18 More Nights

My youngest one, Michelle, the one who is headed to college in approximately 18 nights including this one which is about over, and I ate dinner at the Players Retreat tonight over by NC State.  The PR is an old Raleigh haunt – I went there in college.  Great food.  Good service.  Sort of a know you by your name hangout.  The atmosphere makes the summer flies bearable. 

We had a great dinner with an appropriately attentive waitress.  Our conversation ranged from spring rods and curtains for the college dorm “closet” to recanting old day camp cheers that she might be able to recycle tomorrow at work as a youth counselor at the downtown YMCA.

When we got home, I plunked out the melody of a few tunes, and she casually sang along.  She has a beautiful voice.  At one point, I moved to the den to pay the VISA bill, and she practiced a song we’re trying to convince her to sing at our wedding later this year.  I held it together when she walked through the room, but had she checked the credit card statement, it would have been damp.  I sure am going to miss that voice in the house.

I’m not sure which of us has the most angst about her going away, the kid who is headed to UNC or the parent who is watching her grow up.

It seems so surreal.  Poof.  All three of them are grown. 

I saw a commercial yesterday with a father holding his kid on his shoulder.  For some reason the baby’s onesie caught my eye.  I have held that same child, in that same outfit, in that same position, and in my mind not so long ago.

I try to convince myself it won’t be different – she’s only 30 minutes away.  I don’t see her that much when she lives here full time.  Things won’t change.

They will to some extent.  They are supposed to.  They are supposed to for her.  They are supposed to for me.

I am happy in my soul for Michelle.  I am excited for her.  The world is her oyster!  The future is bright for us all.

But for the next three weeks, I think I might just lament a bit.

Words, A Generous Gift

bathroom pic

Lisa did a good thing right before she died.  She wrote a very simple card to me telling me she loved me and that I had done all that I could for her.  She essentially said, “No guilt Danny.  No guilt.”  She told me to move forward in my life – to remarry.  Her exact words were, “You’re not good by yourself.”  Yeah.  She knew.

What a generous things for her to do.  Selfless.  Not surprising.

I have no guilt.  I have no angst about moving forward with my girlfriend, Julie.  I don’t know if I would have without the final check off, mybe so.  But it surely is nice not to question.

In a way, those who know they are going to die have an advantage.  If they choose, they can get their affairs straight.  They can share how much they love their friends and family.  They can help alleviate any feelings of guilt.  They can plan with their loved ones.

One would think that someone like me would fully be prepared to die.  I’m not scared to die, sometimes it is actually more scary to live in this world than to ponder death.  But I don’t think I’ve done a great job of planning for what could come.

Do my kids know that I absolutely adore them?  And not in a general sort of I love you way.  Do they know why I love them, individually?  Do they know what I think is most wonderful about each of them?

At some point over the past year or two, my parents wrote a letter to me just to let me know they are proud of me.  It’s framed in my bathroom (my favorite room in the house).

Do those I work with understand their importance in my life?  How they’ve stretched me and made me grow?

Am I vocal enough with Julie about my feelings for her?  Danny Tanner is not always easy to love.  I come with a lot.  I am thankful she’s in for the long haul.

Have I thoughtfully thanked all those who stood by me in my darkest times?  The ones who tossed my up on their shoulders and carried me when I couldn’t walk myself.

Oh, they’ll get their reward in heaven, but wouldn’t it be nice if I took the time now to let them know that I haven’t forgotten – that I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

I hope I don’t die tomorrow.  I am not prepared.

 

On The Run

13-miles

13.1 miles, only 13.1 more to go!

In 1992, a group of friends decided it would be a good idea to run a marathon.  They also thought it would be a good idea for me to run a marathon with them.

This was pre-marriage, pre-kids.  I could do anything I wanted to do.

I wanted to go to New York with my friends.  I didn’t particularly want to run a marathon.  But I did.  Very slowly.

I was a casual runner, maybe two or three miles a couple of times a week to keep my heart in shape and my shape intact.  In high school I ran cross country.  One day Coach Hodges made us run from Terry Sanford Senior High School to the Moose Club which was a block from my house.  Instead I just ran home and got my mom, after watching an episode of Gilligan’s Island and eating a cherry Poptart, to drop me off on Pincrest Drive near the back parking lot of the school.  I splashed water on my forehead and sprinted toward the track.  The coach was impressed with my time that day, as she should have been.  I’d never run such a distance so quickly.  I didn’t feel too bad because we picked up Maxwell Ruppe on the way back.  Had we not done this, I think we both might still be running.

