Time is a very cruel thing. When you combine the ever moving beast of time with the fragility of life, add to that the parental responsibilities of providing both financial and emotional support to your family and children and you lose something very important: perception.
Tonight my daughter Emily played in a middle school band performance, her first really big performance in her new school as a flutist. This event triggered pride in my child for having the discipline to learn and play an instrument, being part of a team, and the responsibility those involve. It also triggered a thought in my head that made me realize I probably owe my daughter an apology.
With all of the responsibility of parenting and through my own natural selfish tendencies, I didn’t notice when my daughter stopped being a little girl and started to become a tweenager on her way to young adulthood. I know that there were signs of this transition, from the intermittent viewing of Disney and Nick programming with the playing of Legos and other toys. Some point in the last 18 months, though, my kid started to not be a “child” and I didn’t see it happen. She started to become conversationally witty, and I see my and my wife’s humor being given back to us. She’s incredibly creative, and loves to make and craft things. She volunteers at the same ranch where she takes riding lessons, and she’s one of the youngest volunteers they have had because she is responsible and hard working.
I’m extremely proud of the person that Emily is becoming, and her sister has taught me that I need to stop and treasure these moments as well. If I don’t pay close attention I’ll miss when she transitions into young adult and adulthood too.
There’s a lesson in life everywhere you look, you just have to be smart enough to see it.
This Father’s Day I found myself in a unique situation: I was the first one up this morning. Usually I’m the one that has to be rousted out of bed with a cattle prod on the weekends, but I had to be out late the night before so mostly everyone in the house went to bed after 2 AM. I already received the most amazing gifts on my pillow for me to find when I got home, so my wonderful wife and kids let me know how much they love and appreciate me and because my schedule threw them out of whack I figure why wake them, at least directly.
It still being an early hour I decided to step out to the grocery store to get a tasty treat for us all to start the day with. I don’t know what it is like in your household but in ours I enjoy cooking, baking, making yummy tasty food for us to eat. Because I like to cook, Father’s Day is a pretty solid choice in our house if you want to have a dinner made by some white guy with a bbq trying to pretend he’s Guy Fieri.
Once I held the tube in hand promising Grand things from a tiny baker wearing nothing but a hat and scarf name Pillsbury (seriously, we’ve been letting this androgynous little streaker tell us what’s good all these years? America, we’ve got to talk…)
I thought it would be a fun little experiment (with way too many variables to be scientific) to see, like in the commercials, if I bake these cinnamon rolls the family will smell the sweet gooey promise of love will they wake up and come downstairs?
09:04 AM PDT: The oven has beeped, letting me know it is ready to receive the non-stick pan filled with the unending promise of good things to come.
09:14 AM PDT: The air has begun to take on the scent of cinnamon and temporary lifts in our mood from the sweet blessed butter and sugar. I hear no movent yet, except for my dog Jack who is wandering around, trying to understand what’s going on.
09:24 AM PDT: You can’t possibly be in any part of the house and not smell the sweet baked goodness that is already beginning to overtake my senses as I begin to visualize pouring the white sticky frosting all over the… wait a second, this is taking on an entirely unintended tone. Let’s move on and not discuss what just happened.
09:26 AM PDT: Back on track. The rolls are almost done and I’m starting to lose all faith in the promises and dreams that the advertising world has been selling me all these years. I may have to face facts and realize that I can’t buy happiness in a box, or in this case a round tube. (Side note: I love opening a Pillsbury Roll can because it gives you a brief moment to pretend you are unraveling some secret spy tape to reveal the code that will save humanity… just me? Again, let’s move on…)
09:32 AM PDT: Reflected on how much I regretted admitting to the spy tape thing while I took the pan out of the oven because these things are done. I apply their frosting in a tasteful and respectful manner and then realize the air conditioner has been running. No one has come down because the air intake has been stealing all of the smells! That’s got to be it.
09:40 AM PDT: It’s been eight minutes, no air conditioner running, there’s got to be cinnamon, sugar and bread smell all up in the nooks and crannies of this casa. I should have known commercials were a lie since I never had as much fun as these kids had with their toys.
Where the hell is this play area they are in? Is this a mini-recreation of a part of Death Valley or some pseudo-valley somewhere? Was there ever a Dad in America that built all of these intricate play surfaces for their kids, because if there is than THAT guy is the guy we’ve all been celebrating Father’s Day for since the 80’s.
Oh yeah, still no one up.
