Monday, March 27, 2017

JP Turns 9

Tonight, on the eve of JP's 9th birthday, I'm thinking about the passage of time.

Five years ago, JP was about to turn four and I was 45 years old.  Tomorrow, at nine years of age, JP will be so very different than he was at age four.  And me, well, I'll be pretty much the same person at 50 as I was at 45.  Maybe a little heavier with reading glasses nearby at all times but, still, the same person.

For him, I'm sure it seems like it's taken forever - a lifetime - for him to grow from a four year old going to school at Children's House to a nine year old in the 2nd grade at University School.  For me, it's the exact opposite.  It's trite, I know, but it does seem like only yesterday that JP was four years old and we were listening to music in the kitchen every morning at our Elliott Avenue house, taking weekend walks and sitting at our table in the back at Bongo Java.  Yesterday.

How can five years of passed time feel so differently to two people?  Two people, mind you, who have lived in large part the same life for five years, in the same place.  Strange.

I went for a walk tonight after everyone was in bed.  Lost in my thoughts and remembrances as I walked across Belmont's campus after an evening rainstorm, I smiled to myself as I cued up the songs (on Spotify and in my mind) of JP's youth.  Avett Brothers - Left on Laura, Left on Lisa (the original song JP and I shared a love for and the one that will always, always remind me of him); Barenaked Ladies - Snacktime, Bad Day and Hear Come the Geese (we wore this album out every morning at breakfast in our old house for so long, often times as I danced around the kitchen with him laughing in my arms); Elizabeth Mitchell - So Glad You're Here; The Band - The Weight; Green Day - Novacaine; Rilo Kiley - Smoke Detector and Breakin' Up (we wore out that album - Under the Blacklight - with Uncle Carley); and Caspar Babypants - Itsy Bitsy Spider (it's catchy, I promise).  And many, many more.  Always, it comes back to the music.

As I walked tonight, I couldn't help but remember how much time JP and I had spent together at Belmont U, inside and outside, and the surrounding neighborhood, when he was 2, 3, 4 and 5 years old.

Stomp rockets on the old soccer field; playing "college" upstairs in the student center, night after night after dinner; exploring the bell tower; playing soccer while he pretended to be Landon Donovan when the tennis courts were still adjacent to the soccer field; rolling his soccer ball off the awnings outside the cafeteria on Belmont Blvd.; watching college students play music inside the cafeteria on Belmont Blvd. on our after dinner walks; JP toddling up to college kids, at night, sitting on the soccer filed playing guitars and sitting down with them to their immense delight; JP getting impromptu soccer lessons from a college student playing soccer with friends on the soccer field; playing in "the Sports Czar's office; many, many breakfasts at Bongo Java; and countless walks through the neighborhood while he slept in the Baby Jogger City Elite stroller (sitting sadly, forlornly in the basement as I type this).

All of those times and activities have passed by so quickly, gone forever, but certainly not forgotten.  Not by me, anyway.

And no, almost, JP is nine years old.

He's a sweet kid.  Sensitive and caring.  He's kind to others.  He's a leader at school.  Responsible.  He loves church and is really taking seriously the Sunday school class leading up to his first Communion in a little more than a month.  He's a good athlete who loves sports (just like his old man).  He's smart.  He's conscientious.  He loves playing Madden Mobile and NBA Jam on his iPad (and Joe loves to watch him).  He loves all things Vanderbilt.  He loves the Predators.  He loves reading.  He loves collecting baseball, football, basketball and hockey cards and lately, Pokemon cards.  He's into trying new foods (His New Year's resolution was to try sushi with me).  He's a got hell of an arm (baseball) and big leg (soccer).  He plays his ass off on the basketball court, especially defensively.  He would watch sports on television all day long if we would let him (which we don't).  He loves and misses Uncle Carley (Meade) and treasures every stolen minute he gets to spend with her.  He loves his friends and sleepovers with his friends.  He's his daddy's boy, typically siding with me, while Joe sides with his mommy.

