Satan’s Wife Went to Silver Dollar City

We’ve taken dozens of family trips since Addison was born in 2008. The one we took this weekend was a landmark. It was our first one not to include a stroller, although we did bring a wagon to haul around the park with all of our stuff. Occasionally one of the kids rode in it. Incidentally, this was also the first trip ever in which Addie didn’t want to take any of her stuffed animals to sleep with.

Our babies are growing up.

In lieu of going on a bigger trip this year, we got season passes to Silver Dollar City and planned four trips for 2019. Last weekend was the third trip. It was a great trip, and I will be taking this opportunity to show off a bunch of sweet pictures of my fam and tell a couple of stories.

On Saturday, the weather was perfect and the park was jam packed. Most rides had an hour wait. We decided to go to a cirque show that was set to start at 4 p.m. Missy and the kids got in line around 3:20 and sent me to try to get a refill on our drinks.

Both lines — the one for the show and the one for the drinks — were incredibly long. You’d think you could get a Coke refill in less than 20 minutes but on this particular day you’d be wrong. Finally Missy’s line began moving as they allowed people into the auditorium where the cirque show was being held. Obviously, trying to get four kids in sync will take a few seconds.

Behind Missy in line were a mid-40s woman and her teenage son. They tried to just straight up cut my family in line when they didn’t immediately move along. Missy cut them off with the wagon and said, “Really?” The other lady acted like she didn’t hear.

After they caught up with the rest of the line, it backed up to a stop yet again. As soon as it started moving again, this woman and her kid again went for the pass. Again Missy was able to hold them off, and Addie noticed the attempted cut and asked Missy about it. Missy used her outdoor voice, looked at the lady and said, “I guess some people are in a real big hurry in this line.” Again, the woman didn’t acknowledge the comment although Missy says it would have been impossible for her not to have heard it. (I love that Missy isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. The day before, someone loudly complained about our kids blocking an entryway for about 2 seconds. Missy said, “That’s enough from you, lady.”)

When the line reached yet another chokepoint, Missy called me to ask whether I had the soda. I said I was still in line and she just yelled, “Abandon! Come find us!” During that 5 second conversation the line had begun moving again and this mother-son duo shot past my family and didn’t look back. They got to the entrance and after this worthless pair of humans walked in, the usher stopped Missy and said the auditorium was full and nobody else could come in. The woman turned around and waved goodbye to Missy and the son turned around and wagged a #1 finger at her. (Literally the #1 finger, the index finger. He didn’t flip her off.)

This story seems too crazy to be true but it isn’t. Luckily, after I showed up they found seats for about 15 more people, so we got to see the show. I wanted Missy to find those people and make sure they knew we got in but she’s classier than I am.

Our boys got kisses from the barmaids at a show we went to.

I have another quick story to tell. I have a long-running thing with Addie where every day, I tell her I have a secret for her. She comes over to hear it, and then I always say that I’m proud of her and I love her. Usually she finishes the second half of the sentence as I say it. Then she rolls her eyes and says, “I knoooooow. You tell me that every day.” She acts exasperated but I hope that deep down she likes it when I say that.

On Thursday, we had parent/teacher conferences with all three of the kids’ teachers after school and then hit the road so we could spend all day Friday and Saturday at the park (minus staying at the airbnb to watch OU beat Texas Saturday morning). After stopping in Joplin for dinner we didn’t get to Branson until after 11 p.m. It was raining very hard when we arrived, and thankfully our Honda Odyssey navigation system literally tried to run us into the middle of the lake (thanks again, Eskridge Honda!). It had us make about 100 turns, then told us we arrived at our destination. But since we were about to drive into the lake we knew that couldn’t be right so we pulled it up on Google maps on our phone. We were 15 minutes away from our condo.

I was completely exhausted after waking up early and driving the entire way. Now the rain was so bad I could barely see. I was driving about 10 mph so we didn’t actually go into the lake. By the time we arrived and unloaded all of our stuff in the rain, I was almost delusionally tired. I was depressed, like I frequently get when I’m that tired.

