“Thanks, Dad”

“Thanks, Dad”

“Thanks, Dad”

By E. Adam Porter

Editor, News of SCC & South County

There’s a picture on canvas, hanging over the stairwell to my bedroom. When I see it, I think, man, I look tired. And then I smile. Not because I look soggy, bedraggled, and thoroughly exhausted in the picture, but because of the other people in it with me: My boys.

We were at the end of a long, fun day at Rainbow Springs State Park: swimming, hiking, swimming again, picnicking, hiking some more, then swimming some more. I look exhausted, because I was, but the boys are grinning ear-to-ear. I love that photo for a lot of reasons. We don’t get the opportunity to get all four of us together much since the Big Kid re-enlisted. I’m proud of him, but it’s tough to be in family photos when you’re busy jumping out of perfectly good airplanes half a world away.

A love for exploring nature is something all four of us have in common, and that had been a great day. Taking advantage of those moments and capturing those memories is something I’m thinking about a lot as we’ll be celebrating Father’s Day in a few days. The celebration this year will be bittersweet for me. My father died last July, so this will be my first Father’s Day without the opportunity to talk to him. But we will talk about him. I’ll share his story so my boys will benefit from the lessons he learned through living.

Most of the day, though, will be about making memories with my boys.

I look forward to hearing from the Big Kid, learning more about his upcoming training assignment. For the two younger boys, Father’s Day is all about spending uninterrupted time with dad. We don’t get enough of that, and I’m not always the best at taking advantage of the opportunities when they’re presented. Maybe that’s something all dads deal with. I know I do, especially on days I’m working from home.

My home office has an open door policy. If the door is open, come on in. If it’s shut, Dad might be shooting a video, making a webinar, or doing a live consultation, so, unless it’s an emergency, wait. Sometimes, though, I get caught up in what I’m doing, and that open door is treated like it’s closed. That happened just a few days ago. My middle son ambled into my office holding a small stack of papers. “Dad,” he said, “Do you want to see my test scores?”

I knew he had just taken an achievement test to track his academic progress, but I thought that could certainly wait until I finished whatever Immensely Important Thing I was working on at the moment. Had I taken a second to glance at the stack of papers in his hand, I would have seen he was holding a lot more than test scores. I would have noticed the way he held them and seen the anticipation on his face.

But Dad was busy, so Dad was blind.

“Go put them on the dining table. I’ll look at them later.” I caught the hesitation as he, slowly and carefully, set the stack of papers on my desk. Now, I did look up, “B,” I said, using his preferred nickname, “I said the dining table. I don’t want those papers on my desk.”

This time, I saw the disappointment as he slowly retrieved the stack of papers and turned to leave. He made it three strides down the hall before my brain put all the pieces together. “Wait, bud, hang on.”

He stopped immediately, face writ with disappointment turning back to nervous anticipation. “I’m sorry, B. Did you want me to look at this stuff now?” He offered a small, hopeful nod.

I picked up the papers, scanned the bar graph indicating his results on the achievement test. He had done well in certain areas, needed to work on some others. Like the rest of us. I glanced over, saw his eagerness intensify. A thought tickled the back of my mind: there is no way this is about test scores. I flipped the page to find a note from the school, instructions about the last day. Nope, this wasn’t it. I flipped to the next page, and that’s when I understood.

The last page in the stack was a drawing.

Pen-and-ink on notebook paper. Science fiction fighter jets and fast-moving tanks. Rockets and missiles. Bunkers with a prominent acronym in giant block letters. Fairly common subject matter for an 11-year-old boy. Except, this drawing didn’t come from the mind of that 11-year-old boy. This drawing was a replica that came from his heart.

A few weeks ago, I’d been going through an old steamer trunk I keep in my closet. The trunk is filled with souvenirs and keepsakes, as well as a bunch of stuff from my school days. One of those things is an old, oversized sketch pad filled with drawings I made when I was B’s age. He had seen me going through the trunk and asked to look at the sketch pad. I handed it over and watched his eyes lit up. “You drew this?” I nodded, and he kept flipping pages filled with science fiction fighter jets, fast-moving tanks, bunkers chock full of rockets… and an acronym that made a lot of sense to a kid growing up during the Cold War.

