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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)

(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

(Two of two parts of a Father’s Day. Part one is here.)

Whomever said “time heals all wounds” was full of crap.

Same person who said “God only gives you what you can handle.”

Words with no meaning. Not to me.

It’s the 14th Father’s Day without my dad.

It doesn’t get easier.  I don’t miss him less.

The memories I want to recall are fading.

I close my eyes and I try to think back on Father’s Days of the past.  I can’t remember any.  I’m sure they were filled with homemade gifts.  And food.

But when my eyes are shut I can only remember those last days.  The incredibly difficult last family trip to Florida with a hastily planned one day cruise to the Bahamas.  Sitting in the bleachers for his last over-40 baseball game during that sweet spot between one round of chemotherapy and the next. I see the last moment that we had together.

I sit here at the end of this Father’s Day.  And I’m lonely. And angry.

He’s missed the things a father should have seen.  My wedding.  My brother’s wedding.  My sister driving.

He’s missed the things a grandfather should have seen.  Gerry’s first time pitching in his little league game.  Howie’s elaborate Hot Wheels track creations.  Lewis’ first laugh out loud joke.  My nephew’s first birthday.

A few months ago, my uncle was in town.  He’s my dad’s oldest brother.  He asked to come out and visit SenseAbility Gym, the nonprofit sensory gym we started for kids with special needs.  My uncle – all of my uncles – have been incredibly supportive since we had the idea.  I went to them for advice, support, and help and they all came through, just like they have for the past 14 years.

I watched my uncle at the gym.  He played with my boys, his grand-nephews.  He asked questions and offered suggestions.

He said he was proud of me.

A few weeks ago, my mother came to work with me at the gym.  A special educator herself, she jumped right in.  I watched her play with the kids.  Chat with the parents.  She connected with them and offered support and advice.

She said she was proud of me.

I am so honored and lucky that they are there with me.

But as I watched them both my anger was bubbling up inside. Not at them, of course. But at what should have been.

My dad was supposed to be here to see this. This gym came about because of the values and skills that he taught me.  Making the world a better place from the ground up.  Connecting and communicating with and within the community.  Standing up for what you believe in even when no one else has done it before.  And all the while remaining present for your children, your spouse, and your family.

It was not supposed to be this way.  This is not how the story goes.

In the last few minutes of this father’s day, I cry.  I’m missing the conversations, the laughter.  His voice.

Time is not healing these wounds.  In fact, it’s making them hurt more.

It’s a tale of two Father’s Days for me.

The joy of watching my kids say “Happy Father’s Day!” to their dad.

The pain of not being able to say that to my own.

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Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick,
And think of you
Caught up in circles confusion -
Is nothing new
Flashback – warm nights -
Almost left behind
Suitcases of memories,
Time after -

Sometimes you picture me -
I’m walking too far ahead
You’re calling to me, I can’t hear
What you’ve said -
Then you say – go slow -
I fall behind -
The second hand unwinds

If you’re lost you can look – and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you – I’ll be waiting
Time after time” – Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper

(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

Today I saw dad over the small flat square at our house in the sky telling me we are all going to be okay…you will always be his child… forever we are his special people.” – my sister after a trip out to the the house where we grew up.

From time to time, people will ask me to pray for them.  Or their child.  Or a loved one.

I always say that I will.

And I do.

But I pray to something – someone – different than most people do.

When I ask for help, or guidance, or good thoughts…I talk to my dad.

Growing up, we weren’t very religious.  We were raised Jewish but never belonged to a temple.  My father and my aunt were our religious teachers, holding family Hebrew school classes in our backyard or around the dining room table.  My father thought it was important that all three of his kids have a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, but he was the one to preside over them, not a rabbi.  We read sections from the Torah as well as portions of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech.  He practiced with us in the evenings and while we played outside.  He was very sick with pancreatic cancer when my sister turned thirteen, yet he still insisted on not only going forward with her Bat Mitzvah but presiding over it.  We set up a tent in the backyard, invited  family and friends, and celebrated her special moment.

The concept of God came up quite a bit while growing up, of course.  I believed there was a higher power because I loved the idea of it all. My father was clearly agnostic.  We would have constant debates about the subject, as I would say there was no way for him to know there wasn’t one and he would reply with “How do you know the frog in the pond doesn’t control the universe?”  The conversation never had an end, of course, but it spoke to the very core of his views on religion.  He loved the history and traditions and family connections of Judaism yet was skeptical of the idea of God and blind faith.

