Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memories from the future

If only for 3B's preschool graduation, this Memorial Day weekend was a memorable one. His school requires parents to volunteer twice a year, and Mama and I had signed up for the Purim Festival and graduation, so I took the day off work and was there for the whole ceremony.

Yes, ceremony. Yes, we're still talking about preschool. OK, there wasn't much to it, but it was more formal than the class party with cupcakes that I was expecting.

Mostly there was singing, including "You Are My Sunshine," which 3B hates, according to Mama, which explains his almost total silence during that part of the concert. There were also cupcakes, piled high into replicas of Mt. Sinai in honor of Shavuot, which comes this week, but is close enough. Also close enough were the figures of Diego that were used for Moses...hey, Diego travels on adventures and Moses did too.

Mt Sinai

The entire day was close enough to the heart that I found myself getting choked up at times, like watching how painfully shy 3B is in situations like this, despite his love for an audience; watching how he tried to find the hand of his friend next to him to hold as they stepped up onto the stage to sing; and watching him show off his classroom to me, so proud of everything he does there and knows about it.

It reminds me of how I would feel when Dad would visit my classroom when I was a boy. He had Columbus Day off and our schools didn't, so he took the day going to visit each of his kids in school--each of the six of us, so he wasn't in any one classroom long. But I still remember how happy it made me to have him there. Back then, I pictured my future, picking out odd pieces of it that have come to pass: I would wear a suit to work every day, I would be married, and I would have kids. In each of those pictures, I couldn't see Dad, but I knew he was there, although that never came to pass.

I could see how delighted 3B was to finally be able to show me all the games he had been describing to me all year, the friends he had been playing with all year and all of the pictures and projects from the year, just as I would do.

As I was watching this, I was also holding close to my heart the knowledge that Dad's 83rd birthday would have been this weekend. It's been so long now, I have no idea what I would have sent him, but I do know that I would have called and we would have talked about the Indy 500--what happened, who crashed, who won--and I would have once again relaxed into the warm tones of his voice as my own voice went up with excitement as I showed off for my daddy what I knew.

Instead, I recorded it on the DVR while we were out at the pool with the kids, and I have yet to watch it...but I will. It will be at night, after the kids are in bed. I'll make a bowl of popcorn and lay down on the couch. I'll keep the volume down to keep from disturbing anyone, and I'll watch--not to find out what happened, who crashed or who won, but to once again be with Dad.
"But it's sure nice talking to you, Dad
It's been sure nice talking to you"

Papa Bradstein will carry his Dad and his kids in his heart--they're way too heavy to carry any other way--as he rides 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Wordless weekend

Papa Bradstein will ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It takes a train to cry

Mom took tens of thousands of pictures, as anyone who knew her for more than five minutes knew. However, they were all of other people--usually her children.

Because she was always the one holding the camera, pictures of her are rare. There are beautiful pictures of her marrying Dad, silhouetted in the silence of the church under her veil, but not so many candids. However, there are two that, for me, capture some of the essence of Mom.

One is of her standing on our driveway, next to her station wagon, seeing someone off, as she did after every visit any of us made to her house. She's barefoot, of course, and has that impish grin on her face.

In the other picture, she has a much broader grin, and you can't see her feet, but she's got a baseball cap spun around backward on her head, which is sticking out the window of a speeding train. You can see that she's holding her camera, watching for the next shot, seeing the world roll by, listening to the chuffing engine, loving the moment.

This weekend, when I was walking through the woods with my daughter, she stole my hat, spun it around and screwed it down tight onto her noggin, then resumed sucking her pacifier, watching for the next curiosity, seeing the woods slide by, listening to the birds and frogs chirp and croak, loving the moment.

Mom's granddaughter.

In her face, in her blue eyes, in her curly hair, I could suddenly see Mom again on that train as I stood behind her at that window. I could hear her voice and her laugh. I could hear her tell me to look out and give her spot up to me. I thought of my daughter, who cries out "coo coo" every time she hears a choo choo whistle blow.

And my tears, they fell like rain.

To honor Mom, I will take 10,000 pictures during my ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support my ride.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Cloying cologne or a cure for for cancer? Your call.

I just reviewed the proof of my jersey designed by my brilliant cousin and found that in addition to all the beautiful pictures you sent in, she added this line:
Cancer: My name is Papa Bradstein. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
See why I call her brilliant?

If you are fatherless, as I am, or know someone who is, nothing will bring us what we want--our fathers back. But, please consider using the money you would have spent to buy your father a tie or a mug or some really awful cologne to help support the top pediatric cancer hospital in the country. You may not be able to save your father, but you may save a child, for which another father will be forever grateful.

And if you are still fortunate enough to have a father to torment with an awful tie, please consider giving instead in his name to support my ride. One hundred percent of your donation goes to the Jimmy Fund, where it will be used to ensure that fathers like these still have a child to hold next Fathers' Day:
Bonus for you: If you give before Fathers' Day, you can give Mom the gift I never did.

Papa Bradstein will wear his ugly tie and awful cologne 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Fathers' Day: what I need and what's in it for you

This Fathers' Day you won't be able to give me what I want, but you can help me get what I need--just like last year.

And this year, there's something in it for you.

As I wrote then
Even now, I reflexively delete Father's Day offer emails. Sure, in part because they're spam, but also because it's my habit to mutter under my breath, "That doesn't apply to me." Except that now it does because I am a father, but it still doesn't because I am still fatherless.

Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but my vengeance against cancer is heated by my anger. And the best vengeance is success. I've already succeeded despite cancer, what's left is to succeed over cancer--to go on living after cancer itself has been defeated.

And that is why, this Father's Day, since you can't give me what I want--a father to send a card to--give me what I need. Feed me the fuel I need to succeed. Support my ride.
For those of you who will give, I offer up my pride. I'm extending my previous challenge deadline until Fathers' Day, so if I raise enough money by then, I will shave my beard, my head and yes, I will shave my legs.

And yes, I will post video of it here, so you can revel in my discomfort.

Please donate today.

Papa Bradstein hopes to be bald-headed, bald-faced and bald-legged for his ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Elephant talk

While Jewel may be learning up to 10 words a day, she won't start using them right away, according to the latest email of toddler developmental updates from BabyCenter.

Oh really?

Over the weekend, there was a bevy, a veritable bounty, if you will, of new words, most beginning with "b." There was "bug," "bee"... and ...

You know, when you're the second child, your parents don't write everything down immediately. But she clearly got it about these words, shouting out "bee" every time one appeared in a book, pointing directly to each bee.

I'm sure that "balderdash" and "brouhaha" are next.

This week started off with "cuidado" and "nut," which means that she's been watching the news. I'm cautious of those rapture nuts too.

And, Mama said that yesterday she asked Jewel if she wanted some cheese and got the reply, "mac and," which puzzled Mama for a moment. After asking again, Mama got it and made some mac and cheese for Jewel.

Jewel's speech is pretty clear for her age, despite the fact that it's often delivered with a pacifier swung into the corner of her mouth like Groucho's cigar, but I think we miss many words because, like BabyCenter, we're just not expecting her to use them yet.

We're nuts like that.

Jewel isn't awake yet, but after our "b" and "c" day, I'm sure that we'll have words with a "d" this time.

Papa Bradstein will ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Heaven in any given hour

On my way into work yesterday morning, I was chatting with the cops while waiting for my bag to come through the x-ray machine, as I often do. When he asked me what I did over the weekend, I replied, "Nothing...but isn't that the point?"

As anybody with two children under five knows, that's a lie. Everything happened over the weekend. Amazing things happened over the weekend. Tragedies occurred over the weekend. Hell, all of that happens in any given hour here at Casa Bradstein.

But really, did he want to know about the new Pez dispenser the kids got while we were at brunch at some friends' house? Perhaps he would have liked seeing the kids riding on our friend's Triumph...well, "riding," not riding.

Head out on the highway.

Speaking of riding, maybe he would have liked to hear about how we went to brunch not just to see our friends again after a hiatus in visits that was too long, but also to collect a donation for my ride.

Or maybe he would have liked to hear about how Mama gave Grammy a ride to the airport, so Grammy could fly home? It was a short trip that required long explanations to both kids. They were both sad to see her go, even though we told them that she'd be back in three weeks...news that's tempered by the knowledge that while Grammy is here, Mama will be in Ethiopia.

It's not that nothing happened this weekend. Everything happened. I used to think that if nothing ever happened, that would be heaven, because then I wouldn't miss a thing. I've learned, however, that heaven is chaos. Heaven is people coming and going at all hours. Heaven is never the same again on any given day.

But I still like the song.

Papa Bradstein will ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days, looking for heaven the whole way. Please support his ride.

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Whatcha gonna buy with that greenback?

