Our Lady of Fatima... Pray for us.
Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament... Hear us.
Our Lady of the Rosary... Strengthen us.

Friday, February 25, 2011

FGF... A Pretty Lucky Man!

    This week may have a little different tone, as my father was recently in the hospital for several days and the news that we received was not very good.
    He has congestive heart failure, and this has created problems for his kidneys. The numbers indicate that his kidneys are shutting down, and his only hope appears to be dialysis. This has always been a possiblity, and he has always said that he would not undergo dialysis.
    That was, I am sure, an easier decision when it was only a hypothetical. It became a much tougher decision after it became a reality. He has decided that he will not undergo dialysis. The result is that the end is very near and he is now home with Hospice Care.
    My parents have been together for sixty years, and I cannot imagine what has been going through their minds.
    On one hand, I know that my dad does not want to leave my mom alone, but his quality of life is poor. On the other hand, she would love nothing more than for him to live for many more years, but loves him so much she is willing to let him go.
    This has been coming for several months, but no matter how much you expect bad news, when you finally hear it from a doctor, it feels like someone has punched you in the stomach.
    It is especially hard because my dad has always been the toughest guy in the room. I know a lot of sons say that that their fathers are the toughest guys around, but my dad really was.
   The stories are the stuff of legends.
    Ask the Washington Post picketer that grabbed my mom as she entered a K-Mart... or the man that threatened his elderly father, not knowing that my dad was upstairs, home from the Merchant Marines... or the kid that chased my dad (as a kid) home to his older brother with a broken bottle only to have his brother throw him back over the fence to go and "take care of the bottle.....and the kid"... or the guy who kept heckling my brother during a high school basketball game. There are too many stories to tell, but each one seemed to end with a concession or a knockout!
   Because my own kids are so young, they have, for most part, witnessed a very fragile grandfather. With that being said, they still think he is the toughest guy to ever walk the Earth. My son once went shopping at a school Christmas bazaar, and bought a painted railroad spike for his PapPap. He explained that he did not know what that oversized nail was supposed to be, but it was the toughest thing he could find.
    I have told my kids that PapPap did not start a lot of fights... BUT... he did not walk away from a lot either. They ask, Dad, who would win in a fight, John Cena (a professional wrestler) or PapPap?  Honestly, I tell them that Pappap did not win every fight, and I think that Cena would win. I am sure they think, Big deal... PapPap is eighty three years old with congestive heart failure!... But back in his day....
    I think that even today, if PapPap lost, he would go back day after day and fight this Cena guy until he was convinced that he finally got the better of him.
    In some respects, I guess that I still have the boyhood belief that my dad can do anything. I still expect that he is going to get up out of his bed and take a stance with his hand out, so I can throw jabs as he moves his hand away. When I drop my right hand to throw a punch, I expect him to pop me with his free hand and tell me not to drop my hand when I throw a right.
    He once bought us 16 ounce boxing gloves that were just a notch below a pillow. I think it made him proud when we took rope and created a boxing ring and landed a few shots against our friends. On a side note, I accidentally knocked out one of my girlfriends, but I don't think he was all that proud of that punch.  
    Or perhaps, he might jump up and grab the fat of my leg or squeeze my knee like he did when we were kids and had the courage to sit in the middle of the front car seat. If we tried to stop him, he would pinch or squeeze harder until we raised our hands in submission... A temporary ending as the next squeeze would come seconds later.
    We acted like we hated it, but could not wait to get that middle seat---or if it was just any two of us in the car, we would dare him to do it while we sat all the way over in the passenger's seat. By the way, that was not as difficult for him as one would imagine. It is a miracle that we never crashed.
   He was an awesome father that always reminded us that he was not our buddy. I can still hear him saying that a friend will never tell you no, and it is my job to tell you no. He did not always tell us no, but when he did say no, he meant no. No asking a second time and heaven help us if we went and asked our mom after he had already given his answer.
   He did not have a lot of set rules, but the ones he did have, we had better follow. One of the biggies was that we had better treat our mother with respect, and never talk back to her. I must admit, that I violated that rule from time to time........ but only once in his presence. Who knew he was still home? As he squeezed my face up against the wall, he asked me why I would ever talk to my mother like that. Panicked, I could only think of one answer... I did not know you were home. The squeezing got a bit tighter after that idiotic response.
