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Meeting My Family and Why It Matters Now

February 5th, 2015 4 comments

On Saturday, I am introducing my mother, sister, and niece to the other most important woman of my life.

The significance of this introduction has very little to do with the traditional meaning we attach to meeting family. I am not seeking approval of Gina from my mom. Gina is a grown woman and my mother is fully aware of who she is and how much she means to me. As a matter of fact, none of this is about either of them. It’s about me.

In October, 2013, my mother, sister, and niece came to New York City to visit. This was the first time since I moved here that they would be making the trek “back East” as my mom would say. When my mother surprised me with the news, that they would be coming, I sprung into action to make arrangements for a large gathering of my closest friends and the three most important people in my life. The two parties — friends and family — represented me in important ways. My friends were a reflection of the man I had become in New York City, a network of people who supported me in various ways. I wanted my mother, sister, and niece to meet the people who were there for me in the darkest days and happiest moments of my time in the big city. My family represented who I am as a son, a brother, and an uncle, the man from Seaside, California. I wanted my friends to meet the woman who brought me into this world, my sister who not only I protected but protected me as well growing up, and my niece, the little girl I live for.

Gina and I still had yet to meet.

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Robin Williams: A Man Who Made My Whole Family Laugh

August 12th, 2014 No comments

When the news came across my Twitter timeline that Robin Williams committed suicide on Monday, I, like everyone was shocked and saddened by the news. I was also somewhat unsettled, like I usually am by most celebrity deaths. To mourn someone we don’t know on a personal level, demonstrates a certain sense of compassion, but when that person is a star, I always try to hold back my grief. As much as I have written about celebrities, interviewed them, and even enjoyed reading profiles about them, I have never been in the business of celebrity worship. These people, who entertain me, are appreciated, but not more than those I actually know, so I reserve a full range of emotions for those closest to me.

The loss of Williams is different.

Whether he played an animated genie, a cross-dressing father desperate to be with his kids, an adult-looking fifth grader with a crush on his teacher, a boy who could fly and never wanted to grow up, a doctor with unconventional methods of treatment, a widowed therapist with a unique approach to helping his only patient, I always took a piece of the characters he played with me.

I don’t know what jobs Williams had coming down the pipeline, I don’t know what movie or show he was slated to play in next. What I do know is whatever the role was, he was more than likely going to nail it and transform into yet another character that would probably stay with me for the rest of my life, because that’s what Williams always did.

I truly can’t think of one person who is talented the way Williams was talented. People can name me funnier comedians, they can cite better actors, but I can’t think of someone who had both of those gifts in abundance like Williams did. That man made my whole family laugh, together, at the same time. That made his talent more than entertaining to me; it was downright magical.

The Talk About Having Kids Now

June 19th, 2014 2 comments

There was no one single conversation that led me to this point, it just happened over time, I grew tired of talking about kids I did not have.

Some women might be surprised to know, men talk about the idea of having kids just as much as women. No we don’t have to worry about the biological makeup of our bodies one day putting the kibosh on our ability to make a baby, but I’ve heard plenty of men say they’re not trying to be some old ass dad. They want to have kids too by a certain age. But even before that time in their life, I’ve heard men talk about what kind of kids they want, how they want to raise them, since those men were boys. I too would partake in the conversation innocently.

I remember in sixth grade, one of my classmates had rules by his parents that were so strict my friends and I constantly made fun of him until one day he said, “You know, I’m going to raise my kids the way I’m being raised.” A reminder, this was sixth grade. We all laughed at him, but then it led to this conversation about what kind of rules we were going to enforce, whether or not we were going to spank our kids, and all that other stuff that is fun to talk about. Only a few years ago, the only men in my life who were receiving a Happy Father’s Day were men much older than me. Guys my age would only say it to one another as a joke, sort of like a prank call to one another that would go like this.

HOMIE 1: Yo, happy Father’s Day.

HOMIE 2: Man, get out of here.

HOMIE 1: What? I know you got a kid out there somewhere.

HOMIE 2: Yeah, you’re my son.

We would then laugh, because we knew the idea of us as fathers was a joke.

This past weekend, on Father’s Day, I called some of those same men to wish them a Happy Father’s Day because they are indeed fathers now. The men who still aren’t, I don’t play that prank with them anymore, and nor do they with me.

