Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Don't Stop Believing!

The first rock concert I ever went to was at Joe Louis Arena back in 1983. I had just turned 16 and was invited to go see Journey with my then girlfriend, her best friend, and one other guy who I still can't remember to this day. My girlfriends parents dropped us off and said they would be there to pick us up when the concert was over. Having come from a family that listened to nothing but country or gospel music, I had no clue what to expect.

The band was Journey and they were promoting their newest album, Escape. I went out and bought not only that cassette (remember cassettes?) but the two previous albums as well. I wanted to make sure I knew every song they were going to sing. My father was flabbergasted at what I was playing in my room. It was loud, he didn't understand it, and he was pretty sure that Satan had written all the lyrics. Granted, his opinion on Journey changed drastically six months later when I brought home AC/DC's Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. My mother reminded him on more than one occasion that his mother was not that understanding when it came to his music at the time, either.

I still remember sitting in our seats, slightly to the left of the stage, but with a great view, when those lights suddenly went out in the stadium and the crowd roared. I got a little nervous, not sure what was about to happen. Then the stage exploded in multi colored lights as the band took the stage. When the first few notes from the piano began to play Don't Stop Believing (my second favorite song of there's to this day), I was transformed into another world. The music was loud, the crowd was roaring, and Steve Perry's voice rose above it all. For the next 90 minutes I was in heaven as they performed every song that I had just recently grown to love. I made sure to buy a concert t-shirt as I left. It was the most amazing experience I had had up to that point in my life. Though I really couldn't figure out what that weird smell was. Really! I was totally sheltered and out of it until I hit college.

Nearly 30 years later that song has seen a resurgence in popularity, and my kids know every word to it, and several others. Angel and Spike love the song. Buffy and Willow really like Loving, Touching, Squeezing; a song that I really liked at the time as well, but the fact that they like it so much scares the hell out of me!

One weekend Angel needed a shirt to wear while his was in the wash. I grabbed that old concert shirt and when he put it on I was surprised at how well it fit him. The sneaky little kid ended up taking it home with him! Granted, it was going to be his someday, anyway, but I was caught off guard (and proudly so) how much he wanted it.

I've been to a LOT of concerts since that first one, and in all honesty, there have been many others that were much better shows. I've still got concert t-shirts to all of those as well and I'm ready to give each of my other children the one's that are the most special to me.

But like your first real true love, you never forget that first concert. And now when we are all in the car and that song comes on the radio; those first few signature piano notes pounding out, the kids get excited and tell me to turn up the radio. I'm happy to oblige them. Don't Stop Believing now has two wonderful memories for me that I will carry to my old age.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Angel On The Field

Our oldest son, Angel, has started playing football now that he's in junior high. First of all, the fact that our son is officially in "junior high" is just darn depressing! It makes me want to do something horribly drastic - like plastic surgery.

I'm not the biggest fan of football, to be honest. It's my least favorite sport for various reasons that stem back to both high school and college. I don't understand the mindset of the players or fans, to be honest. But in fairness, I doubt very many can understand my love for Oscar Night, either (my own personal Superbowl).

So when I saw Angel in his uniform, all those horrible old feelings came bubbling to the surface again. Add to that the fact that one of my biggest fears is seeing any of our children injured in any way, and I honestly thought I was going to throw up.

Silly me. You'd think at my age I would have learned by now. The past is the past, the present is now, and Angel is going to be Angel no matter if he's playing football or performing a part in a play. He's a kind, caring kid who loves competition, as long as your polite about it. Aggression is not one of his strongest points, and that's alright.

He played very well, actually and I was very proud of him. He looked so small in his uniform and it was kind of sad for me to see him in such a grown up situation.

When Angel was about four or five he joined a soccer league. He really did well with the ball. He could travel well and was very good at passing. When it came to stealing the ball, however, he wasn't as enthusiastic. I'd like to think he was raised by his parents to share, something that has stuck with him so far.

He's also dynamic on the sidelines as he dances with his buddies and shakes his padded little booty. Chandler got it on tape and I can't wait to use it at his graduation party some day. :)

In fact, the only time he really seems to be aggressive is when he's fighting with his brother, Spike. I'm hoping he out grows that one!

