Thank You, Dad

Christmas, 2013. Dad and Jack.

Christmas, 2013. Dad and Jack.

Thank You, Dad…

Thank you, Dad, for adopting me, and for always carrying me high on your shoulders, making my three-year-old self feel like a tall princess. I can still remember the feeling of patting the top of your head, your dark hair stiff with the Aqua Net Mom liberally sprayed to make it lay right.

Thank you for building me that beautiful play house, and the rabbit hutch, and the cage to protect my menagerie of cats, and the homemade ice rinks, the zip line across the yard, and the swing on the tall oak. The Japanese bridge you built across our creek was your true coup de grace.

Thank you for building me my first corner desk with matching bookcases. They were your gift to me for my eighth birthday. I spent hours sitting behind that desk learning to draw and write. I hope my younger self had enough awareness to tell you at some point how much I treasured it.

Thank you for demonstrating your steadfast faith, in your own quiet way, through your many acts of service.

Thank you for all of those camping trips, for passing on your joy for adventure and your fearless knack for finding the back roads route to any destination.

Thank you, Dad, for always providing for us. You never let on how dire things really were until later in life. Because of your hard work and your lifetime of holding down two jobs, we never missed a Christmas, or summer road trips out west, and by some miracle, you even got me through college, saving me from the burden of student loans.

Thank you for always being the only volunteer to take those long horseback rides with me on our family vacations.

Thank you for teaching me to fish, and more importantly, how to clean a fish.

Thank you for getting up in the middle of the night so many times to drive this bratty 16-year-old home from my closing shifts at McDonald’s.

Thank you for teaching me to waltz.

Thank you, Dad, for helping me pick up the pieces during my many failed attempts at adulthood.

Thank you for being such a wonderful grandfather to Jack. He has watched you age with dignity, and you’ve taught him well how to respect the vulnerable among us.

I told someone just this past weekend that I was “adopted into the right family for me,” but that comment is more profound at this moment, knowing now that our time together is so finite.

I fucking HATE cancer.

Flip Cancer - by Michael Gross http://www.flipcancer.com/who-we-are/

Flip Cancer – by Michael Gross http://www.flipcancer.com/who-we-are/

 

 

 

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Merry Christmas!

I hope all of you reading this (who celebrate) are having a Christmas filled with family, laughs, good health, and prosperity.

This is the 2nd year for our unorthodox Christmas tree made of books, but it suits us, and so far, Jonesy (our new hairless alien cat) hasn’t attempted to climb it:

Our Christmas Tree Made Solely of Books

Our 2nd Bibliophile Christmas Tree, Topped with “The Nightmare Before Christmas” lamp (out of shot). Foreground: Jack with Jonesy the Hairless Cat

Dave’s favorite gifts this year–which he bought for himself–were two limited edition books: Walt Simonson’s Man Hunter: Artist’s Edition, and Mark Schultz Xenozoic Tales, Artist’s Edition. The Tee Fury tees I bought him–guaranteed for Xmas delivery–still haven’t arrived.

Jack and I will be making our pilgrimage to invade Strongsville, Ohio tomorrow in a 3-car caravan with my first cousins to visit my cousin Greg & his family; Greg’s an Illinois ex-pat and my go-to person for plays and concerts (it seems that bizarre and unsettling incidents occur whenever I go with anyone besides Greg. I mean, who but me gets kicked out of The House of Blues during a Pat Benatar concert for wearing someone else’s beer and not fighting back?!?).

This Ohio trip means four days of playing Euchre and poker until the sun comes up, the incessant beat of ’80s music blasting in the background, Greg’s gourmet cooking, disses we only tolerate from fellow McDonalds, and lots of laughs. My cray-cray cousins are some of my favorite humans in this whole wide, wide world of sports (and they even share my reverence for Blazing Saddles, a script we recite in unison, verbatim).

To the three sets of aunts and uncles who spoiled Jack rotten this Christmas, we can’t thank you enough. I am proud of the fact that the cheapest gift Jack received–from me–made one of the biggest impressions on him:

Jack's favorite Xmas gift from me: The Sound F/X Machine

Jack’s favorite Xmas gift from me: The Sound F/X Machine

I felt it was any 10-year-old’s rite of passage to deploy a sound f/x machine, which is sure to be a big hit with the cousins in Ohio…and sure to be confiscated by the 4th Grade teacher in less than a month. (I guess I’d better buy that back-up version.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elfred, Our Elf on the Shelf: Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

It all began innocently enough. The other kids in school all had elves on their shelves, and Jack was starting to feel unloved by Santa. So we caved. I remember saying to myself at the time, “This is ONLY until Christmas. This one time.”