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How To Talk About A Broken Family

April 24th, 2014 1 comment

I grew up in a family that could be termed many things: Non-traditional, blended, broken, or dysfunctional. Whatever you want to call it, for the past 50 years, Doyle was there. He was Doyle, he was Dad; throughout those years I referred to him either way depending on my mood or his. More so as dad in the later years and when speaking of him to others I always said, “My dad.”

Today, those words will be spoken by mother at my grandfather’s eulogy. Doyle died last Monday, April 14 at the age of 81 after a short battle with leukemia. The funeral will be in California. My mother and I talked briefly about whether or not I should fly out to attend, but times are lean these days, and we both quickly decided it would be best if I stay here, so I will not be attending. This was not an easy decision, but it also hasn’t been hard to accept.

Though I loved my grandfather (a man who I also referred to by first name and family title whenever it suited me), his death has not affected me deeply. I have cried, yes, but not over the loss so much as the toll it’s taken on my mother, on my grandmother. I was told my niece, who is three-and-a-half years old, and who did have a relationship with my grandfather, woke up in the middle of the night the night before he died and told my sister she doesn’t want “Grandpa to be an angel.”

That has been the only time I broke down.

Outside of that moment, even my closest friends are just finding out about my grandfather’s death as they read this post. I haven’t told my co-workers because there is no need for me to take off work nor has his death affected my performance. I am not “going through it,” as they say. Of course, Gina knows. I told her, and I’ve talked at length about things I feel during this ordeal, but opening up hasn’t been challenging, because as evidenced by this blog, expressing myself emotionally has never been an issue.

The biggest challenge for me, personally, is talking about the dynamics of my family in talking about my grandfather’s death.

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The Evolution of Talks With Mom (Ms. Rita, to you) About Women In My Life

October 11th, 2012 1 comment

The way Mom met a girlfriend of mine for the first time was nothing like we see on sitcoms, though it did involve a sitcom.

I was in high school, and my girlfriend and I were at my house, no adult supervision, just us, sitting there watching “Saved By The Bell” on the couch like we owned the place. I promise, we weren’t doing anything, because you don’t make out on family furniture and you don’t make out during “Saved By The Bell.” Those aren’t rules, they’re laws, but I digress…

Mom came home from work earlier than I expected. She walked into the living room, saw us sitting on the couch and politely said, “Hello” which shocked me because I could’ve sworn she was going to say, “Do you pay bills in this place? I’m just wondering cause you’re acting like it by bringing this fast ass girl over here to my house and sitting on the couch with her like it’s okay. Boy, if you don’t…” But Mom played nice. I introduced the two of them, and soon after took my girlfriend back home. Maybe Mom was in a good mood that day, because I could have sworn when I came back home, she was going to be hiding in a closet and pounce on me at any moment, swinging a belt.

But Mom was in the kitchen when I walked back in the house, and only said, “You know you’re not supposed to have company over when I’m not here, especially a girl.” I told her I understood and it wouldn’t happen again, and we both agreed that meant it would happen again only I would know better not to get caught.

That was a sign, Mom was never going to be unreasonable about her son and his relationship with women.

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A Man To Man Lesson On Faith and Family

January 25th, 2012 8 comments

I know I said today’s post would be football term’s for ladies to apply in their dating life, but I’m postponing that topic because something else is on my mind.

This is hard for me to write about without giving some context, bare with me as I unpack a couple of things before moving forward.

I never write about my dad. My late biological father has been written about at length, so has my pop. The man my mother is married to, I refer to him as my step-dad. In my own head, these men are clearly separated and compartmentalized. To the reader, things are probably a little more jumbled, largely because I don’t write about my life in chronological order. I hop around, jumping from memory to memory.

So when I say my dad, understand I am not talking about the men I mentioned above. I am talking about the man whose last name was given to me after he adopted me as his own. He brought my sister into this world. He and my mom were married, but divorced when I was 5 or 6. From then on, he was more of a weekend dad, seeing us about twice a month.

I’ve had my issues with my dad. They’re not as deep as the issues I had with the absence of my biological father or the troubling and complicated relationship I had with my pop, but issues nonetheless. Most of these bore out of how little we saw him even though he never lived too far away. He never raised us so much as he visited us, and there were times my sister and I both resented him for it. The other issue is, how remarkably different he is from my sister and I.

Our dad is a white man from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who listens to The Doors, wears Wranglers, votes Repubican, loves Pittsburgh sports, the Steelers especially, and watches Nascar. We could not be more opposite if I was night and he, day, which made the physical distance between us feel much farther than it ever really was.

