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By Otis Twelve

Just a Stage

September 29th, 2022

The other day while I was planted in my Barcalounger, remote control clenched tightly in my left hand—I’m ambidextrous when remote controlling—wandering around YouTube videos of the world’s oddest-looking airplanes, cruise ships running into docks, and people who made unlucky choices around bemused wild animals, I overheard my wife say to her mother over the phone, “It’s just a stage he’s going through.”

As usual, she is most likely right.  I am currently in my “Crazy YouTube Video” stage.  We’ve been married for a few months of Sundays, and I have indeed been through more than a baker’s dozen stages.  Some of which I actually remember clearly. Those stages that I do not remember clearly, are defined by that very characteristic as my “foggy” stages.  After all, in each life, some fog must fall.

But beyond those blank spots on the map of my life marked “Here Be Dragons,” there are a few stages in my life that I remember clearly.

  1. My “Not Working Up To His Ability” Stage: This was when I was in elementary school.  The nuns, especially Sister Rose Agnes, were fond of noting in exquisite Palmer penmanship on each of my report cards that I was indeed, not reaching my potential as they defined it.  My mother seemed to ignore their evaluation and my father seemed more concerned about my lack of dedication to anything except working on improving my hitting breaking balls in Little League.
  2. My second “Not Working Up To His Ability” Stage: This was, of course, my time in High School. In those years Father Wilfred and Brother Norbert never actually wrote the accusation on an evaluation but they certainly believed it to be true, else they would have never, in Wilfred’s case, made me editor-in-chief of the school paper—a slot traditionally held by underachievers in secondary schools and the offices of our nation’s newspapers everywhere. Nor would Norbert have made me the eighth slot hitter on the baseball team if I could have handled even a mediocre curve ball.
  3. My third “Not Working Up To His Ability” Stage: Was, obviously, my time at university. Though by then no one really cared and since I’d given up on my baseball career by that point, well the entire concept of “ability” had become a bit foggy to me. I mean, if I wasn’t going to be a start with the Cubs ala Hank Sauer, what’s the point?  I did manage to set a record for the highest GPA while cutting over a hundred classes…so I had that going for me.
  4. My next “Not Working Up To His Ability” Stage: Was in law school when I quit after nine weeks to go on a tour with a Rock & Roll vaudeville band. In Show Biz, the term “ability” is replaced by the rather imprecise concept of “talent.” I didn’t have much of that, so I may have actually found my niche at long last.
  5. Next, I entered my “Being a Parent” Stage: In this stage, you are guaranteed not to work up to your ability, but you do your best and they give you a “Best Dad” coffee mug.
  6. Finally, here I am in my “Crazy YouTube Video” Stage: Where I found out that cruise ships are dangerous, scientists are always finding out scary stuff, and that they have made approximately 123,000,000 “Best Dad” coffee mugs in the last eighteen months. So maybe the award might not be as exclusive as I originally thought.

At any rate, here I am hoping this stage doesn’t last much longer; TV is such a bore.  I’m desperately hoping that my next stage includes a beach to walk and lots of shrimp to eat.  I’m good at both those things—at long last, a couple of abilities I can “work up to.”

This article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of Omaha Magazine.