Category: Holidays

A Moment In Time Family Holidays Life Tragic Events

A Modern-Day Love Story

Recently, I sadly lost my grandmother.  Of course losing someone you love is difficult and tragic but the strongest emotions I felt were not of sadness and loss but rather of appreciation and gratitude.  In fact, it was rather a time to to celebrate her life and the family she created with my grandfather.  She was an amazing woman and, well, her story is a modern-day love story to be shouted from the rooftops near and far as we all could learn a thing or two.

I was asked to write and share a eulogy at her funeral.  The priest later asked for a copy so that he could share it with newly engaged couples as to him, it represented the epitome of how to love and the importance of being a ‘family.’

So for what it’s worth, I wanted to share it with you as well and hope that it reminds you, in some tangible way, to always remember that family is everything – including that crazy aunt of yours.

Whenever we lose someone who has had such a significant impact on our lives, we of course, grieve and mourn that irreplaceable loss.  But when I think of Nana, I can’t help but realize just how amazing this story is – the story of her life.

She was born in Nova Scotia but grew up in Everett.  Eventually she settled here in Melrose where she has lived since 1951.  She met my grandfather shortly after high school and they have been together ever since – for more than 71 years.

I don’t know what it takes to make a relationship like that work so incredibly well and for so many years, but I do know that the love they shared was real, it was tangible, it was infectious, and it was the epitome of the modern day love story.

Nana loved to swim at the Y, bowl, and spend time with her two best friends – her sisters Clara and Anita.  I never had the chance to bowl with her but I heard she was a force with which to be reckoned.  In particular, she loved to go on long walks exploring the nooks and crannies of Boston with her sister Clara.

She loved her friends and her family but most of all, she cherished her one true love, my grandfather.

They raised 11 amazing children: Pam, Paul, Charlie, Peter, Tommy, Pat, Chris, Maryellen, Peggy, Jimmy, and Johnny.  Some of them left us far too soon, boldly reminding us of the fragility of life and the importance of living for today.

I often think about what that must have been like growing up with that many siblings and who got the shower first, or who shared a room with whom.  I myself have 3 young children at home and can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to have lived in a house with 11 of the short people.  But somehow, I’ve been told, Nana was able to keep the peace – relatively speaking I’m sure.

I have vivid memories of the house up on the hill with the 862 steps from the street.  At least, as a kid, it seemed like that many.  And I always seemed to be the one that had to run down to the car to get something!  But I didn’t care.  It was in that house on the hill on East Wyoming where all the holidays took place and where many of our precious collective memories were born.

All the kids were there.  All the cousins were there.  Beevo was there.  Grampa was there.  And Nana was there concocting those delectable aromas from the kitchen – the gravy, the meatballs, the desserts.  I can almost smell them now.

When the kids were older and moved out on their own, Nana & Grampa moved to a smaller house on Orris Street.  And then some of the kids moved back in but that’s a story for another time.  They made it their new home, their new castle, and again, the de-facto meeting place for all holidays and family events.

Nana and Grampa would often sit together, always together, perched up on the back porch, a king with his queen, and proudly watch the relentless stream of kids below running through the yard, rolling in the grass, splashing in the pool, and occasionally stepping on a flower much to the chagrin of my grandfather.  But Nana always just smiled and basked in the joy of what she held so close to her heart: her family.

She would greet us with that smile and wrap her arm around our chests with that quiet but assertive demeanor that made you feel safe and always feel welcome.

And she offered us food because that’s what grandmothers do.

Nana dedicated her life to her family.  All of us.  Every birthday, Christmas, Easter, anniversary, and Thanksgiving we gathered because family was everything to her.  She understood that, and taught us the same.  It’s now up to us to keep that spirit alive.

This is her love story and she has shown us how to live exceptionally:

To have fallen in love with the love of your life and have lived that dream together for over 71 years.

To have 11 amazing children who stood by your side and never forgot the importance of being a family.

