See Ya Vader

Not too many people believe that my dad’s mother was the inspiration for the Darth Vader character in Star Wars.  But my historical research proves this to be true.  There was a period of her life when she was seduced by the dark side.  It began when she gave birth to my dad, and reached its zenith during his early teens.  At times, the comparison was startling.  Her cape-like dark robe, the hair style and night cream which resembled the famous Vader headgear, and even her voice (“I am your mother!) resonated with a James Earl Jones heart-stopping sonic boom.

She was highly trained in the use of The Force.  She could point her finger at my dad’s throat and choke off any verbal protestations.  When Dad would say he’d have his chores done by noon, she would somberly intone, “Pray that you do.”  And her skills and dexterity wielding a mop or broom as she virtually floated from room to room was an obvious harbinger to Vader’s talents with a light saber.  When she was too busy in galactic matters to mete out routine discipline, she would call on a storm trooper (my dad’s father) to do her bidding.

But like Vader, she eventually abandoned the dark side (when, coincidentally, my dad’s rebel alliance matured).  She began using The Force against evil, spent years traveling the galaxy on diplomatic and recreational missions, and is now a nonagenarian residing at Chewbacca’s Home for Wrinkled Wookiees.  I talk with her by phone now and then.  Her once sharp mind has been blunted by a lifetime of interacting with my dad, so she rarely remembers my name.  She has referred to me as Flagstaff, Fleabag, Flophouse, Fast Track, Flab Sack and Pancake.  But I don’t mind.  I know I am talking with a legend, and because I am now living with her son, I can relate to her battle scars and cognitive decline.

Now I’m channel surfing between an old Star Wars movie and a college baseball game between North Carolina and Duke.  And because my dad’s mother has rubbed off on me, I’ll probably later only remember watching something called The Umpire Strikes Back.  Use The Force, Duke!!

A Normal Walk Is All I Ask

My dad’s an attorney.  The advantage?  I get free legal advice, but the disadvantages are endless.  Perhaps the most commonly experienced detriments are the infuriating delays during our walks.  Take this afternoon, for instance.   I caught the eye of a little girl who was riding her bike.  She pulled up to us and said, “Oh, what a cool dog.  Can I pet him?”  I sighed and rolled my eyes, because I knew full well what was coming.  As I recall, here was the exchange:

Dad:  Sure you can pet him. [he pulls a document and a pen from his pocket]  But first I’d like you to review and sign this form.

Girl:  Why?

Dad:  Because it protects me from all liability in the unlikely event that you incur a bite, scratch, allergic reaction, disease, psychological disorder, acid reflux or flatulence due to your voluntary interaction with Flapjack.

The girl looked at Dad as if he had just arrived from a galaxy far, far away..then she silently rode away at warp speed (apologies for mixing Star Wars and Star Trek references).  I was left standing there with Mr. Congeniality and his release and waiver, which basically releases me from ever making new friends and waives my right to take a normal walk with a normal human being.

“Aha”, you may say..”What about your mom?  She’s got to be a normal human being.”

Not so fast.  Mom is a certified master gardener.  Walking with her is like being on a guided tour of a botanical garden.  We move ever so slowly, gazing at the neighborhood flora as if each walk was the first ever in some magical forest.  She stops frequently and points out the unique quality of each tree, shrub, flower and weed as if I give a rat’s ass, and examines possible diseases or infestations of every tree we pass (so I use the time to urinate on each one, which must do wonders for their health).  “Look at the beautiful African daisies, Flap!!”  Yeah, yeah, let’s move it, Garden Guru, before we’re arrested for impersonating cheap yard gnomes.  As we passed one yard, she said with concern, “This grass could use aeration and fertilization.”  So I obliged by scratching furiously at it, then gracing the lawn with a little soil enhancement.  She bagged my mess and said, “Sometimes it seems like you don’t appreciate all the beauty around us.”  Ya think?

The only thing worse than walking with Dad or Mom is walking with Dad AND Mom.  We’re talking 2 hours for 2 blocks.  I can crawl backwards faster (in fact I did once, and they were oblivious, naturally).  Will the suffering never end?  I guess the bright side is that, by living with them I know stuff that most other dogs don’t, like the difference between irrigation and litigation (in one, sometimes plants get soaked and in the other, sometimes people get..well, you have the idea).  Gotta go now..time for a (cough) walk.

