Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Another year without blogging

2009 -- a year in which The Rag has been utterly neglected, and not for lack of anything to write about. The big news is that the son was born this year, a result of the wife's pregnancy that I mentioned in the previous posting. I really wanted to write about it when it happened and the memory was fresh, but that only would have made me even more sleep deprived.

My wedding anniversary happened to fall on President's Day this year, and I happened to have a job this year that let me take President's Day off. It was two days before the son's due date, and the wife had had quite enough of the whole pregnancy thing, but we still made plans to get out, have lunch at R.J. Grunts in Lincoln Park, and take a nice walk through the Lincoln Park Conservatory.

The traditional gift for the first anniversary being paper, I left home after breakfast to get some paper goods from the dollar store -- a deck of cards, a journal, construction paper. Upon returning home and presenting these gifts to the wife, we got ready to head out for lunch. At some point, the wife mentioned that there seemed to be something going on with the pregnancy. She wasn't quite sure, but maybe her water broke? She decided to call the doctor.

The wife made an appointment, but we still planned to go to R.J. Grunts afterward. She really, really wanted that salad bar, and whatever was going on with her body was probably nothing. False alarm. It could at least wait until after lunch! (Of course, you, the reader, know what happened. I mean, if her water hadn't broken, it wouldn't make a very interesting story, would it?)

And of course, as we entered the building where her doctor's office was, the floodgates opened. It should suffice to say that it was hardly necessary to get the doctor's opinion at that point. And R.J. Grunts would have to wait. However, there was one other thing that wouldn't wait.

Let's back up a few hours to when I was shopping for paper. As I was browsing the dollar store's collection of journals, my phone rang. It was Performers' Music, located in the Fine Arts Building on South Michigan Avenue, and they were calling to let me know my tenor recorder had arrived at long last! I could pick it up any time. I said I wasn't planning on being downtown that day, but I could stop by on my lunch hour the next day.

As the wife and I were leaving the doctor's office, I realized that there was no chance I'd make it to the music store the next day. Or any day that week, for that matter. But I had been waiting so long. I had ordered the instrument around New Year's, and the first one that was shipped was defective. Now it was waiting for me, just a few miles away, but the only way I was going to have it any time soon was if I picked it up right away. So yes, we drove down to the Loop, and I left the wife, whose water had just broken, in the car while I ran up to the ninth floor of the Fine Arts Building to pick up a recorder.

It was already late in the afternoon when we arrived at the hospital. The midwife was called, labor was induced. An exhausting twenty-six hours later, still not much progress. Cesarean, after all that. Sigh.

I joined the wife in the OR, and I don't know how I managed to stay conscious and upright. It was such an intense experience, I have a hard time organizing my memories of it. The wife was given an epidural that made her shake all over. There was activity behind a screen -- something I did not want to see. Then a baby crying. There he was over on the far side of the room being examined. My own tears obscured my vision. And then he was there in front of me, held up by a vague figure in scrubs. Wet. Hairy. Tongue quivering. Did I want to hold him? Are you kidding? Do I look like I'm in any condition to hold a newborn?

I'm sure everyone wonders, before their first child is born, what would their progeny look like? Would he have long eyelashes and thin eyebrows, or short eyelashes and bushy eyebrows? Short arms and long legs, or long arms and short legs? I had tried to create an image in my mind, but nothing I imagined came close to the real thing. The instant I first saw my son, wailing in the operating room, there was a flash of recognition -- this was my son, and he really did look like me, as much as a newborn could. My son. Wild.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A year without blogging

In this year, now almost over, I've hardly updated the blog at all. A lot of things have happened in my life that are blog-worthy, but the more there is going on, the less time I have to blog. A rundown of the year:

- In January, my employer did something I found to be unforgivable. I started updating my resume.
- In February, I got married. (Still no regrets.)
- The bride and I spent the latter half of February on our honeymoon in Italy, Spain, Morocco, the Canary Islands, and Madeira.
- In March, back in Chicago, I found myself commuting to work 60 miles every day through a minefield of potholes. About every week I was taking my car into the shop to get tires, wheels, brakes, suspension, etc., fixed. I started sending my resume to recruiters.
- In May, we went to Orlando and went to the Fringe Festival with my father-in-law.
- As soon as we got back to Chicago from the Fringe Festival, we went into the bedroom. I will not disclose details of what took place, but some time later, the wife emerged from the bedroom pregnant.
- In July, my cat turned 15.
- Also in July, I got a job offer and gave notice at my old job.
- The wife and I took a trip to New York City in August before I started my new job.
- In September, my grandfather passed away, which I wrote about.
- In October, the wife and I took a trip to Philadelphia to visit my brother-in-law and his family.
- In November, I voted. Change happened -- I voted for the winner, for a change.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Grandpa Heddie

Grandpa Heddie. (Or should it be spelled Headie?) When I was first learning to talk, I had a little trouble with my grandfather's name. Everyone got a chuckle out of my way of saying it, which probably only added to my confusion. Eventually, I learned how to spell "Heddie" and discovered it did not start with an 'h'. E-D-D-I-E.

My last remaining grandparent died a little over a week ago, on September 13, a day that is also notable as the rainiest day in Chicago history. A blog posting is hardly the medium to do justice to the whole of a man's life; but let me attempt a small piece of it.

