15

There are dates you just remember.

The first website I ever edited was java.net. It was run by O’Reilly and Collabnet for Sun and was to be the community home for the Java Programming Language.

I wrote a column five days a week and also pointed to the articles we commissioned and published, articles published elsewhere, Java and tech related news gathered by our news editor, and items from our various active communities. For a few years it was a great site that run by a great team that I was proud to be a part of.

We launched on the first day of JavaOne in 2003. It’s a date that I remember. It was June 10.

Mostly I remember because that’s also my mom’s birthday. But it was a big day for me as well. An entirely new venture. In many ways my life was different after that date – I was no longer an academic. I was now in this world of programming and technology.

I launched my first personal blog, this blog, fifteen years ago today.

I still don’t know what motivated me to do it. I remember going up to my office and creating the wordpress blog and creating my first post.

“How do you remember it was fifteen years ago today?” you ask.

Because it was the day after fifteen years ago yesterday.

***

Yesterday Maggie texted me, “Making pancakes today?”

This is one of the many reasons that Maggie is my favorite person on earth.

“Yeah,” I texted back, “Thinking of you – obviously”

That’s how we communicate.

It may seem innocuous and sterile to you, so I’ll translate.

Maggie was texting to see if I was commemorating the death of her sister the same way I do every year.

I was thanking her and letting her know how much I love her.

***

After Elena died, Kim would go to mass each year on the anniversary.

I would meet Kim afterwards for breakfast at Big Al’s. The same place we got engaged. And we would have breakfast together.

Many years Kim’s mom and sometimes both parents would join her at church. Sometimes they’d come to breakfast with us.

Whatever we ordered, we’d always have a pancake.

Elena loved pancakes.

Whenever they served “Brunch for Lunch” at the school cafeteria she’d ask if she could buy lunch that day instead of bringing it from home.

She loved pancakes for dinner at home or as a treat if we’d go out.

That’s why Maggie asked if I was going to have pancakes.

***

Kim and I went out for pancakes after Kim went to mass both on the anniversary of Elena’s death and a week later on her birthday.

In between we usually threw a pancake breakfast for friends and relatives with multi-colored pancakes, breakfast meats, fruit salad, and other items. It wasn’t Elena’s birthday party – it was more taking this time to celebrate her life as a family.

After Kim and I finished breakfast, I would drop Kim back at our house and go to the cemetery.

It took Kim nearly ten years to come with me.

I would stand by Elena’s stone, still not believing she’s gone.

It was fifteen years yesterday and I still don’t believe it.

***

Maggie asking if I was having pancakes was also asking, now that mom’s gone, will you still be having pancakes?

Yes.

I don’t go to Big Al’s anymore.

I tried that once.

And then I drove to the cemetery to visit Elena’s grave. Next to Kim’s grave.

Fifteen years ago today I started this blog.

I may make pancakes again today.

Published in: on February 23, 2021 at 10:08 am  Comments (2)  

A pirate looks at 60

When Kim turned forty, twenty years ago today, she was a mother of two, worked in a hospital as a Speech Language Pathologist, volunteered with the girl scouts, was a room parent.

She was tired.

We had help from her parents and mine but we were exhausted.

There’s something about being tired that focuses you on the things you have energy for. Kim soon decided there were a lot of things she didn’t give a ____ about. She was awesome at forty.

I remember being twenty and trying to picture what forty would be like.

I don’t know what I was thinking about – but it wasn’t the forty that Kim and I shared.

At forty-five the list of things that Kim wasn’t bothered by had grown.

It wasn’t at all that she was uncaring or didn’t work really hard at a lot of things. It was that she knew what was important and that’s where she spent her time.

She wanted to throw a birthday party for me when I turned fifty. I’m not big on being the center of attention so that day came and went. When it was her turn, she decided she didn’t want one either.

It didn’t bother her that she was fifty.

Kim was awesome at fifty. She didn’t give two ____s about things that other people found themselves obsessed with.

At fifty-five she was damn near perfect.

She was bothered by how her skin was changing. She worried that she was getting old lady skin. That was one of the things I didn’t give two ____s about. Sure it felt different and it bothered me that it bothered her. But it didn’t bother me other than that any more than my weight bothered her.

