Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Vlog to our loved ones gone.

This vlog is dedicated to my PawPaw and Granny.  To my MeeMaw.  To Brooke's Grandpa and Grandma.  To Pop's mom and dad.  To Fr. Tom.  I miss you all.  Thanks for shaping us in some way. To all the loved ones we have lost along the way who are spending eternity with the one who loves us the most.  I can only imagine.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Announcement

A few weeks ago I watched "The Announcement" on ESPN and was moved beyond belief.  This doesn't happen to me much when I watch TV.  I watched the entire show and came away with two lasting impressions.

1) I truly admire Magics courage that he continues to show.
2) My entire view of Pat Riley has changed for the better.

Growing up I was always a Jordan fan.  My father is still paying off the credit card debt due to my purchasing of all the Jordan shoes as soon as they came out.  Therefore, I didn't care much for Larry Bird or Magic.  I hated the Lakers.  They were everything I wasn't.  However, I remember the day when Magic Johnson announced he was HIV positive.  I had track practice for St. M.M. at Eastern High School.  It was a colder October day.  I figured like many other people that Magic was on borrowed time.  It wouldn't be long before he would be literally a skeleton of his former self and he would die.  The name Freddy Mercury meant little to me, AIDS was just something I saw on the news every so often.  Magic, an NBA MEGAstar, was a different story.  It had a profound effect on a young boy way across the country.  Magic didn't get it from drug use, didn't get it from a transfusion, he got it from sex.  You hate for anyone to catch this disease, regardless of how they obtain it, but no one should die from having sex.  HIV is a horrific, embarrassing, illness.  Magic could have reacted a lot of ways to this situation.   He was recently married and his wife was pregnant.  He could have retired and retreated from the spotlight.  He didn't do that.  To some degree he continued to play, earning another All Star MVP and a gold medal.   He attacked the virus the same way he attacked a fast break.  20 years later he looks better than most "healthy" people.  Magic has built a financial empire, and gives back to so many people who can't afford treatment for HIV.  Through all of this, Magic has taught us two very important lessons.  1) It CAN happen to anyone.  Not just a homosexual in West Hollywood.  2) We are all on borrowed time, too often we forget that.

Despite how impressed I was with Magic, I walked away being equally as impressed with Pat Riley.  I knew very little about Pat Riley prior to this show and perhaps I still don't.  What I thought I knew, I never really liked.  The slicked back hair, the Lakers (not the Bulls), the Knicks (not the Bulls), the SHOWTIME, the flash, Yankee, etc.  I just never really liked the guy.  I always thought that his two best qualities were the fact that he was a Greek from The University of Kentucky.  After all, UK does produce great Greeks!  I was absolutely floored at the compassion, emotion and support that Riley showed Magic.  It is easy for us to sit back today and proclaim that we would do the same thing.  When you put it in the context of the day and time, it was pretty remarkable.  Coach Riley cried when he heard the news, openly hugged Magic when many people didn't want to literally touch someone with HIV, offered Magic a chance to play basketball with him at NY and didn't shun Magic the way many "friends" did.   Rarely have I been more proud of a UK graduate than I was with the way Pat Riley handled that situation.  Who knows what Riley's legacy will be?  It might be the fact that he was one of Rupp's Runts, the team that lost to Texas Western in 1966.  It might be the his 9 year NBA career.  Maybe the fact that he was 3 time NBA Coach of the Year, and 5 time NBA Champion.  It might be all of it.  It should be the class he showed to Magic Johnson.  That is a legacy we should all hope to obtain in our own lives, and the only part of Pat's legacy that we (with our limited basketball coaching/playing skills) might actually hope to obtain.

ESPN does a lot of great shows when it comes to their 30 for 30 series.  Please take 90 minutes to watch this program.  It probably won't change you're life forever, but I think it will make it better.

UPDATE: Magic now owns part of the Dodgers.  Congrats Magic.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

And so it begins....

