“Look at the stars,
Look how they shine for you,
And everything you do,
Yeah, they were all yellow.”
Have you ever noticed how music reflects your mood, puts you into a specific frame of mind or just invites you to feel “something,” whatever that something may be? Today is one of those days for me.
I hate October 30th. I have to keep myself busy, too busy to think and maybe, too busy to breathe. But the music reminds me of how much I hate this date. And to go a day without music would be worse than not breathing, than today.
When I woke up this morning, I had Coldplay’s “Yellow” on the brain. It’s from their album “Parachutes” in case you were wondering. I can’t say I’m a “can’t-wait-for-the-next-release” fan of Coldplay, but I admittedly have a couple of songs from each of their albums in my music library. If this had been my record collection, I would probably have more than my fair share of albums, but gone are the days of vinyl, eh?
I wish more than anything, I were anywhere but here. I found the picture Chris Ford took (Ford is a great photographer) and it adequately describes my feelings about “today.” Rain. Walking alone down the streets of New York. Yes. There is where I would like to be. Not here. Not today.
Pops showed me the stars… and they were all yellow. I wonder which star you are…
Apologies for the delay in communication. I have spent quite a bit of time as of late with the new grandson. Small. Cute. Easy baby. All in all, I will give him a 10.
It was during my travels to and from my hometown to my new home I encountered “The Book Thief.” I wanted to watch the movie, but I tend to read the books prior to watching a film as films can only grasp a tenuous amount of plot-line However, I have to say this time I took it a step further and listened to the book narrated by Allan Corduner during the long, straight drives through the plains under blue or starry skies.
I have listened to some other books on tape including “Watership Down” and “Storm Front” (Dresden files by Jim Butcher-awesome), but while both were excellent stories, this one entangled me. Zusak wrote a great novel and Mr. Corduner’s read is delightful, moving and spot-on with the German, which is a necessity in a book of this magnitude.
Set in WWII Germany, we learn about Nazi fanaticism, a Jewish fist-fighter, thievery, friendship and death. They are all intertwined in the story of a girl seeking out an existence. We learn, we laugh and we cry. We learn that death indeed has a heart.
Liesel Meminger is a character I shall not soon forget. Deep. Well-rounded. Flawed and yet still flawless. She inspires me in ways I have not yet fully realized as she is each of us in our own unique ways. How did Zusak do that?
Beyond the well-scripted plot, the word economy and the descriptions of things seen yet unseen, I found Zusak to not be a writer or an author, but a natural story-teller. And to add to this, Allan Corduner is a BRILLIANT talent who brought to life this poignant story.
Now, there are some who have trouble getting into the book as Zusak’s writing style is unique. It flips and flops until it settles into a rhythm such as a cha-cha or something of that nature. By the end of the first hour of listening, you are well into the story and transformation has indeed begun.
I generally steer clear of writing about books I have read, but “The Book Thief” changed that for me. I hope you will take the time to delve deep into the pages or the audio-book and breathe in a fresh and inspiring look at the beautiful piece of work Zusak shared with us all.
The older I get, the more I find myself acting like my mother or father – especially my father. This is good because even though he’s been gone for almost five years this month, I still have parts of him with me. You see, some memories have begun to dim a little and I cling to those I remember with crystal clarity.
My pops was a baseball player, umpire and minor league manager. He was with the Yankees, Braves and Brewers in various capacities over a 14 year career, yet never made it on the field in the majors. (Thank you Lou Gehrig.) I bring this up because when I was five, pops and I were in the backyard and he was teaching me how to throw and catch a ball. Apparently my aim at a young age was spot on and his catching sucked because I felled him like a giant Redwood. We didn’t play any more games after that, but I learned the inadvertent power of an accidental curve ball at an early age.
Thought: Dad’s favorite movie was “Pride of the Yankees.” He loved “Hogan’s Heroes” and couldn’t stand watching anything bloody or gory in movies or TV.
At thirteen, when I was nearing the peak of teen angst, my father morphed into a big, bad knight in shining armor. Now, he was an actual knight – bestowed on him by King Peter the Second of Yugoslavia. But this day was awesome. I had a teacher who believed yanking my hair when I got an answer wrong, spoke up/out or under my breath or even silently wished her dead was a good idea. As a result I cut my hair ridiculously short and punky (as it was the 80’s) to mitigate the damage. She actually pulled my hair out this one day and when I told pops, he marched on the fortress of that school and threatened to throw her out of her 3rd floor, un-air conditioned classroom window. She never yanked my hair again. My hero.
Thought: Pops did this one other time at his agency located near the top floor of a bank building. This led to an early “note to self” – don’t lie, cheat or try to steal your way to success.
Sixteen brought an accident on Halloween night. I BADLY burned my hands at work and the man that couldn’t deal with medical stuff sat in the room as the doctors helped heal my hands. The night he brought me home, he set a green glo-light next to the bed so I could see so as to not bang my useless appendages against anything and sat in his office outside my door for hours. He helped with a lot of things I had taken for granted.
