Thursday, February 19, 2009

He's better off with Abe Lincoln

My eleven year old boy has to write an essay on who his hero is. I think all the boys picked their dads. Mine did. I find that really depressing. So what does he know of me? What does he remember of me in the last year? I lay in bed all day, watch TV and sleep. Sometimes I don't bother to come down for dinner. I never go out.. Sometimes I don't bother to change my clothes. I have no energy to play anything with anyone. No catch. No games. Sometimes I tried to take the dog for a walk.  I don't do anything for my boy or with him, at least anything for him to see, admire or emulate. I don't even look the part. My sixty-nine year old dad looks younger. So what does a son write? "I think I remember when he used to do this..?" And the worst part of it is, he wants me to look at the essay. I told him recently that I used to not be like this. He said he knows. But I wonder if he remembers. If he'll remember in ten or twenty years. I can't remember much about what I was doing at eleven. And when I look at that essay, I'll only be thinking about what he didn't write and could have written about. 

Chemotherapy is a terrible, terrible way to get well. It's a treatment that feels like it should be from the middle ages.  It sucks everything out of you, the biggest thing being your joy for life. And there's nowhere to go. You only feel okay when you sleep and that's not all that often. You know the times when you're in a hotel room and you have this dream that you're at home? Then you wake up and are a little disorientated because you thought you were home. That happens every morning to chemo-heads only the nausea is what reminds you that you're not home.

What's wrong with choosing Colin Powell or Abraham Lincoln for a hero? Lots more material there. 


  1. So I'm the last guy in the world to play cheerleader because frankly, as a general rule, I hate people and I revel in their misery. If I'm watching a sporting event on tv and I have no rooting interest, I don't pull for the underdog, I root for the visiting team because I know the network will show countless shots of the crowd and if the home team is losing, I will get to see tons of miserable fans. However, in this particular instance, perhaps you need to look a little deeper. While I generally assume that my own 11 year old is at least slightly brain damaged, I know that he loves me and his mother with all his tiny little black heart. It doesn't matter that I pick on him at baseball practice or that we punsih him just because we feel like it, he loves us because he knows we love him. Connor (sp?) and McKenna are the same. Despite whatever shortcomings you may have or perceive that you have (my son is more than willing to point out that I am fat) they love you unconditionally because you love them unconditionally. It's one of the greatest things about parenthood. No matter how much they drive you crazy, at the end of the day, they love you just for being for you. When you get right down to it, it's a fair trade, because you also love them just to being them. It doesn't matter if they're the smartest one in the class or struggle just to get by, it doesn't matter if they're the best player on the team or the last one picked, they're yours, and nothing beats that - for you or or for them. Consider yourself lucky that your son is smart enough to have some understanding of what is going on and to love you unconditionally despite what you see as your own frailities.

    Nothing that you are going through is your fault. You certainly didn't choose it. What you have chosen is to fight it. That's couragaeous. Connor may be only 11, but it would appear that he understands far more than most 11 year olds and you should be proud. The boy is proud of you just because you are you in the same way that you are proud of him just because he is him. Considering what I get to deal with on a regular basis, this tells me that you and Sherri have already succeeded as parents. You should celebrate your success rather than worry about what you may have missed or done wrong. You should sleep well at night, or in the morning, or during the day, or whenever necessary, knowing that you've done well by your kids. While not being able to be around them sucks beyond anyone's comprehension, you and Sherri have already given them the foundation to grow up and not become complete idiots who I will end up defending. Celebrate success and do not lament what might have been.

  2. My Dad is a very strange. He's the ultimate pessimist. Recently when the Arizona Cardinals were leading in their playoff game 21-3, he left a classic message on my voicemail stating that the Cardinals (now his favorite team) were just about ready to blow the game. He said they were lucky to be where they were, they were lucky to have scored a quick 21 points in the first 15 minutes of the game, and that their demise and collapse were imminent. He says that Warner will revert back to his usual self and will start throwing interceptions. Just as he said the word "interceptions", he pauses - grunts a few times - and shouts "There it is! There it is! I knew it - Warner just threw a pick. Here it comes. They're done for. The Cardinals are going down. They will lose. I just wanted to give you my prediction now before the collapse is complete. Talk to you later, Glenn." That is a typical Dad moment.

    He’s always the pessimist, regardless of the situation. Why is he like that? Not sure; maybe growing up in Boston watching the Redsox come so close year after year but never winning the Series doomed his brain. Maybe over time his optimism was whittled down to nothing more than a tiny stub of hope. Although deep down I know that he always wanted the Redsox to win, he would NEVER openly cheer for them or predict them to win anything. I guess that was his way of coping with any future disappointment; to openly state his worst fears so that, if it did happen, he would have the comfort and consolation that “he was right”. And if the Sox actually DID win, he’d reply “They were just lucky. Just watch – they’ll lose next year; not a chance they win again; you’ll see.”

