That Damn Death Thing Again

Dear Dad,

It’s such a cliche, but I’d love to start this letter like someone writing a postcard:

Wish you were here.

Today marks eight years since you’ve been here. And that sucks. It really, really sucks. Each year I think it’s going to get a little easier. It doesn’t. In fact, this year, it’s a little harder. You probably like the company, but let’s be honest, we’re not real happy about Tim being there with you. Gramma, OK, we kind of expected that, but not Tim. And certainly not now.

But, at the same point, you’ve got each other there, “in heaven” as Aidan would say. And he does say it, Dad. Every night at prayers, he talks about Papa O, Uncle Tim and Great Mimi O looking down on us from heaven. And, we still light candles at church every week. Do you hear him when he says, “we pray for you Papa O”? I hope you do.

I told him tonight at prayers that we had to say an extra prayer for you. He had one question. “What number is Papa O, dad?” He wanted to know how old you are. I told him. And he seemed happy.

You’d love him, Dad. I know you would. To see his mind work. I swear you can see him working things out, figuring them out. It’s such a great thing to say. And he’s having trouble making the ‘s’ sound, and a lot of times I think about how you would be able to help him sound it out and work it out. And I think about how you would have to hold back the laughter at some of the things he says and does. At his recall. Just amazing what he retains.

I think of you a lot, Dad, when he’s frustrating us beyond belief. Because, he is just 3.5. I think of how you never raised your voice. And if I feel myself doing it, you pop into my head almost instantly. Or I think about you when I try to give him my look. I can tell you that it certainly isn’t working on him (yet) like your look worked on me.

And, Dad, your new grand-daughter, Erin, would melt your heart. First, she was such a relief to us at such a horrible time, but you know that, don’t you? But, gosh, Dad, her smile is infectious. All she does is giggle and smile. Giggle and smile. She’s almost eight months now, Dad, and becoming such a little person. You’d love to play peek-a-boo with her. I know you would. She’s such a little girl, even now. But, my goodness, she’s this close to crawling. And then things are going to change around our house, that’s for sure.

I wish you could meet her. I wish you could hold her. I wish you could see how much happiness she’s brought to us. She really is our little angel.

Dad, we worry about Mom. She’s given us a couple of scares this year, most recently around Christmas. You’d be amazed though, she actually admitted that she was probably feeling the stress. Can you believe it? I mean, I know where I get my stubborn side from. She always says it’s from you, but I know a lot of it is from her. She held up incredibly well during Tim’s passing, but I think it’s catching up. Not just to her, but all of us. We try to get her to cut back on things, but you know how hard that can be.

The good news, though, is that Lynn, John and Lauren moved into the house, so now Mom is in the addition. It works out great for everyone, but that was stressful, too. And so was Gramma’s last year. But you could probably guess that. It was just a lot, Dad. More than anyone should have to go through.

I should write more. I’m sorry I don’t. It’s not easy. It hasn’t been for eight years. Not that I’m saying it’s easy on you, because I know that’s not true either. Oh, Dad, I don’t know what I’m saying. That’s the hardest part with this. It’s like I know today is coming. I just get in this funk. I look at the calendar and I’m like, oh yeah.

I want you to see everything going on. I want you to meet Aidan and Erin so much. Tim and Gramma can tell you about Aidan. I know they got a kick out of him. And Gramma was thrilled that Erin’s middle name is Margaret. That brought such a smile to her face.

Every day, Dad. I think about you every day. I miss you ever day. And in some strange way, it almost makes me feel like I’m closer to you. But at times I still get upset. Upset that you’re gone. Upset that I wasn’t there.

Damn it, Dad. I miss you.

Love,

Mike


Monday, Monday

Pretty original title for this one, eh? Sorry. It’s the best I can do. What with the pressure and all!

But, first, thank you for telling me more about you. And, for telling me what you like about being here. I promise, more kid stories and pictures. There certainly will be plenty of those. If we still have kids. And, after yesterday, we thought about giving them away. Five a.m. wake-ups and no naps will do that to you.

But, then Erin smiles and Aidan says, “Drive carefully. I love you, Daddy” and all is forgiven. For now! 😉

For those of you that didn’t comment, that’s ok, too. I still like you. Honest. I’m just glad you’re out there, and that you, too, apparently find something here you enjoy.

And, for those of you who are here because you’re searching for Clink related things, I have two words for you: grow up. Unlike you, I’ve met her. And trust me when I say the searches you are doing for dirt or whatever are a waste of your time.

Now, I do have some good news to share. And, since a bunch of you wanted to know how Forty by F0rty is going, I’m going to give you a three-month progress report. I can’t even believe it’s been three months, by the way.