What I held in my hand all these years later was a near-exact replica of one of those old drawings, which my son had completed at school during free time. This is what the stack of papers was all about. My boy was saying, “Look, Dad, I’m a chip off the ol’ block.”

I almost missed out on that moment because of some mundane chore.

I sat there staring at the drawing, and the longer I held it, the wider his smile grew. Finally, he asked, nervous, “What do you think, Dad?” I looked up, my smile matching his own, “This is amazing, B. Thank you for sharing it.” He stepped forward, threw his arms around me, and hugged me tight, said, “Thanks, Dad.”

Then he turned and bounded out of the room, forgetting the stack of papers now strewn across my desk. I took a moment to straighten them, tears in my eyes, whispered, “No, son. Thank you.”

“Thanks, Dad”

“Thanks, Dad”

“Thanks, Dad” By E. Adam Porter Editor, News of SCC & South County There’s a picture on canvas, hanging over the stairwell to my bedroom. When I see it, I think, man, I look tired. And then I smile. Not because I look soggy, bedraggled, and...

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Life as we know it

Life as we know it

Life as we know it

By E. Adam Porter, Editor

 

One thousand feet above the Fryar Drop Zone, the sky fills with deployed canvas. The crowd below cheers. Cameras flash, and smartphones film the final jump for the U.S. Airborne class graduating on March 20, 2020. Back on terra firma, these newly-minted Airborne soldiers move into formation and march to the parade ground, where they are welcomed by enthusiastic family members eager to pin on the wings that are the emblem of this singular achievement.

Second and third generation Airborne soldiers receive priority, as their parents and grandparents who served before them come forward to bestow the physical representation of their legacy. Then, other names are called. Mothers, fathers, siblings, and friends advance in small groups to greet their soldiers and pin on their wings.

At their turn, four people step from the crowd, two adults and two small children running ahead to greet their big brother across the field. They come together, and Mom reaches up, tears in her eyes, pinning wings on her eldest boy, knowing they will have only one day together until he moves on to his next duty station, where there will be more training and, perhaps, a deployment across an ocean. Another deployment.

All across the parade field, this scene repeats. Handshakes, hugs, words of appreciation, congratulations, and pride. Little brothers and sisters fling their arms around their heroes, peppering them with questions: How does it feel to jump? What was it like up in the sky? Are you going to war? So many questions…

I stand back and watch the scene, my eyes full of pride, marveling once again at the man my eldest son has become. Poised, confident, and squared away. I blink back tears, and the scene blurs, shimmers… and disappears…

Because it never happened.

Instead, the coveted wings were passed out in an informal setting, just a few soldiers and NCOs, freshly scrubbed hands and tense expressions. All around them, life at Fort Benning was changing. And life outside the gates? Not a clue. No one had been allowed to leave for a week.

Similar scenes have played out across the United States and across the world in recent weeks. The novel coronavirus has upended and suspended life as we know it. Memories that might have been made will never be. Walls where photos might have hung will remain empty, waiting for the next opportunity to experience something timeless. People who planned a fun spring break full of relaxation and family time are in the hospital or sick at home. Others, hoping to avoid this fate are self-quarantining, trusting social media to offer some semblance of connection. Hotels are closed. Flights are canceled. Beach access has been roped off.

Clubs, groups, businesses —even entire states — have closed down all but “essential” services. Educators across the country are desperately trying to learn how to teach using technology they had never seen before yesterday, and parents are trying to figure out how to help their kids learn from home, when many of them have to return to work.

Others have no work to return to. Stores, restaurants, service businesses, and many companies, large and small, have closed their doors, or they have found some kind of accommodation to make it worthwhile to keep the doors open. Curbside service, reduced hours, online sales, and the omnipresent “social distancing.”

Life is definitely different these days. And, in that difference there is legitimate fear, understandable concern, and ample opportunity. With each day, medical professionals and infectious disease researchers are learning more about how to fight this silent, faceless menace. They have cautioned all of us to follow a few simple guidelines. Chief among these is, “Don’t panic.” Our infrastructure is sound, and no one benefits from a freaked-out populace acting as if the apocalypse is upon us.

