Thursday, January 29, 2009

The One with Michael's Birthday

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Well, faithful blog followers, we have another birthday to celebrate! These two-leggers like to clump as many birthdays as they can together into one month it seems! Mom's dad gets his birthday in under the wire here at the end of January.

A great big happy birthday shout out to him since he's... well, cool as beans! Or something like that.

I met him once a couple of summers ago. I was shy, of course, but I quickly realized he couldn't accept that I was timid around him, which resulted in many, many treats. I think we each gained about five pounds while he was trying to win me over during that week or two. In truth, he managed to win me over very quickly but I kept up the ruse every morning to score some loot. Speaking of loot, he knows that Ginger LOVES pizza crust so he will send her crust via special delivery. There's always a note that she can share with her posse - that's us.

He's a big man whom many fear but as you can see he has a real soft spot for those he loves. We're blessed that he includes us in his circle.

Some of mom's earlier memories of her dad are when they lived in NY. Vague memories of helping paint the walls but extending the job to the radiator and radio and so on. I think that may have been the same house in which her bedroom window faced the street and she would watch her dad out the window in the mornings and time how long it took him to walk to the corner store. There are more vivid memories of causing quite a ruckus the first weeks of school. There's the time he had to drive from the city out to the Island to retrieve a doll she forgot. Though she didn't remember it until they were almost home, she HAD to have it. They rode all the way out and retrieved the doll. Maybe five or six seconds of joy and then doll sat in the back seat unnoticed for the rest of the long ride back home. Then there is the infamous story her trip to the dump (one of mom's favorite places to this day) where she emptied the ash tray as instructed but tossed the entire tray in... the fun part was he dangled her in to rescue it. Soon they moved to Arizona. I imagine dangling their daughters by the ankles into dumpsters was not their ideal way to raise children.

Mom was lucky to have her dad be available to pick her up from school everyday. I'm sure he remembers asking her what she did in school and mom, the consummate list maker, would religiously pull out a LIST of what she did in each period to recite to him. Mom chuckles now when she thinks back to his reaction to that first list.

She remembers one day in junior high vividly. The previous summer mom and her dad played basketball to seemingly no end with the goal of joining the team during the school year. Mom had little to no interest in joining the team but loved practicing and shooting hoops each day. So, the school year rolls around and her dad's sails are quickly deflated when she declines to try out. Then one afternoon, she asks to be picked up late so she can watch the basketball game. With what I surmise was a resurgence of hope, he came just a little bit early to see the end of the game. Mom was staying for the game but not so much for the sport but to chit chat with a boy and was slightly mortified when her dad walked into the gym to see what's up. I'm sure her dad was equally deflated realizing, again, that basketball was not in her future. He never arrived unannounced after that.

Time sped by and soon mom was driving, working and getting into various sticky situations. Many calls to his office began with, "Dad, are you busy?" That was the universal signal and he always responded, "Nope, let me close my door, I'll be right back." He still gets those calls albeit less but I bet when that office phone rings at 4 or 5 in the morning, when she knows all is quiet in the office, the thought crosses his mind.

He really should have gone into a field where he could utilize his psychology skills on a larger scale. He's taught mom many valuable lessons without her even realizing she was being taught. And that's not because mom was oblivious. He's just that good at persuasion and negotiating! Mom's picked up a few of his tricks and I think it's a little bit like magic because she's sworn to secrecy!

I can tell you that he is a master of mind-over-matter. Those lessons began early. Probably from birth but mom's most vivid memories are during the many, many drives to and from the orthodontist. Mom didn't know it at the time but her dad was going through some health issues during that period and she often wonders now if his guidance on how to overcome the discomfort the braces caused coincided well with what he was dealing with.

Despite so many car rides alone together over the years, on her wedding day, mom was nervous about the long limo ride to the church alone with her dad. You see, her makeup was "just so" and she was already a little emotional on this big day. She doesn't remember exactly what they discussed but she remembers that he knew to keep the conversation light and humorous. It was the perfect beginning to the magical day.

When it was time to move east, he was, as always, very supportive. Even, reluctantly, admitting that these two newlyweds moving to a place without friends or family would be a good thing. She and papa would have to depend on each other. He was right. I don't think he loved the idea and I don't think he expected the move to be so long term but he never wavered and he's supported them 100%. He even gave mom a gift very special to him before moving day. She still carries that dime around in a locket daily - nine years later.

He is selfless when it comes to his family and mom hopes to grow up to be like him someday. He's one the strongest men - he's slayed not only cancer but all of her dragons!

(The scary thing is that the hair in this picture isn't TOO far off what his hair looked like years ago.)

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