Saturday, August 30, 2014


To my son Tommy,

Though other people perceive me as the nerdy type that tends to math and science instead of literature and prose, I do have my poetic side show up every now and then.

Denial by Leo Downey
(after mowing his lawn before Labor Day with his forty year old body that now aches)
I found three brown leaves today as I mowed my lawn.
Just a stark reminder that the care free days of summer are almost gone.
No longer are the days filled with barbecue and beer.
Take heed my friends because autumn is here.
Time to prepare for the winter days ahead.
Time to accept that the flowers will soon be dead.
Three brown fallen leaves, three more than the day before.
Just to let me know that summer is gone for sure.
I also found three gray hairs today, three more than the day before.
And there is no significance in that...what so ever!
Okay, so I may need some work before I rival Shelley and Byron. But no one says you have to be good at poetry to have fun with it. This attempt is better than the limericks I usually come up with that I have to save to share for later in your life, mainly because I rhyme the word "luck" often in those drunken attemps at Irish prose.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

That Way About You

To my son Tommy,

I think officially kindergarten is no longer pre-school so that means officially, though you spent two years at St Agnes already, you have started your academic career. And boy are you excited! You shot out of bed today and were ready to leave right then. The neat thing was that anything we asked you to do, the precursors to your day like eat breakfast and take a vitamin and brush your teeth and such, were done in a flash with no argument or debate. Nothing would stand in your way of getting back to all your friends. I really hope you keep this enthusiasm about your education as the year (or years) go on.

Also I hope you keep your eagerness to help your friends. Danny is joining our little school this year, and though he is a grade above you, you were right there to help him out and ease his transition. You have that way about you, the way that says, "New? No problem! I got ya...follow me." It really shows in your interactions with all your school chums. Friendly, enthusiastic, and eager to that is a great way to go through life!

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Scars And Anniversaries

To my son Tommy,

I took the time today to regard some of the scars on my body.

There is the scar on my right hand ring finger that I got when I was about eight or nine, working in the company shop, unloading round duct pipe without proper gloves to protect my young digits. I can still remember feeling scared and one of my uncles seeming perturbed with my spewing blood and telling me to see if I could get one of my aunts upstairs to take me to the hospital.

There is one on the knuckle of my left hand pointer finger. That was from a punch I had to throw when I was tending bar in Parkville. One single weak hand punch and I still knocked the jerk, who was itching to fight and beyond reason, out for at least ten seconds. I remember one of my bar patrons standing over the guy as he woke up taunting "Lights on, lights off" though there was more to that colorful statement.

There is a scar that the doctors call a "permanent road tattoo" on that same left hand around the wrist. I got that one when I was riding my cousin's bicycle and he didn't tell me the hand brakes were screwy. The front brakes engaged as I was speeding down the street, or at least as fast as a twelve year can peddle,and I went ass-over-tea-kettle, finishing with a power slide over the pavement.

None of these scars hurt anymore. They are just there to remind me. If scars are a permanent reminder of a temporary feeling, then anniversaries are a recurring reminder of events with an ever changing emotion.

Some anniversaries become of less and less import over time. Birthdays for me used to be highly anticipated but now are much more subdued. They have become a more personal celebration of life and my blessings that I prefer to share by having pizza with the family and nothing more.

Some anniversaries I even ignore now, or at least try to ignore. I don't spend much time considering the Firehouse Tavern accident fourteen years ago. Of course I don't need the anniversary to remember that as occasionally my knee sends me a twinge of pain to remind me of those events. On those weird weather days that make bodies ache, I am reminded of the destruction of that day and all the people hurt and all the people saved and such.

But some anniversaries...some anniversaries rip open scars of the soul that still really hurt. Today is one of those days. It is the anniversary of your baby brother Sal's stillborn birth. Every year on this date, and often in the days between, I confront how I feel about life, and death, and how you and your mom and your brother have both affected me and been affected. Some years I am trying to explain and make sense of everything. Other years I am trying to deal with an underlying anger that still can consume me about everything. Each year, it seems to change. This year, today, I just feel sad.

There is a sadness that is deep in my soul. I feel loss. I feel like I missed out on the opportunity to raise yet another wonderful child. I feel a hole in my heart. I feel sad that your mother feels this same sadness. Couple that with the guilt of feeling like I somehow deprived you of the love of a brother. This scar on my soul that harbors these ever changing emotions will be with me forever.

So I will spend today feeling sad. I will spend the day thinking of what was and what is. I will spend the day thinking of Salvatore Joseph Downey. I will spend the day thinking of all the little scars on my body and my soul. I will spend the day praying for comfort and peace for both me and your mother. I will spend today trying to hug away this sadness, even though each hug is liking treating a missing limb with ibuprofen. But I will keep taking and giving hugs, to you and your mom and whomever will offer or accept them. Because somewhere in all this hurt, there is love and hope. And if that is true, I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts, you can find it in a hug with a five year old. You are our constant reminder of love and hope and you are a great son and would have made one hell of a big brother.

