That is all for now. Bye dad, I am glad you are no longer in pain. Love you, Bro


Most people say “Apple.”

Others “Ant.”

The more creative blurt out “Aardvark.”

The crass “Ass.”

Dad – “Anti-communist. Anti-semitic.”

A week ago, dad collapsed outside the hospital after dialysis while waiting for a cab. His blood pressure plummeted. He was in the ICU for the night while they stabilized his blood pressure and tried to determine if he had a blood infection. On Sunday, while still in the ICU, he tried leaving the hospital “against medical advice.” He had done this before, but this time they gave him a psychological evaluation. He failed and they determined he was incapable of understanding the ramifications of his decision. They gave him a “sedative” to calm him. But later that night, he ripped out an IV so they put his hands in restraints. Not sure I have been able to process that yet.

Throughout the week, he got better, his mind cleared and during Friday’s psychological evaluation, they asked dad, “what is a word that starts with the letter ‘A’?” He responded “anti-community, anti-semitic,” passed the test and is now back at home. Doctors recommended he go to a in-patient rehab center for a week to regain his strength. He refused. The doctor mentioned hospice but he said, “I am not ready for that.” As a compromise, they set up a meeting to discuss in-home rehab and health care. He said sure and then quickly dismissed the nurse  when she came over to the house – she had halitosis.

So here we are, dad back at home, weakened again from a trip to the hospital but unwilling to accept home care that will help him regain his strength or even just improve his quality of life. He did vocalize that he is dying, so maybe that is the first step. All the while, the emotional shit-storm builds up force all around him… but that post must wait.


Hi everyone. Sis and I apologize for the hiatus. I wish it were good news but things have gone south, Antarctica south. I don’t like leaving posts like this, but I do not have the time nor mental energy to write anything even moderately creative (even by my low standards). I am writing this because I received a DM on Twitter (you know who you are) asking how we were doing and I was deeply touched by their concern, especially since I have never met them in the “real world” before. And I know there are many “real world” friends that read this and want to get the word out to you as well. So, here is what is going on:

Dad is both broke and losing his mental capacity. He is with it enough to have doctors and lawyers doubt someone will sigh a paper saying he cannot make his own decisions, but gone enough to fly off into a rage, threaten to kill Sis. The last time I saw him he was literally rising out of his seat, screaming for me to “shut the fuck up” and this was with Lil ‘Bro at the table.

There is something wrong, terribly wrong, but we are getting very little help from the doctors. His kidney specialist says he thinks dad needs help but it is not his place to sign the letter that would give us power of attorney. His primary care doctor is on vacation till Tuesday. And his assistant said, “I spoke with him last week, he seemed fine.” Considering that last week dad shat all over his bedroom, I am just left scrating my head.

He is also defaulted on his home loan, ran up hundreds of thousands of dollars on a line of credit against his house, had his phone and internet shut off, didn’t pay Lil ‘Bro’s health insurance (who tore his MCL and was denied converge until his mom paid $800 to have it restored) and emptied his retirement account, put it into a “business deal” which has already burned through all the money.

Yes, I agree – what the fuck?! But it gets “better”…

Sis and I had dinner with him the other night and he said, “I have a family announcement to make.” Which means its time for crazy talk.

I am leaving you each (including Lil ‘Bro) ten million dollars. But I have learned that my kids have destroyed my business by speaking with my employees (dad hired 6 people who all walked out a couple weeks in because they could not be part of what one called ‘a fraudulent business’). If you ever contact any of my employes again, I will disinherit you.

So, Sis and I are at our wits end. We don’t know how to help or who can help. We are putting together a letter and taking pictures of the house (he shat all over his bed and chair the other day, again) to share with the doctor on Tuesday when he returns in hope he signs a letter giving us (me) power of attorney.

But I will be very honest, I do not want to take power of attorney over dad. I am maintaining my post out of loyalty to Sis and Lil ‘Bro, but we all know that he will challenge it and fight us every step of the way once we get a doctor’s letter saying he is incompetent. His doctors and lawyers have all said independently, “this is the worst of worst case scenarios and he is going to go down fighting till the end… I am very sorry for you all.” The only way we will ever be able to help dad is if he is put away… yes, I said it. Put away in a home where were he will be taken care of but make life a living hell for all of those around him since he still thinks he “is fine” and will be a ‘billionaire next week.” I want to give power of attorney to someone else, a third party that doesn’t have an emotional attachment to the situation. Can I do that? Who would take it? But I don’t think that is what family does to family even if I never even had a deep relationship with dad. I keep hearing this voice in the back of my head, “but he’s still your dad” so that means I take another bite out of this shit sandwich every dad (while did eats about five of them per meal).

