Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Flooding the Meadows Green and Fair

Well time has a funny way
Of doubling back on itself
And showing the things that really last
Was it just yesterday
You left for greener pastures
Or was that way back in the past

This very morning is the 28th day from what has been to date the worst day of my wife's life. It was four weeks ago today that my mom-in-law Suzy B lost the epic battle she had waged against that unrelenting bastard, cancer, for the final four-plus years of her life. It was four weeks ago today that everything changed for Margaret, for her big brother Frank and most poignantly for their father Joe.

One wonders perhaps was it "only" four weeks ago that Nona died or was it "already" four weeks ago? An argument could be advanced that it was both. Mr. Parker's point is an excellent one about the vagaries of time. Time is the unit of measurement for one's history. And history, after all, belongs to the mind of the teller.

I have borne witness to more than my proportionate share of death and dying and, sadly, a consequence of being surrounded in one's life by those you love is that eventually you shall say goodbye to all of them or them to you, which means that the pain train will make many more stops at my front door. Mine is by no means a unique condition or a unique life experience. If only it were then perhaps I would have the fortitude necessary to spare my wife, my children, my own siblings and my mother from any further grieving or mourning in their respective lives. Sadly, I cannot stop it. This recurring misery is something that I cannot stop nor shield them from experiencing. Hard times do indeed come for us all with a certainty typically reserved for the omnipresent ticking of a clock. My own impotence frustrates me. As I suspect it frustrates all of us.

It was with more than a bit of relief that I greeted the dawn this morning, being that we have finally reached the final day of the longest month in recorded history. While none of us knows what July has in store for us, here 'neath the snow globe we are rooting hard for a trajectory change. Perhaps the coming together this past Saturday for a truly beautiful event, the wedding of Megan and Adam, was the elixir needed to bring about just such a change.

The final four years of Suzy B.'s life were a struggle. A life that had once been dominated by visits and appointments of a social nature suddenly was replaced by one pockmarked by doctor's appointments, chemotherapy sessions and in-patient hospitalizations. A smile was stolen - and some days perhaps a laugh as well - but always with a sense of anticipatory dread. The sensation was one of knowing that the other shoe was indeed aloft and we were all captive to it, waiting for it to complete its fall. And for most of the four weeks that have passed since she died, even stolen smiles and laughter had been in short supply.

On Saturday however, for the first time in what seemed like forever, laughter and smiles abounded. The sense of Sue's absence from the proceedings was palpable. Yet in spite of her absence - and perhaps because of it - the positive feelings present in the church and later in the reception hall were overwhelming. Happiness and joy carried the day - kicking sadness and sorrow's asses to the curb. Buoyed by the beauty of the event and the significance of the commitment that these two young people were making to each other, all of us assembled to bear witness to the day's events clapped and cheered, smiled and laughed.

And it was OK that we did so. It was OK that after the hell that life has dragged Joe, Frank, Margaret and the rest of the family through this month to rise up as one, and in the voice of one, remind ourselves that in spite of all that has occurred we do indeed remember laughter.

Well I hear the trees grow tall,
By that retaining wall
And there's always a rainbow in the sky.
Maybe I'll write a letter
Cos I've heard that life's much better
On the other side of the reservoir.

Is it "only" four weeks or is it "already" four weeks since life here 'neath the snow globe changed irrevocably for all of us? It is both. And it shall always be. The marker is in the water, bobbed around perhaps by the movement of the waves but affixed nevertheless to the bottom by a sturdy cable. It is now where it shall always be, which is in our line of sight helping to serve as a compass point by which to navigate our course.


Monday, June 29, 2009

The Tools of Ignorance

It appears as if the weather shall cooperate long enough this week to permit our summer softball team to double our number of games played (all the way from one to two!) but unfortunately I shall be sitting this one out. My troublesome back has put me on the DL (I am kidding of course. We have no disabled list).

At some point in time, way back when in mid-May, I ended up with a bulging disk in my lower back. The fun thing about it is that it constantly shoots pain down both of my legs - courtesy of what my doctor informs me is impingement upon the nerve roots at the level of my spine at which the disc has decided to bulge.

People deal with significantly bigger problems than my bad back. Hell, I have spent the past quarter century watching my mom stand fast against any variety of really bad stuff. And on a day in/day out basis for the past four-plus years, I bore personal witness to Suzy B.'s epic struggle. These two women - each of whom has had an immeasurable impact upon my life - dealt with pain on a daily basis. And they dealt with it on a level that I have never had to experience - even during these past five weeks. And they did it with dignity and quiet courage.

And while I would love to suit up and play on Tuesday night - for I know not how many seasons, if any, after this one I shall play, I shall not. I shall adhere to the orders of my doctor and the directly-expressed wishes of my bride and be there solely as a spectator.

While I do not enjoy watching in place of playing, there is one distinct advantage to having a view from the bench in lieu of one from behind the plate. I do not have to try to bend down and tie my cleats. Loafers are nice.

A bit difficult to run in, but quite stylish nonetheless.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Smell of the Sea and the Feel of the Sky

June 2009 has been a month from Hell for Margaret, her dad Joe, her big brother Frank and the entire family. There have been numerous trials, one significant loss and the unrelenting scent of sadness permeating all we do and all that we are.

Whether by accident or by design, the date that Megan, Frank's oldest child, and her husband Adam chose to be wed, turned out to be placed on the calendar where we all needed it. After a month of ceaseless rain and weather so miserable it appeared to have been special-ordered to match the mood of the collective, yesterday dawned bright and beautiful and never turned south. Here 'neath the snow globe, it was unquestionably the most beautiful of the first twenty-seven of June's days. It was a warm, sun splashed day - likely the type that Megan and Adam envisioned when they decided upon a June wedding. And the type that thus far this month - in this area at least - had been impossible to find.

June had been - until yesterday - a month dominated by sad family gatherings. Hospital visits, wakes, funerals and repasts had been the order of the day. Yesterday threw off the vestiges of sadness and ran roughshod over the gloom like a speeding freight train. There were moments of reflection yesterday during the ceremony where one could not help but note the absence of Suzy B., such as when my brother-in-law Frank, blessed with a tenor voice the equal of any you shall hear anywhere, sang Ave Maria to his daughter and his newly minted son-in-law as they presented a bouquet of flowers to the statue of the Blessed Mother. On a day on which his heart was racing and his nerves were marching double-time, he was (as always) pitch perfect. And having heard him sing that song on numerous occasions, often at the request of his mother, one could not help but feel Suzy B.'s absence.

Yet while she was not present physically yesterday, she permeated through every part of the day's events. You might attribute the dawning of the first gorgeous day of the summer on Megan and Adam's wedding day to mere coincidence. Not I. Perhaps it is the Irish in me. After all, we are the people who believe in the curative power of four-leaf clovers and leprechauns and who bend over backwards just to kiss a rock - all in the pursuit of positive mojo. From where I sat yesterday, I saw the fine hand and the good works of my late, great mom-in-law in all that transpired.

Cancer killed her body but it did not touch her soul or her spirit. And yesterday, having undoubtedly spent the previous twenty-five days reading the riot act about the importance of yesterday to whoever controls these things on a celestial level, Nona made certain that the first of her grandchildren, the eldest child of her eldest child, took the next step on her life's journey bathed in the warmth and the glow of sunshine.

And yesterday, all day, there she was smiling down from above on all of those she loved and who loved her, watching her granddaughter and the man she has chosen to live her life with as one, begin their journey. A journey into the mystic.

And a beautiful trip indeed.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Little Stool, A Fat Man

Today has dawned bright - and more than a bit steamy - here 'neath the snow globe. Given the weather we have had this month, it would take a pie-eyed optimist to believe that the entire day will pass without precipitation (and unless this is your first ride on this particular merry-go-round you know that I am not too often mistaken for an optimist). Regardless of whether the weather cooperates or not, this afternoon shall bring the wedding of Megan and Adam, two terrific young adults. And given that the day that they two become one comes on the final Saturday of what has been the longest month - irrespective of number of days on the calendar - that any family has had to endure, they shall take with them up the aisle today - as they take their first steps as husband and wife, the hopes, good wishes and prayers of many.

Marriage sometimes begins with a spectacular event, such as today's wedding and the reception afterwards. But married life is not a series of huge events, one after the other. Rather, it is as the song says, "the little things that count." Long after the final thank-you cards have been mailed and the final duplicate wedding present has been exchanged, those joined together today shall be together still. On television and in movies, with limited screen time to have to fill, we see only the "really important stuff". Well, here's a little bit of inside info from a fella who has just completed his sixteenth lap around the marital sun - it is all really important stuff. Even the stuff that gets left on Ron Howard's cutting room floor.

Whether all who enter marriage understand its big-picture implications I know not. Megan and Adam certainly seem to. For those of us in attendance today, we are thrilled to be invited to their maiden voyage and to wish them well as they start down their road together.

Here's to Megan and Adam as they begin their ride on down in through this tunnel of love. Here's to hoping that today represents the starting point for them; the foundation upon which they construct a rock-solid life filled with a series of even better, even happier days to come.


Friday, June 26, 2009

It Was A Long Time Ago Indeed

I was at work yesterday afternoon when I learned that Farrah Fawcett had died - finally succumbing to the cancer that first attacked her several years ago. She was sixty-two years old. Being born in the late 1960's, I recall as a kid being one of the 12 million people who owned "the poster" - the photo of her wearing the red bathing suit and the come hither grin. I must admit that I had forgotten - until watching on the news last night about her - that the photograph that helped launch her career into the stratosphere was taken thirty-three years ago. A lot of life gets lived in thirty-three years I suppose. A generation ago, she was one of Charlie's Angels. Now, she is assigned to a different beat altogether.

