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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Are We Really Alone

I went away last week for a few days to the shore, well actually to a hotel/casino down the shore. We spent two days at the pool and the one thing I noticed was all of the voices. Loud voices. Not so much people yelling, as much as people just talking loudly. I have been noticing this more and more lately and I am starting to think about how much we as a “people” have changed.

As I lay by the pool those two days and closed my eyes I felt like a super hero, or at least a dog with super hearing. I felt like I could hear a variety of conversations that were going on all around us. If I kept my eyes closed I could actually pick out specific words and almost hear full sentences. It wasn’t that I was eavesdropping to be nosey, but just more attentive to how loud some people can people.

It isn’t that they are yelling at each other, it was just people speaking loudly. And what struck me so much was that it was if they had no consideration for others sitting around them. I mean, do I need to hear the one guy talking to a business partner about missing documents, or the other guy talking to his mother about dinner. And those were just the phone calls. There were a lot of people sitting together and having friendly conversations and they were just as loud.

 I think that part of the “problem” is the over-abundance of cell phones. They are so common these days that we have become accustomed to having telephone conversations with anyone and anywhere. I don’t mean to pick on cell phones or technology in general, but I think that it has impacted our ability to recognize boundaries or privacy. 

It’s kind of funny that with all of this technology we are closer to our friends and able to communicate with so many more people in an instant. Simply type your status, hit send and “poof” everyone knows what you are doing. But, I wonder if we are really closer or just able to communicate faster. And it is because of this that I think we have lost a certain amount of privacy. 

And with all of this communication I also wonder if we have lost some of the closeness that we had before with our friends and family. I wonder if we still have the ability to actually pick up the phone – in private – and tell our close friends and family our biggest troubles. How many posts do we see on Facebook or Twitter that say – I am having a bad day and need a hug? And if we did how many would respond?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not giving up my cell phone either. I just think it would be nice to actually pick up a phone and have an honest conversation with our closest people. Or better yet – meet them for coffee, breakfast, or whatever. Not because we are hungry, but so that we can sit face to face and talk. I named this blog “Are we Really Alone” because there are days when I think that we might actually feel alone. Maybe that is why people talk loudly – so they won’t feel so alone.

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