She loved the Jimmy B song “A pirate looks at forty”. I’ve searched the lyrics for what resonated with her – but she just liked it.

“The cannons don’t thunder, there’s nothing to plunder.”

Maybe.

I think she just liked the sound and the feel.

She always had music on in the kitchen. Old music. New music. She knew more of both than I did. She listened to college radio in the car.

Maybe it’s the line about re-centering.

 “… got to stop wishing, got to go fishing, down to rock bottom again.
Just a few friends, just a few friends.”

Maybe.

Still think it was the sound and feel.

She moved to the music in the kitchen. Or more like it the music propelled her, passed the time, made her smile.

I’ve been listening to more music lately. Old music. New music. Music that people suggest.

I was listening earlier as I drove to the cemetery to visit Kimmy’s grave on her sixtieth birthday.

She would have been an awesome sixty year old.

Published in: on September 8, 2020 at 2:15 pm  Comments (3)  

Saying goodbye

Norah Jones sings in my ears, “Summer days are gone too soon”.

So right.

“Shoot the moon and miss completely.”

I’m barely here.

One of Kim’s relatives sent me a text the other day, thinking about Kim’s last days on earth.

“Four years and 1 day since we lost Kim,” she wrote.

Too true.

It’s not that she didn’t know the exact date of Kim’s death. Four years ago tomorrow.

But the Kim I said goodbye to four years ago tonight wasn’t Kim. Not the amazing woman I’d been lucky enough to be married to for two dozen years.

“I know her actual anniversary isn’t for a couple of days,” the text continued, “but the Kim as we all knew her was gone.”

Norah sings , “now you’re left to face the gloom – the empty room that once smelled sweetly.”

I reach over and put my hand on Kim one last time.

Knowing it will be the last time.

I’ve spent the last few days in the room with her squeezing her leg and letting her know who has come to visit her.

They’ve come to see her one last time.

To say goodbye.

Then it’s my turn.

To say goodbye.

And so I put my hand on her one last time.

Knowing it will be the last time.

Published in: on August 22, 2020 at 6:34 pm  Comments (2)  

Today

Four years ago today was my last full day with Kim.

How might you live your day if it was the last day you have with someone special.

How you might live your day if it is not.

Just another day of building a life together.

Live today like it’s both.

We did.

Published in: on August 18, 2020 at 9:12 am  Leave a Comment  

August

February was a tough month for me and Kim.

Our month of eating cookies.

I say February – but really it depends on February containing 31 and every fourth year 32 days. February extended through Elena’s birthday on March 3.

In our heads the cookies bolstered us for February 22nd, the anniversary of Elena’s death.

In reality, they didn’t.

And so, in the nearly four years since Kim died, I’ve stopped commemorating February with an endless supply of cookies.

But now there’s August.

And by August I mean the month that begins on August 8th – our wedding anniversary – and ends on September 8th – Kim’s birthday.

August doesn’t feel like a cookie type of month so I face August 23rd, the anniversary of Kim’s death, without them.

It’s also complicated. Kim’s accident was days before. It was soon clear that she wouldn’t survive. So the 23rd was the day she was taken off the machine but it’s hard to say what day was her last.

This year Maggie and I were in Oberlin on August 8th. We drove by Fairchild chapel where Kim and I were married. It was such a hot day all those years ago and I remember so much about it.

I guess I use memories like those to get through this month.

Cookies may be a better idea.

 

Published in: on August 17, 2020 at 11:10 am  Leave a Comment  

No decision

A parent makes a hundred different decisions about their child every day.

You might not even realize you’re making them and most of them aren’t important.

Wake them up? Let them sleep a little longer.

This bowl and cereal? That plate and toast? How much cereal? What kind? Which kind of bread? How toasted? What to spread on it?

Most decisions are not that important.

Most the child never notices.

Some they do. Some they take a stand on even though they are seemingly dumb.

“I don’t want that cup, I like this one.”

“OK,” you think. What’s the big deal. And you either get the cup they want or you dig in and try to make them use the cup you selected.

“I don’t like whole wheat toast.”

“Since when?” you ask.

“Since always,” they say. “I never liked it. It makes me sick.”

Every confrontation can go so many ways.

And does.

But, you remember, most decisions are not that important.