I had this moment at the dinner table last night.  Please watch this clip, so that you fully understand what I am talking about.  Particularly the part about the breakfast table and the pjs.
I have made no secret about how emotional I get when I talk about my girls.  I have also made no secret about how I will probably embarrass them their entire lives, due to the fact that I will cry at ever major life moment.  The worst event will be the moment I am walking them down the isle to be married.  This has to be a lonely feeling.  A hole in your heart that will never be filled.  I normally go to Dad for advice on all things, but since he had two boys, he doesn't know what this fear/feeling is like.  Despite how much you try and empathize with someone on this, if you haven't had to give away a daughter, you just can't understand.

You love all your kids equally, but you love all your kids differently.   I am truly blessed to have four kids, and even more blessed to have four baby girls.  They will always be my baby girls, no matter how old they get.  Reagan is my first.  She is also my BFF.  If Reagan had a choice to do anything in the world with one person, she would choose me.  I see a lot of our relationship in the same relationship I have with my father. Naturally growing up Dad and I did more things together than he and Patrick did.  Dad was always there for Patrick and included himself everywhere Patrick would let him, but Patrick didn't get into sports, hobbies, etc. like Dad and I did.  Reagan and I are just like that.  She loves her Daddy more than anything, and I am very honored to be her (all of their) Daddy.

The other day I had my first proud papa moment when Reagan tested into the gifted program at her school for reading and math.  I am told this is a really big deal.  That moment made me think of this clip:
So last night we are at dinner, and Reagan leans over to whisper in my ear that she needs to talk to me.  Not giving it too much thought, I say
Boomer: sure babe, whats up?
Reagan: Daddy,  I know you're not going to like this....but...... one boy at school, I am friends with. (then quickly following with) Its okay, I love you more.
Boomer: Blank stare, mouth open  (crickets chirping)

Moments like this hit me like a ton of bricks.  I know, she is only 6, I get it.  The fact that she even brought this up is a heavy reminder of a the thing all parents hate,  a reminder that their little kid is growing up.  I have to handle this the right way too, Brooke always reminds me of this.  Every time Reagan brings up anything having to do with boys, I initially want to punch my fist through a wall. Or his face, I don't care if he is six, this is my Reagan we are talking about.  Brooke always looks at me with that "look" too.  A look of part satisfaction about knowing how bad this irks me, part sadness of knowing how bad this irks me, and part support (it can be three parts, right?) for me because she knows how much this hurts me.  It is at this point that Brooke reminds that I want her to feel comfortable enough to be able to talk to me about boys.  I guess that is true, maybe.  The fact is you die a little each time this happens.  Ultimately, you do want to be the good father, keep her off the pole, etc.  I have to teach her that there are dangerous boys out there and there are honorable ones.  Most importantly, I need to teach her how to tell the difference.  The biggest way she is going to learn that is in the way I treat her, her sisters, and her mother. Sometimes the most difficult conversations to have are the most important ones to have.  Often, those conversations require me to just shut up and listen.  Let her talk.  Even if I want to tell her to stay away from yucky boys.  She has to know that I love and support her, no matter what.

In the end, I guess I do want her to feel secure enough in our relationship to come talk to me about boys.  I just don't want those boys to have that same sense of security when they are around me.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What a week-

This past Tuesday, Mom and Dad had to finally put Echo to sleep.  I say finally because her last 6 years of her life have been a struggle.  Echo was a big dog.  Big dogs get big problems.  They aren't supposed to live as long as smaller dogs, Echo lived to be 13.  I was still in college, didn't have kids, didn't know who Brooke was,  when we got Echo.

Echo was a rescued Newf for my parents.  Her first owners gave her back to the breeder because Echo was getting too big.  No sh*t, she is a Newf.  Thats what they do.  They get big and they slobber.  I do think it was an act of God though, no one would have sacrificed for Echo like Mom and Dad did.  They should have known very early on when she threw up on Dad her entire way home from Georgia.  Thats right, I said Georgia.  Mom and Dad drove to Georgia to get her.  They later would  drive Echo 130 miles one way to see an eye doctor because she had bad eyes.  They eventually spent thousands of dollars on knee surgeries.  The surgeries didn't take, so for the last years of her life, every time she went outside, someone had to assist her walking with a sling.  EVERY. TIME.  She eventually went totally blind, never moved much, and had skin/fatty tumors all over her body.  Yet through all this, she was happier than a pig in slop.  When she was younger she tried so hard not to get into trouble.  In fact, she tried too hard.  When one of us would raise our voice and yell "MOVE!" (when she moved it was at the speed of an aircraft carrier turning) she would freeze.  Panic.  This would get her into more trouble.  She really was a great dog.  But as she got older she did less and less, until she just sat in a corner most of the day.

