Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Family and Friends”

Friend Or Parent?


Chances are likely, that a parent with at least one young child, has walked by, or tried to avoid walking by, a dreaded claw machine.  Children’s eyes light up with how simple it must be to win, because the prizes are all just sitting there, waiting to be plucked from the pile.  As parents, we know the game is usually rigged, those cute and cuddly toys packed tighter than a size 9 foot into a size 6 shoe.

Only one of my daughters was fascinated by the game, then determined.  That is when I made the situation worse.  That is when I earned the nickname from her, “the ‘no’ Daddy.”

Neither of my daughters have been want for anything.  I also made sure that I never crossed the line to spoiling them.  I can honestly say, I never dealt with one temper tantrum, in public or at home.  And here is how I did it.

As I said, if my daughters needed something, they got it.  If they wanted it, and neither their birthdays or Christmas was around, there is a 95% chance that they were told “no,” hence the nickname.  And it really had nothing to do with being strict or preventing tantrums as much as it was about not wanting to disappoint them.

My philosophy was simple.  I would rather surprise them with a “yes,” than disappoint them with a “no.”  And there would come a time eventually, that this would become important.  Between the economic crash of 2008, as well as the crash of my health from late effects from my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma treatments, financially things got tight.

But my daughter was persistent with this claw game machine.  Every time we went grocery shopping, I knew that a request to play the game was coming.  If pushed, I would offer some excuses as to why “no” was my response.  I might not have had a dollar bill on me, or my favorite, I would just say the machine was broken.

On one fateful day, my daughter witnessed someone playing the claw machine.  So, I could not say the machine was broken.  And she avoided having to ask me for a dollar because she just so happened to have a dollar bill that was given to her previously by one of her grandparents.  Despite having the advantage, she still held herself respectfully and approached me for permission to give it a shot.  I was in no position for my patented “no.”

And then it happened.

A scream followed by a very proud expression by my daughter.  She was silent and cerebral in what could have possibly been her one and only attempt at victory.  And she not only came out with one prize, but had positioned the claw perfectly, and had grabbed two at the same time.  The claw smoothly slid over to the chute, and then dropped the two toys in, and with a prize held in each hand, she turned to me with the biggest smile a child could ever have.  “You see Daddy!  The machine’s not broken.  And I not only won one prize!  I WON TWO!”

Her victory did not change her behavior when it came to asking for anything, well, except for a kitten, but that is another story.

Like I said, I am so happy I did not have to deal with tantrums.  I know before I got married, heck, even dating, I knew that tantrums were one thing I wanted to avoid.  Toy stores, shopping, the candy aisles, even amusement parks, neither daughter ever threw a tantrum with me.

It was not just the “fun” times or things either.  From the moment both were placed in my arms, every day was about teaching them, setting an example for them.  Just as with “things,” neither gave me a difficult time when it came to schoolwork.  I took advantage of the earlier grades of being not only being able to help with schoolwork, but understand it.  Homework and studying was always a priority, whether we were at home, or on a vacation.  If there was an assignment that did not get done before we left, it came with us.

Even today, my daughters in high school, during my custodial periods, which vary in length, if there is homework to be done, or a test to be studied, I make sure that they have the time to do so.  At this point in their education, and their subjects, they are well beyond any help I can offer with the exception of some proofreading opportunities.

Our current family arrangement has been in place now for several years.  We live quite a distance from each other.  And as is often the case of a non-custodial parent, and I want to be clear (for my trolls), I have never been called the following, “a Disney parent”, a reference to a parent who’s custodial time is only about having good times, while it is assumed the parent with the primary custody “does all the hard stuff.”

I have dreaded the first time I would have ever heard that reference directed at me.  As a divorced father, I have made sure to stay involved with my daughters lives, as much as teenagers will allow.  Circumstances are much different than they were many years ago when we were a whole family.  But my daughters know that my marital status has not changed who I am, and what they mean to me.

And as they head around the final turn of their childhood, things still have not changed for us, just the issues.  Course selection in school has become important.  Extra curricular activities are now a part of building who they are.  And gasp… boys are being mentioned in the singular tense when it comes to activities.

My daughters have often heard me say, “I am your father before I am your friend.”  I have told them I want to make sure they are as prepared as I can make them for their adult lives.  And once they have taken over their adult lives, then we can add friendship to our relationships.

They know times like today are difficult.  They understand when I have to make hard decisions.  And honestly, they are both blessed with good health, so that theory has never really been tested.  I have no problems handling the small stuff.

In the beginning of the Covid19 crisis, I had some difficult decisions to make, to protect my daughters, and to protect me.  The reality that their childhood is winding down, time I can never get back if I am to have to miss something, hits me hard in the stomach.  But with no idea how to handle the virus, what to expect, and the risks people would take, we did miss time with each other.