To have been blessed with 21 grandchildren and to have loved them the exceptional way you did.

To leave behind a legacy of 17 great-grandchildren who will no doubt treasure the stories and lessons of your life as they begin their own.

And most importantly, to amass the most impressive collection of those short Hilltop martini glasses this side of Melrose.

We are the lucky ones; the ones with which you shared your friendship, compassion, acceptance, and love.  And we are forever grateful for having you in our lives.

Of course, we will miss you.

But today, we celebrate all that is you.

Well done, Nana.

Well done.

Holidays

Today, everyone is Irish

Today is St. Patrick’s Day.

Yes, its origins stem from the Irish although St. Patrick may not even have been Irish but that’s another story. For the most part, it’s an American tradition to celebrate all things stereotypically Irish: green beer, green rivers, shamrock shirts, dancing, music, hats and beads. I would suggest that today is really not about the Irish exclusively but rather a celebration of being ‘one.’ It is a day to celebrate together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or otherwise. What a novel idea!

1904037_10152370617056349_1789802373_n.jpg

 

You don’t have to be Irish to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. And most of those who choose to celebrate today are likely not truly Irish or even a sliver of green. And that’s the point.

There are a lot of silly “holidays” but what I love about St. Patrick’s Day is that it brings people of all kinds together to celebrate with friends, family, and strangers alike just to have some fun. Sure, there are some folks that say it’s an American bastardization of Irish culture but I think they are missing the point and being a little grumpy. Lighten up and have some fun!

1920130_10152370740376349_492463215_n.jpg  1956663_10152371576711349_1373666934_o.jpg
 

I’ve written in the past about my belief in the importance of traditions and St. Patrick’s Day is one of them. Each year, we gather as family and friends (of all religions and backgrounds) to wear a lot of green, listen to some music, watch the Irish step dancers, dance like nobody’s looking, and meet some new friends along the way. It’s a joy to watch countless children come together in front of a band, strangers abound, to hold hands and dance like fools. They make new friends, come out of their shells for a few short hours, and learn that every year on March 17th, everyone is Irish.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit!
(Happy St. Patrick’s Day!)

Do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with your family, friends, and kids? What is your tradition?

Holidays Parenting

Plan for success in 2014

It’s hard to believe it’s almost 2014. While many of you may look back fondly on this past year, many more may be ready to kick 2013 to the curb and start over with a clean slate. Regardless of which group you fall into, I find it helpful to take stock of my life this time of year. What worked? What didn’t work? What could I have done better? What did I accomplish?

Did I succeed? If not, how come? How can I plan for success next year?

Planning is the key. If we set ourselves up for success and lay out what needs to happen (on paper!) in order to succeed, there are no surprises. If I do X and Y, I will achieve Z. If Y gets lazy and doesn’t do what it was expected, we don’t get Z. Plain and simple.

So, each year, I lay out my plan for the coming year. Sometimes it’s written on the back of a receipt in my wallet and sometimes I type it up on my computer. It doesn’t matter as long as it’s something you can reference throughout the year to gauge your progress. Keep it simple, attainable, and realistic. And then stick with it.

As I reflect back on my own successes and challenges this past year, I’m happy with what I have accomplished. And I’m also very well aware of the areas that I fell short in and that I’ll need to work on in 2014.

Beach Bums

971421_10201869213437051_1796577050_n.jpgPhoto courtesy of Val Durney

11 goals for 2014

1. Be present and put the phone downSo many of us are overly reliant on our smart phones and I am guilty of this for sure. But when my daughters say, “Dad, when you are done working on your phone, will you help me read this book?”, it’s time to ask just how important is that email. It can almost always wait. And soon enough, they won’t be asking for your help, they won’t be looking to wrestle with you, play games with you, or be looking for you much at all anymore.

2. Read. At least 12 books myself next year and at least 1 book each night with my kids.

3. Write daily for at least 20 minutes. And have the kids write about their day in a journal each night. Maybe even have them create their own list of goals for next year!

