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Archive for November, 2009

It’s dark in the room where I sit. The quiet surrounding me is peaceful, it makes me contemplative. Everyone has gone to bed, while I savor the moment. The sound of the clock in the kitchen taps steadily, marking the progression of time as the second-hand sweeps a white face. Thanksgiving day has passed, somewhere some manic shopper is standing in a line waiting for the doors to open ushering in the Holiday Season.

Events from the day play through my head. Excitement in the house rises as our children arrive. There are dogs everywhere, sniffing under tails they greet each other in canine fashion. The smell of the roasting turkey fills the air, yet it’s hours before the serving of the meal. Alice’s Restaurant plays from the stereo, I’m not sure if the kids really enjoy listening to the dated tune, or if they are just humoring a pair of relics from the sixties and seventies. The Date Nut and Cranberry Nut Bread along with the hot apple cider are set on the table, an offering to those willing to sit through the 22 minutes, and 47 seconds of acoustic entertainment.

Everyone has been assigned a dish to bring, sort of selective pot luck based on personality and ability. My wife and I have been placing bets and raising the ante all week, each wagering against the other. Her mother, Alice. Remember Alice?  And her father Lenny, have become the dark horses in the race. Will they arrive on time? Last year they arrived with the salad, as we were serving dessert. This year they were punctual, however the green vegetable was transformed into orange carrots.

The rutabagas assigned to one of the daughters are curiously yellow, she swears they’re not turnips, I’m not so sure. The day before, there were photographic images from the produce section posted to Facebook, via her I-Phone asking for vegetable verification. I stand by my suspicions.

My son and his wife arrived with the pumpkin pies, made from scratch. They are a unique pair, reminding me of the hippies from the sixties and seventies but, born of the eighties depending on technology from the 21st century. His wife is our first child in-law, a difficult role to play as both of us stumble through the unfamiliar territory. The cultural differences and family customs have been challenging, but they haven’t jeopardized the relationship.

My youngest, The Lovely Seven of Nine, brought her boyfriend Commander Kirk, to the Arlo Guthrie acoustical interlude, but he had to leave to attend his family’s Thanksgiving celebration. The complications of two families living in the same zip code. Her contribution to the annual event? A sparkling clean bathroom, and talking me into allowing a 75 pound Doberman into our home, escorted by the two bearing the suspected turnips.

I wonder what my brothers and sisters Thanksgiving Celebrations were like yesterday, as each has  developed  their own traditions. I imagine some are hanging on to family customs, an homage to the memories of their childhood, as they adopt new ones. Each creating a tradition that has morphed into some unrecognizable ritual that suits their emotional needs. Traditions that will be transformed once again as their children grow older and find someone to share their lives with.

As I hear the tick, tick, tick, from the clock in the kitchen, I know it is only a matter of time before my wife and I get that phone call from one of our children informing us that they won’t be making it to our house for Thanksgiving this year. This year they have decided to go to the in-laws house for Thanksgiving.  I’m sure they will miss the Date Nut and Cranberry bread with hot cider, as we sing “You can get anything you want, at Alice’s Restaurant … Excepting Alice.” With feeling. Yeah right!

Happy Thanksgiving. Dad and Margaret. Laura, Kevin, Helen, Vince, Gloria, and all your families.

Talk to you later.

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It makes my wife so mad! “Don’t you listen to me?”

I do listen, I just don’t remember very well, there is a difference! Usually it’s something as simple as remembering what night she said she would be teaching First Aid/CPR. Is this the week we put out the trash can with the green lid? Or is it recycle week, which means we need to put out both trash cans, the one with the green lid and the one with the yellow lid.

I blame my father. He is lousy with dates. He used to celebrate his wedding anniversary on the March 28, my mother however would celebrated it on March 25. I could never understand why they never got out the marriage certificate to verify the date. They both agreed that they were married in March, 1960;  that was easy, it was one  month before I was born. Yeah, remembering the month and year was easy, explaining it to each of their 6 children was a bit more difficult. Dad always said the first child could arrive at any time, generally that second child took about 9 months.

As Thanksgiving creeps ever closer, so does my youngest daughters’ 23 birthday. I’m not sure what to get her for the occasion, maybe a good road atlas with easy to identify compass headings for the directionally challenged. She would argue that a good GPS would be more practical, but I prefer the old fashion method. If I could just get her to use the terms like, North and South, East and West it would  make my navigational duties much easier. Night time search and rescue with this one is brutal. Without the mountains off to the west her ability to locate her position is nearly hopeless. The only thing she can be sure of ; blue is up, dirt is down. If it is night time I may have to modify the guide lines; black is up, your feet are down.

Talk to you later.

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We have returned from the lunch date with my son and his wife. As we sat across the table I could feel a sense of unity between the two as we discussed their dreams and plans for the future. He wants to get a home some day, nothing fancy a fixer-upper. She wants to go back to school, her desire to help people is deeply seated. As I watched the two I could see a couple that have grown comfortable with each other. I remember the first time I felt it with my wife, it goes beyond trust, it comes from knowing when to say the right thing.

Listening to them today, I wanted to stop them and say let me do that for you. I didn’t,  I wouldn’t, this is a road they need to traverse together dodging the potholes in their path, hitting some of them along the way. I could tell from the conversation they felt confident in their ability to achieve their goals. Having gotten to know my daughter in-law I know that she can be a very determined woman, I have no doubt they will succeed. I left the restaurant feeling like we had spent the afternoon talking with good friends, not a son or daughter in-law. That was a very good feeling.

The weather over the weekend presented Denver with a 5 inch blanket of snow, most people choosing to stay inside watching their favorite sports team battle it out. I suspect the city will be grumpy on Monday with the 27-17 loss to the Washington Redskins. I enjoy watching football, but I actually find it more entertaining to listen to the Monday morning analysis. Every fans  feeble attempt to figure out the cause for the defeat. Every one is a genius come Monday morning.

Arlo

Look Who's Coming To Dinner.

As Thanksgiving approaches I feel the anticipation rising inside me. I like the holiday, preparing the menu, searching through my stack of Holiday CDs looking for the image of Arlo Guthrie; napkin tucked under his chin with knife and fork in hand. I was pleased by my daughter in-laws’ reaction, she is  looking forward to the annual recitation. I think this year I’ll find the lyrics and hand them out  so everyone can follow along. In the twenty-eight years of  celebrating  Thanksgiving with my wife; my father has never witnessed a traditional Thanksgiving at my house, maybe one of these years he can. Alice and Lenny. Remember Alice? They will be coming for dinner, however my wife thought it best to avoid the confusion of trying to explain the recitation of the Massacre to her mother and father, I had to agree.

Talk to you later.

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Lately I note the passage of time with birthdays, holidays, and events. Tomorrow my wife and I will be going out to lunch with our oldest son and his wife to celebrate his birthday. On Monday he will be turning 26 years old. My G-d what the hell happened to the time. I still remember him jumping up and down in his Johnny Jump Up to the tunes of Prince when he was still formally known as Prince. The Johnny Jump Up was modified so it could be  suspended  from the living room ceiling, where he would spend hours jumping to “Little Red Corvette” and “1999”.

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The Passage Of Time.

It took him some time to get the hang of Halloween, one year his mother asked him what he wanted to be for Halloween? After careful consideration he responded, “Mom I want to be A New Pair of Pants and a Shirt.” That year he went as a spider complete with two extra pair of legs and the biggest goggles we could find. He didn’t care, it was hard to upset this little guy. When the answer to something was no, his response was always, “Maybe later”;  presented with a slight sigh yet hopeful tone.

A child’s innocence, has always astounded me, I wonder when we become so jaded and suspicious. One day on after a long ride in the van, a favorite Randy Newman tune covered by Joe Cocker came on the radio. While  Joe sang his seductive rendition of how his woman should take off her dress, as the chorus reminded us that she could leave her hat on. My son secured in his car seat listened intently. When the song was through he commented, “Dad that must be some hat!” Innocence is a beautiful thing.

We all have dreams for our children, all too often we forget those dreams are our dreams not theirs.  We can feel cheated or unfulfilled when our children choose a different path. It’s taken me some time to come to grips with this obvious fact of life. I now see a young man who is exploring talents that I never knew he had. He has always been artistic, a talented musician with a G-d given gift to play the clarinet. However lately, I’ve seen drawings of still lives that look incredible. I’m so proud of him for having the courage to try new things. I don’t think any of us knows where this path will lead, it really doesn’t matter it’s his path not mine.

I hope all my children will be blessed as my wife and I have been.  To enjoy the challenges of parent hood with it highs and lows.  Daughters that started out despising the out doors, only later to don boots and parka so they can shred the slopes on snowboards, or go careening down hillsides on mountain bikes. Directionally challenged children that think nothing of getting into a car to drive over mountain passes in snowstorms. Daughters who have time to sit with their father while they watch The Ten Commandments for the umpteenth time, so they can see their favorite part with him. And sons that are gentle and soft-spoken, who play music that still bring tears to my eyes.

Talk to you later.

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November 11, 2009; the day came and went without much consideration for me. Traffic seemed lighter than normal, the radio may have even made mention of it. I was too busy caught up in my own world to give it a second thought, Veterans Day. Some government buildings were closed and parking in downtown Denver was free. I had to work so it was like any other day for me.

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Bittersweet Park, Veterans Memorial.

I was running late for a service call to a hospital in the city of Greeley Colorado, a moderately sized community about 70 miles north of Denver. Driving east on 16th the white marble slabs of Bittersweet Park Veterans Memorial drew my attention.  I don’t even know why the landmark caught my eye, but when it did I felt a pain in my throat. Not the kind of pain you get from strep throat or  a tonsillitis. It was more like the  ache you get when you’re fighting back an emotion, as if you had just lost a pet or a friend, but didn’t want to cry. The feeling intensified when I saw an old man and woman walking down the street, arm in arm. He was dressed in a blue military uniform, neatly pressed. He wore a blue cap with black bill, on his shoulder was a patch with a series of bars proclaiming some level of rank and respect. My only thought was “he must be a veteran”.

