Saturday, December 24, 2016

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Sounds of Summer




























It was one of those first warm Saturdays when spring slowly works its way into summer. The world heads outdoors, and the sounds ensue.

The landscape behind our house — covered in a morning mist — provided the perfect vista for enjoying birds that had seemingly been quiet for months.

These sounds of summer are the very ones that central Ohioans anticipate during the endless months of winter.

And I knew that, within the hour, other familiar sounds would begin to seep into the day — sounds that would continue until the last waning moments of sunshine and finally diminish a short time after the birds had finished their evening meal.

By then, I would have migrated from the screened-in porch where I started with a morning cup of coffee to the patio and a glass of wine to turn down the day.

The sounds were predictable but never in any particular pattern. Laughter in the distance, then an occasional shout.

As the sounds grew closer, they would become more familiar.

"Fore!" was a common one. 

"It’s over here!" would be another. 

And, finally, as the din drew nearer, the occasional profanity or the echo of "Nice shot!" would distinguish themselves.

Not today, though. 

Today, those particular sounds of summer would not be forthcoming — nor would they be ever again.

Nine years ago, my wife and I became empty-nesters, and the ideal dream of owning a condo overlooking a golf course became a reality.

With real estate at its prime, we paid a premium price to secure a lot with a marvelous view of the course.

Sure, there were the occasional golf balls that ended up scattered in the backyard, expletives from the tee box that would embarrass a sailor, and random "up close and personal" exposure to the golfer who couldn’t quite make it to the turn before having to relieve himself.

It was a golf course; we got that part of it. 

We accepted the "downsides," as they were far outweighed by what we considered one of the best views in the area.

All four seasons presented us with a wonderful tableau of sights and sounds: flora, fauna and human.

When the news began to spread about the impending bankruptcy of the golf course and the potential sale and parceling of its land, my wife and I couldn’t have imagined the city of Dublin allowing such a prominent piece of real estate to slip away.

But one should never underestimate the power of potential property taxes.

And so, today, the golf course lies still. Access to the parking lot is blocked, the clubhouse is closed and the golf carts are idle.

And yet, the occasional golfer stops by on foot trying to get in one last round.

And, later in the day, I’m surprised to see the number of people walking their dogs and families strolling on greens that, in an earlier time, would have been hazardous.

The perfect park with fabulous trees, streams and ponds. The perfect central park for a community that will allow 152 acres of pristine land to be developed for 185 homes.

I used to look forward to the sounds of summer.

But now, I simply wait for the sound of bulldozers.





Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

This Side Of The Mississippi

"From the very beginning..."
Undergraduate Days - Student Teaching





















I’m sure many of you have seen the stage presentation of “Our Town,” written by Thornton Wilder. If you have, you might remember a conversation that takes place between Emily Gibbs and her mother.  She quite openly asks her,  "Mama, am I pretty?”  She continues to badger her mother long enough that finally Mrs. Gibbs turns to her 12-year-old daughter and says, “You’re pretty enough.”

My wife, Becky, has been in the school system for more than 35 years. And when you’ve been married to a school psychologist for as many years as I have, you’ve been subjected to every kind of test and utilized as a virtual guinea pig. From the WISC to the Woodcock, and each new test that came out, I took more IQ tests in her early years so that she would not only know how to administer the test, but, at the same time, give her ample practice in scoring.

As I suspect most people might have done, I always asked at the end of each test how well I did?  “So, dear, am I smart?” And without ever divulging numbers or showing me the actual results, she would pretty much look at me and say, “You’re smart enough.”

The tougher role would come later when faced with the reality of sitting down with the anxious parents of a six-year-old child who awaited real test scores.  She would see a generation of children grow up in a world where, all too often, a difficult child is often quickly and incorrectly labeled with ADHD; where learning disabilities are “instantly diagnosed” on the Internet and taken as fact. And, over the course of 35 years, she would eventually see children of students she once worked with, knowing she had their trust and the best interest of their child.

