Sending E-mails To My Late Father

A few years back, my father suddenly passed away.  Compared to other father/son relationships we had a typical bond but we were certainly two completely different minded individuals.  Despite this slight disconnect and as I found out later a lack of transparency, Dad and I always had great conversations about the day-to-day activities in our lives.  In those moments, Dad gave me great advice and peace of mind even though he struggled finding his own peace of mind for most of his life.

In the first year after his death, I often found myself talking out loud to Dad about many different events that occurred in my life since I lost him.  I found it very therapeutic when I sought his advice even though I knew I wasn’t going to receive a straightforward answer from beyond.

Shortly after Dad died, my wife gave birth to our son, which would have been his first grandchild.  I always brought my son up in the conversations with the air around me, hoping somehow that Dad could listen to what I was saying.  Life became busier and tiresome when constantly attending to a newborn baby, so my conversations aimed at Dad waned.

Two years ago this month on the day which would have been his 71st birthday, I decided to send an e-mail to Dad’s old America Online account.  I loved how he hung on to that account years after we all had those ubiquitous AOL addresses in the middle of the 1990’s.  With an e-mail address like that one would think Dad had no idea how to transition into the digital age.  He shall not be judged; Dad was a “Napster Master” at the age of 56 and later in life he loved his fantasy football online.  Dad drove my mom nuts with his hours of roster moves every week during the NFL season.

In the e-mail I talked about how I love my family, that I was proud to be his son and a few personal family details that Dad and I could only have a conversation about.  When I sent the e-mail, I could still hear his voice offering advice on the phone or when I used to visit home more often.  It turned out the e-mail address was still active because I did not get a delivery failure message.  I’d like to think he still checked his e-mail somewhere close to my presence.

Since that first e-mail I’ve sent four more in the last two years.  They’ve all kicked back to me so it seems Dad’s AOL account has been taken off of the grid.  Unless ALL of AOL is off of the grid!  But it doesn’t matter to me if Dad can’t read the messages I intended for him, what’s important to me is the peace I get in composing those e-mails.  Collecting my thoughts and sending them to Dad remind me of the nights we talked in my bedroom about the challenges of growing up while watching the old 12:30 Late Night With David Letterman show on NBC.  They remind me of the phone conversations we had when I first moved out on my own.  They remind me of the time when he found out he was going to be a grandfather.  Tangible words on the screen that I would have said to Dad in person.  Words that were fading from my consciousness due to a lack of sleep, an increase in children’s television viewing and the inability to simply find time to relax.

I miss Dad, but I was blessed to have him in my life all of these years.  Occasionally I will get a hint that Dad is watching me from afar but at the same time close by.  Other times I don’t.  I assume he’s downloading free music somewhere when he’s not around.  Pretty soon I’ll send him another e-mail since his grandson is going to turn 3 in less than a month.  I’ll talk about a variety of topics and ask him a few questions about the problems I’m facing in 2016.

If I don’t get a reply to my questions I understand.  It’s the start of fantasy football season.

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Rockin’ The Dad Bod

When I’m in blog land or jumping on Twitter (Facebook free since 2013!), I find it humorous when I hear a parent complaining that they cannot find time to lift weights, run, do yoga, etc.  It’s not because I’m a hater, it’s because it sounds like the parents I speak of are going to transform into a slob overnight if they can’t find time to do what they want.  Those darn kids, they can really take up your free time!

Holy crap people.  Having kids means sacrifice.  Well, it’s supposed to anyway.  My wife and I both work during the day so when we have our son in the evening, we enjoy spending those four to five hours each day with him.  Even if he throws tantrums.  Even if he throws blocks at my head.  We take turns getting daily chores done, but we are always falling behind on a few tasks.  It’s not because we have a ton of things to do, it is because we would rather sit on the couch and read a book with our son.  I sit on the floor so much with my son I find myself sitting on the floor when I’m alone watching television.  We have fun with him and he has fun with us.  We are both there for him as much as life allows.

Before this post turns into an annoying rant, I’ll pump the brakes and have some fun regarding the first two paragraphs.  I’ll recall a moment in time when my wife and I were a couple, then compare that moment to a current situation now that we are a family.  Here I go:

August 2011 – My wife and I played tennis two or three nights a week.

August 2016 – My wife and I are weak from playing with our son two to three hours a night.

All of 2012 – I would lift weights in the basement using my new bench that my wife bought for me.

All of 2016 – My wife bought many things for our son in 2015 and stacked many items on top of my weight bench.  I think I can see it down there again since I moved some boxes from that area of the basement.

Most of 2012 – I would run around our neighborhood three to four nights during the warmer months.  Nothing crazy, about 10-15 miles per week.

Most of 2016 – I run around our yard with my son three to four nights a week during the warmer months.  It’s crazy, he’ll circle the house 10-15 times per night.

