Tag Archives: Family

Ruby & Pam

13 Aug

Ruby and Pam are getting married today.

Hitched, united, tied, coupled, bound, wedded and joined in Holy Matrimony.  It makes me happy just to think about it, which is odd, because I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve always taken marriage for granted. 

Don’t get me wrong.  Amy is the best thing that ever happened to me and I’d be a very lost soul without her.  But I’ve never been sure that we actually needed the marriage.  

You see, I have a great relationship with my heart.  It speaks the truth very clearly and I, for the most part, listen.  Shortly after meeting Amy it grabbed me by the front of the shirt and insisted, in no uncertain terms, that I would be an idiot to let her go.  Luckily, she agreed, and we’ve been together ever since.  I’ve never been sure we needed anything more than that. 

And yet, and yet…Our wedding was one of the most joyous moments of my life. 

Maybe that’s why I’m so happy.  For I know few people who more richly deserve such a moment than Ruby and Pam.  After more than a decade of building a life together, of raising a son, of doing good work and being great friends, they are what a marriage should be.   And now they have traveled half way across the country to honor that commitment. 

So in away, it matters little that they’ll be returning to a state which, like a child who closes his eyes against something he doesn’t wish to see, will refuse to recognize their union.  The union exists.  It always has.  And the joy of this day will be theirs forever.  No willful blindness can ever take that away.

So that’s why I’m happy.

Ruby and Pam are getting married today.



First, Crazy & True

1 May

First love, crazy love and true love.

I had a crush on Kelly from the first time I met her.  Acting class, 9th grade, I must have been fourteen years old.  She was the classic older woman,  being fifteen, and seemed to possess all the knowledge and sophistication which that age implied.  She was out of my league and I knew it.   So we became friends.   Friends amongst friends, actually, as her basement became the de facto clubhouse for a whole group of us, a great place for Doritos and Cokes and Saturday Night Live.  

During Kelly’s first year of college a bunch of us drove down for the weekend.  We laughed, we drank, and Kelly and I took a late night walk.  We sat on the steps of a quiet building and I told her about the death of my father, talking about it for the first time with anyone.  Shortly thereafter we had a date.  I took her home, I said good night and there was a kiss.  A kiss in the cold night air that was so long wished for and yet so utterly surprising that I could feel the thrill of it right down to my toes.  I can feel that kiss to this day.  First love.

The thing about Becky was that she picked me.  Yet another acting class, this one in college.  The teacher divided us into two groups, putting us on opposite sides of the room, and asked us to communicate with someone.  As the exercise began and the resulting noise ensued I realized that a very cute girl with long, dark hair was trying to talk to me!  I couldn’t believe my luck!  Of course, she already had a boyfriend who she’d been dating since she was fourteen and who she just couldn’t break up with because it would kill him!  She also scratched her shoulders until they bled and I once made her so angry that I got up in the middle of the night and hid the scissors.  Oh yeah, and the boyfriend never went away.  But these were all minor impediments.  Our relationship continued its ragged course as we chased each other around the midwest for the better part of nine years.  Thank god she finally decided to hate me.  Crazy love.

Amy was different.  As was I, by that time.  I’d been in the wilderness for a while.  I had turned thirty.  We met, we went out.  She liked me, but I wasn’t sure.  Then I liked her and she wasn’t sure.  

But then she invited me to a play.  It was long and tedious and on our way to a party afterward we got caught in the rain.    As we sat in our damp clothes in a slightly shabby Chicago hotel suite and sipped our drinks, I felt a subtle glow, and from within this quiet moment of contentment I heard myself say “What are we doing?” 

She smiled a rather bewitching smile and asked me what I thought we were doing. 

“I think we’re dating.” I replied. 

And so we were.  We’ve been together ever since and I cannot imagine spending my life with anyone else.  She is, by my definition, true love. 

And from that love has grown a family, and a whole new set of definitions.

My child snuggling into my chest.  First love.

Heath insisting on wearing his underwear backwards and frequently eating his own boogers.  Crazy love. 

The absolute joy I get from making my daughter smile.  True love.

First love, crazy love and true love.  They make me who I am.



An Occasional Complaint

16 Oct

It’s the snuffle and cough season in our home.  Hallie snuffles like an pig on the scent of truffles while Heath coughs like an excited seal and this goes on all night long. Then we all change beds.  Sometimes twice.  Finally we all get up ungodly early and the kids spend the rest of the day crying, whining, pooing, peeing, vomiting and/or wiping their snotty noses on whichever one of us is closest.  Then we make dinner.  That we have so far avoided food poisoning is amazing.

