Milo T. Dog: A Reluctant Epiphany

No. I don’t want a dog. I don’t like dogs. I am not taking care of no dog!

This is more of an update to the original story found here: Yeah, so we got a Mutt.

Let me be clear on this point. I don’t like any animal if it means harboring it in my house and then caring for it. This is not a singular objection to dogs alone. Simply a practical objection to what any baggage a creature might bring with him/her into my house of clean carpets and breezy crisp fresh air.

I may have mentioned this once or twice before, but when I put my foot down around here people get to jumpin. Of course they usually jump to do the very thing I put my forbidding foot down about but that’s another story all together.

This particular foot putting resulted in getting the very thing I didn’t want; a dog. Milo T Dog to be exact. The T stands for his middle name, The. As in Milo The Dog. And yes Dog is his last name. You need only inquire with his vet down the street to verify that little fact. If she refers to him with my last name she does so only in the presence of my wife. And she does that at her own peril.

So yeah, breezy freshness gone, clean carpets, gone. Enter Milo. The carpets didn’t stand a chance. He immediately did the very thing I hate about dogs. He licked me. Hate may be too strong a word. Repulsed might be better. Yes I am repulsed by dog licking. At least I was. Now, god help me, Milo licks me with impunity. To his credit Milo employed that old prison axiom. Find the biggest dude in the joint and kick his ass. It’s the only way to establish dominance and improve your survivability.

Milo11

Watch out, he’s a dangerous beast.

Milo clearly marked me as the alpha in the house but instead of going the tough guy rout he came at me with his cuteness. I mean look at this freaking mutt. Even I could not resist that. And I’m from Jersey.

So yeah I admit it, I was warming to the idea. What of it. As much as I hate to shatter myths about myself, I am not a godless, inhumane, dog hater. I’m just lazy. Dogs, specifically six week old puppies, cut into my laziness at a 45 degree angle. But again I refer you to the photo of Milo the day he showed up. All of six weeks old we think, he was oozing cuteness.

I was not swayed at first mind you. Me and this mutt had some dancing left to do. Once again I put my foot down. My declaration went something like this, If I have to take this dog out once in the middle of the  night to pee, I will throw a rib-eye steak out into on-coming traffic, however light that may be at 3am in Knoxville, and I will not look back nor lose one second of sleep over it. And once again that little rant went largely unheeded. A fact I contemplated while standing in the yard at 1:30 one morning at the end of a leash waiting for Milo to take care of business. One thing can’t be denied, no matter their effectiveness, I can throw down a good rant.

milo1

Big deal. Do the dishes, fold laundry, then I’ll be impressed.

Needless to say his first few days did not impress me much. That’s him in the second pic. Sleeping sitting up. Yeah I get it. That in itself is impressive. What dog sleeps sitting up? At least he wasn’t barking or crapping. Small victories I guess.

It may have been his reluctance to bark that first started to change my mind a bit. One thing is for sure, the dog is not dumb by any stretch of the imagination. He obviously sensed my animosity toward him, especially after he licked me with his dog tongue. He had a tough road ahead if he was going to remain in the house.

Then one evening he made his move. It felt a bit like a set up after I saw the pictures. Mind you I was asleep. This was all orchestrated by Mrs Frank’s Place. Since she’s the one who did dirty getting Milo in the house in the first place I guess she figured she needed some photo evidence to continue her case.

Milo T

Sneaky bastard. Tracy I mean, not the dog.

Behold. Milo T Dog violates my personal space. It may not be clear in that picture, but I was sound asleep. He knew it. Tracy knew it. Then apparently the entire neighborhood knew it as she texted out further evidence to the Sac. What’s also clear in these two shots is how comfortable that mutt is.

That was his first time on the bed and he had to be helped up there. But once there he quickly realized how cushy the adults in the house have it in the sleep department. That isn’t some rock hard, prison mattress we’re sleeping on. Since that night the dog has slept on my side or Tracy’s.

Thankfully he’s not much larger. He’s put on weight but he’s not much longer. He fits on the bed still and it appears that he’s grown as large as he gonna grow. I mean look at that mutt. He has not one care in the world in that picture.

Milo and me

Yeah we were both sawing the lumber that night.

Again, he ain’t dumb. He found a crack in my armor and he exploited it. I do not recall how long we were like that. But it is safe to say this was the beginning of a season of mutual understanding between me and Milo T.  He followed that up with sitting the first time a yelled SIT at him. I was just curios to see what he would do. The damn dog sat. He wasn’t three months old yet. With a few more tips from the neighbors he started to heed other commands as well.

