Tag Archives: Dads

You Still Make The Cake …

30 Jan

I woke up knowing he’d be the first thing on my mind.

Brown eyes, black and silver wavy hair, usually covered by a hat. The very same blue Dodgers hat I wore all day today. Go Blue.

Tired and exhausted from the night before, the night of thinking of tomorrows and tomorrow already here, as evidenced by the sun peeking through the blinds. Staring at the ceiling, knowing that the closest I’d ever get to him today was just a memory or two. Pictures, left over voicemails, hats hanging on hooks, shirts folded in the closet, and half a bottle of Jovan Musk  in the cabinet. They were all waiting for me this morning, like every morning.

But today was different.

Today was his 69th birthday and the cologne smelled a little different. I think it was losing its strength, but I could still smell that aftershave scent. It still lingers in the air, reminding me of how I wished I had more memories.

It’s always a tough day, knowing someone isn’t going to blow out the candles anymore. But you still make the cake, you make it anyway. Today I made it with my daughter, who’s named after him. Listening to jazz as we measured and stirred the flour and sugar, dancing to his favorite tunes in our aprons as the smell of chocolate filled our small kitchen, I smiled. I thought he’d be watching and smiling as we twirled around to his favorite trumpet and piano tunes.

Jazz was on all day today. Running through the park this morning. At the stoplight. In the kitchen. And as I write this piece. His calming happy music surrounded me as I remembered him driving his silver Toyota Tacoma, with the station tuned into KJAZZ and him strumming his fingers on the steering wheel.

Yup. It was on all day. Reminding me, giving  this purpose, making the baking experience a little better.

And for some reason, during the taste-testing process perhaps, we didn’t have enough frosting to cover the entire cake this year, and that was O.K. It wasn’t a disaster. We made a head pastry chef decision and thought layers upon layers of frosting would be just fine. Like a chic bakery.

He’d probably get a kick out of it, and we’d make our own story about it. In fact we probably already did. I’ll probably think back , when all my hair has that silvery fox color, and remember how we baked the chocolaty chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting and chopped almonds, how we danced in the kitchen thinking about my Dad turning 69 and how he’d enjoy a piece of cake, or two, along with a cup of coffee.

We took our picnic and visited him. I told stories as my daughter had one piece and my son two. Large cups of milk, and one cup of coffee for pops. Sitting there talking about life and wishing he was there to blow out the candles and make one more wish.

My Dad … the Dreamer, the Adventure Seeker, my HBO-Watching-Buddy, the Owner of Over 70 Baseball Caps, the Jazz-Listening-Beep-Bopper, Pay-It-Forward-Patron, Awesome-Date-to-Opening-Plays at the local theater, Spirit of My Spirit, Heart of my Heart, Laugher of My Jokes, and friend … turned 69 today. I wish him well, send him light, love, and laughter.

And I miss him.

 

Dad

My Dad … talking about dreams … me trying to listen.

 

 

 

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Extra Cherries …

16 Jul

It never gets any easier, people say it does. But it doesn’t. It hurts just as much today as it did six years ago and you just have to live with it.

It’s been six years since my Dad passed away and it’s always a tough week as I celebrate my daughter’s birthday one day and remember my Dad’s passing the next. I try to celebrate his life instead of agonizing about his death and why he got sick, but I end up just missing his presence everywhere I go that day.

In smelling his last bottle of cologne he left on the bathroom counter, or hearing the few messages he left on the answering machine, I still feel a sense of closeness. But most of the connection I get is from the stories and adventures we had together.

Like when I used to visit him at work back in my elementary and junior high school days. I’d have to sit in a booth, or at the counter while he was picking up his check or something. He worked two jobs a lot of the time. This one seemed more fun to me since I was able to eat all the cherries I wanted.

I’d wait for him, checking out the tiki torch lamps, totem polls,  the pink, green, and yellow drink umbrellas hanging out by the green olives, and the rest of the Hawaiian decor that filled the dimly lit room.

 

 

Their specialty was the the Hawaiian-style spare ribs, which were pretty awesome but not my favorite.