As I mentioned in some of my other posts, my wife makes the money and I find work that fits into our schedule.  I don’t make much money, but I rarely work weekends.  I don’t have a prestigious title at my job, but my job allows me to see my family every day.  In my first year of employment at my new job, I’ll have 21 paid days off.  In America, many people can work 20 years or more at a company and not get 21 paid days off.  These days with a young son growing up before my eyes, I’ll take time over money.

When my son gets older, I’ll work myself back into a decent looking shape.  I look forward to turning my man boobs back into fresh elderly pecs.  I know my abs are still in there somewhere, but I have more important responsibilities to attend to right now.  I’ll find my abs in 2021 or 2022.

When I was under age 25 I was chasing my dreams.  Between 25 and 34, I was chasing a career.  From 34 to 39, I was chasing the money.  Now at 40, I’m chasing my son.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Why Old People Stay Home At Night

Back in the late 1990’s when I had my youth and a Joey Tribbiani haircut, my friends and I would head out to the bars and clubs around Pittsburgh.  I’m a South Side guy born and raised, so going down to my old stomping grounds to drink was familiar territory.  Even in 2016, all of the college students from around town flock to the South Side to unwind at any time during the week.  If you do make it down to this neighborhood to catch a few drinks, know that any person over the age of 35 is prone to disappear at the stroke of 9 p.m. (Old person Cinderella time).

Before 1999, I was still living with my parents so I had a lot of money to burn at the bars before many life responsibilities started to kick in.  My one friend Dave and I would always go out on weeknights, shooting pool and taking advantage of mid-week drink specials.  Dave was in the same situation as me regarding living quarters, so we got into quite a routine when it came time to meeting up.  We developed a solid tolerance for beer and I developed a rather good record at playing bar pool on the small tables.

We would usually get together at 8 p.m. on weeknights since most of the drink specials ran between 7 and 10.  At our first stop each night–no matter where we started, we were always one of few groups whose average age was under 24.  Most patrons were well over the age of 40, some as old as 70.  Dave and I would always talk with the “senior members” we got to know, and the pool tables were always empty, which we loved to take advantage of.  When I would head up to the bar around 8:45 for another round, it was like each bar had a rancher and a Border Collie that would corral all the old people out the front door.  This happened every time we went out.  And sure enough when 9 p.m. hit, the crowd became significantly younger anywhere we went.

This happened on the weekends too when we had more people head out with us.  It was as if the older crowd were controlled by the government or aliens with an ON/OFF toggle switch.  When it got close to 9 p.m., crowded or quiet, cheap or expensive, country or hip-hop, the old people wanted out.  I guess I never understood why because of my youth, but now that I am 40, I think I understand why the elders plotted their exit.

REASON #1: At college bars or dance clubs, nobody wants to talk to old people.  Every time I overheard some college-age girl talking about an older guy talking to them, it was never in a good light.  She could have been polite to the older man when interacting with him face-to-face, but the minute she “escaped” his conversation, she would utter to her friends, “Out of ALL THE GUYS in this place, I get hit on by the OLD ONE.  That’s just great.”  I know us guys reacted the same way when it used to happen to one of our own with an older woman, so I guess from trial and error (And in some cases trial by fire) older patrons figured out it’s time to seek out another venue.

REASON #2: Young drunks are usually more violent, so leave before the police arrive.  No matter where I drank, I would estimate that 90% of bar/club violence occurred after midnight.  In addition, more street robberies and drug transactions happened later in the night.  Before 9 p.m. back in the 1990’s, we rarely saw police presence on the South Side because it wasn’t needed.  If a fight broke out before midnight, it was usually between a girl and a guy with plenty of shouting but no punches thrown.  Though the experiences of their time being in their 20’s, the “senior members” knew when the crowd was going to start getting out of control.

REASON #3: Old people have more to lose.  I don’t care to go out anymore because I have a young son.  I would rather hang out with him every day of the year than subject myself to the stupid shit I did twenty years ago.  I am sure this mentality is shared with many parents my age today and this thinking wasn’t new in 1997.  The “senior members” Dave and I spoke with all those times had good jobs, kids of their own (Most of their kids were older than 18) and wives who knew where they were, some right next to them at the bar.  I never got arrested, but if I did, I didn’t have a career job and I still lived with my parents.  I didn’t have bills to pay or people to care about like the old guys did.

REASON #4: They knew of local “Old Person Bars”.  When I got to be around age 24 and started to get sick of the same old scene, my friends and I would venture to other parts of Pittsburgh to see if we could discover new places that were fun.  We soon learned of a few dozen places where we were by far the youngest group in the establishment, and we didn’t care.  The beer and liquor were cheap.  We could play darts and pool with plenty of room to move.  You could actually talk to each other without screaming over loud music and THE SAME “SENIOR MEMBERS” from the South Side who drank with us in our first hour down there were drinking well past midnight a few miles away in bars that voluntarily kept the obnoxious youngsters away.  Bartenders at these places used to fear we would bring in a younger crowd when we arrived!  It was like we were on “The List” at a dozen exclusive clubs in the Pittsburgh area.  We vowed to only bring in people that could hold their alcohol to show our appreciation of allowing us to “chill out” in their alcoves of retreat among the halls of drunken madness.