In August, DJ informed me that we were running a marathon together.  “Dad, it’s a fundraiser for camp.  We just have to raise $2,000 to help send kids to camp who otherwise could not afford to be there.  It’s called Run-A-Kid-To-Camp.”

“Couldn’t we just drive them?” I asked.  “Do you realize that a marathon is 26.2 miles and that you have never run more than the length of our backyard in your life?”

DJ assured me she could do it.  To prepare us, we went to the expert on marathon running for dummies, my brother-in-law Matt.  In a former life, he trained out of shape people to race.

He set us up with a training calendar and told us we should:

  • But new tennis shoes to avoid ruining our hips, knees and shins
  • Get this gel to eat so that we don’t go into antiepileptic shock and die
  • Purchase appropriate run wear so that we don’t get bloody nipples

After he got through with me, I was even more convinced this was a horrible idea for a fifty year old with achy knees and a very sensitive chest.

But I have a problem.  It’s I Want To Do Anything That Will Give Me Time With My Daughters syndrome.  Plus, it angers me to think that I can’t do what I was able to do when I was 25.

So here I am, training for a marathon.

Because DJ is not in town, we encourage each other over text.  She does not like to run, so when I started this adventure, I fully expected her to pooze within the first few weeks.  She has not.  In fact, the weekend our schedule demanded a 10 mile run, she sent me a photo with the Washington Monument in the background with a big fat grin on her face.  The next day I sent her a text after each mile I ran… 1, 2, 3…  By the end, I had to call 911 for a stretcher to reenter my house.

“Dad, you have run much more than I have.  I don’t understand why I this ten miles was so difficult for you.  You’re falling apart.”

“I’ll tell you why… 32.”

“32?”

“Yes.  There is a 32 year age span between you and me!  My knees are 32 years older than your knees.  My hips are also 32 years older than your hips.  My heart is 32 years older than yours is.  That is the difference!  I AM OLD!”

But there is one thing to be thankful for – thus far my nipples are fine.

Hairy Face

Bruce with beard

Once again the Tanner clan, well three of us, are fortunate enough to participate in Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol  which will be performed at the Duke Energy Center in Raleigh, starting tonight, and at the Durham Performing Arts Center next week.

It is both wonderful and insane.  The insanity is primarily related to trying to fit three to six nights of play rehearsals/performances into an already blistering work, church and school schedule.  The wonderful part is the diverse and zany cast.

Although simply a chorus member, I have an assigned identity – this year, I am the cheese-maker.

David Wood encourages us to take on a persona, to really live into our character imagining what an early 19th century cheese-maker might actually be like.  I think my cheese-maker has a good sense of humor.  He smells bad, showers were hard to come by back then.  I envision him with Popeye like forearms (due to all that churning) and chronic back pain from lifting those humongous blocks of cheese.  Oh, and he’s making lots of money this time of year cause you gotta have cheese at a nice Victorian holiday drop in!  So he is happy at Christmastime.  I’m guessing he also has facial hair.  I mean who has time to shave when you’re up to your ears in Gouda.

This year, back in early October, the play costumer suggested that some of the performers consider growing beards.  I was committed to my character but spend six weeks pondering the fate of my chin.

I talked with the girls, Michelle and Stephanie were encouraging.  I asked several co-workers who also gave the green light, although now I’m thinking simply to have another reason to razz me.  At any rate, I took the bait.  I have not shaved since the Friday before Thanksgiving.

It’s interesting the comments you get when you change something significant about your appearance.  I wonder if women who color their hair get the same feedback.

Oh, there are many who act as if they don’t notice.  Perhaps if you can’t say something nice, it is better not to say anything at all.  Others have grossly differing views:

“Cut that crap off your face as soon as you possibly can!”

That one hurt…

“I think it’s a fine look, if you’re TRYING to look older.”

Oh my…

“I think it makes you look sexy.”

The guy who said that is weird anyway.

Or, “You’re just trying to look sexy,” a co-worker bantered in the break room.