Sis and I want your thoughts and solutions, but please understand, this is not just a sick, tired old man. He was known as “The Fucker” by his business partners when he was at the top of his game because he never lost. And now he is losing in the biggest way. He is at the end of his life without the one thing that he valued most in life and what he used to measure his success against everyone else – money. He admits he is broke but is delusional that he will pull off the deal of a millennium this week (by today, actually), buy a jet, a ranch in Florida (with an airstrip), start a foundation to help inner city kids (he offered me the Executive Director position for $300K/yr., but graciously declined), and a new cancer wing at the Cleveland Clinic (run and designed by Sis for $300K/yr).

And I am rambling because I look at the option in front of us and just don’t know what to do… today’s shit sandwich is served on rye. I hate fucking rye.


I have been reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. I used to eat anything. Growing up, I was down right giddy on sloppy joe night. Mom would brown the tantalizing ground beef, delicately twist the can opener, slide back the aluminum top, slop on the Manwich, grate some beautfiul bright orange, extra-sharp cheddar cheese, and cradle this insane, all processed goodness between two halves of an all white bun. She piled them high in a pyramid just like Wimpy’s hamburgers in the old Popey cartoons – Giza never looked so glorious!

When I lived in Tokyo, I would eat Wendy’s a few times a week until I discovered the delights of Mos Burger, Japan’s answer to the sustainable fast food restaurant. When I got back to the States, I gave up fast food (I sometimes still crave an Egg McMuffin) and then soda (or pop depending on where you live). Now, I only eat sustainable meat, otherwise I am vegetarian. In full disclosure, I eat out nearly every meal so my waste level astronomical, and I give my self dispensation at baseball games since not eating a brat or hot dog would be sacrilegious.

But I may loose that indulgence because of Jonathan Safran Foer – asshole. He opens up with the idea that there is no reason not to eat dogs (real dogs, not hot dogs) if we are okay with eating pigs, which in many cases are smarter than dogs. And then goes into the intelligence of fish and chickens, and by the end of it, I realized the only reason I did not eat my favorite pet, Indy, the cutest darn beagle on the planet, was because of some bullshit, subjective social construct that valued dogs over other intelligent beasts that I feasted on with joy every day. Truth be told, Indy got so plump in her old age, turning her over a pit and eating her succulent meat probably would have been pretty tasty… grosses you out doesn’t it? But why?

The more I think about my eating, the more I think about where my food comes from and the more I don’t want it to cause pain or harm. Every time I see someone eating McDonald’s I gag at the thought of thousands of shit covered cows huddled together in a factory farm like a bunch of junkies waiting for their next highball injection of steroids, growth hormones, and antibiotics. We wonder why were sick? And then believe the food industry when they tell us these substances don’t pass through to us when we heat our Big Mac’s and porterhouse steaks… yet rates of cancer are increasing, girls are hitting puberty years ahead of time, and 18 year old boys look like 25 year old men, yet have the attention span of 3 year olds? (For the record, 99% of meat is made is a factory farm.)

Dad knows I don’t eat meet anymore, or at least I have been telling him for the last three years. Yet every time I have a meal with him, he asks,

“Son, we are having steak. Oh, you don’t eat meat. But this is a really great NY strip.”

Or at a restaurant, dad is one of those guys who gives you a running monologue on the menu and tells you what to order. It is nice to get a recommendation the first time, but you could be in McDonald’s and he would say, “They have this amazing new sandwich called the Big Mac, it is amazing.” And then makes you feel like an asshole when you order the salad.

A few months ago, dad tried to eat vegan, or his version of vegan. He went to the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida. He was at the end of the line for traditional treatments so he thought changing his diet would help. I applaud him for it but he came back and all he ate was spinach salad and black bean and corn salsa for weeks. He could not bring himself to try ‘hippie food’ like tofu or kale – that would be giving in and admitting there was something valuable in what he despised his whole life. (Although I seriously question the sustainability of turning a plant like soy into something that looks and tastes like chicken but isn’t chicken.)

The more I thought about how dad and I ate, the more I realized how one eats is a reflection of how one relates to the world. I thought about all the vegetarians and vegans I knew, and they were all pretty nice people and lived their life by a ‘no pain, no harm’ approach. My aunt was vegetarian. She was a little nuts, always offering you a ‘power breakfast’ or ‘power snack’ (which of course is always followed by a ‘power dump’), but is a wonderful woman. Same is true of people that try to eat sustainably (present writer excluded), locally and non-industrially. They have an awareness of where their food comes from and the significant impact food has on the planet and the other people that live on it.

