Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Week Before: Parent vs. Kid

To my son Tommy,

Anticipation and preparation are funny things. It has been a long time since I have felt that butterflies-in-the-stomach-I-can't-wait-one-minute-longer-or-I-just-might-die type of anticipation for just about anything. I tell myself that unlike a five year old who has nothing to prep for with regards to vacations, I do not have the luxury of getting all giddy. I tell myself, that as a grown up, I now live completely in the moment and thus the exhilaration of upcoming events eludes me and that is okay because I also avoid the anxious worry that comes with living in the future. I lie to myself often and I do it well. Truth is I have no idea why I am not completely excited about the upcoming vacation, but I figure I would highlight some of the differences in our points of view.

  • "Four more sleeps till vacation, Daddy!" You have had quite the countdown going since about sixteen "sleeps". Every time you say this, I think "Holy crap! Four more days to button up everything at work and get ready for this vacation!" and your mom thinks "Holy crap! Four more days to finish packing and do everything that needs to be done for this vacation.
  • "When we get down there we will go in the ocean, and on the boardwalk, and on the rides, and on the..." When you see the vacation, you see adventure and fun. When I see a vacation, I look forward it with the same regard as going to sleep every night. No one gets excited about going to bed (unless of course they are a five year old counting down sleeps before vacation). I see it more as sweet release from the agony of the working man. That means the vacation is welcomed and looked forward to, but on a completely different plane of existence than your youthful eagerness. I am not saying vacations from an adult point of view are on par with the long waited for sweet release of death, but one could draw some similarities there.
  • "Tommy, you can fill this one bag with toys you want to take on vacation." That was/is your assignment from your mom. She on the other hand has to fill bin after bin, suitcase after suitcase, with just about anything and everything fathomable. She does so with little to no help from her husband who is busy working trying to make sure he can actually limit the amount of time he is working on vacation.
Your mother and I are sworn to make preparing for a vacation less stressful and as carefree as possible. We set rules and guidelines and inundate ourselves with phrases and reassurances. "We leave when we leave" and "If we forget something, it isn't like we are going to another country" are just a couple examples of things that keep us sane during the week before and during the trip down. But even with our mindset, there is no denying things can be stressful. Your mom took last years list and evidently reworked it into a more detailed and complete list. I told her that we would have to have her make a guest post with the new list. No matter how difficult vacationing can be for us parents, seeing your youthful enthusiasm, and re-living our youth vicariously through you, makes all the work and all the stress well worth it.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


To my son Tommy,

In the middle east, religion and politics and foreign policy and freedom and chaos and death and whatnot constantly collide. This has happened for many years and each side considers themselves justified and are certain of their righteousness. You know how I feel about certainty. Normally I do not take the time to report on too many of the events of that region but you should know I do watch. I watch and I pray.

A new faction, which has been given the acronym ISIS or also known as the Islamic State, has gained momentum in the lands of Iraq and Syria. The reports say these are pretty hard line Sunni militants dead set on creating a caliphate which is a completely Islamic state run by an appointed successor to Muhammad. Even other hard line Islamic groups have condemned this group. At first, many in the area treated ISIS like liberators, because they turned back on the water and electricity and supplied the basic services that their current government evidently was not providing. It didn't take long, however, for their true face to start to show. I don't pretend to understand all the dynamics and intricacies of the group or their goals.

