Sick Days

The Doctor, by Sir Luke Fildes (1891)

The Doctor, by Sir Luke Fildes (1891) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I’m staying home from work.  I’m staying home from work because my oldest daughter is sick.  She had a stomach ache and nausea last night after dinner, and she woke up with those two symptoms, and a headache and sore throat on top of that.  It sucks, for her, of course, but also for me.  As a father, I hate seeing my children suffering.  Nonetheless, here I am.

The worst thing about it, other than my daughter’s discomfort, is that this is a bad time to be away from work for me.  Next week is the paper mill’s annual maintenance down, and I have a million and seven things to do yet to prepare.  So, I suppose I’ll have to take my lumps on Monday and hustle my big bum around the mill.

But, since I’m home, I figured it’d be a good time to write a post or two on this here blog before the dust gets too thick upon it.

Anyway, my daughter’s sick day got me to thinking – I hated to stay home from school when I was sick.  I would much rather suck it up and get through the day so I wouldn’t get behind in my work.  This habit has followed me into adulthood.  I don’t like taking sick days.  I’d rather go to work and get something done, even if it is only half my usual work output, than stay home feeling like sorry for myself.  Maybe it’s pride, maybe it’s my work ethic, or maybe it’s subconscious masochism, but I have to do whatever work I have on my plate.

This reminds me of one day in high school.  For a couple of weeks, I had been feeling like garbage – fever, headache, sore throat, drained of energy, you get the idea.  My muscles ached!  I had a hard time walking, picking up my backpack, heck – even holding up my head.  One thing that I had never felt before this time, though, was my eye muscles.  Well, the muscles that you use to move your eyes up, down, left and right.  Even those muscles ached.  I had never even given those muscles a second thought.  But, I couldn’t ignore them now, not when even they were screaming at me for using them.

English: Miniature of the sick-bed of Louis le...

English: Miniature of the sick-bed of Louis le Gros, with doctors administering medicine with a spoon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One event in particular I recall about this time was when I was talking to my friend Quigs in school.  I told him about how crappy I was feeling, and explained to him how even my eyes were hurting.  “What?  That doesn’t even make any sense,” he laughed.  “Well, if I move my eyes up, down, left, right, the muscles hurt,” I explained.  “So, if I hold your head steady,” he said, mimicking with his hands how he would hold my head, “then say, ‘Hey, Mark, look over there,’ then you would be in pain?”  “Yeah, Quigs, that’s right,” I answered.  He laughed about it, and, I have to day, so did I.  Granted, the laughing hurt, but I wasn’t going to let pain stop me from enjoying myself.

So, I guess that’s another habit I carried with me into adulthood – I ignore my pain and discomfort, and just plug along.  Maybe it’s not the best thing to do.  Oh, well.

So, how about you?  Do you force yourself through work or school when you’re sick?  Or do you take the day off to rest and get better?

Fond Childhood Memories – Setting My Brother On Fire

OK, the title is a little misleading – I didn’t really set my brother on fire, well, not entirely.  Nor did I enjoy it – at least, not the burning part.

Let me start it this way…

This happened when I was younger, probably around ten years old, which would make my brother around eight.  If I recall correctly, this was in the late summer or early fall – September or October.  I remember it being fairly warm out, but not hot, and my brother was wearing pants.  This will become important to the story later.

The sun was up.  It was afternoon, probably around 3:00 or 4:00 PM.  Throughout the day, my brother and I had been playing with a magnifying glass.  We’re not alone in this, it would seem, as I’ve swapped many stories with friends about using a magnifying glass to burn things – ants, grass, plastic action figures, Matchbox cars, you know – typical boy shenanigans.  Anyway, my brother and I thought it would be a really cool idea to burn some newspaper.  So, we grabbed a newspaper out of the trash that our parents had thrown out, went outside the garage to the driveway, and started focusing the sun’s light.

At first, we only got a smoldering spot that caught an orange glowing ring.  Well, darn!  We wanted to see flame!  We wanted to see fire!  No problem, we said, let’s keep trying.  So, since the sun was off to the side of the sky, my brother picked up the newspaper and held it at an angle so I could focus the light more directly.  We expected more smoldering and smoke.  What we didn’t expect was –

WHOOSH!  The entire surface of the paper caught fire!  Not just a little spot of flame, but an inferno!  Well, to eight- and ten-year-old boys, it was.

