Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Food”

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.

A Wish That Sticks Like Peanut Butter To The Roof Of Your Mouth


I know, this is probably the oddest title I have ever put on a post.  And I will be able to explain without the need of a flowchart.

I was watching the movie, “The Peanut Butter Falcon” starring Zach Gottsagen, Dakota Johnson, and Shia Labeouf.  It is a story about a young man with Down Syndrome, (Gottsagen an actor living with Down Syndrome) who has one wish, to wrestle professionally.  It is an inspirational movie, but that is not the purpose of this post.

There are other appearances in the movie by famous faces, two of which, are professional wrestlers in real life.  And not just wrestlers, but athletes that I grew up watching.  At this time, clearly these wrestlers are long past their prime in not just the movie, but real life.

And so, off on a search through Amazon and Netflix, I have been scouting as many documentaries as I can, about the many pro wrestlers I grew up watching, to see the many stories of “whatever happened to?”  One documentary led to another.  And then I stumbled across one that was not only my favorite pro wrestler, but would end up providing me with yet another role model of what I want to be remembered for, just like him, a father.

His name was Jim Hellwig.  But to his fans…

we knew him as, The Ultimate Warrior.

“WWE:  Ultimate Warrior – Always Believe” is the cliche documentary, before he became a wrestler, discovering wrestling, becoming his character, and coming around full circle in his career after struggling.

I liked many pro wrestlers, but there was just something about the Warrior, his energy, enthusiasm, and always a positive attitude, rivaling Hulk Hogan at times.

He would come running into the ring, and immediately release a ton of energy going from corner to corner, flexing his muscles, shaking the ring ropes, and just when you thought he should be exhausted, he still had a match to complete.  He was the ultimate good guy.  And then the ultimate and inevitable happened, facing the ultimate good guy had to face the incredible good guy, Hulk Hogan, leaving many torn who they would cheer for.  I liked Hogan at the time, but I definitely cheered the loudest for the Ultimate Warrior.

As time went on, as often happens, the Warrior fell out with the WWF.  In the documentary a lot of that time is covered, but the focus is on the reunion of the Warrior and the WWF, because Hellwig is finally being inducted into the WWF Wrestling Hall Of Fame.

This is the most touching part of the documentary, because it allows us to focus on what would be realized as the most important part of his life, not wrestling and fame, but his wife and his two young daughters.  In fact, instead of having female models escort him out when announced during the ceremony like the other wrestlers, he was escorted out by his two daughters.

This is where the “peanut butter” gets stuck.  You hear Hellwig proclaim how important his daughters are to him.  And you also hear from the daughters, everything their father means to them.

Tragically, or as fate would have it,  Hellwig passed away from a cardiac episode, the day after being inducted into the WWF Wrestling Hall Of Fame.  As someone who faced his own imminent cardiac event, no one is aware of how quickly something can be taken away from you, and that you have no control when it happens, than me.

The ultimate father left behind two young daughters.

During this documentary, I found myself reflecting on my health and my relationships with my daughters.  Out of the six health incidents I have had, my daughters have personally witnessed three of them.  And as I struggle with the uncertainties from my cancer treatments over thirty years ago, this suddenness weighs heavily on my mind.  And then, there is a divorce that has left us living a huge distance apart.

As I heard Hellwig’s daughters talk about all of the things that they will always remember about their father, and not just the wrestling, I wondered, have I left as important an impression on both of my daughters, that they would remember me positively.

My daughters know me for being a “voice” for those who do not have one, whether it is health related, bullying, or any other advocacy need.  They know me for being a loyal friend.  There is no doubt that they know I am willing to fight for anything, especially my health.  I believe I have set enough of a moral example for them, of how they should want to be treated and respected, and likewise returned.  My daughters will have lots of fun memories, and I know will be able to proclaim their father was a great cook.  They will be proud of the things that I have written, and will always remember how my voice sounded in song.

But the most important thing I want my daughters to be able to say, reflects on my childhood, and that is, my daughters will always be able to say, regardless of the distance between us, I never gave up on them.  I did everything I could to see them and talk to them.  I stayed involved in their lives, including their education.  I cannot say that about the relationship between my late father and I.  And the same situation applies for many other parents, fathers and mothers, who have made the decision to walk away for whatever reason.  But my daughters will never know that feeling.  I am always a part of their lives.

I will be there when they graduate High School, and likely some form of continuing education.  Should they get married, I will be the one walking them down the aisle.  I look forward to holding my own grandchildren some day.

Yes, I grew up in a “broken” home, divorced parents.  I had no role model for a father figure, other than the parents of some of my closest friends.  But every now and then, I witness something that lets me know, that I must be doing something right, because I can recognize it.

And that is what this documentary did for me, help me to see, that I have been, and am doing things right, as best as I can.  Most importantly, living and doing as if there might not be a tomorrow.

Whether as the Ultimate Warrior character or as Jim Hellwig the father, he was known for some of his most wise thoughts.

“You must show no mercy…nor have any belief whatsoever in how others judge you…for your greatness will silence them all.”

“The most awesome thing I will ever do, is be your father.”

Like I said, the character of the Ultimate Warrior was my favorite, but he was such an inspiration and example of what a father should be, and how one should be remembered.  I want my daughters to be able to reflect on me similarly, but without the face paint and bulging muscles.

