Dear Meryl

There’s a place for you deep inside my heart, a room filled with wondrous things; beryl blues, setting sky purples, soft sunflower yellows, sherbet orange velvets and vivid reds of every hue, a fractal rainbow complete but yet not fully formed, much like you.
There are a billion brilliant stars waiting to be wished upon, rivers to be crossed, oceans to be discovered and stories to be told, bedtime books to be read.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about you; think about what the colour of your eyes will be, the smell of your sweet and beautiful innocence, the sheer weight of you resting softly in the safety of my arms.

You were born in love, a love that transcends time and space but still has an unknown and occasionally untimely schedule to keep.
You may not know it but I’ve already made promises to you, hidden secrets that lay bare on the waiting shelves that line this quiet room, a sacred place that whispers your name from the rising of the sun to its dipping into the distant palette of the waiting horizon.
I close my eyes and dream of the things you might be dreaming of right now.
And oh, dear little one you must dream.
My prayer is that my heart is big enough to hold all of you in it, to be a safe harbour that is always clear on even the stormiest of nights.
My heart sings to you with the softest of lullabies, maybe keeping some of the dissonance of life far away from your waiting ears . . . for now.
I realize that’s an unrealistic hope at best but it’s a hope just the same.
When I finally hold you, I also understand that I will never be the same again.
I can only pray to be better. And somehow that’s okay with me.
As A.A.Milne said, “Sometimes, the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”
This room is waiting and you are holding the key.

Grampa

She blinded me with science

I’ve been non-existent on the blog as of late and I do apologize.
Life gets real busy sometimes and I’ve no idea how to slow it down.
Accept it and put up something resembling a post, I guess.
Found this sitting out in cyberspace and thought of my daughter Sarah.
Off to work.
I’ll be by for a visit very soon.
Hope everyone is well . . .

~m

A DIALOGUE WITH SARAH, AGED 3: IN WHICH IT IS SHOWN THAT IF YOUR DAD IS A CHEMISTRY PROFESSOR, ASKING “WHY” CAN BE DANGEROUS
By Stephen McNeil

– FROM THE ARCHIVES –

SARAH: Daddy, were you in the shower?

DAD: Yes, I was in the shower.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: I was dirty. The shower gets me clean.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why does the shower get me clean?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: Because the water washes the dirt away when I use soap.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why do I use soap?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: Because the soap grabs the dirt and lets the water wash it off.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why does the soap grab the dirt?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: Because soap is a surfactant.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why is soap a surfactant?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: That is an EXCELLENT question. Soap is a surfactant because it forms water-soluble micelles that trap the otherwise insoluble dirt and oil particles.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why does soap form micelles?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: Soap molecules are long chains with a polar, hydrophilic head and a non-polar, hydrophobic tail. Can you say ‘hydrophilic’?

SARAH: Aidrofawwic

DAD: And can you say ‘hydrophobic’?

SARAH: Aidrofawwic

DAD: Excellent! The word ‘hydrophobic’ means that it avoids water.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why does it mean that?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: It’s Greek! ‘Hydro’ means water and ‘phobic’ means ‘fear of’. ‘Phobos’ is fear. So ‘hydrophobic’ means ‘afraid of water’.

SARAH: Like a monster?

DAD: You mean, like being afraid of a monster?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: A scary monster, sure. If you were afraid of a monster, a Greek person would say you were gorgophobic.

(pause)

SARAH: (rolls her eyes) I thought we were talking about soap.

DAD: We are talking about soap.

(longish pause)

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why do the molecules have a hydrophilic head and a hydrophobic tail?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: Because the C-O bonds in the head are highly polar, and the C-H bonds in the tail are effectively non-polar.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Because while carbon and hydrogen have almost the same electronegativity, oxygen is far more electronegative, thereby polarizing the C-O bonds.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why is oxygen more electronegative than carbon and hydrogen?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: That’s complicated. There are different answers to that question, depending on whether you’re talking about the Pauling or Mulliken electronegativity scales. The Pauling scale is based on homo- versus heteronuclear bond strength differences, while the Mulliken scale is based on the atomic properties of electron affinity and ionization energy. But it really all comes down to effective nuclear charge. The valence electrons in an oxygen atom have a lower energy than those of a carbon atom, and electrons shared between them are held more tightly to the oxygen, because electrons in an oxygen atom experience a greater nuclear charge and therefore a stronger attraction to the atomic nucleus! Cool, huh?

(pause)

SARAH: I don’t get it.

DAD: That’s OK. Neither do most of my students.

The alchemy of tears

They were the best of friends during the best of times and it was the same for the worst times.
Wally, Ginny, Ray and Joanie were so close I always thought of them as “The Inseparables”; and how inseparable they were.

