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.