Ake's Pains debuted in the University of Akron Buchtelite in September of 1977. The school's reputation as an institute of higher learning has still not recovered. Ake's Pains returns after a brief 32 year hiatus. It's back, baby!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

2018: The Most Incompetent Year Ever

When the ball dropped for 2018, I had been collapsed in bed for hours after suffering excruciating body aches and high fever from my worst day with that horrible flu. And then the year got worse. Yes, really. A work email with some distressing news a couple days later. My dog dying, a couple weeks later. And several unexpected problems finalizing my book, which delayed its release for a couple of months.

And then the weird stuff started happening. Just one strange thing after another. Nothing seemed to go right, or smooth, the first time. It wasn’t so much Murphy’s Law as it was Murphy’s Year. I’m calling it the Year of Incompetence, yes incompetence, not incontinence, but I’m sure that year is on the horizon, and I don’t expect to blog about it … much.

But I encountered many incompetent people this year. Of course, I, had another supremely competent year, hardly making any mistakes at all. But those other people! It’s a good thing I don’t celebrate Festivus, because it would take me all the way until 2019 to air all the grievances I had with idiots this year. And for feats of strength, I might see how hard I could kick some people in the @ss.

So here are some highlights from this crazy year which never made it into a blog post…

Plane Trouble

I had a confrontation with a woman on a flight after she slid her seat back into my knees. She was furious that she couldn’t move her seat back. But at 6’3” there was no space for me to give. I wondered why she needed the extra room anyway. Well, as she deplaned, I could plainly see that she was very pregnant. Of course, her degree of largeness at that time made me feel very small. I had upset a woman with child.

This was a heck of a way to start off my summer vacation and it bothered me for several hours. And then I realized that regardless of her condition, she had been rude, and I had really done nothing wrong. Hey, you are young and fat (temporarily) and I’m old and fat (permanently), so respect your elders, beeatch!  You are the Incompetent Traveler for 2018. Honorable mention to the two millennial dudes who think if you get to the row before me, you get to choose your seat. Nice try, but I read my ticket, and this ain’t Southwest: So git your @ss out of my seat!

But speaking of confrontations ….

Almost A Brawl At The Ball Park

My wife and I were enjoying a lovely night at a minor league baseball game, with seats in her company’s loge. We ventured down to get some ice cream and sat down at a table to enjoy it, when my wife was hit in the back by a plastic cup thrown at least six feet by a child at the table next to us. (It was not the first thing the kid had thrown, but the first directed at us). It really wasn’t a big deal and the father apologized, but then unexpectedly he began to publicly and loudly berate us. This was odd, because at that point, neither my wife or I had said a word to him.

(Shouldn’t he have been yelling at his kid instead of us?)

My wife responded back and now we had a situation. Now unless someone’s life was in danger, my fighting days are over. However, he was terribly obnoxious and was disrespecting my wife, so I did walk over and tell him to stop. Which he did, until I walked away, and then he started back up more intently. At that point I had to decide if I was going to rumble or not. I figure the guy was in his early 30’s, but I still might have been able to take him. I decided to return to the loge and enjoy the rest of the game. (No need for my wife to explain to her boss why her husband got arrested at the baseball game)

I don’t think the guy was drunk. I think he became deranged because we had implied that his son had done something wrong, uh, which he had. Well, you can parent as if your kid can do no wrong, but you might have just a small problem when your son hits the teen years, just sayin’. Yes, you are the Incompetent Parent of 2018.

Now the reaction to my choice, posted on Facebook and told to others, surprised me. Guys who are younger than me, thought I should have punched the guy (and if I was younger, I probably would have). Guys my age, agreed with my response. However, women of all ages thought that I should have fought the guy, even though he was much younger than me. So, no matter how liberated our society is becoming, chicks still like to see guys fight, no matter how old and fat they may be!

I’ve Got A Secret

I forgot to pack my deodorant on a business trip. When I asked the hotel clerk for an amenity, he returned from the supply closet with a sheepish look on his face. “Sorry, this is all we have”, as he handed me a container of Secret anti-perspirant. Oh well, “Secret - Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman”. I do want to say that this stuff could not control all my manly sweat, but it did effectively cover my man-smell with a sweet, flowery scent. I did put on extra cologne, an extremely manly cologne I might add, so the guys at my business meeting wouldn’t think I went all Caitlyn Jenner on them. The good news is the Secret did help me get in touch with my feminine side that week. And when I took off my shirt each night, I couldn’t help thinking: “Man, I smell like a woman”.  This was the Most Incompetent Hotel of 2018.

Some more stuff from 2018 next time …..