Dad loves meat and could care less where it comes from. He doesn’t think about what it takes to bring him his meat, he just knows that it is what someone at the top of the economic food chain should be eating. He does buy it from Whole Foods, but I think that is because it is more expensive and therefore better, not because how it was made.  After making himself sick from his vegan diet, he took to eating steak nearly every day. He goes to Whole Foods and buys NY strip by the pound and throws them on the frying pan every night.

The nephrologist stopped by while he was getting dialysis the other day and told him he was anemic. “That is why I eat steak every day, sometime for lunch, too.” She nearly fell off her chair. After telling him he needed to limit the protein he ate to reduce the amount of waste in his blood, his response… “you don’t know what your talking about. I eat steak because I am anemic.”

One day I made the mistake of trying to bring up the impact eating meat has on the planet. Dad. you know how much water it takes to make a pound of meet? 2,500 gallons. How much grain? 16 pounds of grain. For a guy that likes efficient markets, that doesn’t seem very efficient. (Okay, getting snippy probably didn’t help.) Dad’s response, “The world is running out of water and food. I have to get as much of it as I can,” slapping his knee and laughing. Then continued, “I can’t believe your one of these people that still believes in global warming. Didn’t you hear about these emails they were talking about on O’Reilly.”

I kept at him. You know how much land it takes to support your life style? 25.5 acres. “Not bad.” The average global citizen uses less than 7 acres. “Good, that means I am winning.” Note to self: never use the footprint argument to a man  who made his living buying and selling real estate and measured success in number of acres owned.

Dad’s life is a competition. He measures success in materials purchased and owned. The more you buy, the more waste you produce, the better you are doing in the competition to be the uber-consumer the market admires.  It is him against the world. He wins, you loose. You win, he loses but he plots his revenge and you will likely lose worse than you would have if you just agreed to roll over the first time. His thinking: completely discourage anyone to try and even compete. If you make the mistake of competing, he cuts your legs off, strips you naked and drags you through the streets so everyone knows who won and what happens to a loser. A fucking modern day Edward Longshanks.

Honestly, it is a hard lesson not to learn because when you lose with dad, it hurts, leaving you bitter and wanting blood. I aspired to be dad’s William Wallace, the annoying bother in the side of the established, tyrannical order, losing battle after battle but in it to win the war, no matter how long it takes. But the more you try to win with dad, the more painful he makes losing so that you finally give in to minimize the eventuality of your certain humiliation.

I have been thinking a lot about Little Bro and don’t want him to go down my path. Urging him to give in. Just let him win and don’t fight it. Don’t be the fucking hero that ends up on the executioners block screaming “Freedom!” with your last breath right before you die. Say mercy. Say mercy! Sis held out, too. Lil Bro, you don’t want to be drawn and quartered like she has, your not that strong. But he’s got too much dad in him to ignore the pain and resist the temptation to enter the battleground. Lil Shit is fighting back in his own way… hate to admit I’m proud of him. But worried it will end bad, real bad.

And I sit her now wondering… what weapons does dad still have? I feel the intense guilt of wanting the battle to be over but imagine it being drawn out in the trenches for years to come, no matter how unlikely. The man was supposed to be dead a decade ago. Nothing will convince me he cannot live ravaged with cancer and on dialysis for 20 years. That is his weapon. He sits atop his throne, feasting on those around him, drawing from our pain and sapping us of our strength to resist. Hell, I even eat meat around him so I don’t have to hear it. Compromising my values in the face of pain is the most bitter of losses.

But what if he takes the nuclear option? The one I know I cannot take. The one where in the end, he finds peace and asks me for forgiveness… Could I even handle that? Would I have to ask him for the same in return? Am I strong enough to give in? Is my only path to victory eating crow and letting him win?


Dad woke up one morning ten years ago pissing blood. Went to his Internist who said he had kidney stones, never mind the large mass cancerous-mass squatting on his kidney. Keep in mind that this is the only doctor dad trusts at the moment… they guy that delayed diagnoses of the hyper aggressive renal carcinoma by several months. This is also the medical professional said that he “guaranteed” dad would be fine flying back to Chicago when the doctors in Boston wanted to strap him down to the gurney was with failed kidneys, a creatinine level over 8 (0.6-1.2 are normal), incontinence (the PC term for pissing and shitting yourself) and blood leaking and clotting into his bladder, giving him the sensation of passing kidney stones every couple hours. You can blame his doctor for incompetence, but you also do not reward failure by making the incompetent your only trusted medical adviser because he will so whatever you say. To the doctor’s credit, dad did make it back to Chicago alive. Good job doc.