I can assure you, looking sexy was not a major motivator for not shaving.  I’m a realist.  I know there are a lot of words that could be used to describe me.  Sexy, not top of mind.

In fact, last year a friend of mine, Sarah, shared that she was on a walk with another woman and my name came up.  I think they were pondering who they might set me up with.  The other woman said, “Tell me about Danny.  Is he cute?”

I asked Sarah how she responded.

She said, “Well, my first response was, ‘he has a great personality!’”

“Geeze Sarah.  Great personality?  I mean seriously.”

How many times have I used that line when describing very kind people whose personal strengths are not visible to the naked eye?

THE KISS OF DEATH.

Anyway, I’m not shaving for three reasons:

1)  I have an excuse:  the play.

2)  I have always wanted to see what a beard looks like on this face.

3)  I ABHOR shaving.

It’ll be off by January.  The damn things itching me to death.

Come see our the performance: http://www.ticketmaster.com/Theatre-In-the-Park-a-Christmas-tickets/artist/1003849

Boys’ Weekend!!

IMG_0840

My daughters HATE it when I refer to time with my male friends as “boys’ night” or “weekend with the boys.”  Perhaps they would prefer Old Man Gathering.

Toss us a bone!  Let us be boys on occasion.

So the fellas and I hit Charleston, SC, a few weeks ago to get away and act like we were 19 again.  Only this time we didn’t need fake IDs.

We stayed in a VRO, Vacation Rental by Owner.  It was a beautifully renovated three bedroom Charleston style home nestled between a brothel and a crack house.  I think that’s why the price was right.

 

Thirty years ago, the location could have been interesting, but this time, we didn’t focus on connecting with our neighbors.

The great thing about being 50-year-old boys is that we now have the money to dine at really nice restaurants and pay for top shelf liquor.  The bad thing about being 50-year-old boys is that the dinner gives us gas and one drink pretty much seals the night.

There were a ton of cute women prowling around downtown at 11 PM.  They were about the same age as DJ.  Oooooo.  I wonder if they could tell we were older.

We had a great time watching TV shows like Naked and Afraid, walking by the crack house at 1 AM, ogling women and pulling each others’ fingers.  Oh, and we qualified for the AARP discount at lunch.

The best of both worlds.

Sticktoitiveness

DSC_0407

Birthday Buddies in Bow Ties!

The day after Lisa died, I sent an email to a group of friends asking them to meet me in the church fellowship hall thirty minutes before her Memorial Service.  I told them we would save seats for them up front in the sanctuary and that they would all walk in together, united.  I wanted to be able to look over and see those I knew would usher me through the intense shock and pain I was experiencing.

I also told them that they were the ones, like it or not, who were stuck with me, that I needed them to stand by me until I got my feet back up under me.

I think I underestimated their sticktoitiveness.

Last week, on my fiftieth birthday, five years after Lisa’s death, this incredible group of friends threw me a surprise party.  They rented out the second floor of a bar and filled it with the people in my life that I love the most.  When I walked up the steps, there they were, this incredible group of folk, who genuinely care about me.

It sort of blows my mind.  I haven’t been as good to them as they have been to me.  Man, am I blessed.

This past week, I was in Greenville, SC, speaking to a group of YMCA staffers.  After my talk, a woman came up to me with tears in her eyes.  She said, “I’ve heard you speak before.  I just want you to know that I keep you and your girls in my prayers.”

Maybe that’s why we’re all doing really well!

As I write, tears well up from my gut.  They aren’t tears for loss.  They are tears of knowing that I can never repay what has been given to me.

When praying, I sometimes struggle to remember those around me who hurt.  I forget the guy I met with a few weeks ago who recently lost his wife or the high school buddy who has been diagnosed with cancer.  They roll through my head on occasion, but I don’t have the same level of persistent, perpetual care that others have had for me.

My friends and family could write the handbook on caring for those experiencing grief.  For them, it isn’t a short story.  It’s an epic novel.  They’ve been working on it for five plus years.  I have this feeling that it will go unfinished.

Senior Citizen Puberty

Yesterday I turned the big 5 – 0.  Damn that’s old.

It’s ½ of 100.  Half a CENTURY.  I’ve lived FIVE DECADES.  Twenty five years, twice.  Geeze.

It’s not the number that bothers me.  Forty, fifty, sixty, thirty.  It’s just another day.  But it is more about the aging of my physical being.