I do know that there are reports of this ISIS group marking Shiite homes with the Arabic letter "r" signifying rwafidh (which evidently means protestants or rejecters) and marking Christian homes with the Arabic letter "n" or "nun" signifying nasrani (or Nazarene which means Christian). This warns the homeowner to repent and convert to the Sunni religion or face the consequences. Many of course fled, but now there are reports that ISIS is pursuing them with extreme prejudice often leading to the death of the "infidels"

We have seen this before in history. We have seen groups come to power and mark people that are different than them and blame them for all their woes. We have seen groups heralded as the solution only to find too late that there is truly evil in their hearts. Yet the world seems to wait and watch in silence and do nothing, once again content to act too slowly. It is truly a sad state of affairs and my heart and prayers go out to all those living in fear and persecution in Mosul and the surrounding areas and around the world, no matter their religion. I am not sure what should be done but I know in my gut that something should be done. So I pray. I pray my "Nazarene" prayers and I pray for those persecuted and, true to my Christian Catholic teachings, I even pray for those who are doing the persecuting as well.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

New Record

To my son Tommy,

When you think of new records, you think of a cause for celebration. Not all record breaking events are good. I think five days without a letter to you is a new record. But work has been kicking my butt and my mind is fried when I get home to you. Even if I mustered the energy to write, I am afraid my words would be the equivalent of trying to speak after the dentist gave you too much novocain. Not to mention that I would have to sacrifice time we can spend together to write. It is the internal conundrum of blogging and social media; every moment spent writing or posting about life is a moment you could be living life. Don't worry, I will get back to our daily updates. Vacation is right around the corner and that hopefully will heal my mind so I don't write you a bunch of dribble. Come on vacation! In the words of JB "I must confess, I could use the rest, I can't run at this pace very long"

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Thursday, July 17, 2014


To my son Tommy,

I stopped by my parents house to fix their computer. It is my cross to bear being a computer geek and to their benefit having a nerd for a son. As I was trying to leave, Roro pulled out some old pics. Since it is Thursday, a day designated for throwback memories, here are a few of my favorites.

Look at how high I wore those socks
I got my sock wearing naturally. I think these pictures explain why I shunned socks for so long in my life.
Were my parents ever that young?
Dad likes this one and mom wouldn't let me post the picture with the afro perm.
Me and my dog Dawson. Tommy you get your hat wearing naturally as you can see.
I love my grandpa.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


To my son Tommy,

Did you ever have a great stretch? I had one of those just this morning. You know, the type that your body creeks and cracks and groans and it just feels really good. And I looked at myself in the mirror, looked at my old face, the face of the person you now are calling "forty dad", and I said, "Man, that was a good stretch! I really needed and enjoyed that!"

The words were hanging in the air of my inner dialogue at that moment. "Enjoy" and it dawned on me that the stretch, in and of itself, didn't bring me joy. It was acknowledging and actively appreciating how good of a stretch I just had that brought me joy. Yeah the stretch made my body feel better, and I am sure my muscles and bones were thankful, but joy is in the heart and joy is in the mind.

So often in this world we wait for an event to bring us joy. However, you can't just sit back and wait. You have to acknowledge the good in your life. You have to actively appreciate the good in your life. You have to choose to have joy over what you have and what surrounds you.

When they say, "Take time to smell the roses", it isn't the scent of the rose that brings you joy. It is the taking the time to do it and consciously, actively being present in that moment. That is when you enjoy something. That is when you realize you are enjoying it. And you can't have joy in your life if you don't realize joy.

That is one of my big dreams for you my son. I want you to have joy in your life. I want you to be joyous and appreciative for what you have and even what you don't have and all the beautiful moments surrounding you. I have been asked before, "Aren't you having any fun?" and when I respond yes, they retort, "You should let your face know". To that I add that you should let your mind and your heart know as well. Don't sit around and wait for joy to strike you, choose to realize joy in your everyday life.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Monday, July 14, 2014

Made It Through

To my son Tommy,

We made it through the weekend. This was your mom's birthday weekend though it wasn't much of a celebration. The entire weekend was spent trying to cope with the bone pain side effect caused by the Remicade infusion. Your mom didn't feel much like celebrating and our job was to make her life as easy as possible.

As I wrote to you previously, I had a plan which included a bunch of rest scheduled for your mom. As they say, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. I was thwarted by Brazier night and this new summer sleep in schedule that you have adopted.