Angel playing football is another wonderful life lesson for me. I'm not always going to like what he wants to do (Heaven help me if any of my children want to join the military someday), but if it's something they want to do; then I want to be there to support them.

This weekend Spike starts Flag Football. My God, he's only 7! He shouldn't be... okay, okay... take a deep breath Dad, he really wants to do it. Put on the smile, say a silent prayer, and let him jump in feet first!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I Remember Mamma

Twenty two years ago today I lost my mother to a sudden brain aneurysm. She was 46 at the time (which is kind of creepy now that I'm 43), and when she passed away I was 21. Anyone over 35 knows that 21 is still rather a young age in the grand scheme of things.

I still miss her terribly. She was a very outspoken and wonderful lady. She loved dirty jokes and enjoyed trying to embarrass me and my friends when we would gather in our basement to play our role playing games. The one that sticks in my mind the most was the evening we were playing a James Bond game. Mom came downstairs to finish a load of laundry and one of my friends asked her if she'd like to join us.

"No thanks, I'm not a fan of dragons." She said, believing we were playing our usual Dungeons and Dragons game.

"We're not playing that. We're playing a James Bond role playing game." My female friend replied.

"Oh, well in that case I'll play if I can be Pussy Galore." She said with a twinkle in her eye and a mischievous grin on her face.

"OH MY GOD!" Two of my friends blurted out and we all broke down laughing. She loved that kind of shock humor.

After my father's heart attack he quit smoking and my mother decided to as well. By then, I was smoking and I was allowed only to smoke in the basement. Not long after my father got better and went back to work (he worked midnights), my mother would pack his lunch, kiss him goodbye, and sneak downstairs to join me. It was our little secret. In fact, if we heard my sister get up and walk around, she'd shove the cigarette between my fingers in case she came downstairs. We had some great talks at that time of night. By then our relationship had evolved into the next phase. Though she was still my mother, our conversations were now adult oriented and the concept of the occasional swear word was acceptable (something it would never be with my father - for either of us.)

I have a huge amount of wonderful memories of mom, but I always fall back on one that brings me the most warmth. Anytime I was standing near her, or sitting at our kitchen table, she always put her hands on my shoulders while talking to me. Or if standing, she'd always come up behind him and drape her arms around my neck from behind while talking to me or whoever was with us.

I always get very melancholy during this time in September; wishing that I could have seen her with the grand kids that she never got to meet. I would have loved to have seen her tease Chandler mercilessly. I know she would have really connected with Laverne and Shirley as well. There's a lot of things I wish at this time of the month, but mostly I just wish I could feel her put those hands reassuringly on my shoulders one more time.


Friday, September 11, 2009

People Let Me Tell You About My Best Friend!

He actually started out as my boyfriend, then turned into my partner, and eventually (in the eyes of our family and friends) he became my husband. Twelve years later he is still all of those, but he's also the absolute best friend I've ever had.

Chandler is a librarian who runs three of the sixteen branches in our county. Until you really get to know him, he's a rather shy guy. He's also very much the complete opposite of me in many ways - except for one big one.

While I tend to have my head in the clouds, Chandler is the one who keeps my feet planted firmly on the ground. He came into my life at a time when I was living on my own for the first time in my life; having went from the home I grew up in to living with my first partner, who I'll call Elton.

Elton and I had a rather rough relationship, actually. Now I'm the first to admit that I'm not an easy person to live with, but I would also like to think that if nothing else, I have a lot of love to give. Unfortunately sometimes I guess love isn't enough. Elton and mine's relationship deteriorated after the first three or four years. I was in my early twenties and was just coming out. He was tied to his mother and grandmothers apron strings and we just didn't mesh. Eventually Elton turned to heavy drugs and constant drinking; followed by a lot of verbal and mental abuse. So with terror in my heart, I moved out on my own for the first time in my life. I was 31 and scared to death.

Thanks to great friends like Laverne and Shirley and my other best friend who I shall call Ross, I survived a lot of lonely nights and grew to appreciate being on my own. That's when two of the best things in the world happened; Shirley informed me I was going to be a father and I met Chandler.

I was looking for companionship, and so was he. But after what had gone on between Elton and I, the idea of a long term committed relationship scared me. I truly believed that there weren't gay men out there that wanted not only a relationship but a family as well. But on our first date together (a Chinese restaurant that we still visit once a year), I was blown away by his story.

