There’s a store in Michigan — more of a self-contained universe — called Meijer. The “j” is silent, but every other letter should be pronounced. Think of it as a mistyped y, like “Meiyer”.
Meijer has everything: watermelons, toasters, jackets, pies, thermometers, antifreeze, and goldfish. If you’re looking to feed a cold, bathe your dog, or knit a gluten free sweater, it’s the stop of one.
Among all the whatnot, Meijer has a horse that plugs into the wall and eats pennies in exchange for a short ride. A single Sandy lives in every store, offering an expedition to nowhere for kids of all ages. Like lifting weights, it’s a bunch of work that gets nothing done, yet it’s good for you.
Tonight, between the second and third penny, Cam asked me where Sandy lives. “Right here in the store,” I said, looking him in the eye, both to convey sincerity and to see if he believed me.
I had a routine blood draw this morning to make sure my blood is routine. According to one study, 60% of men don’t go to the doctor for the same reason we never stop to ask for directions — we’ve made up our minds and we don’t want to be bothered by facts. It’s one thing to take the long way to Peoria, but quite another to reduce your blood pressure by sheer tyranny of will.
My kids need a dad, so I go to the doctor.
They called my name at 8:30 this morning and had me sit down in a very large chair with padded arms that folded across my lap, sort of like those desks we sat in for high school except a much softer surface that would’ve been handy for naps during Bio II.
Having no fear of needles or awkward small talk, I asked my Phlebotomist (name tag: Matthew) “Wouldn’t it be funny if a phlebotomist was afraid of needles?”, and then he said, “Hi, my name is Matt, and I’m afraid of needles.”
Matt said “Yeah, I was the kid who hid under the chair and screamed when I had to get a shot”
Genuinely curious, I asked “So, why this um… line of work?”
“It puts bread on the table and I’m good at it.”
No arguments here — he got a couple of tubes of blood out of me and applied the bandaid with expert precision. If I had bread to give him in that moment, I would’ve. But I learned the hard way, after some rejected reimbursement forms I sent to Blue Cross, that you can’t tip your medical professional, even if they’re in network. We then talked about how the tube has a built in vacuum — like the wall vac in my aunt’s house — that somehow coaxes the blood out of our vein. I was fascinated and asked for more detail on how it worked.
I stopped talking for a minute (Matt was fine with that) and pondered this unexpected turn: he wields needles all day, yet he’s afraid of them. That would be like me getting a job as a snake handler. Or like a waiter who is nauseated by food. I mentioned this comparison to Matt and he said “that’s probably enough” and sent me on my way. Not really. We had a good laugh. And I got a wicked cool armband out of the deal.
A few takeaways:
It’s good to work and put bread on the table, no matter what it takes.
This is a fascinating way to overcome a fear — it’s almost a Trojan Horse approach.
Phlebotomy means “when someone uses a needle to take blood from a vein”, which is almost as long as the word “Phlebotomy”.
Needles are just one reason dudes don’t like going to the doctor. I recommend working with Matt, because he knows what you’re dealing with, man.
Do you remember where you were 17 years ago? I do — I was a brand-new first time Dad, basking in the blessing of answered prayer in Ohio. We prayed for her and here she was, in the wee hours of a hazy Toledo morning. The sun was persistent that day. Lexi’s Apgar score was in the books and she was off to the races. A little thing, as most babies are in my hands, she had a persona I’ll never forget: even in her sweet post-birth nap after her grueling and sudden journey into the world, she gave off the vibe of “listen, here I am, and we’re just getting started, folks.”
If you know Lexi, you are familiar with her particular modus operandi. She rolls on her own pace, by her own desire, and with a confidence that is as solid as it is precious. In some ways, she’s a baby, but in our shared context, she’s a teenager who knows exactly what she wants, when it’ll happen, and who it will involve. You will sing Wheels on the Bus. You will clap your hands. NOW. You will give me a bite of that sandwich. I’ll be in the living room, beating out another Lexi Piano Sonata, arranged for two mashing hands.