The quick recap: I turned 38 November 1. And, with that, I initiated my goal to lose 40 pounds by my 40th birthday. It’s a two-year plan. Actually, it’s a life-long plan, but I wanted to give myself a tangible goal. And I think I have.

I’ve definitely lost weight. I’m not sure how much. I didn’t step on a scale November 1. I roughly know where I started, but I didn’t want to get on scale until I start the exercise component — which I haven’t done yet. And that’s my goal for February. The time is so hard with the kids, but I can’t use that as an excuse. I’ve got to do it. And I will. And sometime in the next few weeks, I will figure that out.

But here’s the big news. Are you ready? You sure?

I’m wearing my skinny pants today. Yes, I’m a 38-year-old man with skinny pants. What’s the definition? Skinny pants, at least for me, are the pants I always used to wear. Except I couldn’t anymore because they were too tight and it would be nearly impossible to suck the gut in that much.

So, yeah for me and my skinny pants!

Is it the end of the journey? God no. But, in three months I’m back to wearing pants I used to wear more than a year ago. I feel really good about that. And, the jeans I used to order were ‘relaxed fit.’ Well, at Christmas, I got ‘natural fit.’ So, another sign of progress.

People have asked if I’m on a plan. I’m not. I’m just trying to be better. You know, don’t eat the two english muffins smothered in butter and peanut butter for breakfast and then get to work and go to the bakeshop for a heath bar muffin. So, now I eat one muffin for breakfast. And, instead of buying regular english muffins, we buy multi grain, which are a bit better.

Instead of regular granola bars, get the sugar free. Instead of cranberry juice, get the light cranberry juice. Instead of ice cream, get the light ice cream. Instead of regular soda, get the diet or the zero stuff. I mean, did you know Diet Barques Root Beer is actually better than regular? I know this now.

So, by no means am I wasting away, but I’m trying. I really am. It’s hard sometimes. Like yesterday, I had three chocolate chip cookies. Can I help it if my sister-in-law makes the best cookies ever? And I mean ever. And, can I help it if she sent a bag back to me (she lives in Florida) with my father-in-law who was visiting?

I know you can’t go cold turkey, but I’m trying to limit by splurges, too. And, since November 1, I’ve been to McDonald’s once and have only had donuts twice. This is big, people.

So, thanks to all of you for your words of encouragement. It’s good to know that I have that support. Heck, I might have even discovered my own online nutritionist — but more on that later.

I hope to let you know soon that I’ve got this exercise thing figured out. That’s the biggest challenge right now.

But, you know what, me and my skinny pants are up for it!

What else? I got nothin’.


Enough About Me…

…tell me about you.

Wait, you didn’t know? I’m not a follower. So the Delurking Day thing wasn’t for me. At the time. Of course, I’m not really a leader, either. So I’m not sure where that leaves me.

But, today is my very own Delurking Day. Only I’m not calling it that. I’m calling it, um, let’s see…

Tell Me About You Day

Yeah, that’s it. I’m calling it Tell Me About You Day.

So, the forum is yours.

I want to know:

Who you are, how you got here and what you like about the place. And, if there’s something you want to know and haven’t learned yet, I want to know that, too.

OK? Good.

The floor is yours….


The Funk is Gone

Thanks, loyalist of readers, for your words of encouragement chasing me from the recent funk.

You helped.

And so did being at the Patriots game yesterday. Forget about the temperature, the tailgating featured margaritas, captain and coke, tenderloin tips, scallops, lobster (yes, lobster) and baby back ribs. Did someone say Forty by Forty?

And, of course, these guys help every day.

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Aidan in his new favorite jammies.

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Look at me, Dad. I’m sitting up all by myself!

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So they weren’t looking at the camera. Do you know how hard it was to just get this one?!

What else? I got nothin’.


Ugh.

Bear with me, loyal readers, I’m in a funk.

Just a lot going on.

And some of it has put me in a mood that I’m not really happy about being in. But, that’s where this comes in. The whole point of this blog is a selfish one. It’s a place for me to vent a little bit. And, it’s fabulous when you enjoy certain elements of that because you either can relate or just think it’s interesting stuff.

And my intention isn’t to bring you down at all. I hate being in a funk. But, you know what, I’m in one. And I have to figure out how to get out. And, I will. Just bear with me. I mean, there are some of you whose stuff I haven’t read in a few days. I’ve sort of been batch reading and commenting lately. I haven’t disappeared. Just haven’t been reading as regularly as usual.