My father-in-law Joe, whose own recent experience in this area has been most unfortunate, noted with resignation last night as we were watching the TV news that, "cancer does not care about celebrity." His beloved Suzy and Ryan O'Neal's beloved Farrah were markedly different in terms of the number of people who knew them but were remarkably similar in terms of the number of people who loved them - everyone who knew them. And regardless of one's fame or public acclaim, the hole left in the lives of those who love you when an insidious disease like cancer takes you away from them, is real, palpable and hard to fill.

Later last evening, while watching the Yankees game, I heard the news of Michael Jackson's death. Candidly, the self-proclaimed "King of Pop" was never my cup of taste musically. However, one could not deny the enormity of his talent. I was in high school in the early 80's, after Off the Wall had been released and during the height of the Thriller phenomenon. It seemed as if you could not turn on the radio or put on the TV without hearing one of his songs or seeing one of his videos (historical note for the younger readers out there, once upon a time MTV actually played music videos) - especially after the mini-movie he made with John Landis as the video for the single "Thriller" opened the door for African-American artists to get their music videos played on MTV.

Somewhere along the line, it appeared from afar as if Michael Jackson's train left the tracks. For at least the final decade of his life it seemed as if his name appeared in the press only in connection with something other than his music. His legal adventures, in both the criminal and civil courts, were well-documented. His eccentric and downright weird behavior was chronicled at every turn. And eventually, it was as if Michael Jackson, the entertainer, ceased to exist. He was replaced in the public's mind's eye by Michael Jackson - the caricature.

He died at age fifty, leaving his mother, his siblings and his three children to mourn the loss of their son, brother and father. And if one believes this morning's article in the New York Post -adorned with the heartfelt headline "JACKO HAS GONE TO 'NEVERLAND'", a mountain of debt and a medicine cabinet full of prescription drugs as well.

Yesterday was a shot across the bow of any of us who choose the delusion of thinking that fame and fortune are guarantors of a happy, long life. They are not. A point driven home, yet again, by studying the tragic cases of an Angel and Pop's King. Life wasn't long/Life wasn't easy/Life wasn't cheap/Life wasn't fair.

The microscopes that magnified the tears
Studied warts and all
Still the life flows on and on
Fab - long time ago when we was fab
Fab - but It's All Over Now Baby Blue


Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Well-Earned Rest

I received via e-mail this morning a copy of a publication of the University of Colorado's College of Arts and Sciences that was heretofore unknown to me. Apparently the College of Arts and Sciences, which counts me among its alumni (PoliSci '89), publishes a little periodical that it distributes on-line. At the risk of having my Alumni Association dues returned to me, whether this is the maiden voyage of this publication or its silver anniversary edition I know not. I simply have no recollection of ever having looked at it before.

This morning it commanded my attention however because it featured a piece on my favorite college professor, Edward Rozek. Professor Rozek died this spring at age 90. He lived a life that if set out in technicolor on a movie screen would have seemed impossible to believe. He was, in my humble opinion, simply a remarkable man.

Professor Rozek was staunchly conservative, passionately anti-Communist and patriotic in a degree that was at once impressive and unsurprising - given the route he took to get to America. He was a son of Poland who became a professor in America, along the way picking up his degree at Harvard University and counting Henry Kissinger among his contemporaries. He was decidedly and proudly out of step with the liberal setting in which he chose to work. Boulder Colorado is among my favorite places on this planet but it is not an exaggeration to say that when we had meetings of the College Republicans Club on campus a quarter-century ago, we needed slightly more space than that afforded by two cafeteria tables to assure room for our entire roster. Given that twenty-five years ago, slightly more than 25,000 undergraduate students were enrolled at CU-Boulder, we were not exactly representative of the majority position on campus.

What made Professor Rozek special to me was not his political or ideological bent. Rather it was his somewhat crazy rules, which demanded self-discipline that one might otherwise have been able to avoid as an undergraduate student. I had two classes with him in college, both of which met at 8:00 a.m. two mornings a week. Among his rules were: (a) no coffee in his classroom; (b) no soda in his classroom; and (c) no hats to be worn in his classroom. While it may seem corny, when he explained to you during minute one of day one of the semester that the classroom was the temple of learning and that you had to arrive at the temple of learning prepared to learn, you would find yourself nodding your head in agreement.

My second and final class with Professor Rozek was fall semester of my senior year. About a month or so before Thanksgiving he made the pitch that he made to each of his classes during the fall semester. It was that he recognized that not everyone could travel home for Thanksgiving. He and his wife Beth lived in Boulder and he invited any student who could not afford to travel to his or her home for Thanksgiving to stay in Boulder and join his family at his home for the holiday. He used to tell us the same thing every time he went through this pitch, which was that his wife made incredibly tasty borscht and that anyone who came would be amazed by his special turkey, which consistent with his political philosophy had two right wings. I was able to travel home for Thanksgiving so I did not take him up on his offer but I had a classmate and friend of mine who did. My friend spent the rest of the semester talking about what an extraordinary evening he had spent at Professor Rozek's home and the stories the professor had told him - simply sharing some of his life experiences with him.

Edward Rozek was, and remains, an enormous influence upon my life. He taught us more than political science; significantly more. He overheard people in class one morning making some sort of derogatory or obnoxious comment about the night janitor in the Political Science building - as if the man's life was nothing more or less than the perceived value of his profession. It was the angriest I ever saw Professor Rozek as he laid into the students who had made the comments. I remember him telling all of us that a man's value is not measured by what he does but how he does it. A man who works hard, who provides to the best of his ability for his family, who loves his family and makes them aware of how much he loves them and appreciates them is a man whose value far exceeds someone who has a more "prestigious" job than he but is deficient in all of those other areas.

Value is inherent in who we are and not what we do. A life lesson I shall never forget. And a teacher I shall remember always.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Tribe of the Ampersand

I almost drove my car off of Route 287 this morning on my way to the office. I am not entirely certain if it was a response to a spike in the consistently tedious level of pain I have had in my low back - and radiating down both of my legs - for about the past six weeks, the WCBS 880 weatherman's five day forecast (which for the first time since February I think included more days with sunshine than without) or the combination thereof. All I know was that for one fleeting moment things got a tad hairy before equilibrium was restored. Nothing like a near miss to add a bit of excitement to the 4:00 a.m. morning jaunt north.

This Saturday, the first of Joe and Suzy B.'s grand kids joins the ever-burgeoning number of "the Tribe of the Ampersand". Megan and her fiance Adam (Hell of a name, by the way) shall become a "Mr. & Mrs." And none too soon by the way inasmuch as "Jon & Kate Plus Eight" have morphed into "Jon & Kate & the reasons why we separate" on their way to becoming "Jon & Kate & things about which to litigate" before arriving at "Jon & Kate & the ex-spouse each one loves to hate".

Nature abhors a vacuum after all. It is refreshing to see that two genuinely nice young folks are going to be able to step right in and fill the space in the Tribe of the Ampersand left vacant by two of the biggest publicity whores the world has ever encountered. On behalf of members of the Tribe everywhere, let me assure the rest of you that we have pulled off the most lopsided trade this side of Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi.

And if there is a family in need of a reason to smile and to celebrate life and the promise the future holds for a young couple on their wedding day, it is Margaret's family. June this year appears to have added a few hundred additional days. This has been an extraordinarily long, depressing and unceasingly sad calendar stop thus far. The whole family - even those of us whose only link is marriage and not biology - needs a reason to exhale. A reason to remember something other than sadness, pain and profound loss.

Saturday presents all of us with such an opportunity. It will be a day tinged by sadness no doubt given that Suzy B. fell so tantalizingly short of her goal, which was to be able to not only attend but to enjoy Megan's wedding. But the overwhelming emotion of the day shall be joy. And it shall serve as a reminder to those of us here still tripping over the mortal coil on occasion that life is meant to be lived - and not merely endured or tolerated.

And it appears as if this Saturday may in fact dawn hot and sunny, which is not unusual for the final Saturday in June here 'neath the snow globe but, in light of the weather we have suffered through this month, would be one hell of a surprise. And if the forecast holds up and we get sunshine in place of rain, it will serve as evidence that a certain Nona had a chat with a certain Mother about not even thinking about screwing up the weather on her granddaughter's wedding day.

Sunshine and all of the powerful energy it provides are things that her family desperately needs. Given Suzy B.'s ability to make the seemingly impossible attainable for those she loved, perhaps a sun-filled wedding day for Megan & Adam should come as no surprise whatsoever. It will be just another example of Nona being Nona.

And just one more reason to smile for a family that is in desperate need of them. The perfect wedding gift as it were, given to the bride and groom but shared equally with all of us.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Art....or a Reasonable Facsimile Thereof

NBC and the USGA did not get exactly their hoped-for finish to this year's United States Open Golf Championship, which was finally completed yesterday at the monstrous course known as Bethpage Black. Given the well-documented fight that his wife Amy did not start, but nevertheless now will work damned hard to win, the fans' choice to win this weekend was Phil Mickelson. And he certainly came close to fulfilling their wish - and his. Mickelson stalked the pace for a while during the final round and then burst into a tie for the lead with four holes remaining. Alas, he played the final two holes in two over par, which resigned him to a tie for second and deprived the network, the golf establishment and scores of golf fans everywhere of the storybook ending for which they had hoped.

