Family

Where Runs the Warhorse

Where runs the warhorse when his time has come?
When his barding’s gone and his reins retired,
When sounds the beating of a different drum
Than the ones of war, that had once inspired
His gallant service to a noble knight,
With whom he galloped to honor, glory,
In deeds of skill, chivalry and might,
Inspiring many a young man’s story
Of bravery, mastery, battles fought,
And many a lass’s dreams and song
Of ancient days when true knights sought
To prove their mettle with courage strong?
To Elysian fields, where the sweet grass grows,
To await his knight, when the Trumpet blows.

This weekend, the valiant steed of a dear friend, the knight to whom I am squired, passed on to the Elysian fields. I am not a horseman, myself, being massively allergic to those noble beasts, but I know too well how strong the bond between man and his animal friends can be. Fare thee well, Luke, and be ready for your next ride.

A tattoo design for my niece…

My niece has decided that, for her coming birthday, she really wants a tattoo. Her mom, who has always been opposed to such things, was resistant at first, but my niece had a well thought out idea of what she wants, the symbols that mean the most to her, and in the end, my sister gave in. While I was visiting Tampa, they asked if I would take a shot at designing the tattoo.

What she wanted was something that combined the things that are most important in her life, love and faith, with a symbol that represents our family. As I’ve mentioned before, my family has a strong nautical tradition, so we came up with the idea of an anchor. She also wanted the letters B and E, to represent the two sides of her family, and to add extra meaning, to imply that she should “B E Anchored” to her love and faith.

So here is what I came up with. She liked it, but of course, we’ll have to see what the tattoo artist thinks.

katietat

 

Recipe time again! Eggplant Parmesan…

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I love to cook. It’s something that has been ingrained in me since I was a child; my family cooks, together, in one big flurry of food, song, and wine. Lots of food. Lots of song. Lots and lots of wine. ;)

Because of this, my friends have gotten to where they love coming to my place for dinner. About once every week or two, I’ll have everyone over to try out something I’ve been in the mood for. A couple months back, it was Eggplant Parmesan. And though they are usually up for my experiments in culinary delights (cauliflower crust pizza? super popular!), several of my friends balked openly at eggplant.

“I don’t like eggplant, Mark,” one of my female friends said, “I won’t like it. I’ll try it, but don’t be offended when I hate it.”

I made the following recipe for her and the entire crew. It went over really, really well. Last week, she sent me an email for the recipe. She had already bought most the ingredients. She signed it thus:

“Thank you! And damn you, Mark, for making me a liar! I’ve been craving this for weeks…”

So here it is. It’s simple to cook, uses easy ingredients, and is very tasty. Let me know if you make it, and how it turns out!

Mark’s Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients:
1 Eggplant
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Shredded Parmesan Cheese
Marinara Sauce of your choice
Sea Salt
Minced Garlic
Italian seasonings
Pepper
Pepperoni (if you want to add meat to the dish)
Italian breadcrumbs (optional)

Preheat your oven to 400.

Slice the eggplant into fairly thin medallions. I prefer about 1/8″, but you could go to a quarter inch if you wanted.

If you have a silicon brush, brush the eggplant slices with olive oil. If not, you may want to dip them in a shallow pan with olive oil in it before frying. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings to your preference.

Heat up a frying pan or skillet to a medium-medium high heat. Add in enough olive oil to coat the pan. Put in the garlic, and start letting it saute. Once it starts to smell really good, start laying eggplant slices on top.

After a bit (and when the garlic to the sides starts turning brown), flip the eggplant. Saute them for a bit, then remove them and place them on a greased cookie sheet. Spoon a dollop of marinara on each medallion, add pepperoni, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and then Parmesan cheese. If you’d like, sprinkle Italian breadcrumbs on top.

Put in the oven, bake until the cheese is bubbly and melty.

Pull out, cool for a few minutes, then enjoy!

“Bad Parents” – Chuck Wendig’s Weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. TRIGGER WARNING

Just in under the deadline, here is my story for Chuck Wendig’s challenge from this past week. A story about “Bad Parents”, 1000 words or less.

This is not the story I originally intended to tell. That one I wrote, rewrote, rewrote again, and then finally deleted. I’m not ready to tell that one yet.

This one is dark, very dark. I give you fair warning now that it is about child abuse, murder, and such like things. If this is the kind of thing that upsets you, skip this one.