Monday, December 10, 2018

Christmas Miracle In Indiana

Gather round children (you adult children), it’s time for another one of Uncle Don’s Christmastime stories to warm your heart.

Last week, Uncle Don traveled to Indiana for an important company meeting. Early on the first morning, I headed for the hotel breakfast buffet, which is included in the price of the room. Because the company is paying for it all, it’s just like getting some free breakfast appetizers! (Score).  I was met by the waitress who directed me to the food, while she fetched my coffee. Sally was a thin, older women, with streaky white/gray hair, worn in a pony tail. Picture a female version of Willie Nelson. Her voice was gravely, indicating many cigarettes had been smoked, and maybe like Willie, a significant amount of weed. But she did work diligently to make sure I was tended to, even giving me a free drink coupon for that evening.

I finished my meal and got my breakfast coupon and a dollar bill out of my wallet. I probably would have tipped more, but I had forgotten to load up on cash for the trip, having just $24. As I was about to leave, Sally stopped by one last time, so I handed her the coupon and the dollar. Sally then said this:

“Thank you so much. You know it’s Christmastime. I have 18 grandchildren and this year I want to be able to buy them all Christmas gifts for the first time ever. Now, my kids always buy gifts and put “From Grandma” on the tag, so they all think it’s from me. But this year I want to buy the gifts, even if it’s just a $10 gift card for each of them. You see, I haven’t worked for a long time, but I got this job six months ago and I’ve been saving up my money to buy these gifts. Now, my kids don’t want me to do it, but I’m going to.”

I wished her a Merry Christmas and returned to my room, but I felt as if I have stepped in a Hallmark Christmas movie titled “The 18 Grandchildren at Christmas”. I am deeply moved and start thinking about how I and some of my coworkers, who are staying at the hotel (they had breakfast there later that morning), could help this woman. I decide I’m going to give her $20 tomorrow for a tip. I did consider that this whole story could have been made up, and Sally might spend the money on weed - but we don't want to think about that, Children. 

Later that morning at the office, before our meeting started, I said to my coworkers Andy and Ted, “You need give a big tip to the waitress at the hotel tomorrow.”
“You mean the one with 21 grandchildren? Andy asked.

“What!!!!!” I exclaimed. “She told me she had 18!”

Andy explains that he overheard the woman tell someone she had 21 grandchildren and about wanting to get gift cards for them.

Raucous laughter ensues. There was a frivolous discussion about how someone could mix up the number of their grandchildren, and miss the number by three. Followed by even more raucous laughter.

“Well Don, you were there almost an hour before us, maybe her kids popped out three more in the meantime”, said Andy. They do seem to be very prolific.” (More laughter)

I tell them the rest of her story. We then speculate whether this is a “I need money to buy presents for my huge number of grandchildren” scam. 
Yeah Don, she told you she had 18 grandkids and you only gave her a dollar. She decided to up her game to 21”, said Ted. (More laughter).

I told them I had planned to give Sally $20 tomorrow, but now I wasn’t sure because of this 18 vs. 21 issue. Maybe this is just about weed, I thought -  but we don’t want to think about that, Children. Andy and Ted said they were just tipping their normal amounts tomorrow.

I like facts to match and dislike discrepancies, so this 3-grandchild gap kept bothering me. At the afternoon break, I speculated that maybe she just gets confused and the number randomly changes.  But Andy and Ted were still not buying her story.

At the start of dinner that night, we were still laughing about Sally’s grandchildren story and I was still unsure about giving her $20. Andy had just watched the movie “The Sting” and was sure Sally was a con artist who was trying to hook me in. Ted agreed with Andy, so I had decided against giving her any money. But just then Derrick, another coworker, joined us and heard us discussing the issue. I explained the entire story to him, and then asked, “Would you give her $20?” He didn’t hesitate and said “Sure I would.” This surprised me, so I then said, “Then give me $20 and I will give it to the woman tomorrow.” And with that, he reached in his wallet and slapped a twenty on the table right in front of me. Andy, Ted and I sat stunned as I put the bill in my pocket.

“Should I still give her my $20”? I wondered aloud.

“No! He just staked you $20” said Andy emphatically. “Derrick has assumed all the risk that she is faking. Your responsibility is totally covered”. explained Andy emphatically.

Therefore, I was free and clear, Children. All I had to do was give Derrick’s $20 to Sally the next morning. However, I would ask her again about the number of grandchildren, just to ease my mind that she wasn’t going to use the money to buy weed - but we don’t want to think about that, Children.

