love you my peeps.


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