Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Permanently Changed

To my son Tommy,

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the stillborn birth of your brother Sal. We are also a couple days away from your mom's second surgery for bone cancer (or as we say to you 'bugs in the bones' because we don't want to use the "C" word with you) and hope this one is the fix. The nexus of these two has made for a little perfect storm of dread, and sadness, and depression, and anxiousness in both me and your mother. You, except for a couple out of the blue comments about baby Sal, are somewhat blissfully unaware.

They say time will make it better. I am not too sure of that. The sadness might change with my perspective as I get older, but the sadness is deep and complete. What I am sure is that baby Sal permanently changed me and your mom. A little piece of our heart is always with our littlest angel. He visits in our minds at the most unexpected times, sometimes consuming our thoughts and dreams. He has brought me tears just standing in a grocery line or staring at a computer screen at work.

Daily drama and small setbacks don't even come close to compare. What was once "tragic" before seems almost trivial now that we have experienced personal tragedy in a truer sense. I look in the mirror with disdain if I say "Why does something always happen to us? Can't anything go right!" and curse my self pity for some minor event.

To those who say to move on, I say I will always be his daddy. Your mom will always be his mommy. You will always be his big brother. Nothing changes that, not even moving on. I can't forget it and I can't ignore it and I choose not to hide it. But what works for me may not work for those others who have felt the unwelcomed comradery of this certain type of grief.

So as we deal with the real concerns of life, the sadness from our loss and the anxious concerns for your mom and her pending surgery, we use the only tools we have in our limited arsenal. We use hugs and prayers and love and faith, no matter how shaken it has become.

Sincerely with love from your dad,
Leo

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Just Keep Swimming



To my son Tommy,

Though I have not been inspired to write, or perhaps been too tired and beat down by this world of ours, time continues to march on. You continue to grow so fast. Be it by your newly found swimming confidence, or your new responsibility as a key owning resident of our house, or just your ability to understand the world in your own unique way, I am proud and amazed as how you are growing. The voices in my head just keep whispering, "Don't blink, you may miss it"

Sincerely with love from your dad,
Leo

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Tricks

To my son Tommy,

When you are seven, every new skill is a "trick". Recently, you have taken to reading nursery rhymes aloud for our entertainment. You have a book of about two hundred rhymes, even though there are less than a half dozen you focus on. Any reading is good reading in my humble opinion, so you could read the same rhyme over and over again to me and I'll still manage to smile. The other day, as you were reading to your mom, you got frustrated because you couldn't find one of your favorite rhymes.

Me: "Use the table of contents trick,"
You: "Oh yeah! Here it is! Humpty Dumpty on page 252"

Using the table of contents is more of a learned skill rather than a trick, but when you are seven everything is magic and new. 

Your old man and mom are learning new tricks as we settle into the new norm that we will have to deal with for the next two months of recovery. We got the medication timing down using containers and an ice cube tray for overflow. We got alarms galore set as reminders. We even got through a shower last night using plastic bags for cover and a shower chair and a ton of tricky maneuvers and shower head hand offs. Still, these are all in the realm of tricks until we become more adept at their execution.

Sincerely with love from your dad,
Leo

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Time



To my son Tommy,

They say time heals all. Well I hope time works quickly with your mom home from her bone cancer surgery. As for you, you spent your time today, with Bwama watching over your mom, making new Lego ships. Whatever helps pass the time quickly.

Sincerely with love from your dad,
Leo

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Hand On Your Shoulder



To my son Tommy,

I come from a long family history with its fair share of anger, violence, stubborn righteousness, and grudge holding. 

There are newspaper stories in our ancestry files of a triple great (or there abouts) grandmother shooting a cop with a shotgun and being found not guilty because she was pregnant and Irish and the cop deserved it. 

Your Grandpa Leo believes that many people in this world deserve a good set of knuckles to the nose, or a swift kick to the nuts, or at least a good piddle on their shoes... and that is on the tame side. If he really has his ire up, your grandpa reverts back to his military training and starts suggesting sniper rifles and mortar fire.

To this day, if the family buys something from Sears, we have to hide the bags and destroy the receipt. You see they screwed over your Grandma Roro back in 1977 or so when she ordered something from their catalog when the family was stationed at an army base in Germany (not sure if it was Butzbach or Hanau). That is a grudge held for almost a half a century now.

And you have already noticed your old man's temper, I am sure. So when you grow up you will hear stories about yours truly and how certain bar customers upset him during his bar tending days. Occasionally, I was unable to fight the family genetic code as I escorted these gentlemen to the door and asked them to never come back again, with my fist.

Even on the X side of the chromosome, there are these tendencies. We can't buy Chic-fil-A because of their politics, unless you dare risk the wrath of your mother. No thank you, she makes Grandpa Leo's mortar fire seem like a less painful alternative! I kid, I kid. Often she is the voice of reason when it comes to conflict and has had a very calming influence to the Downey side.

These are the same traits and tempers that run through your blood. It is a constant challenge to feel God's hand on your shoulder holding you back, from doing something rash and wrong and vengeful but that feels oh so right, and listen to His voice in your head saying, "Yes. I know that guy is a dumbass and deserves everything you are thinking, but he is My dumbass the same as your are mine, and we must show kindness and forgiveness." It is harder than it sounds...especially this week.

You see, after your mother's extremely painful biopsy on Wednesday, where the University of Maryland hospital made us question their competence, we await the results. After hearing the entire story from your mother, which thankfully she was unable to fully relay at the hospital or I would most likely be in jail, they actually did something right and got the biopsy results the next day. I think it was rushed as an olive branch for what they did wrong, but whatever. It should be a good thing to have the biopsy results the next day around 1pm,  right?

Well, unfortunately the orthopedic oncologist and/or his staff didn't react to having the results right away. Instead they started their four day vacation weekend early and perhaps worked only a half day on Thursday. Now we can't even make an appointment to get the results till this upcoming Tuesday. So that puts it Wednesday as the most likely appointment date. At least it is better be Wednesday! I have had the holiday weekend to stew about it. Throw in a trip to the ER for a seizure for your Grandpaon Friday night and a fall he had on Saturday. Let's just say everyone here is on edge; I am on edge. I might miss that hand of God on my shoulder and thus might do something a little more drastic than piddle on their shoes.

Sincerely with love from your dad,
Leo

Thursday, May 26, 2016

No Laughing Matter



To my son Tommy,

Child poverty is no laughing matter and the dollar or two (or actually six dollars for our six noses) we spent to wear a read nose won't solve the problem by themselves. Still, a dollar could give a meal to a child living in a homeless shelter. Five bucks might be enough to give the proper antibiotics needed to a child suffering from pneumonia. And if we couple our red noses with a million (or even forty million) more red noses, we can make a serious dent in some serious problems. In the meantime we can have some silly fun while helping. During this stressful time of waiting for the bone biopsy results for your mom, we could use all the silly fun moments we can muster.

Sincerely with love from your dad,
Leo


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Shoes



To my son Tommy,

I must admit that I failed in my fatherly duties by not teaching you how to tie your shoes yet. Luckily, we can remedy that. Two nights of practice and you are a  loop and swoop fool! At least you can tie a book now. Shoes soon, maybe with a week of practice!

Sincerely with love from your dad,
Leo