Child at Heart 

I usually write about my children or family in this blog. The funny things that happen throughout our lives and how I try to raise my kids to be responsible adults that make a contribution to society. I’ll have some of that in here today but I mainly will be focused on losing someone.  

I recently lost a very close friend of mine. Someone I’ve known since the eighth grade. Now that doesn’t mean we were always close. I’d say always friends but we didn’t become close until around five or six years ago. I helped him get a job and place to stay when he moved back to New Orleans from Los Angeles. He let me move into that place when my ex wife and I split up. I don’t think we even realized along the way how close we became. 

The thing about Josh (yes we had the same first name which made it fun meeting people when we were together) was he would always make you laugh. If you were having a bad day he was there to change that. He was also there if you offered to buy lunch, but the company was well worth a trip to Dat Dog or Company Burger. No matter how sad he was he would never let you have a bad day if he could help it.  Most things he would say to make you smile are definitely inappropriate for this post but he was such a genuine person. You couldn’t help but love the guy no matter what. 

Josh also loved my kids and they loved him. Always wanting to go see Mr. Josh and always waking up way too early when the stayed the night which Mr. Josh loved. He was definitely not a morning person but he would always be up for a trip to the zoo or the French quarter with the kids. He was forever a kid inside and that just stood out when he’d tag along for our adventures. 

 

At French Quarter Fest with Josh and the kids


 Monday, April 25, 2016 was when I got the news. I heard really quick from a mutual friend. Realizing that his family hadn’t heard the news I knew I’d have to make one of the toughest calls I would ever make. I called his mom and gave her the news. Cried with her. Told her all the things I could think of but nothing would make it better. So hard to do that knowing the words I told her would break her heart. But it wasn’t over. I knew eventually I’d have to tell my kids. They loved Mr. Josh. They’ve dealt with death before but it was never someone this young. Someone they hung out with and even though Josh is almost 40 they had a child’s friendship with him. 
Needless to say I’m proud of my children. Julia asked her mom if she could go to Josh’s services to say goodbye. Coleman couldn’t go because he had a baseball game. The little slugger hit a home run and said he did it to honor Mr. Josh. With how much he loved baseball I’m sure that would have meant the world to him. It showed me as a father how well his mother and I have raised them. That they wanted to say goodbye and were thinking about him regardless of what they ere doing. It also made me feel so much more deeply for his mother and family. Once upon a time Josh was there innocent little boy. It breaks my heart with theirs to know they have to go through this. I just hope they know how much their son meant to the world he touched. He may be gone too soon but he definitely left a mark that only he could. He will be missed. 

Now Josh would not want me to end this all sad. So I give to you the most ridiculous video I could find of our dear friend Joshua Michael Clarkson. May you rest in peace you crazy bastard. I love you more than you ever knew buddy. The most unique person I’ve ever had in my life by far. 

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Tooting Our Own Horns

Growing up I definitely didn’t have a lot in common with my dad. At least in my eyes I didn’t. I liked sports. He could care less. He liked classical music and science fiction. I could care less. We had our similarities but they often drove us apart more than brought us together. Stuff like bad tempers and being stubborn pains in the ass weren’t exactly things we could bond over. Now that we’ve grown older and I stopped being an asshole (yes surprisingly as a teenager I was an asshole) we are very close. I’d consider my father a great man and one of my best friends. Keep in mind I also consider my ex wife one of my best friends so I’m not always normal. 
One thing my father did pass down to me was the ability to play a musical instrument. In addition to playing bass trombone in symphony orchestras my dad was a band teacher. In middle school he taught me saxophone and trumpet. He also kept me from ever touching a set of drumsticks. Not nice old man. I stopped playing in high school due to a poor band program but I still have a trumpet I can play a tune or two on. 
Now my son is eight years old. He’s active. He plays baseball and football. Always wants to do something new. He hunts often with my ex father in law and loves it. It’s great for him to have something to bond with his paw paw doing and he’s became quite a good little marksman. At times I was worried though that the same divide in interest that kept me distant from my father would keep my son from bonding with him. I mean the kid is his fathers son. Well not the asshole part but I guess there’s always time for him to perfect that. 
Recently my hopes for them finding something they can really bond doing came to light. My father is retired from teaching band in school but still teaches private lessons. One of his newest additions on his list of pupils is an eight year old boy that closely resembles his best looking offspring. Sorry to my sister Melinda but we’re  talking about me. Not only is my son getting these lessons from his extremely talented grandfather but he loves every minute of it. Surprisingly he does more than just make farting sounds through his trombone, which was an actual concern that the only reason he wanted a trombone was to do that. The kid is picking it up pretty quick. 