No one ever tells you about the smell. The movies, the shows, they make it look almost…glamorous, when you shoot someone. A bang, a puff of smoke, a bright light, a splatter of pretty crimson that paints the wall like that abstract painter guy…Jackson-something. Mom always liked his stuff. I didn’t get it. The smell is terrible. Like copper and shit and sewage. Maybe it’s different if you shoot them somewhere other than the balls and lower stomach?

Christ. I can hear him still. I wish he’d die but I don’t have the stomach or the will to shoot him again. And maybe…maybe I kind of want him to suffer, even if each groan that escapes his lips makes me feel like vomiting. Even through the door, I can hear him dragging himself across the floor croaking a strange, strangled, gurgling noise like some sort of sick frog. Disgusting. Bleeding and shitting all over the floor, no doubt. Mom is going to be so pissed off.

After all, he is…was…her husband.

I look down at the gun in my hand and I wonder how many bullets I have left. I never really learned about them. I mean, I knew the basics, but I didn’t even know how to load or reload or whatever you are supposed to do with them. I do know you point the dangerous end and you flip the safety thing and you pull the trigger. And not the button that makes the bullet-thingy fall out. I guess TV is good for something after all, huh? There’s always that ditzy girl who points the gun and presses the wrong button. Or gets reminded the safety is on. Dumb!

I wonder if I should shoot her too. Mom, I mean. Part of me screams at the idea, revolts. Another…not so much.

She let it happen, after all. She had to have known. No…she did know. I can’t make excuses for her. She knew. I told her. I told her what he was doing, how he was touching me…there. I feel sick again, just thinking about it. Have to force myself to stop. She knew, but she didn’t do anything about it. He was husband number three, after all, and she wasn’t getting any younger. She said that all the time.

So she put up with the shit. The laziness. The yelling. The name calling. The slaps, the punches, the bruises. The way he looked at me, her daughter. She listened when he lied and when he locked himself in my room she bought that the door must have “accidently” locked itself. When I would find any excuse I could to be with her, she said I was just too clingy. Seperation Anxiety? Really Mom?

I didn’t tell her at first. I was scared. Scared that he’d hurt me worse, hurt her worse. He threatened that he would. Said that if I told he would beat the shit out of her, break her, make sure no other man would ever want to be with her again. Did I want that? Huh, sweetie? You want your mom to have to earn her living lying on her back for ten dollars a pop, cause she sure as hell wouldn’t make more than that when he got finished with her.

But then one day she found me. Crying. Rocking. She took me in her arms and she rocked with me and she asked me.

“Cass, sweety? Is there something wrong?”
And I felt warm. Safe. I told her.

I still feel the sting of her hand. The bruises have faded but I still feel each punch. My hair still hurts when it remembers her dragging me through the hall, screaming and calling me a liar, a whore, a filthy little tempter. It was my fault, see. I shouldn’t dress like such a slut. She burned my makeup and my music and most of my heart that day.

“Casssss.”

What’s left of my heart plummets. He moans out again.

“Casssssss…c…c…call…..9…”

He stops, coughing. I hear something thick and wet splatter against the wood floor, and something in me snaps.

I open the door.

He’s right there. The smell is even worse now. The floor doesn’t look like a pretty painting. It looks horrible. Dark. Brownish. I gag. He looks up at me. Kind of looks like one of those monsters, zombies. I don’t know…I don’t like those shows. Too gory. He reaches out his hand.

“Cass…sw…sweetie…”

There is a pop, a shockingly loud pop and a ringing in my ears before I even realize I’ve shot him. There is a strange, gurgling rattle, and then he’s quiet. The only sound is the ringing in my ears.

I close the door. I cry. I can’t help it. God, what am I going to do? I sit there, at the door. I sit there for a long time.

And then I hear it. Keys in the lock. Mom is home. I look down. How many bullets are left?

I don’t know.

Maybe just one.

My hands tremble. I am so fucked. So, so fucked. The door begins to open. For a moment, it really is just like the movies. Everything is slow, deliberate. I look at the gun and I think, yes, maybe there’s just one more bullet left.

I raise my arm. The gun is so, so heavy. Heavier than I thought it would be. The door swings wider. I sit straighter. Proper. Ladylike. She walks in all fake smiles and empty cheer and an arm full of crap. She looks at me.

“Cass, sweetie? Is there something wrong?”

I smile. I press the gun beneath my chin, and I wonder.

Will she believe me now?

Awesome Mural by C.E. Coburn!

I am so stoked! I commissioned the insanely talented C. E. Coburn to help design a mural that I’m painting on the wall of the bedroom my two 8 year old boys share this weekend. The idea was to take the boys, turn them into chibi-style cartton characters, and put in similarly designed caricatures of five each of their favorite cartoon characters. This is the black and white line drawing of the result (sorry for the pixelation, but I had to shrink it a lot to fit here). I’ll also take a pic once we have it painted, in color, on the wall!

muralsmall

 

 

“Paying off the Debt” – A new Pinky Black story, inspired by a post by Kate Loveton!

This one isn’t part of any challenge. This week, Kate Loveton posted and awesome story about an eviction – make sure you read it here!  I found the story so good that I wanted to punch the antagonist right in the kidneys…and realized that, being a fictional character, that’d be kind of hard. So it inspired me to wreck a little fictional justice at the hands of my favorite thug, Pinky Black.

“Johnny, I need your help. Ma needs your help.”

I looked across at the man that was talking to my boss, Johnny the Gent, and saw the look of worry on his face. His eyes flitted nervously from the Gent, who sat in a nice, big, comfy leather chair, to me. Big, burly. Angry looking. I’m sure it made me look more intimidating. It was meant to. Johnny steepled his fingers, and breathed in deeply through his nose.

“What I don’t understand, Henry, is how things got this far in the first place,” Johnny said after a moment’s consideration. “You dad, Mr. Pauley, he passed, what, three, four months ago?”

Henry nodded, his hands worrying themselves together.

“So how is it that your mother, dear old Mrs. Pauley, hasn’t paid her rent in three months?”

Henry swallowed, hard.

“I…I guess it’s just not something she ever thought about, Johnny. Pa always took care of those things…”

Johnny’s hand slammed down on the rich, mahogany wood desk in front of him. Henry jumped. I didn’t flinch, didn’t even blink.

“You knew your father took care of these things, and not you, nor one of your five brothers bothered to step in and check on it?”

Johnny was pissed. Family…family was about the most important thing in the world to the Gent. Disrespecting one’s family was one of the quickest ways to get on his bad side. And his bad side was enforced by thugs, like me. I guess it was because Johnny never had a family, really. He was an orphan, and came up through the system a hard, bitter man. But family…family was his soft spot. And his sore spot.

“I…I…I…” Henry stammered, but Johnny waved him to silence. The Gent reached up, rubbed the bridge of his nose, then sighed.

“Who’d you say the slumlord is that runs her tenement?”

“J-Jamison. Jacob Jamison.”

Johnny nodded. Jamison was a sleazebag, sure. He was also competition. He’d edged Johnny out of some prime turf, and Johnny didn’t forget things like that. He’d never had a legitimate reason to lay down the rough on the guy. Till now.

“Something like this, Henry…it’s a big thing. I mean, it’s your ma’s home, right? She don’t know anything but, right?”

Henry nodded.

“Ok. I’m going to make this right. Not for you, Henry, you miserable shit. But for your Ma. And then, you’re going to owe me. You and your brothers. You understand that? This is an open ended favor, Henry. You ask of me a great thing. I may ask great things of you in return.”

Henry’s eyes shot down to the floor. This was no small thing Johnny was asking. If Henry agreed, he’d be owned. Obligated. He wouldn’t have a choice, unless he wanted hell to come up and visit him personally.

“I understand,” he said softly. Johnny nodded, dismissed him. The room was quiet.

“You know I’m not happy with you, Pinky,” he said softly. I almost winced. It’s when Johnny talks soft that bad things get done. “I asked you to do one thing, one fucking thing, Pinky. One little trial. You fucked it up, bad. Cost me a lot of money.”

I said nothing. I’m not saying I wasn’t scared. Only a fucking idiot isn’t scared when the Gent gets quiet. But I’d be damned if I was going to go down like a blubbering Henry.

“This Jamison guy, you know him?”

I shrugged.

“Heard of him.”

Johnny turned, looking at me. Cold. An auditor looking at an asset.

“I want you to take care of this for me, Pinky. I want you to make sure Jamison understands that Mrs. Pauley is to be relieved of her outstanding debt, and restored to her residence. Punctuate the point, with your fists. You aren’t getting paid for this. You owe me. I don’t like being second guessed, no matter what the cause. If we didn’t have history, I’d have had you shot. You need to make amends. This is a start.”

I gulped. Couldn’t help it.

“Sure thing, Johnny.”

I headed for the door.

“And Pinky?”

I paused.

“Make sure he feels the message for a long time.”

I nodded, went out the door.

