VonDad, Meet MartyDad. He’ll Show You Around


On occasion, I like to indulge in a fantasy about how my mom and dad would react to the parents of my friends.  For instance, in between servings of amazing gravy (that’s pasta sauce to most of you), great beer and even better company, I wondered how my dad would get along with Falconesse’s family. First, I know they would have hit it of right away.  I know Falcondad and I did five years ago when we first me, so its pretty easy to guess that my dad would have done the same.

Where as I listened to Falcondad tell stories, my dad would have come back with insanely great stories of his own.  With each story, and with each beer, my dad’s accent would have returned.  Pretty damn soon, it would become who is more Irish:  The guy from Boston or the South Sider.  I would expect them both to talk about cars they had (legally and illegal), battle scars they earned (like the lump on my dad’s head from being hit with a lead pipe) and who had the worse neighbors.  I could see my dad calling falcondad an asshole, laughing it off, and producing a fine bottle of scotch.  Failing intervention from a spouse, they’d probably finish that bottle together.

My mom would have been too busy with Falconmom to stop my dad from swapping stories.  This is not to say there would have been a separation of the sexes.  I think my mom would just want to talk with Falconmom instead of trying to show off for Falcondad.  I can also guarantee that my mom would have indulged in as much wine as Falconmom.  The four of them would have a party that people a third their age would be jealous of.

This is an easy scenario to imagine. It’s as easy as it is to imagine my parents and my in-laws.  In all fairness, I would expect my mom and my mother in law to quickly turn their conversation towards embarrassing their respective children; however, my mom would avoid mother in law’s tequila.

This may come as a shock, but I don’t just imagine how it would be if my parents were still alive.  Despite my difficult relationship with religion, I cannot help but imagine my parents in Heaven.  This is what I want more than anything in the world, and I still struggle with trying to place this core belief of my parents within my own understanding of how the world works.

To be fair, I don’t think of it often.  I only think of it when someone I care for loses someone they care for.

Today I’m imagining my dad showing VonDad around.  I’m sure that VonDad, being the amazing human being that he was, would have his own entourage of brilliant people.  But knowing my dad, I think he would approach VonDad with a perfect Rob Roy–yes, my dad would sling drinks in Heaven–and show him around the place.  My dad would play pool with VonDad and loose terribly.  They would swap embarrassing stories of their children.  My mom would gush over Von to VonDad. I like to think that, even though VonDad might have heard it all before, hearing it from my mom would make it all the more meaningful.

Seriously, my mom would have adopted Von.  So would my dad, for that matter.  They’d both have to fight VonDad though, and I’m not sure my folks would have won.

All these years later, I still miss my folks.  I can cope now by remembering who they were and thinking on who they would be today.  I can even think–and hope–that what I imagine is true.

Von, I don’t know what you’re going through.  The pain is similar to the one I still have, and the circumstances are familiar as well.  But your grief is yours.  I am so privileged to share it with you.  I hope to be able to help ease your burden.  If these fantasies help, great.  If not, I’ll shut up.  I’m good like that.

I know when I think on the full life my parents led, this song brings me comfort.  I saw the briefest glimpse of how amazing your own dad was, and I thought of this song as well.  While the world has lost so much with his passing, he has made his mark on the world and on you.  For that, I am grateful.

An Item Off The Bucket List: Day 1

I have dreamed of a road trip to Seattle since my first visit to that City in 2000. Today, the love of my life and I are headed to Seattle, by way of Michigan. We plan on being on the road for at least 9 of our 14 day excursion. I will be posting picks and notes from the road and on my good old blog.

Before the posts start, I need to say thank you to a friend and mentor who gave Shannon and I an overly generous gift. When Steve heard about the floods from last year, he was upset that our plans were ruined. So, being the amazing human being he is, he stepped in and tried to make things better. His gift will be making our Trip not just possible, but amazing.

I wrote this for Steve’s retirement party. It was supposed to be included in his book, but somehow it wasn’t included. So I’m putting it here, so everyone knows how fantastic he is.