Sincerely with love from your dad's sad heart,

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Kids Say The Darndest Things

To my son Tommy,

Last night, on the way home from the Downey household, your mother and I were prepping you for the upcoming school year. We were going over teachers and friends, both old and new, and schedules and events. You sat in the back parrotting back our check lists to confirm you understood what is going to happen here. Your mother and I are big believers in talking about stuff beforehand so you understand what to expect and what is expected of you. It just sets you up for success and sets us up for an easier time of things.

One event we discussed was the upcoming ice cream social for St Agnes School. Later in the conversation you had a question about this event, "So when is the ice cream sexual again?" I was driving so only my ears could do a double take to make sure I heard what I heard. 

"No, no, son. It is social. So shul." I said chuckling to myself as I looked to your mom who was holding in her laugh. We went through about three minutes of getting you to pronounce the word correctly. Your original mispronunciation would drastically change the mood, setting, and purpose of the entire event.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Return To Schedule

To my son Tommy,

As always when vacation ends, we try to return to our normal schedules. Of course our normal schedule includes dinner over the Downey's most every Saturday night. One thing you can count on in life is that normal always changes; there is always a new norm. And there has been some changes of late in Randallstown. We returned to find your Grandpa Leo retired in order to take care of your Grandma Roro and take care of your Great Grandpa Leo who is once again home. Your grandpa is adjusting to his role, as is everyone else to the new norm, with a whole host of complications and intricacies.

Your mom and I were worried how you would react to your great grandpa being home. People in hospital beds can be confusing and scary to a five year old. Of course, and unfortunately, you have become accustomed to people in all states of repair or disrepair. You have seen your mom in the hospital multiple times and your Grandmom Roro occasionally and most recently Nansy's before her passing, so you didn't even blink at Great Grandpa Leo's being in a hospital bed. You sat there in the chair next to him, speaking a mile a minute, telling him all your boardwalk ride adventures from the vacation.

We had dinner and caught up, and you retold the same ride adventures you told Great Grandpa to just about everyone you could, and we renewed our normal schedule even though everyone is dealing with the new norm. We got home late because your grandpa needed me to fix his computer. After our normal singing, I tried to sneak passed the normal four prayer plus schedule and just go with a "Glory Be". You however caught me at this and said, "Wait a minute Daddy! We forgot to thank God for everything!" When I asked what you were thankful for, you replied, "Thank you God for bringing Great Grandpa Leo home. It is good to have him back." For a person who has lived on this earth for less than six year, you sure have a great perspective on what to be thankful for.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Monday, August 4, 2014

Cousin Cuddles

To my son Tommy,

Our family cuddles often. I used to think it might just be our immediate family, mostly you and your mom though I occasionally get my turn. But by this picture taken this morning, of you and your cousins in a pile on the couch watching cartoons, you can see it goes on through out the extended family as well. Must be genetic predisposition to cuddling! Nice trait to have.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Sunday, August 3, 2014

St Augustine

To my son Tommy,

We went to church today at St Augustine's church in St Damien's parish. There is something that feels like home whenever I attend Mass here. It is a nice looking church, a big church, but nothing overly special I suppose. Yet as soon as we walk in, I am at ease. Of course I only attend Mass here when I am on vacation and life is great, so that might be a major factor in my opinion of the church. Some people find it a bother to attend church on vacation. I however find it quite easy to thank God when I am celebrating and enjoying all the gifts in my life without having to worry about much. It is the other fifty weeks of the year, when life is difficult, and stress and worry and work are part of my every day, that I find it harder to attend. Still, in good times or bad, or all the points in between, keep your faith strong and in the forefront of your life.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

Saturday, August 2, 2014


To my son Tommy,

"What is Mommy doing?" said an overly excited five year old who was ready to get on with the vacation.

I looked over at your mom as she had her fingers on her chin staring at the car as she packed for the vacation.

"She is playing Tetris." I responded, quite amused with myself as your mom gave me a knowing look and a little grin.

"What's Tetris?" you asked puzzled.

Realizing that pretty much every reference from here on out in our lives has the potential to be way too dated for your understanding, I replied, "It is a game where you move blocks till they fit perfectly and then you win."

Your mom chimed in, "And Mommy always wins!"

Thank goodness for your mom's patience and spatial awareness when it comes to packing for vacation. Otherwise, there would only have been ten bags to carry up the stairs when we got here instead of sixteen! I kid, I kid. She once again has done the lion's share of work and successfully readied us for fun and relaxation!

Sincerely with love from your dad,