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Melancholy Monday: sad songs (The House That Built Me)

March 10, 2014 20 comments

Almost three years ago, I wrote a blog post about a song that touched upon a yearning I think most of us have at one time or another. It’s that desire to go back to simpler times, to those days when were kids with nothing more to worry about than growing up and what was for dinner. This song, for me, is bittersweet. It brings back so many wonderful memories, yet at the same time I feel an overwhelming sense of loss. If nostalgic were a genre of music (and perhaps it is), this would be right up there at the top of the list representing the category.

The original post can be found here.

For those who don’t want to go back to the old post, I can summarize it here: I took copies of my family’s old 8mm films, edited them together, and added the song, “The House That Built Me”, to the final video.

If you’re interested in a small slice of this person’s childhood while you’re listening to the song, you can watch the first video. Note: Of the two young boys you’ll see, I’m the younger (and I might say, cuter) of the two. Otherwise, you can watch the second video, which is the official one produced by the original artist, Miranda Lambert.

Obligatory disclaimer for those who eschew country music: Yes, this is a country song, but bear with me and give the song a listen anyway. It’s not a beer drinking, love my tractor, honky tonking, my wife left me kind of country tune. It’s actually quite touching, with lyrics I think many of us can identify with.

–dp

On life: missing in action

March 1, 2014 19 comments

So, have any of you out there wondered, “Hey, where’s Dave been?” Well, if you have, I’ve got an answer for you.

Recently, our seventh grandchild was born. Yeah, I know … seven grandchildren … hard to believe, especially for me because I certainly don’t feel old enough to even be a grandfather 🙂 But hey, get this … in May grandchild number eight arrives! Isn’t life just a kick in the head?

So on February 19th, my wife and I headed out to LaCrosse, Wisconsin and braved the dreaded polar vortex to introduce ourselves to our new granddaughter, Bronwyn Elizabeth. She is ridiculously cute and sweet, and her older brother, David, thinks she’s awesome. We returned late last Tuesday, and have pretty much just now returned to normal. I figured now would be the perfect time to pass along some proud grandfather pictures.

First off, here’s Bronwyn:

Bronwyn Elizabeth

Bronwyn Elizabeth

Here’s Bronwyn with her wonderful grandmother (affectionately referred to as Grammy). If there was ever an award for the world’s best grandmother, it would be for this lovely lady.

Bronwyn's Grammy

Bronwyn’s Grammy






















For David, who had to put up with all the fuss of a new kid in the house, Grammy and I decided he deserved a trip to Toys R Us. Here are the first two things he found. Not surprising for a kid who spends hours a day playing with dinosaurs and bugs 🙂

David

David

Here we are, the proud grandparents, just before we left the ice and snow to head back to California.

Pop, Grammy, David, and Bronwyn

Pop, Grammy, David, and Bronwyn


















We had a wonderful visit with our son and daughter-in-law. We’re looking forward to seeing them later this year after they move to Nashville so our son can complete his residency training at Vanderbilt University.

–dp

On anniversaries: pieces that remain

November 30, 2013 18 comments

Pieces from a life

When someone you love passes away, nothing remains except memories and, if you’re lucky, a few sentimental pieces leftover from their life. These items, so ordinary that in other circumstance they’re nothing more than so much clutter, instead help you hold on, however tenuously, to the reality that once was but is no more. Sometimes it feels so easy to fall into that place where you find yourself wondering if it was ever real, or was it all just dream.

A year ago today, on November 30th, 2012, my father passed away. Today I reflect on the bittersweet nature of this anniversary. I’m reminded of the man that I called dad, and the love that I held for him, and the many memories I have of him over the years. Yet I’m also reminded that he is gone: no more phone calls, no more visits, no more e-mails. There is nothing left of the man I knew except a gravestone and a few items that once belonged to him.

Wooden propellers for radio-controlled airplanes, a hobby that he loved. I grew up watching him build his planes in the garage, then take them out and fly them through the sky. I was lucky enough to tag along with him on many of his flying trips, and I remember them vividly to this day.

A pair of his glasses. For as long as I knew him, he had terrible eyesight and wore glasses of some kind or another. And I remember hearing him lament his condition, mostly because he regretted that he couldn’t become a pilot in the military. Instead he had to serve in the Navy.

