Thursday, September 27, 2007
But I digress, because of said obsession, he has been hounding Tony and I to take him to see the Chargers play. I am sure if you were to ask Cole he would emphatically state that this is his biggest heart's desire.
A few weeks before Cole's birthday, my dad called and asked if it would be okay if he gave Cole Chargers tickets in honor of the big day. Admittedly, it took me a few days to call my dad back. My dad is always so very, very generous with us, and this gift seemed a bit extravagant. Finally, I relented and agreed that my dad could surprise Cole with tickets.
Last Tuesday, on Cole's birthday, I told him that I would check him out of school so that we could go to lunch with Grandpa and celebrate. As I was doing the morning dishes, Tony and I got to talking about how excited we were for Cole and how much fun it would be to see the look on his face when he opened the tickets.
"This will be a wonderful memory Cole will always have of your dad." Tony whispered in my ear as he kissed me goodbye.
And that is when it hit me. My dad is dying. I actually had to say it out loud, as if vocalizing it would somehow make it feel more real. I know the reality, my heart knows it's true, and yet, I tend to cope with it by trying not to think about it.
I cleaned and I cried. I mopped and I wept. And I wondered if this was possibly the last birthday Cole would have with my Dad.
The kids and I have a bit of a game we play that helps us deal with the ambiguity that is my dad's cancer. "Will Grandpa be here for Christmas?" Oh, yes.
"Will Grandpa be there for my wedding?" No. "When I get my Eagle?" I'm not sure. My dance recital? My mission? Easter? And so it goes. We mark the time in events rather than in days, and somehow the inevitable, the unthinkable, becomes easier to accept.
I had a difficult time maintaining my composure as Cole and I drove to Apollo Burger. Twice my dad called to confirm the location and directions. I recognized his "chemo brain" and patiently guided him to the correct spot. I grimaced as I witnessed his severe pain in walking only 20 feet to our seat. I pretended not to notice his trembling hands, his translucent skin, his puffy face. It saddened me to look at the card he had written for Cole, and see how his once beautiful penmanship had turned shaky and uncertain.
The moment came and he handed his gift to Cole explaining that he didn't know what to buy him, so he hoped that Cole liked gift cards. I saw the familiar twinkle in his eye as we both watched and waited for Cole's reaction.
It sounds so silly to write, but I can't remember a moment so beautiful. I watched as Cole squealed in delight and then began crying tears of joy. Not just a few courtesy tears, but streams and streams of happy tears. A real dream come true for my little boy.
Before long Dad and I also were crying happy tears...right there in the middle of Apollo Burger, over our onion rings and hamburgers. I watched Cole throw his arms around my dad, and marveled at how big he seemed against my Dad's thin frame. I smiled as sweet baby Miles climbed into my Dad's lap and alternated between patting at his cheeks and laying his head upon Dad's chest. I savored the moment.
Over the course of lunch, Dad told me that he had gone to get his "obituary picture" taken. We laughed a bit at the absurdity of it all, but his comment stayed with me. I thought about it the entire day and most days since then, and the conclusion I have come to is this: When the day comes that Cole and I look back on my dad's life, I hope we don't have to look at his picture and try to remember him. Rather, I hope that the memory we have of Apollo Burger and the Chargers tickets will be emblazoned on our hearts. I hope that Cole's 11th birthday with my Dad will be a memory that is imprinted in his mind forever. I hope he remembers his grandpa, an imperfect man, and yet someone who loved him beyond measure.
And I hope that my Dad can take the memory of this day with him as well.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
I have many friends who lift me and, as Laura so eloquently wrote, "breathe life into me" on my darkest of days. But today I am thinking of my sweet friend Brooke .
Last week she had me over for lunch and spoiled me with the most amazing Filo Tomato Tart and Raspberry Coconut Bars. She listened to me, she fed me, she loved me; and I left her home feeling my spirit regenerated.
I don't believe it's an accident when those who so easily see into our hearts, come into our lives and make a profound difference. Again, I am humbled by the outpouring of blessings I have in my life. The best thing about this blog is the ability it has to make me take notice of the richness and fullness of my life.
