Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why Are Those Flys Circling Your Head?

Got on a plane this morning and listened to four or five people sneeze - thought of the swine flu every time and about how easy it would be to spread from person to person.

Though back to sitting at the birthday party on Sunday - after eating a half-pound of pasta and taking a couple of basketball shots with a still sore toe - heard my niece saying that the mosquito's were following me as though I were a ---- swine.

Can it be that in this day and age that we can contract such a disease or is it all an idea of over-eager imaginations?

If it were up to my wife we'd all be wearing dust masks to ward off the disease, but I am clearly on the other side of the ledger.

I feel as if it is all a scare tactic caused by imaginations that are too quick to respond to the Chicken Little Syndrome of living in this day by day, over exaggerated media driven, bullshit world.

Then again.... I have been conditioned to understand that the sky can fall and that all of your worst fears may certainly become reality.

I type this with an ache in the heart, a swollen toe, and a bruised ego that tells me that everything I ever understood is a huge pile of manure.

Can the world be tore asunder by a flu developed by a swine?

You bet your hog-like ass it can.

Monday, April 27, 2009

What Does This Button Do?

There are going to be a lot of firsts in this grief period - and yesterday was the first birthday party. My niece Andrea was celebrating her birthday and we all got together at John and Dana's for pasta and cake.

It was a beautiful day in nearly every single way. The young kids were shooting hoops and with supervision, fishing tadpoles out of the pond. The food was good, the sun was shining, the drinks were cold, and Jeff's kids were running around, enjoying the day.

Since Jeff's death my brothers and I have taken turns at being there for our niece and nephews - it's been a joy and my heart actually aches for them when they are not around. Rocco, who is nearly three, is always excited to see me, jumping in my arms, just wanting me to hold him. No problem there.

Rocco also likes to pull up my shirt and poke at my belly button, asking me each time, "What does this button do?"

I tell him that it blows up cities, and when he presses it I yell out, "Oh no, there goes Cleveland. There goes Detroit."

Yesterday we were playing the game and he stopped for a moment and looked me in the eye. Out of the clear blue he said, "My Dad died."

It was all I could do to hold him, but with my mother battling back her tears, I said, "That's okay, buddy, because he really lived too."

Ten seconds later, Rocco was blowing up another city.

Twenty-four hours later, my heart continues to ache, but as God as my witness, Rocco will know how much life his father lived.

We celebrated a little while longer. The hugs were more pronounced, and the jokes were told in a light spirit. Before I got in my car to leave I turned back around to watch the kids shooting hoops, and to watch Rocco, Farrah and Johnny head back into the party area.

I glanced up - feeling the promise I made to my brother deep in my heart.

Thank You for Being a Friend

When I was in college my priorities were a tad screwed up. I learned not to schedule Friday morning classes because there was quarter draft nights at Antler's and with 5 bucks Fluffy, Rosie and I could paint the town red.

I also learned not to schedule classes between 10 AM and 11 AM - any day because Benson and the Golden Girls were on. We'd gather around the television, a tad hungover and watch the madcap adventures of the Lieutenant Governor, and four old broads who were always trying to get a little something. I defy you to watch either show and not laugh a little.

Recently I was flipping around the dial and saw Bea Arthur's face and hoped it was the Golden Girls - I started watching and Jake walked in - "Dude, what're you watching?" he asked.

"Golden Girls, it's funny," I said. (I was a little embarrassed).
"Dad, Grandma watches this show."
"So, it's good," I answered.
"Toughen up, Nancy," Jake said and ran from the room.

I must admit that I switched the channel, but of course, I was saddened to hear that Bea Arthur died - I'm hoping that TV Land runs a marathon when I'm out of town in the hotel room and can just watch it half hour after half hour.

That Betty White just slays me.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Power of Prayer

I woke up this morning at first light because the birds were singing so joyfully outside my window. I listened to one particularly annoying bastard for a long time as my heart and mind got ready for the new day.

Before I even knew what I was doing, I was part of the way through an Our Father and then a Hail Mary. The nuns instilled a need to pray that had been reinforced over and over as I grew to become an adult. We say a prayer together as a family each night too, so I imagine that I have probably developed a lifelong habit in my children.

Yet today, as has been happening since, oh say early March, I cut the prayer short. Midway through the Hail Mary, I stopped. And that bastard bird kept singing. My human-hindered mind stopped me short because the question behind my still closed eyes was "What the hell good am I doing?"