That, more than being my new sleep buddy, endeared the mutt to me. No one else in the house listens to me. So to have a living organism not only listen but obey was a huge plus in Milo getting to stay. Also, surprisingly, the dog has a heart.

Milo Frank

Milo the comfort dog.

When one of the kids goes to bed upset from any number of idiotic actions they take that gets them chastised during the go to bed routine, Milo sleeps with them instead of me or Tracy. So apparently bad bedtime choices gets you a visit from Milo for the night.

Look, I’m not saying I want to let the dog lick me on the mouth. After all he does lick his own butt. Do people who kiss dogs on the mouth realize that? Anyway, I’m not ever going to be a dog lover to that level, but I clearly have warmed to Milo and he to me. He got the better of me. I’m big enough to admit it. Am I a dog person now?

Well yes by simple definition I am a dog person by virtue of having a dog. But am I a dog person? Not really. Currently I’m glad he’s more house broken than he was and still obeys when I speak to him. Will I ever be a dog person?

Sure, the minute he stops eating my dirty laundry.

City Swim Meet: Water World meets Lord of the Flies

Heat Sheet

Go time at the University of Tennessee!

Talk about living vicariously through your kids. The City Swim Meet at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville is the living definition of that. Having missed out on the traditional college experience I always enjoy going to the UT campus, which conveniently sits just 10 minutes from my house. The first pic is the kid’s events for the day to include time, heat and lane. There was my 8 year old in the program for a real live competition with hundreds of other kids from all round the Knoxville area. My nerves were waking up.

The kid? Well he could care less. Maybe it’s that deal where he’s too young to feel magnitude. For me the magnitude of this was enormous. Very soon after arriving I would be taking him down to this giant holding pen where he would await the call for his first race. As his races were all so close together I thought this might be the last time I got to talk to him until the end of the meet. That meant he would be on his own in the huge swim arena, jumping into that huge pool, racing all those other kids and the best I could do would be sit in the stands and watch, helplessly. You bet your ass I was nervous.

meditation.jpg

Keeping his head while all about him lose theirs.

There he is, in the 2nd pic, sitting like a Jedi in deep contemplation. Sat like that for almost 6 minutes. I only started to watch the clock after Mrs Frank’s Place texted to ask if he was nervous. I sent her this pic and then realized he had been like that for a few minutes. He had just returned from his first race, the individual freestyle, to the team tent, waiting for the call for his individual backstroke event. From that 6 minute meditation came this bit of discovery. Daddy, if they let me be on the team next year I’m gonna race the breast stroke too. So we were both feeling the moment. My moment was giving me irritable bowel syndrome, his moment was apparently giving him the taste for blood.

Honestly I started not to recognize him. I usually take him to the evening swim practices during the week. I’ve never seen him be very competitive. But after this weird little moment and then his backstroke event, I realized he was finally feeling the spirit of competition. In that race he started 9th. Of course he starts every race last because he watches the other kids and won’t dive until they do. He’ll never false start that’s for sure. But he puts himself behind right from the jump.  But unlike most meets and practices, in the pool at UT he found a new gear.

Backstroke

Amazing what a competitive atmosphere can do. Or maybe he’s juicing. Hard to tell.

By the halfway point he had drawn even with most of the field and I figured on a decent finish. But he kept going and touched the wall for third. He’s best finish to date. Shaved serious time off his previous best. I was ecstatic. He was more interested in the shaved ice truck sitting outside the door where the swimmers came out after they were done. I tried not to yell like a crazy parent. I can’t tell you if I did or not. I was in a bit of a euphoric haze. And I ain’t ashamed to admit it.

Don’t let the title fool you. It was a great event. We had a great time. It was well run and organized inside the arena. However, outside the arena, the staging area, the place I began to refer to as the pen, was at times bedlam, and most times utter chaos. In the midst of that chaos was one dude, a sentinel of sorts, already hoarse from the Friday events. One man against a tide of kids and screaming parents.

We had three kids going in the same heat in the backstroke. We went to the pen before they called for us. From his view it looked like a relay team and he motioned to me. They were in the midst of being overrun by relay teams of 8 and 9 year old boys and girls. Some squads had two and three relay teams. The commotion was caused by relay teams showing up without all four members. But mostly it was caused by parents trying to show they knew better than the sentinel. It was crazy. When the sentinel motioned to me I spoke before he wasted more of his dwindling voice. Hey man, we’re early. We’re not the relay team, just early for the backstroke, event 42.

the pen

The sentinel is in there somewhere. And this was a dull moment. It’s Lord of the Flies in there!