Ray and Joanie were our neighbors across the street from where my sister and I grew up as children; they were a second mother and father we never realized we had until several years ago.
And they really were the best friends my mother and father ever had.
Right up until the very end . . . thick and thin.

But Ray and Joanie are moving next month to the Midwest to be closer to family and my sister and I couldn’t let them leave without saying a very special goodbye.

This story is about their love, their patience, the passage of time and all the little things we as human beings hold so dear.

This story is for Mr. & Mrs. P . . .

Last Sunday night, we had two longtime friends over the house for supper.
It was a happy gathering overall while on another more subconscious level it smacked of something sad, albeit bittersweet because we were ultimately gathered to say our goodbyes.
Ray and Joanie lived across the street from us for what seems like forever and I feel we’ve known them our entire life.

I always considered them to be something of a second mother and father to my sister and me even though they had two daughters of their own who are now married and off raising their own families.

At every significant event in our lives they’ve both been there.
They were also the very best friends to my mother and father refusing to let Alzheimer’s come between them regardless of how difficult their visits to them would someday become.

Believe me; I understand the difficulty and frustration involved in sitting with a person that no longer knows you.
There would come a day when it seemed that no one really cared about my mom and dad and the bewildering fog they were both passing through.

But Ray and Joanie did; day by day, week by week, month by month, year by painful year with their seemingly endless reserve of love and compassion.

Yes, these two were special. And still are.

My sister and I decided we needed to get together and give them something unique and deeply personal not only to remember my mother and father but us as well. After a brilliant suggestion from my wife, I think we had the bases covered.

We ate Chicken Shish-kabob from the grill, Caesar Salad and Rice Pilaf and sat reminiscing on the deck and laughing about the many better days long since past.

With the evening winding down, I gathered everyone on the deck and presented Joanie with a pretty decorated box.
I looked at my sister and could already see the storms brewing in her eyes.
Funny thing was this felt good and so right.

Joanie opened the box and reached in, pulling out something small and wrapped in emerald green tissue paper.

That’s for you, Joanie, I said, from my mother.

Inside the tissue paper were two of my mother’s Hummel’s, a young girl holding a butterfly and another of a little boy smoking a cigar.
Judging from her expression, she knew these two figurines well.
(*as we hoped she would)

She reached back into the box and pulled out something wrapped in royal blue tissue the size of a roll of paper towels.

That’s for Ray
, I said.

Here, Ramie, this is for
you, she said.

Ray tore the royal blue paper off to reveal a German beer stein, something from my father’s collection that I know Ray had seen gracing their hutch for years.
When you lift it to drink, it plays music; kind of cool and totally Ray.

All of us (9) were a bit teary at this point but it seemed so utterly natural.

The tears we cried were the alchemy of many wondrous things: sweetness and sentimentality, happiness and sorrow, loss and regret for the people, places and things of our countless yesterdays past; but most of all they were tears of hope for ourselves, our families and the future of our precious lives and possibly of a world we seldom understood.

Maybe crying was what we were supposed to do at a time like this.
Granted, it was a tender, almost “Walton Family-like” moment but it was sweet nonetheless.
And my God, it was real; real people, real tears.

We said goodbye that night accepting of the fact that for as much as we feel rooted in the mundane routine of our daily lives, we must move on to new journeys and adventures. . . like the one Ray and Joanie are currently undertaking.
I wish them both peace, health, laughter, good times and endless games and conversations with their grandkids.
That’s the very least I can do.

~m

Softy

I brought a journal on vacation and didn’t write a damn thing in it but I did read a few dated entries. They were written in 2001 when ironically, we were on vacation.
I wrote mostly about my girls and the mounting sense of personal disappointment in my ability (or lack thereof) to understand them and their changing lives.

Things have changed dramatically in six short years as this journal entry
from today shows . . .

 

My wife and I went out to dinner last Wednesday night.
It had been a crappy day weather-wise on the Cape and the girls wanted to stay in for the night. They ordered some cheesy Chinese and picked up a few DVD’s to watch with their orders of Boneless Ribs, Crab Rangoons, LoMein, Chicken Fingers and buckets of Duck Sauce.

Pamela and I hardly ever go out these days so quite happily off we went.
Vacations can be unusual in some ways because you rarely spend that kind of time together during a normal week.
It’s agetting to know you {again} kind of scenario; not painful in any way, just different.
We talked about drinks, appetizers and entrées, the place we were staying in, our tentative plans for the next day and numerous ‘remember when’ type memories.
Pamela ordered baked scallops and I had to smile when she tried them and made a face.

What’s the matter?

Your scallops are so much better than these. Why is that?

