Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Best Day of His Life

As a media consultant for the newspaper I support businesses by attending as many of their grand openings as possible. I had two this past Saturday, so I brought my 8 year-old son Aidan with me. The first was at a frozen yogurt shop, where he received a chocolate shake and a green miniature motorcycle as a prize.  Next we stopped at a new local dentist and eye doctor that share the same facility, where a crowd gathered outside for their ribbon cutting ceremony. There I saw one of my colleagues from the Long Island Advance. Beside her was Suffolk County Legislator Rob Calarco and Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce president Dave Kennedy. I introduced Aidan to all.

Later in the car, he asked, “Mom, what did Mr. Calarco say his job was?

“Suffolk County Legislator,” I said. After repeating the title slowly, Aidan asked, “Mom, what is that again?”

Trying to simplify it, I responded, “He’s a politician representing us in the local government.”

There was a pause, followed by a revelation.

“Oh WOW! He works with President Obama.”

“Not exactly,” I said.

“Well, I’m still going to tell Mrs. Nettles that I met a politician,” Aidan decided. He was referring to his teacher, someone who’d be very surprised, he informed me.
More silence followed that ended with another question.

“Who was the guy next to him in the sun glasses again?”

“That was Mr. Kennedy, our Chamber of Commerce President.” I told him.

 “What’s a Chamber-of-Commerce anyway?” Aidan asked.

“It’s a group for local business owners.” I explained.

There was a long pause after my response and then Aidan announced,

“Mom, I think this was the best day of my life and I didn’t even know it when it was happening.”

I tried not to laugh out loud, and instead inquired why.

“First I got frozen yogurt and a prize for just showing up. Then I met someone just like George Washington and standing next to him was President Business from the Lego movie!”

“I wish I could view every day like you do,” I said. 

Help! I'm Not "Question Ready"

When my eldest was born I tried to do everything right as a mom. I played Norah Jones music while he snoozed and I owned a baby wipe heater. I placed his newborn pointer finger on every word I read to him. I put him in the stroller daily and we walked around Patchogue. I talked to him constantly, wondering what he would sound like when he started to respond. Little did I know  I was creating a critical thinking monster.

My son, now a sixth grader, talks to me until my ears disconnect from my thoughts, and I find myself concentrating to focus on what he is saying, often, while I’m multitasking. I’m glad he is a critical thinker, but my biggest challenge at this point, are his questions. They are getting too hard.

Case in point, I’m opening my eyes after stealing a 20 minute nap and he is standing over me, ready to hit me with,

“Why are humans superior bi-pedal beings with opposable thumbs?”
It’s very likely that later I could be indisposed in the bathroom when there’s a knock at the door, followed by,

“Mom, Mommy, MOM?”

If I decide to admit that I’m on the other side of the wall, I may get clobbered with this follow-up question:

“Why were humans selected to build society, and not another species, like, say, ducks?”
I may be putting sports uniforms into the laundry last-minute while preparing dinner and feeding two dogs and a cat when I hear his now man-size sneakers squeaking into the kitchen.

“Mom, Mommy, MOM?”

If I look up from my chores I may get blindsided with the 1-2 punch of questions: “Why do plants have cell walls and chloroplasts? Why do humans need to eat when they could instead get their energy from the sun, like plants?”

Then I might crack. After all, it’s 5:30 p.m., the witching hour for all parents of children with multiple after-school activities. I’m trying to get everyone food and clothes before we have to go out.

“I just don’t know,” I admit. “I’ll have to look up the answer and get back to you,” I say, feeling like a lame mom.  Luckily, children love their parents no matter how dumb they are. Accepting my promise, my son changes the subject, casually sharing his fears for the future of humanity.

“I think technology is one of the greatest problems today from a human perspective,” he says.

“Really,” I say, pulling the puppy away from the cat’s food bowl.

“In the future, there will be wars over hacking,” he continues, following me around the kitchen. “The problem with technology is that the things we have created are so advanced that we can’t keep up with the changes,” he tells me, finishing off his thoughts with text evidence.

“For example, I read that IBM accidentally hacked into a nuclear power plant and they said it was easy.”

I’m thinking, this boy is from Krypton, but I say, “Wow, that’s unbelievable.”
Next I ask a question, tongue-in-cheek.