There were moments she treasured – running a social group twice a week for four years at an elementary school with an intervention specialist, a speech therapist and a school counselor. The children they mentored were the social “misfits” that didn’t have many friends and they worked with them on reading facial expressions, developing conversational skills and playing games appropriately.  The children became a support system for each other and eventually became more socially interactive.  One of the fathers wrote how he truly believed this social interaction saved his son’s life.

Over the course of the years, I’ve affectionately called my wife “the best school psychologist this side of the Mississippi.”  It was my way of letting her know that the job she was doing was not going unnoticed.

And during all these years, through all the politics that take place in a suburban school system, she’s kept one, simple mantra: “Keep your eyes intently focused on the child, and you’ll always do the right thing.”

It was usually in the first couple months of every school year or near the end that requests for evaluations poured in, asking for more weeks in the school year than actually existed.  That’s when “the best school psychologist this side of the Mississippi” needed her own advice the most.  “Keep your eyes intently focused…”

The evening chores were usually just a precursor to her late nights of scoring and reports written to parents who needed the cautious guidance of a woman who not only interpreted the scores, but calmed with a soothing voice when under-achievement was confirmed by the reality of a learning disability, or the knowledge that the child of an over-achieving set of parents would never reach their lofty goals.  Or, hearing the elation in a parent’s voice when told their child had qualified for gifted.

While working on her final case presentation in the school neuropsychology program, she tested a student that she had known from the second grade.  They spent 12 hours testing on several Saturdays, which is more than a typical case. The insights gained and the relationship they formed proved invaluable in supporting this young lady. The final report contained significant information that her teachers found useful in helping other students.

And so, tomorrow, “the best school psychologist this side of the Mississippi” is going to retire after 35 years.  A career that began with teaching Special Education students in Northwest Ohio, to earning a Master's degree and further certification as a neuropsychologist, will close a chapter in one of the best school systems in the state.

With that will come some celebrating and best wishes and more than one opportunity for me to bestow that moniker upon her.

And if the occasional questioner comes up to me tonight and asks, “Was she really that good?”

Well, if you’ve listened to the story this far, you might imagine what my response will be.  Certainly the words of Mrs. Gibbs might come to mind.  But tonight, those words simply won't do.

I’ll pause for a brief second and respond with as much pride as I can muster, 

“She wasn’t just good enough…she was the best!”





Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Time Capsule


I took a peek at the past the other day and caught a glimpse of the future. While going through boxes of Christmas ornaments, I noticed a gold tin can sitting in the corner of one of the boxes with a tag that said, “Do not open until January 1, 2010.”

Then it dawned on me that in the waning moments of the 20th century we had asked our New Years’ Eve guests to participate in putting together a Ten Year Time Capsule to celebrate the new millennium. Each couple was asked to answer questions about their current status – ranging from their interest in music to movies to television shows. We also asked them what they thought was the most modern convenience they owned.

On the next page we asked them to look into the future and asked them questions about what they thought they would be doing and where they would be in ten years.

It was all prefaced with a look back at the year 1990 and an up-to-minute review of 1999. To help give them perspective we listed some of the news events from the year 1990: George H. Bush was President; East and West Germany were united; Nelson Mandela was freed; Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher resigned; the cost of a first class stamp was 25 cents; the Cincinnati Reds defeated Oakland in the World Series; two new television shows debuted – “The Simpsons” and “Seinfeld;” the Hubble Space Telescope was launched and the world mourned the passing of Jim Henson, Greta Garbo and Sammy Davis, Jr.

As we gathered round with our glasses of champagne that December night in 1999, we looked back on the events of the closing year: Bill Clinton was President; George W. Bush had emerged as a front-runner in the next Presidential race; two Columbine students had killed 12 students, a teacher and themselves; Nelson Mandela was succeeded as President of South Africa; President Boris Yeltsin had resigned; the cost of a first class stamp was 33 cents; the New York Yankees defeated Atlanta in the World Series; two new television shows debuted – “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” and “Greed;” the Hubble Space Telescope was repaired and the world had mourned the passing of Joe DiMaggio, Payne Stewart, the Lone Ranger and John-John.

