My Passion for Camping
Talks with Dad
My father, Donald Miller, died in January 2000. Here is an essay I wrote not long afterwards. I’ve only shared this with a handful of people until now.
Life and Death of a Salesman
My father and I, as men, have been conditioned to hide our feelings behind small talk about sports or the weather. Whenever I needed to discuss problems and feelings that I was having, I would tend to go to my mother. I loved and respected my father and my mother equally, but talking about things with Dad had always been uncomfortable. I am sure there is probably a complicated, scientific and lengthy explanation for this. There is, however, going to be a bit of regret that will be with me for the rest of my life because of things that were left unsaid between my father and me.
You see, my father, Don, was a salesman. From the time he was 11 until he was 50 he drove a delivery truck. He sold everything from cigars to soda pop. Dad worked for one company for 32 years. He was top salesman so many times that the people that he worked for stopped telling him when there were contests so that others would have a chance to win. My mother always said that my Dad could sell ice to Eskimos.
As a teenager he developed a love for poetry and speech. Dad was called upon many times to speak in front of large groups and committees. He was actively involved in sales, religion, politics and community organizations. He liked to memorize poetry like “The Cremation of Sam McGee” and “The March of the Dead” by Robert Service and he would recite them whenever it would embarrass my mother.
Even with all of these communication skills, Dad was a very quiet man at home. He rarely raised his voice. Most of the time I knew I was in trouble by a glance or a soft but firm suggestion to “Knock it off.” Growing up I don’t remember having a real conversation with the man. Most conversations usually had something to do with me making a better door than a window or wanting me to stop heating up the entire neighborhood.
On family vacations, Dad would drive for long periods of time without saying a word. He could literally stare at the road for hours without showing any signs of life other than the occasional thumb twiddle on top of the steering wheel or rolling down the window a half inch or so just to keep from falling asleep. Every time we would be able to talk him into any sightseeing, he would usually just wait in the car rather than face the world’s biggest ball of twine or the wool museum. I remember on one trip he waited in the car for 5 hours in the middle of summer in Nebraska while the rest of the family spent the day in an old west fair. To my knowledge, he didn’t do anything with that time but sleep and stare out the window.
For as long as I can remember, my mother would compare trying to have a conversation with my Dad equivalent to dental extraction. Most of the time my Dad would say nothing at all. If he was home, he was either working on a project or watching television. Neither one of these activities required any real conversation. My Dad and I took a couple of camping trips where it was just him and me. Even then we did not talk about anything of substance. We mostly stood in a stream and occasionally yelled across the body of water to ask, “Did ya get one?”
When it came to communicating my feelings to my Dad, I am a lot like most guys. I didn’t realize how poorly the communication was between Dad and me, until the year Dad became very sick with complications from diabetes and congenital heart disease. I knew that he was dying and I wanted to spend as much time with him as I could, but that isn’t what happened. Every time that I went to visit my father the same old discomfort was there and nothing of value was ever said.
Every time I would ask him how he was doing he would say that he was feeling better, but I knew he was lying to me. He kept passing out because his heart was beating too fast. His legs barely worked. If he was standing vertical he could manage to shuffle with a cane enough to move forward, but put any obstacles or stairs in his way and he could not overcome them without help. One time I walked into his house and found him lying on the floor. He reached down to turn on the computer and fell out of his chair and could not manage to get himself up. I helped him up, and he insisted that he was okay.
Dad was admitted to the hospital in December, 1999. He had been passing out so often that his doctor wanted to monitor him closer. I went to visit him alone and tried to have a conversation, but we ended up watching football for an hour, and I left.
Just before Christmas he was able to come home. My family went over there to see him on Christmas afternoon. He looked terrible. He had skin ulcers from the diabetes and scars from where he had fallen. His stomach was bloated because he was losing kidney function. He was excited about a new remote control watch he got for Christmas. We spent the entire time programming the watch for the TV and VCR.
On January 5, 2000 I went to register for school. I went over to my parents to help my mother put some things away and pay her back some money I had borrowed for some auto repairs. I sat in the front of the house and chatted with her for a while, but I didn’t go in to see my Dad. When I got home I had a message on my answering machine from my Dad asking me to call him. I called him right back and he asked me where I wanted to go for our birthday dinner Saturday. Dad’s birthday is on January 8th and mine is on the 9th. Every year we would celebrate our birthdays together and we would usually go out to dinner. He asked me where I wanted to go and I told him that I hadn’t even thought about it yet. He asked if we could go to Chang’s Garden because he liked the buffet, but my mom would never take him there. I told him that would be great. I said goodbye. That was the last conversation I had with him.
I got a call the next morning at work from my sister, saying that they had rushed Dad to the hospital because his heart had stopped beating, and they were having trouble getting it started again. I rushed to Bannock Memorial Hospital where I was told that nothing could be done to save him.