As time has gone on, and we learn to go through day after day, with Covid19 all around us, we all have adjusted, including school, which has continued on.  Sadly, for the graduation class of 2020, they lost a lot.  And I am hoping that by 2022, Covid19 will be just a horrible chapter in our history books.

But even as we have learned to take precautions to protect ourselves, whether it be individually or as a business, we still must be smart and follow the recommendations.  I would love to carry on with activities as we have with all of our other times together, but right now, that is just not possible.  And that is the hard part of being a parent now.  It is no longer about tantrums, it is about safety for them, and safety for others.

These are just some of the things that have been a priority for me as a parent.  There will come a time, just as I did with my father, that we will sit down, and share stories and memories, have some laughs.  Right now, I still have more work to do.  College is right around the corner.

Singing Is More Than Just The Music


Music has been a part of my life for over forty-five years.  I have enjoyed it in many forms from playing (guitar and piano), writing, disc jockeying (both on radio and at live events) and simply listening to it.  But above all, I love singing.

I started with the church youth choir at seven years old.  I would sing with other troupes, eventually participating in school choruses and chorales.  I performed in my share of school musicals.  Competitively, I would audition for the various levels of school festivals and eventually even find my way to the Allentown Symphony Chorus for a brief stint.

It did not matter when or how, as long as I enjoyed doing it, I was going to keep singing.

Music has played some very important roles in my life.  Besides my younger formative years, I relied on music to take my mind elsewhere as I sat in a chemotherapy chair for three hours during each treatment, the music inspiring my mind to help fight my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Of course, music would also be blasted through my headphones, every time that I had to rehabilitate my body back from the many challenges it has faced.

And depending on the source of stress, I would pick a genre of music (I listen to everything), to help me meditate and reduce the toxicity that stress causes.

I should also mention, that my daughters also being involved in “musical” activities such as dance or orchestra, also produced enjoyment for me.

But over time, my survivorship has taken its toll on my body.  Damage from late developing side effects from radiation therapy and chemotherapy have wreaked havoc under the shell that people see.  Mobility and flexibility has been greatly limited, endurance mostly gone, fatigue a major problem, I simply do what I can, and I am happy with that.

Following my first heart surgery back in 2008, I needed to rehab my lungs, actually my entire rib cage area from being cracked open for the surgery.  Increasing and maintaining lung capacity is critical for recovery.  To help with this, I was given a “toy.”

This, is called a spirometer.  The goal is to get the “ball” to a certain higher number, repeatedly and eventually without effort.  And though it may seem easy, it can be frustrating, and boring.  But it was a requirement as I recovered from the surgery.  I would see this device several times after that, following two bouts with pneumonia, and other concerns with my lung capacity, courtesy of radiation damage to my lungs.

Like I said, using a spirometer is boring and difficult to keep up the interest.  But without this type of exercise, my lung capacity would continue to decrease, only more rapidly.

So, that is when I relied on something that had always been there for me in my life, music, in particular, singing.  There would be no better way for me to keep my lungs workable and pliable, than the level of breathing used to sing.

Unfortunately for me, my own worst critic, and having been professionally trained, there is something called technique, which my current lung capacity has taken away from me.  Musically, I still hit my notes, and for the most part, as clear and pleasant tone as I have always had.  But in my head, I notice my technique is gone.  Someone listening to me who has also been trained will likely notice it, those who are not, may not.

But singing has helped me keep my lung capacity as optimal as I can.  And given the crisis that we are currently in, Covid19, and the impact the virus can have on the lungs, with this pre-existing condition (one of many I have for Covid19), it is critical that I do what I can to keep my lungs in the best shape I can.  There are not may options for me if I get the virus and if impacts my lungs.

Keeping my lungs in shape recently has been difficult.  With various health regulations and advisements against public gatherings, opportunities to sing in public are between few and none.  Even karaoke, something I definitely enjoy, is not an option for me right now.  Sure, there is singing in the shower and in the car, but it is not the same.

I must keep singing though.  My lungs depend on it.  I must keep music in my life.  It is what gets me through.  Music is more to me than just the notes.  Music is life.

 

Handshakes And Hugs… Who Needs Them?


Disclaimer, I have never been much of a hugger, especially in the moments of a greeting or departure.  Although to be fair, when I saw the jpeg, I am thinking, okay, maybe I would make an exception for the pound-sized Hershey bar.

But seriously, growing up, there was never any of the kind of displays of salutations such as handshakes, hugs and kisses.  So, with the exception of my daughters and any particular special interest in my life, I actually feel quite awkward in displaying such greetings.

