Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Digging Out

Just a short post tonight. I'm feeling very tired.

For the last few days, our little city (and the bigger one across the river) have been chockablock with snow. I watched on Monday as the ambulances ran two ways down the only open road in town and plows and busses and flatbeds and tow trucks and other vehicles that you never see get stuck - get stuck. I watched and tried to stay patient and enjoy the enforced slowness that the aftermath of a blizzard can bring.

We're three days into the aftermath now and life is just beginning to pick up it's pace again. I'm seeing people walk a bit more briskly on the sidewalks and fewer folks stop to look at the shape of a strange snow drift or a fully buried car.

I'll miss this time a little - for all that I want things to get back to normal - because it reminds me that things can be different. A little change in the temperature and the barometer and we're all subjects of a different kingdom for a few days. And it's not such a bad place to reside; as long as the monarch doesn't cut the power, I'm just fine.

Have a good night.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


My car has been buried and our road has gone unplowed this week, so I've been working in the city. I'm lucky in that I have an office in the suburbs, but can sit in with my clients in Manhattan almost as often as I want. Typically this is once a week, but I've been traveling there each day since Monday.

I take something called the Path when I travel to the city. For anyone whose not familiar with New Jersey, the Path is a subway that connects Manhattan with Hoboken, Jersey City and Newark. It's relatively reliable and inexpensive ($1.75/ride) and it runs all day and all night.

There's something about that ride in and out of the city, in the lighted car, screeching and jolting along the dark track under the Hudson River. So many people crowded in together, each a stranger to the other, each with their own thoughts and cares.

They mostly try to ignore the discomfort of the trip and the presence of other people - I try too; sometimes I'm successful. But there's something also between those many people, who manage to be jostled and shaken and moved by the train and everyone around them and still manage to behave far far better than they would on any freeway above ground.

I think sometimes when I'm on that trip, surrounded by those other souls, between what I have to do and where I want to be, that time is rushing by or over in the dark beyond the windows. I feel like I'm not in a subway at all, but instead in a capsule that for a moment allows me to pass by all the lives and paths that I will never know but only be aware of as a great sweep of noise and movement beyond the little light of my life.

I'm tired I guess, and probably a little loopy - I have a tendency to fly into the sublime when I'm tired. There's a new year coming up tomorrow too, and I'm sure that's put me in a reflective mood as well - the years move faster than they used now.

But the subway is a comfort to me - as it is for many city dwellers. Because even though it's not always convenient and not always clean or even safe, it's a reliable passage between the places I need to be. And unlike the dreams that ferry me from one day to the next, I know I am not dreaming, and though I may be a stranger to those around me, I am not alone.

Good night and good luck in the new year.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


I haven't heard thunder in a snowstorm since I was a kid growing up in Boston, which tells me how much power is out there tonight. I feel sometimes, when I see the great swirl of clouds from a satellite image that some continent sized hand is stirring the atmosphere with a wooden spoon that would make the Empire State Building look like a toothpick.

How small the weather can still make me feel; small like I used to feel when my father would swing me up on his shoulders. Small and full of wonder.

I had the kids out this morning while the snow was still just a dancing of dust and the sidewalks looked as if someone had just sprinkled powdered sugar on them. Bundled up in their coats and snow pants and boots, they ran around chasing snowflakes at our local park for a good 45 minutes or so before I brought them back for a hot lunch.

I'm glad now I got them out. The rest of the day proved unbearable. And it's amazing how just a little time out in the fresh air gives them some peace. The both went to sleep without a fight after baths tonight.

I'm watching the snow mount up into great fantastic shapes like white elephants above the cars outside, half stunned at how beautiful it is, and half wondering if we'll lose power tonight - I sure hope not.

A winter storm is a wonder and a worry.

I think about what the morning will be like tomorrow. Checking email to see what the attendance policy will be at work, shoveling out the walk, watching the kids bounce off the walls, listening to see when the sun and the temperatures will begin to clear the roads down to pavement again. Best not to think of it I guess.

And sometimes I can forget tomorrow for a while. I'll look at the weather and try to feel like I'm small again. Like I'm five or eight or eleven and my only thought for the storm was whether there would be enough snow to cancel school and go sledding.

Good night.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Easy Morning

It's my first day off, a real day off with no calls from work (fingers crossed) since our vacation this summer. It's the first day I can sit with my kids here at home and really relax. No therapy visits to manage, no school to get our daughter ready for - just a day at home.

The kids are watching Go Diego Go and I'm happy to let Diego go go go as much as he wants. When it warms up a bit we'll go the park.

I also had time to put seed out front for the little gang of House Wrens that peckle for food on our block. They're popping in and out of the baskets and dishes on the ledge of our picture window.

In the old days, before the kids I mean, I would be out looking for something to do on a quiet day. Not now. I know I just have to wait a bit and something will turn up on its own. One of the kids will have an idea or someone will come to visit or we'll take a walk to the park and something will turn up.

On a busy day those little interruptions are another speed bump - today they're like house flowers peeking out from a window on a cold day.

I'll try to wrap up quickly. I've probably got about five minutes before the next event comes bouncing along like one of my kids many playground balls.

But I wanted to put a quick note out to say we're having a good day here; a good day near the end of the year and that's a very good thing to me.

Wish you all the best of the holidays and a good start to the new year. All is well.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I'm sitting here on the rug with my back against my son's small bed and he's just begun to breathe the even deep breaths of sleep. My daughter's bright voice can be heard through the door chattering away with my wife down the hall.

The world is still busy outside, but I've turned off my email and put on my slippers and put my cell phone on silent. It's time to close the shop.

Tonight we're safe.

There's no reason to believe there won't be countless more nights like tonight here in our little house with our family.

But I know, and today I was painfully reminded, that any night could be different. Today we watched while they laid my young cousin to rest. Today I held his parent's trembling hands and know that they're no different than my hands and that no hands are strong enough to make everything all right for our children all the time.

I grieve for his parents, and grandparents and the rest of the family. I know there is nothing that can make what happened right for them; There is no one who can explain why he is not here still. I think of that loss and my heart aches knowing that they cannot hold their boy again - not even for a moment.

There are no answers for this pain in this world.

I look and listen and breathe in the color and sound and freshness of my home tonight and know these moments are precious. They are more precious than any sparkling jewels the world could lay at my feet. That even when the hurly burly persistence of the world is still rapping insistently at my door demanding it's penny, these nights here with my children are irreplaceably and immeasurably more precious than any coin I have to give back to the world for our keep.

I miss you cousin. I loved you while you were here. I love my children the more because of you now. You were a blessing to everyone who shared your life.

I hope you are resting beyond all the world's troubles tonight. I hope the house you rest in, and the hands that you hold will hold you safe forever.


Monday, November 29, 2010

We lost a young cousin tonight, only fifteen, just a boy really. I'd been to ball games with him and his father. We celebrated holidays and occasions together. He was the youngest member of my wedding party.

He was a good boy. Good to his parents; good to his family; and a good friend. He was good to me.

I miss him. I wish I hadn't missed that last chance to see him a few weeks back. I won't see him again in this life.

I'm sad for his parents, for his family, for his friends. I'm sad for me.

Wherever you are tonight, I'm thinking of you. When I look up at the light of the stars, I hope you know I'm looking for you.

I miss you cousin.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I think they call it grit
Because it's all you have to grasp at
When your gasping from being
Knocked down and are too stupid
To stay down.

I think they call it grit
Because it feels like sand in motor oil
In the pit of your stomach
When you tell the big guy
To say that one more time.

