Monthly Archives: August 2019

Grandpa

Grandpa (my dad) was born February 26, 1930. He passed away on August 27, 2019. He was 89 years old.

Unfortunately, Sydney only had the chance to know Grandpa for six years of her life and only about three times per year. Most of those visits she already doesn’t recall and so, likely, Sydney will have only vague memories of Grandpa.

My dad was my hero in life. Interestingly, we didn’t have all that much in common. My dad was not very social, liked to watch sports rather than play them, and didn’t travel much out of the western US. He was not much of a wine or beer connoisseur. He worked in government and didn’t have an entrepreneurial bone in his body.

We of course had some things in common. My dad loved the outdoors and gifted that love of hiking and camping to me. He was interested in politics and loved to sit down and talk current events. Regardless of how much we had in common, for most of my adult life I have felt closer to my dad than to any other human.

I think part of it was that he was, many times, the only person who took the time to try to understand me and my life. I remember when I was younger, coming home from living abroad, traveling, or studying away at university. I might have just had the most amazing journey or experience. Most of my friends and family would ask one or two general questions such as “How was it?” My dad, though, would take notes while I was gone as ideas and questions occurred to him and then, a few days after I got home (so as not to overwhelm me) ask me about my experiences.

Almost everyone who met my dad loved him, in large part because of that ability to take an interest in other people and ask them about their lives. However, there was a flip side in that he was quite aware a large portion of the population were “monologists” who dominated conversations. Apparently my dad did not enjoy all his conversations but one would not have known it.

The fact that Sydney did not know Grandpa well is sad for me and probably will be sad for Sydney. It is a result of the life I chose for myself, marrying and have a child late, and not something I will dwell on now.

As my dad was deteriorating in health, I took a trip home to Seattle earlier this month and purposefully did not take Sydney. I did not want her to have memories of Grandpa that would displace the good ones she currently has. During that visit I was able to help my family improve his care, read five chapters of my memoirs to my parents (that I had worked hard to write before he died but have not quite completed in entirety), and say goodbye. I was able to tell him he was my hero, although I am not sure he understood what I meant by that.

I used to think I would be devastated when my dad passed away. But I believe I am now at peace with it. It is part of the circle of life, which is much easier to understand now that Sydney is on that circle with me, providing me with the same roles and responsibilities Grandpa had when I was little. Goodbye, Grandpa / Dad. Sydney and I will miss you.

Grandpa at 86 years old

Christmas 2018

Is It Worth It?

I ask myself this question regularly but not in the way one might think.

I ask myself “Is it worth it?” when i consider whether to get in the car and drive pretty much anywhere outside Sea Cliff or our nearby communities.

I have hated to waste my time in traffic since my first job out of college when I had to drive on occasion from Bellevue into Seattle with the commuting masses. I vowed never again to put myself in such a position. Now, living on Long Island, I am faced with this all the time. While going to the grocery store, driving to bicycle paths, or attending a play a ten-mile drive might take 25 minutes or it might take 45. Even more so, any idea of leaving Long Island requires escaping through the bottlenecks of Queens and The Bronx.

So on Thursday when I was packing the car to take Sydney camping for a night at Fahnestock State Park, 1.5 hours from Sea Cliff and north of the City, I was wondering whether it would be worth it.

Fahnestock State Park, like most state parks in New York, is not that crowded on weeknights. We had a beautiful tent site with no neighbors in view. We cooked dinner and s’mores over a fire, went swimming in the nearby lake, rented a kayak, and hiked a few miles on the Appalachian Trail. It is not the Rockies but camping outdoors is still nice and Sydney loves it. It was worth every aggravation behind the wheel.

What IĀ never ask myself is “Is it worth it to be living here in New York?”

It is a legitimate question. I could move back to Colorado and potentially get significant vacation time with Sydney, especially when she is older. I could be much nearer my family, could play soccer with my friends, would have a much better social life, and would not have to deal with New York traffic.

But what I would miss are the everyday interactions with Sydney. On this camping trip not only did we go kayaking but I could actually teach Sydney to paddle, point out the tree that beavers had attempted to cut down, and discuss how the wind affects our paddling. On our short hike we not only made up stories about the old mining road we were walking on but we talked for hours afterward about the Appalachian Trail and the young woman we met who was three months into her five month trip, now solo because her friend had dropped out.

I am not trying to indoctrinate Sydney but just doing what I love to do means our conversations include those activities. I don’t know and frankly don’t care if Sydney grows up to be a forest ranger or a doctor or both but at least she will know both options exist. On a more mundane level, she will also know how to water vegetables, weed a garden, cook her own meals, and sweep the floors. She will learn why listening is more important than talking and understand why it might not be common to say “hello” in the campgrounds of New York but that people will respond if you do.

To be fair, I am getting used to driving here. I know the route to Trader Joe’s without using my cell phone. I am quite comfortable in the North Shore communities surrounding Sea Cliff. And soon I will probably be more ready to make treks past the City to explore.

Regardless, I keep doing what I am doing. Anyone who has raised a child knows the awesome influence one has over that small being. I take that influence incredibly seriously and hope my daily efforts pay off with years of future happiness for Sydney.

Sydney’s Sixth Birthday Party

I threw Sydney a birthday party on August 2, two days before her sixth birthday.

I asked Sydney whom to invite and she decided on all girls, nine from her Green Vale school and five from Sea Cliff. People talk about summer birthdays being hard to gather attendees but we ended up with five from school (including all four of her classmates: Ella, Angie, Carolina, and Carter) plus Genevieve, Kayla, and Anaya from Sea Cliff.

I am personally not a big fan of drop-off parties, since they just seem like a big time suck when having to drive 30 or more minutes both ways for drop off and pick up. So we timed this party to be 6:00 PM on a Friday evening and specifically invited parents, with nine attending.

Throwing a party is not rocket science but it takesĀ work. I cleaned the back yard, put in the extra leaves of the dining room table, brought chairs up from the basement, shopped for and prepared food, and planned activities. I created a menu for dinner and a second menu for the ice cream cones Sydney wanted for dessert instead of cake. I had a great party schedule planned. Funny enough, the schedule was shot 10 minutes in when all the girls just ran off together having fun.

Ultimately, though, we did the following:

  • Relay races in the back yard
  • Chalk art on the driveway
  • Hot dog and burger bar, with help from two parents who took over the cooking
  • Ice cream stand with Sydney and her friend Angie taking orders
  • Disco dance party with the dads leading the kids

Sydney had a great time. For me, it was heartwarming both that Sydney has such good friends one year into our time in New York and that I knew and liked all the parents, who seemed to enjoy themselves as well. Interestingly, six of the nine adults in the room were men, which is not the norm for a birthday party!