While the kids were enraptured by peacocks, chickens and baby pigs, sheep and goats yesterday, I was standing on a lawn south of the Washington Monument, waiting for the patch glue to dry on the rear tube of my bike so I could head home again.

While the kids discovered what it looks like to see a goat being milked, I discovered that the bead on my rear tire had failed, separating in one stretch from the rest of the tire, creating a gap that the tube got pinched in, which caused it to explosively deflate--fortunately for me, just after I'd completed a turn in traffic at about 20 mph.

Actually, the way the timing worked out, it's likely that while I was doing some fast problem solving, patching and fixing using my patch kit, pump and a dollar bill, Mama and Grammy were just discovering that the Burger King they found one mile away from Kidwell Farm where they had been was out of macaroni and cheese.

That meant that while they were sitting in the hour long traffic jam between BK and home the kids had only fries and apple sticks to munch on. This explains why Jewel came through the door, sat down on the floor and started crying inconsolably.

3B handled it pretty well, despite having been a little concerned about the goat milking, and ate dinner while we read Tintin in bed to get him down at a reasonable time. Of course, he then got up 63 times to pee, find my shoes in the hallway, report a noise coming from our upstairs neighbor, tell us that the video monitor camera in his room was unplugged, and...Go. To. Bed.

Lie down. Close your eyes. Sleep. If you don't sleep now, you won't have energy to play tomorrow.

Honestly, I say those things just to make myself feel as if I've done something. The reality is that he'll go to sleep when he's good and exhausted and simply can't keep his eyes open or his mind spinning any longer. If I knew how to stop him from doing that, I would have stopped myself from doing that years ago.

As for Jewel, she got her "bahboo" full of warm milk that she had been calling for in the car and went straight down.

While they were sleeping, I ate dinner and Mama prepared the house so that in the morning we could do it all again. Except perhaps the goat milking, no mac and cheese, flat tire and traffic jam parts.

Papa Bradstein will drink only goat milk as he rides 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Como música a mis oídos

Yesterday, when Grammy picked up Jewel from her babysitter, she heard that Jewel had asked her babysitter for water. In Spanish.

But of course in Spanish, since that's all her babysitter speaks to her. Just last week, when I was doing the pick ups and drop offs, Jewel's babysitter was excited to report that Jewel comprehended full sentences of instructions in Spanish.

It is all exciting, since she's doing much the same in English at the same time. Her English side tends to be a week or so ahead of her Spanish side, but my guess is that they're developing at the same time, but since she's only at her babysitter three days a week, her Spanish side appears later, since she's got less of a chance to use it.

It's fun to see her babysitter, who as I've said is like an aunt more than a babysitter, be so proud of and delighted with Jewel's development, just as we are.

I'm excited too, since if she stays bilingual, she can come along as our translator when Mama and I return to where we had our first date for our 50th anniversary.

La papá Bradstein montará su bici 200 millas a través de Massachusetts en dos días para ayudar a luchar el cáncer. Apoye por favor su paseo.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

On board the Grammy Express to Dagobah

Yesterday afternoon, there were three developments in Casa Bradstein. Because nobody uses film anymore--film? whazzat?--that must mean that the kids did something new.

Tangentially, about film...you try explaining film to a four-year-old who's only known digital cameras, or try explaining why you can't change film with a kid on your back.

Back to the actual developments, then...I called to let Mama know I was on my way home and the phone was answered by a small excited voice that asked, "Hello?" Of course it had to be 3B, but it was so surprising that I didn't know what to say. Then, as we were talking, he told me that he hadn't had a time out all afternoon.

These are both a result of what I call the Grammy Effect. She had the kids all afternoon, which explains the lack of time outs. Not that she doesn't dish them out--by the time I got home, she'd put 3B in one--but she's got Jedi mind tricks that would mystify Yoda. It's nice to have a professional parent around, even if I have too much of a beginner's mind to learn what she's doing. I'm hoping that eventually monkey-see-monkey-do will kick in and I'll pick up some of her tricks.

And when I got home, she told me that while she was bathing Jewel, she had asked if Jewel was ready to get out of the tub. Initially, Jewel said, "No." Five minutes later, however, Jewel looked up at Grammy and said, "I'm ready."

That's a whole new sentence for Jewel, in addition to her standard, "I'm done," which announces the end of every meal, and the start of a five-minutes-to-tantrum-removal-from-booster-seat timer. Grammy and 3B both heard her new sentence, which comes as she's trying all sorts of new words, like "Grammy," on for size, even if she hasn't got them all down quite yet.