Missy and I tried to get the kids to bed ASAP. Addie was really great about helping unpack everything and keeping a good attiude. As I was tucking her in, I told her I had a secret for her. I told her I was proud of her and loved her. She said, “I knooooow. You tell me that every day….and I like it.”

It’s cool how kids can sense when people are emotionally vulnerable and know how to make it better. I’m so lucky to have such an awesome family to do this life with.

Circle of Life

It was bedtime, and I was trying to get Hawk into his jammies.

“Hawkie, would you hand me that night time diaper right next to you?” It was literally an inch from his right hand.

“Daddy, it’s my birthday so I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to.”

I told him that if he wanted to have another birthday, he’d hand me the diaper.

And so ended an emotional 24 hours for yours truly.

Friday the 13th was both my son’s fourth birthday and also the day of the memorial service for my Aunt Shirley.

Technically, she was my mom’s aunt, but we’ve always called her Aunt Shirley. The Christmas card they sent our family was always inscribed, “Love, A. Shirley and U. Forrest,” as if Aunt and Uncle were their actual first names.

She was my grandma’s sister. My grandma died when I was six years old. Nothing could replace her, but Shirley certainly reminded me of my Nanny in many ways. They definitely looked alike, with those distinctive Kurz features that were also passed down to my mother. They cooked many of the same recipes, things that are still Thanksgiving staples in our house. The meatloaf was my favorite entree and the pea salad my favorite Thanksgiving side.

They both had a fondness for Wheel of Fortune. Back when I was little, Channel 9 in Oklahoma City used to have a phone number you could call when you knew the answer to every puzzle. When that show aired every evening (5:30 p.m.? Can’t remember for sure) Nanny was in her chair in front of that TV religiously, and she was picking up the phone and calling as soon as she knew the answer to every puzzle. I don’t think she ever got through and won the prize, it was probably rigged anyway. I don’t know whether Shirley used to call the hotline or not but I know she was a big fan of the show.

My favorite shared attribute of theirs is their sense of humor. They both had a very dry sense of humor which was passed down to my mother and to me.

Just a few months ago, my mom had hip replacement surgery at McBride up in north Oklahoma City, close to Shirley’s house. I stopped by and visited. She seemed to be doing great. I know she has had some physical problems but mentally she was very sharp, especially for someone just half a year away from turning 90. But only a month or two after that, she found out she had an advanced cancer and decided against treatment.

I have to stop here and praise my mom. She visited Shirley every single day, sometimes making two trips per day. She was up there for several hours at a time and it wasn’t good her hip to be sitting in uncomfortable chairs for that long. But she never complained about it. Between mom and Shirley’s daughter, they provided constant companionship during those hard final weeks.

Her service was on Friday, and there were several moving moments. Two of my cousins (technically second cousins) shared their thoughts, which made the connection between Shirley, my grandmother and my family seem even more real. Also, my brother used his immense musical talents to sing “How Great Thou Art,” which was very touching.

We held off on Hawk’s fourth birthday party until the next day, and it was a lot of fun. He wanted to go to Chuck E. Cheese, so we let the kids play all the games they wanted for an hour before coming back home and eating pizza and Missy’s delicious birthday cake.

Maddux (in the mismatched blue pants and orange shirt) and Myra (purple dress) enjoyed dancing with Chuck E. more than Hawk (standing to the left of Myra), who quickly exited the stage.
Hawk was much more into this game.
Missy’s half chocolate, half vanilla cake was great as usual.

I looked back at some old pictures from when Hawk was a baby, and it seems kind of crazy that we don’t have any babies anymore. We’ve always had a baby! At least one! Hawk is smart and mature enough to be in pre-K already but Missy and I are glad to have him around the house all day for another year.

I loved watching him and the other kids play games and have so much fun at the party. At night, trapped in my own thoughts, it was depressing to think about how fast life happens and how quickly it vanishes. But there’s nothing I can do about any of that, except try to make the most of each day and enjoy the time I do have with the amazing people I get to call my family and friends.

Never Admit You’re Wrong

A month or so ago, Myra developed a boil on her upper gums. Never thought I’d start a blog with that sentence!

