Continental (Part 2)

Here’s the next installment of the piece I posted two weeks ago. I’m still not quite sure where I want to go with it so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. As always, any and all feedback is welcome.

Enjoy!


Maria chose the table facing the wall and placed her Prada bag on the seat next to her. She had taken great care to plan her outfit that day; the beige in her bag matched her jacket and ballet flats perfectly and her pink, flowing skirt picked up the thin stitching in the bag’s lining. Even her strawberry-blonde hair seemed to have gotten the message, pulling the other colors together as it sat it long waves below her shoulders. It was getting warm outside but she kept her jacket on, not wanting to draw too much attention to herself by baring her shoulders. Her cell phone lay on the table, its dark screen staring back at her.

She leaned against the back of her chair. She pictured her mother scolding her for slouching. She grimaced at the thought but sat up straighter anyway. Maria had been walking more lately and she was starting to feel a difference in her legs, though she still felt tired much of the time. She imagined how her doctors would have reacted if they had seen her stepping foot in a restaurant where “donuts” was part of the name. Maria shivered slightly at the thought, just as she did every time the medical center came to mind.

She glanced up as a man sat at the table to her right. He was handsome, if somewhat unremarkable. He was clean-shaven and a pair of sunglasses rested on his short, dark hair. He was thin, though she noticed the slightest hint of a paunch under his polo shirt. His expression was blank but she imagined that he had a pleasant smile. She watched as he put down his iced coffee and a brown paper bag and sat down. Maria pursed her lips with envy as he removed a donut from the bag, took a bite and began typing on a tablet. She considered the banana sitting in front of her. Men, she thought, as she began to peel the yellow fruit, careful not to smudge her newly manicured nails. They eat whatever they want and they never gain a pound. Meanwhile, I just look at a piece of chocolate and I grow two pant sizes.

She lifted the banana and stopped just before taking a bite. She recognized the feeling that was coming over her. The hesitation that came any time she tried to eat had become all too familiar. Maria felt her mind flood with thoughts of calories counts, fat content and hard metal scales. She pictured the white coats, the thin gowns and the disappointed faces of the nursing staff. She felt her heart rate quicken and her breath catch in her throat. She suddenly became acutely aware of the temperature in the room.

Maria closed her eyes and forced herself to inhale deeply through her nose. No, she thought. We’re not doing this anymore. We’ve moved past this.

She held the breath for a moment before exhaling. Her heart rate slowed and began returning to normal. She focused on the soft breeze from the vent above her and waited for her body to cool off. She ate the banana one slow, painstaking mouthful at a time until she had finished it. She did her best to dismiss the nausea that had begun to form in the pit of her stomach and threw the peel into the nearby trash can.

The phone vibrated on the table. Maria glanced down at the still-dark screen. Just an email, she thought. It’s probably junk anyway. A small glimmer of hope flickered in her chest as she entered her passcode and opened the email app. The bold letters of the new email message mentioned Broadway’s “hottest new show.” She deleted the email and turned off the display again.

He still had not called.

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Writing My Legacy

During the 1995-1996 NBA season, the Chicago Bulls – my Chicago Bulls – dominated the league. They won 72 games out of an 82-game season and lost only three times in the playoffs, beating the Seattle Supersonics in six games to clinch the first of their second set of three championships in a row. That team is considered, if not the best team of all time, at least one of the top two or three, as arguments can be made for the ’86 Celtics or maybe one of those early ’80s Lakers teams.1 The Bulls were led by Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, as well as one of the strongest supporting casts ever behind sharpshooters Toni Kukoc and Steve Kerr (more about him in a minute) and the versatile Ron Harper.

The Bulls’ 72-10 regular season record stood unmatched until this past weekend, when the Golden State Warriors beat the San Antonio Spurs to reach 72-9 in the regular season. The Warriors have one game left before the playoffs. If they beat the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night, they’ll be 73-9 for the season and will bump the ’96 Bulls into second place on the all-time regular season record list. Oh, and by the way, the coach of the Warriors is Steve Kerr, the aforementioned three-point specialist from the ’96 Bulls team.