We really hoped she would go to bed one night and wake up in heaven.  Yes, I said heaven.  If heaven is what "they" say it is, our dogs will be waiting for us.  Despite her declining health she always remained a happy dog.  I think that is what was the hardest on my parents.  Regardless of all the problems she caused my parents,  they have said for  the past year that "you can't put a dog down because they aren't convenient."  I think that is one of the things I admired most about the situation.  Anyway, she was a happy dog, right up until the end.  Thats the things about rescued dogs, particularly Echo.  She spent her entire life thanking Mom and Dad for rescuing her.  She would have never wanted them to be put out as much as they were because of her.  I do think, deep down, she knew how lucky she had it.  She had a reason to live, and that is why she did for so long.  Eventually though, the milage caught up to her.  She began to suffocate as her lungs would fill with fluid.  Breathing became a struggle and Mom and Dad knew what they had to do.  Thankfully I wasn't there.  I can't stand that moment.  Most of the time the dogs don't know whats coming. From what I have been told, Echo fully understood.  When Mom was on the floor with her Echo began to somewhat panic.  Not because she was scared, not because she didn't want what was coming, but because she didn't know where my Dad was.  She wanted to feel him one more time.  Dad patted her on the head, talked to her, and she settled down.  She was ready to go.

Things will be a little easier around the Ayers house now.  A little more space, a little less stinky dog smell.  We can swim in the pool now and not have to worry about the big, black dog, who is nervously pacing around the pool.   Mom and Dad will be able to make the trip up to Chicago together now.  Tonight they celebrated Flaget's 11 birthday, life goes on.  Despite the fact that life goes on, dogs like Echo never leave you completely.  They always leave paw prints in your heart.  Loyalty and friendship does that.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

"Mickey Loves You"

Well I think enough time has passed for me to finally blog about a sad day a few weeks ago.  I have faced my grief, the tears have all been shed, and now I can move on.  Three Sundays ago, a day I had dreaded for a long time, finally came.  I am not sure a blog on this universe has dedicated as much space to a pillowcase (here on out known as PC) as I have over the years.  I  previously blogged about the Ayers tradition of throwing our most trusted garments into the fire when it was finally time to let them go.  This gives them a proper Viking send off.  Their loyalty and comfort always wrapped around us after a long day.  I think part of the reason we hold on to these things is because it takes us back to a previous time.  Maybe things were better then?  Loved ones, situation in life, weather, money, who knows?  Regardless, they always did fit us like that old trusted glove.  Hence the phrase, "old truste(e)d glove"  For Dad, it was a trusted set of sleepwear, or perhaps a pair of boxers.  For me it was the same pillowcase I used every night (yes we cleaned it).  I once blogged, many moons ago, that PC was about to meet his Viking cruise.  However, at the last moment, as I looked into the PC's eyes, he gave me the old look seen here:

We had a conversation very similar to that one, and PC fought to spend about another year with me.  Every night I went to bed, he was there.  But as you can see from the picture above, just like Mick, he had a lot of miles on him.  Too many miles.  After getting him out of the dryer a few weeks ago, I noticed this huge hole in him.  PC had given up, he had no fight left in him.  I knew it was time to finally let him rest.  

As I thought about our time together, I was amazed at the miles we traveled.  He first came to us around 1991 and originally belonged to Patrick.  I then took him to UK, back to my parents house, over to Dellridge, back to Lexington, then finally to Chicago.  Almost 20 years he was there for me when I slept.  

Good bye old friend, thanks for the memories.