Anyway, it wouldn’t go away so we made an appointment with our family dentist, and Missy took her. One of the assistants took some X-rays, and then our dentist came in to look at them. After about three seconds he said, “Something’s not right here, are these X-Rays flipped?”

The assistant confirmed that they were flipped. I guess Myra wasn’t comfortable the way they had tried to position her or the infected area wouldn’t show up or something. The point is that the X-rays were flipped and our dentist realized it within a few seconds of looking at them. He was a little concerned because the X-rays seemed to indicate that although the boil was directly above one of Myra’s front teeth, it looked like it was affecting the tooth next to that one.

Since he doesn’t specialize in pediatrics, he referred Myra to a dentist across the street who does, Dr. Amanda Ward at Norman Pediatric Dentistry. Missy was in the room as they called the office and told them they were faxing/emailing Myra’s X-rays, and they specifically told them that said X-rays were flipped.

A few days later, Missy took Myra to Dr. Ward. The infected tooth needed to be pulled. Before anything else could happen, we had to write a check for $385 because Myra’s insurance doesn’t cover this. During the consultation, Missy even asked about the fact that the infection looked to be affecting a different tooth than the one the boil was above. Dr. Ward brushed it off and said, “Oh, you know, infection goes where infection goes.”

Then she pulled the wrong tooth.

It was immediately obvious because the tooth that was pulled looked completely healthy, with the longest root I’ve ever seen. Dr. Ward knew it was wrong and proceeded to pull the correct tooth next. Which means Myra lost both of her front teeth in a matter of minutes. Missy reported that Dr. Ward was very gentle with Myra and that aside from the one major gaffe, the experience was a positive one. The office is clean and Dr. Ward made Myra feel as comfortable as possible during the whole thing.

Myra was very brave. The only time I saw her cry was that night. I asked her if her mouth was hurting and she said, “No, I just wish I could have my teeth back.”

When Missy was telling me the whole story, I couldn’t believe the office didn’t promise to refund our $385 right away. So I stopped by there to talk to them about it and was lucky to catch them on their lunch break when no patients were in the building. Then again, I guess I was unlucky because I ended up getting talked down to and treated like dog poop.

Dr. Ward and one of her employees sat down with me in a small waiting area. This is the conversation we had. There is no exaggeration here; this is how it happened.

First I explain that I’m Myra’s dad and I’m here to get my money back.

Employee: Oh, don’t worry. We didn’t charge you anything for that second tooth.

Me: I’m talking about the $400 I paid for the other one.

Dr. Ward, befuddled look on her face: You want a refund for pulling the correct tooth, the one that needed to be pulled?

Me: Yes. I think the whole thing caused her extra pain, and she’s sad about not having any front teeth.

Dr. Ward: You think she had more pain getting two teeth pulled than she would have for just one?

(Somehow she was being serious with that question.)

Me: I can’t imagine it was less painful.

Dr. Ward: So you want a refund for a baby tooth that was going to come out anyway?

(At this point it’s hard to tell if she’s just being a smartass or if she really thinks I’m that dumb. I was really tempted to ask if they just pull random healthy teeth as part of a normal check-up since it’s no big deal but I refrained.)

Me: It wasn’t going to come out any time soon, which means she’s not going to have a tooth there for a really long time. Look, I’m not trying to accuse you of doing anything on purpose. I understand it was a weird situation with the infection being above the other tooth. I understand that the X-rays were flipped. But it was still an entirely preventable thing and I think you should make it right.

Dr. Ward: And you think “making it right” means getting your money back? For the correct tooth that needed to be pulled?

Me: Well I’d prefer my daughter get her tooth back in her mouth. But since that’s not going to happen, a refund would seem to be fair.

Dr. Ward: We didn’t know the X-rays were flipped. (Employee nods in agreement).

Me: Somebody knew. My wife was in the room when our dentist called your office and specifically told whoever was on the phone.

Dr. Ward: No, we didn’t know about it.

Me: My wife told me about it before the procedure, because it was an odd thing. She didn’t make it up. I’m confident our dentist remembers this also if we need to call him and ask. Obviously, I have no way of knowing who was on your end of that call, but somebody in this office was told about it.

