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LAST 10 MINUTES print heading

LAST 10 MINUTES

My father at 90

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My father would be 90 years old today.

He was born January 24, 1924.

He died in our arms January 24, 1998.

We used to tease that we started missing each other before each visit, knowing how quickly the time would pass and it would be over.

Every time we left each other, often at an airport, he would slip me $5. When I went to summer camp. When I went to college. When I moved to New York. $5 slipped into my palm at the last minute. Never more. Never less. When we were searching for a middle name for Jackson, we came up with Finn, which is a slang term for 5 dollar bill.

When I think of my father I think of how sweet he was. How much fun he seemed to be having. How much in the moment he was. I have written (and posted) about my father a lot. I loved him so much. And he loved me. And best – we not only lived it, but told each other.

As much as I have missed him since he has been gone, having my boys and being with Stephie has made me miss him even more. He would have been such a rich part of our family – and they would have thrilled and loved him to no end.
It is a cruel trick when someone dies that they are frozen in time.
They continue to have birthdays, but are no longer here. They never age in your mind, but they are harder to imagine. What would my father look like at 90? How much fun we he be? How much would he love these boys of ours and Stephie?

I can answer.

My father would be handsome and super fun.
He would be bursting with so much love he would light up the sky.
He would still have tickets to every Steeler game and Jackson would be next to him tugging at his terrible tweed coat. On his lap would be Asher singing out loud with those blue eyes that match my father’s, and on the other side, I would be the happiest man in the world. Knowing it was not the game but being together.

My Dad would be doing his damnedest to keep up with my mother.

It is never the destination, it is always the journey.

The attached photo is of Jackson in 2010 sitting on the lawn of the house I grew up in. He is sitting in the exact spot I used to wait for my father to come home from work. It used to seem like forever for his car to come around the corner and into the driveway. Then, when he came out of the car and hugged me, it was like he had been there forever. Behind Jackson are his two grandmothers, Aline and Janet.

01.23.14 Posted in Everything Is Connected, Personal Work, Something I Thought

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Peter Pan

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This morning I put on the Peter Pan original Broadway cast album for the first time since I was a child.   Mary Martin’s 1954 version , for Asher who was eating breakfast with me.  He started singing it back to me right away, like he already knew all the words. I had forgotten how big a part of my childhood that album was. Could barely hold back tears listening to him crow.

What I wrote above is what I posted on Facebook.    The truth was I was sobbing uncontrollably.   How can those songs be so deep inside that when they surface so many years later, and your son is singing them back to you, it is like a well burst inside?

 

 

 

 

 

10.03.13 Posted in Personal Work, Something I Heard, Something I Thought

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Not yet aftermath

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Seamus Heaney – Dublin 1995

 

Boulder – 9.15.13

The ground is so wet that for days there will be the fear of terra firma transforming into quicksand.   Mud and water tearing through homes and businesses and schools breaking down all defenses.  Roads buckling under our weight.  Disgusting piles of soaked carpets torn out and piled everywhere.

Each step to Monday is pushed back by the new realities in a place where reality is usually baked in sunshine.    It is all a balance of gathering teachers, shoveling mud, and waving mirrors at rescue helicopters.

We always duck when we bicycle under the bridges along the creek.   Now we have to dismount and do the breaststroke.

We were lucky.  We stayed dry.   Islands in a newly formed sea.

Stephie and I  stayed up way into the morning crafting the Ted Talk I give next Saturday night.  Now I just have to memorize it.  Was given the technique of imagining the speech in different parts of something familiar like your house.   What if you are renting?

Got a massage from Karen Delorenzo this morning, then soaked with the boys in the rain.   Met Karen when she was pregnant with Malachi many years ago on my first assignment for Rolling Stone.   Went to Milwaukee to shoot the Violent Femmes, and stayed at the drummer, Victor Delorenzo’s  (and Karen’s) house for several days.  The total budget was $75.

Malachi was playing with Langhorne Slim at Red Rocks last night and came to pick up Karen who was staying at our house.  Then we all went to watch football at a local Boulder sports bar with Jackson.   Malachi was there laughing and cheering on his Packers.   Jackson’s head was spinning around to 10 TV’s all with different games.  Langhorne came in wearing a red knit hat and was that warm.

Before we had kids, Stephie and I followed Langhorne all over the UK.  Some nights they were playing for ten people.  Some nights alot more.  I told Langhorne how amazing it was how his career has evolved.  He said, “I would be doing this no matter what, but yes, it is really nice how many people love what we do.”

In the first 30 seconds of a massage you know exactly what you are in for.    When Karen first touched me on the table, I told her, I have been waiting 20 years for this massage.

withlanghorne

 With Langhorne Slim and Jackson

 

09.15.13 Posted in Everything Is Connected, Something I Saw, Something I Thought

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On A’s 85th Birthday

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My mother has a big birthday today.   She said it is a non-event.   There are those that want a big fuss for their birthdays – and those who want to hide. Then there are those, like my mother who live every single day like it is so special, that when you go to buy a present or make a big deal on a day like today, it seems futile.

My mother is the most alive 80 something woman I know – and can dust most 70 and 60 something’s, too.  She shakes the Pittsburgh cultural tree every single day for the ripest fruit.   The museums, the concert halls, the theaters – her movie club with the critic from the Post-Gazette – they are the turf she runs on.   If something is sold out it just becomes a game, not a deterrent.   She has yoga, lunches, lectures, classes at CMU – and a slew of friends old and new who leap frog to keep up.

You could argue it is all a manic sprint.  She often asks if she is crazy at the end of long daily emails detailing her adventures.

Many people try to sum up their lives, and collect all the history on special birthdays.   My mother is just living too fast and too hard to stop and look back.   No dusting off old pictures.   No regrets.  Just teaching us all to be so alive and rich with experience that looking in the rear view mirror is something you do when your last breath is spent.

The gift she gives us all everyday is sharing her adventure , her curiosity, her insatiable sense of wonder.   Having children is planting seeds.  I’ve gotten a whole plantation from my mother.   As for my little boys, they have their own whole pocketfuls of seeds from their Gran A.

08.22.13 Posted in Everything Is Connected, Something I Thought

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Peaches in my father’s garden

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Last night I was reading about Alex Rodriguez having lived his whole life in the shadow of a father who abandoned him at age 9.    Was thinking about the garden his father failed to plant.   The seeds of trust and honor that never fertilized.

I then read my good friend, Mark Epstein’s piece in the NY Times Sunday Review.  First, I love Mark.   Just love him.   He is so much crazier and brilliant and funny than he lets on.  Maybe our favorite time together was squeezed into my little Alfa convertible driving around San Diego with the top down, with the music cranked (we were listening to the most subversive of Dan Bern), like we were the rock stars we are afraid to be. Ok, we are rock stars, just don’t dress the part.   The Jew-Bu rock star shrink who can make you feel like you are completely alive and the photographer rock star who was hiding behind his camera until just last week when he came out with a metal funnel for a megaphone.

Mark wrote about the traumas we anticipate and recover from.   He wrote about his mother recovering from his father dying, then sharing a secret of another husband in another life she had buried.   He wrote that allowing grief to breathe is ok.

My brother, mother, and I were all around my father, holding his hands as he took his last breath at home in 1998.   The first thing my mother said to all of us right at that moment was, “He was a great guy.”  She then packed up his clothes and got on with her life.   It was not that she didn’t miss him.  It was not that she felt cheated that he was gone on his 74th birthday and she is now about to celebrate her 85th birthday.  It was just that my father had planted so many seeds and was still alive in that garden he had planted inside all of us.  We just had to appreciate all that was still alive about him, not just the part that was gone.   Not that we did not mourn.  Not that missing him will ever go away.   It is just when they say, “stay hydrated” – they are talking about watering seeds in the private gardens our father’s planted.    Meanwhile, my mother has her foot pressed hard on the reaper and is still harvesting like each day is peak season.  The grim reaper is at bay, afraid of the scarecrow.

This morning Jackson crawled into bed and I planted a seed for his garden.  The seed about playing by the rules, not cheating, never telling lies.   He got it, but there is only so much seed sewing you can do with a 5 year old.    We switched to talking about the peaches that appeared this weekend. Jackson does not like peaches.  I told him the peach I had last night literally knocked my socks off.   Told him if he took a single bite it might knock all his clothes off.   Then we headed downstairs.  Crawled slowly around the corner of the kitchen on our knees until Asher finally discovered us with peaches in his mouth and the milk from his cereal dribbling down his chest.   We all started laughing.   Was laughing more when we were all eating peaches, socks flying off of Stephie’s feet, and the rest of us dancing around naked.  Indulge those peaches in the next couple of weeks.   Each one is a beautiful perfect seed from my father’s garden.

Soundtrack for this post – while I am listening to “Blurred Lines” this summer like some addiction – Robin Thick, Prince, and many others all circle back to Sly Stone.   Listening to, “Just Like A Baby” – from There’s A Riot Going on.

Then….just as I was about to hit publish just now, I stumbled on this other Dan Bern song, “Kid’s Prayer,”  which ends with this advice:

Talk to your kids

Play with your kids

Tell them your dreams

And your disappointments

Listen with your kids

Listen to your kids

Watch your kids

Let your kids watch you

Tell your kids the truth

Best as you can tell it

No use telling lies

Your kids can always smell it

Cook for your kids

Let your kids cook for you

Sing with your kids

Teach your kids the blues

Learn their games

Teach them yours

Touch your kids

Find out what they know

Be sad with your kids

Be stupid with your kids

Learn with your kids

Cry with you kids

Be yourself with your kids

Be real with your kids

Embarrass your kids

Let them embarrass you

Be strong with your kids

Be tough with your kids

Be firm with your kids

Say “No” to your kids

Say “Yes” to your kids

Take it easy on your kids

You were a kid

Not so long ago

There are things you know

Your kids will never know

There’s places they live

Where you will never go

So dance with your kids

Paint with your kids

Walk with your kids

Tell stories to your kids

Watch movies with your kids

Eat popcorn with your kids

Tell secrets to your kids

Stop for rainbows with your kids

One day your kids

Won’t be kids

And maybe they’ll have kids of their own

Let’s hope they talk to their kids

Play with their kids

Tell them their dreams

And their disappointments

 

amen.

08.05.13 Posted in Everything Is Connected, Personal Work, Photos, Something I Saw, Something I Thought

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