This collection of entries is from the Category "Family".
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Mike and the Apple Guck
I know I have wrote much about my nephew... perhaps it's because for most of his VERY young life he's kind of looked at me with just a slight look of fear. I guess I was just an odd looking person, with the deep voice ... and all that hair on my face... and... none (or almost none) on top of my head.
But... he's been slowly warming up to me. And, just recently, like within the past few months, we've actually started playing together.
Today was a MAJOR day for me... I'm sure it wasn't for him, it was just another trip to see "gamma".
But... you know what happened today? You know what is going to go into my (recently faulty) memory today?
HE CALLED ME BY MY NAME.
Now... he can't say "uncle" yet, but to hear him call me "Mike" was a BIG THING for me.
We had bought Jack a Bob The Builder toy yesterday when we were at Fry's Electronics (wow, I love that place!)... it was a Packer Delivery truck... that came with (allegedly) scented crates of apples... so... he can say "apples" pretty well (OK, it comes out more like "appooo") but the "tr" in "truck"... well... not so much.
..and so.. Jack and Mike played with his "apple guck".
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Christmas Number 2
Up until this past Christmas, the "extended family" celebrated Christmas Eve together. This year - just us. Today was our regular Christmas Eve.. actually, a little bit better because everyone could be together... and today was the only time that everyone was available...
Was a little dicey, though... with the Bears in their first playoff game after a bye... and they BARELY won.. as everyone was traveling to my sister's house in Bucktown.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Regardless of how this year has started for me, tonight it didn't matter.
We hosted a small party of family and friends at the Weber Grill in Schaumburg. It was wonderful - the food was good, the company was great... Janie & Gary had just come back from their home in Santa Fe which was buried in the same snowstorm that hit Denver... but no one has heard about how bad it was in New Mexico.
We had everyone come over to the house for cake.. (and to open presents, as well). Carol got the cake from Deerfields bakery. It was chocolate with an off-white fronsting... with black pinstripes and the White Sox logo! GREAT GREAT cake... one problem though - we have NO idea what the black frosting is made of, but it stained our teeth.. it stained our skin (and yes - we could not was it off!) and stained our clothes. Gave us a good laugh.
Lots of great presents (mostly new shirts(?!)) and a great gift certificate from my sister Diane - City Segway Tours - Chicago! I get to ride a Segway around the museum campus this summer!!!
It was a monumental birthday for me, and it was wonderful to have people together... for me. It meant an awful lot to me. I don't think anyone really knew, but.. it REALLY touched me, even though it was just a small dinner, and cake, and a few gifts.
Monday, December 25, 2006
Merry Christmas everybody!
It's hard to shake the feelings of Christmas Morning.. and the expectations when you were a kid... when you become an adult... and adult with years under your belt... Though you love every gift you get, somehow you feel like you're chasing the elusive excitement and joy of receiving toys as a kid on Christmas morning.
So... this year brought Jackson's first Christmas he could react to (last year, he was 14 weeks old, this year 15½ months). It's great seeing Christmas through his eyes... I can't wait 'till next year when he should be more excited.
An odd Christmas Day for us, part of the odd Christmas season I suppose - Diane, Melinda and Jackson took off after opening presents to drive to Melinda's family in downstate Illinois. The house was empty, except for me, Carol, and my mom. It felt... empty...
...except for my stomach, which feels bloated, tight, and cramping...
Sunday, December 24, 2006
A smaller Eve
We've always celebrated Christmas Eve with our extended family - aunts, uncles, cousins.
This is our first year together where - it's only immediate family. We went to Diane & Melinda's for just a buffet of appetizers, very low key, no present exchanges (that's tomorrow morning).
Still... it felt odd... small... something I wasn't accustomed to... and I'm not sure I like it. I don't see that extended family much,, and I just missed them somehow.
The concept of an appetizer buffet is very bad for me. The appetizers were all setup on an island in the kitchen, and we spent our evening in the back family room.
Me - I spent my time in a continuous slow walk... around and around the island... using just a napkin and no plate, I grazed for what seems like hours, taking a bite here and a piece there... over... and over...
I know I'm going to pay for this somewhere along the line...
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Wicked Good Thanksgiving
Ah, yes... the time of year to give thanks with family and freinds...
It's also a big stressful day for me. I cook the turkey every year. Actually barbecue it on my Weber. This year, added stress: no more regular Kingsford CharcoalNo... I've decided to go with wood - Wicked Good "Weekend Warrior Blend" Hardwood Lump Charcoal. I just loved this whole idea of using wood charcoal instead of charcoal briquettes.
I heard that the wood burns faster and hotter, so I started the wood later than I have in the past - I started the first chimney at 1pm. The chimney lights fine (but I used 4 sheets of newspaper just in case), and seems to be completely involved a little faster, by maybe 5 or 10 minutes. and it's HOT... not just hot, but HOT. I threw the first chimney on the grill, started a second, added chunks to the first batch. The second chimney is done at the one hour mark from the start of the first, and both chimneys full of charcoal are in the grill, soaked hickory chips thrown over the top, and the turkey (18.3 lbs), in a rack, breast-down, on the grill at 2:05.
Pouring the chimneys into the grill was interesting. First, let me say that this is the best weather we've had on Thanksgiving in years.. and possibly ever... it's about 60 degrees. I don't need a jacket, and I had a fleece sweater on. Had. The charcoal was so hot, that when I poured a chimney into the grill and the heat so intense, my sweater started to smell as if it was starting to liquefy and melt. I really didn't need the sweater anyway.
2 hours and 10 minutes later, the turkey was off the grill and resting under an aluminum tent at Turkey Carving Central. Done.
Did the new charcoal work? Hell, yeah! Was the juiciest bird we had ever had... the meat was still moist putting the leftovers away after dinner.
As I write this, the charcoal is still burning in the grill. All the vents are closed, it should kill the fire. No. That's how hot the fire was.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Happy Birthday, Jackson
Today, we celebrated Jackson's 1st birthday (it's actually Monday) with friends of Diane's and Melinda's as well as family at their house.
It was actually a great time. Jackson was so well behaved.. he just kept getting passed around from person to person and he was fine with that. Had a small issue with his dinner (OK, he threw up a little bit..) but he was great.
He only fidgeted hen they put his Happy Birthday paper hat on... he didn't like it, but he wore his cowboy hat most of the day (it was a cowboy-themed party). And he didn't like his Smash Cake (now, this whole concept was new to me.. having a "Smash Cake", which is just a very small cake, just for the birthday kid, so they can just smash the cake with their hands and smear their face in the frosting). It was his first taste of sugar... and he didn't know what to make of it.
He was great with the gifts as well... as a typical kid, fixating on a few items.. as well as boxes.
Fortunately, the party didn't go long into the night, because we had to take mom home, and then drive ourselves home... so we can finish packing, and get up at 4am.. so that we can shower, dress, finish the last packing, drive ti B&B's, pick them up, and drive to Midway Airport...
...because we're flying to Las Vegas for a few days for vacation!
Monday, September 04, 2006
A popular day for birthdays for us!
Happy Birthday to my sister Diane!
Happy Birhday to my buddy Barry!
Sunday, July 30, 2006
I haven't written to you in a while, but today I feel compelled to do do.
I haven't seen you for a few weeks. During that time, you were pretty sick with some kind of bug, and you have no idea how much trouble you put your mommies through. But, eventually.. it looks like you've made it through.
I was watching you today. You're crawling really fast now... you can almost stand unassisted. You've got at least two teeth that I can see, and you look pretty damn cute...
Actually, that's the thing I really noticed today.
Since the last time I saw you, you've changed. All of a sudden, I'm seeing the little boy Jackson and not Infant Jackson.. yeah, I know you're not even a year old yet... but now I can see your brain ticking.. thinking.. absorbing things.. reacting...
You're not the same Jackson that I knew.
Your face is filling out.. your hair longer and finally laying down and not sticking up...
I'm seeing these fleeting emotions on your face as you figure things out...
You seem quieter, more focused...
You're not the same Jackson... you are starting to grow up.. and turning the corner toward One Year Old...
I can't wait to see you in just a few weeks!
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Carol and I went to my mom's house like we normally do on a Sunday. But, we haven't been there for a week or so, and Diane,Melinda & Jack weren't going to be there, so we went out to dinner.
Today is Father's Day, so we went to a place that we always went to on Father's Day - Russell's Barbecue in Elmwood Park. We thought it would just be a nice way to remember dad, and with it being a Sunday night, we shouldn't have a problem parking or finding a table..
We had to circle around the lot twice to find a place to park. The lone was so long, it almost went out the north door.
My dad used to come here in the 30's when it opened and always came here since. I remember being a kid and coming here. It was different back then - there was no patio area, just the main building. They had tables outside the building as well as across the parking lot in a grassy area, with canopies. The main building inside and out was a cream color, with what looked like finished pine booths. The big thing for me as a kid was the metal Juke Box selector at each table, that accepted coins, and you flipped pages, like a menu or book, to find out what selections were available and made your selection by pressing alphanumeric buttons below the glass display of the flippable menu pages.
I remember the booths, the coat racks attached to booths. I remember a logo on the wall of a very happy hamburger that appeared to be dancing.
The place has changed a lot over the years, and yet it never changes. It's all dark brown now with a western motif, the tables outside replaced with an inside patio with skylights. (read the overview at CenterStage).
I waited in line almost half an hour to place our order, but it was served quickly in traditional Russell style.
While I was waiting at the counter, there was an older gentleman, perhaps in his mid 70's, more likely older. He was about the same height as my dad was. Balding as my dad was. He leans over to me, and in a raspy voice (like my dad had) says to me: "you picked a bad night to come here."
I just laughed. And then he said "I've been coming here since high school, and I an't never seen it this busy."
Just like my dad, coming since his childhood.
It felt good to be there, and the food was the same as it ever was.
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Got back in enough time to watch the Survivor: Panama - Exile Island finale & Reunion.
Sorry, Terry should have had it, not Aras.
We spent yesterday & today at my sister's house in Michigan, where - due to the crappy weather, we didn't do anything.
Which, I must say, is not a bad thing. Sometimes it's just nice getting away some place else, any place else, and she's got a great any place to be.
We had lunch yesterday at the Red Arrow Roadhouse, which you can't beat for price and quality - and it's now no smoking!
Diane grilled dinner (fillet's!) and celebrated Carol's birthday, and Carol made breakfast/brunch this morning (since she was the only non-mom in the house for Mother's Day).
The travel wasn't too bad yesterday on the Dan Ryan. Today we got off at Stoney Island and took Lakeshore Drive up since we had made a "Meat Run" to Falatic's and had to deliver some goodies to B&B in Wrigleyville (thank God the game was over, traffics was bad enough on Addison).
I really enjoy being up there - really want to do it again soon - with better weather, though...
Sunday, April 16, 2006
So, we left the ballgame early so we could drive from the South Side (U.S. Cellular Field) to the North Side (Diversey & Narragansett) to pickup my Mom to drive all the way back down to Orland Park to go to my cousin Jane's for Easter Dinner.
South of the city got hit by rain hard. It was a real trip getting to and from Jane's house. Jane had the front door open all night and you could hear the ongoing deluge going on outside.
We had a good time (though Diane, Melinda, and Jackson weren't there - they were with Melinda's family down south). I missed Jackson at the family gathering. I felt like there was something missing all night long.
Trying to figure out what to eat was a real trip tonight. I've got no guidance on what to do until I see a dietitian in a few days. Dinner was great and I felt the need not to do much about dessert. Since there were a lot of sweets involved, I knew that couldn't be good.
The traffic on the way home really picked-up. People were all going home from wherever they were during the weekend.
Boy, these were two long days...
Thursday, April 13, 2006
a little ditty.....
... about Jack and Diane...
Actually, about my nephew Jackson and my sister Diane.
Diane has made the leap into blogging - blogging all about Jackson, her son.
Even though she'll probably never link to me, please go over and visit her blog and check out the great pictures of Jackson!
I've already added her site to my Blogroll...
So, go to a little ditty.....
Sunday, April 02, 2006
I know you may think it's just another Sunday going to that Grandma's house, but it was a big day for me. At least, it felt like it to me.
You know why? Well, there's two reasons, one of which you just don't know anything about yet. Tonight is the Season Opener for Major League Baseball. This is a big deal for me, because baseball is my most favorite sport. What made it more special was that tonight there was only one game being played in all of baseball. Baseball decided that the Chicago White Sox, my favorite baseball team, will start-off the whole baseball season. What makes it even more special. is that the White Sox won the World Series last year for the first time in 88 years, and they were going to raise their Championship banners before the game. Thats a real special thing if you're a baseball fan. Now, normally, Auntie Carol and Uncle Michael would both be at that game, but this year we're here with you. We're watching the game on TV, but we're here with you.
Tonight, I was on the floor with you for a while, and even though you never smiled when we were together, at least you let me stick around and we hung out. I consider that a big deal.
The really big deal for me came after dinner. Because I'm always standing up and walking around because of my leg twitches, your mommies came up with an idea. You had eaten as much as you were going to eat of dinner, and you didn't have a nap, so the next thing I knew, you were being handed off to me, so I could walk around and hold you, and hopefully you'd fall asleep.
Well, guess what? Yep, you fell asleep, and you slept for almost an hour! I didn't mind holding you at all. It was kind of cool. I mean, you weren't awake so you couldn't exactly reject me, so you just slept quietly and soundly the whole time.
Now, I have to admit that, when you finally woke up, you really had to look around to figure out where you were and were your mommies were. And then, you had to figure out what the heck was holding you - me. Well, you started to fuss and I had to give you up - which was probably a good thing because between the two of us, somebody was generating an awful lot of heat. I mean, we were both sweating. Your hair was all wet, my shirt was all wrinkled.
Still, I really enjoyed holding you and you really aren't rejecting me like I thought you were, and that makes me feel good.
Yesterday when Auntie Carol and Uncle Michael were out shopping, we got you your first official baseball cap. It fit you really well, and I was so surprised and happy to watch you wear your hat without a problem! in fact, it almost looked like you liked wearing it! You never once tried to take it off.
And you looked pretty damn cute wearing it, too.
Maybe someday we'll get a chance to watch a baseball game on TV, too. It's just so hard watching TV at grandma's house - there's always just too many things going on.
See you soon, Jackson!
Sunday, February 26, 2006
When I saw you today, I saw something that I had never seen before in my life. Mind you, I haven't hung around people your age. At all. Ever. So, every time I see see you, I see something new, somebody new.
You are getting older, and you're still changing - something that's going to happen for years.
But I saw something that I just don't know how long it will last. And your mom's have better start videotaping you. In close-up.
While you are playing.
Because I have never seen the emotion of pure happiness when you're being played with. You scream and howl with such delight. But the kickers are your expressions in between each outburst, as you wait for the next silly face or tummy raspberry or whatever. You almost know what's coming and you just can't wait for it to happen. And you don't know it, but you do something with your mouth that makes you look like E.T. (maybe someday you'll get to know what a movie is and who E.T. is).
But the screams, the noises, there's just an untouched purity about them. There's no worldly knowingness that, oh, here comes mommy again, oh yeah, that was fun, what else do you have to make me happy.
I don't know how long this will last. I know it won't last forever. But we have to capture this. Wouldn't that be great? Bottle it - to open in the future when your giggle is needed to cheer someone up.
I'm doing my part, using my iRiver to grab some MP3's of your sounds.
It brightens up anybody's day if they can hear it. It's wonderful.
Try not to lose what you already have that we all want.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Join the crowd
What an interesting day! Do you remember that big building we were all in today? It was all bright and nice and the ceiling and lights were way up in the air? That was a really special place - it's called a church. The church has a name - it's called Old Saint Patrick's Church, and it's a very cool place. It was built a long, long time ago (dedicated on Christmas Day, 1856), and it's one of the few buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which you'll learn about some day (believe it or not, a moo-cow was involved!) and in 1977, Old St. Patrick's was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which means that it really is a special place.
Now, almost all of those people there were there not only to see you but support you as well. You see, you did something today that I know you don't understand. Do you remember seeing a man in a white robe? He was a really nice guy, but he poured water all over your head. You didn't seem to mind at all, and neither did that other baby Reese that was there. But see, that water was special and by having that man pour that water over your head made you special, too.
The whole thing was called a Baptism, or even a Christening. Someday you'll learn more about it.
In the meantime, just know that you're loved by many people. And you kind of joined a club today, though it really is much more than a club. A REALLY BIG club...
And me? You know, I got a new title today. I'm not just your uncle, I am now your Godfather, too.
Someday - and that day may never come - I'll call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day... whoops... umm, sorry about that... maybe someday when you're older we'll talk about that, too, and about this guy named "Don"...
So, bud, I'm sorry but if you thought you were stuck with me before, you're really stuck with me now.
We've just got to get through this anti-guy thing, even though you were REALLY a good boy today. Everybody really loved you today - you won them over. It's just that us guys are having a hard time being with you because you seem to be getting upset with us. We all love you and just want to be with you.
I really liked the outfit you had on at the restaurant after the baptism, the one with the Scottie on it.
Anyway, you are a special little boy. And I promise that I will do whatever I can to help you get through your life.
See you real soon.
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Want to know how special of a day this was?
It was a day when Melinda and Diane had their son baptized at historic Old St. Patrick's Catholic Church.
That's how special it was.
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Sunday, January 29, 2006
OK, I'm feeling the hint of rejection..
OK, I'm starting to feel a slight twinge of rejection. I was holding you again today, but to keep you happy and smiling, I was holding you outward, so you can see everybody, and it was easy to fly you over to Auntie Carol.
But when I talk to you or try to get you to "lock on" to me so that we can play a bit, you don't seem very happy. You're starting to look at me with a confused look - as if you were trying to figure out if I'm a good guy or a bad guy. I see fleeting expressions on your face that just run the gambit of happiness to... wait... you probably wouldn't know what "gambit" is... 20 weeks and I think you understand English when I can't even speak it well...
I know you're not even 5 months old yet, but, you know... I was just hoping.
But, I also realize that you don't see me a lot. It's only once a week, if we're lucky. And when it comes to human interaction, I don't know how much you remember. Do you know who I am?