The fact that dad is alive is the product of modern science. Renal cell carcinoma is like stepping into the ring with Mike Tyson in his hey day. Basically, you’re fucked. The line in Vegas read “Cancer: 99 – Dad: 1”. But like James “Buster” Douglas, dad staged one of the most shocking upsets over kidney cancer ever scene – who knows, maybe dad’s legacy will be an article in the New England Journal of Medicine. If it does, it will surely include the quote from a doctor at UCLA that said, “can’t help you. Take a trip with your family, say good bye. You have 6 months.”

Dad has tried biologicals, chemotherapy, radiation, very invasive surgery, minimally invasive surgery, vegan diets, all beef diets, and Tylenol. Dad is so cut up, I want him to strip naked at Halloween and go door to door as “Franken-dad, a case study of the miracle of modern medicine.” But really, what was the point? Billions is spent on cancer research every year, but we are all drinking, eating, breathing, and absorbing cancer causing compounds every day.

American society is amazing. We can fly across the world in hours. Eat asparagus from Chile in December in Chicago. We can buy music from an Apple that is delivered momentarily through all these pipes and wires called the Internet and send a letter to someone in China instantaneously, as long as it doesn’t say anything truthful, using Gmail (at least for now). But the basic necessities of life – water, food, air – are increasingly under assult and being loaded with things that, we don’t know for sure, but we have a pretty good hunch, can kill us. But unfortunatly, from cowboy America, hunches are not good enough. We have to be 100% certain something will not instantly or slowly bio-accumulate in our body, give us cancer and kills us.

Our ground water is contaminated with herbicides, pesticides and other chemicals. We drink water, Diet Coke, and pretty much everything else from plastic bottles that may leach BPAs (an endocrine disruptor that disturbs the hormonal messaging in our bodies). Eat meat from cows raised in factory farms that are so hopped up on vaccines and hormones, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire look clean. Eat fish that has so much mercury in it that a piece of sushi can take your temperature. We eat food grown from fertilizers that contain heavy metals and other toxic chemicals in such high concentrations that it can kills someone taking a pleasant stroll through a factory farm (see Fateful Harvest by Duff Wilson). Our food is so loaded with fat and sugar (made from corn made from those fertilizers) that our children are obese and have diabetes. STOCK ALERT for the 21st Century! Pharmaceutical companies selling insulin, syringes, and other devices needed by diabetics. And the air we breath is so polluted that you can see it flying to many of the nations airports.

We used to have the tobacco lobby (and still do) that denied people were dying of lung cancer as the Marbrolo Man sucked on oxygen from the tank strapped to his back. Now we have the farm lobby, fast-food lobby, plastic lobby, and dozens of other lobbies that represent companies whose best interest it is to make a profit from making products that disrupt our hormones, cause our fat to accumulate mercury, drink corn-made sugar water that gives us diabetes, and eat fast-food that allows us to win a million dollars on Biggest Looser.  The latest Supreme Court decision is a good indication that they will succeed and thank God, because my stock return sucked ass last year.

I just ask, why waste a penny on cancer research when we are simply creating an environment that breeds cancer? Do me a favor, check out the next breast cancer awareness event – simply look for a horde of women wearing pink t-shirts made from cotton heavily dosed in carcinogenic fertilizers and pesticides sucking down 20 oz Diet Cokes in plastic bottles and tail a few to see if they end up for a post walk celebration McDonald’s. Don’t get me wrong, the Komen Foundation, Be Bright Pink and other breast cancer organizations are amazing and I think they help, mobilize and inspire millions of women and their fathers, husbands, and sons. But we are missing the point if we think the cure is going to come through a pill and doesn’t include everything we drink, eat, breath and put on our skin every day.

A cynical Sunday,


We all love baby Jesus, whether you believe in God or not, because we all get presents on his birthday. Christmas for Sis and I was awesome, a present schmorgisborg. Mom loved Christmas (she still gives Sis and I stockings) and dad had divorce guilt and believed that money can buy anything. Add that they both got remarried in 1979, so Sis and I had four parents growing up and four sets of grandparents. We ripped through so much wrapping paper in the 80s that we were the reason the Spotted Owl ended up on the endangered species list.

Mom is an insane gift giver. Every year she asks me what I want for Christmas and I am bummed when I look under the tree and there is no box big enough to hold my deepest consumer desires. Sometimes I only get an fricken envelope. Other times a wimpy little box. But when I opened it, it is exactly what I wanted, whether I knew it or not. This year was no exception. We all agreed not buy gifts for each other. Mom followed the rules, but then announced we were all going to the Bears-Vikings game on Monday Night Football. We sat in the cold, huddled together, cheering the Bears, and cursing Brett Favre as one big, happy, frozen family.