   He used to whistle when he wanted us to come home at night. Occasionally, we would be playing with a new kid, and that kid would advise us to just pretend that we didn't hear him.  Crazy talk I tell you, that's just crazy talk---if we can't hear the whistle, we are too far away from home. Trust me, I have to go! If the new kid persisted, the other kids filled him in. It really was an ingenious plan on my dad's part. To this day, if my brothers and I happened to be in a stadium with 75,000 people and my dad whistled, all four of our heads would turn in that direction.
    He wanted us to be leaders, whether it was how we conducted ourselves on a ball field or in a classroom. However, we could make our own decisions up to a point. For instance when we were old enough to drive to get our hair cut, it was exciting because no more short haircuts. Unless of course he put the word out that we were to get short haircuts. Wait a sec, I said I wanted it to stay kind of long. 
    Yeah, your dad wants it short!  
    I suppose the barber understood the family heirarchy.
    He never struck me, but there was never a doubt that, if necessary, he would. I suppose that is because of the story of my oldest brother advising my dad that he was going camping for a weekend, and my dad telling him that he was not. The story ends with the two of them meeting in the front yard, both convinced that each was going to get his way. Actually the story really ends with my brother being helped back into the house, and staying home for the weekend. I was not a witness, but I was a believer.
    My dad treated anyone of any age the same, no matter who you were or what your reputation was. As long as you were respectful to him and to my mother, you were always welcome in our home. He thought that every kid needed discipline, and that every kid should treat adults with respect. I can tell you that he commanded respect from all of our friends, and without exception, he got it.
    All of our friends loved my mom and dad, and loved coming to our house because, in part, my father treated them no different than he treated his own kids---and as a special bonus, my mother could cook.
    Someone once said that an army could unexpectedly land on our front yard, and my father would invite them in, and my mother would somehow pull out eighty baked potatoes and a roast big enough to feed them all. My brother tested this theory out by unexpectedly bringing his basketball teammates home for lunch. They all went away with full stomachs.
    My father had a work ethic that was second to none. He was a paper hanger who went to work under the worst of conditions. He once fell from a ladder and would not go to the doctor. He became the proverbial one armed paper hanger!
    He made a few mistakes in his business dealings, but we always had everything that we needed and most of what we wanted. Our parents always provided the gloves, the cleats, the books or the college/law school tuition, no matter what the situation. I know now that that was not as easy as it seemed at the time.
   Finally, as my parents got older, they became the perfect grandparents. Although he still insisted on discipline and respect, it was clear that he had a different set of rules and standards for his grandchildren. It was comical when we would tell him something that our kids did wrong and how we, as parents, handled it, only to have him tell us that "they are just kids, so don't be so hard on them."
    Yeah right... just GRANDKIDS, maybe. Or my personal favorite comment, "it is hard to discipline your kids."
    Really... hard to discipline...  hmmm... as I recall, he made it look pretty easy.
    So now, he has made one request... to see or speak with every grandchild.
    It is inspiring to see that every grandchild has made the effort to make that wish come true. They have come from Virginia, Florida, Texas, and Washington. If they can't make it to Maryland, Skype will have to do. Each of them love and respect their PapPap.  
    On many occasions, he has said that the best compliment that you could give him was to pay a compliment to his children and/or his grandchildren. Now that I have kids, I agree.
    In fact, now that I have kids of my own, I find myself agreeing with a lot of what he did and said. The fact is that I became the man, the husband, and the father that I am because of him. I believe the same to be true of each of my brothers and sisters (not the man, husband, father parts but you get the drift). He and my mother gave us the tools that we needed to build our own great families, and I think that we have done just that.
    I know that he is proud of us all.
    He was not a perfect parent, nobody is. But he has always been a man that has made every decision in his life with his wife and children's best interests in mind. Without any hesitation, I can say that his family has always been the most important thing in his life.
    He now has the opportunity that most people will never have. He knows that he is dying and he has the opportunity to see and speak with every member of his family one more time.
    Have you ever thought that if you knew that today were the last day, there woiuld be one thing that you would definitely want to do?
    Well... he knows his time is near, and he does get to choose.
    In the end, just like every other day of his life, he chooses his family. In a lot of ways, he is a pretty lucky man.
    I know that many of the people who read this probably know my parents, but if you don't, they really are two of the finest people that you would ever meet.
    Please say your prayers for both of them. From where I sit, I believe that they have earned them.
   God Bless you Dad!