And I considered each and every statement of love that was popping into my partially closed mind. All of the statements made by the nuns came rushing back in a tidal wave of voices from the past.

We should Thank God for the day we've been given. We should pray for the souls of the departed. We should pray for peace. We should pray for our loved ones. We should pray that it doesn't rain on the days we've scheduled a party - hell put a rosary in the bushes. We should pray that our words to one another are uttered in peace with how God wants us to live.

And I thought of my Mom - one of the most faithful people on the planet - who shortly after the funeral said - "I pray for each of you, by name (Not a short order), every night before I go to sleep - and now it just makes me sad."

I know exactly what she means.

And another buddy of mine, who has been by my side since we were four years old (whether we lived in the same place or not) who explained that I was currently stuck in the Footprints card and Jesus has been carrying me through the pain.

Well, is it still all right that I don't feel like getting down yet?

Also, Jeff's voice just popped into my head too - "Jesus is carrying you? Does he have a crane?"

I don't know. I finished the Hail Mary and maybe that's a start. A return to church yet? Not sure. Let's see what happens to my mind as I shower.

Isn't that singing bird just wonderful?


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Call Me Oprah!

During the recently lost writing career, I often dreamed that Oprah would choose Counting on a Miracle or House of Miracles to highlight on her show. If she reads the blog, know that both books are worthy.

Yet lately none of the silly illusions have worked to distract me from the turmoil of day-to-day life. It's funny, but the hopes and dreams of yesterday ring somewhat hollow these days. It's almost like why make plans?

Now of course, I know that the above-mentioned feelings have been nurtured by the events of the past few months, but the transparency of life is evident when the essential elements are exposed.

So what would happen if Oprah called now? It would no longer be about selling so many books that I wouldn't be able to walk down the street without being recognized -not that such a scenario ever appealed to me.

It wouldn't be about having so much money that I could just retire and get a nap each day (which is still my lifelong goal).

Instead it would be about telling the story of a hospital, my sons illness and recovery, and the story of my life as broken down in chapters of happiness and resounding sadness.

I suppose Oprah's call would be greeted with a lot less enthusiasm these days, but you know what, it should come soon - Rivera gives up a game-tying hr last night, the gout is still there, I'm afraid to even eat, I'm sleeping like crap, the Sabres missed the playoffs, and the Bills are going to blow the draft again.

I never needed a famous talk show host more than I need her now.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Definition of an Idiot

When I was eating seafood again, on the 2nd night, after already experiencing symptoms of the gout, my wife watched me and then very casually mentioned to my kids that I was the very definition of an idiot.

Turns out, she was sooooooooo right. How I rue that 2nd day of seafood.

Yet it also got me thinking about the definition of an idiot. I suppose that it truly is someone who does something time and again expecting a different result.

Kind of like going into Iraq twice without an exit plan.

Kind of like getting back behind the wheel to drive after you've been drinking and have already experienced the thrill of a DWI.

Kind of like root, root, rooting for the home team when you know they don't spend enough money to really compete.

Kind of like re-electing people to the senate, term after term after term when you know they've never done anything.

Kind of like believing that there won't be new taxes and the guy speaking on election-day eve is really for the working man.

Kind of like believing that the dog won't eat the slice of pizza you left sitting on the edge of the counter, even though she did it yesterday.

Kind of like walking on the newly cleaned floor with dirty shoes and wondering why your wife is yelling at you again.

Kind of like sitting in the sun without sunscreen believing that you'll tan evenly - bronze-god like. (You should see me peeling).

Kind of like eating two huge seafood dinners, expecting that it won't have any effect on you. (Gotta' go - time to put my cherry-red toe to bed).

The very definition of an idiot - perfect - look kids - watch him limp away.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

So This is How I'm Supposed to Eat?

I started my day with a bowl of bran cereal - it sucked. I ate it quickly, a half-hour after waking, because I'm told I should.

At lunch - nothing but fruit - cherries actually because they are supposed to be good for the gout - they sucked too. Whoever said life is a bowl of cherries never had to eat them and drink the juice because his big toe was throbbing.

At night, I ate the same thing I've had three nights in a row - pasta, garlic, onion, and broccoli. Actually yesterday I had it with peas, and the night before with spinach. I have not had a single piece of meat since Saturday.

All of this in an effort to get rid of the pain in my foot. A couple of posts back a man contacted me - he had written a book about living with the pain of gout - God Bless him - I'm going to have to read that. It must have really driven him crazy to write a book about it, huh?

Yet today also started with my car battery dead again. I must have made a hell of a scene this morning for the neighbors as I limped away from the car, shaking my fists to the heaven and yelling: "DOES EVERY SINGLE DAY HAVE TO F---ING SUCK!"

Yet here I sit in the evening - the Yanks just won on a walk-off home run. The Advil has taken the edge off and the wife, kids, and dogs were happy to see me.

Deep breath time.

Zucchini sounds about right as my vegetable with the pasta tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spare Parts and Broken Hearts...

...keeps the world turning.

Through the years I've watched others suffer losses of epic proportions and it would always consume me as I wondered how they suffered through life carrying a broken heart along with them.

Now I know: Not very well.

There are moments when the sadness just overwhelms you - and times when you simply shake your head and wonder why it went down like it went down. There are days when you don't feel like doing much at all, but you forge ahead, determined not to be whipped by life.

Sometimes you wear the sadness like a veil - it feels like the heavy clouds are pressing down on your head - and still you try and endure.

When it happens like this, the best advice I have is to take it one moment at a time - one task after another until the day is done. Life isn't designed to be lived in such a manner, but live it you must.

And still, there will be moments - innocent moments that rip at your heart as you do the usual things - like seeing the old e-mail address in front of you, and mentally figuring that you can probably delete the address so that it doesn't sneak up on you, but powerless to do so because you just can't face not looking at it.

And that 9 o'clock phone call each day... I now hate the nine o'clock hour.

Yet life is still here for the taking, and drifting down, down, down into some sort of mindless abyss clearly isn't an option.

So, with the gout still destroying my ability to do my usual apelike walk, I move ahead - one step at a time.

Has It Really Been Ten Years?

The Columbine massacre happened ten years ago yesterday. The multiple murders by rampaging troubled teens was going to change the way we lived our lives, wasn't it? The nation was shocked by the violence, and vowed that it would never happen again.

We've had three similiar massacres in the past month, haven't we? Certainly it wasn't a high school and there weren't kids involved this year, but what about the Virginia Tech massacre?

As usually happens on the anniversary of such a horrible atrocity, we are forced to relive it all. Yesterday the circumstances were spelled out again - Hitler's Birthday, Trench Coat Mafia - didn't their parents notice that something was awry? Were there warning signals to the school administrators?

Going into schools these days there are metal detectors and security guards on duty. All doors are locked, as they should be, and parents are forced to hold their breath when they put their kids on the bus in the morning. Have we learned anything? I remember that the biggest scare when I was in school was when one of the idiots put a cherry bomb in one of the toilets.

Not anymore.

I supposed we have learned a little about living in a society that certainly has elements of a 3rd world country, but all the anniversary did for me was make me sad again.

To those students and staff members who lost their lives that day (Can you name even a single victim) - I'd liked to say the world has changed because of the tragic event, but has it?

Are we in position to ever stop it from happening again?

Monday, April 20, 2009

How Am I?

I felt like flipping off Mickey Mouse, so that should show you the general mood. I woke this morning feeling energized - ready to go back to work. First step onto the floor was oh so painful as the gout is ripping me up. No matter - I would tough it out - I put on my shoe and toughed it out for the kids to see. I hit the driveway and almost ducked my head low enough to not make contact with the roof of my car as I bent down to start the car prior to letting the dogs out - the pain in my toe was forgotten as I smacked my head.

"Watch your coconut," my nephew would have said.

With a throbbing coconut, I turned the key and quickly noted that my battery was dead. I had to have the car battery jumped and my wife pulled up close and we got the job done. Still undaunted, I told her thanks for the jump, smiled and left.

The first job I visited had a scaffold six tier high and I straightened my back and climbed the ladder.

"Why you limping?" the foreman asked.
"Because someone has a voodoo doll with my name on it," I said.

So, I flipped off Mickey - wouldn't you?

You can take 2009 and shove it straight up the opposite end of the coconut.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Finding Nemo

At Disney World we all decided to visit the Finding Nemo ride. Kathy was trumpeting the cuteness of the ride, and I was happy to get into the small boat so that I didn't have to walk for a few minutes.