  
We all have our differences and that’s true with family.  My father and I couldn’t get it right when I was growing up. We frustrated each other so much that we couldn’t always see the likenesses. It made things difficult for us at times but thankfully over time we found that we could just embrace that and still get along as not just father and son but as real friends. Now that has made me look at things with my son. It’s taught me that he’s going to become his own man and even though we have differences I want to be supportive and close. Not just let those differences divide us. 
Seeing my dad and Coleman playing music together is one of the most touching things I’ve ever witnessed. He’s passed on what I’d consider a legacy in music. Not just being taught by a random person in school but a grandfathers craft being taught first hand to his grandson. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll be adding to that training him how to steer this old towboat. Not that I’d wish this life on him of being away from family but the thought of that does give me a sense of pride. I mean it’s either that or he wins a Heisman trophy before starting an NFL career that gets him Six Super Bowl rings (the first of which I’ll accept as a gift) and multiple league MVP awards. But no pressure though. 

Leaving Your Mark (Even If Your Mark Is In Grandpa’s Bushes)

A lot of you read my blog at http://www.theradnation.com which is a very important site to me. It celebrates awesome dad’s and great kids alike. A lot of the time we focus on or hear  negative things and it’s good to have a place that builds up the positive. I thought I’d take the time to share with you the raddads I met in my life, my father and his dad.

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My father and his dad around 1952

Let’s start with Ernest Bott Sr. My grandfather was a really remarkable and complex man. I didn’t know him all that well but I do remember he was a man who commanded respect. I’d definitely say he was a Stern father when it came to my dad’s childhood. I definitely remember being a little frightened when I was a kid that I may get in big trouble with grandpa if I did something wrong. There is the story of one summer in Florida (yes my grandfather moved to Florida when he retired just like everyone else from Jersey) when I got fussed at repeatedly for letting all the  a/c out. I was only three and so scared that I’d get yelled at for going in and out of his house  that I didn’t come inside to use the bathroom. Instead I plopped down in his bushes and decided that was a good place to number two. While I cried to my parents and confessed they could barely hold the laughter in and told me they wouldn’t tell grandpa. The next day my granddad said some choice words while cleaning up the mess from a neighbors dog in the bushes. About 11 or 12 years later he heard the story himself and had a good laugh.

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Grandpa, Mary, my sister and I probably the same week I crapped in his yard

When I got older I learned my grandfather was a pretty nice guy. I really enjoyed the time I had with him and he was the only biological grandparent that was still around when I was born. It’s apparently that he did a good job with my father. My dad I can definitely say is one of the most decent, loving and honorable human beings I’ve met. Even though he can be hard on himself he definitely is a great man. A greater man for having to deal with the likes of me. I’m sure part of the reason he’s tough on himself is the high standard my grandfather set.

My dad often tells me how tough his father was when he was a kid and in ways my dad was tough on me growing up. That toughness made a bond between them though as my grandfather was my dad’s best man at his wedding. I think at the time of his passing my grandpa was truly my father’s best friend. I know he misses the talks they had immensely. It really shows that you can be tough as a parent and command respect and still have a strong relationship with your children. You can do what it takes to mold your children into good people and still be friends with them and have a strong bond.

