Child at Heart 

I usually write about my children or family in this blog. The funny things that happen throughout our lives and how I try to raise my kids to be responsible adults that make a contribution to society. I’ll have some of that in here today but I mainly will be focused on losing someone.  

I recently lost a very close friend of mine. Someone I’ve known since the eighth grade. Now that doesn’t mean we were always close. I’d say always friends but we didn’t become close until around five or six years ago. I helped him get a job and place to stay when he moved back to New Orleans from Los Angeles. He let me move into that place when my ex wife and I split up. I don’t think we even realized along the way how close we became. 

The thing about Josh (yes we had the same first name which made it fun meeting people when we were together) was he would always make you laugh. If you were having a bad day he was there to change that. He was also there if you offered to buy lunch, but the company was well worth a trip to Dat Dog or Company Burger. No matter how sad he was he would never let you have a bad day if he could help it.  Most things he would say to make you smile are definitely inappropriate for this post but he was such a genuine person. You couldn’t help but love the guy no matter what. 

Josh also loved my kids and they loved him. Always wanting to go see Mr. Josh and always waking up way too early when the stayed the night which Mr. Josh loved. He was definitely not a morning person but he would always be up for a trip to the zoo or the French quarter with the kids. He was forever a kid inside and that just stood out when he’d tag along for our adventures. 

 

At French Quarter Fest with Josh and the kids


 Monday, April 25, 2016 was when I got the news. I heard really quick from a mutual friend. Realizing that his family hadn’t heard the news I knew I’d have to make one of the toughest calls I would ever make. I called his mom and gave her the news. Cried with her. Told her all the things I could think of but nothing would make it better. So hard to do that knowing the words I told her would break her heart. But it wasn’t over. I knew eventually I’d have to tell my kids. They loved Mr. Josh. They’ve dealt with death before but it was never someone this young. Someone they hung out with and even though Josh is almost 40 they had a child’s friendship with him. 
Needless to say I’m proud of my children. Julia asked her mom if she could go to Josh’s services to say goodbye. Coleman couldn’t go because he had a baseball game. The little slugger hit a home run and said he did it to honor Mr. Josh. With how much he loved baseball I’m sure that would have meant the world to him. It showed me as a father how well his mother and I have raised them. That they wanted to say goodbye and were thinking about him regardless of what they ere doing. It also made me feel so much more deeply for his mother and family. Once upon a time Josh was there innocent little boy. It breaks my heart with theirs to know they have to go through this. I just hope they know how much their son meant to the world he touched. He may be gone too soon but he definitely left a mark that only he could. He will be missed. 

Now Josh would not want me to end this all sad. So I give to you the most ridiculous video I could find of our dear friend Joshua Michael Clarkson. May you rest in peace you crazy bastard. I love you more than you ever knew buddy. The most unique person I’ve ever had in my life by far. 

Advertisements

War Wounds

I often think of how my children have things better than I did. They definitely are spoiled to a much greater extent than their mother and I. My parents being teachers in Louisiana you would think the state thought they were teaching for fun on their salary. Plus let’s face it, toys are cooler now. Give me some Thundercats and G.I. Joes and that’s all I need. My kids are 7 and 8 now and they have iPads and all kind of other stuff that was technologically impossible. I mean short of a hoverboard they pretty much have all the cool movie gadgets we always dreamt of. (2015 is the year Marty McFly had the hoverboard so there’s hope)

Another way they have a great advantage is they know all of their grandparents and met two sets of great grandparents. That’s something I’m truly happy about because I only had one living grandparent (my dad’s dad) and my great grandmother on my mom’s side growing up. It’s something I missed out on. My grandfather lived far-away in Florida. I didn’t see him much but he was a great man in my eyes. Definitely a man’s man. Loved John Wayne and wrestling. Could probably build a car from scratch. Drove nothing but Lincolns and I understand he liked to pay cash for them. Great grandma scared the shit out of me and I’ll leave it at that.

I’ve always been curious about my grandfather on my mom’s side. Coleman Joseph “Bobby” Alford. He’s always interested me. He was in World War II. Namely Pearl Harbor. My son carries his name. He had his issues after the war. I think this is what has always made me curious. I just wish I could hear his recount of December 7, 1941. One of the biggest days in our history, a day that would live in infamy, and he was there! He was on the USS Nevada. To know what this man went through on that day would be amazing to me.

