CRAP!

Sorry for the potty mouth, but I just realized my last few updates from yesterday somehow didn’t make it online. I didn’t mean to leave you hanging – like it seems I did – and I feel bad. I did most of this from my MacBook (trusty MarsEdit), but I switched to the WordPress app on my phone after I left the lobby/waiting room.

Everything I did on my phone somehow didn’t make it. Worse, the changes I made from my phone this morning (adding a link to a new post this morning) seems to have erased these updates. Well, here’s what I wrote… for what it’s worth (now), as best as I can recall.

I’ve also updated the post from yesterday here – so you can see the updates in their context.

 

2:06 p.m.

It’s been a long day yet it seems it’s only a little more than half finished. Cheryl’s sleeping for the moment and I’d really like to do the same.

I’m ready to call it a day. I’ll post something brief tomorrow to let you know how she’s doing.

 

1:45 p.m. (recovery)

The bandages are striking. I’d like to post pictures but Cheryl’s likely reply (if I could ask) would go something like this:

Divor… no… death… would be too good for you, and not nearly good enough for me.

If I DID post a picture without asking would likely involve something I can’t discuss on a family website.

Alas, I give in to temptation.

 

1:15 p.m. (recreated from memory and post fragments I could pull from my phone)

I finally got the call. She’s in recovery and awake enough for me to see her. I’m on my way up.

Going home

Cheryl is going home. Without going into too many details, the doctor had to cut more, the surgery took longer, and there’s more pain than expected. That said, this procedure was purely cosmetic (to cover the larger than expected hole in her head), so the prognosis is excellent, and she’ll have hair over all of the spots on her head where you’re supposed to have hair.

Best of all right now, we’re going home soon. She’ll be in pain the next couple of days, but hopefully it will start to subside sooner – and mostly, she’s managing it now.

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Live-Blogging Cheryl’s Surgery

The promised update

2:06 p.m.

It’s been a long day yet it seems it’s only a little more than half finished. Cheryl’s sleeping for the moment and I’d really like to do the same.

I’m ready to call it a day. I’ll post something brief tomorrow to let you know how she’s doing.

 

1:45 p.m. (recovery)

The bandages are striking. I’d like to post pictures but Cheryl’s likely reply (if I could ask) would go something like this:

Divor… no… death… would be too good for you, and not nearly good enough for me.

If I DID post a picture without asking would likely involve something I can’t discuss on a family website.

Alas, I give in to temptation.

 

1:15 p.m. (recreated from memory and post fragments I could pull from my phone)

I finally got the call. She’s in recovery and awake enough for me to see her. I’m on my way up.

 

12:41 p.m. (…)

Here’s the patient status, according to the hospital: “Citrix receiver is unable to make a connection to the server.”

DOAH!

 

12:36 p.m. (staring at a piece of lint)

Staring or starring. That is the question.

Dad! Are we there YET?

 

12:31 p.m. (…)

Help me. I can’t take another minute of Divorce Court. The lobby staff tell me to wait another 15 minutes or so and they’ll call up for Cheryl’s status – if I haven’t heard by then.

 

12:10 p.m. (impatient)

There’s still no word on when I can go up, which is clearly NOT cool. Don’t they know this is about ME? Yeah, yeah. Cheryl had surgery. She got to sleep all this time. How ’bout a little love for the folks who had to spend all of this time listening to morning television. Come on, man!

 

11:16 a.m. (back from Starbucks)

What do you call two cups of coffee, an energy drink, and a big-ass coffee from Starbucks?

Breakfast AND lunch.

I’m on campus (something I’ve done not more than a dozen times since graduation) and I just heard from an old college friend for the first time in 25 years (mol). That right there is pretty cool, but I can top it. I got word from Cheryl’s surgeon. She’s out of surgery, awake, and doing well! It didn’t go perfect and she may have to spend the night as a precaution, but things sound pretty good.

 

10:18 a.m.

Did I just hear there’s a Starbucks? Good Lord, I need me some coffee.

 

10:15 a.m.

