Riding Segways In Austin

March 29, 2012

Here is another one from Notes To My Kids.  A weekend trip in Ausitn with the kids.

To Roger and Jane…

One of the favorite things we ever did was ride the Segways in Austin the Thanksgiving I was working there on the Carlton-Bates project.  I do not remember how I came up with the idea  to do that but I wanted to do something other than just walk inside of the capitol’s dome downtown or go have nachos at the Oasis on Lake Travis with you.  So we rode the Segways and it was a fun time indeed.

Over the years I had seen the Segway “vehicle” on TV but I had never seen or rode one.  I remember talking to the place in Austin that gave the Segway tours of downtown and asking questions about them. I asked if they were easy to ride, how hard it was to balance them, and if teenagers like you would enjoy the ride.  Since the answers I got were good I made our reservations for the tour.

That Thanksgiving was a bit hectic if you remember.  I came home to Fort Worth and it was my turn to have everyone over so I was busy getting the smoker ready for the turkey and the ham.  We had everyone over and you two spent the night.  We got up the day after Thanksgiving and drove to Austin and left our stuff at the extended stay place I stayed at.  The next stop was downtown and the Segways.

We parked on the street and we walked into the shop and gazed at the odd looking devices, which looked like an old fashioned pogo stick with two large wheels on their bottoms.  We checked in and got trained on how to run them.   Then we departed for our short tour of downtown Austin that cool and cloudy day.

We started down the street in a line; there were around eight of us in total and a guide.  We quickly got used to driving them and how they steered.  It really became a very easy and natural thing to do like riding a bike or driving a car.  None of us wrecked or hit something which was good.

Over the next couple of hours we road down by the Colorado River and the streets of the southern part of downtown and went by the State capitol building.  We snaked up and down the little hills and wound our way back to the starting point where we reluctantly parked our two-wheeled steeds.

After our ride we ate lunch at the Texas Chili Parlor, which unfortunately was not so good, and toured the inside of the capitol.  Of course we went to a store by UT to look at T-shirts and saw the football stadium too.  It was a fun day in more than one way, one grey and cold but filled with the warmth generated by the fire of being together and having a good time.

And so it was that day and weekend.  On Sunday I drove you to Austin’s Bergstrom airport to fly back to Love Field, home, and your waiting school work. And on Monday I went back to work there in Austin.

That was one of the most fun weekends I had with you  after you were grown.  Riding the Segways was a segue in life since I started to realize more and more that you were no longer little kids.  In that way driving the Segways that day was like driving down a new road in the way I saw you two: a new highway of our lives that we are driving down, still together, even today.


MeeMaw And Granddad’s House

March 28, 2012

This is a peice about my mom and dad’s house in Gainesville – many of you who I know or are family of course have been inside its walls.

To Roger and Jane…

My mom and dad bought their house in Gainesville when I was in high school.  It was a spacious four bedroom home.  Later they turned the two smaller bedrooms into one large one, which was your aunt’s room, making it three.  The patio was enclosed and turned into a playroom with a pool table for Granddad – there are stories about him being a “pool shark” at Buzzie’s Pool Hall in Valley View.  And finally the beloved pool was added along with the storeroom outside which MeeMaw called Granddad’s “dog house”.  So by the time you two came into the world that wonderful house had the features that made it special for us all.

MeeMaw and Granddad many times took you home with them for the weekend.  Sometimes all of us would go there including theholidays.  We did a lot things there many of which I have detailed in this work.  Regardless of what we did there the house itself was the stage those events were acted out upon.

Besides the major features of the place the exterior itself had some interesting things.  One of the most memorable was the vegetable garden in the southwest side of the yard.  Granddad and MeeMaw would toil endlessly in it to produce much of the food that adorned the table in warm parts of the year.  They took you out to it many times to watch them pick veggies and also pull the weeds. One thing I helped Granddad do was spreading chicken shit for fertilizer and tilling up the dirt.  I never liked working in a garden, I hated it when I was a kid and hated it then too.   But you kids loved being out there since you only saw the fun side of it with your ever loving grandparents. And we all liked the veggies too.

