Tag Archives: grandparent

A Tribute to Our Son “Matt Damon,” aka Jason Bourne

Many individuals not only aspire to act and become like so-and-so celebrities, but look like them, too. Recently in El Paso my girls and I watched a week’s worth of Family Feud, in which “celebrity” participants included Hillary Clinton, Bono, Martha Stewart, Nicole Kidman, Robin Williams, Will Ferrell, Joan Rivers, and Jennifer Aniston.

My son’s look-alike, doppelgänger, is Matt Damon. After seeing a few comparison photos you might disagree. Seeing (in person) is believing, however.

66ème Festival de Venise (Mostra)Daniel5

Damon4

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With my eldest daughter

I can’t recall a single day in which I went out and about to town with him that at least one person – usually more – didn’t either comment directly on his resemblance to Damon, or who took an initial furtive glance, then a second, more studied look at him.

For instance, when the Bourne movies debuted several years back, movie cinema ticket sales persons at Bedfordview Mall, Johannesburg, South Africa, came out from their ticket cubicles, asking if they could have their picture taken with him. Last week we ate at a Kirby Lane Restaurant, and afterwards browsed through an adjacent Amish furniture store. The store manager approached my son, noted his resemblance, and remarked how he could be Damon’s brother or son.

A month ago my son accompanied me to Client Rights at Austin State Hospital. After introducing my son to my work colleagues, he then left in search of coffee and internet connection. Two colleagues immediately and independently turned excitedly toward me, remarking on his uncanny resemblance to Damon, with one jokingly asking, “Can I get his autograph?!” At his university alma mater, and currently at Dell Children’s Hospital’s ER his nickname is “Bourne” or simply “Jason.”

Arguably, my own doppelgänger might be Bruce Willis, even Corbin Bernsen — particularly if you’ve had a few drinks too many, or you’re a partygoer at a November post-election celebration in Colorado, where cannabis just become decriminalized.

My family and I admit that it’s kind of fun having a “celebrity” in our home. We catch and absorb secondary attention!

In all seriousness, however, despite my genuine respect and admiration for the real actor and person, Matt Damon, I’m grateful my son takes his “celebrity status” in stride. In fact, he appears a degree or two sheepish with his unsolicited fame.

As firstborn, our son has developed well despite all our rookie, even veteran parenting missteps. For instance, we used to be pretty hard-nosed when it came to putting our newborn early to bed in the evening. If he was fed, bathed, had a clean change of diaper/outfit, and no evident ailment, we would allow him to cry himself to sleep if he was not happy to lie in his cot alone, cooing contentedly.

At the time we were living with my 85-year-old grandfather, Daddy D, who had begun dating a MUCH younger woman (59 years) – see Grandparents | Person and Place Specialness. One evening Daddy D’s girlfriend was there for dinner and our son had been crying for an interminable period. She offered my wife her own experienced motherly counsel, “When my son was 2-weeks old, he cried and wouldn’t sleep. You know what I did? I cooked mashed potatoes, green beans and fried chicken. I fed that boy! And he slept!

I could and will eventually write a tribute for each of our five children, but it’s more opportune for my son, given his transitional period of life and vocational aspiration.

2012 - our family inc son-in-law

2012 – our family inc son-in-law

You see, despite him not having the life memoir and day-to-day hardships of, say, a Sudanese Boy Soldier, he’s proven his mettle through several life experiences. One being, that by 9-years of age he had undergone 13 ENT surgical procedures, ranging from adenoidectomy to tonsillectomy to mastoidectomy.

These experiences did not diminish his interest in medicine, nor his love for and ability with languages.  While his nearest-in-age sister might be more grammatically proficient, he is conversationally fluent in Spanish, and during his senior year of high school traveled alone to Berlin, Germany, where he took a 10-week German immersion language course. Unbelievably to me, by week eight, when we talked by phone, he engaged in German-only conversations with my wife.

Currently my son is seeking to gain admittance to medical school; a profession that well suits his character, temperament and life experience. It’s not been a quick or easy aspiration, yet he’s persevered day-by-day-by-month-by-year, developing his knowledge, skills and exposure to the world of medicine through medical internships and a challenging ER job at Dell Children’s Hospital.

I think it’s apropos that he’s working at a children’s hospital, particularly since he’s always had a sensitive and kind disposition toward children, especially many in South Africa.

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Especially apropos, though, is that he has been an older brother par excellence to his four younger sisters.

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“Mano,” as he’s affectionately referred to by them, has a number of endearing qualities, including: he’s long-suffering (allowing sisters to practice “hair” on him – see pic below), he’s funny (so says my youngest daughter), and he’s easy to talk to and adept at cheering you up (so says my 4th born).

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As parents, an attribute of his that we’ve come to appreciate and respect with each passing day is his willingness to risk vulnerability, to hear, listen and talk about and through ANY difficult subject matter.  It might be the risks of aspiring to own a motorcycle, or the personal discomfiture of dating, sex and marriage, or how much is too much drinking, or the struggle of finding one’s vocation and social place in the world, or whether religion and church attendance are of any value any more, et cetera.

