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The boys made a memory jar for Tim for Father’s Day.

I just knew there was no way they could create a piece of artwork or something homemade – the pressure would be too great and we’d end up where we were last year.

So I stole this gift idea from my friend Jess.

I asked the boys some questions and recorded each answer on a slip of paper.

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And because the answers were so perfect, I had to share them here.

What’s your favorite thing you did with Dad this year?

G: Learning how to play guitar and going to all the concerts

H: Going on the water slides at Great Wolf Lodge

L: Playing Hot Wheels

What is something that dad did that made you laugh?

G: All his funny jokes

H: When he said the slide at Great Wolf was like a toilet

L: When he calls things bathroom words

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What is your favorite thing that Dad cooks?

G: Homemade pizza

H: Pork chops, chicken skewers and hamburgers

L: Macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese and quesadillas

What do you like to do with Dad?

G: Go to Guitar Center

H: Go on water slides

L: Watch the Palladia channel on TV

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What would you like Dad to teach you this year?

G: How to mow the lawn

H: How to armpit fart since I’m not very good at it.

L: How to ride a bike with two wheels.

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Now my answers.

My favorite thing we did this year? We were a team – through school meetings and sports activities and everything in between.  You didn’t miss one baseball game or concert or IEP meeting.  You arranged your schedule to be there for the boys and for me.  We took “divide and conquer” to a new level to make sure each kid had alone time and quiet time.

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At the meet and greet with Joe Bonamassa

At the meet and greet with Joe Bonamassa

Something that made me laugh? I have many specific private moments when I laughed until I cried.  And then there were the times when I wanted to cry, you made me laugh instead.  Holding my hand through it all.

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My favorite thing you cook? Everything.  Duh.

That's right.  That's bacon wrapped meatloaf.

That’s right. That’s bacon wrapped meatloaf.

What do I like to do with you? Again, everything.

What would I like you to teach me this year?  I want to find my “fun” again.  I see how the boys turn to you for the games, the laughs, the “let’s do this” together.  You understand the boys in ways I can’t.

I want to learn all that from you.

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227620_10200398807759391_1141309109_nHappy Father’s Day

If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day till eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you

If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I’d save every day like a treasure and then
Again, I would spend them with you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do, once you find them
I’ve looked around enough to know
That you’re the one I want to go through time with.” – Time In A Bottle by Jim Croce (which also happens to be the song from our wedding)

This morning I was cleaning out my dresser drawers.  We were donating it to the thrift shop up the street and everything needed to be out of it.

I pulled out all the clothes from the bottom drawers and moved my way to the small top jewelry drawer.  I’m embarrassed to say how thick the layer of dust was on top.

Hoarders would have a field day with the content of that drawer.

But there among the old papers, Mother’s Day cards, hair clips and broken watches and Lego pieces…

There was this:

21st Birthday

21st Birthday

 

When I turned twenty-one, my parents gave me 21 presents.  Some were small and silly, some were amazing.  This was one of them.  Inside was a letter from my dad to me.  One that I forgot existed.

I opened up the letter, reading it for the first time in I have no idea how many years.

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January 18, 1993

Dear Alysia,

Perhaps it is impossible for any person who is not a parent to understand what it means to have a child.  Your birth twenty-one years ago was the greatest moment of my life.  Holding you in my arms, looking into your eyes, changed the entire world for me.  It changed my past and my future because it gave my life new meaning.  I was amazing that the emotional import of becoming a parent for the first time was so overwhelming.  If you are lucky enough to have a child someday you will be surprised at how different the intensity and the quality of the rush of love is that accompanies your first child’s birth.

No matter what you do in life you have already given me more pleasure than I could have ever hoped for.  You know that I will always stick with you through good time and bad forever.

Even though it’s probably impossible for a daughter and a father to ever forget their “roles” in each others lives I hope we can continue to become regular friends who can learn from each other, disagree with each other, and still know like all true friends that we can depend on each other.  Unfortunately I never had the chance to be an adult friend to my father.  If I had I’m sure the relationship would have had its stormy moments as I was an independent minded young man who perceived most advice as nagging. But in the end it would have worked out because your grandfather’s values were just like mine.  Loved was the underpinning of our relationship.  I wish he could have met you and known you because he would have seen that his life and love had been passed to a great young woman.

I admire you for all you have done in your 21 years.  I look forward to you seeking a happy and fulfilling life.  Don’t let life’s hard knocks get you down.  All children carry some of their parents inside their heads and hearts forever both the good and bad. I hope you will always cherish the special moments you and I have had and will have for many years to come.  I certainly have cherished them all.

Welcome to the adult world – happy birthday.

I’ll love you always,

Dad

Sometimes being a hoarder has its perks.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have some letters to write to my own children.  For them to hide away somewhere and pull them out when they need it most.

Oh and I love you always too Dad.  And I miss you every day. Thank you for being inside my head and my heart.

Love, Alysia

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime.
So, let me say before we part:
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you.
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you’ll have rewritten mine
By being my friend.

Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea.
Like a seed dropped by a sky bird
In a distant wood.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better
But because I knew you…
Because I knew you…
I have been changed for good.” – For Good from the play Wicked

 

“It’s grief… it hits you. It’s like a wave. You just get this profound feeling of instability. You feel like a three legged table. Just suddenly… the Earth isn’t stable anymore. And then it passes and becomes more infrequent, but I still get it sometimes.” — Liam Neeson on his wife Natasha Richardson’s sudden death from traumatic brain injury five years ago from (his 60 Minutes interview)

It’s a funny thing.  Grief.

Funny is the wrong word.  Sneaky.

When I was thinking of a song title for my last post, I googled “father and son songs”.  And of course, Father and Son by Cat Stevens came up right away.

Cat Stevens was one of my father’s favorite artists.  I have memories of driving to school in his Volvo, listening to Cat Stevens’ Greatest Hits on the tape deck.

I clicked on the YouTube Video that accompanied the google link:

And I started to sob.

It wasn’t just the song that reduced me to tears in front of the keyboard.

Cat Stevens looks like my dad did when I was a kid.  He wrote words that would have come out of my dad’s head.

It was an immediate transport back in time.  Back to memories that are still fresh and raw.

I don’t really know how to explain these waves of grief, even 15 years later.  I think about him all the time in different ways.  Sometimes it’s just a news story on TV and I want to talk with him about it.  Sometimes it’s a memory that I can’t quite see in my head and I want to ask him what happened.

Sometimes it’s hearing about a friend battling cancer and me wishing I could do a million things differently all over again.

Those times come in and out.  It’s a brief twinge and then it’s gone.

And then there are moments when the grief feels all consuming. I get stuck.  Mired in a hole of what ifs and what should and shouldn’t have been.

Today could have been one of those days.

But I stopped and looked again at the photo that started it all.

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And I remembered that these are the times that need my focus now.

I can choose to let the grief send me down the rabbit hole.

Or I can choose to let the grief push me to see how important and precious these moments are.

Because a boy and his dad, reading a book about boats and engines?

That’s a really big deal.

It’s not time to make a change,
Just sit down, take it slowly.
You’re still young, that’s your fault,
There’s so much you have to go through.
Find a girl, settle down,
if you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy.

All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside,
It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it.
If they were right, I’d agree, but it’s them you know not me.
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.” – Father And Son by Cat Stevens

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Just a boy and his dad, reading a book about boats and engines.

No big deal.

I took this picture last night right after dinner.  I hid around the corner so I didn’t disturb them (hence the really grainy photo and the everything out on the table and the lampshade in the way).

Monday was library day and Howie renewed his book about boats.

Tim picked it up last night and called Howie over to the table. “Show me the part in the book you like.”

Howie turned to the page with a cut away of a rowboat.  “I didn’t know you could sleep in a rowboat!” he exclaimed.

And what followed was THIRTY minutes of discussion at the table.  Of boats and cutaway drawings.  Of engines and pistons.  Of cars and trucks and things that go.

Questions were asked.  On both sides.

I took this picture and heading upstairs hearing “Could a really BIG crew fit on that boat?”

Now you know the autism parent in me wants to tell you all things autism that I see.

The joint attention.

The pragmatic language.

The shared interests.

The sitting and listening for 30 minutes (just hours after I filled out the Vineland saying he couldn’t do this).

The actual reading of a library book.

But not today.

Today I see a dad who found a common bond with his son.

I see a son who is soaking up every word from his dad.

And I see smiles from them both.

Just a boy and his dad, reading a book about boats and engines.

No big deal.

It’s not time to make a change,
Just relax, take it easy.
You’re still young, that’s your fault,
There’s so much you have to know.
Find a girl, settle down,
If you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy.

I was once like you are now, and I know that it’s not easy,
To be calm when you’ve found something going on.
But take your time, think a lot,
Why, think of everything you’ve got.
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not. ” – Father and Son by Cat Stevens

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“Mom?  Will you play football with us?”

It’s a crisp fall day.  I was outside raking leaves while the boys ran around the front yard.  Leaf raking is sort of a zen activity for me.  It gives me a sense of accomplishment, seeing the piles grow as the lawn gets cleaner.  Until the wind blows and I start all over again.

Gerry runs over to me with a small Arizona State University nerf football in his hand.  “Mom?  Will you play football with us?”

I lean the rake up against the big tree in our yard as he calls his brothers over. I was hesitant to play, partly because I was finally getting a big pile of leaves but also because getting the three of them on the same page for any activity is difficult.  Their age differences and developmental differences make physical games tricky.  Herding cats is an understatement.

The boys decide that it will be Howie and Lewis against Gerry.  The two younger kids will be on defense.  Gerry comes over to me with the ball.

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“I’ll be the quarterback,” I say.

I have an instant flashback to when I was a kid.  My Dad has the football in his hands.  We’re in our backyard on a cold Vermont fall weekend afternoon. He’s in his tuque and his sweatpants taped up with duct tape with work boots on. He was always the quarterback. To make it fair.

“Can I be the quarterback?” Gerry asks.

“No,” I said. “I will be quarterback for both sides to be fair.”

I draw out a “play” on my right hand.  “We’ll call this ‘the button hook’ play. You go out eight steps, turn around and I will throw it to you.”

I see my dad drawing the same play in his hands.  “Go out 10 steps, then turn to your right.  I’ll throw it right to you. Watch out for that pile of dog poop over there.  And that one over there.”

I yell a bunch of random numbers and then “HIKE!” Gerry hikes the ball to me and tries to run the play.  The boys run all over the yard in no pattern laughing, trying to play their position.

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My cousins and siblings run around the yard, yelling at each other and laughing, trying to make the play.

“NO TACKLING!” I yell.

Two hand touch!” my dad yells.

Touchdown! Between the rake and the pile of leaves!

Touchdown! Between the broken flower pot and pile of hay!

We switch teams after the touchdown.  I stay at quarterback.

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We play until the sun goes down and my hands get too cold to throw the ball.

**********

In the Glee episode “The Quarterback“, the football coach and Puckerman (one of the characters) are sitting next to the memorial stone for Finn Hudson.  Puck looks at the line between the born and died years and says “You know what’s tripping me up? This line between the two years. That’s his whole life. Everything that happened is in that line.” The coach looks at him and asks “What are you going to do with your line?”

I see now my line is filled with being my kids’ quarterback.

I’m the one drawing up the plays on my hand on the fly.

Tossing them the ball as they get the glory of scoring the winning touchdown.

Guiding them through homework and relationships and teacher meetings and IEPs and therapy sessions.

All leading to their personal successes.  In their own way.

Honoring my dad’s memory with my old Target sneakers, faded yoga pants and torn fleece jacket.

Until they are old enough to be their own quarterback and figure out what they will do with their line.

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Today marks 15 years since my dad died.

I miss him every day in different ways. 

But I especially I miss him as my quarterback.

19544_1326211601980_499808_nTook this love and I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
Till the landslide brought me down

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
And can I sail through the changing ocean tides
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Oh oh I don’t know, oh I don’t know

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older I’m getting older too
Yes I’m getting older too.” – Landslide by Fleetwood Mac

The American Cancer Society’s estimates for pancreatic cancer in the United States for 2013 are:

  • About 45,220 people (22,740 men and 22,480 women) will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
  • About 38,460 people (19,480 men and 18,980 women) will die of pancreatic cancer

Rates of pancreatic cancer have been slowly increasing over the past 10 years.

Learn more about early diagnosis and treatment at http://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreaticcancer/detailedguide/pancreatic-cancer-detection or visit The Lustgarten Foundation’s website

(Three of two posts about Father’s Day.  Yes, I know.  Math is not my strongest subject.  Moving on…)

Tim was heading out the door for work.

I said my usual “Guys, say goodbye to Dad.”

“Bye Dad!” calls Gerry.

As the door shuts, Howie says “Oh good.  I am glad Father’s Day is over.”

“Hey, Howie, don’t be mean,” I snapped.  “We’re nice to everyone every day even when it isn’t Father’s Day.”

He was silent.

I continued to get the kids’ stuff ready for school but the statement kept rolling around in my head.

It just wasn’t sitting right with me.

Not his statement.  Mine.

I sent some friends a message:

As Tim left this morning, Howie said “oh good. Father’s day is over.” At first I thought he was being mean. But maybe the pressure of father’s day is what made him so out of sorts yesterday? I know I was on edge.

I thought back on the whole day yesterday.

Howie up at 3:30am.  Climbing into my bed and trying to climb under me.

Telling him when he woke up that it wasn’t nice to kick Dad out of bed on Father’s Day.

The strings of silly words and refusal to eat any food, only yogurts.

Reminding him to say “Happy Father’s Day” to Tim.  Prompted three times before he said it.

Asking to go outside in his pajamas at 8:30am to go swing on the swings.  Alone.  For 25 minutes.

Telling him we had to be on our best behavior while at work with me with all the dads coming in for Father’s Day.

Playing solo at the sensory gym with his own game.  Ignoring the other kids that he usually plays with.

Reminding him we were giving Dad space and alone time for Father’s Day so we were going to the store/farmer’s market/park.

Holding in a poop at the park because he wanted to stay there and not find a bathroom.

Telling him we couldn’t go back to the park after the bathroom because it was Father’s Day and we were going home to spend time with Dad.

My friend wrote back:

And it IS a lot of pressure… ‘it’s father’s day… be nice to dad, give dad a hug, we have to make x for dad…’ Whether it’s father’s day or a birthday or any other out of the ordinary day, it’s tough. I’m quite sure Howie was not being mean at all.

You would think at some point I would get this – truly get this – for Howie.  Clearly, I had anxieties about Father’s Day.  The split between wanting to make it special while also wanting to dive under the covers and hide.  In an attempt to make it the best day ever for Tim and forget why it was the hardest day ever for me, I whisked my kids out of here for the day. Out of their routine, out of their house, and ultimately out of sorts. The whole time telling them it was in the name of Father’s Day. The exact opposite of what I was trying to accomplish.

And so in one short honest sentence, Howie snapped it all back into focus for me.

Not mean.  Just the truth.

He wasn’t saying he wanted to be rude to Tim now that Father’s Day was over.  He was saying that it was too hard yesterday to hold it all together to be over the top perfect.

The pressure that was too much for me was too much for him too.

We’re back to our version of normal today, Howie and I.

Someone remind of this next year.

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Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure
Under pressure
Pressure” – Under Pressure by David Bowie

(One of two parts of a Father’s Day)

Because you are always there.

Because you see what I miss.

Because you haven’t missed a baseball practice.  Or game.  Or school show. Or IEP meeting.

Because you read the reports and read between the lines.

Because you enjoy being the “mystery reader”.

Because when I find only the negative, you show me the glass half full.

Because you understand what “he’s out of sorts” means and how to help.

Because you understand our kids in ways I can’t.

Because you get it.

And when I am done

and can’t read one more report, one more home log, one more email

or change one more diaper, fight one more clothing battle, listen to one more scream

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You are there.

Not out of obligation.

But out of love.

Showing our kids what a dad should be.

And for that and eight million other reasons.

I love you.

Happy Father’s Day to the man who makes every day better.

You are the bearer of unconditional things
You held your breath and the door for me
Thanks for your patience

You’re the best listener that I’ve ever met
You’re my best friend
Best friend with benefits
What took me so long

You’ve already won me over in spite of me
And don’t be alarmed if I fall head over feet
Don’t be surprised if I love you for all that you are
I couldn’t help it
It’s all your fault” – Head Over Feet by Alanis Morisette

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