Catch 22


After Kim died, a friend brought over a plant. It reminded her of how she had first met and become friends with Kim.

She placed it on the mantle and told me it was easy to take care of.

I said, “I don’t know.”

She assured me that I could do it. It didn’t need to be watered that often. It didn’t need much sun.

She was sure I could do it.

The plant was dead before the end of the year.

A year after that I thought I might be ready to start dating.

I was wrong.

Thank goodness nothing came of it.


I think that maybe now I am.

Or maybe not.

Even if I actually am ready to date, I don’t think it’s going to go very well.

I haven’t been out with anyone other than Kim on a date in over twenty-six years.

I didn’t like dating in my twenties and early thirties.

I loved being married.

I loved being past all the stuff you need to get past when you date.

I loved being past all the stuff you need to get past when you’re first married.

Kim and I continued to refine the way we were together throughout our marriage.

Combine the years of being together as best friends, raising kids, surviving the death of a child, cooking, eating, and traveling together, sitting across from each other talking, and sitting next to each other happily saying nothing – we’d pretty much gotten this relationship thing down.

I don’t know that I have the energy in me to start again.

But there’s a part of me that thinks I might be ready.

Friends have suggested online dating. Although I may end up there, it sounds awful.

People lie in their profiles.

They leave things out.

They paint pictures of themselves as the people they want to be.

And they lie about what they want.

It feels to me like someone who says family values and morality are the most important things to them in a politician and then they vote for and ardently support someone who embodies the opposite of all they profess to support.

In online dating, that’s the person who says they need someone intelligent with a good sense of humor while they ignore all descriptions and just look through the pictures in the profiles until they find someone they find attractive.

Of course it’s a catch 22.

If I don’t lie in my profile I’d have to say something like,

“Crabby, old, over-weight man might be looking for a left-leaning, bright woman who doesn’t annoy him too much.”

“I say ‘might’ because I might not be ready to go out with anyone yet – and even if I am, it likely won’t work out.”

That should do it, right?

Actually, I was hoping not to have to enter the online dating world.

I was hoping that one of my friends or neighbors would say, “hey, I know you don’t know if you’re ready and even if you are it probably won’t work out, but would you mind if I gave your number to a friend of mine?”


I keep the dead plant on my mantle.

That’s actually not accurate.

I’d like to tell you I keep the dead plant on my mantle as a reminder not to do things I’m not ready to do yet. But the truth is I haven’t gotten around to throwing it away.

There’s a side of me that thinks if I can’t be trusted with a plant then I can’t be trusted with a person.

Then again, another person can get her own water and find her way to the sun.

So – am I ready to date or not?

I don’t know.

I am, however, pretty certain it won’t go well the first few times.

And that’s the catch.

Doesn’t seem fair to invite someone into that situation.

Even if she can get her own water and find her way to the sun.

Published in: on June 23, 2018 at 4:03 pm  Comments (1)  

No Bagel

I didn’t put my finger on it until I was texting with my friend Mark.

He texted that he’d enjoyed bacon with his Fathers’ Day breakfast and I realized that this is the first time in twenty-one years that my morning didn’t begin with an everything bagel from Bialy’s, cream cheese, onion, tomato, and lox.

It’s a small thing.

It’s not the most important thing about today.

But it was a tradition for twenty years.

I became a father on September 15, 1997 when Maggie’s caregiver placed her in my arms in a hotel in Hefei, China.

We had just missed her first birthday and Kim and me, and the other families of Maggie’s “Shen sisters” became parents together that morning.

Nine months later we celebrated our first Fathers’ Day.

Kim had wanted to make something fancy but decided (after seeing the recipe) to instead pick up bagels. She got up early to make coffee and slice the onions and tomatoes and lay everything out.

Thus a tradition was born.

For us Mothers’ and Fathers’ day was about celebrating our spouse as parent. Sure, later it was about our kids doing something for their mom or dad, but, for me, Mothers’ Day was about me looking at Kim and remembering who she was before we had kids and who she’d become after.

On our second Fathers’ Day, I had bagels again.

I also had two daughters.

Elena had been born in March. The girls were almost exactly two and a half years apart but my second Fathers’ Day was Elena’s first.

