Oh, My Father

Screen shot 2011-08-04 at 7.59.57 PMThis time a year ago I spent a few hours of Father’s Day taking a soda (And probably some other treats, but definitely a soda.) to my dad where he lived, at Forest Ridge Health & Rehabilitation in Bremerton. If I am remembering correctly it was a gloriously sunny day, like today, and we took him outside in the facility’s shaded patio to enjoy visiting.

It wasn’t always the easiest thing to do when he finally had to have full-time care in a facility like this. He had always referred to nursing homes as “mills” or “warehouses.” At times he would talk about wishing he could go home. Nothing would have thrilled us more. But by last Father’s Day he couldn’t move his arms well enough to feed himself. We would hold the straw for the soda up to his lips and he would take a swig, take a breath, then take another one.

So fitting. When Apollo was born he was so big (12 pounds) that regular nursing wasn’t giving him enough nutrition. So I got to hold him in my arms and give him sips of formula, a father feeding his son.

I don’t know if Dad ever literally fed me, but I suspect he did. And even if he didn’t, there were so many other ways that my brothers and I were fed by my father. For many years Dad fed us his love of baseball, something all three of us continue to maintain. There were other things. Dad had a pretty strict sense of right and wrong and could display a quick temper, but he also loved to laugh and had a definite fondness for anyone who could make him do it. And none of us can forget how if he were telling a joke we would never understand the punchline, because Dad would be laughing so hard that whatever words he was saying would sound foreign.

Probably one of the biggest gifts he gave us boys was his display of how much loved our mother. Mom was wonderful, too, but there were a few years that other men might have left. Dad stayed strong. I don’t think he ever considered doing anything else.

And so spending time crafting any conversation we could last year as we sat outside at the rehab facility was no sacrifice at all. He loved it. I think his whole life his favorite times were those he could spend with us. That didn’t change when his legs could no longer support him and his arms could not successfully utilize a spoon. If anything, those moments became more valuable.

I miss him.

I really miss him.

I wouldn’t wish for him to be back in that condition. I hope for an afterlife and have faith that he is so, so happy now back with our mom and helping orchestrate whatever he can down here. But I still miss him.

As I think about those moments getting Dad sips of soda, I wonder what “full circle” will mean in my life. There could come a day in my life when my limbs fail me. That’s not something I am completely comfortable mouthing, but it’s a distinct possibility for all of us.

If that day comes and I find one of my kids raising a straw to my mouth I will certainly remember those moments with my dad during the final months of his life. I will recall how sunny and warm it was on the best of those days. And I’m guessing that in a moment like that it won’t be hard at all to relate to my dad, appreciating those moments more than almost any other. Because when it’s all about to end the things that will matter to me most won’t be those that came to me as a result of my professional ambitions, it will be those that came in those moments when I literally and symbolically fed my family.



This one’s on me.

Little gets my grammar snobbery mojo going like a misplaced apostrophe. I even started a Facebook page dedicated to apostrabuse. It went nowhere, but you get my point.

On Saturday I was working and was asked if we could post video showing a guy walking into Gyros, Etc. and taking the restaurant’s tip jar. We did it, but in the process of putting the thing up I put in an apostrophe in the title in a place it should never go. The proof is above. I blame myself. As penance, I’m posting the video here, too, along with a link to the story. If you know the guy, call Bremerton Police.

Meeting a Battle of the Bulge veteran

Working Memorial Day usually means picking one of the several programs going on locally to attend. Yesterday it meant going to Port Orchard, where the local VFW and American Legion met to offer a short ceremony.

The event gave me a chance to meet Chuck McGuire, who watched his four best friends all die at the same time, thanks to a tank mine they detonated in Waldfeucht, Germany. His stories reminded me of those told by my Uncle George, a WWII Silver Star recipient who died last year. We last saw him in late 2007.

As I get older I relish the opportunity to talk with the generation that raised me and my friends. Those opportunities are decreasing.

Boosting performance through just a little attention

The first story I wrote subject to the new Kitsap Sun paywall was one about how the Central Kitsap School District has encouraged adults to act as mentors to students. These are typically students who are probably doing OK, but could use one more caring adult. The hope is that a weekly visit with an adult helps a child have a better sense of self. And district officials say studies show students who feel better about themselves perform better in school.

Busting through Asperger’s limits

Before doing this story on a student at North Kitsap High School, I had met parents of children with Asperger’s Syndrome. Diana and I watched Parenthood for a while and I had met children who had been diagnosed with some form of autism. I’m not sure, though, that I had ever carried on a conversation with someone who actually had Asperger’s.

I’m glad that every once in a while we get to do a story on someone who is breaking through limitations. It’s not that there are not still some, but there is every reason to believe Justin can have a completely satisfying life.

The political race of the year in Washington

Washington (the state) will have three legislative races this November. Two of them will be in districts that could very well have a Republican running against Republican in the final race. Not here.

The 26th Legislative District Senate race here will likely have in November the appointed incumbent Democrat, who performed reasonably well in Olympia this last session, running against a Republican who has run in five different campaigns and won every one. Two of them were for county commissioner. The last three put her in the state House of Representatives.