I learned the trade of gift giving from mom. It is not about what people say they want. People usually have no idea. Giving is about knowing someone. Getting into their head and figuring out what would touch their heart. And if you get it right, the unexpected gift is like a little love bomb that goes off in their head and rocks their world. I have set off two love bombs in my life. Both were books.

Mom was a high school English teacher for over 30 years and loved to teach Tale of Two Cities (it may have been the only literature book I read front to back in high school). I looked online to find a first edition… I knew I could never afford it but thought maybe I could find one that was nearly destroyed and its mere presence would bring a Dicken’s glow to her bookshelf. Turns out Tales of Two Cities was written as a serial in a magazine. So the first edition was actually a collection of the original magazines. As luck would have it, someone had an incomplete collection of about half of the magazines at a price I could afford. It is Christmas Day and we are the kind of family that tends to buy multiple things, a few small presents as a prelude to the real deal. I am nervous. Thinking I had dropped the bomb on this one. I finally work up the courage put the package in mom’s lap. As always, she says something completely corny, like, “oh my, what is this?!” Giving books sucks because the person knows what it is right away. She shakes back and forth and scrunches her back as she makes cooing noises as she opens it. And then she stops, freezes, just staring at the front cover. Not a word and now its awkward. She puts her hand to her chest and had a heart attack on the spot… I’m kidding, but did have tears running down her face. Now, for most, crying would be exceptional. Mom, not so much. She has a very low crying threshold, but this was a successful gift and well planted love bomb. So if anyone has the second half of the first edition Tale of Two Cities lying around, send me an email.

The second epic gift was another book. A Toni Morrison, signed first edition of Beloved. That one was a shot in the dark. It was for my graduate school girl friend. Not my first girl-friend but the first one I deeply loved and she was finicky. On our first date, I took her to Jane’s, an awesome little restaurant in Bucktown in Chicago. I could have ordered everything on the menu… she couldn’t find anything without cilantro, or that wasn’t spicy, or that had the right consistency. Finally on the fifth date, I took her to Wiener’s Circle on Clark Street, home of the char-chili-cheese dog, and she loved it. Who wants gourmet cuisine when you can have a McGriddle sandwich. She also had a fashion streak. It is not that I don’t like nice cloths, but I still have t-shirts from college and wear Gold-Toe socks. She would wear jeans and a t-shirt, and still looked like she belonged at the ball. I had totally failed the Christmas before when I bought her a Tory Burch blouse, so buying her a book for graduation was a huge risk. I handed her the book, and the disappointment on her face ripped right through me. She unwrapped it and cocked her head, confused, so I opened the front cover and pointed to ‘First Edition’. Like mom, she froze and then raised her hand to her mouth, tears running down her face. After she recovered, she said, “How did you know to get me that?” Thanks mom!

That brings us to dad. Dad has probably spent more on Christmas than any dad on the planet, except for the ones that can buy their kids cars or planes or houses. Actually, dad is one of the most prolific consumers of all time. He is the 80s. The man still quotes Gordon Geko in Wall Street, “Greed is good.” It is his personal motto. Most people laugh, think he is joking. The ones’ that know he is serious think, “Dude, did you see the end of the movie, that wasn’t the point!” He had a Porsche, weekend house in Wisconsin, condo in Aspen, flew to Paris for the weekend, dumped his finance because a friend offered him a trip to Rio if he called off the wedding (in his defense, she was a bitch) and ate out every night in the Viagra Triangle in Chicago (look that link, it is worth it).

When it came to Christmas, the tree looked insignificant compared to the pile of presents. Back in the day (before mass ordered from Hammacher & Schlemmer), Sis and I gave dad a list of things we wanted, they would all be under the tree… sort of. Dad never took the time to get Sis or I and never cared enough to listen to what we really wanted, so he would buy what he thought we wanted.

When I was twelve, I really wanted a hockey jersey. I didn’t like hockey, could care less about the Blackhawks, but that was the point. I wanted something that was a little different.

“Son, what do you want for Christmas?”

“A hockey jersey!”

“Oh, a Blackhawks jersey?”

“No, any team but the Blackhawks and an XL”

What did I get from Christmas? I perfectly fitting authentic Blackhawks jersey.

This year was no exception. Dad asked me a month before Christmas what I wanted and I said, nothing. I meant it. I said hanging with the family was enough… That was a lie, I was dreading my holiday week at home and ended spending most of it at Sis’s house. A week before Christmas, he asked me, “so, what did you think of that Skip Barber trip we took?” I said, “best vacation we ever took” (if you cut off the flight home, I was telling the truth). So Christmas rolls around and what do I get, Skip Barber Racing School. I was deflated. It was great. I would love it, again. But I looked at the $3,999 price tag and thought about all that could have been done with that money (occupational hazard when you work at a nonprofit). The saving grace was that he bought the same thing for Little Bro and Bro-in-Law. At least we could enjoy it together… but Little Bro is 14! Dad claims he worked out a side deal with the school. Finding it a little hard to believe they would let a kid who has never driven a car, much less a manual transmission, before on to the track. He is just setting him up for disappointment, but that is one of dad’s best and most frequent gifts.