4. Exercise 3 times a week at least. It’s a great example to set for the kids and simultaneously just might keep you around long enough to see your grandchildren.

5. Spend more time with my wife without the kids. Date night at least twice a month. Of course we all love our children but we can’t forget that the reason they are here in the first place is because you fell in love with that person on the other side of the bed. Don’t ignore that connection because when it’s lost, it’s hard to find again. Keep the fire lit!

6. Talk to my kids about everything and ask them questions about it. It’s those “teachable moments” that are the most precious and valuable. There’s so much to learn about our world and for you and your kids to experience together.

7. Listen more. Kids have more to say than you may think.

8. Be less frustrated. Try to accept that I’m never going to control the situation and my power rests solely in my ability to influence future behavior.

9. Don’t compare. Kids each have their own strengths and weaknesses and making comparisons amongst them doesn’t offer anything constructive.

10. Spend time alone with each of my kids. About once I month I take each of them out on a ‘date.’ Sometimes we just get pizza and other times we go to a movie. It doesn’t matter what you actually do; it just matters that you are together, alone. Their faces light up and you’ll wonder who is actually more excited – you or them?

11. Have more fun! Go to the beach, hike, travel, ski, and explore together!!

So what’s your plan for success in 2014? It pays dividends all year long…

Family Holidays

Surefire Hits and Misses For Father’s Day

I recently came across a list of “things to do and gifts for Fathers Day” and immediately knew it wasn’t written by a Dad.  It really was more of a “things to not do and gifts not to give to Dad” list.

In my short residency as a father to the short people (almost 7 years), I have deliberately attempted to influence what is acceptable (and not) on my special day and what gifts are appropriate and which are not.  Of course I’m merely found to be humorous and I’m ignored most of the time but I still offer them my self-proclaimed sage advice:

Acceptable things to do with Dad:

  • Go to lunch/dinner but only with well-rested offspring and preferably those that have engaged in extended naps
  • Go to the beach but not Crane beach during green head season and only if I do not have to carry any plastic pails or blow-up thingys
  • BBQ – you can’t go wrong here – especially if the sun is shining, the music is loud, and the drinks cold

Unacceptable things to do with Dad:

  • Boat rides – absolutely not.  If you take me on a boat with my kids, I can’t escape if things go wrong.  And then the Coast Guard may get involved because I just may jump.
  • Museums – seriously?  Why oh why would this be fun with my kids on father’s day?  Whoever suggested it either adopted 25 year old kids or is their ex-wife.  Don’t do it.
  • Most places that advertise, “Dad is free!”  Don’t buy it.  Yeah, you are free but trust me, they’ll get ya.

Acceptable gifts for Dad:

  • Anything electronic except for a nose hair trimmer.  Actually, that would be fine too now that I think of it.
  • Tickets to any sporting event especially if it’s against the Lakers, Yankees, Jets, or Canadians.
  • Tickets to see any band with a babysitter the NEXT morning and with bonus points for 80’s rock bands
  • Anything related to a grill
  • Coupons for free hugs
  • Anything hand-made with your name etched on the bottom.  I can then put it on my desk at work and brag to my co-workers about how you are a savant.

And the most important of all, unacceptable gifts for Dad:

  • TIES!!!!  Did you read that?  Read it again… if you buy me one, I’ll tell you the truth about Santa.
  • Clothes – Umm hello, I already have a pair of jeans and eight t-shirts.  Why do I need more clothes?  Unless of course it’s a Celtics, Bruins, Red Sox, or Patriots shirt.  You can never have enough of those.
  • A wall-mounted talking fish.  Need I say more?

So there you go – A quick and easy guide to make your Dad feel special on his day.  And if you follow these guidelines, I’m sure the next time you want to stay up late to watch that movie or want to borrow those car keys for the weekend, you just might be surprised in dear old Dad’s response.

But truth be told, this is all he wants:

Happy Father's Day!
Happy Father’s Day!

 

Happy Fathers Day to all!