Dear Dad. The Things You Missed.

Dear Dad,

I was doing some more work to get the Trusts set up for the kids the other day, as per your Will. And I realized that it was the same day of the month that you died. And for a second, I panicked, thinking I’d somehow forgotten that you had been gone for some significant time (like two years). But then I realized it’s March, and you died in October and, well, at least the panic passed.

It’s been 17 months since you died. In many ways, it feels like an eternity. In other ways, it feels like only weeks. I gotta tell you, that surprise Will really threw a wrench in things. I thought we had a gentleman’s agreement on handling your assets and then you had to go and surprise everyone with a new Will that said the exact same thing, only putting significantly burdensome costs and requirements on me for the next 12 years. And while, when I stop and take my feelings out of it, I understand what you “meant,” that part about purposefully not leaving me anything…damn that hurt. A lot.

If felt like, that at the end of 43 years of being your son and being grateful for all you’ve done for me, through thick and thin, you were finally, publicly honest and admitted, “He’s not mine.” The one person who stuck by you through three divorces and four women. One of the only people who called to check on you when you got sick and who drove hours on the weekend to come and sit in awkward silence, just to spend a few remaining minutes with you before your inevitable passing. The only person with the balls enough to tell your girlfriend what a horrible person she was–how YOU couldn’t see it is beyond me–and that you were my father and that not she, and not anyone, could tell me what I could and couldn’t do with my dad–especially when it came to taking you to your cancer treatments.

You’ll never know what you missed out on because of her. How many hours of baseball games and soccer matches and football where your grandchildren, or as close as you were ever going to get to REAL grandchildren, played like the amazing kids they are. Sitting around the living room at night and hearing their laughter and just looking at them and being amazed at their beauty. You missed out on all of that because you put someone else, someone you met only a few years earlier, over your family.

Or maybe you never really, truly felt they were yours to feel proud of, even though I tried my hardest to make it seem so.

That rich girlfriend of yours, the one you trusted over your own son, the woman who advised you on how to “protect” what you wanted to entrust to your grandchildren (your ONLY grandchildren MY children); she cost your Estate more than $20K in taxes and fees. She wasn’t nearly as smart as you gave her credit for, or even as knowledgeable about finances, as I am. You should have trusted me.

“My way,” the way we discussed between the two of us, would have cost nothing, would have sped up how quickly we settled your Estate, wouldn’t have saddled me with dozens of hours of paperwork and filed taxes (3 additional filings each year now) and legal fees. And it wouldn’t have caused me to resent  you in the late afternoons as I sit and slog through legal requirements for Trustees, as much as I do sometimes.

But you always were a sucker for the ladies, weren’t you? “Whatever she wants” is how one of your ex-wives described your divorce strategy. I shouldn’t have expected anything less from you in your passing.

I ain’t missing you at all. Not today at least.

Saying Goodbye to a Simpler Time

Ray lived next to me in our old house–the one in the neighborhood that real estate agents like to call “transitional.” What transitional means in land-ease, is that most of the neighborhood is made up of older people who are starting to leave (read: die off) and the influx of new home owners tend to either be “fixer-uppers” or the type of people who want cheap housing in a good school district, but who really can’t afford the upkeep on an older home. They call it transitional until the majority of the neighborhood goes one way or the other at which point it’s either “improving” or it’s becoming a ghetto. We left, so you can guess which way the pendulum was swinging.

Ray is one of the older people. At the age of 70 now, he still stands about 6′ 8″ tall and weighs roughly 230. He played basketball in his youth for the University of Houston and racked up some serious points back in the mid 50s.

I saw Ray out in his yard a lot and for a long time, I just called him “Old Man.” He was eccentric even before I formally knew him. I’d watch from my kitchen window as he dug weeds out of his grass using only a kitchen spoon. I’d shake my head and mutter, “They make spray for that you know,” as he spent hours at it. Thanks to several old pine trees, his backyard was devoid of any grass, but he maintained a couple of  bird feeders and even threw out corn for the squirrels, so at any time I could look out and see squirrels and chipmunks running back and forth across the fenceline that separated our yards.

When I was outdoors working, I had my dogs with me. My dogs were/are quiet and not the kind to run away. Eventually, they sniffed their way over into Ray’s yard and it wasn’t long before he was bringing them treats and talking gently to them in order to coax them over. Turns out his wife fancied herself a cat rescuer and so their house contained–at any given time–approximately 4 to 6 cats and from what I could tell the couple of times I visited (briefly), they didn’t change the litter much.

Eventually I got to know Ray pretty well. Ray is old-school. And I don’t mean that to say that he’s a debonaire old gentlemen who sat around listening to Sinatra. No, I mean he’s from an era when people said what they meant and they didn’t care who heard it or what people thought. By today’s standards, Ray is a raving racist; but by his era’s standards, he’s a man who has worked hard his whole life and doesn’t want to live around people who don’t want to take care of  “the place.” For people like that, his patience was thin–even for his own son-in-law who was a licensed electrician but who refused to hold down a regular job, preferring instead to constantly beg and borrow from family members.

I laughed at what Ray said–a lot–primarily because I was afraid someone else had heard what he’d just said and I didn’t want to get caught up in it. But there was truth in it too and deep down, I think many people would agree with him on some level; they just wouldn’t say it out loud like he did.  All in all, Ray and I became good friends. He’d regale me with stories from the hayday of the neighborhood, when he and his wife hosted “block parties” and he had all the alcohol people could drink because he was a liquor supplier. In return, I’d talk “dogs” with him and occasionally rake his yard when he wasn’t looking because I knew that he was having trouble getting along at times.

One day I came home from school–this was when I returned to college from ’02-’04–and found him lying in his backyard. He’d fallen off his ladder while painting. The drop was about 20 feet and he’d fallen hard. By the time I found him, the blood oozing out of a dozen scrapes and cuts had attracted both the ants and the mosquitos and he was covered in angry whelts. He’d been lying there, as near as we could tell, for about six hours unable to move. Turns out he’d shattered his pelvis upon falling, along with breaking a half dozen other bones.

Ray finally got out of the hospital, but he never really recovered. To this day, he’s limited to the walk from his lazy chair to his bed. He does some very light yard work, and that’s about it. The last time I talked to him, he told me how the people who’d bought our old house had trashed the place and one of the grown sons who lived there with his equally grown brother and their dad, had gotten chased out on the roof by four cops–and still managed to get away. The bank finally foreclosed on the house, but it’s too late to matter. No one is going to buy the house now and fix it up. The neighborhood isn’t worth it. Ray doesn’t care who lives there, as long as they aren’t a minority of any type (my words…his were far more colorful). And as for our President…well, let’s just say that IF Ray could travel to D.C., he’s not too worried about what they’d do to a 70 year old cripple.

In many ways, the world will be better off without people like Ray, but in some ways, it’s going to be a damn shame when the people of his generation are gone. They are a different breed. A more honest breed to be sure and in some ways, I feel that if this country were still run by people like him, we wouldn’t be having this discussion about illegal immigrants, or welfare states. Of course, we’d likely still have slavery too, so I’m not sure how you square that.

I miss Ray–I do. I didn’t have to watch my words around him and he loved my dogs as much as I did. My neighbors now are fine, but we never talk to each other. We’re all too busy working to afford our houses and our cars to stop and have more than polite, surface conversation.

For now, Ray is still living over in the old neighborhood with the chihuahua his wife saved from some shelter or other. Ray refuses to walk him though for fear people will laugh at the disparity in size between the basketball player and the smallest species of canine known to man. But he’s there, and that’s comforting to me even if I rarely ever see or talk to him.

You’re (basically) good people Ray. Here’s to you. May your heaven bring you peace.

That fool on the elliptical, might be you

Compass OK seriously! This getting old crap is bringing me down! What now? What now you ask? Well, I’ll tell you “What now…”

For a 35 year old father of two, I think I do pretty good.

I exercise. Often hard!

I do handy things around the house.

I take vitamins.

I eat healthy.

My hair is still dark. From a distance.

And yet I still have this…this thing around my mid-section that won’t let go.

My weight has been a battle since I was a kid. I briefly beat it back in ’94 for about five years. That is, until I got married and we started having children. Somewhere along the way, cereal and stir fry for dinner was supplanted by Stouffer’s Lasagna, salmon with cheddar mashed potatoes, and thick steaks with grilled asparagus and corn fritters. Oh…no…those are three different dinners…not one big Shakespearean buffet!

Now granted, as I’ve admitted before, I suffer from a small case of body dysmorphic disorder, in which I think that I think that I look worse than I probably do. Or perhaps I’m fooling myself and I really DO look like I think I look and I’m using the “BDD” thing as an excuse to tell myself that I don’t really look as bad as I fear I do.

Truly, it boggles the mind.

After looking at those pictures of me in the river this weekend, I’m beginning to think the latter is true.

I also blame my work. Sitting on one’s hiney for eight a lot of hours a day doesn’t do much for the metabolism either, no matter how good you try to eat.

But here’s the rub: I AM getting older. At some point, I’m going to have to face the facts that no matter how hard I work, there’s a fine line between being healthy, and doing more than a body, at a given age, is capable of doing without breaking down. But when exactly is that? I mean, 35 is NOT old.

If 60 is the new 50, does that mean that 35 is the new 25? If so, I should look a helluva lot better than I do now!! And then if you sleep with a 25 year old, is it really like sleeping with a…nevermind.

Anyway, I’m just curious about others’ thoughts on this whole staying in shape as you get older thing. How do you measure your success (or failures) against your peers? Or do you?

I’ve Forgotten What This Post is About Already


When you were little, do you remember how excited you used to get about going somewhere fun? And I bet that when you were getting to ready to leave, you made sure you had everything right?

Going to the pool:
“Got bathing suit…check. Got flippers, mask, squirt gun, flip flops and balls. Joey is soooo gonna get pounded by my new water cannon..hee hee!”

Going to the theme park:
“Alright, let’s see, I have my funnest shoes on, my favorite t-shirt, my allowance aaannnndddd my pack of Big League Chew bubble gum.”

See, when you were little, you remembered to take the things that were most important to you. Sure, you may have forgotten your towel, or your bottle of water and the sunscreen, but really, those are things you could live without. The REALLY important things you remembered.

Which is why this weekend was very disconcerting for me. I forgot everything!

Since CareerMom was out of town all last week, I’d banked some free time and had scheduled a round of golf (I KNOW! ANOTHER ONE!) at an uber-snobbish golf course about 40 minutes from the house. I called a buddy of mine to join me on Sunday at 1 p.m. and I was so looking forward to it. So we got up Sunday morning and putzed around, and I tooled out of the house around 11:45 a.m. figuring I’d have plenty of time to grab a bite to eat and get in a few warm-up shots at the course. When I arrived, I started driving around looking for a parking spot and saw some random guy cleaning the dirt out of his spikes. It was then that I got a sick, sinking feeling in my stomach–I’d forgotten my golf shoes.

And it wasn’t just that I’d forgotten my good shoes and I had on some so-so tennis shoes. No, I had on my slip-on driving shoes and there was no way I could play in them. Being 40 minutes from the house, I knew it was impossible for me to get home and back in time to tee off even within 15 minutes of my original tee time, so I called my buddy and I bailed. I was pretty ticked, he was pretty ticked–it was not a good feeling.

Driving home, I figured, “Well, if I’m not going to do something fun since CareerMom and the kids are at a friend’s house playing, I might as well do something constructive.”

I changed clothes and headed out to the Home Depot to get some deck boards to replace a few of mine that were cracked and splintery. I selected my boards and then waited in line for at least 15 minutes–and this isn’t one of those, “Oh, I’m so frustrated that 2 minutes feels like 15 minutes” times. I think it was really like 15 minutes. Some newbie schmuck was trying to figure out what all supplies he needed to lay down some hardwood and he was having a crisis at the checkout counter.  Anyway, I FINALLY got up there, she rang me up and I realized I’d left my wallet at home.

As I was driving home to retrieve it, I yelled so loud and long in my truck that I saw stars and my voice was hoarse for an hour. I know…real mature!

And then, this morning, I forgot my coffee.

It’s not been a stellar three days for the old memory. In my defense, I’m on about three different medications for my allergies-slash-sinus infection and I suspect that has something to do with it. But I also wonder how much of this has to do with just getting older? For Pete’s sake though, I’m only 34, how much worse does it get? Tags: ,,,