Monday, October 1, 2018

The middle-aged man with the graying hair and the wonderful life

I get sentimental in October.

I have no idea why this is. It's not like October should be any more likely than another month to make me intensely grateful for the things in my life. And there seems little reason for me to become more appreciative of friends and family now vs. other times, though I suppose next week is the 19th anniversary of my father's passing, and later this month is my daughter Chloe's birthday.

It probably has something to do with the coming of fall, the closing of another summer, the change in the weather, and the way all of that makes you take stock of where you stand.

A month from tomorrow I turn 49. Nothing really special about that, other than the fact that it officially begins the countdown to 50. Turning 40 didn't really bother me. We'll see if 50 is another story.

Fifty is a half-century. That's a milestone by any measure, and it's also the point when they start insisting you undergo various invasive and potentially unpleasant medical tests. The underlying message is, "Hey buddy, the bloom is off the rose now. We're going to have to start performing more routine maintenance on you so that we can delay the inevitable as you start to fall apart."

Which is cool. I can deal with that.

I'm also probably more in big-picture mode these days because of my mom. She is 86 years old, and she is enduring all of the physical and mental challenges we associate with that age. She recently spent a few weeks in a long-term care facility after surgery and a hospital stay led to some health complications.

She is back home now, but she isn't alone for long periods of time. My sister Debbie, saint that she is, arranges a schedule for someone to visit her every morning and every evening. Debbie herself pops in more often and calls Mom throughout the day. Meals on Wheels visits, as well.

Mom is almost always cheerful and happy when we visit her, but the reason we all have to visit in the first place is to make sure Mom is OK. Just like she always made sure each of us was OK. She gets confused over which pills to take. She has lapses in memory of which she is aware, and which frustrate her at times. She shows early signs of dementia.

Mom has another surgery scheduled in two weeks to address a cancer-related issue, and none of us knows what the outcome of that will be.

I love her, I love what she has meant to me, and I love her attitude toward just about everything. I want her to be around for a long, long time, and so does she.

We just don't know how long that will be.

So it goes.

There is also my wife, who  if you have visited here with any frequency over the past seven years  you will recognize as the central theme of my writing. It always comes back to Terry, and that is only fitting, because my life always comes back to her.

Terry recently quit her job at the library after nearly two years of working there. She enjoyed it, but too often it got in the way of the things that are most important to her. She missed too many track and cross country meets, too many soccer games, too much of everything for her taste. So she decided it was time to hang it up at the library and go back to being Full Time Mom.

She is awesome at this job, you understand. My goal is always to make sure I have my own life in order so that she can focus on the kids and the house and the day-to-day craziness of our family instead of me.

Yet she still worries about me sometimes, God bless her.

It's what she does. It's what all truly selfless people do. She remains the most generous, most honest, most beautiful, most giving person I know. It's impressive to watch her work.

Part of her caregiving efforts in the near term will focus on Jack, our 12-year-old youngest/fifth child who, I've said many times, has essentially been raising himself.

Jack, like his brother Jared before him, is tall for his age. He's pushing 5-9, which is tall-ish but certainly not freakish for an eighth grader. Except he's not supposed to be an eighth grader yet. He accelerated midway through his second-grade year, so technically he should be in seventh grade right now.

Combine that with the fact that he's a 12-year-old boy and beginning what is likely to be the most hormonal, most chaotic, most confusing time of his life, and you can understand why he might need a little guidance these days.

But he'll be fine. I know that. Terry will see to it.

And I'll be fine, too, though I whine a lot about the fact that my days are so busy. My job is part of that, of course, but there's also the self-imposed burden of school.

I started a master's degree program seven weeks ago. If all goes well, it will take me until the end of 2020 to complete it.

Graduate school  even when it's just online  is tough, as it should be. I'm working toward a Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications through West Virginia University, the ancestral home of my people. Go Mountaineers!

It takes a lot of time, and I knew that going in. But I reserve the right to complain about it, even if I have no one to blame but myself.

In the meantime, the other kids are thriving. Elissa, my whirlwind of a 24-year-old oldest daughter, works for a marketing/branding agency and maintains the kind of schedule that makes me tired just looking at it. She's smart, she's organized, and as my mom likes to say repeatedly, is "just so different from what she was when she was little!" I love her.

Chloe, who will turn 22 in a few weeks, is engaged to be married in a couple of years. She is working toward a double major in biomedical engineering and chemistry at the University of Akron, and is back interning at a medical device company. She has a lot going on. She is all-around impressive. I love her.

Jared, my 20-year-old firstborn son, is a sports management major at Cleveland State University. He lives downtown in a nice apartment with a friend, works when he can at the Cleveland Indians Team Shop, and has a sweet internship with the Mentor Ice Breakers, a new professional hockey team not far from our home. He works hard and I don't see much of him these days, but I'm so proud of him. I love him.

And then there's Melanie, my recently-turned-18 high school senior. She drives out to Mentor High School every day for a marketing course that is preparing her for a career in business. Maybe HR. Good choice. She's also an intern like Chloe, working for a metal products company. Melanie is finishing up a 12-year soccer career over the next couple of weeks. I'm going to miss watching her play. She always goes hard. Always. I love her.

I already told you about Jack, but I should have added that I love him.

I love almost everything about my life. I am insanely, wonderfully, absolutely undeservedly blessed.

And as the leaves start to turn and the air gets a little colder, I'm reminded of that again and again.


  1. Part of your sentiment in October could sub-consiously be that October was the month that the most influential man in your life past away! Just saying!

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