My brother yelled out in surprise and a little fear, “AAAUUUGGHH!”  He threw the paper down onto the driveway and picked up his foot.

Stomp!  Stomp!  Stomp!  He tried to stomp out the flame.  For those who have seen paper burn, you know what happens after a few seconds – it curls up on itself.  This paper was no different.  It curled up, and around my brother’s foot.  I saw the flames licking the hem of his pants leg.  I thought I saw his pants catching fire.

“AAAUUUGGGHHH!”  He started to panic a little more.  I could see the flames touching his pant leg, and I got scared too.  I lifted my foot, in the same way as my brother, and –

Stomp!  Stomp!  On the flame I came down, hard.  The flame, however, was on my brother’s foot.

Stomp! went my foot.

“OUCH!” yelled my brother, who promptly fell back on his rear end.  He shook his foot, trying to throw off the burning paper.  I kept on stomping.

Stomp! “OUCH!” Stomp! “OUCH!” Stomp! “OUCH!”

“Stop hurting my foot!”  “Stop moving your foot!”

Finally, the paper came loose.  My brother and I stomped out the remainder of the flame.  As we calmed down, out of breath, we heard an angry voice behind us.

“What the hell is going on?!”  My father scared the bejeezus out of us, moreso than the fire.  “Um, we were using the magnifying glass-”  “And the paper caught fire-”  “And we tried to put it out-” “And it stuck-”  “And my foot hurts-”  We blurted out like a couple of scared kids, which is what we were actually.

“You mean you were starting fires… with this?”  He grabbed the magnifying glass from us.  “And you tried to stomp it out, when the whole time you could have used that!”  He pointed angrily at the coiled up garden hose, not five feet from us.

My brother and I, in unison, replied, “Uhhhh…”

My father yelled a little more about not playing with fire, and getting hurt and all that, and sent us to our rooms, both of us feeling rather stupid.

I never forgot that lesson – use a hose on a fire when one is nearby, and take the magnifying glass farther away from home.

Daughters And Blogging, Take 2

I’ve been privately lamenting my lack of blogging lately –  “privately” in the sense of, “beating myself up.”  There are more than a few reasons for it, but they’re only tangential to this post.

You see, while I’ve been wallowing in self-beratement, my daughters have been blogging furiously.  I’ve mentioned in a previous post how they asked for a blog of their own.  One daughter in particular has been steeping herself in writing lately.  I’m very proud of her – she is writing not only so often, but also so well.  The quality of her writing is ten years beyond what mine was at her age.

So, I’m advertising for her right now.  Her latest post is Five Things, in which she not only shares five things for which she is thankful, but also links to the other blog that gave her the idea.

The previous post, AAH! The Beach!!, describes one her her favorite places – the mountains. 😀  No, actually… it’s the beach.

Anyway, check out their blog.  Comment on it, if you like – they’d really appreciate that.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get out of this funk and write more regularly.

In Memoriam – Memom Gardner

First, I want to wish a Happy Father’s Day to all the men who have children, love them, and are a Daddy to them.

Today is Father’s Day in the US, and I love my children more than life itself.  But this day is full of sad memories for me.  It was three years ago that my mother called me and gave me the news, through a tearful, cracking voice, that her mother had passed away.  I was floored – I knew the day wasn’t far off, but I also never really thought it would come, either.  It’s probably due to having the young boy’s memories of Memom always being there for me.  She was a permanent figure in our family, at least as far as I knew, and losing her was a terrible blow to me.  She was the first grandparent I remember losing, and it happened in my adult life.  My oldest daughters remember her, and for that I am extremely grateful.

My mom asked me to write and deliver a eulogy for her.  I had never written one before, and didn’t think I was up for the task.  Despite my trepidation, I sat down and wrote, and the next day, I delivered it.  Here it is.

Memom, I still miss you.

These are just some of the memories I have of Memom. Of course, all of this is from a grandchild’s eyes.

Laughter. Lots of hugs. Fun times with her.

Long drives to Lancaster County. Camping with Anthony, Lauren and Jana. My first taste of shoofly pie. Memom telling me why it was called shoofly, and the difference between wet-bottom and dry-bottom. Ant slipping and falling out of the top bed in the camper in the middle of the night. Pancakes for breakfast. An artist giving me a painted rock.