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Haircuts Christmas 2014

My father and I didn’t always see eye to eye. When I was young he was my hero but once I hit my teenage years I became a nightmare of a son I’m sure. I had trouble with the law. I had trouble with drugs. If there was a trouble you didn’t want a teenager to have I had it. I saw my dad as my enemy then and I know it was hard on him. I know it frustrated him and he often didn’t know what to do, but he stood his ground as a father and kept at it. Now days my father is my best friend. I know he would do anything in his power to protect his boy and do what’s right even today. Just because I didn’t always understand what he said or did I realize now there was a reason for it. He wanted to hold me to that same standard his father held him to. I truly thank him for that.

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I don’t know what life has in store for me and my little minions. I’m sure there are tough times ahead. I try to have as much fun as I can with them but I also try to be strict. My job is to raise them to be adults that hold value and integrity. I want them to know that you have to work for what you want and that doing the right thing isn’t always easy. Hopefully I continue the great job my father did with me and his father did with him. Hey at least my kid never took a poop on grandpa’s yard, but there’s still time for that.

Lost in Never Never Land

“Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.”- William Butler Yeats

Sixteen years ago was a very hectic time in my life. I was a mere nineteen years old. Back then my girlfriend had my first daughter Marie, my grandfather died (the only biological grandparent I knew), and before any of this I lost one of the best friends I ever had.

I often talk about the loss in some way. Mostly the loss I feel from not knowing my oldest daughter, but when it comes to loss there is no year like 1997. On May 31 I got the call that I lost one of my closest friends, Kevin. If you knew Kevin at all you called him Tweety or Bird, and if you knew him chances are you liked him. Bird had the ability to make you laugh under any circumstances. No matter how bad things were he could get a smile out of you. He stood by his friends no matter what. Even if that meant the two of you taking on six large football players together. Keep in mind Tweety isn’t a nickname you earn by being a very large person.

When you have kids you always have people you wish were still around to see them. My grandfather, who my kids would have drove nuts just like I used to. My cousin Kimmy is another. My kids would have adored her. And then there’s Bird. He would have been great with the kids. By now he’d surely have a family of his own. It’s just hard even after a these years to accept that he missed so much in life that I find so rewarding.

So even though today is hard I’ll remember the good times with Tweety. Like watching him stare down a lit roman candle because he thought it went out. Then seeing him look up with a black face and burnt eyebrows after it unleashed it’s fired fury on him. I’ll keep his Mom, Dad and sisters in my thoughts today. If it’s still tough on me I couldn’t imagine the pain they feel every year. I’ll be sure to tell my kids about their uncle Tweety and to be sure they use roman candles in a safe manner in compliance with all labels. Unless your in a Roman candle fight. Then just don’t shoot yourself in the face.

Idiot’s Delight

“No one knows when the first boat was built, or where, or by whom, or why. Boats began before history; boats are part of our cultural memories. Why else do people gather at the waters edge when tall ships appear?”
Dick Wagner, founding director, The Center For Wooden Boats, Seattle

It never surprised me that I ended up working on a boat. All of my life I’ve been drawn to boats and water. It’s something I’ve never been able to get away from. I always long to be on or in the water. Vacations are planned around this. Can we scuba dive? Is there surfing? On a trip with my whole family a few years back just a quick sailboat trip with my father was one of my fondest memories. Maybe the second fondest to fighting a coconut with my brother in law Ken.

And this memory with my father stands out for the simple fact that my love of all things aquatic comes from him. When I was born he owned a 24′ Sea Ray. Not long after it was replaced to the boat I grew up sailing on until I was well into my teenage years. A 22′ Catalina so perfectly named “Idiots Delight” (my mother made the deal that if he buys it she names it). Almost every weekend of my childhood was spent on that boat.

I wish I had something like that for my children to enjoy. Something that they may not realize at the time, but later on with age they will understand that something so small as a little sailboat was larger than life. It’s hard to do that working like we do. We don’t have every weekend or a whole summer at our disposal. Our time at home is rushed and often filled with so many things to do it seems impossible to fit a whole weekend of relaxing aimlessly on the water somewhere impossible.

But it’s not impossible. We can make time and we often think of other things as being important when really the most important thing you have to do is a bunch of nothing with the people we love. I’ll just learn from the lessons of my father and name my own boat.

