Arrivals and Departures – Day Two

Day Two

So there we sat for hours through the wee hours of the night, watching this little monitor go up as the pain increased, applying as much thumb pressure as I could muster to one spot in your mother’s back to help with the pain, and having the nurse periodically check for your progress, which unfortunately was slow, very slow. We had packed a deck of cards, cribbage board, and a couple of videos to help us pass the time. Somehow there never seemed an appropriate time to watch the Star Wars Trilogy. To keep the excitement level up, whether intentional or not, once in a while several nurses would run in, grab your mother, and roll her around like a beach ball without saying anything. On one of these occasions, they attached another monitor to your head, which would presumably let them know better what you were up to while we patiently awaited your arrival. We would later find out these periodic gatherings were due to the fact that your little heart was not beating at an acceptable rate. Soon, your mother had tubes in her in every place you could think of and some you can’t and wouldn’t want to.

On one occasion, we were visited by an older nurse who seemed to have a certain wisdom about her. After one look at your mother she noted: “Nope, never going to deliver this baby. Look at the size of her feet.” In two short sentences, the nurse had clarified the present situation in a manner no one else had. Sure enough, your mother was not going to be able to deliver you unassisted. Who knew shoe size was so important.

One thing you will learn about me, as you grow older, is that I am not real good with blood. I don’t think it is necessarily the color or texture, but more the fact that when you see blood it usually means someone’s bleeding. Since I was told the surgery was scheduled for 8:30 AM and blood and surgery somehow go together like peanut butter and jelly, it was suggested that I eat a big breakfast. While food didn’t seem like a good idea at the time, supposedly it would help keep me from feinting. As I munched on my plate full of hospital pancakes, I had ample opportunity to convince myself that actually being in the operating room was not a real smart idea. Again I don’t recall being asked if I wanted to go into surgery and I thought it was within my rights to decline attendance at the event. After all, I am sure it would be crowded, and I would just be in the way, and your mother would be asleep, and you wouldn’t know if I was there or not, and my reasons went on and on.

Well, needless to say, I was soon dressed like a frumpy Dr. Kildare and on my way to surgery. I had no idea what to expect or if I would be still standing when everything was completed. A nurse asked if I would like to take some photos as you were being delivered. As much as I wanted to see you as soon as you arrived into this world, the thought of seeing the incision and whatever else made me think a sitting position next to your mother and holding her hand (or was she holding mine?) would be the safest bet. I quickly passed the camera to my nurse. Yes, they had a nurse assigned to me in case of complications with my physical health. Somehow I survived and you arrived into the world as the most beautiful baby in the world. I am certain all parents feel this way about their children, but, in this instance, I was right. I am not certain how someone can watch the birth of another human being and not ask themselves, “How is birth possible without our God above directing this miracle?”

Your mother’s life and mine have never been the same since those 2 glorious days. I hope and pray that you will someday be able to experience the same joy your mother and I realized when you entered our lives. Children are one of God’s greatest blessings and there is nothing that can quite fill a place in the lives of parents like the birth of a child.

While your departure may be an inevitable, if not necessarily a welcome event, we are very proud of you and are your biggest fans. Life will provide so many opportunities and we know you will seize the moments as they come and make a difference for the Lord. I am sure the first year teaching will provide many challenges, but truly delight in each day and take comfort in knowing that you are making a huge difference in the lives of young ones who one day will look back and remember Miss C with her gentle spirit and beaming smile. You are loved.

Arrivals and Departures – Day One

For Rebecca,

The arrival happened over the period of a couple of days some 21 years ago. While it may sound clique, it is truly hard to believe that the years have passed so quickly. Memories of the growing up years are blurred by the busyness that is life. Now you have college graduation, a real job and your first apartment. Another transition for dear old dad to muddle through. At least during the college years, there was always the hope of your returning during those breaks in the school year and life could return to normal, if only for a time. I realize this next phase is how life should work, but it doesn’t make the change any easier. As I watched you receive your diploma the other day, I thought back, if only for a moment, and remembered those two unbelievable days some 21 years ago.

Day One

When you sit in the birth center waiting room, you think of a lot of different things, boy or girl, big or small, easy delivery or hard, feinting or no. Most importantly, however, you think of a life on the way and what an incredible blessing God has given you at that moment. Prayer is a close friend as there is quite a bit of down time for Dad awaiting the big moment. As usual, Mom is left doing most of the work.