I got a quick nod of appreciation from the sentinel and he went back to stemming the tide of rebellion in his little fenced in island. I put an important mental note away for the future. When Frank’s relay event comes up don’t come to the pen without the full team and let the dude be the dude. I say this to Tracy all the time when we go out to eat. Let the waiter be the waiter we’ll just be the eaters. Well on this day we were just the swimmers. Some of the other parents had figured this out as well and you could see them standing back a bit waiting for the din to die down. That moment never came.

It wasn’t until the kids began to get past the sentinel and dictate to their parents what should be happening that I pulled Frank back to the other side of the lot where all this was going on. He was getting real tired of all this and I could see it was weighing on him. Finally the relay teams moved into the arena and it was Frank’s turn to enter the pen to wait for his race. When the sentinel came up to me I just had to ask him. Who did you piss off to get this job?  But the sentinel’s job is never done and he was back at the chaos, moving kids to arena. Time for me to get in there too. That’s where I watched my kid rip off a personal best and finish third in his heat after all that nonsense outside.

Later as the meet ended Frank’s coaches mentioned the same guy does that job every year. He actually volunteers for it. God bless that poor bastard. I assume the job gets a little easier as the kids get older. So this must be some sort of purgatory or something. Either way the sentinel was the real MVP that day. And because of him my 8 year old wants to drop boy scouts and fall baseball so he can work on his swimming for next year.

freestyle1

Small kid. Big pool.

As one of my friends said, if Frank gets long like his grandfather, my dad, he’ll go far in swimming. I have no issue with that. It’s a great sport. And after this City Meet deal I’m hooked too. I mean look at the last pic. That’s Frank in Lane 7 in the same pool Michael Phelps and the rest of the 2012 Olympic swimmers trained in during the run up to the London games.

That is a small kid in a big pool. He’s just starting to find his stroke. I’d much rather walk golf course seeing his smooth swing but I admit I wouldn’t mind spending my retired years going to college pools to watch this kid swim.

Wonder what the sentinels are like at that level?

 

50 Years a Memory: Treasures from the Attic

As I may have mentioned, the house I grew up in, the house that was built for us 50 years ago this past July, is on the market. My mom is moving out after the death of my father in 2015 and it’s time to clean the place out. I may also have mentioned we are the only people to ever live in that house and we have accumulated 50 years worth of “stuff”. Well the work has begun and actually nearing its end. My little sister, aka The Warden, is running the show. Sometimes 660 miles is a good distance.

Not gonna lie, the thought of all that work makes me tired. I sheepishly have to admit I have the best of both worlds. I am doing none of the work but getting a lot of the stories and pictures of the stuff they find as la mia famiglia work through 50 years of stuff stuffed into two attics. Here is one of the treasures they found.

Yeah you can say it, I was adorable.

That’s me, your humble author, spring of 1972 I think. Had to be cowboy day in kindergarten or something. I know it’s not first grade. I was sentenced to eight years at St. Vincent De Paul Catholic school for grades 1-8. Hence I would have been in uniform or some type of prison togs or what have you.

That picture, as it turns out was the tip of the iceberg. I really never considered what documents or photos they might find. The bulk of the conversation always centered around the big orange tractor pictured two stories ago, the massive above ground pool filter that favored a small fission reactor, and a conspiracy laced theory that my parents had just tossed my brother’s, now worth a small fortune, collection of baseball cards from their youth in the small downstairs attic. Since their youth occurred in the 1960s there may be some good cards in the pile. Probably gonna be a Capone’s vault type of thing but it’s a fun story.

Micky Mantle’s rookie card aside there was some finds of more significance , at least in my mind. My brother has always had a nose for politics and we have great conversations every time he rolls through Knoxville. Now I know why that is.

A little highbrow but it gets the message across.

Behold, historical documents from his first campaign for public office. Not sure of the date on this but campaign budgets were clearly a little tight then. It’s also unclear from the historical documents recovered from what I believe is the upstairs attic dig, of exactly what the outcome was. There was no evidence of a reelection campaign so I think it’s safe to assume this particular bid at public service went begging.

Maybe one of my sisters or even The Man himself will clarify that and what exactly the Office of Chairman was. Keep in mind what we know about politics now was completely different back then. For all we know Chairman might be Class President. Or it could be chief chalk eraser clapper/cleaner. Hard to say.