Poor Jamison. He was about to learn just how protective an old neighborhood could be.

No writing Friday – or, the day I did the other kind of fencing…

I was off the grid most the day Friday. I spent the entire day working on building a privacy fence for a wonderful older fellow who, with a heart condition, shouldn’t have been out doing the work himself. The project had a number of challenges, beyond the fact that I had to do a lot of it on my own. There was the consideration that he wanted to reuse a lot of old lumber and existing fence structures, which, if they had been decent in the first place, wouldn’t have needed to be replaced. The heat of the day was absolutely miserable – 94 degrees Fahrenheit, with the sun beating down mercilessly from a cloudless sky, and not even a hint of breeze to be felt. I ended up cooking my phone – not fun. And in the end, we had to make some compromises to what we could and couldn’t do with the materials we had to work with. But, finally, darkness having already surrounded us, we had a very nice, working gate and a lovely privacy fence.

The rest of this weekend, I am spending in Atlanta visiting my wife’s brother and sister-in-law. We are all of us without kids this weekend, so its a rare chance to have some down time with other adults. Of course, that may make writing a bit of a challenge, but every once in a while, I am just going to grab the chance and do it. After all, it’s supposed to be about relaxing this weekend. And writing is my relaxation. :)

A tale of two fathers…

Today has been a rough day. My stepson, whom I adore, is away with his father for three weeks. And as I expected, my wife’s ex and his wife are playing games with us. Despite an agreement that we are allowed to call every night to speak briefly to our son, they ignore calls, texts, and when they do respond (rarely) promising to call back later, they never follow through. We have spoken to him a total of 18 seconds in the last week. My stepdaughter, who we all joke is really some time-switched bio child of mine, as our personalities are so alike, had to work a double shift today because her work fired one of their staff and she has been tasked to fill in. I got to see her for all of ten minutes this morning. My oldest bio son was able to share breakfast with me, before having to run off for a week on a Scout’s summer camp trip. I’ll see him briefly next Saturday before he goes off for another week with his mom for her summer visitation. My youngest bio son remained, but I had to spend most the day away from him, as I was helping my elderly father-in-law, with a wicked heart condition, do some emergency repairs on my wife’s childhood home…which they are selling.

But the roughest part of the day was the realization that, for the first time in my life, I didn’t have a father to call today.

I am a man who was blessed with two dads. My stepdad, David, will always be the person I think of most as “Dad”. He raised me, taught me so much about life, and loved me like I was his own. He passed away just over four years ago, after losing his battle with esophageal cancer. My bio dad, Roger…well, as a child, I barely knew him. He was an alcoholic and a career Navy man. When he wasn’t out at see, he was drunk. But he turned his life around, and as an adult, we got to know each other all over again, and I am not ashamed to say how proud I am of the man that he became. All of us, me and my siblings and my mother, felt this way.

He passed this last January.

I’ll be honest…I don’t have a lot of heart for words tonight. I had thought to do some writing with a child-free evening ahead of me. Instead, I have been low, sad, and sleepy. But…my dads would have wanted me to write something, and I felt terrible not doing so. So here I am. I am going to end this piece with the toughest words I have ever had to write in all my life. The first I wrote myself, the second, I collaborated with my siblings. The obituaries of my fathers.

***

My stepfather:

P01 David W. Ruth, USN (Ret.)

Warner Robins – Known as “Jackhammer” to his friends and co-workers, David Whitney Ruth died at the age of 63 on Sunday, February 21, 2010, after a hard-fought battle with cancer. He passed in the peace of his home with Rosemary, his loving wife of twenty-seven years, at his side.

Born in Bisbee, Arizona, to David L. and Cora W. Ruth on August 18, 1946, David was the eldest of three sons. He graduated from Bisbee High School in 1965, and soon thereafter joined the United States Navy. It was while serving that he met Rosemary, whom he married on August 27, 1983.

A combat veteran of the Vietnam War, David retired from the Navy in 1985 after twenty years of proud service, having attained the rank of Chief Petty Officer 1st Class. Subsequently, he continued to serve his country as a Civil Servant first at Fort Carson, Colorado Springs, Colorado, and then at Robins Air Force Base, where he transferred in 2000 and from which he retired in 2008 due to illness.

An extraordinarily creative man, David had a lifelong passion for woodworking, metalworking, and machining, as well as love of the art of calligraphy. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, swimming, was an avid reader as well as a motorcycle enthusiast and collector. However, of all his passions, none was greater than that for his family, to whom he was absolutely dedicated.

He will forever live in the hearts of his wife, Rosemary; children, Joseph, David, Mark, Julia, Shauna and Michelle, along with their significant others; eighteen grandchildren; brothers, Charles (known as “Bill”), and Jeffery; numerous nieces and nephews; lifelong friend, Ed Liest, and many other close friends and associates. His parents, David and Cora Ruth, and his ex-wife, Sandy, predeceased him.

At the request of the deceased, there will be no public service. In lieu of flowers or other memorials, the family respectfully requests that any such considerations be given to a local hospice organization. The family wishes to express special thanks and appreciation to the staff and caregivers of the Heart of Georgia Hospice.

***

My bio father:

Norfolk, VA:  Roger Paul Baron, died peacefully January 4, 2014 in the presence and prayers of family and friends. He was born September 27, 1943, in Manteno, Illinois, to the late Grace Ross Baron and Orville Baron. Enlisting at the age of 17, Roger spent 30 years of honored military service in the Navy, rising to the rank of Command Master Chief and serving in both the Cuban Missile Crisis and Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

He made his home in the Hampton Roads area for the remainder of his life and was fiercely passionate about family, friendship, and helping those around him, especially those in the recovery community. He was a beloved Father, Grandfather, Son and Friend and leaves a legacy of service and a family strongly rooted in the foundation he helped to build for them.

He loved and is survived by his four children and their spouses: Joseph Patrick Baron (Jennifer), Julia Lynn Escobar (Joseph Wang), Mark Ross Baron (Myndee), and Michelle Kay Henry (Joe); and grandchildren Kevin Baron, Cameron Baron, Hailey Escobar, Katherine Escobar, Emily Escobar, Jaden Baron, Riley Baron, Elijah Sebboy, Robert Lindsey, Anslea Bell, Xander Mann, Adam Wang, his ex-wife Rosemary Ruth and his long-time friend of more than 50 years, Jim Driver.

He is preceded in death by his older brother David Baron and also survived by younger brother Michael Baron.

The family would like to give extraordinary thanks and appreciation to Takeisha Bishop, Raina West and all the Hospice caregivers for their compassion and consummate care and tremendous assistance which will forever be appreciated.

There will be no graveside service. Condolences may be offered to the family at (funeral home website link).  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Roger’s name to the Wounded Warriors Project at http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/.

This one may be rough for some of you to read (Triggers: Cancer, kids, life)

Before I begin this post, I want to make it clear that I don’t want this blog to seem to have taken a sudden turn for sadness. It has been a rough few days, but I am, truly, doing quite well despite of it. Sometimes, though, a touch of sadder memories is a good thing, that helps us appreciate the things we have. I’ve got a story I have been thinking of writing for here for a while, and though it has its harder moments, I hope you’ll read it through to the end. Unlike most of my work here, this piece is absolutely non-fiction.

I remember it clearly, the day my son was diagnosed with cancer.

I was working two jobs at the time, trying to make ends meet while paying a ridiculously high amount of child support; don’t get me wrong, I begrudge my children nothing, and would give every cent to see them well-cared for, but even the judge who passed the support balance commented that he thought it was ludicrously high and did not know how I was going to live on the remainder. Well, truth be told, I couldn’t. So I found myself, a career professional, in need of a second job, one that would be flexible with hours and let me bring in just enought to ensure that me and my wife and step-kids kept a roof over our heads, while ensuring my bio-kids kept one over theirs.

So I took a job delivering pizzas. It wasn’t a bad job, but it was rough, hot work in the middle of summer, and when I wasn’t hurrying about town dropping off pies, I was in the back room, washing dishes in scalding hot water and sweating like mad. I was in the washroom when my phone buzzed. The manager did NOT allow calls while at work, but I glanced down, saw it was my ex, and due to our rather combatative divorce, we never called each other unless it was something to do with the boys. I went to my manager, explained the situation, and he was unusually understanding in giving me the time to step outside and return her call.

I apologized for missing her call, and asked what was up. She explained that Riley, our then five year old, was running a fever again, and that she was taking him to the med stop, as it was Sunday and our normal pediatrician wasn’t open. Riley’s regular illnesses had been a point of contention for several months at that point. My ex invariably blamed me, saying he always came back from my house sick, and I invariably blamed her, saying he always came to my house sick. It was always passed off as a cold or allergies or whatever the bug of the week was that was going around. I told her that was fine, and to call and let me know when she found out what was going on. She agreed, and I returned to the dish pit.

