My baby brother ran away

Goodnight, JoJo

My uncle died from COVID yesterday, just after noon. That’s him with my grandma and how I picture both of them in my head. I loved them both, very much.

My mother said the saddest thing when she told me. What she said in Chinese was, My little brother ran away.

That’s what broke me that day. He was my uncle, but he was her baby brother.

He was actually my favourite uncle because he always seemed thrilled to see us. He owned and operated a Carvel in NJ for decades and none of us ever saw him without coming back with a cooler full of ice cream.

The mayor of that town wrote a nice little something about him.

He was as good and decent a human being as the universe allows, just like my mom and everyone else from her family.

He didn’t deserve to die and certainly not like this. COVID. But I suppose that’s true for the vast majority of the people that die from this stupid virus.

His family – my cousins and aunt – are grieving because this came out of left field for them.

It’s not my story to tell so I’ll stop here.

As for me, I feel a tremendous amount of guilt. Because, while I grieve for my uncle’s death, I really grieve more for Alison’s.

You see, whenever some tragedy happens, you also get some bullshit bonus.

Like if you lose your job, the bullshit bonus might be that you can’t pay rent and also get kicked outta your apartment.

Or if you crash and destroy your car, the bullshit bonus might be that you can’t walk again.

The bullshit bonus that my uncle’s family has to deal with is stuff like who’s gonna manage the store and how are they gonna to set up the funeral?

I know this because I dealt with things like that too. I wasn’t ready. No one ever is.

This fucking cancer took so much from me, from my family.

Actually, it took my family.

I laughed when I wrote that last sentence. Because what else can one do?

That’s why it’s bullshit and why it’s bonus: Cause more just randomly shows up at your doorstep when you least expect it.

The bullshit bonus I hate the most is that I don’t grieve like normal people.

When my dad died, I felt like…20% of what I should have felt for this man I loved and that loved me so. I was his boy and he was my dad.

But all I could think was, “At least he lived longer than Alison.”

How. Fucked. Up. Is. That?

I loved my old man. God, I loved him. Like a fat kid loves cake.

And yet, all I could think about was all that Alison had been cheated out of. The same for Fouad. Nick. Kirk. My Uncle Jay. And now my Uncle Nelson, whom I used to call JoJo.

It’s not right. It’s not fair.

They deserved to be more than mirrors and magnifying glasses to Alison and yet, that’s all I can muster. And the guilt from that is just more bullshit bonus.

I’m rambling. I’m sorry.

Everything’s fucked up and nothing’s right in my head anymore. Nothing’s been right since November 2015.

My uncle took us all fishing once, when I was a kid.

I remember being so deliriously happy that day and I thought he was the coolest guy ever. He deserved so much more than this.

Son: You’re thinking of mommy.
Me: Yes. I’m thinking of family. How did you know?
Him: You went (breathes deeply)
Me: (nodding) You’re a smart boy.
Him: Are you sad?
Me: Now, how sad could I be? I have you.

Location: hell
Mood: guilty
Music: Get back to where you once belonged(Spotify)

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Bright-line rules

Life is easier when decisions are made for you

Him: Regular shipping is free but it’ll take 7-12 days to get to you.
Me: What about 2-day shipping?
Him: That’ll cost as much as the sled.
Me: OK, I’ll take that, please.
Him: Are you sure? You might get it as soon as five days.
Me: I’m sure. Thank you.

Ended up ordering a sled via express mail; it was an astronomical sum to pay for a $10 slab of plastic. But I promised the kid I’d get him one before all the snow melted so I had to keep my promise.

When I was nearly broke after college, my roommate Joe asked me to deliver an envelope to someone and made me promise that I would. I did and ended up losing it.

Him: There was $3,500 in it, Logan!
Me: I’ll get it back to you by tomorrow.
Him: (shakes head) You’re gonna get me $3,500 tomorrow? How?
Me: I’ll find a way.

And I did.

The hows and whys are a wholly different story, but I kept my word.