    Plain and simple, my Dad is unique. Just as the little brother in the movie “16 Candles” states: “classic”. My Dad is classic; strange; obscure; at times insane. [Even more 16 Candles: “No way, Jose. You beat up my face. (You grabbed my nuts.) That you? (Yeh – that me.)] When I was growing up, it seemed like my Dad wasn’t around the kids very much. He was usually at work most of the time but, when he was at home, I don’t recall doing much with him.

    Even so, he’s my Dad and I love him the way he is. I really don’t remember the times when he wasn’t home; I remember the times (though few and far between) when we actually did things. Living in Eden Prairie, MN (no – I didn’t see any Vikings players; the Vikes moved IN the year after we moved OUT to Chicago) I remember playing “Hot Box” (in Chicago they called it “Running Bases”) with Jeff and my Dad. On this day my Dad was riding me hard to stop sticking out my tongue. Just like Michael Jordan, I too had a habit of sticking out my tongue when concentrating. Not liking that very much, Dad would yell at me to stop doing it, would mock me by sticking out his tongue. Although it might have seemed like he was harsh and not caring, that was his way of teaching me. Looking back at it, I’m OK with that; it got me to break the habit. As the world turns, guess what? My kids stick out their tongues when concentrating too!

    Another memory I have is swimming in the Atlantic at Cape Cod one summer vacation in the 70’s. Jeff and I used to love running full steam into the crashing waves, jumping in the air and flipping over into the water. We learned to time the waves correctly and to make sure we didn’t jump too high or else the waves wouldn’t hit us. If we got it just right, as we’re leaping in the air, our shins would smash the top of the wave, causing us to violently spin and twist in the air before crashing into the seaweed filled salt water. But in this particular memory, I was wading out into deeper water and bouncing up and down on my tippy-toes, trying to see how far I could get out without the water reaching my mouth. On this day, little did I know the riptide was very strong. As soon as I reached my limit – about 100 feet from shore – I decided to go back to the beach. It just wasn’t going to happen. The riptide was so strong it kept pulling me farther and farther out. Since I was already on my tippy-toes and up to my nose in water, going out even farther meant I’d need to work for it. Me and my 75 pound stick body tried to swim back but – without using my feet to keep me in place – I was getting pulled out to the ocean even quicker now. I tried and tried to swim on my own but I was getting exhausted and I was in trouble. I was going under more and more and I reached the point where I had to yell for help. As soon as I started to make my first scream, a strong hand grabbed my arm and started pulling me back to shore. It was my Dad. Although I didn’t know he was in the water, he must have been floating around close by and must have seen me struggling. He pulled me back to the beach blanket and didn’t say a word. I would have thought he’d yell at me for going out too far and doing something stupid. But on this occasion, he didn’t scold me or make me feel bad. He simply was there when I needed him.

    Although he wasn’t perfect, wasn’t there all the time, I knew my Dad loved me, always having my best interests in mind. When thinking about how I became the person I am today, I believe those early years with my Dad had the greatest influence in my life. He wasn’t perfect, he had his flaws and he wasn’t around all the time. But he was the man I looked up to, he was there for me when I needed him most. I’m sure Conner feels the same way towards you. You are the one who he looks up to. You are his role model. 40 years from now he’ll remember the stores with his Dad like I do. He’ll remember when you would take him to his sporting events. He’ll remember when you’d play with him on the weekends. He’ll remember the happy days when everyone in the family would be laughing and playing around.

    One year does not make the life. While not physically able to be with Conner or McKenna for the time being, your intentions are clear and understood. While that must completely suck, you’re doing what you need to do – and your kids understand that. You want to be with them – you want it badly – which is why you’ve gone away for a while. To be back with them in Chicago requires a pit stop in the excitement hub of the World – Houston.

    Conner knows you well – just like we all do. You’re a good friend, a good father, a good husband, a good business partner, a good person. You are very smart (although not too smart since you DID draft the Dallas Cowboys defense for $2 that one year) and know how to make people laugh. You are very kind, very brave, very successful, very generous and very likeable. Conner knows this too. Why not be his hero? Just because you’re vacationing in Houston without him for a while is no reason for him to take you off his hero list. It’s safe to say that I speak for everyone when I say that you are showing an amazing amount of courage and bravery in fighting your battle while all along letting us be there with you through this blog. Although you can’t physically see us, know that there are countless people across the country that you’ve touched (hey now; don’t’ get too excited Schmidt) throughout your life that are thinking of you always, waiting for the day when you victoriously come back home.

    Michael – you da man. Conner knows you da man. He’s a smart kid. You’ve done well your first 40 years of your life; keep fighting, stay mentally strong and I’ll join you in the next 40 years. Keep your chin up, my friend – there is light at the end of this dark tunnel.

  3. I think you're a hell of a role model and I think you are a hero... and someday you'll look back and see that all of this is heroic in a way. I'm sure Conner remembers you how things were before you got sick... I remember plenty of things before I was eleven. Kids tend to remember the good things... they're not jaded and cynical yet ;)