I’d sit down and look at the menu pretending I was a customer. I’d say hi to the manager and everyone setting up, and he’d ask me … “You want something to drink? A Shirley Temple?”

I’d smile.

“Yeah,” I’d say.

He’d smile and then walk behind the bar to fix it up. It’s a simple drink really, but I’d always thought it was super special concoction he had created just for me. He’d bring it out in a tall glass, with an umbrella. He’d put a small napkin on the counter, place my drink on it, and then tap the counter.

I’d smile when I saw it.

Extra cherries.

He’d always put extra cherries in it. We’d talk for a minute while I sipped my drink, and most of the conversations escape me at the moment. I don’t remember whether we talked about my day, his day, or if I needed money for sneakers. I don’t remember if he gave me any advice or if we cracked jokes, but we must have because it feels that way.

But the one thing I do remember were all the Shirley Temples and Roy Rogers I shared with him.I remembered the Hawaiian shirts he had to wear as part of his uniform and how he hated them years later, how he never wore a Hawaiian shirt ever again. Even when we went to Hawaii. He said he had worn enough of those to last him a lifetime. I thought they were cool though, I still have one of his in my closet.

We’d sit at the counter or in the booth and it felt cool just to hang out with my Dad for a minute.

When I finished my drink and we had to be on our way, he’d ask if I wanted another.

I’d smile because I knew extra cherries were part of the deal.

That was my Dad, he was an extra cherries kind of guy, and these were the things I thought about all day, and a sadness and hurt filled up my heart that night because he was gone and things would have been so different if he were still here, and my kids missed out on getting to know their grandpa.

But I guess that would mean that I would have to be the extra cherries kind of person in their life.

My Dad was great at it. Me? I’m working on it.

Buen Camino …

 

 

Introducing Me To Clint Eastwood

18 Jun

On quiet nights like this I miss seeing his briefcase by the door, his white butcher coat and shirt laying on the armrest, and the smell of the coffeemaker percolating the night’s brew. Night time coffee and HBO on a Saturday night. That was him.

Tonight it’s quiet, no briefcase, no white coat, no baseball caps, no coffee percolating and no HBO talk. Just me and some laundry.

I passed by the CVS the other day and saw all the Star Wars Father’s Day cards, I saw the funny ones with pets, the ones with fishing poles, golf clubs, and cartoons. I still read them, but it hurt. It hurts to buy cards he’s not going to read or keep in his briefcase. It hurts missing out on conversations about life and Father’s Day dinners.

dad over me fathers day

At times like this when breathing becomes hard because you miss someone so much, I find comfort in storytelling. Story remembering, really. I try to write as much as I can now so that my kids will be able to see how I saw my father and how I felt. So that my kids will know their grandfather had a good heart, that he had problems too, but that he tried. He tried and he kept his heart in tact during the process.

He suffered the loss of his Dad too, just when he was 10, and his life couldn’t have been easy, but he tried his best. He battled depression during my youth and adulthood, and often felt like giving up, but he still tried.

Adventures. Staycations. HBO marathons. Superbowl games. Boxing matches. Supermarket trips. Baskin-Robbins outings. Movie discussions. Costco adventures. Theater excursions. Joke telling stories. And talks. Lots of talks.

Sometimes the missing out is the worst part … my kids missing out on him, missing out on creating their own adventures with grandpa. So I’m hoping the storytelling will create a good picture. I’m hoping they’ll get to know him through my stories and through their grandpa’s adventurous and humorous spirit that lives inside of them.

He liked Westerns. He liked Clint Eastwood. So I found it interesting that Clint would be on TV the night before Father’s Day.

I found it comforting to know that I was watching one of his favorites, while folding laundry in the night time quiet. I figured he might be having a cup of coffee. Black. Two sugars. And remembering stories about me, remembering my dreams, remembering my laugh, remembering all the Father’s Day cards in his Samsonite briefcase, remembering how he introduced me to Clint Eastwood.

Clint Eastwood … he turned out to be all right.

