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Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2001
Spotted on a T-shirt worn by my son:

"I've used up all my sick days, so I called in dead."

Let's name my kids. It's dreadfully impersonal to keep tossing out euphemisms for living, breathing bundles of joy. *Cough*.

Beth - the eldest: The high school junior, softball athlete, and Type A daughter.

Maggie - the middlest: High School sophmore, target of every male between 15 and 18 years in this county.

Ben - the youngest, the son: Middle school challenged male who bears my surname. But a damned good dishwasher.

Today was Maggie's day. Since she had the riotus good fortune to be selected as a manager of the varsity football team, her task in life this fall is to stay after school and pick up shoulder pads, orange drill cones and other parephenalia before and after the daily practices. This also both brings her into contact with, yet separates her from the more large of the teenage boy community.

Seems that the coach frowns on managers dating players.

Maggie, my god.

Yesterday, when she was 2 years old, I came home from an early run into work on a Saturday and found her out in the front yard, in a night shirt, at 6 am. When she saw my truck pulling up, she began jumping up and down in pure joy, because Daddy was home. Seeing as how no one else was awake at that hour, specifically Ally, her being out in the front yard at that time was strictly a no-no.

But she was so cute.

I swept her up into my arms and half heartedly scolded her. She responded by wrapping her incredibly tiny arms around my neck and her legs around my chest. And unconditionally loved her Dad.

Last week, when she was 4, she and her sister got caught doing something wrong. I honestly could not tell you what it was. But I remember it was on the Mom and Dad hit list of terrible, horrible things to never do. She did it.

And I spanked her. One swat. And she opened up that heart shaped mouth and cried, and big tears flowed down her crinkled face. For probably two minutes, I felt justified in my parental wrath, and noble in the notion that I was a father figure not to be trifled with.

For the proceeding twelve years, I beat hell out of myself.

Today she's 16. She breezes through sophmore classes as if they are fun intervals to her day, because with rare exception she gets an A or B+ in them. She has more friends right now than I've had in my whole life. She's cute and beautiful and funny. Boys are lined up around the block. Naturally, I take numbers at the door and give preferencial treatment to those who can demonstrate an interest and talent in the medical field, I might even admit to the house those who are currently fielding college recruiters.

Today Maggie got picked up after football practice by Dad. This is high school, we eat dinner when food is put before us. So I took Maggie to the nearest hamburger joint and told her to get what she wanted. After inquiring as to how much she could spend, and scolding me on my lack of proper shoes and cologne, she got her food and hopped back in the truck.

She said, "I saw a Marine today. He showed up at practice and looked kinda lost. He had his green dress uniform on. I asked him what he wanted and he said, 'I'm getting ready to go overseas and I just wanted to see how the team was doing. I played here a couple of years ago.'

"So I gave him a hug, Dad. He's the first person I've ever known that is going off to war, or anything."

Dear Jesus. Keep my little one from this madness. I'm a hawk for this retribution stuff until it puts my kids anywhere near the kind of heartache it will cause.

She looks like Ally. But she thinks like me.

Which is to say, she really is me, if you follow the kind of karma that keeps a wife and soul mate together for 21 years and parents three kids between them. And three good kids, at that. They are my blood and my spirit.

And Maggie, the goodness of my life. Ach y fi.

Let no one cry foul on the intentions of my being a father to my dark haired beauty. I will wallow in flames for her.

While she will hop on little legs, in the front yard. At dawn.

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