Inside the Dust Jacket: A dedication of sorts.

So you may have heard, two of my Frank’s Place stories were published in a book. A book that actually sells for real money. American money, not the lousy Confederate script they use down here either. I’m not the author of the book, just a contributor. But still, my first real paid writing gig.

I am trying to hook a publisher for the book I have written. It’s really just a bunch of stories, some of which have appeared on the blog and some that haven’t, collated into a 65,000 word pile. But one day I envision it being on the 30% off table at Wal*Mart.

My 1st dedication page attempt.

My 1st dedication page attempt.

I think a lot about the dedication page in my first published work. I’ve even written it several times over, even more so in my head. On the left is an early sample of one from my first manuscript. But since my first published stuff came as a contributor I didn’t get the chance to write that page. I’ve decided, published book or not, I’m writing a dedication page. Of course the dedication page is for crediting the people in your life who have helped you along the way.

With me it’s more than just helped along the way. The credit for any success I have largely rests with my parents and seven brothers and sisters. There are several moments in my history where they have dragged me to success. The inscription on my retirement plaque from the Air Force sums the family foundation I’ve been afforded over the years: If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Isaac Newton

Unfortunately my father passed away this March and won’t see it. So this is really for my mom and my bothers and sisters. I think I mentioned in a previous post we all deal with grief differently. This is a continuation of the grief over my father’s passing. He was 86 and it still doesn’t seem like he lived long enough. My childhood memories of him have become more vivid as time takes me farther from his passing. The post I wrote about him has got me thinking, mulling, ruminating even. Maybe it’s better to say these things to the living instead of saying them about those who have already left us.

So at the risk of awkwardness, uncomfortable-ness, maybe some corny-ness too, here is the current dedication page bouncing around my head as it pertains to my family still walking the earth. Take the off ramp if you were looking for some funny today. This ain’t one of those. This is the dedication page as it will appear if I can ever scam a publisher into paying me for my manuscript.

 

Dedications

Dad – Not sure what you were expecting when you handed me the book Treasure Island when I was just a kid, but that has resulted in this. I read, I write, I collect books. My library could never rival yours but it’s on its way. In case you were wondering, your grandson, your namesake, loves books too. At least for the moment anyway.

Thanks Mom –  Who would have guessed all those years of your late night TV with the volume set to stun would lay the foundation for my love of European and Early American history. Sitting up late with you watching Upstairs Downstairs and Poldark when I was little sparked my interest in history and in-particular the American Revolution. That time with you was the best introduction to world and culture a kid could get. Listening to your stories as you answered my constant questions is a memory that will never fade. I feel like my story telling is a genetic trait handed down from you and dad.

The next set of names are my brothers and sisters in descending order by age. However, ages are not listed. I’m dumb but I ain’t stupid.

Jimmy, as much as we want to disown your dumb-ass, as much you try to deny your heritage you share with us, you can’t, we can’t. You’re a part of us. As much as we don’t want to admit it, we all share some qualities. My general dislike for the majority of Earth’s population is clearly something I learned from you. I’m blaming my bluntness on you too.

Tommy I bet you thought you punched your ticket to heaven when you won the religion pin at St. Vincent’s Elementary. Well, you may have won your boarding pass, but your first class seat was confirmed this past year. Bearing the burden for others is the common thread of the Saints. Even at our old ages you’re still setting an example to follow.

As a kid I was never afraid when you were around Jane. Except when you got mad and chased Jimmy and Tommy, trying to brain them with a hairbrush. Seriously, no matter what might be happening I always felt like it would be OK because of you. Even when the twins were born I felt as calm as humanly possible in that situation after talking to you. I judge the worthiness of any and all leaders by your traits.

If I had to attribute my Air Force career to any one person it would be you Carol. I mentioned on your birthday this year how the little things can mean a lot in a person’s life. Your confidence that something would work out for me as I floundered through high-school set me at ease. I replayed the conversation a lot over the years. I built a 22 year military career on it and then started this. Something always works out.

Mom and Dad laid the foundation for my education but Susan, you literally paved the way. Kick starting my college career is hard to quantify and tougher to repay (check is in the mail). I wonder something else though, when you read posts on Frank’s Place can you hear your own voice? Our sense of humor is as identical as a trait like that can be.

Besides teaching me the sacred art of the escape from high chairs, cribs, playpens, etc… I remember getting my first lesson on plagiarism from you Mare. Copying a book dad had given me so I could “write my own book”, you told me it was illegal to do it. Good tip Mare, good tip. Those summer days during high-school always stick in my mind every time I cook, along with you tutoring me through freshman year Algebra.

This is my spot in the birth order.

Kathy, if the good ol boys down here had to describe you in one sentence it would be, “Damn she’s one tough son of a gun!” (Until they saw your obsessive organization. They can’t like that.) But trust me that is high as a compliment as you could ever get and I agree. Our bare knuckle fights while we watched WWF Wrestling were some of the most frightful moments of my life. You are an impressive force of nature. A certain niece of yours takes after you. And that’s a good thing.

That's them - my immediate family. Not kidding.

That’s them, minus me. My immediate family. Not kidding.

So that’s it, in all it’s awkward, emotion sharing, tree hugging glory. That’s what my first dedication page will say should the moment ever present itself. (And yes of course my wife and kids will be mentioned. But they get that almost every day here.)

I should make it clear that’s what the first page of my first dedication page will look like. I have seven brothers and sisters, but a handful of brothers and sisters-in-law, and about 50 or 60 nieces and nephews. Hard to say really, there are so many of them. Thankfully the family heritage and history is in good hands with that lot.

The next generation is better than the one that birthed it.

Here is the post that sort of triggered this one: Francis John Linardo

Cougars, Babies, and Boroughs

Delivering the bad news or doing the pee pee dance

Delivering the bad news or doing the pee pee dance

Daddy a cougar got into Frank’s borough and took his baby, come quick!

This was the alarm sounded by my 3 year old daughter as she reenacted Paul Revere’s ride and came running into my office. It’s not a very long sentence, but there’s a lot to digest. It was probably a lot to spit out as well. But then again Anne Marie is the gabby one between the two of them. So let’s break down her ominous exhortation bit by bit so we can get a better understanding.

Daddy a cougar…

OK well I know she’s talking to me. I’m daddy. But a cougar, really? Is she trying to tell me there is an honest to god cougar in the house somewhere? Who knows with this kid. Maybe she’s trying to trick me into some ambush or something. Nothing is out of the realm of possibilities with her.

…a cougar got into Frank’s borough…

A Frank and his borough. No cougar in sight.

A Frank and his borough. No cougar in sight.

This requires some processing. I mean that phrase has several interpretations in several different age ranges. But since we’re talking about my 6 year old and my 3 year old and this is a family blog we’ll switch our interpretation setting to “innocent.” Although that still doesn’t help much. First of all we’re still dealing with a cougar in the house. But now it has found its way into Frank’s borough. A dangerous predicament to be sure. No idea what I’m going to do with that. And where the hell did Frank get a borough? More importantly why does Frank have a borough and where exactly is it?

…and took his baby..

Well holy crap. That cougar is causing all kinds of problems. But there now appears to be a bigger problem, actually two problems. Apparently Frank has a baby. I know they grow up fast and all but wow that was quick. And why exactly would a cougar want Frank’s baby? Did Frank provoke the cougar? Does the baby belong to the cougar and was he merely taking the baby back from Frank? And finally…

…come quick.

Seriously? There is a cougar running around the house stealing babies from boroughs and she wants me to come quick. What the heck am I supposed to do about it? I don’t know nothin bout stoppin no cougars. At least not the four legged kind. But that’s another story for another blog.

The finished borough. Still no cougar.

The finished borough. Still no cougar.

For now I’m dealing not with a cougar, but with a low rent tenement going up in my living room. The finished borough is in the pic to the left. He put the flag on there thinking I wouldn’t ask him to tear it all down if old glory was on the roof. He was wrong.

We came to an agreement, a building moratorium of sorts. He could build his low rent hovels or boroughs or whatever and leave them up for two days. Then said boroughs must be torn down and not replaced for a solid 48 hours from demolition completion.

Also, any untamed wildlife, four or two legged, would be the responsibility of the property management company(him) not the landlord(me). All associate equipment, i.e. blocks, legos, sofa pillows, etc… would also be policed up upon demolition of said structure.

 

Ya think Trump started out this way?

 

 

The Eagle has Landed!

Editor’s Note: This was published 26 July 2012. Three years ago we brought our little Anne Marie home.

If you follow this blog at all you know we do birthdays for days and weeks. Well for this little kid July is like a giant homecoming month. It started with this day in 2012. It was a day filled with the gamut of emotions. There are some things that are hard to recall during the whirlwind 5+ months in the NICU at UT Medical Center, this day isn’t one of those things. 

Enjoy a look back.

The Eagle Has Landed

Got a little curve ball this week.  The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) pulled a fast one on us. We had resigned ourselves to waiting the weekend to bring Anne Marie home on Monday when our pediatrician would be back from her vacation.  We knew we had one more hurdle to jump and that was the rooming in.  That’s where you stay the night in a room alone with the baby and any equipment they may be going home with.  It’s to make sure you can handle the events and the equipment in the middle of the night should the alarm go off.  In our case that meant dealing with a heart monitor.