There were some other good finds in those attics. At the risk of breaking my arm as I pat myself on the back, here is some evidence of where my love of reading comes from. My kids both howled at this when I explained the play on words. But it was a timely find as Frank is starting to learn the importance of reading well. Not just because it’s smart to do so, but because reading is the key to being good at math and science, two of his favorite subjects currently.

Some subtle irony there if you can see it.

If I remember correctly 1978 would have been 5th grade for me. I do remember my teacher, Mrs Fisher. Even at the rip old age of nine years old I thought she was cute as a button. She was the teacher who figured out I needed glasses. My grades predictably went up from that point. Mrs Fisher was a cool teacher and a large part of my roaring success with reading. Scanning the landscape of Frank’s, and now Anne Marie’s grade school, I take comfort in how many Mrs Fishers I see waiting for them as they progress. Lot of memories in that little card.

Some other cool finds were my dad’s duffle bag and nap sack from his time in the Army. My sister’s leg brace that she wore for a s long as I can remember when we were kids was unearthed. Of course there were more pictures and other things. Mostly more memories.

Here are a few of the pics recovered from the operation.:

That’s us. Must be 1980ish in our living room.

Three generations – one house.

That last one was not found in the attic. That’s just a shot of my Frank and his grandfather Frank, Poppy as they called him. Both with the official name of Francis. Summer of 2010 I think. So if you’re keeping score that’s three generations of Francis’s in our dinning room.

The other pic was clearly found in the attic. That’s the eight of us with our parents in 1981/82 maybe. Not sure the occasion but we are lined up for some reason in our living room at the time.

Final memory from the attic in the only house we ever knew.

Birthday time for the then unknown Warden.

That shot is my childhood. All of us around the dinning room table. The warden was having a birthday. So it’s November 1975 maybe. That’s me sporting the white belt after labor Day. Always the risk taker.

Brace yourself, I’m going nostalgic. Birthdays for us happened around that table. Period. Granted with 8 of us we had a built in party, but the dining room table was our spot. All those trips back to Jersey since I’ve moved to Knoxville end up in that room, sitting around the table telling stories or making fun of someone. Well at least they did. Someone else will get to sit there now. Maybe for another 50 years.

Imagine the stories they’ll share.

 

 

 

Swim Team and the Swim Meet that Never Ends.

You know it all seems so cool, seems so awesome. What could be better than being a competitive swimmer?

Since I was a kid the TV brought scenes of Olympic swimmers during their meets, and events, and heats. Watching the US Swim Team crush everyone in Los Angeles during the 84 summer games was amazing. That was the Olympics of Rowdy Gaines, Pablo Morales, Dara Torres, and Mary Meagher. The US bagged 21 gold medals. From there we got Atlanta and then Sydney and the first appearance of then unknown Michael Phelps from Baltimore. The coverage of swimming at the Los Angeles Olympics all the way through the latest games in Rio has been breathtaking.

Not Torres and Gainey. Still super cool though.

You want to know what that coverage wasn’t? Accurate.

Now I’m not saying it was fake news. No, everything we saw was real. What I’m saying is we didn’t get to see everything. Lie by omission? Probably not. But if the unwashed, such as myself, could see what went into to those super cool swim meets, what happened behind the scenes… Well let’s just say my kids might have had to live with a very non-super cool ten dollar slip and slide during the summer instead of the swim team they go to each day.

Swim team practice itself is great. Takes an hour and they can go to the morning session or the evening session or both. Two nights a week the evening session is on the campus at the University of Tennessee. That’s way cool.

Practice is just what you might expect. Swimming. They literally swim laps for an hour. Great exercise and they do it every day. In the final few minutes of practice any kid who wants to can jump from the diving board. Mine have really enjoyed that part. They used to be deathly afraid, now even AM jumps right off. The confidence building in them both is visible.

But the swim meets. My god the swim meets. Tuesday night was my first time. What an indoctrination. My wife and kids got there around 4pm. The meet started at 6. I got there around 5:45. I was greeted by utter chaos only to be told by a dad from the other team that this was one of the most organized meets he had seen so far. No one from my family had seen me yet. The desire to flee was palpable. Instead I braced and forged on.

Should have run when I had the chance.

I found my wife at the check in tent, volunteering as usual. The kids appeared soon after with colorful but weird markings on their bodies. Across their backs, a sharpie induced tattoo of their last name. On the underside of their forearm some hieroglyphics that looked something like this: 12/1/1.