 

I shrugged my shoulders in my best ‘I don’t know’ fashion.
But I knew. I make them much better and always have.
We finished dinner and decided to take a walk when we noticed the day’s rain had stopped.
I had a cigar and she, her thoughts.
We walked past a Mini-Golf place that had soft-serve. (don’t they all?)

 

You wanna get an ice cream?

 

Sure, she said.

 

A kid-sized twist for the blonde and a regular sized for me, the old guy.
We retreated to our own thoughts as we usually do when we eat ice cream when we saw an older couple drive into the parking lot.
I nodded towards the car and said,

 

That’ll be us in like 20 years.

 

You think so?

 

Sure, I said.

 

I don’t know if I want to come back here without the kids; too many memories.

 

But that’s what this place is all about for us . . . memories . . . and some real good ones too.

 

I don’t know, she said. It makes me sad . . .

The Cape has been a very special place for us over the years.
We’ve watched our daughters grow from diapers and playpens to young and beautiful women that can now drive and pick up their own Chinese food (which they did).

Our lives are changing and that’s a difficult pill to swallow sometimes, especially for a mother that loves her girls as much as I know she does.

I tried to convince her that the girls will never really leave the Cape.
They’ll be at every ice cream stand from Hyannis to P-Town that we visit, every beach that offers up a sunset like the one we all saw years ago in West Dennis; they’re everywhere we could ever need them to be.
Somehow, I got the feeling she didn’t quite believe me.

I will say I now have a deeper understanding of a women’s love for ice cream.

We walked back to the hotel holding hands while the earth continued to spin and the stars continued to blink on.

~m

 

 

The Tale of Cahoon's Hollow and the Unhappy Campers

At my blog, he goes by the name Pooftha, sometimes it’s Poofy but I call him Laho. (Now, don’t go and hit me the racial slur bit, ok?)

Actually, my long time friend Billy (Zipperhead, Zip for short)
coined the name ‘Laho’ and for me it just stuck.
We’ve celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and we get together on a fairly regular basis for a nice dinner out or the occasional BBQ at his house or my house.
(But Laho has a bitchin’ pool, no lie, so we usually go there)

Laho & Liho (his wife, who looks like she could be my wife’s twin sister) are very close to us.
We’ve gone through much together as far as our lives go.

But I’ve yet to tell you Laho’s favorite story about me.
It’s one he likes to pull out and tell (in great detail) every time we’re together.
However, he seems to derive an inordinate amount of pleasure telling it when there are lots of people around to actually listen to the man.
I take it more in stride these days but boy, oh boy, you’d think I really scarred the poor bastard for life the way he tells it. And maybe I did.

 

The story begins with a beautiful day on Cape Cod; the sun is 100% Orange Crush and the skies are a deep shade of eternal indigo with a few scant puffs of white for contrast.
Yeah, it’s perfect, ok?
L&L love the beach visible by their cocoa brown-colored skin during the summer months. I couldn’t take them to just any beach; Uh, uh.
This had to be a very special place.

It didn’t help my cause at all that I chose to praise the living crap out of this
hellhole. . . uhh, I mean really nice beach, I decided to take them to.
We agreed to meet the next day at our hotel and drive to the elbow of the Cape, Wellfleet to be exact.

“You guys are going to love this place,” I said, “It’s called Cahoon’s Hollow and it’s wonderful. We’ll have a blast,” I said confidently.

I should make a point of telling you that each of us had an infant in tow
(translation: we were carrying mucho baby apparatus; diapers, bottles, gallons of SPF 50+ sunscreen, bottled water, chairs, playpens, toys, strollers and incredibly the list goes on…you get the picture. And if you’re thinking this can’t and won’t end well, you’re right)

I should also mention that the path leading down to the beach was a steep incline easy to go down but virtually impossible to get up even when you’re not carrying a six pack of Magic Hat never mind 2 ½ tons of baby shit.

We all made it safely down the blistering hot hill of sand and found a nice spot to set up the girls and the babies.
It wasn’t until we were done that I turned to look at the ocean, the raison d’être for our visit.

Oh. My. God.

I didn’t think the ocean had that much seaweed.
For as far as the eye could see the first 25 to 30 ft of ocean was slimy, brown and extremely icky seaweed.
It even grossed me out, which is really hard to do. (Just ask Laho)

 

Laho said, “Nice . . . you guys come here a lot, huh?”

Even my wife gave me the ‘I don’t even know you’ stare.

By now, we’re all red hot, sweaty and irritable and the babies are getting whiney and crying; they’re hungry.
My recollection of the day pretty much stops right there.
The old grey matter had soaked in enough.

That’s where my good buddy Laho comes in.

He’s good at explaining the perilous and almost life-threatening situation we encountered exiting this shithole of a beach.