But fans of good drama did not recede from the wilds of Long Island deprived of a good story. They simply received it from an unexpected source. For now to be forever etched into the trophy that bears the names of such past champions as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods is the '09 winner, Lucas Glover.

If Glover is not the real-life embodiment of Roy "Tin Cup" McAvoy, then he is the closest thing that we may have seen and may ever see to him. Glover was a qualifier for this year's Open, meaning simply that he did not have an automatic invite - he had to play his way in (if you are a college hoops fan, think of him as having received an "at large" bid to the NCAA basketball tournament, it is not a perfect analogy but it will do). In doing so, he qualified for the right to compete in a championship in which he had never survived the cut - meaning that he played on Thursday, played on Friday and was out of town before sunrise on Saturday morning. It was appropriate to wonder how Glover would handle the pressure of being tied for the lead going into the final round of the Open, considering that up until this year he had seen the final round of the Open the same way I see it annually - on a television set.

On ESPN.com this morning, Glover is described as, "The 29-year-old from South Carolina, who chews tobacco and listens to Sinatra." With his win in one of his sport's four major championships, Glover has now doubled his career win total. One is left to wonder just how sparkly his U.S. Open Championship Trophy shall look on the fireplace mantel when juxtaposed against the trophy he received for winning the 2005 Funai Classic at Walt Disney World.

All in all, while it was not the ending that the screenwriters would have written if life were not indeed the original unscripted drama, it was a nice ending nonetheless. Whether Lucas Glover now bursts into golf's upper echelon or burns brightly for a time, fades out and disappears totally from view remains to be seen. And whichever arc his star travels matters not. Regardless of the future's uncertainty, this much is clear. The present - this moment, right here and right now - belongs to Lucas Glover. And even if he never has another such moment, he will forever have this one.

At day's end, who could ask for anything more?


Monday, June 22, 2009

To and Fro......and To

I have gotten the first work day of the Summer of aught-nine off to a flying start. Having taken Margaret, Suzanne and Margaret's dad, Joe, out to dinner last night so Joe and I could double our Father's Day fun, I drove to work this morning with the thought stuck in my head that I had never gotten my wallet back from Margaret last night. I should have listened to my little internal voice at some point prior to completing the 32-mile trek from Middlesex to Parsippany. When I pulled the Skate into her appointed place this morning and sought to retrieve my wallet from my bag - from which I extricate my swipe card on a daily basis so that I can get into the building at 4:30 a.m., I discovered that my arms were of insufficient length to reach it. In fairness to my arms, given that the swipe card was safely ensconced inside of my wallet, which was resting comfortably inside of Margaret's purse on our kitchen table 32 miles to the south, it really was not their fault that it could not be retrieved.

I recommend that everyone whose back is so balky that attempting to do anything more than walking requires an actual cost/benefit analysis add an additional 64 miles to the morning commute. It did my lower back a world of good this morning to not only drive to work but - just for sh*ts and giggles - to drive from work and back to work a second time.

The proverbial milk having been spilt, there is no sense crying over it any longer. And there is no reason to allow my latest self-inflicted flesh wound to put a damper on what was a thoroughly enjoyable evening out with my wife, one of my two kids and my dad-in-law. Joe had never been to the restaurant that ranks as a favorite of Margaret and me, the Harvest Moon Brewery in New Brunswick, prior to last night. And he seemed to enjoy himself immensely. Given the manner in which the month of June has passed thus far for him, it was nice to see him have a chance to smile and to enjoy himself.

The spring portion of June beat the living hell out of my bride, her dad, her brother and - truth be told - the entire family. Let us hope that the summer slice of this month, which will include a return trip East by Rob and the first wedding of one of Joe and Suzy B.'s eight grand kids, Megan (to Adam), treats the family considerably better. Here's to hoping that the worst of what shall confront us has already occurred. I would gladly trade a morning commute times two and the increased low back pain associated with it for the world removing its collective foot from this family's throat.

And tomorrow morning, I shall make sure to double check my bag before leaving for work. For if it is true that nobody rides for free, then it certainly makes little sense to make the same trip twice.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Gift

Today is the day set aside on the calendar to honor fathers everywhere. Here's to wishing a happy Father's Day to dads everywhere and to inviting each of you to take ten minutes out of your day to read the piece that President Obama wrote for this week's Parade Magazine. Whether you voted for President Obama or not (I belong to the latter group), it is an interesting and timely read. At its core is a central premise, which is that as a father our child is not a chore. Our child is our gift, our joy and - forever - our responsibility. In the piece, the President writes, "That is why we need fathers to step up, to realize that their job does not end at conception; that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one."

Through the somewhat unconventional path to adulthood that I traveled I became a husband and a father at exactly the same moment in time, which is why I find it difficult not to view June 19 each year as something more than simply our anniversary. It marks the day sixteen years ago that I pushed all my chips into the center of the table, declaring myself "all in". I have been living off of the winnings ever since.

I am the youngest of three sons (and for good measure my parents had three daughters as well). Both of my brothers are fathers and while I talk to Bill frequently and have not talked to Kelly in eighteen years, I hope with equal fervor that each of them has a wonderful Father's Day. Of the three Kenny sons, only Kelly has thus far added the title of "Grandpa" to his C.V. Perhaps it has mellowed my brother somewhat. Perhaps, although I do not recall adding the title of "Grandpa" to his repertoire having a palliative effect on our father.

Both of my brothers are braver than I am. Given the experience of living the first fourteen years of my life with dad, who was then in the twilight of his own life, fathering children was high on my "Things Never to Do" list, a click or two perhaps lower than "Tug on Superman's cape" but significantly higher than "Wear white after Labor Day". As fate would have it - proving yet again that life is what happens while one is busy making plans - I met and fell in love with Margaret and the two little life companions she toted along with her - Suzanne and Rob. I ended up on the right side of the best 3 for 1 sale in the history of retail.

Neither of our kids is a child any longer. And no longer do each of them occupy a bedroom at the top of the stairs. Suzanne, the older of the two is still there, pursuing her higher education at dizzying heights and promising/threatening never to move out while Rob, her junior by fourteen months, is far from here, pursuing his dream two time zones away. Both of them are beautiful, successful young adults and while it may sound as if I am bragging upon them simply as a mechanism for stretching out my arm in order to make it easier to pat myself on the back, I am not. I have long adhered to the teachings of that great American philosopher Josey Wales. I am a man who is well-versed in understanding his own limitations. My kids are the product of their own hard work and innate talents and Margaret's constant mothering and positive reinforcement. Me? I excelled at driving the car when we had someplace we had to be and making sure sufficient funds were in the account to cover any check that had to be written. Other than that, I tried to stay out of the way as much as I could - for fear of screwing either of them up too much - and enjoy the show.

And what a show it has been thus far. In Suzanne and Rob, I have the greatest gift any father could ever hope to receive on Father's Day. And on this Father's Day, I shall renew the silent promise I make to them, to Margaret and to myself each year: I shall try every day to prove that I deserve it; that I am worthy of the gift I have been given.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Mayor of Anderson Street

I have long appreciated and admired the larger-than-life nature of my father-in-law Joe. Margaret's pop is among my favorite humans and it has been exceedingly painful watching him struggle with the loss of his beloved "Suzy". In the aftermath of her death, he has been understandably subdued and more than a bit melancholic.

Last night, for just a little while the old Joe returned to the fore. He and I went together to an event that he had never attended before and that I had attended but one time in all of the years that his wife and my wife have worked at it: the St. Rocco Festa at St. Ann's Church in Raritan. Saint Rocco? Who the hell was Saint Rocco - the patron saint of collecting the vig? Regardless of the saint for whom the Festa is organized to honor (after all, it is hard to be a saint in the city - even when that that city is the sleepy little town of Raritan Boro), it is an annual event. And it is one that my Mom-in-law Sue, Sue's mom (Nanny) and Margaret worked at together for as long as my wife and I have been married as members of the 50/50 raffle crew.

Street fairs are not my cup of tea. If I want to see a cross-section of American life all crammed into one place, dressed in a dizzying array of outfits and eating food they should probably not be eating I will hang out in Penn Station for fifteen minutes. I suspect that Joe takes a similar view. Yet, last night, his daughter/my wife arranged for he and I to road trip together to check out this year's edition of the Festa. My suspicion is that Margaret wanted to make sure her dad ate dinner and since it was our 16th wedding anniversary and I left for work before she woke up and would have been asleep before she got home yesterday, wanted us to spend five minutes or so in each other's company in honor of that occurrence.

Joe and I had not even walked fifty feet into the Festa grounds when he began being approached by old friends and acquaintances. All of them were surprised to see him there but thrilled he was there. All of them greeted him with hugs, kisses and hearty handshakes and expressed their sympathies to him, again, over Suzy's death. And it was good to be there with him and to hear that big, booming, room-filling laugh that he laughs echoing through the area. We ate, we each had a beer and we spent about ninety minutes there, just taking it all in and enjoying ourselves. He enjoyed speaking with people with whom he may not have spoken at length in some time. And they never stopped coming. The entire time we were there he was greeted by old friends with whom he spoke and reminisced. It reminded me of what an outgoing, gregarious soul Joe is to watch him talking to, laughing with and (on at least one occasion) singing a bit with them.