That bit of info indicates his event, heat and lane. So for that example he would race in event 12, be in heat 1, and swim in lane 1. Frank swam in 4 events so he had a mini European train schedule on his arm. But once it was explained to me it was easy to follow. Until I took a closer peak.

Frank why does the last one say 42/3/3?

Cause I swim in lane 3 for my last race.

Wait are you saying you are swimming in event 42? Tracy is he swimming in event 42? There are 42 events?

The answers were yes, yes and no. Absolutely should have run before I was made.

Yes he was swimming in event 42, but no there are not 42 events. There are 72. I’ll write that out for you non-numerically inclined. A swim meet has seventy-two events. And every swimmer swims at least one event. The opposing team had 160 swimmers added to our 60+ swimmers.

Frank is not even that good at this and he was swimming the maximum allowed four events. He was slated for events 12, 22, 32, 42. Great for ease of counting, not great for getting to bed anytime before midnight. Once more, there are multiple heats to each event. So from the above example Frank swam the first heat in event 12, but there were 4 heats in that event. So event 13 did not occur until all heats for event 12 were finished. And of course we had a record breaking 8 heats in event 16. Of course we did.

AM was easy. She swam 11/1/1. Event eleven as it turns out was very early on in the festivities. Problem: Wife was volunteering the whole meet, and I had to stay for all of Frank’s races. Issue: AM has to hang out waiting for her brother to finish his last race in the third heat of event 42. Forty two?!?! How do I tell a kid she has to sit there and watch other people swim but she, still in a bathing suit, can’t go in the water? The waiting is a lesson in endurance. And for a 5 year old she did great.

And yeah we blew town the minute he emerged from the water after his last race. Look I’m all for team work and team spirit and all that other business, but it’s Tuesday night, quickly becoming Wednesday morning. I don’t even want to tell you what time I get up for work. (4:30am) but there is a good chance they still might be swimming when I’m hopping in the shower before heading to the office.

I ran into a friend who was volunteering as a lane watcher or something. His kid was swimming in event 64. Poor bastard. I almost passed out when he told me. Speaking of… did I mention it was 98 bazillion degrees out there? Mrs Frank’s Place was almost a causality. Which is bizarre really. To pass out or suffer from the heat or dehydration a mere five steps from a large pool of water would be one of the universe’s cruel ironies.

All my whining aside it was a great thing. To see your kids perform in an environment like that at such a young age is a treasure. Coach Joe is an amazing dude. He is responsible for running the meet when it’s at our pool. By all accounts it went off without a hitch. Which is staggering considering all the logistics that go into something like that. So kudos to him and the staff and Team Smokin Salmon!

Here are few shots from the swim meet that never ends.

Starting Block Lane 4 – Individual Back Stroke

Frank reaching for the wall – Individual Back Stroke

 

 

 

 

 

 

So intent on a competitor he forgot to put his goggles down – Individual Breast Stroke

AM in her first ever race – Individual Free Style

So yeah it sucked in some aspects. And now that I know what to expect and how to prepare it will suck a whole lot less next time. But there was a whole lot of greatness happening too.

The camaraderie Coach Joe has cultivated on a swim team with kids as young a 5 and as old as 18 is amazing. Older kids I’ve never met stopped to congratulate AM on her first race as they were on the way to check in for theirs.

In a middle of the road type race, Frank’s kick in the final stretch of the Individual Backstroke got him from 6th to 4th, picking up valuable points for his team. Honestly I thought I was the only one who noticed. Wrong again. Several people came over to him with encouragement and excitement of his final move in the last few meters.

When Frank was so focused on beating one of the kids from the other team off the block he forgot to slide his goggles down over his eyes. He went the whole race without them. He took the kid from the block and at the wall. Mission accomplished.  Two of his coaches were laughing. There goes Frank the Tank without his goggles. No he has goggles, he’s just not using them.

The kid has a nick name. Who knew? An easy alliteration of his name to be sure. But apparently it also refers to his determination to do something like prove he can swim the length of the pool without moving his arms, jump from the diving board without getting his hair wet, and swim a race with his goggles on his head instead of his eyes because he was intent on getting off the block first.

The things you learn about your kids.

It’s a good squad with good coaching. We are lucky to have this experience. And my kids are learning important life lessons from swimming I thought they might only get from golf.

Hmmm Swim Team, who knew?