I'm starting to believe, though, that this is going to be a real long term problem that we're going to have to work out. I mean, let's face it. I'm different. I'm different than everyone else that you interact with at home or even at my mommy's house. I look different and I sound different. I wonder if that's bothering you? Should I be trying to speak in a softer voice? A higher voice? Heaven forbid - do I need to lose the beard?
I need to connect with you somehow, Jackson. Your uncle really does love you but he just doesn't get what's happening. It's not like he's had any experience before either, so, let's face it - he's lost.
Maybe when you get a little older everything will make more sense. For the both of us.
We'll work it out - it's just a bit rough right now.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
What did I do?
Uncle Michael wants to let you know that, no matter how hard it is for me to believe this, I'm not taking it personally that you started bawling when I held you today.
I was told that sometimes, you just get scared for no reason at all and when that happens you just start to scream and cry. There was nothing I did to scare you, but sometimes you just get scared.
It's fun holding on to you and talking to you now. You're starting to become aware of tings around you. You're getting bigger and stronger. I still think it's a kick that you seem to enjoy watching football on TV... though I can't figure out why, except for the colors and motion...
You have a great smile and you've started to develop this giggle and laugh when your mommy plays with you that's to die for.
Just understand that when we're at my mommy's house, there's always people that want to hold you and be with you and play with you. I never want to ask to hold you because I know there are other people that want to do that and I want to make sure that they have time with you. I figure that you don't have very many uncles, so, somewhere down the line, I figure I'll have time with you... doing... something.
Anyway, I just wanted you to know. No hard feelings.
Friday, December 30, 2005
Time passes and even the best memories aren't as crystal clear as they were and that you want them to be that way forever. I am still remembering you. I'm starting to wonder, however, how life would be different if you were still around.
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Christmas at my mom's house.
Started later than normal - about an hour - but was pretty much like all of our other Christmas's - with the exception of Jack being there.
I have ALWAYS videotaped every single friggin' year of Christmas. What happens this year? I forget the camcorder - for Jack's First Christmas!
Well, Jack - being only 3 months old - has no grasp of the situation, so in retrospect, I don't feel too bad.
Christmas and Christmas eve was actually small, intimate and nice. I enjoyed it all. Got a few presents - not many - and it was all stuff I needed - Not wanted, but needed.
Somehow, you just never grow up and you still hope for the toys, you know?
Saturday, December 24, 2005
For the first time, we've had a little shake-up in our family traditions at Christmas Eve. Tonight, it's a very small dinner - just Gil & Cathy, my Mom, and Carol and I. that's it. No Dane, no extended family.
The weather is weird - it feels like its in the 40's. Dinner is late because Gil has to work at WGN until 6, so I drove into the city to bring mom out to our house. The traffic stinks on the Northwest Tollway at the toll booths because of the construction t redo the area for "Open Tolling".
Dinner was great - Carol got a really nice beef tenderloin from a butcher this morning that she found in Northbrook. Sounds like she was really satisfied with the place, so she will probably go back.
I drove mom back into town at the end of the evening and had a little bit of a panic, trying to find an open gas station on the way home. The Des Plaines Oasis - after I fought my way trough the traffic at the toll both - was may savior.
Really dense, patchy fog tonight - probably from all of the melting snow.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Family Feud - Party-style
My cousin's (Jimmy) wife (Myrina) threw a party for family and friends for her 40th birthday. It had been snowing all afternoon and evening and it was somewhere in... Buffalo Grove? Arlington Heights? at a development's clubhouse that they rented. They catered dinner and had stocked-up drinks and appetizers.
The main room with couches and tables and chairs was a bit... uncomfortable. Don't get me wrong, it was a nice room. It just reminded me of... a funeral parlor. I mentioned that to some of the relatives and we all went scampering around to change the lighting to make it feel "different". It was the fluorescent indirect lighting around the top of the walls that was the issue.
The "highlight" of the evening - if you can call it that. - was a live Family Feud game. We formed two groups of 5 people each - one was Myrina's Family and the other was Myrina's Friends. Prior to tonight, Jimmy had emailed a survey to everyone that was attending loaded with questions that would be asked during the game.
Jimmy had a laptop and LCD projector and a flash piece of software that was a self-contained complete Family Feud game, with all music and sound effects, ability to build all of the Survey Answers on a replica board and a complete lightning round at the end of the game for the winning group.
It actually turned out REALLY well and was a great time!
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Start with the wardrobe
Carol is feeling a bit better today, having woke up early to go to the store to buy new detergent and spending the rest of the day re-washing her clothes.
Because we're busy tomorrow, we all went to mom's house today for dinner. I had purchased something for Jack that - unfortunately - arrived the day after Thanksgiving, so I couldn't give it to him when he was at our house for the first time.
It was an infant knit hat that had two knots in the corners. Oh, and White Sox logos all over. Yes, have to get to him early. Have to get him to formulate an opinion about the team early. A positive one. So, this is the beginning of the subtle subterfuge. Wardrobe. Get him familiar with the shapes and colors.
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Sunday, November 20, 2005
Time for Mom and Jack
Mom's birthday is Wednesday, so, to move it away from Thanksgiving, we decided to celebrate it today by going to Diane & Melinda's for dinner.
Boy, do they look tired!!!
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Jack is 9 weeks old today and - I thought - he was in good spirits. I know, it's really hard to tell when he's only 9 weeks old. He's still not sleeping long at all and just wants to eat on his schedule, and it's all based off a 2-hour loop. How the moms are coping, I don't know. Maybe it's just the knowledge that he's going to grow out of this. Some day. Don't know when. Maybe. At least, he's supposed to...
Somehow, they manged to put together a beef roast/pot roast dinner with potatoes and carrots. Carol whipped-up a birthday cake this morning.
I had my chance to hold Jack again today, since he was ripped out of my hands at the party last week. He fussed a bit, but he was pretty awake. He's in that watching "bright shiny objects" phase, so he's constantly looking at lights (he has a fascination with the dining room chandelier for some reason). It's cool seeing the changes over the weeks. I've never had this experience before, where I can see the little changes week-to-week. He's getting tall. He's also got pretty big feet, and he's constantly loosing his socks. I've got to learn to hold him better because I keep pushing up his pants legs and he looks goofy. He's getting stronger and he's lifting his head pretty well... though he's kind of throwing it around and you have to watch that he doesn't knock your teeth out. I just can't wait until he gets a little more "interactive". I just wish he'd start to sleep more just so the moms could start recovering.
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Sunday, November 06, 2005
Went to my mom's today for our weekly "Jack Fix". He's only 7 weeks but it's so damn cool seeing the subtle changes week to week. Had a chance to hold him after dinner and it was just great. He's pretty alert (though he still sleeps alot... and doesn't sleep alot at the same time, just causing havoc to Melinda's and Diane's lives). But, overall, he really is a great kid. So I walked around with him for a while (he likes moving around instead of just being held and sitting in a chair). He fussed a bit - which, yes, is pretty normal, but it's just that really cool little piece of life. Found out that Diane's been trying to sing to Jack and hasn't been able to remember any little ditties, other than "Let Me Call You Sweetheart", which has got to be one of the oddest songs to come up with, but kinda cool and the same time. But the really cool thing that I found out, which - of course - just pulled at my heartstrings just a little - she sings to him "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"!!! Oh, oh... I never asked if she sings the words "Home Team" or if she substitutes a team name... and if she sings a team name, which team is it????? Oh, oh...
(You can hear a little bit of Jack fussing in my arms in this MP3)
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Half his life
Went to my mom's house, all excited to see Jack.
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After all, he's 6 weeks old today and we haven't seen him since he was 3, so we've missed-out on half his life already! He's changed a bit, too. He finally starting to look like a little guy. Last time we saw him he was still a little bundle. Now, as my mom said, he seams to be "un-winding". His legs and arms aren't being held close to the body anymore, so it's like he's finally stretching out. He's getting bigger, too, which you would expect by now.
I had what I consider a cool thing happen. he was laying on the floor with Melinda and went over to see if I could stimulate him and "play" with him (as much as you could "play" with a 6-week-old). I leaned-in close to him. His eyes are just starting to work, so you have to get close to him for him to see you. Then it happened - his eyes after looking all over locked on to mine and for that brief few seconds, I really knew he was looking at me for the first time. He reacted, but he's reacted to every sound and light show he sees, but it was still pretty damn cute (and touching actually) to know that he saw you.
I brought some gifts over for him that he won't have clue about for years to come, but I got him a World Series pennant and an official World Series Game Ball , and a program. He's not going to appreciate the gifts. I hope some day he would. Chicago had a World Series Winner for the first time in 88 years and he was around for it. He's just not going to remember it at all whatsoever, so I got him some things to commemorate it.
The family had long discussions about Christmas. Every year, Christmas never works out the way you want it. This year is going to be one of those years, I'm afraid. It'd be nice for everyone to get together, but with restrictive schedules, it just can't happen.
On the way home tonight I had to stop and take pictures of the house on Nagle that's all decorated. I forgot to get it at REaster, but I did get it at Christmas.
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Sunday, October 02, 2005
Went to my mom's house for the usual Sunday night dinner, like we've been doing for years. Decades, even.
Tonight's different. Diane and Melinda are bringing Jack over. His first night out with the family.
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Melinda brought Jack into the house in his car seat/carrier thing. Every time I see him now, he looks the same and looks different. Is it possible that he changes so quickly? He's only 2 weeks old. He's in such demand - trying to get everyone's attention. Actually, he's just trying to remember how much he's learned about life in just 2 weeks. We're just getting suckered into providing for him and holding him and comforting him. At this age, that seems to be pretty simple - especially since we're not with him 24 hours a day. Melinda is doing a bang-up job, as well as Diane. They're dragging, though. His feeding cycles are a little tight, making for only very very short naps. Yes, they're dragging.
That picture above is of Jack as I took my turn holding him tonight. You know how hard it is to try to hold a camera with one hand and try to take a picture with a macro focus in low-light while trying to hold onto the subject with your other hand? It took a couple of tries - either I was too close and couldn't get the camera to focus or I moved too much and blurred the shot. I was fortunate, however. Jack had just been fed and was in one of his "Milk Coma's". Apparently after he feeds, he's just light's out. In fact, it was kinda scary because you couldn't even tell he was breathing. He would just lay there, so comfortable and peaceful. Every couple of minutes he would kind of sigh, this cute little high pitched, but quite whisper sigh and move around just a hair and then he would continue on dreaming of whatever he was dreaming about.
I sat on the couch in the living room. Mom finished putting away dinner, so she had to have her time with Jack, so I didn't have much time with him tonight. I felt so much different this week compared to last week. I didn't panic, I just held him and basically just kind of stared at him the whole time.. I couldn't really talk to him - there were others in the room. And he really wasn't listening - he was out cold.
It's that weird thing that takes over though, where you just look at him. You trace the arch of the cartilage on his tiny little ear. You check out his nose, his eyebrows. You absent mindedly stroke his back. Des it feel good? Does he care? He doesn't seem to react - he sees to be enjoying that deep sleep of his.
So Mom wrestled Jack away from me. That's the way it's going to be, I guess - Jack's going to be passed around and fought over for quite some time.
I guess the key is to treasure what time you have.
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Sunday, September 25, 2005
We left the ballgame early.
I NEVER leave a game early. NEVER. The exception is the opportunity to see Jack.
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We went over to his house. It took us only 10 minutes after we got out of Comiskey to get to their house. It was shocking.
Walking in the front door, I see my mom holding him. Diane met us at the door, holding back the crazy dog pack. I looked in and saw Melinda - she looks exhausted. She's almost looks angry, but it's got to be that she's trying to just hold it together after being extremely sleep deprived. Diane and Melinda are still trying to figure out the whole feed-change-sleep schedule thing. It's only been a week. Wow. We got to their house hours before Jack turned One Week Old.
Jack, like many infants, had Jaundice. He's been in a UV fiber optic light bundle for a couple of days, but today is his first day without the light treatment - his count is back down. I'll bet that's added to the fatigue scheduling problem they're having.
Found out something interesting. It turns out Jack lost 10 ounces this week. The Moms thought that if he was hungry, he'd be crying more. Made sense to me. Turns out we're wrong - when they're really young, they haven't figured out that they're hungry and they don't cry. You feed them on a schedule. Period. So they had to supplement with formula.
Apparently, Jack just loves the whole bottle thing. Less work than breastfeeding. So, the Moms asked their nurse about that. The nurse then tells them that, yes, boy babies are lazy and love bottles! Lazy! Don't want to work for their food!
Well, even though I should feel upset and stand up for men... I can't. I firmly believe that you shouldn't have to work for your food (probably why I love lobster and crab, but hate having to get the meat out of the legs, claws, body...) I think I sympathize...
We ordered-out for pizza - there was no way we would have them prepare a meal for us... not that they physically could do it.
I had a really odd thing happen to me tonight. Other than the few minutes holding Jack at the hospital last week, I've never really held a baby for an extended period of time. And I can't count last week because it was the first time to hold him and just look at him and feel those weird feelings that you're holding a relative. And you're just staring, and looking at his nose, his eyes, his chin, his ears...
So tonight, I had my first time with him, freshly fed. Those that know me know that I don't sit for long periods of time at all, so I stood and walked around with Jack. He really wasn't asleep. He was there sometimes, but then he was sort-of my awake without being awake. Sometime he would do this real quiet whimper. I would quietly whimper back at him in the same pitch and length. He would do it again and I would answer. It was like we were conversing... though nothing more than "I'm here" and "hi, I'm here too" like birds would do. We walked around for a while. I could see his eyes moving behind his eyelids, trying to figure out what his dreams may be like, since he's had such a limited life experience so far in tis one week.
And then it started.
I started getting anxious. Scared. It's that - oh my God, what am I doing... what if he wriggles out of my arms - how do I support his head - how do I make him more comfortable - watch where you're going - don't bump him into anything - what if he falls - am I doing this right - he looks smushed, am I carrying him right - my arm is just starting to burn, the kid's heavier than I thought - what if I don't have a good hold of him - should he be more flat or more upright - am I hurting him - can he breathe OK - I can't change positions, I'm deathly afraid of losing my hold of him - how can I turn him around. All of the things I want to just look at on his face and head and I'm losing the ability to record all of that information in heart and head because I'm just getting real uptight and worry and anxiety take over. Weird. It's never come over me like that before, but then again, it's not like I hold kids very often at all.
I know I'll get better at this. I'm his uncle, I just need a little work.
We left early after pizza. There's no way we're staying long today - these girls need their rest.
I wonder when I'll see Jack again?
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Tuesday, September 20, 2005
OK, maybe I have to back off a bit...
I started thinking about my nephew Jack and that whole baseball thing...
Maybe it's a little early to think about baseball right now.
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I started thinking about the first gift that I actually bought for him. It was a few months ago when I was at Comiskey (OK, U.S. Cellular Field for you fuddy-duddies). They had these cute pastel baby blue baseballs. I knew that that had to be my first gift (Of course, it's got a nice pastel baby blue logo of the White Sox on it). I started to think that he's not going to throwing it for a while. I mean, he can't really hold it right now, either. It's a little big, and probably a little heavy for his 7-pound-12-ounce frame. He can't throw a knuckle ball yet, he really doesn't have good fingernails. And he's got no chance of throwing a 4-seam fastball when his hand is barely larger than the width of the stitching itself. Then there's that whole stand-up thing so he can throw better (But maybe I can work on it before he can stand... he'd be great stretching and diving for a catch in the infield and being on the ground to unload a throw to first for a third out to save a run scoring...) Then there's the running around the bases thing... and he's not standing yet. Not even walking. Not even crawling. Not even mobile. He can't even lift his head yet... yeah, it's a little early. A uniform could look pretty cool, though... gotta find a cap...
Fielding... yeah, that's it. That's the first thing we'll work on... he doesn't have to get the whole throwing thing down, yet. I've seen pros that still don't have the whole throwing thing down yet. But, if he can catch, he can be a player. A clinch hero. And maybe when he can finally sit up by himself for the first time, we can practice some grounders with a plastic ball - more his size.
I'm going to have to come up with reasons why players spit, if he asks. I'm sure he's going to pick-up the whole drool thing pretty soon. Spitting requires much more effort. I just gotta make sure that even though players do it, doesn't mean it's something that anybody and everybody should do, especially little guys just learning the ropes. It's not right. It's not polite. Like that other thing they do - the scratching.
Man, that opens-up that whole other area - the whole thing about "politeness".
Man, I'm all about that. There's that whole "please" and "thank you" thing that seems to be so underrated. I mean, if a little kid actually used those words, wouldn't you take notice? Hell, I take notice if adults say them... pretty damn rare out there... wow, and that's not even sports related...
I've got to make sure that it's not only a sports focus either. I mean, his moms are such financial & number wizards, I may have to combat the whole accounting and finance focus thing. NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT. Maybe that's something he could fall back on when his sports career is over, therefore solidifying a prosperous life.
Who am I kidding. His sports enthusiasm will probably be focused on golf with clients. Maybe pickup football games on the weekends. Or maybe just spectating while schmoozing clients for skyboxes. As long as there's no polyester involved and he knows an Earned Run Average from a Goals Against Average, I'm OK.
So much to think about... and he's not home from the hospital yet...
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Monday, September 19, 2005
Oh, yeah, I forgot to say something about yesterday.
Jack's middle name is Michael.
As in my dad's name.
As in my name.
Yeah, that whole uncle pressure is really on....
Oh, and don't you dare flip around his first and middle name... don't you dare... you'll answer to me....
Sunday, September 18, 2005
I just got back from Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
It's been a weird day. Actually a weird 24 hours, I guess.
Some lives were changed today, all for the best. Even mine.
For I have become - for the first time in my life - an uncle.
I never thought there would ever be a baby in our family, but there he was. A nephew.