As luck would have it, right after I made my comment about asking permission, I got a reminder why I should. In between entries I’m researching IP blocking, while thinking about it’s ultimate futility. Good times.

 

9:59 a.m. (waiting room)

Let there be no mistake, I’d drop this little distraction like an ice cube dipped in hot lube, but the television is turned up loud enough to project to the back of the room. I wonder why everyone is sitting back there?

 

9:50 a.m. (surgical waiting room)

F@#!, what I wouldn’t give for a pair of Fox-Cancelling headphones.

 

9:32 a.m. (now I smell like a food court)

I just got word from Nurse Jeanne – the surgeon made his first cut. We’re on our way!

Question: Did I ask Cheryl before I decided to Live-Blog her surgery?

Why would I start asking now?

 

9:06 a.m. (still in the food court)

You asked for it and by golly, I’m gonna give it to you!

Long story not so long: Cheryl had a mild case of skin cancer on her scalp. Now, most folks would have the good sense to have their skin cancer on an easy to reach spot – like their forehead. But not our Cheryl – she had it above her ear, on the side of her head – under her hair.

Before you ask… no, it’s not easy to get skin cancer under your hair.

They cut it out last week but it left a bigger hole than they thought, so they did about what you’d expect a doctor to do after surgery – they left an open hole in her head. It was exactly as fun as a hole in your head.

Thank you. I’ll be here all day.

She saw a plastic surgeon Monday morning who promptly scheduled her for surgery this morning. To borrow a phrase from the movies (the military flavor), it was scheduled for 0:God it’s early.

Now that the cancer part is gone, the goal is to close the hole in a way that won’t leave a tennis-ball-sized bald spot on the side of her head. Personally, I think it would be a bold move. How often do you get the chance to be a trend setter? I’ll admit, covering a tennis-ball-sized spot in the middle of your head is the safe move, but even men with bad genes can grow hair on the side of their head.

 

8:16 a.m. (Shands Hospital food court)

This is going to be exactly the right amount of fun. I’ve got coffee, a personal hotspot, good cell service – and oh, that’s right – a wife in surgery to plug a hole in her head.

All I need now is a power outlet, someone to lend me a few power cables, and better meds. Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit taking benzos.

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Shared experience

As we were leaving the stadium last night, bouncing along with the jubilant chants of: It’s GREAT to BE a Florida GATOR, I bent over and said into Adam’s ear, “you could go to a hundred more games and not see another one like this one.”

He didn’t hear me. I couldn’t hear myself.

“WHAT?”

“I SAID,” now yelling into his ear, “YOU COULD GO TO A HUNDRED MORE GAMES AND NOT SEE ONE LIKE THIS.”

His big smile told me what I’ve known a time or two myself. So what? This is awesome right now! This almost eleven year old boy pumped his fist in the air, chanting along with the crowd in the tunnel leading out of the stadium.

It’s GREAT to BE a Florida GATOR!

I’m hours removed but the electricity of that moment still gives me chills. If the past is a guide, it will for a long time.

There are moments in life that seem hard-wired into your brain. Life’s current passes through and the moment is reborn – the sights, sounds, smells, feelings… even the monumental headache you had – it all comes rushing back. Yesterday evening might have been pretty normal for you, but I was having one of those rewiring moments.

Cheryl and I took Adam to see the Gators play Tennessee yesterday evening. For those of you who may not already know, it was a college football game.

Yes, I know. It seems a bit shallow to attribute so much meaning to a violent game. I generally accept that it is just a game, except when it’s not. When you’re there, you’re a small part of ninety thousand loosely connected souls, pooling their collective hope, fear, elation, and despair. My sense of connection to a place of unique significance in my life tangled among these shared emotions. Before the game we walked around campus, soaking in the game day atmosphere and memories. We walked down paths last walked when Cheryl and I were two kids newly in love, living on our own for the first time in our lives.

We watched the band warming up in groups by Turlington Hall and around the music building. We weaved around the tailgaters who had taken over campus. We did it as adults, all the more special because we were making new memories with our son.

