I have been to the mountaintop!

Oh, the baggage. [sigh] The baggage, the baggage. The heavy baggage. It weighs upon me. Heavily. The baggage, it does.

Occasionally, however, there comes a way to shed some of that oh-so-heavy baggage … and because one of those ways recently presented itself to me, I feel I should share it with you. It’s called: The Delete Button.

Let me show you how it works:

Say your father comes over to pick up your 5-year-old son for a pre-arranged sleepover your son cajoled your father and his wife into hosting, and your father is all stressed out because he thought his wife was going to be fetching your son, but she apparently is running late, so here he is—with his pick-up truck.

Now, let’s also say that your father just so happens to be the single worst driver you and your wife have ever been in a vehicle with, which is why you usually prefer that his wife drive any automobile containing your offspring, and that if he must be the driver, he at least be at the wheel of his or his wife’s newer-fangled automobile, preferably while she is in the car with him.

Let us further say that your son has, for his entire life, ridden in a child-safety-seat placed in the backseat of whatever vehicle it is in which he is traveling. However, as it turns out, your father’s pick-up truck is a pick-up truck (and by “pick-up truck,” I don’t mean one of those PICK-UP TRUCK pick-up trucks with the double doors on each side and full-sized backseat or any of that nonsense).

And it occurs to you that you don’t even know if it’s legal, let alone safe, for your son to ride in his child-safety seat in the front of your father’s pick-up truck, so you quickly step into your office and attempt to find that information on the Internet. The best you can come up with in the 30-or-so seconds that you have is some Massachusetts-specific, but non-state-sanctioned, info indicating that, no, your son should not be traveling in the front seat of a pick-up truck.

Matters are now complicated, because, as fate would have it, you love your son and feel somewhat responsible for keeping him safe. Unfortunately, doing so in this situation isn’t going to go over well, because your father? He laughs in the face of safety. “Ha-ha!” says he.

For example, he has told you he doesn’t wear a seatbelt because he doesn’t (and I quote) “believe in seatbelts.” (You have asked him if he believes in “inertia” and “windshields,” but to no avail.)

So it would most likely be with some concern and trepidation, then, that you would subsequently tell your father that your son can’t be transported in his pick-up truck—and your concern and trepidation would be well justified, because your now-exasperated, easily angered father would reply, “I knew this was going to be a problem.” (And at this point, you find yourself thinking, “Well, if you knew this was going to be a problem, why in the bloody fucking hell did you put yourself—and us—in this position when you could have just gone home and gotten your car?” But you don’t say that.)

Then he says, “What? What’s gonna happen? I’m going to get pulled over?” To which you respond, “Actually, I’m more concerned about my son’s safety than the threat of you getting a traffic citation.”

And your wife, she backs your play (which, incidentally, makes you want to freeze time like that dude on “Heroes” so that you can immediately whisk her away to the bedroom for a few minutes) and reasserts that your son won’t be traveling in the pick-up truck, but adds that she’d be happy to go out the door right now and drive your son to your father’s house, which is what ultimately happens.

“Yes, but Jon, what about the whole ‘how to unburden yourself of baggage’ thing you mentioned 25,000 words ago?” you ask. “Isn’t that the premise under which you sucked me into reading this novel-like post?” Indeed it is. Hang in there.

On the day following the whole Zan’s-not-going-in-your-pick-up-truck debacle, you receive from your father an email. The subject line reads: “The Way It Is.”

You open it, and the first of what appears to be many sentences contained in a single paragraph reads something like “lowercase lowercase lowercase YOU lowercase lowercase YOU.”

Over the years, you have received several maddening emails from your father—most notably the winner of the Most Obnoxious Email Of All Time award, which dates back to 2001, and whose subject line reads “RESPECT,KNOWLEDGE,SELF RIGHTEOUS POMPOUSITY[sic]” (and you still know the email’s subject line because you have saved the email in a special folder). And in the past, when you have received such emails, you have always expended copious amounts of energy dissecting, and then responding in kind, to every point your father has put forth.

During every one of those reading-and-responding-to-Dad’s-email incidents, you have felt your blood pressure soar so high that the top of your skull almost blows off—and blow off it would if not for the heavy, heavy baggage firmly holding it in place.

