Tag Archives: Arthur

Time to Pop the Bubble of Secrecy

I haven’t posted very much over the past six or seven months. It’s not because I’ve been busy, though I have. It’s not because I’ve run out of things to say; I have lots of them. It’s because I couldn’t talk about the thing I must wanted to talk about. Because it wasn’t my news to tell. I’ve hinted at it a few times, and I’ve told a veritable handful for people.

Today I’m going to do more than hint.

Here’s the rest of why 2012 was the best year ever. Except for 2013.

It started in mid-October (cue the sequence where the months fall off the calendar) …

“Dad, I need to tell you something.” Those words came from my son, Austin, a few months ago as he followed me into the bedroom. In the past, they’d always signaled some problem or another – he’d hit a mailbox or needed money or encountered some kind of difficulty.

I sighed, closed the door to the room, and told him to go ahead. “You can tell me anything, you know that,” I said. It was true: I generally react pretty calmly.

He just sat there. “Go ahead, Austin, just say it.”

“I can’t,” he said. “I want to, but I can’t.” He looked down. He was scared to death.

So was I.

“Austin, you can tell me anything.” He just shook his head.

“Does it concern Grace?” Grace was his girlfriend of a few months. Karen and I had met her once, and we liked her a lot.

It was evident Austin did, too. He dressed better, and he just seemed happier most of the time. He’d told us she was very smart, and they were very cute together.

He nodded his head at my statement. “Uh-oh,” I thought. Somehow, I didn’t give voice to that thought.

“Is she pregnant?”

He nodded again.

That was a bolt of lightning. I’m not even quite sure why the suggestion came to me. Somehow, I just knew.

We talked a few minutes. They were surprised, but they’d discussed it. A lot. And they’d made some very adult decisions. They were going through with it. They knew it would be hard. They’d talked about every option. And he said something else: “We’re looking at it as a good thing.”

So am I.

There was still something to deal with, though. Telling Austin’s mom. “Do you want me to do it, or do you want to do it?”

I asked. He was adamant that he’d do it. But he had to leave for work. So I told him he had to tell her within the next 48 hours or I would. He agreed.

I’m not sure what happened next. I think he had second thoughts about doing it on his own and started a fiendish plan designed to make me do his dirty work for him.

Because he sent me a text message while he was going to work. (I know, I know, he shouldn’t have texted while driving, but consider his mental state at this point.) Then he called me to make sure I’d gotten it. (I hadn’t, I was still in my room upstairs collecting my thoughts under the guise of sorting the laundry.) But here’s the thing about that phone call: Karen answered and he asked for me. She wondered why. He wouldn’t say. So she got me and I told him I hadn’t gotten it but that I would look at it. (It was a long post, obviously written before he’d told me, in which he talked about his situation.)

Anyway, we hung up, and Karen was curious. Really curious. I’m not too sure that wasn’t Austin’s plan all along, to get her asking questions.

(Cue the Mom sense tingling …)

“What was that about?” she asked from downstairs.

“It was just something between Austin and I. He’ll tell you.”

“No, you need to tell me.”

“OK, come on up …”

“Did he get a ticket? How fast was he going? When did it happen?”

“No he didn’t get a ticket. Shut the door.”

“What is it then?”

I paused, grinned, and said it: “Hello, Grandma …”

Her jaw dropped. “You’ve got to be kidding me …” Only there might have been one other word in there.
I told her I wasn’t kidding. And that Austin wasn’t, either. And that we all WOULD BE kidding. As in being around a baby. Our baby. In just a few months.

Since then, we’ve learned more about the plan. They both plan to get as much education as they can – Grace hopes to be a pharmacist; Austin’s plans are a little more fluid, but they definitely include more school. We’ve met Grace’s family, and we like them very much. Grace’s mom, Karen and I have lined up squarely behind our children and our little grandson-to-be. Trust me when I say that many arrangements have been made, with two teenagers taking the point.

Again, much of this isn’t really my story to tell – only the outlines. Hence you don’t get the excruciating detail you normally would in my posts.

We’re not fooling ourselves. We know the road ahead is going to be hard. But I want you to know this: No baby ever has been more wanted. His coming out party should happen within the next month.

Just call me Pop. Proud, Overjoyed, Protective.