A nephew named Jackson. And now - even though I'm not the parent - I've got a big responsibility on my shoulders - I've got a nephew and he may be just 4 hours old, but he's gotta learn about baseball. Oh, sure, there's tons of stuff he's got to learn first. I mean, he's just getting the whole air-breathing thing down right now. He was bundled-up so tight that I couldn't see his hands. I couldn't tell how he would hold a ball to throw it. OK, he's getting the sleeping thing down, too. Hell, he's just trying to stay warm now, too. All I know is that he's a bit of a screamer, mostly because, well, he got a cold jolt as he came into the world, and quite frankly, he was having none of that.
He's got a lot to learn about this strange and crazy world that we're in. I figure baseball will just ground him in Americana and sports... he still has to learn to eat, though...
I guess there are priorities first. Like the breathing bit. Oh, and the eating, too. I guess he's got to open his eyes a bit more and see the world around him first. Figure out who's who. He'll spend the rest of his life figuring out what's what. I guess that would start with the blanket he's all swaddled in and the silly little knit hat they always put on newborns to keep 'em warm and such, matting down his mane of blond hair...
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So, there's a brand new family in town. Maybe going to see Kathy Griffin last night actually sped some things along? Melinda was only in labor a few short hours, and, according to Diane, really handled everything well and delivered quite smoothly. And here, Jack shows up almost 3 weeks early and still tips the scales at 7 pounds 12 ounces.
The whole evening at the hospital was so surreal because Melinda was just so... together. I mean, she looked a bit tired, but her spirits were up and between her and Diane they just seemed a bit wound-up.
Maybe it was just shock. Yeah, I think it's shock. Everything happened so quickly that they weren't exactly prepared today.
But, they will be fine. I'm sure of it.
I mean, Jack's in town now, baby.
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My sister just called.
I may have some exciting information to tell you about.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
After exchanging cards this morning in our own unusual way (both of us left cards in each other's cars), it's time to say Happy Anniversary to my wife here in public.
Twenty six years.
Oh, if you really need to see it, I put our official wedding photo from 26 years ago in last years post.
Saturday, August 27, 2005
Viewing the inner sanctum
I went somewhere today where men do not normally go.
I was afraid. What would I wittiness? What kind of "party games" would I be subject to?
I had a long drive ahead of me - I had to drive all the way into the city to pick-up my mom and then drive all the way out to Long Grove.
This was going to be a long day.
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The event? A baby shower.
I have never been to one of these things. I always thought that only women go to them. I was invited under the auspices of being the "official photographer" and somehow, that soothed my building anxiety.
The party was actually at a very small McMansion in a very nice McMansion development. It was very small as McMansions go, but - what a nice house.
So, I grabbed the camera (a nice Canon EOS Digital Rebel - it was nice handling an SLR again) and attempted to blend into the walls as much as I could, but, as the day progressed, I was meeting people that I haven't seen in quite a few years.
Somewhere along the way, I had fully expected to see the guests exchanging secret handshakes and greetings, only meant to bee seen and experienced by that secret inner sanctum of womanhood.
I tried grabbing as many candids as possible. I didn't want to intrude at all and put together any posed groups of people. There was food - that I grabbed after everyone grabbed theirs - and found Carol and Buffy in a room by themselves, so I holed-up with them for some discussions for a while, before I went back to taking shots of people gathered in the different rooms in the house.
It was time for the gifts and that's when I witnessed one of those rituals you only hear about being on the outside if these events: The Ribbon Game. There were small spools of ribbon around the house that everyone was grabbing and using (in some cases, very odd) techniques to cut the ribbon to a certain length. Everyone seemed to know what to do and some were in groups comparing lengths.
Then they all gathered in the living room and the gifts were opened. It's hard to try to get shots of things like this because I don't like running in front of people, blocking views, and being in the way. I'd rather be behind everyone, so I can just be an outside observer looking in on the event. Use of staircases and chairs are musts.
So, tied to the gift opening, was... the ritual. After the gift(s) were opened, the gift-giver would bring their ribbon to the guest of honor and stretch the ribbon around the honoree's largest part of her belly, to see how close they come to her circumference.
Apparently, this can be cut-throat. Some gift bearers were off by feet in length. Some were close to within an inch.
It required a measure-off between 3 people. It was down to making absolutely sure that the measurements were taken in exactly the same spot, for moving and inch up or down the body could make the ribbon the winner. The winner? The mother of the honoree!
What an odd ritual. I am told there are other "games" that could have been played, but they weren't played today.
After the gifts was cake, and everyone eventually started to leave. I think I grabbed about 120 shots or so. Hopefully I was able to record the event.
I can't tell you how odd I felt being there - an outsider and yet not. Did I enjoy it? You mean, other than shooting it?
Yes. I guess I did.
Still an odd ritual...
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Saturday, June 04, 2005
Checking-out the family
Carol & I skipped the Sox-Cleveland game this afternoon to go to my cousin Kathy's for a family party to celebrate some summer birthdays and Alex's graduation from grammer school. We had a torrential thunderstom before we left. When we got there, everybody was still inside, but the sun came out and eventually we all spilled outside to enjoy some decent weather.
Unfortunately, we left after 6 o'clock to go the Wolves game - I mean it is the finals for the Calder Cup...
Sunday, January 02, 2005
Went over to Mom's house for dinner. They celebrated my birthday early (Since we'll be out of town starting next week... did I mention that?)
Well, mom got some kind of fruit-topped cheesecake from Eli's and - somehow - managed to put the candles on the cake WRONG.
I'm turning 48 on Tuesday.
The candles spelled "84".
I knew I felt older, but...
Thursday, December 30, 2004
Just a short entry to let you know that I am remembering you.
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Went to Diane's to celebrate mom's birthday (which is actually Tuesday). I must have still been hungry from last night, because I ate everything in sight tonight (It doesn't hurt that Diane and Melinda cook so well... and they know our tatses).
Saturday, October 23, 2004
It was a lousy, rainy morning but my sister Diane, Melinda, and Carol were holding a Garage Sale and my mom's house (since there's no car in the garage there, they thought it would be the perfect location). It was an opportunity to get rid of some "junk" (isn't that what Garage Sales are for?) and make a little cash. This afternoon the sun came out - hope they're doing OK! Day Two is tomorrow.
Sunday, October 03, 2004
Diane and Melinda took Carol & I along with Mom out to dinner to continue to celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary from last month. They picked a place called erwin (yes, it's with a lower-case "e") on Halsted. The place was nice, small, and for some unknown reason, we felt young there - the clientèle seemed to be skewed older, like 50's-60's. The menu was small and limited (Mom wound up getting a hamburger). Now, don't get me wrong - the food was good, I just thought the menu was limited. Sitting at the table next to us, which we didn't realize until she got up to leave, was Rachel Barton.
Saturday, October 02, 2004
Jimmy at 40
Would you believe I went to a Square Dance tonight? My cousin Jimmy turned 40 and his family is throwing him a Square Dance party - at the same VFW Hall that he and his wife used for their Engagement Party Square Dance back in 1993. The difference? A heck of a lot more kids, which I think frustrated the caller a bit, since the kids don't have the skills to be able to keep up with some of the more advanced moves as the night progressed.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Michael and Carol - 25 Years
25 years ago this afternoon, Carol and I got married.
25 years later, we're still together.
25 Years, people. 25 Years.
I can't tell you how much I want to do something to celebrate this wondrous event. Unfortunately, my extended bouts of unemployment are not allowing us to do that. I wanted to buy her stuff, I wanted to take her somewhere. I wanted this day to be special.
Instead, we'll probably celebrate quietly and enjoy each others company, like we have done for the last 25 years. It's great being married to a best friend. It's great being married to someone that understands you. It's great to be married to someone that you can share with everything that you can.
I just want to do so much more for her. I hope that after all of this time, she understands. I still have something up my sleeve...
Update: 12:05 pm Went to the bank to get some money for a few items today - Checking Balance: $0.00. Not the way I wanted the day to go...
Update: 4:05pm Doorbell rang. Received what appears to be a HUGE - gi-normous - flower arrangement from Mom, Diane, and Melinda (Thank you, Guys!!!!) I'm not going to open it until Carol gets home...
Update: 7:05 pm Just got back from dinner. Carol and I had our anniversary dinner tonight at Wildfire in Schaumburg. Recognizing a major mistake last year, we steered clear of alcohol this year. We ate ourselves silly - Carol at the fillet I had a Trio Of Fillets - each 3 oz, but with different coatings (I chose blue cheese, peppercorn, and horseradish). Then we topped it off with dessert - I had cheese cake, Carol had a Chocolate Malt Creme Brulet.
That's how we celebrated our 25th - quietly. If it weren't for the flowers we received earlier and the cards that we exchanged, you never would have known it was our 25th Wedding Anniversary. Life continues...
Saturday, August 14, 2004
Carol - Four Years On
Four years ago this morning my wife Carol underwent double mastectomy surgery.
Four years ago and she's still with me.
I wrote about it last year and the year before (go here for details, if you want) and I'll always write about her on this day, just like one of my "things" is to give her a pink azalea today.
She's alive and kicking and still with me and I can't tell you how happy that makes me feel.
Sunday, July 04, 2004
So, at 2:30 this morning, my left leg which has become numb, decides to throw me a cramp in my left calf. The ol' Charlie Horse at 2:30 in the morning. Carol get up and tries to get the cramp to stop while I'm trying not to scream. It felt like I didn't sleep all night long.
Well, here it s the fourth and we've got nothing really going on. The girls go out shopping while I stay home trying to sleep/recuperate. I feel like crap. I sleep on the couch while watching Ground Force America. Diane & Melinda spin-up another great meal and the day just passes on.
There's no "local amateur" fireworks in the neighborhood. The night is quiet...
Saturday, July 03, 2004
Well, as I was getting dressed, I realize that my entire left leg from above my butt to my toes is slightly numb. No tingly sensation, no pain, just everything feels simultaneously cold and hot and muted. Crap, I'm screwed-up.
There was NO traffic all the way to Diane's house. It only took us about 1:45 to get there.
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Our first stop of the day was to go to a craft fair in Lakeside, just down the road. It actually was a small but nice fair. I had a hell of a time there, though. Walking in the gravel, dirt, and uneven grass I was just all over the place. Every step was unsteady, hard to keep my balance. This sucked. After shopping it was off for burgers at Redamaks.
The afternoon was hanging around the house, playing in the pool. I brought with one of our DirecTV receivers. I wanted to plug into Diane's dish and see if her house in southwest Michigan is still within the spot-beam of the Chicago local stations, and it is. Carol & I are bring B&B up here to spend the week in about two weeks, so this is perfect - we'll be able to get all of our movie channels, sports, and local channels.
Diane & Melinda worked-up a pork roast (actually multiple with different marinades) for dinner. The food up there just tastes better. Go figure.
The fireworks were in Three Oaks tonight at 11pm local time (10pm Chicago time - up here you have to say Michigan Time for everything because a lot of the people are actually from Chicago, so they stay on Chicago time, like we do). Well, the Blues Fest was going on and it started to rain. People started to leave because the show just wasn't starting (also, because Blues Fest was still going and not stopping). Eventually, we had 20 minutes of good fireworks. Let's just say we were all taken aback by the display. I mean, we've seen it before, but this was different as they set up hundreds of feet closer to us than in the past, so we really felt that we were in the fireworks.
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Sunday, May 09, 2004
Mother's Day and home
Well, we went to church this morning in this wonderful small church in Sawyer. Great sermon from a priest that was visiting - my guess is that he teaches medical ethics at Notre Dame.
When to the butcher and bought tons of meat (that Carol vacusealed immediately). We just sort of hung around the house, took naps, and basically just got ourselves ready for the long drivve home. The Sunday traffic wasn't too bad, but it still took us about 3 hours.
I just love being up there...
Saturday, May 08, 2004
Tulip Time in Holland Michigan
Today we took about an hour's drive up to Holland Michigan for the 75th Diamond Anniversary of the Tulip Time festival.
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It's cloudy, cool, and a little "rainy". We pulled into town and I realized that this was pretty big judging by the people trying to park in an empty lot.
The first thing we did is head for 8th Street because all up and down the street - for a few blocks - were Klompen Dancers that danced for about 15-20 minutes. We were all waiting for some major medical emergency due to flying wooden shoes. Alas, no shoes flew. (Here's a quick 30 sec video of the start of the dancing.)
We noticed as we walked up and down 8th Street that everyone had come by much earlier and "staked-out" spots along the sidewalks and curbs with chairs and blankets.
We decided to grab some lunch at the New Holland Brewing Company. I wanted to take some pictures of the outside of the place and when I went outside, I realized I heard marching bands. Well, I guess, they were having the major festival parade in a bit and they were showcasing a few of the bands.
Well, I guess that explains why people were staking-out their territory. The grand finale of the festival, the Muziekparade, features nearly 50 marching bands from across the state as well as floats, giant helium balloons, horses, more Klompen Dancers and other typical small-town parade stuff.
Quite honestly, the parade was a blast. We saw just under half of it - we need to do this again and camp-out to actually get a good seat. It was actually fun.
We got back in the car and drove just a little but further north to the Veldheer Tulip Farm. Holy crap - seven acres of tulips. They have hundreds of different bulbs here on display, and you can actually order any one you want. Hell, I never knew there were that many available.
We found something very odd when we were there - us. We were actually in the minority of whites that were there - the vast majority of people there were Indian. I have no idea why - heavy population in the area or something with a tie to tulips. Everyone were taking extensive time trying to take pictures of themselves with the tulips. I don't get it. Anyway, took pictures, too - just to fit in.
After a quick stop at the garden shops and gift shops, it was a bit of a drive home and another great dinner cooked-up by Diane and Melinda.
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Friday, May 07, 2004
Getaway to Michigan
Carol got off work a little early and we packed up the car and drove to my sister's house in Michigan. I love going up here... just to get away. Diane picked-up mom and Melinda and got there about 5 minutes after us. Tonight we had dinner at the Red Arrow Road House. (Had a long wait - well over an hour just standing in one place, waiting for a table the seats 5 people to come open). I had the House-Made Blue Cheese Potato Chips
Hot, seasoned potato chips with melted Maytag blue cheese, sour cream & chives followed by the Stir-Fried Beef Fillet Mignon with Shiitake Mushrooms Shredded carrots, red onion, zucchini, tri-colored sweet peppers, garlic & ginger tossed in an Oriental hoisin sauce…steamed white rice. Pretty good for a "Road House"!
Friday, March 05, 2004
Friday Night Fish Fry
Saturday, January 24, 2004
My cousin Jimmy is 39 years old, married, with three daughters. An IT guy, like a lot of people in his family. Anyway, last Wednesday, he had just come back from home Depot and was playing with the kids on the floor when he lost feeling on his right side. He didn't think too much of it - he had been having kidney stone problems, but they called 911 anyway. He walked out to the ambulance when it got there.
Turns out he had three mini-strokes. He had ruptured a vein in his neck. Normally this is either inherited or happens when the person has been in a serious car accident, where the head moves violently. In this case - he doesn't fall into either category.
The feeling has returned. He's on Coumadin to thin out the blood so it won't throw another clot. In the meantime, he can do absolutely nothing for 6 months - no travel, no playing with his kids - NOTHING.
Do you realize how lucky he is? Man I hope he's going to be OK...
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
I actually called out for him today when I was a little, um, "in need". It was one year ago today that I lost my dad. Yes, life hasn't been the same. Yes, we're all doing fine and moving on.
It's just... not the same, you know? I miss him.
I miss you, Dad.
Thursday, December 25, 2003
Just spent the whole day at Mom's house. Got some very surprising presents (I'm going to have to update my Amazon Wishlist to pull a few things off!)
We had brunch, presents, and dinner and the day absolutely flew by.
Melinda's birthday was yesterday, but we celebrated today in a more "intimate" setting than last night. Guess the day was more draining than what we expected - Melinda couldn't blow-out the candles on her cake!
This Christmas turned-out better than I had thought, and better than I had hoped. Sometimes family quietly makes things better...
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Food. Presents. Grab bag.
Sunday, November 23, 2003
The sleeping situation hasn't gotten any better. I'm not getting any, and Carol isn't either, though we may have gotten a tad bit more last night than the night before.
Today's weather, though 61 degrees, is miserable due to rain. Today is my mother's 74th birthday, so Carol & I went to her house and picked her up to go to... the cemetery. It was time to lay Christmas wreaths on the family graves, so I piled 6 wreaths into the trunk and we went for a quick loop around the cemetery, pausing briefly to get out in the pouring rain, run through the grass dodging goose poop, plant the wreath and get back in the car.
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Then it was off to Diane's house. We're going to go out for dinner, but Diane's ulterior motive was to get me to look at her Sony Vaio PC and figure out what's going on with her CD burner, as well as some virus scanning issues (she doesn't seem to have any, though every once in a while she claims she does get a message saying she does) and disk space issues (had to move over 6 Gb of MP3's over to a different drive so she won't get that nagging XP out/low disk space messages). I had the other issues done and was still troubleshooting the CD burn issue when it was late enough to go to dinner.
We went to a restaurant not far from her house called Settimana Café. Pretty empty and quiet when we got there and no where near that by the time we left. There was a point during dinner that we were almost yelling across the table to each other to be able to be heard over the music and other conversations. (Oh, other than that, the dinner and wine were very good - I'd recommend the place).
I mentioned earlier that it was 61 degrees. When we got into Diane's car after dinner, the temperature was 48 degrees and it was raining harder. Back at her house I verified that the CD burner really doesn't work (oh, did I mention that it doesn't play any audio CD's either?). Diane had purchased a replacement burner that I was going to install. Well, after I finally got the case opened, there was no way I could figure out how to expose the drive bay that the CD drive was in. There were no screws, a couple of latches that didn't seem to do anything to the cage that was covering the drive bays. I can get to two of the screws holding the drive into the bay, but I couldn't get to the other side of the drive, and even then I didn't know if the IDE and power cables were long enough to stretch out the front of the machine. I didn't want to, but I had to give up.
Mom opened her presents. Diane got her a VCR/DVD combo unit so she can finally rent movies again... though I just can't wait to see her try to deal with a DVD for the first time...
By the time we left, the temperature was down to 38 degrees. by the time we dropped off Mom at her house, the rain stopped.
I can't wait to see the weather tomorrow...