09:55 AM PDT: No, I haven’t been watching 80’s and 90’s commercials on YouTube for the past 15 minutes… I swear. I got excited when I thought that there may be some movement upstairs, I think it was just the house settling (and when it comes to me, boy are we talking about settling). I may have to pull out the backup plan of brewing some coffee to at least peak the interest of my beloved wife. Again, this is for science folks.
10:05 AM PDT: I have brewed what may be classified as the first diabolical cup of coffee, or at least strategic coffee. As I sip said coffee I am left wondering, “What ever happened to the Honeycomb Hideout? Did the land get re-zoned and now a drive-thru Starbucks stands where pro wrestlers and other random types would happen by to measure the size of cereal?”
10:10 AM PDT: I have contact from the upstairs realm. A textual message has been delivered to my mobile smart device from my marital partner. Cinnamon rolls and coffee have had nothing to do with this. Although the experiment can be considered a failure, there’s still coffee and cinnamon rolls so who cares?
The workings of the human mind and our emotions never cease to amaze and baffle me, and this has never been more clear as I sit here on public transit choking back tears.
I realize now that I operate a certain way when it comes to loss and grief. When I was a teenager I lost my grandparents within a little over a year apart. Five years ago the man who was my example, my template, my hero and my father passed away without warning. In all of these cases I held my head high, got through what had to be done, and then a few months later some trigger finally is pulled inside of me and I have to actually deal with my grief. Today is the day where I finally realize that the empty seat at the dinner table of my life isn’t going to get filled again by my father-in-law Richard.
One of the sad parts about the human condition is our amazing capacity to take for granted that which is always around us and only being able to appreciate those things once we can’t take them for granted any more. Maybe this is the reason that my grieving process works the way it does. I have no idea. I just know that it’s my process and I have to own it.
I hold an incredible amount of love for my father-in-law because of the many great things he was. I was never in a branch of the armed forces, but he was a Marine. He had already served his country long before I met him but this man was a Marine, tried and true, to the very end. I believe he served two tours of duty in the Vietnam War, he saw sights that I hope never to see in my lifetime, yet through all of that he was proud to be a Marine. I admire the heck out of that, to have gone to Hell and back and to still have the level of conviction and pride that he had.
One of the greatest things in my life, my daughter, I might not have if it weren’t for this man and it all began with the simple nod of the head. My lovely wife and I had already depleted just about all of our resources in trying to become parents despite infertility. We had depleted savings and accumulated an incredible amount of debt trying to do something that so many people take for granted (there it is again, taking things for granted). In a phone call where my wife vented her frustration to her mom, fresh in the knowledge that to pursue adoption in the manner we wanted to it would cost us an amount equal to (if not greater) than we had already spent. I can only imagine the exchange that was going on at the other side of the phone, hundreds of miles away, where my mother-in-law may have had a look on her face that said, “Can we help?” The part I don’t have to imagine is the nod. She conveyed to us that Richard had looked at her and just gave a simple nod of yes. She may have not even had to give him a look, I don’t know, but that nod… that simple little act of moving ones head up and down in an affirmative manner… it changed my life. Everything that I am now, every decision that I make in life, all of it… stems from that simple nod. (Point of Clarification: I don’t mean to minimize my mother-in-law’s impact and contribution to this moment as well. I’m just attempting to emphasize how without a moment’s hesitation Richard did something so incredibly simple that was like a rock tossed into the middle of still water; the ripples of that impact still haven’t reached shore and continue their journey outward to this day).
Now that I’m a father I can also say that one of the things I miss most about Richard is just how much of an amazing grandparent that he was. My daughter didn’t just love him, she absolutely adored him. The moment she would walk through their door I would count down the moments until I would hear her yell, “GRANDPA!” because of how much she loved seeing him. I didn’t really have that type of relationship with my grandparents and I’m so thankful that my daughter has been able to.
I know that no matter what pain I’m going through in my grieving process it can’t possibly compare to what my daughter feels when I even try to contemplate the amount of complete and unconditional love she had for Richard, and that may be where part of my grieving is stemming from today because I can only imagine how it would have continued for her if he was there to see her driving a car for the first time, graduation, even possibly on her wedding day. Part of me is grieving for her loss as well.