And me? I enjoyed seeing him enjoy himself. His eyes have been filled with sadness these past two weeks, which while it is to be expected is nevertheless not easy to endure or to watch someone you love go through. For just a few hours last night, his eyes registered something else - something lighter, something joyous.

Dark moments no doubt lie ahead for Joe and for Margaret, Frank and the rest of the family. One does not easily bounce back from the type of loss they have suffered. But one does bounce back because one must. We honor the life and the memory of the one we loved and have lost by continuing to live our life.

And by making the geographically insignificant but symbolically significant journey from Middlesex to Raritan last night for the Festa - for the first time in his life - Joe not only pleased Margaret but he honored Sue. And for a man whose family is at the forefront of all he values and all he loves, knowing what he had accomplished made the ear-to-ear grin and the booming laughter easy to understand.

Baby steps to be sure but since life is a journey - and not a destination - ones that were important for him to take. And ones that most certainly brought a smile to the face of Suzy B. as well.


Friday, June 19, 2009

A Toast to the Forgiveness This Life Provides

It was on this very day sixteen years ago that the woman I love with all of my heart and I were wed. In the wee small hours of each and every morning since, I would be less than truthful if I did not acknowledge the presence of a small part of me that looks at her when my alarm clock rings and wonders, "Why'd she do this?" And I would be lying absolutely if I failed to acknowledge the presence of a much larger part of me that responds, "Shut up you idiot, you'll ruin everything!"

Margaret is the great miracle of my life. It would stretch Mr. Einstein's work beyond the point of recognition to say, relatively speaking, I was not much of a catch. Up until the point in my life when I began dating Margaret, I had not envisioned for a moment the likelihood of my life's course following a trajectory that included marriage and children. From the first night we went out - first to Chan's Garden in Dunellen for dinner and, afterwards, to Tumulty's Pub in New Brunswick for cocktails and conversation - I could not envision my life without them. And eighteen years after that fateful first date, I still cannot.

Since we two last completed a lap, much has been altered within our universe. We have watched one of our two kids move two time zones away in pursuit of his own dream and his own future. We have had to deal with the upsetment visited upon a home when one spouse is turned upside down by issues that arise outside of the home's four walls but nevertheless command attention of those living inside. We have buried three women of critical importance to my bride: her Aunt Meni, her Nanny and most recently and most painful of all her Mom.

And through it all, we have remained where we have been each and every day for the past eighteen years, including the sixteen that we have spent as married folks. We are still standing one beside the other - each supporting the other. I know not what life would have become for me - and where it would have taken me - had I not had the exquisitely good fortune of meeting Margaret all those years ago. I believe, however, that wherever it would have been, it would have been a much darker, much more depressing place. There is a none-too-subtle distinction between living and simply being alive.

The scars we carry remain but the pain slips away it seems. Another day, another entry into my book of dreams.

Happy Anniversary Margaret. I love you more than I can properly express in words.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Beauty and the Beholder's Eye

Two stories caught my eye this morning - both of which arise from (but are not confined to) the world of professional sports. And given that they set forth a case study in contrasts, it seemed appropriate to discuss them as one.

This morning a whole slew of gentlemen that the good folks from ESPN and NBC shall tell us are "the greatest golfers in the world" shall commence hostilities in the United States Open Golf Championship. The tournament has captured more attention than usual in the New York media this week for a couple of reasons. First, because it is being contested again this year (as it was in 2002) at Bethpage Black, an infamous man-breaker of a golf course (and a public one to boot) on Long Island. Second, and perhaps even more so, because of Phil Mickelson and his wife Amy.

The Mickelsons announced only a few weeks ago that Amy has been diagnosed with breast cancer. I know not of any combination of two words that fills me with equal parts anger and apprehension than "breast cancer". My Mom has waged war against it and all of the other ancillary nonsense it sets loose upon its victims for a quarter-century now. And sadly, just about two weeks ago, Sue Bozzomo - Margaret's mom and emotional center - lost the valiant struggle she had spent the final four years of her life waging against the insidious disease. Breast cancer is a disease that shows itself to be non-discriminatory. It will attack with equal fervor women of all ages, all sizes, all social and economic classes and all races.

Phil Mickelson has long been a crowd favorite on the professional golf tour and his wife has been by his side for the entirety of the ride. They are a married couple in their late 30's; college sweethearts and parents of three young children, the oldest of whom is but on the cusp of "double digits". And they are in the throes of the fight of their life - cautiously optimistic but also terrified of all of the unknowns that lie ahead of them. As Mickelson said yesterday, "we're scared about what's going to come."

This weekend at Bethpage Black, Amy Mickelson will not be among the galleries following her husband's progress around the course. She is home, preparing for her own road ahead. While she will be out of her husband's field of vision this week, she will be foremost on his mind and in his heart. And she will be in the hearts and minds of many in attendance. Do not adjust your TV set if it looks as if the galleries along the course are awash in a sea of pink. For pink is the signature color of the battle against breast cancer and one expects to see pink ribbons, pink shirts and pink baseball caps as far as the camera's eye allows us to see.

Also in the news this morning was the story of former MLB outfielder Mel Hall. Hall was sentenced to forty-five years in prison by a court in Texas for raping a 12 year old girl who he coached on a basketball team. In the late 1980's/early 1990's, Hall occupied an outfield spot for some of the most awful New York Yankees teams who have ever donned the pinstripes. Hall, candidly, did little to improve the Yankees during the relatively short time he spent with the club. Indicative perhaps of the quality of Hall's character - even then - was his incessant and allegedly mean-spirited attacks on a youngster who the Yankees viewed (way back when in the dark days of the Stump Merrill regime) as a key part of their future: Bernie Williams.

I had the distinct pleasure during Hall's Yankees career of getting to interact with him. Prior to becoming a lawyer I had a job as a bill collector, trying to collect bills from folks for past due credit cards, car loans and any number of items. Among the retailers for whom our company did work was Bloomingdale's. One day, Mel Hall's file came across my desk. At the time, if memory serves correctly, the Yankees were paying him more than $1,000,000 to play baseball for them, which he did in a decidedly indifferent, nonchalant manner. The bill owed to Bloomingdale's was minuscule by comparison - something in the range of $2800 to $3000. Presuming that he had perhaps been unaware of it or that he thought one of his lawyers or business managers had taken care of it from him, Bloomingdale's was genuinely surprised when after months of chasing him themselves for the money, they had to hire our company to try to collect it.

In the pre-Tampa era for the Yankees, spring training was held in Fort Lauderdale. The surprise in Hall's voice was palpable when - during spring training in either 1990 or 1991 I telephoned him in his room to discuss the bill. I laughed out loud when he demanded to know how I found him - pointing out to him that the location of the Yankees spring training complex was not exactly a national security secret. It became obvious to me five minutes into our conversation that he had no intentions of ever paying this particular bill. But since we really wanted to collect the money for Bloomingdale's, I played along with his "Hey, give me your number and I'll call you back at a better time for me to talk to you" shtick.

Unfortunately for Hall, since I knew he would not call me back when he did not I was prepared. In short order I telephoned the Yankees' front office to make them aware of the fact that in the non-too-distant future they could anticipate receipt of a court's order permitting Hall's paycheck to be garnished to satisfy his debt and, thereafter, his attorney in Chicago to ask whether he would be authorized to accept service of the complaint on Hall's behalf. Finally, I called Hall back. His tone during our second conversation was initially one of ennui - until I told him the steps I took prior to calling him, which I reminded him I was doing because he had failed to live up to his promise that he had made to call me.

Once I told him what was going to happen, he became enraged. He cursed at me quite loudly and passionately for what seemed to be a minute or two. He threatened to come to New Jersey and physically injure me. I told him as long as he brought a check to satisfy his debt to Bloomingdale's, I would happily meet him at the office's front door. Finally, when he stopped hyperventilating into the receiver, I left him with a parting shot. I told him that as a devout Yankees fan, I was disappointed - but not surprised - to learn that he lived his personal life with the same nonchalant, careless and disinterested approach as he took to the game of baseball. I wished him a good day and hung up the phone, never talking to him again.

When considering the futures of these two American athletes and their families, I hope only that each gets what is deserved.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Stirring But Certainly Never Shaken

I received an e-mail from my big brother Bill yesterday, forwarding me an obituary from the New York Times of a man who I am embarrassed to admit I had never heard of while he was alive. The obituary was of Vice Admiral James F. Calvert who at age 88 died at his home in Bryn Mawr Pennsylvania on June 3.

The man of whom I had never heard lived one hell of an interesting and important life. After attending Oberlin College for two years, James Calvert was appointed to the Naval Academy. He graduated in 1942, was sent to submarine training in New London and soon after was assigned to the Jack. He served for three years in the Pacific and was awarded two Silver Stars and two Bronze Stars. Thereafter, in 1968, Vice Admiral Calvert was appointed Superintendent of his Alma mater and during his four years there he broadened the curriculum to include more than 20 majors. Until then, all cadets took the same military-related courses. All laudable achievements to be sure.

However, one wonders how much of a rush Vice Admiral Calvert received from running the Academy in 1968, given how he had spent his summer vacation only a decade earlier. In an earlier incarnation of his career, prior to overseeing the training of midshipmen at the Academy, he captained the Skate, which was the third nuclear-powered submarine in the American fleet. On August 11, 1958, he and his crew did something quite extraordinary in their 265-foot-long home under the sea - they surfaced at the North Pole.