And, well, I suppose part of the reason I feel the way I do lately is death. I wrote about this a few days ago. It sucks. It totally sucks. Why? Well, today is my brother Tim’s birthday. So how do I not think about him today?

But, the thing is, I have twin brothers. So I have to call Tom and wish him a happy birthday. But how happy is it really going to be? The closest person to him, his twin, died. So how can he go through another birthday — something that is supposed to be happy — without thinking of his twin brother? And what the hell can I say to him to make it a happy day? I’m not sure there’s anything I can.

So, yeah, I got that going for me. And the worst of it, two weeks from today is the anniversary of my Dad’s death. Now here’s the thing, I don’t get incredibly emotional around my Dad’s birthday. I remember it, and I think about him that day (like I do every day), but I haven’t felt like this around his birthday that I do around Tim’s. And that’s what I can’t figure out. Is it because Tim’s was so sudden? Or because, as I’ve said, you kind of expect to bury a parent, but not a brother? I just don’t know.

So here I am in the dumps about my brother, and then I’ll be in the dumps about my dad in just a couple of weeks. And, oh by the way, I was just in the dumps about a family friend who passed last week.

I mean, come on. Are you kidding me? This is why I always say, “Grown-up stuff sucks.”

So, that’s my story.

A few positives though:

I got a ticket to the AFC Championship game on Sunday. Woo-hoo Pats!

I dropped Aidan off at pre-school today, and, yes, we got the green hanger. But, on the way out, I asked the teacher how he was doing, and her eyes sort of lit up.

She went on to say how he’s coming out of his shell more and more. He’s not always playing directly with the other kids, but he’s in their area now as opposed to being on his own before. And, I guess that’s a normal thing. But, she said he’s got a great sense of humor and that if one of the teachers says something wrong, he’s the first to say something about it. And she meant that in a good way.

But here’s the one that really got me. She said that the other kids are drawn to him. That when he’s talking, they are listening and responding. That was the coolest thing to hear.

Especially when you’re in a funk.


The Green Hanger

I wanted to write The Green Hornet as a headline. But, I didn’t. Mostly because I’m guessing most of you, my loyal readers, have no idea who The Green Hornet is. Yup, I’m old.

Anyway, today is Tuesday, which means it’s pre-school day for Aidan. I’m the one who drops him off, and our little routine is quite cool. We get there, we put his backpack down, hang up his coat, play with some toys for a minute and then I go.

Sounds pretty innocent, doesn’t it?

Well, apparently something in that paragraph is starting to cause quite a stir at the pre-school. Which part? I’m glad you asked.

The part about hanging up his coat.

Well, I’m not saying Aidan can’t hang up his coat or doesn’t want to or any of that, so don’t think it’s about that.

It’s about the hanger he uses. I kid you not.

There’s 14 kids in the class, so the coat rack has about 16 hangers, all multi-color. Two of them are green. And a hideous kind of lime green at that.

Well, as of about three weeks ago, Aidan was totally digging the lime green hanger. I’m not really sure why, but that’s the one we always hung his coat up on. Because we’re always one of the first to get there, he’s always got a pretty good shot of getting one of the two apparently coveted green hangers.

The issue came to light today as Aidan and myself were at the rack, along with a woman and her daughter, Clare. They are always in the early arriving group, too, and Clare also loves the green hanger.

As we were hanging up the coats, one of the teachers made a comment about how all the kids love those two hangers.

“Well, I’m glad we weren’t here third today,” I said jokingly.

“Oh, that happened to us last week,” Clare’s mom sighed. She wasn’t joking. Apparently it wasn’t easy when Clare didn’t get the green hanger.

That’s when the teacher told us about last year’s incident. I guess hanger-gate got pretty intense in one class last year — so much that parents asked that they either have all green hangers or that they take them out completely.

The teacher didn’t give in, telling the parents, “We’re not doing that. We are going to deal with this.”

Some of you probably agree with her. Some of you probably disagree with her. I can see both sides of it, but for the point of taking a side, I’m with her — 100 percent standing behind her on this.

As long as Aidan is one of the first two kids there every day!


R.I.P., Death

Dear Death ~

You know what, I’m done with you. You’ve wreaked so much havoc in my life. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of you. Would you please go away for awhile?

Not that I wish bad on anyone, but, honestly, could you go bother someone else?

First it was my dad, eight years ago this month. This is always the time where I start to think about him a lot. How can I not? He clearly was suffering at the end before you took him. And that’s one reason why I don’t like you.

Then, as if that wasn’t enough, you went and took my brother this year. And, OK, he probably didn’t suffer — but the unexpected side you bring to the table doesn’t make things any easier. I know that now. And, have you no timing? I mean, you do realize that my daughter was born five days before my brother died?