"Mom, I need a note for gym. We're having a backhandspring contest and I've done 428 of them since last week." She hands me the note to sign which she has already written. I notice that she has taken time to write neatly and everything is spelled correctly.
I suppose I should be surprised at the number of handsprings she's thrown. But I'm really not. Her teacher has asked her to do 100 per day and she works at it continually. 100 sounds impossible, but it really isn't if she has the time. But the thing is, she doesn't really have the time. She is quite possibly the most over scheduled 7 year old I know. From gymnastics, to dance, soccer, art, school and friends. And yet, she thrives on the schedule. I worry over her constantly, and am always watching for signs of stress and exhaustion. But happily she rolls along.
From gymnastics, we did another quick change for her soccer game. I watched her in the mirror as I pulled her hair back into a pony. In constant motion, and in constant conversation she demonstrated the 5 (or is there 6?) ballet positions to me in the mirror. Happily she turned pirouettes down the hall as we hurried to the car. I only scolded her once as I feared the twirling in her cleats might just scratch my hardwood floors.
From a fabulous soccer game with an intense defensive effort, to homework and then bed. Only to begin again the next day. So many things come so easily to Rachel. She is smart, she is talented, she has amazing artistic and athletic ability. At times her physical ability amazes me, only to be more astounded by her mental toughness and determination. I recognized long ago that Rachel has set her own path, she is directing her life; and I, I am only here in a supporting role. For as talented and capable as she is, she is also very stubborn (she did get something from me). I have had to learn to let her lead, to step back as she willingly takes risks, to hold my breath as she makes choices and finds her way.
As we were driving home from soccer, she calls out from the back seat:
"Mom, when I grow up, I want to be a Slurpee girl or a gas station girl."
Tony and I snicker in the front seat and Tony responds "Go for your dreams Rach."
I can hardly contain my laughter and carefully ask her "Exactly what does a Slurpee girl do?"
"She gets Slurpees for people. Duh! Well, maybe I'll be an Orthodontist."
Relieved, I answer "That sounds like a great goal Rachel."
"No mom, not the orthodontist, orthodontist. I mean the orthodontist girl. You know, the girl that changes the wire?"
And so it goes, my ever so capable, talented and smart little girl, aspires to be the Slurpee girl or the Orthodontist girl. And that is the way she rolls.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
So we head clear out to Grantsville to watch Cole play in the pouring rain. As we were packing up the car to leave, Cole asked me to grab the camera. I declined telling him that I didn't want to ruin it in the rain.
"But Mom" he lamented, "today I'm going to get a touchdown." Yeah. Uh-huh. Sure you are you little first timer you. It's not that I don't have confidence in Cole or in his abilities, but he is, after all, a beginner.
Imagine my surprise and delight then, when Cole was handed the ball and proceeded to take a beautiful 15 yard run right into the end zone. Touchdown! And then of course instant tears pricking at my eyes.
Tony and I laughed as we watched him celebrate with his team-mates. He immediately searched us out on the sideline trying to secure eye contact. Tony gave him the thumbs up, I blew him a kiss and he grinned from ear to ear.
On the very next possession, Cole had another great play as he caught a very-lopsided 10 yard pass securing the first down. Again, the grin and the twinkle in his blue eyes so bright I could see the sparkle from clear across the field.
It happens every time Cole makes a good play, a happy little smirk curls against his lips and slowly a smile creeps across his face. Offense, defense, blocking, tackling, catching, running, it really doesn't matter; he simply loves being out there and the joy is evident on his face each and every time he plays.
During half time, Tony teasingly told Cole to "try and look a little mean out there." But I honestly don't think it's possible for Cole to put his game face on and play the part of big, tough football player. He's having too much fun.....As are we.
Alta Crimson 26 Grantsville 6
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Sunday he told me to wear my high heels because he thought they were "Secksy".
Tonight as I tucked him in I told him how I loved his cockney accent, the way he cuddles his brother, the energy and laughter he brings to our home. I love his tender heart, his goofy stories and silly impressions. I love his easy affection, his dedication, his compassion.
"And Mom" he said, "I love you because you're Secksy."
I can't decide if I should be flattered or worried. I know he just says it to make me laugh, and the word itself probably feels a bit naughty to him. But really, it just makes him seem so old.
Stop growing up already.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Just over a week ago, Tony and his DNA Cycling Team finished yet another Lotoja bike race. Exactly what is Lotoja you may ask. Lotoja is the longest, one day sanctioned bike race in the United States. Encompassing 206 miles and traveling through three States, over 1,000 riders partipated in this years' 25th addition. Participants begin in the pre-dawn hours in Logan, Utah and cycle through some of the most gorgeous, yet grueling terrain before they reach the finish line in Jackson Hole's Teton Village.
For the past four years Tony has participated in and finished Lotoja. The first year was his best finish time as he placed fourth in his category. When I met him at the finish line we both had tears streaming down our cheeks. The accomplishment in and of itself was amazing; a courageous display of determination and physical ability.
My friend Whitney and I got our feet wet supporting our husbands. We only got pulled over once by the Idaho State Patrol, mastered the art of handing off Musette bags and miraculously made it to every feed zone while still caring for a two month old baby.
Tony's second Lotoja was the infamous ride of 2005. Temperatures on the course would be recorded as one of the coldest in race history. As I waited at the Montepelier Feed Zone which was at the base of the 7,424 foot Strawberry Summit, I saw rider after rider suffering from hypothermia and needing assistance from EMT's. Scary is an understatement. Finally, Tony arrived and I was certain that he would abandon the race. I will never forget the snowflakes scattered through his hair beneath his helmet and clinging to his eyelashes. I urged him to get off the bike and warm up, but he refused, insisting that if he got off the bike, he wouldn't want to get back on. Only 424 riders finished the race that year and Tony was one of them. Watching him recover from the ordeal, I honestly thought that he would never again ride Lotoja.
But alas, we were back in 2006. With the DNA boys, if one of them decides to do a race, it almost becomes contagious, and soon several of them commit to the ride. Such was the case with the 2006 Lotoja. Certainly it couldn't be worse than the SNOW we encountered in 2005. Right? Wrong.
Tony and his teammates (Adam, Rick, John and Justin) committed to stay together throughout the course of the race. Cycling is indeed a team sport and riders rely on each other to take pulls at the front of their pace line while the others conserve energy behind the lead rider through drafting. The boys seemed to be doing well, everyone was in high spirits...until the last feed zone in Alpine.
We decided to take our kids along to help support Tony. They loved the excitement and energy of the race as much as I did, and were anxiously waiting for their Dad in Alpine. We waited and waited and soon I could see the concern on each of my friends' faces as they worried over their husbands. Soon riders were entering the feed zone talking of a huge wreck just a few miles back. Deep down inside I knew it was our boys.
Sure enough, a few minutes later, our boys coasted into the feed zone slowly. They had had a wreck in their pace line where Justin had cross wheeled a teammate in front of him, and Tony went down on top of him. Aside from a bit of road rash and being tangled in his bike, Tony was fine. Justin, on the other hand, had broken his collar bone and sustained serious damage to his bike.
Justin was determined to go on, so Gina, our resident sports medicine guru, quickly bandaged up his wounds and loaded him up with percoset, and they were off.
The last 50 miles were torture, with Justin in incredible pain, soft pedaling his bike, now with only 3/4 of a handlebar and unable to change gears. To add insult to injury, he flatted twice and twice his team stopped to help him, and then continued to accompany him to the finish line. When they finally rolled across the finish line together, we were all relieved. I had never had such an up close and personal experience of watching team work in action. My respect for these men increased tenfold as I realized how much they cared about each other and what great friends they were. Although their finish time was disappointing, I was so impressed with how they were able to put competition aside to be team players.
This year the DNA boys decided to do a Lotoja Relay. I celebrated this news all summer! Riding in a relay allows you to enjoy all of the fun and excitement of Lotoja without spending the entire summer in training. I watched Tony enjoy his mountain bike all summer, hardly clocking any miles at all on the road bike. The kids and I delighted in his time and attention. We took a family vacation, we goofed off and spent many Saturdays at the pool instead of on the bike.
