2012

Time of Your Life – A Sad Goodbye

In Uncategorized on August 18, 2012 at 9:21 pm

It’s hard to believe that eight weeks have gone by since I wrote about my summer camp nostalgia.  I can still picture my kids’ first day of camp like it happened yesterday.  My little one was so excited that she could barely contain herself.  My son was a little more subdued as he ventured into the unknown.  And my wife had no idea what to expect in her first time working at a camp.  I remember being happy for all of them, but also somewhat jealous as I watched them drive off on that rainy day in late June.

Days turned to weeks, and in the blink of an eye, my wife and kids were preparing for Color War.  While I loved Color War when I went to camp, it was always bittersweet for me because I knew that it meant that the summer camp days that I loved were about to come to a screeching halt, and the worst day of the summer was about to happen.

Saying goodbye to my friends at the end of the summer was very difficult because I knew that I wouldn’t see most of them for another 10 months, so I knew what my wife and kids were in store for when camp ended yesterday.

Throughout the course of the day, I wondered what they were doing.  I hoped that they were enjoying their last day, but knew in the back of my mind that they were probably dealing with the fact that their summer camp experience was about to come to the same screeching halt that I had lived through so many times before.

As a parent, you want to do whatever you can to protect your kids and shield them from as much pain as possible.  Unfortunately, the drawback of getting to enjoy the summer camp experience is having to deal with the inevitable sadness that you feel when it comes to an end.

Knowing that I couldn’t take away their sadness, I decided to do what I could to try to help them by distracting them with pizza and ice cream at one of our favorite places.  It helped a bit, but there was a feeling of loss in the air as my wife described to me how their camp experience ended.  And it didn’t help that a song came on the radio at the pizza place that reminded my wife of camp, which brought tears to her eyes as she reflected upon the experience that had just ended an hour earlier.

The end of camp is sad enough, but this camp’s last day ritual made things even worse.  It was almost as if the summer would not have been complete without the river of tears that was sure to flow as all of the campers and staff met in the center of camp for one last group hug and one last goodbye.  And if the moment alone wasn’t enough to stir up emotions, Green Day’s “Time of Your Life” playing in the background over the loud speaker all but guaranteed that there would be very few dry eyes in the house.

“It’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right…I hope you had the time of your life”

As sad as the ending of camp has been for my wife and kids, they all had the time of their lives this summer, and they can’t wait for June to arrive so that they can once again experience the magic of summer camp.

 

 

Book Review: Calico Joe by John Grisham

In Uncategorized on August 1, 2012 at 2:47 pm

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John Grisham has always been one of my favorite storytellers, and yet this is the first time that I’ve read one of his books.  I know that purists usually prefer books to movies, but I was always more of the movie type.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy reading; it’s just that I usually read non-fiction books.  Maybe someday Calico Joe will be made into a movie, but I am very glad that I read the book first.

If you’re a baseball fan, you will undoubtedly be enthralled by the story of Joe Castle (aka Calico Joe), a phenom who takes Major League Baseball by storm in his rookie season.  Even though Castle is a fictional character, his impact on the game is similar to some of the young superstars who are starting to make a name for themselves right now, so his amazing accomplishments seem believable.

Grisham does a masterful job of blending Calico Joe in with the players and teams that were competing in the early 1970’s when the baseball aspect of the book takes place.

However, Calico Joe is about so much more than baseball.  It’s about role models, fatherhood, childhood dreams and childhood heroes, and life lessons.

The book is written in the voice of Paul Tracey, who is the son of Warren Tracey, a starting pitcher for the New York Mets.

Many kids dream of becoming professional athletes, but it must seem so much more realistic when your dad has already made that dream come true.  You would think that children of professional athletes would worship their dads, but that isn’t always the case.

As an aspiring baseball player, Paul Tracey should have had the dream childhood as the son of a Major League pitcher, but he didn’t, because Warren Tracey was a terrible father.  To go into any further detail would spoil the story for those who want to read it.  Suffice it to say that most people would not have wanted Warren Tracey to be their dad despite his glamorous job.

Baseball brings back amazing memories for me when it comes to my dad, which is one of the reasons that I enjoyed Calico Joe so much.

He wasn’t a Major League Baseball player.  In fact, he never even played organized ball because he grew up in the city where stickball was the game of choice.

He didn’t have a great baseball mind, but kids loved playing on his team because he treated everyone fairly, and gave everyone a chance to succeed.  And long before participation trophies in Little League were the norm, my dad purchased trophies for every kid on his team out of his own pocket.  In his eyes, they were all winners despite what their won-loss record indicated.

By contrast, Warren Tracey never seemed to think that his son Paul could do anything right.  As a result, he ends up being hated by the son who, by all rights, should have been his biggest fan.

Calico Joe will take you on a nostalgic baseball journey while teaching you valuable life lessons along the way, and leave you wanting more!

