Archive for April, 2010

Caps for the Cure

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

I love Spring. Not for the flowers, the warm weather or even the pollen. Instead it’s the reminders that mean the most. Late April into early May they start. A tattoo here, a hat there; each a subtle reminder of Elena’s influence and our desire to help other children in a way we could not help our own. I drive home and smile as I pass by the school. The children are on their way home too, only this time they wear hats. Ball caps, knit caps, even sombreros – each signifying a unified front in the battle against brain cancer – each a participant in the Caps for the Cure benefit that touches tens of thousands of students each and every year.

Tomorrow they’ll be wearing tattoos – a gift to each and every participant that helps us raise funds for The Cure Starts Now. What we don’t tell them is that the tattoos aren’t as easy to remove as a hat. When we purchased them we had a choice of 1 day or 1 week temporary tattoos – one more easy to remove that the latter. We chose the latter. After all, they call it a tattoo for a reason, even if they also call it temporary. Still, it’s a reminder of the cause they won’t forget, long after the hat is buried in the far reaches of the closet.

The first year the school decided to hold Caps for the Cure the day before graduation. Of course I knew what to expect – I just didn’t say a word. And in the end there were over 150 pictures of smiling graduates, each with a tattoo of Elena’s picture and the www.thecurestartsnow.org address blazoned upon their arms or even their foreheads. I could only imagine the frustration of the expectant parents as their once-in-a-lifetime moment was marred by our once-in-a-lifetime message. Still I couldn’t be happier, even if Caps for the Cure has since now been safely planned two weeks before graduation ceremonies.

It’s a message from one to thousands. It’s about curing cancer, one child at a time. It’s a reminder that the homerun cure for all cancers starts first with brain cancer. And it’s a message that can’t touch enough families and enough schools. Help us today and bring it to your school. We need all the help we can get. Then you too can smile as you pass them on the street, knowing the difference started with you.

For more information, please visit www.thecurestartsnow.org and click on “contact” at the bottom of the page and select “caps for the cure” as the subject. We’ll take care of everything else.

Spaceless

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

“DamnforgottogetmilkohwellguessIcanusecream”, his journal begins before filling the page. In 10 pt. courier font, single space it continues, “havetodothewashoutofsocks”. From line to line, the subject changes, often without punctuation and without spaces – all a blend of to-do lists and a stream of consciousness, often at the same time. And it all comes from the desk of Ken.

It started around the time Elena’s journal started. Unable to read as his eyesight failed, my mother would read weekly journals from our experiences with Elena in Memphis to my grandfather back home. It was our way of communication, much simpler than telephone chains and more composed than the emotional roller coaster we felt. In so many ways it also became more. And just as we reconciled our feelings and established a legacy for Elena, my grandfather decided to establish his own right there at his kitchen table and a 40-year-old typewriter from the basement.

Today that legacy continues. At first it was deliberate and planned. He told of visits from family, news of the day or even the weather. In time he would start to write grocery lists, fights with the squirrels that raided his handmade birdfeeders and even of “that Jenny” (the obvious favorite of his children) as she performed the latest heroic act of taking him shopping at the local close-out store. The spacebar didn’t work, the shift bar sometimes stuck (leaving the occasional CAPITAL LettER) and the enter key skipped a line if he pressed too hard, but the journals continued. Corrections initially made with a strong XXXXXXX strikeout in time became pointless and the errors remained, giving his journals a human-like quality with the errors offering grace to his observations, even occasionally highlighted when he would comment “damnmisspelleditagain” or with a “hahahahaha”. But in the end, it came to be a journal we would appreciate and beg to read each Sunday as we joined him for dinner.

I doubt he could read the words he put to the page. Sometimes even we had trouble, both with the lack of spacing to discern the day’s events and when the ink would run out mid-sentence but the journal would continue, obviously pounded into the paper from the keys he continued to press, lost forever to a memory that wouldn’t last. Still, the 20 of us would clamor around the 8 foot kitchen table passing the days journal from person to person as if completing a group crossword puzzle that clearly took a family effort, if only because of the misspellings and lack of punctuation.

43 lines later, it would end – often as abruptly as it started, but not because his thought was finished. Instead, because it was the end of the paper. And so, in mid-sentence, the stream of consciousness would conclude, to be completed on the black typewriter roller where all sentences must end. Still, if you ask him I doubt he worried about what he wrote or even how he wrote it. Because just like Elena’s journal was a way to communicate with Gracie and our family, so are my grandfather’s ramblings still today. But not because of the do-lists, the lack of spacing or even the weather report. Instead, it’s about the communication he fosters right there at his kitchen table. Laughs, jokes and love around an eight-foot table set for 20. Complete with an old-typewriter to tell his story.

*140 characters can never be enough – not for Ken and not for me. In celebration of his journal and on my twitter account of keithdesserich, spaces are optional. Plenty of room to tell you damnIforgottogetthemilkagain.

All Dressed Up

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

“Cross your legs when you sit.”  I say it no less than three times, yet she doesn’t understand.  “But Dad, they already know I’m wearing underwear.”  “But when you wear a dress you’re supposed to cross your legs when you sit,” I reply as she strikes a karate pose and strikes me in the gut.  I can already tell she doesn’t get the idea.

