Monday, December 06, 2010

COLUMN: Observation

They say parents always know best. At the very least, I'm certain that mine do. I just don't often want to hear it.

My dad is the greatest dad in the world. If you think your dad is better than mine, you are, in fact, wrong. I've got the evidence to prove it. All summer long, we've been working hard at turning my raw, unfinished basement into a man-cave/media center of the highest degree of coolness.

And by "we," I mean my dad. Every morning, my father wakes up, packs a simple lunch of veggie pizza and an apple, and makes the 50-mile trek from Galesburg to Rock Island, where he spends about 8 hours every day slaving away in my basement before driving back home. If that's not enough, he's also been predominantly footing the bill for the entire project against my rather quiet protests. And let me tell you, the basement looks AWESOME. Like, professional showroom kind of awesome. Despite a chronic bad back, he's done roughly 99.995% of the work. Meanwhile, because he's been taking their car up here every day, my mom has spent the entire summer car-less and stuck at home.

For this, I am humbled, grateful, and almost feel guilty to have such thankless and AMAZING parents. That said, it's been a bit of an adjustment having my dad around day after day. There's one phrase, in particular, that's been a bit of a chore to hear on a regular basis:

"Just an observation from the peanut gallery, but..."

I always know what's coming next. I realize he's simply trying to give handy advice to a new homeowner, but invariably it sounds like: "Just an observation from the peanut gallery, but the way you're living your life is incorrect. Please allow me to point this out to you in a slightly condescending manner."

Such as the other day when my bathmat basically disintegrated in the wash and I resorted to using a towel on the bathroom floor: "Just an observation from the peanut gallery, but if you wouldn't leave towels laying around on the floor, the bathroom would dry out a lot faster."

Or the other day when I was running late for work, grabbed a banana, and accidentally left the peel on the kitchen counter. "Just an observation from the peanut gallery, but if you leave banana peels out, they'll attract bugs."

Or when the carpet got installed yesterday. "Just an observation from the peanut gallery, but now that you have a carpet worth maintaining, you might want to invest in a vacuum that's not from the 1960's."

I know he's trying to help, but sometimes the only thing he helps is the elevation of my blood pressure. The gallery must have a HUGE observation deck, and it's high time those peanuts got harvested. Still, I'd die before I complained, because I know he's just trying to help. Putting up with some nit-picking is the least I can do when the man's breaking his back for me.

Still, it's nice to occasionally prove that I'm not incapable of forward thinking of my own. I got the chance the other day.

Last week started on a bummer note when I learned that the father of one of my oldest friends had passed away after a long and painful cancer battle. Back in high school, their basement was "THE" hangout where we would laugh and goof around and play music at harmful levels for hours on end, and his folks put up with the noise and debauchery without a word of complaint. As the only member of our little clique still in the area, I wanted to drive down to Galesburg and pay respects.

My girlfriend wanted to go with, but she was on babysitter duty for the girls she watches 4 nights a week.

"Here's an idea," I said. "Why don't we all drive down to Galesburg and see if my mom could watch the girls for a few minutes while we go to the visitation?"

I called home and my mom was more than eager to help. "Temporary grandchildren!" she squealed.

"Now, they're kind of a handful, but all you've really got to do is turn the TV to the Disney Channel and tell them to be quiet and they shouldn't be a prob --"

"DO YOU THINK I DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M DOING?" my mom asked with a condescending tone. "I raised you, didn't I? I know a thing or two about kids."

"Ooookay," I said. I knew she was in for it.

On the drive to Galesburg, the 6-year-old started to nod off in the backseat. This is never a good thing, because she routinely wakes up from naps cranky and crying.

"Don't fall asleep!" my girlfriend said. "We're almost there."

"I'm sorry, but I had a really hard day in kindergarten." Kids are awesome.

We dropped the girls off with my folks and went to the visitation, which was sad yet great to see my old friend and his mom. As we pulled back into my parent's driveway, I wondered how effective those things or two my mom knew were.

We walked in to the girls running around the house in concentric circles tormenting my parents' poor dog and stopping only long enough to bang on their antique Steinway piano. My mom did a good job at holding her composure, but my dad shot me a one-second look that clearly said:

"Just an observation from the peanut gallery, but these kids are going to give me a stroke any second now and it's a good thing you're about to drive them 50 miles away."

As for mom? "They told me I'm a really nice lady." Have they been running around like this the whole time? "Pretty much, yep." Why didn't you tell them to sit down and be quiet and watch TV like I told you? "Because I'm a really nice lady and didn't wanna blow it. Have fun being the meanie."

Shoot. Parents DO always know best.

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