Thought: Pops HATED purple with a passion – especially lavender. Mom and I occasionally wore it to tick him off. Purple became my favorite color.
The man that drove more than 2.5 million miles before his first accident taught me to drive. He was not a patient man and I STILL hear his voice in my head while parallel parking, breaking or backing up.
Thought: He loved Obsession cologne and I can’t ever smell it again without his face coming to my mind.
He walked me down the aisle when I was 23 and held my first daughter the following year. Eldest was soon followed by Youngest and he loved the girls in a way I couldn’t imagine until five days ago when I held my grandson for the first time. I just wanted to scream to Heaven, “Hey Pop! I get it now!”
I saw my pop slowing down, his back stooping over and his gray hair turning silver then white as time trudged on. His once big frame leaned out as he couldn’t really eat much any longer. He lived on milkshakes from Malcolm’s. I remember the day my dad became like my child and I loved him even more. I no longer took the knight for granted. It was my turn to care for and save him. But you can’t save someone from the grave.
When it came time to say goodbye, we had his friends come by hospice. My mother came. My sister Chris and her husband came. But…My oldest sister came and together we stayed with him at the hospital. We told him stories and sang to him for a couple of days. The night the nurse brought in a roll-away bed was the first night I slept in days. Dad waited until Ker and I were asleep to whisper his last breath.
I have hundreds of memories and moments throughout any given day when I suddenly do or say something that is “him.” God knows he wasn’t a perfect man nor a perfect father. He tried though and I think that’s what counts. But I wanted to share these with you because memories are better when shared.
And these children that you spit upon as they try to change their worlds are immune to your consultations. They’re quite aware of what they are going through.
It’s been a wicked-busy few days. Yoda and I left the Metroplex about 2230 hours and arrived “home” in Amarillo about 0430 on Saturday morning. Necessitating this midnight run was the pending arrival of my first grandson. Jess went into labor about 0700 Saturday… (after we got a combined grain of sleep from the Sandman…) Baby J finally decided to stop loitering in my daughter’s womb and made his appearance at 2256 hours Sunday night.
I find Squishy-Face (Baby J) incredibly cute and healthy; Jess is home recovering as well. She’s a little, sometime a lot, sore and has the energy of a sloth.
Frankly, I too could use some recovery time. I’m exhausted. From last Thursday when I woke at 0900 until I went to bed Monday morning at 0100, I got about 17 total hours of sleep. Jess and Baby J are worth it, but it seems like since then all I have done for days is run errands and I’m a wee bit on edge.
This brings me to:
I have been up since 0500 today. (I only woke because the bladder apparently contained the contents of Niagara Falls.) However, Yoda and I are bunking with my other daughter, my eldest, as well as Jess, Baby J and Ryan, J’s boyfriend. 5 adults in a 2 bedroom apartment. I wanted to put this into perspective because I’m feeling homicidal at the moment. Oh? Indeed.
Eldest has to work today. I’m sharing a room with her as she has an additional twin bed in her room. For the love of all that is pure and holy, there was almost a brutal killing as her alarm went off at the butt-crack of dawn and she hit snooze 85 times. Not only did I have to listen to the opening bars of a Taylor Swift nightmare, she apparently programmed several other alarms to wake her in case THAT failed. As I didn’t know what time she actually has to be at work, I didn’t know whether I should kill her or dump water on her.
The reassuring constant is misery loves company. I’m sure Jess didn’t sleep long or well either as a new baby tends to have that affect on new parents. God willing, we shall get some much needed rest before long and commiserate over breakfast and snuggles with the latest addition to the family.
“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
― Robert Frost
For the past couple of months, I have taken a sabattical of sorts and pulled away from the normal hum-drum, work-a-day life. It has done me a world of good mentally and physically, but financially, it’s taken a bit of a bite out of the bank-book.
However, I think I can say I think I finally feel more alive than I have felt in a long time. I see things with a clarity I hadn’t seen in a while and I appreciate people and places again. While that may sound strange, I had “turned off” many relationships and just didn’t want to communicate. This may be the best blessing of all. I am once again breaking out of the protective shell I had built up around me.
When I write, I have to write from an emotional place or the scenes ring false and mechanical. Robert Frost hit the nail on the head. You have to bleed onto the page and let your emotions out. I held them too tight and let them fester and boil inside, but letting them out – well, I wasn’t going to do that. That would have been having to admit I actually HAD emotions. Fear, angst, loathing, hurt, love, joy, happiness… all of them I had kept bottled up for a while and I couldn’t express any of them. You know something? That’s not a way to live.
I thought I did it to protect myself. I thought if I insulated myself enough, I couldn’t be hurt by all of the changes brought about this year – that I wouldn’t be affected by “life” and it’s ebb and flow. I was wrong.