And while I would be honored to have the real Matt Damon, aka Jason Bourne, as a friend, even relative, I’m glad Daniel is his own person and that he’s our son.

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Fate or Providence | How To Interpret Life’s Misfortunes?

This blog is about the mystery or wonderment of life’s TIMING.

Several friends of mine are avowed atheists, which, truthfully, draws me to them versus detracts. Why? I appreciate their candor. To me their professed lack of belief communicates a serious searching for meaning in life. I wonder how they – and you – might interpret the following “life’s timing” story.

A primary reason my family returned to the U.S. from South Africa in 2010 was to be nearer my wife’s aging and ailing mother, more especially since my wife is an only child and her father is deceased.

“Bueli,” who my girls and I visited barely one week ago, and who I wrote about last week in Grandparents | Person and Place Specialness was suddenly admitted to hospital this past Saturday with an elevated white blood count of about 133k. Today she was “officially” diagnosed (after a painful bone marrow biopsy yesterday) with chronic leukemia.

This blog isn’t a “Why me Lord?! Why Me?!” type bemoaning of a Queen Latifah in the movie The Last Holiday (in the movie she’s mistakenly diagnosed as having only 3 weeks to live), which, of course, is easy for me to say since I’m not the one lying in a hospital bed. You see, my mother-in-law is well beyond retirement age, and given her long-term health struggles is really either a walking miracle, or a testament to the resilience of the human body and will power – or all three.

Rather, in the case of my mother-in-law, the question is not so much”Why did this happen?” or (if you’re a person of faith) “Why did God allow this?” But rather, “What are we to make of, and take from the extraordinary timeliness, and sometimes fortuitousness of events, relationships, et cetera, in life?

Her situation is “fortuitous” only in the sense that her hospital admittance comes a mere three weeks after my wife graduated with a 3-year in length MSN degree – less than 48 hours after she completed her national CNS credentialing exam – and in-between her search for full-time work. Any earlier (or later) and she would not have had the time and opportunity to hop on a plane and be with her mother 24/7 during this difficult and fearful time.

You see, my theology, as it were, doesn’t wrestle (much) with the skeptic’s scornful question – “If there is a God, why does s/he allow suffering?” Suffering, to me, is largely part and parcel of having been created with the inestimable freedom of will and choice.  Like my doctoral mentor, whose memoir recounts carrying the wet, cold and lifeless body of his 5-year-old son out of a South African river, what’s of more life-giving-meaning to me than resolving the enigma of immense suffering in this world is a belief that “God” (whoever ultimate reality might be for you) participates with and suffers alongside us in our day-to-day lives.

Therefore, like many of you I’m contemptuous of simplistic platitudes and theologies that convey belief in “God’s will” for this and that calamity or atrocity, such as ‘God plucks his most beautiful flowers,’ and ‘Take comfort that this was the will of God.’  I don’t think the MANY people – in my experience mostly Christians – who persist in holding and professing such belief ever pause to truly consider the many day-to-day life implications of what believing in that “type of God” entails.

So . . . I’m not arguing for God’s existence based on this one very personal and sad event, whose timing appears beyond the coincidental.

I’m merely suggesting that during the many very difficult days of the past three years of our family’s struggling through graduate studies alongside my wife (those of you who have a postgraduate degree know what I’m saying about graduate studies being a “family thing” versus merely the lone student’s achievement), this one tragic event’s timing gives us grateful pause.

I suppose I’m also saying that if I have to choose in life between living with either a belief that a compassionate and loving Being participates in life alongside you and me – in good times and through suffering – or in a world of mere happenstance and fate.  I’ll choose the former.

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Grandparents | Person and Place Specialness

When it comes to a grandparent or great-grandparent, memories of person are inseparable from place.

My three younger daughters and I returned yesterday from a quick, 3-night trip to El Paso, where we visited “Bueli” (short for Abuelita), my wife’s mother. We never knew “Abuelo,” as he died of leukemia four years prior to my dating his only child (Whew! – not his death, obviously, but that I didn’t have to ask his permission).

A visit to Bueli generates a lot of excitement, which is a combination of cozy/fun memories, and of at least two forgettable ones: the drive distance required to reach her, and the cramped sleeping quarters for our family of 7 once we arrive (Bueli lives in a small, two-bedroom condominium near William Beaumont Medical Center).

Memories that rapid fire in the kids’ minds when they hear a trip to ELP is in the works, include:

-The “cozy smell” of Bueli’s house (as one daughter described it)

-Getting to finger-stick her for one of her many daily glucose testings

-Playing tea with the stainless steel tea set we gave Bueli on one of her trips to South Africa

-Evening roundtrip family walks to the Amphitheater in nearby McKelligon Canyon

-The stunning early morning and late evening beauty of the surrounding desert and Franklin Mountains

-ELP’s famous lit at night “mountain star”

-Eating Mexican food and drinking horchata at Tierra Del Sol Restaurant

-Pigging out at Cattleman’s Restaurant (as a younger man, I once ate a 32-ounce T-bone, which dangled off at both ends of the plate when the server brought it), and . . .

-A morning jaunt across Transmountain pass to shop, plus, of course, Starbucks’s coffee at Barnes & Noble adjacent to Sunland Park Mall.