Finally, though not having to do with the Ultimate Warrior, but as I was going through these wrestling documentaries, it was during “The Resurrection of Jake The Snake”, another wrestler, and played a wrestling role in the “Peanut Butter Falcon,” that former wrestler Diamond Dallas Page, who played a pivotal return in Jake “the Snake” Robert’s recovery efforts, DDP spoke profoundly the following quotes that I want to share, and well, this post was perfect to include them on:

“The power you give yourself, by believing in you.”  And, “never underestimate the power you give someone by believing in them.”

See Mom?  Pro Wrestling ain’t all bad.  Sometimes some good comes out of it.

Back When Pro Wrestling Was Fun To Watch


I am taking a deep breath today.  No Covid19 talk.  No protesting.  No cancer.  Nothing serious today.  Instead, I want to share some memories from a simpler time.  It was a simpler time, as I often remind my daughters, “stay a kid for as long as you can.”  It was a time period in my mid-teens.  I had just switched schools.  I made several friends right off the bat.

One of those friends invited me to come along to his bowling league.  I had prior experience where I had moved from.  I enjoyed it.  But had no opportunity in my new location.

My friend had told me that he was going to be a “coach” also for the younger bowlers, the real little squirts, back before there were bumpers in the alleys.  The plan would be to bowl the first shift, early in the morning.  Then we would walk a few blocks away to his grandparent’s house, have some lunch (a hoagie from the local grocery store), watch this thing called “pro wrestling” for a little bit, and then walk back to the alley to coach the little kids.

We did this for a few years.  It was the same routine.  And while my bowling skills improved over time, it was the time in between the bowling shifts that I remember most.

I enjoyed my friend’s grandparents.  They were very sweet.  During our lunch break, my friend’s grandfather would always tell us of his experiences in the military during the war.  This was not entertainment I want to emphasize.  I was learning.  I was drawn to his details and that is where I first learned to always say thank you to those who have served and sacrificed.  This “friendship” would carry on into adulthood, and we would all bowl together as adults in league play, even winning a championship.  I often felt of him as a grandfather, because that is how kind he was.

So anyway, after we were done eating and talking, we would go into their living room and turn on the television to channel 9, a New York based channel, for Saturday pro wrestling from what was filmed by Vince MacMahon, the son of the prior owner, of the original World Wrestling Federation.

The first thing I had to learn, was that pro wrestling was fake.  The second thing I had to learn was not to say that pro wrestling was fake.  Pro wrestling is definitely not fake, though it is performed.  But you really have to be in awe of some of the physical conditioning of some of the athletes and superstars, as well as the physical stunts they perform, 99% of which I would never survive (I am fairly confident I can bounce off of the ring ropes).

Unlike today’s WWE, that records their shows in major venues like stadiums and arenas, back in the day, pro wrestling used to be filmed in a “farmer’s market” section of the Allentown Fairgrounds in Pennsylvania, called Agricultural Hall.  Once or twice a month, the WWF would roll into town, and record three episodes worth of matches to be televised on Saturday mornings on syndicated cable television.  Attendance was probably the size of a basketball court, not the arena, smaller than the size of an elementary school gymnasium.

Another cool fact, the ring announce, was an elderly man by the name of Joe McHugh.  A scrawny cigar smoking man, holding the mic lowered from the rafters, wearing Mr. Magoo glasses.  He was THE announcer before Michael Buffer was ever born.  Turns out, his brother was the principal of my high school, located just blocks away from Agricultural Hall.  My connection to watching the WWF was firm.

My stepfather, did accounting work on the side for local hotels.  It just happened that some of the hotels were where many of the pro wrestlers would stay while in town.  This would lead to one of the few subjects that I could talk about with my stepfather.  I needed to know who was in town as if it would give me a clue as to potential changes of championships and such.

My interest would take a strange twist.  One night, while visiting my grandmother, I asked to watch pro wrestling on her television.  And that is the first time I learned that my grandmother was a fan.  I lived with her for nearly fifteen years, and never knew it.  She enjoyed the women wrestling and the “midget” (yes, I know not a nice term, but that was how they were referred to before we all got woke) wrestlers.  What she enjoyed was those wrestlers getting involved with the referees of the match.  Really it was quite silly to watch.

But those Saturday mornings, they were special, fun, a lot of memories.  I honestly do not recognize the majority of pro wrestlers today.  As we deal with the restrictions of Covid19 (yes I know I was not going to say that word), the WWE, which films here in Florida, films in front of an empty audience.  And it is just weird, almost as sad as watching a soap opera.  But either McMahon or the network got smart and made the decision to show older matches, and not just from 2018, but completely retro, back to when I used to watch.

Recognize this guy?  That’s right, it is The Rock, Duane Johnson, also known as Rocky Maivia.  His father was also a great pro wrestler, named Rocky Johnson.  All of a sudden I was seeing all kinds of matches back from when I thought the WWF was enjoyable, involving Shaun Michaels, The Undertaker, Brett Hart, even Hulk Hogan.

But the truth is, I go back way further than that.  After watching a documentary the other night of a career autobiography of a journalist, part of his life was focused on his personal interactions with the WWF.  And then my mind really went off the deep end in memories.  Reflecting back to those Saturday morning with my friend and his grandparents.

Yeah, this is when I thought pro wresting was good.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved watching the Undertaker and Brett Hart and all of that next generation.  But once the story lines began to involve McMahon and the owners, and making it more nepatunistic, I began to lose interest.  Today, I find it difficult to watch at all.

But for today, I am remembering those fun and simple times.  Good memories for me.  A time that I clearly took for granted and would give anything to have back.

 

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