 

 

 

50 Years a Memory: Where did the time go?

As my friend and Friday golf partner always says, Father time is undefeated. It’s a phrase bandied about in sports more than anything. Athletes get old, skills diminish, the wear and tear becomes more visible. They become a shell of what they once were. As I approach 50 years old it becomes more painfully obvious sports has no monopoly on this condition.

But take heart, this is no woe is me I’m an old man screed. My golf game is better now than it was 10 years ago. Nope, this is just a miss-mash of revelations that occurred to me on the drive back to Knoxville TN, my current home, from the Jersey Shore and the home where I grew up. And as is the custom, if it occurs to me I tell it to you.

The place we called home.

So here’s to the tellin. 50 Years a Memory: Where did the time go?

July 4th weekend was a big deal. Aside from our nation’s deceleration some 241 years ago, it was on this date July 4th 1967, construction was complete and my family moved into the only house I ever knew. One month and 16 days later I was born. Three years and three months later my little sister and the last of the eight Linardo children of Frank and Marie was born. Yep, eight of us in there. Plus parents, plus my dad’s mother eventually. That’s 11 people, 3 adults and 8 kids, if you’re scoring at home.

11 is just right.

And until someone buys it, only one family has ever lived there. Us. Here we all are in 1973(?). With a photo bomb by our house.

I’m the tiny dude up front wearing horizontal stripes way before they were in style. It appears I’m also wearing my trusty one rig holster complete with an ivory handled six shooter. Well, it’s Jersey after all.

Now the distinguished lady in the back right is my mom’s mom; Granma McEntee. She was just visiting from Phila. Lots of history and memories standing there. Some faces are gone but most are still here.

The house, well the house remains. But as hard as it is to contemplate, it’s on the market. At some point in this year I would imagine, another family other than us will live there. Weird really. That’s just not the standard anymore. So it’s weird to think about us being the only people to ever live in that house.

You might be able to tell from the first picture the house is losing to father time. No different than anyone or anything else really. We all feel the effects sooner or later. For 50 years old and the wear and tear it’s still in great shape. Yeah it’s got some age marks, but those are some righteous age marks. The phrase if walls could talk would be appropriate here. But I bet the can could say much more. The can? That’s South Jersey speak for the bathroom.

Behold…

Oh jonny, the stories you might tell.

You, my friends, are looking at the one and only bathroom in that house. I took that picture when I was home this past June. Almost 50 years after it was built. Numbers are important. Eleven people, three adults, eight kids, all using/sharing that. Did I mention five of those eights kids were girls. I’m not sayin, I’m just sayin. That’s a sturdy room.

Now lest some of my kin jump needlessly, there is a half bath downstairs. Referred to then as a powder-room. But that amounts to a toilet and sink in what could generously be described as a water closet. That joint could tell some stories too. But not like the main hub of the house.

No the main bathroom is where it all started every morning. From my dad rolling out to work at 5am, to my sisters hogging the shower, to my brother yelling The bus is at the corner! when it really wasn’t, just to see the mayhem and maybe clear a space for his own assault on the can.

I remember coming out of the shower only to see my glasses lenses covered with shaving cream and all manner of insults, also in my dad’s shaving cream, scrolled across the double mirror. I can remember my brothers yelling through the door from the hallway and my sisters, some of them anyway, yelling right back from the high ground; inside the bathroom.

From there the action always moved to the stairs. Either my brothers running down and out the front door trying to escape the wrath of my older sisters, usually with an old hunk of hot-wheels track in hand, or me and my little sister using our blankets wrapped around the rail to ride to the bottom.

Climbed these thousands of times.

Look at those stairs. You can almost see the history in the treads beneath the carpet. When I was a kid the rail was black wrought iron. Same rail, now white. It’s a testament to the manufacturing how well that damn thing held up. Yeah man the house is 50 years old, but they truly don’t make em like that anymore. Our house was put to the test daily for almost half a century and it’s still solid.

Now it’s empty. Sort of. Fifty years is a lot of memories but it’s a lot of stuff too. That stuff has to be dealt with. I’m a bit conflicted of being 660 miles away at this moment in history. I would love to be there going through all the stuff and reliving things. But then again I’m pretty lazy and that seems like a crap ton of work. My little sister, the warden as we call her, is on the job. The whole gang except me really has been going at it for some time now trying to get it ready to sell. Like expert archeologists they tackle one layer at a time.

The pics my sister sends me are great. Talk about memories. The tractor in the pic below is older than me I think. A little worse for wear, I believe this was unearthed from the downstairs attic. Yes kids, in those days houses of that type were built with an upstairs and downstairs attic. It’s amazing to see the pics sides by side. At least to me it is anyway.