And my God, does he ever love his little brother.  He is so patient, almost always, with Joe.  He plays hockey upstairs, in the playroom, with Joe.  He reads to Joe.  He lets Joe sleep between he and whatever friend is sleeping over, all three on the floor of the playroom in sleeping bags.  He is helping "coach" Joe's baseball team (as my assistant).  Every Saturday or Sunday morning, he and Joe crawl into our bed at 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. and he lets Joe watch him intently as he plays Madden Mobile or NBA Jam on his iPad.  He and Joe watch Dude Perfect videos on JP's iPad and take turns picking which video to watch.  JP is Joe's superhero, literally.

I've been blessed with so much in my life I don't deserve, for sure.  I've already had almost twice as much time with JP on this earth as my dad had with me.  For that, I am eternally grateful.

When you read this someday, JP, know this, my son - I am proud of you.  You've everything I could ever have wanted my oldest son to be.  To coach you and watch you play sports is amazing.  To listen to you and your brother, Joe, play together upstairs makes me so happy.  I know you'll always look out for Joe and your mother.  And I love you.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Port in the Storm

Yesterday was a gift for me, probably from God.  I need to believe that, anyway.

After my mom's fall, Tracy, Alice and I agreed that someone should stay with her at all times for a few days.  Alice spent Thursday night at Maristone and Tracy spent last night there.  The staff at Maristone also agreed to check on mom every 2 hours.  We also got her a new pendant and instructed her, again, on how to use it if she needs assistance, not just if she falls, but with anything.

Since I already was off work for what would have been the boys' spring break trip to Atlanta, my calendar was clear yesterday.  We agreed I would relieve Alice at 9 a.m. and stay through mid-afternoon.  Alice would stay with mom for a couple of hours, then Tracy would take the night shift.

For the first time in well, forever, my mom and I spent several quiet hours together.  As she sat in her chair and I sat on the couch, we just enjoyed each other's company.

  • She marveled at my typing skills as I answered e-mails on my laptop.
  • She thumbed through a Nashville coloring book I had gotten for her, asking questions with childlike curiosity about landmarks she had forgotten existed.  She asked about restaurants or bars she didn't recognize that were featured in the coloring book.
  • Prompted by a drawing of the new Johnny Cash Museum, I played part of a video for her on my cell phone of Johnny Cash singing "Hurt," not too long before he died.  She was transfixed, although it made her sad to see him looking so old.
  • We worked on her technique getting out of and into her chair, in an effort to avoid her slipping on to the floor (which we learned from staff had happened on occasion).  
  • We walked the halls upstairs, outside of her apartment, as I encouraged her to stay centered and inside the walker.  I also encouraged her to take larger, normal steps, rather than shuffling her feet (which I've been told is a common characteristic of Alzheimer's patients).
  • We watched daytime television and asked a myriad of questions, mostly about commercials.  
  • When a staff member arrived to clean my mom's apartment, we joked with her and each other.  Predictably and comfortably, my mom and I fell into our time honored routine of lightheartedly making fun of each other to the delight of the staff member.  That part was like old times.
  • I walked her down to lunch.  Although she didn't want me to leave her in the dining room by herself, I did, and she was fine.  Strangely, I ate lunch at a table at Publix, of all places, and ran into Baird Harris.  I got back to Maristone just as she was finishing lunch.
  • Before lunch, we walked the floors of the lobby downstairs and even went outside the front doors, just for a minute or two.  She joke with Tim, the maintenance man, whom she adores.  
  • I watched her pet a large, shaggy dog who visits Maristone weekly.  My mom loves dogs and that was good to see.
It was a day to just be.  And I loved it.  The lesson, I think, is to schedule time with my mom when I don't have to be anywhere or do anything.  I want to try to do that weekly and just work it into my calendar, if I can.  

I felt a sense of peace and maybe, just maybe, acceptance.  That feeling is precarious, I know, and may disappear entirely today.  But I'm thankful I had it yesterday.  

