in his backyard haven

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Medical Update

After a long week of hospitalization last week for kidney failure, Dad was stabilized and discharged on Saturday.
Yesterday he and mom visited City of Hope to re-assess the prognosis and treatment plan for his mantle-cell lymphoma.
Dad has gained over 40 lbs in the past month and it's impacting his mobility and causes a ton of pain and discomfort.
The medical team has identified a refreshed treatment plan. This gives mom and dad some hope and confidence. Of course, there is so much more power in prayer and I relish the thought that so many of our family and friends are out there praying for him and mom.

Keep those prayers coming everyone!

Espionage and Counter Intelligence

Back in the 1980s we lived in Sherwood Arkansas. Our oldest sister, Liz was in high school and on the dating scene. I, four years her younger, was in junior high, in the awkward stage of development and apparently considered Dad's person "Bourne".

Dad was vigilant about keeping tabs on Liz's dating scene. I shared a room with her, so I occasionally found myself being interrogated and feeling guilt. Even though I never could understand what I did wrong.

One Saturday night during movie hour with our VHS tapes, Dad declared to me that it was time to clean the fish bowl. Huh????

What I learned is that he couldn't care less about the fish. Dad wanted the dirty fish water. He liked to use it to water plants. This night in particular he needed to water the plants on the front porch.

Do you think it was coincidental that the front porch housed the infamous "Porch Swing"? Guess who was out there? Liz. With her date.

Yes, I was used. I had to ferry out fish water to Dad so that he could meander around the porch swing and make his presence known to some poor boy from Catholic High.

Fast forward a few months. I suddenly find myself getting lectured about why I should never sit on a boy's lap. I really couldn't understand this. I didn't even have a boyfriend, much less understand why his lap mattered so much. I do get it now. I didn't get it then.

Another Saturday night. Liz was out on a date. Curfew time was approaching. Again, I was solicited by Dad. This time I was sent to the garage. We had those garage doors where there was a row of windows at the top. You could only see out of them if you were on a ladder or on top of the car.

"Molly, get out there and sit on top of the car. Let me know when Liz pulls in with her date." ordered Dad.

I dutifully obeyed. I checked in with home base. Liz and her date have arrived. I received the next set of orders:

"Watch their heads Molly. You should always see two heads in that car. If at any point you do NOT see two heads, you need to come in and let me know."

I will admit it now: I'm a pretty good sleeper. I can sleep anywhere. Anytime. Yes, I slept on top of the car that night in the garage. Who knows how long. I never observed Liz.

Liz, I have no idea if there was ever only one head visible in that car that night. Nor do I want to know now. I just want to come clean. I was used. I was CIA. I understand now why you made me sleep in the closet when you were on the phone with your boyfriends. Just take it up with Dad, please.

Dad, I kindly request that you upgrade your surveillance to actual cameras.

Monday, 23 April 2012

This weekend I thought about dad a couple of times.

I assisted some of my adventurous friends in a a bike race.  2 days, 180 miles, and about 13,000 riders.  They like to document this kind of stuff and so along with some non racing friends we photographed and recorded the racers over the course of these two days.  Some of the cyclists wore cameras. Specifically they are called GoPro cameras that can mount onto pretty much anything. Your helmet, your belt, handle bars etc.

This made me think of dad.  As a kid I remember him setting up some film reel projector thing and a screen. We had to watch tons of old film that, at the time, I thought was super boring.  No sound, only the clicking, flickering and sometimes blurry images that were way before my time.  Lots of grandma and grandpa's old cocktail parties and holidays throughout the years.

One reel featured dad on one of his ski trips.  It was probably in the '60's.  Dad and his friend Ken, who he still skis with today when the weather and his health cooperate, had set up their camera onto one of their skiis.  I can't remember how long the footage was, but we all watched dad and Ken downhill ski from the vantage point of the front of his ski.  I'm not sure how long we watched.  It seemed each downhill scene looped into the next. I'm sure editing actual film is much more difficult than the digital stuff we use today.  At the time, I thought, this is really cool that dad did this, and I can't watch this for very long because I'm going to be sick.

At the end of the day, dad's footage showed him and his friends (I can't remember if you were in it, mom) hot-tubbing it outside in the snow.  Actually it was more of a full swimming pool. I seem to recall dad doing canon balls.  Then again that could be mixed up from some summertime feature.

Maybe at the time it seemed new and challenging to mount a 16 mm camera to a ski, but now 50 years later they are selling these things in Best Buy.  Dad was ahead of the game when he showed off his athletic and cinematic skills.  Still even with the advanced technology, I still get a little queasy watching this type of footage.

The second time I thought about dad this weekend, was when the cyclists had to wait for a very long train to go by. I found myself tapping the record button just to capture the freight being hauled.  I chuckled to myself since so much train footage and pictures have interrupted our family's vacations. I still kept recording even though it was my friend's camera.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Hi Dad

I just wanted to say how much I love you. I LOVE YOU. So Much.

Zoe says, "I love you, Grandpa. Very Much. "

Meagan says, "I love you."

Here are some funny faces to cheer you up. Love your Gellerman Girls.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Don't say no to this old nun!

Shape up and pitch in people! What better way to raise funds for a good cause across the world than to frighten parishioners as an old scary nun (complete with fake yellow crooked teeth). For some it must have brought back daunting memories of being slapped on the hand by a ruler in their youth. Dad volunteered to help raise funds for a good cause after masses one Sunday. Rather than stand up there and deliver a normal speech, he decided to dress up as a nun to plead for donations. From the pulpit he scolded the one guy who cracked up laughing. Everyone else whispered pitying remarks under their breaths. This poor old nun, what a rough life she must be leading in Africa! Only one person ever caught on that it was Dad and not a real nun (and he left it that way) ;)

This is one lesson that both of my parents have always taught by example; to pitch in and volunteer. Dad has always been a prankster and I love the way he blends it into everyday life (even for charitable causes). It keeps life interesting and never dull!

Thursday, 12 April 2012


Circa 1990.

I was having a sleep-over with two friends at my house. We had a super comfy, half circle sectional. It was perfect for couch forts because we could lay within the circular negative space on the floor with afghan blankets stretched across. Of course we were facing the TV. Sleep-overs meant we had dibs on the family room for the whole night with unlimited TV viewing.

The next morning, blankets disheveled, I was in dream world. Actually I remember distinctly being in a dream within a dream. This is long before DiCaprio's Inception flick on the same concept. All of a sudden there is a rumbling roar and a jolt kicks me out of my first dream and into the next. Still the rumbling and shaking take me right out that dream and into reality - or was it a nightmare?

We're having an EARTHQUAKE!! At that very moment, I open my eyes to Dad leaping across 3 nine-year-olds (myself included). Quite a long jump. He's shouting "My trains!" Clearing us, my 6 foot tall father stands with his arms spread (and legs to brace himself) on the fireplace waiting to catch any of his dozens of HO scale locomotives resting in glass display cases. Yes, reaching, spread out,... in his white briefs. And only his underwear.

No trains fell that day. I however was so mortified I sort of wished the walls had caved in.

That's our dad. No shame. Maintaining priorities.

The Half Twist

This is Katie. I am new to this whole blogging thing, but how can I not contribute to this? I am the youngest of Dad's 5 kids. Also known as the one most like Dad. We share good looks, great jokes and, unfortunately for both of us (and anyone in a room when we disagree), an ever so slight, bad temper. ;) Unfortunate for me more, though, since I am the child and he, the parent, will always win. But I will still try and will always get into more trouble. Of course this all mainly happened during those teen years. I give in now.

See all the other siblings will say I grew up with it easy. Being a military man, Dad kept his household like a tight ship. Almost like the VonTrapp's from The Sound of Music, just minus the singing, the mansion and thankfully the whistle. But definitely with the handmade clothes from curtains (sorry mom). After cleaning your room, you were subjected to an inspection. This included closets and drawers. Dinner was always at the table and you must be wearing shoes and a shirt (that one was mainly for Joe). Dad did not allow my siblings to decorate their rooms with band posters or whatever else a kid/teen likes to hang up. No, those things will put holes in the walls.

Maybe I did have it slightly easier. Dad retired from the Air Force when I was eleven. That certainly lightened the discipline. I remember Dad more like Chevy Chase from all of those Vacation movies (minus the ball of Christmas lights, Dad would never allow those to be put away like that). Dinner was on TV trays watching 60 minutes or Seinfeld or whatever. Shoes? Forget about it. They were never able to keep those on me. Dad didn't care that I had my bedroom walls covered in photographs, glow in the dark stars and beads (and chalk all over the walls that could only be seen under black light). And thankfully all of those 1970's hand made clothes had burned in a house fire and I was free from those as hand-me-downs.

Still there was still some disciplinary Dad quirks. I could never play in the grass. He worked way to hard for some kid to go mess it all up. He isn't afraid to tell our friends (or his for that matter) to 'not walk in the grass'. Especially if there is morning frost (ahem Southern California??). Then you will break the blades of grass and there will be dead grass foot prints. No touching walls either. I have to say, I do appreciate this one. If you touch a wall, your oils will get into the paint and dirt will stick to it. So people, don't lean on our walls.

Maybe I had it easier because Dad saw his perfection come to life 30 plus years ago. Cue audience laughter. See, I was the only child of his born before his eyes. Yes, the other four siblings now miss out on the repeated birth story year after year. They don't get to experience Dad acting out their very first breaths. Cue the eyes rolling backward and tongue sticking out. "I remember when you were born, Katie. You came out in the half-twist." That's apparently how my face looked during my gasps for air... and when we met.