Old faithful. Could still get er done!

Me in what had to be 1970, 71 at the latest.

Appropriately my trusty old tractor is sitting next to an Amazon Prime box.When Frank saw this picture he thought it was of him. Father time is indeed undefeated.

No Frank that’s not you. You are looking at your old man, way back when, younger than you are now, sitting on a tractor thing that still works, in front of a house that’s as sturdy as ever.

When the new people move in, and the carpets pulled, and the walls painted, and the memories erased, the dust will fly. There is a history in that dust. Those floors bear our existence. Those walls hold our jelly stained fingerprints. The stairs contain the drum beat of eight kids growing up.

In that dust, in the commotion of remaking old into new, lies the story of us.

 

 

 

Back to work: The Grind

Not in the Grind.

I imagine this will be a fairly obvious statement, but being a stay at home dad spoiled me. Yes it was hard and yes it’s still work, just unpaid work and… blah blah blah. I get it. I’m not saying being a stay at home is any less demanding than going to a paid job might be. Trust me I did it for six years. No matter what I did in the military, no matter what I do now working in national security, none of that was or will ever be as important as what I did for the six years I was home with Frank and then Anne Marie.

Still, I never felt it for those six years. There wasn’t this pang hanging in the air. You know the feeling. It’s just faint white noise on Saturday morning. It becomes a bit of a buzz by nightfall. No not that kind of buzz. The kind that of buzz distracting you from enjoying Saturday because you know what’s coming. By Sunday it’s loud and unmistakable. You, my friend, are in The Grind.

Honestly I didn’t know what it was. But I knew it was there. As soon as I went back to work I could feel it. Maybe not right away, as the adrenaline of all the new things carried me through the grind unnoticed. But as soon as I got into a groove at work, as soon as I began to feel comfortable there, I could sense it. It was just this lurking feeling, again like a very light white noise playing in the background. It was annoying but not debilitating. It was this feeling. A feeling like I was running after something but could never catch up.

Then I mentioned it to my friend and neighbor JB. He tagged it immediately. You’re in the grind bro! For a dude 20 years younger than me he is wise beyond his years. The Grind. Yep. By Sunday morning it was this dread and angst all at the same time. Trying to get stuff done at the same time trying to enjoy the final moments of the weekend. The Grind.

Definitely in the Grind.

The funniest part, I love my job. I love the people I get to work with. Top it off with the mission. The mission is as close to what I did in uniform as I could ever get on the outside. I’m not sure I could have described what I thought the perfect follow on job for me would be once I retired from the military. This place is it for me. That’s what makes the grind so dastardly.

I don’t worry or fret going back to work on Monday’s, but I can tell you I’m grinding on Sunday. Hell I went to work this past Monday, July 3rd even though most of the place would be off and I would be off Tuesday July 4th. I like it there. I feel at home in my office and my building. I know JB loves what he does. I know he enjoys his work as much as I do mine. But still, the grind is there. It’s tangible. You can feel it. And then it’s gone.

When the alarm blows on Monday morning the grind is gone. It’s time to make the doughnuts and no time to be worried about the weekend cause it’s over. You would think the converse would be true as well. You would think there would be an equal and opposite reaction, an anxiousness waiting for the weekend to begin. Nope. The grind doesn’t work that way bro.

Now I can’t speak for JB here. All I know is I don’t sit around on Thursday watching the sweep hand and waiting on the plant whistle to blow. I work a 4/10 schedule with Fridays off. So Thursday is my Friday. Yeah I know, don’t hate me. The weeks disappear for me. When I hit the ground on Monday I’m going hard, jobbin, choppin wood, whatever. When I look up, it’s Thursday. The weeks happen that fast for me. Still come Friday night, after all the golf has been played, all the naps taken, the grind starts to approach.

The Grind

It’s a little like that green fog in the movie The Ten Commandments. You know, when Yule Brenner as Ramses II condemns all new born Hebrews to death but Moses beat him to the punch on what was to become the first Passover. That green fog held low to the ground. It was the representation of the angel of death and instead of Hebrews, every first born Egyptian literally eats the dust when it envelops them. The grind is just like that, minus the Hebrews and Egyptians and the death thing. But that fog man, that fog creepin along the ground… You’re in the grind bro!