Happy Father’s Day …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yup … It’s Worth It

2 Apr
Duuuuuuuude. There is a lot you do for the people you love.
Travel, sacrifice, work, fundraisers, sleep …the list goes on and on.
For me?
It’s stairs.
I’ll be taking the stairs. And in fact, I hate stairs, I hate the StairMaster. It produces nothing but pain. I hate whoever invented it. They should be thrown off a cliff. I’m more of an elevator enthusiast.
So it might sound strange to say that in two weeks I’m going to be scaling 63 stories 1,391 steps. The Ben-Gay and ice pack will be waiting for me.
In two weeks  it’s gonna happen … It’ll be claustrophobic. I won’t be able to catch my breath. My muscles won’t be getting enough oxygen, and I’ll feel like I need an EKG. And it will only be the 37th floor.
Everything in me is gonna be like … duuuuuuuude you need to stop. The music is not even helping. This isn’t funny. Every muscle in my body that thought it was 20 years old is gonna be like, ‘C’mon now, stop playing these games, you’re 40, this is what 40 feels like.’ My left knee will be aching and my calves will be ready to give out, just hoping for an Achilles Tendon mishap. Every part of my body will be asking … is it worth it?
I’ll close my eyes and see my Dad …
Dad

My Dad … talking about dreams … me trying to listen.

My best bud, and the Wingman to my dreams …
Yeah, he’s worth it.
I’d do anything to get him back. So I do this in his memory. I do this for him. I do this to help find a cure. I do this so that someone else won’t lose their Dad.
Yup.  It’s worth it.
In about 15 days I’ll be one of the masses, climbing to the top of the AON Building in Downtown Los Angeles participating in The American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb to honor my pops.
My yearly ritual to honor the man who rooted for the underdog, who believed in random acts of kindness, who paid it forward, who carried my pictures in his wallet and my Father’s Day cards in his briefcase,who loved his family and sacrificed so that we could have a better life.
Yup. My body will be in desperate need of Ben Gay, and my knees will be out of commission but he’s worth it.
Buen Camino, my friends.

 

Detour With Dad

20 Jun

You got the backseat drivers. The play-by-play commentators. The Kung-Fu grip holders that grasp to the armrests for dear life even when you’re just driving 20 miles per hour. You have the I-would-have-gone-down-3rd-street instead passengers. The heavy-sighers. The AY! AY! AY! SLOW-DOWN passengers that raise your blood pressure.

You’ve had them all in your car. You sit there, gripping the steering wheel and closing your eyes thinking of your happy place. You’ve come to the realization that driving with your parents is one of the most stressful outings of your life, and it will continue to be.

But I’ve got to say that throughout my entire directionally challenged driving existence, my dad never once got road rage crazy or analytical when I drove the car. I remember every wrong turn, bad parking job, and over-the-speed limit excursion and none of those would burst my Dad’s bubble.

He’d keep a cool head and just look out the window as he listened to his jazz music. Even when there were crazy, inconsiderate, reckless drivers out there igniting road rage along their path, my dad would never honk for hostility’s sake. If he ever used the horn it would always be for the don’t-crash-into-me reason, and as Father’s Day rolls around this weekend I was thinking of one our famous driving adventures. I imagine someone else would have never let me hear the end of it, but not my dad …

:)

🙂

I had just graduated college, and the whole family had driven up to help me pack up my stuff. My Dad and I decided to take the ginormous U-haul, while my cousins, aunts, and mom decided to take the giant SUV. As we drove down the freeway, we hit a fork in the road and while my relatives took highway 580, we ended up taking highway 880, which I swore was the right way back home. I mean I would know seeing how I had lived up there for four years. Why wouldn’t I know? But apparently two hours later we found out my internal GPS was not working properly.

After checking out our Rand McNally map, my Dad realized we were in the middle of farm country and at least an hour and half away from the right freeway. We pulled into a farm bought something to eat, and then took our bag of dried apricots on the road for dessert. I was feeling pretty crappy about the whole delay. I had just graduated and I couldn’t even figure out how to get home. And before you get all crazy on me this was before electronic GPS was invented, we were old school. We used maps.