It was the year Prince had been singing about since 1982 and now it was time to party as if it truly was 1999. It was the year of Pok√©mon, dot.coms and “Living la Vida Loca.”

It was also the year of a little thing called Y2K. Why indeed?

The world had yet to be fully exposed to anthrax, the Euro, Hurricane Katrina, Barack Obama, iTunes, and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

And 9/11 was still just another September day.

Included in our time capsule was a Polaroid picture of just the two of us. Oddly enough there was no mention of who else was in attendance. But memory tells me there were several neighbors from the house we moved away from several years later. There were also friends both new and old.

We closed our time capsules with best wishes for the coming year and the hope that “when the New Year dawns in 2010, we’ll once again toast our friendship as we look back and cherish the past ten years.”

As it turns out, we probably won’t be sharing New Year’s Eve with any of the people that we welcomed in the new century. Distance, time and other commitments will preclude us from sharing our answers, laughing at our predictions or looking back at dreams either realized or vanished.

My wife, Becky, had scribbled down one word in answer to the question: “What wish do you have for yourself?” Her response was “Peace.”

To all our friends, both past and present, we share that sentiment and trust you find happiness in your own little time capsule we call life.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Holiday Greetings 2009



Turning The Page.  The Year Passes...A Decade Closes.

It’s difficult to capture a moment in time.

As a photographer, I know when the shutter opens for that split second, it merely captures the visual imagery reflected in its mirror.  Limited to its one sensory interpretation, the camera is destined to ignore the sounds, the smells, the touch of what’s embraced in the viewfinder.
As I look back on moments from the past year, I’m forced to rely on my own memories...my own recollection...my own interpretation.
There are some moments that will quickly fade away. 
There are other moments that I’ll put away for future reference...store them in my own personal time capsule and look back on them in years to come. 
And still, there are other moments that will stay with me to call upon on a daily basis...and pull strength from when the day grows dark too soon.
I trust the moments you’ve chosen to capture throughout the year provide you with peace and harmony...a measuring stick, so to speak, of the people and places that make up your visual imagery.  Embrace them.
Happy Holidays.
Bill

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009




A Toast

This year, as we sit down to give thanks, it is easy to notice we are fewer in number.
Whether by distance...or by time, we make note of the empty chairs.
But we feel the presence of those we love.
Let our memories be our nourishment.
Let our thirst be quenched by those around us.
Let the hope of days to come be our anthem of thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Summer Stimulus Package


I think I’ve come up with a way to help the economy and, at the same time, improve the golf scores of the average player. In fact, this may be one of the reasons that has kept me from becoming a professional golfer.

OK, I can hear those of you who have seen my golf game and the snide remarks about my handicap, my swing, my age and everything else that deals with my driving, short game and putting. Those are mere details…hear me out.

The only people who stand to lose from my idea are the manufacturers of golf balls. But given the current state of the golfing industry and the scarcity of duffers on most golf courses in the area, I’m sure the Titleists and Nikes of the world would welcome a compromise of having more golfers.

Here’s the idea: what does every pro golfer have that no one this side of Jack Nicklaus has on any public course in the area – someone to watch where their ball lands.

Think about it. From Pebble Beach to Bethpage, the pros have people lined up and down the fairway just waiting to not only point out where their ball has landed, but to encircle it as if they were pointer dogs. And, get this, the better you are, the more people you have looking for your ball! Do you sense a trend here?

How many strokes does the average golfer take on any given round due to lost balls? Four water balls?  Three in the rough? You get the idea.

So here’s my suggestion – in these difficult economic times, instead of having people holding billboards at every intersection advertising the last three days of still another “Everything-Must-Go” mattress sale, let’s have the area golf courses hire them as ball spotters.

They don’t have to line the entire fairway – simply put them at strategic points along the way – say for instance, the 200 yard mark where they just happen to have the first set of bunkers and that overgrown crud known as the rough.