I believed in faith and fate and the beauty of the idea that someone was guiding my hand.

I still do.

But now I believe that the someone guiding my hand is my dad.

His light comes to me in amazing places. as my sister said, the warmth that comes during a time of severe pain, and I know that he is there.

And now, when I am at a loss as to how to help my boys, I look out the window and talk to him.

It is my father that I ask to give me the strength to get through the moments that leave me on the sobbing on the floor of the shower.

And when we make it through those moments, it is him that I thank for helping me through.

I asked for his guidance when marrying Tim.

The rainbow that appeared during a snow flurry at my wedding showed me he was there.

The rainbow appeared just after this…right above the sheep…

I watch the relationships grow between Tim and our boys.  I watch him teach our kids about politics and car engines and life.

Robots with Dad

It is a scene so familiar and so lovingly honest and true.  My boys adore their dad and rely on him to feed their love of learning and life.

I pray every night for my family.  I pray that we will stay healthy and strong and continue to love one another in the best way that we can.

I still believe in God.  But I turn to my dad when I pray.

I am so very grateful to have someone I know answering my prayers.

Happy Father’s Day to my husband who every day does more than 30% times three.

And Happy Father’s Day to my dad who I still miss very much…thirteen Father’s Days later.

You gotta talk to the one who loves you
Talk to the one who understands
Talk to the one who gave you
All the light in your eyes
All the light in your eyes

Yeah, thank you, thank you
Yeah, everything great and small
Yeah, thank you, thank you
For the light in your eyes” – Light In Your Eyes by Sheryl Crow

Sometimes, words do speak louder than actions.

Last month, my husband was away on his annual business trip.  I know that we’re lucky that he doesn’t travel that often, but when he does, it takes its toll quickly.  On me and the boys.

It was Tuesday evening – the third night into his trip.  It had been a long difficult day up to this point.  I was clearly at the end of my rope with the boys, and them with me.  The “good night” phone call was hastily arranged across two time zones, with an attempt to fit it in between bedtime for the kids and dinner time for Tim.

Howie got on the phone first and I put it on speakerphone.  His ability to communicate on the phone is a relatively new phenomenon, but he was excited to talk to Daddy that night.

They chatted a bit about Howie’s day at school (a tough one) and then the conversation turned to Hot Wheels, or more specifically, my inability to create a decent Hot Wheels track.

“Dad!”, he said with pain in his voice.  “Dad!  When are you coming home?  I just really really miss you!”

My eyes welled up with tears.  There was a brief silence on the other end of the phone.  Across 2000 miles, Tim and I were processing the same thing at the same time.  This was the first unprompted expression of affection for his dad.  Ever.

I’m the one who is usually on the receiving end of what’s perceived as affection : the hugs, the desperate searches through the house when I’m in the shower, the person he demands in the middle of the night.

But his dad is the one who connects with him on the “important” things.  The one who lets him help fix the broken shower pipe and takes him on a tour of the basement to follow the path of the water.  The one who hands him the screwdriver as they replace the burnt out bulb in the brake light of my van.  The one who works with him to create the most elaborate and most awesome of Hot Wheels tracks.

But until this point, he had never been able to verbalize it.

Tim and I talked about it later that night.  We were both still a little shell shocked.

“I guess absence makes the heart grow fonder?” Tim said.

Something like that.

**********

They say that women tend to marry their fathers.  On paper, it would look like the complete opposite for me.  However, I married a man who puts his family first above all else.  A guy who understands what it means to be a dad, whether it’s playing ball in the yard or reading a bedtime story or…crawling around on the floor racing Hot Wheels cars.  That was my dad too.  Exactly.

Happy Father’s Day to my amazing husband and to all the fathers out there who go above and beyond for their kids.

Happy Father’s Day to the fathers-to-be…and the fathers-that-should-be.  You deserve to feel the joy of watching your children grow before your eyes.

And Happy Father’s Day to my dad, who I miss more with every passing day.  Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

“I learned from you that I do not crumble
I learned that strength is somethin’ you choose
All of the reasons to keep on believin’
There’s no question, that’s a lesson, I learned from you

I do not crumble
I learned that strength is somethin’ you choose
All of the reasons to keep on believin’
There’s no question, that’s a lesson, I learned from you

I learned from you.” – I Learned From You by Miley Cyrus

(a tribute to my dad and my husband for Father’s Day.  While the song title might not fit perfectly, I remember listening to this in my father’s Volvo as he drove us to school)

Dear Dad-

It’s now eleven Father’s Days without you. Some days it feels like you were just here, and some days it feels like you’ve been gone for decades.

I don’t know why it’s taken me all these years to actually sit down and tell you about what I’ve done since you left us.  Maybe I just wasn’t ready.  Maybe in some ways I wondered if you were disappointed that I didn’t run for re-election after completing your term as state representative.   I knew stepping into your shoes then was the right thing to do since it was what you wanted.  But when the time came to run again, it wasn’t right for me anymore.  It wasn’t my life – it was yours – and I had to start my own life, discover who I am, and start my own family.

So let me tell you about this amazing family of mine:

Our oldest son is Gerry, and yes we named him after you.  He actually looks a lot like you, and has my (and your) dimples.  He’s incredibly smart, curious, kind, and thoughtful.  He has already developed a commitment to community and social justice in such a way that it can only be genetic.  Kids want to be his friend, and parents want their kids to be friends with him.  Oh, and he loves baseball.  He’s small and quick and is well suited to play second base or shortstop, just like you.  I think you would be impressed with his skills on the field, and his love of learning off the field.

Howie is our middle little guy.  He has huge brown eyes that light up when he’s excited, and they sparkle when he laughs.  He’s loving and full of energy. I could call him our “spirited” one, but I’m not sure that’s an appropriate characterization.  There’s always been something about him, even as a baby.  He was a late talker and walker and had a difficult time adjusting to, well, life.  He was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and sensory processing disorder at age 3 1/2.  Hearing that there’s something a little different about your kid wasn’t easy, but in many ways it was a relief.  So many of his behaviors were finally explained, and it helped to know that there was a neurological reason behind his issues.   I’m lucky to have grown up in a house with you and Mom where you taught understanding and tolerance of different learning styles and abilities.  It doesn’t make the days less challenging, but it gives me the strength to get through the hardest moments.  I know you would be impressed by his knowledge of Hot Wheels cars and his fiercely strong connection to the people he loves and trusts.

Lewis is our baby, although he’s quickly approaching Howie in weight, height and strength.  He has an incredible belly laugh and these terrific curls.  He clearly takes after our side of the family in his love of food and table manners – there’s rarely a meal when I am not picking something off of his shirt or out of his hair (but of course, the same can be said of me).  While he isn’t talking as much as we’d like at this point, he loves music and sings and dances along with everything from “Old McDonald” to “Golddigger”. He’s incredibly curious  and has already developed a great sense of humor.  I think you’d be impressed by his comedic timing, and he’d have you “eye-squishing” with his silly faces and games.

And then of course, there’s my husband Tim.  I will be forever thankful that you met him before you got sick, and I’m so glad that he had a chance to know you.  When Tim and I married 9 years ago, it was a sense of comfort to me that he understood me and and how important my family was.  Over these years he has become an amazing life partner, and an even more incredible father.  His bond with Gerry goes deep – they enjoy the same love of science and thirst for knowledge, and every evening in the spring they are out in the yard having a catch.  With Howie, he shows patience in situations when I can’t and has gone the extra mile to learn whatever he can about ASD so he (and I) can be a better parent.  He has looked for ways to connect with Howie and  have bonded over a love of cars. And he has some strong connection with Lewis : Tim is in charge of his bedtime – reading stories, singing songs, and got him to sleep in his crib earlier than any of our other kids ever had.  There’s is no doubt that you would have been impressed by his commitment to his kids and to me.  While you probably would have disagreed on almost everything else, this dedication to his family would have been your common ground.

So while I had to step out of your shadow in the world of politics, you can see that I really did follow in your footsteps.  I have created an incredible family, and am raising my children to be good to each other and the world around them.  I have learned through necessity to be fierce advocates for them – as you were for us.  My experience with Howie’s issues have taught me to be the voice for those who can’t speak, just as you were in your public political life.  Where that might lead me in the future, I don’t know.  But I do know that I have an incredible path set out for me to follow, thanks to you.

Happy Father’s Day to my amazing husband and all the other fathers, fathers-to-be and fathers-that-should-be.

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.
” – Father and Son by Cat Stevens

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