 

Bows, ruffles, and dresses – never a favorite of Gracie.  Her least favorite color is pink, right after rust-bucket yellow.  No princesses, no flowers and no butterflies.  Blue, green and brown will do.  And no ornamentation.  She wants her shirts plain – or with a hint of rebel design.  She’s nothing like her sister.  For her it was all about ruffles, princesses and pink.  Brooke calls her “athletic”.  The truth is I don’t know what to think.  And right now I’m calling her stubborn.

 

“I don’t want to go outside,” she says with arms folded as she stands near the back door.  I persist.  “Just get the newspaper.  We don’t want to be late to church.”  “But they’ll see me…in…a…DRESS,” she mumbles.  I lie and tell her it’s too early for anyone else to be up.  It works.  Still she runs down the driveway, looking to the right and left making sure that no one catches a glance – at least anyone she knows.

 

She has precisely three dresses.  Each one has been worn once.  I doubt they’ll ever see a second time.  Instead, for Gracie it’s about jeans, t-shirts and a ponytail.  Even a headband is a battle.  And this morning it took both Brooke and I to win it.  “You look…cool,” I comment, quickly replacing the word pretty with cool, realizing the error of my ways.  She looks back, knowing I’m trying to win her favor.  Brooke’s more deliberate.  “You look so pretty,” she says, “like a pink little princess.”  Gracie growls and I get hit in the gut.  Once again her aggression is misplaced and I am the punching bag.  This time it’s my turn to growl at Mom.

 

Soon we’re at church and they call the children to the stage before hustling them off to Sunday school to do something far more interesting than what we’ll do in the pew.  I’m jealous.  Still, even from the rear pew I can see I didn’t remind her enough.  Sitting with the Pastor in front of the altar, she answers his question, legs wide open.  Oh well.  I guess they all know she’s wearing underwear, I just wish the 100 people this Sunday didn’t know they were green.  Maybe next time I’ll let her win the argument.  She can wear the pants.

Sneaking Cheetos

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

I’m on a diet. OK, so it’s purely psychological – more like a sympathy diet.

 
The truth is I’m about the only person that lies about his weight; at least the only person that ads pounds just to make myself seem heavier. And I have to. They ask for my weight when I go to the doctor. I tell them 140. But then they check and move the weights back. They ask when I get on small planes. I tell them 180. This time they know I’m lying almost immediately as they look head to toe at my scrawny frame. Can you blame me though? I’m worried about the woman ahead of me whose 6’8” and claims to be 100 pounds. I’m not about to crash because she can’t tell the truth. And so I lie just to keep us both alive.

 
I really weigh about 130 lbs and not an ounce more. And I’m still ashamed. After all, a man should have muscle, he should have fat and he should never weigh less than 150 lbs. 130 lbs. is still regarded as a boy – a fact I can attest to considering I still have to occasionally shop in the “young mens” section of Sears. This is particularly embarrassing when the only color sport coat I’ve ever been able to find is navy blue and my size in pants only come in denim. And God forbid if I miss breakfast or dinner one day for I’ll lose 5 lbs the next. I guess it’s the metabolism.

 
I don’t even eat well. I don’t really eat poorly either, though. In the morning it’s a bowl of Lucky Charms or Fruit Loops (thank you Elena and Gracie for teaching me the value of sugar cereal at 5am) and a bagel. For dinner it’s a meat and vegetable. No lunch – most of the time I get caught up in the day and forget. At night I’ll rummage the fridge for whatever is available. Tonight as I write this journal all I can think of is the Elena Blueberry Pie Ice Cream in the freezer that beckons, the serving-size remainder of Cheetos at the bottom of the bread box or the McDonalds commercial I’ve seen now three times on TV. And this is where I get into trouble.

 
Brooke is also on a diet. And because she is on a diet, so am I. With her doing the shopping, junk food is sparse and I fear that this is my last pint of ice cream and last handful of Cheetos I will see in a long time. So I ration it to make it last longer. I’ll only have 10 spoonfuls of ice cream and a half of a handful of Cheetos tonight as I write. McDonalds still beckons – I think they understand the weakness of the male mind after 10 pm. But as I fill my cheeks I can hear the subtle moan of the treadmill upstairs. She’s burning calories while I pack them on one level below. But then again, it’s always been this way.

 
I watch Brooke eat and wonder. She eats fruit, vegetables, cottage cheese and shakes. I eat Cheetos, bagels and sugar cereal. She works out twice a day, running up to 2 miles. I think I may have worked out last November, once. I distinctly remember being bored after running a half a mile and stopping to fiddle with the television that had a bit of static. I never came back. To tell you the truth, I think I even left the MP3 player dangling from the treadmill. Still, she has the determination, the will and training. I’m just a distracted wimp when it comes to exercise. Yet, if I skip this last handful of Cheetos I have no doubt I’ll lose another 3 lbs that I need to keep my dignity the next time I go to the doctor.

 
And so tonight I’ll eat my Cheetos in the darkness. I’ll even hide the bag at the bottom of the garbage can just so she’ll think I’m fighting alongside her. But in truth she’s a lot better than I am and I know it. I have no excuses for cheating, at least with the exception of the ice cream. I eat a half a pint each night of Elena’s ice cream to make the world better. $.50 of every pint goes to The Cure Starts Now. After all, the best way to fight cancer is with a little obesity. Maybe tonight I’ll even have two.