Tag Archives: family

When Everything Goes Awry

Until recently this blog was all about my life as a dad in a Catholic household with a beautiful wife and two young kids (and an ill-tempered terrier).  As the need arises, and as my life wends on the path of inexorability, I also write about other things such as politics and the current crisis in the Church as they are places intersected by the life I lead.  In these instances it seems, rather, that God has steered the life I attempt to live into the paths of several oncoming trains that either inhabit that world (to my chagrin) or that I encountered (and that I disembarked) decades ago.

Confused?  Yeah, me too.  Stick with me.

Basically, tonight I just want to write about my life tonight.  It’s not glamorous but it’s mine and I kind of like it.  And to those of you who have started following because of the other recent topics I ask that you read this too and let me know if you like it.  And I thank you for your patronage.

Many of you know that I currently work full-time as a medical courier.  It’s what I’m doing at the moment.  After leaving the seminary I had a brief career as a television producer.  Then I entered the world of teaching and thought that would be my life.  I didn’t choose teaching, rather it chose me as they say.  After fighting it for a couple of years I gave up and realized that I 1) was good at it and 2) liked it.  A lot.  It was always about the kids.  They were wonderful and I was blessed to be part of their lives.  Then I moved into school administration.  Unfortunately right out of the gate I encountered a toxic work environment and, never having quit a job in my life, resigned that position.  God, in His providence, provided a job for me where I never had even a day-long gap in my employment.

I enjoy doing this but I know it’s not long-term.  And the devil (he’s real, you know) gets to me every now and then.  He’s constantly reminding me of my insecurities.  I look around and see all my friends successful, happy, and making lots of money.  Me?  Well one out of three ain’t bad.  See, the devil knows I want success and who couldn’t be happy being able to say he earns a good salary?  I have to keep reminding myself that I chose this career path by my actions and that God will again provide a path.  Right now I can’t decide if I should return to teaching, go after administration again, or try to make a go with a job in writing or marketing.  When I think about it I have a solid skillset.  I just haven’t had to look for work outside of a classroom in so long that I don’t know quite what I’m doing.  It’s humbling to admit that but I can do it.  I’d love to know that I could find something easily and walk into a job making at least what I was making as a teaching (which, believe it or not, wasn’t that bad).  Time will tell if I end up a mental case or land that job.  Prayers are always appreciated.

But here’s what happened in my current job tonight…

I typically work on-call from 4PM until midnight.  This makes it hard to spend time with the kids but I make every sacrifice I can.  It also makes it hard to visit much with my wife but I try.  It does afford me plenty of time to pray – the rosary and/or a series of Memorare’s and litany of the saints are a common theme in my car.  Actually the past few months have been quiet in this field.  Today, however, the DFW area was slammed with torrential rains.  When your job involves tendering and recovering sensitive medical parcels from a major airport, rain can spell disaster.  Lightning threats close the “ramp” which means nothing moves and you get stuck waiting in the cargo facility for hours.  Packages get left by the airline crews in puddles requiring repackaging and more dry ice which means extra travel and time.

Around 9PM tonight I got a call that a package needed to be recovered, opened, and photographed.  There was a question about how much dry ice was on hand.  This meant waiting for a termination letter to be faxed to the cargo office.  And that took over an hour.  To give you an idea how the weather affected everyone’s day, at one point in my night at cargo one of the workers slammed down his phone and shouted “Dammit, they lost that dog we were looking for!”  They ship animals, you know, and the animals take priority over just about anything else.  Then he added “It’s a service dog!”

Think about that.

They lost a service dog.

I immediately doubled over in laughter along with the other five people in the building.  Losing a service dog means that said service dog had to have been forcibly separated from his master who, presumably, needed his assistance to board the plane.  Also, service animals are allowed by law to fly in the cabin, not the hold.  Somebody screwed up big time.  And how did the passenger deplane?  Perhaps some other passenger lent him a therapy peacock to guide the way.

The other thing that really shot my night to hell was the realization that I would not be able to work out tonight.  As mentioned, most nights have been slow lately.  I’ve taken to scheduling my time at the gym around 9PM.  I work out with a buddy of mine.  Weightlifting has really become a passion of mine and I’m making incredibly progress.  I benched 190 the other night and not just a max rep but three sets of 6-8.  I’m impressed even if no one else is.  It’s become such a thing for me that I get pissed when my gym time gets scuttled.

As I was moping to myself about not lifting I glanced down at the scale where packages get weighed and got an idea.

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That’s right, there, right on the side of the scale were two 30 lb. weights used to calibrate the scale.  Didn’t take me long before I was using them as kettlebells.  A few sets completed and I jumped in whole hog.  By the time I was on the floor doing sets of push-ups the cargo manager instructed me to stop because it was late and I was making them feel “lazy” and “gross”.  OK, so not a complete workout but anything is better than nothing.  Good thing I didn’t bust out the jumprope.  And I guess that’s something I can be thankful for during this time of uncertainty; and that is that I’ve finally gotten myself in the kind of shape I’ve always wanted to be in.  It’s taken time but I’m pleased with my results.  And I’m happy to be enjoying good health right now.  So, praised be to God, right?

As I drove home from the airport at 11:30 thinking of all these things and wondering what the next step for me will be I remembered to say a few more prayers.  Can’t hurt, right?  And I ask each of you reading this to say one or two for me as well.  In the meantime I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing – being a dad in a Catholic household with a beautiful wife, two young kids, and an ill-tempered terrier.  And I will be loving it all.

*I’ve got a few more McCarrick/seminary stories left to post.  Stay tuned and as always…

Pray for the Church.

And please continue to read and to share my blog.  I don’t get paid to write but it is gratifying to know that people think enough of my work to recommend it to a friend.

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Econ 102

A tip? OK. Don’t swim in shark infested waters. Dad humor 1 – Confused daughter 0

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Econ 101

Today’s lesson: the fungibility of money.

A Little Challenge between Friends

Last Friday evening, while looking through my Facebook feed, I took a call from my nephew.  He had gotten me into rideshare driving a few months ago.  In the course of our conversation it became obvious that we would both be heading out to do a little “driving” that night.  Not sure why I put quotes around that word since we would, in fact, be driving vehicles.  Anyway, there’s this thing between he and I.  It exists because we’re guys.  It exists because we’re family.  It also exists because apparently we’re competitive and didn’t realize it.

“Wanna’ make a friendly wager?” he asked.

“I’m not making any bets,” I said, “but it would be fun to see who could earn more on the night.”

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Nephew, drink with me… to RIDESHARE!

We agreed to certain parameters.  He’s an hour ahead on the East Coast, I live closer to a major airport.  These factors and many others kind of evened us out on the starting scoreboard.  We agreed to a two hour window since neither of us really wanted to be out driving on a Friday night.  We laughed about how we’d both much rather be at home with our wives but that they had ditched us with other plans.  In his case, his young bride went out with friends.  For me, my darling wife took out kids to a talent show.  There was only one more word of encouragement from my nephew.

“You kind of need to hang up the phone so we can get started…”

Right…

I hit the road.  Or perhaps the road hit me.  Man what a bizarre night.  First up:

Curry Catfish and the Quarter-mile Crawl

Alliteration is so amusing.  I promise I’ll stop now.  My first call was to an Indian restaurant for a food delivery.  Perhaps I’m showing my racist lack of tolerance and sensitivity here but perhaps it wasn’t exactly Indian.  It was some kind of South Asian.  I can’t tell you with certainty.  My employer won’t offer South Asian sensitivity training until 2018.  I walked into the restaurant to discover a white board with the specials written on it.  “Brain Masala,” it read.  I know I didn’t read that wrong.  And there’s pretty much nothing else that could be.  After waiting ten whole minutes I snatched the food order out of Hop Sing’s hands (I promise you that was his name) and hit the “begin” button.  Do you know that the lazy sonofabitch who ordered this nasty food that was going to smell up my car for the rest of the night lived across the street?  I really just kind of took my time delivering that one.  “Oh, I can only turn right out of the parking lot and then I have to go around the whole big block?…  What a shame.”  This brought me to my second ride and:

No Lines, No Waiting

The second ride was boring.  Let’s skip them.  As I dropped them off I discovered that I was not only near the entrance to the airport but that the airport queue looked small.  My plan was to drive into the airport, park in the rideshare staging area, and grab a smoke before being pinged.  I never had that chance.  The queue went from 55 cars down to 1 in the time it took me to go through the toll plaza.  I literally got a call as I was about to drive past the terminal where the passenger was waiting.  No surge but it was certainly efficient.  And she was going downtown so it wasn’t a terrible fare either.  Shows what you get for planning out a smoke break.  And since one airport was good to me, why not try:

Feeling the LOVE at the Other Airport

I totally didn’t just give away my location or anything.  Where my last passenger had me drop her was close enough that I could see the queue for the other, smaller airport on my app.  And the queue there was also dropping like the f-word at a family reunion.  What?  Must be just my family.  I pulled into that staging area.  I texted my nephew (who is an awesome guy, by the way, and I just wanted to state that here).  Sent him a picture of my earnings thus far and the fact that I was waiting at an airport with an active surge.  Unfortunately, my surge went away three cars before I was called but that’s OK.  If I hadn’t waited I wouldn’t have met the greatest passenger of all time.

Before I put my car in gear to drive to the terminal I got a text in a warm tone instructing me how to locate him.  The text described the logo on his hat and the fact that he was a big dude with a big red beard.  “This is going to be fun,” I thought.  Truthfully I can always tell before I collect them who’s going to be college-drunk and likely to vomit in my car (which has not happened yet, thank God) and who’s going to be respectable-drunk like he just came off a flight and he’s nervous about the take-off cycle because he’s watched too many air disaster shows and who are you to judge me!!?

This guy…  Dave.  Yes it’s his real name but what of it?  You don’t know him. and lot’s of men have that name.  Before I had left the airport and started out on a 25 mile ride (love those airport trips) Dave had told me about his flight, his reason for travel, and his job.  The flight from the state capitol an hour south was fine.  He taught the passenger next to him how to play blackjack.  She was connecting on to Vegas.  He was in town to visit his dad and his sister.  I believe his mom and dad are divorced.  It’s sad really.  He caught her cheating when Dave was 11.  It was an ugly mess.  Keep in mind we had not hit a traffic light yet and this is a small airport.  All the while I’m nodding my head and saying things like “Yeah, I completely understand.  Isn’t that just the way?”

His job?  This deserves its own paragraph.  Our friend is a military biologist.  I thought he was joking or I had misheard him.  I was waiting for him to tell me that he was responsible for putting Jaime Sommers together after that freak accident.  In reality, he told me enough about viruses and other biology-y stuff that I knew he was serious.  I asked what he loved about his job.  Why not?  He had already discovered I was a teacher.  They always ask what I do for my “real job” and I tell them.  He told me “It’s so cool but we’re working on a new treatment for burn victims!”  I just about fell out of my skin.  This sounded awesome.  I have known burn victims and it is among the most painful and horrifying things to undergo (being a burn victim, not simply knowing them).  Not wanting to sound too forward but hoping he could divulge some information I spoke up.

“Is it a pill, or something topical, or…”

“Nah,” said drunk Dave.

“It’s a fuc*ing laser!”

“A what now?” I retorted.  “A laser!  Isn’t that so cool?”  “Well, Dave,” I rejoined, “Isn’t it always the thing you totally don’t expect?  I mean, someone’s skin just got crisped worse than good bacon and to cure them…  let’s burn them some more with a laser.”

“DUUUDDDDD,” he said.  I was really thinking he would hurl at this point but he took a deep breath instead.

“DDEEEEEEEE, I’m gonna’ be famous for this.  I mean we still gotta’ get FDA approval which we might not get but you know what?  F the FDA, right?  What do they know?  Look at all the workout supplements out there.  They’re not FDA approved.”

“I know, Dave, I know all too well,” I said looking down at my pathetic arms.

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I removed Identifying stuff (town names, company name, etc.).  I win.

A laser?  Man, that just made my night.  I got young Dave safely to his single dad’s house in suburbia, even made sure he stumbled up the right steps before driving away.  I think he had it.  The guy who answered looked just like him but older.  Then I thought of my dad and wondered if he’d get a kick out of any of these stories.  He’d probably ask why I’m doing this in the first place.

Then I thought of the burn victims of the world who are likely to be incinerated by the Dave-zer® sometime in the near future.  Man, that’s gonna’ be fun to watch.

Oh, I beat the nephew by $4 but I really think I won in so many other ways this night.  Now is where I bury something for a particular reader.  A while back I shared my referral code with a friend.  He admits to having driven somewhere around 19 times.  If you’re reading this, buddy, take the 20th ride, for me, please?  There’s a cash bonus for me when you do.  You want me to be able to write more laser-curry-catfish-airport stories, don’t you?

Thought so.

Another Anniversary

Two days ago we celebrated the 35th anniversary of my twin sister’s passing.  I say we “celebrated” yet I did little more than treat myself to a few hundred extra calories.  But that’s part of a new bulking diet and I’ll write more on that in another post.  Those calories, by the way, came from sprouted grain wheat bread, natural peanut butter, and hard boiled eggs; not exactly a trip to the Dairy Queen.  In years past I actually celebrated the day with more festivity.  We’d go out to dinner at least.  But times are different and after shelling out quite a bit to cover travel expenses for Dad’s funeral, a low-key remembrance is fitting.

me dad smoking

Like father, like son. Harvey’s old man in the late 1950’s (age 21?) and Harvey in 2009 (aged 31) Dad switched to a pipe not long after.  I guess that’s one way to be more like him.

Today was the anniversary of my brother’s passing.  That would be my older brother Owen who was six when he died as a result of the same house fire that claimed my sister.  There’s one more in two days and I’ll cover him then.

Imagine, if you will, what that week was like for our family.  Put aside for the moment the absolute tragedy and shock of losing your home and all your worldly possessions in the middle of the night (not to mention the trauma of how it went down).  Now imagine you’re a relatively young couple with an enormous family.  My parents were in their early 40’s.  For Dad it must have been hell.  Before the fire’s even out your wife is lying critically injured from a jump out the second floor window, your children are being loaded into ambulances to be dispersed to multiple hospitals in the area, your house is gone, it’s cold, there’s snow on the ground, you’re in your boxers because that’s what you went to bed in.  And you’ve just realized that your four year-old daughter is dead.

If ever there was a case for daily mass, this moment proves to me where the man got his strength.

Two days later with your wife and many of your children still in hospitals being treated for broken bones from being tossed into the snow from the second floor porch and while you’re planning a funeral for your child, your six year-old son succumbs to the smoke inhalation.

As with my twin, I have no memories of my brother.  Years later I did use his middle name for my son (and to honor the pope).  Yet, he is the brother I always wished I’d gotten to spend more time with.  He was the next closest sibling to me in age (after my twin).  Thinking of all this three and a half decades later I’m completely in awe of my father.  When my kids get sick I freak out.  I can’t imagine losing either of them, let alone both.

Do you know what Dad did?

He planned a double funeral.

These are my first conscious memories.  Standing in the funeral home I remember the thousands of people who came, and to the church for the mass.  I remember it was Catholic Schools Week and the principal of the parish grade school halted whatever activities were scheduled.  Close to 700 children in perfect uniform in the church with us.  I remember a procession of priests that, to me, seemed to go on forever.  The Benedictine abbot from my father’s alma mater, I think, was there.  I’m sure one of my siblings will correct me if he wasn’t but I remember seeing a mitre.  Coincidentally, I think this is where my love of Catholic schools was truly formed and to this day it is my life’s work.  I remember things like the drive to the cemetery with a line of cars stretching well past where I could see.  And I remember feeling like this was huge, like my life was completely different now.  And I remember gray skies, light snow, and cold.  And from their grave I could see the Twin Towers and I was a twin and that was cool.

He never talked much about it.  It’s a wonder the stress of that week didn’t kill him outright.  The thing is that he was a man.  He was an honest to goodness, genuine man; without swagger, without false machismo – the kind of man we used to hear about and read about and see in Frank Capra films.  He wasn’t soulless, he wasn’t a robot.  He cried.  But he knew and lived his faith.  These two were safe and supremely happy.  The rest of us needed love, protection, and support.  Who had time to wallow, though that wallowing was more than deserved.  The fact that he lived another 35 years is a testament to his faith.

And I’ve realized I need to be more like him.  I need to return to mass every single day without exception.  I need to provide more for my family.  I need to show my children what true strength is.  From my dad I learned that it involves a healthy dose of having a lot of fun with your kids.

There’s a reason for that.  Dad used to say (especially in the last few years):

“Some men invest in their retirement plans.  I invested in children.”

Well, I started out talking about my brother’s anniversary and wound up talking about Dad.  Please forgive me for these posts of late.  I certainly don’t intend to be morbid or to depress anyone.  I walked into a friend’s classroom the other morning before school started and he was crying.  “Why’d you do that?” he asked, almost angrily.  Turns out he was reading my last post about my sister.  “Do you enjoy making me cry?”  Sidenote: if I told you he’s also the trainer-friend I’ve mentioned before then you can imagine it was a kind of payback for the tears I’ve shed that I’ll never be in his shape.  But I never want to make people cry.  “Some men can move heavy weights around,” I said.  “I guess I can move words?”

Truly I am celebrating the beautiful lives of the people in my family and I do rejoice for them.  I’m also realizing so much more now that he’s gone how very special a man my father is.  And I’m seeing now so acutely just how much I’ve wanted to be like him.  And for now I’ll stop writing.

The Other Half of Me

I couldn’t let this day go by without pausing to wish someone very close to me a happy anniversary.

35 years ago today, my twin sister went home to heaven.  Although I have no real memories of our short time on earth together, the bond between twins is very powerful and I know she has been with me in spirit all this time.

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One of the few pictures of me and Teresa.

Now she has a long-expected visitor with her.  I imagine the moment Dad breathed his last and his soul entered the heart of his Creator that the first thing he did was to behold the face of his little girl.  What joy that must have been for both of them!  She, along with my three brothers, have waited patiently for him in a place where there is no time nor space.  They welcomed him home as if no time had passed.  I imagine whatever the spiritual, body-less equivalent of a young, vigorous Daddy running toward his children and wrapping his arms around them is; he did it.  He had faith all these years on earth that he would be with them again.  It’s strange to me that all of these things happened around the same, dark, cold time of year.  The five of them now have anniversaries within weeks of each other.  That’s nice in a way.  We on earth can saunter through their remembrance of their lives all at once.

Thinking back on this particular day I remember the last time I saw Dad.   When I leaned in to give him a kiss and say good bye I whispered “Tell her I said hello.”

I know he did.  And I know that joyous reunion is going to go on in heaven for as long as eternity will allow.

And I am happy for them.

The Card in the Spray

One year ago almost to the day I posted a picture.  It was an image of a beautiful arrangement of red roses and baby’s breath with exquisite ribbon intertwining throughout.  It was a floral spray that sat atop my brother’s casket.  The flowers were placed there by my mom and dad.  They had just lost their oldest son at the age of 51 to pancreatic cancer.

The words on that card were almost unimportant compared to the realization that no parents should ever have to write such a card.  And yet, he was the not the first child they had buried.

Remarkable people, Mom and Dad.  Strong, faithful, resilient.

Last Friday night I stood in the same room of the same funeral parlor.  I looked upon the man in the casket and he looked so much like my brother.  Peacefully reposing was the body of my beloved father.  DNA’s a funny thing.  Last year when my brother died and Dad, already 79 years-old, I think he knew it was OK to grieve a bit.  You see, the first time they lost children, three of them, we had had a house fire in the middle of the night.  Mom’s injuries were severe enough that she could not attend wakes and funerals.  And Dad, well he was marvelous but he had to return to work, hold the family together, and help us move forward.  He couldn’t grieve then.  He was 46.  This time he could experience the terrible pain he could not give into then.

It came as a shock to no one when the slowing down of his life and the “letting go” seemed to hasten.  It was time.  He knew where he was going and he wanted to go there.  Listen, the man was a daily mass-goer.  By my estimation he received Holy Communion somewhere in the neighborhood of 27,000 times in his life.  He fought the good fight, ran the race extremely well, and left a legacy of Wisdom, who is always vindicated by her children.

Turning toward the same casket spray I had seen the year before I stooped over to read this card.  Different man, different message.

We expect that spouses will die and leave one behind.  What she wrote, though, summed up the man perfectly.  a “man with true convictions, undying faith,” and one who “provided our family with love”.

The signature?  I don’t ever remember a time when my father didn’t refer to my mother as his “child bride”.

Forgive me for posting so many times about this.  Daddy (that’s what I always called him except when I was calling him by his first name, Dick) was a man among boys.  People simply don’t live the kind of life he lived anymore.  But that didn’t stop him from insisting that his children try.  He took care of us.  He loved us.  He loved my mom – she was everything to him.  He loved playing with his grandkids who were the joy of his old age.  I had moved away about ten years ago.  My children didn’t know the joy of that special relationship and spending time with their grandfather.  The best I can do is to try feebly to be like him so they can see who he was.  But I was doing what he taught me to do.  I was trying to teach the faith and provide a loving home for my wife and children.

It’s only been a week.  Trust me, I’ll have much more to post about him.  For the moment, though, look at that card again.  I mentioned this to a close friend.  Showed him the picture.  He’s a younger guy, mid-20’s, married a few year – long enough to know the value of sacrifice but not long enough to see its fruits.  Then I asked him this question.

Wouldn’t you die to know that your wife could say that of you when you die and truly mean it?

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Mom and Dad at my wedding. Dad always made good choices.  The best was asking Mom to marry him.