Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Half Empty: Someone Watching Over You

They say that when you hit your 40s, your life is half over. We prefer to think of it as HALF EMPTY. Our age has finally caught up with our outlook on life. Remember, it is possible to turn that frown upside down...but you might pull a muscle.

By Rick Kaempfer & Dave Stern

Not to be a bummer, but both of us are members of the dead parents club. Dave lost his father when he was only 13, and Rick lost his father when he was 25.

In other words, it’s been awhile.

When you lose a close family member, it’s really comforting to feel like they are watching over you, helping you through the tough times, and picking you up when you fall down.

On the other hand, do we really want them watching over us all the time?

Think about it. For every one moment you feel them helping you, how many moments do you want them to look away? For us the ratio is about 1:50. So what can you do when you don't want them to watch? Is there any way to distract someone in heaven? Try it.

“Hey Dad! Look behind you there! Is that John Wayne?”

That didn't work, did it? Maybe it's not such a great idea to have them watching over us all the time.

A fellow dead parents club friend of ours has a slightly different theory. He believes that his deceased mother looks over him, but only when he summons her.

But that’s not really a solution either.

What if you just happen to think about your deceased father when you’re buying a five dollar cup of coffee or a Japanese car? Can you feel his disapproving glare?

What if something reminds you of your mother when you eat your dessert before dinner, or sleep until noon, or wear a baseball hat in a restaurant?

Go ahead and try to distract her (“Hey Mom! Look behind you there! Is that Clark Gable?”), but we know it won't work, don't we?

If she can see, she can see. There’s no escape. You can’t hide in the bathroom. She can see through walls. Go ahead and close the door behind you. She can see through doors. She's stronger than Superman. There’s no kryptonite in heaven.

Your dead parent can see when you let your kids watch five hours of television.

She can see when you don’t hold the door for the old lady.

He can see when you pay somebody to shovel your sidewalk, or mow your lawn, or clean your house, when you're perfectly capable of doing that yourself.

Plus here’s another problem with the summoning theory. If your dead parent can hear when you summon them in your thoughts, that means they can get inside your mind.

Once they get inside, they’ll know everything. They’ll know about all the times you were “studying” with your girlfriend or boyfriend. They’ll know about all the times you looked them right in the eye and lied. Think about that. There’s not a single thought you can hide from them. They’ll even know the things you don’t dare say out loud. Those thoughts that you suppress deep in the recesses of your mind are still in there, and mom and/or dad could be listening to them right now.

In fact, if you believe in the summoning theory, since you’re summoning all of those terrible things you’ve said, done, or thought right now-- at exactly the same time you’re thinking about your dead parent--you’ve just put it all in a nice tidy summoning package. They won't even need to go searching for your disgusting inner-thoughts.

Way to go, sicko.

Do you feel her watching over you now? Yup. That answers the question, doesn’t it?

Sweet dreams.

Wait a second…she can probably see and hear your dreams too. Even THAT one.

Buckle up, bucko. When your deceased parent sees you again, you’re going to be grounded forever. And when they say forever this time, they really mean forever.

If that’s not an incentive to live a more healthy lifestyle, we don’t know what is.

If you missed any of our previous (less creepy) Half Empty columns, click here:

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Suburban Man: The Sweetest Words in the English Language

By Rick Kaempfer

They may not sound so sweet to you, but I think the sweetest words in the English language are “Yes, Dad.”

Until recently, I don’t think I had heard the words “Yes” and “Dad” in the same sentence for over a year.

My oldest son Tommy hasn’t said it since the late 90s. In fact, I think he’s eliminated the word “Yes” from his vocabulary completely. My youngest son Sean has probably said it, but only because his vocabulary is still limited and he never stops speaking. The law of averages says that eventually those two words could have ended up in the same sentence. If they did, however, it was purely accidental.

On the other hand, my middle son Johnny recently reintroduced this phrase into his everyday lexicon, and he is reaping the rewards.

“Johnny, please take your plate to the kitchen,” I said.

“Yes, Dad,” he replied.

I’m not kidding. He really said it. At first I was too stunned to speak. I thought he might be sick, so I checked his temperature. Nope. He was healthy.

“Do you know what you just said?” I asked.


“You just said ‘Yes, Dad,” I pointed out.

“I know,” he told me.

After that, he started saying it more. The following week I had to check my own pulse to see if I hadn’t somehow died and gone to heaven during the following exchange. He and Tommy had just come home from school.

“Let’s get crackin’ on the homework,” I said.

“Yes, Dad,” Johnny replied. He took his books out of his backpack, sat down at the dining room table, and started doing his homework.

Seriously. Just like that. The first time I asked! No complaining. No whining. No hiding in his room hoping I would forget it was time to do homework. Just “Yes, Dad.”

Only his brother’s usual whining and complaining made me realize that I hadn’t actually gone to heaven.

I thought that the homework “Yes Dad” moment was the pinnacle, but that moment still hadn’t arrived. It arrived the following day. When he finished his homework without complaint after school (again!), I let him play on his Nintendo DS. This is something I usually don’t allow because it gets ugly when I try to get him to turn it off.

He had barely begun playing, when I finished cooking dinner. I knew it was hopeless, but I called up to his room anyway.

“Johnny, dinner’s ready. C’mon down!” I yelled.

I knew I would have to call up there at least three more times before getting really angry and storming up to the room. This was the normal routine. I would yell. He would pretend he didn’t hear. I would yell again. He would pretend he didn’t hear again. Then I would storm up to his room, demanding he turn it off, screaming “didn’t you hear me the first three times I called up here?”

This time it was different. Before I could even make it back to the kitchen, I heard the words from upstairs.

“Yes, Dad,” he said.

I tried not to get excited. I reminded myself that he was probably just muttering the words while Mario spun around the racetrack in Mario Kart. He probably didn’t even hear what I was saying—he was just saying ‘Yes Dad’ out of reflex, hoping it would buy him some time. I figured it would still be another twenty minutes before he came downstairs for dinner. The force of the videogame was the strongest force in the universe—it couldn’t be broken that easily.

But I was wrong. He was standing right next to me.

“What’s for dinner, Dad?”


“Yes, Dad.”

I was stunned. “Um, will you help me set the table?”

“Yes, Dad.”

And he did!

His brothers, ol’ Whats-his-name and Whose-it, haven’t even noticed this dramatic turnaround in Johnny. They haven’t noticed that Johnny’s plate gets more food, or that I let him stay up later, or that I call him “my dear, dear boy.”

Maybe they’ll notice the different treatment “Yes Dad” receives when they see I’ve moved all of the money from their college funds into Johnny’s.

“Want some money for college, boys?” I’ll ask.

“Yes, Dad,” they’ll reply.

“I knew you could say it,” I’ll say. “Sorry—too late.”

They should have discovered those magic words in 2007 when their brother Johnny did. Now if they’ll just help me carry Johnny’s throne into the living room, maybe it will occur to them before it’s too late.

If you missed any previous Suburban Man columns, all of them are here: