1st Grade: Volunteering – My apology to Davey Crockett.

Seeing as I live in the great state of Tennessee, home of the greatest Volunteer in human history, one David ‘Davey’ Crockett, this post was tough to write. In fact I live about 40 minutes southwest of Rogersville in Hawkins County, where Davey’s father John relocated the family before Davey was born. If you are unfamiliar, here is a little sample of the Ballad of Davey Crockett:

Born on a mountain top in Tennessee, greenest state in the land of the free
Raised in the woods so’s he knew ev’ry tree, kilt him a b’ar when he was only three
Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier!

If you’re not singing that tune in your head right now, you might be a communist.

Anyway, I’m not sure the King of The Wild Frontier would be very pleased with the thrust of this post. As it turns out elementary school has a side effect and it’s called volunteering. And it is, by every known definition, a double edged sword.

We sent the boy to preschool so he could develop socially. I get it. I could teach him anything, except how to be a kid. Although find some people from my past and they might tell you that’s all I could teach him. Regardless, the boy needed to be around other kids, so we shipped him off, at the age of two. I missed him.

I would get to the school about ten minutes before pick up so I could see how he interacted with other kids. It was fascinating. So when he went off to kindergarten and the chance to volunteer a little bit came up I thought, yeah that might be fun. And it was fun.

I was the hit of the Christmas party. My Bingo for Candy Canes game was an instant must play event. Only one kid out of 20 cried when he lost his stack of canes. That’s called success my friends. And he learned a valuable lesson that will serve him well 15 years from now the first time he’s using his kid’s college fund to beat the house in Vegas. I’m an educator. It’s what I do.

Now before Mrs Frank’s Place comes off the top rope with an elbow, I did not volunteer as much as she would have liked. I skipped the field trips. I picked those days to go on my own field trip, to the golf course. But I did one day a month, and I read some, I helped at the end of year party. Put it this way, I was in there a lot more than I ever expected to be. But I admit I was enjoying some 4+ hours of quiet in the house as the girl was gone most of the day as well, having started her first year of preschool.

The faces that killed the quiet and my volunteer spirit.

The faces that killed the quiet… and my volunteer spirit.

Then summer happened and the quiet died. It was assassinated actually. It was assassinated, ground up, and fed to the fishes in the briny deep, if we’re being honest. Then the longing set in. The longing for those bygone days of quiet, warm lunch, and the golf channel. It was a glorious time. It seemed like it would never return.

But then it did. The dog days of summer waned, school lists and schedules were published. The light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t an oncoming train after all. It was the light of fall and the first day of school and back to school night with the boy’s 1st grade teacher. 1st Grade!

I strolled into school armed with the knowledge that volunteering was a thing of the past. I have an inside source, an informant if you will, who I will not name. But she told me after kindergarten there is almost no volunteer time in the class room as there’s really no time for that in 1st grade.

And she was right. There was a nominal list for volunteering, but that amounted to reading to one kid at a time in the hallway for about 30 minutes. There were like a thousand parents in that room. I pulled the old ‘look the other way’ when the volunteer list came and it passed me by; much like the collection plate in church. Someone else will pony up.

So cool, we got the kid off to a good start, he’s riding the bus both ways, buying his lunch, and no need for a volunteer. Awesome.

Then a letter came home. The school library is in need of help. The pitch was, “Set your own schedule. Make it coincide with your child’s schedule so you can see them at school!” Not sure who wrote that, actually I am but I won’t name names. No matter, let’s just say this person is not destined for a career in public relations.

See your kid at school? Should I feel guilty that my first thought was, I see him enough at home, why on earth would I want to see him at school too? I probably should, but I don’t.

I think my laziness has been documented here several times. And I’m just lazy enough to blame those damn kids for beating it out of me over the summer. Yeah I know, I’m a horrible dad. But I just don’t have that volunteer spirit.

I’m the shame of Knox County. Maybe I should move back to Jersey.

Davey, I’m sorry.




1st Grade: Pestilence, parasites, and petri dishes.

Well it’s inevitable I guess. Believe it or not I’m still a little shell shocked from our bout with the stomach virus last year. It appears I will have to get over that in short order. Yep, school has started. The rise of the microbes is at hand.

Don't be fooled. This is the harbinger of intestinal distress.

Don’t be fooled. This is the harbinger of intestinal distress.

Whoops too late. Week two and the boy is already sick. Week one I put the wrong bus number on his form. I got a call, had to pick him up. Week two, he has a runny nose in the morning, pukes at school after lunch. I get a call, had to pick him up.

When I got there he was in the nurses office. His face actually had a green tint to it. He looked abominable. It looked like he would puke again at any moment. When he saw me he started to cry, the kid was in some serious distress. I wanted to hug and console the boy. I felt so bad for him. But he has the bug. Sorry Frank, engage your self-consoling application. I got no time for the germs you’re obviously harboring.

Once I gather his stuff we head for the door. The nurse says he can’t come back. In my head, at least I hope it was in my head, I’m like all “No shit Sherlock, I’m taking him home.” Outwardly I went with a very passive, “Ok” with a slightly confused quizzical look. “He can’t come back tomorrow because he threw up today.” Really? Hmm. Now it’s all about me. Again completely in my head, I hope.

Damn, there goes tomorrow’s trip to the pool. Hey why didn’t they have these rules when I was in Catholic School back in the day? I got screwed out of some days off. I hope he doesn’t blow chunks in the car. Damn man, I don’t want to get the stomach bug. But maybe I’ll drop a few lbs. Maybe I can drop him in the driveway and go spend a few nights in a hotel.

I was snapped back to reality by my green son who is moving toward the exit with a purpose. I ask after his condition and he grunts out, “I have to puke!” OK boy let’s get outside. There Frank, heave in those bushes, they look like they need a good feeding. Actually got a sideways aggravated look out of him for that one. Two quick dry heaves and then nothing. I set him up with a few Kroger bag type barf receptacles and were off, haulin the mail to the house.

Turns out he was fine by dinner. In fact he was begging for dinner. But no way I’m helping him reload the vomit gun. Nope, a little bread, some apples sauce and you have to fight the hunger till tomorrow my son.

The next day he stays home and his sister goes to school. Guess what she comes home with? Is it any surprise? There is a modicum of cleanliness in elementary school. And I mean modicum with a capital None. In preschool? Ha! It’s germ warfare in there. The likes of which the world has not experienced since the trench fighting of our Dough Boys in WWI. Preschool is where germs take their vacation from elementary school.

Any wonder by that afternoon I was slightly nauseous and dizzy, ears hot and unable to focus? Of course not. I had no chem gear, I had not bio protection. I walked into preschool a free breather, and walked out with any and all manner of parasite. Not even a quick wash down with hand sanitizer in the car before the drive home could  protect me. No puking though, so that’s good.

But hey it’s only the 2nd week of school. Plenty of time to get stomach virus, lice, whopping cough, smallpox. At some point the government will get serious and designate these kids as WMDs (Weapons of Mass Disease). These kids are like little weaponized terror bugs, little pestilence delivery systems, more efficient than any bio weapon created, developed, or being developed. It’s almost enough to make me consider homeschooling.



1st Grade: Wheels on the bus.

We have come a long way from the Car Lobby Pick Up Lane. It was only a year ago this time but it seems like eons. You can read about that little adventure here: First rule of Car Lobby Pick Up Lane. A week into last year I had smashed the van up on the sidewalk at the pick up lane, vowed never to return to Car Lobby Pick Up, and talked/bribed/threatened Frank into riding the bus home at least. Riding it to school seemed a bridge too far at that time.

Well I’m here to say that bridge has come and we have crossed it. I’d love to tell you my powers of persuasion saved the day but that would be a falsehood, a prevarication, a lie even. The kid came to it all on his own. Riding by the bus stop on day 1 of First Grade he says, “Daddy can I ride the bus to school this year?”

I was immediately ecstatic. Then I was a little more analytical and insulted. He said that like I had been keeping him from riding the bus last year when in fact I was begging him. But Frank’s supplication, “Daddy, can I ride the bus to school this year?” fell somewhere between Oliver asking for more lunch at the orphanage and the Roman solider asking Jesus to cure his dying kid from long distance. I was getting a little salty about his tone I don’t mind saying. Then I snapped back to reality. The kid wants to ride the bus. Victory at last. At least it seems that way.

A boy and his stop. A dad one step closer to all day pajamas.

A boy and his stop. A dad one step closer to all day pajamas.

I mean I don’t have to drive him to school, which ultimately means I don’t have to get dressed. I can just about roll out of bed, get him dressed, jam a pop-tart in his pie hole, make his lunch and walk him to the bust stop. The only negative to the whole thing is the time I have to get him up. It’s a little crazy, the time of morning he has to get out of bed.

I know the political crazies in this country rail and wail about the US becoming more like Europe. But let me tell you something folks, those people do society right in a lot of ways. In this case they are dead on about school. In most European countries the younger the kid, the later in the day they start school. Here it’s the other way around. In most European countries Frank would be starting school around 8:45. Here I’m dragging him from the bed between 6:30 – 6:45am so he can make his 7:05 bus that takes him 1.8 miles to school. He’s 6 years old. This seems out of whack to me.

Ok, I’m done with that rant lest this become a political site. And God help us we don’t want that. Next thing you know Trump will buy me out so he can build a casino and Hillary will be wiping my server. With a cloth people, with a cloth.

The was one small incident with the bus. And it was entirely my fault. He took the bus home for the whole of kindergarten, save that apocalyptic first week. But this year he was taking the bus home from the jump so I drilled his bus number into his memory. It was a different number for some reason but on the ride to school his first day I made him repeat it so much he had it down pat in no time.

The problem, I made him memorize the wrong number. I even wrote the wrong number on his bus form. So, my phone started ringing almost the exact moment when the doors to Frank’s bus closed, drove away, and I had no Frank to walk home with.

His new teacher called to say she had Frank. His bus number didn’t match to any bus in the fleet. Several kids recognized Frank and told her what his real bus number was. His real bus number was the same as last year. Don’t know what I was looking at. Rightly being skeptical and not wanting to go on the word of other first graders, she walked him to the bus but the driver didn’t remember him or his neighborhood. So using her better judgement she kept him and called me. I like this lady already.

When I got there she explained the deal with the driver. I said his driver last year was a crotchety old guy who might actually be the long lost cousin of Moses from the Ten Commandments. She didn’t blink but responded quickly with, “Yeah that’s him.” I do like this lady. No idea why he didn’t remember Frank or the neighborhood. But minor crisis averted. New/old bus number memorized and we’re back on track.

The walk to the bus stop has become a lot of fun. The neighbors may not think so. The moment we step from the garage on our two block walk we are talking. And by we I mean him, and by talk I mean non-stop narration of everything he sees along the way. He was born here, he has grown up on this street. Nothing he sees is new to him. But for some reason in the early morning hour he feels the need to loudly describe and point out sprinklers, cars, trashcans, birds, etc… It is fun though. We eventually get to talking about stuff.

He has made three new friends in school. All girls. They take turns helping him open various lunch items he buys, like his juice or chips. I decided I had heard enough and stopped asking questions on the walk to the bus stop. On the third trip to the bus stop he asked me one. Again it was more a desperate request than a question. “Daddy can I buy my lunch at school?” Yet again he says this like I’ve been depriving him of it instead of begging him to do it. But I decided to be the bigger person, look past that and realize the victory.

No more making lunches. Awesome! Added bonus, by not taking a lunch his back pack just became light enough for me to lift it. In the end it was all two small steps for Frank and his independence and one giant leap for me and my goal of a responsibility free day.

It only gets less busy as they get older?



1st Grade: Into the breech once more!

This one really starts in May of this year. The last two weeks of kindergarten to be exact. As it turns out the first few weeks of kindergarten weren’t really that bad, especially when compared to the maelstrom of it’s final throws. Along with Frank’s birthday occurring in the final week of school there were all manner of events that kept us on the run. And if you have followed Frank’s Place for any length of time you know the only time we like to run is in pursuit of the ice cream truck.

Honestly it’s hard to recall a lot of what went on but it seemed like were signing forms for this thing or that thing, going to weddings of Q & U, luncheons, teacher appreciation events, etc… Now before you go all Silence Dogood on me, I’m pro teacher appreciation. I have no issue with heaping praise and adoration on teachers, especially the one who got Frank off to such a good start in kindergarten.

Plus for that particular event I was dispatched to a rental business that was being less than cooperative. As a retired military person with two small kids I have a lot of pent up aggression. Getting to release just a tiny bit on someone or something is gratifying to say the least. But that’s another story for another blog. Suffice to say the final two weeks of kindergarten assaulted me like the waves from a hurricane smashing the coastline.

Then it was summer. There was golf, and soccer camp, and pool, and some pool, and some pool again, and light-saber battles, and journal writing, and reading, and tent building in the living room and every other freaking room, and Brown Bat Box building, and dance parties, and stifling heat and still more pool. And then it wasn’t summer time anymore. Then it was school time. And that means…

Are you kidding me?

Are you kidding me?

Yep. My oldest born child is starting first grade. “I’m a grader!” as Frank likes to say. Yeah he’s a grader alright. What a weird experience compared to kindergarten.

Then it was all new. Everything for him and me was a new experience. Now… well now he’s a veteran. And old hat as it were. He knows where stuff is, he knows a lot of people there, a lot of people know him (probably cause of his good hair). He’s no stranger to those school halls anymore. It’s probably the first time I could actually see him grow up a bit.

I didn’t really get the sense of getting old because my son is growing up, it was more just bewilderment. When I joined the military in ’89’ this was not where I expected to be. Honestly as dumb as this sounds, I never expected to live this long so I have no fantasy or dream about what I wanted my life to look like. So watching this kid, my kid, walk confidently through the halls of his school as a “grader” is just astounding.

I can tell you that sappy moment didn’t last long. Part of school in the year 2015 is technology. So he has a profile on the school web site that tells me everything; who his teacher will be, his schedule, his grades, etc… Then there is a separate web site for his lunch. Yep his lunch. If he buys lunch at school this will show me when and what and how much. I can add money, transfer money, just do a lot of things with money all designed to let the kid eat lunch. Talk about astounding.

But it was his admin profile that provided the gut punch. Among the various bits of info listed about my kid there is one little stat that jumps off the page and goes right in my shorts: Frank Linardo….. Class of 2027. Let that soak in for a second.

That little man is a "grader" now.  And I'm not that tan anymore.

That little man is a “grader” now. And I’m not that tan anymore.

The year 2027 is the year he will graduate high school. Provided of course there is such a thing as high school then and we’ve not all moved off world to planets unknown. For those of you who know me well enough to know the year of my birth you can do the math. For those that don’t, the year 2027 is the same year I turn 60. So much for not getting a sense of aging.

Well that leads us to the next logical question and math problem. If we add three years to that we of course get the year 2030, the year Anne Marie will graduate high school. Just typing that makes me crave a walker with tennis ball feet and milk moistened oatmeal.

No time to daydream though. There are lists, supplies, timetables to be worked out. Tax free weekend is upon us. Are we getting the best deal for that spiral note book? No? To Target then, on the double! Yeah sorry to brag but we are Target people. With good reason though. Minus the gorilla feces toss, the Wal-marts in Knoxville are absolute zoos most of the time. For back to school combat, they are almost uninhabitable.

Ok, supplies in hand, schedule set, off to meet and greet night. No Frank, no ice cream at the meet and greet this year. Ice cream is for non-graders. You’re a grader man! Welcome to the Bigs son. Time to step up your game. But again, like with kindergarten the learning may be more for me than him.

From first impressions and the first week of school it appears we struck gold again as far as his teacher is concerned. But of course she communicates a little differently. As with all new situations there is a new language to navigate so to speak, a new way of doing things.

But we’re getting there. We’re learning, me and him. It’s not that difficult really because he’s a good kid. Low maintenance, respectful of his elders, does his work and doesn’t get in much trouble. I don’t see him making a hallway pass printing press like his old man and a good friend did back in the day.

Going Braveheart...again!

Going Braveheart…again!

What a difference 3 years will make though.

Brace yourselves higher learning centers.

I can’t stop it now, she is coming!










Backyard Golf: Some things change, some things stay the same.

Getting in some work at the indoor range

Giving him real golf balls might have been unwise.

It doesn’t seem like that long ago when Frank was honing his golf swing in the living room. Golf Channel on the TV, Frank wearing nothing but a diaper and trying to figure out how to swing a right handed Play-skool club as a left-hander, stroking golf balls over my chair and into the kitchen.