By all accounts this thing was a nightmare generator.  Apparently it would go off all the time and 99.9% of the alarms would be false.  Plus the alarm could wake the dead.  We were told that by experienced parents and doctors alike.  I relayed this info to the technician charged with teaching us how to use the monitor and her reply was simply: operator error.  You know, one or two people tell me the thing is a piece of junk and I might buy the operator error excuse.  But when several people, including two of the doctors who are recommending we go home with one tell me the thing isn’t great, well the operator error excuse losses a little steam.

We were going to get the chance to test the theory.  Wednesday morning we got the call, “can you room in tonight, it looks like Anne Marie may be released tomorrow?  Will that work for you?”

Yes and yes.

We quick like packed some stuff, got Grammy to cover Frank for the night, and we were on our way for what just might be, finally, the last trip to the NICU we will ever make. Even if AM gets sick now we’re off to Children’s Hospital in downtown Knoxville.

The hang up, as it turns out, was her eating.  One doctor had concerns over the amount she was taking.  She was just getting the bare minimum required per 12 hour shift. Hmmm, just doing the minimum eh?  Just enough to get by, is she?  What do you know, I guess she’s my kid after all. Better cancel that afternoon slot on Maury Povich’s Who’s the baby’s daddy? episode.

Anyway, Anne Marie didn’t sleep during the night, hence the Povich joke – I’m fried – but she ate like a pig all night.  So that was the last thing keeping her there.  Consequently, she’s not there anymore.  She’s here.  And by here I mean not there.  She’s home. Photographic evidence below. But the monitor performed like a champ, no false alarms, no alarms at for that matter, and that’s always good.  The rest of the rooming in, well lets just say that is an exercise in futility.

I was skeptical before doing it and now I really have no idea what that was supposed to accomplish.  We got zero sleep, but not because of the kid or the monitor.  The whole freaking room is loud.  It’s like every item in there has a volume knob and they are all set to “stun”.  The paper towel dispenser sounds like a assembly line robotic arm, the flushing toilet sounds like a jet engine.  You couldn’t even turn over in bed because the mattress made the sound of 1000 rusty gates opening all at once very slowly.  Then we get Ma and Pa Kettle next door, also rooming in, and they decide that 2am was a good time for the airing of grievances.  As loud as it got in the hall I thought for sure they would quickly move on to the feats of strength.  So again not really sure what the sleep deprivation therapy was supposed to accomplish but I think we missed the mark a wee tad.

I have tried, over the course of a few postings, to convey the bonds and relationships that we have been building with some of the staff in the NICU.  It was a tearful goodbye as you might imagine. We have been seeing these people every day, sometimes twice a day, for the past four months. You don’t just walk away from that without shedding a few tears.

A lot of the staff, nurse, docs, admin, came by and said some very glowing things about Anne Marie and some nice stuff about us too.  Well it was mostly about Tracy, but I’m married to her so I get lumped in by default.  It will be very weird not to drive to the hospital every day.  Here’s hoping a lot of them can make it to AM’s first birthday.

Once the van was loaded and the tears had dried, almost, it was time to head home.  We were on our own for the first time.  Again very surreal driving away.  Might take us a few days to get our legs back underneath us.  But as we pulled in Frank came running out to meet his sister.  As usual he rose to the occasion.  “She’s so cute.” “That’s Anne Marie!” came out of his mouth the first time he saw her face to face.  This kid, he is going to be a problem down the road.  I can feel it. Nobody says the right thing at the right time, all the time, unless they’re plotting something.

Here is Frank getting to see and hold his sister for the first time, keeping her warm in her swing, and offering her a binker, albeit with a little more force than is commonly necessary, but he got the job done, binker-wise.  I have no picture or video of it but he also sang her a song that he made up himself.  It was the requisite amount of cuteness and adorableness, I can assure you.

Actual first contact. We told you she was real Frank.

Got to stay warm – the old man likes it freezing in here.

I said take the binker! I’m the big brother now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We really weren’t sure what Frank would do. Turns out he wants to hold her, feed her, burp her, which he did, take a nap with her, etc…  Frank even started to offer her his toys. Not just any toys mind you, but his cars from the movie Cars 2.  And not just any cars from Cars 2, but Francesco Bernoulli, the open wheel Formula One race car. Crap I don’t even get to play with Bacesco, as Frank calls him, and I take Frank to the golf course, to the pool, make him pizza and what not. Here he is, having never seen his sister face to face and he’s already giving her Bacesco!?

I mean, she really hasn’t earned it if we get down to brass tax.  Well yeah she survived death defying odds after being born 3 1/2 months early and all but I’m not sure that warrants getting Bacesco. She didn’t even appreciate it.  She just crapped her diaper.  Them’s fightin words, or ya know, fightin noises, on the streets of my home town.

But sharing his stuff?  Already?  This dynamic I am not prepared for.  And I’m feeling like I got a little chooched because I barely get to play with Jeff Gorvette when we play cars and she got Bacesco.  Put it this way, if there is a Cars 3 sequel, Gorvette buys the farm in the opening credits or shortly thereafter, that’s how unimportant he is.  If Frank offers her any Thomas Train above the stature of, say, Skarloey, we will throw down.

Regardless of that little game within a game Frank is pretty jazzed to see his sister finally.  He held her for a second time and she started to cry.  “I’m all done with Anne Marie.”

Yeah that didn’t take long.

Do what you will with Frank, for he is already poisoned by KY Blue, but I belong to the Power T and Rocky Top!

Yeah great, can we go already?

Finally rid of us.

Seeing the sun and breathing outdoor air for the first time ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As most of you know, we did leave someone behind.  Anne Marie and Linda Claire started this together.  No doubt they’ll see each other again.  Hopefully a long time from now.

If your heart desires, donations can be made to:

In Memory of Linda Claire Linardo

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the University of Tennessee Medical Center c/o Office of Development

2121 Medical Center Way, Suite 110, Knoxville TN, 37920

 

 

 

 

 

From there to here: 3 years home.

Linda Clare  22 March 2012

Linda Clare 22 March 2012

Seems like a forever ago. At the time, and while we were spinning through all of it, we thought we would never recover. For sure we were thinking we’d never forget. Of course we’re not forgetting, but I didn’t think it would feel as distant as it does now.

When I started writing this blog it was mainly to make myself laugh. It wasn’t with the intention of keeping a running record of my kids upbringing. Well, turns out it’s good for that too. A nice diary for my kids where the can read about each other and themselves and how they entered the world.

Anne Marie & Linda Claire’s entrance was no more important that Frank’s, but it was a bit more stressful and of course sorrowful. Burying Linda Claire days after she was born was absolutely the most shocking and saddest thing I have ever experienced. With Anne Marie still fighting it out in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or NICU, there wasn’t much time to absorb the body blow of losing our daughter. She needed us and I can tell you without hesitation we needed her.

Sleeping by his sisters crib waiting for her to come home. Yeah he was feeling it. Animals set for perimeter defense.

Sleeping on his sisters play mat waiting for her to come home eventually. Yeah we were both feeling the stress.

I say all that because at times it seems Frank gets pushed to the back burner a bit. The irony is it was watching Frank and his sister run around today that sparked this post. Anne Marie is now the same age Frank was when she came home from the NICU. Those five months leading up to her homecoming was tough on him. His mommy was in the hospital for a long time, the sisters he was expecting didn’t come home, and his old man was not sleeping, thus I was more grumpy than what might be considered normal.

I wasn’t really sure what he was picking up on if anything at all. But the day we came home from a hospital visit to see his mommy finally clued me into the stress he was carrying. He took himself to bed for a nap at 3:30. That wasn’t new. He had been doing that since he could walk. But he slept through dinner and right on through the night, through breakfast the next day and finally woke up at 10:00am. He was still just two at the time but he was clearly picking up on what was happening.

From here  22 March 2012.  1lb 12oz...

From here 22 March 2012. 1lb 12oz…

Seeing 3 year old Anne Marie today gave us a little insight on how almost 3 year old Frank may have be processing the whole deal. That conversation invariably led to a walk down NICU memory lane. Which then put us on How the hell did we survive that avenue. A lot of it is still somewhat of a blur for Tracy, and me too I guess. I managed to keep writing in those days; mostly updates for friends and family. So we have a good running record of what was going on which helps fill in the foggy blanks.

You can start here: Second Heartbeat? and just read your way forward to get the full story. But if you don’t have 40 hours of free time to commit you can just keep scrolling here.

It’s July 2015 and three years ago this month we brought Frank’s sister home to him. So we celebrate and remember how we got from there to here. Since I’ve babbled enough and pictures tell a much better story than I ever could, here is a little pictorial history for you.

This one is etched in my memory forever.

Etched in my memory forever.

What do you mean "we're Italian?!"

What do you mean “we’re Italian?!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What it took to keep her from pulling all her tubes out. Strong and determined even at 1lb 12oz.

What it took to keep her from pulling all her tubes out. Strong and determined even at 1lb 12oz.

Frank and Anne Marie - First Contact

Frank and Anne Marie – First Contact

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'm sorry you want to put her where? Kangarooing for the first time.

I’m sorry you want to put her where? Kangarooing for the first time.

After being told she had to say for a bit longer.  BOOM!

After being told she had to say for a bit longer. BOOM!

Yeah we slept a lot. So what.

Yeah we slept a lot. So what.

You just refuse to cut those nose hairs, don't ya pop.

You just refuse to cut those nose hairs, don’t ya pop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah great, can we go already? 26 July 2012

Yeah great, can we go home already?

... to here.

… to here. Homecoming – almost 7 pounds, 26 July 2012

 

Bath time. Big brother is on it.

Bath time. Big brother is on it.

Always on her hip.

Always on her hip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 years home. We're excited too girl.

3 years home. We’re excited too girl.

 

Of course now she’s a berserk 3 year old; flooding bathrooms so she can swim, play-doughing the carpet, and climbing the outside of the stair banisters.

We’re loving (sort of) every second of it.

 

 

Homicide or Honey Mustard: Life choices at the chik-fil-a.

You know, sometimes there are things you should just not write about. This may be one of those things. Not sure, so I’ll judge by your reaction as to whether or not I’ve erred here.

Frank decides he wants to go out for lunch. He rarely makes that request. In fact he’s never made that request, so we go. It’s just me and him. He’s very decisive about where he wants to eat too. You know, that place with the cows and the funny words…

He knows the name, he’s just being a pain because he thinks he’s asked for chicken too many times. Plus the chik-fil-a he wants to go to is the one with the playground in it and he thinks I won’t want to take him there. So I give him two quick life lessons.

Lesson 1: I can eat my body weight in chick-fil-a chicken, and I can do that every night; twice a day if necessary. There is never a time I can’t be talked into chicken and waffle fries.

Lesson 2: I have no issue with the playground joint. It’s fenced in, the only way in is through the restaurant. Our southern border should be so secure. Plus he’s six now, I don’t have to watch him. He can go out there on his own and I can sit in chick-fil-a air conditioning, necking down a box golden fried chicken like objects with alarming efficiency.

But like I always say no selfish deed ever goes unpunished. Well I never say that really but it’s still true. As I’m relaxing in relative quiet, muckling what I’m sure was once a chicken, I look up as Frank is coming back in from the playground. Two things happen. I realize he’s coming in to finish his lunch. That would be the lunch I am currently eating. Whoops.

The other thing? I see out of the corner of my eye a very tall snot nosed 14 year old making for the same door as Frank but going in the opposite direction and moving much faster, fueled by whatever life altering angst he’s currently carrying. The kid slams the door open, sending my 6 year old flying backward off his feet, onto his back.

I am three steps to the snot nose kid before Frank can get up. I can’t decide what I’m going to do when I get there, but I resign myself to the fact it won’t be pleasant for anyone involved but me. As I get through the door and move toward the now pouting teen and what appears to be his parents, Frank is up and jabbering on about something.

It occurs to me Frank is trying to tell me something in a very excited almost hyper fashion. Great, his friggen brains are all scrambled, probably has a concussion. No golf for me tomorrow. It’s my only four hours out of the house. I can’t be missing my tee time cause I’m in trouble for breaking Frank. Now I’m really gonna make Tommy Troubled Teen pay.

But I can’t because my now brain damaged son is jabbering and grabbing my pants. So it hits me, why isn’t he crying? When his sister hits him half as hard he’s inconsolable for an hour. Frank just got catapulted across the playground and he’s extremely excited about something.

I finally heard it and my heart sank. Stopped me dead in my tracks. My anger all but dissolved. I can’t see Snot Nosed Ultra-angst Teen anymore. I can only see the next 15+ years of my 6 year old’s life. I was hoping this would come much later. Hoping I’d have him hooked on golf for life so he would have a safe haven after the first one broke his heart.

Daddy she’s here. She’s here!

Oh son, you have no idea how much I want to protect you from the pain coming your way at some point or another for the next several years, maybe more. I’m not a gambling man but unless this girl is the one you’ll grow old with, I’m betting there’s a few more heartbreaks in your future.

I’m happy you’re happy but I already ache for the ache coming your way. There is no way around it, over it, or past it. You just have to live through it until you finally find your one.

And yeah, will Frank break a heart or two, of course. But right now, the look in his eye, and knowing how his heart works, some girl is gonna crush him. It’s life but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, for son or father.

I didn’t even know who he was talking about, but I assumed it was someone from his kindergarten class, kids he hasn’t seen since school let out a month ago. I know who she is now and obviously won’t name her. She’s 6 as well so no doubt she can read the drivel I write but I’m guessing she’s not a Frank’s Place follower. No matter, he was so excited she was there he was unfazed by Too Tall Teen knocking him off his feet.

Turns out Frank wasn’t coming to eat, just to tell me; Daddy she’s here! 

A boy and his chicken... and the playground of life

A boy and his chicken… and the playground of life

As he finishes telling me about her he decides he does want some of his chicken after all. Unfortunately heartache came sooner than later. He looks at the empty box and then looks at me. Sorry dude, it’s in my belly. Saying that with the fat man’s Irish accent from Austin Powers movies doesn’t assuage his disappointment.

He was crest fallen. But that was an ache I could fix, and fix fast. A quick trip to the counter and he was eating again in no time. And by no time I mean he plowed through that chicken, keeping one eye on her the whole time. When she ran back out to the playground, off he went. Never even looked back.

I watched him through the glass, another plus of this joint, it was like having your own little kid zoo without the gorilla feces toss. As I watched him follow her around I thought, his little whatever this is may have kept me out of jail. I really wanted to go do violence to the kid, but I had just opened a fresh honey mustard and a chik-fil-a sauce, and Frank left some chicken on his plate, so…

I don’t generally feel one bit of my 48 years. However moments like that, watching my son getting happy over a girl while I eat all his honey mustard chicken is actually better than doing murder. The mind was willing, but the body weak. Apparently I must be getting old.

Jerk weed and his parents leave the place and Frank waves me out to the playground. He is up in the big climbing maze like thing they have and going full tilt. But he stops long enough to ask me if I saw her. Oh Frank.

She went back inside with her family and after ten minutes in the sweltering heat I decide it’s time to go. Just as Frank starts to climb down she comes back out and actually speaks to him. I feel this won’t end well for me.

She says “Come on Frank.” I absent mindedly say at almost the same time, “Hey man let’s make tracks, chop chop.” And this moment will be forever etched in my mind. Surely it’s a memory that will follow me even beyond the grave into the ether.

My 6 year old son looks down at me from this giant kid hive and gives me a look. The look. Then he has to do it again cause I have no idea what he’s trying to say. I resist channeling my mother by yelling at the top of my lungs, “What did you say!” Thus outing any covert messaging he might be trying to convey.

As I bear down to concentrate I realize he’s looking at me, then nodding his head toward you know who, and then back at me. Without using words, and now that I’m paying attention, two bros have just communicated about 8 paragraphs worth of information in two nods.

Basically he was saying pop don’t jam me up here. Can we hang for a few more. She’s right there and talking to me. Wait right over there with the grandparents, I’ll be down in like 10. Attempting to process what just happened I walk to the old people area and sit down. I was conflicted.

Obviously I don’t want to wreck whatever game the kid is running. On the other hand do I really want to be complicit in letting the kid run game? That answer is pretty easy actually. He’s going to fall for who ever he’s gonna fall for, with my input or not. I take solace in the fact he involved me, ever so slightly, in this part of his life.

Playing golf as much as I do invariably I’ll run into people from the other side of the tracks; the rich side that is. Some 30 year old will be running his yapper about some business deal or about being on the precipice of becoming a half millionaire or whatever and I’ll make a joke about my bad life choices. You don’t join the military for the money. That statement gets truer and more apparent after a 22 year hitch.

But as corny as it must sound, even though I’m almost 48 and he’s only 6, seeing my Frank get goofy over a girl restores my faith in my life choices.

Well except for eating about 10lbs of fried chicken like pieces. I paid dearly for that life choice later on.

 

 

 

Naked and Afraid: Two hours in the mall without my phone.

This was a completely new experience for me. Caught so off guard, I had no idea how to act. Where do I go? What do I do? What the hell do I do with my hands? Am I allowed to make eye contact with people? What’s the protocol? So many questions and so few answers. One thing was vividly clear. I would have to find a way to survive almost two hours in the mall without my phone. I was…. Naked and Afraid!

Unlike the marginally popular cable TV series, I was not really naked. Good chance the title would have gone from Afraid to Alone had I been naked. No the nakedness was emotional, dare I say spiritual.

Before moving on let me just say this is not a treatise on the current smart phone culture. This will not be a plea for people to get their faces out of their smart phones and reconnect with humanity. Quite the contrary. I love my phone. I enjoy my phone. I’m not ashamed of my phone.

My phone gets me.

My phone gets me.

My phone can guide me to new places and play my music over the speakers of the Frankerprise (our mini-van). It allows me to walk through crowded, busy, places without engaging people. No way to even calculate the value of that.

More importantly, my phone tells me how far I am from any given pin on and given green on any given golf course. My phone knows how far I hit my 7 iron. It tracks how many fairways I hit. It just… gets me.

So no, this is not me smugly telling you that the people of earth have become too obsessed with their phones and have lost the ability to engage in the most basic human contact. This is me saying it sucks when said phone is taken away and you’re stuck at the mall forcing you to engage in the most basic human contact. It’s a very discombobulating feeling.

I kind of knew I was in trouble when I dropped my phone on the hardwood floor. Of course I dropped it face down so as to eliminate any protection from the phone cover and provide maximum damage potential. Mission accomplished. Complete shattering of the touch screen. I knew in my heart what that meant. I would have to journey to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store in the mall. God those people love to talk to you and make you feel like one of them with all their customer servicey behavior. I hate that.

But my burden would be compounded. The joint was covered up. I mean at 10:05 in the a.m. it was packed. Every other store in the mall was like a mausoleum. This place, barely had room to walk. Genius 1 spots me and moves in.

He starts his assault on my disdain for people. By that I mean he used every cliche greeting short of the Ned Flanders from the Simpsons classic, “Hi-dilly Ho-dilly Neighbor!” But beyond that he was all bad news. A three hour wait meant an appointment two days from now. Yeah I had to go back. Twice in a week is just about my lifetime limit.

Well thank the Apple gods I had an appointment. Two days later the place was jammed again. Sullen but judgmental Ned Flanders greets me this time. When he finds I have an appointment he perks up, judgment abated. Another 3 hour wait for the non-appointees, he tells me. But not me, I go straight to the genius bar. I don’t drink but that’s OK cause I  think the genius tag is an honorary thing, so it’s a push.

Fix-it Ned says he can change the glass in ten minutes. OK now they’re speaking my language. Hold the phone Fix-it Ned says, (haha see what I did there), glass change is ten minutes, but another hour or so, 90 minutes most likely, for the touch screen and all its glorious-ness to calibrate. An hour or what? Ned says, “When you come back you’ll have your phone all fixed or a brand new phone.” When I come back? I have to leave?! A new phone, that’s awesome, but that doesn’t help me for the next hour and a half Ned.

So out I go. Into the dark cruel world of the mall. When I crossed the threshold of the Apple Store into the mall I felt cold, naked even. The dark side of the force is strong here. I wasn’t even sure which way to turn. What do I do with my hands? I have nothing to hold, nothing to pretend to be so engrossed in allowing me to ignore all those around me. I need to move. My feet need to move in some direction.

Pretzels, I smell pretzels! I’ll go get a pretzel. That should take at least an hour right? I have no idea. Sadly it took much longer than it really should have. Old girl Annie, of Annie’s Pretzel fame, was gettin the 411 from a friend standing at her counter. Apparently there was some dust up with Gina and Mark at a rather raucous social engagement the night before. Mark was all like being a butt-hole and Gina was having none of that drama. Gina, as it turns out, doesn’t suffer butt-holes.

Good for you Gina. Raise the bar girl. Mark is a chooch, you know you can do better. OK so the mall may more fun than I thought. So the town crier finished her appointed rounds of gossip and toddled off to parts unknown, American Eagle Outfitters I would imagine. Or whatever place the kids gather these days. Never the less I had my pretzel and diet coke in short order and wandered off myself, contemplating the fate of Mark and Gina. Maybe those crazy kids can make it after all.

Well I had food, so that means I must need to report to the food court. A bold move considering I was without my shield. Nothing in my hands but a pretzel and a 20oz mall cup full of the nectar of the gods. Eye balls are everywhere. People looking, wanting to engage in some fashion. It was a mine field for sure. Navigated safely, I found a table. Harking to my Italian roots, my back is as close as can be to a wall. No whacking for this weary mall traveler.

Even after I sit down the issue of my hands keeps cropping up. I’m running out of pretzel. What the hell do I do when I have no more butter drenched twisted dough to jam in  my face? It was a quandary.

People watching is good. I’ll people watch. Yeah the was a bad move. Doing that caused me to weep for humanity. I’ll just leave the food court experience like this. If Whitney Houston was right and children are our future, mall children in-particular, take the gas pipe now my friends we are doomed!

It occurred to me I had no way of knowing what time it was. I didn’t have my phone. I don’t wear a watch. No way to see the sky, although I’m not sure what that would get me. I dropped the phone off Wednesday afternoon, it could be Thursday already for all I knew. So I walked out to the Frankerprise and used the on-board computer (dashboard clock) to calculate my time and season. What felt like a millennia, was only 55 minutes.

OK I can meander through Sears Hardware for a good 15 minutes and then arrive at Apple 5 minutes later making me 10 minutes early. If the gods are happy and my nectar, (diet coke) holds out I should get to the Apple Store to find my phone ready to go. And that’s what happened.

Phone in hand, watching Star Wars Rebels, as God intended.

Phone in hand, watching Star Wars Rebels, as God intended.

A little anti-climactic really. But I had my phone.

My emotional clothes are back on. The world will keep turning for another day.

And now, thanks to Fix-it Ned, I won’t have to engage anyone in it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Potty Training: Paul Revere and The 1000 yard stare

Aye matey, I be needin a change down there if ye know what i'm a sayin. Arrgh!

Aye matey, I be needin a change down there if ye know what I’m a sayin. Arrgh!