It's time to close my laptop and leave the oasis that is my Saturday morning cup of coffee, this morning at Frothy Monkey on 12th Avenue.  I'm headed to Maristone.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Fall

I was awakened yesterday morning by the sound of my cell phone ringing.  The boys were in bed with us and Jude was reading to them.  I looked at my phone and saw that my sister was calling.  It was an odd time for her to call, so I answered the phone with a sense of dread.

"Maristone called," Tracy said.  "When mom didn't come down for breakfast, they checked her room and found her on the floor in the bedroom."  I fought back a sense of panic, as Tracy continued.  "They're taking her to the emergency room and I'm going to meet them there."

Just like that, our spring break trip to Atlanta with the boys was off, at least for the time being.  I took a quick shower and drove to Williamson County Medical Center.  My mom was in triage when I arrived and, fortunately, x-rays taken of her hip, elbow and shoulder were all negative.  No broken bones.  A CT scan confirmed she hadn't sustained a head injury.  Other than some bruising around her right eye and being a little shaken up, she was okay.

A nurse helped her into a wheelchair and we rolled her out to the emergency room entrance, where Tracy was waiting in her minivan.  After the short drive to Maristone, my mom was back in her apartment sitting in her chair.  I hung around for a two or three hours, while my mom dozed on and off in her chair.  She was exhausted, clearly, which lead me to believe she might have been on the floor of her bedroom for most of the night.

I had talked to her at 9 p.m. the night before and she was awake and fine.  There's just no way to know if she fell trying to get ready for bed or getting into bed, or if she fell getting out of bed the morning the staff found her.  And, of course, my mom had no recollection of falling which, in retrospect, might be a good thing.

I went into the office for a couple of hours, then stopped back by Maristone to relieve Tracy.  She went home for a bit, then came back to wait on Alice, who was going to spend the night.  After I got home, Jude, the boys and I watched the NCAA tourney and Predators-Flames (huge 3-1 Preds' win), then put the boys to bed.  I walked down to Edley's and had a couple of beers.  Afterwards, I walked the neighborhood for close to an hour, listening to music and lost myself in a swirl of memories, regret and sorrow.  I shed more than a few tears as I walked down Belmont Boulevard and across Belmont University's campus.

While on a rational level, I knew we had dodged a bullet.  Yes, my mom had fallen.  But she hadn't broken and bones and it sure as hell could have been a lot worse.  Still, the thought of my mom laying on the floor of her bedroom, unable to get up or to press the button on her pendant to call for help was devastating.  Also, I realized there are more falls to come, most likely.  And that's the saddest thing of all.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Basketball and a Son's Love for his Mother

Without question, I inherited my love of sports from my mom. 

For good or bad, sports of all types have been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember and for that I can thank my mom.  When I was growing up, it was a race as to who would get the sports page first from the Tennessean and, in the afternoons, the Nashville Banner.  I practically learned to read by perusing the pages of Sports Illustrated.  When my mom gave me a subscription to The Sporting News and it arrived weekly with my name and our address on the subscription label, I thought I had arrived as an adult.  At the age of 8.

I accompanied my mom to countless Vanderbilt basketball games, sitting in our seats in the top row Bill Liggon, Willie "Hutch" Jones, Mike Rhodes, Charles Davis, Mike Rhodes, Tommy Springer, Jimmy Grey and many, many other players.  I, no we, lived and died with Vanderbilt basketball.  Even today, I can talk 1970's and early 1980's Vanderbilt basketball with the best of them.

We shared a common bond, my mom and me, in our love for Vanderbilt basketball.

Later, when I turned down the opportunity to attend Vanderbilt for a variety of reasons and traveled to Knoxville, we argued good-naturedly about the UT-Vanderbilt rivalry.  Well, not always good-naturedly.  One of my all-time favorite sports moments is when I bet my mom a case of Miller Lite on the eve of the UT-Vanderbilt football game on  

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Rebuilding the Wall

Tuesday morning, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and went for an early morning run.  4 miles on my Fairfax-Blakemore route.  I felt good on the run, better than I have lately, which made me feel good.  Plus, it's always great to get in a morning run.  Metaphorically, it's like getting a B-12 shot, or at least, what I imagine it feels like after you get a B-12 shot.