She'll get them soon enough. She's ready. She's on board.

Papa Bradstein will ride his bike--not a train--200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Monday, May 09, 2011

A better man than I

Mothers' Day ended and I hadn't handed Mama or her mother, who's visiting us, a single gift.

It's not that I hadn't gotten 53 emails every day in the week prior from See's Candies, Amazon.com, PajamaGram and so forth. Nor was it that we didn't have art supplies at home for the kids to make something for Mama and Grammy.

It was a decision I made, when Mama was talking about her Mom's visit and what they might do. They've made a little tradition of going to see a show when Grammy comes to visit, and so I told Mama to book a night out the night before Mothers' Day so they wouldn't be fighting the bouquet, balloons and box of chocolates crowd. I told her to book dinner and a show and a night of painting the town red--or just staying up until 10.30, whichever comes first--and I would take care of the kids.

It all went according to plan and they had a wonderful time: two moms out together. It made me all the more happy to take care of the kids to know that Mama and Grammy were out enjoying an evening together.

It probably took some of the glow off their evening when they got home and heard about how I had dressed down 3B in the middle of the street while they were out enjoying a relaxing meal and a show that was, according to Mama, "a romp."

We had been packing up to go home after an hour and a half playing on the street when 3B rode away from me on his scooter, out of sight, down the middle of the street through a parking lot--after I had just told him not to.

I know about the lack of impulse control--his and mine. I know about the failure to hear, comprehend and follow instructions--his and mine. And I know about the need for speed--his and mine.

But good lord was I scared.

And good lord, did I tell him so. I hate myself when I scare him like that, but I had to get him back to where I was and then had to impress upon him the gravity of what he did. I'm sure that there was a better way to do it, and I'll keep searching for it.

He and I have talked about it several times since then--about how scary it was for both of us and about how we both need to listen to each other more and do what the other asks. I can only hope that both of us have learned our lessons from that.

It was nice to hear Grammy say that sometimes you just need to get their attention, however you can. I sighed heavily, "Sometimes it sucks being the parent."

"Yes," she said.

But I was glad to know that while I was struggling as a parent, she was out on the town with her daughter, enjoying a night of good food and hearty laughter. I watched them return refreshed and happy, and can only hope that someday Mama and I will be able to enjoy days like that with our children.

And that when I ride my electric scooter off down the street in the nursing home parking lot, out of 3B's sight, he won't yell at me for too long, no matter how scared he is, because I hope he'll be a better man than I am.

If he keeps hanging out with Mama and Grammy, he's got a pretty good shot at that. Although, if he wants to learn how to make pizza that melts his mom's heart on Mothers' Day like I did to cap off the weekend, he'd better watch how I do it, because this is how it's done, son.

Papa Bradstein will try not to yell at anybody as he rides 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The toll of my commute

Before yesterday's ride into work, I had topped off the air in my tires and lubed my chain. No, those aren't euphemisms--they're simple bike maintenance that makes riding easier.

In addition to that, the wind was at my back, so I felt like I was flying to work. I was looking for birds in the river I ride along, watching the sky turn from gray to blue, checking the progress on the bike path underpass they're building that will make my commute faster and easier when it's done as I'll sail under a thoroughfare rather than having to stop, look and listen at a crosswalk randomly placed on Dead Man's Curve. I thought this was the best moment in my commute, but I was wrong.

As DC came into view, my thoughts turned to work, to sitting down at my desk, turning on my computer and...shit. My computer was at home. I thought this was the worst moment in my commute, but I was wrong.

I debated for a moment and then turned around to return home. Turned around to ride straight into that wind. At least my tires were full and my chain running smoothly.

And, on the way home, I got to see a bald eagle flashing his white head and tail as he sailed above the trees across the river just in front of me. After awhile a small bird came and sniped at the eagle and they eventually disappeared into the trees. I thought this was the best moment in my commute, but I was wrong.

A moment later, two ducks appeared from the trees, flapping their wings frantically, flying for all they were worth, which, for waterfowl, doesn't add up to much. I chuckled a bit as I usually do when I watch ducks flying; they're the tugboats of the sky. Then the eagle appeared, hot on their tails, and I realized why the ducks were so frantic. I was able to track their chase across the open horizon in front of me until they disappeared behind trees on the other side of the path.