The game was a classic. Down by what seemed like too many points at the end of three quarters, we thought about leaving. It had been a hot afternoon, thunderstorms looked to be heading our way, and I had that headache. But we stayed. We saw the Gators win by one as the clock expired. Hope grew from a string of unlikely plays and some good fortune. As low as the crowd was with about seven minutes left, it was electric the rest of the way. We flipped between hope, elation, disappointment, and back again (in those seven minutes) more times than I might in several months. I forgot about my headache for a little while.

When another desperation play on fourth and long turned into the go ahead score with a minute left, the crowd lost its mind like few times I can remember. Strangers yelled, high-fived technically high-tens (with two hands), and hugged. Jumping and screaming ourselves horse, Adam I and I turned to high-ten. We exchanged some skin on our palms several times until I remembered I’m twice as tall as Adam, and he might not appreciate the pile driving I was giving him sometime later. We hugged and jumped with the crowd, using free hands to keep slapping strangers around us in the mindless celebration. When UT missed the second of two long field goal tries by inches (the second only possible because UF called time out right before the first – much to the crowd’s dread), we did it all again.

It’s just a game, except when it’s not.

We were all still awake late last night. Adam and I made crowd noises at each other, stopped, and just grinned. Yep, the chills were still there. They may be for a long time. Doing it with my kid, treating him to the same (shared) experience made it a hundred times better.

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Moving Day

Today is a right of passage, as much for the parents as the child.

Beth is moving out today. I drove down from Gainesville last night and we’re moving Beth’s stuff out of the home we made at Christy and Mike’s big house in Orlando (my sister and brother-in-law), across town to her dorm on campus at UCF.

Jesus, is it THAT day already?

I have a number of colorful metaphors swirling around in my head, but this is a family web site so I’ll spare you. A number of cliches, tropes, and banal phrases accompany these metaphors, but they seem WAY more profound than they did even a day ago. I might have explored some of these feelings in this post, but I’m suddenly pressed for time. As Beth might say, “I’m, like, LITERALLY minutes away from needing to get ready to go.”

Alright, maybe just a couple, to sate appetite for schmaltz. My oldest child… for many years my only child… is striking out on her own today. She’s leaving the nest. The daily interactions with my child we can easily take for granted – morning and evening routines, etc – are at an end (for the foreseeable future). I will still have some impact/influence on her life, but in some ways my job is done. No, it will never be done. I’m not that naive. But it suddenly seems overwhelming – it seems there are so many ways in which we either did our jobs as parents or didn’t, and this is the beginning of our Final Exam. Will she be prepared or won’t she? Dear Lord, I hope we did enough.

I hope she’s ready.

I hope she’ll be happy.

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A secret no more

Here and there, now and then, I’ve been dropping frustrated tweets about a secret I wasn’t keen on keeping. It feels like it’s been months. I think it HAS been months. But starting today I don’t have to keep it secret anymore.

Cheryl got a BIG promotion a couple months ago, but couldn’t tell anyone. She’d been promoted to a pretty high position, but the telling was reserved for someone higher still: the Secretary of her department in State Government. That was when we began to plan our latest move: to Gainesville, FL – a college town in north Florida, and home to our alma mater: The University of Florida. I started working on a transfer within my department, which I got… with a start date a week and a half ago. That’s why you may have seen an increase in the number of pictures posted by me on Facebook. You see, I’m a wee bit excited.

So, that’s the big secret. Only half of it has been much of a secret, with all those pictures I’ve been posting. But to a couple humble civil servants, Cheryl’s promotion is a big deal, and thus a big secret to keep.

Yesterday, she finally got word the move was official. Cheryl is due to report to her new office in early July. It caps a series of moves, promotions, and relocations for Cheryl and our family, which started eighteen months ago when we left the only home our kids had known in Dunedin.

I’m extremely proud of her. She’ll be managing her agency’s operations in the six counties of Florida’s Eighth Judicial Circuit. She’s gone higher, faster, than I thought possible – rising to a position in state government where you don’t submit an application – you’re appointed. (Something not common in Florida.)