(I didn’t even mention the fact that our dentist, who legitimately didn’t know about the flipped X-rays, immediately recognized it. And he isn’t a pediatric specialist, nor was he about to yank a 6-year-old’s tooth out. Would seem like you’d want to double check before pulling a tooth. Clearly this could have been recognized regardless.)

Dr. Ward: Well, what would make you feel better about this situation?

Me: Getting our money back for the mistake that you made.

Dr. Ward, super condescending tone: That’s what would make you feel better?

Me: Again, I’d prefer my daughter had her tooth in her mouth. But yeah, since that’s not going to happen I’d like to have my money back.

Dr. Ward: Well we can certainly do that.

And she did. We got the check in the mail just a few days later. What we definitely did not get was anything resembling an apology or a show of basic human respect.

About 10 years ago, we were eating at a Chili’s in Wichita with Missy’s family. Missy ordered a salad and there was a staple in it. She bit into it and it caused quite a bit of pain and bleeding. Guess what Chili’s charged me for my burger that day? (You mean the correct order with no staple in it?) Naturally, the whole meal was free and they gave us a gift card with $50 or $100 on it. Because a crappy restaurant chain is somehow better at being personable and acknowledging a mistake than a pediatric dentist.

Myra (left) before this whole thing. After picture below.
Healthy tooth is on the left.

July 4

When you’re really young, it’s hard to top Christmas on the list of favorite holidays. Santa, Jesus, the presents, the magic…that’s going to be the apex for just about every five-year-old in America.

I was certainly in that group at that age, but it didn’t take me long to switch my favorite holiday to Independence Day. Relaxing, watching baseball, and grilling out are all part of my ideal day, and those are key ingredients to the 4th.

Franklin family July 4 tradition stretches back decades. Starting around the time I was 12 or 13, we’ve always gone out to the Yukon Freedom Fest at Chisholm Park. It’s a really cool setup with good food, good fireworks and good people. The thing that got us started going there was the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, which has performed there every year as far as I can remember. They start playing as twilight turns to dark, finishing as the fireworks start.

As always, the day started with me grilling out. This was the first time I can remember grilling something besides hot dogs and hamburgers as the main course. Missy and the kids had eaten those items a few times already over the previous few days and wanted something different. So we marinated some chicken and I grilled it up, and I must say it was delicious. For the second or third year in a row, I grilled up some zucchini and squash from our backyard garden. Brush some olive oil and balsamic vinegar on there and it’s the perfect complement to the chicken. Missy also made up some baked beans, pasta salad, peach salsa and cookie bars. We like to eat in the middle of the afternoon and then head out to Yukon.

I thought I was going to miss the end of the Cubs game, and I suppose technically I did, but they were winning about 12 to 3 when we left the house so I felt pretty comfortable with that. Those are the kind of games you don’t mind missing the end of because if they had somehow blown that lead I wouldn’t have wanted to see it anyway.

Missy always has the kids dressed up in special patriotic outfits, and while getting some groceries on July 3 at Wal Mart I decided to get into the spirit with a $4 patriotic tank top purchase. Missy enjoyed my participation.

Don’t mess with my freedom

Once we get to Yukon, we always stake out our turf near a specific pond in the southwest corner of the park. It’s close to the Philharmonic with a good view of the fireworks. The kids and Francine love to put their feet into the pond, where the turtles like to give their toes little nibbles. This year Francine also brought some cool mini rockets the kids could fire into the air (they use rubber bands, not actual rockets). They found a little pasture near our setup to play with those.

Naturally my wife and mom are the only ones who look normal in this picture

Of course it wouldn’t be July 4 without a hot dog eating contest, and they have one in Yukon. I lifted the kids up on my shoulders so they could watch a dude eat 14 in 10 minutes. It was the dude I predicted would win before the contest started. Personally we didn’t partake in any hot dogs, but I did down 20+ ounces of homemade root beer somebody was selling. It was probably even better than the State Fair root beer, which is a high standard. The kids got free ice cream and watermelon.

The guy second from the right won the hot dog eating contest, just as I predicted.