I’m going to let my son Zac pop in for a second and give you his reflections, as he’s been with me both during this blog post and, well, for all of his life. Take it away, Zac!
FROM THE MIND OF ZAC DAVIDSON… I’m not great at writing things, so if this seems a little rough, I apologize. Although Lexi is technically older than me, I like to think of her as my little sister, considering the fact that she has severe Autism and Down syndrome, and is like 4 feet tall. To be honest, I shouldn’t really have favorites, but Lexi is probably my favorite in my direct family. (Besides Reggie, our cat, but that’s a whole different can o’worms)
Almost every night that Meggan, (Lexi’s respite care worker) is here with Lexi, I’ll usually help her get Lexi in bed. Although Dad is very good with Lexi, I like to think that Meggan is even better. I’ll just sit there and see Meggan work her magic with Lexi like it’s easy.
Lexi understands all of us mere mortals way better than she lets on. She’s like a cat in that way. She understands us, she just doesn’t care enough to show us. My little sister understands us better than we do her. She’s a flippin’ genius. She has learned quite a bit of sign language to talk to us without her words. She will sometimes put all of her finger tips together, which signals “More”. She will sometimes do that disco thing where you spin your arms around each other which means “Wheels on the bus”.
The Wheels on the bus is Lexi’s favorite song. She quite likes nursery rhymes. We sometimes put baby show on the TV. She watches those things for HOURS. It can get annoying, but it makes her happy.
My point is, it can be rough with Lexi, but we love her a bunch! Happy Birthday ‘lil sis!
Now back to my Dad…
Thanks, Zac. It’s been so much fun watching Mac and Zac grow up with Lexi. She has taught her brothers all kinds of handy life skills like patience, respecting people who are different than them, and not to ever sass their big/little sister. Lexi has no tolerance for brother nonsense, and they know it.
Per the annual custom, Lexi woke up with a bed full of balloons. We’ve done this for years, but I’ve never seen her this happy about it. I’m so proud of my little girl. She’s taught me about God’s love that no book or sermon ever could.
Happy birthday, Bear! I love you and I’m so proud of you. -Dad
It wasn’t that long ago that Zac came running and said “Levi and I went fishing today, and I really liked it so TAKE ME FISHING, DAD.”
As it turns out, I’m not a fisherman. I’m more of a wisher-man, as in “I wish I liked fishing as much as real, actual fisherman do.” But, as you know, when your kid wants to do something, you zealously create space for it to happen, even at the risk of their losing interest and you losing money, which is why we have garage sales with elements of our own forgotten hobby history: golf clubs, hockey equipment, bagpipes, and so many bowling balls. But that’s part of the fun (and expense): you never know what will stick. In fact, the more passionate they are, the more parental energy (and money) that goes into it.
Let’s say your kid wanted her own pet turtle. She cried when she saw the baby turtles at the zoo and wondered if you could take one home from the zoo that very day. You say “no” because you’ve already been kicked out of a different zoo for reasons you’re still not ready to talk about.
Meanwhile, your daughter constantly draws pictures and doodles of turtles and endlessly tells you what she’d name a pet turtle, if she had a pet turtle (sweet eyes at you). “Shelly” is her first idea, but after thinking about it she realizes that name is far too predictable, so she changes it to “Fido”, because who expects a dog name for a turtle? Then she switches to “Donatello” because you, her parent, grew up in the 90’s and that’s one of only four possible names for a pet turtle. She asked you for a turtle name idea, and you randomly said “oh, I dunno… Raphael? Leonardo? Donatello? The fourth one?” … you were trying to remember the fourth one’s name and couldn’t because everything that happened before the pandemic now seems like a fevered dream from a previous life, and, by the way, it’s Michalangelo.