Have another positioned at the edge of the water. Sure, some of the balls will go over their heads and straight into the drink, but the ones that always seem to land and then trickle down and fall into the murky depths – hey, they can stop those. Sure, the golfer has to drop, but at least he’s got the original ball.

I’ve been through rough economic times in my career and I know what it’s like to welcome a part-time job. I’d much rather be out on a golf course doing basically the same job that volunteers at the Memorial Tournament line up in droves to participate in as one of the fairway crew.

Sure, there’s probably a minimal health risk associated with putting yourself in the line of fire of errant tee shots. But just think how many people put themselves in harm’s way by dressing up as giant rabbits and standing along Sawmill Road.

OK, at the end of the day it helps me shave six or seven strokes off my game. No, that’s not going to put me even close to the ranks of a professional. If I’m lucky, it will help me break a hundred. That’s par in my book. With the average cost of a box of balls being $25, I’ve also maybe saved myself $12. Not bad really, when you take in the cost of a round of golf.

It would certainly be enough incentive to bring me back more than once and if you multiply that scenario by 50 or 100 (a rather conservative estimate of the number of golfers who would think the six or seven strokes and the savings were significant), you’d definitely make it worth the golf course’s cost of hiring the ball spotters.

But more important, imagine this. You’re standing on the 1st tee at Raymond Memorial staring at a moderate Par 5. Your tee shot caroms off the cart path and heads towards the huge clump of trees on the right. Just as you’re about to unleash that first “expletive deleted,” you look up and see a man holding an orange flag indicating that he’s found your ball. No penalty stroke. No lost ball.

Of course, there’s no smattering of applause and no huge throngs. Just a gainfully employed person who’s possibly helped you avoid a penalty stroke and saved you a couple of dollars.

Tipping is optional.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Words To My Father - A Eulogy For Mom


Dear Dad,

There are days when it seems impossible that it’s been more than 30 years since you left us.
That it couldn’t possibly have been back in 1978.
Today, however, is not one of those days.

As I look around the room this evening and I see the faces of grandchildren and great grandchildren who never had the opportunity to know you, I realize that several generations have been passed down.

And knowing that both of your children have now surpassed the age that you were, it’s quite clear that our memories simply hide the fact that you left us much too soon.

But yet, there’s another reason that makes it so painfully obvious…and that’s what brings us here today.
The woman you left behind.

I’m quite sure your first concern would have been – how will Ma take care of herself without me?
How will this woman, who never learned to drive, never finished high school, manage to make it on her own?

What we may have all forgotten is that this woman had been taking care of people all her life.

As the youngest of seven children, she was made to quit high school as a junior and go live with her grandparents to care for them out on their farm. Can you imagine that happening now? To have a 16 year old girl quit in the middle of high school and go care for her grandparents for the next two years?

And Dad, I’m sure you would no doubt remember all the years our grandmother lived with us, occupying a hospital bed in your bedroom. And Mom, lifting her in and out of bed, the wheelchair, the bath and everywhere else she had to go. This woman did this for nearly seven years.
And all while raising two kids and working part-time.

Lest it be taken for granted, raising two children in any era is a hard enough chore on its own. And Dad, I know you were there for us as well, but it was always Mom who was there to bandage a knee, help with the homework or write a letter when we were away.

And more than anything else, Dad, she took care of you. More than you ever would have admitted. Yet, deep inside, I’m quite sure you knew how very special she was to you.

And let me add right now, that while Mom did indeed take care of a lot of us in her life, there were some people around her that helped her immensely. Dad, you would have been very proud of how some of your family members kept a continual watch on her and came to her assistance on numerous occasions.

And to the members of Mom’s family that visited and kept in touch over the years, I can tell you that Mom enjoyed the company and the connection you brought with her past. My sister and I are very grateful for the comfort.

Dad, you passed quietly into a warm summer morning. And Mom, who was subjected to a very difficult year and who struggled in her last days, called you the “lucky one.” Lucky, because you didn’t have to endure the pain and suffering that an old body can bring.

Lucky, because we didn’t have to witness the shortness of breath or the loneliness of a mind confused by the darkness or the unfamiliar surroundings of a strange room.