At 4:50 AM on my birthday morning, I was at a gas station by the airport trying to fill up for a busy day ahead.  I could read the screen asking if I wanted a car wash.  I did not.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a pair of glasses in my car so I couldn’t find the “no” button.  I had to restart the transaction three times before I finally pressed something that would allow me to move on.  So    dang    frustrating!

Last weekend we were going to a wedding so I wanted to clean up a bit.  Of course I showered and shaved, but there’s something about a special event that makes you feel like you need a good grooming.  So I got the expanda face mirror out and a pair of tweezers.  This hair pulling utensil was given to me as a gift.  It actually has a light on it.  Between the mirror and the random hair spotlight, nothing goes unnoticed.

I plucked the pom-pom sprigging from my ears, and it hurt like mess!  Who knew you could grow an ear toupee?

I remember my granddad’s ears.  He got to the point he shaved them, just like his face.  They turned gray.  Can’t wait for that genetic hand-me-down.

I then pulled out five eyebrow strands that were four times longer than their peers.  How does that happen?  Where do these mutant follicles come from?  Did I accidently splash Miracle Gro on them when watering the plants?  If I don’t pluck, my children hound me, beating down any sense of self-esteem I might have developed since I last saw them.

“Dad, you look like Albert Einstein.  It’s time to mow your brow!  Oh, and look at your ears.  Gross!”

My hip pops when I walk up stairs.  I’m gonna have to wait until I get on Medicare to get that thing replaced.  What if I get in the doughnut hole?

You know you’re getting old when you dread cutting your toenails.  It becomes such a chore.

I have to find time to sit down and somehow figure out how to get my toe close enough to my hand to make the transaction.  It wasn’t until my upper 40’s that I realized my toes were so far from my hands.  It really is a very long distance.

And pretzeling my leg into position is not the only issue.  My pinky toenail on the left side has double developed over my lifetime.  Like it has two times the thickness of any of my other nails.  Like bullet proof glass.

The good news is you couldn’t puncture the end of Mr. Pinkie with an ice pick.  Nuclear war?  He will survive.  By sixty I’m gonna need yard shears to ready for a special occasion.

This is like senior citizen puberty – suberty.

And AARP.  Couldn’t they mail the application a month or two AFTER your birthday?  You’re cruising along, all is good, and then you open the mailbox and there it is.  An envelope that essentially says Hello Old Fart!

Jiminy Christmas.

 

 

The Joy in Old

When I was a teenager, my dad definitely did things that did not seem very cool to me.  It’s interesting that the black socks he wore with his tennis shoes and shorts were humiliating at the time.  Today, add a Nike Swoosh on the side, and what embarrassed me at 16, is exactly what a studly 16-year-old of today has on.

And what’s up with the handkerchief?  You keep it in your back pocket, blow an inordinate amount of snot into it and then, and then, you stick it BACK INTO YOUR POCKET!  YUCK!

Mmm.  Going to a bathroom to find a tissue is a lot of work.  I think I’ll just grab a small towel and put it in my pocket and fill it full of boogers to my heart’s content.  What a great time saver! 

Who does that (besides my dad)?

I’m not sure at what age he simply didn’t care anymore.  At some point, comfort became more important than style.  The black tennis shoes he wears today for almost any occasion is proof of that.  So help me, I will limp with excruciating pain before I wear a support shoe in public.

But at 77, he just doesn’t give a crap.  He ain’t working to impress anyone.

As I headed out to the beach for my daily jog this morning, I grabbed a set of headphones to plug into my iPhone.  I’ve tried EVERYTHING to keep these doohickies in my ears while moving.  I’ve clipped them to my shirt sleeve, run the cord down to my waist, shoved the ear bud into my cerebrum.  And yet, before Beyonce can belt out the first chorus, either left or right ear has shed the device, and I’m more focused on auditory function than physical fitness.

So today, as I pulled up my black socks and laced up my New Balance, I glanced at the counter and ta-da… I found the answer:  Duct tape!

I snagged a couple of small pieces and had Stephanie help me secure.

duct tape

The result?

Doobie Brothers?  No problem.

Earth Wind and Fire?  All good.

Aerosmith?  Golden.

Were my kids embarrassed?  I’d say so.