The Memories Remain…

In Uncategorized on July 15, 2012 at 1:20 pm

On Saturday, July 14, 2001, our family got together to celebrate a momentous occasion for my niece, who happened to also be the first grandchild in the family.  My wife and I were running a bit late as it was, and then we got a call from my sister asking us to stop and pick up bags of ice on the way.  It seems really trivial now, and I was probably just having an aggravating morning over something, but I remember being annoyed at having to make an extra stop.

When we pulled into my sister’s driveway, my dad approached the car to greet me, and he saw that I was aggravated.  I have no idea what he said to me, but before I got into the house, I was totally fine, which is no surprise, because he always knew how to put things into perspective better than anyone that I’ve ever met.

I don’t remember the specifics of the day, but I do remember having a fun time with the family as we were all excited about the new arrival.  No one was more excited than my dad, who was thrilled to become a grandfather who would be known as “Poppy.”  The pictures that we took of my dad and niece together that day are as iconic to my family as any famous picture taken throughout history.

Most of the time, I gave my dad a hug and kiss to say goodbye.  But on this occasion, I distinctly remember doing so twice in the driveway.  We followed each other to the highway, and at a certain point, he and my mother went to the left and I went to the right of a major fork in the road.  I remember watching their car drive off for a moment, and then focusing all of my attention on the road ahead.

On Sunday, July 15, 2001, my wife and I spent the day at home.  We fell asleep watching a movie, and stayed asleep until the phone rang and woke us up at around 3pm.  It was my brother on the phone calling to let me know that my father had fallen while rollerblading in Central Park.  He said that he most likely just had a concussion, and that they were taking him to the hospital as a precaution, but not to worry.

I wouldn’t say that I wasn’t concerned, but I believed what my brother said and waited for an update.  At around 4:30pm, I got another call from my brother telling me that I should come to the hospital in the city.  At that point, I knew that things were bad.  He tried to tell me in a calm way so that I wouldn’t drive while panic-stricken, but it didn’t work.  I don’t remember much of the drive into the city, but I do know that I was frantically trying to get to my dad.

After speaking to one of the surgeons and pressing for details shortly after arriving at the hospital, I was told to prepare for the worst.

I thought to myself…

“How could this be?  We were all together yesterday and everything was great.  How could a man who was more physically fit than most people his age be lying here in a coma just hours after we hugged and kissed goodbye (twice) less than a day ago?”

What a difference a day makes.

Up until July 15, 2001, life was good.  I had my share of disappointments, but nothing even in the same realm as what I experienced on that day.

After a battle that lasted much longer than the doctors expected, my father passed away on Friday, July 20, 2001.  The head injury that he sustained was just too much for him to overcome.

Today marks the 11th anniversary of his tragic accident.  There hasn’t been a single day in the past 11 years where I haven’t thought about my dad at least once and usually several times throughout the course of the day.

The anniversary of his accident and of his passing are always hard, but some years are worse than others.  Last year was difficult because it marked a full decade since I got to have a conversation with my dad.  This year’s anniversary has been particularly challenging because the days of the week are the exact same, and it has made the feeling of loss that much more intense for some reason.

By spending time with my family, I have been able to create momentary distractions that take my mind off of things, but there is a melancholic feeling that is always lurking in the background, although I have done my best to try and hide it as much as possible.

Today started out better than expected.  My kids and I were up early and we really enjoyed watching the movie Rio together.  None of us had ever seen it before.  It was funny, clever and provided enough adult humor to make it a movie worth watching even without kids.

At one point in the movie, my daughter got up and started copying the dance moves of the birds dancing to Spanish music.  My dad would have been smiling from ear-to-ear watching this little girl dance while flashing an enormous, lovable grin (which is now missing its first tooth).

At another point in the movie, the bird that plays the antagonist is disappointed that the monkeys he tasked with finding the two blue macaws somehow allowed the birds to get away.  Annoyed, he storms out after saying… “never send a monkey to do a bird’s job!”

Without missing a beat, my son says…

That doesn’t make sense.  Humans evolved from monkeys, and humans own birds!”  My dad would have been in awe of many of the things that my son says, displaying wisdom that goes way beyond his 10 years on Earth.

Much to my dismay, my kids never got the chance to meet my dad, although they feel like they know him through the stories that I share about him on a regular basis with them.

While my dad got the live the role of Poppy for only a month, he lives on today inside of all of our hearts.  No amount of time that passes can ever take away the memories we shared, and for that, I am truly grateful.

I can’t tell if my little one senses something is wrong today, but on more than one occasion, she has come over to me, kissed my cheek and walked away.  That would have been more than enough for me, but she also made a picture for me that serves as a gentle reminder that I still have many blessings to be thankful for in spite of any sorrow that I feel today…

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