“So with all of the ideas that you are exposed to at school are you feeling like you are becoming “college ready?”  

“Not at all,” my son says, explaining that he does not have enough life experience and maturity to be ready for college at 12 years-old.

“The thing you should consider, Mommy,” he tells me, “is whether or not YOU are ready for my questions, because I always see you Google them.”

Busted! I think I need a refund on my Master’s degree because I am definitely not question ready.

(This post was published in the May 14, 2015 issue of Long Island Advance newspaper.)


"There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle." 
- Albert Einstein

I was reading “Poems of Inspiration and Comfort” aloud to my dad to pass the time in the nursing facility. Cancer had knocked the wind out of him. The smartest man I knew had forgotten how to read.

“Oh, Captain, My Captain, rise up and hear the bells;” I began.

“That’s my favorite poem by Whitman,” he whispered, “it’s about President Lincoln’s assassination.”

Rise up for you the flag is flung…” I continued, but dad, who had undergone two cranial resections, interrupted me again, reciting from the beginning as if someone had suddenly found a flashlight in his brain.

“Oh, Captain, My Captain! Our fearful trip is done, The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won, The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting, While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring; Oh, the bleeding drops of red, Where on the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead…”

I stopped him. “Let’s find a better one,” I suggested, my eyes flooding as I looked down, flipping through the pages.

“Cut the bull,” he said tiredly, but not without tenderness. “I’m dying.”
I responded with quiet acknowledgement as I shut the book. In the lobby beyond his door fragile looking people in wheelchairs were clustered around a television watching Bing Crosby sing, “May your days be merry and bright!”

 Our thoughts were heavy pieces of furniture that awkwardly crowded the room. The garish winter morning sun filtered through the high window. My dad would be gone the day after New Year’s, just shy of his 60th birthday. Two days later I would turn 38. For my 37th birthday, he and my mom gave me a white orchid plant as a present. My grandmother, Alice, had turned me on to collecting them.

“I don’t know what God will allow me to do,” he said, as if I had mind-read the rest of his tragic dilemma.  And I had.

“Try to reach us through thoughts,” I told him. “I will be listening, I promise.”

My dad used to make fun of my cooking when I first got married. Everything I made included a secret can of Campbell’s soup. He called my Shrimp Alfredo “Shrimp I’m-Afraid-Of.”  One time my parents were coming over for dinner and I made my favorite soup from scratch-butternut squash.  He wouldn’t touch it, and I got insulted. “I hate butternut squash,” he announced.
The day after my dad died my neighbor knocked on my door. She knew dad was on Hospice at my house, but she did not know he had just passed away.

“I was in Shoprite yesterday and I saw this plant and I suddenly thought of you,” she said, handing me a white orchid. “I felt compelled to buy it.”

“I love orchids!” I told her. She hadn’t known.
It wasn’t until later, while I was washing the dishes and looking at the gifted plant on the counter, huddled still in its plastic wrapping, that I made a mental connection that was accompanied by a gasp and tears.

The day after that, a family friend rang the bell.

“I was making soup and I thought of you,” she said, handing me a Tupperware container filled with homemade butternut squash soup.

“This is my favorite soup,” I said, laughing. “You don’t know that,” I told her, and she agreed it was news to her.

“Today is my day to make soup,” ‘she explained. “I was making two kinds, and I decided to bring this one over,” she explained.

I was thinking, “I guess God allows souls a sense of humor.”
Dad amused by a "big" catch.
(This post was published in the April 2, 2015 issue of Long Island Advance. Thank you to editor, Linda Leuzzi for putting it in the Easter issue.)

Dear Internet Traveler,

Welcome to my writer's blog, started about six years ago for fun. Over time, the writing I have posted has ranged from personal reflection, to Long Island history research, to tall tales for my own amusement, to feature articles for local newspapers. As you can see from topics listed here, I travel in many mental directions in regard to interests. Click on the tabs and labels to explore my strange mind which senses that you may be having a criss-cross day. If so, perhaps this blog will distract you. However, please note that if you tell me my blog is beautiful just to get me to advertise rhinoplasty surgery and cheap drugs from Canada in your comment, I will ask the gods to give you a tail that cannot be concealed.


Loren Christie

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