Howie Mandel has often been made fun of for the reasons he does not make physical contact with people, concern over germs, or the term “germaphobe.”  I have seen him react when his levels of comfort have been actually threatened, often for the sake of comedy.  For Mandel, it is quite serious.

For me, it is just awkward.  I have no interest in giving anyone a kiss that I am either not married to or dating.  As for hugs, meh, I could care less.  Again, for an immediate relation point of reference, I have no problem.  But if I am visiting someone’s home, or just happen to see someone I have not seen in a while, yeah, not so much into it.

The only salutation that I did not have any kind of issue with, was handshaking.  Yes, that is written in past tense.

Covid19 has taken care of that for sure with me.  Honestly, I am not heartbroken about it.  I actually think a smiling “Hi there!” from me, produces more of a friendly approach than a firm handshake might mistakingly infer.  I really do not care if I shake another hand at this point.

And this new thing… the elbow bump.  STOP IT!  It is just stupid.  Not to mention the fact, that if you are supposed to be socially distancing, you actually end up two feet closer (minimum) to be able to knock each other’s elbows.

We are now in our tenth month of this crisis, the seventh month full blown, and no end in sight.  I have mentioned in past posts, I get how many are having such a difficult time dealing with the recommendations and restrictions, and worse, the isolation.  Unless you have been blessed to not have lived through a health crisis, you know the urgentness of what we are facing with this crisis.

I try to keep the temperature low when it comes to discussions about Covid19.  Of course, I care about everyone, not just my family and friends, not just my fellow cancer survivors, but everyone.  I am a firm believer in science, and am quite frustrated that politics has caused the damage and confusion that it has.

Years ago, I worked with biohazards.  I was within small groups of co-workers.  The good thing was, all of those co-workers were on the same page, follow the rules and precautions.  An issue one day, led to management deciding that this small group was no longer a workable situation, and instead opened the assignment to the entire department, and I spoke up against it.  My arguments were denied, and given my health vulnerabilities, I did the only thing I could do.  It was one thing for the small and close group who respected the dangers of what we handled, but by requiring all employees, many of whom only cared about short-cuts to get done working early, my health was in danger.

I went to our health services department to obtain an exemption.  I was told that I “just had a problem with management.  There was no health concern.”  Again, if you follow my blog, you know I have a difficult health history.  I would eventually win my argument, but I should not have had to fight so hard.

THIS POST IS NOT ABOUT EFFICIENCY OF MASKS!  I have already written a post on that.  No matter what however, even the lowest level of protection of a mask does one simple thing, and I have said it long before Covid19.  It acts as a cough or sneeze guard for those who are either lazy or slob and do not cover their faces when they cough or sneeze.

Sure, when my kids were just entering daycare, that is when we learned a new method to prevent errant sneeze and cough germs, doing it into the crook of your elbow.  That way you just did not transfer your germs from you mouth or nose to your hands, and then not wash you hands.

Of course, Covid19 has made it more difficult, and more necessary.  And the sad thing is, it really does make a difference, in lowering the risk.  No, not the same as eliminating the risk.  I have said before, even with the N95 mask, unless you are trained how to wear one, it will do as well at protecting you as the surgical mask.  That is why I say it helps lower the risk.  And lowering is better than nothing.

I live in an area that is high into mask-refusal.  I have been mask shamed.  I have heard all the excuses why not to wear masks, and have yet to hear one that was valid.  Freedom not to wear them, sorry.  The only ones who lose their freedoms are the ones that die from Covid19.  Can’t breath or dying from breathing CO2?  Right, that is why the death rate of surgeons and operating room nurses is so high.

My favorite, no one tells me what to do.  You wear a seatbelt in your car, right?  And believe me, I am 100% against being forced to wear one.  And given the option or the ability to make up my own mind, I would not do it.  But the argument is there, seatbelts save lives.  And here is the part that I hear, and I say, “but it should be my choice.  If I don’t wear my seatbelt, it has no impact on my driving.”  Sound familiar?

When someone claims that wearing a mask does not save lives with Covid19, that just does not make any sense.  You may have the right, not freedom, to not wear a mask, but you do not have a right to make anyone else face a deadly virus.  Seriously, do you think you could get away with infecting someone with AIDS?  Don’t tell me that is different.  At least AIDS can be treated.

My decisions that I have made in regard to Covid19 have no impact on anyone.  I am protecting myself, and those around me.  I am not making a statement, political or otherwise.  Besides not wanting to contract Covid19, I do not want the responsibility of giving it to anyone.  If you think because you are young and healthy, you have nothing to fear, ask anyone who has met those descriptions and developed Covid19, and have struggled since, because they found out, they may not have been as healthy as thought.

I have been through these crisis before, and I have gotten through them because I have made smart choices, not tried to prove a point.  Covid19 will not be any different.

And for now, I don’t care if I shake another hand…ever.

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