I didn't see the eagle catch the ducks, but she didn't seem too worried that she wouldn't. Watching that unfold was the best moment of my commute...sorry ducks.

Eventually I got up the hill that we live atop, came inside, rode the elevator up to our floor, walked my bike down the hallway, unlocked our door and...found that an hour after I'd left, everyone was still asleep. No wonder I'm the tired, cranky one who falls asleep on the couch every evening--more so tonight, I thought, because I'll be later getting into work and so that much later getting home. I thought this was the worst moment in my commute, but I was wrong.

As I was hightailing it back to work, I cut through a parking lot as I always do: around the first speed bump, over the second and around the third one, cutting a quick turn between the edge of the bump and a curb that protrudes there while looking over my shoulder for traffic that might be coming down the merging lane.

Right as whipped my wheel around that final bump, into the slot next to the curb, a chipmunk darted right into my path as I stood up onto my pedals to accelerate out of the maneuver. He stopped straight under my wheel, and in a flash, I'd killed him.

That was the worst moment of my commute. I'm no clod. I know for whom the bell tolls.

Papa Bradstein will ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Make Mom happy, embarrass me, fight cancer: win-win-win

[Updated May 24: Deadline extension, see below.]
On my wedding day, as I stood greeting arriving guests, Mom brushed her hand across my chin and said, "Couldn't you have shaved this?"

She was referring, of course, to the beard that has graced my chin since I realized that I am too lazy to--every morning for the rest of my life--engage in an aesthetic ritual that involves dragging a blade that is by definition razor sharp across my jugular and carotid at a time when my eyes are barely open and my brain is only vaguely functioning.

OK, perhaps graced is not the right word.

"All bearded men are trying to hide something," a colleague recently observed about me. I silently wondered about that, and about what bearded ladies might have to hide. But the truth is that I'm not hiding anything; I truly am wearing my laziness on my sleeve...er...face.

But perhaps I don't know what I'm hiding. Perhaps I have some horribly inadequate chin that slumps into my neck, making me appear like Beaker on the Muppet Show. Perhaps if I shave, all I'll be able to say is, "Mee mee mee mee mee!"

There is, of course, only one way to get the answer to this question, which will also make my late mother happy at the same time: shave the beard.

But why would I shave my beard after all this time? If I wouldn't do it for Mom on my wedding day and if I wouldn't do it to rid myself of whatever demons I've been hiding--why now?

I'll do it for you, of course, my six loyal readers. And I'll do it for Julia and for Declan and for Dad and my uncle and for everyone I know who has been touched by cancer. I'll do it when you have raised $1,500 to fight the fight some still face every day, the fight some have already lost, and the fight that any one of us may face one day.

And I'll go one further...

If I...[note the new, extended deadline]
  • raise $1,500 before June 1 Fathers' Day, I'll shave my beard.
  • raise $2,000 before June 1 Fathers' Day, I'll shave my beard and head.
  • raise $2,500 before June 1 Fathers' Day, I'll shave my beard and head and, in the finest cyclist tradition, my legs.

And yes...I will post the requisite videos here.

This is your chance to embarrass me by exposing my Beakeresque chin, make my late mother happy, and fight cancer--a win-win-win.

I know that many of you have given generously already, so if you would like to make Mom happy, another way to raise the money is to share this with your friends. The two people who have raised the most for my ride did it by sharing my ride information with their friends on Facebook.

To date I have raised $2,653, so to get me to
  • shave my beard, the total must be $4,153 by June 1.
  • shave my beard and head, the total must be $4,653 by June 1.
  • shave my beard and head and legs, the total must be $5,153 by June 1.

Papa Bradstein will ride his bald face, head and legs 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.
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Monday, May 02, 2011

I me mine

I've been documenting the verbal stylings of 3B here for years, but now we have a real two live crew, with Jewel dropping new words every day.

Late last week and this weekend she started owning "me." Sometimes she would just sit and repeat it, "Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me."

At other times she would use it as a response to a question or in conversation. She also started mixing in her name with it.

All of this came just in time for Grammy's arrival on Saturday, although Jewel chose to sleep through that, still tired out from swim lessons in the morning.

During the first part of Grammy's visit, she'll be staying in a local hotel where she'll be doing work with a team of consultants like her, and then during the second part, after her work is done, she'll come stay with us where she'll be able to show us how real parents do it.

Nice that she's just in time for what's coming on strong all the time, for what's flowing freely like wine, just in time for...

Papa Bradstein will be flowing like wine for 200 across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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