Now there is nothing that can be said. I can’t go to him for advice about problems at work or how he managed to go to the same job every day for 32 years without going insane. I never got to ask him how he handled losing his job after his company was bought out. I won’t be able to ask him how he tolerated my mother’s quirkiness with so much compassion her for nearly half a century.
Now I am a father of four children - two of them are boys; I would like to be able to communicate about anything with them. I want them to know that I love them. I want them to come to me with their problems. I want to know them, and I want them to know me.
I probably learned more about my Dad in the three days following his death than I have in my whole life. I found we were very similar even though we didn’t really talk to each other. He was emotional, quiet, funny and a hard worker who loved his family more than anything else. Although he never said much, he was always there if I needed him. Although we didn’t talk while he was alive, I miss talking to him now that he is gone.
Lady in Waiting … Room
I’m not in the market for a car. However …
From Downton Abbey to the Bedroom
Recently a friend of mine, Mason,* posted the following on Facebook, “Hypothetically speaking, if a man were to say all he really wants for Fathers’ Day is season 2 of Downton Abbey, would you think less or more of him?”
Mason received the obligatory responses from his manly friends. “This is an impossible scenario since no actual man would do such a thing,” said one manly friend; “You will need to turn in your man card.” said another.
After a few of these comments, Mason’s wife posted, ”You naysaying men out there, try this for me: go ask your wife if she’d like to watch an episode of Downton Abbey with you. When she’s so turned on that she leads you by the hand to the bedroom, then tell me how manly you feel!”
Being a scientist at heart, I decided to try her experiment. I convinced my wife to sit and watch the first episode of the first season of Downton Abbey with me. We got comfortable on the couch, turned it on, and started to watch.
It was about 3 hours later when my wife woke up and then woke me up with, “Hey, it’s after midnight, we should probably go to bed.” I was feeling pretty groggy and could barely keep my eyes open, so my wife took me by the hand and led me to the bedroom. It turned out to be one of the best nights of sleep I’d had in weeks.
To be honest — it did make me feel manly. So, Mason, please thank your wife for me.
* This is not his real name. I’m protecting his anonymity for obvious reasons.
The young man in this photo is my uncle Bruce. I never got to know him because he fought and died in the Korean war - not long after this picture was taken.
Please use this Memorial Day as an opportunity to thank someone who has fought to preserve our freedom. Thank you, uncle Bruce - you are missed, and you are loved.
Boise’s Best: Cascade Cleaning Services, LLC
“We need new carpet!” my wife, Pearl, said in her most declarative voice.
It wasn’t the first time she had said it. She has said it several times since we moved into this house. As a frugality enthusiast I am against the idea of replacing carpet that is still in good shape just because it is a little dirty.
In an effort to stay off buying new carpet a while longer I suggested that we should just clean the carpet. We’ve attempted to clean the carpets, ourselves, in the past. We borrowed a friend’s carpet cleaner and worked for hours trying to get up the filth from the high traffic areas. This turned out to be horrible experience. The carpet cleaner kept getting clogged, it left black streaks on some of the carpet, and it was a lot of work for little reward.
Then I said maybe we should have the carpets professionally cleaned. Pearl was not convinced. The day before we moved into our current house, we decided to have a “professional” come clean the carpet. It was one of those “3 rooms for $49.95” coupon deals. The guy who came did a shoddy job, the final cost was over twice the estimate, and the carpet was still damp the next morning.
The idea of having another “professional” come into our house was really unappealing. I promised Pearl I would do my homework and try to find someone highly recommended. She finally relented and agreed to let me try a professional carpet cleaner one more time.
I went online and did a Google search for “Carpet Cleaning Boise.” There were many results with 4+ star ratings. I started calling the carpet cleaning companies in the order they were presented by Google. There were 3 that were listed above Cascade Cleaning Services in the search results. I left messages with each of them.
When I called Cascade the owner, Matt, answered the phone. I told him what I needed, and we set up a time for him to come measure the areas Pearl wanted cleaned and give me an estimate. He came on time, and in less than 20 minutes was able to give me a free estimate. The estimate was broken down by room so I knew how much each area would cost to clean.
A couple weeks later I still hadn’t heard from any of the other carpet cleaners I’d called, so I decided to call Cascade and schedule the cleaning. Matt answered the phone again. He had room in his schedule to come out the next day.
When they showed up they were very respectful and professional. Matt explained what he was going to do before he did it, and he answered all my questions before he got started.
I wish I had the presence of mind to record what happened next. I was sitting in my kitchen, reading a book, when one of the professionals came by with the carpet cleaner. The area he was cleaning is probably the area of the house that gets the most foot traffic. I watched, flabbergasted, as my grey carpet was transformed to the original light brown color. They were even able to get the black streaks of grease out of the carpet coming from the garage.