Friday, February 18, 2011

FGF.......Noah's Valentine's Day Greeting!

     Cheryl and I received a little Valentine's Day letter from our six-year-old Noah. Here it is:
     Dear Mom and Dad... There are many reasons why I love you. I love you Mom because you're pretty. I love you Dad because you are a smart lawyer. Mom you take me to basketball. Mom you are a good cleaner. I love you both. Love, Noah
    Does anybody but me see the problem with this lovely letter? I barely got a mention. How is it that I am limited to being a smart lawyer, basically a bread winner, and mom is the pretty, basketballing, cleaning mom. I will grant her the pretty mom part, but the basketball, cleaning mom is a reach. In fact, every time we step into a gym, I have to hear her complain about the bouncing balls. They give her a headache! Imagine, bouncing balls in a gym!
     As for the cleaning part... I really think that Noah meant to include Irma in that part of the letter. Irma is the cleaning lady that had been coming to our house to help clean every other week. Like any other six-year-old, Noah just did not feel like doing the extra work and writing, "Dear Mom, Dad, and Irma..."
     After reading Noah's letter, I pictured Cheryl as June Cleaver, with her hair made up, all decked out in a dress (Does anyone remember their mother ever wearing a dress unless she was going out for the evening?), bouncing a basketball in her left hand as she vacuums the living room carpet with her right.
     I am not so sure that even if Cheryl had the desire to do these two things simultaneously, that she would have the ability to do these two things simultaneously! I have seen her play basketball, and she has no left hand. When we play one on one, I sit on her right hand and force her to go left and she's got nothing! But does Noah mention that I kick Mom's butt in basketball? Of course not!
     The fact is that when I get home, I am lucky if Cheryl has managed to get out of her sweats that day. I refer to sweats and a tee-shirt as Mom's uniform. I would suggest that she contact the CINTAS uniform cleaning people, but I'm afraid that if I do that, she would never get around to doing the rest of the family's laundry. As for her hair, nine times out of ten, she has it twisted up in a pencil. That's right, I said a pencil!
     I understand that little boys love their mothers, but give me a break. How can he ignore all the things that I do around here.  For example, I make the kids clean their rooms and if they don't do it, their mother does it for them. I make the kids empty the dishwasher, and if they don't do it, their mother does it for them. I make the kids do their homework, and if they can't do it, their mother does it for them (at least she helps). I make the kids fold their laundry and if they don't do it, their mother does it for them.  I reprimand the kids when they don't do well in school, when they can't give me plausible explanation, their mother gives it for them.
     Oh... I get it now. Mom's the good cop, and I'm the bad, albeit profitable, cop! Well, just so everybody knows, there is no way Mom could do all that she does if I wasn't out making all the money for the family.
    Alright, alright, I concede... Noah had it right all along. At least in his mind, she does it all while I am out making the money. Hmmmm, this does make me wonder what his Valentine's Day letter may look like ten years from now:
     Dear Mom and Dad... There are many reasons why I love you. Mom you are still the prettiest Mom in the world. Thank you for being my teacher, my counselor and my friend. You have done so much for me and given so much to me that words cannot describe how much I love you. Dad, thanks for paying for everything! Love, Noah
     ps... Mom... Dad asked me to clean my room, unload the dishwasher and fold the laundry. I never got around to doing that stuff, but when he leaves for work, could you hook me up and take care of that stuff? You're the best!  
     pps... Dad... I need forty bucks so I can buy a gift for Mom. Would you please leave that on the table before you leave for Court? On second thought, make it eighty. I also have to get something for Irma!

Friday, February 11, 2011

FGGGGF.......That's Right... 4 Gs Baby!

   About two years ago I had to go to a Verizon store to buy a new phone. The salesman asked me what features I wanted in my new phone. I want a phone that will make and receive phone calls.
   Very funny, he laughed, and asked if I wanted a phone that had a camera. Do they make a phone without a camera? No? I suppose I will take a phone with a camera then.
   Do you want a phone that can send and receive text messages. Do they make a phone that does not send and receive text messages?  No? Then I will take a phone that can send and receive text messages. 
   He was persistent, and again asked what other features I wanted on my new phone. I want a phone that can make and receive phone calls and that is it. If you do not make phones that just send and receive phone calls, then give me a phone that does as little else as possible. Why is this so hard for you to understand?
    Because we have phones that can do as much as your computer, and this is what people want. You can go on line, you can get emails, you can take pictures, make movies, listen to music, and even find your way with the built-in GPS! He was very excited by all of this.
   Do these phones make and receive phone calls?
   Of course they do.
   Very good. Take away the parts that let me go on line, get emails, take pictures, make movies, listen to music and act as a GPS and I will take that phone.
   Now, fast forward two years and I have to get a new phone again. I am scared! I have been advised by my office that I should have a phone that will allow me to interface with our computer system at work.
   I don't know what "interface" means (although, I think I do this with my wife every so often, but I am not sure)... but whatever it means, it scares me.
   I am told that there are many reasons for this leap into the 21st century.
   First, my new phone will allow me to look at my calendar and schedule court dates without calling my secretary. Somehow they think that this will save her time. I think that it will make things worse for her because now she will need to go everywhere with me to show me how to work the stupid phone.
    Second, my new phone will allow me to look at my emails and phone messages at all hours of the day. Why would I want to do that? Honestly, I don't want to do that while I am sitting in my office. I leave work with the hope that I can get away from all of the calls and emails, and all of the demands for an immediate response (not to mention the Viagra ads that appear among my emails on a regular basis).
   Believe it or not, I long for the good ol' days when a letter was sent through the mail and was received two or three days later. You could take some time to digest the information in that letter, draft a response, review the response and then stick that response in the mail. The exchange took five or six days----not five or six minutes.
   Then along came the fax machine with that stupid paper that rolled up like an Egyptian scroll everytime a message came through. That was the beginning of the instant response era. However, the fax machine was not fast enough because a fax required you to type a letter, put that letter in a machine and then dial a phone number. This was way too inefficient, so some smart guy figured out how to cut out the middle man.
    He devised a way for a person to type a letter and send it directly from a computer without ever having to place the letter into a machine or dial a phone number. Today, on the rare occasion that you do need to fax something, you can just do it from your desk.
    I thought the fax machine was the greatest invention in the world and it became obsolete in about ten minutes. Now everybody emails and everybody wants an immediate response to their emails.
    I digress, back to my new phone. I have decided to go with the iPhone. It has 4 Gs. I thought that was awesome. Honestly, I have no idea what a G is but I do know that everyone else in my office only has 3 Gs. I am one G more awesome than everyone else in my office. They think that they are so smart with their techno/computer knowledge and I am so dumb with my Fred Flinstone/Bedrock mentality. Well, guess who has all the Gs baby!
    I watched a video about my new phone last night. Would you ever have thought that a phone would require that you watch a video before you buy it? Anyway, my new phone will allow me to interface with my computer, to get phone messages, to get emails from several sources, it will allow me to download apps (not sure what that is), it will allow me to view the person I am talking to while they can see me, and if they hit a button, I can talk to them and see what they are watching (very cool)... it will allow me to listen to music and even watch a movie.  It even has a GPS built into it. It does it all.
    My new phone is going to be awesome, and it will do everything that a phone is capable of doing. However, as I sit and write this, I can't help but feel that the only things that I will be using all those Gs for is just MAKING CALLS AND RECEIVING CALLS.  Come to think of it, I don't recall seeing those two functions in the video.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Egypt 101...

     When the unrest broke out in Egypt, I had been putting off learning about what was going on there because I kind of understood, but I kind of didn't... so I would have had to learn about it when I had some time.
     So, I took the time.
     First of all, if you are a regular reader of mine, you may have noticed a theme... Things that appear isolated are often related. There are connections to events that the busy, everyday person just couldn't fathom. And it is usually about power and control.
     Which brings me to what is going on in Egypt.
     The media would have you believe this is just about freedom. The Egyptian people want freedom from their ruthless dictator, President Mubarak.
     No, he is not a good guy. But why revolution now? They have had him for thirty years.
     When you dig a little deeper, you can see that the protests are being exploited by the Muslim Brotherhood.
     Also not good guys. Bigger agenda.
     For information about them, please see my sidebar, under Who Would Destroy America.
     The unrest is all across the Middle East. And it is connected. There is a stated goal from the Muslim Brotherhood... Caliphate. Total control. One world Muslim order under Sharia Law.
     And at the heart of these violent protests is an unusual alliance between leftist revolutionaries and Muslim revolutionaries whose mutual goal is the destruction of Israel and the United States... specifically, the destruction of the Western way of life. And freedom.
     For more about all of this, please see here, from the Blaze.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Caught on tape... again...

     The manager of a central New Jersey Planned Parenthood facility was caught on video giving a couple pretending to be sex traffickers advice about how to lie to avoid reporting sexual activity or abortions of 14 year old girls. The manager assured them that there would be no parental notification for an abortion, "She's still entitled to care without Mom knowing what the hell is goin' on."
     Some care.
     See the undefendable, here, from the Blaze.
     And now... there's a second video from a second Planned Parenthood facility in Virginia. Again, the PP worker counsels a man posing as a pimp about how to circumvent parents of young girls, and the law regarding the reporting of abortions.
     Both of these videos deal specifically with 14 and 15 year-old would-be prostitutes, some in this country illegally.
     The darkness just gets darker.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Funny Guy Friday... Honey... I think I'm coming down with something...