The Philharmonic was as good as it always is, and the fireworks were even better. They got rid of the ones that just make a really loud noise and do nothing else. I never did like those (crochety old man alert).

The long haul of lawn chairs, waters, blankets and snacks back to the car is always interesting, but we made it without incident. I was very happy that my mom was able to get around without much trouble barely one month after her hip replacement surgery. She’s really doing great.

Of course, by the time we get home and get the kids in bed, Missy and I have to unwind a little. Of course, that means eating leftovers. Feeling completely stuffed and exhausted is the sign of a good 4th, and we had another good one in 2019.

Father’s Day

The other day I asked Addie to go look at the calendar and see if we had anything going on this Sunday.

“It just says, ‘Father’s Day.'”

“Oh reallllllly?” I said in my way-over-the-top voice. “Well isn’t that exciting? Aren’t you excited???”

She just rolled her eyes at me and walked away.

This week my sister and her family are in town so we’re spending a lot of potential blogging time with them. And on Sunday I leave for my short World Series of Poker trip to Las Vegas. But since it’s Father’s Day week I thought I’d provide a little glimpse of where I’m at with all four of my ornery kiddos.

Father’s Day always comes with a tinge of unworthiness for me. The kids always make cool cards and posters for me and I just keep thinking about my shortcomings as a parent. I try my best but often wish I had more grace and patience with them. Part of that unworthiness comes from trying to measure up to my own dad, whose grace and patience far exceeded my own.

Going into everything my dad meant to me and all the ways he shaped who I am today would be a significantly longer blog. At this very moment the two things that stand out were his optimism and his presence.

He was always looking for the best in people and spinning every situation into its most positive potential outcome. And he was always present in my life, even if he wasn’t the most vocal father. He loved to play card games or golf with me, and those things really made me feel loved. Sometimes those two positive traits would come together in an annoying way when we would be playing golf and I would hit a terrible shot (not an infrequent occurrence.) He would always yell at the ball to hit a tree and bounce back into the fairway, or skip over the water. I would be irritated with myself for hitting a bad shot and didn’t want everyone on the course to look over because he’s yelling at a golf ball that has no chance to end up anywhere besides the creek or the woods. And of course the one time in 100 when the ball actually would bounce miraculously back into the fairway, he was hooting and hollering like I’d made a hole in one. I look back on those things fondly now but that wasn’t quite how I saw it back then.

I also want to acknowledge my father-in-law Richard Hockett. For one thing, he was never anything but completely accepting of me when I began dating Missy. There was no intimidation thing going on. But the main thing I learned from him was service. I’ll never forget the first Thanksgiving dinner I went to with Missy’s family. We were at her grandpa’s house and there were probably about 15 people eating there. Richard stayed on top of the dishes the entire weekend without ever having to be asked to do so or chiding anyone else for not helping. I’ve tried to emulate that in my house on a daily basis and especially during the holidays when there is extra cleaning to be done.

As for my kids, they’re all still young enough to like me most of the time. Our favorite special routine is the head rides I give them to their beds at night. They sit on my shoulders and get a circuitous route to the beds, with occasional earthquakes or spins involved. Sadly they’re starting to get too big, but so far I haven’t had to quit on them yet, even Addie. And thankfully Hawk is old enough not to drool most of the time now. The top of my head used to be sopping wet every time I gave him a head ride.

With Addie right now, I really appreciate how helpful she is with the other kids most of the time. There are exceptions but she is generally very loving and inclusive with them, which means a lot to me. She is learning a lot right now, so my favorite conversations with her involve her telling me whatever factoid she has just discovered and asking follow-up questions on that subject. I love the enthusiasm she has for learning, and she’s told me several things recently that I didn’t know or had forgotten so I’m learning from her too.

Myra is my cuddle bear, I love getting hugs from her every day. She’s starting to say some funny things too. Today she said, “You know, when I see a yellow car it makes me want to eat some mustard.” Like Addie, Myra is great about playing well with the boys, and they really look up to her. She knows a lot of sight words and has memorized some books, so my favorite thing is when the boys gather around her and she reads books to them.