Matt gave me a 100 square foot discount for being a first time customer, so the actual price was less than the estimate. The carpet was dry within a couple hours after they left. I was amazed how clean the carpet looked. More importantly, Pearl was amazed how clean the carpet looked.
You might be asking yourself, “What about the other carpet cleaning services you called?” Matt cleaned my carpets on February 24th — I still haven’t heard from anyone else.
 Okay the carpet was really dirty - I just didn’t realize that yet.
 I haven’t heard anything about new carpet since (but please don’t bring it up)
How to Baffle Your Mom
If you really want to leave your mother speechless and utterly confused, try this little trick.*
There will come a time when your mom will ask you to do something (really, it’s been known to happen). If you’re like most people that have mothers, your initial reaction is to resist doing anything your mother asks you to do. If this describes you, keep reading. If you’re a person that does everything your mom asks, without question, every time, then you’re a model child and should be commended. However, you can stop reading now; this trick will not work for you.
Here’s what you do. The next time she asks you to do something, no matter what it is, without hesitation say, “Sure. I’ll do that.” Then watch her reaction. It will be priceless. There is a good chance she will look like she has something to say but can’t. She is expecting to have to say something like, “You live here too. Everybody needs to do their part” or “We don’t need to live like animals.” Her mouth may open, and she may start to say something (she may even make some unintelligible sounds), but no words form. This is so much fun to watch.
Here is another possible, even funnier, reaction. In her mind she has rehearsed the reasons why she needs you, and only you, to do the assigned task. She may be oblivious to your affirmative answer and start a one-sided debate anyway. “I work really hard all day, and I just need a little help from you…” Let her go for a couple seconds then calmly and respectfully interrupt her and say, “Mom, I said I would do it.” If this information registers, you will probably witness the first reaction that I described. If not, she may continue, “There are only so many hours in a day. All I’m asking for is a little consideration…”
Whatever her reaction, wait a few seconds, and go do the task she asked you to do. Depending on your relationship she may be suspicious and think you have ulterior motives. Of course there is always the chance, no matter how remote, that there may be a fresh batch of homemade, chocolate-chip cookies waiting for you when you’ve finished. Whatever happens, she’ll remember it — and so will you.
* This works on wives too. Just insert the word “wife” wherever you see the word “mother” — unless it’s weird.
farcimini asked: Hi, I saw your nerd holidays post, and I APPROVE....but May the Fourth is also the anniversary of Reichenbach, from the original stories. And Sherlock Holmes needs to feature... ("At this fearful place Sherlock Holmes vanquished professor Moriarty, on May 4th 1891." from the plaque put up by the Baker Street Irregulars.) May the Fourth be with you! :)
Nice! Thank You! You clearly have the superior knowledge of nerd holidays ;) May the fourth be with You!
May The Fourth Be With You - Nerd Holidays
One of the benefits of being a geek/nerd is that I have the opportunity to celebrate a lot of extra holidays, certain days of the year where we can just geek out and have fun. The significance of each of these celebratory days generally centers around one of these categories.
- Popular literature or films with a unusually large fan base (generally based on science fiction or fantasy) - (pop)
- The numbers corresponding to the date having a double meaning (#x2)
- An excuse to act (dress) like someone (something) else (cos)
Some holidays can fall into more than one category. For example 5/4 is Star Wars Day. Not because this date has anything to do with Star Wars, but because it’s “May the fourth,” as in “May the fourth be with you.” This geeky holiday combines a very popular movie (pop) with a date that has a double meaning (#x2). Nice!
Here is a list of a few nerd holidays that may capture your interest. I will start with May because May is the beginning of the nerd fiscal year.
5/4 - Star Wars Day (pop/#x2) ”May the fourth be with you”
5/5 - Cinco de Mayo (cos) Who doesn’t love to wear a sombrero, while eating tacos y burritos, and use everything they learned in their 3 semesters of high school Spanish?
5/25 - Geek Pride Day (pop/cos) A day to celebrate all of geekdom! This day commemorates the release of the first Star Wars film (Episode IV - A New Hope) which opened on May 25, 1977. Plus it is also …
5/25 - Towel Day (pop/cos) This is the day that fans of the popular 4-book, trilogy The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy carry a towel as a tribute to pay tribute to the trilogy’s late author, Douglas Adams. This commemoration was first held in 2001, two weeks after Adams’s death.
7/22 - Pi Approximation Day (#x2) the fraction 22/7 is a common approximation of π. Since it’s 7/22 and not 22/7 maybe this day should be called, “The Inverse of the Approximation of Pi Day.” Then again, maybe not - that title’s really long.
