Monday, May 22, 2006

Which Way to the Future?

If I had a time machine, would I want to see what my life would be like 30 years from now? Would that take out some of the fun and excitement of the journey? Would I want to live a life that is predetermined, predestine and decided on before I take the first step? That’s a tough call. You see, I plan for spontaneity, and I practice ad-libs. I pack for a trip three or four days before I leave and I write out greeting card messages on another piece of paper before I put them on the card. I make lists of things to bring, wherever I go, be it a mental list or a physical one. For example, the hunting trip I’m hoping to go on in October (assuming we’re selected in the lottery), I’ve already started the list of things to bring, and I bought the backpack to put it in online yesterday. Granted it is partly a product of excitement, as I’m looking forward to camping under the stars and hiking through the forest, but it is really just who I am. I like to be planned.

So, when I think of what my children will become, I’m mostly filled with anxiety, because between now and then, it is my responsibility to produce children who will be productive in society, caring towards other, successful at what they choose to do and all around good people. It is easy to take credit for who you are today, because you are the one that is here to show the proof of your accomplishments, but it was really your parents that molded you, guided you and drove you toward the proper horizon that signals success. Now, does that mean good parents can’t produce bad children? Of course not. Kids don’t listen and they end up with their own agenda, but for the most part, good parents create good kids by example.

My folks always made me do the right thing. I once stole a couple of pieces of candy from an torn open package in the check-out stand of our local Ralph’s when I was probably five or six. We got to the car, mom asked what was in my mouth (I obviously didn’t go in there with them), and when I told her, we marched back into the store and I had to apologize to the manager for stealing them. I don’t remember what the manager said (I was melting under the spotlight of embarrassment), but I sure learned my lesson: Stealing leads to embarrassment.

It’s lessons like that you need parents for, good hearted people that look out for you in ways you usually don’t understand until much later and for reasons you don’t quite get. Why can’t I stay out all night? Why can’t I have another cookie? Why do I need a babysitter? What are good grades actually good for? Why must I finish the extra credit part of the assignment? Why do I have to do chores? Why must my room stay clean? Why do I have to be nice to people I don’t like? The list goes on, each one a mini-life-learning lesson designed (sometimes by accident) to teach me something about being the person I am, and let’s make no mistake, I didn’t turn out to be this swell guy just by chance. A lot went into me, and I wonder where I would be without that knowledge, probably just some feral child living with a pack of dogs (which sometimes doesn’t sound too bad).

I like to think that, in the picture at the top of this page, Natalie is lying back on the grass, staring up at the endless sky that afternoon and wondering where her life will take her, what she will become and how the grand plan will all end up. Perhaps she is deciding she’d like to be an entomologist; I mean, just moments before this picture was taken, we were fascinating over a lady bug that landed nearby. Maybe she’ll be a writer like her father (and hopefully a more successful one), as every time I see her typing her name on the computer (I know, she’s so smart…and only two) she looks at me and says, “Daddy, I’m working.”

Maybe she’ll want to be President, but I really hope not; it’s tough enough to go through this world without meeting people that end up hating you, much less having them vote to hate you, and every time I’d see an approval rating of less than 100 percent, I’d probably go on a rampaging spree of some kind—and have you ever known rampaging sprees to be a good thing?

Whatever she becomes, I hope she’s happy doing it; the world is filled with too many people doing jobs they aren’t good at or stuck in mindless positions they hate, working for incompetents they resent. God knows, I've been there.

Of course, she could always marry for money, right? You’d remember about your old dad if you did, wouldn’t you, honey? Until she does, I guess I’d better get back to work.

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