I suspect I've had it from time
To time if only because it grates like a
Thin gravel layer between my bills and the
Bottom of my bank account, and rings like the little
Truth spoken to those who can hurt me.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Zen Days

I know next to nothing about Zen. I've heard a wonderful program twice on Speaking of Faith with Thich Nhat Hahn, a Vietnamese Zen master, and I've read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance once and very recently I've read Zen Shorts with my children. This is the extent of my Zen teaching.

But I'm finding for this time in my life, there's at least one practice that I understand from those small teachings to be particularly useful; to be mindful.

"Take the hand of a child," Master Hahn advices in one of his works to help understand mindfulness. I had always thought that Zen required solitude and quiet, so it was a real release to have a teacher remove this obstacle from my path - because my children are rarely quiet.

Of course, I'm paraphrasing Master Hahn liberally here (and a little out of my ignorance), but I've found this teaching so helpful in transitioning between the stresses of work and the challenges of home life that I think even my limited understanding has value.

"Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy," my children can go on and on.

At the end of a day filled with problems and conflicts, the drumming of their needs can really grate against my angst and fears for what I did not accomplish that day.

I find at these moments I have two choices: to frustrate over what I can't do or to take their hand.

"Story time!" I say when I can muster the mindfulness to make the right choice. Sometimes it takes a while of me making the wrong choice before I can do this (tonight it took 45 minutes of muttering to myself before I said it), and sometimes the right choice does not come at all, but it's always a help when I get there.

"The Fat Cat Sat on the Mat, Mr. Pine's Purple House, In the Night Kitchen," it really doesn't matter what they want to hear that night.

I put my older child on one side and the smaller one in my lap and we read. We read and I listen to the sound of their little voices asking questions, or laughing, or just feel the rise and fall of their soft, unconstrained breathing.

We read I begin to feel the rise and fall of my own breath again, and I relax my face and shoulders, and I feel like a bird or a rabbit or a bear must feel when it's safely tucked into it's nest or warren or cave. I feel like I can let the world be for a while.

We read and the rest of the night seems to take care of itself. The kids calm down, stop clinging and go to bed. I calm down and stop clinging to the things that went wrong and relax - cherry blossoms on a soft breeze when I stop worrying and attend to those little souls.

I know next to nothing about Zen. I hope to learn more some day, but in the mean time, the little I know seems to help more than a little.

Thank you Master Hahn.

Friday, November 5, 2010

View Master

We have a great toy store near us, just a few blocks away. They're a small chain, two or maybe three locations, and they really know their toys. I feel like I do in a well run independent bookstore, like all the staff has taken great care with the product selection, like they really love what they sell.

A few weeks ago I noticed an old fashioned View Master slide toy, which (in a fit of nostalgia) I bought on the spot for my kids.

To my delight, the toy was a hit - my daughter uses it almost every night.

"This is a T-Rex," she said just a few minutes ago - I'm typing here in a chair while she's winding down before bedtime.

We got some dinosaur slides to add to her small collection through Amazon today. She's been learning about the old lizards at school and she's taken an interest.

"The old boy hasn't lost any appeal," I thought to myself, remembering how transfixed I was the first time I saw a drawing of the tyrant king.

"Daddy, would a T-Rex eat our house?"

"Um," I responded, "I haven't know any T-Rex well enough to ask."

If they weren't extinct, I might feel compelled to tell her the truth, but as we're not likely to see any, I don't mind evading the question.

"Oh," she said and went back to looking.

I think I like the view master, not only because I had one too and it's a way to feel connected to what she's experiencing now, but because it's not animated and enhanced with sounds. I like it because it doesn't answer all the questions and leaves some stuff to the imagination.

"What about a brontosaurus?" she asked after clicking a few slides on.

"I don't know any dinosaurs," I said, "And I haven't seen any at the restaurant, so I don't know what they like to eat."

"Why not?" she asked - she's still working on a sense of time.

"They lived in another neighborhood," I said.

Oddly enough, this seemed to make sense to her. She looked thoughtful for a moment and then let out a little sigh and went back to looking.

I know it's nonsense. It's the kind of thing I used to dream up when I was a kid.

I also know her teacher will likely give me a few odd looks at the parent teacher conference after she repeats my spurious dinosaur lore (oh she definitely will) multiple times in class.

Someday she'll learn the truth herself too and I'll have some explaining to do. But there's something special about sharing this silly stuff with my kid. I feel like when we talk like this that the little kid that I was is still around and I know - somehow - that that little boy and my little girl are friends.

Good night.

Monday, November 1, 2010

We're a Cost

A very short post tonight about obtaining help for my son through state and local services; just an observation really.

My wife and I have divided our respective energies and specialities between working with the government and working with the insurance companies. If you've read my earlier posts, you'll know I work with the insurance agencies. I think I have the easier job.

"We're in for a fight," my wife said to me tonight.

I won't mention with who or for what. It's enough to know it's part of the process to obtain help for our son that we have to justify and justify and verify and authenticate and evaluate and you name your favorite auditing practice here - you get the idea.

I work in financial services, so I'm no stranger to auditing, but I have to say that the level of stringency for children with disabilities seems like a very high bar. Even from my seat here in the observation deck, it seems like a lot to ask of families who are already under considerable strain just to care for their kids.

"It cost me ten large," a friend of mine once told me when describing the legal bills he had to foot to get his community to stop stonewalling and offer his own son services.

"We had to move," I recall a former neighbor say to my wife when describing how she had to get service for her son.

And when I see what passes for auditing on building projects, or pension funds, or even general schooling, I wonder why families with children with special needs get hit with such a high bar.

Sometimes, I feel like the good kid in school again who gets thrown into detention for some minor infraction while the spitballs fly fast and go unchallenged. I feel like we're easy pickins' for government who can't get it right anywhere else.

In the end, I know we'll manage. I know the laws are on our side and that the intent of the laws are good. I also know that we're lucky to live in a state and a community that at least have such laws on the books - however they may be implemented.

In the end, I know we're a cost. Even though it's far, far cheaper to help my son now that it would be to do it later in life; and even though his care is far, far cheaper than the cost we pay for some perfectly healthy individual who created and sold toxic assets; I know we're a cost.

I just wish my collective state and local government officials would take some of the hurdles in our path and throw them in front of a stadium project, or a school building program, or an already cost the state multi million dollar tunnel project before they decided to cancel it.

I just wish they'd pick on someone more worthy of their mistrust.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Behind the Stars

Stars and dreams have been in my thoughts lately; sometimes waking, sometimes sleeping. There's no coherent story to tell about them, nothing with a singular event or a narrative or even a cryptic conversation, so I'm appealing to poetry to make some sense of what might otherwise be difficult to convey. To me prose and poetry are the difference between orchards and gardens; when I can't labor for the fruit, I walk among the flowers.

Behind each star may be a dream
So though dark and void may seem
The sky at night like blackened ice
Still flicker phantoms of delight.

Behind each eye may be a fire
Consuming, never ending, lost desires
Rooted in hearts like imprisoned light
Flaring vast beyond the reach of sight.

Past all lights and fires, past all dreams
Past all that sleep or waking seems
I must pass, must pass alone someday
Beyond what all reason or fancy may say.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Following the Messenger

We have a little roof deck. It's about eight by eight and sits up at eye level with many of the buildings that surround us. There's not much of a city view, but there's a fine view of the stars at night.

Sometimes, when it's been a rough day, I'll go up after supper and sit in the arm chair and look. I'll look and breathe and look, thinking much the same way that a child thinks that their parents have always been there and always will be there, that those little points of light are untouchable by harm or time. They reassure me.

And very recently, there's been one star thats become very bright in the eastern sky. The star happens to be the planet Jupiter, and when I saw it's moons through a pair of low power binoculars I was so excited, that I ordered a real first telescope.

I have to admit that I know next to nothing about astronomy. About the closest I got to studying the subject was a history of science course I took at college. We learned about the early astronomers from Aristotle to Copernicus to Tyco Brahe.

And we learned about the modern master of those who know, Galileo.

"I see a planet Daddy," my daughter said on a recent night with as much excitement as she did when she first saw fireworks, "I can see the moon."

It's amazing to me that the two of us can stand together, thousands of miles and hundreds of years from where Galileo stood and see the same moons circling Jupiter. It's kind of the same excitement that you feel when you're tuning into a short wave radio and pick up a transmission from a great, great distance.

"This must be what he saw too," I found myself saying out loud and my little girl, looking cute in her jean jacket and sherpa lined crocs, looked up at me quickly to see who I was talking about.

"Galileo," I said, and told her a little about why he's one of my heros.

I think the most remarkable things about him, was that with the mind he had, and in the time that he lived, he chose to write in the vulgar; that is, in the language of the people; that is, for those of us who could easily have been shut out - and got himself shut in (under house arrest) in the process.

But it was that very same work that got him into trouble, The Starry Messenger, that I think of when I look out at the sky. I think of Galileo setting up late into the night watching first one moon and then another and another circle Jupiter. I think of him seeing those moons circle and begin to deduce away the great imaginary cathedral walls that had until that time risen all the way to heaven. I think of him standing there just as we are standing here and I feel closer to his thought than to any great scientific mind in the ages that have passed between.

"Can I look one more time," my daughter asks, and although I'm sleepy, I say yes and let her look.

We're only looking at the near sky objects right now. I know there are more remote, and possibly more stunning things to be seen, but even if I had the equipment, I'm not sure it would be any more fun than what we're doing right now anyhow.

It's a wonder to be gazing at the same wonders that he looked at long ago. It's a wonder to be seeing the same planets that he discovered. It make me think that of all the great minds his seems to shine the brightest, not the least because he drew close enough to us to be observed.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


After working nearly forty hours non stop between yesterday and today - New York can be a rough town - just trying to get my son's weak left arm into a coat sleeve seemed like it was going to unstring me.

The little guy kept thrusting his hand down just inside of the coat or catching just his thumb on the sleeve, which forced his elbow out sharply. And the sight of him like that, like he's been winged, is too much for me; it's a reminder of all the things I'm afraid of. It went on like this for a long time; a little like trying to coax a bird that's inadvertently flown indoors back through an open door without hurting it.

But after many, many tries, we finally connected. His arm went the right way at the perfect pitch and I caught his thrust and pulled his little hand home. It felt like catching the express train after missing the local and waiting at the station for a long time.

"T'ank you Daddy," he said delightfully, and looked up at me with the sweetest most pure radiance of affection.

He repeated his thanks when he saw my weary smile, "T'ank you."

It isn't always like that, of course; sometimes I just can't get it right and I have to take a long break, call for help or just give up. But every once in a while there's a spoonful of the sweet to go with the bitter and it goes right to my heart like the warmth of brandy.

Thanks right back at you little man. Thanks a million.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Today was a day where I could see everyone one around me looking at me like I was a normally friendly dog on the verge of going into pack mode. Not good.

I can't say I don't know where a day like this comes from because they tend to happen on Sundays that follow cycles where I haven't had a non-working day for two or three weeks.

"Child. Child. Child! Child! CHILD!" I can hear myself sounding more and more like one of those unreasonable parents at the playground that is so obviously overwrought, but I find almost no way to stem my feelings.

My wife, gratefully, was having a better day, and stepped in where necessary to head me away from the cliff I'm still perfectly prepared to drive right over.

Not that the kids were much help either. Both of them were in ON mode like I haven't seen for a long time.

My boy refused to nap and clung to me like he was trying to set down roots. I love the little guy, but I've got chafe marks from where his little hands were gripping the scruff of my neck. I'm so glad he finally went to sleep.

My daughter, who to be fair is used to me having a pretty fair amount of patience, kept going at my personal space in small ways that ultimately undermined my sanity:

Me: "What happened to my wallet?"

Girl, laughing: "It's not your wallet Daddy, it's a birthday gift for my brown bear!"

Me: "Where are my keys?"

Girl, looking innocent: "I think I put them someplace."

Me, looking like Charlie brown losing his kite to the tree again: "Arrrghhhh!"

Normally, I'd have the patience and this would all be cute and delightful. Today, I'm just glad I'm married, and hoping that the other 364 days of good behavior will convince my family I'm worth enduring.

"I'm overreacting I'm sure .... tomorrow will be better ... there's always those last beers in the fridge ... the traffic will be light going to work on Columbus day ...," there's a long parade of hopes, little hopes coaxing me back.

I just feel when I'm like this more and more like the old line from the country music tune The Bug: "Sometimes you're the Louisville Slugger Baby, Sometimes you're the ball."

Oh boy! I better go to bed.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Not my City

When I wade to the bright city

The city that is closest to me

And swim the deep channeled water

Running outward to the sea.

Lights suspend and seem pristine

Floating skyward and ascending

On slender filaments unending

To the pious city of Augustine.

My city is not that saintly city

And avarice, sin and strife

Live in daily concourse amid

Both dearth and mortal delight.

Men of business, bodily men

Rise and sweat and tend

To pass beneath that which at

Once is both a means and an end.

Heaven I pray as I pass, consigned

To the concrete and earthly light

That I may return home again

And be redeemed to your truer delight.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Happy Alarm Clock

Just a short bit of good news tonight.

There's been a welcome change in my mornings recently. I wish I could say that I was sleeping later, but that's still a distant dream. My son has stopped waking up upset, and has started waking me up by calling my name.

"Daaaaddddyyyy! Daaaaadddddyyyy! DAAAAADDDDDYYYY!"

Ah! The sweet sounds of my little insistent child at 5:30 a.m. Soooo much better than the days of Whaaa and Ahhh!

He's actually happy and standing up in his crib when I arrive. After so long of waking up the other way, it's like getting a dose of setting the clocks back on a daily basis.

It doesn't seem to matter so much that I'm still sleepy when he's sitting down to a breakfast of bananas, milk and Rice Crispy's. It's just wonderful to hear him chatter and gabble away happily.

I hope this is a sign of things to come. I'm dearly looking forward to getting a solid night's sleep again. I feel like I'm coming in from a very long voyage out at sea and have just seen the first shore birds and other signs of a coast approaching.

Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Yesterday I emerged from my little cave at work feeling shaky from having a very tense discussion with a business partner that was only just south of open warfare. I was feeling pretty awful and expected the weather, which had been rainy and glum, to match my mood - I think they call that feeling the pathetic fallacy.

It turned out that the rain had lifted, and the sky was simply blooming with towering cumulonimbus clouds and sunset hues that ranged from blue to gold to copper red. It was a little like getting called to the assistant principal's office and in the midst of dreading the encounter finding out that you're parents are there to pick you up from school early. Boy, what a wonderful sight.

I climbed up onto the roof deck of the parking garage, which also fortunately happens to sit on the crest of a hill, and surveyed the miracle of those clouds and the light falling in great yellow golden shafts to strike the hills and the dells and the little lakes that I could see.

You won't hear me talking about my faith much in my writing - I consider it a private matter for most of us - but I'm pretty sure someone important was trying to get my attention.

"Don't sweat the small stuff," I thought to myself after a few deep breaths, "There are always clouds to fall back on."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Quiet House

Our house is quiet tonight and the rain is pattering softly outside. It sounds a little like a laid back un-syncopated steel drum band out there with the gentle metallic sound of water in the drainpipe and raindrops hitting the top of our steel garbage can.

The rest of the family is sleeping and Maggie the cat is curled up on the rug here beside the sofa.

I'm so used to being up at this time of night with my son, I think my body has integrated the timing into my internal clock. I'm just finding myself awake now at 1 or 2 or 3 a.m. regardless of the circumstances. This would not be so bad were it not for his new habit of getting up at 5:30 a.m. - the clock moves too quickly.

"Maybe today he'll sleep late," I think as I write this - hope springs eternal.

I'm glad tomorrow is Saturday. I'm teaching again this fall on Saturday, but it still feels like a weekend to me.

Things are changing again. I can't say exactly what's moved, or is moving, but I feel like I do when I'm in Port Authority late at night and all the busses hum dissonantly like migratory beasts around a watering hole. I think of the many far flung destinations of those busses as I pass through the wide brightly lit corridors emptied of the hustle of the daylight hours. I feel like all the destinations of the world are open to me, even though I'm just taking the 126 bus back home.

Good night.

Monday, July 26, 2010


They all bear the same return address and come in the same institutional envelopes, but I've learned to pick them out by color. The eggshell ones are informational. The ultra white ones are rejected claims. The pink ones like the color of a china piggy bank - the most rare - are reimbursement checks.

All of them together make a small mountain of paper.

I have so much correspondences from our insurance carrier, I feel like I'm having a direct impact on global warming through the defoliation required for my mailings.

You'd think that with a child with special needs, folks would cut you a break, that they'd streamline the process and reduce the paperwork. Nope. Not. No way. It's a little like a being converted from an occasional house guest to a permanent boarder - where's that rent check?

Don't get me wrong. I'm grateful to have my insurance plan. I can see very clearly from the pre-adjusted numbers what life would be like without it. Part of me says Don't complain about the size of the life raft when there are sharks in the water.

But part of me also wishes that there was another way; for me and for everyone who has to care for someone with a disability.

But I'm making my way up the mountain regardless. I pull a few more fat envelopes down and keep up with the numbers. I make a few phone calls each day and keep up with the claims. I exercise my shredder periodically and recycle my little mountain of paper.

I'm glad at least they don't vary the color of the correspondence - it's nice to know at least which ones I want to open.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Like an Old Shoe

Long ago now, I was rolling round my home town in my rusty silver Toyota pickup. I had a leaf blower and a set of steel rakes and a burlap tarp and a can of gasoline. I remember it was mid fall and the weather was very fine. I turned up a road that I can see in my minds eye, not far from my high school and a new tune came on a station I used to listen to.

The articulate guitar, it may have been a steel guitar, with it's steady leisurely beat like a firm footfall and the raspy, weary voice with a note of reluctant longing in it drew me in at once like a lighted room on a rainy night.

"That one just seems to hit all the right spots," the woman announcing the songs - don't remember her name either - said before turning to the next tune.

I missed the song's title and had to wait for days before it came on the air again. I found it, and wrote it down, and hunted through music sections until I finally found the artist. The song was Something 'Bout You and the artist was Kevin Welch.

I've kept that album for years now, and the songs are on my IPod, but I haven't seen or heard Kevin Welch on the air since. His music was like a chance companion whose friendship I made and then missed through a long parting of the ways.

Then, just as suddenly, I heard that raspy voice on the radio the other morning. I couldn't place the voice at first. He was speaking, not singing, and telling Bob Edwards a little bit about his childhood. I'm glad to say I recognized him before his name came up in the announcements - somehow it's important to me to have that spontaneous recognition, like it feels to see an old friend after a long absence.

He was promoting his album of course, but it was a pleasure to hear him again. I'm listening to him now on CD. I haven't loved an album this much at first listen for years. It feels like the best pair of shoes I ever owned and lost. I just found them again and I feel like walking.

Friday, July 16, 2010

On Our Block

At about 9 p.m., about the time my children are getting ready for bed, the little block outside our front door starts to pick up.

It's hot in New Jersey, and the day is no time to loiter around on the pavement - people move quick and get out of the heat when they get the chance.

When the darkness rolls in with it's cooler air, doors start to open and folks stroll by with no hurry on their way to parties and bars. My neighbors come out too, watering their plants, letting restless children run a little in the cool air, gathering in little impromptu knots of twos and threes to talk. It's like watching a little nocturnal ecosystem start to percolate and chatter.

I stood for a while tonight talking with my friends, letting my daughter get in a few extra episodes of Sponge Bob while I stood outside the open window and caught up on the small news.

I'm getting better at enjoying these little spaces, just putting the unpleasant tasks of the day behind me, forgetting the tough discussions, the arguments around making a living. I can stand and talk and enjoy without my thoughts jumping back and forth between what's happened and what might.

"Gotta get the second kid to bed," I said finally, making my apologies before coming back into the house.

"Okay Dave, have a good night," said one of my older neighbors, a kind, retired truck driver with arms like small tree trunks and about twice my time behind him, "Going to bed soon too."

The house is quiet now; the block is quieter too.

I've had ambitions in my life, some of them are still with me, but there are moments like these when really all I want is to come home to this little cobblestone block each night in the kind weather to where people know me.


Friday, July 2, 2010

First Bicycle

I started teaching my daughter to ride a bicycle this week, which felt a little like trying to teach a butterfly how to land on a flower - she's a natural. Within a day, she was up and balancing on her own and pedaling away from me down a wide sidewalk near our house. She's still a little uncertain, but she's gaining confidence fast.

She's been working on her cycling while I'm at work too, so when I get home in the evening, she seems to have gotten stronger without my having to coach her. Its one of those times, where I'm amazed at how quickly and unexpectedly my kids adapt to what I remember as being a challenge.

I suppose I should have seen this coming when we fitted her out for the bike.

The shop we visited set her up with a bike that I never would have thought she'd be ready for - it was a size up from what all her friends are using. She's very tall for her age, and when the seat was lowered, she was able to stand tip toe while sitting.

"Perfect," said the shop owner, smiling while he checked the fit and had her step on and off the bike, "Awesome!"

When I got over the shock of seeing how tall she'd gotten, I was pleased. The fact that she just comfortably stepped into the taller model meant she could keep that bike for a season or two. It's a fun model too - It's a bright summery green with a white basket with flowers.

She seemed pleased herself, "I like the green flames Daddy," she said pointing to the flashy sticker on the crossbar.

"Cool," the man at the shop said to my daughter, "Go choose a bell for yourself."

He brought out a step stool to help her look through three baskets of random bicycle bells while he tuned up the cycle for us to take home.

I chatted with him while she sorted through what must have been about a hundred bells with different stickers on them.

When she returned with a bell, she ran past me and handed it to the shop owner. He took one look and flashed a big smile.

"All right!" he said and took the bell and mounted it, "Great choice! Awesome!"

I waited until they'd wheeled it around before taking a look.

"Oh my," I thought looking at the little Jolly Roger skull and crossbones bell she'd chosen for herself, "I wonder what her Mom will think?"

She's growing up fast.

Monday, May 10, 2010


When the kids were quiet yesterday, I took about 20 minutes to plant some fresh flowers for my wife's mother. I bought a red geranium, six pink petunias, and a small plant with ivy like leaves and tiny yellow flowers like bitsy stars in a minute galaxy (I don't know all the plant names). It cost about 13 or 14 dollars at the local garden supply which happens to be next to a coffee shop I like.

It wasn't much in time or money and I got a hot cup of joe to boot. Nice.

When I got back, I cleared the old flowers and weeds from the planters and refreshed the soil and placed the flowers carefully in their new home with a small green trowel. I used my fingers to snuggle the roots into the new bed firmly and finished all with a sprinkle of water. It was a pleasure and live flowers make vibrant gifts.

I also feel the gardening bug coming on in me. I grew up around gardeners (my mother is a good one) and always wondered if I'd take a turn at it myself some day. I think that day may be drawing close.

Maybe it's the parent in me now that makes this activity feel more than it used to, but there's something about brightly colored annuals that feel both precious and fleeting. I feel hope and worry and amazement all at once in those bits of loose soil under my nails and in the creases of my palms. It makes my heart ache like it has for friends that I know I'll only see for a day between long absences.

As we pulled out late last night for our trip home, I looked in quick succession in the rear view mirror at my children in their car seats and then beyond the front of the car where my mother in law stood by the door and the flowers. Fleeting thoughts passed through my mind as I steered and also made sure we were safe to drive out and away.

"Too short, too too short the time," I thought, "So much happens and goes in just a few moments - so much that must be forgotten so you can focus on the next thing."

But I know I'll remember yesterday. I'll remember my wife and her mother and my children laughing. I'll remember the drive to the garden store and for coffee. I'll remember the flowers and wonder.

Good night.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


A very short note tonight.

I've been off the blog for a bit while I've been working on a book project. Not the online project - I'll be returning to that; but something that came up and has developed a life of it's own. I'm not sure how far this project will go, but right now the trail is fresh and I'm going to follow it.

As I have limited time to write, it's taken away from my blogging. I'll get online as I can and update everyone on our progress. For the present, we are all well.

Hope to post again soon. Good night.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Another Poetry Night

I'm in a very Nineteen Century poetical mood lately. Sometimes I think these are bulbs I planted a long, long time ago that - for God knows why - are waking up and growing and flowering now. I suppose you never know what will happen when you major in English literature and listen to Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion on Saturday nights.


There are eyes I've met, the clearest blue
Shuttered tight against all storms that lose
The unguarded, open, and unfiltered light
That lose the simple reflection of delight
And rest dull and hard in returning gaze
Just another stranger in a darkened maze.

And there are those I've seen, of hazel,
Brown or green that hide behind a door
And furtively peek, frightened, and unsure
Like a child punished; sad and unassured
That never trust the eyes they long to see
And as quickly out, are just as quickly to retreat.

So few, so very few that let the light of day
Filter in, or inward light of night out shine
So very few that gaze without fear or shame
A very precious few, color for color, eye to eye
Like lantern boats that glimmer on a darkened sea
That meet and pass and know and remember me.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Knocked Down

It's been a rough few days, thanks to a bad pat of butter or mushroom on my pizza Thursday. Whatever it was, by Thursday evening I was in gasping pain the like of which I can't remember, and oh so grateful for some anti nausea medicine that begins with a Z (didn't hear all that much at the time) and works miracles in minutes when given through an IV.

Oh boy, what a wonderful night that was.

It does make me glad for a few things though. If you know the little story of There Was An Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly - not what I did by the way - you'll understand the flow of my gratitude below.

There was a nice wife who stayed with me all night
And held my hand so I wouldn't die of fright.

There was a good grandmother who watched my kids
So my nice wife could stay with me all through the night
And held my hand so I wouldn't die of fright.

There were some good children who slept through the night
So their grandmother could watch them both,
So my nice wife could stay with me all through the night
And held my hand so I wouldn't die of fright.

There was a nice neighbor who came in the morning
To watch the good children who slept through the night
To relieve the good grandmother who'd watched them both,
So my nice wife could stay with me all through the night
And held my hand so I wouldn't die of fright.

There was a good hospital staff who made me better to relieve
The nice neighbor who had come in the morning
To watch the good children who slept through the night
To relieve the good grandmother who'd watched them both,
So my nice wife could stay with me all through the night
And held my hand so I wouldn't die of fright.

You get the idea ... I'm grateful.

It's hard being sick. It's nice when people rally around you though. It makes me feel proud of my family and friends.

That's all for tonight. Just thankful to be better and to have been helped when I was sick.

Good night.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Spring is here and it's sneezing and wheezing time in our house.

The pollen is out in force here in New Jersey. Every tree is blooming (which is beautiful) and the pollen is so thick it's lending a greenish yellow tint to the sunlight as it comes through the windows. I'm glad for Spring, but my throat is burning and my nose is stinging. Right now I'm waiting for the antihistamine to do it's work and make me sleepy again.

The kids are feeling it too. Both of them have runny noses and dripping like faucets. I keep telling myself that it's preferable to cold weather and snow.

It usually takes about a week for me to adjust. By then I'll be able to look at the daffodils and smile unreservedly. Their cheerful yellow faces won't look so much like a four year old with an infectious looking cold. I'll be able to feel good about the pansies and the geraniums and the dogwoods going into flower.

Just now, I'm feeling the benedryl take the sting out of some of it, which is close enough. Have a good night.

Friday, April 2, 2010

In Dreams Abide

In the velvet dark my thoughts that in the day

Like seasonal birds flit, alight and fly away

Huddle and thrum in great numbers beneath

My dreams like the great green canopy of trees

Each idea or choice or judgement delayed

Each feeling expressed or firmly restrained

Rest like travelers in the hum of a stationary train

Uncomfortable and still, awaiting a change.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Calming Down

Sometimes I look at my kids when they can't settle down and I feel all topsy turvy. Part of me just wants the day to end and I'm frustrated by the fact that these little people are still emitting enough energy to power a small city; part of me just sees a beloved little person who is full of feelings that are so new to them it's a wonder they don't burst.

And sometimes I feel like I could drop all my pretenses of adulthood and just pick up a loud toy and make a ruckus with them.

Today is one of those days and the energy is slow to come out of all of us. I feel like one of those games I had as a boy where four players release spinning tops from the corners of something that resembles a miniature boxing ring and watch to see which one will be left standing as they collide and dance with each other - right now it looks like my daughter will be the one.

When I have one of these days when everything feels new and unfamiliar to me and I feel all out of my comfort zone and just want to pig out on beer and pizza and ice cream and anything that will put the pin balls inside my head to rest, I just wonder how the kids do it - how do they handle all those rapid changes and not go bonkers.

There's no answer. I don't remember myself and my kids either don't understand the question or won't give up the secret. All I know is that I'd like a tablespoon of whatever they've got to maintain sanity tonight.

Good night.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Strength has no measure without a burden to hold,
The will has no object; a sheep lost from its fold.
The mind has no measure without a problem to solve,
The wits wander witless; each puzzle dark, unresolved.

I had no measure 'till heaven gave me to hold,
Children like stars in a black sky to behold.
Now like the winds all my strength, and mind and resolve,
I gather to hold to my purpose as the bright heavens revolve.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Half Way Better

I'm just past the middle of my cold. My head feels heavy and my thoughts are just starting to come clear again. It feels like the sky when a storm is lifting but the stars only peek out fitfully; I can see the end, but I'm still not myself.

I used to consider this part of the cold much better than the raw tingly feeling I get in the back of my nose and throat when I felt the thing coming on. It was the feeling of bad news, of the sound of the phone in the very early morning when someone has to have a serious reason to call.

But more than any physical symptoms or premonitions these days the worst part about having a cold is knowing that I can't just pull the covers up over my head and wait out the weather; I have to get up and still do.

"Daddy, when you feel better we can go to the park, right Daddy," my daughter said to me about 30 times this morning.

We were sitting in our small living room on the first floor and the rain and the wind were still pouring outside and rattling our storm door with their force. I was watching a Disney movie with her and my son. My head was a little more sore than it is now. I tried to be patient.

"Sure sweetie," I said with one hand pressed to my forehead, "sure."

"Okay Daddy," she'd said each time, and then after a brief pause asked hopefully, "Do you feel better now?"

"Arrghha!" my inner Charlie Brown was shouting, "The kite eating tree has got me again!"

Don't get me wrong. I have the sweetest kids in the world. I love them. I love spending time with them. 'Why then?' I ask myself, 'Why do their questions hurt my brain so much when I'm sick?'