My acting teachers always said that you shouldn’t go into acting unless you really wanted to act. It was just too hard otherwise.  This is so much truer of parenting, because even when you really want to have kids, there are times when you don’t want to have kids.  And once they’re here there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is an upside.  Very little repulses me anymore.  A handful of anything that comes out of my kids is just not a big deal.  I wipe their butts with abandon and flick away their snot with aplomb.  As long as whatever I’m dealing with is not actually in my food, I’m good.  And as for the slight baby vomit smell I may occasionally emit, you can all just deal with it.  I’m busy raising future generations.

Finally, as someone who splits his week between work and kids, let me just say that work is a trip to Tuscany by comparison.  The old stereotype I grew up with of the tired husband coming home at the end of the day to be fed and coddled by his ever so grateful family?  Scam! Scam! Total scam! The dude’s been chatting about golf around the water cooler all day while his wife has been home with a squalling infant and a pantsless, runny-nosed four year old whose response to her every request is an imperious “Why?”.

So as autumn turns to winter and the clouds begin to build in the west, think of me from time to time, a man who is blessed with exactly what he asked for and occasionally just has to complain about it.



A Change of Seasons

19 Sep

The first frost warnings of the season came to the outlying suburbs last night.  The resulting surge of cool autumn air blew through the city as if to clear away the greed and folly of this past week, and remind us all how little nature cares about our problems.  Robert MacFarlane points out in his wonderful book, The Wild Places, that the great forests that once blanketed North America waited Seventy  million years for the arrival of man.  I have little doubt after this week that those trees will also watch us go, and that our time here will be seen in their collective memory as a flicker of sad comedy, a slapstick spasm of existence that faded almost as quickly as it arrived, leaving a world to undo the damage and then quickly forget our meager shot at grace.

Which is to say, funnily enough, that I find solace in this change of season.  Amy and I will celebrate our twelfth anniversary this weekend and though I don’t think we intentionally planned our wedding for the autumnal equinox, it makes so much sense.  The wistfulness of summer’s end meeting the fresh hope of a new beginning is marriage in a nutshell.  And as my  week moved toward this time of change and celebration, it grew so rich in moments of beauty and hope that it stood in stark contast to the frantic scurryings on Wall Street just a few short miles away. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much.

As I was turning off the light in Heath’s room last night he awoke and said “Dad, what are you doing? Is it Christmas tomorrow?”  Taken aback at this unexpected view into the my son’s heart, I was moved to learn that upon awaking from a dead sleep his first thought is of Christmas and that his greatest hope is that it’s tomorrow. 

Hallie, to the amazement of her therapists, burbles incessantly, emphatically making her points in a language all her own, and punctuating her few moments of silence with a solemn upraised fist.  Fight the power sister. 

And Amy, nursing a cold, a constantly hungry baby and a three year old boy who would happily crawl inside her skin if he could find a way, has graced me with some of the warmest, loveliest smiles I have ever seen.

New York is a crazy place.  Among it’s most widely accepted myths is that money bestows wisdom, happiness and importance. When you walk among the wealthy every day it’s a very easy belief to buy into.  But lately I’ve been thinking about Stonehenge, where, in the coming days, the sun will rise over Salisbury Plain, fall in perfect alignment with the ancient stones, and illuminate the heart of this solemn structure.  Such is the day I married Amy, and such are the moments we share with our children, when we look into their eyes, hold them close, and allow them to show us in so many ways that what we are doing is right and necessary and important.

They illuminate our lives.



Hurricane Season

10 Sep

The nights have been warm of late.  But as the darkness grows old and the stars fade, cool air that has spent the night crossing the Atlantic finally makes landfall at Rockaway and continues across Jamaica Bay, rustling down the streets of Queens, flowing around and through all the open windowed houses and apartments, gently stirring to life the sleeping families who have come here from all over the world to chase their dreams, until, finally, the early morning breeze rattles the blinds above my head and I open my eyes. 

And, sadly, the joy’s not there.  Like fresh peaches being slowly allowed to rot, I am incapable of enjoying summers last gifts. 

When Amy gets up, Heath cuddles against me, a physical closeness that’s just starting to become rare.  Hallie, peacefully sprawled across her bassinet wiggles and sighs, and I wish that I could sleep with her utter abandon. 

Like a sailor’s glass, my moods rise and fall with the changes in the air.  This weekend, as hurricanes filled the waters of the Atlantic and Hanna worked her way up the east coast, my emotional weather darkened and grew turbulent.  Exacerbated by lack of sleep, lack of exercise, caffeine addiction and a screaming need to have some time of my own, storms began to brew.   As always, my impulse is to grow quiet, hole up with a good book and ride it out.  But like any solitary endeavour, this was nigh on impossible with two small children and a wife who is more tired than I am.

