Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Smacking Tyler

Every once and awhile, my little boy, Tyler gets on my nerves and I "smack" him.

Here is an example of how it comes to be that I need to smack him: Last night, it was time to get Tyler in his pajamas, and Tyler was just not interested. He was running around, jumping on the bed and "hiding" from me and basically just not listening to me when I told him to "come here so I can put your pajamas on."

Then, I got frustrated. "Do you want me to Smack you?"

"Yes" he giggled.

Well, I can't threaten the boy without following through. I came up to him, aimed at his face and ... "Smack!! Smack!! Smack!!". Tyler just giggled.

I "smack" Tyler with my lips. I kiss him on the face and neck while smacking my lips as loud as I can.

I am wondering if this is a good idea. I do this, because I am frustrated with the way he is behaving, but his behavior is not bad enough to spank him or even give him a time-out. So, the kiss refocuses my frustration and it also gives me a chance to get him to stop what he is doing. All this is probably ok.

But, I guess I am wondering what will happen to me if someday Tyler is talking to one of his little friends and says "My dad smacked me last night. He smacks me all the time," while a teacher or another parent is listening. Explaining that my smack is a lip smacking may not fly in today's world. Plus, is it a good idea to make a game out of behavior that frustrates me? Like I said, it is the sort of behavior that isn't really bad enough to punish, but I am not sure rewarding him is a good idea.

Well... this sure isn't one of my biggest problems in the world. I'll probably keep doing this. It is certainly better than yelling at or hitting the kid ..... right?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Jeremy Shepard

On September 5, 2001, my brother, Jeremy, died when he was 15 years old. He collapsed after running the mile in Gym class, and his heart stopped.

He was born when I was a sophomore in high school. He was born with heart defects which had to be corrected surgically soon after he was born. He spent much of his first year in the hospital. After the surgery, we thought there was no reason that he wouldn't have a normal life without problems. And he did have a normal life (as normal a life you could have in my family) until his sophomore year in high-school. His death came as a complete surprise and shock to everyone.

For some reason, the day of Jeremy's death is stuck in my mind, but the year is something I have to think about. In fact, I cannot recall the birth dates of my children (March 10th and April 5th) as automatically as Jeremy's death date. 0905 is stuck in my mind. 2001 isn't. When I have to remember the year, I can by reminding myself it was the year before Tyler, my oldest son, was born. Why I have such a hard time remembering the year (without a brief reminder) is a mystery to me. You would think that September 2001 would be especially easy to remember (September 11, 2001 was in a few days), but for me, it isn't.

Tracy was home alone when my dad called on the afternoon of the 5th. I was riding my bike home from work and unavailable, so I didn't know until I walked in to find my wife crying. She told me to call my dad. "Some thing's wrong," she sobbed to me. Apparently he didn't tell her what exactly was wrong ... just to have me call immediately.

I was devastated when my dad told me Jeremy was dead. It was just something that I could not believe. 15 year old kids don't drop dead from over-exerting themselves, especially athletic ones like my little brother. I swear I was just sitting there waiting for the punch-line; it was just so unbelievable that Jeremy was gone. I don't remember much about the rest of that day. There is no doubt that I was in shock... sort of a painful, gloomy, lose-all-hope sort of fog. In fact, I was in that same fog for weeks or months after the death.

I don't think I ever felt angry over Jeremy's death. I didn't try to blame God or the high-school or doctors. I was never angry, but I was certainly confused. And of course I was just utterly heartbroken. I did beat myself up a little bit for not being closer to my little brother. I started remembering every time I wasn't as patient as I should be with him as a little boy, and thinking about how seldom we talked after I graduated high-school, and even more-so after I graduated college.

I don't remember much about the couple of days after Jeremy's death. I had to make arrangements to get back to Beach Park, Illinois for Jeremy's funeral on the 10th. I had to tell people at work that I would not be around for a few days. Neither of these things were much fun to take care of. I think I cried more those two days than I ever have in my life.

Somehow, I ended back in Illinois with my pregnant wife for the wake. One thing I do remember about the wake was that Tracy had a big bag of glop (trail mix) because pregnant women need snacks every few minutes. Luckily, she was willing to share the food, because I think ended up needing it almost as much as she did.

The wake exhausted me. The line to view the casket snaked around outside for a couple of blocks. There were literally hundreds of people saying how sorry they were and how they just didn't know what to say. I told most of them, "That's OK... I don't really know what I want to hear." In my head I kept saying, "just tell me that it is just a bad dream and that I will wake up soon with my brother alive again." I was struck by how many people told me what a wonderful, kind person my brother was. He had lots more friends than I ever had in high-school, and they all had stories about what an energetic, kind, joyous, funny person he always was. I bet I didn't actually talk to 20% of the people who showed up ... and I felt like I was talking all night.

A bunch of my college friends also showed up. Some of them drove a couple of hours to help comfort me for a few minutes. I was actually a little bit surprised that so many of my friends made such an effort. It shouldn't have surprised me, but it did.

There was more food at my parents' house than we had room for. And people kept telling us that they had something for us. We had to turn a bunch of food away.

I am definitely an introvert, so interacting with all these people drained me over the few days before Jeremy's funeral. It was nice to hear the nice things they said about him, and I am glad that there were so many people trying to comfort us, but still they drained me.