I’m happy for the Warriors. They have been a little bit lucky, of course, as their three star players have been relatively healthy for the entire season and there were some games where they absolutely should have lost and managed to eke out a victory.2 I’m not saying that to diminish their accomplishment; any team competing at that level for that length of time needs a little luck. The key, obviously, will be to see whether the Warriors can continue their absurd winning ways through the playoffs and win the second of back-to-back championships. If that happens, then we can talk about arguments for whether they, as a team, were better than the Bulls. But that discussion only happens after they win a championship.

This past Sunday, a few hours before the Warriors game, a guest came to the religious school where I teach to speak about her experiences as a child in Europe during the Holocaust and her journey to the United States afterwards. The parent of one of my students asked her if she had written her story into a book so that it could be documented for future generations to read about her life. The speaker said that she was in the process of expanding her presentation into a longer and more detailed form but that it was not currently in a book. She added that, even if she didn’t end up finishing the project, she feels very comfortable knowing that she has passed her story on through her children and their families and through the presentations she has given. She said that the main thing is that people never forget the Holocaust and, especially, the events that led up to it so that we can prevent something similar from ever happening again.

Later on in the evening, once I had wound down from the day a bit, I found myself thinking about legacies. Championships are wonderful, to be sure, but they also get lost in history. A new one gets crowned every year so there needs to be something particularly memorable about the team in order for it to stand the test of time. Here’s a quick quiz: can you name the last five championship teams in your favorite sport? The last ten? Can you name the team that won in 2007 or 1999 or 1984? Not only can I not do any of those things, it took me a minute to remember who won championships in the four major sports last year.3 It’s hard to differentiate from year to year because the seasons all run together after a while. We end up remembering specific teams because of individual plays, players or the season-long storylines or because of the connections we formed with the teams during the year.4 But unless there is some sort of defining characteristic, the memories fade and the teams get forgotten.

The reason I brought up the speaker at the religious school is that legacies are a part of everyone’s lives, not just sports teams. People who are afraid to die feel that way for two reasons. The first is the obvious one: they don’t know what comes afterwards and they’re afraid to find out. The second is that they do not want to be forgotten. We go through our lives and we hope that we have left some lasting impact, some reminder to the world that we were here. The whole point of leaving a legacy is so that we can be sure that people in the future will look back and be able to say that we mattered. We want our lives to have meant something.

I wrote a while ago about why I write. I came up with some answers, but I think this is really the bottom line. It’s great for me to be able to document some of my experiences so that my family and I can remember certain parts of Eitan’s childhood and so that Eitan can see what I was thinking and feeling as a first time father. But now I think that the reason people create anything, from blogs and artwork to buildings and cities, is to find some way to remind others in the future that they were here. Even having kids is called procreation because it has to do with making something to pass on for the future. Everything is a part of the search for immortality.

Kevin Costner’s character in the golf movie, Tin Cup, demonstrated this feeling expertly in the last scene when he shot a twelve on the final hole to lose the tournament.5 When he talks about feeling humiliated and dejected that his stubbornness cost him the championship, Rene Russo reminds him that, years from that day, no one will remember who won the tournament but they will remember his twelve.

Even if this blog started as a way to remember the early stages of fatherhood, it’s become something much more. It’s become a way for me to connect with other fathers having similar experiences. It’s become an avenue for communication with other people about parenthood, philosophy, sports, my life and theirs. It’s become one more piece of evidence that I was here, one more piece of my final legacy. It may not be immortality, but it’s close enough for me.


1. Those arguments are wrong. That Bulls team was the best ever.

2. I’m looking at you, Brooklyn Nets.

3. For what it’s worth: Broncos, Blackhawks, Warriors and Royals. And I got the Blackhawks immediately.

4. For instance, I know that Syracuse won the men’s college basketball championship in 2003 because that was the year that I won the March Madness pool I was in. I know that the Rams beat the Titans in the Super Bowl in the 2000 season because I remember where my friends and I watched the game. I know that the Saints played the Colts in a Super Bowl sometime around 2010 because that was the night our cable went out in our apartment and we went down the hall to our neighbors to finish the game. I remember that the Saints won because they were such heavy underdogs facing a loaded Peyton Manning-led offense but I couldn’t tell you the year unless I looked it up. And, lest you think I only have trouble remembering other teams, it applies to my own allegiances too: I know that the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2013 because I know it was the year after Eitan was born and my brother and I had to come home early from the bar because he was sick, but I didn’t remember that they had also won in 2010 until I looked it up. I knew that 2015 was their third in a few years but I didn’t remember in which year the first one came.