The day is a bit brighter.  The colors outside as I cool down while walking back to the house are a little more vivid.  As I go about my morning routine at home, I'm in a better mood.  Unlike most mornings, I'm wide awake as I begin the day.  Pretty good stuff.

Then, last night (Wednesday), I went for a run after Jude and I got the boys in bed.  3 miles at under an 8:30 pace.  Most importantly, I felt strong and wasn't particularly winded.  Damn, it felt good.  Like old times, even.  I walked down 12th Avenue to cool down, listening to a podcast (Joe House's "Shackhouse") on a beautiful early March night.

It's coming back.  The wall.  I'm rebuilding it.

It's Gotta Be the Shoes

Sunday morning, Joe walked into the kitchen and proudly showed me he was wearing a pair of new shoes - J.P.'s hand me down, lace-up "Kobe's."

My heart soared, dropped, then soared again.  As is so often the case, I had unexpectedly climbed into a time machine that transported me backwards in time four years or so.

As Joe stood there, grinning up at me, clear as day I could see J.P. and me sitting on the front porch of our old house on Elliott Avenue.  He was taking that very same pair of "Kobe's" out of the shoebox, holding them up and grinning proudly from ear to ear.  His first pair of basketball shoes!  I think I took as much pride in ordering them online as he did receiving them.

J.P. told Joe that after he put the "Kobe's" on of the first time, he and I had gone to shoot basketball.  I have no recollection of that but it makes for a good story.

The photo above is from Monday morning, when Joe was so excited about wearing his "Kobe's" to school that he wanted to stop by Bongo Java and show them to E.J., our friend who manages it.

God, I love that kid.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Mardi Gras 2017

This may be the strangest place at which I've written a post for this blog.  It's just past 10 p.m. and I'm sitting upstairs in the corner, by myself, at Igor's, a 24-hour bar on St. Charles Avenue.  I'm not sure anyone knows I'm here, because my table is cloistered against the wall behind me, the railing to my left and the stairway to my right.  It's a secluded spot in a bar that's growing progressively louder as Mardi Gras revelers straggle in from a day of parade watching.

I'm drinking a Lagunitas IPA and listening to an eclectic mix of songs played on the jukebox.  Hip hop songs with Bush and Ozzy Osbourne mixed in for good measure.

Jude and I arrive in New Orleans with the boys last night.  She decided, and I agreed, it was time for them to experience Mardi Gras, up close and personal.  We're staying at Hotel Indigo, in the heart of the parade route down St. Charles Avenue (one of my favorite streets in New Orleans).  As an added bonus, Igor's is 2 doors down from Hotel Indigo.  Perfect for me.

We saw the tail end of a parade last night as we checked into the hotel.  This morning, I got a 3 mile run in, showered, then met Jude, the boys, her parents and her aunt, Peggy, at our spot across from the hotel.  There, we watched float after float (and what seemed like and endless parade of high school marching bands) in Iris, then Tuck, and waved our hands in the air begging for beads, stuffed animals, footballs and all sorts of trinkets to be thrown our way.

The highlight, or lowlight, for me was when I was hit in the side of the face and head with a large set of silver beads.  The force of the blow almost knocked me out my chair.  The beads broke and a couple of guys behind me leaned down to see if I was okay.  That, my friends, is Mardi Gras.  A little dangerous but fun, surrounded by strangers who are just friends you haven't met yet.

It's been a while since we've been to New Orleans.  Too long, really.  As I sipped a Lagunitas IPA mid-morning at the bar while while waiting of the bartender to make Jude's Bloody Mary (from Igor's, of course), I was reminded how much I love New Orleans.  It was a beautiful - perfect - day outside as I watched floats rumbling by the front window of Igor's, on the other side of the street.  With my family securely ensconced on the corner, I paused for a few minutes to take a breath and appreciate how lucky I am - how lucky we all are - in many ways.

New Orleans always seems to make me feel that way - happy to be alive and happy to be in New Orleans.