Maddux has been into playing catch with the football with me, and he’s gotten to where he can sling it pretty good. We’re still working on catching it without closing his eyes or hands, but he’s getting better at that too. My favorite thing to do with Maddux, though, has always been reading books. He’s always just been completely mesmerized by books and I love seeing his eyes wide open with amazement and full attention while we read books. You can’t ever read too many books for his taste.

Hawk has been really into competition lately. The only way to get him to help clean up is to give him a five second countdown to put up a toy. But if you do that he’ll go as fast as he can to get the job done. Tonight he wanted to race Maddux to see who could put on pajamas faster, and you would have thought it was the seventh game of the World Series. I find it interesting that while Maddux has always been overly sensitive about losing and goes into a huge fit any time he loses anything, Hawk is the opposite. Even though he loves to race and play games, he doesn’t get bothered if he doesn’t win. He’ll just say, “Maddux won that one,” or “I couldn’t be the fastest this time.” And then he goes on about his business.

So anyway, that’s a little snapshot of my favorite things about my kiddos in the summer of 2019. I know I’ll get some cool drawings and something with Reese’s peanut butter in it, but they can’t give me anything better than just being themselves every day and letting me be a part of their lives.

Softball

Thursday was a weird evening for me in several ways.

First, I was staying the night at my mom’s house. Thanks to everyone who prayed for her hip replacement surgery Tuesday. After a rough first night she rebounded fantastically on Wednesday and was able to go home Thursday. She’s already getting around as well as she was before the procedure and I’m very hopeful that this will greatly increase her quality of life. But I didn’t want her staying home alone on that first night.

Which leads to Weird Thing #2. Mom went to bed early as usual and I had a kid-free evening of relaxation, but with no DVR on the TV. I don’t watch anything live on TV. Even sports, which is the one thing everyone watches live. I still DVR it, wait until the kids go to bed and then fire it up in peace and zip through the games quickly. I can watch a Cubs or Thunder game in about 45 minutes and a football game quicker than that. If it means I have to stay off my phone for a few hours in the evening to avoid spoilers then I consider that an added bonus. So I’m just chilling on her couch, flipping between the NBA Finals and the Women’s College World Series.

Which leads to Weird Thing #3. I watched a lot more of the softball game than I expected to. I’d still say the TV was on the basketball game more than 50% of the time, but it was close.

It was a great back-and-forth game, with OU beating Alabama 3-2. The next night while playing poker I watched the winner’s bracket game between OU and OSU. It’s pretty cool that both schools made it and the atmosphere at Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City seemed really electric. The top-ranked Sooners pulled away late for a 6-1 victory.

Why is it that I enjoyed watching softball two nights in a row when I never watch women’s basketball? Why did I watch more softball the past two nights than I’ve watched college baseball over the past two years? I think it comes down to the product. Women’s basketball is (in my opinion) an inferior product to men’s college basketball, which itself has become barely watchable ever since we got an NBA team. But they are essentially the same game. College baseball is an inferior product to minor league baseball, which is an inferior product to Major League Baseball. But they are essentially the same game. Softball is a different sport entirely, and the differences are what make it fun.

Start with the underhanded pitching motion. For one thing, it allows pitchers to throw multiple games in a row, as opposed to major league games where starters get pulled after four innings and it takes 6 guys to complete a game. It also allows for some different spin and manipulation of the ball. It doesn’t take long to figure out how hard it is to make solid contact off of these elite softball pitchers.

Softball games are full of chants and songs that don’t really make sense to an outsider like myself but they make for a festive environment. The whole field and base paths are smaller and shorter than a traditional baseball diamond, which makes the whole game move quicker. The shortstop doesn’t have time to play patty cake with the ball before throwing to first; any hesitation will cost her the out. My great friend and former OU softball beat reporter Josh Ward compares it to Arena League football, and it’s a perfect comparison. The quirks are what make it fun to watch. Yet it’s still very similar to baseball, and the players can easily display their athleticism in the field and on the basepaths.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt when your alma mater has the best program in the country. In 1995, OU hired the coach at Long Beach City College. All Patty Gasso has done since then is win 78% of her games and four national titles. And this year’s squad may be her best yet. OU is 54-4 and didn’t lose a game in Big 12 Conference play. Statistically, this would be their best team ever if they can win three more games and capture another title.

