Father’s Day

As Father’s day approaches I find myself thinking about “it”. About being both a Father and being a child – or in my case, a son. My Father isn’t a young man anymore, and he isn’t as healthy as he used to be. I was reminded of this even more when I recently visited him. He is older than I remembered and frailer than he used to be. But that is what happens when we get old.

My Father hasn’t always had an easy life, but he has had a good life. He hasn’t always had money, but he has always shared what he has. He always made sure that his family was cared for, and not just his four children, but his growing family. His twenty-plus grandchildren and at least as many great-grandchildren. It is still a growing family, and it is an extended family. My mother always “adopts” new family members, because they might be away from their own family. Or just because they need a hug. My Father wasn’t really one to give hugs when I was young. That was my mother’s job, but I always knew he loved me. 

My Father taught us about the important things in life. To love the people close to you. And appreciate the blessings of having those people in your lives. He taught us to work hard, and to care about the job we do, to be proud of it. No matter what it is we do, make sure we do it the best we can. Ultimately, that is what is important – people will always listen to what we say, but our actions are much more important.

When I meet strangers and I tell them who my parents are, their faces tend to get a little brighter and their smiles a little broader. Then they proceed to tell me how my parents helped them, by opening their home to these “strangers”. To inviting them in and making them a part of their family. There was also an extra seat at the table, and extra bite of food, and even an extra spot to lay their heads.

The other night before dozing off my Father reminded me of some of his experiences as a child growing up in small town America. And it reminded me of going back to see the house I grew up in. As with most kids – we think our house and the trees around it are huge. It also reminded me of going back to visit it as an adult and seeing the house wasn’t as big I thought. I smile when I think of how our memories are different as children and as adults.

My Father is struggling with his failing memory, and sometimes I can see the confusion in his eyes. But when he smiles I can still see the life in his eyes. I don’t see an older man looking back at me with tired eyes. I see the Father I love, and I hope I can be as good a person as he is. I hope my Father is proud of the man I have become, as I am of the man that he has always been.

During my last visit, my Father’s physical therapist visited. He comes three times a week and they work on being able to stand up. It was maybe fifteen or twenty seconds each time, and despite the obvious pain my Father didn’t give up. Later, my Father commented that he would “keep on, keeping on.”

When I left to come home it was very late at night. I looked in on him, and saw him resting peacefully. I was about to go in and kiss him goodbye but I was afraid I would wake him up. So instead I gave my mother an extra kiss for him. I will call when I get home, because my mother asked me to. But, also so I can tell him again how much I love him.

As a Father I hope my kids are happy, and I hope they know how much I love them and how proud I am of them. They are two young, amazing people with their whole lives ahead of them. They can do anything they want, and I only want one thing for them. The same thing I have always wanted – for them to be happy. And when someone asked me about them recently I summed up who they are as ‘good people’. I love spending time with them, and maybe soon I will start telling them about my life growing up in small town America.

As they begin their adult lives, I want to tell them about the mistakes I have made. About the lessons I have learned. And if I do, I hope they will listen. But ultimately they have their own lessons to learn. And while I may be their Father, and as much as I want them to learn from my mistakes and experiences, I know they can’t. We are all our own selves, our own individuals.

Maybe that is the lesson my Father wanted me to learn all these years. That we are all individuals, and we all have our own lessons to learn. And no matter how much the lessons might hurt, or get us down, we have to “keep on, keeping on”. That we can’t ever give up on this life – its the only one we have. Because at the end of the day, we have a lot of blessings in our life. And I know that I don’t need a Father’s day to celebrate it, because I am blessed with a wonderful family and that makes every day a Father’s Day!

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New Year

As Christmas has passed and I await the New Year I find myself reflecting on the past year. Like so many others we consider what went well, what didn’t, and what we want to “fix” for next year. I don’t know why people always think we have to fix things in our lives. I don’t consider my life broken. I look back at the year and instead think of ways to improve.

Sure there are the obvious choices of places to improve. The cliches that come with New Year Resolutions. Let’s be healthier, happier, more positive, and enjoy work more. Who couldn’t use a little healthy eating, or working out in their lives. Fortunately, I have a good support partner who is just as determined as me to improve. So, we will start off the year right by doing the right things – eating healthier and working out more. Skip meats, use the elliptical unit for something more than a conversation piece.

I’m pretty happy with my life, so don’t feel the need to “fix” it. But, there are always way to improve things. I’m generally a pretty positive person, always looking for ways to see the positive side. Unless I’m driving, then I am positive no one else on the road can drive but me. That leaves me with work. Some days it’s a job, not a career and I don’t really feel like going in. But it’s a good job and I take pride in my work – both in the outcome as well as the effort. I like to think that I am improving things and making it better and easier for the people I support, but I know there is always room for improvement.

If you are reading this, thank you. It’s been awhile since I posted to my blog and this is one of my resolutions. To do more of it – more writing in general, more positivity, and more blog writing. I’ve had an amazing year of travel, seeing and experiencing new things. And I look forward to the 2018 adventures that we will have. This isn’t just a new year, its a new opportunity to write a new chapter in our personal books.

