Saturday, February 28, 2009

Stephen King Couldn't Write This

Writing fiction is controlling all the characters in a made-up world where obstacles are met, and hopefully overcome. It is an exercise in imagining situations and working your way through them with all of the flaws of the human existence thrown in for good measure.

I've always found that writing fiction is actually an exercise that leaves me feeling exhausted, but thrilled to have taken the ride. Reading fiction is somehow just as freeing and I've done that since I learned how to comprehend what I was looking at. I've read everything from Steinbeck to Stephen King and back again. As luck might have it, I'm reading Stephen King right now - Duma Key - one that slid by me a couple of years back.

As I've read this one, I thought about the fact that King had suffered a horrible accident back a couple of years when he was hit by a car, whose driver was supposedly trying to restrain a dog. I can remember thinking that even he couldn't think up such story, but somewhere along the line it occurred to me that the idea that truth is stranger than fiction is actually dead-on.

There have been times in the last five weeks when I've felt like one of the characters in something I've written, where the true emotions and horrible truths are no longer hidden from view. I've watched true heroes emerge and unsettling matters arise. I've wondered about character, and faith, and misery and doubt. I've wrung my hands trying to rid myself of the petty fears and immature thoughts and all the while I've wondered why we live like we do for the majority of the time.

Yet when you are trapped within the confines of a nightmare that is too ghoulish to even consider, you find yourself tripping back to a story written long ago. A story of great suffering and misery, but one that hopefully ends in a spirit of growth.

Every fiction writer worth his weight has found a starting point, and moved his characters through to a resolution of sorts. The end of the story is established well before the beginning is even complete. The middle part is the difficult aspect of the journey as the writer tries to figure out how to get his character through the disturbing aspects of his life.

I feel like I'm smack dab in the middle.

Midway through a story that even Stephen King wouldn't try to write.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A-Rod Homered - Yippee!

Not exactly the good news I was looking for, but a homer is a homer, right. Yet I need to spout off a little bit. I see that Obama is looking for some answers on the Health Care Issue and there are critics lined up to shoot down whatever the hell he says.

Let me tell you, I slept nine days on the floor of an ICU that was equipped with just three plastic chairs. When we asked to get the room vacuumed out the maintenance lady was aghast - "I don't know where there's a vacuum."

The staffs are short...the cost of medicine obscenely high. Insurance rejects claims without conscience. We were told that there may not be a bed available. To get the care you need, you may have to jump through hoops and that's not to mention the poor people who may not be able to get health care at all because their freaking jobs are gone and insurance is priced through the roof.

I've never really believed that anger is a sign of weakness - I actually like being angry from time to time, but I'm sick of being angry about the state of the medical care in this country.

I appreciate the efforts of the nurses and doctors. I'm certainly thrilled with the idea that they will work with me to ensure that a loved one is brought back to me, but when every second of the day they need to be concerned with some dumb ass lawyer suing them, some insurance company rejecting their claim, or the state and federal government cutting their aid... how can they do what they are supposed to do?

Why in the hell can we afford a new scoreboard for Ralph Wilson Stadium while some poor slob is sleeping on the hard floor, or putting two plastic chairs together to try and get rest while waiting on the medical care of a loved one?

Ah well, get over it. A-Rod homered.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Can You Get Me Some Ice Cream?

I have an 11-year-old son. Let me tell you, he's basically incapable of handling most things on his own - Kathy still gets his clothes out for him, and he only recently began showering by himself. He's a wonderful kid in every way, but minor tasks are somehow beneath him. He asks me each night to get him some ice cream. He can retrieve the bowl, find the scoop, and reach the ice cream. He can do all of this, but he asks me to help, and usually I do.

I bring all of this up because the 11-year-old in PA. shot his father's girlfriend, and I just can't fathom it ever happening. If it were Jake involved I would have had to help him find the gun, load the gun, and pull the trigger. Which is fortunate! I don't want my children having access to guns, or even the thought that they can do such a thing.

I feel so badly for that family, and I pray for the child, but I must ask the question - should an 11-year-old have gun access? I've shot a gun once in my life. It was a .44 Magnum registered to my brother-in-law and I asked him to shoot it so that I could write about it in one of my books. When I pulled the trigger and sent a shot into the side of a hill, I nearly crapped my pants.

The sound, the kick, and the amazing power was too much for a wimp like me to handle. I can't imagine being 11 and shooting at a live human being.

Now certainly there is something wrong there. I do realize that some kids are brought up around guns and most carry a healthy respect all through their lives. Yet every once in a while a story like this takes the headline.

Not here. My kids will not carry a firearm as long as I can help it. It might mean that I have to get the ice cream until they're about 35 years old, but I'll gladly do that. I'd rather be a live wimp than a dead tough guy.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Good News??????

Every time the phone rings I cringe. The mailman hasn't seemed to bring anything but bills. My e-mails are requests for my time, and I just don't seem to have the time I used to.

The Yankees are dropping like flies in front of the congressional inquiries. A plane crashed, a chimp ate a woman's face, an 11-year-old shot his would be stepmother, the world banks crashed again, Marshawn got arrested, our hockey goalie sprained his ankle to top all of the news, all the time.

This morning I headed to the hospital and at 6 AM with the paper screaming the bad news to me, I got stuck in an elevator between the 4th and 5th floor - I was accompanied by a doctor and a nurse - both who were looking at their watches as though they'd be late.

"It's not so bad," the nurse said. "We can relax for a minute and plan our day."

I wasn't ready for the optimistic look at our predicament.

"Unless we plummet four stories to our deaths," I said.

"My God! Why would you say that?" she asked.

I laughed just so she might think I was kidding.

Twenty minutes later we were safely free and I glanced at my cell phone to see that the battery had died after charging all night. I finally looked to the sky.

"Do you have any good news for me?"

"Can't you send me a rebate check from something I bought for Christmas?"

"How about a Publisher's Clearinghouse Catalogue that says I might already be a millionaire."

Just one bit of good news, please!

Come, on, now - it's getting a bit ridiculous!

I'm just kidding - (really).

Monday, February 23, 2009

I'm Glad There's So Many People Smarter Than Me

With my brother in the hospital I'm meeting doctors and nurses and an entire staff of people who worked hard in high school and college while I was out drinking beer and causing trouble. I'm so glad those geeks were studying.

Then I went to the tax man over the weekend and he got me set up to get a refund. He's a geeky little guy, but he knows his numbers. Aren't all accountants geeky by the way?(That's a shot to Lisa). I'm so happy my taxman and yours wasn't at those frat parties where I ate the goldfish. (Lisa is smarter than me by the way).

My father once told me that 90% of the people I meet would be less intelligent than me. He may have been shooting high because I'm his son, but he finished his advice by saying - "Stay away from that other 10% until you need them for something."

This is the same man who told me that he wouldn't trust anyone who wouldn't drink with him, so you see a pattern.

Anyway, I'm just grateful for those who make me feel real stupid these days. I am also smart enough to defer to them when I need to.

I have people who work for Sterlinghouse who know more about what I want to say in my books before I do. They also choose covers better, edit like kings, and steer me on the right course. I let them do their work!

And then there's my wife - she fits in that smarter than me category as well, but I stay around her because she is able to correct a lot of the deficiencies, plus as I tell her all the time - she's a great companion for this part of the ride.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help. Over the course of the last few weeks a lot of people have been asking me if they can help.

I may be just smart enough to take a few people up on their offers.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Gravy is Good

Sunday is a great day. There's church and pasta. There are meatballs, before and after we eat. Maybe a ballgame and a long nap. What's better than that?

I recall my father making the sauce each Sunday morning. I remember standing next to him when I was about three or four and saying, "Dad we should have pasta every Sunday." He just laughed.

To steal a line from my great brother-in-law Chuck - I've had pasta every Sunday since I developed teeth. This week too. Of course, my father made the world's greatest sauce, but my mother also got real good at it. Eventually, all the kids learned how to do it right. I don't even worry about my sauce not turning out good anymore - it's always dead-on and my in-laws have done a good job of requesting a batch for every gathering since I joined their family. I don't mind, either, because I know that I'll have a fall-back plan if there is just turkey or chicken or one of those healthy types of things on the menu.

Being proficient at making sauce is difficult though because when someone else makes it, it doesn't taste right. The red sauce that people rave about in the restaurants around town - well, I wouldn't feed it to Melky. I ordered pasta one time in a restaurant in California - I swear it was just ketchup on the spaghetti.

I tell you all of this because we imported a pot of sauce from a good friend this weekend, and it was also dead-on.

As Uncle Junior said to Tony on the Soprano's -"The gravy is good today."

I just wish I didn't eat until I can't move.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

All the Beauty I Can Take

The ebbs and flows of a serious injury and a long road of recovery nearly rendered me useless on Friday. I was seriously fighting the fact that I was still fighting strong, believing that it was too long to be in crisis mode. Life is difficult when you're always on, always appreciating all that we should appreciate, and feeling there and with it. That's why Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch and Deal or No Deal are popular - people need to put their brains on low gear from time-to-time.

So, really scuffling, I returned to the hospital bedside again today, and it being Saturday, I was able to be there with a couple of siblings instead of alone for a shift. My sister Carrie and brother Jim joined me at Jeff's side. My sister Corinne and brother John were also around through the day. Yet there was a moment... a big moment.

Carrie and I stood on either side of the bed. Jeff's eyes darted back and forth as we spoke to him, and softly, Carrie touched his cheek. There was a perfect moment as Jeff seemed to lean into Carrie's touch, and my sister moved her hand and caressed his face in such a loving way that all of life seemed to absolutely stop. I no longer heard the sounds of the alarm of his IV - a sound that drove me crazy just seconds before - I no longer smelled the hospital smells - or even sensed the traffic moving by on the street below his room.

Instead, I concentrated on Carrie's soothing hand and Jeff's responsive reaction. Slowly she traced his face, touching his eyebrows, outlining his features, and smiling as she did so. Jeff was smiling along with her - I know he was- and I was slowly entranced. I thought of all of their special moments together - not my moments with Jeff, but simply Carrie's moments with her big brother. Like the time when they applied make-up to each other as kids; or the time when they cut each other's hair; or the moments when Jeff made Carrie laugh so hard that the alcoholic beverages came out of her nose - and on and on and on and on. All of these moments raced into my mind, all in a split-second.

I watched for as long as I could - and then I turned away - tears breaking through my own eyes.

"That's all the beauty I can take," I said, stealing a line from Bruce's, Living Proof.

"What's that?" Carrie asked, oblivious to the wave of emotions surging through me.

"Nothing," I choked back.

Just when I thought I was sick of being on the edge.

Just when I thought I was nearing the breaking point.

Pure and simple love sent me surging ahead.

A complete, unconditional love. All in a simple touch.

Thanks Jeff. Thanks Carrie. Thank you God for letting little old me see it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

14 Children

Can you imagine? 14 kids? How in the hell would you even remember their names? Would you have to count them every time you left the room? And changing diapers? That has to be a little like the guys who paint the Golden Gate Bridge - you finish it and then just start over.

A story broke yesterday that the woman who had 8 at once - like a Cocker Spaniel - is going to get a little financial help. They are talking thousands of dollars a month. Was that what the woman was after? Or does she sincerely believe that she has enough love for fourteen children?

I grew up in a family with five siblings - we are all as tight as hell - but man, there were moments. I can't imagine how the dinner table is going to look for those 14 in about ten years. We had a classic dinner where Corinne and John got into an argument and Corinne tossed a fork that stuck in the corner of John's eye. No damage, but man he was shocked. And who can forget the mashed potato war between my mother and brothers? It would have gotten ugly if there were, oh, eight more kids running around.

I wish the woman well, I really do, but I must question her sanity, her mother's sanity, and the sanity of the doctors who set up the pregnancy. And how in the hell is she ever going to get married now? Can you imagine a blind date where she tells her new beau that she has children?

"Oh, I love children," he'd say. "What do you have a boy and a girl?"
"Yes, a boy and a girl and seven more girls and five more boys," she'd answer. "Don't ask me their names though because I have no freaking idea."

That man would be the hell out faster than Flash.

I have three children - when someone asks me what grades they're in, I have to really stop and think. I spent half the school year believing that Matt went to East when he is really enrolled at West. I also firmly believed he was only in the 9th grade instead of 10th.

Add 11 more kids to my day and I'd be like the narrator in the Bruce song - Hungry Heart - Got a wife and kids in Buffalo, Jack. I went out for a ride and I never went back.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Love Bites

Man, I'm pretty sure that the way I want to go doesn't have anything to do with having my face ripped off by a 200-pound Internet surfing, wine-drinking chimp who happens to be hopped-up on Xanax.

When reading the particulars of that story it certainly occurs to me that you can take an animal out of the jungle, but that doing so is absolutely risky business. Look at that poor bastard who was attacked by the Lion in the Vegas show a few years back. I saw an interview with him after the attack and he said that he still loves the lion.

I was attacked by our family dog back when I was about 18-years old - it was a boxer mix that was an absolutely wonderful dog until he got hit by a car and something was knocked loose - he bit me after I had the gall to interrupt the dump he was taking in the middle of our garage. All right, maybe I had it coming to me - I'd probably be pissed if someone interrupted me in such a state -but let me tell you, that dog ripped me up. He went for my throat but I got my left arm up in time to take the seven hundred rapid fire bites on my forearm.

My mother watched the attack and tried to stop the assault by using a whiffle ball bat on his ass. The dog just kept coming until my brother John was able to distract him.

As I look down on the scars that remain, I remember all of the angst I felt when it was deemed that the dog was a danger to all of us. I had sang to that dog for crying out loud!

The media is having a field day with the chimp story. It has all the elements of sensationalistic journalism, but it has also left one critically injured person in the wake.

Animals are animals - they may only be domesticated so far. Even if your chimp likes to throw back an occasional Zinfandel, you better keep close watch or you're liable to regret it.

Making Lemonade

If God gives you lemons...then make some lemonade.

I've always hated that saying. It sounds like it should be coming from the mouth of your grandmother, in a sing-song voice. Yet I woke up thinking about it today because one of my greatest friends told me that my blog has been bringing him down. He reads it to laugh and be comfortable.

As a writer, I've always felt a certain responsibility to entertain, but I haven't been feeling like much of an entertainer.

Life is lie a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get.

Good old Tom Hanks. Great movie, and a pretty profound thought, huh?

The more you think about some of those sayings, the more they ring true, right?

I've spent a lot of my adult life watching and waiting for the other shoe to drop. It's dropped on me a few times, but you know what, I'm still positive. That's right! The all-time negative thinker is positive.

What I know for sure:

The Yanks will win the World Series again before the Bills or Sabres win their league championships.

The family surrounding me will never let me down. From Kathy to the kids through my brothers, sisters and in-laws, I'm surrounded by love. What a gift.

A good friend can make you smile through the pain. I've laughed as hard as I possibly could have laughed in the last few weeks. My brothers are responsible for a lot of that, but friend after friend has come through too.

I still believe. When you live your life with a certain balance and a lot of faith, you can tackle all sorts of horrible news. I believe my brother and I will watch the Yanks together again and stand shoulder-to-shoulder at a Bruce concert.

My favorite literary line of all-time is when Tom Joad's mother tells his father that they are going to go on after Tom has to leave the family. The reason I adore the line is because she is not abandoning her faith. She's a woman made of substance with a solid straight line to God. It is what we all aspire to do, but it becomes difficult at times. There are moments when we feel as if we are just a bag being lifted in the breeze.

Stand with me - today I'm still against the wind, but I'm standing my ground. I'm making lemonade. One task at a time, one moment at a time. I'm grabbing the chocolate with the caramel in the middle.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


All right then - still not quite feeling chipper, but I'd be remiss if I didn't reflect on the story of the 12-year-old knocking up his 15-year-old girlfriend.

Alfie was explaining that there are other guys laying claim to having slept with the love of his life, but that the baby had his eyes, and anyone else having planted their flag, so to speak, is a damn liar.

The girl explained that their physical relationship started out of a deep love for one another, and an unbelievable urge to take their relationship to another level.

Are you kidding me? At 13 I didn't know what end of me was up, let alone trying to figure out what the heck was going on with the girl down the street. Taking the relationship to another level? I don't even know what the hell that means now.

They asked Alfie how he would support the child financially. He asked what financially means.

Thirteen? Deep love? Adding physical love because they had tapped out the emotional side of love?

I wasn't emotionally or mentally ready for a real relationship until about the age of 30. My wife might argue that I still haven't hit the ready mark at the age of 44.

I'm more than halfway through this life and this kid has soared by me by the time he hits 13?

And what a stud, right? I couldn't work a decent kiss unless I was deeply under the influence of tequila and beer. My college buddies can vouch for that. Life was about bouncing a ball, hitting a ball, or watching someone else play a game until I was nearly done with college.

It certainly sounds as if Alfie has found himself a real keeper too. At least three guys are in line wondering if they will win the paternity test contest - how very Jerry Springerish of her. She has a bright future, and so does that kid with Alfie's eyes.

Oh well, just when you think there are no more stories out there to tell, an Alfie comes along, or some tv monkey mauls a woman. At least it's knocking A-Rod off the front page.

Good luck, Alfie, enjoy that baby - you can simply hand your own clothes down and think of all the fun you'll have playing together.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Shut-Up Already!

I spent a lot of my work time driving today. It was a crisp, clear day with a bright sun shining in my face as I drove. I kept moving the visor to keep the sun off my face as I drove, and I thought way too much. Howard Stern was in repeats. I couldn't listen to sports radio because all they were talking about was Madonna's boyfriend, and I just didn't have the heart for Bruce today.

So I fiddled with the radio, struggled to keep my mind focused on my work, and contemplated the sadness that comes with having a family member in the ICU unit. Moment after moment, I considered how sad I felt, and considering that I'm not one to dwell on sadness, I began telling my stupid mind to shut-up and leave me alone.

When Jake was sick a wise friend of mine told me that I needed to chase all negative thoughts with a prayer, and that I needed to focus my energies in a positive manner. It's sound advice and they are words that I've taken to heart. Usually it works. Today, though, I was telling myself to shut the --- up.

Perhaps its fatigue settling in - so instead, I went to the local radio - the news station was speaking of the plane crash - too sad - so I went to the local sports - and they were talking about Marshawn Lynch, the millionaire idiot who runs with a piece of pigskin. Seems like he got in trouble again.

Finally! I had a reason to laugh! Here's a man who should be holding life by the scruff of the neck. He's a millionaire who doesn't have anything to do until August or September, and then he only works for three hours per day, 16 times a year. All he has to do the rest of the time is keep himself out of trouble and stay in shape. He couldn't do it!

Yet I couldn't revel in the news of his arrest all day long - I switched to the national news and the still spiraling economy.

Please shut-up.

And get that sun out of my face!

I'll feel better tomorrow, I promise.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Taking a Break

We took the boys to the Hunter's Hope Celebration for kids yesterday and they ran straight into Thurman Thomas and Jim Kelly. Doing so enabled me to look into what football stars can do for the psyche of a community.

While I signed books, I thought of my brother in the hospital bed, and it occurred to me that getting him a signed ball might possibly bring him a bit of pleasure when he was feeling better. So, Kathy did the ground work on getting Thurman to sign the ball, and Jill Kelly made sure that Jim put a second Hall-of-Famers name on the ball. For good measure, Jake also caught a pass from Big Jim, and signed a few copies of Counting on a Miracle to boot.

Yet the highlight of my night was when a few people stopped by to see me - including my longtime friends, Diane and Karl, and they offered a hug and some words of encouragement. A deaf, leukemia patient - who is now in remission - also stopped to say hello and give me a thumbs up on my books. She had visited with me last year and I had signed a couple of books for her.

Once more, I was reminded of how wonderful it feels to be a part of the human race from time-to-time, as well as how gracious the Kelly family is, and how important they are to this community.

When Jill Kelly lent her name to the House of Miracles book, I never believed that I had made a friend who would be there when the chips were down, but in the City of Good Neighbors, she is as neighborly as she can be.

Last year, Jeff was with me at the celebration and he wanted a signed football from Jim - I hadn't wanted to bother the man - this year, I bothered him, and it made my heart sing for a few hours.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ice On the Wings

All right, it doesn't get any lower than sitting in a hospital ICU Waiting Room, watching the coverage of a downed aircraft where there is massive loss of life. Each talking head conveying as much sympathy as possible as the horrifying moment is relived time and time again.

We are introduced to people who've suffered the loss of a loved one as they are interviewed and the pain oozes through the picture tube and falls right there into our laps. I watched the coverage with my brother, Jim, and each time that I looked to him for a reaction, he simply shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. One time I believe he said, "Can you imagine?"

We've all had that fear. The last time I flied it entered my mind that things sometimes go wrong. In that instance I was thinking of Sully and his heroic effort on the Hudson. Next time, I will consider those who lost their lives on Thursday night.

As I returned home from the hospital last night I saw a plane in the sky making its descent towards Buffalo. I considered all that we take for granted, day after day, night after endless night. Of course the plane usually lands for us. Of course we make it across the street without getting run down by a drunk driver. Routinely, we are able to travel the roads, from here to there, from somewhere to home, without incident.

Man, I'm not much into taking things for granted these days.

Recently, my sons told my sister and brother-in-law about my habit of singing to my dogs. I do it all the time, and the dogs seem to like it - I simply sing their names to them -Melky and Shadow and Shadow and Melky. Or Shadow, my shadow and Melky Cabrera

I have taken some heat about this stupid habit, and my response has always been that they are here for such a short time, and that I'm going to make sure that they are happy, and feel my love.

Stupid? I suppose - but through the last twenty or so, long trying days, I've felt such love for every single creation in my life.

Don't take anything for granted.

Something as simple as ice on the wings can take a routine day and make it a moment of horrendous tragedy.

God rest their souls.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Send in the Locusts

People have been asking me how I've been - well this photo should show you exactly how I feel. Then this morning I wake up to the news of the airplane crash just 15 miles from the house, and it occurred to me that all I need now is an infestation of locusts to complete the past month.

Why does it feel as if everything is raining down? How I would kill for an evening of watching one stupid sitcom after another until I grew tired and went to bed. How I would love to say, man, "I'm bored."

Kathy asked, "What do you have going today?"
I answered, "Heartache."

Yet I will take a three-hour break tomorrow to go to the Hunter's Hope Celebration at the Bills Fieldhouse - I've told you all a million times that it's a great event -and not just because I'll have my books there and their sales will benefit the Hunter's Hope Foundation - but also because - this year, I'm feeling as though I need to see some friendly faces and perhaps trade a few hugs.

So - come on down - and if you see locusts falling from the sky, stay clear- it's me they're after.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Beauty in the Neighborhood

There's one line of about a hundred in the Springsteen album that really hits my heart - and it's simply, The Beauty in the Neighborhood, it's in the song, "This Life" where the narrator sings of the bottom line and what is truly important. The song is so crafted that when Bruce arrives at the beauty in the neighborhood line, the listener is just looking for the punch in the gut that will get the point across.

I've lived so much life in the last two weeks, swinging on a pendulum of love and sadness, and hopefulness and despair. One minute rising in faith and determination and feeling that I will soon crash down in a world of hurt and despair.

I've returned to a normal work schedule and have put in a couple of long days where I have been forced to stand in front of large groups of people and perform. I have a reputation of being a funny bastard, so I've had to dig deep to get there. Yet I'm an attention-whore, so I've been able to pull it off.

Yet the beauty in the neighborhood in my life is in the eyes of the people who feel the pain and despair, and thrive on the good moments, and the hopeful thoughts.

Today I exchanged e-mails with another author who lives a long ways away - we met just once, but our book discussion was long and thoughtful. When I explained why I'd been out of the loop a bit, he responded by saying that as soon as he opened my e-mail, he took out his rosary and completed it in honor of my brother.

There's beauty in the neighborhood. There have been so many acts of kindness that have made my heart swell with pride, and have made this portion of the ride at least do-able.

I'd love to hug each and every one of you who have tried to lessen the burden on our family, and in due time, I will.

In the meantime, appreciate the beauty in your own neighborhood.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Patience is a Virtue...

...that I don't normally have. In this world of instant gratification, in fact, patience is something that is lost for a lot of people. We want what we want when we want it, but life doesn't always work that way.

I wish I was more patient. I actually dislike impatient people, but I'm one of them. I can remember being young, and going with my father to a bank to cash my paycheck. He was going to, reluctantly, wait in the car, as I ran in and quickly did the banking. Of course, there was one teller and about eight people in the line. The teller didn't set the world on fire either.

I remember being sick about the whole thing as I imagined my father drumming his fingers off the steering wheel, swearing at me, at the bank, at the bus driver going by, and at the sun for going down so soon. Yet I figured that I was safe as he couldn't leave the car and embarrass me by screaming in the bank lobby - except he did.

"Bah!" He yelled out. (Everyone who knows a Fazzolari knows that 'bah' is our favorite word). Everyone in the bank turned to gaze at my father and his frenetic approach. Thier eyes went to me because that's who the crazed impatient man was looking at:

"It didn't take me this long to get my fu---ing mortgage!" He yelled out.

Everyone in the line laughed, but I wanted to crawl under the floor boards.

As I wait for Jeff to heal, I am reminded of the need to remain patient. Every 15 minutes or so, for the last two weeks, I've looked to the ceiling and said, "Bah!"

I immediately follow my bah with a prayer. What's the saying? Good things come to those who wait?

I'm waiting, I'm praying, and I'm holding my breath just long enough to tell myself to breathe. Hang in there with me.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I Don't Care About A-Rod

Not one bit. I don't care if he did steroids, ate spinach, or ate hot dogs and drank his ass off like Babe Ruth. I don't care if he dates Madonna, Bella Donna, or Boy George. I don't care if it costs him a billion dollars to pay off his ex-wife, or that he sits shirtless on a park bench.

I would like to see him hit 40 homers and help bring a championship back to the Bronx, but as OJ taught me, it's not great to have millionaires who won the genetic lottery as idols of mine.

You know who my idols are?

My brothers and sisters who have given up their lives and their sanity to help my ailing brother.

The nurses and doctors who are working to help them out.

My friends who are calling, bringing cookies and brownies, and just being there to lean on.

And this isn't just a one-time, I'm in a crisis mode kind of thing. If someone were selling shirts with the name of a doctor or a neurosurgeon on them, I'd buy them and wear them as a uniform.

I have an A-Rod Yankee jersey hanging in my closet. I wear it when I see the Yanks play live. I don't pretend to idolize a man who can hit a ball with a bat.

So, if you think I'm surprised at the bad behavior, or somehow upset, don't worry about it - A-Rod can fall off the planet for all I care- just as long as the Yanks fill the four-hole with someone who hits a long home run now and again - it's an amusing distraction - nothing more, nothing less.

Go Yanks.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Saw An Old Friend Today

I grew up in a neighborhood where other kids were free to come and go as they pleased. Up and down the road in our small town, we got together for baseball games, hockey games, and dinner. Through circumstance, we all became close, and when life came charging at us, we stayed tight and vowed to be forever friends.

Not that we aren't, but a lot of days passed, since I last laid eyes on my buddy, Tom, and his sister Cherri. Unfortunately, our reunion took place in a hospital waiting room. I fully expected Tom to greet me in the manner that he did - "Man, you look like shit," he said. "And it's not just because your brother is sick."

We shook hands for a long moment - not one of those obligatory hand pumps - but one that held deep meaning and carried a world of emotions through days, weeks, months, years, and for always. "You were always an ugly bastard," I answered.

We didn't spend much time on the Glory Days - a couple of stories mixed in with questions about Jeff. We caught up by discussing our kids, our lives, and the long days on the hospital floor. I had a moment where the sound of his voice rang in my head and brought me back in time to days where life was simple, but we made it complicated. We had shared our first crushes, our first beers, our first set of dreams about where we wanted to be when 'we grew up'.

And being grown, there was little time for regret. Through the years we had usually ended our conversations with thoughts of getting together soon - we didn't do that today. We didn't discuss how good it was too see each other - that would have been difficult in examining the circumstances of why we were sharing the same turf after so many years.

Instead, Tom simply shook my hand once more. "Jeff will be fine in time," he said. "God will take care of you guys. I spend a lot of time telling my kids about you and your family. It's strange that I started my life surrounded by you guys, but it was great to be around all of you. It made my life better knowing all the Fuzzy's - as crazy as you are."

My mind is fatigued, my body is threatening a rebellion, but an old friend drifted in and blew a little grace back into the window I've left open to allow for such things.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Stripped Down

The week gone past feels like it lasted about two years, but during the course of the week, I considered the statement that at every disaster scene there is a piece of heaven there.

We were all reminded of this during 9/11 as we considered the courage of the men and women who went into a burning building. On a personal level, I was reminded of this all week long, through the calm reassuring voices of friends who called or visited, or just stuttered through an 'I'm sorry.' The Face of God shined bright in my life this week through friends of Jeff who visited with brownies (thank-you Andrea - I had four), or brought salt-filled snacks (pepperoni is always a winner John) and just sat with us, talking, commiserating and filling us with hope.

And yet, life moved on without us - Obama had a few candidates withdrawn, the bail-out fight rages on, more people lost their jobs, Michael Phelps turned out to be a better swimmer than role model, and the Steelers won again.

I hardly noticed because I was stripped down to handle the crisis that threatened my brother, but you know what? A funny thing happened on the road to sadness; I was buoyed by the loving actions of those around me. I felt extremely blessed to be in these clothes at this time in my life.

A kiss from my wife meant a whole lot more, and the touch of my kids as we watched television or played a game was even more special than it already is. I felt encouraged by my chance to head off to work, even with so much else swimming in my veins. I appreciated every second of the precious sleep I got.

I didn't blame God for the shit hand dealt to my brother and our family. I didn't question whether or not it was a lesson for me to learn. I didn't spin in a circle looking for something to blame. It happened, let's go forward with love in our hearts and peace on our minds.

Life is better when it's stripped down for all of us to see. Watching my brother battle strengthens my spirit because for all of the years of his life and every second he's walked this earth, I have done nothing but love him as much as I've loved another person. And love does conquer all, if you are perceptive enough to let it fill your heart.

