Man Cave Etched in Male DNA

Most men would be happy to live in a cave.

The other day a friend and I were talking about how the ‘man cave’ phenomena continues to spread across our culture. The concept of the ‘man cave’, by the way, is rather primal instinct for men – a place to go hide and be alone. A safe place away from distractions and all things not doused in testosterone. Anthropologically speaking, I’m pretty sure this practice goes back to the days of our long-haired, Neanderthal ancestors who holed up in literal caves to get away from the pack.

Last night my friend joking lamented about how when they bought their house he envisioned the basement becoming his own personal ‘man cave’. His wife, however, promptly – and rightly – converted it to a playroom for the kids.

“Yeah, I figure when I do get around to it, the place will most likely be an ‘old man’ cave. You know, one with a recliner and one of those little refrigerators in the corner.”

Men and women are without a doubt, very different. Somewhere in the male DNA is a natural urge to be left alone for periods of time. I’m not really sure why, but we seem to get antsy without having a place to call our own. And contrary to what popular culture would have people believe, we don’t really need a fancy place with a giant cinema screen and a dozen powerful speakers to rock the foundation of our neighbor’s house. We just want a space to imagine as a home base, so to speak, a place to reach out and tag once in a while.

Garages, if you think about it, have always served as a natural environment for men to retreat to for hours at a time. The fact the car could be parked inside just served as a bonus.

The other day another friend told me of how when her father retired he basically retreated to the detached garage and launched into an endless list of ‘projects’ – basically piddling away with his tools and anything mechanical.

Sounds like a cave to me.

Fortunately for my wife has always seemed to understand this biological tick of maleness. For as long as we’ve been together, she’s always helped carve out a space in our home for me to spend time immersed in my favorite past time, tinkering with words. Over time I’ve had a desk sitting on a plank of wood in an unheated and uncooled attic to eventually working my way up to unused bedroom. And over time, these spaces, so Spartan and simple, found themselves named by our kids as ‘the boring room’ – a place they’d certainly never want to spend any amount of time against their will.

So in the end, a ‘man cave’ is nothing to fear. The crazy, over-the-top versions featured on television are just another example of pop culture gone wild. Men are simple creatures. We need love, food and a place to call home.

And if you can work a little cable TV into the equation, all the better.

– 30 –

Mulligan offer redemption of a different sort

 

As I bent down to place the silver end of the orange air hose to my front tire I could hear footsteps approaching from behind.

 

“Pretty car there, sir.” said the voice.

 

Turning I could see a tall man dressed in long pants and blue t-shirt. Both needed cleaning long ago. His face, dark and tired, reflected the sweat on his face of the early morning summer heat.

“Hey, I don’t mean to bother you,” he said, “but would you mind buying a me a cup of coffee?”

 

Inside I could hear the voice I’ve heard for years saying, “don’t do it, you’re only encouraging the behavior.”

“I’m sorry,” I said patting my pants leg, “I’m not carrying any change or cash with me today.”

 

Technically speaking, the statement was the truth. I did not have any change in my pockets nor did I happen to have any cash with me at the time. But inside, my answer bothered me.

 

The man politely thanked me for my time and slowly turned away. As he walked I noticed half-full black plastic trash bag trailing him from behind. Pausing, he leaned over the edge a trash can at a nearby gas pump. Soon afterwards the sound of aluminum cans inside the bag announced his moving onto the next set of gap pumps.

 

When in doubt, I’ve always put the direction of my life in the hands of God – and so I did again in this moment. Sounds crazy, but I’ve always felt as if God regularly puts opportunities before us to prove our worth and humanity. I mean, if a straggling puppy came up to us, don’t you think most of us would reach down, pet it and see if we could help it out? Then why not our fellow man?

 

“I really regret my decision,” I said to myself – and God, “if given another chance, I’m going to make this right.”

 

Finishing putting air in the rear tires, I got back in my car and pulled out of the gas station and into traffic.

 

And just like that, the man in dark pants, dirty t-shirt and black bag of aluminum cans reappeared – now searching through a trash can at a business a hundred yards down the street.

 

I flipped on the turn signal, pulled up to the business and stepped out of the car.

 

“Did you say you’d like a cup of coffee?” I asked.

 

“Why, yes sir,” he said.

 

Fortune have it, we happened to be standing in front of a small café with dozens of cars and trucks parked around.

 

“How about something to eat?” I asked as I signaled for him to follow me to the door of the restaurant.

 

“Sure,” he said, carefully placing his bag out of the way as if to keep it safe from prying eyes.

 

As we walked through the door we could both feel the cool air rush against our faces – as if cold water rinsed across us.

 

“Two coffees, please.” I said to the lady at the counter. “And he’d like something to eat.”

 

Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out my plastic credit card and placed it on the counter. No cash, but I did have a tool available to help buy my fellow man a cup of coffee.

 

Moments later we both walked out the door – he with his coffee and brown paper bag with a biscuit and me with feeling as if God had given me a mulligan.

 

– 30 –

When Anything Means Everything

“Excuse me,” said the tall, middle-aged man. “I won’t take much of your time but I was wondering if I could ask you a favor.”

I’m sitting in a small shop in southern Georgia while my wife looks around.

The shopkeeper pauses what she’s doing and I recognize an invisible wall going up between her and the man.

She and I are probably thinking the same thing: what is this man trying to sell?

His body language is uncertain and it is obvious he’s not accustomed to walking up complete strangers and asking for their time and attention. If he’s selling something, I thought to myself, he’s got to learn to get past being nervous in front of strangers if he’s ever going to sell anything.

I looked back down at the local magazine in my hands and return to flipping the pages predicting in my mind where the conversation is going.

“You see,” he says, trying to steady his voice, “my wife and I are trying to adopt a child and as you might know, it is very expensive.”

Suddenly I stopped flipping pages and felt an odd sense of shame roll across me. I’d made a quick and inaccurate assumption about this man and his journey.

As he spoke to the clerk I could see her defensive wall evaporating.

“I was wondering,” he said pulling a small batch of cards from the pocket of his khaki pants, “if it would be okay if I left a few of these here?”

He shared of how a local restaurant would be holding a special night where they would be donating a portion of the evening’s sales to he and his wife’s adoption fund. The cards, he said, would hopefully raise awareness and let people who’d like to help their efforts come out the following Thursday.

I paused, now in almost awe of what this man is doing.

People tend to carelessly toss around the phrase “I’d do anything to…”.

But when it really gets down to it, how many people really know what they are saying?

When this man and wife began their journey I’m sure these very words came out of their mouths. But the difference is, they mean it with all their heart.

Adoption is not inexpensive. Statistics show an adoption can run a family up to $40,000 when performed though an agency or private adoption channel. And if you’ve ever spoken to anyone who’s opened his or her hearts to adopt a child, there is an emotional road associated with the journey one can barely imagine.

But to this man and his wife, “anything” is just what they are doing.

It is obvious to both the shopkeeper and me the man is very nervous and wandering far from his comfort zone. I would imagine when he and his wife uttered their commitment, he never envisioned walking to every business in town asking shopkeepers to allow him to leave cards on their counter inviting people to a fundraiser. Meeting face to face with complete strangers and asking for their help is enough to make anyone nervous.

But “anything” means “anything” – and when your heart is involved, you find your fears and weaknesses fade into the background.

The shopkeeper reaches forward to accept the cards and with it, becomes another step for a man who would do “anything” for his future child.

 

– 30 –

Not All Distances Measured Alike

Sometimes distance isn’t measured in miles.

Last week my wife and I found ourselves driving down the interstate on the way to visiting a potential college for our 17-year old daughter. While the odometer kept a careful tally of the miles driven, my wife was measuring something very real, yet invisible to the eye.

“I know this is her decision,” my wife said, “but this is too far from home.”

Our daughter slept quietly in the back seat of our SUV – much like she’d done for years before time required her to add a slight curl to her legs in order to rest comfortably across the back seat.

I looked down at the odometer and then glanced over to the small clock on the dashboard. While my mind did a mathematical calculation, my wife found herself tuned into a completely different formula altogether – a formula only a parent can feel.

Her words settling into me, I reached over to her, our hands touching. Instantly I began to feel her emotions flow though me, her words awaking emotions of mine right below the surface.

In a flash, I understood where her measurement was rooted: in her heart.

While I was initially calculating how many hours it might take me to drive across the state if our daughter found her car with a dead battery in the middle of the night, my wife’s emotions were plugged into a completely different wavelength. Mothers, it seems, seem to carry a ‘sixth-sense’ most of us fathers seem to keep repressed or on a very short leash.

Suddenly I pictured a late night call with tears on the other end of the call. The situation could be anything, but I know inside of most men is a soft spot for their daughters which awakens a sense of urgency like we’ve never felt before. And to us, being able to act on this somewhat new feeling is deeply ingrained in our DNA. And in these moments, the urge to protect or comfort will override any logic or what little common sense we might possess.

With these strange emotions coming to the surface, I turned to look at my wife.

When you’ve lived with someone for three decades you learn to read the unspoken language you’ve forged together over the years.

Without a word, her eyes told me volumes.

While the odometer displayed hundreds of miles behind us that day, I knew there was something much different in play at the moment.

Your child heading off to college is traumatic and highly emotional for all involved. A friend once told me about a how their son, a very mature young man, began crying as they arrived to move him into his freshman dorm. High emotions, generally relegated to parents, apparently are spread equally around.

My fingers, intertwined with those of my wife, gently squeezed as we looked at each other.

With only fifteen miles to go to the university’s exit, I understood.

“Funny you should say that,” I said, “I’m getting the very same feeling.”

– 30 –