I hope that as you look back on the past year you see the many good things and use those to carry you in to 2018. Enjoy this New Year in any way you can. And don’t forgo the list of resolutions. Let’s all stick with them. Together. I hope you have a good year full of joy, happiness, love, and success.

Holidays

As the Christmas holiday passes by we can look around at the opened presents, the decorations and lights no longer special, and the leftovers clogging the refrigerator. All of the buying, cooking, and planning are behind us. Now we have the memories. Whether there are four people for dinner or a houseful for multiple meals, we were surrounded by family and friends. For some, it’s a tradition to visit family and use this as a time to reconnect.

As much as I enjoy getting gifts, especially from my now young adult children, I enjoy giving even more. Christmas isn’t about the shiny new “thing”, it’s about giving. It’s about letting someone know that you cared enough to find just the right gift. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. Some of my favorite gifts are the homemade ones. The gift doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to say that you love the person, and that you were thinking of them.

Maybe for some it is a “requirement” to spend the time with our families. To rekindle the days of love and happiness. To laugh about the silly things we did. To discuss what the future might hold, and what we can look forward to in the coming months or even years. But, it’s the part of Christmas that I look forward to the most. This is the time to put our phones down and talk. To sit longer over a cup of coffee or glass of wine.

My wish for the coming year is that Christmas is not the only day for that. My wish is to make the time to linger over coffee. To visit with our families and deepen the bonds of our love, support, and caring for each other. To press pause on our busy lives and just enjoy each other’s company. Here’s to a year full of joy and happiness, with plenty of reasons to linger over one more cup or drink.

The Shore

This past Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day. The sun was shining the clouds were a nice white fluffy mix. We hemmed and hawed about what to do. Garden work or relax and enjoy the gift. We opted to relax. 

My wife recently got a convertible and we have been waiting for just such a day to drop the top and go for a ride. Here in New Jersey we don’t go to the beach. We go “down the shore”. And even though the forecasters said it would be chilly and cloudy we went. A day at the shore beats any other day. 

Driving down the highway, hair blowing across my head – not enough hair to blow through it – felt rejuvenating. So refreshing. Even when we got stuck in traffic at one of the few lights it didn’t matter. The sun was shining and oh so relaxing. 

Of course everyone else had the same idea so there was no place to park. We had intended on just grabbing a bite and walking around Cape May. But instead did the next best thing. We drove to the lighthouse. Parked and walked out onto the beach. 

I guess for April it was crowded. Ok not really. There was about 20 other people around us. But we didn’t notice. Christine took a nap while I sat down near the water enjoying the peace and serenity of the crashing waves. And a good Cuban cigar I bought in Scotland. 

I looked back over my right shoulder and then she stood. The lighthouse. All white with the red top. There is something about this place that relaxes me. Not a little bit. But a lot. I can sit and watch the waves roll in. The ducks float by. The occasional cruise ship far off on the horizon. The sun shimmering off the blue water. 

The joyful shouts of the kids chasing the waves lost in the peacefulness. Even the seagulls cries add to the feelings. My mind wanders to my book and I jot down some thoughts. It was a perfect way to spend a sunny day in April. 

    

The Ward Family Reunion

We all have families. Some are large and some are small, some are very close and some are far apart. This past weekend I had the opportunity to meet a good portion of my wife’s family. My mother-in-law decided to have a family reunion at her house and despite the weather it turned out to be an absolutely wonderful day.

About 180 people were invited and 125 or so said they would show up, and it sure felt like most of them did. My wife’s grandfather is 90+ year’s old and so it was a great way for cousins to see cousins and for her grandfather to see a lot of family he hasn’t seen in awhile.

The party was supposed to start at 2pm, so of course at about 1230 its started to rain. By 130 it was a torrential downpour – thank goodness they had tents. And at almost exactly 2pm the rain stopped. The clouds stayed for the rest of the day, but that was ok because it kept the heat of the summer sun away.

There were hoagies, beer, soda, cake, pretzels, and lots of other snacks. But mostly, there were people. And not just people – but family. Grandad was the oldest, at 90 plus and there was also the youngest Ward who was less than one year old. It was great to see both of them together. And since Grandad’s name is Hugh we also got all six relatives – including a great-grandchild – who had Hugh in their name.

Young and old, familiar and not so familiar there were families, cousins, aunts, and uncles. And even an honorary family member – a true Sister. Most of the family was amazingly from South Jersey, or maybe not so amazingly. But, there was also family from Minneapolis, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Florida. There were tables and chairs under the tents, but mostly everyone milled around talking. Moving from one group to the next rekindling friendships or just getting to know family yet again.

For someone who has family in New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Israel and who doesn’t get to see his family that much, it was a fantastic day. To see so many family members all come together for the sole purpose of seeing each other. It would make even the Grinch smile. I spent the day taking pictures – both random and planned – and hope that they will be a memory of the smiles and the delight had by all.

Thank you for a wonderful family and for a wonderful day!

The Third Generation

The Third Generation

 

The Second Generation

The Second Generation

 

The elders

The elders

 

The Hugh's

The Hugh’s

 

The eldest and the youngest

The eldest and the youngest