Around the time we left Gainesville after graduation – as chance would have it, for Orlando – the talk about returning one day started. I’m not going to say it was our “dream” to return. It wasn’t, exactly. We thought it would be a cool thing to do, but something which wouldn’t be realistic for many years – if ever.

Now we’re here. We’ve returned to a place with special meaning to us. It’s the place where our relationship really stared – and blossomed. It’s the only town I’ve lived in Florida with it’s own sense of place. We’re leaving the congestion of central Florida and the I–4 corridor behind, replacing it with a liberal college town, surrounded by miles of rural roads and great bicycling. Hell, there are even hills here. It’s the first time the altimeter on my bike has registered three digits. Yes, I have an altimeter on my bike. Laugh with my blessing.

Life is not perfect. It never is. We’ve left family and friends behind before, and we’re doing it again. We left almost everything we had behind when we left Dunedin, and it feels like we’re starting over from scratch in Gainesville. I’m pretty damn excited though. Many people fear change, and to be honest, change hasn’t always been my friend either. But this change feels different. This move feels like the moves of my youth… an adventure. People talk about their youth in the context of life’s prime. I don’t. I didn’t come to accept who I am until these last few years. I didn’t come to accept some parts of my past, or my health, until this year. I think our prime may be right now.

Now you know.

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Waiting in the car line

I’ve been picking Adam up after school for the last six weeks, give or take a few days. Before that, Beth was picking him up when he got out. They both go to private schools, but Beth was only doing half days. Her school didn’t offer all of the classes she wanted/needed, so she got out early to take her remaining courses online. She had a car and her online courses were pretty flexible, so she could save us money by picking up Adam when he got out of school a little later. She was more than willing to make this sacrifice if there was a little something in it for her – like a car. (Yes, aftercare is that expensive.)

Beth started riding the train to school (which opened after we moved here) after the accident, so it meant Adam had to go to aftercare until I got off work.

If none of this sounds particularly interesting, that’s because it isn’t, but here’s where it gets fun.

I was picking up Adam the other day, and although he was standing right in front of me, they couldn’t find him. They weren’t physically looking for him, they were trying to find him in the books so I could sign him out.

“Why don’t I have Adam on my list?” One woman asked.

“Well, he came over from the car line and…” I stopped listening.

Me: “Adam, I’ve been picking you up for weeks now. You knew no one was coming right after school, so why would you wait in the car line?”

I was sure I was going to hear about someone picking on him in aftercare. I could feel it coming. I was ready to go through all of the emotions. I might have even turned towards the woman looking through her books, assuming they were giving her some cover for what she knew was coming too.

Adam (in a hushed tone): “Can I tell you in the car?”

Something was up. I knew it. I shrugged my shoulders, signed him out, and we left.

Me: “Okay, let me have it.”

Adam: “Well, I knew they were charging by the hour and I figured if I waited in the car line for thirty minutes every day it would save you and mom some money.”

You’ve been waiting in the car line every day?

“Yes.”

No is making you, are they?

“No, why would they?”

No one is picking on you in aftercare?

“No.”

You’re just waiting in line. Every day. Even though you know you don’t have to, because you chose to… to save money?

“Yes, why? Is that bad?”

No, I don’t think so. It’s just… unexpected.

So Adam is working the angles of fourth grade, to save a few bucks.

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The Call

The Call has many forms. There may be as many versions as there are people, but I suspect there are a lot of similarities.

Look at your life. Pick a spot where you are vulnerable, where life has you by the fucking balls. Pardon the colorful metaphor. Now imagine a phone ringing. That’s The Call – in your life. It’s a wily bastard. It changes as your life does, adapting to your weaknesses. For me it changed (again) when my daughter got her driver’s license. When I imagine it, it’s better when it starts with her voice, but my imagination can be a bastard too – so it’s not always much better.

I got The Call Thursday morning at work.

  • “Dad?“ she said with tears in her voice, ”I’VEBEENINANACCIDENTANDIDONTKNOWWHAT….”

  • Beth, stop. Take a breath and start over, but slower this time.