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Sunday, November 09, 2003
Went to my mom's for dinner and found out that my sister is taking knitting lessons! She was either doing the Chicago Tribune Magazine crossword or knitting the entire time we were over. I just know she's going to try to knit something for the dogs...
Sunday, November 02, 2003
We had a nice family get-together at Kathy & Al's to celebrate some fall Birthdays in the extended family. The party started at 2 and we had a Wolves game that started at 4, so we stayed as long as we could, but people were still coming over and I felt really awkward leaving. I mean, it's family and we just don't see everyone as often as we probably should. So, we went to the game, watch the team lose, and then I decided we should go back. We arrived in time for cake and lots more conversation (even though we only saw 2 periods of the game, it still felt that the pace of the game was quick and we were out of there in no time). Everyone seemed pleased we came back, and I felt better, too. So we had some lasagna and great cakes, all made by Myrina. Missed all of the opening of presents, though.
Friday, September 26, 2003
Good Bye, Uncle Babe
I'm dressed and on the road at 7:27am, out amidst the fog again. I drive to Montclair. What a lovely little town. Clean, nice. The church, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, is this nice, small mission-style church. Children were going to school as I pulled into the parking lot.
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I quietly make my way into the church. I'm trying to be as nondescript as possible, but slowly people are starting to recognize me, even though I may not have seen them in quite a while. I meet my cousin Karen who looks exactly the same as I remember her from my childhood. She's the only person that - in my mind's eye - never changed. Weird. Then my cousin Mark the kid I traveled to California with back in the 60's. He doesn't look the same, but I see the boy in the face of the man in front of me. He finally introduces me to his sister Laurie, who I haven't seen in decades. She too doesn't look the same but I see the kid in the lady in front of me. She looks at me and has no recollection of me at all until Mark whispers a few words to her: "Beam me up". The electric smile comes to her face and she gives me a big hug. Laurie had wheeled in Aunt Mary. She's in a wheelchair now, and I can hardly recognize her.
The family slowly gathers. There's a bulletin board full of photos of Uncle Frank and Aunt Mary's life (or, as we all call them here , Babe and May). I notice a box on the table in the vestibule, next to the picture.
That's when I realize that it's Uncle Babe. In the box. The label says he was cremated on th 12th. Uncle Babe is gathered up, along with a US Flag for his military service and we go inside.
Mark has a eulogy prepared, and it's long and complete and I learn more about the uncle that I thought I knew. Then we had a full Catholic funeral mass.
After mass, we gathered all out front again. We all drove a mile or two into Chino to a Marie Callender's that opened early just for us. It was the site of their 50th anniversary not so long ago.
After lunch, we went over to Mary's brother's condo, to socialize, drink, eat, and watch old 8mm film transfered to videotape. Uncle Babe was never without his camera. Laurie had the film transfered, and it now fills two 2-hour videotapes. It was a wonderful, sweet trip down memory lane.
I didn't know there was going to be a dinner to end the day. I had made plans to be in Burbank (again) by 5:30-6:00 tonight. I had over 30 miles to get there in Friday afternoon rush hour traffic.
I didn't want to leave. I wish I didn't set this up, but my time out here is very limited. Laurie made me a sandwich to eat on the way, along with some cookies.
I slowly say my goodbyes. It's been years since I've seen some of these people, and I don't know if I will ever see any of them again. I hope that's not the case, but life takes odd twists and turns. Most of these people live out here and it's not like I visit California very often at all.
It's hard leaving family, even if it's extended family. I have done what I've been sent out here to do.
It's 4:20 and I slowly walk to my car.
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Thursday, September 25, 2003
Well, here I am. I've been up for more than 3 hours now. I am sitting in seat 21F on an Airbus A320 which is United Flight 101 from Chicago to Los Angeles, a 4 hour and 14 minute flight for 1,750 miles. I've got to tell you, I never thought I'd be doing this, but I'm feeling good about this. Why am I here? It's because of my Uncle Frank.
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He died over a week ago. He and his wife Mary moved away from Chicago years ago, first to Brownsville, Texas and then out to California to be near my aunt's family.He's the last of my mom's sibling's to go. My mom has been a bit down about this, as she is now "all alone". I'm not doing anything lately (being unemployed) and my mom - who didn't feel like flying - asked if I would "represent us" at the memorial service. I love traveling, I love flying. So, mom's paying for the trip and here I am somewhere over the midwest eating a Michael Angelo's Egg, Ham & Cheese Panini and watching Bruce Almighty.
Uncle Frank and Aunt Mary (or Babe and May as others call them) hold an unusual spot in my heart. Back in 1967, Aunt Mary took me and her nephew Mark to Los Angeles on a train trip. What a great thing to do, showing a kid America from a Santa Fe El Capitan train. I don't remember why Uncle Frank wasn't with us, but he was with us when we flew to LA in 1969. I only have one picture of him in my old photos - it's him on the pier in Santa Monica.
He was a great guy with kids. A tall man with a deep, booming voice that always drank Pepsi out of a bottle. And here, years later, I find a few more odd parallels with my life - he and Mary never had kids, like Carol & I. He proposed to Mary the first week he met her. So did I with Carol.
You see, I had to go to Los Angeles.
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Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Dog medical transport
Diane's dog Chelsea has been a major pert of our extended family for years. Chelsea had a pretty fast-growing tumor pop up on her chest over the past few weeks and it was time to get it surgically removed. The biopsies (yes, plural) were inconclusive so it was time to go in surgically and remove it. This required Chelsea to be taken to an animal surgical center (no quick trip to the vet).
Chelsea's surgery went well, with the doctor saying he was able to get a "good margin" around the tumor. We're all hoping for the best - pathology results won't be back until next week.
It was time to bring Chelsea home and Diane (correctly) thought she probably shouldn't do this alone, so she asked me to help her. How could I turn down Chelsea??? (oops... I mean... "How could I turn down my darling sister?" Yeah that's it...)
So, I drove into the city so we could drive together to the doctor in the northern suburbs.
I am SOOOOOOO glad there was two of us.
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When Chelsea came out from "the back" at the surgical place, she was fine, but I don't think we were ready for the shock of seeing her. The big black sutures against her shaved pink skin were shocking. The incision was in the shape of a "Y", extending from "shoulder to shoulder" and down her chest. We knew that the incision would be large, but this was way beyond our expectations. The real sutures versus the disolvable sutures probably made it look much worse.
She has a shaved patch on the right side of her torso so that has a morphine patch stuck to it. Oh, man... I haven't seen the use of pain patches on a dog before... she must really be in pain...
And sure enough, as Chelsea came out she was quiet. As soon as she saw us, each breath she took had a "squeak" in her voice. She's not comfortable at all. Diane got the instructions on how to treat Chelsea over the next couple of days (no stairs, no playing, warm compresses on the incision, no change in diet, back in 10-14 days to get the sutures out).
We went outside. Diane put Chelsea on the ground so she could have a, um, walk. She walked and peed just fine, but she just looks a little out of it. She's still squeaking. We get back to Diane's SUV. Diane picks-up Chelsea and puts her in the back seat and climbs in. I take the front to drive them home.
Now, dogs - compared to humans - breathe rapidly. She still squeaked with every breath.
For the entire 45 minute trip home.
She really squeaked once when she tried moving around. She also let out the most terrible, sorrowful moan I'd ever heard coming from a dog.
It was a hard drive home.
But, she did make it home. She laid in her bed the entire them I was there. (Diane was kind enough to grill up a burger for each of us and we kicked back and watched some TiVo for a while.) She tried to sleep, but she never fidgeted. She just seemed exhausted. But at least she was quiet. She's probably more comfortable being home.
Hopefully, she'll be just fine.
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Monday, September 15, 2003
Well, another year as passed. I just wish that we were in better financial shape so we can celebrate this a little better...
September 15, 1979 - 24 years ago - Carol & I were married and we're still together.
Thursday, September 04, 2003
Lunching by the pool in West Hollywood
Just got off the phone with my sister who is lunching by the pool at Asia de Cuba at the Mondrian Hotel on Sunset in West Hollywood. Sounds like she's having a great time. I miss California. I haven't been there in almost 20 years.
Thursday, August 14, 2003
Carol - Three Years On
Three years have passed.
I still have my wife and life is good.
OK, sure, I don't have a job and we'll be out on the street in a few short months - but I have her.
I wrote about it in detail last year (go there if you want the details), but the short and sweat is that Carol had a double mastectomy three years ago this morning. She's still doing fine. I always sit back and think about how fortunate I am the she's still around. Everything else will just work it's way out.
So, I snuck into her truck last night to leave some azaleas for her and a card. I try to show her that I love her and care for her, but today I hace to throw her a little curve.
Saturday, August 09, 2003
Yesterday the house was exceptionally quiet. How quiet? For the first time since I can remember, from Thursday night at 07:13pm until this morning at 08:26am, the phone never rang. No damn telemarketers for a day. (OK, I have Caller ID software on one of my machines at the house so I know exactly when the phone rang.)
Now, the phone call this morning wasn't a telemarketer - it was my Mom, who woke me up from my sleep. She wasn't feeling well and wanted to go see a doctor. Since my sister who's normally closer, wasn't (she was at her house in Michigan), I got the call. I got dressed, drove into the city, and to her to an immediate care center since she doesn't have her own physician (which, of course, is another story).
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Since my sister lives closer to her wasn't available (she was at her house in Michigan), I got the call. I got dressed, drove into the city, and to her to an immediate care center since she doesn't have her own physician (which, of course, is another story). The doctor was nice and after a very thorough checkup, can't find anything wrong. Her BP is high (170/86!). Oh, and she has a little bit of hearing loss (HA! If you only knew! Diane and I knew that for a while now!). But he can't figure out what is going on. So, after a a quick blood draw and then a quick trip to the Jewel, I brought home. She'll be OK. She feels better knowing it's not something significant.
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Sunday, July 06, 2003
This turned out to be a long day for no good reason.
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The day started with breakfast at the Blue Plate Cafe. Very uneven and actually a bit disappointing. Service was fair to poor and the food was... OK.
We spent the day back at the house resting or bobbing in the pool. I actually, for the first time in my life, sat down with a game console all by myself. I played harry Potter on Diane's PlayStation 2. It was my first experience just playing a game for that platform. It was interesting and kept me entertained for hours. Diane and Melinda whipped up a lunch for us as well - mostly Sloppy Joe's that my mom made and they reheated, as well as leftovers from yesterday.
We decided to leave about 4 o'clock to try and beat some of the traffic back into the city. The radio kept telling us about the severe weather in the Chicago area and you can hear the crackle of lightning over the AM reception. The traffic on 94 started getting bad. Then it started to crawl. We stopped in Portage Indiana to get gas and pick up Powerball tickets ($240 million!!!). It was still crawling and actually getting worse on I-94. I decided to take US 12 into the city. I just couldn't take the "not moving" part of this and at this rate, it felt like it would be hours before we got home.
US 12 took us through, um, "interesting" areas of Gary, Whiting, and Hammond. When driving to Diane's on Friday, I had noticed that the Skyway had two lanes open going eastbound but only one lane open going westbound. I really wanted to avoid that at all costs. We did, however, get up to a Skyway entrance ramp and saw that the traffic was actually moving pretty well. I decide to get on - and found out that instead of a single lane, they had flipped the configuration over the weekend and we had 2 lanes going westbound. The weather started moving-in as soon as we got to that stupid $2 Toll Plaza. It started to rain. Hard. Winds shook the car. Traffic was crawling again, but we were closer to town now. Once we got to the Dan Ryan, things started to clear-up - both in traffic and weather, though the standing water was pretty bad in many places.
We got to my mom's house after 7pm. I just happen to go inside to, um, "use the facilities" when I noticed that the power was out. Sort of. Most of the circuits were out, but the air conditioning was on, the refrigerator was on, and a few lights worked. The rest of the house was dark. One of the neighbors came over to try to help us figure out what was going on.
That's when we found out the scary part. We found out from a next door neighbor that there were "flames" coming from where the electrical wire entered the house! Thank God it's a brick house! Sure enough, you can see where the insulation was gone on the wires going into the pipe that goes to the electric meter which feeds the house. Calling Commonwealth Edison was a trip - because of the tens of thousands of people without power due to all the storms over the past days, the automated attendant now just tells you to call again later and hangs up! We got mom settled and she felt OK about staying there overnight.
We finally got home after 9pm. We're exhausted. Indy is pissed (she didn't like being left alone for all that time).
Not a great finish to the 4th of July weekend, but we had some good times.
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Saturday, July 05, 2003
Milly's (mostly music) Hootenanny II
It was a late start this morning... everyone is taking time waking up and getting ready for the day.
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Diane & Melinda whipped up a breakfast of pancakes and bacon. Mom swept the deck to try to get the rain and debris off of it. I skimmed the pool, which was a mess due to all of the huge trees surrounding their back yard.
We're starting to find out about the sirens yesterday - 7 people drowned in Lake Michigan (one at the beach at the end of the road). Apparently the storms were really bad and caused huge waves with a hellacious undertow. They haven't found all of the bodies...
Carol & I stayed "home" while the rest of the crew went to Michigan City to the Lighthouse Outlet Mall. Around 2pm, we all met at Redamak's for a lunch of greasy burgers with fries and onion rings. Then it was back to the house to get ready for our full evening of events.
We're off to Dewey Cannon Park in Three Oaks, not too far from the house. Tonight is "Milly's (mostly music) Hootenanny II". Milly is Milly May Smithy, the alter-ego of Chicago-based performance artist (and also former alto saxophonist of Poi Dog Pondering) Brigid Murphy. She's been putting on these revues since 1987 with "Milly's Orchid Show", comprising mostly of friends that's she's met along her way (tonight it's Robbie & Donna Fulks, Anna Fermin's Trigger Gospel, The Rip Tones, Jane's Kountry Kin and The Village Square Dancers, for starter).
What really got me tonight, other than Milly's entrance on the back of a huge chicken in the back of a pickup, was the overwhelming sense of community at this event. It's a small park, next to some high-speed Amtrak tracks that cut through town. It takes place in the gazebo in he center of this small park. Milly's entrance was preceded by a parade of kids in dress-up clothes (that they got to keep). There also was a Bake Sale and Barbecue for the Little league.
The show was over two hours, was a bit uneven with some of the acts, but was just an absolute wonderful time that I could not imagine missing.
After the show, we headed over to the 6th Annual Harbor Country Blues Festival at Watkins Park in Three Oaks. Well, actually, we didn't go in. Watkins Park is where the fireworks were scheduled to go off at 11:00. Diane and I scoured the area to find a good spot outside of Blues Fest, and find a spot over the centerfield wall at the ball fields there. We were basically alone and just waited for darkness, and then waited for the fireworks. Blues Fest didn't sound all that great - we were able to hear it from out location. I'm glad we saved the money. Anyway, the fireworks were pretty cool - there's no music, no other sound since there was no one else around us. Just the sound of the motor igniting and the fireworks igniting. Weird. Quiet. Eerie, in a way. They lasted almost 20 minutes and then we went back home and crashed.
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Been up for a few hours now, off and on. A pretty bad thunderstorm system has been moving through since 4am. Lots of lightning, thunder, rain and wind. Pretty dark outside during all of this, but it looks like it's moving on.
Friday, July 04, 2003
What a great, relaxing day. Carol & I picked-up my mom just before 9 o'clock and drove up to Diane's house in Michigan. Traffic was almost non-existent. We hung around, had lunch, and went into the pool.
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Yes, I actually put on a bathing suit and got into the pool. It's been over a decade since I've done that. Was in the water for a few hours, tossing these floating balls back and forth down the length of the pool. For some reason, the dogs (well, Chelsea more than Gracie) just love to chase the balls. Chelsea even tries to get them out of the pool. She got a bit excited and actually fell in and I had to scoop her up and push her out of the pool.
Even though Harbert, Michigan is a very very quiet little town, we've been hearing sirens that seem to be going up and down Read Arrow Highway. Then there have been an ambulance and a (cool looking) Rescue Hummer that went screaming down the road out front, coming from the beach. Something is up.
After a few hours of thrashing around, I got real nauseous and got this huge headache, so I crawled out of the pool, got dressed, and laid down and the couch and passed-out for a few hours. I have no idea what that was about.
Dinner tonight, again cooked by Diane and Melinda, was steak and lobster tails, corn and baked potatoes, all done on the grill. I was still not feeling the greatest, and I felt bad for not eating everything, but it was all very good. That was the first time I had grilled lobster tail and I could definitely do that again!
So, we watched what little TV we could up here (no cable, no satellite) - watched coverage of 4th of July festivities from Washington, Boston, and New York. There weren't any fireworks up here today - we're doing that tomorrow night (fireworks at 11pm just sounds late to me...)
Off to bed - can barely stay awake...
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Sunday, April 20, 2003
After the game, we jump on the Dan Ryan and get on the Stevenson and head west. We're going to my cousin Jane's, who is having the family Easter get-together this year. I feel like I'm driving to one of those places where, on those very old ocean navigational maps there would be a marking that says "There be dragons here". We rarely, if ever, travel to the south suburbs, and heading for 143rd Street in Orland Park just seems like a foreign land.
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The drive is actually much shorter than I thought, and we get there in no time. Jane and Richard's place, though small, is just gorgeous and is laid out so well, that it feels much larger than it is. I, unfortunately, parked myself near this great homemade cheeseball of sour cream, Buddig ham and green onions. I couldn't stop myself. Pretty soon, the entire cheeseball is gone, prompting the ceremonial unveiling of Cheeseball II. Dinner was great, with Richard handing grilling a pork roast with two different marinades, and the traditional fried noodles (well, traditional for us). Dessert was way out of hand - by the time Myrina unpacked the two cakes for Emma's birthday, there was also on hand the apple pie, plus the 3 different ice creams and 8 different cookie selections, oh and brownies as well... there was enough food on the table for everyone to take their own complete dessert! I've never seen so much desserts before at one of our gatherings. It was a typical, loud, good time gathering. We enjoyed ourselves. Then we had to figure out how to get back to the Tri-State in the dark to get home. We made it just fine. I'm stuffed, though. Gonna be a rough night...
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Friday, March 28, 2003
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
He would have been 89 today if he just would have lived three more months. Our little family had our last birthday with him a year ago this past weekend. A year ago today, I was doing my Radiation Therapy Chauffeur™ duty, bringing him to Loyola for still another radiation treatment. I look back on both of those days, and it was evident that I thought he was lucky and we had more time. I never thought that he wouldn't see 89. I've included a picture of him from his last birthday. Tonight, I'll hoist a drink for him, quietly at home, missing him like a son would. Happy Birthday, Dad.
Monday, December 30, 2002
Michael Robert Lans, Sr. 1914-2002
I just got home tonight from my Mom's house. It's been a long, stressful evening.
This afternoon at 5pm, my father died.
He was at home with my mom. She found him, but he was already gone. He died quietly and from what we can tell peacefully. He had been getting weaker over the past weeks. I've talked about his problem eating here. We don't know what really happened, we only knew that his time had come.
My Mom seems to be fine. My sister Diane seems to be fine. I think I am fine. We all knew what life with Dad could be like as the cancer progressed. He didn't suffer. Even through his surgery back in May of last year, he never really had any pain at all. The only pain he had was when he had that huge abscess on his neck a few months ago. That was it.
What more could you ask for? A long life (he was 88 years old), no pain, and to die in your own house with your wife of 48 years.
Wednesday, December 25, 2002
Spent the day at my parents house. Breakfast. Gifts. Naps. Dinner. Trading Spaces marathon on the TV. In a nutshell, that was our day. Dad is miserable. He's got an appetite. He really wants to eat. He's just so friggin' frustrated at having his food come up and out his nose. He's embarrassed. It upsets him. He wants to eat like normal people and he should be able to. It's just so damn difficult to see him go through this on Christmas. It's killing me. At any rate, we enjoyed our Christmas together. It's a long day, though. We needed to just get home so that we can hit the sheets for work tomorrow.
Tuesday, December 24, 2002
Tonight, it's take the parents to my sister Diane's for a family Christmas Eve with our cousins and Uncle Jim. The weather is starting to turn nasty - very windy and snowing. At least the snow isn't of the big-flake variety, it's more of the real tiny not-necessarily-flake-but-maybe-pellet variety. We all show up at Diane's house at the exact same moment, causing chaos and pandemonium amongst the dogs and, well, everyone involved. The evening went well. Dad seemed a bit crabby, though. I think it's just hard on him to travel, and I just don't think he wanted to socialize with our extended family. Well, while cleaning the snow off my car, I fell in the street. Yep. My right foot started to slide out from under me. I remember thinking to myself "This is going to hurt" as I didi the splits. The splits didn't hurt, as I was able to twist my legs so I didn't actually do the splits. Hitting the asphalt hurt. I slipped again when walking my parents to the car.The ride home was bad. The Kennedy hadn't been plowed or salted. Addison was the same, so travel was just slow. After dropping off my parents, I slipped again going to the car. By now, the sudden flailing of my body is screwing up most of the muscles in my back, and now I have a headache like you would get in a whiplash accident. Ouch. The drive home was made worse only by the number of idiots on the street who just don't know how to drive in this weather. Actually, it has nothing to do with the weather - they're just driving like idiots. Like the guy in the SUV that didn't even stop to look that traffic was coming at a busy intersection (without a traffic light) and just pulls out and turns. (Of course, there was traffic coming, and this little event caused a van to swerve to miss the idiot, cross the center line and come right at us, only to swerve again, this time to avoid us. Nice, eh? Merry Christmas!) Or the people that just pull too far into an intersection, causing you to swerve around them. That has nothing to do with snow, and everything to do with idiotic driving. I feel more Pet Peeves coming on here... (The bad thing, is that all of the idiots looked Eastern European... pattern?) The tollway was clear and wet, as well as most of the neighborhood. At least we're home safely.
Sunday, December 15, 2002
Carol & I go over to my parents' house just about every weekend. It's a nice way to keep in touch - Diane is almost always over as well. We don't feel too guilty for having our own lives and having to skip a weekend because of other commitments. This week, though, is different. We're getting into the Christmas season with heavy hearts and skirting a real big issue. This will be Dad's last Christmas. I really felt it this week. This was the first dinner we've had where Dad wasn't at the dinner table with us - he took his dinner in the back room, in front of the TV. He's having this really odd problem that I've talked about before - he can't keep some of the food he eats "down". It seems to come up (and for you squeamish people out there - jump to the next sentence) out his nose. The hospice nurse (and I think doctor as well) believe that the massive infection/abscess that he had in his neck a few months ago may have formed a "pouch" that's collecting some of the food he's swallowing, so this thing he's experiencing isn't acid reflux. The major downside to this is that, though he's hungry and wants to eat, this condition is making eating extremely difficult. He's losing weight. Fast. I really noticed it this week. He's so much thinner. It's putting a strain on my Mom and I can't imagine what Christmas is going to be like. It's scary and disturbing and we just don't really talk about it. In our family, if you don't talk about it then you don't have to face it. At least you don't face it in "public". But you sure do face it when you are alone...
Thursday, November 28, 2002
My entire body is hurting and I feel like I'm asleep on my feet. My family left after 9, while Carol's brother and wife stayed way too long until 11:30. It was a great evening. I still don't know what happened, but the turkey got rave reviews for taste and being so moist. Go figure.
I am a bit melancholy, however. My dad, though he really looks pretty good, has been having difficulty eating with something that is almost like acid reflux but isn't. It's making him miserable and he's not eating very much. In fact, because of the reflux or whatever it is, he doesn't eat with the rest of us because he's embarrassed by the food coming up, so he ate in the family room.
The saddest thing of all, however, is knowing that this was the last time my father will be in my house. Soon, he won't be able to travel as the cancer continues to wreak havoc on his body.
What I am thankful for today is that I was able to have my father over for Thanksgiving, and share the turkey that I have cooked, even with something we both enjoy - the skin. I hope he had a good time. I will always remember it.
Sunday, November 24, 2002
Sunday at Diane's
We drove into the city to pick up my parents and went to my sister Diane's for dinner. (First, though, when we went to my parents' house, we had to go in to watch the Bears beat the Lions in overtime!) Dad was in surprisingly good shape for the ride and visit. It must have been one of his better days. Diane cooked a great dinner (a pork roast) and we annihilated the entire dinner. We must have been hungry or something, but there was only three pieces of pork left and absolutely nothing else. We had the dinner because we celebrated Mom's birthday (which was yesterday). There was one embarrassing moment, however. After all of these years, somehow Diane & I bought the same birthday card for mom. It started snowing while we were at Diane's, but the traffic wasn't bad going home. In fact, it was almost like people were off the roads, afraid of the snow.
Saturday, November 16, 2002
Happy 15th Birthday, Sam
Today we went to my cousin Kathy's to celebrate a couple of family birthdays. Now, with Dad feeling the way he is, we knew he wasn't gong to go. He always had a low tolerance for kids, and that just advanced with his age. Now, with the Cancer, there's just no reason to put him through that. But what was surprising is that Dad said Mom should go. So Carol & I drove into the city to pick up Mom and drove out to Hawthorn Woods.
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Sunday, October 20, 2002
Lightning Fill-In the Blank
At my parent's house for dinner tonight. Dad looked so much better. The nurse says he won't regain the weight he lost, but he's eating up a storm! Listened to Wait Wait -- Don't Tell Me! on NPR on the way home (on WBEZ). I love that show, as well as Michael Feldman's Whad'Ya Know? and I still have a soft spot for A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor.
Sunday, October 13, 2002
The swelling is down
Went to my parents tonight. My sister and I both agree - Dad looks so much better. He's got more energy, a bit more of an appetite, and he's motoring around with purpose.
Wednesday, October 09, 2002
What a nice day - sunny, clear, low 60's. I didn't have any time to reprimand Indy (even though I don't know how to reprimand a bunny, so I just chased her back into her Bunny Condo, where she stayed for the rest of the day while her parents fumed).
I spent the day doing some electrical work at my parents' house, a nice brick bungalow of Chicago's northwest side. My family's house - I spent 16 years there. My dad, who's 88 and in failing health, is always cold. So, on this glorious day, I walk into a sealed house, where my dad, in his sweater, has the furnace on, set to 75°. It was stifling in there - I had to open the doors and get some air.. At least by the end of my stay, dad had taken off his sweater. I hope he starts eating soon (he stopped a day or so ago - it's a side effect of the pain patches he was wearing) - he needs his energy to fight the infection and the cancer.
I was soaked in sweat - I had to turn on the air conditioning in the car on the way home to cool off. Nice ride home in the sun, though. Very enjoyable. Went home and opened the doors and just had a nice fall breeze blow through the house...
Sunday, October 06, 2002
Went to my parent's tonight. Though dad's "thing" on his neck has gone down significantly, so has his appetite. He's lost 10 pounds in a week. He needs his energy to fight this infection and the cancer. I hope he can just get through these antibiotics, get this infection out of his system, and get back to eating again.
Wednesday, October 02, 2002
OK, I'm back home. Dad's not going to the doctor - he doesn't want to. Admittedly, he's only had a little over 2 days of antibiotics to treat this thing, so it isn't changing much. He's got better color, better energy. I finally looked at the thing on his neck when the nurse was changing the dressing. Oh, Christ... I can't talk about it. It was something I've never seen before, and I just don't feel the need to discuss the gory details of what it's doing. Blech. Anyway, I think they were happy that I was there while the nurse was there - I guess it was just added support for them. Dad's still in pain, though. We'll see what's happening after a few more days.
I got home and went to get the mail, when I noticed something round and white in the middle of the front lawn. It looked like somebody had lost a ball. I went to take a look at it and it was a big, white mushroom! Had to take a picture of it - I thought it looked cool.
Well, my mom called. My dad is actually worse than when I saw him on Sunday. The hospice nurse is coming at noon and mom wants me to be there. We may have to take him to Loyola to figure out what's going on. What is happening to him? What the heck is this thing on his neck that's growing and is so painful? Sigh.
Sunday, September 29, 2002
Antibiotics for Dad
Went to my parents house this afternoon. Stopped at a Walgreens to pick up a prescription that the hospice nurse called-in for my dad - it was clindamycin, an antibiotic in a heavy dosage. The nurse was waiting for us to get there. One of the cancerous tumors in the neck lymph nodes is casing some kind of infection, causing the lymph system to go nuts. Dad's face is all puffy - the right side of his neck is like a football, and (though I didn't see it) this infected "lump" is indeed oozing. The antibiotics should help kill this problem and get the swelling down, and maybe get swelling in the face down. I felt better talking to the nurse (who was just the "weekend nurse" and not Dad's normal hospice nurse). She says that they probably couldn't diagnose this correctly back on Thursday, and with the way things have changed over the past few days, it became clear that it really was an infection of some sort. I hope this all works - Dad was in better spirits later in the day, but he's much weaker. He needs to eat more. We'll see how this goes.
Dad is oozing
My sister called this morning - apparently Dad is worse. The "thing" is bigger, it's "oozing" more (how the hell is a thing on the neck oozing? Is it open?) Mom's waiting for the nurse to call. I had to call Mom to see how she was doing - she sounded pretty good on the phone - considering. The thing is "larger" (not in diameter but in "height"), oozing more (I don't get this...) and Dad's in more pain and isn't eating as much. We'll see him in a few hours and maybe I could understand what he's going through. I'm just not understanding...
Saturday, September 28, 2002
Dad has an alien?
Talked to my mom on the phone - sounds like dad's neck-thing is getting worse. I can't get a good description out of her or from my sister (an "alien growing out of his neck" is not exactly a definitive description of what's happening). I'm bothered by the fact that only a nurse has actually seen him, and that was a few days ago.
Friday, September 27, 2002
Keeping tabs on Dad
I got a call from my sister this afternoon. She's going out of town for the weekend, and she wants me to keep in touch with our parents this weekend. Dad's not feeling well - he's got some kind of growth on his neck that Diane is describing as "an alien" that's growing there, and it's starting to ooze. It's supposed to be large and painful. The hospice nurse has seen him and has contacted the doctor (presumably the oncologist Dr. Clark) who is saying that this is probably the cancer that doing this. But this thing has just "sprouted" since Tuesday. The nurse will call tomorrow and she may get a hospice doctor to visit. This is weird. Can his cancer all of a sudden grow like this? I'll have to keep tabs on this.
Sunday, September 22, 2002
Birthday cake and ESPN Sunday Night Baseball
Went to my parents house for lunch. My sister Diane was over with Melinda so we could celebrate her birthday (remember, she was out of town on her birthday, though Carol and I already got her a present). Carol is driving this weekend since my car has that damn space-saver spare on it. I'll be getting new tires (yep, a full set) later this week. I think she's upset that she's driving, even though I've been driving to my parents and the ballpark all summer. She's pretty tired and stressed out right now. I didn't see too much of Dad. He didn't talk much, seemed tired and not as energetic as he has been. Hopefully, that was just today. His hospice nurse quit, and he has a new one - hopefully he wasn't the cause!
Hardly anybody in the parking lot when we pulled into Comiskey Park tonight, our last game of the season. The game time was moved to 7:05 just a few weeks ago, so ESPN can broadcast the game. They really bring out the equipment for the broadcast - they added 3 cameras around the plate, all remote control (one on the backstop, one at each dugout), one in straight away center, above the batter's eye for that special Strike Zone analysis shot. Plus three cameras in the regular center field position, a roving camera on the outfield concourse... Parabolic Mics everywhere in the outfield and camera wells - on guy in the camera well next to the White Sox dugout got hit with a ball - it went through the parabolic mic dish! I was looking around the park and noticed that they started test painting the concrete on the upper deck. There's four different colors, all gray. That's part of the off-season rehab. Nothing major - there's not enough money to really fix the upper deck. Did you know it would cost $4 million to replace the blue seats with green ones? It was Fan Appreciation Night - the team gave out gifts to some of the fans. We weren't one of them. The Sox SWEEP the Twins 8-2. It doesn't mean anything, as the Twins already clinched the division, but it was a show of PRIDE. Mark Buehrle got his 19th win (19-11), Frank Thomas, D'Angelo Jimenez, and Magglio Ordonez each had a home run. Afterwards, fireworks and saying goodbye to all of our Season Ticket buddies hoping to see them sitting somewhere around us next year. It was our last season ticket game this year, but I think I'll go to the Thursday afternoon game against the Red Sox, since that is the last home game. I just can't seem to let go of baseball this year...
Wednesday, September 04, 2002
A Happy Birthday trout
My sister Diane called from Montana, mostly to check up on Gracie (Gracie is fine). Diane says the trip has been great. She really did go fly fishing today and got one Rainbow Trout (Melinda got two). Diane, however, did slip and fall and went down the river a bit! She said her waders filled up and she felt like the Michellin Man. Sounds like the trip is going great.
Happy Birthday to my buddy, Barry, and to my sister Diane - who is going fly fishing today in Big Sky, Montana!
Monday, September 02, 2002
The Gracie Experiment
Saturday, August 31, 2002
Jealous of Travel
My sister left this morning on a driving trip out west that partially follows one of the family driving trips we did when we were much younger. The trip is actually to Yellowstone National Park, but along the way she's stopping to see things like The Corn Palace (I wonder if they're going to The Corn Palace Festival?), The Badlands, Wall Drug (you can't miss Wall Drug), Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial, Devil's Tower, then going into Montana to the Rainbow Ranch Lodge for fly fishing! She's even got reservations at Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone! Then it's a quick trip to the Grand Tetons and the Jackson Lake Lodge and then a straight shot back home. Hope she takes lots of pictures - it's a trip I wouldn't mind re-taking. Someday.
Tuesday, August 27, 2002
I don't know why, but I went stumbling over to my old boss Bill Jackson's website at DirtyDragon.com. He has a great story about contract negotiations with WLS over the last year of Gigglesnort Hotel. Both Carol and I remember this event, though we never saw it. I mean, how many people would bring a gypsy violinist with them for the negotiation? Bill would. And did.
I really miss that time in my life. I think with my Dad's terminal illness, and the impending baseball strike Friday (I, for some unknown reason, measure the passage of time in my life along the passage of baseball seasons, and the players are screwing up my clock), I'm in a melancholy mood.
I spent the afternoon slapping some pages together and gathering pictures and materials of my short-lived puppeteering career. I have a series of slides that are the only things I really have of my time on Gigglesnort that I have to find a way to get them into a digital format so that I can use them here. Look for the new pages in the next week or so - there's a lot of other pictures I have to scan yet.
I think, though, I'm going to take tomorrow "off" and go to the ballgame. There aren't a lot of day games during the week at Comiskey, and there aren't many days left (potentially) to the baseball season.
Saturday, August 24, 2002
Bobbing in the pool
A long day, but a good day. We left at 10am to drive into the city. We picked-up our buds Barry & Buffy, and then it was off to Michigan to my sister Diane's house. It looked pretty crummy when the day started, but by the time we got up there the sun was out and was gorgeous. Melinda ran to the butcher and picked up some fresh hot dogs and chicken brats for lunch. Wow. We're going up to Michigan next month for a couple of days and we're going to be bringing coolers and our vacu-sealer and hit the butcher before we leave so we can smuggle some quality meat back to Illinois. Diane's birthday is coming up next week, but she and Melinda will be driving out to Yellowstone and back for a cool road trip, so we brought out birthday gift over early - a Remote Control Shark for the pool! Lots of batteries, though - 4 AA's, a 9 volt for the receiver in the shark, and a 9 volt for the tranmitter (which floats!). And the AA's don't last too long. But the shark was way cool. We played with it all afternoon. For dinner, we drove down Red Arrow Highway into Union Pier to go to Miller's Country House. Very good food - in fact, way better than I had expected. There's something that does defy description, though... the room we were in had large windows that overlooked a garden and woods. During dinner, we looked up, and there was a tree moving in the garden. I mean, moving - like walking across the lawn. Sort of like a performance art piece. Odd. Strange. Weird. After dinner, back to Diane's to pick up our things and then the long drive home, which was traffic-free but with patches of fog. I love going up there.