Long drives to Aunt Edie’s cabin in the Poconos. Sleeping in the dormer with the pull-down steps. Finding Gumdrop, the dog. The four of us grandkids riding in the back of her station wagon, spitting out the window and watching it do loops and spins before bouncing on the blacktop behind us. Going to Camelback and racing on the sleds in the summer.

Sleepovers at Memom’s in Morrisville with Ant, Lauren and Jana. One more scoop of Jello with one more scoop of Cool Whip. Learning in the morning that one of us had wet the bed, while the rest of us slept through it.

Seeing Memom at Grandpop Gardner’s viewing. Hugging her as she cried. Kissing her cheek and tasting the salt of her tears.

Sleepovers at Memom’s in her Bristol apartment on Garfield St. Wondering why the porch in the back had all that stuff in it. Hours of Uno. The stairs that went to nowhere.

Seeing her at my graduation. Getting my picture with her while I was in my cap and gown.

Dancing with her at my wedding.

Watching her proudly, joyfully hold each of my daughters for the first time.

Talking with her at the Christmas parties. Making her bourbons, and her saying, “Well, it’s a little weak, but that’s OK.”

Seeing her last Saturday, so tired. Holding her hand. Watching my children kiss her and tell her they loved her. Kim and I doing the same.

She gave us, her family, the ones she loved, so much of her time and energy. She was a wonderful, beautiful woman. A perfect grandmother. Of course, all of this is from a grandchild’s eyes.

Of Daughters, Writing, And Blogging

You may have noticed in some of my previous posts that I am a father to three beautiful, intelligent, wonderful daughters who never cease to amaze me and make me proud.  Well, recently, the two older girls came to me with a request that has me bursting with pride.

The Proposal

“Daddy,” they said, “we were talking about it, and we want to start a blog.  We’ll write the articles ourselves – they’ll be about fashion and book reviews and that sort of stuff.”

Pleasantly surprised, I said, “Wow, that’s great!  But, you know, you have to be careful not to say anything about yourselves specifically.  You need to keep your identity from random crazy people.”

“We know – we already talked about that.  We’re going to come up with fake names and write stuff like, ‘Hi this is Blah, and I was thinking….'”

Wow.  They already figured out that they were going to use pseudonyms, and how to use them.  “But we need your help to start it, because we don’t know how to set up a blog, or where to go to do it.”

“OK,” I answered, “I’ll talk to Mommy about it, and if we think it’s OK, we’ll go ahead with it.”

“YAY!”

The Deliberation

Blogging is relatively new to me, at least as far as my own experience is concerned.  I have two blogs, both less than a year old, and a far cry from anything close to even semi-known.  But, like most bloggers I presume, I write because I want and like to write.  Of course, it wasn’t too long ago, in college even, that I hated writing.  Even a few simple paragraphs were enough to have me pulling my hair out in frustration.  I do not want my daughters to feel that way, and this is one way to foster a love of writing in them at the early ages of nine and eleven.

But, I am concerned about their safety.  The last thing I want is for them to be in the spotlight personally.  The pseudonyms can be there, but that’s their purpose.  If we allow this blog idea to happen, I will take every last precaution to keep them safe.

Another concern of mine, and you may not know this, is that people on the Internet can be not nice, even downright mean!  I swear – it’s true!  Now, I do plan to mitigate this by turning on comment moderation and filter the comments myself.  Also, I plan to set up anonymous e-mail for contact, and be the only one to read that, at least at first.  But, I admit, the mean people don’t concern me as much as the crazy people.  I plan to explain this to them, and use it to teach them how to handle criticism.  This is a lesson they should learn earlier in life rather than later.

The Decision

So, what’s the result?  Well, I’ll be honest – my wife and I haven’t quite decided yet.  Like I said, I want to nurture in them that love of writing, because I know it is a skill that will serve them well in life.  I also want them to learn to live with criticism, and to use to to improve themselves.  But I don’t want to expose them to any dangers, either.

In the meantime, they have been bugging me to make the blog already.  I love their enthusiasm, and am proud of their tenacity.  I know that we have to decide soon before those fires die down.

How about you?  Do you have or know of any children who write their own blogs?  What advice can you give my wife and me?  How about for my daughters?

Sunday Funday - Check It Out!