Handed him an envelope the very next day with $3,500 in it in 1998, when $3,500 meant something.

Ate tuna fish for about a year afterward and I was known as the guy in law school that always had a can of tuna fish in his bag.

Still can’t really eat tuna fish all that much.

I think this is all because of that story about Apollo and his son I told you about a while back. I remember reading that and wanting to be a person of my word, no matter the cost. I would draw the line at my son’s life, but up to that…

Years ago, Rain – who argued with me as much as anyone – got drunk once and told everyone that if he had one call in jail in Panama, he would call me. Because he knew that, if I told him I’d take care of it, it’d be taken care of.

Your reputation is your brand and I try to stay on-brand as much as possible, because it defines me to everyone else, but also because it defines me to me.

Our reputations bring us places.

It also just makes life a lot easier because my rules are bright lines that tell me the choice that I have to make. I have no say in the matter.

After Alison died, I was a shell of the person I once was but my rules helped me operate when I could only operate at fractional capacity.

If that.

Spent the past few days making up for the day I didn’t have the sled. Today, while we were out, I met a young Asian father with two kids sledding down the hill on a pizza box.

Me: Hey, man, do you wanna borrow my sled? I was in your exact situation just a few days ago.
Him: (walking towards me) Oh, that’s really kind of you. (leaning in, lowering voice) Actually, I’m going to decline because…
Me: (interrupting) COVID?
Him: (laughing, whispering) Ah, yeah, no. I just don’t want them to know how good a real sled is because I don’t think I can get one for them.
Me: (nodding) I get it.
Him: Thanks though, you’re the only one that offered.
Me: No problem. Lemme know if you change your mind.

He didn’t. As for the kiddo, after a few rough sled rides, I insisted that he wear a helmet – also courtesy of Cappy.

Eventually, he got the hang of everything.

Me: Do you like your sled?
Son: I love it! Thank you.
Me: You’re welcome. I always keep my promises. Remember that, kid. Be someone that people can trust.
Him: OK, papa!

Location: earlier today, this perfect hill
Mood: much better
Music: Thought I couldn’t live without you(Spotify)

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Not a great 48 hours of parenting

Winter is here

It’s not been a great 48 hours of parenting around these parts.

The snowstorm – and the lack of scaffolding – meant that I was constantly shoveling and adjusting the boiler so that my tenants didn’t freeze or boil. And ensure that the boiler didn’t explode.

But this was the first snow that the boy and I were sharing together, in a meaningful way, so I wanted to go out and enjoy it with him. Luckily, Cappy and his wife dropped off this great snow outfit for him so we could brave the snow. Once we got to the park, however, I realized that we didn’t have a sled and most/all the other kids did.

Him: Do we have a sled?
Me: I’m sorry, kiddo. I totally forgot to get one.
Him: Oh. (sadly) That’s ok. Maybe you can buy one?
Me: I’ll do that as soon as we get home.

Gotta tell you, that ripped me up. He just sat and stared at all the other kids having fun. And I felt like shit.

Tried my best to keep him happy and made him some hot chocolate when we got back, which he enjoyed. Then I called up every store around me trying to get a sled. They were all sold out. So, I bought one via Amazon but the earliest it would arrive was Saturday.

Him: Will the snow be gone by then?
Me: I’m not sure.
Him: Hopefully not.
Me: Yes. Hopefully not.

It was a pretty sleepless night.

The ABFF, though, randomly called me the next day to tell me that she was going out to the park and that she had an innertube.

So my sitter took him so I could catch up on some work and I went to pick him up after dinner.

Him: I was on a sled for the first time today! It’s so much fun!
Me: I bet it was!

While the kids all played, I caught up with the ABFF and her sister.

ABFF: What’s up with you and Mouse?
Me: That’s a whole story right there.
Her: Well, she’s great. You two should figure something out.

It was late when we finally left.

Him: I wish I could stay there. At home, it’s just you and me.
Me: (coughing) I’m sorry it’s just me.
Him: I wish there was someone else.
Me: Someday, maybe?
Him: (sighing) It’s just the two of us. I wish mommy was here.
Me: This is our stop. Let’s go.