After my grandmother died, Grandpa Eddie started spending his winters with his older sister in California. I took a trip out to visit the two octogenarians in 2002. While my grandfather was remarkably healthy for a man in his late eighties, I was a little concerned to see his belly protruding much more than I had remembered it. I wasn't sure what to make of it at the time. He had it checked out on his return to Chicago in the spring, and the news was grim. He had an enormous tumor in his abdomen.

The doctors were reluctant to operate on a man of his age. They decided in favor of it on account of his extraordinary health, apart from the tumor. But it was a major operation, and no one knew if he would recover.

Eddie lost a kidney in that ordeal, but he made as full a recovery as we could hope for. Without the surgery, he would not have had long to live. In the six years following surgery, he lived at home indepedently. He got back on the golf course. He attended the weddings of five of his grandchildren and saw three great-grandchildren come into the world. At my wedding this past February, he got out on the ballroom floor and danced.

Still, he was left with just one kidney, and that kidney never quite took over the work of the one that was lost. His health gradually began to decline. (You can read about one harrowing episode in my posting titled Reviving Edward, from the summer of 2005.) This spring, my grandfather's remaining kidney failed. He went to the hospital a couple of times, but there wasn't much they could do. After the second time, he was so weak that he needed physical therapy before he could go home. Then he went home, but the swelling in his extremities made it impossible for him to take care of himself. We knew the end was near.

I remember when I visited my grandfather when he was in the midst of one of his setbacks -- I think it was about two years ago. He lamented, "You can't stop it. You can't stop the decline."

The day before my grandfather died, I got a phone call from my mother. He was not doing well. My wife suggested that we visit him in the nursing home that evening, and that we pick up my sister on the way. We arrived in my grandfather's room just as my Aunt Judy and Uncle Joe were leaving. My grandfather was wide awake, and he greeted us with a broad smile. He looked better than I expected, and his voice was stronger than it had been when I had visited him the week before. He told us an amusing story about a woman who, in her state of dementia, would frequently wander into his room and try to get in his bed. But he also told of his discomfort -- his swollen, numb hands with their phantom pains. He held his hands out in front of him and looked at them, and I was reminded of his earlier lament.

As visiting hours were ending, my sister stood behind his wheelchair and rubbed his back. He leaned forward. Closed his eyes. And his breathing changed. Does it feel good? Yes. I told him that I hoped I would see him again soon, and as I left I remembered to look back at him one last time. He was still smiling.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


If you're one of the three people who read my blog, you might be expecting me to write something about the Iowa caucuses. But I have something happier to write about. Yesterday, my niece Natalie was born.

Poor Natalie -- she's already being compared to her big sister Ella. When Ella was born, she had long, dark eyelashes, but hardly any hair on her head. Natalie is just the opposite; she has lots of dark hair on her head, but hardly any eyelashes.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bryn Mawr update

I took a walk around the Bryn Mawr Historic District today for the first time in quite a while. This past July I had heard, straight from the owner, that a new Sweet Occasions location was within weeks opening up at 1038 W. Bryn Mawr, Now, if by "weeks" he meant 30 weeks, then okay -- he still has a chance to make good on that. But as of today, it is still not open for business.

A bit farther west on the same block is the notorious Nookie's property. Still boarded up. I first heard about plans to open a Nookie's restaurant on this site more than five years ago. Because the previous occupant, a dry cleaner, had left behind toxic chemicals, years of environmental remediation ensued. Early this year I heard that the project was on the verge of moving forward, but there is still no visible sign of it.

I also thought I'd see if Habeebi's, of which I gave a lukewarm review at the beginning of this year, had managed to stay in business. It came as no surprise that they did not. Already, there is a new Japanese restaurant named Shinobu occupying that location. (It might be a good idea for them to take the old Habeebi's awning down.) Shinobu is not open for lunch; otherwise I would have taken a peek inside.

After finally getting a tuna sandwich at the reliable Flourish, I headed back east. I stopped to take a look at the bricolage mural at the Bryn Mawr underpass beneath Lake Shore Drive. The bricolage was completed this past summer by Edgewater community members and the Chicago Public Art Group. Composed of brightly colored fragments of tile, glass, and other materials, it is a striking work, well worth seeing. But there is no getting around the fact that it is in a highway underpass. Pedestrians will only see it if they are on their way to or from the lakefront via Bryn Mawr, though precious few will want to take a stroll along the lakefront this time of year. And I think the unadorned Berwyn pedestrian viaduct, three blocks south, is still more appealing, since there you don't have to contend with the on and off ramps.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Good-bye, temporary cat, my friend


After a year and a half with Grendel, the temporary cat, I had to face the fact that I'm not so good at placing homeless animals. So today, I drove him to a local no-kill shelter and left him in their care. In all likelihood, I will never see him again.

During his stay at my home, he never exhibited the misbehavior that compelled his previous owner to give him up. Lucky for Grendel that he kicked the habit -- it makes him much more adoptable. I hope he finds a good lap to sit in soon.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Old stuff

I'm going through my stuff and finding all kinds of things like my old paperback copy of George Orwell's 1984. It was in bad shape when I first acquired it; even then it was missing pages, and the spine was so brittle I could hardly open it. But the cover art was way better than what they put on the new copy I bought a few years ago: