Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fathers of the Groom - Unite!

This column originally appeared in the Norton Mirror in September 2003. When you read it, keep in mind one of my sons is now married, and the other...well, his doomsday clock is ticking! :)

When you are a parent, there are many opportunities to bask in your pride in the children you have raised. Of all those opportunities, perhaps none are more emotional and meaningful than when your child is married, and enters into that wonderful world of wedded bliss.

That is the time parents are officially recognized for their hard work in raising the child they are giving away. The father of the bride walks his daughter down the aisle, and has that special dance with his little girl. The mother of the bride is escorted to her seat of honor with all eyes upon her. The mother of the groom is also escorted, and has that emotional dance with her grown son. Yes, each parent has their well-deserved very special moment.

Except for the totally neglected and disregarded parent when it comes to most weddings – the ignored and seemingly forgotten father of the groom.

As you may have guessed by now, I am the father of sons. While none of them have yet gotten married (or even vaguely considered such a thing), I must admit it is one of the events I look forward to someday. Or at least I did, until I began contemplating a very sobering fact.

As father of a groom, I will have virtually no official place or chores in the average wedding. No real duties in the ceremony, no traditional dance at the reception, no shining moment of glory on that special day. While all the other parents have a clearly defined role and a starring moment, the father of the groom is relegated to a mere supporting role.

In fact, he is the appendix of the wedding party. He really doesn’t serve a purpose, and he can be removed with virtually no harm to the wedding itself.

The bridesmaids and ushers walk down the aisle. The maid/matron of honor stands next to the bride. The best man gives the ceremonial toast. They all are vital parts of this meaningful and special day.

The father of the groom does nothing. He wears a tuxedo for no apparent purpose. He is often mistaken for the caterer or the head waiter. He directs people to the restrooms and kindly declines to take drink orders.

Oh sure, he gets to walk down the aisle at the beginning of the ceremony. But he trails the mother of the groom, who is escorted ceremoniously by an usher. He isn’t even considered good enough to escort his own wife to her seat of honor. His only job is not to trip or step on her dress from behind.

I’m sure that in some ceremonies the father of the groom is tossed a bone. Maybe he gets to welcome people to the reception. Maybe he lights a candle on the altar. Maybe he gets to park cars at the reception.

But generally, he is ignored. He sits back and lets the other parents bask in the spotlight and the glow of this once (we hope) in a lifetime experience. He is shunned, the ultimate redheaded stepchild.

Oh I know this day won’t be about parents and glory and spotlights. The day will belong to the happy couple. It is all about them, their love, and their new commitment and life with each other. The day is all theirs.

That would be the noble stance. It is very easy for the other three parents, all of whom have their traditional moments-in-the-sun, to agree with that crap. After all, no one asked them if they were friends of the bride or groom, or slipped them a few bucks and told them to be careful with the new car.

If any of you faithful readers out there have suggestions to right this wrong and restore the father of the groom to his rightful place in the marriage ceremony hierarchy, please let me know. I’d be very grateful.

And take your time. Fortunately, my sons are in no hurry.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Little Anniversaries, Big Weapons

This column originally appeared in the Norton Mirror in December 2006.

Today is my anniversary. But please, don’t tell my wife. I’m counting on her forgetting.

No, it is not our wedding anniversary today. That comes in May, and will be our 30th. This is a different anniversary, one of those “little” anniversaries that you usually celebrate when you are a young couple, full of hope and happiness, gazing adoringly at each other and together into the future.

You know, the kind we older couples now mired in the reality of our lives scoff at and ridicule when we observe? Well, I no longer laugh and scoff. I have taken what was formerly a liability and turned it into an asset. I no longer forget these anniversaries – I use them.

Today is 34 years to the day that my wife and I first kissed. It was when we were in high school, and took place while standing at the front door of her house. Her youngest sister was having a slumber party in the front room that night, and our first kiss ended when one of her friends watching us in the darkness felt compelled to shout out “Eeewww, mush!”.

This is just one of the “little” anniversaries we have celebrated over the years. We celebrate the anniversary of our first date, the day we started going “steady” in high school, and possibly a few others we won’t discuss here.

Over the years, the observance of these “little” anniversaries has diminished quite a bit. Kids and life in general will do that to you. I always had to struggle and try to remember all the dates, not wanting to be the one to forget and seem uncaring.

But now, with our kids grown, my wife has a busy job and career. Oddly enough, she manufactures calendars. You would think that gives her a decided advantage on all things related to dates, but in fact just the opposite is true.

She is always thinking years ahead, and has to worry about making sure she has planned all the special occasions and dates for calendars well into the future. This means she often has no idea what the current date is, let alone what it might represent.

So the first time I gave her a card for one of our “little” anniversaries and saw the look of horror and dismay on her face as she realized she had forgotten, I knew I was on to something.

At first she tried to pretend she had left her card for me at work, but eventually admitted she had forgotten. The tearful apology that followed, along with the wonderful treatment I was accorded in the aftermath, soon had me over the disappointment of being forgotten.

But I milked it – boy, did I milk it. I gave her the sad eyes, all while telling her it really didn’t matter. After all, I told her, at least she knew that I still remembered and thus still loved her. Oh yeah, I was workin’ it.

From that day on, our “little” anniversaries have become little competitions. I always get her a card, and then give it to her just after the stroke of midnight when it becomes our anniversary. Sometimes she triumphantly pulls her own card out from under her pillow, with that smug look on her face that says I have not bested her this year.

But other times I see the look of consternation, and I know I have won. On those occasions I have gained the upper hand in our relationship, albeit for a very short time. I can see the pang of regret in her eyes, the guilt that sweeps all-too-briefly across her lovely face.

So while my friends and my children may ridicule these “little” anniversaries and the way we observe them, I merely smile knowingly. After nearly 30 years of marriage, I and others like me understand the importance of any edge we can possibly gain in our relationships.

Our next anniversary is January 7th. If you see me smiling, you’ll know she forgot. I’ve got my card all signed, ready to go.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gay, Straight - Who Cares?

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on September 20, 2008.

This newspaper's recent series on how young people in the area perceive and react to gays has stirred a predictable pot of controversy.

Gay activists have applauded it. Conservative traditionalists have condemned it. And the overwhelming majority of folks simply yawned and went on with their lives.

They have done so not because the series wasn't interesting or well written, because it was indeed both. Instead, their reaction to the story merely reflects the reality of the situation both here and across Massachusetts.

Gay people are just no big deal anymore.

They are your neighbors, your friends, your family members. They have jobs like you do, pay taxes like you, and have problems similar to yours. They have their successes, their failures, and in most cases their lives are just as screwed up.They are no more or less interesting than the rest of us.

At long last, they have earned the right to be just as anonymous and ignored as their straight majority counterparts. Congratulations to them - I think.

Over the last four years homosexual marriage has been legal here in Massachusetts. Thousands of gay couples have entered into legal marriages or made their unions official in the eyes of the law. They have availed themselves to the rights and privileges previously given only to their heterosexual counterparts.

They have also been welcomed into the world of divorce, child custody battles, and the other less glamorous aspects of marriage we straight folks have kept to ourselves for so long. There is no taking the good without the bad.

But not everyone wants gay folks to become simply an accepted part of our social landscape. Some insist on trying to single out gays, to point out how different they are from the rest of us.

These good people with their "traditional values" insist homosexuals are seeking rights beyond what "normal folks" are accorded. They accuse them of seeking not equality but rather special treatment. They charge this newspaper and the "liberal media" with seeking to promote the "homosexual agenda".

Agenda? Wow - I didn't even know they had meetings.

I need to make a full disclosure here. According to the apparent rules of the prevailing political atmosphere, I am a Liberal. And even worse - I'm not embarrassed by it in the slightest.

I'm not sure which is considered worse today, being gay or being a Liberal. But it is now clear one of them is an actual choice, while the other is arguably not.

We all choose our politics, choose who and what we stand for. We choose our religions, our beliefs. And thank God we have the freedom in this country to do just that.

But choosing our sexuality? That hardly seems within our power. You can choose to perform heterosexual acts, but that does not make you a heterosexual. It is not what you do that defines your sexuality. Rather, it is who you are.

Homosexuality is not a crime - at least not in this state. Neither is it a disease for which a cure is available. It is not a political party, at least no more than conservative religious groups are.

The danger with our youth today is not that they will become too accepting of homosexuals, but that they will learn to hate and distrust people simply because they are different from themselves in ways kids cannot possibly fully understand yet.

We rightfully protest when other countries deny basic rights to women based upon nothing but their gender. Yet here at home we seek to deny rights to people we deal with every day for no reason other than their sexual identity. Is one really any worse than the other?

Does preaching acceptance make us weaker as a society? Does teaching discrimination and distrust make us stronger?

I was wondering - have I been guilty of promoting the Heterosexual Agenda all these years? Did I miss those meetings too?

What The Sun Chronicle series pointed out to me was the strides gays have made towards simply becoming ignored like the rest of us average Americans.

Sometimes you have to stand up for the right to be unnoticed.

BILL GOUVEIA is a local columnist. His writings appears here every Saturday, and he can be reached at

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Purple Door

This column orginally apppeared in the Norton Mirror in 2003.

Early on in the relationship you are the Man of the House, the King of your Castle, the head of your family.

Then you come home one day, and your front door is purple. And now the world knows what you in your heart have known for some time. The King is dead. Long live the Queen.

Although most of my friends and acquaintances say it happened many years ago, for me official confirmation of my demise as pretender to the throne of my household came this weekend. Up until Sunday afternoon I was clinging to the pretense of power, putting up a solid front for the rest of the world. But now the symbol of my emasculation is emblazoned upon the front of my once revered domicile – that damn purple door.

It began last week, when my wife asked me (in that sly way that wives pretend to ask) what I thought about changing the color of the front door to our house. I reacted in typical male fashion. I told her there was nothing wrong with the color it was now, that I liked that color, and I did not want it to change. In my mind, thus endeth the discussion.

Then she asked me a trick question. She asked me what color our front door was. I scoffed at her ridiculous question, ignoring her knowing smile. I hemmed, I hawed, but she was not to be denied. I was finally forced to admit that I had no idea what color the front door of the house I have lived in for almost 14 years truly was. Damn those tricky females.

Despite this setback, I was adamant that the color not be changed. She said it was time to change it, and suggested black or purple. She says our house is grey, although the name of the paint color is Federal Blue. She said black would look good, but purple would really look wonderful.

I knew this was the time to stand firm. I said I did not agree, I thought the red (remember – red, I told myself) was the best color. I emphatically stated I did not like either black or purple, and would not grant my consent to such a drastic and outlandish change. It was out of the question, a bad idea, and I would not grant my needed agreement.

My wife looked at me in disgust, and told me I had no taste. It has been the same color for 14 years, she tried to reason with me. It will look classy and you’ll really like it when it’s done, she went on hopefully.

But it was no use. I felt like General Custer the night before Little Big Horn. I was calm, I was cool, and I was confident. The answer was no. Of course, I was smart enough not to state it as an order or an ultimatum. After all, 26 years of marriage had to teach me something.

My wife seemed to take it well. She shook her head, looked a little angry, but went on to bigger and better things. I swaggered off savoring the heady taste of my small victory, secure in the knowledge my red door was safe.

Then came the weekend, and work took me out of town. I talked to my wife several times while I was gone, and she couldn’t have been nicer. I was cautiously optimistic there would be no after-effects from the firm stand I had taken in turning her down flat.

Then Sunday afternoon I got home, turned my car into the driveway, and stopped short. There, glaring down at me like a maniacal giant jar of jelly, was my newly-painted purple front door. It was mocking me, and I knew in my heart I deserved it.

Oh, I went in and made the rather pointless complaints. I asked her why she painted the door after I said no. Her answer was simple and complete.

“I told you I wanted to do it”, she said.

I’m now telling people the purple door was my idea.

Feeding Grandpop to the Ducks

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle in December 2007.

The recent discovery of the cremated remains in a pond in Plainville turned out to be a simple thing. The woman’s last request to be scattered at the pond had been fulfilled, except instead of being “scattered” she was more “placed” in the pond, container and all.

After five years the container was discovered by some kids when the water level fell. They turned it over to police, who traced it back to the family.

While the story may have seemed odd to some, in my family it brought back memories of a similar situation that still makes us both laugh and shudder to this day.

Almost 20 years ago my wife’s maternal grandfather passed away. Grandpop, as we all called him, was one of the nicest men I have ever known. Deaf since an early age, he was a skilled engraver and artist with a kind heart and a gentle soul.

In his retirement years Grandpop would often walk to the park near his home. While there he would sketch people as they sat or walked, and every day he would feed the ducks populating the big pond in the center.

He went so often the ducks would recognize him and come running to greet him. His final wish was to be cremated and have his family scatter his ashes around the pond.

So it came to pass my wife’s entire family gathered together on a sunny Sunday afternoon to fulfill his final wish. Since disbursing remains in a public park is generally frowned upon, my dear late mother-in-law reminded us all to “be inconspicuous and not be noticed”.

Looking around at the assembled family members, I had to stifle a laugh. There were about 25 of us, all dressed in our Sunday best. The group included a large number of children, three wheelchairs, and my rather large mother-in-law carrying an urn.

I can’t be sure, but I think someone might have noticed us.

Once we got there, it was decided everyone would take a turn spreading a little of Grandpop’s ashes into the pond as we walked around it. Wanting to get my turn out of the way, I stepped up and offered to begin the process.

If you have never had the opportunity to spread ashes, you probably don’t understand the consistency of them. I certainly didn’t, and was a bit surprised. I took the urn and shook a little into the water, then passed it to the next relative and stepped back to view the process from a distance.