Patty Gasso

I came to OU three years after Gasso did, and in 2000 I was the sports editor of the school paper. The aforementioned Josh Ward covered the softball team, which looked like it might be a special one.

If you know Josh, you know he can be a tough critic (especially the Y2k version of Dub). But he never had a negative word to say about Gasso or the way she ran her program. He said she was great to work with and always “had her shit together.” Not that anyone could have predicted this level of success, but Josh says he never had a doubt that OU would be a big winner under Gasso.

One of the coolest experiences I ever had at OU came on the softball field while I was sports editor. Gasso let me, Josh, and our sports photographer Paul Dryden take batting practice against OU’s pitchers that spring. It was really a testament to both Josh and Coach Gasso. Most reporters wouldn’t have developed the kind of relationship with the team to make that a possibility, and most coaches wouldn’t be cool enough to go along with it.

I remember going to the old (and now defunct) Perfect Swing off Highway 9 to get some practice cuts in. I didn’t plan on hitting a home run but I was darn sure going to get the bat on the ball. OU’s pitchers that year were Jennifer Stewart and Lana Moran. Stewart was the ace and she had a changeup that made Josh and Paul look silly. Like any good pitcher she threw it with the same motion as her fastball and you only had about half a millisecond to react to that if you wanted to hit it, so when she threw the change you looked like Bugs Bunny swinging three times at the same pitch and striking out. I don’t know how anyone hits that pitch unless they just guess right that it’s coming.

Gasso only allowed us 5 or 10 pitches each. Neither Josh nor Paul made contact with any of Stewart’s pitches and the entire team was sitting on the outfield grass laughing up a storm and talking trash. So the pressure was on yours truly. Luckily I didn’t have to face Stewart. Moran was also a good pitcher but she didn’t have that nasty changeup and I was able to send her first pitch over the fence and into the parking lot, where it shattered Gasso’s car window. OK maybe that’s not quite how it happened. Actually, I just fouled it straight back, which was already a pretty big win for me. I also managed to hit one fair, although it would have been a routine ground out.

But it was a blast, and it made me appreciate how hard the sport is. As the sports editor of the paper, it stinks that the school year ends before the Women’s College World Series. Josh had some great coverage of the team during the season but by the time the WCWS rolled around it was summer and I had a regular job.

I’ll never forget the day OU won the national championship that year. It was Memorial Day and our family tradition at that time was to split into two groups. Mom took Andrew and Allison to her hometown of Enid to decorate the graves there, and I went with dad to the small town of Jones where his family was from. In the world before smartphones, I had no idea what was going on in the game against UCLA. As soon as we got home I turned on ESPN and the first batter I saw was the last batter of the game. It was really exciting to see this team we had been covering all year celebrating a national championship. The football championship wouldn’t come for another 7 months so this was the first time OU won anything during my tenure there.

Josh covered the WCWS and says he remembers some kind of special edition of the paper after it was over. It just stinks that the majority of the students wouldn’t have been on campus to read his great work and that I didn’t get to be part of the coverage or design of that paper. He said he gathered his notes and mementos from that WCWS and later gave them to Gasso, although he doesn’t know if she kept them or what she did with them. She’s won three championships since then (with a fourth hopefully on the way in the next week), but that first one is always special.

I was never the beat reporter for the softball team; I covered the baseball team. I covered several high school state tournament games at the Constitution but only one OU game. It was a Bedlam game in Norman, and I wasn’t actually sent to write about the game itself.

I was there to do a feature on Courtney Totte, who was a catcher for Oklahoma State. She was a great player and as far as I can remember she was the only Lawton kid during my time there to go on to play for OU or OSU. The stadium was packed and the crowd was really into it. I remember the weather being absolutely perfect that night, the game moved along at a good pace and OU won (sorry Courtney). Afterward I got a good interview which turned into a pretty good story, if I do say so myself. I remember it being one of those nights that make sportswriting the best job in the world. (The nights when the game takes four hours, the coaches are grumpy and the computer quits working, not so much).