Now I know all you junior psych majors are saying the same thing. Dude, it’s the job. You’re dreading going to the J.O.B. What’s the saying, All Knowledge, No Mileage. Try to explain the grind to a kid with all school and no work and that’s the answer you get. Not their fault. They will feel the grind one day in the near future and the light will go on for them as it did me.

Look I can’t explain it. All I can say is the work is good but the grind is real.

Stuff my kid says: From the mouth of a preemie.

Who knew?

Strange how time affects things, how it can change your point of view or even your philosophy on stuff. Take for instance my now 5-year-old daughter. While in the NICU weighing a slight 1 pound 12 ounces any sound she made was met with joy and celebration. A burp, a cry, even a tiny little preemie fart, was cause for elation. Now, five years later, well let’s say the philosophy has changed a wee bit.

We summoned her upstairs to try on some new PJs. She was in the living room alone, it was quiet. And that’s important. When I called her to come upstairs it got dead quiet. Think of the quiet before a nuke goes critical and destroys everything in 100 square miles and you’d be close to the quiet before what we now call The Event.

When she realized we wanted her to stop what she was doing and come up stairs we clearly heard her say semi-under her breath, Well Shit. That was followed by her slow stomping her way up the stairs.

I am not embarrassed to say it was one of the proudest moments of my life. Not only did she use the proper word and context. She used the proper inflection. It was impeccable delivery.  I mean it was wrong on almost every level but damn it was funny. Tracy did not think so but I didn’t notice because I was too busy peeing my pants laughing.

But she wasn’t done. In fact she has offered so much funny lately I’m only giving you the best few as I see it. Or hear it as it were.

Behold:

We are both having hotdogs with ketchup. Frank and I are equivalent. Daddy equivalent means equal or the same. As you might imagine that was uttered with condescension dripping from all sides of it. She actually paused, taking the time to explain it to me as if I was the one in the room who could not possibly comprehend that word. She might as well have said excuse me while I explain it to you know who. All accompanied by a smirk and the old thumb wave that says hey look at the dope. Just remember when you point one finger at someone there are four more pointing back at you. To whit…

Daddy, dog water tastes just as good as people water. This revelation was made mere seconds after she educated me on the word equivalent. But this is the joy of young minds right? To her both of those statements were equally smart and observant. You might say they were equivalent. That is until your mind stops long enough to ask what should have been the obvious question. Anne Marie how do you know what dog water tastes like? Turns out thew answer is as obvious as the question.

The road warrior herself. Dreaming of first class leg room.

Daddy if it takes 13 hours to drive to New Jersey why don’t we just fly? Ah silly little child. If we flew we would be depriving you of that great American tradition; the family road trip. You see Anne Marie it’s supposed to take 13 hours so you can, we all can, experience the misery of the road trip in all it’s pee stops and hours long traffic jam glory. It’s what builds character and makes American strong. Fly? Fly! Don’t be silly. That would only take 1 hour and 45 minutes. What the hell are we supposed to do with the other 11 hours and 15 minutes?

Daddy we could live here forever! She tossed out that gem after it was discovered that Avalon NJ, the city where we rented the beach house for the week, had a Duck Doughnuts. That’s a cake doughnut place that has become wildly popular in the south. They make the doughnuts right in front of you, then put anything you want on them. I’m not saying I would do violence for a maple glazed with bacon on top, but I’m not not saying it either. Strawberry glaze with rainbow sprinkles is her regular. Of course this desire to stay in the homeland was also after we had real pizza for dinner one night and Italian subs the next and we spent a six days on the beach and at the pool. Live there forever, of course she’d want to. But will we? Of course we won’t.

I just don’t know who I’m going to marry. That bombshell came when I found her, at the ripe old age of four, sitting on the hallway floor in front of her room looking despondent. When I asked her the issue, she dropped that on me. She was very concerned that she would not find someone to marry. I suggested that she wait till at least her 5th birthday to get worried about that. She was agreeable but not happy. I’m still in counseling.

And for the top, and likely most disturbing comment…

Daddy do girls grow a penis? Tracy and I just looked at each other for a very awkward minute and it became painfully clear this was my hot potato to handle. It was like tip toeing though a mine field. Ah… no Anne Marie only boys have a penis. She paused for a quick second and offered this, That’s good. Cause I don’t want one of those. My thought – Hold on to that attitude for the next 80 years if you don’t mind.

And with that the conversation ended and she jumped into her bed and reminded us to turn on her sound machine and ceiling fan. That was our invitation to leave so she could go to sleep. So it appears we will be paying dearly for all of the quite, happy go lucky, rule following we got from Frank.

God help us all.