But now some parents are having to decide whether or not to send their kids back to school and there is a chance that their child could get sick and there’s a small chance that their child could die.

But, you say, there’s always that chance. Kids die of the flu every year.

This is different. Whole communities are at risk. This isn’t the flu.

This spring, before all this happened, Maggie and I went to the funeral of a beautiful little girl. Following a service in a packed church and a burial at the same cemetery where Kim and Elena are buried, we headed back to a reception in the church’s school.

So many people felt the loss of this child and gathered to help hold up the family and each other.

And then the pandemic hit.

More than 150 thousand people have died in the US alone.

Many of them have died in hospitals without their family at their side.

We spent three days with Kim in the hospital after her accident. Her family and friends came to say goodbye. They supported us and each other.

But now it’s not safe to let families come in to say goodbye. The COVID patients die surrounded by strangers. Loving strangers. Hard-working strangers Hospital employees who see way too many people die that they just can’t help.

Those hundreds of decisions that we make each day for our children or for each other – most of them aren’t important.

There is no decision that that little girl’s parents could have made that would have saved her life. There’s no decision that Kim and I could have made that would have saved Elena. There’s no decision I could have made for Kim that would have saved her life.

Believe me, if there were, we would have.

And now parents have to decide whether or not to send their child back to school in the fall.

Somehow someone has decided that there is an acceptably small number of kids who will die as a result.

Their parents will have decided to send them back to school. Some won’t really have a choice because of their situation.

And now they live with that hole that their child felt and the pang that maybe they had had a hand on the shovel.

We shouldn’t force parents to make decisions like this.

I can’t imagine how painful it is.

Published in: on July 31, 2020 at 12:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wear a Mask

The man who killed Kim was on the phone while he was driving.

He was talking to someone in Romania. I can’t remember if he was just talking at the moment that he changed lanes and ran his semi into her car or if he was reaching to retrieve his phone.

It doesn’t matter.

The man who killed Kim was on the phone while he was driving.

It feels so avoidable.

There are things you are supposed to do when you are driving for your safety and the safety of those around you.

Fasten your seatbelts.

At one point that was a major issue and seen as an infringement of your freedom.

You also need to have a valid driver’s license. You are supposed to use your signal and check that you have a clear path before switching lanes. You are supposed to have your lights on. You are supposed to maintain proper distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you. You shouldn’t be tired or impaired in any way. Your eyes should be on the road and your hands should be on the wheel. Your mirrors should be properly adjusted and your vehicle should be maintained properly. Your tires should be properly inflated and you shouldn’t be on the phone.

You should be driving.

You should be focused on the task at hand. You are piloting a multi-ton vehicle at a high speed with others around you. It takes no time at all to make a mistake that will end a life.

It takes little effort on your part to do the many things it takes to drive safely.

It requires that you understand the risks to yourself and that you care about the risks to others.

The man who killed Kim was on the phone while he was driving.

He ignored the risks to himself and cared little about the risks to others.

In this time of the Corona pandemic don’t be that person.

Don’t be the person who could do the least they could do but didn’t. And for what?

The driver didn’t want to wait to talk to his friend in Romania.

In this time of the Corona pandemic don’t be that person.

Wear  a mask.

 

Published in: on July 9, 2020 at 11:08 am  Leave a Comment  

21

Twenty-one years ago, this very moment, I was having breakfast at a Bob Evans on Mayfield Road.

“How could you possibly remember that,” you ask.

I remember everything about that day.

I remember dropping a two and a half year old Maggie off at my in-laws at about eleven the night before along with Tara, our black Lab.

I remember waiting to walk into Hillcrest hospital until after midnight as the doctor had advised so that the partial day didn’t count against our insurance.

I remember sitting in a chair next to Kim’s bed, holding her hand and smiling at each other for hours as we waited for our baby to come.

I remember the nurse waking us up with Kim’s breakfast saying it would be hours until the baby was born. That I should go get breakfast.

“Go,” said Kim.

The nurse told us it would be a long day and Kim could use the rest.

I went.

It was snowing hard the morning of March 3, 1999.

I drove to Bob Evans and sat by myself and had a breakfast that would carry me through most of the day.

I went across to Golden Gate and picked up some games for Kim and me to play to pass the time. I think that was the first time we played Mille Bornes.