Imagine for a moment being where Calvert was and where his crew was in August, 1958 - moving along beneath the ice at the North Pole. I will defer to my brother regarding the ins/outs of submarine technology and the level of sophistication of the equipment on the Skate but it would seem to me that it is a safe bet that doing what Calvert, his men and the Skate did took nerves of steel. There were happier, safer and less stressful ways to serve one's country in 1958 than as a member of the crew of a vessel that spent most of its time below the surface of the water and came up to take a look around at such fun-filled venues as the North Pole - in the off-season nonetheless.

And remember as well the times in which Vice Admiral Calvert sailed and lived. In the late 1950's the Cold War was in full force - and not just at the North Pole. The Skate and its underwater brethren, which included the Nautilus, carried the Polaris missile, which was designed to soar several thousand miles to hit on-shore targets with nuclear warheads. The strategic importance of having that weapon aboard a vessel that the Soviets could not track as it cruised 'neath the chilly waters near the Soviet Union was not lost on President Eisenhower. One presumes it was equally apparent to his opposite number in the Kremlin.

According to the Times, about seven months after the historic ice-breaking moment at the North Pole, Vice Admiral Calvert and the Skate returned to their room at the top of the world. On March 17, 1959, as the Skate floated between ice drifts, crew members fulfilled a wish of Sir Hubert Wilkins, a polar explorer in the early 20th century, who had died three months before. Sir Hubert had hoped to reach the North Pole by submarine, but never made it. Atop the globe, in the half light of the polar winter, the crew of the Skate scattered Sir Hubert’s ashes into a fierce wind.

The Times did not mention it in the Vice Admiral's obituary but one presumes that in addition to scattering Sir Hubert's ashes to honor his memory the men of the Skate raised a glass in his honor as well. I do not know what they drank but I have a hunch I know where they got their ice.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

For the One Who is Strong and Wise & Knows No Fear

It was but two short weeks ago, which have actually felt like two exceptionally long weeks, that Suzy B. - Margaret's mom - died. In the fortnight that has passed since that exquisitely painful morning, my little wife has been wrapped in a cloak of sadness.

And yet, she remains her mother's daughter. That is why beginning tonight she shall be where she has been annually at this time every year that I have known her, which is manning the 50/50 table at the Festa of St. Ann's Church in Raritan Boro (home of WW II hero and Medal of Honor recipient John Basilone). She shall be there tonight, and every night this week, not because she really wants to be there but because had the fates not conspired against her and taken her mother from her - from all of us - it is where the two of them would have been together. And Margaret shall be there tonight and every night this week until the Festa concludes on Saturday night, which I guess means that I am off of the hook for our anniversary this Friday night. Who knew that the 16th anniversary was the sausage & peppers/zeppole jubilee?

Margaret shall be where she shall be tonight and each of the next five nights thereafter because duty runs deep in her veins. Candidly, I am of the opinion that she has no obligation to be there but on this issue my opinion carries no weight whatsoever. Thus, it is an opinion I express to her not at all. I recognize in my wife the need to fill the void left by her Mom's death, which is enormous, both in her daily life and in the lives of others. And this week, in a way that will be significantly more painful than I think my bride has allowed herself to even imagine, she will be filling that void. And in doing so, she shall pay tribute to not only her Mom but to her other two special angels who have died since last year's edition of this parish's annual racketeering activity. At this time last year, Nanny was still alive. So was Margaret's Aunt Meni.

In fact, at this time last year, because Margaret's 94 year old grandmother insisted on going every night to work at the 50/50 table - alongside her daughter and granddaughter - Margaret loaded Nanny's wheelchair into the trunk of her car every night. Off she went into the evening, chaperoning her Golden Girls. This June, there are no wheelchairs to load into the trunk and there are no special pillows to pack, extra water bottles to chill or snacks to bring along, all of which had been part of Margaret's ritual each of the past several Junes to make sure that her Mom had everything she needed while they were manning their post. My little bride may feel that she is the Last of the Mohicans.

A few years ago, my wife opened my ears to the music of Martina McBride. Ms. McBride is a country artist and on two or three occasions in the past two or three years, Margaret and I have seen her perform live. Upon first seeing her in person, I realized that it was not just her voice that drew Margaret to her - it is the whole package. Martina, like Margaret, is a little tiny woman whose abilities and gifts far outstrip the small body in which they are contained. She sings in a style akin to the manner in which my wife lives her life: full out and replete with emotion and heart. She sings a song that makes me think of Suzy B. and Nanny; Margaret and Suzy B.; and Suzanne and Margaret each and every time I hear it.

And at some point this week, Suzanne will undoubtedly join Margaret at the 50/50 table, drawn to it like a moth to the flame by an unspoken, innate sense that it is where she should be and where she wants to be. And there my two girls will sit, side by side, enduring the well-intentioned but pain-provoking good wishes of all who pass by. All those who say what they mean and mean what they say about Suzy B and about Nanny but will say it without stopping to think just how much it hurts each and every time a Band-Aid gets ripped anew off a still open wound. Neither Margaret nor Suzanne will say anything but "thank you" to those who come by to pay their respects and to offer their sympathies - regardless of how much their hearts ache. For each is her mother's daughter.

And the world will forever be able to see each one's mother by looking in her daughter's eyes.

Monday, June 15, 2009

More Powerful Than A Locomotive.....

Round One of the Subway Series went to the Yankees. Nothing quite like a drama-filled 15-0 blowout on a late Spring/early Summer Sunday afternoon to make folks look forward to Round Two, eh? What a weekend of baseball in the Bronx? Luis Castillo of the Mets snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on Friday night by failing to make a play he has likely made a million and a half times since he was a baby 2nd baseman. And then the Yankees apparently failed to get their 4:00 p.m. wake up call on Saturday. They watched the journeyman, Fernando Nieve, the Mets threw at them pitch one hell of a game in an utterly dramaless 6-2 defeat. To top the Yankees absentee effort of Saturday afternoon, on Sunday, even though the Yankees pitched the Red Sox' favorite member of their starting rotation not named Wang, AJ Burnett, and the Mets answered with the best pitcher in the NL Johan Santana (a/k/a "the guy who would pitch for us if Brian Cashman had realized 18 months ago how much Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes really were worth"), the Mets got sandblasted 15-0.

Baseball is like life in that the results of each of the 162 games that will be played by each team this season are what actually happens while you are busy making plans. One can fearlessly forecast the outcome before the game is played so long as one enjoys the ability to laugh at oneself after the game has been played and you get to see how far off the mark your prediction turned out to be.

I am a Yankees fan who spends little time during the season paying attention to the Mets. I do not root against them - for they are a New York team and the only New York team I genuinely dislike and root against is the Islanders. I am simply apathetic about them. I enjoy the Subway Series but I wish they played only one time a season - or played perhaps only a total of four games - two at Yankee Stadium and two at Citi Field. Sadly, much like everything else, baseball is a business. And the Subway Series is big business for both of New York's baseball teams. Both of which are playing home games to houses not more than 75 to 80% full in their new "cathedrals", which are chock full of really expensive seats. Both teams have had the unfortunate experience of not having had a lot of well-padded fannies occupying those seats thus far this season. This weekend, however, the Yankees had people a-plenty in all of those formerly empty seats. Interleague baseball sells in the Big Apple.....so long as the other team in the game also has NY on its hats.

One round down. And one more round to go. Good news is games four through six will be played in Citi Field. Maybe Brian Bruney and Freddie Rodriguez will be able to settle up with one another face-to-face as opposed to through the media. Perhaps it can be set up as a cage match - best two out of three falls.

One can easily imagine how many tickets that would sell, indeed.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Wrinkles 'Round My Baby's Eyes

Truth be told, I am not a man blessed with many natural gifts. I am not particularly handy -actually I am hardly handy at all. I am not particularly athletic. I am the height that I have read is the average height for men in these United States, which makes me neither particularly tall or particularly short. And for years, my weight has yo-yo'ed. Sometimes I look particularly round and on rare occasions I have appeared a bit gaunt, but unlike that hard to find bowl of porridge or bed, I am rarely just right.

About the sole talent with which I am imbued is my ability to solve problems. As an attorney, much of what one is paid to do is problem-solve. This is particularly so when one is a litigator. All of the folks who I represent have made my acquaintance because they have a problem - they are being sued. In civil litigation, there are any number of ways to solve a client's problem. The trick is to know which way will work for a particular client in a particular set of circumstances. For better or worse, it is a trick I perform well.

The secret to my success - such as it is - is that I lack a "panic button". There are many emotions that play a predominant role in my life but panic is not one of them. Candidly, given the value of time and its eternally short supply, it boggles my mind why anyone wastes his/her time in the company of panic. All panic does is forestall the inevitable, which is trying to figure out how to solve a particular problem for if there is a problem laying squarely in front of you and your initial reaction to it is panic, then once you have finished having your "moment" two constants remain. First, the problem that you allowed to scare you witless remains before you. Second, you still have to devote the time and energy necessary to solving it - except now you are down a quart or two, having spent whatever energy you spent in panic mode. Energy is like time. Once expended, it is never coming back.

Sometimes however even the best problem-solver runs into a problem he cannot fix. Such is the case 'neath the snow globe these days. In the immediate aftermath of the death of her mom/her best friend Sue, Margaret is struggling. While that is not surprising, the depth of her despair is more than a bit unsettling. She confessed to me the other day that she dreads both the early morning and the late evening. No confession was necessary unfortunately as she wears the pain of her loss on her face - and in her eyes. Even one as obtuse as I am can see it.

The most frustrating thing for one accustomed to solving that which ails others is the feeling of being powerless to solve a problem for the one I love most of all. I have had an experience similar to the one Margaret is living through presently. My father has been dead for 2/3 of my life - dying as he did when I was fourteen.

Yet, watching how hard Sue's death has been on Margaret, I wonder if I had been wrong thinking, as I have for these past twenty-eight years that a parent's death is harder for a child to handle when the child is still a child. I had issues as a teenager dealing with the death of my father - with whom I had a contentious relationship. There was nothing extraordinary about my relationship with my father I suppose. And perhaps had he lived through the completion of my teenage years, then where there was no relationship at age fourteen we might have found one by age twenty-one. He did not. And therefore we did not.

And for the past (almost) thirty years I have wondered what could possibly be worse than a kid dealing with the death of a parent (other than the readily apparent dealing with the death of both parents). Sadly, I think I have found the answer. Whereas my old man and me simply co-existed by the time he died, Margaret and Sue were - in the immortal words of Forrest Gump - like peas and carrots, carrots and peas. Sue's death has rocked Margaret on any number of levels and the sadness that is located front and center in my bride's eyes as she goes through her day-to-day routine reflects that profound sense of loss.

It is a sense of loss that I appear powerless to help her overcome. I tell her what one tells another in the wake of a loved one's death, which is that a day will come when she feels something other than awful every second of every day. But the journey from here to there is a tricky one. It is one of indeterminate length. It is hard. And there are no signposts along the roadside to tell you when you have reached your destination. Suddenly, there you are.

And since I know not how long it shall take her to get there and I know not what hints will appear to let her know she is approaching it, I am woefully ill-equipped to solve my wife's problem. A worse feeling I cannot possibly imagine.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Peppers and Eggs

Today is Mom's birthday. She is eighty-two years young. I worry still - much as I did when she announced more than a dozen years ago that she was packing up and moving to Florida - about her living hundreds of miles away from her adult children (and in some cases - adult grandchildren as well) and all by herself. Yet even I must admit that her ability to take care of herself and to handle all that gets thrown out her is still as present as it ever was.

All the good stuff that is somehow churned up inside of me is a gift from my mother. Conversely, no blame of any of the misery I have ever inflicted, whether intentionally or through sheer neglect or indifference, rests with her. She worked hard to provide me with an opportunity to make something of myself. It was not her job to give me a guarantee that I would. That responsibility has rested with me - as it rests with all of us.

She is a woman of incredible strength and compassion. One night earlier this week, as she begins her Summer in Jersey, she came for a visit. She really did not come to see me. Rather, the principal reason for her visit was to check in on - and gauge the emotional temperature of - my bride Margaret and my father-in-law Joe. Mom has been friends with Joe/Sue since the first time all three of them met one another, which was almost two decades ago. Mom and Sue became soul sisters - bound together by their unfortunate experience battling a common foe - from the moment that Sue was diagnosed with breast cancer approximately four and one half years ago. Throughout the past four and one half years, they have exchanged countless phone calls and cards as Mom did what she could do to be there for her friend, to answer questions for her about what was to come - the good, the bad and the painful -and to listen to Sue when she voiced fears and concerns that only one who had walked the path each of them walked battling this disease could fully comprehend.

Mom, all eighty-two years of her, sat in Joe's kitchen for several hours one night earlier this week just swapping stories with an old friend and, in the subtle, quiet "Mom" way in which she does things, reassuring Joe and Margaret that while they cannot imagine presently a moment in time when the hole that has been punched in each of their hearts will begin to heal, indeed such a moment shall arrive. And she shared with Joe some of the things she went through, felt and experienced twenty-eight years ago when my father - and her husband of more than thirty years - died and left her with half of her six children to finish educating and raising on her own. There were times when neither spoke and there were times when both laughed in response to something that one or the other had said. And when Mom left Joe's home that evening - for just a little while anyway he felt a bit better about the road ahead of him.

Today is Mom's birthday. Happy Birthday to you, Mom. It has been my great good fortune to have been afforded the privilege of having been raised by you and having learned a lot of what I know of the world from you. I love you.


Friday, June 12, 2009

The Sands of Time

On the way to the office this morning, for reasons that are not entirely clear to me, my mind drifted back to May 1991. I fixed upon the visual image of my brother-in-law Russ (Kara's husband) and me at Shea Stadium watching the Mets play the Cardinals. Actually I fixed upon the visual image of Russ at one of the Shea concession stands buying lots of stuff for his then-week or two old baby boy - their first born child - R.J.

Perhaps that memory separated itself from the rest of the memories stuck in the morass that is my mind this morning because on Sunday, R.J. shall graduate from high school. It is sort of an odd twist that the siblings closest to me in age (Jill and Kara, who are roughly two and four years older than I am respectively) have kids who are considerably younger than mine. The fact that I took the Chia Pet approach to forming a family likely had much to do with it, having gone from single man to husband and father of two school-age children in an instant, likely has much to do in terms of explaining that phenomenon. Regardless, R.J. is the oldest of Kara's three sons and is the first of her little brood to graduate from high school. And in the fall, when he matriculates off to the University of Tampa he will be the first of her kids to go to college. All things considered, Sunday is a pretty big day in the lives of Kara, Russ, R.J. and their little family unit.

At times it seems inconceivable to me that my nephew is old enough to be graduating from high school. It seems as if it was only yesterday that he was a baby. But then again it seems as if it was only yesterday that I had no gray hair in either my beard or on my head, which has not been the current state of affairs for quite some time now. He is a young man of eighteen. And he stands on the threshold of the doorway between childhood and adulthood, well-prepared by his parents to take the next step, excited to take it and comforted still by the knowledge that the support system that has nourished him throughout these first eighteen years shall be there to pick him up and help him....

...even as the next phase of his life takes him on a journey that he must make by himself.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

You Cannot Spell CLASS Without The Letters A-S-S

I have been a fan of Rick Reilly's writing for a long time. Reilly, who is also a CU Buff alum, wrote for years for Sports Illustrated. Apparently a few years ago he picked up his tent stakes at SI and now works for ESPN. I read him still on ESPN's website where he writes a piece called "Life of Reilly".

Required reading for everyone who has a mom, a sister, a daughter, a cousin, a niece, an aunt or any woman in your life or is any of the above herself is Reilly's latest piece, which spotlights a gentleman (using that term in the broadest possible definitional sense) named Alfred G. Rava. Who is Mr. Rava you ask and what has he done to warrant being the subject of a piece written by an award-winning national columnist? Mr. Rava is the concerned citizen who has sued the Oakland A's baseball team for the team's allegedly discriminatory practices. And what offensive conduct inspired the ire of Mr. Rava? I am so glad you asked. Here is the low-down, courtesy of Rick Reilly:

It so happens that on May 8, 2004, the Oakland A's had a Mother's Day promotion. There was a fight-breast-cancer 5K run before the game, free mammograms and the first 7,500 women through the gate got floppy plaid sun hats from Macy's. Nice day for the ladies.

Except that last part really hacked off a man named Alfred G. Rava. He was incensed that men weren't getting a floppy plaid sun hat for Mother's Day. He was so mad about it that he sued.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the cost associated with litigation and the uncertainty of fighting every case brought against you - regardless of the amoral nature of the person suing you - the matter is apparently being settled for more than $500,000. A judge has given preliminary approval to a $510,000 settlement -- roughly half to lawyers and the rest to the "victims" -- the poor, downtrodden gender-disadvantaged waifs like Rava who didn't get their floppy Mother's Day hats. The terms of the settlement call for each member of the "class" - men who attended the game and are willing to say with a straight face that they were among the first 7500 people to arrive for the game on Mother's Day - to receive $100, which is broken down as $50 in cash, 2 for 1 tickets for an A's game and a $25 coupon for Macy's.

To the credit of all of the other alleged members of Rava's "class", which begs the question as to how one claim to belong to something that he himself lacks, no other man has contacted the A's to claim their "settlement". Not one.

Mr. Rava, finding a way to give men and lawyers a black eye simultaneously, apparently practices law in San Diego, California, which is a considerable distance from Oakland and which casts as more than slightly suspicious his motivation for having purchased a ticket for a Mother's Day matinee game. As Reilly pointed out, "Turns out Rava is a lawyer. In fact, this is not his first men-inism lawsuit. He's been part of more than 40 male anti-discrimination lawsuits, sometimes as the plaintiff, like in Oakland, and sometimes as the plaintiff's lawyer. He has sued Club Med over a ladies-only promotion. He's sued the Angels for giving away a $1.45 tote bag to women in 2005. He has sued restaurants and nightclubs and theater companies. Mr. Rava gets incensed a lot."

Perhaps it is the recent events that my wife and our family have been faced with - including the death of a truly splendid woman at the hands of a truly despicable and insidious disease - or perhaps it is the fact that Rava appears to be - in the immortal words of Louie DePalma - the scum that scum scrapes off of its shoes, but I found myself incensed by the time I reached the end of Reilly's article. And it did not soothe my anger at all when I read that this jackass lost his own mother to breast cancer when she was only fifty-three years old. When Reilly asked him how he thought his mother would react to his lawsuit against the A's, Rava replied, "I am sure my mom would be proud of my lawsuit against this major league baseball franchise that denied male and female consumers under 18 years of age free fishing hats based on sex and age."

It is only June so it may be too early to guarantee that Rava shall emerge as the biggest a##hole of 2009 but I would wager it is a safe bet that his spot on the medal stand is secure.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hooray for Armageddon!