Thankfully, over the years, my issues with him have subsided. We talk most Sundays on the telephone, the conversations mostly brief check-ins, but I am proud to say, occasionally they run long.

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15 Years Later, He’s Still ‘Pop’

December 28th, 2011 19 comments

My original plan was to meet him at Red’s Donut Shop. We went there all the time, when I was a kid. Sometimes picking up donuts to take back home and enjoy as a family, other times, he and I stayed. Two guys with two glasses of milk, and one warm cinnamon roll with melted butter apiece, talking about the world before spending a day at the construction site.

But as it turns out, he doesn’t live in the immediate area anymore. That was news to me, then again, since we only spoke once in 15 years, and hadn’t seen each other in just as long, there’s a lot of room for breaking news.

He and I last spoke earlier this year after I received word his mother passed away. I wrote about this phone call and the anxiety I had leading up to the phone call (read both here and here). Our chat was brief, too brief for me to say there was any real closure. The pain of his mother’s death (still fresh) and my impromptu phone call made for a disjointed conversation. We would have to talk at a later date. Seeing as I am home for the holidays, I figured this was as good a time as any.

Through a tangled web of now distant families, he received word I was trying to get in touch with him. When I picked up the phone, he started to say “This is Pop” but corrected himself quickly and referred to himself by his first name instead. I simply said, “Hi, Pop.” I imagine it was news to him that even after 11 years, I still referred to him as such. When I told him I was in town and I wanted to see him before I made my way back to New York, he half-jokingly said, “As long as you don’t want to go at my head.”

This was odd. All the years he raised me, he made me nervous. There was not one chore I did, not one play I made on the baseball field, where I didn’t hear his voice demanding me to do better. If I didn’t meet his high standards, there were consequences to be paid, some severe, some not. Now, he was the nervous one, worried I was baiting him into some sort of scenario where I would tie him to a chair and make him feel bad for raising me with an iron fist.

That was the last thing I wanted to do.

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Why We Should Not Sleep In The Bed Together At Our Parents House

November 22nd, 2011 13 comments

Folks, it’s that time of year again.

People in new relationships and some in old relationships are gearing up to visit at least one set of parents for Thanksgiving. Out of all the holidays, Thanksgiving is arguably the most communal, providing the perfect opportunity for many new couples to break bread (literately and figuratively) with the new person in our lives. Some of us will be making this more than just a day trip, spending nights at the parents home for a couple of days.

The sleeping arrangements behind this situation are either a judgement call or an established rule. Some of our parents establish a strict two bed, separate room policy if we’re not married. That’s the rule in my household.

Over the years, I have brought home several women to meet my mom. Since she lives in California and all these relationships began on the East Coast, all the visits involved a few nights stay at Casa De Ms. Rita’s. Under her roof, it is her rules. When it came to sharing a bed, hell, when it came to being in a room with the door closed, Ms. Rita has zero tolerance. I was 27-years-old the last time I brought a woman to my mom’s home, the rule was still in effect.

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It May Take Your Whole Life To Get There

December 28th, 2010 29 comments

So tonight, I leave from my annual holiday visit with my family in California and head back to New York City. For those who follow me on Twitter or see me on Facebook, you can probably tell I had the time of my life. Since I only visit my family once a year, I usually make the trips extended stays. This year was no different, as I’ve been here since December 16.

But now, it’s time to go back to the city I call home. Leaving isn’t bitter sweet. I look forward to going back, being my own man, sleeping in my own apartment, and seeing all my friends, some of whom I also consider family. The other reason I’m leaving with a smile on my face? I have finally lived to see the day when my family is in full bloom.

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Five Things I’m Learning About Babies Via My Niece

December 20th, 2010 17 comments

It’s not like being around babies was a foreign experience to me prior to meeting my niece. I’ve met plenty of babies, been around them numerous times, but never have I been as hands on with them as I am with my niece.

Ever since I met her, I want to be around my niece every chance I get. Just now my sister came by  the house to drop her off for my mom and I to babysit for the day. When my sister walked in with my niece in the car seat, I hurried over to pick her up, only to see she was still sleeping. I felt like the first kid awake at a sleepover, waiting for his friends to wake up. I couldn’t wait for her eyes to open.

Needless to say, this new experience being around my niece, all pro-baby like never before, has taught me some lessons. In a little less than a week, here are five I have learned.

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