12 September 2011


Dexter and I don't have a bedtime routine yet.  His bedtime routine remains nurse.  Play.  Nurse.  Nurse.  Say goodnight to daddy.  Play. Nurse all night long.  I am ill-equipped to help him with all but three of those steps.  Cooper and I have evolved an intricate routine.  It is very important that I not skip a step or deviate from the script.

1. Go pee.  This step takes anywhere from one minute to an hour depending on how resistant Cooper is to going to bed on a given night.

2. Say goodnight to Mommy and Dexter.  Pretty quick.  Pretty cute now that Dexter insists on a hug and says goodnight himself.

3. Go to bed and read two books.  One must be long (Dr. Seuss-ian in length).  One may be short (Sandra Boynton-esque).  20 minutes if Daddy is in a hurry.  Up to an hour if I stop to answer all of Coop's questions. 

4. Say "the nice words."  The nice words are the closing refrain from Sandra Boynton's Night Night Little Pookie.  It is very sweet and was an early addition to the routine.  Our version goes:
   There are gentle winds blowing,
   And stars all above you,
   Night night little Coopie (Cooper says little Daddy--I am required to giggle because he called me little daddy)
   I love you and love you,
   And love you and love you,
   And love you and love you.

5. I say "best friends."
    He says "best friends."
    I say "forever and ever."
   He says "forever and ever and ever and ever and ever."
   I say "I hope so."

6.  I rest with him for 5 to 20 minutes while he falls asleep.

It is long and involved  And the repercussions for deviating from the script are swift and can sometimes be great. Some nights I forget it is a blessing and feel it as a burden. 

But part of me hopes he will never grow out of it.  The part of me that knows that these sweet moments are fleeting and are already nearly over in the grand scheme of things.

But most of all I never want to forget. 

10 September 2011


We've been trying to move for more than 3 years now.  The end is finally in sight.  I commute nearly 2 hours each way every day.  This has gone on since September 2009.  For a year and a half Before that my commute was a brisk hour and a half each way.  And for most of that time I worked two jobs.  Lawyer by day and teacher by night.

It has taken its toll. 

On me. On Sarah.  And most worrisomely, on Cooper and Dexter.

You don't notice with Dexter.  Not yet anyway.  He remains his mommy's son.  His demands of his father are easily met.  I watch his new feat.  I dole out hugs on demand.  I change diapers when mommy is for some reason not allowed. 

I cannot know what the full effect is on Cooper.  There was a period when he simply didn't understand that I lived at what he thought of as his mom's house with him and Dexter.  He would ask me if I was going to sleep over on a given night.  I tried to explain, but when I left before he woke up on Tuesday and did not return home each night until after he went to bed not to see him again until Thursday or Friday night at times, it was hard for him to comprehend.

My boys are funny.  And smart.  And sweet.  And Cooper is emotional.  Sometimes too emotional.  Almost, what you might describe as unstable.  He gets worked up and can't relax.  Moves beyond the point of no return.  You can see it coming from a mile away.  We try to remain calm.  We try to be constant.  But we are too at the end of our ropes.  Sometimes we snap.  Sometimes we yell.  And we know he doesn't really understand.

I am looking forward to moving.  I hope that when I sleep at night, I'll be able to be closer to the father I want to be.  I hope that with the free time I will gain, I will be a better dad, a better husband, and a better lawyer.  Most of all I hope I'll give Cooper whatever it is he needs to feel more secure.  More constant.  More stable. 

06 July 2011


Neither of my sons is baptized.  The reason we didn't do it when it was time made sense.  Their godfathers are set, we've asked each of my brother's-in-law.  Both of Sarah's brothers are in the military and we decided to hold off while each was deployed--first Justin in Iraq and then Adam in Afghanistan.  

Adam has been back from Afghanistan for more than a year.  Every three months or so, Sarah brings up baptism.  And we talk about it.  But for the past three years we've had plans to move.   Any day now.  I swear we're going to move.  And when we move, we'll find a church.  Of course, first, we have to choose a religion.  The easy part, right?

Lately, I've been feeling guilty that we don't attend church.  Cooper continues to absorb the world like a sponge, and I think its time for him to get some of that old-time religion.  So sometimes Cooper and I talk about God.  As with everything else, what sticks amazes me.

I started with Genesis.  Let there be light, separating heaven and earth,etc. etc.  Cooper especially liked the part about Adam's rib.  He gets that God made everything, put everything in motion.  It makes perfect sense to him.  Shortly after I put the idea in his head, it started to leak out.

One day, Cooper was playing with blocks and he built a "giant factory that makes things."  He told Sarah, "Look mommy, I made all of this.  I'm kind of like God." (is it blasphemous to capitalize here)?

Down the block from us, our street has a parkway with trees. I was driving home with Cooper in the car.  We had a colloquy about God.

Cooper: Daddy, did God make all those trees?
Me: Yep, God made the trees and the grass.
Cooper:  Did God make that car?
Me: Well, some people at the car factory made the car.  But God made everything, so God made all the metal that went into the car.  And he (until a better alternative is suggested I will be using the masculine form as gender neutral when speaking to Cooper--and yes, I consider God gender neutral.  Does God have chromosomes?) made the people who built the car, so in a way God made the car.
Cooper(God bless, 'im): But didn't their mommies make all the people?
Me: Wellllll... yes.  But remember, God made the first mommy and daddy, so he made all of us.
Cooper:  Boy Daddy, that God sure is a special guy, huh?
Me:  Yep, buddy, he sure is.  

A couple weeks later, Cooper was playing with the television remote trying to stream Land Before Time on Netflix.  He said to Sarah ":Mommy, I'm trying to find the dinosaur movie.  And why don't we get to meet God until we die?"  Neither of us knows where he got that one. 

So I think Cooper has gotten a good start.  Though, I'm not sure where to go from here.  I know one book that should hold his interest with all things religion.

02 July 2011


This year was my eleventh fathers' day without my dad and my fourth fathers' day as a father in my own right.

Sarah and I were lucky enough to be blessed with amazing parents who supported us, encouraged us to work hard and to be creative, and, above all, who showed us and told us every day that we were loved.  And we were both blessed with incredible fathers.  I have all the love and respect in the world for my father-in-law.  Without his wisdom, humor, empathy and support, I'm not sure I would have survived my dad's death.  Thank you Scott, and happy fathers' day.

As for my dad, well, his temper will not soon be forgotten.  And he could be one of the most stubborn people in the world (unlike me, of course), but there was not a moment in my life when I questioned how much he loved me.  And even when I hated him for it, I always knew he was hard on me because he wanted the world to be mine.  I can still remember the bear hugs every time I walked in the house.  The look of pride and excitement in his eyes when he saw me act the lead in the school play in high school (a play he almost didn't see because  he did not approve--another long story), and again when I graduated from college.

My father died on April 26, 2001.  One month before my wedding to the day.  He wasn't there to lean on after 9/11.  He missed my graduations from grad school and law school.  And, though I was devastated by his loss, I never really knew how much I missed him until the day my first son, Cooper, was born, October 20, 2007.  The disturbing, bizarre moment I first looked into Cooper's eyes (a story for another day), I felt more humble, awe-struck, and alone than I have ever felt before.  I wanted to run to my dad to celebrate, and to ask him what the hell I had gotten myself into.  I still don't know.  What I thought was a unique feeling was replicated perfectly (although without some of  the strangeness)  the first time I looked into Dexter's eyes the morning of October 22, 2009.  I have wanted to pick up the phone countless times to tell my dad about the latest thing the boys have done, or to ask him how to juggle it all without losing my mind.  I miss and still need the occasional kick in the ass from my dad.

Every day I think about my last few hours with my father.  Many of you have heard this story.  I used to tell it often because I had trouble believing it actually happened this way.  But it did.

It was the end of my second semester of grad school.  I got home from the bar late the night of April 25/early in the morning April 26.  There was a handwritten note from my roommate, Colin, on the wall of the hallway leading to my bedroom.  I can't remember what it said but it was brief.  "Your father was in an accident."  It might have instructed me to call my mom on my dad's work-issued cell phone.  I remember wondering why no one called me on my cell phone.  I called the house.  No answer.  I called the cell phone, it was off and went straight to voice mail.  I probably left five messages that night.  (For weeks I would call the number to hear my dad's voice asking me to leave a message). I called again and again throughout the early morning.  After a few hours went by,  before dawn, I finally decided to call my uncle.  It was around four in the morning and I felt terrible because deep down I believed nothing was wrong and I was overreacting.  I felt bad to wake my uncle and scare him with the late phone call.  My dad was hit by a car.  His leg was badly damaged.  He was in the hospital and would need surgery, but he was doing alright.  Christ Hospital on Cicero in Oak Lawn.  My mom couldn't answer her phone because she was waiting at the hospital with him probably. I went to bed.

I got through to my mom early the next morning.  It was a weekday, near the end of the semester.  I had my mom put my dad on the phone.  He sounded tired, but well.  I remember feeling so relieved when I heard his voice, weary, but strong.  I told him Sarah and I were on our way.  Anna, my sister, was already on her way or was already there with a friend.  He told me, no. He said I had to stay at school, I needed to go to class.  I remember laughing and making a joke.  I told him he could get out of bed and stop me if he wanted to, but we would see him later that morning. We drove the hour-and-a-half down from DeKalb a little later in my Chevy Cavalier.

I remember being shocked when we got to the hospital because he was still waiting for surgery.  I'd assumed surgery had already been performed.  He had been there more than 12 hours.  His leg was badly damaged, but Christ is a trauma hospital, and more emergent cases kept coming in.  My dad's cousin, Joe, had suffered a serious leg injury less than a year earlier (I think it was less than a year) and was working his way through an extensive rehabilitation.  I remember joking with my dad that Joe had paved the way and would be able to help him.  They could be rehab partners.  After complaining that his damned kids didn't listen to him and should be at school, my father, slightly influenced by morphine--but only slightly because he never really hid his sentimental, emotional side--called me over and whispered in my ear.  He said "This is what I worked for, my whole life...  To have my family around me, to have you all here."

After sitting with him for what seemed like days, but I'm sure was only a few hours, they came to take him to surgery.  We followed the gurney to the last set of doors before the operating room where we were told to wait.   I went and gave him a kiss.  He said he loved me.  I told him "I love you."  He and my mom kissed.  Sarah, whom I was to marry a month later, hung back to stay out of the way of the family moment.  My father looked over to her and said "Sarah, come here" and motioned her over to his side.  "I love you, you're my daughter."  And he gave her a kiss. They wheeled him through the doors.  Those were the last words I heard my father say.  His heart stopped during his surgery and never started again.

Now I have two beautiful, amazing sons.  And I want the world to be theirs.  And I make sure the last thing they hear me say to them every night is "I love you."

I love you, dad.