For me, sports have long provided a welcome diversion from the day-to-day insanity of the real world. In the aftermath of truly awful things happening, I find sports to be soothing and comforting. Sort of like comfort food for the soul.

The past week has been fairly hellacious in my little corner of the world, as it always is for a family in the immediate aftermath of the death of one of its members. We are all doing what we can do to get by and to try to re-connect with our normal activities. It is hard. It is hard in part because it is such a new phenomenon. And it is hard because of the depth and the breadth of what - and who - we have lost.

Life can really depress the hell out of you if you let it. Trust me on this. I know of which I speak. Thankfully, this week, the schedule makers have smiled upon me. A bit of elixir is coming my way in the form of the renewal of hostilities between the Yankees and the Red Sox. Weather permitting, they will begin a three game series at Fenway Park tonight. While thus far this season, the Sox have owned the Yankees, I am looking forward to the games nonetheless. If there is a better rivalry in sports (at least those played in North America), then I am unaware of it. From the Curse of the Bambino to the dreaded "Reverse the Curse" in 2004, these two teams have accrued almost a century's worth of animosity towards one another. And even though they play each other nineteen times a season now, they play each game as if it was the final game any of their players shall ever play - going all out in an effort to win.

The Yankees head into Boston tonight a game ahead of the Sox in the standings and in first place, both of which have unfortunately become somewhat rare occurrences these past couple of seasons. Whether they shall be in the same position at season's end as they are presently I know not. Hell, whether they shall leave Boston on Thursday night in the same position remains to be seen. But it should be fun to watch.

And after the week that was here 'neath the snow globe, it could not have arrived at a better time.


Monday, June 8, 2009

What's a Canadian Farm Boy To Do?

At some point this week - perhaps as early as this evening - the 2008-09 NHL season will finally come to a close. Nothing makes me think of ice hockey quite as much as the crowning of a champion at some point between D-Day and Father's Day. I love ice hockey. In fact, among my fondest memories of my childhood are the pilgrimages my father and I would make once or twice a year into Madison Square Garden on Sunday nights to see the New York Rangers play. We would take the train from New Brunswick into Penn Station, stop in the terminal for a Nedick's hot dog and an Orange Julius on our way into the game and - if the game did not end too late - on the way home as well.

My father was at times a difficult human being with whom to deal. But never was he easier to talk to or to interact with than when we sat side-by-side in the Garden watching the Rangers. We were in the building the night that goaltender Eddie Giacomin returned home as a member of the Detroit Red Wings, having been traded away by then-public enemy #1 Emile Francis only days earlier, and were two of the thousands of voices screaming "Eddie! Eddie!" as he led the Red Wings to an easy win. It was the first time that I had ever been in the Garden and openly rooted for the opposition. Had my father not been there beside me, roaring his approval for the beating that the Blueshirts were absorbing with full-throated enthusiasm, I might have felt somewhat ashamed for conspiring with the enemy.

In the spring and early summer of 1994, as I was preparing for the bar exams of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, I enjoyed watching my Rangers win their first (and still only) Stanley Cup since 1940. Yet, even while basking in the glow of their triumph, it struck me as more than a bit bizarre that the ticker tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes took place on a hot,broiling New York summer day. Professional hockey wonders why it has such difficulty gaining any traction in this country in terms of its status among the people who watch and attend professional sports. Perhaps ending a season that drags on interminably for months - only to have approximately 50% of the NHL's membership "qualify" for the "post-season", which can last for up to an additional eight weeks - at some point prior to the Summer Solstice would be a first step? And while they are at it, perhaps putting franchises in towns whose residents might have seen ice somewhere other than their freezer might be a logical second step.

If you missed the 08-09 season, fret not. Right around Columbus Day the 09-10 season will start in earnest. And til then, if you are still Jonesing for winter sports, cheer up. As of this morning, as many as five games remain to be played in the NBA season.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Empty Are The Fairgrounds

One week. Seven days. One hundred and sixty-eight hours. In the context of the lifespan of the average human being in these United States it is but an eye blink. Yet in certain circumstances, in the life of a particular human being, it is an eternity. And what life was at week's beginning it is no longer at week's end. And tragically it shall never be again.

From this point forward, Margaret's life shall be divided into two separate and distinct categories. Suzy B. was not only her mom but was in fact her best friend. The two of them spoke on the phone a dozen times a day - often times about things that the rest of the world (including their own husbands) might have thought were trivial or inconsequential but were simply the sort of things that one makes certain to share with one's best friend.

And Margaret saw her mom every day. I must confess that when my wife and I first married, the notion of having all of my in-laws (Mother/Father & Brother/Sister) living here 'neath the snow globe with us struck me as a potential source of suffocation. I quickly realized, however, that I had married into a family that one would otherwise have thought existed only in the mind of Bill Cosby or Robert Young or their television writers. A family in which the core group of four was as thick as thieves as kids and remained as tight - if not tighter - when the children grew to adulthood and became parents themselves.

Several times during this seemingly endless week that was, Joe told me with well-deserved pride how good he felt about the strong and ever-expanding family that had grown up from the seeds sown by his bride and him. And I told him that the thought occurred to me as we were standing in the funeral home on Thursday during one of the "visitation" sessions how much of what my life is today I owe to the fact that when I came calling on their daughter all those years ago, both of them gave me their seal of approval. But for that, my pursuit of happiness would have advanced no further than the front door.

I stood eyeing the endless stream of people who had come to say goodbye to Suzy B and to share a handshake, a hug and a tear with the trio she left here to continue on without her - Joe, Frank and Margaret- and wondered what shell of a life I would be leading, now, had Joe and Sue not approved of me then. They did and ever since, generally speaking, life had been just heaven in the sun.

I grieve for Suzy B and also for my bride and her brother and father. For life will be forever changed for the three who are here still to carry on the work of the four. And while they will most certainly figure out how to adapt and how to move forward to deal with life's still-to-come challenges, nothing from now on to time immemorial shall ever be what it once was.

On television, Cosby's family and Young's family dealt with only the spectre of cancellation. In the real world, something much more heart wrenching and sinister lurks. And unlike television, regardless of your success, you cannot forestall it forever.

One week. Seven days. One hundred and sixty-eight hours. Time enough to change everything forever.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

First Steps

Any person who had the exquisite good fortune of knowing my mom-in-law would not chalk up the diametric differences between yesterday's weather and today's, here 'neath the snow globe, to mere coincidence. The day on which her family and loved ones gathered as one for a final farewell to her dawned ugly and remained ugly throughout. The goodbye kiss was sealed by the soft, summer rain. Due to her request to be cremated and not buried, all of us who gathered for her funeral mass yesterday morning were spared having to endure the climatic insult Mother Nature heaped upon an already-gaping injury. No one assembled at a graveside in the pouring rain. We simply traveled from the funeral mass to the repast.

And because yesterday's weather in these parts was so inclement her life's great love - Joe - did not have to add a side of guilt to the full plate of anguish that had been ordered up for him by wondering for even a split second about what was going on at the golf course Somerset County pays him to manage while he was attending to the heart wrenching business at hand. Similarly, Suzy B.'s brother, Margaret's Uncle Mike, whose great passion is golf, would not have been able to get out and play yesterday - even if he was not otherwise engaged. If you knew Suzy B. then you know that a woman who lived her life putting others first was gazing down upon us all yesterday afternoon with a look of relief etched upon her face. Neither Joe nor Unc would have spent a moment anywhere yesterday other than where they did - regardless of the weather and regardless of the fact that yesterday broke each one of their hearts more than just a little - but there remains little doubt in my mind that she went a bit more contented than she would have thinking that her funeral was keeping those she loved from other pursuits.

Today, on the other hand, dawned bright and beautiful. The weatherman says that we are going to have a day chock full of sun and a day in which the temperature reaches 80+ degrees. Dawn brought with it this morning the first day of the rest of his life to her husband and her partner of forty-nine plus years and, knowing no doubt how much he dreads it (and hopefully to an ever-diminishing degree) all of those that shall follow it, she has sent Joe a day the composition of which may help to lift his spirits as he begins this leg of his journey. A leg of the journey in which his life's great love will walk not beside him but shall look down upon him and guide him.

It is not going to be an easy journey for him to make and it is one he never wanted to make. She cannot change the latter. No one can. She can however help him with the former - as all of us who know and love him can. And today, to help us help him she has ordered up a heaping helping of sunshine.

And I say it's alright.


Friday, June 5, 2009

In the Shadow of the Evening Trees.

I know not whether it is a universal truth that one can measure the impact that a life had upon the lives of others by the number of people who come to pay their respects at the "visitation", although I suspect that in the case of my mom-in-law Suzanne Bozzomo it was indeed. Yesterday afternoon and again yesterday evening a multitude of people came to honor her and to express their love and support to those of us who shall now be charged with the business of living - the business of keeping on keeping on.

Mother Nature has elected to honor Suzy B. today by wearing a veil of tears. One suspected that between the storms that rumbled through our little corner of the world each of the past two days that the clouds had nothing left to give. Apparently that suspicion was unfounded. This morning dawn broke in a cascade of rain. Whether it is an example of irony or coincidence when inclement weather makes an appearance on the day on which we convene for the funeral of one we love I have never quite figured out. Although - perhaps it is simply the melancholy that permeates my Gaelic bones - it has always seemed to me to be appropriate.