And it occurs to you that never in the history of these vitriolic electronic exchanges has your father ever come to you afterward and said, “Son, you are right, and I am going to begin thinking and acting differently from this day forward. Thank you for setting me straight.” And this realization makes you think that perhaps going through the whole “I know you are, but what am I?” thing this time around probably isn’t worth the effort.

And now you are standing at a crossroads.

The path to your left leads to a bile-inducing hour or so spent reading, and then drafting a response to, “The Way It Is” (which likely will only lead to a second—and perhaps third—round of email exchanges between you and your father). It is a well-worn path. The path to your right, however, is as untouched as virgin snow, and suddenly looks far more attractive than your usual route.

You note that you have already taken a step towards this virginal path on your right, because you stepped away from the computer immediately after doing nothing more than scanning the first sentence of “The Way It Is”; in fact, so cursory was your look at that first sentence that, scant moments later, you don’t have even the vaguest recollection of what it actually said.

You explain to your wife about the email, and that you haven’t read it yet, and that you don’t think you want to. She asks if she can read it for you in case there’s anything important in it, to which you respond, “By all means, knock yourself out.” So she reads it, which is a far less burdensome act for her than it would be for you, because the almost-four-decades’-worth of baggage you wish to keep from getting crushed under isn’t sitting on top of her.

Upon completion, she says, “You’re right, you don’t want to read it. All you need to know is that he won’t expect to drive Zan anywhere unless he’s driving a car that has a backseat.”

You thank her and sit back down at the computer. Somewhere in the distance, you hear a voice, and realize it is coming from that thorny path on your left. “Come on, Jon,” it says. “Don’t be a pussy. Read it and then let’s lace up those gloves, my friend. You can beat him this time.”

And for perhaps the first time in your life, you tell that voice to go fuck itself, because you’d rather have a pleasant Saturday with your family.

So, baggage be damned, you hit the “Reply” button, type “Great! Thanks! Love, Jon” and click “Send.” You then return to your Inbox, select “The Way It Is” and press (drumroll, please) … The Delete Button! Hallemotherfuckinglujah!

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  1. Posted January 9, 2009 at 3:25 am | Permalink


  2. Posted January 9, 2009 at 3:37 am | Permalink

    But have you tried TALKING to your dad? I mean REALLY talking. Yeah Right! Whatever! I have a mother like your father. Commiserations pal. Take my advice, move to another country like I did. It’s not perfect, but it avoids an awful lot of trouble. Oh – and block him from your email. That way you don’t even KNOW if he has sent you one.

  3. Milissa
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    My husband and I have recently been dealing with some similar sorts of family baggage, and I wholeheartedly agree with your course of action (and I know you have been perched there at the computer, waiting for my blessing). Once I took a deep (deeeeeppp) breath and said, “Whatever,” I suddenly began feeling a lot better about it all, too. Nice, isn’t it?

    Our son’s favorite movie is Madagascar, and one of the lines that the penguins say is, “Smile and wave, boys, smile and wave.” This has become my mantra.

  4. Posted January 9, 2009 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Dan: Thank you, sir.

    Belle: I tried to sell my wife on the move-to-another-country thing after the 2004 presidential election; she wasn’t biting. Her family lives in another state, though, so that’s always an option …

    Milissa: Thanks for your blessing ( 😉 ), and for sharing that line from “Madagascar”; I LOVE it.

  5. Posted January 9, 2009 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    very zen … You are right but instead of trying to prove it you chose the better path of being happy. This is a thing I work on all the time and am getting better at it, but still suck horribly….

  6. Posted January 10, 2009 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Good to know I am not the only one who receives parental guidance via written missives. First they tuck “I Love Yous” into brown paper lunch bags, later they’re slipping a post it on top of a copy of the Kama Sutra and hiding it in your honeymoon luggage.

    I mean….it’s not just me, right?

  7. Posted January 11, 2009 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Bill: Believe me, I’m still working on it, too! But it’s a start …

    Lorrie: Ummmm … might be just you on that one. 😉

  8. Colie
    Posted June 19, 2009 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    First time reading your blog- just dove into the archives and found this gem! (your text ad on dooce WORKED!) lol. I have a mom who I get along with about as well as you and your dad it seems, and this was a great post. I need to look for the times when I can choose my response, and not just react in the old patterns. Huzzah!!

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