After the infusion, we all went to your Uncle Chris's house to enjoy his new pool and to eat pizza and generally enjoy some family. Your mom even came despite her infusion. But after an hour or so of trying her best to fight through, I had to bring her home. You and I stayed to about 10 PM and you were in bed around 10:30.

The next morning was our reading class. I tried waking you. I tried my hardest. I tried being gentle. It seemed the only way to get you out of bed would be pure brute force. I made the executive decision to say the hell with it. Even if you did get up, a crying reluctant pissed off five year old would get nothing from the reading class. You slept till about 11.

I had to adjust my plan for your mom's birthday. Originally I figured we would be out of the house till 1pm and bring her home lunch. Instead I ran out while you were sleeping and got her some breakfast from Dunkin Donuts. With a late breakfast, this would mean lunch would have to be moved till later.

I did get you and I out of the house. We hit a couple stores and then went to Clark Elioak farms to pass the hours. You ran around and played on slides and oohed and aahed over the animals which you still weren't too keen on touching or feeding, but amazed none the less. I, got stung by a bee, which still hurts, but manned up and stuck it out.

We buckled into the car and started to drive. Our destination was a sushi place to bring carry out home for your mom's lunch. Well all of a sudden I start coughing and coughing and coughing. My mind started racing. Was this a late onset anaphylaxic reaction? I am not known to be allergic to bees but my dad is. Could I have develop this allergy or could they have missed it all these years? I started to pray and was debating on pulling over and calling an ambulance or driving to the hospital on my own. I decided to call your mom. She assured me that if this was anaphylaxis from a bee sting, and that amount of time had passed, I'd be dead already. Funny how, "Don't worry, you would have already been dead if that was it." is reassuring, but it was. She said I better skip the sushi and just come home and take a Benadryl just in case.

So my plan to deliver lunch and then head out to Roro's house had been thwarted. I got home and took my medicine and apologized for interrupting your mom's rest. I decided to wait around a bit as I don't particularly like driving on Benadryl. We gave your mom her gifts and her cards and just hung out around the house playing Minecraft.

During the wait, we found out your Great Uncle Paddy was coming in from New Mexico. Your mom, even feeling as bad as she did, was determined to go see him. It was her birthday, so I wasn't going to object, but I worried that she could use the rest more. We visited and had dinner and called it an early night and got a snowball on the way home.

I was feeling pretty bummed that I didn't make your mom's birthday as special as I wanted to. So when she asked for crabs the next night for dinner, which she had been craving all week, I jumped at the opportunity to go. She was actually ready to talk herself out of it, thinking it was too much of a bother, so I had to talk her back into it. I loaded you into the car. About half way up to Captain Dan's, as she hasn't found a closer crab place that she trusts or likes, you said to me, "Daddy, is this another adventure?" to which I replied, "Anytime you and Daddy go out has the potential to be an adventure." You thanked me for the adventure of the farm the other day and told me how much you love our adventures. You went on to ask if all hawks were bad like the one in Stuart Little. I love your little tangents. As we got home with the crabs, you said, "Operation Mommy Birthday Crabs, successful! Good job Daddy! You and I make a good team!"

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Birthday Ambassador

To my son Tommy,

I wonder if all parents do this or at least most dads. It seems natural but at the same time questionably wrong. You see, as parents, we remember the birthdays. To be honest, Geni, or Ancestry, or Facebook, or my Yahoo calendar, remember the birth dates but we utilize whatever tool and somehow, luck willing, "remember" when your aunts and uncles and cousins and various other family and friends have a birthday. But we really never call.

Sure we dial the number. Sure we usually throw in a quick happy b-day yelled from across the room as you are hanging up the phone. But it is you who really calls. You sing the song and pass on our birthday wishes. Even when we get or give presents, we often say they are from you.