Did I care?  Not the least.

And not only did the tape hold the headphones into place, when I ripped it off, it was like a good waxing of the hairs growing all over my 50-year-old ears.  Two for the price of one!

There is some joy in growing old.

It Has Come To This

receeding teeth

I mean, I knew that aging wasn’t going to be easy, that things would begin to droop and sag.  I was clear that hair would turn white and appear in places it’d never been before.  But, I never imagined this.  Yes, I want everyone out there struggling with the same issue to know… don’t be embarrassed, I’m owning it…

My gums are receeding.

AHHHH.

Well, actually only one – gum.

I have prided myself on great dental hygiene.   The first time I spent a weekend with Lisa we climbed a mountain, and at the top, I flossed.  And she married me anyway.

My mouth has always been my most attractive feature.  And now this.

I went in to have a simple teeth cleaning and made the mistake of complaining about tenderness around number 21, the left bottom canine.  Dr. Helms came in and started poking around with his fancy fish-hook.

“Looks like you have a receding gumline.  We’ll just drill a little and fill that right in with some epoxy.”

Epoxy?  Isn’t that what we made ashtrays out of in high school?

Two weeks later I found myself horizontal in his chair, with a flurry of folks dashing about my kisser.

I began to have heart palpitations.

“Am I going to get a shot?  In my mouth?”

I’d never had a cavity, never experienced Novocaine.  Needles and mouths are not compatible!  You wouldn’t put butter beans in your underpants, it doesn’t make sense.  Why in the world would you ever stick a needle in your trap?  It’s for eating, kissing, talking – not stabbing!

The doc assured me it wasn’t going to hurt.  “you’re going to feel a slight sting.”

“I don’t like slight stings!”

“It won’t hurt, I promise.”

He was pretty much right.  The actual prick didn’t cause much pain, but I could feel him digging around my gums with his prickly apparatus.

Once he was through, the left side of my lip stuck out like Fat Albert’s friend, Dumb Donald.

Iba couldn’tba hardlyba talkba.  Slobber was falling down my chin and neck.

He finished the procedure and told me that number 21 should be good to go by dinnertime.

I jumped into my car and began to stretch my lip in and out to see if I could feel anything.  I bit it, nothing.  I hit it, nothing.  I pressed down on it with my fingernail – if I hadn’t seen it in the rear view mirror, I wouldn’t have known my hand was anywhere near my face.

If I wanted to I could have pulled my lip out and stuck a grapefruit between the outside of my gum and the inside of my bottom lip.  It was like Stretch Armstrong.

I actually sort of liked my lip in limbo.  Next time I want to do my eyelid.

 

 

Sunday Post 160: They’re Getting Older

It’s interesting to watch your parents get old.  I imagine my kids feel the same way.

One of my “second” moms growing up died recently.  It broke my heart.  Doesn’t seem like so long ago when we were vacationing together at Litchfield beach – playing cards, sitting by the pool, eating dinner at that humongous picnic table.

One year when in my teens, we were playing a huge game of Spoons.  It is a card game where you work to get four of a kind.  There are one fewer spoons scattered on the table than there are players.  The first person getting all four of one card quietly grabs a spoon and then, anyone can snatch one.  The player left without a spoon is the loser.

On this particular day I was rushed out of the bathroom and threw on a robe – just a robe – don’t ask me why.  Being relatively competitive, I jumped across the table to grab the only utensil left.  My robe flew above my waist exposing all of what should have been private to my mom, my friends and my mom’s friends.  Yes, I inadvertently showed my mother’s friends my business in order to win a card game.

Sweet moment – well sort of – gone by.

When do your parents stop caring for you and you start caring for them?

I’m not there yet with my folks, but when their friends get down, it makes me think.

My dad’s heart is now a stent farm.  My mom is well save her hip issues, massive allergies, swallowing problems, her teeny bladder – hmmm, maybe she isn’t well.

As much as they’ve done for me, the payback should be tremendous.

But, if I know them, there will be a limit to what they’ll allow my brother and me to do.

Whatever their issues, I’m game.  Yeah, I guess it is a responsibility and a duty to help, but that’s not why I’ll be there.  I’ll be there because I love them.  I’ll be there because they’ve been there for me.

Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

If you have read the book and are willing to write a short review, it would be helpful: Click here. And thanks

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