Friday, October 13, 2017

To Goose on your 18th Birthday

            I love you. I have loved you since before you were born and I will love you until our respective lives end. You have been a constant source of joy, happiness and wonderment since the beginning. I have loved you in every stage of your life and have enjoyed watching you learn and grow into the amazing person you are now.

            On my 18th birthday I woke up in bootcamp being screamed at by my Company Commander. Yours will not be like that. Thank God. No, yours will be “normal”. Which makes me happy.

            I can not begin to list all of the accomplishments you’ve achieved that make me proud of you. You are more mature than I was at your age, and, most likely, more mature than I am at my age. You have a dream that you are following with more passion than I’ve ever had for anything. You’ve made more of a mark in your life with your peers than I ever have or even realized until now.

            When I was a younger man, much less wiser, much less mature and a lot less responsible; I thought I’d be dead by the time I turned thirty. You were born when I was thirty-two. The reason for me initially not dying when I was thirty was your mother. We were three years steeped in trying to have you. We, I didn’t know there were still two more years of daily shots, weekly trips to Virginia Beach and endless phone calls to the insurance company to cover the incomprehensible expense of fertility treatments.

            Your mother went through hell. I just punched a needle in her a couple times a day, then moved on in a macho-type of manner. She suffered, I just donated.

            The day Dr. Robin confirmed you’d been conceived is a blur in my memory. I remember your mothers and my excitement on the trip out to the beach. I remember the big smiles on everyones face. I remember the hugs and I remember the weight of worry and stress on my shoulders when that amazing news was delivered.

            The stress of “not fucking up”.

            It is no secret that my childhood and my teen years were less than perfect. I didn’t have a stable home life. I didn’t know how to communicate. I didn’t even know if I’d be eating my next meal in the same place as my last. I didn’t know if I’d have a bed to sleep in or if I’d have to find a friends couch to sleep on or if I’d sleep in the rail yard.

            I know that you’ve never had that issue.

            Your mother and I in some cases I, have tried to build safeguards in your life to prevent that. And, the fact that we’ve never had to call upon those safeguards is a testament to your family. Both of us, your mother and me have learned from the success’s and failures of our past and put those lessons to use in the raising of you.

            And you’ve done us both proud.

            Despite all the things in this life that can and will go wrong, somehow our magic number of three, our family, have succeeded where so many others have failed. Your mothers good heart and my childish outlook have somehow miraculously found their way into you. And you have used those traits to handle just about every stressful, happy and mundane event in your life. It is truly an amazing thing to watch.

            With this event, your turning eighteen, you are now legally an adult. You are your own person and there is no decision you make that your mother and I can not stop you from making. Whether those decisions are personal, public, legal or illegal, you are now wholly responsible for your actions.

            That scares the hell out of me.

            Not because I am afraid of losing you, no, it is because I am afraid I will never be able to protect you. Protect you from heatbreak, pain, assholes and all the bad things in this world. You see, as a parent, as your dad, I have always wanted what is best for you. I’ve wanted you to stay safe and happy.  You turning eighteen sort of holds me back from that in a lot of tangible ways. However; I will always be there for you in every intangible way possible.

            I have so many fond memories of your life so far. How as an infant I would bundle you up in a stroller and push you around Old Town. As a toddler when you and I would make pancakes. Every first day of school. Rollerblading down High Street. Watching you crawl around the train layout and play with all the houses and people. Watching you skate in the museum when no one else was allowed to. The excitement and anticipation of you going on your first sleep-over. Your first summer in Michigan without your mother or I. Your first heartbreak. Your first script idea and even your first film.

            These are just some of the memories I have of you that are playing on a constant loop in my brain. These memories make me happy. Happy because you were took everything in stride and learned from each moment. You somehow managed to avoid most drama of childhood and adolescents and by doing so have become a beacon of trust and maturity to any adult that happens to be in your vicinity. That is a rare quality and you should be proud of yourself.