I know there's no other answer than 'it just has to be that way.'

We got through the day. My wife, bless her, gave me a break for several hours so I could take an extra Tylenol and rest. We set our clocks ahead and watched the storm grow less and ventured out at the end of the day for a ride to the diner for a cup of hot soup for me and hot dogs for the kids.

The house is finally settling down. It's just as well. The daylight savings hour will make the night short and tomorrow will be work.

I hope by morning I feel me head beginning to clear. I hope when I hear the kids chatter at breakfast I'll feel more inclined to smile than to shut my eyes and hold my hands to my ears. I hope I feel better.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Weary Days

The rest of the family is sleeping. The rain is making it's steady music on our flat roof and the cloths dryer is humming to itself complacently. I've got the start of a little cold in my nose and throat and am wondering how bad it's going to be.

I'm as tired now from work as I can ever remember being when I worked with my body. I'll be asleep soon I'm sure. My head is tired - probably too tired even to dream.

I think about my grandmothers more and more these days when I'm this weary. I think of their efforts to raise their families alone; I think with wonder that they did raise their families alone. I think of the tender wariness when they watched me as a boy.

"When I was a girl the horses walked in the streets of Fall River - do you know that Davey?"

I can still hear Nana's voice telling me of her chores and her work in the shoe factories and her admiration for my fiery great aunt Emily - her sister - who knew just how to put the cat calling factory boys in their place.

"We were always together," she told me, "we never walked alone."

My grandmothers were my link to a time before my own time as a child. Now they are a link to a time that is my own past. Their memory gives me confidence that I can raise my family, that I can do what must be done - and succeed.

I've just set a cup of lemon tea to steep with some honey. I'm hoping that and a little vitamin C gummy bear (my daughter's) will help stave off this cold. I hope tomorrow I'll feel better.

But I'm sure I'll get through tomorrow sick or no - I never have to walk alone.

Good night.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Night Night

Just a very short one tonight.

My son has been doing something lately that's made the days so much easier and hopeful. It's nothing complicated and it's not one of the many milestones that we've been taught to train him for. It's not his physical development or any change in his looks. It's just this; he's letting me hold him quietly before he goes to sleep now.

From his infancy, he's fretted and twisted when we've held him for more than a minute or two. His movements have been so quick and unexpected that holding him had been like trying to hold motorized Jello. It made the nights that he wouldn't sleep more difficult and it made me sad that I couldn't give him any comfort, even simple comfort from being held.

But now, like tonight, he'll just sit in my lap with his head back on my chest and rest. His little hand sometimes pulls at the fleshy part of my forearm gently and he just sits and is content. We'll sit like this for maybe 10 minutes or so before I put him on my hip and head him up to his little crib for bed.

"Night night little man," I said tonight ... and so it was.

Nothing else is quite so wonderful as feeling the boy relax and rest. It's a gift that I could never have expected or hoped for; it's a gift I could never repay.

"Night night little man. Night night."

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Teaching Again

After a fifteen year hiatus, I've started teaching again. Early in my career, I taught both as a college level adjunct instructor and a high school teacher. At the time, I was just trying to find a way to make a living. Leaving Boston College with a Master's in English literature and little work experience, I was unsure how I would make my way in the world; I imagine there were many in my circle of friends and family who had the same thought. And so I turned to teaching and writing for my bread, which for me was like trying to make wine from immature grapes.

I struggled (which might not be a surprise for anyone who has faced 125 students a day) and after two years, I left teaching for a new career in computer programming. That change was like a shift to tobacco from cotton for me and it proved a much easier crop to grow, harvest and market. Though less satisfying, it was (and is) a good way to make my way in the world.

"But Mista Sexton...," I can hear my class still say in my mind, "Didn't you like our class ... why, Mista Sexton? Why?"

I still see their faces. For those short years, they were all very important to me. I cried over every bad day and floated on air when I made progress. It was a wrench to leave and it's felt like unfinished business for the many years since.

So now I'm teaching at a local community college again; instructing in the basics of reading and writing to older students. Maybe it's the simple passing of time that's made me more ready to ply this trade, or maybe it's the relief of knowing that my income does not depend on my success that has freed me somehow, but I'm far more confident than I remember being as a young man. I hope the students I have now will agree.

But if I really had to guess what's bringing this growth out in me now, I'd have to say it was the influence of my son. Watching him adapt and flower the way that he has; standing witness to his natural resolve and determination to fit into the world has made me less timid. It's reminded me that I am adaptable too - that I can change; even now - as a mature man.

I hand out our mid term test next Saturday. I know somehow, that after those test papers pile up quietly on my desk that day, this small shore excursion will pass the last buoy and venture out into the open waters; the sun will dip below the horizon and the stars will wheel above my little craft; and I'll be out on the open ocean again. This time I hope to make a fair journey of it. I hope to make the sea my home.

Good night.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Blue Cast

The cast that my son wore during his constraint therapy sits on a shelf now. We've kept it for periodic use in his occupational therapy. It's a royal blue color with a rough texture, fit and formed carefully to his small arm and hand. There's a hole for his thumb and three velcro straps to hold it firm.

I wasn't there this time when the occupational therapists at NYU set him up with it. I came home and found him already armed and ready for battle. He was happily clobbering his toys with loud pronounced karate chops. He was soon clobbering me with the same delight and force.

"Whack! Chop! Smash!" He sounded more like a junior member of the cast to Enter the Dragon than a boy in therapy. It was a relief to see him having some fun.

As much as I dread these sessions, it wasn't as hard for me as it was last summer when I waited in the office at NYU with my wife while they heated up the material and formed it to his arm. That initial visit reminded me of when my own broken arm had been put in a cast. It reminded me of all the adult feelings I associated with his experience: restraint, frustration, weakness. It made me feel lousy to watch that little cast go onto my baby son; I just wanted to grab the boy and run.

And I like that cast very little more now, even now, when I know how much good I've seen come from it. When I had to put it on his arm after a bath and he resisted it and twisted and cried I felt awful. When he wanted to pick something up with his arm and could only nudge it with the hard cast and looked up at me for help I hated it. When he went to rub his nose or his eyes and forgot he had the cast on and wumped himself on the forehead, I cringed. It is a lousy necessity.

But these moments of frustration are just that, moments. During his therapy, my son constantly reminded me how quickly we adapt; he reminded me how adept we can be when we're forced to work with less than all our faculties. He reminded me of the captain of a hockey team with a man down in the penalty box who somehow rallies his remaining squad to score. No matter what the obstacle, the boy just manned up to it and plowed through. I was (and am) wonderfully proud.

Just the same, I don't know quite what to do with these little relics of his constraint experience. I don't know and can't fathom what the boy will want when he's grown. It may be that he'll want to have them and know about this time in his life. I suppose I should save them against that possibility. The little cast is innocuous enough by itself and it doesn't take up much space.

But for me, each time I look at it, I feel as if it might still be trouble. I know I'll never want to find it in an old trunk or box or storage closet and confront it suddenly like the scales from a great red dragon that might suddenly call their old owner back into existence to billow smoke and snort dangerously at us again. I look at it and know that as much as it's helped us, I will never be friends with that little piece of plastic.

I'll keep it just the same. I suppose I could be wrong.

Good night.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Diamonds on Black Velvet

In my heaven I see the mischievous taxis again on Fifth Avenue
And pass the first and second and third security guards
In their rumpled blue shirts so unlike the splendid robes of angels.

"Morris, I'm here to see Morris," I'll say again in some other name and
Pass through the sealed doors that part because I've been admitted
By the perfumed hand of a cousin so unlike the palms of a trusted saint.

Here in the heart of the guarded place so very unlike heaven
The plump hands of the jeweler will withdraw bright stones again
And lay them out on black velvet so like the stars in the ink black sky.

So like the stars and the sky that I must offer to win my heaven.

Monday, February 15, 2010


My son's round of constraint therapy is complete. The little blue cast is on the shelf like a figurative notch on his belt and he's back to his normal routines and activities. Our house too is starting to rediscover it's old patterns and schedule. It feels that we've had a difficult guest for the last month who has finally left for other environs.

There's been some benefit. We all see it. Some of the improvements are visible in his therapy sessions; greater willingness to move his arm and even to grasp with his left hand. Some of the improvements are noticeable outside of those sessions; I've noticed that he'll now position his arm correctly for the sleeve opening when I put a new shirt on him.

But we're all exhausted; and foggy; and irritable. I feel like I do sometimes when I've had a lingering illness or injury and health is just starting to return. I don't want to trust the change; I still have a tendency to protect what was weak.

And although winter hasn't released it's grip on us yet, the light lingers longer at the end of the day. When I get out of my office at night, there are days that I still catch the gold and the yellow and the muted orange on the edge of the horizon and am surprised by how the hope seems to startle me like something that has fluttered suddenly to my shoulder.

I hope to return to writing a bit now more too. I know when I'm ready to write, that I'm feeling stronger and more hopeful. I feel like a tree that's stood amid the snows and suddenly, surprisingly feels the sap rise when it seems least likely.

Good night.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Just Darn Cold

Did I ever say that I like the cold; I must have been saying that from inside a warm tavern. I think I must just like it not hot.

It's just so very cold out there today. It brings me back to my days as a kid growing up in Boston and standing on the corner waiting for the bus in the icy snow and slush of January.

"Whew!" I can hear my Dad shout out with the surprise of a man who gets hit with a spray of cold water in an otherwise warm bath. He used to say this when he would hustle out the front door to the car of his old Thunderbird, "Whew is it cold!"

I hear Dad when I say this myself as I hustle through the streets of Hoboken to get to the subway station. It's a bit of a longer walk, but at least I don't have to drive.

Today I was smart enough to break out my warmest cloths and undergarments and accessories and down coat. Even so, just the cold hitting my nose felt like someone pinching me hard with a pair of pliers.

I looked at the forecast just now and see it's going to stay this way for a bit too. I really get Spring fever when we're stuck like this. I think of those budding trees in April and the sudden purple glow of the dogwoods and crabapple trees. I think of taking a deep breath of air in those months and not feeling it burn my lungs like fire.

About the only good thing I can say about this time of year is that the mosquitos are not anywhere in sight. Which is just as well. If deep Winter bred mosquitos, I think it would quite likely tempt the devil out of hell.

Good night.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Little Champ

We're one week into the new round of therapy and my son is doing well. He's walking more and talking more and showing more awareness of his left hand - all good signs.

It's also been an incredibly busy time. He's in therapy twice a day nearly every day. Some appointments are in the house and some are in the hospital. With all his work outs, it's like watching a little boxer train for a prize fight. I joke that he's the only one year old I know with a set of six pack abs.

The rest of us are busy too. My wife has been working non stop to make sure the little guy's appointments go off like clockwork. I've been helping as I can in the morning and the evenings. My daughter too has been a champ, making my son laugh and cheer by playing with him when he's wearing his cast.

All that said, it's still tough. There isn't a day that I don't wish I couldn't call in sick for the family collectively and go fishing. We all really need a day off.

I keep trying to think about the Spring and the Summer; warmer days when the sun doesn't go in at 5 p.m. I keep thinking about my son walking at the beach this summer with a pail and a shovel. I keep thinking of my daughter learning to swim or ride a bike. I suppose if we've got to do this, the winter is the time to get it done.

What I'm looking forward to most though is the early light and warmer temperatures in the morning to go for a run with my little guy. It will give me no end of pleasure to let him take a break while I train and run. Not long now. Spring is just around the corner.

Good night.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Next Round

My son starts his next round of constraint therapy today. I suspect that's why I'm awake now when I should be sleeping. I know that once we're underway it will be just another routine; just another exercise. It will be like those high school wrestling matches I had as a young man and I'll forget my fear after the first hold is thrown.

But for now, my head is pounding and I was actually grateful to my son for waking me and getting my body out of bed and out of the comfortable discomfort that settled on me.

I find sometimes, if I get up, take a glass of water, splash my face and write, my body and mind will settle their dispute and leave me in peace. I'll be able to return to sleep and be more restful for the intermission.

My son is back sleeping himself again. My wife and daughter are also sleeping. Only our cat, Maggie, is up and prowling with me. Sometimes, when she sees me awake at odd times I can almost hear her mild annoyance.

"David, perhaps you missed the memo. The first floor is MINE during the overnight hours. MINE - as in NOT YOURS. Please return to your quarters and I'll forget this infraction occurred."

She'll look at me for a minute or two and then stalk off tersely as if she'd given up on me as un-trainable. I can't tell sometimes if she's oblivious or disinterested or just more mature than me and able to go about her business today regardless of tomorrow. I suppose I won't ever know.

I know there is less to worry about than the first time around. For one thing, I know the people we will be working with and trust them.

I still see the face of the kind and professional woman who runs the program at NYU in my mind. She and her staff treated my son with such care and love last summer and to such good results that I know my little guy will be in good hands. They exhibited the kind of professionalism and decency that I hope people find in me. They give me hope.

In a week or so I'm sure I'll be posting how my son is using his cast to propel his toy cars or as an impromptu baseball bat with bouncy balls. I'm sure I'll have a couple of soft spots where he's joyously clobbered me over the head with the hard plastic. I'm sure we'll be smiling.

I'll send an update with our progress then. Good night.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


The stars have been in my thoughts a lot lately. I can't remember a time since I was a boy that I've felt so strongly about seeing them, or wanting to see them.

These days, I'll look up when I can for a peek; when I get into the car at work from the top deck of the parking garage; or sometimes between the narrow space of the tops of buildings in the city outside our door; I'll look and I hope to see them shining out.

They're brighter the further you get from the city. They seem brighter in the cold air too for some reason. I don't know much about it, but it makes me more cheerful when they're bright.

"Are we going on a star date tonight," my daughter asks sometimes now.

She'd picked up an interest in outer space last year when her class had gone to a planetarium and I'd purchased a pair of good binoculars to see the moon and other nearby objects. Sometimes we'll go out on the deck on the third floor and look to see what we can see. Recently I bought a book to help us find things to look at in the sky. It's fun to see her little face light up with wonder when she can see the mountains on the moon.

But there are many nights when the stars are hidden by the clouds or dimmed even further by the city lights and there's not much to see. The nights have also been terrifically cold recently and that's made gazing a more difficult thing to enjoy.

"No sweetie," I've had to say all to often lately, "not tonight. Can we read a book instead?

I've also been very tired lately from long days at work and lots to do here at home. There's been precious little energy to spend on things that go beyond the basics.

Whatever the cause, it makes me feel a little gloomy when I can't get out to see them.

It seems no mistake to me that one of Shakespeare's most often quoted phrases about a dark sky comes from one of his most dark plays, Macbeth:

"There's husbandry in heaven tonight; their candles are all out," comes to my mind when the night sky is obscured by some natural or man made phenomena.

Shakespeare's words make me think of a great dark house with shuttered windows. They make me feel like I used to feel when a childhood friend was out of town and I was lonely.

I dream more and more about a time when I'm rested enough and the weather is kind enough just to step out when I wake up at this time of night just for a look at them. I dream of camping out in the open like I used to when I was a young man and waking to find them right above my head.