As Mom and I awaited your arrival, we had thoughts of rushing to the hospital in the middle of the night, totally unprepared, with you making your first appearance just as we arrived in the delivery room. This is the way it went in every movie or TV show we had ever seen or book we had ever read. A little pain, some heavy breathing, and out you would come. Life somehow doesn’t imitate TV. Unlike Harry Chapin’s lyrics, you did not want to come into the world in the usual way. As it was, you were two weeks late and sitting none too comfortably on Mom’s bladder. I am sure you would have moved had you known the problems you were causing in our household at the time. I was told Mom needed to use the bathroom 4 or 5 times a night, though I tended to sleep through the considerable movement she made getting in and out of bed. The doctor said not to worry about your shyness; Mothers tend to be late with their first child.

At our final doctor’s visit before your arrival, I could sense there was a certain bewilderment amongst the medical staff. Everyone was wondering how your Mother was able to stand and walk, well waddle, considering the enormous weight up front. Finally, the doctor had seen enough and decided you would need some help if you were going to make it into this world before Christmas. This process is better known as inducing labor, or a polite way of saying your mom’s had enough. We were both relieved to know this would be coming to an end soon and we would finally be able to hold you and show you off to all our family and friends.

The day finally came when you were to be born. We thought we were well equipped. We had spent time in classroom training, read several books on the subject (well, your mother had read several books), visited the hospital birthing center, and in general felt we could handle just about anything. Unfortunately, life does not always go by the book.

We arrived at the hospital at 6:00 a.m. with no hint of labor pains and your mother generally irritable considering the hour of the day we were required to make an appearance. As you will learn over the years, your mother is not terribly found of early morning starts. We were shown our room, and the doctor kick started the process. We were requested to start walking in hopes that you would make a decision on your own to enter this world. Hospitals can be somewhat interesting for a while, but after about 5 laps in the same corridor, your mother and I were beginning to tire of this process. Supposedly, the steps we had already taken would normally be enough to induce labor. Unfortunately, labor was not part of your plan for the day so we headed off to try plan B.

Now plan B became a little more serious. We moved off to the birthing room and your mother was hooked up to a monitor which would show how much pain she was suffering and a line which would feed her the medicine which would start the pain. This is all seemed a bit odd to me, but I wanted to trust that they knew what they were doing. The contractions soon started and seemed to arrive every two minutes for the next 18 hours. This seemed to be another area where TV had led me astray. I had thought the time between contractions would begin to shrink as the big moment drew closer. Somehow we started out with very little time between contractions and the time delay remained at a standstill for the rest of the night. There are a lot of reasons not to watch TV, but none better than this one.  Next – day two.

Top 10 Cruise Dos and Don’ts

It’s a little hard to believe that after almost 25 years of marriage, and an equal number of excuses why I thought the timing was all wrong, we finally went on a cruise.  I am not quite sure what came over me this winter, since I tended to be the one leading the charge to make the cruise happen.  I am blaming it on the ridiculously cold winter and the havoc the cold played on my brain cells of reason.  I have always been very firm in my position that a cruise was something that made no sense at all.  Haven’t all the cruise mishaps been well documented?  From wide spread food poisoning, to the ship dead in the water with the one working toilet, and even better, the cruise ship that tipped over.  The whole tipping thing was a bit worrisome since I am not a big fan of water in general, unless it is either frozen or in a bottle.  To further reinforce the whole tipping concept, the first activity of our 4 day cruise was to assemble on deck, something which took way too long, in my opinion, and then listen to someone with a heavy foreign accent totally confuse everyone about how to get into the life boats should a tip happen.  The foreign accent would be a recurring theme which, when coupled with a poor PA system, pretty much made all announcements unintelligible.  Hopefully, nothing they told us was of any importance.

While hardly an expert after all of 4 days on the water, I have put together a top 10 do and don’t list for those looking to take this vacation step.