5. You can watch that clip here. Also, no spoiler alert. The movie came out in 1996. You had twenty years to see it.

Sleeping on the Edge (Again)

I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately.

Some of it is because I have things on my mind. I spend my days writing progress notes and service plans and working with families to help them find ways to improve their kids’ behaviors and develop more positive and productive relationships. There are always tasks I know I haven’t finished or conversations from home visits that I haven’t been able to shake by the time I go to bed. There are also the typical parent and husband thoughts that keep me up, like how things are going to change when our new baby comes or thinking of ways to keep a strong relationship with Trudy while we’re both so occupied with balancing work and taking care of our family.

Turning my mind off is definitely the lesser part of the problem, though. I’ve always been pretty adept at turning off the work part of my brain when I leave (for the most part) and, honestly, I’m usually so exhausted by the time 11:00 or 11:30 come around that I’m practically sleepwalking as I make my way to bed. The problem isn’t so much falling asleep; it’s staying asleep.

I wake up at some point each night because I try to roll over or shift position and I notice that there’s something leaning against my back. When I glance over my shoulder, I see that Eitan has made his way into the bed, burrowed his way under our covers and nestled up against me. He doesn’t cry or call for Trudy or me when he wakes up. He just walks across the apartment into our bedroom and climbs up into bed. He’s usually been there for at least a half hour or so before I even realize he’s there.

Whenever this happens, whether it’s once or three times in a night, I pick Eitan up, carry him back to his room and tuck him back into his bed. Sometimes he sleeps through the whole process, which means I’m back in bed a minute later. Sometimes, though, he makes tearful protests; usually, “I want more snuggles!” And, before you say, “Awww, that’s so cute!” I’m going to remind you that when you’re constantly exhausted and achy because you’re eight months pregnant (I’m talking about Trudy, here), being woken up during the precious few hours of sleep you can actually manage each night is… irritating, to say the least. It’s annoying for me to keep getting up but I feel worse for Trudy; snuggles are great, except when you’re trying to get some rest because you’re so wiped from literally growing another human inside you.1

As I said, some nights are worse than others. One night last week, Eitan woke up around 3:00 AM and took an hour to fall back asleep. Earlier this week, Trudy was ecstatic in the morning because she thought Eitan had stayed in his bed the whole night. It turned out she just hadn’t woken up when I got up to bring him back to his room around 2:30 AM. Then, last night, Eitan came into our bed three times in the span of two hours (yes, I took him back to his bed each time).

We haven’t quite been able to figure out what’s waking Eitan up each night. We live on a somewhat busy street, but it’s hardly a main boulevard. It also quiets down, for the most part, after 11:00 PM or so. It could be the heat turning on, since Mother Nature is still apparently hanging out at the bar, even though she was cut off three weeks ago.2 Our working theory is that Eitan is still adjusting to living in a new apartment and, more importantly, in his own room. For a child who spent the first three and a half years of his life sleeping less than ten feet away from his parents, it takes some time to get used to the idea that they’re now in a separate space at the other end of the apartment. Add in the fact that there’s a new person on their way to invade Eitan’s territory and it makes sense that he would be looking for some added security.

Our interventions haven’t been fully effective at this point, but we haven’t pushed that hard so far. We’ve reminded Eitan that we need him to stay in his room each night before bed because all of us need the rest and we’ve toyed with the idea of a behavior chart to keep track of his progress. Part of the problem is that Eitan has so many toys as it is that if we were to propose a sticker chart, I’m fairly certain Eitan would laugh in our faces. We started giving one of his stuffed animals a giant hug when he goes to bed, transferring our “Mommy and Daddy Magic” into the toy so that Eitan can just hug the animal if he wakes up at night and get our love that way. The biggest change we’ve made over the last few weeks is that I’ve been taking Eitan back to his bed as soon as I’ve realized he was in our bed. There were some nights soon after we had moved where I just left our bed and slept the rest of the night on the couch because it was easier than fighting with Eitan and waking up Trudy (and, possibly, some of our neighbors).