This summer my daughter Addison is playing softball for the first time. We watched some of OSU’s win over Florida the other night together. We’ve gone to the park a few times to practice, just her and I, and it’s those kind of moments that you live for as a parent. She’s got some natural talent but she’s also good at volleyball, basketball, and a lot of non-sports stuff like music, acting, cooking and science so it will be interesting to see what piques her interest the most in the upcoming years.

I’m not pushing her toward softball by any means, but I’ll enjoy whatever time we end up getting on the diamond. And I’ll be watching the Women’s College World Series, at least as long as Gasso and the Sooners are in it.

Boomer.

News and notes

Another school year is almost in the books. It’s crazy how fast time flies now. I remember when I was growing up, wanting to be done with high school, and how the school year seemed to last forever. Now I find myself constantly unsure of what month it is. And it’s not like I’m just lagging behind a little bit. Sometimes I think it might be November when it’s April or vice versa.

As we head into the summer I thought it appropriate to give a little update on everyone in the Franklin clan.

Of course yesterday was Mother’s Day so we ought to start with the queen bee (and no, that bee is NOT short for another word). Missy has been kicking some butt lately (even more than usual).

This semester she taught her usual class at OU and did her usual once-per-week overnight shift in the labor unit. But she also picked up another part-time gig at the hospital that lasted a month or so which mostly involved her being on call. We realized that doing all three at the same time was probably a bit too much but this poker habit I picked up won’t pay for itself so she’s just going to have to deal with it.

Besides all that, she’s also coached Addison’s volleyball team and done a masterful job in our garden.

Missy did all of this basically by herself. That’s our strawberry patch on the bottom right.

Now that the semester is over, so are two of her three jobs, at least for the next month. So we celebrated all of that and Mother’s Day at Missy’s favorite restaurant in the whole world, a hibachi place in Lawton called Kudo’s. Some of our favorite people, the Goodmans, were able to join us and it was a great dinner.

Speaking of moms, my wonderful mom has been in a lot of pain lately and is having hip replacement surgery at the end of this month. Some of my favorite memories with mom involve going for walks in the neighborhood, and those just aren’t possible right now with the amount of pain she’s in. Her feisty dog Harry B told me he also hopes to get mom back into walking condition. Her knee replacements about 15 years ago did wonders, so here’s hoping the hip surgery is as effective. Our whole family would appreciate prayers that everything goes smoothly.

Today Addie has two end of year parties, one for drama club and one for volleyball. She did an amazing job in her drama performance last Friday and the volleyball team won their final game of the season the next day. This summer she’ll try fast-pitch softball for the first time. I think she has a natural talent for it and with no school I figure I can make her practice about 90 hours per week until she gets offered a college scholarship in July.

Maddux is finishing pre-K and is ready to go school all day this fall. He’s come a long way with his vocabulary and knowledge of numbers and the alphabet. Last night he told us two knock-knock jokes he came up with.

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Zero.

Zero who?

Zero. Like nobody is there!

Then he tricked me on the second one, since I was expecting the same punch line as the first one.

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

None.

None who?

None of your business.

Myra is graduating from kindergarten. Her favorite thing this year was learning about chickens and then watching as the seven eggs her class got hatched. Myra even got to name one of the chickens, Rainbow. (Last night Joey asked if she named it Fried).

Hawk has been super cute of late. He’s intellectually ready for school but will have to wait two years before he’s old enough for pre-K. His vocabulary and deductive reasoning are really impressive, he just needs to work on communicating his emotions a little better (probably true for every 3-year-old). The other day Missy asked him what he was eating. He said, “I’m eating the grilled cheese sandwich. You can have the boy cheese sandwich.”

As for me, I had a great time celebrating at Kudos last night and am really looking forward to Friday. That day I get to help Maddux and some other pre-K kids go through Super Kids day at school, where they compete in a kind of elementary school Olympics. Then we scored some cheap OKC Dodgers tickets through OU Medical so we’re going to that as a family.