The sad thing is he went through his greatest struggles after he returned from the war. Raising my uncles being one of them. My mom of course was an angel. He also became an alcoholic after the war. I’m sure not an uncommon occurrence then and it definitely had its effects on my mom and I’m sure her brothers and sister. Some of them very hard for children although I don’t know much about it. He did get help and sober up in the 70’s. About six months later he was hit by a drunk driver and killed. A very ironic and tragic ending to his life.

To me it’s one of the saddest stories my family has to offer. It does teach me something about family and love. I talked to my mom tonight and at other times about my grandad. Even though they had rough times she never expresses anything but love and respect for the man. It just makes me more intrigued and sad that I never met him.

There is something to be learned from this. Sometimes we have a family member or loved one we don’t get along with. Maybe they hurt us or are going through something we don’t understand. Instead of being quick to judge, or maybe even sever the relationship, we should try to show some love and understanding instead. I know I’ve been judgemental before. We most likely all have. Even my mom (who is a saint). I’ve also know what it’s like to never know someone that may have been very close to you. We should all be grateful for the family members we are blessed to have around us. Sometimes family is all we got, and they need us as bad as we need them.

As for my kids, well they may be too young to appreciate how lucky they are to know all four of their grandparents. From listening to my dad play music to hanging with their Mi Mi or granny. Or my son hunting with his Paw Paw. They are too caught up in the excitement of being a child to understand how amazing these people are. Someday they’ll look back and understand how treasured these times really were. Until then they’ll be waiting for that hoverboard to come out with me.

image

Lost in Never Never Land

“Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.”- William Butler Yeats

Sixteen years ago was a very hectic time in my life. I was a mere nineteen years old. Back then my girlfriend had my first daughter Marie, my grandfather died (the only biological grandparent I knew), and before any of this I lost one of the best friends I ever had.

I often talk about the loss in some way. Mostly the loss I feel from not knowing my oldest daughter, but when it comes to loss there is no year like 1997. On May 31 I got the call that I lost one of my closest friends, Kevin. If you knew Kevin at all you called him Tweety or Bird, and if you knew him chances are you liked him. Bird had the ability to make you laugh under any circumstances. No matter how bad things were he could get a smile out of you. He stood by his friends no matter what. Even if that meant the two of you taking on six large football players together. Keep in mind Tweety isn’t a nickname you earn by being a very large person.

When you have kids you always have people you wish were still around to see them. My grandfather, who my kids would have drove nuts just like I used to. My cousin Kimmy is another. My kids would have adored her. And then there’s Bird. He would have been great with the kids. By now he’d surely have a family of his own. It’s just hard even after a these years to accept that he missed so much in life that I find so rewarding.

So even though today is hard I’ll remember the good times with Tweety. Like watching him stare down a lit roman candle because he thought it went out. Then seeing him look up with a black face and burnt eyebrows after it unleashed it’s fired fury on him. I’ll keep his Mom, Dad and sisters in my thoughts today. If it’s still tough on me I couldn’t imagine the pain they feel every year. I’ll be sure to tell my kids about their uncle Tweety and to be sure they use roman candles in a safe manner in compliance with all labels. Unless your in a Roman candle fight. Then just don’t shoot yourself in the face.

Thicker Than Water

“I sustain myself with the love of family” ― Maya Angelou

Throughout my life I have done a lot of things that I know now were fairly stupid on my part. Nobody would agree with that more than my family. They’ve been there for all of it. I’m not talking about my wife and kids, although I’m sure they would agree also.

I’m talking about my mother, father and sister. They were there for the really stupid stuff. They’ve seen me at my absolute worst. I know a lot of its hurt them along the way but they always stuck by me. Even when my mother had to drop me off at a prison on her birthday she was there with opened arms when I returned. Yes my mom had to take me to turn myself in on her birthday 15 years ago. I wasn’t getting an award for son of the year then for sure. Regardless of the past none of them turned their back on me. They may have disagreed with my actions. They may have used tough love on me but they were always there. The love they gave me got me through it all.

This is on my mind this morning for good reason. I have a good friend that I have known for 20 years. Ever since I’ve known her she’s had a best friend in her sister. They have recently had a disagreement and it has driven a major wedge in there friendship. I see how this tearing her apart. She’s going through a very tough time and I know how much she needs her sister.

It makes me think of the relationship I have with my own sister. I’ll be the first to admit she is a pain in the ass (she’d say the same of me). We may not talk as often as we’d like. She lives in Pennsylvania and I live in Louisiana. We’ve lived entirely different lives. We can’t talk at all about politics. None of that matters though. We are always there for each other if need be. She can call me for anything and she knows it, as long as it’s not to talk politics.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that my heart breaks for one of my closest friends. She has to go through the toughest thing she’s ever endured without the person she needs there most. Where would I be without my family that has backed me? Not where I am today. I wouldn’t be the father, or man I am without them. I wouldn’t have my family since my sister introduced me to my wife. If I did something stupid right now my family would be there for me. They would call me an idiot and maybe slap me in the head (or downright beat the hell out of me), but they would see me through it.

