Saturday, July 31, 2010

Making a "Building Ha-Ha."

John Ramsey Miller

Last week I finished my work with the census and I gathered a lot of material along with a modest paycheck from the Federal Government. Over the past few weeks I traveled a few thousand miles in my Highlander, and spoke to hundreds of people, a few that were glad to see me. So now I am going to get back to writing. Then, due to some family turmoil, I found myself with my three year old grandson for a few days. My grandson lives in town 17 miles from me and he loves spending time with his Dotz, which is what my grandchildren all call me. In my last book, yet unpublished, a man inherits a grandchild, and the appearance of this new addition puts a cramp on his lifestyle and he has to go back into his violent past to save her from bad people with an agenda. For some reason I keep returning to that sort of situation--man with kids to protect. Maybe because I get what it feels like to have a child suddenly changing life as someone knows it.

Yesterday I watched Kung Fu Panda twice, made Duplo Chinook helicopters and "buildings Ha-Ha" all day. Build ...demolish... build... demolish... I have no idea what a "ha-ha" is and he just looked at me like I was crazy when I asked what that was we were building and destroying. And he built several things he called "Trapolaters." We gathered eggs and actually made it back with almost half of the eggs in a state of unbrokness. He followed me through my daily chores and we ended with him swimming in the baby pool we keep on the rear deck. I am out of practice dealing with children, but I must say I'm enjoying his company. In fact his parents told me I could bring him back today, but I don't think I'll get around to that today.

It's storming today, and Rushie and I are probably going to watch Kung Fu Panda a few more times and break a few eggs.

"Every time I leave, they pull me back in." After writing the first part of this missive I got a call from the LCO asking me to come back to work for Census special ops for three days to clean up some questionable work left by others, and so I dropped Rushie at my youngest son's gallery while I dashed about between counties.

I had been wrestling with my killer and the kid and spending time with Rushie is helping me get into how a man, who is not a warm and fuzzy type, deals with the contradicting sides of himself. I've always been an observer more than a participant in life, and everyone in my family gets that. Most authors I know are outsiders more or less, and the best books are about fish out of water. The past few weeks have demanded that I actively participate in life and it's not been easy for me, but good for me.

My youngest son is talking about getting married in June, and with that all of my sons will be family men. Life is good and life is bad, but I'm trying to make life as good as possible. So I am going to climb back into my book, and try to write the best book I've ever written. I just might do it this time, at least I hope so.

At sixty I'm just starting to learn about life. And maybe one of these days I may even find out what a "Building Ha-Ha" and a "Trapolator" is.


  1. Good times. I share your perspective on living life as an outsider. My wife pulls me in to live and experience what I do. I'm indebted to her for that. The difference is that I'm on the younger side of the equation. My 2-year-old is asleep in the bedroom and my 10-month old just woke up on the couch beside me. She is now back to sleep in my arms. As I said, good times.

    I was wondering if Rushie watched Sesame Street? The HA-HA reminds me of the count as in "One building Ha Ha!" You could try counting the buildings and trapolators to see what happens.

    This brings to mind the "parable" of Mary and Martha. Jesus is visiting Martha's (?) house. Mary chose to spend time with Jesus while Martha chose to clean up after the meal. Fed up, Martha confronts Mary and asks Jesus to send her to help out. However, Jesus rebukes Martha and tells her the Mary has made the better choice. The moral of the story is take advantage of your opportunities as they arise and don't be a workaholic because the work can wait whereas the experience will not. Or that is what I get from the story.

    So I hope you enjoy the time you have with your grandson.

  2. LOL! You are making memories you'll keep forever. I confess, I'm not the biggest fan of children, but I have some favorite memories with my nieces.

    Like when she came to AZ to visit me when she was 3 and refused to heed my warnings about prickly Saguaro cactuses. She wasn't satisfied until she got into a battle with one--and lost. I still can't tell that story without laughing my head off (I know, I'm a mean aunt) but she really had to learn the hard way. And I actually do intend to turn that into a kid's book one day. 8-)

  3. Nice slice of life, John, as always.

  4. Like anything else in life, the experiences we have and have had in the past are fule for the motivations and reactions of our characters. It's an experience I'm unlikely to share, so it gives you a perspective that I don't have and strengthens your writing. :)

    At least thats the line I keep getting fed in various forums I visit. HAHA

    Time to get back to work! :D

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  6. As a pediatrician, my greatest pleasure comes from working with grandparents caring for their children’s children.

    It’s almost always an unexpected role, but grandparents accept it without trumpeting their sacrifice. When I ask how they’re coping with the (often unwelcome) 24-hour-a-day responsibilities, most just shrug – as if to say, “what else am I to do.” There’s also a special tenderness in their manner of holding the children, wiping their noses, correcting them. God seems to impart an ineffable gentleness to grandparents, even when they are gruff, massively built bricklayers. It seems that these people who are otherwise normal in every way – sometimes grumpy, sometimes sad, sometimes selfish – become mostly kind and selfless in their role as grandparents.

    Are there grandparents who don’t fit this profile? Sure, but in my experience they are exceedingly rare – much rarer than mere probabilities would dictate.

    You’re a noble fellow, John Ramsey. You and your grandson have both received a wonderful gift, it seems.

  7. Write that book, John.

    Also, I think The Trapolator was a movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

  8. Life can be messy ... but look at the alternative.

    Children seemed to populate several of my novels probably for the same reasons you mentioned. Among other things, children often teach us to take life slower and enjoy the time we have with them.

    Best wishes on your novel.

  9. John, you'll be happy to know that this bookstore I was in the other day in Salisbury, NC had copies of both of your books. I was looking for a copy of 6 MINUTES and they didn't have it in stock. The person I was with wanted to buy one of my books, but they said they didn't stock that author, but could order a book. So Gilstrap 2, Miller 0.

  10. Great post. John.
    You are strumming chords of the universal with your observations of grandchildren and the role of protector. A theme similar to that shared in my unpublished work.

    IMO your comments and experience bode well for the outcome of your effort and I am eager to read it. Title yet?

    I share a similiar professional history with Philip Hawley and agree with his poignnant observations.

    As you stated John; life, some is good and some is bad...I would add that something obout kids brings seems to bring out the best.
    (Grandsons Drake 23 months and Bode 4 months)