As a result, for the past few months, I couldn’t write. Physically, it was just painful. I couldn’t bring myself to actually look at the screen and put my fingers on the keys. Why? Because I write with emotion and I just knew that if I did, all of the bottled up feelings would unleash in a torrent and I wouldn’t be able to put a cap on it. I was “afraid.” Isn’t it bizarre to admit fear? Bizarre, but oh so true.
Over the past week, I have read about nine different books and some of them were REALLY good. The writing was tight, the characters were outstanding, the plots were well scripted. Slowly, the bottle on my emotions shook and as I closed the last book, the cork popped and everything I thought was contained released in a small explosion.
This time away from everyone and everything has done me a world of good. I see things differently now. Today, I am a writer once again.
“Calvin: Dad where do babies come from?
Dad: Well Calvin, you simply go to Sears, buy the kit and follow the assembly instructions.
Calvin: I came from Sears?
Dad: No you were a blue-light special at K-Mart – almost as good and a lot cheaper!”
― Bill Watterson
My baby is having a baby. It’s weird to say, even more bizarre to think about. J is due tomorrow, October 8th. I don’t know if the new arrival will come on time, early or be delayed because he needs a little longer to bake at 98.6 degrees.
One of mine was a few days early, the other was about a week late. I know that at this stage in pregnancy, there is nothing more miserable than the heat of summer and the readiness that comes with a child sitting on your bladder. There is a special feeling when you are kicked in the liver or spleen or when a foot / elbow lodges itself under your ribs. Yes, indeed. And those moments when your mammary glands leak at the most unsuspecting times or when you want to tie your shoes and you can’t find your feet are the stuff memories are made of.
But through all of the discomfort, there is a little life inside that makes it all worthwhile. And my baby, my youngest, is about to experience the “joy” of motherhood for the first time.
Pondering “advice” for months now, I can’t decide what to say, what to do. It’s her child, her life and I’ve offered some “suggestions” about the actual delivery. But as all grandparents before me, I figure I have to offer some words of sage advice when it comes to parenting. When my girls were born, my parents were fairly mute at the time and doled out advice through the years. I think this may be the safest and best course of action.
The only advice I can safely give her and to all parents is to love that child with all of your heart. You will make mistakes and will grieve decisions you have to make and cannot change. Love will make it better, but never easier. Love… the best advice I can give, the only thing TO give.
“For the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. When you look around, wouldn’t you consider it a privilege to associate yourself with such fine looking men as are standing in uniform in this ballpark today? That I may have been given a bad break, but I have an awful lot to live for. Thank you.”
Lou Gehrig was a gentle soul with a wicked sense of humor and was also a humble man. He was taken too young by a disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). As Lou died pre-“me,” I never had the opportunity to meet the baseball legend. However my father did when he was with the Yankees during Spring Training in 1936 and 1937.
Pops was a pretty good player, but never actually played a game as a first baseman. The problem? Lou Gehrig, the “Iron Horse” himself. Gehrig played 2,130 consecutive games – games where he was ejected (after receiving credit because he was already up to bat), injured (including being knocked unconscious), and ill. But dad was in training with Lou (and Joe DiMaggio, Kemp Wicker, Frank Crosetti, Bill Dickie, Red Rolfe and other great Yanks) for two seasons before transferring to the minors.
Lou Gehrig impacted dad’s life quietly. He wanted to emulate the legend in many ways and Pops told me how Lou and Joe helped change his life not only on the diamond, but on the train rides to St. Petersburg, FL. Pops was a smoker on and off during his life. Trying to be “cool” like some of the other ball players, he was lighting a cigarette up on the train. Lou leaned over to my dad and instead of reading him the riot act, he softly explained to him, “If you keep that up, you’ll lose your wind.”
Dad kept in contact with Gehrig after leaving the Yankee organization and there is a letter tucked safely away written in 1938 or early 1939 (I can’t remember) to pops explaining Lou’s illness and that Eleanor, his wife, was taking care of him.
75 years after his death, Lou Gehrig seems to be finding himself in the spotlight again, not for his baseball prowess, but for the disease that took his life. I’ve been watching the ice bucket challenges on social media to raise money and awareness for ALS. ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease or just plain Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a neurodegenerative ailment that is as debilitating as they come to the human body and someone with ALS does NOT have a good quality of life. Gehrig died when he was just 37 years old. You don’t have to do the challenge to help a really worthy cause. To make a donation today: http://www.alsa.org/
If you want a weekend in, check out a movie called “Pride of the Yankees” starring Gary Cooper as Gehrig as well as real members of the Yankee organization: Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel, Mark Koenig and Bill Dickey. This was my father’s all-time favorite movie – most likely because of the representation of Lou’s character. To find out more about my father’s friend, Lou Gehrig: http://www.lougehrig.com/about/bio.html
Neither dad nor Lou are here today to witness the ice bucket challenge. I personally think both are probably sitting in a dugout in Heaven looking down and wondering what we’re all doing. However, I just know that as silly as dad would think the concept is, he’d agree it’s a brilliant piece of marketing in bringing awareness and funding to ALS research.