As soon as she could talk, Elena loved celebrations like birthdays and Mothers’ and Fathers’ Days.

For the next several years Kim still picked up bagels but Elena would wake Maggie up so they would bring me a card or a gift.

My ninth Fathers’ Day was different.

Elena had died a few months earlier.

I began a new tradition.

Kim and I would have bagels and coffee together as always.

I’d wait for Maggie to wake up and come down with a Fathers’ Day card. I’d sit while she had a bagel.

Then I’d head to the cemetery to spend time with Elena.

So odd.

Most of the other people there were spending time with their fathers on Fathers’ Day.

I was spending time with my daughter.

Not with her. I never thought she was there. But it was a way of spending time with her memory.

That first year, Elena’s grave didn’t yet have a stone. Every year since it has and I’ve taken a picture of it on Fathers’ Day.

Again our tradition has changed.

Kim was killed almost two years ago.

Last year was my first Fathers’ Day without her.

It was difficult.

Fathers’ Day was always a day that was special to Kim and me. It was a time where we – this is going to sound sappy and stupid – but it was a day where we paused to share a love of something greater than the two of us. This family we’d built.

Maggie was home last year on Fathers’ Day.

She got up early – an amazing gift in and of itself – and went to Bialy’s as they opened. She picked up fresh bagels, cream cheese, and lox and brought it home.

I went to the cemetery and visited Kim and Elena’s grave.

Kim’s grave didn’t yet have a stone.

I used to sit on a bench next to their graves. The bench fell apart and the cemetery won’t replace it even though I’ve offered to pay for it.

So I stand a while. Some years I bring a chair.

This year it’s my twenty-first Fathers’ Day.

Maggie is away at a summer program studying ancient greek.

I consider that my Fathers’ Day gift. I’m very proud of her.

This year it’s just me and the puppy on my twenty-first Fathers’ Day.

It’s my thirteenth without Elena.

It’s my thirteenth of visiting the cemetery on Fathers’ Day.

It’s my second without Kim.

It’s my first without a bagel.

Published in: on June 17, 2018 at 10:34 am  Comments (1)  

Toots at 85

This is the toast I made to my mother on her 85th birthday at a special dinner at Kendal at Oberlin.

When Kim’s grandfather was in his 90’s, he told me that when you get old, people talk to you like they did when you were a small child.

They ask –

  • “How old are you?”
  • “Isn’t this fun?”
  • “Did you clean your plate?”

When you get really old, he said, no one asks you about anything of substance. And it they do, they don’t give you enough time to answer. They cut you off with another question – usually one they would ask a child.

It’s one of the many things I value about the Kendal community. It’s one of the many reasons I’m glad that my parents are part of it.

People here at Kendal – young or old – value the experiences of others.

They ask questions.

They wait for answers.

They listen.

And then, if it’s appropriate, they share their own experiences.

They know time is short.

Every birthday is to be celebrated.

By your age, every day is the birthday of someone you know or someone that someone you know – knows. So you celebrate.

Every day.

Today it’s my mom’s 85th birthday.

Happy birthday mom.

  • “How old are you?”
  • “Isn’t this fun”
  • “Did you clean your plate?”

When you were my age, I was in grad school. I had just met Kim.

I brought her over to meet you and you were full of questions, advice, and opinions. (I won’t repeat them here) So now that I’m that same age, here’s mine.

I’m lucky enough to still have both of my parents with me, but I’ve lost a wife an a daughter.

I know time is short.

It’s important that we live accordingly.

Not irresponsibly, but with joy and purpose and love of those around us.

Not everything matters…

And, of those things that matter, not everything matters equally.

Focus on those things that matter most.

In that list of things that matter most, there are those things you can affect and those you can’t.

I can’t make LeBron come back to Cleveland next year. I may as well take it off my list.

On the other hand, calls, donations, and my vote may change the midterm election. These things stay on the list.

What stays on the list?

Important things you can affect.

Like walking every day so you can continue to walk for many years to come.

Like meeting friends every day – for a meal, for coffee, or just for conversation.

Important things you can affect…

  • These items keep you from getting old.
  • These items keep things fun.
  • These items – and cleaning your plate.
Published in: on June 10, 2018 at 9:21 pm  Leave a Comment