     Unfortunately, as I write this, Cheryl is sick with a stomach flu. She is legitimately sick.
     This is not always the case with Cheryl. Oftentimes, her ailments are, er uh----how can I say this without offending her? Well, her ailments are made up. Not really made up in the sense that she is lying---she is not a faker in the traditional sense. No, Cheryl is just weak-minded and thinks that she will contract whatever anybody else has---only worse! No matter what the illness or injury, she will develop the symptoms.
     Wow! I did not think I could do that without being offensive but I think I pulled it off.  Allow me to elaborate.
     When we first got married, anytime... and by anytime, I mean every time... Cheryl would get even a whiff of one of my nieces or nephews, she would get sick. They didn't even have to be sick, they were just carriers, for crying out loud. I am the youngest child in my family... the last to get married and the last to have kids. I grew up in an environment that had young kids running around all the time. Cheryl is a middle child, the first to get married and apparently grew up in a sterile, childless bubble.
     Fortunately, Cheryl has stuck around long enough to develop the beginnings of an immune system. Unfortunately, I think she draws on her previous experience, and announces her ailments as soon as she hears one of us announce ours.
     This sounds crazy, but I know it to be true because I have done "placebo like" controlled experiments. I have actually made up stuff to see if she comes down with the same symptoms. I tell her about a made-up scratchy throat, she thinks she has strep. I announce a fake stomach ache, she feels as if she is going to throw up. I create a non-existent headache, she comes down with a migraine.
     And her delusions are not limited to illnesses. She actually has the ability to catch an aching back. I announce that my back hurts and she replies that hers is killing her (followed quickly by a request to give her a massage). It is as if she has a stupid super power!
     Cheryl is so sure that she is going to catch everything, that when the kids do get sick, she goes on lock down---no kissing, no hugging and minimal touching. I kiss, hug, and lay with the sickies and as a result, build up my immunities.
     When I come home from work on sick days, I head straight to my bedroom. There on my side of the the bed, with my pillows under head, is the patient. Typically, there will be a barrier of covers, pillows or clothes between my side of the bed and Cheryl's side because nine out of ten doctors will tell you that pillows, covers and clothes will prevent any germ from spreading.
     When I kiss, hug and lie with them, I dare those germs to infect me. Heck, I even drink from the same cup. I think that Cheryl tries to warn me, but who can understand her through her protective gas mask.  
     On those rare occasions when I do get sick, I want to be left alone. This works for both of us because she wants to leave me alone. On the other hand, when she gets sick, she needs ginger ale, she needs toast, she needs ice chips, she needs more blankets and she needs a back rub. I suppose that I am glad she tries to avoid getting sick because the truth is that she is kind of a needy patient.
     Don't take my word for it---She once called a friend from the upstairs bedroom and had that friend call me to tell me to go upstairs because she needed a drink. Cheryl felt so sick that she could not muster up the energy to call to me downstairs. I dutifully complied, but seriously, nobody can be that sick!
     I am sure that when this goes to print, she will be back to one hundred percent. I am hoping she is going to have a nice long stretch of health. Unfortunately, I do not think that is going to be the case. You see, I have one final experiment in mind that will prove my theory once and for all. You see I feel some fake pain coming on as a result of a fake kick to the groin. I can't wait to see what she comes down with!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Commit to change... More quiet time with Gracie...

     I have to admit... The younger my children, the more time I spend with them at bedtime.
     Gracie is fourteen. In. De. Pen. Dent.
     She amazes me at how she takes care of herself so well. She gets up in the dark, waaayyy before I do... and she gets herself ready for school... and she is out the door, in the dark... and off to the bus. I'm lucky if I get my head off the pillow in time say goodbye to her even once or twice a week.
     And evenings are more of the same. My 10-year-old often needs a little help with his homework. And then, there's reading with my 6-year-old.
     All the while, Grace is moving about quietly, getting her ducks in a row for the next day, getting her shower, getting ready for bed, and finding me wherever I am to give me a good night kiss.
     She often goes to bed sooner than the boys because she starts her day much sooner. So, by the time I have done the bedtime thing with them, and I check on her, she is usually fast asleep by then.
     I quietly whisper, "Love you," anyway, and pull the door behind me as I go.
     Starting this week, I will spend a little more unhurried one-on-one time with her. She is a good girl. I want to hear what she has to say.
     I read somewhere recently that a child opens his heart most, when the lights are out.
     Tonight, I will see.
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