Because of you

Today is your birthday. So in honor of your birthday, some things that I learned from you.

Because of you, I learned to speak my mind more often.

Because of you, I learned to “call a spade a spade.”

Because of you, I learned to be a loveable asshole

Because of you, I learned to stick up for what I believe in.

Because of you, I tell my loved ones that I love them more often.

Because of you, I secretly root for the Yankees, Rangers and Giants when they’re not playing my teams.

Because of you, I have so many stories to tell not just my kids, but your daughter as well.

Because of you, Red Lobster will always be Red Blobster to me.

Because of you, I say words like, “bucka bucka, woozle wazle, and bastage.”

Because of you, calling someone a “trash bag” is an insult. (But a light hearted one.)

Because of you, I never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Because of you, I drink less.

Because of you, I eat healthier.

Because of you, Lehigh Zion Cemetery is a must stop for my family when visiting the Lehigh Valley.

Because of you, my life has a hole in it that will never be filled.

Happy Birthday David. I sure do miss you.

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Anniversaries, and the feeling that go with them

As I walk around my house, I am constantly reminded of the fact that my wife and I got married.  Not necessarily that we ARE married, but things to remind us of our wedding day.  Most recently while renovating our house, I came across my wife’s bouquet and the unity candle from our wedding.  Now I realize that a lot of you are probably saying to yourself, “Well yeah, why wouldn’t she want to remember her wedding day?”  My response to that is, “Have you met me?” Full disclosure, I have a bit of a self-esteem issue, so it’s kind of weird to me that someone so wonderful and beautiful would actually marry me, let alone want to be reminded of it.  I constantly tell her how lucky I am, and to be honest, I still am amazed she hasn’t woken up and realized she married a huge shmuck that I am. Actually, she would probably tell you that she knows I’m a shmuck and she loves me anyway.  That’s because she’s wonderful.

Tomorrow we will be married 12 years.  We’re not doing anything special, which is how we’ve spent the past 20 years ( the total that we’ve been together). Sure, we’ll celebrate, but it won’t be anything big. She’s cooking something special for us (because if I try I will undoubtedly screw it up and either A) Get upset and swear B) break something C) burn down the house D) give up or the most likely E) all of the above). Then we’ll have a dessert that she made and cap it off with a movie.  That’s our life in a nutshell.

I know I am not easy to live with.  I cut various appendages on table saws. I anger easily, I’m constantly on my phone. I’m impatient, I have bad habits. But throughout it all, she takes it in stride.  She is the perfect role model for our kids, and honestly for anyone’s kids. It’s probably why she’s friends with so many former students and players on Facebook (If you haven’t gathered and don’t know us, she’s a teacher and used to coach Field Hockey).

While I do ask her how I got so lucky (and she inevitably replies that she’s not so sure), it is great to have a partner in crime like her.  I was listening to a podcast and one of the hosts described marriage in a sense in that when you’re married, you don’t want someone telling you what to do, you don’t want to be their boss either.  You want someone that when you tell them you’re robbing a bank, they’re driving the getaway car. I’m so glad (and lucky) to have the best getaway car driver ever.  She truly is my best friend, my shrink, my spouse, my everything.  I say this a lot, but I don’t know where I’d be without her.

And because I know she’s reading this too, happy anniversary babe! (I said it first, even if it’s in writing and you will probably see if after you say it to me, I still win! 😛

Hatch_Wedding_JustHitched

Happy Birthday to my baby girl.

Dear Goose,

Seven years ago today you came into my life and I became a father for the first time.  In the seven years that has passed I think you have taught me almost as much as I’ve taught you.  I’ve seen you grow from a tiny infant into a sweet little girl who is as sassy as the day is long.  I’ve seen you in your highest, playing with friends, and I’ve seen your heart break when you’re sad, whether you found out we were going to move, or more recently when your mom and I had to tell you that your first two pets had passed away.  You have taken each obstacle thrown at you and overcome it with grace.  When your mom and I told you that we were going to move, you were understandably upset.  We did our best to accommodate you. I think it’s safe to say you love where we live now and don’t want to go back.  You are an amazing big sister, always looking out for your brother.  Bubba is lucky to have you as his sissy.

I want you to know that I wake up every day trying to be a good father to you.  I don’t always succeed, but I try my best.  Your mom and I always say to do your best, I hope you know I’m trying.  If it weren’t for you and your brother, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.  I am a better person because of you and bubba.  It hasn’t been the easiest seven years and I know that I’m not the easiest person to love (just ask your mom), but I can’t say that I would change anything.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds for our family. I’m not sure when I’ll show this to you, but I want you to know that I love you so much.  Happy Birthday, goose. I love you.

confronting the demons…and moving on

I’ve written this post several times.  I’ve revised it, started over.  I just am not sure how I want it to go.  I do know I want it out there, but I’m just not sure how I want it out there and what I want out there. This is by far the most personal thing I’ve written (and probably will write) about.

In June 2009 I lost my best friend.  I still remember the phone call I got from his wife and very vividly remember the events that happened that morning such as words that were offered to me in comfort from various people, and what was on the radio when my wife and I went to her sister’s house (ironically it was Nickelback’s “If today was your last day.”)  Today is his birthday and I miss him every day, but that isn’t anything new nor is it what I want to talk about.

Grief is a really tough thing.  Death to me isn’t something that I like to talk about.  Mainly because it’s not something I (or anyone else) am familiar with.  Nobody’s died and come back and said, “oh you have to try this!”  So it is hard for me to talk about it at all.  Losing someone close to you isn’t something that I feel can easily be gotten over and I don’t think it’s fair to say to someone that they are grieving too long but on the contrary I also do not feel it’s fair to judge someone who has moved on in their life sooner than you feel they should, or you yourself have – even if I am guilty of this myself.  As most people will tell you, grief comes in different stages 1. Denial and Isolation, 2. Anger, 3. Bargaining 4. Depression and finally 5. Acceptance.  What I recently learned is that these stages don’t come in order that they are totally random (with the exception being acceptance coming at the end).  When David died I spent a lot of the morning crying and the week after several times I broke down thinking/talking about it.   But when it came time to finally say Goodbye to David, I was numb.  I couldn’t bear any emotion.  I shared stories with people I knew through him and remembered the good times but I don’t think I shed one tear.  Over the next four years I went through depression.  Nothing serious, just when something reminded me of him or I saw his picture, I got sad and almost always cried.  Over the years I saw different therapists, and they all said the same thing – it was completely normal for me to go through this after losing someone so close to me.  The bright side of things were when someone that I knew lost someone they were close to I was able to offer words of encouragement and an ear if they wanted to talk.  Most didn’t but the fact that I said to them, “I’ve been there” helped me know that I’m not alone in this battle.  I had too much to live for though in my mind.  I found out just a few weeks after he died that my wife was pregnant.  I sure didn’t want to miss out on being a dad, so I mustered on.   But not everyone can muster on like I did.

People go through grief in different ways.  My Godfather died when I was a freshman in college and in order to cope with the sudden loss of her husband and companion, his wife (also my Godmother) decided to avoid dealing with the pain and worked ungodly hours at her work.  The problem with that is that when she retired he was gone all over again, and the pain was still there.  Some people talk about their loved one every chance they get, some people seek solace in the arms of a loved one.  And then there are people who just cannot find a way to cope at all with the grief.  those people find a way to escape it.  They destroy themselves, willingly or not. They resort to drugs, alcohol, or both or something else to ease this unbearable pain that won’t go away.  It’s hard and it’s sad to see someone go through it.  You can try to help them, but they have to want to get better.  A drug addict can say they want to get clean until they’re blue in the face, but until they actually take the steps to get better nothing happens.  Depression is hard to get rid of in my mind.  Sure you can take happy pills but that doesn’t fix the problem.  I decided that I needed to confront the situation head on rather than avoid it.  I visited his home, took something that he really cherished and keep it safe.  I visit his grave and would cry every time I left.  But i’m not afraid to go anywhere that reminds me of him.  I’m not afraid to look at pictures of him, or even his obituary.  I’m not afraid to remember him.  Confronting my demons head on is what helped me heal I believe.

Four years later after talking with his wife (who I still keep in touch with and still consider a very good friend) I think I have finally found acceptance.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve accepted he was gone long ago.  I visit his grave whenever I can (I got him a tombstone, and I got his damn birthday wrong, so there’s a painful reminder that I can screw up anything without even trying).  But now when I think of him, I don’t cry as much.  When we moved into my new house I was putting photo albums away and trying to put them in somewhat of an order.  I came across his obituary in the local paper that and the pamphlet they handed out at his funeral that my wife had saved.  I admit, I shed a couple tears.  You would too if you came across something from the funeral of someone you cared deeply about.  But for the first time, I picked myself up and closed the photo album.  I made a promise to him the day he died.  If I ever had a son, his name would have David in it.  I was going for the first name but my wife said she wanted it to be the middle name, as she didn’t want to take away from the original person.  So on July 1st of this year, Patrick David was born.  It had come full circle.  In a strange sort of way.  Both of my children are named after someone who my wife and I cared about deeply, who left this world way too soon (See earlier post about Sindy).  Nobody in this world is a saint or lives a perfect life.  We all have our demons.  It’s how we confront those demons and move on with our lives that define us.

Friendship

“Good friends are hard to come by.”  This was a quote by an actor named Charlie Hunnam.  Rarely do I look to quotes to get me through life, but this one kind of resonates.  I have many friends who I see every now and then and generally get along with.  There was one person I considered my “best friend” who was like a brother to me.  He died almost four years ago.  Being in my thirties and not being exactly the social type, I don’t consider myself to have a lot of friends and most of those I have known for a while.  I consider my “core friends” those who I communicate on a regular basis with and regularly know each other’s families and what is going on with each other’s lives.

My daughter is three years old and since she is in daycare she goes to a lot of birthday parties of other kids who go the same daycare.  She is at the point in her life where she talks about other kids outside of school and when you mention the word “friends” to her she mentions specific people – most of which we regularly see at birthday parties (with one big exception).  At age three you see the friendships based on how they react when they see each other.  (side note: girls at age three greet each other the same way they do at age 33: “TATUM!!!”  “NORA!!!!”) So it has been hard on my wife and me to list our house for sale because while we want to move, we know our daughter will be sad. 

 There is one person who I have known for a while.  I won’t mention him by name, but chances are you can probably figure it out based on how you got to this site and if you know me personally.  I met this guy (we’ll call him John for now as I don’t feel like writing out “this guy” all the time) in high school. We both worked at the local amusement park and (ironically) he was at the time dating a girl I had dated previously and remained friends with.  He and I actually discovered we had a lot in common (besides our taste in women at the time) and kept in touch.  As is typical with most of my friends, we got to know each other’s family.  Turns out he has a brother (Roy) who is just like him so of course we also became friends.  Through the magic of social media, I also got to know John’s sister.  She is very religious and shows it on social media.  (May also and probably does show it in person, but we haven’t really hung out much in person).   So I’ve gotten to know the entire family.  Something I am proud of because they are all very good people.

Throughout the process of selling our house, we both have called upon our friends to help us through this process.  Me more than my wife as I took this process way more to heart than she did.  One person that really came through to me is John and Roy’s sister.  I consider myself a fairly religious person.  I don’t go to church every Sunday but the intention is there.  (I know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions).  I reached out to her in a time of need.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I just needed some reassurance that I was not alone (yes my wife was there with me, but I still felt the burden was mine to bear).  What came back was something only a truly good person whose heart is filled with love could give.  I won’t share the details, but what came back was the words of a “friend” who we’ve met in person only once (twice by my account, but once that we both remember).  She didn’t have to write back, but she did.  She is the type of person I want my daughter to be like.  Someone who is good to everyone.

My daughter seems to be a very wise three year old.  She looked at houses with us and we talked about moving and going to a “new school.”  That night when I was putting her to bed she said to me, “Daddy?  I’m really gonna miss my friends.”  I think my heart broke right then and there.  I told her I knew she would, but that we will still see them whenever we can.  The next morning she said to her mom and I that Emily (her best friend) couldn’t be her best friend anymore because “we are selling the house.”  I explained to her about Roy. She could identify with Roy as we see Roy many times when we go to visit family and friends in Pennsylvania, and Roy has even come down to visit us.  I explained that Roy is one of MY best friends and that even though we don’t see each other very often, we still talk and we are still friends.  I plan on emailing those people who we are friendly with to let them know we are moving, and to say we want to keep in touch.  With Modern technology maybe we can actually do “face time” or some sort of video conferencing.  One can only hope.  Really I hope these kids parents are as accommodating to their kids as I plan to be for my daughter.  I know it is hard to make new friends (heck at age 33 it is very hard for me to make new friends, so I can’t imagine what my daughter is going through). 

 

My point throughout this post has been friendship means so many different things to different people.  I’ve discovered that friendship means pretty much the same thing no matter how old you are.  You feel comfortable around them, so you want to be around them whenever possible, you save a seat for them at lunch or on the bus, you talk about that girl/guy that caught your eye, you talk about how selling your house has been just hell for you.  It doesn’t matter where they live or how often you talk, but just knowing they are there is comfort enough.  I’ve known this for a bit, realized it more now, and hope to show my daughter this too. 

Sindy

The one and only

The one and only

I met Sindy in 7th grade Homeroom. Our last names are close in the alphabet and she sat behind me. As far as our similarities go, that was about it. We both were in band and chorus and felt as though the band teacher was just a TAD lame. But we got along if nothing else as friendly acquaintances for 7th and 8th grade. In 9th grade we started hanging around the same people so we hung out more. It was really my senior year when we really started hanging out and becoming close. Again we hung out with the same people, but we were also more mature and noticed we had more in common than we thought. After high school we kept in touch as well as my then girlfriend (now wife) remained good friends with her. We went our separate ways, her to culinary school, me to college. Slowly but surely, we became closer and I became close with her family. Her family let me work on their computer when I was studying how to repair them, and she told me how her dad works (I’m sure she’d laugh at the interactions we’ve had since!). She truly was one of the best friends we had. We even had her do a reading and her sister sang in our wedding (though much to my dismay her parents sat with her on my wife’s side!)

My future brother-in-law smacking Sindy's rear end at my wedding.

My future brother-in-law smacking Sindy’s rear end at my wedding.

I remember when she was looking for a job in the area, she was down to a prominent hotel in the area, or a restaurant chain. I, being the stellar career counselor that I am, told her to go with the hotel. She promptly went with the restaurant chain. She started out doing the prep. Eventually she worked her way up to cook, and before we knew it, she was 2nd in command in another location of the chain. One day my wife and I surprised her at her work when we went to visit my grandmother in the hospital. It was out of the way, but we knew we wouldn’t have this opportunity again anytime soon, if ever again. Sindy was elated to see us. We couldn’t help but feel proud that we were seeing our friend pretty much run an entire restaurant. It was unbelievable. Later that year, the inevitable happened – Sindy got her own restaurant. We knew it was only a matter of time.  We were so proud of her.  We had nicknames for each other, I was tech man because of my experience with computers, she started out as Chef Boyardee, but then changed to Iron Chef (For obvious reasons I she preferred Iron Chef to Chef Boyardee) . Life was good, all for about eight months or so.
About eight months later my sister in law called us freaking out, apparently Sindy was in the hospital. Sure enough, Sindy has autoimmune hepatitis. As soon as we could, we drove up to see Sindy. We stayed for awhile. So many people came and went. It was amazing how many people loved her and wanted to see her. She had so many flowers in her room, one of her nurses who was allergic to flowers had to wear a face mask when she came into Sindy’s room. We laughed so hard that time it was great. I honestly don’t recall a time when I had more fun in general, let alone at a hospital.
But the happiness was only temporary. Sindy eventually slipped into a coma and eventually passed. It was six year ago today.
Her funeral was unique. It was more of a celebration of life. Not that funerals aren’t a celebration of life, but this was special because her family requested everyone wear bright colors instead of the traditional black. We laughed, we cried. And the meal after the funeral? Where else? The restaurant chain I advised her to not get a job at. Where it all started. That night a bunch of us sat around a fire, and toasted her with Coronas. Just as she wanted. My wife and I still have those bottles packed somewhere.
In the six years since, my wife and I have come to call her family our family. We visit them whenever we can and catch up what is going on with each others’ lives. When Sindy passed, my wife and I made a vow that if we were ever blessed with children and if we had a girl, her middle name would be Sindy. Less than two years later, Madison Sindy was born. We make it a point to talk about her “Aunt Sindy” to our daughter and talk about how she is up in heaven watching over her, that her Aunt Sindy is her guardian angel. We show her pictures and she knows Sindy’s family as her aunts and uncle. Four years to the day that Sindy passed, her namesake took her first steps. We truly believe that is no coincidence.
Sindy truly was someone who brightened your day. I’ll never forget her (who could?) I often think what Sindy would think of her namesake. I’m sure she’d say we didn’t have to name our daughter after her (which is the truth, but we wanted to and am glad we were able to) and I think she would laugh very hard at the events that have happened in our lives.
I’m glad that the last memory I have of her, she was laughing. Because that’s what I remember the most about Sindy. Her laugh.

Man Night

Man night crew at our finest.

Man night crew at our finest.

About once a quarter or so a bunch of guys get together at my friend Jay’s house for what we all call “man night.”  Man night consists of four things: 1) eating 2) drinking 3) catching up on our lives 4) some sort of shenanigans.

example of said douce-baggery

example of said shenanigans.

This ritual started about 12 years ago.  Jay and I went to school together and he invited me to go out with him and a friend of his, Soke to a dance club.  Well, I went but clubs aren’t really my cup of tea so he invited me up to his girlfriend’s father’s house to hang out for a gathering where I would meet his future brother-in-law Jeff, his dad and many people who eventually became friends of mine as well.  Soon it became a tradition where at some point one member of the group held a gathering at their place where we would eat, drink and have a good time.  Then Jay and his girlfriend got jobs out of town and moved in together (and eventually got married) and I moved down to where I live now.  So the gatherings became less frequent, and eventually stopped altogether.  Then Jay started having birthday parties for himself at his house, which was just like the old gatherings, except we spent the night most of the time.  Then the parties became too much of a hassle (his birthday being in January and all) and they turned into smaller gatherings dubbed “man night.”  As I grew older I stopped wanting to travel as much  because I got lazy and especially when I became a father, my desire to be away from my family was down to practically zero.  Plus at the same time I was going to school so there wasn’t a lot of time for me to go out, especially two hours up to my friend’s house.  But Jay worked with me and I attended a few.

I recently attended what will certainly be my last one for a bit due to the fact that I am due to become a father for the second time.   I wish my friends lived closer.  I don’t like driving alone.  I don’t like leaving my family, but I do enjoy man night.

The problem with man night, is that I am the only one who goes who has kids.  Another guy who has a son has been invited, but rumor has it his wife has but the kibosh on hanging out with this circle of friends…or friends in general depending on who you ask.  So my end of the conversation ends up being “Hey let me tell you about this funny thing my daughter did last night… oh wait.”  To their credit my friends haven’t shunned me for making the decision to have children and they do embrace my daughter (Jay happens to live just off the route I typically take to and from where I grew up and where my wife’s family lives, so if I (or in one instance my daughter) needs to use the bathroom or just a break, him and his wife are always welcoming.  Plus they have cats and my kid LOVES cats.

Another problem is Soke.  I love Soke.  He’s a good guy with a heart of gold. But he cooks us dinner, which I do appreciate.  He is a good cook too and doesn’t ask anything in return except to eat and enjoy.  So what’s my complaint you ask?

your typical spread at man night

your typical spread at man night

It’s that I want to eat at a “normal” time.  You see, Soke likes to eat late.  Not 7:30, 8:00 late.  Like 10:30, 11:00 late.  Dude, I have a three year old at home.  I go to bed when this kid is up because chances are I may have to get up several times a night, and who knows when I will have to get up for the day.  I want to eat, have a few beers and go to bed.  This isn’t the old days where you plan no getting no sleep.  I WANT SLEEP, DAMNIT.  But Soke never wavers despite my numerous threats of physical violence (I tend to get a WEE BIT cranky when I’m hungry), he never wavers and so I am forced to hunt for my food in the rugged terrain of Mechanicsburg, PA.  I may be gone for hours, days (even though I’m just up there for the night), who knows?!  I am forced to rough it.

Well shoot.  Now what am I supposed to do to pass the time before eating.

Well shoot. Now what am I supposed to do to pass the time before eating?

But Soke does cook and cook well, and I eat like a king.  The next morning we all get up bright and early (Despite drinking into the wee hours of the night) and walk.  Well, some of us.

NO.  I will NOT go walking.  Even if my wife works at the Wegmans by where we walk to.

NO. I will NOT go walking. Even if my wife works at the Wegmans by where we walk by.

We used to walk just around the neighborhood but now we walk to the Panera by Jay’s house to grab breakfast and then back.  Usually Jay’s dad is leading the pack with Soke close behind him.  Jay and I usually take a leisurely stroll and chat while being scorned by those up ahead.

Then we head back and I usually pack up the car to head home to see my loving family.  All in all, it’s usually a good time.  Just don’t ever leave in the middle of the night.  Even if you’re bored and can’t sleep.  You’ll never hear the end of it.