October gratitude

&#147Some October, when the leaves turn gold, ask me if I’ve done enough to deserve this life I’ve been given.&#148 — Barbara Crooker, from her poem Some October

In addition to the brilliant colors of fall, I find much for which to be grateful: Lori and I have now been married for 21 years, Andrea turned 18, and she received her first admission to a college.

I recall my own senior year and the process of applying to colleges. Life was all possibility, unbounded, a future awaiting discovery. I didn’t fathom the wisdom of a casual comment my high school boss made, that my choice of college would determine my life.

At times I have mused about my path, had I made a different choice. No regret, just curiosity. These days, though, I wonder about the decisions my children will make and the die they will cast. I hope they will make a positive contribution to the world through the purpose of their days, while finding fulfillment and happiness.

Change the World!
Andrea’s admonition, immortalized with sidewalk chalk on the street in front of our house during the summer of 2009.

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Father’s Day

While it’s supposed to be my day, when my children express appreciation for my role as father, I feel more comfortable expressing my own gratitude for them and the gifts they give me every day.

Andrea, now entering her senior year, has developed into such a kind and compassionate human being. She’s bright and works hard, yet infuses what she does and those around her with enthusiasm and joy. A young woman, she is stepping across the threshold of adulthood, leaving her childhood to the photos.

Grant is completing 8th grade and middle school. This has been a tough year for him, as he seems to be struggling with his identity and values, particularly questioning school and authority. The result: lower grades and calls from teachers about his behavior.

It’s disappointing, as the one value I would impart to him above all others is respect for others. And his dropping grades don’t reflect his aptitude. Yet I recall that Andrea faced similar challenges during her 8th grade year, so I’m hopeful this is a normal developmental stage, a transition en route to adulthood.

Despite my disappointment and frustration, I nonetheless feel grateful for Grant’s presence. He’s kind, sensitive, bright and full of ideas and dreams. I wonder where he will take them.

The words from Khalil Gibran’s On Children reflect a theme of my parenting philosophy:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

Thanks, Andrea and Grant, for the privilege of being your father and sharing your journey.

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At 17

Andrea at 17My, do the years go by quickly.

17 years ago, shortly after midnight, Andrea came into the world. She arrived late and in a rush, her official clock kick-started by a surgical team.

I remember Lori draped in the blue dressings of the operating room and the anesthesiologist positioning me at the head of the table.

“You see all these people?” he asked, pointing to the gathering crowd of doctors and nurses.

I nodded, nonplussed by the sudden move from the quiet delivery suite to the bustling operating room.

“Not one of them is here to take care of you if you pass out.”

His words struck the nerve of the dilemma racing through my mind. Ever squeamish around needles and blood, I simply could not allow myself to pass out and miss the birth of my daughter — or son, as we had chosen not to know whether this child would be boy or girl.

I didn’t pass out, the medical concern surrounding Andrea’s birth proved unfounded, and we’ve now shared 17 largely wonderful years graced by her presence and embrace of life.

Within the last few years, we’ve also shared some unexpected, scary times. Ironically, she seems to have faced and transcended the challenges better than her parents, teaching and inspiring us to accept life as it comes and to be grateful for each day’s dawn. Make each day sufficient.

Happy 17th birthday, Andrea.

As you enter adulthood, may you chase your dreams to fulfillment and may your journey be blessed.

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Father’s Day reflection

On Father’s Day last year, my daughter Andrea had been home from the hospital for one day. The prior week she had undergone two surgeries to remove a tumor from the right frontal lobe of her brain. This sudden and serious experience made Father’s Day much more meaningful for me than it had ever been, transcending the timeworn veneer of the Hallmark card and new tie.

I captured my feelings in a posting on a Yahoo! Groups web site, a web site that a friend had started to efficiently inform our family and friends of the latest news. Today, I reread my words and find them to be as true and important as a year ago. You may find them helpful in shaping your perspective about what’s important.

Sunday, June 17, 2007 – For Father’s Day, Andrea gave me wonderful gifts of joy and a few life lessons:

Gratitude – One of the paradoxes of living is that our normal day-to-day routines often dull our awareness of the miracle of life. The seemingly simple biological processes of our bodies, the communities of people we see every day, even a sunny day become ordinary. This past week, nothing was ordinary nor could be taken for granted. And so we became profoundly grateful for every positive step, each gift we received, everything “normal” that could have been otherwise. I hope we can maintain this awareness and sensitivity as the days and weeks pass.

Equanimity – Andrea’s acceptance and outlook in the face of this unbelievable challenge is such an inspiration. There were moments that her spirit faltered – when we first learned of the tumor, when we were told of the need for a second surgery – yet she quickly bounced back and went on to transcend her own circumstances and reach out to others in the hospital. Her strong will and positive attitude carried us.

The Power of Support – When told of Andrea’s tumor, our world immediately turned upside down. We felt so ill prepared and alone. As word spread and people responded, an incredible community of support materialized to sustain us. And more than I expected, this web site has been amazing: stealing a few minutes from the non-stop hospital routine to read a few posts, we have been reassured and comforted by the outpouring of well wishes, prayers, positive energy, and offers of assistance that you have sent our way.

No Absolutes – I have learned there are no absolutes in brain surgery. You ask questions wanting black and white answers of assurance, yet the doctors and nurses can’t provide them. Did you get it all? Will there be any impairment or change? What’s the long-term prognosis? The answers we get are gray, probabilistic. Andrea’s outlook is excellent and better than we dared hope for a week ago. Nonetheless, she will be followed closely for at least five to ten years.

This morning, reflecting upon the experience of the past week, I am making two resolutions as a parent: sincerely telling Andrea and Grant that I love and appreciate them every single day, and focusing on the “big rocks” and not sweating the small stuff so much.

This is the best Father’s Day ever. I am blessed with two wonderful kids.

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Anniversary reflections

Piano recitalOne year ago today, we learned – quite suddenly and shockingly – that our daughter Andrea had a brain tumor. What began as a parent’s worst nightmare became a miracle as we lived through the following blurred days and the subsequent months.

Andrea’s piano recital last night prompted these reflections.

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Photo: Between brain surgeries, Andrea gave a piano recital to the nurses and other children on 9-North. One of the hospital staff turned the pages for her.

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