There are strange stories coming out of Thailand, footage of “gangs” of rival monkeys fighting in the streets over a single scrap of food. The tourists who generally keep them fat and happy are gone, and the monkeys are experiencing sudden scarcity of a kind they have never seen. Similar behavior has been observed in the toilet paper aisle at American grocers. We have to be better than that. Stores are getting new shipments almost daily. There is no need to hoard. American businesses like 3M (respirators) and GE (ventilators) are ramping up the manufacturing of key medical supplies. Large retailers are offering to hire laid-off or furloughed workers, so they can get products out faster, and those people have cash to pay their bills.

If we look for it, there is good news out there, hope shining among the toxic cloud of fear, uncertainty, and disease. If we choose to take a collective breath, keep our heads, follow the simple suggestions from the CDC, and look out for each other, this will pass. Our community and this nation will likely operate differently for some time, and it will probably look different even once all this is over; but in the meantime, we all get to choose, individually and collectively, how Life in the Time of Covid-19 plays out.

Already, examples of the right way to do this are all around us. People offering to pay for strangers’ groceries, sharing essentials, and reaching out to check on friends they have not heard from in a while. Local musicians are playing impromptu concerts in their driveways. Members of groups, kept away from public facilities, are meeting virtually, laughing and sharing stories.

Step back, squint a bit, and it almost looks like life used to. Families taking walks. Playing games and sharing meals. People discovering new hobbies, dusting off old projects, and brushing up on forgotten skills. Person by person, house by house, community by community, we are all finding ways to come together and get through this. Life as we know it sure ain’t what any of us want it to be right now. The challenges and the risks are very real. All we can do is make the best of it. And maybe share a roll of toilet paper. Or two.

“Thanks, Dad”

“Thanks, Dad”

“Thanks, Dad” By E. Adam Porter Editor, News of SCC & South County There’s a picture on canvas, hanging over the stairwell to my bedroom. When I see it, I think, man, I look tired. And then I smile. Not because I look soggy, bedraggled, and...

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The News Staff Spends a Day at the Circus

The News Staff Spends a Day at the Circus

The News Staff Spends a Day at the Circus

By Paula Lickfeldt

 

The staff of The News of Sun City Center & South County all revisited their childhood as they marveled at the array of acts presented at The Sarasota Circus.  Each of us was asked what our favorite act was: the horses, the silly clown, the acrobatic sisters, the juggler, the dogs, or maybe the daredevil in the “Wheel of Destiny.”  We had lots of discussion and decided that we really could not choose, because they were all wonderful.

Reporting the news in and around Sun City Center is an effort all four reporters finds very rewarding. We started out as coworkers and have become very good friends. We laugh and tease each other a lot, and we are always supportive of the work that each of us does.

Each of the reporters, when asked why they write for the paper, said volunteering with The News gives them the opportunity to meet new people and learn new things. Each reporter, however, put their own spin on the opportunity.

Diane Loeffler said she likes knowing what is going on and being able to meet the people who make things happen. Working for the paper gives her an appreciation for the many people in our community who are willing to give of their time and energy to keep all of the activities running.

Ilona Merritt said she enjoys the variety of things she gets to write about. The reporting is full of surprises and is never just routine. Being a part of the team has opened new horizons for her.

Kai Rambow said he gets the opportunity to ‘learn about so many different hobbies and activities’. When he meets someone who participates in an activity that he has reported on, he can talk to the person about that activity with knowledge of it.

For me, it feels good when I’m out and about in the community and someone recognizes me and says how much they enjoy reading my articles. If you think you might be interested in joining our fun team of hardworking, enthusiastic community reporters, contact the editor, Adam Porter, here.

 

In the feature photo: The staff of The News of Sun City Center & South County had so much fun at the Sarasota Circus. Pictured, L to R: Paula Lickfeldt, Ilona Merritt, John Wolf, Diane Loeffler, Adam Porter, and Kai Rambow.