Thursday, May 23, 2013

Walking on water....

Most parents think their kids can walk on water.  Most parents think their kids are the most handsome/prettiest around.  Most parents think their kids are the next Einstein.  Most parents think their kids will cure Cancer.  The truth is generally somewhere in the middle.  I make no grand claims that my kids are any of these things.  Who knows what my girls will do?  I do know they are perfect for me, and thats what matters the most.  You also have to keep things in perspective, which some parents have trouble doing on Facebook.  "Oooh little Johnny (who is 16) put the correct shoe on the correct foot today!"  "Yes, look at little Susie, isn't she the prettiest?" Mother later wonders why no one has liked her status/pic.....

Anyway, I suppose its the way it should be.  Parents should think their kids are wonderful.  The flip side of that, parents should know when they need to correct behaviors of their kids, and not enable their kids...but I digress.  I have a saying around my work, "we aren't curing Cancer."  I use it when someone is overcomplicating something, or when someone is being too dramatic about a situation that does not deserve it.  I.J.A.F., its just a fraternity.  I say that because I want people to keep proper perspective on all things except UK sports in life.

My kids have yet to cure Cancer, they may never do such a glorious act.  Regardless, I have never been as proud of anyone or anything in my life.  Think about that.  I'm proud of my parents for working so hard to love each other after 50 years together, and for providing for Patrick and I.  I'm proud of Patrick for fighting the good fight with Dad, and for being a great example to me.  I'm proud of my in laws (both parents and brother's families), they all inspire me.  I'm even proud of the many SAE's I have come across.  From Dick Myers (former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), Tim Sirota- who fought in Iraq twice, to come back and start a SAE chapter at his school, and has now become a great undergraduate brother.  I'm around inspiring people everyday.

 Having said that, I was the most proud I have ever been in my life yesterday.  I have blogged about the efforts my girls have made for the boy named Patrick down in Tennessee.  As we know, Patrick passed away sometime ago.  The girls held bake sales, sold lemonade, and did all they could to raise money to help Patrick fight.  You are always unsure what sinks in with kids, sometimes they each pick something different.  About a year ago, we showed Caroline (all the girls) pictures of Patrick as he got really sick.  Questions were raised about Patrick and his loss of his hair.  When Brooke explained the hair loss, Caroline instantly grabbed onto the idea of her donating her hair to Locks of Love.  Caroline has always had the kindest hearts of all my girls, I was proud of her for wanting to do this.  Your hair has has to be a certain length in order to donate it (which disqualified Reagan and Hadley), so we couldn't cut it last summer.  About every other week, it would come up at the dinner table.  She never wavered, she never changed her mind.  Her face would always light up like a Christmas tree when we asked her about.  She. was. committed.  The funny thing about all this, is Baylor Grace would always say "not me, I want my hair like Rapunzel's!"

We knew we were getting close to the time to cut her hair, yesterday was the day.  Brooke explained to the girls that it does cost some money to make the wigs, so Caroline decided to call her family and friends and ask for donations.  Props to Pop (Brooke's dad) who was the first to be all in.  He might have been the easiest sell of all time.  She would say "I'm donating my hair today, it will cost a lot of money to make the wig, will you send some doesn't matter how much you can send."  She had Brooke call just about everyone in our family, including both Brooke and Callie.  Thanks to everyone for their support.  There was a lot of celebration going on as the money raised increased to over $100.  Baylor Grace took note and decided to do the same thing.  She told Brooke that she wanted to donate her hair, too.  She (Baylor) then went through and called everyone back and asked for some money to donate.  They raised over $200 to help the non profit make the wigs that will use their hair.

This was the proudest day of my life (I think I mentioned that).  I'm thankful that the girls had the awareness, at such a young age, to do something for others.  Life is more fulfilling when you realize and live for something bigger than yourself.  Caroline never backed out, Baylor Grace joined in.  Everyone knows that one of the hardest things for people with Cancer to face, is going out in public without their hair.  Sometimes the littlest things- like having a decent wig- can give them hope and strength to keep on fighting that fight.  I am proud of my girls.  They may not be curing Cancer, but maybe they will help in doing so.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

183 Steps

Dear Baylor Grace,

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (that I am home), I take the best 183 steps of my day.  It is 183 steps depending on where we park. I know this because we have taken the same basic route, the entire year.  The walk is only about a 3-5 minute walk, but it is something that I love.  It helps me focus on my priorities, and that walk also helps me get my mind right for the day.  Every morning, I lift you out of my truck and we begin our journey to your school.  Within the first few steps, you raise your gentle hand for mine.  I can't tell you how that gesture makes your Daddy feel.  I absolutely love holding your hand.  Normally you are talking, you talk almost the entire way.  I generally don't know what you're saying, but I listen as best as I can.  You also talk about the dead mouse we once found along our walk.  His memory lives on because you always talk about him.  We have done it in beautiful weather.  We have done it in painfully cold weather.  We have done it in the sun, and we did it this morning in the rain.  No matter what, its what I look forward to the most during the work week.

Today was my last day to do it this school year.  You don't have school on Friday, and I am gone all next week.  I wanted to thank you for always requesting me to take you to school.  It helps your mom out a lot, but it helps me too.  Yeah maybe Id work out a little more before work if I didn't take you, but it is a sacrifice I gladly make.  I don't know how much longer you will ask for me to do this, but I assure you my answer will always be yes.