The house itself was a Spanish style structure with a red tile roof and a white brick veneer.  That was something I never expected MeeMaw to like since she liked contemporary things so much.  The house had a long driveway to the garage and a circular driveway at the front.  That is where we always parked when we were there.  That drive had a ring of large cactus bordering it too.  Do you remember the story of me running over one when I was in college when it was icy outside?  The final touch of the outside veneer was that the house was up on a hill west of town on a one acre lot.  From the front you could see Elm creek, the park with the zoo, and parts of town.  It was in town but it did not look that way.

As far as the inside décor went, MeeMaw’s love of contemporary themes was all over the house.  From the abstract paintings to the sectional divan which she still has.  There were stained wood walls and the carpet was a medium hue.  Such things would be seen as outdated now but then it was considered cool. 

One thing that sticks in my mind about that beloved house was me and Granddad’s bathroom.  He and I shared one and MeeMaw and your aunt had the other.  That room had a light green tile and counter plus a window looking north to the Tinsley’s house and yard next door. When I was grown I would go to the bathroom and look out that window before I left.  For whatever reason, that scene was something calm and relaxing to behold.  It gave me a bit of comfort that only being home can give.

After Granddad died MeeMaw decided to sell the house and move near your aunt and I.  I remember when she sold it and everything was out of the house.  The things in it were gone but my head was still filled with the memories of them. Even so with the ache of losing that happy abode I found a small bit of solace the last day we were there.  We were all about to leave and head back south and I went back into all of the rooms and looked around at the emptiness and bare walls.  The absence of Granddad made that void more profound.  The last room I went inside was me and Granddad’s bathroom.  I entered it, went to the bathroom, and like so many times before I looked out the little window to the north and felt that everything was OK. For a short time I was far away from that moment and back in happier days when we were all there and things were good.  Coming back to the reality of the present I turned and went out to the car to drive back to Fort Worth.  I still remember how that brief moment of peace made me feel good on that sad day when we all felt loss.  

We should all have such a home in our hearts to shelter us regardless of where we reside in our lives.  That house – and the Monterrey house too – are those places for me.  Over time you too will have those places and moments as life and its ever present chaos swirls around your head. You may wish you were safe back at home as places and people both dearly loved fade away.  So as you age remember them well since they are part of what paved the road of your life’s drive to its present address in the infinite neighborhood of existence.


Baby Roger And I At The Park

March 28, 2012

This is a note about a very dear memory I have about my son who was born three months prematurely.

To Roger…

One warm spring day after you were born I put you in your blue stroller and pushed you down Sandy Lane to the Old Park.  That day was like so many that time of the year.   It was warm, sunny, with a few fluffy white clouds streaming to the north on the south breeze.  It was a perfect day to be in the park with you when you were little.

What I remember the most about the afternoon, a Saturday I think, was holding you against me on a swing.  We went back and forth many times and you fell asleep against my chest.  You were out like a light as I faced north to other side of the park where I could see the fence of our back yard with the big oak tree towering over the roof of our house on Monterrey Drive.  It was a view of our part of the world from what became a favorite place of you and your sister.

As I looked at our house I kept swinging slowly with you, there was no one around and the park was quiet and still. The birds were chirping above our heads and the wind swooshed through the big oak trees. Except for the brief sound of a car on Sandy everything was calm and serene.

And that instance of quiet, the all-surrounding silence, was most clear that day; a time of calm after the chaos of your birth when you were so very sick.  There you were, my little boy, sound asleep in my arms. You who had been so very sick were now home and well with your dad who loved you so very much.

That time was very special to me.  You seemed to know you were safe and sound as you slept soundly up against me on that swing in the Old Park near our former home.  I’ll never forget that moment.  An instant of peace when I thought back about the terrible time you had been through not long before.  We all go through times of peril to calming moments of safety and tranquil quiet in our lives.  That peaceful warm spring day was such a time.


Baby Jane Naps With Dad

March 27, 2012

Here is another one from “Notes To My Kids”.  This one is about my daughter.

