Diary of a SHAD: A traitor in our midst.

There is a myriad of reasons Mrs Frank’s Place is out of my league. Way out of my league. Too many to name here, but one area in particular comes to the forefront as the college basketball season starts to wind up.

She’s a huge sports fan. This is a great quality but can be a double edged sword at times.

On the plus side we get to watch a lot of sports. A lot of college sports. She’s also a huge fan of the Olympics. One Winter Games I had pneumonia and was laid up for a week. We watched Olympic Curling all day long for like 6 days.

She also saved me a little embarrassment when I met the dude who ran the sports at the University of Tennessee. When we ended up in the same church group with the athletic director from the University of Tennessee, she pointed him out. I said, that dude? He said his name is Mike. She says yeah and he runs the Athletic Department at UT, he’s a big deal. I had no clue. I grew up on pro sports, being 45 minutes from Phila. He was just a regular dude to me. Still is.

As always I would regale my friends at the base with stories on Monday mornings and when I repeated this one a few were quite impressed. Although they were more than slightly embarrassed for me that I had no idea who or what an athletic director was. They were slightly bowled over that Mrs Franks Place had to explain the importance of it all to me. I’m all like, dude she’s a huge sports fan. ESPN plays in our house more than anything. We were once late for a Christmas Party so we could see the Heisman Trophy presentation the year Carson Palmer from USC won it. Their mouths hit the floor. When I said I was retiring to raise Frank, (and later his sister AM), she achieved goddess like status in their eyes.

But all that comes with a price.

She’s a Kentucky fan. As in University of Kentucky, class of 95, homecoming queen in 94. When I met her in 2000 living in Knoxville, Volunteer country, she would be pretty reserved during football, and a maniac during basketball season. When Kentucky routinely whupped Tennessee in basketball she would call all her friends in Knoxville to bust their chops. When we went to games I had to keep my head on a swivel as she would degrade and demean Tennessee fans in her all blue and white get up.

We went to the Kansas – Tennessee game in Knoxville in 2010. Kansas was ranked #1 in the country and Tennessee saw half it’s starting roster go to the slammer after being arrested for drugs/driving/alcohol stuff a few days prior to that game. With a band of misfits and walk-on players UT upset by God #1 Kansas. She wore blue and cheered for Kansas the whole time.

The last game we went to together. Made the CBS telecast too.  Tennessee crushed UK. It was awesome.

The last game we went to together. Made the CBS telecast too. Tennessee crushed UK. It was awesome.

We no longer go to games together.

She takes all the fun out of it. I’m no longer young enough nor do I have the desire to fight every hayseed who bleeds UT Orange, because my wife yells out “UT sucks” while we walk back to our car.

The picture left is us at our last game together. UT beat Kentucky by 30. In the picture you can see Tracy is worried about the score. I’m clearly calculating the hotdog to fan ratio and thinking I should make a run to the concession stand before the buns go empty.

I can live with the UK stuff for the most part. But it’s starting to rub off on my kids. And now I have a problem with it.

We have essentially swapped gender roles. Regardless of how much you hear about stay at home dads being on the rise, we’re still a minuscule part of the population. Not even 1% if I remember correctly. So I get that we’ve swapped and I’m cool with it. I’m the most secure dude I know, and this was my choice. And I have swapped with a person who could easily fill the traditional man’s role as it pertains to sports. I mean, she runs like a wounded duck but she can dissect football, hockey, basketball, curling, you name it.

She doesn’t pick winners based on mascots or helmet design. When we entered pool for the NCAA BBall championship, I won, but she came in second. It was a huge group and the winners take was over four digits. In other words there were a lot of people in this thing and she beat them all except me.

But still, introducing the kids to sports is my job. Or so I thought. It’s one role I wanted to keep. But the force is strong with Mrs Frank’s Place and she hates Tennessee sports with a white hot passion.

Et Tu Grammy?

Et Tu Grammy?

Because of that, Frank learned to chant C-A-T-S cats, cats, cats (as in Kentucky Wildcats) when he was two. Whenever any of my students would give us Tennessee apparel for our new arrival, Frank in this case, she would hide it. When I did manage to get him in an Orange and White onsie, her mom took him upstairs to change his diaper and he came down wearing UK Blue.

Here’s Grammy indoctrinating the boy at Rupp Arena in Lexington Kentucky.

 

 

 

We’ve even tried compromise:

 

188523_4782989174659_1713387405_n 311220_4782980774449_172109976_nDidn’t work because at the end of the day the boy still chants C-A-T-S, Cats, Cats, Cats.

I try to explain to her that I’ll have to teach him how to fight as he goes to a Volunteer dominated school in his blue a white Kentucky garb.

I even used the old, “why are you ruining this for me, this is a sacred thing between a boy and his father.” She’s unfazed. I get crickets out of her.

Well I’ve come to the realization that Frank is a lost cause. I’ll never be able to enjoy going to games with him because he’ll shout all manner of obscenities his mother taught him at anyone wearing UT Orange. Being a fan of UK means hating UT. I can’t enjoy sports like that.

So she can have Frank.

Literally born and bread a Vol for Life.

Literally born and bread a Vol for Life.

But this one is mine.

The University of Tennessee Medical Center is the only reason we have Anne Marie.

Without the people at the UT NICU Anne Marie would not have made it.

So Orange and White it is. Guess what I’m stuffing her stocking with this Christmas.

The sweet irony; even though she won’t need to, Anne Marie already knows how to fight.

 

 

 

 

 

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Diary of a Stay At Home Dad: Four Weeks and Famous

I’ve hesitated to write about my daughter for a lot of reasons.  First and foremost; she’s battling for her life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NIC-U) at the University of Tennessee Medical Center.  I wanted to be sensitive to the very real and frighting thought that she may not make it, and then here I am writing semi-funny blogs posts about her.