But what she didn’t realize is that we were the lucky ones.

Lucky, because she was there for us long after you were gone.
Lucky, because she was able to witness the grandchildren and great grandchildren you never got to know.
Lucky, because we had her with us all these years.

And Dad, maybe it’s because she had so much time alone after you left us that one of her favorite pastimes was to “remember.”
“Remember to remember” was her favorite saying.
She could always conjure up some memory that most of us had long forgotten.
And in the final months of her life, even as her short term memory was giving way, she struggled to search in the deepest corners of her past to remember every facet of her life…and how happy she was when she shared it with us.

One of the last memories I asked her to share was a poem that she had written and had published when she was 24 years old. The title of the poem was “The Ones He Left Behind” and it was about the husband of her sister who was killed in World War II.

She couldn’t remember what day it was, but she recited each line as if it had been written yesterday.

Another of her favorite sayings that she would always seem to slip in at the end of every conversation was, “Be happy.” And while I’m sure we’ll all refuse to heed that suggestion today, I have a feeling each of us will look back in the next couple of days and smile at her continual wish for all of us.

And so, Dad, the woman you left behind has come home to you. You two can once again continue on your Sentimental Journey.

As for those of us left behind, we will never forget.

We will forever, remember to remember.

Sleep well…both of you.

Love,

Bo

Sentimental Journey - The Lyrics

Gonna take a sentimental journey
Gonna set my heart at ease
Gonna make a sentimental journey
To renew old memories.

Got my bag, got my reservation
Spent each dime I could afford
Like a child in wild anticipation
I long to hear that "All aboard."

Seven, that's the time we leave, at seven
I'll be waitin' up for heaven
Countin' every mile of railroad track
That takes me back.

Never thought my heart could be so yearny
Why did I decide to roam?
Gotta take that sentimental journey
Sentimental journey home.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Remembering Grandma

Photography by Kari Hughes Wint - March 20, 2009









A Poem


The Ones He Left Behind

His wife received a telegram on that Monday afternoon

“Your husband was killed in action, you’ll get a letter soon.”

Now her heart was saddened for she saw the years ahead

She’d have to spend them all alone ‘cause now her husband’s dead.

His little daughter Betty sure had a super dad,

But she’s too young to realize the meaning to be sad.

She’ll soon grow up and forget the things she used to do,

But she’ll still recall her daddy who was killed in World War II.

He’s buried over there somewhere with other soldiers brave,

We’d give the world if we could see the hole that is his grave.

His buddies that he fought with will see him smile and grin,

For they know that he’ll be watching when they take old Berlin.


Written in 1945 by Doris (Coble) Klosterman
Dedicated to Sie Weikert

Monday, December 29, 2008

Images and Essays - The Book


















Yes, it's a vanity book...but it is INDEED a book. 
And it's MY book.

Hard cover and premium paper.

It truly exceeded my expectations and I truly wish I could give everyone who's asked about it their own copy. Alas, I still have a day job.

You're more than welcome to sneak a preview of it and if you're so inclined, you can even order it.


Don't worry...I won't be hurt if you don't. 
But it was a thrill to do.

And I'm glad I did it.

It made for a great Christmas present.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tat 2 U



I turned 56 years old this year, thereby surpassing the age that my father was when he died.  To commemorate the occasion, I went and did something that I've wanted to do for a very long time.

I got a tattoo.


The reason it took so long was because I didn't know what I wanted.  I wanted one that represented how I felt, so I designed one myself.

The colors represent the rainbow.

The two figures represent the continual and elusive pursuit of our dreams.

The central figure is the sun...or the core of what I hold to be true.

The obvious question is...where?

I had it put on my right shoulder...and yes, it hurt.

(To answer the second obvious question.)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Double Nickels


As with most guys, I never kept a diary. I did, however, have my heart set on writing a journal. It was intended to be a time capsule for our kids…a reflection written every five years on the milestones in my life. As a new father of a baby girl at the age of 30, I looked upon this prehistoric blog as an opportunity to give them insight on what was happening in my life at those major turning points. I wanted them to know the excitement their mother and I were feeling as parents.

