One last trip.

FullSizeRenderAs I locked up and left her house for what would be the last time, I did not expect to feel the way that I did. I looked back at it’s emptiness and I was sad.

Today my brother and I have the closing on her house. After today, we’d no longer be responsible for the house. The sense of relief I was expecting, knowing this would be my final trip through the house was missing. Today, the house would be transferred to another owner and someone else would start another chapter in this humble abode.As I performed one final walkthrough, I was surprised how much more pronounced the echoes were today; in my last few visits I must have missed it. I’m sure that these sounds had been there; today with it’s emptiness, the knowing that these four walls had previously contained so much life, now seemed dead.

Each step I took, each creak was not muffled, but instead each sound had a sharp point on it , almost an exclamation point. The echoes today did not see organic; made of wood and clay and lumbering slowly, but instead they seemed forged of steel and stone and darted around quickly with a greater intensity than I recalled.

I’m sure the place was like this on moving day nearly 4 years ago, but my Mom saw something in it that she’d make hers. She always had a true instinct of seeing the long term, seeing the forest through the trees much better than I ever could.

During her brief time in the house, she made the house hers, with her own unique sense of tasteful minimalistic styling. She used to joke about the house having a feng shui to it, but I think she had nailed it. Each item had to have a reason for being there, even if it’s purpose was to make her happy and comfortable in what would be her last years, there was not a sense of clutter when you were in it. In her early days in this house, there was a design sense to it. In her last months, it was purely for comfort and convenience. It had to be kept clean.

Thinking back, I thought I’d be more relieved not having to make that half hour trip to her house. But I’m not. I’m going to miss the trip, I’m going to miss the trip’s simplicity. The early morning stops for breakfast sandwiches on our way down, making sure we got an apple cinnamon bagel. Or maybe we were just going to go to the diner for breakfast, the five of us, or on rare or special occasion, the nine of us.

Pull into the driveway. Open the garage door and enter. Open the laundry room, and there is waiting for you; that smell. It’s like an old friend.

Oh, that smell. I can’t count how many times completed those steps and experienced that smell.

What was that smell? It was not a bad one, just a distinct scent. The scent was almost cedar like, but not quite. I have no idea what it was, a cleaning product maybe, dryer sheets? Maybe it was something from her dog?

I will never, ever, forget that smell.

What I wouldn’t give to have a reason to make that trip again, to have my Mom waiting on the other side of the laundry room door, waiting for that fresh apple cinnamon bagel.

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Just when you think your day is bad.

I was listening to This American Life on a my commute back from Long Island to Southern New Jersey today.  In this podcast, I listened to a mother tell a heart wrenching story about her struggles with her eldest son’s behavior toward her and his younger siblings.  So the next time you think your day is bad, read or listen to this family’s struggle in trying to keep a family together and provide unconditional love to their eldest son.

The family’s blog.

Audio podcast of This American Life.

 

 

 

My me time

It’s after 8:30 in the morning, and I sit at my kitchen table, winter sun shining in through the windows, I am the only one awake in my house right now.

My wife was awake a little earlier, but has chosen to try and go back to sleep after her morning pee when she asked me to turn the volume on the podcast I was listening to in bed down a little.  Before coming downstairs myself, I checked on my kids, my oldest had another night where she had almost completely wrestled her covers nearly off of her bed.  When I checked, her lower back and feet were exposed to the chilly morning air.  It’s a crisp 11 degrees outside this morning and the house is proportionally chilly.  I straightened out the covers and recovered her back up. Immediately after doing so, she went from the fetal position she most likely spent the last few hours in trying to keep warm, to a full on stretching out underneath her comforter and blanket.  I received no visual or audile clues from her that she was ready to waken.  Next, I checked on my son, who was bundled up in his bed  and appeared to be very content, after I quietly asked if he was still asleep he gave me a slight nod , telling me he wasn’t ready to leave the warmth of his bed just yet.  After I softly told him that I’d see him down stairs a little later, he flashed the sign for I love you.

I’m sitting here, looking at the steam coming off my cup of coffee while I feel the suns rays warming my face.   The sound of the furnace blowing warm air is below me in the basement while I feel the warmth it’s providing on my lower legs.  In another hour, the house will be fully awake and we will come up with an adventure for the four of us to have today. Image

This my me time.

My comfort zone.

Today, I’ve basked in my comfort zone.  Both of my kids are sick, and both my wife and I are not feeling great.  My daughter has a sinus infection that has found it’s way to into her eyes.  She’s a trooper and has not let her lingering cough from the last two weeks get her spirits down.  My son, who’s dealing with a sore throat and a mild fever today and is simply not himself.  They both did visit the doctor yesterday, however, his strep test came back negative.  Their explanation; his molars are coming in.  After seeing him today, I don’t buy this explanation, but not sure what else can be done at this point.  Poor kid.

We’ve stayed at home yesterday and today, minus the Dr. visits yesterday morning.  We all slept late today and we had breakfast around noon today, a simple one of sausage and croissants.

My daughter sits on the couch next to me, with her headphones on, she’s playing games on Disney’s website and I occasionally hear her talking to herself or the game.  My son, is resting up in my bed watching TV in our bedroom.  He’s bundled up under the covers and we’re waiting for the next time we give him some Tylenol to help relieve him of his head and throat pain and reduce his fever.

I did some Christmas shopping today on Amazon today.  I got gifts for my wife, both of my kids, and for my Mom.  I think today’s purchase was the most items I’ve purchased in a single sitting, though not the most expensive.  I’ve vowed to my wife, that I was going to try and do all of my shopping online this year, avoiding stores as much as possible and the anxiety that goes along with seeing empty shelves.  There’s still more that I want to get, but I think I’ll wait until my wife gets paid next week.

I’ve been sitting on the couch this afternoon watching the Eagles game, where they seem to be on their way to another win under Nick Foles leadership.  There’s less about 6 minutes remaining in the game and the Eagles are up by 10 over the Cardinals.  I have the game on mute and I’m listening to my favorites playlist on iTunes.  My wife is at the grocery store right now.

Right now, despite everyone not feeling 100%, I thought this was a good weekend.  I was off on Thursday and Friday for the holiday, add in Saturday and Sunday and the 4 days off was just enough to recharge my batteries.  The weather has been typical Delaware Valley fall weather, cool and cloudy.  I’m not sure the sun had come out at all over the last few days.  Despite not seeing much of the sun over the last few days, my energy level is up.  I’m in a very good mood right now, and have everything I need.

I do not want today to end, despite everyone not feeling well, I only wish they’d start to feel better.

It was a sad day yesterday.

Yesterday, we found out that my barber of the last 20 plus years, had recently passed away. While I didn’t personally know Nick very well, his barber shop was somewhere my son and I had gone every 6 weeks or so for the last 7 of his 9 years.

IMAG0855When my son was much younger, we knew he was different than most children, displaying an unusual sensitivity to certain sounds, hair clippers being one of these sounds he didn’t really tolerate. In an effort to make the hair cut experience a little less stressful, my wife and I thought it should be something that I do with him. For both my son and I, rather than springing the news of that it was haircut day that morning, I would start to let him know about our upcoming schedule a few days beforehand, reminding him from that point daily. I wanted to make sure that we did it on a regular interval, so we settled on every 6 weeks. I would let him know that it was just him and I going out together, and we incorporated bringing breakfast the rest of our household after we were done.

I don’t know if it was because my son was getting older or if it was because we have started establish a routine (something we’ve later found out that my son really likes), but he started at first to not only tolerate the haircuts, but then I think he started to enjoy this time we spend together.

Yesterday, we set out as usual about 9:30 am after shoveling a pathway from the previous night’s snowfall and clearing the cars, we left for our ritual. We stopped at the ATM, grabbed some money, and head over to the Colonial Barber shop. Upon our arrival, I knew something was amiss. The spinning barber’s pole that was normally visible from down the road, wasn’t there. A while back, I was thankful when Nick had replaced this pole a few years back, it was now visible from down the road and I easily would easily know if he was open for business that day or if he was on vacation.

I pull into his normally immaculately plowed driveway, which wasn’t plowed this morning and see two orange traffic cones on the side of his house, blocking the path to the small parking lot behind his house. I pull into one of the handicapped spots in front, and see a handwritten note taped inside one of the front windows. The note read something like, Nick is resting peacefully now and the family was thanking us for the years of patronage and friendship.

It took me a few seconds to process this message. I had forgotten that Nick was ill. During visits over the last year or so he would often talk about how his dialysis treatments were wearing him out; we had also just seen him about 6 weeks, and although he was thinner and seemed tired, he looked like he was doing OK.

Then the message sunk in, he had died.

With my son sitting next to me in the car, I said out loud “The barber died”. My son said “What!?”. I said, “the barber died, you remember, he was sick.” I look over at my son, and his eyes are closed and there were tears coming from them. I sat there for a few seconds and thought about what this meant to my son. Although, he really didn’t have an understanding of Nick’s illness, he knew something that something would change in his routine. A routine that he found safe and predictable.

I really like going to this barber. First, it was never crowded. I could walk in with my son at 9:00 am on a Saturday, and be out the door by 9:30am. We never had wait for more than two customers to be finished before it was our time. Next, he was close to our house. It was a source of pride for me to be patronizing a local business, one of the small businesses that this country is built upon, and it took only a few minutes to drive to his shop from my house. It also made me happy that I was spending my money inside of our zip code. Finally, he was an old school barber, not a hair stylist. He had a small shop that looks like it was built in an attached two car garage, (although he later told me that was build as a barber shop from day one), that reminded me of a hunting lodge one of the type of places where men hung out. There were popular mechanics magazines on the racks, there was a deer head and an owl hunting trophies hung on the wall as well as pictures of his hunting cabin in the Poconos and old time ammunition ads. The country music station was always playing on a small radio and the ceiling was wood planks, and the obligatory barber tools that hung from hooks on hand made cabinets.

It was a comfortable place for my son and I and Nick was always friendly to us, many times complimenting my son on how much of a good kid he was, and offering the complimentary lollipop for him and his sister if she were to tag along that day. Nick has watched him grow from a small child who sat on the booster seat who squirmed and cried the entire time he was getting his hair cut, to a youth that would often engage in conversation with him while getting his hair cut. We also liked that Nick knew how we wanted to get our hair cut, not even asking how we wanted it over the last few years, like many good business owners, he knew what his customers wanted.

While I’m sure that Nick will be missed by his family and close friends, he’ll also be missed by some of his loyal customers who found his shop as local place they could get a haircut for a reasonable price by a friendly barber. For my son and I, he was a part of our Saturday routine for the last 7 years or so that we participated in every month and a half, something that will take time to re-establish.

How I spent my Father’s Day

My Father’s day started out just like every other day, I wake early around 5:30am and then shortly after I realize it’s a weekend day, I attempt to go back to sleep. This morning it was a little tougher to go back to sleep, because my 9 year old daughter had fallen asleep in my bed last night, and she was a little restless this morning. She gave me a few friendly kicks and attempted to snuggle up to me, at this point I didn’t think I was going back to sleep. Once I finally did fall back asleep again, I was awakened by my 7 year old son tapping me on the back around 7:00am. Once I said good morning to him, the first words out of his mouth were “Happy Fodders Day”, I tried to get him to lie down with the three of us already in the bed. He complied for a short time, but then finally went back into his own bedroom. He’s such a sweet kid, and I’m surprised that he remembered that it was Father’s Day today.

About 7:20am, I decided to get out of bed; my back was starting to give me some discomfort, so I decided it was time to go downstairs. I could see that my son was still in his bed, so I invited him to come down with me, so we went down and relaxed, shortly afterwards my daughter came down, which was unusually early for her, she doesn’t normally doesn’t arise until 9:30 on weekend days.

While downstairs, my son was eyeing up the Legos we had purchased the day before for his birthday, once my daughter had come down, we started to build the 188 piece set, or I should say, I started to build the set. While I was building, my son and daughter were playing with the two figurines that were included in the Lego set, while I finished building the space ship. Shortly after finishing up, my wife came down stairs; I decided to go for a ride on my motorcycle.

About 9:30, I told my wife that I’d like to go out for a short ride on my bike. I was very pleased that the bike started right up, this was most likely as a result of purchasing a replacement battery a few weeks ago and filling it up with fresh gas. I proceeded to convert my riding jacket into a warmer weather jacket, and the headed out on this humid Sunday morning. I rode through Sicklerville, and wound my through Williamstown, then back through Sicklerville, all in all riding for about 30 minutes, certainly enough all suited up on this humid late spring day.

I returned home around 10:00am, started a pot of coffee and started up my laptop. I ready the news from the previous day, World Cup scores from the day before, and my usual tech news. My kids then gave me the Father’s day cards that they had made me, both of which they had made in school. My daughter had seemed excited about give me the card she’d made, and when I read it aloud with her, a tear started to fall from my eye. The card was the top 10 reasons why I was the best Dad, and while the two of us read it together, I could tell that she actually felt that these items were true. It made me feel really special. My son had given me a card that was stapled to a bag of Sun Chips, again, it sort of re-iterated the points of why they had felt that I was a good Dad, I was feeling good at this point.

My wife then told me that we were invited to her brother’s house for a cook out and swimming, however she told me that if I wanted to stay home, it was up to me. I though it’s be a good idea to go swimming today, I knew it was going to be a hot one, and it’d be good for my kids to get outside today, and god knows these kids love to swim. It was about noon now, and my wife told me that she needed to run to the store to pick up a cake and some things for dinner. I was feeling a little groggy, so I wanted to take a nap. I had asked the kids if they wanted to go into the basement and watch a movie because we were going to be leaving for the party in about 2 hours or so. They agreed and we watched Toy Story 2, the three of us snuggled up on the couch in the basement, which was a little chillier than I last remember, underneath a light blanket, while we watched the movie. During the movie, I was able to squeak out about 15-20 minutes of sleep, and surprisingly so, the kids pretty much stayed put in their seats during the movie and really seemed to enjoy it. This may be because we had just seen Toy Story 3 on Wednesday, so the story line was probably fresh in their mind; either that or the basement was a little colder than usual. They had laughed and enjoyed themselves, and end of the movie I had turned the sound on up on the closing credits while the two of them danced to Robert Goulet singing “You’ve got a friend in me”, it was one of those moments that as a parent, you know you don’t have too many remaining, but it was something I wanted to last forever, they were singing, laughing, and dancing, it’s was truly a priceless moment for me. Shortly after that, my wife returned from the store and about 30 minutes later we were on our way to her brother’s house. Today was going to be a good day for swimming; it was hot and humid outside.

We arrive at the kid’s uncle’s house, Grand mom, the other uncles and aunts were there, and the kids were ready to get right into the pool. They did; immediately. I put a little sun block on myself, and got into the pool. At first, the water felt cold, but after a minute or two, it was all good. The sun was bright, it was hot, it was perfect swimming weather; I was in the pool with my two kids and we were enjoying ourselves. My daughter and I were the only two in the deep end of the pool, when I thanked her for making today such a good father’s day, her response was as simple and genuine as it gets, she said in her small sweet voice “You’re welcome Daddy”. We played in the pool for a few hours, alternating our time in and out of the pool, not being able to escape the sun’s blistering rays, we all started to get a little hungry. I got out and snacked on a few items, while I finished my margarita I was definitely feeling good, it was a beautiful day, I was surrounded by family all of whom seemed to be in equally good moods.

After we ate, the kids got back into the pool, and I was feeling so full all I wanted to do was vegetate, so I got back in and got on a float. By this point the sun was starting to fall being the trees and it was not as inescapable as it was a few hours earlier. Having just had a good meal, as I bobbed up and down in the pools gentle waves, I was thinking that today was a good day, no, it was a very good day. A short time later, we decide to head home. The kids were tired, the adults were tired, our hosts were tired, rather than out stay our welcome we headed for home. Driving home it had cooled off considerably, I opened up all of the windows and the sunroof, it was just a pleasant slow ride home.
Today was a great day, it was an even better Father’s day.