            Well, this is getting long and I feel as if I have been rambling on and on so I am going to try and wrap this up

            Goose, you are my only offspring. My progeny. And while I know having a child is a huge gamble in peoples lives, I don’t think I could have asked for a better person to bring into this world. You are amazing. You may not know it but you have changed the life of every person you’ve ever met for the better and it is my belief that you will continue to do so as you move forward in this world. You have a unique talent of making people comfortable around you and you are genuinely interested in anyone who cares to spend time with you. Most people of this world can’t say that.

            There is not much left for me to say just that I will always be here for you and I know you have an amazing future ahead of you.

            I love you Goose, I always will.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

For George.

            I sat in a 6X10 waiting area. Sixty square feet. Four chairs and one end table. The hospital tried to make the area warm and relaxing. In truth, it was not. How could it be? Sure the chairs were comfortable, sort of. The lights were dim and not fluorescent. But no matter what, you couldn’t forget that you were sitting in a waiting area on a ward that is set up for people to die.

            Visitors, family, old friends and religious leaders occasionally walk by. Maybe they stop and say some kind words, maybe they don’t. I try to listen to the ones that do stop, but after just a few words, my mind drifts off to fond memories of my friend, my adopted father-figure and my mentor.

            Not thirty feet from me he lies dying in a hospital bed. His death has not been quick and merciful. No, for all the good deeds, the right choices he’s made in life, the great father and husband he’s been, the kind teacher he was, the gentle mentor he became to many, for that he doesn’t receive the gift of a quick and painless exit from life. Instead he is rewarded with a year in and out of hospitals and nursing homes where one day is good and the next ten are mired in pain, suffering and mental torture.

            Right now, as I type this, he drifts between sentient human being and man with swiss cheese for a brain. He’s passed out from drugs and is just a drooling meat bag. it is painful for any and all to watch. Even for the nurses who have to wipe his wounds and clean him up every few hours. We as a family try to help, but soon we realize that not only are we not professionals we are inept at giving advanced care to the invalids.

            So I sit and wait. I don’t know what I’m waiting for but I’m waiting. I try to surf the net on my phone, I get bored. I try video games and get bored. So, I open the laptop and start typing.

            What I remember most about George is his hands. Not the soft, pale, pink ones he has now. No, what I remember are the hard calloused, permanently grease stained, irreparably cracked skin and fingernails that were either torn to the quick, black from being slammed by a hammer, or just plain torn right off. Strong hands. Hands that could build things. Hands that could fix anything. Hands that could lift a two hundred pound engine block as if it were a feather.

            Hands that were also gentle enough to remove my just born daughter from my arms and carry her across the room and make loving noises to her. Hands that gently patted her head. Hands that over the years held my daughters hand in tenderness. Hands that like the man they were attached to, were strong, helpful, gentle and kind. Hands which held the muscle memory of ten thousand engines and tools.

            He is a great man. He means a lot to me. More than most people know or will ever know. I met him when I was nineteen years old. Just a na├»ve sailor from the mid-west who was dating his daughter. I’m sure he wasn’t fond of me then, most people aren’t when they first meet me, but it’s all good. I grow on you.

            When I asked him for his daughters hand in marriage he said to me “No matter what happens, no matter how mad you get, no matter how crazy she makes you, never lay a hand on her, just send her home.” Which scared the shit out of me. He didn’t need to say it, not to me at least, but I believe he needed to say if for himself. Which I can understand and is something I will say to the future Mr. Madison Novak, when he works up enough courage to ask me for my daughters hand in marriage.


            Well, I didn’t finish this before George passed. There are lots of reasons for not finishing, primarily, sometimes you just can’t find the words when you’re in a moment. No, those words come later. Hopefully they will come to me now.

            It is a sad day for all of us. Yet, unlike most losses of friends and family, George’s death was expected. It seems most of the immediate family have made peace with his passing before the actual event crashed into our respective realities. Sure there are tears and hugs, but mostly, there are wonderful stories from great people.

            Stories of George in his youth, his teen years, his adult years. Stories lovingly told by his wife, his son, his daughter are plentiful and filled with laughter and an occasional tear. Stories by nieces, nephews, cousins and grand-children are all heartfelt and filled with recent nostalgia.