And so I weathered the storm as best I could, reading and sleeping as much as possible while trying to be on best behaviour.  Doing the dishes, making food, feeding Hallie and answering Heath’s fifth iteration of “Why?” with as little impatience as possible.  Trying to accept the fact that I have, for the moment, lost hold of all the strands of my life.  As they blow frantically about, I do my best to grab them, but to no avail.  Until the wind dies down and fair weather returns, which it always does, I’ll just have to wait.

But Hallie is holding her head up more and more, although she still refuses to give me a smile.  Heath has started school and, despite daily stories of him hitting somebody or somebody hitting him, he seems to enjoy it.  Amy is as lovely as I’ve ever seen her, and for the most part, as patient.  And the storms are receding now.  The water is still rough, but no levees have been breached.  And tonight, I trust, the winds will once again make their immigrant journey across the sea to stir the dreams of my neighbors, to whisper the leaves of the trees and to to kiss my family with the fresh air of a receding darkness.



Five Simple Ingredients

22 Aug

Lately when I scoop up my daughter Hallie she has the weight and feel of a good loaf of bread.

I bake bread.  Tired of the dry tasteless quality of even the most expensive store bought loaves, I began baking my own a few years back.  I found that in return for four hours work I could have two warm brown loaves beautiful to look at, wonderful to taste, and so nutritionally real that my body is shocked into a state of physical bliss.    But that’s not all.

There’s the simplicity.  Water, yeast, honey, flour and salt.  With so little to think about, I can focus on quality.  The quality of the ingredients, the quality of my stirring and kneading, and the quality of the time spent doing one thing well.  A luxury in this day and age. 

My son Heath helps.  He actually gets very excited about it, running into the kitchen and dragging his box (an overturned wooden crate) from beneath the kitchen table.  Of course, being three years old, helping involves pouring all dry ingredients into the bowl, stirring in a rather lackluster way, eating as much raw dough as I will allow, and then stirring again in a far more frantic manner until dough flies everywhere and I yell “That’s it! Out! Out! Out of my kitchen!” At which point he gleefully flees the room, laying low until the bread is ready to eat.  It’s our system and we’re fond of it. 

And it works. For I have come to believe over these past few years that the quality of my bread is directly linked to the joy I find in making it.  Rushing the process when tired and cranky always leads to failure.  Dry, misshapen loaves that disintegrate when I try to slice them.  Heath’s assistance, on the other hand, despite the inevitable mayhem, has never failed to produce two solid, resilient and delicious loaves.  It’s the love, you see.  It makes things taste good.

Neither my wife Amy or I have ever been any good with plants.  She adopts them only to fret over their long, sad death.  I occasionally attempt an herb garden, bringing forth small dessicated sprouts which feebly struggle and then die.  And yet, amazingly, Heath seems to flourish effortlessly. 

And now we have Hallie.

With the thin shanks and shrivelled bottom of a ninety year old man she scared us at first, preferring sleep to food, and dropping weight she could ill afford to lose.  But things have changed.  True to her genes, food has become her friend, and she now seems to grow fuller and rounder each day. 

So when I pick her up and hold her close I’m reminded of a fresh loaf of bread.  Warm, sweet and full of love.



Best Cup of Coffee

4 Aug

It was beautiful this morning.  Early sunrise, cool breeze and the sound of leaves dancing.  Not quite enough to get me out of bed for a run, but enough to make me thoroughly enjoy Hallie cuddling against my chest after her 6 am feeding and the both of us crawling back into bed with Amy for a little more sleep.  Heath stumbled in a few minutes later and as all four of us lay in the early morning light things seemed just about perfect.

The city has moods.  I notice this most on days when the mood is dark.  But today the city was serene, it’s people calm and polite, as if all New York had enjoyed a good night’s sleep.  And it probably had, the heat and humidity having broke with Saturday’s storms, leaving the days comfortable and the nights cool.  My dreams, lately a jumbled mass of high school reunions and old girlfriends, grew quiet, and last night I simply slept.  But, having a newborn in the house, I did not sleep enough.

And so I needed coffee, which I picked up from my favorite cart at the corner of Lexington & 52nd.  I don’t know her name, but I love the woman who runs this cart.  She has taken wonderful care of me these past few weeks as I stumble sleep deprived into the city for another day of temping. 