However, the plan changed as I was getting ready the next morning. I may have thought I was free and clear, Children, but God don’t like this free and clear business. He is more concerned with faith, Children, and a faith that costs you nothing, is not really faith at all. I practice directed giving, Children, meaning I give as God directs. And it was made clear to me that morning that Sally was going to receive $40, not $20 as I had planned.

I got to the buffet early and was pleased to see there weren’t many people there because I was unsure how this was going to play out. Sally greeted me and went to get my coffee. When she returned, I studied her face closely, concluding she had lived a tough life, and could have even spent some time in jail.

As I finished my meal, there was only one older guy in the place. Sally stopped by one last time to check on me.

“I was telling my coworkers about your grandchildren”, I said. “How many do you have again?”

(Please say 18 or 21. Please say 18 or 21. Please say 18 or 21.)

“I have 21, with one on the way”, Sally replied proudly.

(Hallelujah, and I think I could hear the angels singing)

“Well, we want to have this” I said, as I handed her the $40.
“THANK YOU!” She proclaimed. “I was planning to go get the gift cards tomorrow.”

She hugged me and the tears began to flow. And you can be darn sure I was watching her reaction like a hawk. A con-woman may be able to fake tears easily, but not this quickly nor profusely.

And that’s when the Christmas happens, Children. That’s what it really means. That’s why this “Happy Holidays” garbage just don’t get it done. THIS IS CHRISTMAS!!!!!!

As Sally, still sobbing, went to check on that other guy, I heard him say “I don’t know what just happened, but I want a hug too!”

You see what happened, Children? Your Uncle Don spread so much Christmas cheer that strangers are hugging for no reason at all!

As I left, I heard Sally tell the guy “I’ve had a tough life. I have seven kids, but I’ve lost two. I got crazy after the first one died. Yeah, I spent some time in jail.” (nailed it).

But that made me feel even better about what I had just done, which is the magic of Christmas, Children. And it was mericle, Children. A mericle in Indiana!  I just hope she doesn’t spend any of the excess money on weed - but we don’t want to think about that, Children.

And can you hear those bells, Children? Oh, those aren’t Christmas bells. No, Hallmark just called and want to buy the rights to “21 Grandchildren in Indiana at Christmas”. Your Uncle Don just struck it rich, Children.

But I wonder why Children, that your Uncle Don doesn’t open his wallet as wide the rest of the year as he does at Christmastime? And I think God put Christmas at the end of the year for a reason. I have no excuse for not be as generous all the time. For unto us a child is born, unto us an example has been given. And every year Christmas reminds us how it should be done. In a way, Christmas shines a light on our failures of the past year, but sometimes Children, it gives you one last opportunity to get it right.

Merry Christmas To All !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

I’ve Got A First Name, Actually Three

Recently during a work teleconference, we had a chuckle about a 68-year-old man named Billy. “He’s 68, and he’s still called Billy!” someone shouted out.

(After the laughter died down)

“Don, were you ever a Donnie? Does anybody ever call you that?” asked my boss.

“Well, there are only a select few people who are permitted to”, I explained. “But it does occasionally happen.”

Now that wasn’t the entire truth. You can’t always be totally candid in business situations, lest I be called Donnie by my coworkers for the next five years. However, there are a select group of people who call me Donnie, but I don’t “permit” them to, they just do it naturally. And when it happens, it is a term of endearment and respect. These people knew me as a child, and this is what my dad called me, so this is who I will always be in their minds.

But why didn’t this name stick? What happened along the way from Donnie to Don? I know I still went by Donnie in grade school, a fact confirmed by my childhood friend (not sweetheart, just a friend, and now a Facebook friend) Becky, who said I was still “Donnie” when she moved away in 5th grade.  I also know that I had made the conversion to Don, by age 12, when Donny Osmond burst on the scene, because I don’t remember any teasing about my name or being asked to give my rendition of “One Bad Apple”. 
Little Donnie

So I can assume I made the transition when I entered middle school, right around puberty. As a butterfly sheds its cocoon, I somehow shed that moniker. It was my way of signaling to the world that I was becoming a man! But it would have been fine to stay a Donnie. I have friends my age named Danny, Robbie, Billy and Freddie – all great guys, who turned out okay.  My dad was probably not happy about my transition, but I’m sure he understood. I think at some point he even started referring to me as Don, although I suspect I was still Donnie when he was talking with other people. Now it would have been different if I would have gone to Donald (my given name). My father was not much for formalities and this would have been frowned upon. But I’m his son so there was really no chance I would become a Donald. And I’m glad I didn’t because I know there are some people named Donald who talk too much and are so egotistical, and that is so not me! (cough, cough)

Ironically, the guys in high school seldom referred to me as Don. I was Ake or some variation of that name. Ake is short, unique, and easily said, - you can actually grunt it without using your lips or tongue, so the gang called me that. The girls did call me Don – but they didn’t call me often! (ba-dum-bum-CHING!) 