We’re going to keep going the way we have been. Our assumption is that the light switch in Eitan’s head will flip one day soon and that he’s just going to start staying in his room, sort of how he began potty training. We’ll wake up one morning to the sound of our alarm clock or even birds chirping outside the window and realize that Eitan is still asleep in his bed or playing quietly in his room. We’re just hoping that day comes sooner, rather than later.

Did you have similar experiences with your kid(s)? What measures did you take? Let me know in the comments or on the Facebook page!

 


1. It’s yet another testament to Trudy’s patience and endurance that she doesn’t flip out when Eitan asks for snuggles. If it were me, I could get woken up by a litter of three-day-old puppies and I’d still want to chuck them against the wall.

2. Meaning, it was 30 degrees last weekend, close to 60 on Thursday and there’s snow in the forecast for tomorrow.

Continental (Part 1)

This piece is really different from what I usually write. It’s short and I’m not sure if it will lead to anything (there also isn’t a “Part 2” at the moment) but I would love to hear what you think about it. Where would you like to see this go next? What questions do you have? Any and all feedback is welcome. Feel free to leave a comment here or on the blog’s Facebook page.

Enjoy!


Jack placed his coffee on the counter that faced the window. He took his newspaper out of the black plastic bag and put it next to the coffee. The bag slumped to the side, now holding only the box of cigarettes Jack bought at the bodega earlier that day. Jack leaned his cane against the metal window frame, pulled out the brown metal chair and sat down carefully, gripping the counter for support. He leaned back gingerly, wincing at the nagging pain in his lower back, and gazed out the window at the cars slowing to a stop in advance of the red light at the nearby intersection.

They’re always in such a rush on this street, he thought. It’s such a short block and the light at the boulevard is always red; how far do they really think they’re going to get?

His eyes refocused on his reflection in the window. The pockmarks in his cheeks seemed to be spreading and the bags under his eyes looked… stiffer, somehow. He reached up to smooth out the white wisps of hair that had been blown out of place by the gale-force winds outside. His eyes settled on the paper clip he had threaded through the broken hinge of his glasses. He gritted his teeth momentarily as he felt the spasm in his back flare up and recede again.

Jack took a sip of his coffee, feeling the dark liquid spread warmth through his body. His stiff muscles relaxed slightly with the sudden change in temperature. He glanced out the window again as a woman ran by on the sidewalk, clutching her red purse to her chest as she struggled against the wind to catch the bus. Again with the running, he thought as he took another sip.

He unfolded the newspaper. The front page showed a courtyard in front of a brick apartment building with caution tape around it. There was an inset photograph of a young man with dark skin. At the bottom of the page, large white block letters spelled out “TRAGEDY.” He thumbed through the first few pages and skimmed over the first few stories. A teenager had been shot by another teenager, apparently from a rival gang. A mother had been arrested for buying heroin while her seven-year-old son waited in the car. A politician was being accused of fraud. A man had been killed during a home invasion.

Jack grunted with disapproval, folded the paper back up and put it back in the plastic bag with the cigarettes. I don’t know why I bother, he thought. He shifted in his chair and leaned back again.

A UPS truck pulled up and the driver parked, ignoring the fire hydrant his truck was now blocking. A tall, blonde woman passed by wearing a purple workout outfit, holding a large Starbucks cup and chattering away on her Bluetooth headset, oblivious to the fact that the UPS employee had almost dropped his deliveries as he stopped short to avoid walking into her. The UPS man glared after the woman and muttered something Jack could not make out. Don’t even bother, buddy, Jack thought. She didn’t even see you; she isn’t worth your energy.

Jack finished his coffee, took hold of the countertop and pulled himself up to stand. He tried unsuccessfully to suppress a groan as his back voiced loud protests to the movement. Jack put the bag with the newspaper and cigarettes around his wrist, picked up the wooden cane and made his way over to the garbage can to throw out his cup. He gave a cursory wave to the cashier and made his way back outside.