Evening walk up McKelligon Canyon

Would you like tea?

Desert beauty

Recently I came across pictures (memories) of our first three years of marriage, which we spent living with my dad’s dad, “Daddy D” (DD), in Pleasant Grove, Dallas.  This came about during my first semester of Master’s studies because my grandmother (Mamaw) passed away.  Of Mamaw – she remembered her first encounter with an automobile.  One passed her family’s residence in Mississippi, whereupon she and her sister ran quickly out to the dirt road, placing their noses to the ground in an effort to catch whiff of the car’s rubber tires.

Since we were a financially strapped newlywed couple (like most) it was suggested that we live with DD and commute to school (50 miles). It would save us money, plus help stave off his certain-to-be loneliness. At the time he was 82. We were 22!

DD probably had a side to his character and person, which Ana and I might find unpleasant, but after three years living with him, we never discovered what it was.

For more than two decades DD worked at the Aggie Feed and Chick Store, still operational at 9105 C. F. Hawn Freeway, Dallas, Texas 75217.

Aggie Feed & Chick Store

From 4th to 6th grade I kept a garden and raised broiler and hen chickens, which upon slaughter or collection of eggs, I sold to my only paying customers – my parents! Specific to DD, the only time in any family member’s recollection that he ever wrote a personal letter to anyone was to me!

I was always dreaming and drawing up plans on how I was going to be a big-time, rich chicken farmer, and in order to succeed, I needed to know current prices for chicks, feed, and supplies.  DD was the person I wrote to with my many questions, and he responded: listing the prices for a variety of different breed chickens, plus how much feed I’d need for X-number of chickens, et cetera.

DD was a simple (do not read stupid) elderly man, who was ever-so-softly always whistling, and had a habit of slightly rocking one or both arms back and forth when experiencing pleasant discomfort (e.g., when he was being light heartedly teased).

Every single day, at day’s end, he would sit in his tan-colored recliner, and while watching the likes of The Dukes of Hazzard, T.J. Hooker, or Adam-12, peel an apple or an orange, which he, of course, then ate.  He didn’t just peel the fruit, though. He peeled them so as to have long, thin streamers of peel or skin.

DD’s house was simple too.  Nothing fancy, just a 3-bedroom non-brick house on a large, maybe one acre plot.  Most of the backyard was “under garden” or tillage. He also had a green house, which at the age of 92 he climbed up on top of to replace the roof!

We grew everything from red potatoes to asparagus.  My poor, poor young bride learned quickly how to can tomatoes and sweet corn! One pleasant and painful memory I have of harvest time, was pulling up potatoes.  It was fun and like drilling for oil or water because you never knew what size or how many “taters” you were going to get. One problem, though, were fire ants, which liked to make their home among the potatoes, and feed on your burrowing and exposed hands.

Washing red potatoes

Me digging up potatoes

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Daddy Dee

Post-workout

Post-workout

At the age of 83 DD decided it was time to take up golf and it was up to me to both coach and partner with him.  We would go out back together and hit plastic golf balls.  On at least two occasions we went to a nearby municipal golf course – memories for me of agonizingly slow-paced play and constantly spotting (because of his cataracts) and informing him where his golf ball went (usually a distance of no more than 50 to 75 yards, and always it seemed at a 90-degree angle to where he was walking:). Obviously his age and loss of agility prevented him from a full-rounded swing, so instead he would quickly hatchet the ball – taking both rigidly straight arms with club in hand backward about 4 feet, then swiftly pushing them forward, connecting with and shot-putting the ball forward.

We two hitting golf balls in backyard

Our years with DD were special for many reasons, not least of which is that our first-born was born. I remember when Ana informed me she was pregnant.  I was watching TV with DD.  She came in from work at Parkland Hospital and stood in front of me (obstructing view of TV). Smiling, she extended her arm, handing me “the clue”: a baby rattle. I was very slow to catch-on!

Our final months with DD were good, but sad. We were soon leaving to work in South Africa. Once again he was confronted with singleness. At some point in time after he knew we were leaving, he began dating a much younger woman (59) from a nearby Baptist church. DD was informed by his conservative pastor that he would not agree to DD continuing his long-held deaconship responsibilities, in that, his wife-to-be was a divorcee! This budding romance was alarming to DD’s children as well, because after all, surely this much younger woman couldn’t actually be in love with an 86-year-old, and must be out for his money (not that a feed store hourly wage employee would have generated much cash reserves).

So . . . guess who was called upon to “counsel” and hopefully show my granddad the error of his ways?!  You got it! I was too young at the time to refuse both pastor and family request. I remember the night I went in to DD’s bedroom, where he was seated in relative darkness in his dark green bedroom recliner. I don’t recall what I said or how I spoke, but I do remember what DD said and did. Tears rolled down his cheeks and he quietly stated, “Scott, I just don’t want to be lonely!”

Thankfully DD didn’t listen to his detractors and went ahead and married this much younger woman.  They remained married (happily, I think) for 12 years, until DD’s death at 98.

My wife and I will always remember the man and the house at 3322 Pleasant Drive, Dallas, Texas.

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