Democrats have a three-seat majority in the state Senate, but two Democrats bolted (without changing party affiliation) to create a one-seat majority, so the political split in that chamber is close. A loss by the Democrats of that one seat would still leave more Democrats than Republicans in the chamber, but Republicans would have a bigger de facto majority.

The bottom line is this is an important race here, and it’s the only one either party has to focus on.

I started our coverage by doing a story looking at the success rate of appointed incumbents and looking specifically at where they have failed. I’m kind of proud of this story, because it took significant research and work with a spreadsheet to find recent political history from which to draw parallels. It makes me excited to dive into this race even further as time marches to November.

We are getting paid

The times have conspired to have me posting three items in two days. It could have happened all in one, but I’m going to space it a bit. The first one is about a development in our industry, specifically my newspaper. The second two are related to stories I wrote for that same newspaper.

The Kitsap Sun is joining much of the print media and beginning to charge for subscriptions. I think this is a great move and would almost be willing to say it is so whether it ends up being successful or not.

I’m one of those who believes that what newspapers offer is a far, far better product than what you get with random blogs, because we do hold ourselves to standards they don’t. I think our product is worth paying for. Readers can, and have, criticized our pricing ($10/month) and how we’re rolling it out, and those are arguments worth having.

Others argue the product is not worth paying for. For them that may be true. But here is the reality. We never captured every single customer we could until we started offering it for free. We tried that in hopes that advertising would make up for what we lost. We were trying to do what TV does. You pay for a cable-TV subscription, but that only became the norm about 30-some years ago. It used to be you stuck rabbit ears on the television and the news and other programming came to your house for free, unless you consider having to sit through commercials payment. I do. If you’re watching live television you pay by sitting through ads. For the vast majority of television programming, we don’t have to. We can watch almost every show later online via Hulu, Amazon Prime or Netflix and cable television “on-demand” programming. Only sports and breaking news have added value by watching them live, and DVRs have altered people’s viewing habits on those, too.

Many of the commenters say they’ll go to the local TV stations to watch and comment on news. I do not know how that business model is working for TV networks. It may be that they will be able to do it this way for a long time. If so, I bless them with our former readers. Those readers won’t get the depth about our area that we offer. People got excited because TV crews came to our area to cover school closure conversations, but I will put what I contributed against their coverage any day. There were no TV crews at the other district’s interviews and selections of superintendent or school board member. And one of the stories I will post about later will go ignored by television until Robert Mak maybe does a single show on the race. TV does fine work. I think much of what they did revealing problems with the ferry system here was excellent investigative work. For me to suggest that the Seattle stations cannot offer the depth we do makes me feel like the self-promoters they have no problem being. But I’m right. They’ll come over when someone’s yelling at someone or when there are big crime issues, but they go away long before we’ve finished telling the story. They are great at breaking stuff, not so good at finishing stories.

Finally, even if it doesn’t work, I am glad we’re doing it. I think it should be the standard, so I’m hoping this new reality is here for a long time. That might be wishful thinking, because these days reality changes in seconds, not years.

Weight loss surgery is officially on hold

Since March I stopped hauling this around.

Since March I stopped hauling this around.

As I write this I am enjoying experiencing the buzz of a carb rush. It came from a combination of one of those apple muffins from Costco that has a Maple frosting on it that makes you wonder how you liked any other flavor. After that I had a slice of pizza left over from last night’s treat for the kids. I didn’t have any with them, so this was my first chance to feel the buzz.

This food intake is according to a healthy diet plan, because today is “cheat day,” or maybe I should call it “treat day,” or “free day.” Whatever I call it, on most weeks Saturday will be the day I can shed all pretense of trying to eat healthy and cheat on the diet, treat myself to everything yummy and feel free to pack on the carbohydrates.

For those of you who saw the last post and didn’t make it down on the Facebook thread to see my decision, I have decided to postpone weight-loss surgery. This comes because I never stopped believing what I believed all along, that if I could lose the weight without surgery I would prefer it. Over the past nearly six weeks I have made tremendous progress in my quest to be at a healthy weight.

In the last post I guessed I would see a 20-pound weight loss when I went to Swedish. I was off by 7 pounds. I shed 27. I’ve lost more since. The dietician at Swedish Medical Center was astounded at the number. Then we got into a conversation, led by me after she asked a question about preparing for surgery, about whether to have the surgery at all. She called in the surgeon. They were supportive. I’m pretty sure they would have preferred I had gone ahead and had the surgery. They laid out the statistics that there is not any data to support the idea that people who go on diets have any long-term success. But the doctor said that if I can be the “one in 20” he would be happy for me. Then he said if I come to a decision later to go ahead and have the surgery to get on track quickly.

Once I hit 370 again, where I bottomed out my last weigh in before deciding to have surgery, I’ll post all the numbers, including how high I climbed. Suffice to say I was heavier than when I started in October 2011. From that start point to the day in August 2012 I hit 370, I lost 34 pounds.

In the past six weeks I’ve already lost more than that. I’m down 36.6 pounds since March 27.

The pace is likely to decrease, but I have yet to have a serious temptation to stray from plan. That is more important than the day-to-day number. I’m also exercising more. The real reason this works, as I said before, is the notion of giving up some foods forever creates tangible fright and stress for me. To turn those things down until Saturday is little problem.

Speaking of Saturday, a Dr Pepper sounds good right about now.