8/13 - Scott Pilgrim Day (pop) Technically this is a Canadian nerd holiday (if there is such a thing as a Canadian nerd).This date commemorates the release of the first of the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World graphic novels. This series of books was made into the awesome 2010 cult-classic movie with the same title.
8/29 - Judgment Day (pop): In the movie, The Terminator, Sarah Connor finds out that Skynet will become self-aware and initiate a nuclear war. In Terminator 2 the date of this event is disclosed - August 29, 1997 - Judgment Day.
9/14 - Programmer Day (#x2) September 14th is the 256th Day of the Year (September 13th in a leap year). A byte can have 256 (28) possible values. This number is important to programmers. “Not because they are required for programs to work, but because the payroll system and Krispy Kreme doughnut cash registers require them.” - programmerday.info
9/19 - International Talk Like a Pirate Day (cos) - The day is just like it sounds you spend the day attempting to talk like a pirate. You will frequently hear words like, “matey” and “avast”, but from my experience, by far, the most often used word on this day is, “Arrrrrrrrr!” More details here: talklikeapirate.com
9/22 - Hobbit Day (pop) September 22 is the birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, two hobbits from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
9/28 - Ask a Stupid Question Day (cos) Have you noticed that the nerdy types hate to be wrong? Because of this they tend to shy away from asking stupid questions. This day allows them to break away from this mindset and ask any question that pops into their enormous brains.
10/21/2015 - Marty McFly Day (pop) This is the day that Marty McFly travels to in Back to the Future II. I suppose there is still time to get a hover conversion done to my Prius, a Black & Decker Hydrator for my kitchen, a Scene Screen for my living room, and a Hover Board for my son before this date arrives.
10/23 - Mole Day (#x2) Celebrated by chemistry geeks on October 23, between 6:02AM and 6:02PM. This makes the date 6:02 10/23. The time and date form Avogadro’s number - the number of particles in one mole (approximately 6.02x1023).
10/31 - Halloween (cos) Okay, this is one of the most popular holidays in the U.S. and hardly qualifies as a nerd-only holiday, but no nerd is going to miss the opportunity to show off his $2,500 stormtrooper costume to his co-workers.
11/1 - Kevin Kennedy Day (pop) Also known as Software Engineer Appreciation Day. This is the day when Software Engineers everywhere can stand a little taller thanks to software engineering giants like Kevin Kennedy.
12/5 - Day of the Ninja (pop/cos) This is the day people can dress like ninjas and participate in ninja-related activities. December 5 was chosen because this was the release date of the Tom Cruise’s film, The Last Samurai (2003).
3/14 - Pi Day (#x2) Because 3.14 is a highly abbreviated approximation of π (the Greek symbol, Pi). Plus it’s a great excuse to go out for a slice of cheesecake.
4/23 - Talk Like Shakespeare Day (pop/cos) Geeks come in all flavors - even ones who are into iambic pentameter. This day commemorates William Shakespeare’s birthday (April 23, 1616). Find more details at: talklikeshakespeare.org
This certainly isn’t a comprehensive list. In fact I don’t see any reference here to Star Trek, Dungeons & Dragons, Doctor Who, Monty Python, nor World of Warcraft anywhere on this list. There are a lot of dates left on the calendar. Come on, fellow geeks - there is so much to celebrate!
Laundry Rebel: A Glimpse into My Psyche
One afternoon in culinary school I was having a conversation with Jolene, one of the school’s employees. We were cleaning up after lunch and chatting about random topics. After a while the subject of laundry came up. She said, “My daughter did laundry the other day and washed socks and towels — together!”
She said this in a way that made me think I should be shocked. I was young and not thoroughly schooled in the ways of laundry, so I asked her, “What’s wrong with washing socks and towels together?”
She stared at me for a couple seconds like I was an idiot, and then said, “Everyone knows you shouldn’t wash socks with towels.”
I was trying to come up with a reasonable explanation for why these two items could not coexist in the same load of laundry. Were the fabrics incompatible when mixed with water and detergent? Would it cause an adverse chemical reaction? I couldn’t come up with a logical explanation, so I asked, “But why?”
I watched her struggle with this question for a second when she gave me a dismissive, “It’s just gross,” grabbed some dirty pans, and walked out of the kitchen.
“It’s just gross?” That’s the reason? Why was it gross? Was I in some sort of danger of getting athlete’s foot on my face? It all seemed so ridiculous.
This was over 25 years ago, but her answer for the sock/towel combination being “just gross” was so lame that it has stuck with me since that day. Now when I am washing a load of towels I will dig through the dirty laundry to find as many socks as possible. That’s right; I am still spiting a woman whom I haven’t seen nor talked to in 25+ years.
Welcome to my mind — enjoy the view.