Wednesday, August 21, 2002
They're doing OK
Talked to my Mom today. They're doing fine. In fact, they went out to dinner yesterday to have prime rib. So, I guess they're taking yesterday's events in stride. Mom's just having trouble reconciling the fact that dad feels absolutely fine.
Tuesday, August 20, 2002
Damn damn damn damn damn....
As a kid there are a few things you don't want to hear about your parents.
A year ago I heard one of them. "Cancer." My dad had a laryngectomy. He no longer speaks and has a hole in his throat to breathe. He's just starting to use an electrolarynx to try to communicate.
Today I heard more words that you don't want to hear.
"Hospice Care" and "Six months".
Crap. The end is coming and I just can't put anything into words. I knew this day would come. I thought there was more time - time that can't be made up.
At least both of my parents handled all of this very well. Dad didn't want chemotherapy, so he knew the consequences. The cancer has spread to the lymph nodes around his neck. Chemo would just slow it down or maybe halt its growth. Is it worth it to be violently sick for month to extend your life by, what, maybe and additional 6 months? Delay the inevitable and be miserable? He has no pain, he hasn't lost weight, he doesn't have any breathing problems. He's just old - 88. There's no doubt about it in my eyes - he knows. He really liked the idea of hospice care, and he actually smiled when there was discussion of being at home "when the time comes". Mom just liked the concept of having people come to the house regularly and not having to go to Loyola on a regular basis.
Me - I'm numb. Everything inside my brain says this is right. I understand everything. It all makes sense. This is expected. This isn't a surprise.
Then why does my heart hurt?
Wednesday, August 14, 2002
Carol - A survivor
Two years ago today, Carol's life changed, and, in turn, changed my life. We were one month short of our 21st anniversary (!). We've known each other for 25 years. During that entire time, we were never really sick. Never was in a hospital (well, I had surgery on my hand in the mid-80's, but that was just a day surgery thing).
Two years ago today, Carol had a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery.
It was just LCIS - Lobular Carcinoma In Situ. Like the word "just" makes it insignificant. It was good that it was small, and in situ. The doctors kept saying it was "100 percent treatable".
The next sentence contained the words "mastectomy". It was not exactly what you want to hear, and I really fault the doctors for phrasing the entire conversation as "100 percent treatable" and getting your hopes up, when the treatment is a mastectomy. The cancer was in one breast, and LCIS is considered to be Stage Zero. It didn't spread - it was in one specific area.
Of course, we had another option - do nothing. but Carol's mom had died of breast cancer - a cancer that wound up being recurring and going undiagnosed until it was too late. Carol's had that hanging over her head her entire adult life. Doing nothing was not an option for her, she felt. She wanted the fear that she had been carrying to go away. For good. Doing one side made no sense in that regard. It had to be a double.
So, two years ago this morning, we were at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights. Carol sat on the gurney in the Surgical Pre-op Area, her eyes were big like a deer in the headlights. She knew what was going to happen, she accepted it, and she was still a bit freaked out.
I had been in the surgical waiting room with Carol's brother and his wife, my bud Barry and my sister Diane during the surgeries. The surgeon came in to talk to us and reassure us that everything went very well, and very quick (just over an hour) and that the plastic surgeon was now doing his thing. We waited around a bit and sure enough, about two hours later, the plastic surgeon showed up and we talked briefly. She should be out of recovery and on her way to her room. I just had to find her.
I walked into the room alone (after I had found it). She was out but she knew I was there. She said "hi", and just kept sleeping. Well, resting with her eyes closed. She barely moved. It was good to be there and see her. Alone. It makes you realize where you are, where the two of you are. Makes you realize how lucky you both are.
The next few days were amazing to a lot of family and friends. Carol was fine. Better than fine - great. Everyone was shocked on how well she was doing. Everyone. So much so, that Carol's brother and wife were convinced she was in denial. They just couldn't accept how strong she was.
But I could. It was real.
So, life goes on. Here we are, two years later. Carol has had most of the breast reconstruction completed (the rest is "cosmetic"). We're both alive and thriving.
And I'm stronger for seeing how strong my wife has been throughout all of this.
I hope she finds the flower I left for her on the front seat of her car before she sits on it. I hope she knows how much I love her and how much I actually look up to her.
Tuesday, August 13, 2002
Well, I'm back in the middle of chauffeuring my parents to Loyola. Dad has a CT Scan scheduled for today, some blood work, and an appointment with the speech therapist.
Right now, I'm in the CT waiting area being tortured. in the corner of the small room is a TV set, blaring Jenny Jones. It's one of those shows with teens out of control - this one is about girls whose bodies have developed too soon and are just crazy for sex. Great. All I hear are teens screaming at the booing audience to shutup and bleeping. I don't know how long I can take this.
It was pouring outside. lot's of lightning. It just started in one big downpour as soon as I pulled into the parking garage here. I couldn't see outside of the garage, and the rain was blowing in sideways. It's like it's foreign - I feel like I haven't seen rain in quite a while. Our lawn at home is brown and, as Carol calls it, "crunchy". It's been a hot, dry summer. Today it's dark, windy, and pretty wet.
Thankfully, someone changes the station to a soothing "Ask Martha" instead of the screaming "Jenny Jones". Dad's CT scan is over, and we head over to Rachael, where we go through a whole therapy session on trying to get the best usage of his electrolarynx. They also work on paperwork for getting dad his own electrolarynx. Then it was a quick jaunt over to the lab to get some blood drawn.
The drive home was miserable. It had been pouring the entire time we were inside. Standing water everywhere. From the time we left Loyola to the time I got home after dropping them off was 2 hours and twenty minutes. During that period of time, O'Hare got 1.82" of rain. Oh, another little oddity: My car turned over 55,555 miles.
Symmetry. Catch it.
Wednesday, August 07, 2002
Mmmm... cream puffs...
Tuesday, July 09, 2002
A big shout-out to my cousin Jane who is back from her honeymoon (wedding pictures here), who actually stumbled onto this weblog from our other family website. (I've moved all of my stuff here from there - just wanted a place I can call my own, I guess.)
Friday, July 05, 2002
A family vacation
Monday, July 01, 2002
Speech Therapy Chauffeur
Thursday, June 27, 2002
Let's go to the zoo, Mom!
Time for another family outing. I picked-up my Mom, drove to my sister Diane's house again, and this time we went to the Lincoln Park Zoo. I haven't ben there in at least 20 years. It's a "quaint" zoo. It's really not as big as people think. We had lunch first at Café Brauer and watched the paddleboats on the lagoon. There were a lot of kids in the zoo, mostly from day camps and other organized summer programs. It seemed that anywhere we went, either we couldn't find any of the "larger" animals. They were either all sleeping, or they were just "somewhere else" (they weren't inside a building or outside a building). We went to see the seals - I think there were two. I somehow remember a lot more seals. What's the deal? Now, to be fair, half of the Great Apes were shipped out to do a staged rehab of their enclosures, and all of the elephants, rhinos, and giraffes are gone because they are rehabbing/building a new Regenstein African Journey, and the Farm-in-the-Zoo is all torn up and being rebuilt, so I guess there wasn't a lot to see. While outside the tiger exhibit, I saw some kids playing around one of those 25-cent telescope things that you can use to get close-up views of the big cats. Well, I thought I'd try it and sure enough - it worked! You can use those telescopes with your digital camera! Just Put the camera up to the telescope and zoom in (optical zoom, not digital zoom) and shoot! Cool. I'll have to remember this.
The most entertaining part of the day was watching the polar bears. There was an underwater observations area with a bunch of windows so you can watch the bears swim. There was one bear that was always swimming around the glass. Diane and I were watching him, because he was very active, constantly swimming around. We noticed that he was really looking at some of the people. Then we realized that he was really looking at the children and just passing by the adults. He would even stop and size-up the kids. I even saw him lick the glass by one girl's leg! That's when we realized he thought the kids were seal pups! He was sizing them up as prey! It was, um, entertaining. It was a nice day and we were at the zoo for hours. It was nice being out and walking in the sunshine and looking at the animals. A nice day.
Saturday, June 22, 2002
Sunday, June 16, 2002
Happy Fathers Day! We went to my parents tonight for dinner, and just had a quiet evening watching Tiger win the U.S. Open in the dark. The weather has been pretty good the past few days. Hope it stays this way for a while. There is one nagging little thing that's bothering me that will stay with me for a while. I have a father with cancer. I can now feel those questions in the back of my head that you don't want to hear, the ones you keep pushing to that dark, back corner, the ones you dare not utter - was this his last Father's Day?
Thursday, June 13, 2002
The "Family Outing"
Today was "Family Outing" day. I drove into the city and picked-up my mom, and then drove to my sister Diane's house in Bucktown. We are spending the day together. The first stop - lunch. We went a few blocks over to a corner bar called the Lincoln Tavern. Typical corner bar. We walk in and go to the back of the bar. There's a few tables there. But Diane doesn't stop - she makes a right after the bar, goes through this little vestibule area and we wind up on the first floor of the three-flat next door! There are tables, a fireplace, and it's decorated like a kitschy hunting lodge. We order lunch. I get a steak sandwich (which was surprisingly good!). When you order a Coke, you get a can and this little glass filled with ice - so little, you can fill it three times before you empty the can!
After lunch, we drive to the Garfield Park Conservatory. There is an exhibit there - Chihuly in the Park: A Garden of Glass by Dale Chihuly. Who is Dale Chihuly? If you have ever been there, he is a artist that designed the ceiling sculpture (called FIORE DI COMO) for the lobby of the Bellagio in Las Vegas. He is an artist that works in glass. I've never been to the conservatory, so I was an interesting walk. But it was really cool (almost like a Easter Egg Hunt) to walk through the whole place to find all of the Chihuly glass sculptures! Some are just out in the open, others hidden behind plants, some floating in water. Some pieces were actually designed for the specific plant and are almost integrated into them. Very cool! The exhibit runs through September 8. If you're in Chicago, this is a unique exhibit that you must see before it leaves.
Sunday, June 02, 2002
Wednesday, May 29, 2002
Tuesday, May 21, 2002
Today was the day that I took my parents back to Loyola to see Dr. Emami about the results of Dad's CT Scan that he had last week, to see how the radiation treatments went. The 3:00 appointment slowly turned into the 4:00 appointment. Dad, who at the ripe old age of 88, doesn't like waiting at all and it was aggravating him. When we finally got in, we found out his blood pressure was 160/92 - not good. He worked himself up pretty well. He says that the reason why it's so late is because there is bad news. I try to settle him a bit and say we don't know that. And you know what? We don't We have no idea if the radiation did anything.
Dr Emami comes in and looks at the report. He says the major tumor in the throat has been reduced by amount one half, and that all of the others have been reduced as well. Not only that, but there's no new growths in the radiation area, and that the tumors can actually reduce in size a bit more over the coming weeks or remain stable. This is good - the radiation treatments have achieved about 70-80% of what we were hoping for. OK, now for the bad news - "there are several new growths in the right upper lobe and right middle lobe" of his lung. Dad needs to see Dr. Clark for a consultation to see what can be done, if anything. Dr. Clark is both an Oncologist and internist and he should be able to figure out how to proceed. Makes sense - we're past radiation treatments (the growths are too scattered and radiation can't be done - it would probably "knock out the lung before knocking out the tumors").
All in all, a mixed bag. I feel good about the radiation treatments. I guess it's a matter about those other pesky growths. We'll find out a little more next month when we see Dr. Clark. On the drive home, we feel a little better. I know Dad can't handle chemo - that would be really hard on him at 88. I know he won't agree to it. But we need to find out options and figure out what's happening. Hopefully, we won't think about it until next month. In the meantime, Dad & Mom seem to feel better, and though it may be a bit misguided, I feel good that they feel good. It'll help them through the next month.
The drive home is a mess. I haven't driven in rush hour traffic in a year and I don't miss it a bit. I made a mistake on the way home. I took the Northwest Tollway. That wasn't the mistake. I took this new temporary express lane that has no exits until 53 in Schaumburg. It's a single lane with no shoulders. As I was standing still in the express lane looking over at the free-flowing traffic in the "local" lanes, I'm wondering why I did this. I won't do that again. It's nice having multiple lanes just in case some LAC (Law Abiding Citizen) is just moving a bit too slow. Sheesh.
Thursday, May 16, 2002
CT Scan Chauffeur™ duty
Well, it wasn't Radiation Therapy Chauffeur™ duty, but it was CT Scan Chauffeur™ duty instead. Dad had to go back to Loyola for a CT Scan, now that it's been about 5-6 weeks after his last radiation treatment. They have an appointment next week to meet with the doctors to discuss how the treatment went. It was interesting just driving back to Loyola again because everything is green now. Before, it was snowing, even though it was April. Dad seems to be doing OK. I mean, he's 88 and every day he's still around is a blessing, so your view on how well he's doing seems to be colored by age. That and the fact that he has cancer. By the time we had got back from the hospital, it started raining again. It's been raining hard for a while now - the trip back home on the construction-laden Northwest Tollway in heavy rain was a chore, but at least traffic was moving at (over) the limit.
Monday, May 13, 2002
Happy Birthday, Carol!
Happy Birthday, Carol! Now she can't call me old - we're the same age again! Not sure where she wants to go for dinner - she mentioned Mexican or seafood. We'll have to see what kind of mood she's in.
Sunday, May 12, 2002
We spent the day at my sister's (Diane) to celebrate Mother's Day. She lives in Bucktown and I just love her house. Since it's been raining this whole damn weekend, Diane couldn't grill-up anything on the barbecue outside, so we ordered Italian from Club Lucky, just a few blocks away. Again, more good food - just a bit too much of it. Had another good time just sitting around talking.
Sunday, April 21, 2002
White Sox 11 - Tigers 8
Such a cold, windy, rainy day... let's go to a baseball game! 43°. Thank God we made reservations for a window seat up in the Stadium Club bar at Comiskey. It felt good knowing that we could go to the park and not worry about how to dress for the weather. We got there early and got a good seat. Had a great lunch (the food is always good - the facility is handled by Levy Restaurants).
The game was "iffy" again. Oh, sure, we scored 8 runs in the first inning (Jose Valentin had a home run, and Tigers starter Jose Lima only lasted 2/3 of an inning), but that doesn't mean anything anymore when you have a questionable starting pitcher. Today it was Jon Rauch (who is now officially the tallest player to ever play in the majors at 6' 11"). Well, those 8 runs weren't very secure as Rauch gave up 8 runs in 4 innings. I still don't know how a pitcher can feel the ball and control it in weather situations like this. Finally, in the 7th, Ray Durham came up to pinch hit with the bases loaded (he was out of the lineup with a chest cold - yesterday he had an ingrown toenail dug out. Ew.) and hit a single (which was misplayed by Tigers LF Bobby Higginson) that scored 3 runs and gave us the game. Whew. Watching the game from behind the glass sure made the game more enjoyable.
Went to my parents' house for dinner. I jealous again - my sister is going to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival next weekend. She always goes to great destinations for these great little getaways.
Watched the Wolves on cable TV and they won against Grand Rapids and advance to the Calder Cup Western Conference Semifinals! We never thought they would go further in the playoffs! They now play the Syracuse Crunch (the number 1 seed) in a best-of-7, but we don't know when.
Thursday, April 04, 2002
Final Day of Radiation Therapy Chauffeur™ duty
It's over. I have finally ended my Radiation Therapy Chauffeur™ duty. Dad's last radiation treatment was today. No big fanfare, but he did get a ribbon from the staff and they let him take home the form-fitting mask that is used to lock him into the radiation gear. He's got a CT Scan on May 16th and an appointment on the 21st. The treatments took more of a toll than I had thought. The fatigue is pretty bad. He's really tired now. He's been pretty quiet in the car during our trips. We used to have conversations before. Well, as much of a conversation that you can have with someone who tries to talk but can't because of the laryngectomy, which means that you have to read his lips... which is extremely difficult when you are trying to drive a car. But at least they were conversations. It seemed that I was the only one that could read his lips well - Mom or Diane couldn't, and Mom would just give up and say to him in a frustrated voice "I don't know what you're saying" and that would just piss him off. I looked at his skin that was in the radiated area. Not only did it look leathery from a bad sunburn, there were areas that almost looked purple because the burn was so dark. Now he needs to just kick back and chill. It'll be weeks before his sore throat goes away. He's lost about 7 pounds in the last 6 weeks. I'm just hoping that his energy comes back.
Monday, April 01, 2002
Radiation Therapy Chauffeur™ duty
Started the final stretch of Radiation Therapy Chauffeur™ duty. After today, Dad has three more treatments. His skin is starting to get badly burned from the radiation - I guess it's starting to blister. He just needs to tough it out for the week and at least another week or two of recovery, and it should start subsiding.
The Northwest Tollway was down to two lanes eastbound when I got on at Roselle. I guess this is the lane configuration out here and it sucks. They haven't setup the new lanes westbound yet. On the way home it started snowing. By the time I got home, it was coming down in those really big flakes and the grass is covered. It wasn't supposed to snow today! This is April! What the heck is going on????
Hey! I called a waste hauler today to cart away the old hot water heater on my parkway! It's supposed to be gone by Wednesday, which is good since the Village is going to do another inspection on Friday to make sure I am in compliance of Village ordinances. It's going to cost me $28. I feel like I'm supposed to be living in a double-wide...
Sunday, March 31, 2002
Thursday, March 28, 2002
Radiation Therapy Chauffeur™ duty
Back from Radiation Therapy Chauffeur™ duty. Found out today that Dad only has four more treatments, and that the labs are closed tomorrow for Good Friday, so I have a "vacation day". The Northwest Tollway threw me for another delay today, when they shifted the three lane of traffic east of the Des Plaines Oasis. On the way back, I saw a mobile sign that says 2 lanes through the area starting April 4. There are mobile signs of Golf Road out here saying lane closures start the week of April 1st. What a way to start the week. Thank God my chauffeuring is coming to an end. Of course, if I'm not employed soon, I could still be tapped for more service (Dad will have a follow-up CT Scan and appointment 6 weeks after). I really don't want this to become a new career for me.
