Dear Family and Friends:
When we were young, my brother Dave had this really funny way of scaring the crap out of me.
He would turn off the basement lights, bolt up the stairs and leave me alone in the basement in pitch-blackness. Standing at the top of the stairs, he would whisper my name like some demonic spector.
That always freaked me out, but in my defense, we did have a creepy basement in my parents’ house. Oh, the main room was normal enough complete with the paneling, ironing board, and built-in bar. But in the back, behind the washer and dryer, was a storage room that featured an odd Jack Sparrow-esque treasure chest, a very large freezer (big enough to store a dead body), any number of spider webs, spiders and fossilized dog turds.
What made that storage room scary was the crawl space. To me, it was more of a mysterious devil cave than a place to store Christmas ornaments. What was in there, how far back did it go? I didn’t know then and I don’t want to know now.
I’d race up the stairs, heart pounding out of my chest.
Today, a grown man, I live far away from the suburban terrors of Minnesota. I have a nearly new home with a beautiful crawl space-less basement. We have an office in the basement. Sometimes I’ll print something and need to go downstairs, at night when everyone’s in bed.
I’ll pick up my printed papers and be totally fine … until I get to the bottom of the stairs. And even then I’ll be good, but for whatever reason in that moment when I touch the light switch, a light switch goes off in my mind and I turn into a 10-year-old boy. The thought of that crawl space maniac breathes down my neck, grabbing me, dragging me back into the blackness.
And that thought causes me to bound up the stairs, two at a time.
I mean, sure, Dave’s probably better known for taking away the ladder after I crawled onto the garage roof or for locking me out of the house or letting me lock him out of the house only to sneak into the house through a window to scare the bejeezus out of me. Those are all classics, but the buried-alive-abandonment issues that resonate with me the loudest today involve the basement, lights out and the crawl space maniac.
Favorite Facebook Updates … #10
When the temperature is 27 degrees, but the wind chill is 13,
why bother mentioning the 27? It’s like, “Hey everybody, it’s super nice out,
except if you go outside, then you’ll be freezing off your *schnutz.”
* Planes, Trains and Automobiles reference. – Dec. 19
Favorite Facebook Updates … #9
Okay, I give up … I’m going to try and eat right from now on.
Can somebody tell me what restaurant in Colorado Springs serves salad? – Nov. 8
Gina and another student were selected to sing ‘God Bless America’ and ‘My Country ‘Tis of Thee’ at the Mountain Ridge Middle School Veterans Day Assembly this year. However, when she finished her swim practice at 8:30 p.m. the night before the performance, she got a text from her classmate, saying she was sick and wouldn’t be able to sing at the assembly. Gina was pretty shook up when she got home; she didn’t want to sing alone. Carli offered to sing with her and the two practiced the songs in their bedroom, as they got ready to go to bed. Rose and I couldn’t have been more proud, when the siblings sang together in public for the first time. Gina starred in the eighth-grade musical, Honk!; she played Dot. Carli, a high school junior, is a member of the fabulous singing ensemble, the Singsations. Her favorite thing in the world.
Favorite Facebook Updates … #8
Damn it feels good to beat the Raiders … Nov. 6
Favorite Facebook Updates … #7
Remember that old ad that asked, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?” Well, I don’t know the answer to that but I can tell you that it just takes two beers to get me to fall asleep on the family room floor. – Aug. 9
One night at 2 a.m. Rose heard four loud bangs from the street down below. “Charlie, those were gunshots!” Me, sleeping, said, “No they weren’t, go back to bed.” Turns out, they were gunshots. The house, two doors down, that we’ve affectionately call the ‘crack house’ is actually, more accurately, a ‘heroin house.’ But don’t worry; the police are all over it … now. There were literally dozens of calls to the police about that house, but it took gunshots for the force to become vigilant.
Another night at 2 a.m. our doorbell rings. It’s the police. “Sir, you have your garage door open. There’s been some thefts in the neighborhood.” Blah, blah, blah. “Thank you officer.” A few weeks later, the doorbell rings at midnight. It’s Officer Friendly. Garage door’s open again. This time I’m a little less appreciative of the protecting and the serving. I think, “It’s not against the law to leave your garage door open, is it?”
Yes, it happened a third time, in the middle of the night. (I’m not going to throw Rose under the bus, so I won’t name names on who was leaving the garage door open.) On the third incident, I didn’t even go to the door. I just went to the garage and pushed the button. The officer stood at our door for a moment, trying to figure out what to do, while I contemplated filing a ‘disturbing the peace’ charge on the police department.