We took the ride through the underground cave as a narrator told us the story of how Nemo got lost, was chased by a big shark, and then thankfully arrived at the happy conclusion.

We stepped off the ride and Sam turned to his older brothers - "Oh Thank God that worked out," he said. "I was sooooooo scared when Nemo got lost. I was heartbroken, really. I was thinking, 'My God, I hope Nemo gets back safely.'"

Jake and Sam were laughing along. It was just Sam's way of poking fun at Kathy because she had put us on a ride that they considered a little lame.

"There were tears running down my face when I realized that Nemo was lost!" Sam said. "Over and over, I prayed that Nemo would be found, and then when I saw that shark, Oh, God, I can't even begin to tell you what that was doing to me! I nearly lost it. I was crying, 'Poor Nemo, poor Nemo, please make it back, pleeeeease, Nemo."

At this point, Jake and Matt, and I were laughing so hard that we couldn't stand anymore, but Sam continued.

"And then it was like a miracle," Sam said. "Nemo found his way home! He did it! I started crying again, but now they were tears of joy. I was soooooo happy. I thought, 'Way to go Nemo! You did it'"

"All right," Kathy said, "I get it, it was a little babyish for you."

"No, Mom. I'm telling you that I never felt better. Imagine! Nemo was lost and then he was found. It looked bad for him and then Presto! he was safe. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed that ride!"

For the rest of the trip, every time the conversation turned to the trip to Disney World, Sam began a variation of his satisfaction with the Finding Nemo ride. As we drove for an hour towards the airport, he recapped the ride declaring that when Nemo was found - "It was the greatest moment of my life."

I glanced at Kathy as Sam recapped it again. The belly laugh was shaking my body and from the corner of my eye, I saw the same joy in my wife's face.

We had done what we had set out to do - with a lot of help from the boys - we had provided them with a few moments to carry with them for the rest of their days.

And Thank God Nemo was all right.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Miracles, Miracles & Miracles -The Wall at Epcot/A Brilliant Family/Wonderful Sunrise

Let's Get Our Heads Shaved

Twenty something years ago I visited Florida with my bro - he insisted we shave our heads before we left and despite the fact that I'd just started my first professional job, I did it.

I shaved my head this week too - knowing that it was funny enough to do it again. There seems to be a striking difference between me in the two photos. Some people age well, right?

Not me.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Gout

I love seafood - all of it - and so do my boys. So, on a day where it was raining a bit and we were beat from walking Epcot, I loaded up - lobster tails, scallops, crab, clams, and shrimp - I cooked it all with a little help from a dirty martini - thanks Carrot (I got more Goose) - and just as I placed all the food on the table, I grabbed my camera, raised it to take a photo, and in my head said - "Hey Chef, what do you think of that spread?"

The Stevie Wonder song ended as the camera raised - and no shit - before I snapped the photo - Born to Run blasted through the speakers. I lowered the camera with tears in my eyes and Kathy said, "What?"

"Do you hear the song?" I asked.

Coincidence? That one rocked me!

So, I ate like I was going to the chair and was almost immediately blessed with the gout. I couldn't even put my foot on the floor.

We walked around Magic Kingdom for 12 hours yesterday too - I hope no one got a photo of a slightly overweight, bald guy, rubbing ice from his coke on his huge big toe.

There are leftovers - shrimp and scallops - who wants to bet it ends up in linguine today?

Gout and all. Just one more joke played on me from above.

Tramps like us...baby we were born to run.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Still Getting Burned

I don't know why I believe that my Italian-American skin can't get sunburned - twenty beers following a few bloody mary's made me brave. Today I'm like the tinman before they hit him with the oil can.

Spent the day at Epcot yesterday and actually felt a miracle. I had been on the beach with my sister, Carrie, the day before.

Yesterday, walking into Epcot with Kathy and the boys, I stopped at the wall of dedication - which is about six miles long. Sam was standing with me - I turned to him and said - "What's this all about?"

I walked to the first tiny plaque - I'll put the photo up later - that said:

"To Jeff. I Miss You. We all love you. Love Carrie."

Coincidences? There were easily ten thousand dedications on that wall - and I honestly only looked at one.

Feeling burned, but rising......

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Let me set the scene, I was sitting on a beach chair, high on a balcony, with a full moon hanging in the sky, throwing light onto the water. It was just after midnight with the promise of a new day staring me in the face. The wife and kids were tucked safely into bed, and my sister had bailed just after I opened another Heineken Light.

I thought of all the days in my life leading up to that very moment, and I concentrated on just one star shining brightly. Over and over, the waves rolled into shore - not a violent collision by any means, but a relentless force that couldn't be stopped.

And I considered life through the clouded eyes of just the perfect amount of beer, music, and family. And I realized that it was still going to go - all of this was still going to continue and that the dark days of the past few months were eventually going to fade deep into the recesses of an over-tired mind.

And I thought about Easter and rising again. I thought of having faith renewed in a mindless numbing of waves. One after another, spaced just seconds apart. The sound of the thunderous water, offsetting the trouble rising behind my eyes.

And I considered all that had gone before - Adam begot..Simon. Simon begot Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel and on and on and on to Cliff begot Jacob and Sam and Sam begot..... Relentless... All with the same fate eventually being handed down by God for a reason. Some reason, well beyond mere mortal comprehension, but continuing. On and on and on and on.

Relentless as the waves rolling to the shore.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Roman Empire

I stepped on the scale yesterday for the first time in about two years. It wasn't so bad.

In fact, I was about 10 lbs lower than I thought after stopping at my brother Jim's and eating four lobster tails, a 1/2 pound of pasta, and a little tomato and cucumber salad - (the salad is to keep my vegetable count up).

During the meal my sister Corinne said, "You know what this reminds me of?" And I answered, "What? The Roman Empire?"

Yet all in all, a good day that ended with me on the scale wondering how bad it was? And like I say, I was pleasantly surprised.

Not high school weight -I graduated high school at 135.

Not college weight - I ended my freshman year at 196 - which prompted my mother to say - "Are you the guy who ate my son?"

Not even first few years of marriage weight - hey, she married me anyway.

Yet, not morbidly obese yet either. I mentioned the weight to my brother and brother-in-law, and they were okay with it too - hell they were shoveling it in right beside me.

Yet we all talked of losing twenty or so pounds - which is actually really, really funny when a group of six has just inhaled 28 lobster tails at a sitting.

We also tipped a couple of Heineken Lights in honor.

All that was missing was the vomatorium.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Have a Good Friday

Whenever I think of Good Friday, I recall the Stations of the Cross played out in church when I was just a mere lad. The ceremony seemed to go on forever and I was always next to Father Weiss, never really getting the cue as to when I was supposed to stand and when I was supposed to kneel. It all seemed to be a long blur of deep-knee bends and hurried prayers.

I also think of the Good Friday morning when my brother Jim prepared breakfast for the family. We were about halfway through the steak and eggs when my mother dropped her fork and said - "Steak! It's Good Friday, you goofy bastard."

I finished my breakfast anyway. If I was going to pay for that sin with time in purgatory, I was damn sure finishing up the breakfast.

We also stayed pretty much silent around the house when noon hit. Jesus died for us sometime between noon and three, as the story goes. When I was a kid, I wondered why that took so dang long too.

I've been teetering on a shaky ledge lately, with solid questions in regard to faith, hope and all that I've loved. Not sure that three hours of self-imposed silence will get me through everything dancing around in my head, but I do intend to be renewed sometime relatively soon.

In the meantime, as my father was calling out to me yesterday afternoon, "Have a Good Friday."

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I'm Not Much of An Atheist

My kids love the battles of good versus evil. In many respects it is the story of the world and almost every movie pits some form of a man in a white hat against a man in a black hat.

Last night I let the dogs out and looked straight up at the high moon and the brilliant stars twinkling in the night sky - "You suck!" I yelled as I looked up, and then the real battle of good and evil sort of struck me behind the eyes.

I remembered something that the nuns told me years ago about how God was in a fight against the evil in the world, and that man had brought sin down on their own heads by committing the original sin. The nuns explained that the blessings were handed out by God, but that evil originated elsewhere - perhaps Satan!

I always figured that the nuns were biased, but looking at the brilliant night sky, I sort of dug deep to understand that my anger was certainly misdirected. God doesn't cause pain - God can't guard against the flaws of man. God must have a grand purpose, right?

It is tempting when one is hurting to believe that there is no god watching over us. Actually, it's human nature to make that leap. But I make a lousy atheist because I don't see it. If this is it - what is the ultimate purpose? There isn't one, right? We eat, we sleep, we love, we laugh, we cry, we die, and then nothing?

That certainly doesn't make sense, even when I'm in this nonsensical frame of mind.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Rumplestillsken Sucks (Is that how that dude spells his name?)

When the kids were real young the sleep deprivation was absolutely mind-numbing. All of the joy of being a parent was nearly sucked away with the feeling that I was half-zombie, half-human. I'm back riding the same train.

Last night I Tylenol-PM'd it and turned on the blanket well before getting into bed. I settled the blankets, made sure my feet were under the sheets, read a little, and decided that this was the night when it all came together for me. I had worked hard all day, the family was wild with excitement about the upcoming vacation - I was set.

I settled in a little before ten. I looked at the clock again at 10:35. I was up and out of bed at 11. I started playing peek-a-boo with the clock, finally turning it away from me at about 11:45.

"I'm never going to freaking sleep again," I said as I hammered the pillow - and then I didn't remember going to sleep. I should have remembered it because I only slept for 45 minutes or so.

Up at 1:00, back to sleep by 2:00, up at 3:00, sleeping again by 3:30 - out of bed for the day at 5:15.

Why the hell am I telling you all this? Because it sucks and it's the only real thought I've had all day.

My thoughts for the day: Get some coffee, buy the newspaper, get a good night's sleep - visit a client, kiss the kids, feed the dogs - get some sleep, Yanks on at seven, life sucks - get some sleep, pasta for dinner, life still sucks, let the dogs out again, write some reports - get some sleep.

Write a blog? Sure - then get some sleep - wish me luck.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Can't Be Separated

A couple of years ago in a playoff game, with the Yanks season hanging in the balance, and a runner on 3rd with two outs, Hideki Matsui came to bat. My brother Jeff was never a huge fan, figuring that Matsui should have brought more power with him from Japan. Before the 1st pitch to Matsui in that clutch situation, the telephone rang and Jeff said, "Here's your boy, bet he makes an out."

I made the bet and cringed as I did so because even the best major leaguer is only successful 3 out of 10 times. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat Matusi popped it up to the catcher. Before the ball settled into the catcher's glove the phone rang again, but it wasn't Jeff calling, it was his five-year-old son, Johnny - "Matsui is a blankety-blank," Johnny said as clear as a bell.

Now the blankety-blank he mentioned was about the worst words you can imagine in the English language - I almost fell off the couch, but I heard Jeff howling in the background. When he grabbed the phone I said - "You can't teach him those words."

"He won't remember it," Jeff said.

Fast-forward to yesterday afternoon - Matsui up with two on and two out - he hit a weak grounder to short. My body did a spasm as I reached for the phone that wasn't ringing. Two hours later, I reached for the phone again, ready to make the call as Matsui's home run reached the seats.

I didn't receive or make a telephone call yesterday, but I laughed knowing that those two calls would have been made - no doubt, and that's when it occurred to me:

A thing as huge as death can't separate me and my brother.

The banter lives on. The love lives on. The conversations live on.

The physical separation hurts like hell, but he's right there - sitting beside me - and on the other end of that silent telephone line.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Opening Day

There is something special about opening day. I can certainly recall the events of at least ten of them, including listening to the radio for one in the mid-90's as I pretended to work. Thankfully, the Yanks weren't scheduled to open until 4:00 today so even with a regular workday I will be able to catch most of the game.

Of course, I'm anticipating it with a lump in my throat. I'm not quite sure how it'll work this year - I do have Sam to give updates, and perhaps some of my other Yankee buddies can jump up and send texts on the days when I can't be there to watch the game. The thing about it was that I always knew where my bro would be for the game - if he was working - I was on-duty to give updates - if I were working - he'd call anytime the score changed.

So, with all that in mind - a fellow Yankee fan called me today to give me a bit of encouragement. My long-time friend also shared feelings of grief and the best way to step around some of the shit I've been stepping in.

We talked about the inability to sleep through the night, the fact that God hadn't fully abandoned me or my family, how much beer can help on the really bad days, and why it will be all right, eventually to feel joy.

At the end of the conversation - on a dark, cold, rainy day - I felt much better about everything.

In fact, I thought of the fact that CC will be on the mound, and Big Tex has joined the lineup.

It will never be the same, but it might work.

The amusing distraction is back - just less a lot of amusement.

Thanks to my good friend for a little perspective.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Lasting Tribute

A mere two days before he got sick my brother ordered three half-sides of beef. It was an annual ritual that set me, him and our buddy Mike, up with filled to the gill freezers. The only problem each year was that someone had to go and pick up the thousand pounds of beef and distribute it to each home. This year when he called Jeff said, "I ordered it and it'll be in the first week in April which gives you enough time to set up an excuse not to help us pick it up."

I helped Mike pick it up yesterday and thought of Jeff skipping out on the task. With each bag of hamburger that I tugged into every empty space in the freezer I thought of honoring him with every bite of that meat, and don't get me wrong, we'll eat every cubed steak and piece of stew meat.

Yet it also got me thinking of honoring him each day. I'm working on the story of his life and alternating between laughing and crying. I also had Mom and Dad by for dinner last night and we shared a wonderful story written about him that appeared in the East Aurora newspaper. The story told of how he interviewed a potential employee, wearing an Afro wig throughout the entire interview. Classic Jeff and I can see him doing it without even cracking a smile.

There are hundreds of students missing him at the school where he worked as an executive chef. My mother can't go longer than three minutes without crying. My sons have asked me a lot of questions, knowing that their Dad and a lot of others lost their best friend. Sam said last night, "You did everything with Uncle Jeff - playing golf, making bets, watching the Yanks, listening to Bruce."

I answered him without crying - "Yeah, I really miss him."

Sam waited a long moment and then said, "I can make bets with you and watch Bruce and the Yanks, but I don't know how to golf yet."

Then he hugged me.

If time and circumstance allows me this year I would love to talk with the class of students that Jeff left at the Gow School. I'm thinking of a talk at commencement. I would do it for them, and I'd do it in a wig if they wanted, because as you see, the walking celebration that was my brother deserves each and every lasting tribute that goes his way.

Even if he did stiff Mike and I out of picking up his beef.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Today's Mass Shooting

Today we have Pittsburgh, PA. Yesterday it was Binghamton. Last week was the nursing home. Anyone noticing that the people are revolting a bit?

I don't recall a year where they have been so many rampages and the mental state of all the shooters appears to be about the same - out of a job, fighting with a former spouse, afraid that their guns are going to be taken away.

So the answer is to shoot everyone in your path? I don't quite get the reasoning.

Now you don't have a chance at another job, or another spouse, and you can bet your ass they're going to take your guns away. Of course, the shooter also shoots himself, so that about closes the book on it.

Here's an idea - you feel despondent and want to take yourself out - try not to take anyone else with you.

The main problem, of course, is that you have no idea where the next lunatic is going to strike. Nursing homes, schools, immigration centers, they are all open for business it seems.

People are afraid that Obama is going to take their guns away. I ain't getting into that argument, but I sure wish all of the above-mentioned people never owned a gun. It's hard to pull off a mass killing armed with just a baseball bat, isn't it?

Friday, April 3, 2009


We don't have anything more precious than time do we? I spend a lot of my time, running around, wishing that I had more time to do all the things I need to do. Most recently I have been considering that I need just five more minutes of time with my brother.

Yet that is time you can't get back and I suppose that with that in mind I am being more giving of my time. I no longer stop the kids when they want to tell me run-on stories about the latest wrestling matches - I vow not to cut them off - ever again. Don't know how long that vow will last because Sam can really talk.

I also want to make time to stop and see my parents - not that there was a huge problem in this regard, but a little more time talking with them is always good for my mental grind.

I do wish I had five more minutes with Jeff, but it is not a regret by any means - my brothers and sisters have always been my best friends and when it comes to my relationship with each and every one of them I don't have even a single moment of regret. I only regret that we aren't together all the time! Guess that is a regret, huh?

Speaking of time, the kids are home, the dogs need to go out, and dinner needs to get prepared. I'll enjoy every second of the coming chaos, I suppose, I don't have the time to wish any time away.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Here Comes Baseball

There's a distinct feel to the air - baseball season is almost here and sports doesn't get any better than that. Box scores, Yankee games, something always on television. My number one Yankee fan isn't shouting at botched umpire calls right along with me, but I'll bet it'll be a good year this year. It better be.