To Jane…

Not long after you were born I had back surgery to fix my ruptured disk.  When you were born I was in a lot of pain. It was something I had endured for months.  In fact the day before my surgery I hurt so much I could not get up off the floor on my own.  Granddad Tom had to pick me up while I screamed out loud.  Truly I was in very bad shape.  Then blessedly I had the surgery which went well and my pain was gone.  The sharp aches and bolt-like throbs that went down my leg’s nerves had ceased but I had to stay home from work for six weeks and not get up much.  Hence I was on the couch or in the bed a lot. But that was OK as you will see.

Since you were a newborn your mom was home.  MeeMaw was there too helping us out since I could not do too much.  Your room was upstairs but I was not allowed to go up the stairs so I could not tend to you in the middle of the night.  When you woke up I could hear you cry while your mom or MeeMaw got up to get you a bottle or change you. I was stuck downstairs in the guest bedroom by myself unable to help. 

But during the day you were downstairs and did pitch in. Even though I could not sit up much I still held and fed you some.  Since you were a good baby and not too fussy you were easy to tend to.  I can still see that in your disposition now with your happy and loving ways.

Going back to holding you, one clear memory I have is when I was back on the bed after lunch one day.  You had been fed and MeeMaw brought you into me.  She said something simple like here is your daughter and she needs a nap. She was bringing me a great and valuable gift – you of course. Indeed, you were a great and tiny treasure that I loved having near. Your grandmother laid you down on my right side wrapped up in a warm blanket and went back in the den with your mom.

Turning slowly on my side, I was not supposed to move fast or jerk about, I cuddled you up close.  Your thin brown hair curled around your little head and you breathed softly and slept.  I was tired too and soon conked out on that late March day.

Such things happened several times when I was home.   Being a good and loving Dad I always wanted to be part of your life – I did the same thing with Roger.  Holding you close on the bed helped build our parent to child bonds. Napping with you was a small part of that natural flow. 

A little thing like a nap can go a long way to bring a father and child closer without either of them knowing it at the time.  Now that you are grown it is still one my most wonderful memories of you as a baby   I wish I could forget the horrible back pain however.  But without the surgery and the recovery I wouldn’t be telling you this exact tale.  Realizing that you can see that something bad in my life gave birth to something very good – this story that is.


Roger Barfs In The Car

March 26, 2012

You have to find something funny in something not so funny.  Here is one such story about my son.  It will be in my third book which is about my children who you have heard about in the first two books.  I will posting chapters from it over the near future before it is up for sale.

To Roger…

One summer day we went over to Grandmama’s to spend the afternoon there.  It was a hot day and after some time in the pool we decided to head back home to the east side of town.

After so many years I do not remember if you felt bad over there but on the way home you became very ill.  You were in the back seat in the car seat and we could see you were not feeling so good.

When we were driving on the now demolished I-30 Overhead on the south end of downtown you threw up.  You erupted out a huge, long stream of white vomit all over yourself, the car seat, and the upholstery of the old blue Buick’s back seat.  You cried out in anguished baby talk and I drove faster to get you home.

One of the most vivid things I recall was looking in my rear view mirror at you. You were still strapped in the car seat but had a look of abject agony on your face, a pathetic visage of hurt and discomfort.  You had some kind of cereal earlier and the half-digested chunks of it covered your blue Oshkosh overalls. A horrid stench of sour stomach juices wafted through the car too. It was not a pretty site.

Luckily we got home to Monterrey quickly and got you out of the car and inside to be cleaned up.  After you were bathed and settled down I went back out to the driveway to clean up the Buick which was certainly a mess.

I took the car seat out of the car and placed it on the driveway and turned on the garden hose and sprayed off the mess.  And I cleaned the car upholstery off too. After some time and effort the car seat and car were returned to normal.  And you felt better too.

That was not the last time you were sick in your life but that time sticks in my mind to this day since it was unique.  Your long past stomach problem caused me a case of indigestion that lingers to this day – it is an ill with no cure.  And honestly I do not want relief from it. Forgetting that day would deprive me of something that we both now laugh about when it’s recalled.  So whatever made you frown in agony that day still puts a smile on our faces now.