Channeling My Inner Cow

Two things you should know about my dad:  (1) He believes he was a cowboy in a former life, and (2) he has entirely too much time on his hands.  This explains his most recent bizarre behavior.  First he places custom fake steer horns over my head.  Then we line up 20 feet apart in the backyard.  On his signal, I start running, and he chases me.  I allow him to catch up with me (otherwise, he’d still be running), he tackles me, takes a small rope and quickly binds three of my legs together.  He then triumphantly throws his hands in the air and quickly checks his stopwatch to see if he beat his best time.  Then he unties me and I walk out of the ‘arena’, head hung low, acting dejected.  Sometimes I lose myself in character and sadly  ‘moo’ in defeat.

In my tenure at this home I have suffered all manner of humiliation.  Typically, it’s embarrassment by association; if you hung with my dad for at least two minutes, you’d understand.  But this takes the prize.  Sometimes the neighbors watch in amazement, sneaking peeks over the fence so that Dad won’t spot them and recruit them as rodeo clowns.  Now, inspired by a circus act he saw recently, he’s considering getting a monkey, outfitting it in fancy western gear, and having it ride me as I race around decorated barrels.  Just shoot me.

Well, it could be worse.  At least he’s not challenging me to a gunfight in the street at high noon, engaging me in a bar fight, or dressing me up as a saloon girl (I’d look hot).  There’s so much to be thankful for.  And yet, I do worry that his obsession will rub off on me.  Luckily, unlike some, I know the line between fantasy and reality…now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go rustle up some grub.  Then I’ll be hankerin’ to ride into town to see who needs killin’.  Happy trails, dude.

Guide Dog For The Impaired

I never fashioned myself a service dog.  Oh, I enjoy helping people as much as the next dog, but I clearly don’t have the temperament to devote every waking moment to assisting someone else.  I mean, I’m a nice guy but I’m not Mother Flaperesa.  Two days of unlimited service and I’d need a padded dog house.  And yet, Dad obviously thought I could play the part.

We were all traveling in northern CA and stopped for the night at a nice place in Petaluma.  Dad had checked the hotel’s website and found that they take dogs (mighty big of them).  But when we arrived, Mom was checking their site again on her smart phone, and discovered that the hotel only takes very small dogs.  Now, I’m no Marmaduke but I’m no Toto either.  Dad was looking at me with a curious expression.  I thought he was considering how he could shrink me, but he was pondering something even more harebrained.

He explained to Mom and me that he was going to impersonate a sightless person and that I would be his guide dog.  Mom calmly responded that she would take no part in this folly (or words to that effect), and I wanted to quickly side with Team Sanity, but had no choice.

And so it was that Mom sat in the lobby and pretended not to know us.  Dad (wearing shades) checked in with me on a figurative and literal short leash.  The clerk  asked Dad how he could possess a driver’s license if he couldn’t see.  Dad mumbled something about a very recent health condition.  After check-in, I thought I’d have some fun.  So, when Dad inadvertently loosened my lead, I used my considerable strength to take him on a running, zig-zag tour of the lobby.  As the clerk looked on, Dad was trying to give the appearance that he was in total control of his ‘guide dog’  while attempting to keep his arm in its socket.  After a few minutes, I decided to give it a rest.

The lobby looked like a hurricane had hit it.  Dad, lying on the floor, had the appearance of a man who had been, well, dragged through a hotel lobby on his belly.  I licked his face, which probably added insult to injury.  Then he whispered in my ear, “Just wait ’til you need me to play along with one of your ideas!”  I looked over at Mom.  She had her face buried in a magazine, but her entire body was convulsing (she was either laughing or required immediate medical attention).  So, as Dad ‘felt’ his way to the front desk to complain that the lobby did not conform to specifications for disabled persons (his audacity compensates for his absurdity), I went to check on Mom’s physical condition.  Because I’m here to serve, to a limited extent, subject to my disposition and my definition of  ‘serve’.