  1. Don’t book a 4 day cruise in March.  March tends to correspond to Spring Break and way too many 20 year olds standing in a hot tub with beverage in hand.  The hot tubs were essentially unusable as they were filled beyond a reasonable capacity morning til night.
  2. Do eat in the dining room as opposed to heading to the buffet.  I consider myself quite the buffet lover, however, there really is something to be said for sitting down and having someone bring you literally as many courses as you want.  On our particular cruise, there was only one formal evening which interrupted our stops in the dining room.  Otherwise, casual dress pants and golf shirt work just fine unless of course you pack 2 pairs of casual dress shoes and no pants of any kind.  In which case, you shuffle in as the dining room opens and hope no one notices.
  3. Don’t fly down on the same day the cruise sails.  While it can be done, it does lead to a fair amount of weather watching and getting up way too early on the day of the cruise to catch the early flight.
  4. Do consider one of the excursions while in port.  While I am sure most are way overpriced, they do provide a stress free way to enjoy the time on land.  Our excursion was nothing exceptional, but did provide a very relaxing time on dry ground.
  5. Don’t order up 7 desserts at one meal.  It is very tempting to do this, but is a poor choice if a good night’s sleep and a friendly scale are in your plans.  This also is a little embarrassing as one plate after another comes your way.  Your waiter is not waiting for you to finish the first before rolling out the seventh.
  6. Do get a balcony if pricing allows. While we did not spend a great deal of time on the balcony, it was a nice place to retreat and enjoy a room service breakfast on our day in port.
  7. Don’t buy a watch.  Not sure what else to say.
  8. Do take advantage of the entertainment.  Most of the shows were far better than I would have expected and were well worth the time.
  9. Don’t over pack.  I am fairly certain we only used half of what we brought.  No one really cares if you wear the same thing 2 days in a row
  10. Do find time to take a few walks.  Just make sure to hold onto your hat because a stiff breeze is pretty much a certainty on deck.  The apparent winds tended to be over 40 mph most days.

Overall, the whole cruise experience was a positive one and I could be talked into a return trip.  It was a very relaxing time with no real communication from the outside world – no internet, no texts, no e-mail, etc.  Also, while probably not the best idea, it is possible to head out without a passport.  So all you reluctant men out there, relax and give that cruise a try.

The “Fall” Olympics

Another four years and another Winter Olympics bigger, and I am not sure, better than ever.  The winter games tend to be filled with competitions which few of us have ever tried and probably never will.  While viewing this year’s games with a rooting interest in how well the Americans would do, I put together a list of the events which I feel should be moved to what I would call the “Fall” Games -not because they have anything to do with that particular season of the year, but because the outcome is tied closely to the simple act of falling.  Clearly, there must be other sports which would be far more Olympic in nature which could be moved into the slots vacated by the fall events I have identified.

In my humble opinion, the following events should be immediately moved to the “Fall“ Games and could be held in late Fall somewhere in northern Iceland.  Unfortunately, without the inclusion of these events in this year’s games, the Americans would have finished somewhere just ahead of Slovakia in the medal race.

Men’s Figure Skating – In my earlier days, this event was always one of my favorites–from the dazzling skating of Scott Hamilton and Brian Boitano to the commentary of Dick Button.  But somewhere along the line, the skaters have loss all their sensibilities and have decided to include elements that they have about a 1 in 10 chance of actually landing successfully.  At times, watching this event was painful as each skater took the ice with a panic stricken look hidden behind a forced smile.  Clearly, each knew they had little chance of hitting their jumps rather than the hard ice.  In some ways, the look must resemble the 1 in 10 chance look I had when I tried to turn and skate backwards for the first time. This year, the Olympic Gold medal winner was clearly the one who fell the fewest times (four I think) as opposed to the one who completed the best program.  Until the men skaters come to their senses, this event clearly belongs in the fall games.

Slopestyle  (Both ski and snowboard versions) – I must admit I had never heard of this event and found it mostly entertaining, but it seemed to be far too dependent on whether a competitor fell or not and therefore a leading candidate for the “Fall” Games.  The other issue I have with most of the snowboard events is that the competitors all seem a little too free spirited for my taste.  None seemed too concerned when they wiped out and, in fact, many acted as if they were more than a little amazed that their goofing around on a snowboard could somehow become an Olympic sport.   Also, I am pretty certain any event which can be successfully completed by a 5’ 6” skier dressed in 4XXL pants falling down around his knees in the middle of the event cannot possibly be taken seriously.  Can you imagine Scott Hamilton hitting that perfect triple jump with his britches falling down around his knees?  Finally, many of the snowboarders have skateboard experience – enough said.