When he hit the microwave on the fly I switched him to foam golf balls. Yeah sure I could have started him out with those but that just wouldn’t be our style.

As time went on I thought we would be playing a lot of golf together and we have considering he’s still only six years old. But I quickly realized how easy it is to become one of those obsessive type parents. Seeing this kid swing a golf club when he was two stunned me. He’s two in that picture on the left.

If you don’t realize it, that’s the perfect set up for a right handed golfer, except for his left hand being lower on the club than his right. Never really caught that until we went to get him some real clubs. Turns out he’s left handed. As good as his swing was from the right side with a cross handed grip, and he was crushing it from that side, it is even better from his natural side, the left.

Literally left speechless when I saw this.

Literally left speechless when I saw this.

All that to say, the kid has a lot of natural born talent. From where, God only knows, but he has it. So I caught myself in helicopter/overbearing/live through my kid obnoxious dad mode. He was even featured on Tiger Wood’s Facebook Page. Don’t think I didn’t crow about that for a long time. He just turned four in that picture.

Well the obnoxious part is here to stay. We play the cards we’re dealt. But I’ve really backed off on the golf. I realized getting to Augusta to caddy for him at The Masters is not nearly as important as cultivating a long term golf partner. To that end we have pushed him towards other sports so as not to burn him out. And of course to show him how other sports just completely fail in comparison to golf.

He liked T-Ball and soccer ok. But what he really liked was a game we invented called Driving Range. You may have read about it here once or twice, click the link if you haven’t. Aunt Carol and Uncle Bob sent us one of those motorized John Deer tractors for kids. Frank would drive that around the back yard while I hit plastic golf balls. One day he dares me to hit one into the bed of his tractor as he’s driving by. My first shot hit him in the back of the head, but a game was born and the rest, as they say, is history.

Sadly time marches on and his love of the tractor has waned. Consequently Driving Range has been relegated to the dust bin of history. Hitting golf balls at your mobile kid, how is this game not a national sensation? Anyway, we had not played golf together in a while. I thought his desire had waned with his tractor. Thankfully, I was wrong and my heart has been made full again.

I caught him all alone in the backyard practicing by himself.

Then he asked me if we could hit balls in the backyard. I nursed that like a fire-starter nurses the glint of a smoldering ember. Blow too hard, put too much kindling on it, and it’s gone. Nurture it, gently blow across it and that ember you’ve made out of almost nothing when you were about to freeze to death can become a roaring fire, keeping you warm for as long as you feed it. Yeah. OK, a bit over dramatic but still. This is golf we’re talking about man!

So we’re hitting balls in the yard together and I’m playing it cool, trying not to be excited. But of course I’m ecstatic. Right until a ball whizzed past my face, that is. I went for a stern look as I turned toward my six year old who almost gave me a nose-ectomy, but it was hard to maintain. He had a huge grin and his follow through form was perfect. Hard not to admire that.

So I did what any responsible parent would do. I hit a ball back at him. He laughed as he ran and viola, a new backyard game glows like an ember. There are no rules or a commissioner yet. I imagine the next time we play Frank will demand we need those things like he does for all the games we invent. The Water Catch game commissioner is a real jerk-weed. So for now it’s wild west time in the back yard. I figured I’d get some action pictures but the damn kid’s aim was getting better by the second.

Picture 067At left is one of the few good shots I managed to take. Note the white thing on the left edge, halfway up. It looks elongated because it’s in flight, hauling the mail, and heading right for me. I can’t believe how well this picture came out because I was ducking and running to the right while trying to hit the button on the phone to take the picture.

No way to convey this but that ball had some pace on it. He was like an assassin. Of course I managed to sting him a few times too. But the amazing this about all of that is the form and smooth swing the kid makes when he’s not thinking about it. He’s just running from ball to ball trying to bean his old man and making perfect swings every time.

Not to get too technical, (Hupp loves the technical golf jargon but I know y’all aren’t as enamored), Frank has learned the perfect swing for hitting a knock down shot. It’s a shot you need to hit when the wind is strong and blowing at you instead of from behind. He’s learned that shot trying to keep his ball low enough to plunk me. It is something I’ll take credit for when they interview me after his first Masters victory. Until then we’ll keep inventing games that involve one, if not both, of us getting injured with a well struck golf ball.

Life is good.

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.



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