Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Fathers And Sons

Enjoying the all too brief respite between basketball and baseball seasons, dinner time, specifically, the time during which I make dinner, has become my favorite time of day. We (my kids and I) use this time to catch up, discuss homework, and talk...

Those of you who have been to my home know that my apartment has an open floor other kitchen, dining room, and living room are in one biggish room...Anyway...from the kitchen island (I love kitchen much potential....) is where I preside, hold forth, and sometimes hide from my kids. During the last few weeks I have gotten into the habit of putting out carrots and celery along with some cheese for my kids to snack on while I make dinner. Much to my surprise, putting out food is a sure fire way to attract teen aged boys.

While he sometimes falls into a pattern of conversing in monosyllabic utterances, my son and I have almost always been able to talk to each other. While making dinner we watch The Daily Show, speculate about the Red Sox' prospects, or chit chat. Last night we talked about Kashmir (the region fought over by India and Pakistan...not the song by Led Zeppelin)...and the origins of World War One.

Our conversation over the years has evolved...I remember him peppering me with questions while I did chores around the house...and I am glad that we are beyond the "why is Obi-Wan's light sabre blue" level of conversation (although a little boy's facination with Star Wars is something I miss...). But I think the important thing is that regardless of the topic that we keep talking as for some reason the relationship between oldest sons and their fathers can be trying and difficult. There is nothing quite like the feeling of a father and son being separated by tens of thousands of miles while sitting in the same room.

They do not hand out manuals when you become a parent...but we can learn from both the good and bad examples we have encountered along the way. Its important to me that I share my interests with my kids and that I at least know where their interests are. While nature may dictate that there be a bond between a parent and child...its incumbent upon the parent to foster and nuture that bond...and to put out food. Maybe tonight we will talk about Kashmir by Led Zeppelin.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Dinner time around here is always an adventure. You never know what you are going to eat or when. Last week we had roast chicken, eggs and homefries, lobster ( would be surprised at how inexpensive they are), and finally, on Thursday, the kids and two of their friends had homemade meatballs and sauce....Our dinner part due to my unpredictable work schedule can be as early as 6:00 and as late as 8:30....please don't tell my kids' mother.

As an has been pointed out to me that cooking is not the most masculine of pursuits...anybody can cut grass or change a tire or cut down a takes a man of true talent and ability to do those things while having a pot roast slow cooking in the oven...just saying...

Anyway....I decided that there were too many leftovers in the fridge to make still yet another dinner...besides...a number of my fridge's residents were approaching their edible half life so something had to be done.

The thing about kids...and most that they will buy almost anything is they are sold I knew if I labeled last night "leftover night" it would go over the way leftover night went over when we were instead of leftover night....we had Buffet! (the exclamation mark is key)...

Not quite trusting my kids...I put out selected leftovers on the kitchen island...tacos, refried beans, black beans and rice, meatballs, bread, carrots, celery, tomatoes, dressing, bread, chicken soup, and cheese...four different kinds...Anyway...Aidan and Fiona made themselves a beef taco with cheese...and that was it....Oliver...God love him...tried a bit of everything....He even asked if I could leave out the vegetables for him to snack on later on....

I remember kids do too....two of the best meals I have had in the last year were ones where friends and I explored the edible layer of my refrigerator to find what was good...Easter dinner last year was marked by leftover mashed potatoes and gravy, marmalada, rolls, and cheese....and earlier this month, on my first night home from the hospital we had pizza, cheese, shrimp, and olives...

For a few reasons, last night's experience was useful and gave my kids some choice as to what they would eat at dinner also reminded me of the importance of exposing my kids to a range of foods...and it also showed me that Aidan and Fiona will get scurvy unless I get some fruits and vegetables into them.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tell Me A Story

If you want to get to know someone, get them to tell you their stories. What they tell you, and perhaps more importantly, what they don't tell you, offers a way to gain insight into how someone ticks in a way that a mere exchange of biographical data cannot. Over time...they will tell you the secrets of the universe....or at least they would if they knew them. I know this because, without my even realizing what I was doing in sharing my stories, it happened to me.

Over the past year I have shared certain stories...and other stories I have not. In part because as with everyone else, certain of my stories are intertwined with stories belonging to others. Prudence and good manners dictate that certain things, that certain stories remain private and closely held. Anyway...this story jumped to the front of my remembrances last month, while sitting on a bench, in the snow, while waiting on a friend.