Jack named him “Elfred.”

Elfred, Jack's BFF for 3 years.

Elfred, Jack’s BFF for 3 years. Styrofoam cup crown, Magic Loom (TM) belt and bracelet designed by Jack. Dried, unidentifiable dairy product on left sleeve also fashioned by Jack. 

We were diligent about moving Elfred to different spots in the house every morning before Jack got up. Elfred was really active. I refused to give into the staged mini-marshmallow snowball fights, and the flour sprinkled on the countertops and the floor to mimic all manner of after-hours elf naughtiness. Those shenanigans were best left to those overachieving mother-of-the-year types. (Okay, so some empty wine bottles may have been blamed on Elfred, now that I think back on it.)

On Christmas three years ago, Santa gave Jack an iTouch, with a special engraving on the back from Elfred, telling Jack that he was Elfred’s “best friend.” Jack beamed with Christmas joy. Unfortunately, “Santa Dave” didn’t consult with me first before accompanying this gift with a beautiful, calligraphy fonted letter from Elfred on linen paper, announcing that as of this Christmas, Elfred would be living with us year-’round.

The thought balloon above my head replayed Ralphie in that flat tire scene from A Christmas Story: “Oh…FUDGE…” My spirited chat with Santa Dave later that evening teed me up for a five-course meal of Life Buoy soap.

So this Elfred charade went on for three excruciatingly long years. Like any busy adults, we got careless. It happens. We’d forget to move Elfred for days–even weeks–on end. Jack was getting increasingly upset by Elfred’s lethargy, convinced his little elven buddy was dying. One morning, in my attempt to explain it away, I blurted out, “Well, he gets his magic from the North Pole, right? We just need to put him in the fridge to regain his magic!” Jack was satisfied with that answer. Problem solved. But every time I opened the fridge, I would startle, not expecting to see that creepy little elf face staring me down. Elfred became dieting MAGIC.

This past fall at nearly age 10, Jack finally looked me squarely in the eye one day and asked me to tell him the truth about Santa. Dave would have kept it going until Jack was in his senior year of college, but I established early on in our relationship that if Jack wanted to know the truth about something, I was the go-to parent. (Naturally, this has created many awkward moments when Jack has asked me for definitions to certain words. When I answer him truthfully, I usually get an “Oh, Mama, I’m sick to my stomach…I have to go lie down,” but I have remained steadfast in this role.)

If those of you reading this have children who are asking if YOU are Santa, one of my more mother-of-the-year-type friends shared this well-written explanation she found on Pinterest, which she just gave to her own daughter:

 

Dear (Insert Child’s Name Here),

Thank you for your letter. You asked a very good question: “Are you Santa?”

I know you’ve wanted the answer to this question for a long time, and I’ve had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.

The answer is no. I am not Santa. There is no one Santa.

I am the person who fills your stockings with presents, though. I also choose and wrap the presents under the tree, the same way my mom did for me, and the same way her mom did for her. (And yes, Daddy helps, too.)

I imagine you will someday do this for your children, and I know you will love seeing them run down the stairs on Christmas morning. You will love seeing them sit under the tree, their small faces lit with Christmas lights.

This won’t make you Santa, though.

Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What he does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch.

It’s a big job, and it’s an important one. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your friends, in your talents and in your family. You’ll also need to believe in things you can’t measure or even hold in your hand. Here, I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during its darkest, coldest moments.

Santa is a teacher, and I have been his student, and now you know the secret of how he gets down all those chimneys on Christmas Eve: he has help from all the people whose hearts he’s filled with joy.

With full hearts, people like Daddy and me take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible.

So, no. I am not Santa. Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness. I’m on his team, and now you are, too.

I love you and I always will.

Mama

P.S. As for Elfred, the last I heard, he joined a motorcycle gang out of Albuquerque. If you cross him, you’ll know him by that tell-tale stain on his left sleeve.