  • “I’ve been in accident and it was my fault and it was so bad and the car spun around and I thought there was enough room but there wasn’t and I’m so scared and it was so bad…”

You’re on dad.

Where to start? It’s easy and freaky hard at the same time, or it is for me. I wanted to know that she was o.k., but in situations like this time slows down. I’m listening to what she’s saying, processing how she’s saying it, and considering not only what I’m going to ask but how I should ask it. I want – NO – I NEED to know if she’s hurt. But at the same time I know she desperately needs something from me too. What I say and how I say it will be parsed in a similar way, though probably not as efficiently given her state of mind. Even a simple question will communicate how I feel. Am I concerned? Mad? Am I panicked, and if so does that mean she should be more worried than she already is? All of this is going through my mind in the span of her single, run-on sentence.

My heart is pounding but concern carves it’s way through my own panic, forcing a slow, measured tone: my loving, calm but concerned, father voice.

  • Beth. Beth. Elizabeth.
  • “Um, yeah?”

  • I just want to know if you’re o.k. Are you hurt?

  • “I think I’m o.k. but I’m scared because I’ve neverbeeninanaccidentbeforeandhaveyoubeenin….”

  • Beth. Beth. Has anyone called for help?

  • “Yes there’s a man here who saw it and he said he was calling and….”

  • Beth. Where are you? Can you tell me where you are?

  • “I was just trying to pull out from our street and I thought I had time but the cars were coming faster than I thought and I tried to stop and….”

  • O.K. Beth. You’re near the house?

  • “Yes. I was just trying to pull out….”

  • Listen to me Beth. I’m coming right now, o.k.? I’m going to be there soon. You know my office is pretty close right? I’m going to be there really soon. You’re not alone.

Fuck that calm crap. Fuck the bad neck. Fuck what anyone else thinks. I ran down the stairs, across the elevated walkway connecting my building to the parking garage, juked a few late arrivals walking the other way, jumped in my car, then took a quick moment to gather myself. I needed to drive there safely. I needed to actually get there.

When I did my eyes ignored everything about the scene, save one thing: my firstborn child, my only daughter, standing on the sidewalk. Looking at me. Crying. But most importantly: standing.

  • Are you o.k. Beth? Does anything hurt?
  • “Nothing hurts but I’m really scared dad.”

We hugged and I looked around, relieved. Her car was pointed in the wrong direction, 180 degrees from the right direction. The SUV that hit her was driving away, driven by the other driver’s spouse. The other driver, an adult, had a small entourage gathered around, twenty yards up the street. The officer on the scene seemed to be camped out with the other adults. Beth, a 17 year old kid, shoulders slumped with shame and shock, had stood alone on the sidewalk on this rainy, overcast morning. Waiting for someone, anyone, to stand with her. For her. Waiting for anything in the world to tilt her way, though fearing she didn’t deserve it, knowing the accident was ultimately her fault, and feeling overrun with guilt.

I knew it could have been much worse. No one seemed to be hurt. The other car was being driven away. But seeing my daughter there, alone, so vulnerable, the weight of the world on her shoulders and feeling as if it was leaning against her – it broke my heart.

I gently took her head in my hands.

  • Beth. Close your eyes and listen to me. Just listen to my voice. Only hear my voice. You are the only thing that matters to me. You didn’t hurt anyone. It was an accident. They happen all of the time. You made a mistake and I can tell you learned something from it. Everyone has accidents. You got to learn from one where no one was hurt.
  • It was just a car.
  • It can be replaced.
  • You can’t.
  • It was just a car.
  • It can be replaced.
  • You can’t.
  • You’re just as special to me as you were two hours ago.
  • It can be replaced.
  • You can’t.
  • I love you.
  • This changes nothing that’s important to me.
  • I’m here with you.
  • I love you.

I want to protect my kids but I know I can’t protect them from everything. I know they shouldn’t always be protected from everything. Childhood is the opportunity to make mistakes in life when the stakes often aren’t so high, to learn by trial and error in a (somewhat) controlled environment.