An old watch, scratched and beat up. I don’t think he really ever cared much about time, or its passing, at least not until toward the end of his life. Then it seemed that time became a precious commodity, and one of which he was quickly running out. I can sympathize with his feelings, as I sit here today wondering just how in the world I ended up where I am today.

Finally, a voice recorder he picked up after his diagnosis. He’d originally intended to use it to document his successful battle with cancer, and then perhaps write a book about his experience. Unfortunately, he never had the chance to use it for that purpose. But he did use it to record a couple of brief messages about how he was feeling during his treatment.

As it turns out, of these items, the recorder is the most precious one I have, because it gives me the one thing I would never have had if it didn’t exist: I can still hear his voice. After weeks and months pass by, it’s so easy for memories to fade, but with this recorder, whenever I feel the need, I can listen to him speak, if only for just a couple of minutes. It doesn’t matter what he’s talking about, it’s just hearing that voice one more time.

Love you, dad, and still missing you …

–dp

Mini Memoir Monday: Heading Home

August 19, 2013 4 comments

Tracy, over at her wonderful blog, The HeSo Project, was kind enough to include me as one of her guest posts for her mini memoir Monday series. If you haven’t read my blog for long, check it out. You’ll find a piece I wrote a while back about my dad. Thanks for letting me be a part of your blog, Tracy.

The HeSo Project

This week’s mini memoir was written by David Pagan. You can check out his fantastic blog, According to Dave, and read about the ups and downs of being a writer. If you would like to submit a mini memoir, please follow this link. Without further ado:

It’s 7:08 on December 5th. I’m in seat 8F, next to Debbie. She is watching “A Knight’s Tale” on her iPad as I type on mine. It’s dark outside. I find myself reflecting on all that has happened.

Ten days ago, I sat alone on a flight from SFO to DFW, heading eventually to Fort Smith, Arkansas, where my father was being kept alive in the ICU. I fully expected him to be dead by the time I arrived, But God had other plans. He allowed me the chance to see my dad alive, albeit gravely ill. On Tuesday, I was able to talk…

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Categories: Family, Life Tags: , ,

Father’s Day – 2013

June 16, 2013 12 comments

For thirty years, father’s day has been a happy day for me. Up until now, it’s been a day to celebrate my father for all that he did for me, and it’s been a day to spend with all, or at least some, of my kids. It’s never really been about receiving or giving gifts as much as it has been all about the giving of time. For my part, I always enjoyed the opportunity to talk with my dad and reminisce, but most of all, the chance to remind him that he was a great father, that I loved him, and that he should be proud of his wonderful legacy.

This year is bitter-sweet, though, because it’s the first year I won’t have the chance to call my dad and wish him a happy father’s day, nor will I have looked for and sent a father’s day card. All I can do this year is sift through my own personal memories, and look at a few old photographs. That will have to do for today and from now on.

As a small tribute to my dad, I recently scanned a number of photographs my mom gave to me and put them together into slideshow. For anyone interested, here’s a three minute glimpse of my father over the years.

Miss you dad …

Categories: Family, Life Tags: , ,

On life/writing: missing in action

April 26, 2013 18 comments

Yep, that’s right. Missing in action. Guess that sums it up. Over the last couple of months, I took a nosedive in the creativity department and lost pretty much all my energy for writing. Why? Not sure, but I think it was a couple of things that combined to disengage me from the writing world.

I think it all started when the family gathered together on what would have been my dad’s 80th birthday, which was February 25th (he passed away on November 30th of last year). We’d planned it as a celebration of his life, and I think, at the time, that was what it was and what it felt like. I remember, on the 24th, me, my mom and my sister, were sitting at the kitchen table on the evening before my dad’s birthday, talking and reminiscing about life in general and about my dad in particular. Time passed, memories and tears were shared, and before I knew it, when I glanced at my watch, I saw that it was just a couple of minutes before midnight. When the clock struck twelve, I stopped the conversation and told my mom and sister that it was dad’s birthday. We all smiled, clinked our glasses, and wished him a happy 80th. Afterward, we continued our time of sharing while we sat at the table, then finally, around 3am, went off to bed. It felt good. It felt right. I think my dad would have been happy to see us there, talking, remembering, and celebrating.

