Happy 40th, Mom and Dad, and thanks for making me what I am

Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2012, 2:00 pm
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By Shane Brown, sbrown@qconline.com
Today is Sunday, Sept. 23. This means that, as of yesterday, my parents have been married for 40 years. That's impressive. Heck, in today's world, it might even be considered beating the odds. Add the fact that they've had to put up with ME for all 40 of those years and it MIGHT just be a miracle.

I wanted to do something special to celebrate 40 years of Clan Brown, but I'm not really sure what it would be. My parents aren't your stereotypical couple. They don't like to go out much. They don't dig fancy dinners or movie theaters, or, well, most forms of human interaction. I think my parents are at their happiest in their living room, with a war movie on TV for my dad and a freshly loaded Amazon Kindle for my mom.

I did some checking, and the traditional gift for a 40th anniversary is ... rubies. Umm. Hmm. Don't get me wrong, I have ZERO complaints about life in the newspaper biz. That said, it's not a career path that really lends itself to gold-card access at Rubies-R-Us, if you catch my drift.

Instead, if you'll indulge me, I'd like to dedicate this column to my awesome parents, and tell you 10 reasons why I'm super thankful I get to call them Mom and Dad.

10. If my parents hadn't gotten married, and my dad hadn't adopted me when I was tiny, my name to this day would be Shane Knecht. No offense here to our amazing copy editor Heidi (who shares my former last name, but NOT my genes), but "Knecht" is the noise my cat makes when she hacks up a hairball. In many more ways than one, I'm better off Brown.

9. If I'm to believe the stories my dad tells in hushed whispers about evading police while "test-driving" motorcycles back in the 1960s, I'm pretty sure my mom's "ditch-the-bike" ultimatum was the only thing that kept him from kissing a tree at maximum velocity at some point.

8. Three days after I finish writing this column, my 66-year-old father and 64-year-old mother are going to make the 50-mile drive from Galesburg to Rock Island for the sole purpose of cleaning out the gutters of my house -- because I don't know how to do it, and mostly because I find it kind of icky. I, meanwhile, will be in an air-conditioned office and won't even get to see them while they're up here. 'Nuff said.

7. My parents don't just share my twisted sense of humor -- they passed it on to me. I wouldn't find life nearly as funny were it not for the wickedly skewed and delightfully cynical lenses my parents view the world through. The funniest moments of my life usually have come in the presence of my folks, and usually at the most inappropriate of times. Whether it was my mom and I giggling uncontrollably when the minister kept getting my grandpa's name wrong at his funeral, or my dad's hysterical breakdown after spending an entire day driving us through endless stop-and-go suburban Florida, my parents taught me to find the funny hidden inside the crummy. This column wouldn't exist without them.

6. My dad worked as a brakeman for the railroad. On the list of World's Most Thankless Jobs, his was relatively high. One phone call, and he'd have to drop everything he was doing and hop a train to Chicago and back, time and again. Sometimes Christmas would have to come a day late (boo!), but that was OK, 'cause sometimes Christmas would have to come a day early (yay!). Did he like his job? Well, at any given time, my father could tell you off the top of his head the exact number of days until his retirement. Yet he did it. For years and years. For us.

5. Dad could take a tree into his workshop and turn it into a piece of furniture. I could sit in front of my Apple IIe and take a Level 1 Magician and turn him into the Archmage of Skara Brae. Yet, my mom was the only one who could yell loud enough to bring us all together for dinner. It was a team effort that worked fairly well.

4. Guess how many times I had a baby-sitter as a kid? Hint: I didn't. My folks took me everywhere. They were never just a couple. Instead, we were a family, and that was simply that. I never really thought about it at the time, but that's one heck of a sacrifice. No R-rated movies, no candlelit dinners, and ME as your primary source of entertainment? I shudder at the thought.

3. I'm thankful for the allowance I received as a kid, especially since it was "earned" with the sole chore of emptying the dishwasher every night. And when I told my folks that I wanted to spend my very first allowance on "Ronco Presents: Hit Explosion '78" because I wanted to own the theme song to "Welcome Back, Kotter," they didn't blink an eye. And when 90 percent of the rest of those allowances went to music, it was cool by them. I didn't just grow up hearing that I could be whatever I wanted to be, I grew up BELIEVING it. And while I don't know if that dream "something" was to be a full-time sales rep, part-time DJ, and weekly columnist, I'm pretty happy how it all ended up. And I still own that Ronco record.

2. After 40 years of close-quarters cohabitation, they don't just share their life together. They actually still LOVE each other, up to and including playful PDA in front of their slightly skeeved-out son. It's kinda gross. But admirable.

1. At 41 years of age, I find myself single -- and this may sound weird, but I'm thankful to my parents for that. I've been in some good relationships, don't get me wrong. I've even been in a couple of great ones. But I'm not settling for good or even great. Why? Because I spent the first 17 years of my life bearing daily witness to a perfect relationship. Freud be darned -- that's where the bar will forever be set. Thanks to my parents, I know real love exists, and if THOSE two weirdos can find each other in life, there's hope for me yet.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad. I love you guys.

Shane Brown is a columnist for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus. Email him at sbrown@qconline.com or visit his blog at http://shanebrown.blogspot.com.


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  Today is Wednesday, Oct. 1, the 274th day of 2014. There are 91 days left in the year.

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1889 -- 125 years ago: Harvey McKenna, of Detroit, billiard player matched to play Wizard Schafer in New York in January for the world championship, was a professional friend and manager, Billy Catton in Rock Island.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Levi Cralle, former Rock Island county sheriff, had come from his farm near Mitchell, S.D. to visit friends in the city.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Work is being rushed on the new high school building in Orion to replace the one destroyed by fire last winter. Classes are being held in churches.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Rehearsals for the 84th season of the Handel Oratorio Society chorus will begin at 7:30 p.m. Monday on the stage of Centennial Hall, Augustana College.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Rock Island City Council's plan announced this week to have the federal government vacate Valley Homes public housing and move residents to Arsenal Courts to reduce density may not be feasible.

(More History)