A couple hours passed. I was scheduled that night to work from 5:30 till midnight, though that typically meant I’d actually be there till 1 or later with post-evening clean up. She had called right as I had started my shift, and I was beginning to get a bit irked that she hadn’t called back yet. Finally, though, my phone rang, and again I cleared a break and went outside to take it.

She told me they were on their way to the Children’s Hospital.

Instantly, my nerves were on end. I asked her why, my voice slightly a tremble. She said that the med stop had taken some blood samples and that they didn’t think their equipment was reading it right, but to be on the safe side, they wanted her to take him to the Children’s Hospital and have them check him out. She was irritated at how vague they had been, and I was worried about it, but there wasn’t much to do. She promised to keep me updated, and I went back to work.

Worry consumed me for the rest of the evening. My stomach knotted up, my heartbeat pounded furiously. I made a few mistakes, got chewed out. I apologized profusely, and though he was irritated, my manager was fairly understanding. Unfortunately, we’d already had another driver call out, so he couldn’t afford to send me home. I worked the rest of the night in a mood of underlying doubt and worry. At 1:30AM, I was finally off. I called my ex immediately, and she told me that they had taken blood, but that the lab wouldn’t be able to process it for a while and that for now, they were just waiting in a hospital room. I asked if she needed anything, and she said no.

I remember, clearly, the difference in her voice at that moment. Her normal tone of underlying anger was absent, replaced by worry, stress. For a moment, we were no longer a messily divorced couple – we were parents, sharing mutual concern for our child together. She promised to call me as soon as anything came up. I thanked her, sincerely, absent of paranoia or anger or doubt at her word. I went home and went to bed, as I had to be up in about five hours for my day job.

I’d been asleep for two and half hours when my phone rang. I had barely been able to get to sleep, and the sleep I did get was fitful and unsettled. The buzz of my phone had me up with a start. I answered it.

The line was silent.

I said my ex’s name, afraid we’d lost the connection. Faintly, I heard sobbing. I said her name again, panicked.

“What’s going on? Are you there?”

“Well,” she said, her voice wavering between sob and sound, “they know it’s not a virus. They’re just trying to figure out what kind of cancer her has.”

I don’t know that words can fully capture the absolute devastation that those words can deliver to a parent. The best I can manage seems clumsy and no where near strong enough to convey the feeling, but I will try. Initially, it felt very much like someone had just slammed me in the chest with a sledgehammer. Pain, actual physical pain, wracked my body, and the wind was knocked out of me. I had trouble breathing.

“What?”

“Cancer,” she said, and then broke into unbridled sobs of anguish. Unwanted, unbidden, mine joined hers. My wife woke with the sound, and joined us.

The week following was a roller-coaster of emotions. Tests upon tests were performed, and finally, they came to us with the “good” news. Riley had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, type Pre B. Of all the cancers that strike in childhood, it was considered the “best” to have. At his age, it was highly treatable, with a large chance of being beaten back permanently. It didn’t make the process easier, the emotions less painful, but it was a glimmer of hope. He had a great team of doctors, who explained that treatment for leukemia had come so far in the last ten years, and that it was going to be tough and he couldn’t promise anything but there was hope.

***

It has been three years now since we found Riley’s cancer. The stuff that was hardest in the beginning became strangely routine. The monthly lumbar punctures, the chemo, the regular bouts of neutropenia where we had to scrub everything in the house with Lysol, wear masks, and keep away even the most well meaning friends and family. It all became part of normal, daily life. We had some stumbles, some real scares. Once, his liver began to go into failure, but we caught it quickly and changed the course of his treatment. Another time, his brain began swelling, but again, the docs caught it and we changed paths again. Now, we are only six months away from being done with his treatment, hopefully forever.

There have been blessings and losses along the way. Some of the children we got to know during his treatment weren’t so lucky. Some didn’t respond as well as he did. Others did wonderfully, like Riley. My ex and I became more understanding with each other, work a little bit better with each other.

So there it is. I don’t know why I felt I needed to tell it here, but I did. I think, perhaps, because Riley is one of the many reasons I need to write. I don’t want to leave him a legacy of his father being bitter at his mom, who never tried to live up to his potential, his dreams. I want Riley to see in me an example, a man who dreams and reaches to accomplish them. I want him to see that, just like his cancer, he can overcome the obstacles that life places in his path, and do what truly makes him happy.

And so, I’ll write. For Riley. For all my children.

For me.