I always got the impression Christmas was disappointing for dad. He would go out, get all these gifts and spend all this money but never experienced any of the deep satisfaction of giving someone a great gift, much less the love-bomb. Last year dad, Little Bro and I went to Costa Rica for a week. It was an awesome trip. But dad had no idea how to relax, and just enjoy being there. One day, he blew up and screamed, “we are on vacation, we are a family and we are going to have fun together!” The next day it was, “you’re a sanctimonious asshole know it all.” Maybe I am, but I am not sure what asking him where the camera was has to do with that. Gift-giving is a commercial transaction for dad, not a relationship building and love exchanging exercise.

I think about the best gifts I ever received. Mark Gonzales Special Edition skate board has to be top the list – mom. Stars named after Sis and I – mom (I have no idea where it is anymore, but we spent a long time looking for it as a family). Arabic to English electronic dictionary – hot dog girlfriend (never used it, but she really tried and was so nervous about whether I liked it or not). $250 donation to a water project in India – Sis (we now have a legacy together in India). Dad… blank. He gave to Sis’s water project too, but never understood what it was really about. I am not being a dick or stonewalling for effect. I seriously cannot think of one gift I really appreciated because he has never given me anything with thought and feeling.

Now, my family will call me out because one year when I returned all their gifts and bought myself a guitar. I guess they were a little short on feeling that year.

And that brings me back to Baby Jesus. While I may not go to church every Christmas, at its best, Christmas is about spending time with and appreciating friends and family, remembering that we are here for each other. At its worst, it is gross consumerism. The disappointment I felt from dad’s gifts made me very aware at an early age that giving was not about the gift, but the intention and feeling behind it. I would never had appreciated mom’s gifts so much with out the emotional desert that accompanied dad’s.

I think back to my grad-school girl friend. She moved to DC with me for the summer after grad school. I was shopping for work cloths. I bought a pair of pants and she was moody as hell. I suggested we look at some jeans and she perked up. When I bought them for her she was noticeably ecstatic and we even went into a ring shop. We were not ready to get married but far enough into it for me to know what she wanted. And I sat there thinking… if all it took was a pair of jeans, was that really what I wanted? I loved this girl move than anything, but will I ever have enough to give? Will my loving thoughts and feelings ever be appreciated, or would it have to be matched by a Lois Vuitton purse and an ever increasing amount of material goods? For a lot of reasons, we broke up later that summer. I was devastated, probably still am. But, I reflect back on Christmas with dad and realize that I could never provide the gifts she required, because it was only about the material… the thoughts didn’t count. Beloved was a one hit wonder… That is a valuable lesson in reverse. Thank you dad.

We were flying to Monterey, CA for three days at Skip Barber Racing School. It was an amazing three days. I was twenty-five, dad fifty-four. The trip was horribly timed. The Cubs were playing the San Francisco Giants in a winner-take all, one-game playoff to go to the Playoffs at Wrigley. I was receiving hourly calls with ticket offers from friends who knew I was cursed with the genetic flaw: Cub-fan-opholous (I can’t blame dad for that one, he hates sports… so thanks mom!). But I was pumped for three days of riding in a race car around one of the most difficult tracks in the country (Laguna Seca). I had never driven a race car before, but dad loved cars and who wouldn’t be thrilled about racing around a track at speeds over 100 mph with your butt inches off the pavement and a screaming engine perched right behind your head?!

And it was the first vacation I ever paid for myself. Dad sprung for the plane tickets and hotel, but I paid my entrance fee of $2,700. I sped around that track in guiltless, un-obligated joy. I would race up behind dad and he would refuse to let me pass. I could tell he was pressing, trying to get more out of the car. But he broke way to soon going into the turns and was gimpy on accelerating out of them. The class rule was that you could only pass when someone waved you past. He made me crawl behind him for two laps until finally surrendering on the front straight away.

After the third day of racing, dad said, “you’re a good driver.” Honestly, one of the greatest compliments he ever gave me. Not because I aspired to be a race car driver (although three days at Skip Barber will do that to you), but because it was so out of character – dad never complimented anyone – and he loved cars and fancied himself a great driver. It was a Russertonian lesson and I will never forget it. It was a rare moment of sportsmanship from dad, an admission that he was not the best. And I remember feeling the appreciation when he acknowledged my skill (at lest relative to his, there were plenty of other drivers better than me at the school), and I hope I give that appreciation to others that excel at their trade. Thank you dad.

