Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day 2010

I had arrived at his house five minutes earlier than expected. We left immediately, leisurely driving down Route 106, discussing family issues, the weather and just commenting on what a beautiful Saturday morning it was. We eased into traffic from Exit 9 on Route 3 and it was a quick mile and a half to the Independence Mall.
Dad commented that he usually parks over near Pizzeria Uno because the lot near the cinema is always full. I gamble that - at 11:20 AM - it would not be crowded. I was right.
We entered the Mall right at the cinema. As we walked towards the ticket booth Dad was scanning the wall for a poster of the film we were about to see. He was disappointed when he didn't see one. "I'm sure they'll have one inside," I said reassuringly.
While we waited in line Dad reminded me to ask for one adult and one senior citizen because "You get a discount, you know." He was right; I saved .50 cents on his ticket.
Tickets in hand, we walked across the front lobby towards the video games. Dad browsed the selection and stopped at a hunting game. "I used to be pretty good at shooting games," he said.
"Do you want to try your luck?" I asked. "I have .50 if you want it?"
He thought about it for a moment, then "No, that's okay. What time does the movie start?"
"We'd better go get our seats."
I look at my watch. It is 11:25. "Sure, Dad. Whatever you want."
As we walked down the darkened, empty corridor to theater #4, I spied a poster for our film. "Here you go, Old Man." We paused an looked at the grizzled black and white poster that showed head shots of our four heroes.
"Who's who?" Dad asked, squinting in the dim light.
"I pointed from the top left, "That's Hannibal. Here's Face, B.A., and Murdock."
Dad smiled and said, "This will be fun."
We entered the dimly lit theatre. Overly-loud movie Muzak was playing over the same three "trivia questions" that were repeated ad-nauseum. Dad chose our seats in the 2nd aisle from the back row, because he can see better from that distance. We took our seats and looked around. We laughed. At 11:28, we were the only two patrons seated in the theatre. By the time the movie started we were two of seven.
Dad had declined any popcorn of beverage as he was "saving his appetite" for the pizza and soda we were going to get after the movie.
For now we were locked and loaded and ready for "The A-Team".
We chatted for a while - eating up a half an hour with small talk - and then we sat in companionable silence for a few moments. Dad has a lot on his mind lately. I wondered what thoughts were racing through his head. He broke the silence and said, "This is a good day, me boy. Thank you."
"Thanks, Dad. I think so, too."
As the lights dimmed, Dad turned to me, smiled and said, "Here we go."
I love it when a plan comes together.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

One Hundred Years

My Nana, Margaret Little, is one hundred years old today.
In recognition of this milestone, she has received accolades from President and Mrs. Obama, The Pope, Cardinal O'Malley and Representative Delahunt. Today is also "Margaret Little Day" in Quincy, MA.
Nana may or may not know these facts but her family does.
We celebrated at the nursing home on Sunday, bringing together cousins, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The guest of honor smiled infrequently, scowled at my aunt's insistence on feeding her cake and not so subtly stuck her finger up her nose, to great guffaws of laughter from Jenna.
In fact, laughter fills my memories of Nana.
Most of the family holidays were spent on Watson Road with Nana and Grampa. Grampa was taken from us too soon (in 1976) yet Nana shouldered on. Our family Christmas party always included a "gift box", in which the Master of Ceremonies would dispense presents to each guest and then mercilessly tease them about it. I was the first Master of Ceremonies and that never changed. For some reason my family enjoyed my twisted sense of humor and double-entendre laden quips. This part was easy, you see, because many of our gifts were bought at Spencer Gifts. Nothing spelled out "hilarity" quite like watching an elderly relative open a gift from Spencers.
My favorite present may have been the time that Nana opened a bottle of heated massage oil - and she didn't know what it was used for. Even funnier was Uncle Tommy's repeated attempts to trade his present - or any present - for the massage oil.
Oh! I also enjoyed when Uncle Tommy's sister, Barbara (the nun) got a box of condoms - ribbed for her pleasure.
After gifts were given out my cousin Scott would bring out his keyboard and lead the family in Christmas Carols. Nana nearly choked on her egg-nog the first time she heard Scott and I sing "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" but she asked us to sing it again year after year.
Laughter wasn't relegated to just the holidays.
I remember having dinner at Nana's house sometime in 1978. Mom, my siblings and I just finished the main course, With dishes in the sink Nana asked if we wanted dessert. My brother Mark (who was nine) asked "What's for dessert?"
"I have cookies for dessert," Nana said.
"Hmmm...what kind of cookies?"
"Well, I have - what do you mean 'What kind of cookies?'" Nana sputtered, as we laughed and laughed. "They're cookies, for chrissakes!"
"I know, but what kind of cookies are they?"
"Caca-looley Cookies - that's what type they are! You'll eat 'em and like 'em!"
And he did.
Forevermore, oatmeal raisin cookies in my family have been known as "Caca-looley Cookies."
Nana has seen much in her one hundred trips around the sun. She has seen the science-fiction of her youth become the realities of day-to-day life. She raised her siblings and then married and raised her own family, which now consists of three daughters, six grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. She spent forty years with Andy Little before being widowed. She has buried two daughters, numerous family members and even a dog or two. Through it all, Nana always found time to laugh. In doing so, her family laughed with her.
Today, I remember the laughter.
Happy Birthday, Nana.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sunscreen for the Class of 2010

It is with great pride that I tell you that Jenna graduated from high school on Friday, June 4th. Those closest to her were there to celebrate this milestone event. Jenna can now enjoy one last summer of high school before she heads off to college in the Fall.
I believe that she will do very well in college. Jenna has the will, intelligence and determination to succeed at whatever she puts her mind to doing. Trust me, she has proven this part time and time again. Once she sets her mind to something then she will accomplish it. I'm not sure exactly where she gets that level of stubborn from. Let's just say that both sides of the family are equally culpable in this regard. Just the fact that she is going to the college of her choice means that she is much more prepared to face her future than I ever was.
In honor of this milestone event, today I share with you an essay titled "Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young" written by Mary Schmich and published in the Chicago Tribune as a column in 1997. Schmich has described the column as "advice for living without regret." She described it as "the commencement address that she would give if she were asked to give one." Her advice is simple, funny and profound.

"Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen."