Stranger in a Strange Land: Everybody Loves Nick

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Everybody Loves Nick

My life in Dubuque is based on a television show. I call it, Everybody Loves Nick. Let me explain.

Following graduation, the question became, “what next?” My wife, Kara, and I debated at length whether to actually move home. I was reminded of the Everybody Loves Raymond episode where Ray and Debra debate the same issue. We set up our maps and drew seismic rings around both the areas we were thinking of moving to and around our families’ area of influence. We concluded that moving just shy of where the rings overlap would be perfect. Far enough to avoid unannounced visits, yet close enough for regularly scheduled ones. However, like Ray and Debra, we ignored our best judgment, opting instead to live in the familial epicenter: Across town from my parents, down the street from my in-laws, across the office from my father-in-law, and right next door to Kara’s grandmother.

Although most visits to our home are announced by a ring of the doorbell, life back home has required adjustments. For instance, the infatuation people have with shoveling snow flabbergasts me. If you are patient the snow eventually melts. Although I believe this is quite philosophical, my family labels it “lazy”. As a tenant of a family-owned duplex, I too often find myself in sub-zero temperatures, armed with a red plastic shovel, manically chasing snowflakes as a preventative strike against the horrors of accumulation. Even when lost in an “I told you so” sense of vindication, the sun shining and the snow predictably melting, reality rains down as I hear the revving of the lawn mower outside.

Being close to family does have its benefits. For example, I am able to rediscover the father-son bond discarded somewhere in the darkness of a disturbed adolescence. As a young boy I always enjoyed fishing with my father. I have fond memories of late night drives to a Delaware County stream and camping out in the back of our blue, two-toned Aerostar mini-van.

Dad and I would beat the sun out of bed, outrun other fishermen and their fisherboy sidekicks and claim our pool. We would sit patiently, munching on Pop Tarts, for the stock truck’s dusty rumble. Soon the stockman would appear and dump a bucket of trout right before us. We would subsequently spend the afternoon staring at the trout, who were staring back at us.

Now that I’m back home, Dad and I have renewed our vengeance against the trout. Although today we leave a bit later, run a tad slower, and have substituted Pop Tarts with the more nutritious cream-filled doughnut, we still go to the same streams, where we spend our time staring at trout, staring back at us. Yet, I find a sense of tranquility in my fishing failures.

“Perhaps the familial epicenter is not so bad,” I think as I fight a submerged log for my fly and watch Dad try to reclaim his line from the tangles of a barbed wire fence. After all, the eye of the storm is always the calmest.


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