But apparently I was so confident I hadn’t even looked at the map. I was down on myself, feeling pretty anxious and stressed out about the lecture I was gonna get.

Did my Dad freak out? Did he yell at me? Did he storm off in an outburst of profanity? Was he burned out? Did he get upset about all the gas we wasted? Was he freaking out because we weren’t making good time?

“Well,” he said laughing and shaking his head, “looks like we’re out on an adventure!”

I smiled.

He patted me on the shoulder and then smiled back.

“But don’t tell your mother.”

I nodded. It would be an adventure, a very scenic one through farm country and windy roads.

And to this day no one really knew why we were so late. It had always been our secret. When we got home and they asked us what happened, my Dad said he had left his wallet at a Denny’s and we had to drive all the way back to get it.

He took the fall for me, so I wouldn’t get sassed and made fun of by the rest of my family. I was exhausted after the long drive back, but still very grateful that my Dad had been my copilot that day. He was later promoted to head pilot.

Out of all the detours in my life, I always remember that one.

Thanks Dad. I love you and I miss you.

Happy Father’s Day.

.

:)

🙂

.

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It Was Definitely On … Definitely Exhausting … But Definitely Guatacular

15 Apr

I needed a minute.

I actually needed a minute, when it was over. And that’s never really happened.

You know the minute right after your Rocky Balboa moment when you raise your hands in the air victoriously, right after step 1,393, right after your picture gets taken, right after the you-can-do-it adrenaline wears off and the volunteer guy hands you a bottle of water that you so desperately require and it feels so heavy, reminding you that your superpowers to climb stairs in claustrophobic spaces was only temporary.

Yeah … I needed a minute.

1,393 steps.

I needed a couple, actually.

And the reason why?

The 58th floor … followed by the 59th.

They seemed so close to 60, which seemed even closer to 63, and that seemed to fuel the fire. I began pushing even though my gas tank was clearly on empty and my calves were burning up. They were on fire and suffering from I’m-getting-close-to-40 syndrome, but all I could see was the finish line.

Then I hit the deadly 61st floor, and I thought I was about to pass out and just crawl my way up the stairs, because at that point you’re thinking there’s no shame in crawling really.

But no … I decided to do it the badass way … the Gatorade-Commerical worthy way. I raised the volume on the iPod, and I thought of my Dad and said you can do it!

The deadly 61st floor ignited something in me, something that should have just stayed dormant that late in the race, something that would eventually take out the ice packs from the freezer and empty out the BenGay jar later that evening. The I’m-almost-done-I’m-almost-there feeling bubbled inside, the-I’m-doing-this-for-my-Dad feeling kicked in, and then it was on.

There was no stopping me or my weary broken-down knees.

It was on.

The 73-year-old IronMan Champion looking dude, whose name I later found out to be Aaron Asher, was pushing his way up the stairs and gaining on me like some kind of Terminator.

I thought Holy Crap … it’s definitely on.

I pushed my way to the top and raised my arms to the sky …

And then I took my minute, several of them. Something that hadn’t happened in previous races. But something quite necessary and I didn’t want to be the only one to pass out on the rooftop, so I slowly drank my water and appreciated the view of Downtown L.A.

I thought … even Superman needed a minute.

I clocked in at 16:54.

63 stories in less than 17 minutes to honor my father, the man who thought I’d be somebody, the man who supported me and my dreams, the man who was a good grandfather, the man who had untold adventures, the man who struggled with depression but still managed to fight his way through and find the lightness in being, the man who enjoyed laughing, the man who was my friend, the man who was my family, the man who had a big heart and who passed away too early.

I made my way toward the helicopter landing pad, thinking of this man, thinking of my dad, and I did my best Hulk Hogan-Randy-Macho-Man-Savage victory pose. I had stormed the Fight For Air Climb and it was a Guatacular moment.

Exhausting, but Guatacular.

Special thanks to Peter, Erdmann, Gisela, Estela, Alissa, Karina, and Sandra for their generous support.

My Dad

My Dad

.

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When BenGay Isn’t Gonna Be Strong Enough … But You Do It Anyway

21 Mar

I’m confessing something big tonight.