Class ended mid-day, so we had a lot of free time, a dreaded thing with dad since he sets the agenda according to what he wants to do, never asking for input and assuming everyone else has the same interests as he. But this trip was different. We were both whipped after sitting in a car with hard shocks and a screaming engine behind our heads. We took naps before dinner and retired shortly after eating. On the first night, I had the first massage of my life. It was an awesome… except that the masseuse, probably 50ish, spoke the whole time about how she practices tantric yoga and showed up to classes by herself so she could “enjoy the pleasure of different men.” I am not judging, but it was a little awkward lying naked on a table with the woman’s hands all over me as she talked about wanting to have sex with a “diverse cross-section” of men.

On night two, dad and I went to a bar and watched the Cubs game. I remember dad commenting on the game as if he was Steve Stone and had an in-depth knowledge of baseball… he had no idea what he was talking about, so I just grunted, watched the game and struck up conversations with the increasingly disgruntled Giants fans that watched their season end that night. Was this the Cubs year!? Of course not.

It was a great weekend. We spent three days together doing something we both thoroughly enjoyed. Conversations we a little easier. We looked each other in the eye when we spoke. We buckled in, the plane took off and I was trying to get the last peanut out of the cellophane bag and dad nudged me.

“Hey, look at her!” in a hushed tone, but clearly excited.

I had noticed a very attractive woman my age getting on the plane. She was walking towards us, heading to the laboratory.


“Wow, do something!” He unbuckled his seatbelt so he could watch her walk all the way down the aisle.

“What are you talking about?”

“Look at her, I have always been an ass man.”

I just sat there, no idea what to do other than stare at “Please store your tray table during take off and landing.” I was fuming. Nevermind the fact that dad could approach any woman he wanted and strike up a conversation. They guy bled charm. I didn’t inherit that gene. When I see an attractive woman, I sweat and if I can get a word out, I come across like a smart ass. Must have gotten that gene from mom, too.

When she came back dad started in again.

“You should say something,” nudging me like an excited little kid… and I snapped.

“What, you want me to take her back into the laboratory and fuck her?!”

He recoiled, sat back and stared at me for a moment before shaking his head, mumbling something, and picking up his magazine. Weekend over.

It was pretty ridiculous. My outburst was way out of proportion to the crime, wasn’t it? If I was with my friends, I would have probably laughed, but they were not my dad and I did not want my dad to be my friend. And what was the crime? Weren’t dads and sons supposed to talk about women? (I am actually asking you, I am not sure).

Well, dad and mom were divorced when I was two and have always been a mama’s boy. Mom’s left leg is probably over-developed because I used to cling to it and suck my thumb whenever we were in public. And while my sister and I used to fight like cats and dogs, I watched dad prey on her emotions for years. Basically, I watched my dad disrespect the two important women in my life and then objectify every other one for 25 years. This may not be something a guy usually notices, but when you grow up with a very independent mom and a sister, it is hard not to feel the ere of women when guys are “being guys.” And to be honest, most of my guy friends never acted like dad around women.

To be clear, I am no saint, and have stories that I look back on and see my dad in me… I hate those moments. And that is why I thank dad for this reverse lesson. No one is perfect, he nor I. But he has given we a warning device, one that triggers the memory of the Monterey woman whenever I am acting like dad in the presence of women. Sometimes I am strong enough to pause and treat people like they deserve to be treated. Other times, I fail and then feel the guilt and hope that the span between the next offense is longer than the last.

I don’t really want to share this post. I see my pettiness and inconsistency in it. But I will, mainly because it has made me realize that some of my resentment towards dad is of my own making and he deserves for that to be shared as much as the stories that have made him out to be not such a great guy. Thank you dad.

The most common response to Dealing With Dad blog posts is “Wow…” or “don’t know what to say but want to give you a big hug.” (I deeply appreciate all of those sentiments). My mom says, “you are very angry with dad, and that’s okay.” She is right, I am and I try to veil the personal hurt I feel by expressing my distaste and disgust with how dad treats Sis and pretty much everyone else he encounters at the moment. I am hundreds of miles away and shielded from the everyday outbursts and only bear the brunt of an irate phone calls now and again.

There is also guilt for leaving my sister to deal with the constant barrage of an irrational asshole. I have no idea how she does it. My head would have exploded with stress by now, or worse, I would have become just like dad… like the scene is Return of the Jedi where the Emperor is trying to convert Luke to the dark side, “Good, I can feel your anger. I am defenseless. Take your weapon. Strike me down with all of your hatred and your journey towards the dark side will be complete!”