Tuesday, March 26, 2002
88 Years Old
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD! He's 88 today. Just another day with him in Radiotherapy at Loyola Medical Center. Came into the waiting room and ... no receptionist. Laurie wasn't there - she was in training, and there's a sign on front of the desk "It's a Boy! Born 3/25" so Jane must have had her baby yesterday. Very backed-up today - took about an hour. Because we were "backed-up", we saw people that we normally didn't see. Saw a woman who looked to be in her late 40's - early 50's, with her daughter. Come to find out, through conversations with other people that we never saw before, that she was stumbling and her left side was going numb. She thought she was having a stroke, so she went to the hospital - only to find out she has a malignant brain tumor that has spread to her lungs. Makes me feel luckier that Dad isn't that bad.
Monday, March 25, 2002
Radiation Therapy Chauffeur™ duty
Oh, man... my mouth feels like sandpaper, my brain feels fuzzy... too many apple martini's last night... too late of a night... it's been snowing for a while this morning. Wind chills are around zero. The trip to my parents was a breeze - no one was on the tollway. The trip to Loyola Medical Center was a breeze, too. A little crowded in the Radiation Therapy Waiting Room. Jane the receptionist isn't there - she's "upstairs - she was experiencing labor pains (yes, she is pregnant), so the person that's she's been training (Laurie) is there. There's been a lady we see everyday - I think her name is Christine. She's definitely on the younger side of the age group that flows through the waiting room. Today was her last treatment - 43 in all. No one asked about her cancer. In fact no one ever asks that of any one. Everyone is anonymous. You have no idea had bad someone's cancer may be. It's just something that isn't talked about. Anyway, everyone made sure they offered their best wishes to Christine before they left. It's just that hope that everyone there has toward the patients.
Sunday, March 24, 2002
Went to my parents' house for lunch, and to celebrate Dad's birthday - he's 88 on Tuesday. We're still adjusting to his laryngectomy from May - I mean, how can a man who has a stoma and whose windpipe is no longer attached to his moth blow out candles on a bithday cake? He can't - I mean he might be able to do it through the stoma, but that's just not something we want to see... We pray he still has many more birthdays to come...
Friday, March 22, 2002
Radiation Therapy Chauffeur™ duty
The weather, though it feels bitterly cold, is actually beautiful - bright sunshine, hardly a cloud in the blue sky. The traffic on the Northwest Tollway was "normal" - even though the construction is still there, it's like everyone knows what's going on and they're either taking an alternate route, or they're just blowing right through the construction area. Today is Dad's Radiation Treatment #22. Only two more weeks to go. We're in the Radiation Therapy waiting room. Mom is reading a book. I look at the floor - there's a piece of red yarn that looks like it's from Mom's craft work she was doing yesterday (Cubs logos and little guys). Got into the car to go bring them back home - there's a small piece of red yarn in the backseat. Sigh.
On the way home, we pass Skrudland's - a photo processing place in our old neighborhood. I look up at the sign. It's something I had never thought about! I'm unemployed, and short on cash - hey! I can get our pet bunny Indy to make some cash!!! Why didn't I think of this sooner!
Thursday, March 21, 2002
How can I say "Thank You"?
I had an experience today that actually showed me what family means. I've been without full-time employment since June. Things have been getting financially "tight". Today, my parents paid my property taxes. They knew we were having a little bit of trouble, and they just did it. I get home and pick up the mail and there's a letter from my sister. Inside the letter - a check. A check to help with expenses and just because she really does appreciate me playing chauffeur for Dad's radiation treatments. Complete with a P.S. - it's a gift and she doesn't expect repayment.
It brought a tear to both Carol's and my eye. Sometimes people just want to help - I've just never been on that receiving side of that before. I really have no idea what to say or how to express how I feel. Family. You can't chose them, but thank God they're there.
Thursday, March 14, 2002
Radiation Therapy Chauffeur™ duty
The Radiation Therapy waiting room is empty today. Dad is now three weeks into his course of treatment. I was able to time his treatments - 16 seconds of 3 hits. The side effects are starting to kick in - he's getting fatigued and he says that he's had a sore throat for the past 4 days. Well, it's Thursday, so it's Doctor day, so Dr. Emami said he had a prescription for a "cocktail" that should help. It's so popular, that he had a bunch pre-typed and just hands them out to the patients. Hmmm... it's made of Maalox, Benadryl, Xylocaine, and Diflucan - 1 teaspoon every 2 hours as needed.
Tuesday, March 12, 2002
Radiation Therapy Chauffeur™ duty
Another packed day at Radiation Therapy. This time, though, for some reason, Dad gets called in ahead of everybody else in the room. Everybody gives him the Evil Eye as he leaves. Had to stop at Walgreens on the way to their house to pick up some prescriptions. Dad's starting to look tired. His cough is still there, though it's hard to tell if it's getting worse. It's just a bad, dry cough.
Monday, March 11, 2002
Radiation Therapy Chauffeur™ duty
1:25pm. Ah, another crowded day inside the Radiation Therapy waiting room. Standing room only. They guy that complained about & dropped his coffee is here, as well as the other older couple with the guy who also has a laryngectony like Dad. Both of these couples are cut from the same cloth, and I'm thinking my parents are in that group as well. There's an older lady sitting next to me, talking to another woman about divorce papers - I think it's about her daughter. There are not many secrets here - the room is too small, and most of the people here are old enough that their hearing is probably going, causing elevated voice levels. There's been a younger woman here that must have an appointment before Dad's since she's always here with the rest of us.. She gets called in to get changed - few people do, must be specific to the location of the tumor(s). She stands out from the others because of her age - she's definitely below the mean average of the room. Mom is doing her plastic needlepoint craft work that she takes everywhere (and I do mean everywhere), making some Cub players. Yech. There's an electrical equipment closet, just inside the entrance of the reception area. Whenever some gets their radiation exposure, you can here a very loud buzz come from the closet. It makes sitting in here a little odd - you can tell how much radiation the patients are getting, like you can tell who is getting high dosages because of the exposure time. I think that younger lady is in there now, and her exposures are relatively short - 5-10 seconds. I brought this up to my parents about a week ago, and now it's always on our minds as we sit here. Somebody get's an exposure of just under 60 seconds. To me, being just a Joe Schmoe, I equate length of exposure to severity of the tumor(s). Well, Dad's getting called in, so it's time for me to walk back to the Parking Garage to get the car to drive around the buildings to pick them up when he's done...
But my day isn't over - my Mom wants to go to the cemetery (St. Adalberts). Seems that as of March 1st, the wreaths that may be on the graves must be cleared off, so she wants to pick up the stuff she brought out there who knows when over the winter. So we drive all the way up there and wind our way through the cemetery - only to find out that one of the sections have been cleaned out of decorations. We go to another site where she picks up the wreaths at her parents graves - then proceeds to steal two more to make up for what she lost on the other graves! Needless to say, it was a long ride home...
Wednesday, March 06, 2002
Radiation Therapy Chauffeur™ duty
My normal daily "taxi service" for my parents is different today. Today, Dad has a 1pm appointment for Dr. Bastian's office. Last week, Dr. Emami thought that there would be some kind of device - like perhaps a different trache - that Dad could get to help him "talk". I'm skeptical, but I feel that my parents aren't making use of any opportunity that's afforded them, so even if he comes away with nothing, it shouldn't be viewed as "time wasted". We just don't know what's available, and it's important to find out.
I'm sitting down in the Lobby of the Mulcahy Outpatient building with my little Toshiba Libretto - my parents are up in the office area of Dr. Bastian. Mom came down to let me know that nothing is happening upstairs and Dad is getting impatient - pretty typical for him when meeting a new situation. He's been very "calm" dealing with the process in Radiation Therapy. This kind of stuff drives him nuts - the older he gets, the more impatient he gets. He's going to be pretty upset. It's been over an hour, and we're late for our 1:30 Radiation Therapy appointment. They show up at 2:05 and I get them to the Russo building at 2:15. We're back on the road home at 3 o'clock.
Saw something I never saw before on the way home. We cross a couple of different Commuter rail lines to and from the hospital. This one crossing - near Lake and First Avenue - seems to be near a Metra station, because there has been a few time when I saw the crossing gates go down, only to go back up again a few seconds later. There's always a train to the east, probably at a station. Well, I noticed something today - at the railroad crossing, there is a second set of flashing lights - not the red flashing lights that go on when the gates go down when a train approaches, but there's a pair a blinking yellow lights - identical to the red ones - near a sign that says "DO NOT STOP ON TRACKS" - probably a warning that says "there's a train that'll be here in a few moments - stay off!"
Tuesday, March 05, 2002
Radiation Therapy Chauffeur™ duty
The last two days have been interesting driving on the tollway & expressway - there have been a lot of trucks that have been sitting outside collecting snow over the weekend. Now, as they barrel down the road at a high rate of speed, the compacted snow is shooting off the tops of the trucks in sheets, causing havoc for anyone following behind. You don't want to be behind these things. I saw another truck that didn't have compacted snow, just light snow on top. It left a blizzard behind it - you couldn't see the traffic in the middle of this snow-cloud.
On the way to pick-up my parents, I saw a huge fire over in Harwood Heights. I think I heard later on the radio that it was some kind of auto body place. It was kind of startling to see - being on the Kennedy expressway, you're sort of in a wide ditch - below ground level, so you don't see what's going on in the neighborhoods around you. Then, when I got off at Nagle, you could see the black smoke in the sky, not very far ahead. It must not have been burning very long.
Ah... baseball on the radio... Sox playing the Cubs... gotta love it... and the Sox won 20-6! And it was a split squad game for the Sox! Update: Of course, bragging too soon, the Sox split-squad lose against Arizona 16-5 tonight...
Hey, did you know that an ostrich's eye is heavier than it's brain? See, the daytime version of the Weakest Link is educational!
Got an invoice from the Chicago Wolves for Calder Cup playoff tickets. Like they're gonna win the cup this year... We reluctantly spend money that we don't have and send in our ticket request (including a 25% deposit for next season's tickets).
Friday, March 01, 2002
Well, I went back to my old parish tonight (my parent's current parish) - St. Ferdinand's to go to their annual Fish Fry. They run it every Friday through Lent (except Good Friday). My Mom helps out, cutting cakes mostly. The turnout is always good - last week they had 650 people show up - and they do a drive-up business as well. Well, Carol, Diane, Melinda and I decided we were going today - Polish Day. You get a free Pierogi with every adult meal! It's always an odd socializing time - either meeting people from my childhood or meeting my Mom's friends. Had the Cod tonight (pretty good... and quick!) And, of course, Mom brought over some extra sauerkraut Pierogies for us.
On the ride home, we saw our first flakes of snow at 8:30pm. Let's see what happens...
Thursday, February 28, 2002
Radiation Therapy Chauffeur™ duty
Dad has his 6th radiation treatment today. The first symptom showed up - difficulty swallowing. Other than that, he's fine. We were called in to see Dr. Emami (it's Thursday, so he just camps-out in Radiation Therapy - that way he sees everyone as they go through. Well, Dad led the way in, followed by Mom, and I trailed behind. I heard the loud outburst of laughter coming from the tech area in therapy labs. Everyone is laughing their asses off. Mom just turns to me and says "I am so embarrassed." I didn't know what happened. Apparently, Dad hit Dr. Emami with his cane. Dad's like that - he tries to be a little "playful" with people outside the family - something that I think has rubbed-off on me - but he hit Dr. Emami in the head with his cane! On the plus-side, everything was very cheery and light after that!
Going to the hospital everyday is a trip. Other than the 3-4 hours out of my absolutely boring, unemployed day, you just never know what you see or what you hear. Today was "spill" day - sort of a theme. There's a drip coffee pot and bottled water in the waiting room for Radiation Therapy. There was a guy in a wheel chair, next to the receptionist, his wife sitting on a chair near him, reading the paper. The guy asks the receptionist if she made the coffee (she did) and starts ripping into her about how bad the coffee is. I mean, rip into her. First off, the damn coffee is FREE - he didn't have to take it. Second, as his wife finally told him, it's probably been sitting there all morning and no one took any so it's been just bubbling there all day, getting stronger. Then she admonishes him by reminding him that he used to do that at home. He shuts-up. A minute or so passes and you hear a "clup" - the sound of styrofoam cup hitting industrial carpet - he dropped his coffee - everywhere. And of course, doesn't clean up. Spill one. On the way back to the parking garage I see the aftermath of spill two - a clear yellow substance outside a GI testing lab - and I don't want to know what it was. Third spill - I hope it was a spill - was in the garage, something red and bubbly and not very good smelling... I felt like I had to watch everywhere I walked today...
Tuesday, February 26, 2002
Radiation Therapy Chauffeur™ duty
Well, "they" were wrong - just a dusting of snow today. Cold as hell, though. Dad's radiation treatment went quicker today - 45 minutes. Actually responded to a job posting on HotJobs today - first one I've seen in about a month. We need money - quickly. This sucks.
Monday, February 25, 2002
Radiation Therapy Chauffeur™ duty
It was 61° yesterday. This is Chicago. This is February. And now, Mother Nature is going to even things out a bit. Temps will be in the 20's tomorrow and "they" (you know, the mysterious weathermen and associated agencies) are estimating 3"-6" of snow.
Today was Dad's third radiation treatment. Today, it wasn't 30 minutes long from getting the hospital and leaving. Today was an hour and a half. They had a ton of patients to get through and it just backed-up. They had two patients that needed radiation treatment every six hours. Hey - where do I have to go? Where do I have to be? I put my unemployment check in the bank today - and saw that the bank balance after the deposit was the check amount - ouch! I need this economy to turn around quick. I'm going nuts.
Friday, February 22, 2002
Radiation Therapy Chauffeur™ duty
Carol & I didn't get to sleep until after 1 o'clock and we just don't know why we were up and about at that hour. Of course, that produced absolutely rotten sleep. Dad's second radiation treatment went smoother and quicker - this time we were in & out in under 30 minutes, which is a good thing since I didn't have to pay parking for under 30 minutes! Drove back through River Forest instead of Oak Park - oh, man I love the properties there! After I got my parents home, Dad & I went to get air for his front right tire which was in bad shape. The scary thing - he drove. He turns 88 next month. I only saw my life flash before my eyes just once in the 15 minutes we were out. Whew.
Thursday, February 21, 2002
Radiation Therapy Chauffeur™ duty
Well, I can see that this will start getting old very fast. Took Dad for his first radiation treatment. Just another 30-some to go. I asked Dr. Emami something we've never talked about - how far "down" does Dad's tumor go? He showed me a diagram that he produced for the radiology computer showing the radiation areas. It shows the tumor in his throat which looks pretty substantial, and must be about 3cm tall. The thing that got me was that there are 2 tumors down in the lungs that are being radiated as well. I didn't expect it. Well, yes I did - after I saw how dad was drawn on with blue markers by Jack and Leela yesterday. I wasn't ready for this. I'm just stunned. I don't know what I should read into this. So maybe this time I'm spending with Dad driving him back and forth isn't so bad after all.
The world has turned upside down this afternoon. First I hear that kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearlis dead - at least he looks that way on a videotape that the US has. And I'm sorry, but I don't trust the Pakistani police to find everybody involved. I saw a show on DirecTV the other day, I think it was on the WorldLink channel, called "Karachi Kops". Let's just say it wasn't as good as Fox's "Cops" and it sure was suspiciously edited. I don't trust these guys.
Then I hear that the US Olympic Committee has turned over all of fthe evidence they have to the FBI on death threats against Apolo Anton Ohno. It started after his first race, and after the disqualification of Kim Dong-Sung last night, the death threats apparently really escalated. Jeez. Oh, and there's increased security around the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia because of a possible attack. It's not over - a US Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed in about 120 miles northeast of Mindanao in the Philippines with 12 aboard. This is all part of the war against terrorism - this time it's Abu Sayyaf, an offshoot of al Qaeda. What the hell is going on today?!?!?
Wednesday, February 20, 2002
Radiation Therapy Chauffeur™ duty
It was 52° this morning. It's ugly outside, that drizzly pissy rain. Got the parents to Loyola Medical Center early for Dad's 1:30 appointment for a radiation therapy "practice" session. The Radiation Therapy waiting room is tiny - only a dozen chairs. I've always heard that these guys just crank through the patients - not today. Things are way backed up. This, needless to say, isn't "pleasing" to Dad, who, as he's been getting older, gets more and more impatient over these things. I walk around, just to walk around and get out of the room that seems to be getting more crowded and claustrophobic. While I'm out, there was a discussion with Mom & Dad and Dad wants me to go in with him - he thinks I can read his lips better than Mom (I can). I don't remember when he got called - it was a little before 2 o'clock - and we go in. Dad has to strip to the waist, so I've got to help him with his shirt & undershirt. He's so much smaller than me. It's the first time in my life that I'm doing something for him - for his care. He's got to take his glasses off and hearing aids. Then climb up onto a table that's is precision controlled to line him up correctly with the equipment. The techs - Jack & Lela - get a white, plastic mesh form-fitted mask (that obviously was molded sometime in the past, probably during his Simulation CatScan), but it over his head and lock him into the table. Then Jack puts a piece of plexiglass under Dad's feet with ropes tied to it. Dad has to hold onto the rope. I remember him telling us about it but we couldn't understand what the ropes were for. So I asked. The idea is for the patient to reach down and grab the ropes, but not to pull - this gets the shoulders low and out of the way of the radiation. Dad looks very uncomfortable locked into the table. There are laser lines all over the room to align his body correctly with the machine. The techs are taping things around him and are marking the mask and his chest in blue markers. The lights darken and we have to leave - everybody but dad, who's still on the table. Films are taken - three in all, all of which take time to load the films, rotate the radiation "thing" (I don't have a clue on what it's actually called - it's the thing that actually shoots the radiation). Jack doesn't think Dad is tolerating this well, and they get the last films but don't finish-off drawing on his chest. They get the face mask unlocked, and that's when dad tells me that he couldn't swallow with it on, so he was having some problems. He looks really weird - I had no idea that the mask was so tight against the skin - he's got marks from the mesh all over his face and head - he looks like a cheap alien from Star Trek or Babylon 5. We help him sit up - a bit too fast and he got dizzy & lightheaded. Then I help him get back together - hearing aids, glasses, and shirts. We finally shuffle out of the room, when a nurse - Dolores - says she wants to talk to us. I go get mom and Dolores talks to us about what to expect from the treatment. Basically, there should be no side effects except the sore throats and dad has no restrictions on his lifestyle - just keep doing what he's been doing. The side effects won't show up until about 10 treatments in. since radiation therapy is cumulative. Dolores gave mom some cream to help with skin care - keeping the skin moist. We look at the clock and it's 10 to 3. We're off. Tomorrow - the actual treatments start - every weekday for about six weeks.