HUGE.

Duuuuuuude

There is fear living in the Guat Household.

My knees are freaking out.

Now normally I’m not afraid of much. Neither are they.

I’m fearless.

I’m a badass, not afraid to fly my freak flag. Not afraid to chase Bucket List Adventure Challenges. Scared of what? Bungy Jumping. No. Skydiving. No. Triathlons. No. Warrior Dash Mud Run Obstacles that make you jump through fire. No. The Mommy-and-Me-Mafia-PTA-Looking group of ladies that take over the park. No. Gaining weight. Hell no bring it on.

But there is one thing that makes my close-to-40-year-old-worn-out-and weary knees tremble.

Wobble.

63 floors.

Close to 1,400 steps.

Ain’t no BenGay strong enough, no ice pack cold enough …

But there is one man that’s inspirational enough …

My Dad.

14

My Dad and me sporting our awesome bell-bottoms.

He lost the 12-Round-Heavyweight Championship Bout against Interstitial Lung Disease at 62 years young. It was an all out battle and he fought hard, but in the end he lost his fight against the disease, and I lost my father.

So this is it.

Time for me to cowboy up.

On April 11th, I’m taking on The Fight For Air Climb again in what seems to be the ultimate battle of strength and will for my bones and cartilage. It’s become a tradition now. Exhausting and claustrophobic, but worth it.

Honoring family is worth it, and that’s what I aim to do.

Hanging with Dad.

Hanging with Dad.

So I’m going to take my Hulk Hogan-Randy-Macho-Man-Savage-Tina-Turner-looking quads and run down knees through the ultimate test of the year.

I’m gonna do it for my Dad.

My Dad ... just being Dad

My Dad … just being Dad

He’s still with me, sometimes on my shoulders whispering in my ear while I’m chasing dreams, and sometimes in my heart when I’m raising my kids and I’m trying to be awesome at something. He’s the champion for my life. He’s the spirit behind my drive. My Dad is there in one of his many baseball caps and smile, being my friend, my TV buddy, my support group, and the TV remote control ruler of the house.

I’ll be taking this on next month and if you’re feeling generous with the need to donate to a good cause, feel free to click the link on the bottom and it will guide you to my personal fundraising page.

Buen Camino Everyone!

Fight For Air Climb Fundraising Page

… Siganme Los Buenos!

To All The Dads …

15 Jun

 

:)

🙂

 

 

Weekly Writing Challenge: Thinking Too Much and Guatemala

6 Sep

Everything I owned fit in a 10×10 storage unit. Smushed and stacked together in the dark, in not so neat piles. Nothing of serious material value to anyone other than myself. It’s being kept safe until we can find a bigger place to live — a place outside of my parent’s house.

But there is one item that I did not trust to leave in that concrete room protected by that Master lock. It may not be the most expensive item I own, but it is one of the most meaningful. If there was a fire and the place was up in flames I’d grab the photo albums, computer, and this item. It would definitely be in my hands.

Normally meaningful heirlooms are passed down from generation to generation, stuff like your great grandfather’s watch, or your great-great Tia Lola’s recipes. These are the treasured pieces — the priceless ones. However the only items I’ve inherited are a rare blood type, good dance moves, and nice feet.

But there are meaningful items that do remind me of family. Items I’d take with me in case of a fire. They don’t really do anything, they just sit there. But they are some of my most prized possessions.

This one happens to be one of them.

On my last trip to Guatemala I decided to travel with my dad. He’s of the adventurous spirit, so it made for an exciting and tiresome trip. And when you’re on trips like these you want to bring something home. Something memorable.

During one of our outings in the Central Market I came across this painting by Jose Antonio Pur Gonzalez. I had no idea who he was, but what he painted caught my eye.

My meaningful possession.

I’m not a painter, nor did I take art history in school, but it was something about this painting and I had to have it. The bright colors, the textures, the people. It spoke of my culture. It spoke of the coffee plantation we visited. It spoke of our trip. It spoke of Guatemala. It was like a page in my travel journal. But with all this speaking, I wasn’t sure about the price. I stood there contemplating and trying to negotiate with the seller. He wouldn’t go lower and I was worried to go higher.