I guess I wanted to provide answers to questions that were never asked of my father. Information my dad certainly wouldn’t have thought to have sat down and written about when he was 30.

That’s how old he was when I was born. Already the parent of my older sister, perhaps the newness of fatherhood had worn off and he was simply happy to have a healthy son and daughter. He had survived the rigors of World War II as a gunnery sergeant in the Air Force. “Keep ‘em flying” was what he had written as his motto in his high school yearbook. And keep them flying he did; he simply never talked about it. Perhaps it was that generation – The Greatest Generation as Tom Brokaw wrote – that wouldn’t allow themselves the pain of remembering.

Except for a few faded black and white pictures, there aren’t a lot of things that I know about him when he was 30. There are the stories that my mother still tells, but I’m sure my father had a different perspective on a lot of subjects.

And so, I wanted to make sure that our children had these personal moments in time recorded on paper. Of course, in 1982, there was no such thing as the immediacy of the Internet. And while I even made a living of putting words to paper, the daily activities that we call life somehow kept me from keeping the journal. By the time I turned 35, my own son was already three years old; we had moved to a bigger city and a new career was keeping me busy. Somewhere Harry Chapin was warming up with “Cats In The Cradle.”

I was prompted to write these thoughts down as a result of peeking into my own son’s published world on MySpace.com. He is now a young adult out on his own, and while I’m not terribly thrilled by what I read there, I no longer think of it as spying. It is “his” space after all, and I’m delighted that such a medium exists.

I was, however, taken aback by part of his profile. Written next to the question, “The Person I’d Most Like To Meet” he had written: My father’s father.

And I wanted to say, “Yes, son, I would have liked to have known him as well.”

Unfortunately, my father died at the age of 55. And the thirty years that separated us in that period growing up in the late 70’s was a distance far greater than time. I was 25 years old, just married and starting on a career path I’m sure my father never dreamed I would obtain. We were just beginning to bridge the silence between a much-too-conservative father and a more-liberal-than-he-ever-knew son.

It was a span started much too late.

For those of you tracking the math, you know that I stand at that precipice today. One thing I have learned over the past 30 years is that the milestones are not the birth years themselves. They are merely the mile markers.

Although I didn’t keep a journal on a five-year basis, I truly hope my wife and I have nurtured a relationship with both of our children that doesn’t mandate we write down every single memory.

So that whatever medium that presents itself to our children’s children, my son won’t be reading those same words from his.

In other words, “Keep ‘em flying.”



Saturday, April 1, 2006

Brace Yourself


I could sense the hesitation on the other end of the phone line. I had just told my mother that her son needed braces on his teeth.

“You mean, Andrew?” she asked, making reference to our 22-year-old son. “No, mom…me” as I went on to explain that her grandson had braces when he was 10 and that it was indeed I, her 53-year-old son who was now staring at a two year sentence of wearing spacers, retainers, bands and ligatures.

“Aren’t you a little old to be getting braces?” was her next question. I told her I thought that was indeed an excellent question – so good, in fact, that it was my first question to the periodontist whose first query to me had been, “What do you think about dentures?”

And while this all started out as an innocent enough question, I quite honestly hadn’t given ANY thought to dentures or “false teeth” since having last seen one of my parents’ set of “choppers” sitting overnight in a glass of effervescing water many years ago.

As it turned out, I had been diagnosed with periodontal disease that would require surgery and would eventually lead back to the original question of whether or not an aging baby boomer needs the expense, pain and glamour of orthodontic braces. If this decision had been based on cosmetics, there would have been no discussion. Spending thousands of dollars to have my cavity-laden teeth straightened would have made no sense. Unfortunately, it was explained to me that having the surgery merely corrected the damage already done by the disease. Without the braces, the disease could once again spread. Some additional online searching showed that people with periodontal disease had a significantly higher incidence of heart disease, stroke and premature death.