I thought a lot about this past year, after you walked in the door today.  In case you are wondering, it still stings.  I feel like it always will.  It seems like just yesterday I held you for the first time, confused by the color of your eyes.  You are an angel on Earth to me.  It stings because every time you go in, I realize how much bigger you're getting, and how you will need us less and less.  You have learned your letters, you can write your name, you're even starting to read. This years walk took on a whole new meaning though, due to some incidents that we have tried to shield you from.  As a parent, you never expect to drop your child off at school and worry about an insane murderer.  I think Sandy Hook shook a lot of parents to core.  There have been school shootings before, all of them are horrific.  Nothing was as terrifying to see the beautiful, young, faces of those kids about your age.  Maybe it shouldn't be different with HS kid vs. a 1st grader, but it is different.  So letting you go, every other day, is even harder.  Then you have a tornado hit a school and some of those kids aren't coming home that day as a result.  Its just tough, you can literally paralyze yourself with fear thinking of everything that can go wrong.  It has taught me to make sure to hug and kiss you and your sisters (and Mom) everyday before we leave. You never know.  Whether its your first memory when you wake up, going into school, I leave for work, or you go to bed... I want your last thought of me, is of me giving you a hug and kiss, and of me telling you that I love you.  In the end, we just put our faith in God, and we hope that everything goes as planned.

I will miss those weekly walks, Baylor Grace.  I can never express how much you comforted me by placing your little hand into my hand.  I hope you enjoy your summer break, you have earned it.

Love always and forever,

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A walk to remember...

This weekend was my first weekend home in FOREVER, by forever I mean at least a month.  I have been working non stop, I was looking forward to sitting around and doing nothing for once.  Brooke had other plans.  A week or so ago, with slight trepidation in her voice, she asked if I would do this walk with/for her. It was a walk I didn't really want to do. Im tired, worn out.   I wasn't sure what the walk was about,  but I could tell it was important to her so I signed on.  Most Breast Cancer Awareness events take place in October,  its unusual to have something take place in May.  Regardless, this was a special walk for Brooke, and she wanted all of us to do it.

We got up and out the door by 8 this morning.  It was a cool, overcast day.  It would have been a great morning to lay in bed and watch TV, but this was important to Brooke.  We got there and we were surrounded by pink.  I saw lots of people in crazy pink outfits.  It looked as though the cotton candy monster had thrown up on Park Ridge.  I saw people of all races, ages, and backgrounds.  I saw survivors who were celebrating another day, I saw fighters who were standing strong underneath a wig.    I saw one fighter who is our age, with three kids.  This was a lady Brooke had worked so hard for during a recent consignment sale.  I probably gave Brooke a hard time for working so hard for someone I didn't know, it hit me like a ton of bricks when I finally met this lady.  I saw husbands who looked lost (as we almost always do anyway) because they were surrounded by constant reminders of the fact that they might lose their loved one in this battle, and I saw husbands (like me) who were just thankful for the good health of their spouse.

Being there brought me back to when we found out Mimi (Brooke's mom) had BC.  They pretty much found out on their way up to Louisville to visit us.  I remember a private moment when Pop (Brooke's father), my dad, and I, cried together.  We were alone and we knew it was safe to cry. I can only guess why we were crying.  I think Pop was crying because he knew the hell he went through with his Cancer, twice.  The agony of having that happen to your wife was too much for him (as it is for any of us) to bear.  I bet my dad was crying because any time you talk about Cancer, he cant help but think of what it did to his father, and he certainly didn't want that struggle to befall two people he loved.  I cried because I knew how it would effect Brooke.  Mimi is my wife's hero, her hero who was now in the fight of her life.  We brushed away the tears and tried to put on a brave face, because we are men....thats what we were supposed to do. We would go out and face this problem head on, we are supposed to be brave.  In reality, I think the only person who didn't cry (openly), and the bravest of us all that day...was Mimi.  Isn't that the way it normally is though?  The "brave men" turn to mush when the idea of something like this hits their loved ones.   The woman are the brave ones, they always are.

Mimi fought her Cancer and won, just like Pop twice did.  Just like my mother once did. You could say that Brooke and I are unlucky because 3 out of 4 parents have been stricken by Cancer.  In reality I think we ARE lucky,  because our parents have moved into the survivor category.  I remember the week Reagan was born, a news story said that a girl born today (February of 2006) would never die from Breast Cancer.  I can only hope.  Its bad enough to worry about my wife and my mothers with this awful disease.  Now, I have to worry about it for my 4 girls.    Cancer changes everything, it stays with you even when its "gone." Cancer makes you stop and smell the roses, Cancer makes you appreciate the little things in life, and Cancer gets your ass off the couch to go do a 5k in honor of someone you love.

Right at the starting line there was a pink fire truck. This truck goes all over the country in support of the women who have fought this disease.  Its covered in sharpie messages from survivors, loved ones, and ones left behind.  Despite all the craziness going on, Brooke got the girls up on the truck to sign was important to her. Now the girls message will travel all over the country, too.

Before long, we were off.  I was pushing Baylor Grace in a stroller, I pushed her the whole way.  When we got done, she gets out and sighs..."my legs are so tired!"  Really, Baylor Grace?  Caroline sat in the double stroller that Brooke was pushing.  She counted a whole bunch of the way, last I heard she was around 700.  Hadley, was talking on her hand phone.  Hadley wasn't making much sense, but I could tell by her tone that the conversation was very serious.  Reagan, to her credit, walked almost the whole way.  I told her that I was proud of her and that Mimi would be too.

Brooke wanted us to do something together as a family, get some exercise, and do this walk in honor of her mother. I'm not sure the girls totally understood why we were doing the walk, but we told them enough times that they started to catch on. It was a walk I originally didn't want to do, but I am glad she made me do it.    I was there for Mimi, but I was also there for Brooke....this was important to her.

It was a walk to remember for sure.  Originally I thought this was a walk I didn't want to do,  I realized it is a walk that I hope we never have to do again.