I’ve got more inside me that I’m sure I want to say here in the digital realm as part of my coping process but I’ve got to stop. I’m a few short stops away from work and I’ve really got to pull myself together. So let me wind this up for now by simply saying something to my father-in-law. Richard, I miss you. I didn’t realize just how important you were to me when you were here and I’m sorry I didn’t ever get to tell you that. Thank you for everything that you helped bring in to my life. Thank you for taking me in as part of the family and for giving me all of these wonderful people in my life. Thank you for everything you did in your life to help protect the freedoms that I take for granted every day. Thank you for helping me to become a father. Thank you for being there. I love you.
I’ve been so caught up with performing SIRvice I’ve neglected a far more important thing. My cousin is running a half-marathon in order to help the Tourette Syndrome Association raise money because my niece has TS. Here’s what my sister-in-law has to say:
Tourette Syndrome is no laughing matter!
Please sponsor my cousin who is running a half marathon on behalf of my daughter to raise money for the Tourette Syndrome Association!
As a teenager, I remember watching an episode of Maury Povich where they were showing kids doing bizarre things. Apparently they had this strange disorder called Tourette Syndrome. I’ve seen numerous characters portrayed on TV (remember Ally McBeal?), in movies and comedians, making fun of Tourette Syndrome. Never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed that one of MY children would be born with this nuerobiological disorder! But that’s exactly what happened! In December of 2001 in just a matter of weeks, my well adjusted, popular, happy go lucky 8 year old daughter started jerking her head repeatedly. It caused her so much pain yet she couldn’t stop doing it. Then she started uttering “sh!t” under breath over and over again. No amount of punishing or time outs would make her stop. When she started having explosive outbursts of anger we knew something was wrong. It took almost a year of waiting lists, appointments, a pediatrician, a psychologist and a neurologist to give us our answer we did NOT want to hear. My daughter has Tourette Syndrome. School became difficult for her. She lost friends. She was being bullied. she was in pain from the repeated use of muscles which werent designed to be used the way they were. She was depressed. She was having rage episodes. We couldn’t bring her with us in public as that just made things worse. When we did bring her places I usually came home in tears. Hurt by the way people, stared at her, mocked her, laughed at her. Adults, children, teenagers, the elderly, grandmothers, you name it, we’ve been bullied by them. We’ve even been discriminated against. She was asked to leave a tap class at a studio she had been dancing at for YEARS. They said a noise she was making was distracting (a noise that sounded like a hiccup was too distracting for a TAP class!!!???). We’ve had to leave movie theaters. We’ve even been verbally assaulted at Disneyland.
More important than these social issues, Tourette Syndrome HURTS. Katelynn has TMJ now from her jaw muscles being over used. She has headaches and eye strain from days when those muscles are over used. She has had back pain and neck pain.
Some days she has rage episodes. Many people with TS experience this. Following one of these episodes Katelynn experiences and extreme amount of guilt and slips into depression and doesn’t get out of bed!
Despite these challenges, Katelynn is a shining light for any one who knows her. She’s truly is an inspiration. She loves instantly and without judgment. She is the most steadfast and best friend anyone could have. She is selfless and funny and has a joy for life that is rarely seen.
My saving grace during those early years was the Tourette Syndrome Association. They were a light in a very dark tunnel. For FREE, they gave me very much needed support. They gave me the tools to navigate the SST process in the public schools so that we could get an 504 Plan for my daughter. They gave me resources on how to educate everyone we came across. they do in service sessions at schools for teachers and kids. They pointed me to doctors, gave me access to the newest research in drug therapies and treatments. The TSA gave me ways to talk to my daughter about Tourette Syndrome to help build her self esteem. They gave ME the knowledge I needed to educate even our very own doctors!
The TSA funds research to find a cause and cure for TS. They also do a fabulous job of raising awareness of what TS is. The recent shows you’ve seen on Oprah and HBO can all be attributed the TSA.
We very much want to give back! My cousin is training hard to run this half marathon. If you have it on your heart, please donate to this cause! If you cant donate at this time, that’s OK, but please spread the word and share the link below on all of your social networking sites!
I screwed up folks. I should have posted this A WHILE AGO. I didn’t. Right now, however, my cousin is in the home stretch of reaching her goal. Because of my neglect I wanted to make sure that on this day we push her over the top, reach the goal, and help the TSA as well as letting everyone no that Tourette Syndrome is not a joke.
If you can just donate one dollar it could make a difference.
I don’t know about everyone else in the world but each year as February 14th approaches I begin to feel a little bit of pressure and panic. I don’t know why I do since just about every year for Valentine’s Day I’ve provided to my lovely bride what I have affectionately coined a complete and utter suck-fest. Yes, it’s true and I admit it here openly, I completely suck at Valentine’s Day. I don’t know what it is about the day but I seem to have some type of block at being able to put together something nice and meaningful for the woman that has been there for me time and time again over the past 20 years. You would think that after all of that time it would be easy, right? Seriously, this is the only other person in the world that I probably know almost as well as I know myself. Why can’t I get it right?