Just like all the seniors I drank with some twenty years ago, I know my place in the pecking order when it comes to nightlife in 2016.  I now go to restaurants, not bars or clubs.  I go to the movies, not the strip club.  And if for whatever reason I am in the South Side of Pittsburgh these days, get me the hell out of there before 9 p.m.

 

On The Grid/Off The Grid

Even though I’m now in my 40’s, I consider myself an above-average observer of social media and how it has changed our way of communicating with each other.  I remember our pre-cable TV world, our pre-Internet world and a world where our version of social media was logging into a chat room on America Online.  Over the short span of about 20 years, the ability for us to allow our family, current circle of friends, past friends, co-workers and even celebrities into our lives has never been easier.  That is, if we want them to be in our lives.

I’ve always been ahead of the curve when it comes to technology.  In 1998, I had a clunky Motorola cell phone that I kept in my car for emergency purposes, and that was it!  It was just a phone, nothing else.  It was too big to carry around since the size was comparable to stacking three current Android model phones on top of one another.  When I upgraded to a Samsung flip phone in 2003 it had a color screen display and I paid $10 a month for Internet access.  My friends thought the color screen was cool enough; the Internet access was otherworldly at the time.  I had text message capability, but it was too costly to use it (10 cents per incoming/outgoing text).

I would have joined Facebook from the beginning if I could have.  I jumped into that in early 2008 when it was just gaining popularity outside of the college campuses.  It was cool at first when I would have people from another time in my life come back into my consciousness on a daily basis without having to physically meet with them or actually having to pick up a phone to catch up on the X amount of time apart from one another.  Looking at their family photos, personal triumphs and daily posts drew me closer to them without being any closer to them prior to the Facebook experience.

I never got into Twitter or any other type of social media at the time because the amount of time I was spending on Facebook was enough for my interest in it.  I would estimate that I would spend between 2-4 hours a week on Facebook and my friend list was a modest 450 since I didn’t go out of my way to “Friend Request” people.  As I grew more comfortable with having Facebook in my life, I also developed a hatred for it that grew more intense over time.

The “tipping point” concerning my love/hate social media relationship slid to the hate side in 2012.  The early 2010’s were a very busy time in my life, and my wife and I were spending the greater portion of our time searching for a home to buy.  We were saving money any way we could, so we put off getting smart phones until we determined our budget with the new home.  Once we found a home, we of course spent many days getting the home ready for us to live in, which made checking our social media accounts less of a priority.  When our son was born, stuff like Facebook was not even thought about for days.  When we would log in after a few days, we would discover news from friends via social media that was not shared with us via cell phone or even text messages.  We would see that people would post things like, “We are going to ABC bar tonight around 8, then hit XYZ when the drink special is over at ABC.”  2 days after said post was put up, my wife or I would get a message saying, “Hey, we see you didn’t reply to us going out on the weekend.  Is everything all right?  We missed you guys!”

This happened a lot starting in 2012.  Another trend I noticed in the same year was how much useless crap my Facebook friends were posting on there.  I don’t know if I was blind to it the first 4 years I used the site, but I like to think I wasn’t.  I found myself on average wasting a good 45 Facebook minutes a day filtering through the drama, politics and other agendas I constantly tried to escape from in everyday life.  Also, my responsibilities in life were about to be increased by 100% with the birth of our son, and I didn’t want his photos plastered all over the Internet.  So I deleted my Facebook account in early 2013 after a good 5 year run.

In July 2013, my wife and I attended the wedding reception of a friend of mine who I’ve went on a couple of road trips with in the 2000’s.  When we arrived at the banquet facility, I noticed there was a memorial table set up with two pictures, one of which was a recent photo.  The recent photo was my friend’s father, who unexpectedly died a few months before his wedding.  Can you guess how the news went out that his Dad died?  That’s right, Facebook.  No text message or a call from anybody about what happened, and I deleted my account already.  I told my friend that I didn’t know what happened to his Dad, and certainly if I did, I would have attended at least the visitation at the funeral home.

Fast-forward to the present, and I still do not miss having a Facebook account.  Yes, I do not interact with my old buddies like I used to, but even if I would have a Facebook account, I wouldn’t see them anyway.  I have a toddler that keeps me busy, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I also noticed in 2016 that the majority of people and businesses who are in the entertainment and recreation industries use social media to promote events and their brands more than other traditional forms of Internet-based interaction (Company websites, e-mail and fan club websites to name a few examples).  I got a Twitter account right after the new year.

So I’m off the grid.  Sort of.