Memories of other days with Kim in the hospital confuse that day.

Me sitting next to her after her appendix operation.

Me sitting next to her preparing to let her go.

But twenty-one years ago today we couldn’t have been happier.

We had a beautiful daughter sitting at her grandparents’ house in her Winnie-the-Pooh chair drinking a coke, eating chips, and watching television.

Those things we wouldn’t allow her to do at home.

Those things that we felt no responsible parents should allow.

Those things that grandparents were invented to allow.

And she’s turned out quite nicely, thank you.

We had a beautiful daughter and were awaiting the arrival of our second.

Except Kim didn’t know it would be a girl yet.

I did.

Twenty-one years ago tonight my beautiful baby girl was born.

Her mom held her just before midnight and the world was perfect.

I still see that moment of Kim holding Elena for the first time.

I hold on to that moment and try to remember everything I can from that day.

That day my world was perfect.

 

Published in: on March 3, 2020 at 9:03 am  Comments (1)  

Numbers

My mom used to always let us know when there were fun patterns with times or dates.

It’s stuck with me and so I often notice some significance to a date: a palindrome, an oddity, or a fun pattern.

For instance, two years from today it will be 2/22/22.

You won’t have to remind me.

I always remember February 22. That was the day, fourteen years ago, when Elena died suddenly.

2/22/06

And today we have reached a significant date.

Elena has been gone twice as long as she lived.

As lucky as I feel to have been her dad, I feel cheated for all the things she never saw.

All the things she never experienced.

The person she never got to be.

This year Kim and I would be preparing for Elena’s college graduation.

Except neither one of them is still with us.

2/22/2020

Published in: on February 22, 2020 at 10:22 am  Leave a Comment  

Kim’s Bed

I spent the night of Valentine’s Day on the couch.

I thought back 28 years to the day that Kim said she’d marry me.

Actually, she didn’t exactly say she would. She signed it to me. I met her after church in a diner for breakfast and she agreed to marry me.

I celebrated with corned beef hash. She ordered the pecan waffles.

She shook her head when the waitress offered me the coffee.

We would go and have better coffee somewhere else later.

Kim had a Shaker bed that she moved into our house at the end of May when she gave up her apartment and moved back in with her parents.

We were married in August and that was the bed the dog jumped onto to join us each night.

Our first Christmas I decorated the bed with lights while Kim was finishing decorating the tree.

It was big enough to hold me, nine-months pregnant Kim with a full body pillow, and the dog.

But somehow we decided to accept a Queen size bed when it was offered to us.

That was the bed we moved from the house on 128th street to our current house.

I’d forgotten that the frame wouldn’t fit up the stairs until Valentine’s Day.

That was the day I took it back apart.

I’d found someone who would take it. Someone who needed a bed.

So I took it apart and started to bring the pieces down.

Somehow I’d gotten the pick-up day wrong.

The frame wouldn’t fit down the stairs.

And that’s when I remembered we’d had to bring it up the porch from outside and through the porch door.

So that’s the way it went out. I lowered it from the porch and carried it around and brought it back in the house.

I went upstairs and swept up the dog hair that had been way way under the bed.

And then I had lifted and moved enough for one day.

I slept on the couch that night. Valentine’s Day night. I wasn’t sad to be giving away the bed. There were a lot of great memories associated with it – but it wasn’t that sort of bed.

“Tonight,” I thought, “I’ll sleep on the couch. Tomorrow I’ll be back in Kim’s bed.”

I smiled and went to sleep.

The puppy slept across the room on her favorite chair.

The next day I took Kim’s bed apart, cleaned it off, brought it downstairs, and set it back up again.

I found sheets that fit. Washed them and made the bed.

All this would have been easier with Kim here to help.

All this would have gone quicker as we told stories and exchanged memories.

The day ended and the dog sat at the top of the stairs impatiently waiting for me to come up and go to bed.

I did.

I flipped on the light in the bedroom and watched her struggle to jump on. The bed was smaller but a little taller.

She jumped off and the second time jumping on went easier for her.

She settled at the foot of the bed on Kim’s side.

I don’t remember even turning over. I fell asleep immediately. Smiling. Back in Kim’s bed.

Published in: on February 16, 2020 at 3:53 pm  Comments (1)