You have no class, death. No class.

I especially know that now. Why? Because you took an amazing woman from this earth yesterday. She wasn’t immediate family, but that doesn’t make this any easier. Diane battled cancer for more than 15 years. She was one of the strongest people we know. Beat it. Comes back. Beat it again. Back. Goes away. But, no, you can’t stay away. Not enough other things on your plate.

And, you know what, death? It was kind of fine for me to deal with you. I mean, I’ve had experience with you. I know how you work. Butt this time, while your latest move affects me, it really affects Renee.

Diane was Renee’s mentor, a colleague when Renee first started teaching back in 1992. She took a new teacher under her wing and a bond was formed. I came home last night and Renee was sobbing. All because of you, death. All because of you.

Diane was also our landlord. And, get this, we paid $330 a month rent. She wasn’t about making a buck. She was about making this world a better place. That doesn’t satisfy you, though. You go and take her. And for what? Because she was suffering? She beat it before. She’d beat it again. IF you gave her the chance.

I knew Diane before I knew her son, a man who I have called a friend for more than 10 years — despite that he’s both a Yankees and Steelers fan. He has four kids, Diane’s four grandchildren. What are you going to tell them, death? Speechless, aren’t you?

You know what you do to us, death? You make us stronger. You bring us together. You keep memories alive, not people.

But, you know what you really are? Do you?

You, death, are a coward.

Mike


Future Rap Star?

So Aidan goes to pre-school on Tuesday and Thursday. And, in the interest of logistics, Erin goes to my mother-in-law’s when Renee goes to work, so it’s just us two men hanging out on Tuesday and Thursday morning.

The oil man came to make a (very expensive) delivery this morning, so our attention was focused on watching that entire process.

When the truck left, I realized we only had a few minutes to get dressed and out of the house at our normal time to keep things on schedule.

That’s when the following occured:

“Come on, bud, we don’t want to be late. Let’s hustle.”

“But, Dad,” he started, “I don’t want to hustle or bustle or muscle or wustle.”

I just cracked up and said, “Well, OK, but let’s hurry up.” And we did.

Oh, and yeah, wustle isn’t really a word. We know this, right? But it was funny to hear him make up another rhyme.

What else? I got nothin’ (except a pile of work to do).


Testing a Theory

Ok, so how does that old saying go? A picture is worth a thousand words? Well, let’s give it a shot and find out. The beauty of wordpress is that it counts as I type. Don’t worry. I will do the math. The words that are counted will be below the picture. The question is, can a simple picture like this, really be worth that many words? Let’s try and figure this out together. Shall we?  

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Believe it or not, that’s the best ‘family’ portrait we have. And it was taken today (Sunday). Do you know how hard it is to have a photo taken, particularly when two of the four are kids? Yeah, well, it’s hard. So hard, in fact, that this photo is the best of four taken today.

The photographer is my sister-in-law, Stephanie, who, along with her friend, Amber, was visiting us this weekend from Florida. We don’t see Steph enough. It’s hard when siblings are separated by that much distance. Stephanie and her brother live in Florida. Renee and her parents are up north. We always try to convince Steph to move back. Until it happens, which is probably doubtful, then my wife and her sister are doing pretty well dealing with emails and phone calls to go along with the two or three times a year they get to visit in person. She’s fun to have around. Who knows. Perhaps some day, she and her husband will end up ‘coming home.’

From left to right, that’s one-third of Erin, yours truly, Aidan and my wife, Renee. The picture was taken at a place called Napatree Point in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. It is, perhaps, my favorite beach. In. The. World. It’s in the middle of a summer tourist haven, yet it still has an incredible amount of remote charm to it.

As you can see behind us, the beach is curving to the left, almost in a crescent shape. Well, if you walk all the way out to the point, you’ll come across some forts that were built to protect the area during, I think, World War II. I’ve been out there a few times, but not in a long, long time. It’s pretty cool, however.

Lots of memories on that beach, including the night the woman in the picture agreed to be my wife. I will never forget that night. It was perfect.

Today was also perfect, just in a different way. It was Erin’s first trip to the beach. She liked it. Even if you can’t tell because she, apparently, wasn’t interested in the camera. The girl likes everything though. She, apparently, only does two things — rolling around and smiling. She is getting closer and closer to making that crawl thing go. It’s amazing to watch the progress in just about seven months. The smiling is so incredible. Everyone gets a smile. Give one to her, she gives one to you.