Maybe it was the events of last week in Fort Hood Texas, or maybe it was something else, something closer to home, I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time.

Today it hit me, I found the cause of my ache. I have a brother that is a Veteran! He served 24 years in the United States Navy, and I never called him to say Thank You. He was never decorated as a hero,  but he had saved at least one life I know of. He helped The United States of America rediscover a part of her past. He was a member of the U.S. Navy Dive team that recovered artifacts from the USS Monitor the first Navy Ironclad ship of the Civil War. He was also part of the Navy Dive Team that recovered the wreckage of TWA Flight 800. Performing duties that tested the skill and character of the 225 divers that were assigned the emotional task of recovering the scattered remains of the passengers and the aircraft they were in .

So today, let me take a minute and say thank you not only to my brother, but to all the Service Men and Women serving our country, and a special thank you to their families, for supporting them. To those of you who know a Veteran take a second to tell them thanks it’s never too late, without people like them our way of life would be very different.

Talk to you later.

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Has any one noticed the frenzied leap from Halloween straight to Christmas? Like the Pole Vaulting Event at a Track and Field meet, we costume up for an evening of haunting and tooth decay, make our way down the runway, set our pole and end up staring Christmas in the face. What ever happened to Thanksgiving? A person needs time to acclimate to peace on earth, goodwill toward men. We should be using this time to fill the home with the culinary smells of the season, allowing the  essence of allspice, clove, and family to seep into the background.  I still need to assemble the center piece of Indian corn and assorted ornamental gourds. Hell the squirrels haven’t even had time to finish eating the  jack -o- lanterns, their grimace looking distorted as bits and pieces  of  their faces begin to slowly morph and disappear.

New Turkey

FBI Most Wanted Bird.

I miss my children’s school art projects, hastily drawn pictures of palm sized turkeys posted on the refrigerator; like fugitive postings from the FBI’s ten most wanted list. With a band of four colorful finger sized feathers spreading wide across the page, and a fifth depicting the waddled head of the traditional symbol of Thanksgiving. Menu’s need to be planned. Epicurean memorials to our mothers living or passed; Mom’s favorite green chile and olive stuffing, rutabagas cooked just right, mashed potatoes and her giblet gravy. My mother was known for her pies. Mincemeat and pumpkin, blueberry and cherry, and everyone’s favorite Peanut Butter Cream Pie.

There are traditions I’ve established in my own home by chance or by design. The reciting of Alice’s  Restaurant Massacre in four-part harmony, has become an all time family favorite. This became a tradition of mine when I went to St. Louis one Thanksgiving in 1972 . I was 12 and my older cousin introduced  it to me along with…. never mind. The morning of Thanksgiving we gather at the house with loaves of Cranberry Nut Bread, Date Nut Bread, and hot Apple Cider to listen and sing along with Arlo Guthrie. My kids thought everyone did that for Thanksgiving, their friends  and the mothers of their friends just thought it was odd.

The whole point I’m trying to make is to just slow down. Enjoy the times with your family, they’re precious. Take time to smell the allspice and cloves, some day it may be those memories that get us through the times that we are apart.

Talk to you later.

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The conversation went something like this. “I’m going to bed can you set the alarm for 5:30 am? I’m going to the gym in the morning.”

I grunt some kind of affirmation, as my wife walks down the hall to our daughters room to confirm their departure time to the gym. The program on the television has caught my interest, an infomercial about some kind of super bond adhesive hawked by the late Billy Mayes.

I glance up from the screen, my wife has returned. “5:30 am is too early make it 6:30 am.”

I’ve learned over the years that the final farewell is never done until we’re in the car and heading down the Interstate. So the change in the departure time doesn’t surprise me. The problem is I now have two different times in my head and I know that between 9:30pm and midnight this could change again.

It’s past midnight. I mentally repeat the last conversation we had 5:30…6:30… 5:30… no definitely 6:30am.

Well past midnight

She definitely said 6:30 am.

I quietly enter the bedroom, I can hear the rhythmic respirations of the CPAP machine as I ease myself under the covers. The LED on the clock at the night stand gently illumines the numbers 12:08am. I adjust the alarm to go off at 6:30am. The sound of the CPAP machine is drowned out by the sounds of Tibetan Singing Bowls, don’t ask. In no time I’ve drifted off to sleep.

Hours later, I am nudged from my deep sleep by the flush of a toilet, and the rustling of my wife as she puts on her workout gear in the early morning light. I crack open my left eye lid working to focus on the silent alarm, wondering why I never heard it go off. The glow of the LED displays 5:12am! I let out a moan. “Honey what happened to 6:30am? You definitely said 6:30am.  It’s 5:15 in the morning!”

She giggles. “Yeah I know, I changed my mind.”

Words of wisdom to every man out there. Always remember the final farewell! It goes with the territory. Right up there with the final sprint through the house checking the lights, and the final trip to the potty before we leave the house. God I love that woman.

Talk to you later.

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