Recently, I stayed at a place that wasn’t my own. It was only for one night, and I had been there before. I will refrain from naming this place, mainly because I like to respect people’s privacy, but also because I’d rather not cause any static. Not that what I’m about to say is a secret, or that it insults anyone.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sometimes you set yourself up. Sometimes, in the interest of expedience, you get that sudden moment of “Uh-oh!”
My father’s birthday is January 4th, a mere ten days after Christmas. Now, the topic of having a birthday so close to Christmas is enough to fill five blog posts, I’m sure. Fortunately, that’s only tangential to this one.
I was about to start wrapping my father’s birthday present. It was a pretty large box, and I didn’t have enough wrapping paper. So, I sent my nine-year-old daughter into the garage. “Gabriella, get Daddy some wrapping paper. It has to be a big roll with enough paper on it, and look good for a birthday, OK?” “OK, Daddy,” she replied.
She came back in with a short roll of paper. “Daddy, this is all we have.” “That won’t do at all. Look for something else,” I said as I sent her back.
She came back in with a large roll of Christmas paper. She had a curious look on her face. “Daddy, do you know what’s weird? I noticed that we have the same wrapping paper as Santa Claus! It’s all there: the paper he used for my gifts, Alessandra’s gifts and Nicoletta’s gifts!”
My mind raced. She still believes, and I had to say something. To myself I thought, “What do I say? What do I say? What do I say? What do I say?”
“Oh, that’s because, um, Mommy and I were running low on paper for other people’s gifts. Santa noticed, and, being the nice guy that he is, left that for us to use. Wasn’t that cool of him?” I waited for her response. A second later, she said, “Oh. He’s good at giving, isn’t he?”
“…He sure is.”
Silly lyrics from my daughters… in this case, my then-six-year-old middle daughter.
We had listened to Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean more than a few times, and she decided to sing it one day. The song was not playing at the time – actually, no music was playing; she just decided to sing the song without any prompting:
Oh, Billie Jean’s got my glove.
She’s just a girl who
Claims that I am a bum.
But her chair’s not that fun!
I laughed. She asked, “Daddy, what’s so funny?”
“Oh, Angel, I, um, just thought of something that happened a long time ago,” I replied.
She’s the one who is sensitive, and I dare not hurt her feelings. Still, it was funny, and I will remember it for a long time.
My children are an endless source of joy for me.
I’ve mentioned previously that I am a very logical-minded person, and that I am passionate about math. I allow this to influence my parenting methods, especially as a former teacher.
In this light, please allow me to share a recent exchange between my 11-year-old daughter, Alessandra, and me.
It began in a typical father-daughter conversation, where she decided to ignore my advice about something or other. Naturally, I was proven right a few minutes later.
I said to her, “Now you, see, Alessandra? Didn’t I tell you that you shouldn’t have done it that way?”
“Yes, Daddy,” she said, her eyes rolling audibly.
“Don’t you know how much longer I’ve been living than you?” My question made her squint.
“What do you mean?”
“You had a milestone birthday last year,” I said, “right?”
“Yeah,” she said curiously. “I turned ten.”
“Right,” I replied. “And what milestone did I reach last year?”
“Forty,” she answered.
“So, I was how many times older than you?”
She thought for less than a second, then smiled as she answered, “Four… you were four times older than me.”
“Right,” I said. “So, given that I am four times your age… you are how old now? And how old does that make me?”
She thought for a second longer. “Well, I’m 11 years old, so that makes you 44.”
“Exactly! Good job! And next year, when you’re 12, how old will I be?”
Quickly she spit out, “48!”
“Great work, Princess! I’m proud of your math skills!”
Her eyebrows knitted together as she thought for a second. “Daddy,” she said, her tone the same as when she explains something to her three-year-old sister, “that’s not how it works!” She planted her hands on her hips and tapped her foot to make her point.
Innocently, I replied, “Really? Are you sure about that?”
“Yes!” We couldn’t hold back any longer, as we laughed at the silliness of it all.
I love my girls. I love it even more that they are smart enough to see through, and appreciate, my goofy tricks.
I consider myself to be strongly left-brained. This means that I am much more logical and analytical rather than expressive and creative. At least, I think this to be true.
Generally speaking, this was reflected in my elementary school and high school grades. I always put forth minimal effort in my math and science classes, and brought home solid A’s. On the other hand, my English, literature, writing, history and art classes were always a hassle. No matter how much effort I put into them, I’d usually be lucky to get a B-. Honestly, I didn’t really like these classes, probably because of my difficulty with them, which made the studies even worse.
While this changed at some time in college, where suddenly I couldn’t get enough history and literature, I still feel I am strongly in the left-brain camp.
See, with math and science, you only need to learn the basics. From the basics, you logically extrapolate the intermediate material, the advanced material, and the master-level material. It all builds upon the last layer, like a beautiful, logical, scientific pyramid. Analytic geometry flows naturally from basic arithmetic. In my last post, I mentioned my love of math, in this case of prime numbers and factors of numbers. I expect to mention this more in future posts. Science is the same way…
Well, except for one science: Biology. I had one heck of a time with biology in high school. It was the only science that I couldn’t walk through and get an A; in fact, if my memory is correct, I got a C. This bugged the heck out of me for years – I was used to my science grades being easy A’s. But then, one day, I finally figured it out: Biology was less of a science, in the sense that the basic layers don’t form the foundation for the next layers. At least for me, and my left-brain, I couldn’t extrapolate the more advanced topics from the less advanced. It was all memorization of definitions, results, theory, and exceptions. For me, rote memorization is difficult, tedious, and illogical.
Now, I’m not saying that biology is not a science. I know it is a science, but it is a science I do not comprehend easily. Because I don’t get it, I admire and respect those to whom it comes with less effort. Way to go doctors, ecologists, biomechanical engineers and exobiologists – you folks rock!
So, I can read about biological issues, and comprehend them, but I don’t expect to make any breakthroughs in the biological sciences, ever. I’ll leave that to the experts.
Just leave the logic and math to me.