So let’s all try to understand what the people close to us are going through. We may not like what they do or how they do things, but that doesn’t change the fact that they need us. Plus if you stop talking to the ones you love most who’s going to tell them, “I told you so”?

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Hopeful

“The soul is healed by being with children.” Fyodor Dostoevsky

There is a lot of time while sitting in this wheelhouse to think about life. Both the things you’ve done right and wrong. What makes you happy or sad. It’s good to be able to have quiet time to yourself. A lot of people don’t have this option as their life is hectic. No time to sit and just observe or think about the world around you.

The flip side is that most of this time is spent missing my children or other loved ones. It gives me a lot of time to reflect on decisions I’ve made and things I’ve lost. When it comes to that I usually think about my daughter Marie. I often wonder what she’s up to, or maybe what our first meeting will be like. I wonder if that meeting will ever happen.

The one thing I do know is I feel a strong connection to this girl I’ve never met. I always feel that there is some unspoken force that is drawing us together. I often wonder if it’s just my wishful thinking that makes me feel this way. Who knows? I do know the more I see her in pictures the more I see me in her. The faces she makes and her downright silliness. Unless she’s making a really goofy face then she looks like my sister who is also rather goofy.

The quote at the beginning of this post says the soul is healed by being with children and that’s very true. Spending time with my children is the most rewarding part of my life. It doesn’t compare with any other feeling or accomplishment I’ve ever experienced. My thoughts of Marie are what heals my soul just like the time spent with my other children. I know her somewhat from talking with her mother and for that I am extremely grateful. Who knows? Maybe someday soon I’ll actually meet her face to face. Let’s just hope she isn’t making one of those goofy faces I get from my sister when we do. (Just kidding Melinda)

image

Wandering Minds of the Mississippi

For the most part our lives at work are pretty hectic. Not much time for personal thought. Whether you work in an office, in retail or some other professional setting you quite often have time for just your work with barely enough break to catch your breath. That isn’t always the case for the captain of a tugboat.

I once had a fellow wheelman describe our job as 95% boredom and 5% sheer terror. That’s pretty accurate and I find this job is often quite relaxing and to me rewarding. I like what I do and often enjoy the quiet days alone in the wheel house. I’m sure we all think about different things. Sometimes it may be important, stressful things at home like bills or family problems. Often times its trivial, idiotic ramblings of our minds like the threat of the zombie apocalypse. Maybe all of the apes will escape zoos and labs and get injected with a genetically engineered virus that makes them smart and they take over the world while the virus simultaneously kills all the humans? It could happen.

I myself think about the loved ones I have at home. I most often think about my children and most of all my daughter Marie. She’s the one I mentioned in my first post that is 15. I haven’t seen her since she was just a baby. She didn’t even know that I was her dad until five years ago when she was ten years old. Until then she thought her mom’s husband was her father, and he is. A very loving father from what I understand and they are both extremely close. It’s something that I’m very thankful for because she deserves to have someone like him in her life.

Losing her has put an almost unbearable weight on my shoulders over the last 15 years. It’s caused me to be extremely depressed at times and has left me full of regret. The last five years her mother and I have become friends again. I would even say that in my eyes we are very close friends which is amazing since I thought for years that if we ever spoke we would both need to be heavily armed to defend ourselves at any moment. She knows that I have never forgiven myself for losing my daughter and insists I should. That every thing happens for a reason and that this is no different. She says when she is ready Marie will want to know me and I hope she’s right. I love my daughter with all my heart whether I know her or not and I can’t wait to be able to tell her that someday. Even with the hope that this will happen there is a fear that overwhelms me. What if she never wants to know me? What if she hates me for not being there, for leaving her? I may feel this way forever and I accept that. If my punishment for my actions is this empty place in my heart then maybe I deserve to feel this way as a reminder of what I’ve done.

It’s hard to deal with losing someone you love so much due to your mistakes. Just remember the next time you have one of those days, as you think about the important people in your life, make sure you do whatever it takes to never lose them. Take it from a man with few regrets that the things you do regret can possibly cause you and others pain and sadness for the rest of your lives. Feelings I hope nobody lives with. If you are do whatever you can to make things better. Remember there’s only so much time before that zombie apocalypse happens. Then it will be too late.