Well this year I was determined to get it right. I was going to take the complete and total suck-fest and wipe it from existence. I was going to make this fun, I was going to make it exciting, and I was going to provide my wife something and do so with a grand gesture all to let her know that I love and appreciate her. Yes I was determined, I was completely dedicated to the cause and I was completely clueless on what I was going to do.
By the time this past Monday rolled around I was starting to have that panic set in. I was less than six days away and had absolutely nothing planned. I sat on the BART commuter train completed dejected and lost. As I turned my head upward to ask for guidance my eye caught a sign and I realized that this sign was just the sign that I was looking for.
Ever since we lived in Los Angeles my wife has made it pretty darn clear to me that she would really like to go see the musical WICKED. I admit I too was very curious about it and as I sat on that BART train there before me was an advertisement reminding me and all of the other riders of the train that tickets were still available. This set the wheels in my head a turning and a plan started to evolve. I made phone calls, I ran errands on my lunch break, I confirmed baby sitting and I knew that THIS year the cycle of SUCK would END!
First and foremost I didn’t want to just come home and tell my lovely wife that I was taking her to WICKED. Where is the fun in that? That’s the equivalent of just coming home and saying I’d take her to a nice steak dinner, to a movie, or whatever else. Yes it could set her up for some anticipation to actually getting to see the show but it wouldn’t do a darn thing in the way of real fun. I also wanted to make this fun for myself as well. With my plan in mind I simply told my wife that we would have to drop our daughter off at her Mom’s on Saturday at noon and that everything else would be a surprise. When she asked what we would be doing I simply smirked and told her, “Every time you get antsy because you don’t know what is going on simply tell yourself, ‘What I can’t know ends delightfully.” If you have a careful eye you can tell that in telling her that I actually told her what we were doing but not in a direct way.
Before Saturday I packed a purple bag with three gifts.
Each gift had a strategic time to be opened. With our daughter safely dropped off at my mother-in-law’s house I gave her the first package to open.
To those of you that might be wondering the answer is yes I did in fact print out and glue the conversation hearts onto the box. What was inside the box you ask? A BART ticket. Yup, nothing says romance like public transportation! Believe it or not though taking BART was a part of the plan.
As we approached the 12th Street Station in Oakland I gave her the second gift to open.
That right there is a box AND an envelope. In my mind the former necessitated the latter. You see I didn’t exactly buy these tickets way in advance so I had to take the best seats that I could get. Those seats were located in the very last row of the mazzanine level, so we were going to be above and back from the stage. Having never been to the Orpheum theater in San Francisco I didn’t know if we were going to have a problem seeing the stage in an acceptable level of detail so I bought a pair of binoculars just in case we might need them.
So in introducing this weird gift I decided that I needed to throw her off of why she might be getting these things. I was on the same mode of public transportation that reminded me about WICKED so I thought there was a chance we might be on a train that would have them as well and if she saw the advert and had the binoculars maybe her mind might connect the two. I know, a bit convuluted but I couldn’t take a chance so in the envelope I put a picture of some San Francisco wild parrots to completely confuse and and make her think her husband is an absolute bafoon who might be taking her into the city to see parrots that she couldn’t care less about seeing.
Four BART stops later I tell my lovely wife that it’s time to get off the train and we began our ascent back to the surface world from the subterranian Civic Center station. As we do so I hand her the envelope that has the tickets as well as the reveal of the nutty mantra that I gave her earlier in the week.
As you can see each heart is green, just like the main character Elphaba. The first letter of each word is in a different color from the rest of the letters so that when you look at it from top to bottom each first letter spells out WICKED. I handed her the envelope and kept her back to the Orpheum and waited as she looked at the envelope in her hand. She looked at it and looked at me and…. it was pretty clear that my clever little message wasn’t getting across. I looked up towards the marquee, her eyes followed mine and her excitement made me feel like I just won the Super Bowl of Valentine’s Day gifts.
Thankfully that wasn’t everything as I also had reservations at the Market Street Restaurant and Grill across the street for a wonderful post show dinner.
So there you have it. This VD I went from Zero to Hero. Now the panic is setting in again because I now realize one frightening thought: How the hell am I going to top this next year?!?!?!