Broke my intermittent fasting when I put the kid down and picked up a drink or three.

Like I said, it’s not been a great 48 hours of parenting around these parts.

I don’t want him to be a sad kid. It’s the last thing Alison woulda wanted. Then again, neither of us wanted any of this.

Location: home
Mood: less than ideal
Music: In life, there is lots of grief (Spotify)

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Party of Two

How real it seems

It was a surreal weekend just because my pipes were banging like no tomorrow so I couldn’t get any good sleep.

A random tenant ringing my doorbell in the middle of the night to complain about the laws of thermodynamics didn’t help matters.

Me: It’s a closed system so that that with every rise in temperature, there’s a commensurate rise in pressure. We have to be below X pounds per square inch, which we are right now.
Her: (irritated) What happens if the pressures goes above that level?
Me: The boiler explodes and we all die, either from the explosion itself, or the subsequent collapse of the building. I’m going back inside now.

Saturday morning, met up with a whole raft of buddies for an early morning roll at a friend’s place. Pez and her fella came and I rolled with her. She came to win.

Her: (catches me in an armbar)
Me: Don’t do it – I have a child!
Her: (laughs) Like I care.

The same fella that gave me a lift last time gave me a lift back this time but only to the station, cause I felt bad. I went past Lviv’s joint; she’s actually moving back home permanently so she’s been hitting me up to see how I’m doing.

Her: I just had this weird thought on my walk that every husband has been rejected by some other chick in the past.
Me: I have this similar thing that’s part of a joke I heard: “For every girl you meet, someone out there is thinking, “Man, not my problem any more.”

Mouse missed the kid so she came by on Sunday to spend about an hour with him; it gave me a chance to dash off to the supermarket to prep for the snowstorm that’s coming.

There’s something about being a single parent in the city that I find so anxiety-producing. If something happened to me, the kid would have to find a way to get in touch with someone.

Me: Did you have fun?
Him: Yes! We had silly time and serious time. (thinking) I love her.
Me: I understand that.

Speaking of anxiety-producing, a woman I met the other day who has a kid the same age as mine wrote me to tell me that her sitter got COVID.

Her: It wasn’t good, was it?
Me: You don’t want it, lemme tell ya.

That made me revisit this entry I wrote about my getting COVID last year. Man, I felt so lonely and scared that time. Literally thought I was going to die.

I reread that part where Alison visited me in a fevered dream and it made me cry. Because I remembered how real it seemed.

Did I tell you that I wrote out a goodbye letter to the kid on my phone while I was on the floor? I looked at it recently and it was sad and disjointed. I was thinking of cleaning it up and posting it here. Maybe.

Mouse wrote once that she felt that I came across as lonely in terms of friends but that’s not at all what I feel. I feel lonely in terms of family. It’s hard, being a party of two.

Him: Is anyone coming by for dinner?
Me: No, it’s just me. Is that ok?
Him: Yes! Can I have some ice cream for dessert?
Me: (laughing) So close, kid. So close. Have an orange.
Him: (sadly) OK, if you say so.

Location: home
Mood: exhausted
Music: my heart says, follow through (Spotify)

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Slapstick with the boy

Twice, right in the groin

The above is a pic that Mouse took the other day. She had come by to see us and the boy asked to play tag.

I was beat so I let them run back and forth from the front of the pad to the back. I stood on the sidelines by the kitchen.

On the third or fourth run, he randomly decided to high-five me in the groin on his way to the bedroom.

I staggered to the chair, and Mouse snapped the pic above.

I am rethinking teaching him how to fight.

Me: That pic really captures it all.
Her: It really does.

Which brings me to another story. I went to go pick the kid up from Catholic school last year and when he saw me, he ran at me, full tilt.

I was distracted by something so I didn’t lean down as he came in, and he literally head butted me in right in the family jewels.