She is doing much better now, gaining weight, growing longer.  She is now 2 pounds 12 ounces, a full pound heavier than the day she was born. She’s also taping out at 15 3/4 inches, three and three quarter inches longer than the little 12 inch sprout she was, born a month ago.  But, one thing I have learned is it can all go downhill in a literal breath or heartbeat.  Life is unbelievably fragile.

That’s when I decided it was ok to write about my daughter.  Her life is fragile, but all of our lives are fragile.  We all hang on the edge of living or dying.  Not talking or writing about Anne Marie in funny and positive ways won’t change the balance of that.  This stems from an old adage or practice that you don’t really tell anyone you’re having a baby until the pregnancy gets past 12 weeks.  The odds of something catastrophic happening go way down after 20 weeks.  I get it and we’ve even done that.  But this is different, for me anyway.

So I’ve been sitting on my hands, worried that I’ll write something funny and then something catastrophic may happen.  Then I looked around the NIC-U again.  Something catastrophic is always happening.  In the five hours she was alive, Linda Claire taught me to enjoy while you can.  Anne Marie is alive, and I am going to enjoy my daughter and celebrate her for as long as she’s here and part of that celebration, for me, means writing about her.

Introducing my daughter, Anne Marie Linardo – Four Weeks and Famous.

Great grip for a baby 3 months pre-mature. Another golfer I think.

So when we wrote the obituary for Linda Claire we did what a lot of people do.  Instead of flowers we asked for a donation be made.  It took Tracy and I about two seconds to decide the donations should go to the NIC-U at the UT Medical Center here in Knoxville.  The staff there have just done an outstanding  job in every conceivable way.  The nurses are the total package.  Healers, ministers, counselors, you name it they can do it.  It was an easy choice to ask people to donate there instead of send flowers.

Well, some family members sent donations, then some friends, then some friends of friends.  Even a few people who just happen to see the obituary in the paper but have no connection to us sent a donation.  I know this because every time someone donates, the Director of Development at UT Medical Center sends me a letter acknowledging a donation made in memory of Linda Claire.

Small side note.  I also got a three page hand written letter from a woman who wants me to become a Jehovah’s Witness.  She sent the letter to the funeral home listed in the obituary and they mailed it on to us.  She really threw down a sales pitch.  She sent me a few tracts from the Watch Tower.  For you young folk, that’s an old version of the literature JWs used to hand out.  They moved away from that because it became a bit of a stigma.  If a person was preaching to you on the street or your porch all you had to do was look at the back of whatever publication they gave you and if it said Watch Tower publishing, you had some JWs on your hands, well on your porch anyway.   Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Anyway, word got around, as did the edible arrangement my sister Mare sent to the NIC-U nurses. Master stroke dude.  First it was about our tragedy and then about the donations made in memory of Linda Claire.  We got a call from the development office at UT Medical and they want to interview Tracy about her feelings on the NIC-U and film her interacting with Anne Marie in the NIC-U environment.  The interview will be played during an event called “An Evening in Orange” at Neyland Stadium.  It’s a large, yearly fundraiser for the hospital and this year it will benefit the NIC-U.  So naturally they wanted parents with children in the NIC_U to participate.  I think four families were interviewed.

Neyland Stadium is home to the University of Tennessee Volunteers football team.  It seats 102,455 people on game day and is the 6th largest non-auto racing stadium in the world.  Just in case you were wondering.

I imagine this event will be tents and tables on the field.  I don’t expect 102,455 people in Knoxville have the desire or the 750 shekels it takes to get in.  Yeah, this is a big time fundraiser.  Hell, we’re in the video and we’re not going.

Today was the day of the taping.  Tracy was interviewed and then the crew followed us over to the NIC-U to film what amounts to some action shots.  Wasn’t sure how much action they were going to get out of a bunch of one to two pound premies.  Of course our daughter didn’t disappoint.  As soon as the crew sets up and starts filming, Anne Marie falls asleep, stops breathing, and her heart rate dropped into the 40 to 50 range.

That’s bad of course.  It normally sits around 165.  Alarms start going off, people start coming.  However, this is “normal” for a baby that weighed less than two pounds and was born 3 1/2 months early so we’ve seen this a lot in the past four weeks.  It’s just funny because she had been fine all day until the very moment the cameras were on.  Tracy had her hand in the Iso-Box and so she just sprung into action.  Normally a few strong pats on the butt or feet will be enough to wake her up and she’ll start breathing again.  It was maybe 5-10 seconds and her heart rate went right back to where it should be.  Welcome to our normal.

Once everyone settled down, it was movie making time.  The interview had already been conducted so this was just film footage, no talking.  Our nurse decided she did not want to be famous, said something about getting her hair done had she known and shot off to work on some other babies.  There is a reason the nurses in the NIC-U are badass.  They fight the fight 12 hour shifts at a time and take none of the credit or glory.

Tracy put her hands into the Box and Anne Marie just laid there, sleeping.  She normally works the camera, but not today.  One terrifying heart event is all you get today boys.

It was a tiring day, for everybody, but it was worth it.  The NIC-U staff of doctors, nurses, support folk, and front desk gang are all top notch, earning every nickel and then some.  After everything they’ve done for us the least we could do was spend a few hours helping in the fund raising effort.  Although when they see the part of the video I’m in they may start a collection to send me to fat camp.

For those of you who attend this event, remember the camera adds ten pounds at least.  And yes there was only one camera on me.

You sure that's my best side?

Getting the close up.

Hey where's my breast milk! Ordered that 10 minutes ago. And turn up the sun lamp!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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