He uses words and phrases like “ frickin’ Murphy’” or we almost died getting out of there” or “Goddamned Murphy and his bright ideas” or “You’re not going to believe this shit!” or my favorite, “beautiful, just frickin’ beautiful” to describe the utter mayhem we experienced that day.

I’m here to tell you Laho and Liho (and family) still frequent the beach but our oldest daughters may be repressing some deep seated fears over brown, slimy and copious amounts of seaweed. I’m not sure.

I love Laho like a brother but if I have to hear that damn Cahoon’s Hollow story one more time… I’m still going to be laughing like I always do.
Maybe that’s what good friends do.

And in my heart, we’re more than just good.

And the Hollow will never let us forget that.

 

~m

ps. Liho, you’re Mom and Dad are in my prayers 

The Tale of Cahoon’s Hollow and the Unhappy Campers

At my blog, he goes by the name Pooftha, sometimes it’s Poofy but I call him Laho. (Now, don’t go and hit me the racial slur bit, ok?)

Actually, my long time friend Billy (Zipperhead, Zip for short)
coined the name ‘Laho’ and for me it just stuck.
We’ve celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and we get together on a fairly regular basis for a nice dinner out or the occasional BBQ at his house or my house.
(But Laho has a bitchin’ pool, no lie, so we usually go there)

Laho & Liho (his wife, who looks like she could be my wife’s twin sister) are very close to us.
We’ve gone through much together as far as our lives go.

But I’ve yet to tell you Laho’s favorite story about me.
It’s one he likes to pull out and tell (in great detail) every time we’re together.
However, he seems to derive an inordinate amount of pleasure telling it when there are lots of people around to actually listen to the man.
I take it more in stride these days but boy, oh boy, you’d think I really scarred the poor bastard for life the way he tells it. And maybe I did.

 

The story begins with a beautiful day on Cape Cod; the sun is 100% Orange Crush and the skies are a deep shade of eternal indigo with a few scant puffs of white for contrast.
Yeah, it’s perfect, ok?
L&L love the beach visible by their cocoa brown-colored skin during the summer months. I couldn’t take them to just any beach; Uh, uh.
This had to be a very special place.

It didn’t help my cause at all that I chose to praise the living crap out of this
hellhole. . . uhh, I mean really nice beach, I decided to take them to.
We agreed to meet the next day at our hotel and drive to the elbow of the Cape, Wellfleet to be exact.

“You guys are going to love this place,” I said, “It’s called Cahoon’s Hollow and it’s wonderful. We’ll have a blast,” I said confidently.

I should make a point of telling you that each of us had an infant in tow
(translation: we were carrying mucho baby apparatus; diapers, bottles, gallons of SPF 50+ sunscreen, bottled water, chairs, playpens, toys, strollers and incredibly the list goes on…you get the picture. And if you’re thinking this can’t and won’t end well, you’re right)

I should also mention that the path leading down to the beach was a steep incline easy to go down but virtually impossible to get up even when you’re not carrying a six pack of Magic Hat never mind 2 ½ tons of baby shit.

We all made it safely down the blistering hot hill of sand and found a nice spot to set up the girls and the babies.
It wasn’t until we were done that I turned to look at the ocean, the raison d’être for our visit.

Oh. My. God.

I didn’t think the ocean had that much seaweed.
For as far as the eye could see the first 25 to 30 ft of ocean was slimy, brown and extremely icky seaweed.
It even grossed me out, which is really hard to do. (Just ask Laho)

 

Laho said, “Nice . . . you guys come here a lot, huh?”

Even my wife gave me the ‘I don’t even know you’ stare.

By now, we’re all red hot, sweaty and irritable and the babies are getting whiney and crying; they’re hungry.
My recollection of the day pretty much stops right there.
The old grey matter had soaked in enough.

That’s where my good buddy Laho comes in.

He’s good at explaining the perilous and almost life-threatening situation we encountered exiting this shithole of a beach.

He uses words and phrases like “ frickin’ Murphy’” or we almost died getting out of there” or “Goddamned Murphy and his bright ideas” or “You’re not going to believe this shit!” or my favorite, “beautiful, just frickin’ beautiful” to describe the utter mayhem we experienced that day.

I’m here to tell you Laho and Liho (and family) still frequent the beach but our oldest daughters may be repressing some deep seated fears over brown, slimy and copious amounts of seaweed. I’m not sure.

I love Laho like a brother but if I have to hear that damn Cahoon’s Hollow story one more time… I’m still going to be laughing like I always do.
Maybe that’s what good friends do.

And in my heart, we’re more than just good.

And the Hollow will never let us forget that.

 

~m

ps. Liho, you’re Mom and Dad are in my prayers