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Thicker Than Water

“I sustain myself with the love of family” ― Maya Angelou

Throughout my life I have done a lot of things that I know now were fairly stupid on my part. Nobody would agree with that more than my family. They’ve been there for all of it. I’m not talking about my wife and kids, although I’m sure they would agree also.

I’m talking about my mother, father and sister. They were there for the really stupid stuff. They’ve seen me at my absolute worst. I know a lot of its hurt them along the way but they always stuck by me. Even when my mother had to drop me off at a prison on her birthday she was there with opened arms when I returned. Yes my mom had to take me to turn myself in on her birthday 15 years ago. I wasn’t getting an award for son of the year then for sure. Regardless of the past none of them turned their back on me. They may have disagreed with my actions. They may have used tough love on me but they were always there. The love they gave me got me through it all.

This is on my mind this morning for good reason. I have a good friend that I have known for 20 years. Ever since I’ve known her she’s had a best friend in her sister. They have recently had a disagreement and it has driven a major wedge in there friendship. I see how this tearing her apart. She’s going through a very tough time and I know how much she needs her sister.

It makes me think of the relationship I have with my own sister. I’ll be the first to admit she is a pain in the ass (she’d say the same of me). We may not talk as often as we’d like. She lives in Pennsylvania and I live in Louisiana. We’ve lived entirely different lives. We can’t talk at all about politics. None of that matters though. We are always there for each other if need be. She can call me for anything and she knows it, as long as it’s not to talk politics.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that my heart breaks for one of my closest friends. She has to go through the toughest thing she’s ever endured without the person she needs there most. Where would I be without my family that has backed me? Not where I am today. I wouldn’t be the father, or man I am without them. I wouldn’t have my family since my sister introduced me to my wife. If I did something stupid right now my family would be there for me. They would call me an idiot and maybe slap me in the head (or downright beat the hell out of me), but they would see me through it.

So let’s all try to understand what the people close to us are going through. We may not like what they do or how they do things, but that doesn’t change the fact that they need us. Plus if you stop talking to the ones you love most who’s going to tell them, “I told you so”?

Don’t Walk On The Grass

I was talking to my daughter Marie’s mom the other day when she told me they were at Marie’s school. She said they were breaking the rules by walking on the grass. When I heard this I had to laugh. It just made me think of how things have changed since I was a kid.

I remember growing up in a small town in Louisiana. There were no houses within a half mile of me. I had Bayou Grosse Tete in front of my house with soybean fields and woods in back. I stayed outside. I had video games. Nintendo was just replacing Atari and I played them quite a bit. Nothing was better than playing outside. Even when I moved from there to a town that was slightly more populated I still stayed outside. On my bike or playing basketball. I was out till the street lights came on every day.

Another difference is I did all of this unsupervised. No cell phone. I left and told my mom I was going play as I let a door slam and never thought twice about it. If people lost contact with their kids for that long now days they would have an aneurysm. Police would be called and manhunts would be organized. By the time they got home that evening the parents would be filming an episode of “First 48” only 5 hours later.

I’m guilty of this too. My kids are young. Julia just turned seven and Bubby is about to be six. At that age I was in the woods unsupervised with my friends getting into all sorts of adventures. Not my kids. I won’t let them in the front yard alone. Is it really that times are that different or are we just paranoid as parents to a new level? Don’t walk on the grass. I think that sounds absurd to give that rule to a bunch of teenage kids, but I find myself saying don’t to a lot of things. Am I any better than these ruiners of outdoor fun? Am I destroying my kids chances for adventure? I remember saying that I would never tell my kids no like my parents did. What a fool I was. I’m probably worse.

I think when I get off the boat this time I’m going to have a week of breaking the rules. Not all of them of course. I can’t let my kids run wild with no rules because, well, they’re crazy. I just think we need to slack off on certain things and let our kids relax. I think a couple nights of backyard camping with marshmallows and scary stories may be in order. That is until too much fun is being had. Then it’s inside with everyone!