But now, if it is a long-time friend or relative, it is definitely Donnie. It is always Donnie. And it will forever be Donnie. Becky says it is difficult for her to think of me as a “Don”. I had probably been dating my future wife for over a year when she heard me called Donnie for the first time. I think she was initially stunned, then highly amused. When we were back in the car, it was “Donnie? Really – Donnie!”. So I had to explain to her this deep, dark, secret from my past. Interestingly, she is the only person who ever calls me Donald. This, after I do or say something incredibly stupid. Of course, you all know I am not prone to making crass or inappropriate statements, so she only calls me Donald about as often as it takes Jupiter to orbit the sun. (cough, cough)

Now on my recent trip to Pennsylvania to meet my new, well actually old, cousins, the “Donnies” flowed freely during our meal. This made me wonder why this version of my name is so engraved in the psyche of those “select few” described earlier. It’s not like I enjoy saying and publicizing my name over and over just for the thrill of it. Okay, I know what you’re thinking, so stop it. Things and people change over time, and besides, I had not written a book, oh excuse me two books, back then.

Then I figured out the answer to this riddle. But to understand this, we need to travel back to my vacation in St. Augustine in 2002. The first day there I was relaxing, reading a book on the hotel balcony, when the tranquility of the moment was shattered by a booming Australian voice: TREVA, LOOK TREVA. WE ARE AT THE HOTEL TREVA, LETS GO INSIDE, TREVA. For the next four days we were first annoyed, and then entertained with: TREVA, JUMP IN THE POOL TREVA. THROW ME THE BALL TREVA. LOOK TREVA IT’S A DOLPHIN! TREVA, TREVA, TREVA, TREVA! I have no idea what the father’s name was, but I know his son’s name was Trevor and I don’t recall ever hearing Trevor say a word. Yes, it was excessive, but it demonstrated how much the guy cared for his son.

Well, this means my father must have said my name, “Donnie”, often when I was young, to everyone he encountered. It means he talked about me a lot, maybe even excessively. It means I was cherished. There are reasons why I was so beloved, but that’s a whole other blog post (which may get written some day). And it’s just perplexing why this occurrence took me so long to figure out. So when an old friend or relative refers to me as Donnie, it’s just a testament of my father’s love for me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Who Are You? – Because I Really Want to Know (I Got A Name – Part 2)

Well, who are you? Who, Who, Who, Who? – ‘Cause I Really Wanna Know*  

Summary of Part 1: I find out my dad was born illegitimate, but he dies without telling anyone who his father was. Soon after his death, my mother hands me an envelope that my grandmother had instructed her to give to me.

In the envelope were two old, yellowed obituaries from newspapers in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, where my father had been born and raised. They were for a man named William who had died around 1945.  But that was all the envelope contained, no note or explanation. And yet, there had to be some reason for this. Someone had clipped these obits and mailed them to my grandmother, who had held onto them for 20 some years before giving them to my mother, who had kept them another 18 years before handing them to me. William was 57 years old when my father was born, so it was unlikely he was the one. It was interesting that three of his sons were living just up the highway from me, in Cleveland, Ohio, at the time of his death.

But once again, I was at a dead end. The search could have ended right then, except for one astonishing detail. William’s last name was Shroyer. A name that I was very familiar with. My dad’s best friend was Bobby Shroyer. For seven straight years, until I was eleven years old, we spent four or five days each summer visiting the Shroyer family “back in Pennsylvania”. And we stayed at their house, even though it was not that large.

It now seems strange to take the exact same vacation every year, but looking back, those vacations were great times, evoking some of my best childhood memories. I was city boy and they lived way out in the country. They had an actual farm, all the fresh corn you could eat, and cows living next door. There was even an outhouse behind the garage! Bobby had four children Judy, Kay, Bobbi and Eddie. Bobbi and Eddie were around my age and we had a blast together every summer. Sadly, the vacations came to an end when Bobby passed away unexpectedly.

The Shroyer name on this obit was highly intriguing. It raised some questions. Were my father and Bobby more than just best friends – were they related? My dad was five years older than Bobby, a large gap for childhood best friends. Could there be another connection? When Bobby passed, my father refused to drive a few hours to attend the funeral for his best friend. Ah, what other family members might be there that he didn’t want to see?

But my search did pause, because it was 1984 and there was no practical ways to contact any of the family. I didn’t throw away the envelope though, it had been carefully preserved since 1946. It was practically a family heirloom, so I stuck it in a folder and got on with life.