But I have always held a deep sense of gratitude for dad. Not the typical, thank you for your support and love – I always felt too manipulated and beholden to him to feel that. Nor is it the, thank you for college or the great Christmas gifts. Always felt that was a type of blood money, or get our of jail free card for leaving mom, and an attempt to buy love or loyalty or respect. Honestly, when dad would get me a great gift, I felt a level of stress because I felt the need to be gracious. Ungrateful rich kid, sure. But I never felt the gift was given from a position of love and appreciation – the thought was never counted. Which leads me to why I am so thankful for dad.

In the opening blog post, I alluded to Tim Russert’s Wisdom of Our Fathers: Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons), saying that the type of relationship Sis and I have with dad was not represented. I have to admit that I never could get past the first page of Russert’s book. Just the thoughts of reading about all these amazing stories about great dad’s and the wise lessons they passed on to there kids created a baseball sized knot in between my shoulder blade and spine. So apologies to Tim. Knowing the amazing journalist and storyteller that he was, I am sure he included some of the dysfunctional lessons as well, but whenever I pick it up, all I can think is ‘bullshit’ and that the book took exceptional relationships between fathers and their children and held them up as the norm, while the vast majority of kids felt guilt for not loving their father’s as much as they should because their dad’s did not live up to the myth.

But, dad, thank you for those dysfunctional, or what I call ‘reverse lessons’ of life. And I mean it and say it with the love and affection a father deserves. Reverse lessons are all around us. In a Russertonian world, a father walks down the street with his son and as a man shoves a woman and yells at her, the dad says “son, never treat a woman like that.” And that lesson is reinforced at home when the dad treats mom with love and respect, even in tough times. In the world of reverse lessons, the dad verbally abuses mom and says she needs to go to the fat farm. The child then needs to interpret the verbal abuse as bad and make the decision to ‘not be like dad.”

Every parent is fallible and provides the opportunity for reverse lessons for their children, but in our case the ratio was a little out of wack. For the next few posts, I want to thank dad and share some of the invaluable reverse lessons he has so graciously taught us. The Lesson #1: Objectify Women will post tomorrow.

Sis visited dad during his dialysis today. Dad’s out bursts is now all encompassing and iclncludes everyone. He unleased on Peggy, the door lady at his condo building, the other day and destroyed everything on the front desk.

He has become such a problem at the dialysis center that the lead social worker suggested to dad that we have a family meeting to discuss his mental state. Bad idea. Dad’s nephralogist then came by and gave him a referral to a psychiatrist.

Psychiatrist, why the hell do I need a psychiatrist?!

Dad threw the name and address of the psychiatrist away on his way out.

It’s all about control. He is slowly loosing his mind and the only way he has control is by rejecting everyone’s help. It’s insane but at the same time, they only way he can exert his will.

Dad has always been a loner. But he has alway hated being alone… he has never been more alone than right now.

And we have no idea what to do. Send warm thoughts to Sis, she needs all the support she can get.

Over the last couple weeks, I have watch The Savages (with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney) and Funny People (Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen). They are both dark comedies and both hit home pretty hard. Sis and I watched The Savages together and kept on looking at each other nervously laughing as they dealt with their father, played by Philip Bosco, who was slipping into dementia and away from them. The father’s fits of anger brought a chuckle that then was quickly stuck in the throat as my mind transposed dad’s face onto Bosco’s as he laid into Linney, who has transformed into Sis. And Hoffman’s rational, removed approach to the situation stung hard… was I that much of a distant and emotionally removed prick?

I watched Funny People last night after a friend raved about it at dinner (since falling asleep is now as hard to do as waking up in the morning, late movies have become the norm – thank you AppleTV!). I whole hardedly embrace my love of Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison, but Funny People is Sandler’s best movie by far. Rather than the stupid, slapstick humor, this is a dark, caustically funny movie. He has a deadly blood disease and thinks he is going to die. Seth Rogen, his assistant/opening act, convinces him to reach out to all the people in his life he has lost touch with – love of his life, old friends, and family. I admit to thinking, “why didn’t dad do this?!” during much of the movie but then was emotionally gut punched when it comes out that he was using his illness as a power-play to get back into people’s lives. And once he is cured, he reverts to the same anger and cold hearted behavior that made him successful but intolerable in the first place. Still thinking through what I learned about the movie other than admiring Rogen’s character for standing up to Sandler and telling him what he really thought of his behavior. But then remember that he is not his son and be… its a movie.

At the very least, I recommend both movies, difficult dad or not.


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