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.