I discovered her one morning when the nearest Starbucks locked it’s outside door.  You see, I know it’s crazy, but I had actually made peace with popping the five dollars for a Venti Decaf Mocha with skim milk and no whipped cream.  In my defense, I had a rule.  No more than once a week, with exceptions for days when it’s raining (as it was on this particular morning).  But the street door I always used was locked.  I could see customers inside, but the door wouldn’t budge.  Then I saw the little sign.  For security reasons I was required to enter from inside the building.  Which meant going through security.  Metal detector, bag check, the whole nine yards.  Ten minutes before I’m supposed to be at work.  For the privilege of paying FIVE DOLLARS FOR A CUP OF COFFEE!  No. Absolutely not!  I stood out in the rain as people hurried past and I scanned the horizon for a coffee cart until BAM!  I saw one directly across Lexington.  I ran across the street and bought a cup of coffee for one dollar!  And it was goooooooood!  And the woman was nice!  We chatted, we laughed, we became, in a small way, friends.  For whatever reason, she was wearing a head scarf, and somehow that made it even better.  Completely restored my faith in humanity.

This morning the prices had gone up.  That medium coffee is now $1.25.  But despite its having been a couple weeks, my newfound coffee friend remembered that I like skim milk and two sugars.  I gave her two singles and she pushed one back. 

“Just give me a quarter next time.” 

“Are you sure?”, I asked.

“Yes, it’s so much easier.” 

And so it is. 

I walked up toward Park Avenue, smiling in the morning sun, breathing in the air of a happy, well rested city.



Kind Words

15 Jul

I have never really trusted kind words. Fearing false emotion and cheap platitudes, I shrugged them off as politely as possible and moved on, never giving them their due.

I was wrong.

Not to avoid cheap emotion, please… God save us from Oprah’s couch. But I was wrong not to listen. Not to hear. Not to recognize the truth that is almost always there.

The responses to my first post, Gifts from My Daughter, have been an amazing lesson in the power of a kind word at a difficult time. Such words, I have learned, do not lose, but rather gain with repetition the power to comfort, attaining a warm glow, the softness of a favorite blanket, the smell of woodsmoke. I cannot hear them enough.

Surprisingly many of these words have come from old friends, people I really didn’t expect to hear much from again. And yet here they are, sharing their own lives and stories as if the time and distance that separates us does not exist.

Why did I ever let such amazing friends drift away?.

The answer, I know, is mostly geography. When you pick up and move every decade or so, you cut a lot of ties. Hell, in my youth I thought this was healthy, something everyone should do. As if uprooting all the trees in a forest every ten years and moving them all around could somehow be good land management.


I should never have let it happen. These people are too valuable. I should have brought them with me. Forcibly if necessary. And we should all now live within blocks of each other, having coffee in the morning, beers at night, and barbecues on the weekend. Our children and grandchildren should all be the best of friends and have the run of each others houses. We should be there for each other all the time, sharing the seasons of our lives.

Idiocy as well, I suppose. But, understandable idiocy, which is usually the best I can plead.

So, I throw myself upon the mercy of my friends. And be they in Perrysburg, Chicago, New York, or Steamboat Springs, I have no doubt they will catch me. Most likely with a kind word at a difficult time. Which I will value above gold.



Gifts from my Daughter

9 Jul

Where to begin. That’s always the question, isn’t it? Every blessed day. Where to begin.

Hopefully this will be an exercise in finding my voice. An exercise in truth, hopefully. Although already I can feel the siren song of various personas calling. The terse, hardbitten realist, the wounded romantic, the hyped up Hunter Thompsonesque truth teller. Bullshit, all. Me. Just me.

I used to tell people I was an actor. That really doesn’t seem to work anymore. Not because I haven’t worked on anything for a while (although I haven’t), but because it’s not enough. People are not their jobs. Their lives are richer than that.

Four weeks ago my wife Amy gave birth to our second child, a beautiful little girl named Hallie Jake. She has my blue eyes, her mothers dark hair, her brother’s temper and an extra chromosome that has changed all our lives in ways I have barely begun to comprehend. As a result, it’s not easy to think very far into the future. I keep bumping into dreams that I fear will never come true. So it’s a day at a time. And in that time things are good. Their is a great deal of love in our little family, and beauty, and strength (especially in Amy, who amazes and inspires me every day).

And Hallie brings gifts.

In the days immediately following her birth, when my mind would not stop trying to somehow fix things, I couldn’t shake the image of myself standing between two sets of trap doors – one above and another both below and within me. Through the door above me came light, and I knew that through that door was my future, my infinitely simple future had Hallie been born normal. The other door, which had dropped open in the operating room the second the neo-natalist said “I’m going to do some chromosome tests,” and then avoided both my questions and my eyes, opened into a deep vast well of emotion that even now I have a hard time controlling. For the first three days I was a raw nerve walking the streets, and my mere gaze would back people down. I was also as clear, honest, empathetic and as deeply human as I have ever been. There’s power in that. And as the door above me closed and faded, there was also peace. These are the gifts my daughter has given me.

And this is where I begin.