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From Bitterness To Joy

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Categories: Family, Father's Day, Holidays, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Father’s Day used to be a source of bitterness and resentment for me. I was not born hating Father’s Day. I learned to despise it as a celebration of something I thought I never had.

My biological father, David Allen Duncan, has never been a part of my life. He left my mother and me before I was even a year old, so I have absolutely no memory of him. From what I understand, that’s probably for the best: most stories that I’ve heard about him paint a picture of an abusive, manipulative piece of shit. I don’t judge Mr. Duncan based on those stories, however. I judge him based on the things that I’ve experienced, the injustices he’s visited upon me personally.

Witness, wherefore, that this cocksucker never paid even the pittance of child support he was ordered to pay by the court in 1980. Behold, this asshole fled to Tennessee to escape his meager obligations as a father. Consider, this douchebag sired another child who bears his name but seven months after me. (Not that I’m particularly bitter. It’s really just the principle of the thing. Traditionally, the first-born son would carry the father’s name. I happen to love my first name. Being a Dave would be so blasé.)

Obviously, my actual father was not a source of happiness and love on Father’s Day. My erstwhile step-father was not much better.

My mother’s ex-husband, Erico Santiago, was, in some ways, a worse influence on my life than my absentee father. Whereas Allen was not present to love me and nurture me, Eric was available physically, but completely stonewalled emotionally. He came into my life when I was about five years old.

As a child, I tried every way I knew to make Rico love me. I was rewarded with indifference for my efforts. When I behaved in ways expected of me, I was met with silence. When I misbehaved, I was rewarded with physical abuse and neglect. I could fill an entire post with the blatant and subtle ways in which this man hated me, but there’d be no point to it over than to play upon your sympathies in a self-serving attempt at garnering your pity.

In time, I gave up trying with Eric. He had taught me, along with the absence of my actual father, that seeking validation from without was as pointless as seeking rain in the desert. I learned that the only sustainable sense of worth came from within.

On the other hand, my grandfather, Ed McCaskey, was one of the few men who showed me unconditional love and compassion when I was younger. His deep, booming voice comforted me when I needed it and corrected me when I needed that too. He made me understand that despite my flaws and errors, I was worthy of love and forgiveness.

My grandpa is also directly responsible for my enduring love of sci-fi. One of my earliest movie memories is watching the copy of the Star Wars trilogy he taped from TNT or TBS. My grandpa is also a Trekker from back in the day, and while I prefer the Next Generation, there is a certain fondness in my heart for Kirk, Bones, Spock, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, Checkov et. al.

In a charming bit of serepidity, I became an ice hockey fan as a teenager; my grandfather is also a huge hockey fan. (He’s got season tickets to his local team, in fact.) As a kid, I never knew of his love for the sport, though it doesn’t surprise me. He’s from South Dakota. There’s not much to do there in the winter except for hockey. I only mention this to illustrate two points: 1) I regret that I didn’t spend more time with my grandpa before he moved to California, and 2) I may be more like my grandpa than I previously knew. That would make me very happy.

>>>2 paragraphs redacted to reflect my new reality<<<

My Grandpa McCaskey taught me that hard work is eventually rewarded. I’ve learned from him that one must stand up for what they believe in and that one cannot simply run away from one’s problems: they must be confronted and overcome. He’s taught me that one can be better than one’s past says they should be.

So yesterday’s Father’s Day was filled with joy in place of bitterness. Thinking about the father figures in my life, I reflected on the lessons I’ve learned from them. I hope to take what my past has taught me and raise my daughter to be strong, compassionate, hard-working, peaceful, geeky, persistent, and considerate.

I hope that when my daughter reflects on her childhood, she’s happy that I was her daddy.

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Osama Would Play A Paladin

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Categories: DDO, Gaming, LARP, President Obama, Randomness, RPG, Shadowrun, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I believe in the power of gaming.

By gaming, I mean console and computer gaming as well as pencil and paper role-playing games. To a lesser extent, I would also include board games.

When I look at the impact this hobby has had on my life, it’s a bit overwhelming.

If it weren’t for gaming, I would not have met most of my friends. Specifically, my friend Mike Diamond and I would not have met if it weren’t for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Second Edition. (We had an ongoing AD&D2E game that we played in junior high by writing on a desk [in pencil!]. It was play-by-post before there was play-by-post.) Mike and I graduated from from junior high, and graduated from D&D, together. We spent hours playing all kinds of other games: Star Wars, Starfleet Battles, Marvel Super Heroes, Rise of the Dragon (Oh my God, Shandi!), and my favorite RPG of all time, Shadowrun. We still play Shadowrun together, every Saturday night.

Without Vampire: the Masquerade, I would have never met Travis Legge. My friend came from a very different world than I did, but we shared a love of gaming. Travis was the best man at my wedding and we even ran our own game publishing company for a time. We met at a Vampire LARP, but we played plenty of other White Wolf games together: Hunter, Trinity (taint in the Tesser!), Aberrant, Wraith, and one of the most influential games I’ve ever played, Mage.

I met my wife at the same Vampire LARP that I met Travis at. We had seen each other in passing before then, but never really met. Through some boneheaded moves by other people, she ended up playing a character with a direct connection to mine. The time we spent together in-character led to meetings out-of-character, which led to her ending a dysfunctional relationship with her longtime boyfriend and starting a new dysfunctional relationship with me. We’ve been dysfunctional together ever since. Tiffanie and I have played a ton of games together, from D&D3.5 to Zombies. We still play Dungeons & Dragons Online together, when time allows.

The breadth and depth of people you meet through gaming is sometimes astounding. By playing games, I’ve had the pleasure of chatting for hours with a couple of guys from Chile (¿Cómo están, amigos?), been guild-mates with a carny (Luv ya, Bernie!), called people by some strange nicknames (Shaggy and Little Shit top the list, I think), watched someone laugh so hard they puked (indirectly due to gaming: a gaming buddy was over for Bad Movie Night. Blackula + well-placed one-liner = puke!), had the cops question me about “having an orgy in the street” (actually a mob combat in the aforementioned Vampire LARP), and so much more. Gamers have been some of the kindest, friendliest, and most genuine people I’ve ever known.

I don’t want to overstate the point, but games can be powerful tools to bring people together that never would have met or seen eye-to-eye before. Where else can you bring together an atheist with a devout Catholic, a radical feminist with a staunch Republican, a high-school dropout with a graduate student, a teenager with a pensioner, or a cop with a drug dealer? Not only have I seen these disparate people gaming together, I’ve seen them working toward common goals and having fun doing it.

So, here’s my proposal: I’ll run a game. Kim Jong-Il, Osama Bin Laden, Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, Hu Jintao, Hamid Karzai, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, and Omar al-Bashir (along with many others) are invited to play D&D with me some time (3.5: I don’t care for 4E). Perhaps, when they’re faced with the World’s Largest Dungeon, they’ll realize their countries and causes are pretty small. Maybe, when confronted with the alien nature of a great wyrm red dragon, they’ll realize people have more commonalities than differences. Maybe, when they’ve reached level 20 together, they could usher in a new age of peace and prosperity for humanity.
 
And I bet Osama would play a paladin.