Your daughter April wants her own turtle — her own Donatello. You drive her to the pet store NOW and get a turtle, an aquarium, a lid, and a “My First Turtle” box kid that includes food, bedding, and a pamphlet in 9 languages with questionable pictures and useless information like Your New Turtle needs a lot of love and care!!! …as if you didn’t already know that. It’s so obvious! Why would they need to put that in the pamphlet? Would a person be SHOCKED to hear that a pet they just bought has to be cared for and loved? You marvel at the mysteries of the obvious but shut up when you hear yourself saying to your daughter “Your new turtle needs a lot of love and care, sweetie!!!”
Zac did not want a turtle. He wanted to be a fisherman. In fact, Zac had already become a fisherman. What he was really doing was notifying me about the new reality, namely that I am now the father of a fisherman. Of an angler. His update came with a notice: we are going to go and buy several fishing poles. Today.
The passion kicked in and, lo and behold, here we are. I bought two “fishing sticks” that come with “invisible string” and “neon worms” that fish are “dumb enough” to bite with their mouths that get “hooked” on the “hooks” so we can somehow eat them as “dinner”.
I actually know more about fishing than it sounds like, but not much.
Zac, on the other hand, learned from his angler pro friend and fellow Middle Schooler Levi, Levi’s angler dad, and probably some YouTube videos about fishing, maybe hosted by one of those braying millionaire mom’s-basement-dwellers who talk about subscribing to their channel and hitting that bell! That’s about all you need these days. Well, that and fishing equipment. After a few trips here and there, we had our ugly sticks, my fishing license, and a lot of excitement about fishing together. In fact, we’ve fished on several occasions and have caught absolutely nothing each time, which I hear is the first step to becoming a real fisherman — or, in this case, the father of a fisherman. All of the nothing helps you appreciate the something, of which you hope is big enough that the live bait won’t openly laugh at you.
We will fish on, dear friends. And Zac shows no signs of giving up on his new and invested-upon hobby. Why, even a retention pond, which certainly has no fish in it (lest a municipal drainage system truly went bonkers), was recently home to his angling. Looky here:
Oh yes, we will fish on, dear friends. And you’re all invited to our forthcoming garage sale, tentatively scheduled for a few months after Zac moves on to disc golf.
Mac will be driving soon — a fact that he brings up with greater and greater frequency. I have mixed feelings on the whole situation. On one hand, it will be convenient for him to be able to drive himself to a job, or the mall, or to pick me up some Waffle Fries. On the other hand, I don’t ever want him to be in danger, ever, and I’ve seen some of you drive and, frankly, it scares me.
Earlier this year, we were driving my old Jeep Cherokee down an old street. We noticed ANOTHER old Jeep for sale, a Wrangler, and Mac said “Let’s stop and check it out, Dad.” Never wanting to turn down an opportunity to nose around an old Jeep with my son, I said “Sure”. Long story short, I bought him an old Jeep.
A few disclaimers: it was super cheap. Jeeps hold their value at a ridiculous rate, no matter how rusted out and beat up they are. Paul (our Jeepman’s Seller) was most interested in getting rid of his. Another disclaimer: I can fix Jeeps. New cars, with their safety features and complicated electronics are rather unfixable and frankly off-putting to this old luddite. But anything with AMC (American Motors Corp) bones is well known territory for me.
With Mac still a few months away from driving (I’m fine with that), he and I can spend time getting this thing in better shape — as if it could be improved, right? I mean, look at it!!
The ol’ Jeep is a 5 speed manual. The driving lessons have already been a… treat. I suggested to Mac that he’s probably the only kid in his grade who will know how to drive a stick.
Mac and I headed over to the local junkyard a few weeks back to harvest parts. We needed a new set of back seat brackets, a seat belt receiver, and a reason to walk through miles of rusty metal. They charge $2/person, plus a small fee for whatever you take with you. Parents, I cannot recommend this theme park enough!
Alas, the counterpart Jeep we found at the junkyard was stripped clean of the parts we needed. So we looked all over to find the very necessary seat belt receiver (the part with the button on it). Because of the Law™, you can’t just buy a replacement from O’Reilly Auto Parts, and good luck finding a dealer that happens to have a 26 year old part like this, even in the back of the shop where Rusty works and keeps to himself, mostly reading periodicals like Good Canadian Housekeeping and World Bowling Weekly.