It seems natural to me because who wants an out of tune forty year old guy singing Happy Birthday to them over the phone. Have a five year old that is too cute for his own good do it. When we tell you to say "Love you" at the end of the call, that love is from us as a family. You are in essence the ambassador for every birthday greeting and wish we send.

But taking credit for your efforts seems bit off. Sure it was a team effort, with your mom being team leader of course, but they often don't even get to hear me say happy birthday. Your mom is pretty good about grabbing the phone before you hang up and adding in her own voice to the wish. As for me, well you hang up pretty quick or your mom beat me to the punch. So I am the indistinguishable guy in the background that you faintly hear yelling happy birthday before you hear the hang up. It is kind of like being the guy who chipped in five bucks for the expensive gift just so he can get his name on the card. Oh well. It will have to do.

Today is the birthday of your mom's cousin which you call Uncle Fish. Monday was your Aunt Joanna's b-day. And of course your mom's birthday is this Saturday. So you have had. or will have to, give out a bunch of birthday greetings. You will continue to be our front man for all types of greetings and wishes in the years to come. But since you are a part of me, and probably the best part of me, it is only natural that I offer my best to those who have lived to live another year.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Monday, July 7, 2014

Leave It Behind

To my son Tommy,

Saturday, your cousin Emma agreed to babysit while your mom and I met up with Uncle Eric and Aunt Kelly at the local bar around 3pm. It was a continuation of my birthday celebration with a late afternoon cocktail hour. We watched the end of the Orioles game and then hit up the juke box with our drinking songs of yore.

Now I am not sure why the beers were headed down my gullet so quickly. Good friends and good tunes can make that happen. Plus the local bar is walking distance so since I wasn't driving I could throw caution to the wind. But perhaps I was trying to convince myself I could still drink like I did in my thirties when I was tending bar and pretty much drank for a living.

About two hours in, your mother's Crohn's started acting up and she had to leave. Plus she wanted to make sure you were fed and Emma could get home. I stayed with Eric and Kelly till the bar had its shift change. We paid our tabs and I started a new tab with the next bartender. That was mistake one.

There are natural breaks in drinking at a bar. Shift change is one of them. Even if you plan on continuing the night, take advantage of these natural stopping points. Go home and shower up and grab a bite to eat and assess the situation, with the help and opinion of others. Chances are the alcohol will kick in and you will realize that the night is best to continue with a brew or two at home and then bed. I however was once again invincible and did not need a break.

So we stayed on another hour or so. Then Eric and Kelly had to leave to go see a fireworks show. I gave them a hug and I stayed a little bit more. That was mistake two.

When your friends are leaving for the night and you decide to stay behind, you know your decision making is impaired. The reason you came out drinking is walking out the door and you stay to drink, no longer with reason nor cause. Never be afraid to call it a night. You won't miss anything, I promise.

I sure didn't miss anything, or at least not that I know of. I remember hugging Eric and Kelly and saying good night and saying I won't be long and then waking up in my bed the next morning feeling the effects of alcohol poisoning. I had swiped my credit card for the second tab, so I knew that technically I didn't walk out on my tab, but I did not settle up. For all I know, I may have jumped up on the bar and started a rousing rendition of "Yes, Jesus Loves Me" and been "asked" to leave. I wasn't too far behind them leaving as I got home around 8:00 or 8:30. Your mom said when I got home I denied being drunk, then shoved some left over pizza in my mouth like a ravenous dog, and then admitted to being drunk. She said I was pretty comical though evidently I ended the day huffing up the stairs ranting about, "if that's the way you are going to be about it, I am just going to bed!" Though bed was my best option at that point, blaming my early retiring on you rather than admitting my own faults certainly is not fair. That was mistake three.