She is just a happy kid. And that makes us happy. From what you can see of her, you might notice a red spot on her upper lip. It’s a hemangioma, which, they tell us, is completely normal. It looks like a birthmark on the outside of her lip, and the inside is puffier. We hardly notice it. It doesn’t seem to be  bothering her at all. The doctors say that it could continue growing until her first birthday, then it should recede natually — and slowly, to the point that it should be all but invisible by the time she’s in first or second grade.

I look at myself and go, wow…getting a little gray on the sides and, obviously, a little thin on the top. Hate that my hair is blowing around, but it was windy, what can you do? I do think I look a bit thinner in general, a result of my Forty by Forty goal. What you can’t see in the picture are my jeans. How do I know I might be losing a little weight? Well, in this picture, I’m wearing ‘natural fit’ jeans and no longer ‘relaxed fit.’ Every little step helps. So if it’s my jeans, that’s fine with me. Really.

Aidan loves to chew his coat, which, of course,  he’s doing here. It drives Renee and I nuts, but, short of putting a dab of tabasco sauce on there, we can’t seem to get him to stop. Oh well. He was having a ball at the beach. He loves to explore. So, after finding a smooth rock to bring back for my mother-in-law, he was then ready to push sand around with the bulldozer he brought.

He also had a ton of fun tossing rocks into the bay, which is on the opposite side of the ocean. The dunes and beach separate ocean side from bay side. We were surprised to see parts of the bay frozen, but it did provide a perfect rock throwing opportunity. He tried to skim some rocks and keep them on the ice, but that changed when he heard the ‘plop’ of a big rock going through the ice. So that’s how we spent the next 10 minutes or so, picking out bigger rocks that he could ‘plop’ into the water.

He had a ball down there today. Just like he always does. Pretty much any time he’s outside is a good time. He doesn’t consider it a good time when having his picture taken. It’s just not, as you can tell, one of his favorite things in the world to do.

Renee looks fabulous in this picture. Or, for that matter, any picture. She started out carrying Erin on her back, but I took over shortly before this picture was taken. I was impressed. I wish Renee and Stephanie were closer — in a geographical sense. They, I think, have now spent more of their lives living away from each other than being together. They have always been committed to making the distance thing work for them, but on these types of visits, it clearly isn’t the best option. 

As you can see, Renee gets pure joy from our wonderful kids. (And, well, ok, maybe just a little bit from me, too!) She’s a fabulous mom, a fabulous teacher, a fabulous wife. She’s just, well, awesome. We make a great team — and make no mistake — she’s the captain. I couldn’t do it without her. She does soooo much. And I know I don’t tell her enough, but I do appreciate all she does for us — and, well, for me.  I couldn’t do it without her. No question about that. She’s the best there is, and I couldn’t be happier that she said yes on that beach a long time ago.

And that concludes my little test. Can a simple picture really be worth a thousand words. Now you know.

What else? I got nothin’.


Looking Back — And Ahead

2007. I’m done with you.

Don’t get me wrong, the year had it’s moments — the most incredible being the birth of our daughter, Erin Margaret, who was born June 10th and truly proved to be an angel in a time of need.

Daddy’s little girl. My ‘little bit.’ Aidan’s little sister. Renee’s daughter. Whatever she is, she is. And what she is is beyond special. You’ll know it to the first time she smiles at you.

And she brought smiles with her during an incredible time. The day after she was born, my brother Tim collapsed. He died five days later.

Birth. Death. Within a week. That’s more emotion than, quite frankly, I can handle. And, I’m honestly not quite sure how I handled it this year. That’s why I’m done with you, 2007. That and then a  few months later, the death of my grandmother, just a few weeks shy of her 101st birthday. Quite a run she had. Quite a woman she was. But with her goes a link — for she was my last living grandparent.

Goodbye, 2007. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Without Erin, I would have completely hated you.

Hello, 2008. What are you going to bring us this year? *fingers crossed*

Well, here are five things I’m bringing to you, 2008.

1. I will continue to work on Forty by Forty. A long way to go, but I am making progress. It might not sound like a big deal, but since November 1st, I’ve only had doughnuts on two occasions and McDonald’s on one.

2. I will continue to work at learning how to eat better and, most importantly, I will excercise more.

3. I will keep working to be the best parent I can be. It’s not always easy. There can be amazingly frustrating experiences. But when Erin smiles or Aidan says, “Dad, can you play with me?” Then  you know it’s going to be a good day.

4. I will start the college plans for the kids. They each have money. They each have an account. We are saving, but it’s time to start the actual 529 plans.

5. I will be the best blogger I can be. I know, it sounds like a cop out just to get to number five, but it’s true. I will work to be here more because, well, apparently you like it that way.

Ready or not, 2008, here I come.

What else? I got nothin’.