Hey, Tom Cruise had braces.

I have this theory (or should I say phobia) about going to see medical experts. This warped sense of logic goes like this – if you don’t go looking for trouble, you won’t find it. Of course, this same manner of thinking got me in a load of trouble as a college student when I was equally convinced that if you didn’t record the amount of the check you just wrote in the back of your checkbook, you still had that money in the bank.

Fortunately, I’ve matured with age and now get my check-ups on a regular basis. And, if it’s any consolation to those left wondering about my college days, my wife now keeps track of the checkbook.

With the decision made to move forward with the braces, I set out to get a couple of opinions (read: quotes). One thing you quickly find out is that dental insurance doesn’t cover the cost of braces for anyone over the age of 24 – regardless of the reason. (Although I would think any insurance company would take into consideration the aforementioned “significantly higher incidence” part).

With all the excitement I could muster, I made my first visit to a local orthodontist. Seated next to a generous assortment of pre-teenagers, I anxiously awaited my name to be called. (Part of the encouragement I received was being told that “many” adults now wear braces. My periodontist proudly explained to me that he had just recently put them on his 64-year-old father. I imagine he probably got a discount.) I’m greeted by a very friendly staff member whose role is to give me a “tour” of the facilities.  Our first stop is a row of sinks behind a cubicle wall where I'm told, “You can brush your teeth after school…er, I guess work in your case.” Strike one.

I’m then shown The Honor Wall, where all the patients (read: pre-teenagers) have had their portraits put on display in recognition of completing their two years of dental rigor. There I’m told, “Upon completion, you’ll be given a coupon to have your portrait taken and you, too, can be displayed on The Honor Wall.” OK…Strike two. (I’m sorry, but I just can’t see my smiling mug serving as quiet inspiration to some similarly-affected adult who’s faced with the choice of spending two years with metal brackets in their mouth or paying for the last two years of their child’s education.)

Finally, I’m shown the various styles and “colors” of braces that I can have. When asked if I was a fan of The Ohio State Buckeyes, I was promised I could have them alternate in scarlet and grey. Strike three. (And while I am a fan, I refuse to take my allegiance that far.)

My second visit was to an orthodontist that had been referred to me by friends – who had braces as “adults.” That alone was a good enough recommendation for me.

So, in the next couple of days, I’ll be fitted with the top braces and eventually matched with a bottom set plus a retainer.

It’s a pain getting older. There’s simply no other way to put it. But as my mother is quick to point out, “It certainly beats the alternative.”

Which reminds me. I need to give my mother another call. As part of my annual physical I’ve been told I need to get some kind of test called a colonoscopy.

I wonder what that’s all about.

Monday, January 9, 2006

Seashells


I can't honestly say I've ever heard the ocean roar.
But some childhood stories you carry with you, and I'm the first to place that seashell up against my ear in quiet anticipation of hearing the untold secrets of the sea.

I had never been to this part of the world. Certainly some words from Hemingway were pounding inside my head when I charted my itinerary in my daughter's Spanish textbook. Madrid to Malaga to Marbella, Spain. Bullfights...intoxicating sounds from dark cantinas...flamenco dancing...and the color of red everywhere.

And maybe back in Madrid, or Valdovino, or hidden in the small back streets of Puente Genil, I might have found the world that Hemingway walked, and listened to the sounds I craved to hear when reading his words.

But not this time. This was not the world of Hemingway.

This was a world of Sean Connery, Porsches and caviar-laden yachts. Marbella, Spain...a resort town whose beauty and magnificence was everywhere - from the lush greens of its many golf courses to the houses tucked away into the mountainside - to the people themselves.

And the beach. What little solitude I had were the moments I made for myself along the boardwalk. With the sun on my back…the smell of the Mediterranean in front of me...the constant rhythm and movement of the sea...all within a cannon shot of Gibraltar.

There are just so many quiet times that a person ever calls their own, and part of what makes that quiet time so special is the magnitude of their surroundings.