He had never dated before, having focused on his studies. He was finishing up his Masters degree. He also came from an Irish Catholic family that was large, close, and very loving and supportive of each other. But what amazed me the most was that he loved children. He had many nieces and nephews that he couldn't stop talking about. When, on our second date, I hesitantly brought up the fact that I was going to be a first time father in the coming year, he was as excited about the idea as much as I was. If I hadn't already been falling for those beautiful brown eyes and his wonderful smile, that excitement would have done it.

On our first Valentine together I got home from work in the evening to find that he had made me a wonderful and fancy dinner with a chocolate cake for dessert. We danced our first slow dance together in the living room of my first apartment (Do You Want To Dance) and I gave him a key to my apartment for his gift.

That was twelve years ago. Since then our family has grown, both our families have welcomed each other with open arms. We've had our ups and down, our fights, tragedies that have brought us closer together, but most of all, a lot of laughter.

As I started to say at the beginning of this, we are very much opposites. I worry about very little (a horrible flaw), he worries for both of us. I do worry about every little thing the kids do while he holds me back from wrapping them in bubble wrap. He's a much more serious person and I'll make a joke about anything, even if it isn't appropriate. OH! And he drives me nuts as much as I drive him nuts, but for different reasons, of course.

But the other day I was driving home from my comic shop, playing the soundtrack to Rent, and when I got to the song "I'll Cover You", my thoughts went to him as they always do when a romantic song comes on the radio. I'm the luckiest man in the world. Not only because he loves me, but because he still puts up with me after nearly twelve years.

And that really big thing that we are not opposites about... our family. We're proud of what we have helped create with Laverne and Shirley. Family is everything to both of us. So that's the story of my best friend. He's my ups and downs, my pride, my joy!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Cat Splash Fever

We love animals in our family. Chandler and I have two dogs (Cassie and Xander), two kittens (Floyd and Jack) and two turtles (Franklin and Whistle). The turtles are actually Angels and stay here at his dad's house. The kittens are our newest addition to the family. We got them when they were six weeks old and they are brothers. They come from Chandler's sisters house. Her family lives out in the country and have several cats that live in the yard and garage, so kittens tend to happen quite a bit out there.

I wasn't sure if I would ever want a cat in the house again. When Chandler and I moved in together I had a beautiful long haired white cat named Chi-Chi. I got her when she was just under a year old and I was with my ex. Actually it was Shirley and a mutual friend of ours who found her and pointed me in her direction. Chi-Chi lived to be about twenty years old. There were many, many nights when I was on my own for the first time that she was the only other living being in the apartment with me. She was my faithful companion (or familiar I suppose) and when we had to put her to sleep it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do.

It took two years before I finally decided to take the plunge again, but this time Chandler and I decided to get two kittens so that they would have each other to play with. This has turned out to be a blessing... and a nightmare.

Kittens are crazy creatures. Incredibly curious and unafraid; but still hilariously skittish. Nothing is funnier than watching a startled cat suddenly jump completely in the air.

Now if only I can convince them that taking a bath with me is not a normal part of life. I love to soak in a hot bath in the evenings with a book, magazine, graphic novel, or usually one of my many comics that I read. Since Jack and Floyd have shown up I've had to skip the paper material because I don't want the stuff to get wet. You see, they love to prowl around the sides of our sunken in tub. Now that alone is okay, except they are still kittens so their balance is not what it should be yet.

Twice now Jack, while purring away, has slipped and fallen into the tub. It's kind of funny so see him scrambling to get out while his back legs keep slipping and he keeps falling back in. You'd think after the first time it would have put him off tub hoping, but he keeps coming back for more.

Floyd is even stranger with water. He climbs on the top of the tub, onto my shoulder and down my chest to sit on my stomach; then leans over and drinks the water. Actually I thought this was mind blowing and kind of cute until it dawned on me that if Floyd got too wet or freaked out, not only could I be in trouble, but the most important part of me could be in some serious trouble as well! So I put a stop to that rather quickly. No way I wanted to explain that kind of injury to an emergency room doctor.

Honestly, I thought cats were afraid of water. I'm not sure why these two are so into taking baths with me? Perhaps in a past life they were a pair of catfish?