I doubled over in pain and yelled out, “JESUS CHRIST!”

That’s not the (now) funny part, though.

Nor was the funny part was him laughing and yelling, “JESUS CHRIST!” while running up and and down the hall.

No, the funny part was ALL the other schoolchildren joining him in running back and forth along the hallway screaming, “JESUS CHRIST!” at the top of their tiny lungs. In a Catholic school.

Good times, good times…

Location: home
Mood: exhausted
Music: It’s been three years (Spotify)

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Too little is better than too much

We know our own

We had a gas scare in the area that meant we were waiting for an all-clear for a while so I brought him with me to the supermarket.

I dunno why I’m unable to talk to him like he’s a kid. I just…can’t. I’ve never been around kids before.

Him: What does it mean that a banana’s not ripe?
Me: An unripe banana has large molecules called oligosaccharides which are too big to digest. When a banana ripens, those oligosaccharides break down into simpler glucose molecules that you can digest, which manifest as the brown dots on the skin, which – as you can see – are not there.
Him: What happens if you eat something that’s not ripe?
Me: Bad things, kiddo. Bad stomach things.
Him: Oh. Ok, papa.

As I write this out, all I can think is, “Hopefully, he’ll have friends.” Then again, I didn’t growing up and I turned out fine.

Fine(ish).

Mostly fine.

Alison thought I was great, albeit with a giant, giant head.

Speaking of friends, I’ve been helping a buddy with a new hobby; something that I used to do years ago but just stopped doing for a variety of reasons. But he loves it. He gave me a buzz today.

Him: I met one of our kind today.
Me: Get outta here. How?
Him: At the gym. I was just making small talk and I mentioned what I do in my spare time.
Me: And what did he say?
Him: (laughing) He said demons know their own.

On that note, my only friend in that life’s been MIA since COVID. Wanna know the crazy thing? I don’t even know his real name after 20 years.

How’s that for a kick in the head?

Finally, a girl I’ll call Curls is going to start teaching the kid to fight. I’ve been chatting with a ton of people – including two of the highest ranking people in kali – about how to train this boy to be safe.

And the grand poo-bah told me: Remember too little training is better than too much at that age.

He’s the main man so I took his word to heart. Plus, I think the kid’ll have more fun with Curls and Chad than me.

Between the friends and family, I wonder if I’m better with people around or not.

After all, men go crazy in congregations,…

Location: home, making steak for my son, who’d rather have a bologna sandwich
Mood: tired
Music: …they only get better one by one. (Spotify)
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Re-Assembling Things

Projects I didn’t want

After over 10 months, my son finally played with someone his own age the other day; a young girl named Izzy he met at the park.

It was sweet and unexpected; unexpected because he was scheduled to meet up with the ABFF’s kids over the weekend, and I assumed they’d be first. But, I suppose, like father, like son.

I wrote the ABFF before we left.

Me: What’s the food and alcohol situation like?
Her: Pizza. Corona Lite, Sweet Action, white vino.
Me: I’m down. We may be a bit after six but order me a slice or two as well.

One of the very last things that Alison and I did together was build the kid’s nursery.

She was super pregnant but so excited to welcome this kid into the world and have everything be just perfect. I did most of the building but she cleaned and assembled smaller things.

It’s one of the reasons that I was so reluctant to paint.

Alison bought this really great dresser that she spent days researching to make sure it fit just right and got good ratings. Unfortunately, the part that keeps the drawer from shooting out snapped just after everything went to hell.

I vaguely recall calling their customer service to buy that plastic part and the woman I spoke to said that I needed to buy the entire side of the dresser.

Me: So lemme get this straight, instead of being able to buy a dollar’s worth of plastic and metal, I need to buy an entire other side of the dresser, dismantle my entire dresser, and replace the side – which is fine – just to keep the drawer from flying out?
Her: Yes.
Me: Well, that sounds ridiculous. Would you do that?
Her: (laughing) No sir, I would not.