Tony rode the second leg of the relay which was a climbing stage from Preston, Idaho to Montpelier, Idaho. His portion of the race was 45 miles in length with a total of 3,400 vertical climbing feet and included the infamous Strawberry Pass, which was dusted with snow just two years ago. All of the boys did very well and DNA took 2nd overall in the relay race.
It was so great to spend a day alone with Tony in the car. It was very enlightening for him to witness the race from the support end rather than the cycling end. Lotoja is magical in so many ways. You see so many different types of athletes from those who are competitive cyclists to amateur athletes riding the race as a personal goal or to support a cause. You witness suffering, elation and despair. Each year I am inspired over and over again by the strength of the human spirit. Each year I marvel at the beauty of not only the scenery, but the view of the colorful peleton, working together towards a common goal. Each year I love our team and their wives, my sweet friends, just a bit more. I love Lotoja. I can't wait for next year.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
4 Lotoja Bike Races
7 Kidney Stones
2 Ruptured Achilles Tendons
1 Problem Liver
Thousands of Joyful Moments
Inifinitely More Laughter than Tears
2 Imperfect People
One Sweet Happy Life
Friday, September 7, 2007
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Lazy, Funny, Athletic, Crazy
Son of Tony & Jill, Brother of Rachel and Miles
Lover of sports, Utah Utes, and the San Diego Chargers
Who feels happy, confused and energetic
Who needs sports, playstation, soda and food
Who fears aliens, hobos and crazy people in straight jackets
Who admires Ladanian Tomlinison, my Dad, and Lance Armstrong
Who would like to see the San Diego Chargers play, the Tour de France, and Australia
Who likes to wear basketball shorts, t-shirts and hats
Who finds happiness in monkeys, squirrels and my little brother
Resident of Utah
Saturday, September 1, 2007
Tony is off to Jackson Hole enjoying the long weekend, while Cole and I stayed behind so that he could play in his first ever football game.
I've never seen a kid so happy to be on the field. Last year he attended a one day clinic with Morgan Scalley and Luke Staley and he has been hooked ever since. He's developed a mad obsession with the Utes, the San Diego Chargers, Madden 2007 for PlayStation, and of course, plays in a fantasy football league with his buddies.
Every day at recess for the past two years he has played two hand touch and likewise, every night he has begged his dad and I to let him play football. The final push came when he had to write a persuasive letter for a school assignment. Diligently, he set forth to write, in no less than four pages, a letter to his dad detailing all of the reasons he should be able to play football. Finally, Tony's resolve was softened and he relented.
However, trying to use his desire to our advantage, we agreed to let him play only if he earned the privilege by reading a certain number of books this summer. Cole is a very reluctant reader, and not wanting to miss my opportunity for a good bribe, this seemed like a win-win for both of us. Cole gets to play football and I got to see him spend some serious book time this summer without the usual moaning and groaning.
The entire month of August has been spent in nightly practices and I have yet to hear him complain. He has worked his tail off trying to get up to speed on the plays and catch up to the boys who have two years of playing experience under their belts. It's a huge learning curve and I'm proud of him for sticking with it, for persevering and for putting his whole heart into the game.
Last night at our pep rally, his coach pulled me aside and told me how much he enjoyed coaching Cole because he is so teachable, and he truly wants to learn because of his love for the game. He said "There are three types of boys who play football: those who play because they have talent, those who play because their dad's want them to play, and those who play because they truly love the game and want to be on the field. Cole is the first and the last. He has a lot of ability and he has a great desire to play."
I couldn't ask for a better compliment for my boy. He was so nervous for his first game that he had a hard time sleeping last night. This morning he told me he felt like he was going to throw up because he was so anxious. And yet, when he set foot on the field this afternoon, he was all smiles. Love seeing him so happy, love watching him work so hard, and love, love the fact that he has enough guts to go after something that he really wanted.
And just for the record: Alta 35 Tooele 13. Go Alta Crimson!