The College Visit

Campus.Tours_.One of the easiest ways to mark milestones in life is on birthdays.  I realize now at the end of last week I found another (and certainly the exhaustive list is not two) – 16.0 and I did her first college visit.  On a 90 degree day we wandered the West Village visiting New York University.

As we were walking between the buildings around Washington Square Park I could not help but picture 16.0 as a two or three-year old when we first brought her into the city – but now she’s a 16-year old-young lady walking with other perspective NYU undergrads.  Quite a difference – and a milestone I wasn’t quite ready for, yet there it was right in my face.

I started to look at the other parents walking along and wondered if they were having the same moment as me.  It would be surprising if they weren’t.

Almost every seasoned parent tells new parents (I can still hear the commentary loud and clear) as they are holding a new-born, “Enjoy the time, it goes quickly.”  Certainly it does.

I can remember like it was yesterday taking my girls out into the snow for the first time, the first time we got on a plane for a family vacation, the last vacation we took before Risa’s condition worsened.

Now there are new moments for 16.0 to share and embrace.  Some of them I’ll get to share in – some will be for her to experience on her own and share (if she wants) with me.

New chapters will be written, new milestones achieved – all starting with the college visit….

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Of April, Birthdays and (Over) Thinking

RisaThe sayings go March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb to yield way to April showers for May flowers – April is not quite that optimistic a month for me.  For me it’s a chance to mark birthdays and over think milestones – not all of which are happy but I suppose that is the fertilizer of my life’s may flowers.

April starts with marking Risa’s birthday (4/6).  I have to confess it is among the dates I could never get right.  I always knew it was the sixth or the eighth – so I was ready for the sixth and rolled with it.  The month also the marks the passing of my father (4/14) and a reminder of my mortality (4/24).

Into that mix goes the rest of life that we deal with – the comings and goings of kids, the planning for events, work, school and all of the other pieces of life.

Last weekend 15.5 had a couple of camp friends over for a night.  It’s a small group of girls that have been close for five years – and this is the first summer they won’t be all together.  Some (like mine) are working, others are going to different summer programs and a few are going back for the next summer in camp.

I took that group plus 13.5 and one of her school friends to a local hibachi place for dinner.  As we were sitting there and I looked at the girls (each of their faces glowing in the light of their iPhone) and realized simultaneously how lucky I am and wondered what if life had been different?

We got the crew back to our house and 13.5 and her friend went upstairs and 15.5 and her friends went downstairs – and I sat in the family room watching hockey.  It wasn’t long before 15.5 asked me if a couple of boys could come over.  “It’s on now,” I thought – but I was prepared for this (shockingly I’ve thought about it).

So the boys came over and joined the music and shouting in the basement and I sat on the couch – trying to figure out how to pirate the west coast games (I couldn’t) and managed to stay awake long enough for the last of the boys to leave just before midnight.

One of the thoughts was how would this play out in a two parent home?  Would Risa have handled this differently?  I’m pretty sure I handled it right and the kids all had a good time – but should there have been more rules? More supervision?  Would a mom and daughter be a different mix than a dad and daughter?

I don’t get to change the equation on the last question.  So as we mark what would have been Risa’s 47th birthday and the march of milestones go by – April birthdays and (over) thinking gets started.

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8765 Times 5 – Milestones Achieved

Risa, the girls and me after we moved into our home

Risa, the girls and me after we moved into our home

There are 8765 hours in a year.  In the five years since Risa passed away 43,825 hours have ticked away.  Sometimes time just flies by as we go about our lives.  Other times, the hours drag as moments play out.  In the 8765 hours over this year some milestones have been achieved and moments have been shared.

Maybe the most significant was 13.0 achieving her bat mitzvah.  While I don’t think the struggle was any tougher than any family goes through convincing a 12-year-old that studying Torah and practicing prayers and readings is important – this had deeper meaning for us.  One of the few promises I made to Risa over the years she battled her brain tumor was that the girls would make it to their bat mitzvah.

Not only did 13.0 perform flawlessly – but she emerged as the young lady she is becoming.

With that goal accomplished this year it’s a chance to look back and reflect – but also to look ahead.

When I have a “look ahead” conversation with friends, somehow they all talk about paying for a wedding – I’m a little more of a realist and thinking about cars and college.

Sometimes as an only parent it’s tough to step back and evaluate how things are going.  I can look around and see signs of positive results – good grades in school, the ability for the three of us to communicate with one another, 13.0’s bat mitzvah, 15.5 setting out to become a lifeguard over the summer and accomplishing it and other tangible moments.

But sometimes out of nowhere comes confirmation that I’m sure Risa would be proud of too:

15.5 is in all honors classes and an AP class this year.  Her English teacher sent me an email last week about a moment from class that reassure’s me that there is a solid foundation to build on.

It seems the teacher’s mother is going through a health crisis and the teacher has been in and out of school.  She ended up canceling a test right before Thanksgiving, and told 15.5’s class it was due to the illness of her mother.  According to the teacher, 15.5 stayed after class that day and shared that she knew what it was like to have a sick mother and she would be there to support her teacher if she needed it.

How could a parent not be proud of the young lady they are raising?

One of the lessons I learned in childhood (raised by an only parent) is that there is no instruction manual for life.  You look at the moment, try to assess it and handle it as best you can.  You won’t always be right but if you decide with caring and compassion you won’t be wrong very often.

More than 350,000 hours have ticked off since my father passed away.  I think about him and Risa and wonder if I’m doing OK and what would they think about the way life for the girls and me has turned out.  I think it’s OK.

And so we’ll start to tick off another 8765 hours with more milestones to achieve.  We’ll build on our success and learn from our mis-steps and be able to look one another in the eye and know what is important and who we can count on – and all in, that’s not so bad.

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8765 times 2

8765 – the number of hours in a year.  In two years its 17,531.  Sometimes it feels like there are hundreds of minutes in those hours.  Other times, it feels like only seconds go by as the hours tick off.  Either way though, two years ago today my wife passed away and time is the constant to measure just how we are doing two years later.

When applying time to the lives of my girls and I, on the whole we are doing OK.  And that’s a good thing.

Sure we miss out on a lot-but we also share in some very unique things and we have memories that allow us to keep Risa’s spirit alive.  As I was telling a friend who lost her sister recently it doesn’t get easier, it really doesn’t.  What happens though is life and we manage to wake up and make today a better day than yesterday and hold out hope that tomorrow will be better than today.

Sure, I’d love for 10.0 to take school more seriously.  And yeah, I wish I could have been there to keep 12.5 from turning her ankle last weekend.  But by and large, those are small issues that we will over come-one day at a time one moment at a time.

So, into the next block of 8765 hours we will go.  We’ll share milestones this year, heartaches this year and good times this year.  We know we are keeping Risa’s spirit alive by simply doing the best we can and fighting for all we want-which is how she lead her life and we honor her that way.

I am not a huge believer in fate as a driver for all things that happen today.  A friend was telling me over the weekend that she believes if life had turned left instead of right, if I didn’t run that stop light this morning on the way to the train things would be different.  Perhaps they would be.  I really don’t have that answer, and I’m pretty happy with my life so I don’t have to worry about the zigs and zags it takes.  Instead, I’ll enjoy the ride, and hope there are fewer 180-minute hours in the next 8765.

And don’t forget, Dad the Single Guy’s new book “The Beginning of the Middle of the End of the Beginning” available now on Nook and Kindle.

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