As the procession continued to sprinkle and move along the water’s edge, I noticed the ashes floating back to the surface of the water. As I stood wondering if I should tell anyone, I suddenly realized someone else had noticed.

The ducks, who Grandpop had fed every day, were rapidly swimming in towards shore. Where we saw a solemn ceremony, they merely saw dinner.

Panic struck me. I quickly strode down, tapped my wife on the shoulder, and quietly said “Don’t get upset, but the ducks are eating Grandpop.”

Already emotional over the death of a loved one, my wife alerted the others. There ensued a wild period of splashing, yelling and distracting the ducks to the other end of the pond while others stood at the edge in a desperate effort to sink Grandpop to his final resting place.

We would never have forgotten Grandpop under any circumstances, but after that experience it was even harder. And we did learn our lesson.

When my wife’s grandmother passed away a few years later, we went back to the park. But this time we brought bread, and during the scattering the ducks had a more conventional meal on the other side of the pond.

Please remember to check the law and the local regulations before spreading your loved ones in any particular area.

And it doesn’t hurt to have a loaf of bread handy, just in case.

Bill Gouveia, who wants to take his remains with him, is a local columnist. He can be reached in this world at

Monday, September 8, 2008

It Ain't Your Mother's Ice Cream Parlor anymore...

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on August 30th, 2008.

I made a big mistake last weekend. I volunteered to go out and get ice cream for the family.

This used to be a fairly simple task. You took the family order for ice cream or sundaes and made the trip to your local ice cream parlor. The most complicated part was remembering who wanted whipped cream and who didn’t.

But today things have changed. It is no longer enough to have a plain old hot fudge sundae or a simple shake. And the old-fashioned ice cream parlor has given way to a virtual ice cream assembly line, where strange and unusual concoctions are slapped together before your very eyes.

My wife’s new favorite ice cream palace is in the new Mansfield Crossing mall. Whenever I announce my travel plans might take me within a five-mile radius of this devilishly addictive place, my wife’s eyes light up the way they did for me many, many years ago.

But a trip to this ice cream nirvana is not an easy journey for this old-fashioned husband. You don’t just go to a window and order. The process is much more lengthy and involved, lacking only a credit check.

First, you stand in a line to get to a long counter. While standing you get to view the large wall signs that display the many offerings available for your gluttonous pleasure. And through the glass counter you can view the tubs of ice cream, complete with flavor names designed to confuse small minds such as my own.

In addition to the usual and boring chocolate and vanilla flavors, you get to choose from flavors like Cake Batter, Cheesecake, Sweet Cream and Cookie Dough. And then there is Orange Dreamsicle, Caramel Latte, Green Apple Gummy Bear and other varieties my tired eyes were too exhausted to peruse.

The wall also boasts of the signature choices, special products with catchy names. You can order a “Cookie Doughn’t You Want Some”, a “Strawberry Blonde”, or the Hollywood-inspired “The Pie Who Loved Me”.

When you order your ice cream selection, the young people behind the counter go into interrogation mode. What do you want with your ice cream? Would you like chocolate chips, or M & M’s, or Rainbow Sprinkles? How about raspberries, pineapple, or apple pie filling? Would you care for some Almond Joy, Black Licorice, or Malted Milk Balls mixed with your ice cream?

That’s right, I said mixed. Not only can you get these additional elements added on top of your dessert, you can get them chopped and mixed into your ice cream with near-surgical precision.

Using large metal shovel-looking devices, the employees slice your ice cream more than they scoop it. It is rolled and spread on a counter. Then all these extra choices are mixed in and rolled into a giant ice cream ball, and placed into either a large waffle cone bowl or a more standard dish.

But even the dishes are complicated. I discovered I could not ask for a small, medium or large. Rather I am forced to choose from one of their custom sizes known as “Like It”, “Love It”, and the overwhelming “Gotta Have it”. I admit to being uncomfortable ordering an ice cream and telling them to make it a “Love It”.

Once I finally get my ice creams and move down the line to the register, yet another surprise awaits. As I paid my bill, I saw a jar for tips. I dropped a dollar in the jar, and began to walk away.

I stopped when I heard someone yell, “Hey guys, we got a tip. How about a song?”

In a moment the entire working crew behind the counter began chanting a clever (if somewhat unenthusiastic) little jingle about their ice cream and service. I paused to listen, somehow feeling obligated since my unwitting donation had started this whole thing. Then I smiled politely, and made a break for the car and a clean getaway.

The things I do for my wife. I’m just too good to her.

Of course, I did eat my entire sundae. I forget what it was called. But believe me, I earned it.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist who has clearly enjoyed far too many ice creams. His column appears every Saturday, and he can be reached at