Daddy Moment #5239: School Play

I have to take a moment to write about my middle daughter, Gabriella.  Based solely on each of their personalities now, I have predictions about what each of them will be when they grow up.  Gabriella, as far I can prognosticate, will be the entertainer of the family.  Thus, it was no surprise to me when she announced that she would audition for her school musical play.  Moreover, she was aiming for a solo.  I told her to do her best, study for the part, and that I would be rooting for her to win.

Of course, I, being the pragmatist I am, prepared myself for the role of consoler.  I knew there would be many children vying for the same part.  Add to that the fact that she had never performed on stage before, and I thought there was a good chance that my Little Angel would learn a lesson in disappointment.

My Little Angel, Gabriella

Last Thursday was audition time.  My mother, God bless her for her help, went to the school that day to pick her up.  “It was pure chaos,” she told me.  “There had to have been a hundred children trying out for this play!”  “Wow,” I thought, “even if she’s exaggerating, there had to be dozens of kids there.”  My heart sank a little for my daughter.  Competition was fierce.

Days passed, and Gabriella kept saying, “I can’t believe I have to wait until Tuesday to hear if I got the part!  WHY ISN’T TUESDAY HERE YET?!?”  Handling anticipation with patience is not one of her strong points.  “Don’t worry, Shorty, it’ll be here before you know it.  OK,” I said to her.  Again… and again… and again…

So, yesterday, Tuesday rolls around.  Much to my surprise, no play news was forthcoming.  My wife had Gabriella and Nicoletta, my youngest daughter, when I picked up Alessandra from my parents’ house.  I got called into work before they came home, so even if she heard anything, I wasn’t there to receive the news.  My wife didn’t say anything when I came home again, so I shrugged it off and went to bed.

The next day after work, I was the first one to get home.  While I was outside with Cooper, our dog, my wife came home with the kids.  When he finished his business, I brought Cooper into the garage.  My wife met me there.  “Daddy,” she said, “Gabriella has something to tell you.”  (Yes, we’re one of those couples who call each other Daddy and Mommy when our kids are around.)  Gabriella came out, head drooping down.  “Um, Daddy,” she moped, “I heard about the play.”  “Oh, yeah?  What did you hear,” I asked.  Her pout turned into hiding smile, then a wide-mouthed, toothy grin, “I got – I made – I… I got the part!”  She just about burst with the joy.  “You got the part?  You got the part!  That’s great, Angel,” I blurted proudly.  “Well,” she said, “it’s not a solo.  It’s a trio, though.  There’s two of them, but I’m in one!”  “AWESOME,” I shouted as I picked her up in a big hug.  She laughed and squealed joyfully.

So, out of dozens of candidates, my Little Angel, Gabriella, was one of six selected for the part.

I am so, so, terribly proud of her.

Congratulations, Gabriella.

Common Experiences

A short post today, consisting of a reaction I had earlier.

It occurred to me that there are so many things that divide us as a species.  Every one of us can look at another human being and easily see what is different.  We so readily define others as “What I am not.

Gender.  Gender ambiguity.  Racial identity.  Sexual orientation.  Religion.  Faith.  Religious denomination.  Economic status.  Nationality.  Political affiliation.  Sports.  Sports teams.  Diet.  Body shape.  Physical ability.  Physical disability.  Eye color. Eye shape.  Sickness.  Health.

All of these, whether apparent or not, are ways that we, as human beings, separate other human beings from ourselves.  I believe this is the source of many conflicts between us.  “You are different from me!”  Anger, loud words, war, oppression, and many other evils arise from this sense of “other,” or “unlike me.”

But then, I thought of two things, only two things, that we all share.  No matter the divisions between us, we all can claim them as our own.  This is part of our human condition.  What unites us.  What no one human can deny.

My Youngest Daughter, 2 Minutes Old

Birth.  Every human has a birth.

Death.  Every human will die.

Every human will experience joy at experiencing the birth of someone close to them.

Every human will grieve for the death of someone close to them.

As the two universal experiences, I go out of my way to acknowledge them with anyone.

I will purposely stop and wish someone a Happy Birthday when I know their birthday is near.

I will purposely stop and offer congratulations to someone who is expecting or has had a birth in their family or close circle of friends.

I will purposely stop and offer my condolences to anyone when I know they have lost someone dear to them.

I will purposely stop and offer a sympathetic ear to anyone who is near their death.

I try to focus on what we, as humans, have in common.  From there, I believe, we can build a better relationship with all people.