In my early teens I rode my bike everywhere. It was nothing for me to ride eleven miles to a friend's house or fifteen miles to the nearest major town to go to the movies. I grew up in a place where it was a ten mile round trip just to get a pizza. I rode my bike less because I wanted to go to these places but rather because where I lived was a place that was more attractive on departure than on arrival. Not wanting to be someplace can be as powerful a motivator as wanting to be someplace. day...on my bike...I stopped at a friend's house. We had known each other since grade school and to be honest with you I had a small crush on her. I still an innocent school boyish sort of way. was a humid overcast New England day and I stopped at my friend's house. We, my friend, her sister, and I played basketball, talked, and for lack of a better word...hung out.

I must have looked hungry...and in my early teens I was always my friend's mom invited me in for something to eat. I had never been inside this particular home before...and I remember walking across the whitest carpet I had ever seen. She had me sit down at the table and put before me a turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise on white bread. Next to it was a perspiring glass of ice cold Pepsi.

Sitting at that table, eating that sandwich, and drinking that Pepsi, I felt a good way...but strange nonetheless...And at the time I could not identify what I was feeling...although I could tell you what I wasn't feeling and I was enjoying that a great deal. It wasn't until last month, sitting on a bench, in the snow, while waiting on a friend, that I realized what I felt on that summer afternoon so long ago. Sitting in that kitchen, with that sandwich, and that perspiring glass of Pepsi felt...nice...kind... civilized...decent...and safe.

Sitting on that bench I could not figure out why I was feeling what I was feeling and for some reason I remembered this particular afternoon from almost thirty years ago. Reveled to me...and now to you...that my fondness for certain things...such as toast with marmalade, stew, chicken marengo, back porches, and turkey sandwiches, are fixes for my apparent addiction to small kindnesses and to the incidental intimacies of everyday life.

Biographical information may tell you the who and the what....only stories can tell you why.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Back To Normal....Sort Of

Yesterday I played catch with my boys, played basketball, got a sunburn, devoured a steak (farm raised, grass fed, organic and very, very delicious...), went for a walk, and watched Lawrence of Arabia...again...

...and this morning...sore all over...more fever...and more chills...thank goodness for my handy dandy antibiotics, my king sized bottle of Motrin...and thankfully...for another day without clutching chest pain...back to normal indeed.

This past week has been about discovering what the new normal will look and feel like...

Normal...the routine, the everyday, the conformance to an be honest with you sounds both appealing and terrifyingly dull. Its appealing in that life is gradually returning to the way it was prior to that fateful trip to the emergency room almost two months ago. Its terrifying in that life is gradually returning to the way it was prior to that fateful trip to the emergency room almost two months ago.

While I am looking forward to life without clutching chest pain and having read all of the magazines in my doctor's waiting room fewer trips to my cardiologist I find that normal...again...that pesky something that I may well have to create anew for myself.

This is not as daunting as it might seem...or at least what I keep telling I am in the same boat with everyone else in that I think we all strive to find in each of our own lives that space, that place where we have something on which we can rely, count on, and depend upon. Where we find comfort in the everyday and in the routine...While I am still looking for that place...I will take any day featuring a game of catch, Lawrence of Arabia, and a steak...

Thursday, March 18, 2010


There was a flaw in my plan. Looking out the window as we pulled out of the train station I had discovered the flaw in my plan...rain. Sideways falling, wind driven, icy cold, dart like rain. It was going to be a long walk home from the Abington train station.

Before I had set out for my little medical adventure I thought I had covered everything as I was determined to be a model of yankee independence and self sufficiency. Train schedules and cab fare quotes prepared me for the journey to and from the hospital. I had even bribed the guy who does the maintenance for my apartment complex with a case of Brazilian beer to take out Joey a few times. I had stocked up on groceries the day before so I would not have any silly errands to run when I got home. March 12 was my D-Day and I was determined to be I said...I thought I had covered everything...except that is...for the nor'easter raging outside.

The day had not started out all that well. I woke up at about 2:30 in the morning to find a small pool of blood...that would be my blood...on my my bed. It was probably not all that much blood but the thing about blood, when its yours and when its not inside of you a little can look like a lot. So I buzzed my nurse. Nurses often have their own timetable as to when they want to arrive on the by the time she sauntered in I had cleaned myself up and had the bed half stripped. I decided, wisely I think, to keep to myself any speculation as to what she might have been doing instead of her job...

I had been warned that bleeding out was possible from this procedure...which was why I remained in the hospital from what is often an outpatient event. The medical adventure, which entailed running a catheter to my heart to remove scar tissue, took less time than did preparing for and recovering from it. And it was not nearly as unpleasant as the infection I am currently battling...chills and fever is a roller coaster ride I can do without.