Babbling and incoherent is no way to be a father nor a husband. Hungover the next day isn't a good way to be either as well. You deserve better and I know better. I used to live by the words from the movie Cocktail where Bryan Brown plays Doug Coughlin and says, "I don't care how liberated this world becomes - a man will always be judged by the amount of alcohol he can consume - and a woman will be impressed, whether she likes it or not." That pretty much summed up my twenties and early thirties. This utterly nonsensical thinking is best left behind to my early years. I can't promise I won't forget myself again, because I will still have a drink here and there on occasion and alcohol has a way of sneaking up on even the best, but I can beg forgiveness for this one night and promise you that I don't plan on recapturing my youth again anytime soon.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Birthday Wishes

To my son Tommy,

I received a ton of birthday wishes. Behind each birthday salutation or wish was the true essence of what I have accomplished in forty years. Because each one came from a friend or family or loved one. Each one came because of that shared connection, be it recent or years ago, that comes from the heart. I tried my best to thank each and every one for their wishes and their presence (past, present, and future) in my life.

There were a bunch though, so hopefully I didn't miss anyone. No worries. Tomorrow is another day to try to make that connection or reconnection, even if only for that fleeting moment to thank them for taking time out of their lives and thinking of me, and to let them know I was thinking of them. That brings me for my final birthday wish of the day. Many of my thanks were on Facebook or the like. As a gift to me, I hope everyone takes tomorrow off of social media, and connects with the family and friends and loved ones. Share a hot dog and a brew and put down the phone and really take the time and put in the effort to make that special connection. It will make those status updates on the 5th all the more meaningful to those most important in your life.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My Last Day Of My Thirties

To my son Tommy

"Value this time in your life kids, because this is the time in your life when you still have your choices, and it goes by so quickly. When you're a teenager you think you can do anything, and you do. Your twenties are a blur. Your thirties, you raise your family, you make a little money and you think to yourself, "What happened to my twenties?" Your forties, you grow a little pot belly you grow another chin. The music starts to get too loud and one of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother. Your fifties you have a minor surgery. You'll call it a procedure, but it's a surgery. Your sixties you have a major surgery, the music is still loud but it doesn't matter because you can't hear it anyway. Seventies, you and the wife retire to Fort Lauderdale, you start eating dinner at two, lunch around ten, breakfast the night before. And you spend most of your time wandering around malls looking for the ultimate in soft yogurt and muttering "how come the kids don't call?" By your eighties, you've had a major stroke, and you end up babbling to some Jamaican nurse who your wife can't stand but who you call mama. Any questions?" Billy Crystal playing Mitch Robbins in the 1991 movie City Slickers

This quote pretty much sums it up. Sure there are a couple things different for me. I remember too much of my twenties. I grew another chin and blew past pot belly well before my forties. Not to mention, I am not headed down the mid life crisis path that his character was on. I have already found "that one thing" worth living for. In my case it is my family.

Your mother asked what I wanted for my birthday the other day. My response, "I don't know. Socks, underwear? You know we have two batteries for the weed whacker but only one charger and by the time I use up the fully charged battery, only half the job is done and the other battery isn't charged yet. Do they sell battery chargers separately?" It is amazing how times have changed. When I was real young, I would have a list and catalogs of toys and figurines that I wanted. I never got many of them, but I had high hopes every year. At that age, I figured you could take that "It is the thought that counts" bs and shove it.

Nowadays, I don't want anything or if I do get something it is going to be practical and useful and make my life easier. We already decided that birthdays from here on out will be low key and impromptu. No restaurants or destinations, just a "Hey, we are ordering pizzas for a birthday. Come over. Bring beer." It wouldn't bother me if it was just cheese sandwiches and water. Honestly, there is no way of disappointing me on my birthday. As long as family is around and I get a hug or two from my son and a big ol' birthday kiss from your mom, I am set!

I wish I had grown up sooner. I wish I had learned to value time and family and love over presents and parties at a much earlier age. Everyone usually laments losing their youth and growing old too fast, but what they should really be sad about is that it took so long to figure out the important things in life. Imagine if I knew then what I know now. I hope you, my son, figure out these type of things at a much earlier age than I.

Sincerely with love from your dad,