The information about my father did play an important part in my life however. After the birth of my second daughter, we had to decide if “we should try for a boy”. The only reason I would have wanted a son that much would have been to pass on the family name. If you hadn’t noticed, family names are kind of important to me. However, the name I have is not my real name. Therefore, I had nothing real to pass on, so two daughters were fine with me. And probably just as well, I have a few friends who raised four daughters trying for that elusive son.

Around 2008, I saw that old envelope and read those obits again. Only now, with the Internet, it was much easier to locate people. I searched for Eddie, since unlike his sisters, his last name would not have changed. Using a people finder website, I found someone with that name living in Bedford County. I wrote a letter explaining the situation and asked Eddie to call me, if I had in fact found the right person. Again, the search could have ended if this was the wrong Eddie, or if he was put off by the weird story of me trying to find my real grandfather.

But a week later, Eddie calls me. I think he was more amused by my letter than anything. He probably thought I was a bit crazy, but decided to play along anyway. He said he had no information about possible relatives, but he would send me copies of some old family photographs he had. I wait for a couple weeks, but nothing arrives. I forget about the conversation. Then one day I arrive home from work, grab the top letter off the mail pile and tear it open. I stare on the contents and wonder why someone has sent me an old photo of my dad.  Except of course, it’s not my dad, but an old “Shroyer” who looks remarkably like him. I call Eddie that evening, but he doesn’t even know the guy’s name. He does tell me his mother believes my grandmother was pregnant before she returned to Pennsylvania from Akron. Suddenly those Shroyer brothers who lived in Cleveland become much more interesting.

The photo was significant in that it was the first tangible evidence linking my dad with the Shoyers, but it was useless without a name. I was connecting the dots, but I had run out of dots. Once again, there were no new clues and I was stuck.

Eddie and I kept in touch however and I visited his home while on vacation in 2011. Even though I had arranged it, I was apprehensive about this reunion. We had not seen each other in 42 years and he was only nine years-old that last summer. People can change a lot over time, and not usually for the better. I was still the city kid and white collar. He never left country-life and dislikes wearing any collar. What would we even talk about? If the evening wasn’t going well, I was prepared to leave early. But my fears were foolish. It was as if Eddie and I had been close friends our entire lives. There was a kindred spirit, and afterward I wondered if it was a literal kindred connection. But I dismissed it, reasoning that if our fathers were best friends, then their sons should get along. I was sad to say goodbye after an highly enjoyable night. Three years later, I got to have dinner with Eddie and his three sisters, who I had not seen in 45 years. Again, a weird feeling because I just didn’t feel like a stranger at that table.

The breakthrough in the search happened earlier this year when I read an article about how all these long-lost relatives were finding each other using the ever-expanding DNA databases, which I am in. Was it possible to track family members back in time using DNA? Yes, it is.  I found a genealogist skilled in DNA analysis who could solve this mystery for me at a reasonable price. So, Kimberly was on the case and she assured me she could find the answer in just a month. However, it did take her longer than expected due to the complications in the DNA, the result of families in rural areas being less mobile 100 years ago. But Kimberly attacked this challenge like a human bloodhound.

She was under some time pressure because I was traveling back to Pennsylvania soon. A week before I the trip, Kimberly provided me with a partial match. My grandfather was indeed one of the two Cleveland-based sons listed in the William Shroyer obit. Thus the obit was for my dad’s grandfather.  And that meant that my father and Bobby Shroyer were indeed related – as second cousins.  And best yet, that meant that Eddie and I are third cousins, once removed. I was able to announce this at a dinner with Eddie, and his sister Judy, and their spouses. This is one of those special moments that makes life so good. I am humbled that they are “honored” to have me as a member of the family. I mean, would you be that that happy
Cousin Eddie welcoming me to the family
finding out I was your relative? I am honored to be linked with such wonderful people.  An old, corny commercials states “You’re not just friends – You’re family” Well, in this case, it’s true. I sense that if we lived closer to each other, Eddie and I would be best friends too, just like our dads.

A week later, I opened an email from Kimberly, and up on the screen popped several photos of my grandfather. It was too much emotion hitting me at one time. It was as if someone had bitch-slapped my soul. I sat stunned, staring at the screen, letting the tears flow. I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t sad, just overwhelmed. It had taken me 45 years to solve this riddle, but the proverbial dog had just caught the car after a long chase. I told you I don’t give up answering tough questions easily.