Yet the thing that makes me miss baseball so much is all of the ugly sports on television. I like betting football, it's a bit monotonous to watch, and hockey is back to like watching paint dry. My favorite part of a hockey game is watching the time tick away on a power play.

College basketball always catches my interest, but only because I'm betting on it - and I still might win - go Tar Heels.

Yet there's something about baseball. When I lived in Baltimore I went to over 40 O's games and they lost all but one. I drank beer with friends, sat in the sweltering heat and watched the pitchers throw and the hitters hit. I've always felt better about life just watching the game.

So, where do I sit now? The Yanks spent a half a billion dollars. Perfect. Just what I wanted for Christmas. Now it's almost time to sit back and get the e-mails and calls from all the Yankee haters out there.

Bring it on - I'm one short when it comes to defending the world's greatest sports franchise, but Renaldo promised to be a Yankee fan this year - so I'm going to teach him all about winning.

They open against the O's - I smell the first of about 110 wins this year (including the last game of the playoffs).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

8-Minute Mile

One of the tough days in this little journey of grief. I started the day by listening to a motivational speaker - Chad Hymus - a great speaker and perhaps an even more courageous man. He broke his neck in an accident 8 years ago and now he goes around helping people see clear as to what's important. I wasn't crying because it hadn't dawned on me as to what was important, ah hell, you know.

Then I had a Bruce lyric stuck in my head, and not an uplifting one: Well now our truth lay shattered - I stood at world's end as the dead sun rose in view. Well if any of this matters - with a kiss my friend, let me show you what love can do.

Not the best thing to have swimming in your head when you're down. The dead sun rising into view kind of sets you off, but still... to endure.

I was desperate. I decided to exercise. I went to the YMCA with thoughts of an 8-minute mile running through my head.

I won't tell you what I clocked in at, suffice to say, I'm not 18. I sat in the whirlpool and started talking with a co-worker - he asked me how old I was getting to be. "44", I said. The kid sitting next to me said, "Hey, my dad is 44."

I got out of the pool. I got dressed feeling even more down, and headed to the parking lot. The emergency vehicles were taking up a whole lane. People were gathered and gawking as they tried to revive a man who I figured was about 44.

They weren't having a lot of luck. I said a prayer for the guy, his family, his brother or sister, and headed to my car, away from the scene.

The sky was bright blue and the sun was beginning its descent. The dead sun, my friend.

I headed back to the family with one thing on my mind - let's see what love can do.

We Need to Impeach Obama

Ran into an ironworker on a job yesterday who was convinced that Obama has to go - right now!

"He's going to ruin this country," he said.

"What? Is he going to put us in a war with no end where we waste money under false pretenses?" I asked.

"I hear you. I wasn't a fan of Bush, but economically he's spending way too much money. We don't have that kind of money," he tried.

"Because all the fat cats stole it under the not-so-watchful eye of the last eight years?"

"That wasn't all Bush's fault," he said. "The socialistic approach to government put us in this bind."

Now I had heard that argument before and it is certainly what Rush is preaching, so I let it go. If there's a way to still blame this on Clinton then that's how the argument goes.

"He's been in office for two months," I said. "He's at least trying different things to spur the economy. Doesn't he deserve a chance to see it through?"

"We'll be crippled as a nation if we don't stop it now," my friend said.

"Kind of like we were in September of last year or have been since?"

"Fair point," he said. "But what about global warming - that's all a farce and they're just making everyone scared about that."

I couldn't GAF about the conversation anymore so we switched the discussion to how good-looking Sarah Palin is, how much he hated that a black man was in charge, and how I still stood a chance in the NCAA bracket.

"So that's it?" he asked. "You don't think we should start a movement to get rid of Obama?"

"Actually, you should connect that piece of iron and I should get back to the place where I can write this report," I said. "The fat cats should get back to stealing money and instead of listening to Rush or Hannity we should all switch to sports radio or listen to the new Springsteen CD."

"Ah, Springsteen!" He said. "He's a liberal too! I knew you were a liberal."

I walked away, shaking my head as I laughed it off.

Impeach Obama! Two months in!

Those damn strict conservatives gave him about 40 days longer than I thought they would.


I was ordering lunch on the road and one of the choices was a meatball sub. I wanted to eat something a little healthier than that, but I as...