It was fine. This was during the craziness of Alison’s cancer so I was just careful. But, because the kid’s been away so long, I forgot about the drawer and pulled it too hard, causing the drawer to fly out and almost hit me. He was eating brekkie so he was fine but I decided to buy a new one that day.

I ended up just picking out a wider dresser that was the same height. Now, the day that the kid and I were supposed to see the ABFF, the new dresser arrived. Of course.

Unlike last time, I was going to have to put this together myself. I figured I’d head up to the ABFF’s, chill with them for a bit, and then come down and spend the remainder of the night putting it together.

But on the way out the door, Chad gave me a ring.

Him: Hey, I’m in your area and wanted to see if you wanted to get some food.
Me: Dude, I will buy you dinner if you’re willing to help me put together a dresser.
Him: Works for me.

I told the ABFF that I wouldn’t be staying, said hello to all the girls, and then dashed down where Chad and spent the next four hours trying to decipher some seriously bad directions.

It was pretty late so I told him to just go and I’d wrap things up – together, we did a solid 80% of everything that needed to get done so I just did the last 20% myself until late in the evening and then the rest the next day. It took most of the second day to put everything in place and clean the joint up.

The last thing I did was attach the dresser to the wall. Because Alison asked me to make the place childproof.

Her: Promise me that you’ll always keep him safe.
Me: Of course. And you know I never break a promise.
Her: I know, that why I married you and that’s why I asked.

And that’s also why it had to be the same height, so I could use the same mounting bracket to attach it to the wall.

It was super sad. Everything changes on me when I wish I could just have some stability and sense in the world.

On that note, my mother-in-law keeps telling me to take apart the crib and put it away but I’ve been resisting it.

Alison took a picture of me building it on September 13, 2015, at 6:35PM.

Somehow, in my head, I kept thinking that maybe I’d be able to give the kid a baby sister or brother somehow but that seems unlikely. So, I guess that’s my next project.

Soon. Really.

Location: home, sitting in the front room staring at all the changes
Mood: reluctantly accepting
Music: he tried to reassemble it (Spotify)
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Remember who survives

Dissected and discussed

Him: What’s wrong?
Me: Papa’s seen things like this before, and it’s…it’s never good.
Him: Are you scared?

We were doing his math problems when I stopped and watched the news.

Copyright AP

When 9/11 went down, I remember almost every minute of it. I called my brother and woke him up, much to his annoyance. But that annoyance turned to horror and disgust once he and I slowly realized what was happening.

Together, on the phone, our worlds changed. I was glad to have shared that moment with him.

Copyright AP

I felt that today watching the television with my son. That disgust and horror, knowing that I was watching history unfold with him – something that will be dissected and discussed for years, decades, centuries to come.

And he and I saw it together.

And yet, for all the lessons of history, it’s always the mindless mob that repeats it, again, and again, and again.

Copyright AP

But, I was glad to have shared this with my family. Just as I was glad to share the horrors of 9-11 with my brother.

I feel I owe this boy all the knowledge I’ve accumulated in my otherwise unremarkable life. That’s the debt I owe him as his father, what all good parents owe their children.

It’s sad, the lesson I gave him today was one that I was hoping I wouldn’t have to tell him until years from now. But I suppose he saw the unease on my face.

Me: I’m concerned. There’s a difference. Lions are bigger and stronger then people. So are bears and…giraffes (Editor’s note: I wasn’t ready for this conversation, giraffes were the only big thing I could think of besides whales – I shoulda said whales). But people are always the most dangerous because we can out think alla them. The smarter you are, the safer you are. Remember that. Remember who survives. The intelligent survive.

Copyright AP

Location: home, watching the tube like it was porn. Which I suppose it is.
Mood: horrified
Music:
Do you believe in what you see?
(Spotify)
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It’s spring in January

It isn’t hell

Speaking of FOMO and not caring, last year I threw Chad and Mouse a joint bday party but this year, Chad just swung by on his actual bday and I just got the two of us a massive amount of Vietnamese food.

