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A Good Influence | blog.deanland.com

A Good Influence

A Good Influence

I finally feel like a good influence. The pride, the joy.

Before I launch into my "GOOD INFLUENCE" tale, here's why it feels so good. A real and true story of childhood events in the suburban outer boroughs of New York City.

For years, as a brash, fearless, and generally go-with-the-flow kid, I heard various friends' parents refer to me as a "bad influence." On one hand, oh the shame, the sorrow. On the other hand, oh what jerks and mediocre examples of parenting those parents seemed to me.

The only time it really hurt my feelings was when my pal Bobby and I were practicing place-kicking footballs. We two eleven-year olds, planning (and training for) our careers as place kickers for the New York Giants. His older sister was the ball-holder. I was rushing up to kick the ball when she suddenly turned, lost her balance, and put her face right in the flight of my kicking foot.

BAM! Screams, tears, horror.

I kicked that girl right in the jaw. A fierce kick, meant to make the ball go as high and far as possible.

Oops. In today's parlance: "my bad."

Or maybe her bad, for not just holding the ball and keeping her face out of the way of my oncoming foot.

Their mother came running out of the house to see what was the commotion, the to-do, the screaming. You can imagine her shock as she saw her daughter's bleeding face, her son Bobby yelling, "Dean kicked Sandra in the face!!!" and me cowering and wondering what the hell to do in this situation.

My concurrent fears:

    1. Oh, no!! I've disfigured poor Sandra. Yikes!
    2. What did she do? Why did she drop her head in front of my foot?
    3. Oh, dear, I am in trouble now. How will I explain this to my parents?

Bobby's mother gets a wet towel to clean up Sandra's face. It turns out I'd gotten her jaw, just missed her nose, which was bleeding, but she was alright. Shocked, stunned, in some pain, and bleeding. But not a major tragedy, no trip to the hospital, no cause for emergency action.

Then the mom starts to scream at Bobby and Sandra: "GET IN THE HOUSE! GET AWAY FROM HIM! I TOLD YOU NOT TO PLAY WITH THAT DEAN! HE'S A BAD INFLUENCE! NOW HE'S KICKED YOUR SISTER IN THE HEAD!"
How an accident (clearly, I had no malice toward Sandra. If anything, I might have had a passing minor crush on her) with no malice aforethought became evidence of my being a bad influence actually confused and confounded me.

The mother then warned me to get off the block, stay away from her kids, and never come near their house again. Just to spite her, I would walk past their house almost every opportunity I had. Yell at me, fine. Call me names, her prerogative. Say something that's stayed with me as a sour memory for nearly forty years, her right in a free country.

But ban me from the street? FEH! I knew my rights. So walk past their house I always did. HAH!

Amazingly, that mean, hysterical, name-calling woman didn't call my parents to report the errant kick incident. I spent that entire afternoon and evening in fear of the anticipated ringing phone. Bobby explained a few years later that his sister had mild Epilepsy, and would have these moments of lost balance, and would stumble. So the kick was a medical accident, not of my doing. Everyone turned out alright.

Sandra's face healed. She also got on proper medication for her mild Epilepsy. Bobby continued to play with me, just never on his block.

And he once went so far as to tell me he didn't really think I was such a bad influence, either. He did confide in me that he thought one of my sisters might be more of a bona fide "bad influence" than I, but that was more his sister's problem than mine, as they were closer in age.

I wonder if they even recall this whole thing, all so many years ago!?!?

Now back to why I am feeling like a good influence. Look what happened while I was making the drive to NC and back. This is an excerpt from an e-mail Susan sent out today:

Well, I've gone to the other side! Wait 'til Pastrami hears about
this!

I went to the Met game all by myself last night! Dean was on a road trip, I was all alone. I had a very stressful and hectic week at home and at worl, I wanted to veg out, park my brain in neutral and think about NOTHING!! I had packed a radio and a scorebook in my totebag, thinking the Yankees were in town. I read the calendar wrong!!

So I ran off to the only place where there was baseball. Yes, I went to Shea!

I really really enjoyed the game. I felt bad for the Met fans. Think of it. They're trailing by just one run. And finally, they manage to load the bases with no outs. Then they waste away every gold opportunity. The Mets fans that night were really good fans. They stood up, they cheered, they rooted for their team. And they get so disappointed. You really have to feel bad for them.

Dean is so proud of me. He made me a baseball fan. ----susan

Ah, the pride, the joy, in being a good influence!