I don’t think the real impact of  my dad’s birthday, or even his death, hit me until I returned home. It wasn’t like getting zapped by a lightning bolt, though. It was more a gradual, suffocating despair, like a blanket floating down and covering a bed, that led me into a deep malaise from which I’ve yet to fully recover. Along the way, it managed to sap from me any real zest for life, any sense of wanting to do anything but just manage to get by day to day. And so I did, with each day coming and going, as I tried to make sense of life and sort through thoughts that I just couldn’t get rid of.

I suppose I could have made it through all that well enough, and probably been able to continue creating, putting words to “paper”, hopefully allowing the ideas threatening to paralyze my thinking to escape in some manner, had it not been for what I think was the other essential element leading to my creative demise: deadlines at work.

In my world of software development, much of my time is spent in “normal” work mode. Schedules are set, tasks are worked on and completed as part of an overall goal, and life is good. Good, that is, until the date of a product release approaches. Suddenly, then, all those features that aren’t quite done yet, or those important bugs that must get fixed immediately, or those important customer requests, all become high priority and all must get done NOW. Suddenly, each day is filled with relentless mind-numbing work, where attention to detail is critical, yet hours are few. So days and weeks become longer, with little to no downtime. The end result? A brain so overworked that thoughts much more complex than staring at a DVR recording of the latest episode of such and such are almost unthinkable, and the idea of sitting in front of a computer for even one more minute than necessary is impossible to even conceive. Unless, of course, that time consists of theta wave inducing surfing of the web for nothing in particular.

But now, where am I? Well, I find myself at the end of the recent release cycle craziness and returning to “normal” work mode, which is good. As for the passing of my father, and its effect on me, I think the jury is still out. I’m beginning to feel like I’m emerging from the fog of apathy his death has caused, and I think life is beginning to make sense once again. If it weren’t, and this is reassuring, I most certainly wouldn’t be sitting here at my computer at this hour (8:41pm), typing away at a blog post, which while it isn’t the most creative of activities does at least require some level of interest and energy to produce. So I’m encouraged.

Where does that leave things? For now, I think I’m ready to resume blogging. And I think I’m ready to resume reading blogs and actually participating in the discussion they evoke. And, more importantly, I think I’m ready to get back to working on accomplishing those goals I set for 2013. Inside, I feel a twinge of excitement, a small flicker of desire to create once again. And it feels good. It’s been a while since things have felt good, since I’ve had the time to even think about anything beyond making it through the day and getting work done for my job. In a way, I’d like to think these words, from the seventies song “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash, apply to my life:

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright, bright
Sun-Shiny day.

I Can See Clearly Now

Time will tell.

–dp

On family: the walk we must all take

June 12, 2012 3 comments

NOTE: I wrote this several days ago but am just now posting it. Life has been busy …

I’m sitting here in the bedroom of my parent’s house the night before the last day of my dad’s second round of chemo. I’ve only been here four days but I find myself weary. Watching someone succumb to the strains chemo places upon the human body isn’t easy; it’s worse when the person you’re watching fall apart is your father. You know, father’s aren’t supposed to get sick, let alone fall victim to a form of one of this world’s most dreaded diseases. But it’s happened, and reality has begun to sink in.

I was with my dad during the first few days of his first round of chemo. The way he handled them, and the accompanying radiation treatments, was nothing short of inspiring. Despite the deadly chemicals flowing through his system, and the radiation burning away at the two tumors in his lungs, he was upbeat and full of good humor. Even by the time I left, he was still showing no signs of the effects of the chemo or the radiation.

That was about a month ago. After going home for a few weeks, I’ve returned to my folks house and been sitting with my dad as he’s finished up his second round of chemo. While the humor remains, there are hints that the upbeat attitude is beginning to erode. He’s become weak and, for the most part, barely able to walk a straight path. I worry about him.

This recent experience reminded me of a music video from years ago that I really liked. At the time, I was the father taking care of his son(s). Today, time has passed, and now I am the son taking care of his father. Life has begun to come full circle. Yet despite the difficulties of helping my ailing father through the most critical time of his life, I find myself grateful for the opportunity to repay just a small portion of that which he sacrificed for me and our family.

–dp