It's one thing to have a silent moment to yourself tucked away with a book at home, but it's still quite another to stand in front of a sea where kings have battled...countries have been won and lost...where sons of gods have washed their hands.

With an empty beach in front of me, I took off my shoes and walked the beach alone. I picked up a few pebbles along the way, but I quickly became aware of the absence of seashells. There were a few fragments to be found here and there, and it made my search more determined.

I was almost ready to turn back and give up on my quest...but there, nestled up against a piece of driftwood was the tiniest of seashells...complete and intact.


As I held this tiny shell in the palm of my hand...dusting off the fragments of sand, the childhood story of the roaring ocean came to mind. Certainly, this tiny, delicate piece of cosmic dust held no melody from the sea - its former occupant snatched away to serve as mere fodder for a daily meal. But I walked to the water's edge...and immersed my prize into the cold blue sea...cleansing its soul for my possession.  And I placed it to my ear.

No childhood story came to life...no echo of waters pounding the surf...no magical tides whispered to me.

Simply...a seashell. A fragment of time...that I clutched in my hand.

I turned...and retraced my footsteps - already shadows of where I had been. With the sun on my back...the smell of the Mediterranean in front of me...the constant rhythm and movement of the sea...all within a cannon shot of Gibraltar.

Saturday, January 7, 2006

Red Andrew


Andrew and I had just returned from Wooster, Ohio.

Wooooooooooooooooooooooster...we must have said it a zillion times. Just Andrew and myself...heading up I-71, twirling our licorice sticks at passing cars…on our way to the middle school state lacrosse tournament.

We had left the previous morning...and stayed with the rest of the team at a small motel on the outskirts of town. Andrew had struggled this year with lacrosse. As with all the other sports in this yuppie-riddled town, it's tough to compete because there's so many kids to go up against; all driven by fathers and by the ghosts of their fathers. It's a club sport in middle school...meaning we pay for the "right" to have our sons and daughters play. As such, no one gets cut, but it doesn't necessarily mean that everyone gets the chance to play. There were so many kids this year, in fact, that they had to make "A" and "B" teams. Unfortunately, not every school had a "B" squad and Andrew and his other companions rarely got the opportunity to get in the game. He was quite frustrated, but I told him to stay the course. I wanted him to participate...to understand the concept of being part of a team. He fought through his tears and never complained.

Some of the parents did...calling the coach at late hours to express their concerns that little Jimmy didn't get to play. There were occasions that I was tempted to call, but I could never quite get through the idea that anything I had to say was sufficient. It was a long season, but the Dublin Rocks prevailed and finished at the top of their league...heading to Wooster as the number one seed in the state. And, as it turned out, the Dublin "B" team turned out to be good enough to qualify on its own merits.

Andrew plays "attack" position...meaning he plays offense and is in a pretty good position to score. He's just never been given much of an opportunity. As such, this will probably be his last year in organized sports, only because high school will prove much too big and the cuts will take their toll.

So, it's the last game of the season and Andrew's team is up by 5 points. Andrew had already played his "obligatory" quarter...but coach puts him back in for the last quarter. And the coach says, "Andrew, this is YOUR quarter." And every time they brought the ball down...they called Andrew's play, “RED ANDREW!” meaning the other players were to get the ball to Andrew and he was to try and score.

They called RED ANDREW five straight times that afternoon. And each time he received the ball...diving and spinning to make wonderful catches. And each time he turned, he fought his way to the net...only to see his shot skim past the corner of the goal.


The game ended with his last shot being desperately blocked by their goalkeeper. I could feel the disappointment, but when Andrew took off his helmet, I saw the biggest smile I'd ever seen. His coach ran up and gave him a big hug...and said, "Great game, Andrew!"

Dad squinted in the late afternoon sun.

Later, when the team was enjoying their post-game Gatorade...Dad walked up to the coach. "Coach, thank you...he'll never forget that." The coach turned...squinted his eyes at the same sun...and said, "Yea...I know."

Andrew and I walked off the field...and headed for home.

Woooooooooooooooooooooster…we must have said it a zillion times on our way out of town.