“Every baby born into the world is a finer one than the last.” – Charles Dickens

“Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.” – Alex Haley



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Facts are truth, but must truth be facts – and only the facts

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
        Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

Fella name of Keats wrote those words, the closing lines of one of my favorite poems.

I thought about them the other day when my cousin Wendy and I were having a Facebook argument|disagreement|battle|discussion having to do with an excellent book review she wrote.

First a few words about Wendy. She is my Dad’s sister’s daughter. My Dad, who never called anyone by his|her correct name, alternately called her Wimpy and Wendy Carr, Superstar. Though Wendy only remembers the first. (My Dad, and most of his brothers and sisters, never called Wendy’s mom, Gladys, anything but Gala. I have no idea why. We won’t even get into what he called me.)

Anyway, she’s a copy editor at the Cleveland Plain-Dealer and wrote an excellent review (click here to see it) of a book called “The Lifespan of a Fact.” The book concerns the battle between a writer and a fact checker over an account of a 16-year-old’s suicide in Las Vegas. Or was it 17? And does it matter?

Wendy’s a capital J Journalist, and to her it matters. The writer in question is a small j journalist, a storyteller. (Which, these days, is what I consider myself, as well.)

She, like the fact checker, worried that the writer changed some of the stuff in the account. For example, the writer said he had the teen jumping off the 34th floor because it “sounded” better than the 31st floor. (Which I have to agree with. And it’s a sequential number, always a plus in my book.) The fact checker red-flagged this and many other “facts” in the article and thus the battle began.

The writer’s defense was that his article was an exercise in “literary nonfiction,” what they used to call the New Journalism a few years ago. Don’t know what New Journalism is? Google “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” by Gay Talese, and take a spin through it.

I once was on Wendy’s side. That’s what 30 or so years in the news biz will do for you. Especially in the newspaper biz. All the i’s had to be crossed and the t’s dotted. Everything right. The ages, the street address.

But these days, I consider myself more of a storyteller than a journalist, and I’m more concerned about the truth of the overall account than the accuracy of every single fact. I mean, really, does it matter whether the kid jumped from the 31st or 34th floor? What if three floors are underground?

The number of floors doesn’t really matter. What matters is that a 16-year-old kid killed himself, which is what I’m guessing the article was really about. The police report stuff just isn’t that relevant, as far as I’m concerned.

What really cinched it was the fact-checker’s insistence that a shadow described by the writer couldn’t have been correct.

Which took me back to my days at the magazine and my co-worker “Fred” (not his real name), whom I’ve written about previously.

Our star writer, Ed Martin, winner of multiple national business-writing awards and a man of the highest integrity, was writing some story, I really can’t even remember what it was about, and he described a shadow that had fallen over downtown Charlotte. It was a great scene setter for what Ed was trying to do with the tale, a powerful foreshadowing of what was to come.

Except, “Fred” pointed out, it couldn’t have happened the way Ed described it at the time he stated it. “Fred” was a literalist. The “fact” in that opener mattered not to what the gist of the story was about. To be honest, the time “Fred” took to figure out the angles and seasons and hours was longer than it would have taken anyone not “Fred” to read the story. And to repeat, the story had nothing to do with the shadow.

The movie Inglorious Basterds isn’t true, but it’s a great story. My friend Nancy objected to the Captain America movie, not because she found the notion of a super-soldier formula (steroids before steroids, if you will) crazy but because it depicted white soldiers fighting alongside black counterparts. Which, of course, never happened in WWII.

If you’ve ever read a police report, you know how boring “just the facts” can be. Obviously, a skilled writer can do more with them than an unskilled one.

Speaking of skilled writers, honesty forces me to report that sometimes I deviate from the facts when I’m posting to this blog. Sometimes to compress a story a bit (I know it’s hard to believe that I condense some tales), sometimes because my memory is hazy, sometimes because the statute of limitations hasn’t run out. But the essential entries are true to the spirit of the event being described.

I leave you with a few thoughts from brains larger than mine (yes, there are a few out there):

“There are no facts, only interpretations.” _ Friedrich Nietzche
“If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.” _ Albert Einstein
“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.” _ Mark Twain
“There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.” _ Maya Angelou

Bottom line, the story must be true; the facts, not so much. Fact, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

And that’s as certain as is the notion that Baskin-Robbins has 34 flavors.

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