Favorite Facebook Updates … #6
When am I going to get a bye week? – Oct. 14
Favorite Facebook Updates … #5
Sam’s 8:30 a.m. game was cancelled due to snow, 30 mph winds, rain, wind chill in the low 20s. Now I’ve got a 12-year-old, geared up and ready to hit somebody, doing warm-up drills in the family room. – Oct. 8
Rose returned to the world of coaching on a full-time basis, coaching Gina’s group for the Colorado Springs Falfins, while booking consulting gigs on the side. Rose ran the summer lesson program with Carli and Gina teaching the younger kids. (Carli used her coaching money to take singing lessons over the summer.) The swim team has been a part of our family experience for 10 years now. (That’s right, little curly-headed Carli is turning 17 in a couple months.) The income is coming in handy since we are in debt up to our eyeballs. We took one vacation this year to Glenwood Springs; we took the dogs. They didn’t handle being left alone in the hotel room very well, so they came with us wherever we went. Glenwood Springs was one of the first places we visited when Rose and I were first dating. In 2011, we celebrated our 19th anniversary in high style with beers at a wings joint. We spoke wistfully of how we might spend our 20th anniversary in 2012. Rose found a European cruise that sounded fun; I spoke of a trip to the Netherlands and Belgium, both well known for art, bicycling, chocolate and beer. But if I were a betting man, my guess is that we’ll spend our 20th right back at that wings joint. And that’s okay. We danced the night away at Toni and Frank’s wedding.
Favorite Facebook Updates … #4
Carli got inducted into the National Honor Society last night. Naturally, I tried talking her out it,
but my supportive ‘that’s for nerds’ argument
did not sway her. – Sept. 15
Favorite Facebook Updates … #3
Today, Sam became a man.
He mowed the lawn all by himself.
So, as a special treat, I got him his first hooker.
– June 4
Sam played baseball this summer. The couple managing the team gave me the impression that they were fulfilling some sort of court-ordered community service. They wouldn’t coach the bases. The manager actually said, “You should know how to run the bases by now … “, which doesn’t explain why there are base coaches in the Majors. On the other end of the spectrum was Sam’s first experience playing football. I never dreamed that it would have been such a positive, nurturing place for my son. The coaches were pretty excited to get a 170-pound, just turned 12, boy to train. It took him a while to catch on; he didn’t want to hurt the smaller kids. He played offensive guard. At the end of one game, Sam blocked a kid through the back of the end zone. I asked, “What happened on that play?” Sam said that that kid was talking trash and it made him mad. I said, “I hate to tell you this, but in football, you kind of have to be ‘mad’ all of the time.” On the ride home the following week, Sam said, “That whole team made me mad.” I’m thinking, “Oh uh.” But I don’t have to worry about Sam. He is a sweet boy, a sweet boy who can crush you.
One of my favorite moments of 2011 was when Sam and I visited the Juneteenth festivities at Colorado College, an event celebrating African-Americans’ emancipation from slavery. When we arrived, the leader of the Colorado Springs branch of the NAACP greeted us, a lovely black woman, she held Sam’s face in her hands and said, “You are a beautiful boy.” Sam loved this festival; it was part church service, part rap concert. Sam sat with me at the Fine Arts Center booth. I was there to talk about FAC programs, like the Buckwheat Zydeco concert. But Sam got into the spirit of promoting, when I would finish talking, he would jump in … “We also have an event, ‘Whiskey for My Men, Beer for my Horses,’ in June; it’s a whiskey and beer tasting.” That always sounded odd coming from my 11-year-old.
Favorite Facebook Updates … #2
Thank you for all the birthday wishes. I’m lucky to have you all as friends. My motto for this next year comes from a poster of Dwight Schrute quotes that Carli gave me:
“I am ready to face any challenges that might be foolish enough to face me.” – March 16
Favorite Facebook Updates … #1
Last night after a hard-fought baseball game, Sam and I ended up at the Overtime Sports Bar to eat. I was transported back in time to the taverns of Minnesota; the only thing missing was a meat raffle. Then Sam turns to me and says, “Dad, I like bars.”
Me too, son, me too. – July 19
I took a trip to Texas for the American Association of Museums with Blake and Tara from the Fine Arts Center. That was a great trip. We rented a little bungalow in Austin with a deck. It was so nice to be surrounded by quiet … and barbeque. We went swimming in both the Hamilton Preserve and Barton Springs; that was awesome. They are both unique swimming holes that go beyond words. Google them. I saw a Van Gogh portrait up close and personal in Houston. I chaired the inaugural Southern Colorado Tour de Cure fundraising bike ride for the American Diabetes Association that brought in around $100,000.
I visited my dad in the summer. I hadn’t seen him since Father’s Day last year. At 93, he wasn’t doing too well. I walked into his room; he was happily surprised, he tapped his heart. I thought, “Oh great, I’m going to give the old man a heart attack.” He looked at me and said, “Looks like you’re getting balder.”
A couple days later, I was going to visit him on my way to the airport, but I got trapped behind road construction and an accident. I decided that I couldn’t stop when it was apparent that I would not make my flight. But then I changed my mind, exited the highway and drove to my dad.
His last words to me were, “I love you so much.”
He died two days later.
Final story for this year’s Christmas letter …
At the end of 2011, the family went to Denver to see the Broadway musical, ‘The Lion King.’ Our 11th row seats cost a lot of money, but I thought that it would be an experience that we’d all remember for the rest of our lives, and it was. They pulled out every magical theatrical trick and special effect; the performances were perfect and the storytelling was superb. It was beautiful. As everyone knows, Simba loses his father, Mufasa, and it isn’t until the end when Rafiki reminds the young king that his father is still alive, singing:
He lives in you
He lives in me
He watches over
Everything we see
Into the water
Into the truth
In your reflection
He lives in you