The days have been long. The nights have been longer, but there is a calm beneath the storm, and that calm is borne of what is right there in my heart, and in the hearts of all of those who've shared my time on this planet.

Life is stripped down to the bare minimum right now, but there's one hell of a view on what is truly essential.

Kiss someone close to you today. Do it right after reading this, and appreciate it for what it is.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Polishing a Turd

From time to time I've used this blog to say that life can be a shit sandwich - well, recently we have been left to polish a turd as the expression goes - and we are working hard at doing so. My brother brought about $50 worth of donuts to the nursing staff at the hospital - in a situation where it is easy to get frustrated with those that are helping you - he just wanted to say thanks.

Jeff told the nurses that I'm a writer - so I brought a couple of books in to the nurse who was attending him at night - "It's hard to put the book down" the nurse told me - "Well, you better put it down," I said - "He needs you in there." She laughed - "I only read when he's sleeping."

I'm blessed with a family that really can bring it to lighten the mood - my brother had a field day with my inability to blow up an air mattress and documented it for all to see in the journal we are keeping for Jeff to write down our thoughts.

Yet - facing forward - assessing the situation and cleaning up the mess. There will be tense moments and tough decisions, but in the end we will prevail - kind of sounds like Obama's trek to fix the economoy, huh? So far we are getting the better of the deal.

Yet it is a day at a time and one foot in front of the other.

By the way, Bruce's album is a masterpiece yet again - and I need to see the Super Bowl appearance again, but he did just fine as usual.

The fog is lifting, but the enthusiasm for life is still forced.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What Love Can Do

I titled a blog with this a few weeks back...not sure what I was thinking, but the magic and power of love is certainly not lost on me.

In the middle of the night last night, I looked into my brother's eyes and begged him to remain calm and just rest. For a long second, he protested with his eyes, but all at once, he resigned himself to the situation at hand. "You just need rest," I whispered, "and it will work out."

Jeff still looked skeptical, but then those eyes dissolved into the purest look of love, sadness, resignation, and hope. It was a long look where we just locked on and held it right there. "Have I ever steered you wrong?" I asked.

"Couple of times," he whispered, and I laughed. He's not yet up to smiling, but I know he was.

"So, eyes closed and rest," I said.

He waved at me with all of the fingers on his left hand, closed his eyes, and the look was out of my line of vision, but will never, ever leave my mind.

Men and women have been singing about love for millions of years - I've always sang along - now I'll sing it with a look in my heart.

My daily requests are for you to love the one's around you, and keep us in your prayers.

I have a feeling I'll be my witty, sarcastic self again in no time - the world has been getting off easy with my blogging shut-down, but I'm saving some of my rants.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Thank You

Thank you to all who have called to ask about Jeff. Just know that he's battling hard and holding his own in this fight. He's awake from time-to-time and knew Bruce was on last night.

He gave me a whispered Bruuuuuceand a woo-hoo during Glory Days. When I told him Bruce had done good - his whispered, "He did real good."

Thank you to those who continue to keep him first and foremost in your prayers - those prayers are working - God is up there saying 'Who's this Jeff Fuzzy?' - Let's continue to let him know!

Thank you for the calls - if we don't get back to you - it's not that we don't love you, but that it's hard to verbalize. Thank you for the Internet, Al Gore, the updates are easy because you can't hear the sadness.

Thank you for each moment that passes that centers him on the path to healing. Not quite where we want to be, but still taking those steps to clear the tress.

Thank you.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Waiting on a Sunny Day

The sun was bright today in the sky - I noticed it at about 3 PM. Actually, I first noticed a ray of sunlight at 3 AM and again at 6 AM when I had animated exchanges with Jeff.

There's plenty of work left to do, but I did notice the sun.

There is so much darkness to wade through for those few bright moments of sunshine, but I am reminded of the need to do the wading with my heart in the right place, and my mind centered on what needs to be done.

I will see Bruce at the Bowl. That will certainly give me 12 minutes of respite, and I will be watching because I know Jeff is going to want to know how our brother in music handled the big spotlight.

Yet as the sun breaks through a little bit, and God shows us the treasures in His box of life, I know in my heart that the miracle I'm counting on is right there for the taking.

Today it feels as though I've grabbed it from the dark.

Keep praying for Jeff.

The light is shining on him. Help us keep it centered right there.


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