My dad noticed this negotiation and looked at me.

“Do you like it?”

“Yes.”

“Is it worth it?”

“I think so.”

“If you leave without it, will you be thinking about it in the car, thinking about it on the drive, and thinking about it once we get home?”

“Yeah, but it’s a little bit too much.”

He grabbed the money from my hand, gave it to the seller, took out his wallet, paid the difference.

“That was too much thinking, ” he looked at me and smiled. “I’m very satisfied with your purchase. But don’t tell your mother or your sister how much we paid for it. It’ll be our secret.”

I hung it in my apartment, and every time I looked at this painting I thought about our trip. I thought about the Central Market. I thought about the negotiation process. I thought about my dad. If he wasn’t with me in that moment I might not have purchased my first piece of art. Art. I might have had an empty wall, or some print from Bed, Bath & Beyond.

And now, since he passed away, the value of this painting has increased, and the trip has become priceless.

You Can’t Win It, If You’re Not In It

27 Mar

It’s a small, square, orange piece of paper. But it can change your life. Six numbers that’s all it takes. Possible? Yes. There are people out there that have done it. Bastards. Probable … not so much.

The state lottery was up to 363 million dollars.

Did I buy I ticket?

Yeah.

Do I want to win?

Stupid question.

Will I?

Probably not.

The tickets

But having that small slip of orange paper, made me think of my dad. He wasn’t a compulsive gambler or big purchaser of Lotto, but whenever it was up there he would buy a couple of tickets.

I remember telling him I needed one of his business cards for something and he told me to get it from his wallet — some leather thing he had since 1987 that was holding on to dear life by a thin brown thread.  No matter how many wallets I bought him, they remained in their boxes and my dad held on to his aging money carrier.

As I looked through the wallet, I found a couple of pictures of my sister: One from her junior prom as the reigning queen; One from homecoming as the reigning queen; A glamour shot with a big, red, fluffy, feathery scarf deal and soft lighting happening. She’s in her late thirties and my dad still carried all these old school photos of her.

Me?

One picture. Varsity basketball.

Grandkids? A couple of each kid, smiling that cheesy smile that preschoolers know how to master.

“Hey, what’s up with just one photo of me? What am I chopped liver?”

He’d smile. “I just need one, you never change. This is you always. Plus I have you here in person. Your sister … she’s far away. She’s on the other side of the country. The only reason why she didn’t move any further was because there were no more states … just water.”

I’d explain to him that her job transferred her and she needed to go. But you know dads … him and his “hey, hey, hey … regardless. She could’ve got another job.”

As I continued flipping through his wallet and looking at all the business cards I found a couple of lottery tickets and for some reason that made me sad. I always thought I’d be some big time writer so my dad wouldn’t have to buy lottery tickets.

My dream was to repeat the Citi Credit Card commercial with the father and his son going to the land of their ancestors. Have you seen it?

Yeah I wanted to repeat that version with my dad when he turned sixty, but it never happened. Instead I found state lottery tickets in his sad wallet. Made me feel pretty crappy.

He asked why I looked weird.

I explained to him that I wanted to take him to Spain with my big time writer best-seller book advances or my hit TV drama royalties when he turned sixty. Instead I just bought him a steak dinner and baked him a cake.

“That cake was good,” he said.

I’d shake my head.

“Don’t worry you can still take me to Spain when I turn 65 we’ll eat some paella and tortilla espanola, visit Estremadura … you got five more years, get on it. Dream big, take me on a plane. And don’t worry, if I win the Lotto you can still take me to Spain, we’ll just use that money.”

“I guess I better buy a ticket too. Increase our chances. Can’t win it, if you’re not in it.”

He’d smile and shake his head.

I never got that chance to be the Guat version of the Citi Credit Card commercial. It’s almost going to be two years since he passed. He was 62. I had three years left.

So when ever I see those old, orange lottery tickets folded up in my wallet, I think of my dad, my writer’s dream, and Spain.