Never in my life would I have imagined so much about my Air Force career and raising my two kids would intersect. In a million years I never would have seen the connection between Air Force test pilots and potty training.

So the obvious and tired lesson is: never say never.

Air Force test pilot and breaker of the sound barrier Chuck Yeager was once asked if he was ever frightened testing so many new aircraft. His response, “I figure an airplane won’t swap ends without letting me know it.” Meaning Yeager felt the plane wouldn’t just break apart or crash without the giving him some type of warning, allowing him to take action.

Air Force test pilots in the late 40s early 50s also had a saying that there was no such thing as an accident, only a series of events leading up to a crash.

What does any of that have to do with potty training? Well funny you should ask.

I’ve learned some things as a parent believe it or not. That may come as a shock to a few people who know me from my Air Force days. We may need to let them catch their breath…     Ok everyone back with us? Great.

Let’s tell some truths shall we. Kids don’t have accidents. From my experience with the potty predicaments kids know what they’re doing. It’s not an accident. It’s a series of events or more closer to the point, a series of decisions, leading up to a mess. A mess they have no burden to clean.

Too many times have my kids stood there looking right at me saying/yelling/crying they had to potty. But instead of moving to the bathroom, they just stand there going potty! Had they been hysterical for 10 seconds instead of 15, they would have made it to the bathroom. They may not have hit the potty, but the clean up is so much easier on the linoleum bathroom floor than it is on the carpet, on the hardwood, or in the tub.

Happier times, before the incident.

Barnacles in happier times, before the incident. We’ll miss him.

Now Frank was a bit of a slow starter but rarely a sneak attacker. He got me once when he was six months or so. Took his diaper off and he hosed me. But that’s about it.

He did whack the tub twice. And I mean whack it, like a Haz Mat Level 5 whacking. But some of that was my fault. Captain Barnacles never had a chance. My first burial at sea. Full Naval honors too. I’ll never watch Octonauts the same again.

Still for the most part Frank would give some good indicators of a pending evacuation. He did the traditional red face, and then the shock face. But he could go quiet as well.

If he abruptly stopped doing or playing and headed for a door jamb or coffee table or ottoman to lean on, I knew he was pooping. When he held on with two hands and then added the red face, I got an extra pack of wipes.

Once he could speak with any consistency we would get the Paul Revere treatment. “I have to poop daddy! Mommy I have to poop!” One day he just went on his own, long before he was potty trained, and dropped a two right in his Lightning McQueen potty. He walks out into the kitchen, bare assed, pants at his ankles, and yells with much attitude, “Can I get some wipes!” I almost fell into the pot of ravioli.

After Frank started on the road to potty independence he would shut the door. He went from public poop proclamations to discrete defecator pretty quickly.

His sister on the other hand is still in the pronouncement mode. She’s almost fully trained and I’m still getting the Paul Revere. She’ll even run past the bathroom to my office to tell me she has to potty. She won’t move till I say “Ok Anne Marie, go potty.” Then it’s off to the races to the potty only to reemerge 5 minutes later: “Daddy I went potty!”  She is a proud pottier.

Throwin the deuce.

Throwin the deuce.

Anne Marie did the red face too. But she developed another signal that a #2 was eminent. She grew out of the red face and went to a very spooky 1000 yard stare.

She would just all of a sudden look off into the distance as if she was contemplating her place in the universe. It took me once or twice to get the signal down. If she goes quiet and stares like she sees dead people, she’s going to poop. If she stares a hole in the wall as if she can see another dimension, she’s going to poop.

However, much like the golf pro who can take his practice routine to the course, Anne Marie has taken her game to the potty. The 1000 yard stare that was the harbinger of diaper doom has reappeared on the big people potty. It’s now the sign of intense concentration.

Unlike her brother, the bathroom door stays open when she’s in there. That’s a two birds with one stone situation. First and foremost if the door is closed and she’s in there, she’s up to no good. More than likely she’s trying to fill the room with water from the sink so she can go swimming. So the door is open for safety’s sake; my safety.

It also stays open because Anne Marie is still in the throws of potty training and still needs help from time to time. With the door open I can hear her calling for me. Because the door stays open, I noticed the 1000 yard stare is still in effect.

Walking past the bathroom I saw my youngest doing her business. At first glance I thought she looked at me. On second glance, her eyes were facing me but she was looking through me, not at me. I’m not entirely sure she even saw me. It was spooky, not gonna lie.

When she didn’t respond after my second try I decided to treat her like a sleepwalker. We’re still not waking sleepwalkers right? Anyway, I figured she was finding her place in the universe while concentrating on making poo. Plus she is almost to full potty independence. I’m not gonna break her routine.

Hey a little concentrated poo making never hurt anyone.

I don’t think.