Him: Somehow, they knew it was my birthday and gave me two cans of coke.
Me: (puzzled) Yeah – I told them.
Him: Oh…

He only recently started getting a taste for good alcohol so I taught him how to make Hemmingway’s favourite drink, the daiquiri. At least, my version of it.

We pounded about four of them each and just discussed his new hobby, which is a wholly different conversation.

Me: I baked cupcakes.
Him: Thanks!
Me: They’re mainly for the kid, but I saved you one for your born day.
Him: I’ll take it.

Another friend stopped by this week; she was just in the city to train but the gym wasn’t open that day so I invited her to come here to shower and clean up.

Me: Do you want brekkie?
Her: Oh, I couldn’t…
Me: (rolling eyes) You’re a guest, are you hungry?
Her: I could eat.
Me: A heart-attack sandwich it is then.

Like I said, I have no shortage of friends. It’s the shortage of family that weighs on me the most.

Speaking of family, do you know the Roman/Greek myth of the seasons centers around family?

Essentially, the goddess Ceres – from whom we get the word “cereal” – was the goddess of grain and harvest. Her daughter, Proserpina, was kidnapped by Pluto and she refused to allow anything to grow until her child was returned.

Eventually, she was, but Proserpina had eaten six pomegranate seeds and, because of that, had to live in hell for six months out of the year.

During this time, Ceres despaired and so came winter until her child was back and spring could return again.

The boy came home this week – after all this time – and it was spring once again, at least in a tiny UWS apartment.

Me: He’s home!!!
Him: (inspecting the house) The bathroom’s dirty. Grandma’s bathroom is cleaner.
Me: (laughing) Everyone’s a critic. Also, to be fair, no one’s bathroom is as clean as grandma’s…

Ridic easy daquiri
One shot of light rum
1/2 a lime, freshly squeezed
1.5-2 TBS agave
Soda water
ice

Squeeze half a lime into a highball and mix in the agave and shot of rum until it’s thoroughly blended. Fill the highball halfway with ice and then the remainder with soda water. Gently stir to combine. Pound.

Repeat until every person of the opposite sex looks beautiful.

Location: home, without any rum but plus one boy
Mood: tired but content
Music: It’s so cruel what your mind can do (Spotify)
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Hell isn’t hell if you’re there too

I’m the dumb girl

Don’t think I’ve ever spent a New Year’s Eve completely alone.

In 2006, I went to a restaurant around the way with Alison called Citrus. It’s now called Playa Betty.

In 2016, I spent it in the hospital with Alison. As I did on 2015. She felt bad I was spending New Year’s Eve with her there.

Her: You should be out there having fun. Or at least be with our son.
Me: Heaven wouldn’t be heaven if you weren’t there and hell wouldn’t be hell if you were. You’re here, I’m here. It’s how it’s supposed to be.

That was her; even with cancer, she was worried about me and my happiness.

This year, the most social I got was that my good friend Angel from Hong Kong dropped me a little message and I chatted with my friends around the way, whom I’ve spent the last few New Years‘ with.

Mouse dropped by with some flowers and tried to get me to see people, but I just wasn’t in the mood. Lviv dropped me a nice note, too.

Me: You feel good about this new year?
Her: I felt good being at home with family. I never had a chance to spend NYE in New York but this year, I didn’t have that FOMO feeling.

I suppose that’s it; there’s nothing to miss out on. I’m not lonely because I’m alone; I’m lonely because I don’t have my family.

So, I guess everything was how it was supposed to be.

On that note, here’s the saddest happy song in the world.

The girl keeps hoping the guy will get better but the guy knows he won’t be there to keep her company and feels terrible about it:

Soon you’ll be alone, sorry that you have to lose me

That was Alison. She wasn’t so much sad to go, as she was sad to leave me and the boy.

And I was the dumb girl in the song thinking everything would be ok.

Me: Happy New Year, Alison. I wish you were here.

 

Location: home, without any more rum
Mood: sober
Music: I don’t know why this has happened, (Spotify)
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