Curling – Not quite sure what to say about this event.  Falls are probably not very common, but may be the only time the event is even remotely entertaining.  I am sure there is some skill involved in this activity, but how did this event ever get elevated to Olympic status?

Halfpipe (ski version) – While the snowboard version of this event tends to have its share of falls as well, the snowboarders seem to have this catlike ability of righting themselves as they fall.  The skiers in contrast usually have real falls with what seems like a high chance of injury.

Since I have moved at least 4 events out of the Olympic Games, we can now end all the silly talk about removing wrestling from the Summer Games altogether.  In my humble opinion, simply move the various forms of wrestling to the Winter Games and we will have improved the Games significantly.  There may be falls in wrestling, but they will have been created by the other wrestler and not the participants’ efforts to complete some crazy trick with the funny name.  Also, wrestlers do things like lift weights, train, run and wear tight fitting clothes.   I am not aware that a Winter Games event needs to be associated with snow or ice, but if it does, have the wrestlers sit on a block of ice for a minute or two before the match starts.  Seems to me gymnastics and weight lifting could easily make the transition to the Winter Games as well.  So let’s get the falls out of the Winter Games.

Grumpy Old Men

As I survive one of the coldest winters in memory, made all the more so by the lack of proper hair covering on top, my thoughts wander back to the kick the can days and grumpy old men.  A logical question for me at this point in my life is, why do some of us become grumpy old men and will I know if I start to become one myself?  Or worse yet, am I one already?  Thinking back to our youth, I believe most of us can remember one neighbor or two who fell into the Grumpy Old Men category.  The neighbor who was quick to shake a warning finger at us when his yard took center stage during a heated game of hide and seek. The one who turned all the outside lights on and sat on his porch with a menacing look as we tried to play flashlight tag.   Whole block pom was cut short by the need to avoid this neighbor’s yard checkered with little white wire garden fences strategically placed, not to protect the flowers, but in the runner’s way.  In fact, for a good portion of my youth, I was certain a grumpy old man was a neighborhood requirement.

Approaching the requisite grumpy age, I wonder if grumpiness is something you grow into and how, if so, do you know?  Is the process slow or does it happen quickly?  Do grumpy old men snap over something small and then hunker down to spend their last years being generally disagreeable with everyone they meet?  I have many questions, but very few answers in this area.  I am assuming most men do not consciously decide to be grumpy in their old age.  Seems kind of a strange way to spend the twilight years. But, if there is at least one on each city block, a number of us must be heading down this path.

The scary thing about the “at least one per block rule” is what happens if I find myself as the only old man on the block.  Am I obligated to carry the grumpy banner?  Do I need to give up any hopes of summer golf so that I can man my grumpy post 24/7 lest some teenage boy cut through my yard on his bike; or worse yet, have my backyard be on the outskirts of a kick the can game?  If so, seems like a move to an older neighborhood is in order.

Also, is there some kind of secret society where the tools of the trade are passed down from generation to generation?  Are there grumpy tutors teaching grumpy old men the proper grumpy techniques?  Do they teach the scowl, the first shake, the swinging of the cane, and how to put the local police on speed dial?  Do they help us find the local barber specializing in the wild hair haircut?  Does a member of this secret society rap on your door early one morning and let you know it is your time? Or, maybe in this era, it is an e-mail, or a text, or a tweet, or a snap chat, or ,worse yet, a friend request that sends the invite.  All of this starts to make the old Florida retirement communities just that much more attractive.  After all, the only purpose for the Grumpy Old Men Society is to take the fun out of children at play.  No children at play- no need for grumpy old men.

I, for one, certainly hope I can avoid having my older years filed with grumpiness.  I will do what I can, to avoid the calls from members of the society and I ask my children to please let me know if I start heading over the edge to grumpy land.  We need to get the children outside once again, anxious to kick the can, hit that baseball over the neighbor’s bushes, and toss a Frisbee so far, that horrors, it lands on the neighbor’s roof.  Let’s get our children to put the video game controllers and smartphones aside and venture outdoors once again without fear of Grumpy Old Men.