Thank you, Steve, for making this road trip possible.

Steve Eiseman is not a complicated man.  This is not to say he is not smart or that he lacks emotional depth.  On the contrary, Steve is a brilliant, caring and loving person.  At his core, this is who he is.  He isn’t duplicitous or insincere; he truly does care about those people around him, especially the clients.

At first glance, one might think that it is not humanly possible to care about other people as much as Steve does.  This may stem from our line of work.  As Probation Officers, we address more than the crimes our clients commit.  We see the environments that our clients live in.  We work with families that have dealt with more trauma, loss and grief than anyone should ever have to deal with.  What we see, day in and day out can easily be described as the worst behavior that humanity has to offer.  It is understandable, then, that our world view becomes more cynical with time.

And yet, Steve has worked this very same job for over thirty years.  He traveled in our neighborhoods, visited our schools, and worked with our clients, and their families.  When he did not work with our clients directly, he supervised us—his colleagues—sharing our experiences and listening to our concerns. Instead of burning out or reverting to an easy cynicism, Steve acknowledged the loss, the grief and the trauma  and instilled—as best he could—hope, optimism and compassion.  He did not avoid the pain with a Pollyanna attitude.  He acknowledged it head on and worked through it.  Steve recognizes the small miracles we experience for what they are:  Miracles.

This isn’t to say that it was easy work.  “On the road of life,” Steve would say, “I need a jump.”  Or he would say, “It doesn’t go. You have to push.”  He knows how difficult life can be, especially for our clients.  But it is not in Steve’s nature to surrender to these circumstances.  He accepts them for what they are—terrible, difficult and something that needs to change—and works to over-come them.  It is in Steve’s nature to do whatever it takes, even to his own detriment, to make life just a little bit better for those around him.

In theory, it is not a complicated philosophy:  To make life better for those around us.  In practice, it is damn near impossible to do.  And yet Steve has done it.  And Steve will continue to do it.  Retiring from the Juvenile Court is not the end of, “Steve the Sincere Optimist.”  It is simply a change of venue.

Our professional lives were enhanced by Steve Eiseman.  Some of us—myself included—were lucky enough to have our personal lives enhanced by him as well.  Through the years, Steve became more than a Deputy Chief.  He has been a mentor, a friend and a role model.  He has shown me what dedication, hard work and optimism can do for us.  Steve’s philosophy of love, care and support has affected me profoundly.   Simply put I am a better person because I know him.

Steve enriched the lives of everyone in our department.  Now that he is retired, it would be easy to slip into cynicism and sadness; but he has also shown us how to make our work place better.  Armed with his philosophy, framed by the philosopher Goethe, Steve has shown us the true definition of best practices—Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them to become what they are capable of becoming.

Steve, thank you for everything you have done for me.  I will miss you terribly.


Beneficial Empathic Enhancement Regimens

Convention wisdom states that humanity’s capacity for empathy has allowed us, as a species, to prosper. Individuals who lack empathy–psychopaths, sociopaths, anti-social personality disordered folk–are rightly feared due to the harm they bring to communities. An individual typically does not have a constant level of “empathy:” A persons ability to understand and care for another’s emotional state is influence by a number of physical, psychological and sociological factors. How one recoups a loss of empathy can be as simple as this:

Delicious Beer

That’s right, drinking a beer. A Beneficial Empathic Enhancement Regimens. Beer, a depressant, can help lower internal psychic barriers allowing one to feel more for their fellow human being. Over indulging in this Regimen can, and typically does, depresses psychic barriers to a point of incoherent emotional states (sobbing, anger, mania). Therefore, one must be careful to not to over indulge in this very specific medicine.

The warning aside, B.E.E.R. can help you find common ground with your fellow person. So if you’re feeling out of touch, out of sorts, do yourself–and your fellow human–a huge benefit. Have a goddamn beer.

(With a tip of the hat to Anna for giving me the idea for this post)