The funeral was Monday the 10th. The church was packed. Many of Jeremy's high-school friends were excused from classes and came. I remember looking at my Mom who just looked miserable (understandably). I tried to fight back tears, and amazingly, I succeeded for the most part. From what I remember, the service was fine, but I had agreed to be a pall-bearer and for some reason, I dreaded that. The walk down the isle was difficult carrying my dead brother, but I think the most difficult thing I've ever done was to help lift his box into the back of the hearse. I feel like I froze there forever, but I doubt it was more than a second or two. No one else noticed my hesitation. I was the first person on the left side of the coffin, so if I had actually frozen, it probably would have been obvious.

I don't remember the rest of the day, except we watched part of the Broncos and Giants on Monday Night Football. I didn't see the Broncos win and I didn't see Ed McCaffery break his leg, but I heard about both those things the next morning.

And of course, everyone knows what happened on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. It was the day after my brother's funeral. I'm not sure if my shock was greater or less because of the closeness to my brother's death. While we were watching the towers burn on TV, my wife suddenly realized that her brother Tim sometimes worked down in that part of town and ran off sobbing. It turned out that he was no where near the Towers that day, but that was certainly scary to think.

I didn't lose anybody on September 11. Thank God. I'm not sure how I would have handled that on top of Jeremy's death. Whenever anybody mentions September 11th, I associate it more with the death of my brother 6 days before than I do the terrorism attacks. It is sort of weird what perspective we have on such things. For the most part, I would say my life is back to normal. Neither event affects my day-to-day life the way I would have thought 4 years ago.

There are all kinds of references on the internet to the terrorism attacks of September 11th. I can find almost nothing of the death of my brother by googling it. For awhile, one of our neighbors was trying to get a park named after Jeremy Shepard. I don't think anything came of it other than a record of it in the Beach Park Village Board minutes: . I believe my old high-school did a Jeremy Shepard memorial soccer tournament for at least a couple of years, and I am able to find his name on old 2002 and 2003 soccer schedules.

Anyway, here it is 4 years later and I am still thinking about him, but not with as much sorrow as I did 3 years ago or even last year. My oldest son's middle name is Jeremy. Quite often, especially when Tyler was a baby, but still as a pre-schooler, I see some of Jeremy's facial expressions in Tyler. I'm not sure if there is actually something there, or just my imagination. As he gets older, I'll probably see less and less if for no other reason, it is getting harder and harder to remember the details of how Jeremy looked and acted. And of course, after I went away to College, I did not see as much of my brother as I did when we lived together.

Friday, September 02, 2005

10 Years

I have now been married 10 years.

I still lust for my wife. Tracy gets sexier and sexier. Every time I see her, I want to rip her clothes off and do X-Rated things to her body.

Personally, I think she could have married better. I know her mom and dad both think so too, although they are too kind to say so. I think my mom, dad, and sister also think so, although they would never even admit it to themselves let alone tell me about it. But, for some reason, Tracy picked me and has decided to stick with that decision.

It turned out pretty well for her, because we have the two most wonderful boys in the world. Tyler likes to tell us "This is the best family ever." And, Connor just can not stop smiling and laughing, telling us in his cute 3,4, and now 5 - month old sort of way, that he also thinks it is a great family. Both just have a knack for making their parents extremely happy. We could not ask for better kids.

I met Tracy at a Bradley University fraternity party late in 1990. Neither of us were ever high on pay-for-friends institutions like Fraternities or Sororities, but neither of us had much of a problem drinking free Fraternity beer. Surprisingly, she seemed interested in me (I attribute that to the free Fraternity beer impairing her judgment), and we started seeing each other quite a bit. Obviously, I tried to keep her drunk enough that she wouldn't come to her senses, and it seemed to work. I even left the next semester for a co-op assignment in Evanston, Illinois about 200 miles from Bradley. I guess you could say she waited for me. I came down most weekends to spend time with her, and she was the kind of college student who actually studied Monday thru Friday, so in a way, she might not have even noticed I was gone.

We quickly became Shep&Tracy and stayed that way until we became Mr. and Mrs. Shepard about 5 years after we met. No one really had much doubt during that time that we would end up married. After college, Tracy got a job in Normal Illinois working as a co-manager for a Kroger supermarket. I stayed in the area to be near her and got a job at LR Nelson in Peoria. I lived in Morton which was about half-way between my job and Tracy's apartment. We were far enough away to keep her parents happy but close enough that we could see each other on days off.

Things went well, and we got married in 1995. Tracy quit her Kroger job and we moved into an apartment minutes from LR Nelson.

Eventually, we decided to get the heck out of Illinois. After a little discussion (not much because we both agreed) we decided to quit our jobs and move out to Colorado. In October of 1998 we took a "vacation" to Colorado. I spent most of it interviewing and got a job offer in Denver, which I accepted. So, I came back to LR Nelson and gave a few weeks notice. We packed up a little u-haul truck and drove out to Englewood, Colorado in December 1998.

A little over a year after moving into an apartment in Englewood, we got ourselves a house in Littleton. A couple more years and "we" decided to have our first child. Tracy actually made that decision, but I didn't object, even though the prospect of being in charge of a child completely frightened me.

That turned out well. Tyler is a wonderful child.

Another couple of years, "we" decided to have our second child. Again, Tracy actually made the decision; again I didn't object. The prospect of having two children utterly dependant on me still completely frightens me, but I have learned to live with the fear.

That turned out even better than the first one. Connor is also a wonderful child, and Tyler is now a great big brother.

Not a minute goes by that I don't feel completely blessed with my wife and children. I am a lucky guy. Tracy could have done better, but it is too late now. She's stuck for better or worse. Luckily, it keeps getting better and better (especially for me, but I guess for her too).