            Then there are the stories from long lost co-workers, employees and close acquaintances. These people have some of the most amazing tales. Tales of how important George was to them. How he influenced them by saying the right thing at the right moment in their lives. Showing grace and dignity when mistakes were made. Mistakes that could have cost money, time or even a person’s reputation.

            See, that’s who he was. To everyone. He was always there for you. He always knew the right thing to do and was more than happy to guide you towards what was right and steer you away from what was wrong. He always afforded you a second chance, even if you were on your hundredth second chance. He cared for you. He wanted the best for you. He was always there to help you. And he never complained about any person or people who reached out to him.

            He was genuine in his care for his fellow man. Even if it was some knuckleheaded sailor from Wisconsin who didn’t know a dip-stick from a transmission fluid stick. He cared when most people walked away.

I’m reminded now of how at Christmas time he’d don a red jingle hat and wear a red plaid shirt. Those two things combined with his stark white beard made him the toast of Christmas, wherever he was. Whether it was the mall, a restaurant or even just walking down the street, kids of all ages would walk up to him, smile and sometimes hug him. Occasionally he’d get toy requests and he always smiled and promised he’d do the best he could for the happy child.

            When the child skipped, ran or just wandered back to their parents, George would just smile with a happy and content glow on his face. He knew he’d made someone genuinely happy. Happy to their core. He’d given them a happiness that was so pure and filled with love that no evil on earth could taint it. He delivered the peace and joy to others and asked for nothing in return. But boy did he get peace and joy delivered back to him a hundred fold in the eyes and smiles of all the children he spoke with.

            Which I suppose is who George really was. Sure, he was a father, a husband, an uncle, a mentor and a teacher. But when I think of him, his smile, his beard, his calm demeanor and his humble sense of self, what I think is “That is someone I wish I could emulate. A caring, happy and wise man. A man who never set out to change the world but whose influence will never be lost to anyone who ever had the honor to meet him.

            I’ll always love you George and you’ll always be one of the greatest humans I’ve had the pleasure to meet.

            Fair Winds and Following Seas.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

A New Perspective.

I went for a ride today.

By ride I mean I hopped on my Harley, got on an interstate and shifted my way through the gears as quickly as I could. The wind in my ears drowned out the bullshit in my life. The freedom, speed and agility of my bike made my head clear from all the clutter that has been lying to my conscious. My thoughts cleared and I felt good.

I felt good for the first time in weeks.

Yes, I know the stress and pressure of life, and the tolls it takes on all of us daily. I also realize I have very little time for implementing my relief valve. That valve… riding into the wind and forgetting about life. Even if it is for just a short while.

My thoughts became ordered as I pulled into a 50 mph curve doing 70. The road was lined on both sides with trees that blocked out the sun. The shade created cooled my body and whisked away the sweat on my arms. It felt good, that brief interlude of mother natures air conditioning. I smiled. A close mouthed smile. Which is when the world let me know it was in charge. A bug, I assume a cicada, flew beneath my drop down face shield and hit my in my lip. It hit so hard my front teeth hurt. I laughed and used my clutch hand to wipe away any goo that may have stuck to my mustache and beard. Yeah, I was in the zone and I felt one with the universe.

For the past few weeks I’ve been stuck in my daily rut. So stuck that while I have felt the urge to write, I’ve stopped myself. But being alone, on the road, two wheels and a V-twin engine between my legs… well that makes me centered. Instead of all the clutter and waste clogging my synapsis, I am free to roam around the eternity of my brain. I’m allowed to just wander through the halls of memories and pluck at the strings of life that has brought me to where I am today. It also lets me know what is important and what is trash.

My father-in-law has not had a good year. This has been a constant source of pestilence in my life. I’ve written about him. You can go back and read the words I wrote about him if you so desire. His current situation is a source of constant worry and dread for me. He is a person I respect and love. Just thinking about what he is going through brings a sorrow to my heart that is deeper than any creation on earth. He truly has been a model of what a human is supposed to be.

My daughter is on the cusp of adulthood. She is a constant source of joy and love. However; I feel she will soon go on her own path of discovery and I will soon be a tertiary character in her life. She has ambition, skill and talent. Three traits when combined are a recipe for success and accolades. I fear that one day I will be but a footnote in her life. While she will thank me and her mother for support and inspiration, her drive will not just make her who she will become but may become a part of what make people want to deny her access to what and who she can be.

My friends… what can I say. I have few close friends who I talk to on a daily basis. One friend a few months ago started to pull away. It hurt then but it hurts even more now. I hope they find the happiness and joy they are looking for but I at a point where I feel everything is one sided. Matter of fact, maybe it’s me… I can’t remember the last time I had a friend ask me how I was doing or what was going on in my life. Maybe I should go back to being a hermit. Being just a voice in the void of life. That way I don’t have to concern myself with all the emotional bullshit.

My family, they are amazing. They take my phone calls, they ask how I’m doing and they are genuinely interested in all the things that are going on in my life. They support me even though I feel I am nothing but a waste of DNA. 

My readers, you guys are the reason why I write. Your comments, you likes and your support are a never-ending source of encouragement. Thank you. I will try to create more content for you in the near future.

Okay, this is what happens when I ride and my mind clears. I hope you’ve all been surrounded by loved ones and have had a great summer. I hope to hear from you all soon.

Have a great week.

PS… If you have a motorcycle, go out and ride until you brain clears.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Cancer of Attrition

I saw an old friend today. It was a serendipitous meeting, he was walking away from me as I came out of a parking garage. I called out to him. Three times. He turned around, waved and started walking towards me.
For fifteen minutes we sat and talked. Mostly updates on our lives, nothing important. We shared a few laughs and then we went our separate ways.
I was not thirty steps from where we had sat when it struck me that while we still liked each other, we were not as close as we once were. Sure, I used to see him almost every day, then once a week or a couple times a month and later, when he left his job, maybe twice a year. But we always managed to pick up and reconnect easily.
Not this time, no, this time everything felt a bit forced. Well for me, I’ve no clue as to what he felt. And I probably never will.
I know our time on this spaceship is short and almost everyone we meet is just another transient passenger, but there are some people I wish never would leave my life. This inevitability saddens me all the way through. 
Over the years I’ve lost too many people I allowed myself to get close to and each time they move on, I die a bit more inside. Sure, we chat on the internet or text each other and on rare occasions we actually have conversations on the phone. I know, an archaic form of communication but a lovely one it is.
Now and again, I’ll actually get some face time with them, no, not the app for your phone, but real life sitting across from another human being face time. It’s always good. Except for today.
Maybe we’ve both grown too much, or maybe I haven’t and he has… or vice versa. I don’t know. I do know I miss how comfortable I used to feel when I spoke with him. I miss our quick witted banter and the easy smiles and laughter. I guess what I’m saying is I miss our friendship. 
This is the first time this has happened to me that I can remember. Where a pal one day becomes almost a stranger overnight. To be truthful, it wasn’t overnight, no, this has been years in the making. After all, we haven’t seen each other in months and the last time was just another quick conversation in a parking lot. 
Looking back at that chance meeting it was much different than today’s meeting. Then there was a sense of comradery, a connection of years working together, fighting for what we felt was right and trying to get others to understand our greater vision of where we wanted to be in our jobs. 
Today, very little of those emotions were felt. 
I miss those emotions.
I miss that connection.
I miss my friend.

Have a great week.

Friday, July 28, 2017

A 1982 Kiss

In 1982 I spent the summer in Indiana working with the maintenance crew at a Christian Summer Camp. Not on the weekends, no, on the weekends I stayed with my step-sister and her family. I was fourteen, angry, alone, frustrated and with almost no communication skills what-so-ever.

You see, unbeknownst to me, my mother and her husband had somehow managed to get me signed up with an interstate youth work program. So instead of spending the summer with my pals riding dirt bikes, camping, partying and awkwardly fumbling around girls in the hopes of some deeper meaning to the male-female relationships, I went to work. 
I went to work with college kids. Yup, I was a kid and everyone else I was around day in and day out were pretty much of legal drinking age. They had no use for me hanging around them, they had their own lives to lead. I spent a lot of time reading alone in my cabin, or on the mini-putt-putt course or just swimming in the pool by myself. 
On the weekends when I was “in-town” I stayed with people I didn’t know, didn’t trust and didn’t know what to do with me. So I’d hide in the basement, or attic or just go wander around town where I’d usually end up in the arcade. I’d spend my hard earned cash on Mrs. Pac-Man, Tempest and Robotron 2000. I’d gorge myself on hotdogs and ice cream from the shop next door and eventually I’d made a friend or two. 
When I say “friend” I don’t mean a permanent or even life-long pal. Hell, I can’t even remember the names of the kids I met up with. But I do remember them. At any given time we would be three to seven strong. Our common link was that we were all outsiders who didn't have anywhere to go. Didn’t fit in with anyone else. And we damn sure didn’t like being at home with quite parents or guardians who never seemed to be able to connect with us or us with them. So we found our home at the arcade.
At the beginning of July I discovered my step-sister had a moped and I sheepishly asked if I could use it. Shockingly enough she said yes. This is of course after I assured her that I did know how to handle a two wheeled vehicle. I never told her about tearing up the dunes back home on Kawasaki 125 cc dirt bikes. I think that would have sent her head spinning. Instead I just pointed out on the moped the controls and how to start it. She seemed satisfied and handed over the keys.

That was the first time I rode that little scooter to the arcade. My town pals were in awe, after all, they were on bikes and prior to this night I had to either ride on the handle bars or run along side them. Now, they had to fight to keep up with me. We didn’t play games that night, nope, we toured the town and all the great hiding spots that only kids know about. Places where no adult would ever think to look for a kid who didn’t want to be found. 

Places like the tool shed by the public pool, or the sand and gravel mounds in the public works lot and even under the river gully bridge where everyone would spray paint their name on the i-beams and lastly, the boarded up colonial house three blocks from the high school. A place where teenagers took dates and held parties and everyone was welcome… that is if you stay within your own age bracket. Can’t have juniors and seniors mixing with freshmen and sophomores now can we.

Those weekend nights were great. Even if I did have a curfew. I managed to live more in those three or four hours than I did the rest of the week. That is until my step-sister took away the keys to the moped. I’m sure it was my fault. I probably did something, said something or even worse, I didn’t do something. Who knows.

The repercussions were severe. Sunday’s were spent at church. I don’t mean for just an hour or two. No, no, that I could have handled. Instead we would get up at seven on Sunday morning, arrive at church by nine and then leave around six in the evening. It was exhausting.

So exhausting that when we got home I’d just crawl up to my bed and read and sleep. I’d try to forget that I would soon be back at work surrounded by Christians and ministers and cleaning out clogged toilets, mowing grass and eating dull cafeteria food. 

My solace during the week was that I could read as much as I wanted to and I could sit behind the equipment shed and smoke. Or I could just go down to the river and soak my feet in the stream and read. I didn’t have to try and make friends, I didn’t have to talk and I didn’t have to try and fit in. After all, I didn’t understand half of what my co-workers were saying. Although I did listen to their morning after stories all the time.

You see, being on maintenance we got to eat before everyone in the camp. We sat at these long tables, usually with me several chairs away form them and they would talk. I’d try to eat and get out as fast as I could. After all, their morning stories were not much different from my Friday and Saturday nights in town. Only they had cars, more money and the ability to stay out later than I.

I was jealous. They were doing everything I wanted to do and they had no supervision. They were free. Well, at least in my eyes they were. So one morning, instead of eating and leaving I stayed and tried to fit in. 

It took a few days but eventually I was accepted into the fold.
By the end of July all my coworkers showed up at my step-sisters house and threw me a birthday party. I was surprised and for the first time that summer I actually felt like I fit in somewhere on this planet. All the women I worked with kissed me on the lips. These were not friendship kisses either. Nope, they were full blown make-out kisses. Kisses that left me confused and awed. Kisses that I had dreams about for months after. Kisses that made all the loneliness and strife of the summer disappear. Kisses that made me wonder if I would ever truly find someone who would make me feel the way they did that night.

To this day, I can’t remember a single gift I received from any of them, but I remember those kisses. Those will never be forgotten.

So, as I sit here, just days before my half century mark, I wonder, will I get another birthday kiss that will stick with me for the next five decades?

Have a great week.