This has got to be one of the worst nights of sleep that I've had in quite a while. The brain just wouldn't shut down. It was frustrating. I tried to think of other, peaceful things, and it still wouldn't detach. I think that my dad has a lot to do with it. I couldn't shake him from my mind. First, today is when we take him for his 3-D radiation therapy "rehearsal" or "practice" scan. Tomorrow he starts his radiation treatment - every weekday for 6 weeks. I wonder if I'm stressing about driving him every day? I don't think so. I think what's getting to me is something we found out about yesterday - my cousins Kathy & Jane are going to be vacationing in St. Maartin for Easter - the family is starting to fracture a little bit, now that Jane is going to get married in June - and I think it's bothering me (I know it's bothering my mom) that they're not "interested" in sharing the holidays with us. (Not interested is a bad term - it's more that we feel that they don't try to share, but it's a matter of too many family pieces each pulling in different directions). I think that now that dad has cancer, they're not interested in seeing him. I don't know. I think this just really got to me last night. I'm feeling really groggy, slight headache. And I think I'm rambling, it's like there's a stop that's been pulled and the brain just wants to dump...
Tuesday, February 12, 2002
Well, I brought Dad to see Dr. Clark about Chemotherapy. He asked quite a few life style questions, like "Is he active?" The tumor has spread downward toward the media stinum (man, I wish I had a bit of anatomy - there's not much on the web about this). He wants to prescribe cisplatin once a week for every week of radiotherapy. The administration of the drug is about an hour, but the entire process is 4 hours long, primarily to make sure fluids are flushed through him. Side effects include "worsening" ;of the radiation side effects, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. Nothing is written in stone that this is necessary. It is worth trying. Dr. Clark thinks it can help control the cancer.
Dad says "No." He doesn't want to go through it. Mom says that over the past year, he has gotten waker and doesn't think he can handle it. Dr. Clark thanks us for our time, says that in case you change your mind, there's still time to call and start chemo, and leaves.
Let's just say the ride home was very quiet.
Thursday, February 07, 2002
Dad's CT for radiation
Back going to the parent's house and - whooo hooo! that damn Grey car that the guy across the street was selling gone from in front of their house! Now, unfortunately, I can't park in front of their house because of the snow and ice that's there. Damn, I was sliding all over the place. Pissed me off - to add insult to injury, I'm trying to park while there's a guy double-parked across the street, with traffic going down the street. I give up and I realize that my parents are watching me from the door, amused.
Quick trip to Loyola Medical Center. The Radiation Therapy department is also in the basement and the waiting room is even smaller than the CT scanning waiting room. Dad goes in at 10:50 (10 minutes early) and shows up again at 11:17, just under half an hour, and we're off again. He has a appointment scheduled for that "practice" therapy session on Feb. 20 at 1:30, and then therapy starts the next day at 1:30 and every weekday after that for at least 6 weeks, always at 1:30. Saw Dr. Emami again afterward, and again, very friendly, personable. Excited about construction of a new building that Radiation Oncology is moving into sometime in 2003.
On the way home, we stop at Russel's on Thatcher for lunch. Yum... barbecue beef...
Wednesday, February 06, 2002
Meeting the radiation therapist
Another day of providing taxi service for my parents to Loyola Medical Center to meet with Dr. Emami. We had to wait for him to come into the examining room, so that just makes dad way woo anxious and agitated. The doctor is in a totally different mood when we meet with him - more friendly, easier to talk to, not as "scattered" as our meeting a few weeks ago.
Normally, he said, a patient in this condition will just be sent for Radiation Therapy "classically". But, based on recent info (over the past 2-3 months), if a Patient can tolerate chemo there is a beneficial effect adding chemo, not necessarily beneficial in this "specific presentation". Being realistic - long term cure "not very frequent" (it's still interesting listing to the doctor put sentences together. He speaks Farsi, so I wonder how much of what he says is being translated from his "native" tongue)
He proposes to start planning process for radiation therapy. Side effects: redness of skin, soreness, sore throat, loss of hair around site. If the treatment is also with chemo, side effects are more intense, with longer recovery.
He stresses that dad will chose what he wants done (chemo or not - dad has already decided to go forward with radiotherapy). He says that other university hospitals in the area basically say " Radiation and Chemo. Period." Loyola is very open - sort of a freedom of choice of treatment. About 20% of patients in this situation chose to add chemo.
So, he wants to go through the planning process for the radiation therapy, since that's being done no matter what. The cool thing is that Dr. Emami leads research using 3-D conformal radiotherapy - meaning dad will go in for still another CT scan - this time, to map the area in detail and store the data in separate computers. Then the doctor looks at about 60 individual slices around the area, and plots in the computer those "structures" that need to be radiated and those things he needs to "protect" (oh, you know, like the spinal chord). The computers then produce a 3-D image of the entire area and the radiation treatment is then precisely plotted to give the most aggressive treatment, saving the rest of the tissues from exposure. Pretty cool. The process, because of case load, takes almost a week, since team meetings are also done during this time.
Dad would come back then for a"rehearsal" or "practice" run, to see if everything lines up the way they believe it will. Treatment would start the next day. The treatment itself only takes about 2 minutes, and he should be in the department for no longer that 15-30 minutes a day. Every weekday for about 6 weeks straight.
So, we'll be back tomorrow for that Planning CT at 11:00am, and they have an appointment with Dr. Clark to discuss chemo next Tuesday at 4:30.
I felt better about the meeting than I thought. I got a chance to see dad's CT scans and saw the tumor is about 1cm x 2cm and it's not where I thought it was - it's to the left of his stoma (the opening in his neck) - it's pretty obvious when you look at films - you can see that the structures in his neck aren't symmetrical, though it was difficult for my untrained eye to detect.
Oh, well... back again tomorrow.
Tuesday, February 05, 2002
Goin' to Loyola tomorrow
Hmmm... just got a phone call from my mom... I'm playing taxi again tomorrow - they have a 3:15pm appointment with Dr. Emami. I guess we'll find out about the biopsy and what was being said about last weeks CT scan.
Wednesday, January 30, 2002
CT Assisted Biopsy
So, I drive into the city. Not a flake in the sky until I get to Foster & Nagle, and then it's barely doing anything. Get to my parents house, walk in to the house in the middle of an argument about God-know-what. This whole health situation has been slowly effecting my family in so many ways. I can't imagine what goes on between my parents day-in, day-out... couldn't park in front of the house because someone has parked a dark gray 1990 Chevy Cavalier with no plates or sticker that they're trying to sell for $1200 right in front of my parents house. PISSES ME OFF. It's been there since at least Sunday. Anyway, the snow continues but never accumulates... the streets are just wet...
I love driving down Chicago Avenue in Oak Park. It's great just after a snow, to see the streets that are lined with the old-growth trees, just covered in snow. And there's a ton of great houses. BIG houses. Carol has a house that she loves that's on a corner lot. I think it was up for sale recently... can't remember how many millions of dollars it was going for... one of these days I'm going to have to go to the Frank Lloyd Wright house.. I pass it on these trips to the medical center...
Finally got to Loyola Medical Center. Still no snow on the ground - a good thing. Dad goes back to the CatScan lab in the basement. We were there for almost an hour, getting him signed-in and prepped. Then we have to leave - we're going to go to a separate CT lab back on the first floor. Typical of a super large medical facility, it takes a while to finally get there. We're in part of the hospital we've never been in before. We go down one corridor, and there's a brand new art exhibit hanging on the walls (it was new according to the nurse that escorted us to this CT lab). The exhibit was "The Ten Commandments - 10 pieces of canvas with abstract painting on each that is supposed to depict each commandment. We didn't pay too much attention, but I just didn't get it.
We finally make it to the CT Lab - "CT Scanner #4". We all wait out in a very tiny, dark waiting room. Eventually the nurse takes dad in. It's 12 noon. Mom and I ask if we could go to the cafeteria to grab something to eat & drink. The nurse says sure, it should take about an hour. Off to the VERY crowded cafeteria for a quick lunch. We sat by a window and watched the snow falling on the patio area. Still no accumulation, its just wet - puddles everywhere. We go back at about 20 to 1 and find out that the actual procedure hasn't started yet. They were just cranking-up when we had got there. Apparently, they had to confer with Dr. Bastian before they could do the actual needle biopsy. All of a sudden, Dad gets scanned, they look at the shots, another doctor goes in, gets the tissue sample, and walks out to go and make sure he's got a good sample. It just happened probably within the span of 5 minutes. I stepped out of the room for a minute or two, just to walk down the corridor to see what was down the hall (The Heart Failure Lab, actually) when I saw the doctor going back in. I started walking back and the doctor was coming back out and said "We're all done". When I walked into the waiting area, the was another doctor that was talking to my mom, in broken English. All I caught at the end of the conversation was something about the tumor had grown, and "wrapped around" something, and was now down below the stoma. This sounds bad. The tumor has grown since the last CT? Mom helps dad get dressed and we head on home. Still snowing, still no accumulation. I drop them off, and head home myself.
This is sounding worse than I what I heard from Dr. Emami just two weeks ago today.
I'm feeling scared. This is new to me. Mom had said to me in the waiting room that she "knew that people with 'this' never come out of it" and that she's taking it a day at a time and she's doesn't want to think about it much because it bothers her too much.
Sunday, January 27, 2002
The high temperature today - 59° . In January. In Chicago. Ooooooo... Mother Nature is messin' with us...
So, went to my parents for dinner with Diane and the dogs. Guess I'm taking my parents back to Loyola Medical Center on Wednesday. Dad's going to have some kind of CT assisted biopsy - I think they use the CT for correct positioning of the needle to extract the correct tissue for sampling. Brought a CD over for Diane that I had burned of all of the family pictures that I've been scanning out of Mom's archives. Still have that problem with those satin-finish photos... produces a series of dots for each ridge on the image... I wish I knew how to get them cleaned up...
Came home and found out that our little bunners Indy had chewed a hole in our carpet in the family room about the size of a silver dollar. That little brat! Now I have a hole of just carpet backing - no nap. Great. We REALLY needed new carpeting, and we would have done it - if I was still employed. Like so many other things, we've had to put off some of the things we wanted to do...
Monday, January 21, 2002
Wednesday, January 16, 2002
The cancer won't be cured
I leave the house at about 12:30pm to drive to my parents to drive them to Loyola Medical Center in Maywood. Dad had to see Dr. Emami, who's the chairman of the Radiation Oncology department at Loyola. Out in Hoffman Estates, it's been snowing big time - big flakes, too. On the way to my parents and on the way to Loyola, the snow was lighter and wetter. But the closer we get to the hospital, the bigger the flakes are becoming. Get there at 2:30 for a 3:00. Turns out that the big deal is not the lymph node that Dr. Bastian was concerned about. There's a mass behind the stoma that is probably cancerous. The MRI shows the mass and everyone believes it's cancer.
If dad would have gotten radiation treatment after his laryngectomy back in May, that mass would not be there. At that time, Dad didn't want to do radiation. Mom agreed. They both knew what could happen if he didn't get radiation. He was feeling good after the surgery. He didn't want to feel worse.
Now he's in trouble.
Dr. Emami wants to make sure it's cancer. He wants dad to get a needle biopsy to make sure. Dad was also supposed to get a chest x-ray, but now he'll get a chest CT instead, just to make sure the cancer didn't spread further down.
A resident (Dr. Paul Crossan) checked out dad, made sure he was OK.
The course of treatment will probably by 33-34 treatments, once a day, 5 days a week, so that'll be almost 7 weeks.
But there's a major problem: behind the mass is dad's spinal column. The spinal column can only handle about 25 treatments. It's going to be difficult to monitor - radiation treatments take weeks to actually work - (there's actually a delayed reaction to the radiation), so it's going to be tricky. Really tricky. And this won't be a cure. It's too late for that. It'll give him a bit over 2 years. If he doesn't get it, the mass will continue to grow, eventually cutting off his windpipe.
Thursday, January 10, 2002
Quickly got hold of my mom. I'm driving them next week to talk to the radiologist and to get a chest X-ray for Dad. Found out the alarm company actually called twice - once around 11:45 the other at 1pm. Just sounds odd... never heard back from anyone, so I'm assuming that everything is fine...
Elderly Parents and Health Care
Talked to Diane in New York. She thinks everything is OK, and that it's probably the cleaning people. They've been tripping the alarm lately. The reason why I can get hold of my mother is that she went out to run errands.
The thing that came out in conversation that I didn't know and don't like the sound of, is that my dad's surgery is now "on hold". He went for a CAT scan last week, and now the doctor wants them to talk to a radiologist. Wow. There's a lot of different ways to interpret this. I guess they have an appointment for next Wednesday at 3pm. I guess I'm driving. I'm saying I guess because my mom hasn't talked to me yet. They've got some very weird ways of approaching health care that make no sense in a logical world. You don't talk about it and it'll go away. right. Not when you deal with cancer. They're never going to change...
Tag - you're it
Had lunch with Barry at a Chinese buffet by Manheim & Oakton - no idea the name of the place.
While at lunch, my mom called and left a message at my house - the alarm company called and said the alarm is going off at Diane's house. She doesn't know what to do. I call her when I get home (around 1:30). No answer. I keep trying every half hour. No answer. i bet they drove over to the house to make sure it's OK.
I EMailed Melinda to find out what's going on. She doesn't know - she's not on the call list. (I think they need to fix this). We'll try to keep each other informed. Diane is in her New York office. Melinda will try calling her on her cell.
I feel helpless.
Friday, January 04, 2002
Birthday dinner and DirecTV
My sister Diane and Melinda took Carol & me out to dinner for my birthday. Had some great baby back ribs at Bone Daddy. Yum. On my way to her house, I realized that I didn't eat a crumb of food all day. I think this DirecTV thing has got my adrenaline going and I just forgot!
All the DirecTV receivers are plugged-in - half are fully operational. I need to go out tomorrow and buy a new multiswitch - I think that's the problem. The picture quality is absolutely unbelievable! We got the Platinum package and can't believe the number of stations! 23 local sports stations! I can't wait for baseball season!
DirecTV - a very nice birthday present!
Tuesday, January 01, 2002
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Spent the evening at Barry & Buffy's with Debbie and Kenny & Pat. As usual, everyone brought appetizers to eat. Things from brie & pear slices, toast points with creme fresh & caviar, cucumber slices with salmon, creme fresh, capers, & dill, walnut dried salami, Kenny's special shrimp (very yummy), barbecue chicken wings, Italian meatballs, a great Reuben mix that you put on miniature rye slices, baklava... and I'm sure I'm missing something... Watched the ABC 2002 coverage, even with the 30th Anniversary of Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve. Was very disappointed in the local coverage. The phone rang at Barry's just after 11. Barry answered and talked for a while. We couldn't figure out who he was talking to. The he turns and hands the phone to me - it was Diane! Her and Melinda were at their Michigan home - where it was midnight (the New Year) and she had to call! The drive home this year was uneventful - dry roads and hardly any idiots.
Tuesday, December 25, 2001
Spent the entire day at my parents'. Got some great gifts. Also, got some money from my parents to help us out until I can find a job. They were way too generous. But there's no way I could talk them out of it. They wouldn't hear of it. I guess the root of it really showed up when my dad was in the hospital back in May. that's when I found out out upset my mom was that Carol & I & Diane were shuttling her back and forth to the hospital. She really hated imposing on us. In fact, she broke down once while talking to the doctor about how she always saw to it that we were fine, and yet she was having trouble dealing with us helping her.
Kind of opens your eyes.
Needless to say, the cash they gave will help us out more than they know.
I'm just praying that after the first of the year, the job market turns around.
Monday, December 24, 2001
Another Christmas Eve at my sister Diane's house with her dogs, our parents, and my cousin Kathy's family. A nice night. Diane did a great job of cooking. It's great seeing the kids get their presents, even though they're getting older. For us, well a few "couple" gifts - gifts for Carol & me. I wound-up getting a wallet and a Best Buy gift card.
Wednesday, December 19, 2001
Damn. My sister Diane just called. Dad's biopsy was positive. It's cancer, but it's contained within the lymph node. He's scheduled for surgery January 15th. I knew this was going to happen when they chose not to have any radiation treatment after the laryngectomy. Merry Christmas. Time to get some prayers in line...
Wow. Finally we got out first snowfall that's sticking... only to the grass, but at least it's an accumulation. It's great right now - the sun's out, the streets are clear, and there's still a bit of snow on the grass. Not bad.
This morning I drove into the city to drive my parents to Loyola Medical Center in Maywood. Dad had to see Dr. Bastian. Dr. Bastian found a small growth on his neck below the scar from his laryngectomy that he had last May. He had it biopsied last week, but the results were "inconclusive", so he had to go back today. It took 2 tries to get a good sample - same as last week. Hopefully, everything will be OK. I'm always nervous about this things.
I hate hospitals. I sat downstairs of the Mulcahy Outpatient Center, eating a chocolate glazed doughnut & drinking a cup of french vanilla coffee from the coffee shop. I know there has to somebody named Mulcahy that this place is named after, but why can't I think of anything except Fr. Mulcahy on M*A*S*H?
Tons of elderly people motor by my table - an awful lot of them using walkers or canes. There are a few "younger" people - in their 30's - almost all of them on crutches. Except for their ambulatory problems, they look in good health.
There's a VERY LOUD-MOUTHED guy that comes over to use the tables to fill out paperwork. He's just LOUD. And he swears a lot. Jeez, this is a hospital for cripes sake! STFU!
Thankfully, everything only takes an hour and we're driving the parents to their home, and then back on home.
Just another jobless day...