Eventually we found what we were looking for, but not on another Jeep, and not even on another Chrysler vehicle. As it turns out, the seat belt receivers we needed were found on — of all things — a 1990 Ford Bronco II (the sequel). That’s right: Our AMC-inspried, Chrysler-built Jeep needed a Ford part. Take that, NAFTA. $1 and a few tetanus shots later, we were on our way!
I’ll tell you this: when I was his age (like 75 years ago), I would’ve loved it if someone bought me a rusty old Jeep that looked like it lost a fight at a bar. That wasn’t in the cards for me, but that’s ok, because I get to do something better: work on an old Jeep with my son. Sure, I drive it. But he reminds me it’s his Jeep — and he’s right about that. Still gotta find those rear seat brackets.
Did I mention it’s a 5 speed? And that I don’t want him to drive yet?
I don’t know what you do to kill time between ordering food and eating at restaurants, but Zac and I recently started doing something that passes the time and, as an unintended bonus, may irritate other diners. Best of all, it keeps us off our phones.
What we do is this: one person writes out a one-liner that the other person has to cold read at the restaurant without laughing. It’s kinda difficult and a lot of fun. And slightly awkward.
I ask the server if I may borrow a pen and, if the menus aren’t xerox copies, a piece of paper. One time we used straw wrappers. We take turns, back and forth. Some one-liners are ridiculous. Some are hilarious. I want to remember and thought I’d share it with you as well.
Last Saturday we were at Clementines, which happens to be Zac’s favorite restaurant (right now). We rarely go because 1) re$taurant and 2) distance. It’s out in South Haven, which is a good 55 minutes away — but worth it since it’s just a hop over to the beach, and Lake Michigan is a charming yet brutal sea.
Zac took the pen and started writing. I waited, with some apprehension, unsure of what he was going to have me read out loud — not directly at other diners, but loud enough that eavesdroppers would perhaps find a reason to quickly finish and leave.
Zac writes one, I read it out loud. I write one, Zac reads it out loud. Back and forth, until we got bored and designed flags for the restaurant, which you can see in the above image on the other side of the paper. Selected entries from this excursion include:
“Zac, did I ever tell you about my irrational fear of pickles?”
“Man, my voice is starting to fail. Durn Coronavirus.”
“Sometimes I wish my children called me Uncle Al or Uncle Ernie.”
“I finally figured out what to do with all that hair I’ve been saving. It’s a surprise, but, for now, I’ll just say ‘Happy Father’s Day.”
“I wonder if my toenails wish they got more credit for my success as a shoeless tap dancer.”
“I have vivid memories of tomorrow.”
“I’m so committed to shopping local, I moved into the store. Ssshhh.”
My Favorite one used part of the menu text:
They may not seem all that funny, and that’s probably because they aren’t. Also, they may seem kind of esoteric and weird, and that’s probably because they are. BUT, I wanted to make sure I have this in the blog memory banks. I am so proud of my children — all three of them are creative and quirky and like to hang out with me right now. Every day with them is a gift.
Life is what happens while you’re busy writing one liners on paper menus.
Pentecost marks the world-changing event of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Father, Son, and Spirit work in perfect community to bring Kingdom healing to our broken world. Through the Spirit, you and I as followers of Christ are called to bring the harmony of Jesus to our neighborhood. It’s impossible, except by His power.
Is it baptism? Stepping out in faith? Taking off the old and putting on the new? We are lifetime disciples. “What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” (Acts 8:36). Already baptized? Good! Were is Jesus leading you next?
You know that Habakkuk 3:17-19 (Chewbacca) was written thousands of years ago YET contains words of life, hope and joy — actual joy — in the midst of unmet expectations, right? And you know that the resurrection means we don’t have to ignore it, sugarcoat it, force optimism on ourselves, right? To be sure, give this a watch and tell me what you think.