But of course, we gradually and steadily lose that control as the years pass, until suddenly we realize we’ve lost it altogether – or perhaps was an allusion all along. It’s another one of those things I alluded to in my last post. You can read about it and think you understand. “Yeah, yeah. I get it.”

Then your hysterical child calls you in the morning, when you thought she was safely at school. In a single moment of carelessness, your gifted child pulled out into heavy morning traffic at the wrong moment, the collision spinning her car like a toy. You see the point of impact, the bent axel of the driver’s side front wheel forced back into the ruined transmission. You see the untouched, driver’s side door and you know: a couple of feet was the difference between her standing on the sidewalk crying… and not standing.

There’s nothing like standing there and realizing you didn’t get it at all, but you sure as fuck do now.

**Note: this post was approved for posting by Beth.

Beth Grows Up

The site lost something when the kids got older. When kids get into trouble as an infant, it’s much more amusing than when they’re a teen. Plus, somewhere in between they learn how to read, become aware of the world around them, and don’t find it amusing when they lose control of their own narrative.

I’m making an exception with this post because it’s really about me – and that’s not my ego talking. I’ve been ego impaired since a tragic incident early in my childhood.

Something hit me the other day.

F—! It hit me again! Agh! Damn it! Stop that!

Beth is graduating from High School this year.

I’ve know this for a long time… like some people know they’ll have kids one day. After your first is born (and sometime between the grand entrance and your first all-nighter on the first night home) it hits you. Your life is never going to be the same.

I can’t help but wonder if the same is true when they leave home (the first time). They’re born and BANG – you have a child. Twenty odd years of experience and conditioning, of taking care of yourself and worrying over your own life, (milage will vary) all of it is thrown out the window. Then they leave and BANG – you have a child out in the world. Eighteen years of experience and conditioning, of being responsible for the care and safety of a person in progress, much of it becomes obsolete. I wonder if you can really prepare for either one, or if they both sneak up and shatter your worldview in an instant.

It didn’t hit me when Beth started her senior year, took her SATs, or even when she got her first college acceptance letter. I knew there was no way in this lifetime any of us could pay for it – that or I was in some serious denial. It hit me when she got her second. It hit me again when she scheduled a tour of the campus, and once more when she left for it this morning with Cheryl.

Holy shit. She really is going to go.

Don’t worry about her. She’s gonna be fine. I’m the one you should worry about. One day soon she’s going to leave for college.

For better or worse, I’ll finally know what it’s like to have a child out in the world.

My loss will be your gain.

You’re welcome.

My hero

This morning I was driving to work. An intersection flashed past my window as the Foo Fighters sang the refrain: “There goes my hero…,” and in a flash fantasy: I’m the inspiration for the song.

In the moment I felt like the Shat-man staring down Khan in Wrath of. I sneered at life like I knew something it didn’t: I’ve got it’s number… (I digress back to Khan) or the ship computer’s number. “Oh yeah, that’s right. You might be named after some bad-ass Monguls (or not, I don’t really know), but I’m gonna push this button and your shields are gonna drop like a feather in a vacuum – assuming there’s something with a bunch of mass nearby to provide a lot more gravity than just a feather, of course.”

That’s right. The Shat-man may be cool, but he knows his basic physics too.

In the moment I felt like I was going into battle (as if I’ve ever been in a battle), and the rest of the day was looking back across from the other side of the battlefield. It was an F.U. moment and I’m not referring to Furman University. I was feeling the pain of another morning after PT, but I felt like JT Kirk, drawing a line in the sand with my boot (I was actually wearing a really nice pair of loafers I’d never wear in the sand, but bear with me) and sneering at life. “Yeah, you might make it this far – BUT NO FURTHER, YOU HEAR ME?!?”

Cliche? Sure, but when you’re in the moment life doesn’t wait for you to come up with something better.

But the song ended and with it went a bit of my mojo. But then I remembered what waited for me at the office: coffee – my first dose of caffeine for the day. Those bitter ground brown beans were begging me to brew and imbibe.

Once again I was ready.

I am ready.

Alright Friday, do your best. I’ll be right here waiting for you.