Stars remind me of the brevity of any trouble I may be feeling. I look up at them and know that my grandmothers and their mothers and relations unknown in the deep past also saw the same sky and the same lights. And their troubles are long past and the stars are still there as untroubled and as unknowable as ever.

Good night.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

More Words

My son has been using words for a while now. The first few came over the summer and he's added more to his collection through the fall and early winter like so many baseball cards. He may have 30 or 40 words at his command more or less - it's hard to tell.

Mostly he's been using them singly. Usually with an exclamation point at the end of them.

"Mommy!" "Daddy!" "More!" "Meow (meaning our cat)!" "Up!" "Down!"

You get the idea. It's been making things easier for us and more exciting for him (I think).

But this weekend he made two small milestones while we were visiting my family in Boston.

"Happy Day," he said with perfect clarity and before we could ask ourselves if that's what he said, he said it again, "Happy Day!"

Not sure where he picked that little coupling of words up: a song, a book, a friend, one of his physical therapists. It might have just occurred to him that the words went well together. We don't know. But it was a sign of hope and a wonder to us. He's been saying it since.

The other word, though smaller, was more significant to me.

"Baby!" he said pointing directly at my one year old niece, "Baby!"

It's really the first time he's acknowledged someone outside the family verbally. It also was the first time that he acknowledged an equal, a cousin, a cohort in crime. It was like watching man discover the wheel; the realization on his face and the leap he made to get to it were nothing less than a miracle.

I don't know when sentences will come. It may take a while. But I feel as if the boy is really starting to connect words with people (people especially) and things.

And what words! Such happy, embracing words! It makes me hopeful. It makes me proud.

We keep reading to him, and playing peek a boo, and singing songs that he likes and hope that more will come. I come in the door each night and pick him up out of his crib each morning with more hope and more expectation of wonderful, wonderful words coming out of that little mind.

"Daddy!" is what I usually here, "Daddy! Up!"

"At a boy," I keep saying back to him (possibly to convince me it's not a dream) "At a boy."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Boot Camp

As you can tell by the absence of posts, it's been an incredibly busy time at work and home. It feels nearly as busy as it was last year at this time - which at the time felt like residing on one of those gaseous planets with a field of gravity hundreds of times heavier than earth. Which I suppose is how I've always felt about rapid adjustment to an unwelcome change.

Things have gotten easier. I also feel much luckier than I used to. It's almost like I used to feel when I realized that the math lessons that had seemed so difficult at the beginning of algebra felt more basic and natural at the end of the school year.

I hope I can carry this feeling with me for the next few weeks while we go through the next battery of scheduled visits for my son. We've got to check in with the neurologist and then an orthopedic surgeon and then back to the hematologist and on to the next round of constraint therapy. It makes me tired just thinking about it all. I feel like we're all preparing for boot camp.

"Somewhere on the other side of this hill," I keep telling myself, "is Spring."

I suppose that's right. I suppose if we have to be busy and loaded with appointments, it's better to do it in the bleak mid winter.

I'll just keep thinking about the longer days and the softer light and the budding trees. I'll keep thinking about my boy turning two years old in March.

It's definitely getting easier.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Consider this a WARNING.

I'm venturing into new blog material with this post. If you've never changed a diaper or waited patiently while prune juice did it's work for your child, think twice before reading below this first paragraph.

This is your last WARNING ... read on at your peril.

My wife and I were chatting nonchalantly tonight after I'd returned from changing my son when it occurred to me that my life had changed irrevocably; I no longer see a clear OFF LIMITS sign on potty conversations.

We were both relieved at his relief, and the blessed quiet that had returned to the house after his little potty bomb detonated and eased his mood down from fidgity and unpleasant to calm and sleepy. I'll give you a sample of our conversation here.

"Do you think it was the pot roast at dinner?" I won't tell you which one of us posed the question. It was said in the same manner that a lab technician might inquire about a voltage irregularity or spike in a water acidity test.

"Had more of a dairy thing going on," the other of us replied with the same toneless manner of a patient scientist pursuing their observations with deliberate non-haste.

There was a silence, as there often is when we remember that we're actually talking about what we're talking about. Then we looked at each other and laughed.

"God, I cant wait for the day when I don't have to perform potty forensics anymore."

It doesn't matter which of us said that either - we both agreed.

I used to chuckle silently at older friends when they'd talk about their kid's like this. They were probably just lapsing into their thoughts the way that people with an involved profession will sometimes forget themselves and talk in the jargon of their office, but to me it seemed humorously pitiable.

"Brain's already gone," I'd think quietly to myself, "Desperate for adult conversation; or just lost beyond recall - gone baby native. Poor soul; got to remember to buy them a book or take them out to the movies."

The placid unwavering look of maturity on their face would never occurred to me as anything but the bliss of unknowing.

"So far gone ... and has no idea ... how sad, alas."

Thousands of diaper changes later (THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS --- TIMES TWO) it doesn't seem so silly. I might as well be a seasoned riveter on the end of a Chevy assembly line; there is no variation of the unspeakable substances that I have not seen ... or discussed.

And it doesn't seem so strange these days. Actually, I find that I'm in good company.

Robertson Davies in the first edition of the Cornish Trilogy writes about a funded university study of the adult version of the diaper chronicles and their link to psychology and magic. I thought he might have been having at the learned profession a bit with a skewer. Now I'm not so sure. I'll need to see if Davies was a father to be certain; but I think he was on to something about the unspeakable and the mysterious unknown.

When the kid can't talk, you look for anything, ANYTHING, to give you some insight into what's going on in that little mind body.

"Why won't he sleep ... did that jar of baby food turn bad ... is it colic ... should we try prune juice?"

There's really no answer that a one or a two year old can give you that makes any sense. So we sit there like ancient druid priests or Roman generals, studying the shape, the color, the quantity, the ... well you can use your own imagination ... as if it were a vein of gold stratified in the earth that needed careful inspection before extraction.

Honestly, ridiculous as it appears, what else can you do?

My wife reminded me of a near panic I had when the result of a heavily food colored cupcake presented itself in vivid BLUE the following day.


"Dave," my wife had said calmly after some quick deductive thinking, "It's the Cookie Monster cupcake from the bakery yesterday."

To my own defense it was BLUE. BLUE the color or police flasher siren blue and nearly as luminous. Darn those Sesame Street bakers!

But there it is. It happens to every parent I guess. It's a kind of right of passage.

Even now I can tell a parent that has changed diapers from one who has left it up to their spouse just by the fortitude of their olfactory glands when my son let's go in mixed company. That or the more obvious signs of fear when I actually move closer to the boy for a more sure sniff test of the situation.

"Feeling a little queasy?" I think as I catch the look out of the corner of my eye, "You should try it from here. This one smells as if it might be detected by NORAD or Los Alamos."

There's a steely kind of nerve that you can see in those veterans who've met the call.

"Good luck with that one ... glad my diaper days are done!"

I've even met an old soul or two who have changed my child for me - bless them.

Sometimes I think that the rite is like that awful scene from The Shawshank Redemption where Tim Robbins crawls through a sewer pipe to finally escape from the Maine prison.

"That's the length of five football fields," I can hear Morgan Freeman's voice over the footage of Robbins' epic crawl, "to come out clean on the other side."

I suppose it's natural - though a little over the top - to try and make a grand simile for something every parent has to slog through. To bring some meaning to something which conversely takes up much of your waking consideration but that most polite society considers off limits as a topic for discussion. You'll have to judge for yourself.

"Sound asleep," I said to my wife just a moment or two ago after checking on the little guy, "All better now."

"Good," she replied, half alseep herself, "Maybe he'll let us get some rest tonight."

"If the auspices are good," I thought quietly to myself, "the waters for the journey will be calm."

Good night.