This past weekend a friend and I had a discussion about Buddhist meditative them involves the practitioner asking himself "what is this?" as a way for one to remain present in the moment. I resisted the urge to tell her that I already do this...obsessively...or so it seems....So I ask myself..."what is this?" the preparation, the procedure, the bleeding, the walk home in a nor'easter, my first two days at home, the subsequent infection with the accompanying fever and chills. While I do think that this is all about ablation...that is the removal of unwanted be honest with you...I have no idea how to answer the question "what is this?"

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


It had been what only could be generously described as a rough night. In bed too late morning came all too early...ok...mid morning came all too early. And then...more than half asleep...I felt as though I was being watched. I rolled over and I was nose to nose to nose with my cat and my dog. dog...looked particularly anxious for me to get up.

Knowing that fifteen year old doggy bladders are particularly impatient I quickly got up, slipped on my slippers, and hustled Joey downstairs. We barely made it...but made it we did. Joey has been unusually spry of late. He has been bounding down the stairs when I have taken him out and the previous night he snatched a hamburger from off of the counter. Additionally...he refuses to let me out of his sight...

I know that Joey does not know I have had some issues of late (Spot, my cat, is a different story). But during the last few weeks it does seem as though that Joey is mustering what youthful energy he has left and that he is somehow extending himself. But again...I know Joey does not know.

However, other friends, those of the two legged variety, have been as vigilant. In particular, a dear friend from elementary school and one from college have reminded me that some relationships endure for life. Friends of a more recent vintage have given me the gifts of perspective and a renewed openness to new things and ideas. Even my ex wife...whom I have given much reason of late to jump ship...has offered friendship and support. All of them have arrived on the scene just in time.

At the drop of a hat I have gone to emergency rooms, held hands late at night, and have been the voice of reason at the end of a phone line. In the name of friendship I have thrown myself into situations that I knew were dangerous for me. All of that was easy in comparison to my finding myself on the receiving end of friendship.

Needing help is awkward, receiving it is humbling, accepting it is difficult. And lately...I have had much about which to feel awkward and humble.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Week Of Never Ending Snow

Of all the months...March is the trickiest and the most fickle. It is the one month out of the year when you can experience spring, summer, and winter all within a span of a few short hours. It is a month of false starts, of subtext, and of plot twists.

Its a month where my boys and I talk about baseball while watching hockey. Where we toss a baseball while standing in late winter snow. March is a month where while standing under a steel gray sky you can safely speak of a feeling of spring in the air.

March is a month where it can be snowing and feel like spring. This week, where it snowed every day, the sky still thinks its winter, while the earth, as it melts snow as soon as it hits the ground, insists that spring is here. It is still winter yet running through most of the month is a subtext of spring.

With certain months you know exactly what you are going to get. Its going to be hot and humid in July and cold with snow in January. March, on the other hand, you never quite know what you are going to get. As with life, March is full of surprises and the unexpected. March is a reminder that the expected can bring good a gloriously sunny day at the end of a week of never ending snow.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Don't Argue With Crazy

Admittedly, there have been times in the past where I have either sought out crazy or when confronted with crazy I did not run in the other direction. Now, older and wiser, I try to avoid crazy or at least limit my exposure. But sometimes...crazy will sneak up on me when I least expect it.

Yesterday I looked at my front tire and saw that it was clearly time for it to be replaced. I called around and finally decided to take it to a local place down the street. They were a well established business, they offered a very good price, and promised to have it done for me in fifteen minutes.

I arrived with my car and was assured by the owner that my car would be ready in about ten minutes. I told him that I was going to take a quick walk and would be back soon. I was back in fifteen minutes and sure car was ready. Very pleased that I got what I was promised I engaged the owner in some chit chat....

Me: " is business?"

Owner: "well....I am happy that the sun is out and that's about it."

Me: "I hear the same thing from a lot of business owners and self employed guys...its very rough out there."

Owner: "we can thank Wall Street for the mess we are in."

Me: "I think there is a lot to that... greed did play a large role in all of this."

Owner: "what you need to do is follow the money and you will follow it right to the Crown of England and to the scarlet city...Rome."

Me: thinking..."OK....suppress moral indignation and get out of here"....saying " much do I owe you"

Owner: "yes...nothing happens in the world without the approval of the Crown of England and the Pope...."

Me: "how much do I owe you?"

While I was unable to escape without his prattling on some more and his shoving some pamphlets into my hand, I left before the conversation inevitably turned to that other group who is usually scapegoated during hard economic times....because you know he was going to go there...his ilk always does.

Don't argue with crazy...just leave as quickly as you can.