The dead and the deadbeat

What Table Talkers are saying this week about summer memories, veterans and vasectomies.

Published June 4, 2004 4:22PM (EDT)

White House

Gulf War II - #4 -- Dedicated to our troops

Grace Newton - 12:57 pm Pacific Time - May 30, 2004 - #4821 of 4932

The vets are selling poppies today, poppies for remembrance. Fragile pieces of orange material with twisted green floral tape over wire stems. The salespeople are veterans of WWII or Korea. Oh, there are a few upper-middle-aged Vietnam vets, but most are from older wars and most look as fragile as the poppies they're selling. I look at the lined face and gnarled hands, shaking a bit as they sort through the poppies to "pick a good one" for me. This is the generation that raised me. The strong men and women who fought through the terrible dark days and made it home to put our country back together. The laughing, gentle uncles who you believed never had a black thought in their lives until you watched them duck and wince at a sudden thunderstorm. Or when you woke in the middle of a warm summer night and heard the awful muffled sounds a grown man makes when he fights tears and the soft murmur of your aunt's voice -- not the words, just the pitch and tone, the same voice she used to quiet terrified kids or injured animals.

The old, straight as an arrow gentleman hands me the poppy and thanks me. My eyes blur and my voice shakes more than his, as I say, "No, I thank you. Thank you for saving the special place where I grew up. I hope I can help keep it for your great-grandchildren."

House and Garden

The cottage!

Vinca Minor - 02:24 pm Pacific Time - May 28, 2004 - #18 of 26

I miss my family's summer house on a lake. It was just over an hour from where we lived, in what was then a rural area. (It has since become another overcrowded site on the asphalt ribbon of the East Coast.) We spent two or three months there each year and weekends in the spring and fall. We theoretically had hot water, if you wanted to venture into the crumbling stone and tree trunk-supported basement we ineptly shored up every few years. You'd load up the big, black iron hopper with wood full of really scary things, like centipedes and giant mutant spiders with Jersey attitude, light the propane torch arrangement with a wooden match, creating a huge whoof! of stinking blue flame that would possibly light the woodpile and more likely create a dancing net of fire around your ears as it singed the cobwebs and enraged the spiders, and a while later you'd have warmish, rusty water in the outdoor shower whose cracked concrete base was barely kept from the incursions of the surrounding ivy. Sometimes chipmunks would dash across your feet while you showered hastily in your bathing suit and the mind would rather nastily conflate their appearance with that of the giant mutant spiders. The gas stove upstairs was lit similarly, and often caught with a blast that singed your eyebrows and slammed the oven door open on your head. All the floors sagged and the linens reeked of mildew and mustiness for the first month of every season. The giant wooden rowboat took four people to carry it from the tilting garage to the water, and the Old Town canoe, leaking through its sixteen coats of whatever paint happened to be around when someone felt like painting it, was nearly as heavy. (I restored it a couple of decades later and it cost $850. It looked beautiful.) I loved that place.

Social Issues

Deadbeat dads - vasectomy or jail

The Ox - 01:17 pm Pacific Time - May 28, 2004 - #13 of 45

My opinion is that it's absolute horseshit. There certainly are deadbeat dads out there but the great majority of men who are behind on child support aren't deadbeats, they're dead broke. Beyond that the issue gets even more complicated. Men who are allowed regular contact with their children tend to pay on time. Men who are removed from their children's lives tend to fall behind.

Child support awards that seem very small loom large when income barely stretches to cover rent and groceries. The fact is that a lot of dads are just poor. By and large, it's poor men who are in jail on contempt, earning not a dime, falling even farther behind and taking space that would better be reserved for criminals.

I have no sympathy for men who choose to have children and fail to support them adequately when they have the means to do so. I also have no sympathy for women who use children as a club to punish former husbands/boyfriends (and yes, you know it happens) or judges who use the threat of incarceration to force sterilization. On the attitude that seems so prevalent among some about "hostile inseminators," let's not forget that it takes two to tango, shall we? You can't get pregnant if you don't have sex with the guy. And no, I don't see simply having casual sex as consent to becoming a dad any more than I see it as consent to being forced to be a mom. Choice has to work both ways. No Republic of Gilead for me for either men or women, thank you very much.

Posts of the week is an ongoing feature of Table Talk, Salon's vibrant community forum. Older posts of the week may be found here in TT.

By Salon Staff

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