It is almost incomprehensible to me that a woman who has been such a central figure in the lives of many of those who I love the most, and in my own life for that matter, for almost the past two decades shall be that way only in spirit - and not in the flesh - from this point forward. My mom-in-law was diminutive but the hole left by her death is enormous. Thirty years ago, upon his arrival in the Bronx via free agency, Reggie Jackson famously declared himself to be "the straw that stirred the drink". History teaches us he was as ignorant as he was arrogant. Side-by-side with Suzy B he is no better than the coaster upon which the drink is placed on a summer's day to prevent a condensation ring on your woodwork.

Since her death in the wee small hours of Tuesday morning, I have worried about and tried to keep an eye on Suzy B.'s entire tribe. And while I am sure that no matter what happens for us and for our kids from this point forward, my bride shall never look at life in the same way as she did prior to her mother's death I hold out hope that for her sufficient time shall exist to at least affix a temporary patch to this wound. I hope for a similar arc for my brother-in-law Frank, whose joyous, boisterous household is preparing for the wedding of his oldest child, Megan, at month's end.

The focal point of my concern these past several days has been on Joe, my father-in-law. He is a big bear of a man (even at 76) and has a smile and a voice that fill any room - with the personality to match. Over the course of the slightly less than two decades that I have known him, I have had more "father/son" conversations with him than I ever had with my own father during the first fourteen years of my life. Joe is a strong, resilient man battle-tested by life but this week he has been brought to his knees by something that haunts one who has been the guardian and the protector of those he loves for most of his life. He was not able to prevent the relentless advancing force that is cancer from taking his beloved wife from him.

Time will, I hope, eventually allow him to understand that he neither failed her nor her him. The two of them simply were forced to the final part of the vows they exchanged almost fifty years ago by an enemy that has no soul. When we marry, we utter the "til death do us part" language in the vows by rote - without stopping to appreciate its weight. On the day we wed the one with whom we intend to spend the rest of our life, we give little thought to the day far off on the horizon line where the earth and sky meet where one of us shall have to press forward without the other. Inevitably that day arrives.

Tragically, on the 2nd of June it arrived for Joseph and Suzanne Bozzomo. And this morning he shall look down upon the face of his beautiful bride one final time before sending her on ahead of him. For half a century they faced together everything that life threw at them, they celebrated everything that life gave them and they reveled in the joy of their family - their two children, Frank and Margaret, and the eight grandchildren with whom their children blessed them.

Theirs has truly been a wonderful life. And it is far from over. Somewhere a bit further on up the road she waits for him. He has not been left behind. Knowing what a creature of habit he is, she has gone ahead to get the lay of the land. And it is there she shall wait - having made her steps clear for him to see - until he is ready to make the trip himself.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

'Tis the Day

My lovely bride, her Dad, her big brother Frank and all of the rest of us who had the pleasure and privilege of knowing Suzy B. shall gather today for one of the starkest, saddest events on the social calendar. While tomorrow shall be the funeral mass, which brings with it its own mine field of emotions to successfully negotiate, this day shall be spent in survival mode.

For two separate two hour sessions today, people shall come to pay their respects at the "visitation". Once upon a time - when I was a child - the visitation was known as the wake or the viewing. Apparently, at a point in time when I was distracted by other events, the event underwent a name change - no doubt as part of the ceaseless effort to make America a kinder, gentler place. The change of name makes the event seem more benign I suppose. Who does not enjoy a nice visit, right? From far away it may seem as if it is a nice get-together. But it is not of course. The neutral nature of the name belies the emotional impact of the event. It, however, does little to blunt it.

There shall be several hundred well-wishers who shall pass through the halls of the funeral home today, whether they come for the afternoon session, the evening session or both. While all of them shall mean well and all shall afford a measure of comfort to Margaret, Joe, Frank and the rest of us - all of them wish they were spending the portion of their day that they shall spend at the funeral home somewhere else. Those to whom the good wishes are being extended share that sentiment. What brings us together is love. What binds us together is the tremendous sense of loss all who knew and loved her feel now and shall continue to feel for an indeterminate amount of time.

We gather together on this dark day hoping against hope that in unison we shall find the strength to deal with that which alone scares the hell out of us. We gather together on this dark day hoping against hope for a little magic in these early days of June. And none is coming. And while we know that to be the case, it does not keep us from believing in the elixir of hope.

It has been said that hope springs eternal in the hearts of fools. Whether that is true, I know not. I do know that on "visitation" day, hope springs eternal in the hearts of all of us. While we long for Professor Peabody to crank up the "way back" machine and take us back to a more pain free place - knowing that he cannot, we hope that the one we love, from whom we are about to be separated physically forever, knew all that she meant to us, knew how profoundly we all loved her and shall continue to love her and knows that we shall continue to do all we can to honor her life, her legacy and her memory.

We gather today on this dreadful day imbued with the knowledge that in numbers there is strength. We do what we must for Suzanne Bozzomo because she earned it - every day. And on this terrible day, we set aside whatever fear pulsates inside of us to honor her. Ambrose Redmoon, writing about courage, wrote, "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear."

And today, something most certainly is.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Measure for Measure

Under normal circumstances, seeing my son - who works in the service of our Federal Government and does so approximately 2000 miles and two time zones from home - is an occasion of unbridled joy. Last evening, not so much. While it was both a joy and a relief to see his face as he ambled towards the terminal after deplaning in Newark, knowing that he had been summoned home for the unpleasant task of saying goodbye to his grandmother - his "Nona".

It is an unfortunate and unwelcome fact of my own life, I suppose that I am well-versed in the ritual of saying goodbye to a loved one. My father died at home when I was fourteen. By the time of his death, we had already buried at least two of my Mom's siblings (Uncle John and Aunt Ann) and all four of my grandparents. For good measure, Grandma Kelly - my maternal grandmother - died while visiting my mother and while sitting at our dining room table with my sister Jill and me. In the years since the death of my father, the ritual has been repeated countless times for aunts and uncles and - proving that death comes for those not related to yours truly by blood or marriage - four friends from high school.

We measure time in 12-month years -from January to December. We can actually track it though in any 12-month increment with whatever starting and ending point we choose. For example, our Superior Courts in New Jersey have a calendar that decrees July 1 the start of the new court year and June 30 the final day of the court year.

Applying that same logic to what has befallen my bride, her father, her brother and the rest of her family since August 1, 2008 seems more than simply unfortunate. It appears to be downright cruel. In less than one year's time - ten months exactly as a matter of fact - Margaret and her brother Frank have endured the death of their maternal grandmother and their mother. If possible, it has been even more unfair to my father-in-law. Joe has buried his mom-in-law (who lived in his home) and his bride of forty-nine plus years.

You will have to forgive Joe, Frank and Margaret if they cannot wait to get this "year" concluded. For them, August cannot get here quickly enough.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Next Stop - Pleasant Stream

At approximately 1:15 this morning, slightly more than eight months shy of her 50th wedding anniversary and ten months to the day since the death of her own mother, Suzanne Bozzomo - my Mom-in-law and one of this planet's truly beautiful souls, died. The little woman who stood bravely and defiantly in the face of always-advancing, never relenting cancer died in the presence of Suzanne (her oldest grandchild), Frank and Margaret (her two children), me (her son-in-law) and Joe, her husband and the great love of her life.

If all of us who walk this earth did half as much as Suzy B. did for those she loved - and asked for as little in return as she always did, then the planet would be a far better place. She lived her life by a simple creed - "Family first" - and not once, in the twenty years or so in which it had been my privilege and pleasure to know her, did she waver from it. She loved all of us, whether family by blood or by marriage, completely. She was an unabashedly enthusiastic supporter of her children and her grandchildren. Over the course of the past several years - even after she first was assailed by breast cancer (and perhaps even more so after that diagnosis was made in recognition of the fact that time was precious....and fleeting) - I cannot count the number of football games and/or wrestling matches I attended with her. And she was a frequent fan at basketball games involving one or more of her granddaughters, whether as a player or as a cheerleader.

Of all of the things Suzy B. was, perhaps her greatest attribute was that she was genuine. She did what she did, said what she said and felt what and how she felt regardless of whether it was the hip or cool thing to do. She worried not about being cutting edge - having learned long ago that after the edge is honed and the excess fluff is pared away the substantive part of the object, its meat as it were, remained. She was the meat, the substance in the lives of all she knew, all she loved and all who loved her.

And even in death, nothing changes. She will continue to be the substance in all of our lives - to be a presence for all of us to be guided by. Have a safe and peaceful journey Suzy B., you have most certainly earned it. We shall all miss you terribly and love you eternally.

Like buttons on a blouse indeed.

Shadows are falling and I'm running out of breath
Keep me in your heart for awhile
If I leave you it doesn't mean I love you any less
Keep me in your heart for awhile

When you get up in the morning and you see that crazy sun
Keep me in your heart for while
There's a train leaving nightly called when all is said and done
Keep me in your heart for while

Keep me in your heart for while
Keep me in your heart for while

Sometimes when you're doing simple things around the house
Maybe you'll think of me and smile
You know I'm tied to you like the buttons on your blouse
Keep me in your heart for while

Hold me in your thoughts, take me to your dreams
Touch me as I fall into view
When the winter comes keep the fires lit
And I will be right next to you

Engine driver's headed north to Pleasant Stream
Keep me in your heart for while
These wheels keep turning but they're running out of steam
Keep me in your heart for while

Keep me in your heart for while
Keep me in your heart for while