My grandfather was Jeff Shroyer. I was pleased to learn that he was not married at the time of the conception. In fact, he played the field, hopefully more carefully, for another seven years before finally settling down. Sounds like kind of a frisky guy. So if you are keeping score, that would bring my “frisky” DNA level up to 50%, without even accounting for the other half my family. But I can assure you that I am maximum 50% frisky, because everyone on my mother’s side of the family are completely, purely righteous people. If fact, a couple of them were actually canonized. I believe that may have happened during the Civil War.  

So what to make of all this? Your DNA literally shapes you, but it doesn’t define you. You are still responsible for that by the choices that you make. And this is ultimately the story of my father, who was dealt some awful starting cards in life, but played them extremely well. And because he did, my starting hand was much stronger than his. And I hope I have played my cards well, then of course, I did have an excellent teacher. And that makes a huge difference. My father may have been utterly ashamed of his heritage, but I’m darn proud of mine.

*Lyrics by The Who

Cousin Judy and Cousin Eddie!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

I Got A Name – Actually Two

This post is about solving a nearly 100 year-old mystery that involves illicit sex.  Now that I have your attention, let’s begin!

Like the pine trees lining the winding road, I got a name, I got a name

I have a confession to make – I’m not the man you think I am. Don’t worry, it’s not like a Bruce Jenner thing, yet ….

When I was 15 years old, my mother sat me down at the kitchen table for a talk. Now it wasn’t THE TALK, that had happened a few years earlier. But I knew this was going to be serious because we were back at the exact same setting and her face held the same expression. Apparently, all serious discussions in her family were held at the kitchen table.

And the topic was important. It wasn’t the facts of life, more like, here’s a significant fact of your life, that you didn’t know. My mother then calmly explained to me that my dad had been born illegitimately. My grandmother had become pregnant in her early 20’s and not married the guy. The person I had thought was my grandfather, was actually an impostor, who had married my grandmother later in her life.

This talk was even educational. I learned the actual definition of “bastard” and “son-of-a-bitch” that day. I have no idea why this particular information was important. But this part of the conversation befuddled me, because the father I knew was a good father, and a good man, and in no way resembled the colloquial meaning of those terms.

My mother explained to me that my dad’s uncles had helped raise him and provided him with terrific male role models. So even though technically my dad was a bastard, he didn’t act like one – uh, you get the idea. But he had a difficult childhood, the other boys picked on him incessantly because he didn’t have a father. And the family was poor, and poor for a long time, until my father got a job in a Goodyear factory when he was 25 years old.

Of course, I asked who my real grandfather was, but my mother did not know. My grandmother had died five years previously and had never told her. And to her knowledge, my dad had never told anyone. This fact of his life was deeply embarrassing to him and she had cautioned me not to broach the subject with him.

This was a lot of information to process and I wondered why my mother had even told me at this time. But my mother was an intelligent woman, much more intelligent than anyone gave her credit for. She realized that her smart, analytical son, would one day figure out his staged “grandfather’s” last name was not the same as his father’s, and might suddenly blurt this question out at a most inopportune time. As we will soon see, that could have been disastrous.
But now she had left her inquisitive son an unanswered question. And if you know me, and especially if you’ve ever worked with me, you know my brain doesn’t accept unanswered questions. Open questions create a hunger for an answer. Which in this case burned within me for 45 years.

Like the singing bird and the croaking toad, I got a name, I got a name

Now what to make of this incident? Illegitimate children were rare in the 1920’s. When a couple found themselves in this type of situation, the man was expected to do the honorable thing and marry the woman. But that didn’t happen here, so is it right to assume my grandfather was a ruthless cad of questionable morals?

However, this salacious encounter took two willing participants. And other evidence (which I will not share)   indicates my grandmother was not a pillar of virtue. (Please understand that writing these things about your grandmother is extremely uncomfortable). I’m really having a tough time coming up with the correct term here, so I will use “frisky”. She was frisky. If I was writing about your grandmother, I’m sure I would use another term, but I’m not. It’s my grandmother, so frisky it is. And not in the cat food sense, either. Now, if it surprises you that 25%, and I emphasize, only 25% of my DNA is indeed frisky, then you haven’t been reading this blog a lot.

But I’m going to speculate that this wasn’t relationship sex, that it was a spontaneous roll in the hay that went disastrously wrong. If so, I doubt that either party desired to be married to each other and my grandmother, maybe assuming some responsibility, left the guy completely off the hook, not even listing him on the birth certificate. Of course, there was a chance the man was already married.

This decision, combined with the initial wayward choice, had dire, life-altering consequences for my grandmother. At the time, she was employed as a 22-year old school teacher, which meant her career was over, thus leading to those many years of financial hardship.    

But learning these facts at age 15 did not diminish my feelings for my
grandmother. She cherished her only grandchild. Look at her face in this photograph. You can’t fake those emotions. I was devastated at age 10 when she passed. And I realized that she, and the uncles, had done a tremendous job of raising my father, whom I respected just as much regardless of his history.

Still, that question remained. Who was my grandfather? My curiosity festered for a few years. And when I was 19, I decided it was time to ask my father about it. I mean, I was an adult, he was an adult, it was time that we all had an adult conversation about this adult topic.

So without warning, I asked him directly while we sat if the front room watching the game. The reaction was virulent and immediate. I forget his exact words. I imagine he shouted “Don’t talk about that!” But it wasn’t the words, or even the tone of voice that was the most ominous. It was the expression on his face. I believe parents and children have enhanced communication skills because they can precisely interpret each other’s facial expressions. And the look on my father’s face was the same one I imagined I would have, right before I killed someone with my bare hands. I had pushed a button that should never have been pushed. (This is why my mother didn’t want me figuring this out on my own). On the other hand, this was a legitimate question, and I did have a right to know, but there would be no answer.

And I carry it with me like my daddy did, But I'm living the dream that he kept hid

I quickly left the room and never mentioned the subject again in the remaining four years of his life. And there would be no death bed confession, he was standing when the end came, and he was dead before he hit the ground. Yes, he took that secret to his grave.

But my grandmother had not. She had found a way to provide a clue to this mystery, more than 15 years after her death. A few months after my father passed, my mother handed me an envelope. “Your grandmother thought that you should have this”, she said.

What could be in this envelope?

That will be revealed in: I Got A Name (Part 2)

·       Lyrics from “I Got A Name” by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Flunking A Huge Job Interview

Last week in Washington D.C. …..

Senator Weedly: I will now bring this committee meeting on the nomination of Donald Ake to the new cabinet position of Controller of Donald-type Communications to order.  As you know Mr. Ake, tweets and statement emitting from certain Donalds have caused quite an uproar. This must be controlled. You have been nominated for this position because you are a fellow Donald and for your impressive communications ability. Do you have an opening statement?

Ake: I really don’t know why this position is cabinet level and why we need a big hearing. My assigned attorney is not even taking this seriously. He’s out in the hall taking a phone call and -

Senator Weedly: Thank you Mr. Ake. I now yield the floor to Senator Ima Titewon from Aridzona.

Senator Titewon: We will begin by exploring some of your college writings.
Ake: Wow, you found my college thesis! It is an excellent paper on marketing research –

Senator Titewon: No actually, I’m referring to your Ake’s Pains columns in the University of Akron Buchtelite from 1977 to 1978.

Ake: Would someone please get my attorney in here, now!

Senator Titewon: I need to enter this stack of articles into the record.  Now Mr. Ake, did you write that the Women’s Tennis Team, quote, “Are a bunch of swingers”?

Ake: Yes, but that was a joke. It was a double entendre.

Senator Titewon: I see. Do you enjoy double entendres, Mr. Ake?

Ake: I guess I do.

Senator Titewon: Did you ever engage in a double entendre with members of the women’s tennis team?

Ake: No! That’s not how it works –

Senator Titewon:  Did you write that Christopher Columbus made his journey to the new world because he was searching for women with large breasts?
Ake: Yes, but it was satirical. It – 

Senator Titewon: Did you suggest co-eds wear skimpy clothing to heat up classrooms on winter days? Did you advocate the university hire go-go dancers to entertain in the campus eatery? Did you attempt to organize a sex orgy in the student center?

Ake: I, uh, er, I going to have to say yes.

(Gasps and rumbles from the audience)

Senator Weedly: Order! Order!

Senator Titewon: How do you explain such awful, disgusting, sexist attempts at the worst sophomoric humor I have ever seen?

Ake: Uh, I was a sophomore?

Senator Weedly: The floor now yields to Senator Boring Booger from New Yark.

Senator Booger: Hello Mr. Ake, have you ever exposed yourself to a female?
Ake: I can assure you that I have never done anything like that.

Senator Booger: Are you familiar with the term “mooning”, Mr. Ake?

Ake: I believe that’s when a group of guys consume beers and then they howl at the moon.

Senator Booger: No, it isn’t. Mooning is when someone intentionally pulls down his pants and exposes his buttocks to a person. Mr. Ake, do you know a Billy (Redacted), who was known as Billy the Mooner?

Ake: Yes, Billy lived a couple street over from me.

Senator Booger: We have testimony from a teacher, Miss Elsie Crabtree, who says on the afternoon of August 24, 1971 she was preparing for upcoming classes at the local grade school, when a group of boys playing football behind the school noticed her by the widow. She says you participated in a gang-moon of her organized by Billy the Mooner. She says it was your buns on the far right side of the line. Did you shoot the moon at Miss Crabtree, Mr. Ake?

(Ake consults with his attorney, whisper, whisper …)

Ake: I don’t remember the alleged incident. I would however submit to a buns line-up to see if Miss Crabtree could identify me.

Senator Booger: How much more do you weigh now than you did in 1971?
Ake: Uh, almost double.

Senator Booger: Yeah, I think your moon has entered a new phase, Mr. Ake. No further questions.

Ake: Hey, even if I did moon her, I haven’t shot the moon in over 40 years. I mean c’mon!

Senator Weedly: I yield the floor to Senator Dee Dee Frankenstien from Californication.

Senator Frankenstein: Have you ever sexually assaulted anyone Mr. Ake?

Ake: Now I can emphatically say, I have never, ever, sexually assaulted anyone.

Senator Frankenstein: Well Mr. Ake, are you familiar with the term “duking”.
Ake: Oh yes. Duking is when a group of guys get together and pretend to be Dukes. They dress like Dukes and say Duke-like things.

Senator Frankenstein: I would like to introduce into the record an article that you wrote in 1978 in which you describe duking. You say it involves following females into a haunted house amusement facility and then grabbing their buttocks in the dark.

Ake: Well yes, that’s a totally different type of duking.

Senator Frankenstein: I hold in my hand a swore affidavit from a Cindy Chadwick that claims on the night of October 18, 1975 you were behind her in line at the Scream in the Dark haunted house. Soon after she entered the facility, someone aggressively squeezed her left butt cheek, and then giggled profusely.

Ake: Giggle, giggle, giggle. Please give me a moment here. Giggle, giggle. This is ridiculous, why would I want to do that to Cindy Chadwick?

Senator Frankenstein: I would like to enter into the record a 1975 photo of Miss Chadwick bending over to pick up a penny. 

Senator Booger: Wow! That is one nice piece of as –

(Gasps and rumbles from the audience)

Senator Weedly: Order! Order!

Ake: I don’t believe it was me. I think it was my friend Chuck (Redacted). He was with me and Chuck was the greatest duker ever.

Senator Frankenstein: How can you be 100% certain that you did not grab Cindy’s buttocks that night?

(Ake consults with his attorney. Whisper, whisper ….)

Ake: Because it was dark, senator. It was very dark.

Senator Weedly: Order! Order! Next up is the Senator from Viagra, Willie Whitewash
Senator Whitewash: We have obtained a copy of your high school yearbook from a Becky McMillan. Do you remember Ms. McMillan?

Ake: Yes, I do.

Senator Whitewash: I bet you do! Because someone named Suzie, wrote in her yearbook: “It was so funny how Don A. always had the hots for you!”

Did you in fact have these so-called “hots” for Ms. McMillian?

Ake: Yes, I was attracted to Becky.

Senator Whitewash: Well how did these “hots” manifest themselves. Exactly where was all this heat located?

Ake: Really?

(Ake consults with attorney, whisper, whisper… )

Ake: I think Jerry Lee Lewis described it best, senator.

Senator Whitewash: Goodness, gracious Mr. Ake, did you ever take any action on these hots?

Ake: Yes I did. (rumble, rumble in the chamber) I asked Becky out several times, but I was repeatedly and forcefully rejected.

Senator Whitewash: What exactly were you after with these hots?

Ake: I wasn’t exactly sure Senator

Senator Whitewash: Not sure? What do you mean “not sure” you ask this girl out several times and you don't know what you want to get?

Ake: I was in high school. I had never actually seen one of those things before. It’s like being on your first safari. Your target may be elusive and mysterious, but you know it when you see it.

Senator Whitewash: So you had the hots for Ms. McMillian, but she was not open to your advances?

Ake: No senator, I had the hots for her, she had the “colds” for me.

Senator Whitewash: Well if you had the hots and Ms. McMillian was unwilling and unavailable, how did you deal with these hots?

Ake: Really?

Senator Whitewash: Well, we’re all waiting for your answer, Mr. Ake.

(Ake consults with attorney, whisper, whisper)

Ake: I took matters into my own hands, senator.

(Loud rumbles and gasps in the chamber)

Senator Weedly: Order! Order! Order!

Senator Weedly: That concludes this hearing. I’d like to thank you for appearing, Mr. Ake. But I can’t, because this was one of the worst performances by any candidate for any nomination I have ever witnessed. You were truly pathetic Mr. Ake and no one on the committee is going to vote to approve you. Do you have a closing statement?

Ake: Yes, I do.

(Huge gasp and massive rumbles)


Yeh, I didn’t get the job ……