Sappy? Sort of. And we are not sappy people in this family. Read on about our Dad to get some of that sap out of your mouth. Of course my siblings would say he made them wash their mouths out with soap.

One of my favorite stories about Dad

When I got married I lived in a different state than Mom and Dad. I did a lot of the planning and tried to make it stress free for family. I did happen to assign one important task to Dad.

Dad was responsible for choosing one song for us to dance the father/daughter dance to at our wedding. I even went so far as to send him a CD of "Father/Daughter Dance Music" made for the occasion.

Before he and mom flew out for the wedding I asked him - "Dad, do you have the CD?" "Oh, sure. Yes, it's all ready."

Fast forward to the wedding night. The DJ is doing his young, uninformed thing and it's time for the Father/Daughter dance. Dad and I start out to the floor, doing some sort of waltz steps. (Dad, by the way, is a great dancer. I think we can attribute that to Catillion and strong parenting from Vern and Betty.

As we head around the dance floor a few times, I notice the sound of a locomotive's chug going on in the background. There was no bass, no tempo. Just the chug of a locomotive.

"Dad, is this the song you chose?" I asked with an endearing smile on my face? "Sure! From your CD!" he replied.

After a few chugs, there comes the whistle of a train.

"Dad! What is this?!" I asked in panick.

"Oh, the wrong CD must have gotten in the case! You know your mother. This is the Denver and the Rio Grande..."

we quickly waltzed over to the DJ...

"Go to backup!" I order. "Go to backup!

Dad and I kept dancing that night. All throughout the beginnings of a locomotive ride through the Rio Grande and into some other song that I will never remember now. I really don't know if anyone in the crowd noticed as much as we did. It will forever be one of the highlights of my wedding.

Thoughts from my daughter

According to my daughter who is 7, here are some interesting facts about Grandpa (Dad):

  • My grandpa puts ketchup on everything. Except desserts.
  • Sometimes my grandpa is really clumsy - cause he hurts himself alot. Like on his head.
  • Sometimes he thinks that I'm 10, when I'm actually just 7.
  • Grandpa likes to play with his trains and work in his garden.
  • One time I put my Zhu Zhu pet hampsters on his head when he was taking a nap. He NEVER woke up!

One time grandma and grandpa took my to the American Girl Doll Store. We had lunch and it was pretty cool.

Why this blog?

I've lived in India for a year. I'm on assignment for my work. I've got another year to go. I'm married, have children of my own, have a lot of responsibilities like everyone else. I have a Mom and 4 siblings and caring friends. I'm a practical person. I like to think of myself as a bit of a story teller too. I like to scrapbook - online.

To be honest, this blog is as much for me as it is for Mom and my siblings and my Dad and hopefully many others. I want to tell stories about Dad. I want other to also. I want to record it somewhere.

I don't want to be dramatic or a fatalist. I just want to talk about Dad. Because I love to and I love him.

A few weeks ago I got a call from my sister. It was not unlike many times before. I've learned to brace myself and pace my response for these calls. Dad had been in the hospital again. Something wasn't right. Tests will be done. "Mom wanted me to call..."

Since that call there have been many calls and test and skypes. Dad has cancer. AGAIN.

Personally, I'm tired of this - for him and Mom. They're retired. They should be traveling and having fun and visiting grandchildren. I wish it were different for them.

I'm tired of pain and suffering for Dad; and therefore for Mom. They are GIVERS in life. I have to trust that God will GIVE.

Dad has Mantle Cell Lymphoma. His treatment started today. I'm waiting for another email or call.

A little background

Dad worked for the military for a long time. Mom will have to validate actual dates. I recall it being close to 30 years. 27 maybe?

After he retired, Dad suffered heart problems. He had a triple bypass. He recovered. Some time after that Dad was diagnosed with cancer. Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. I was in my twenties then. I lived in another state and didn't have the opportunity to be up close and personal with that battle. Believe it or not, that was tough for me.

Dad battled that cancer and won. He had chemo and radiation and bone marrow transplants. That was nearly 15 years ago. Maybe more, Maybe less. I only remember that I was mid twenties, working to make ends meet and felt helpless aside from the power of prayer.

Either way, dad beat it. As usual he was resilient and I've been incredibly proud of him and grateful to God for how he handled that stage in life and how God handled him. Thank you God.

Since then he has suffered many complicated health issues - primarily because of his cancer. He's had a stroke (which he denies). [Dad - If you don't like the way I've given the background, then please dictate to mom to write a new post. It would be nice to get the facts.]

In general I've felt a combination of pride and sadness for Dad for a long time. Who would want to struggle through all that he has? How can it be fair?

Yet, I don't allow myself to wallow in those feelings of sadness because I KNOW and BELIEVE that our struggles in life make us grow. I've seen dad grow. I've seen him change. I've seen him become softer and more loving and more caring for many people around him. Those are the things that make me proud. He is not bitter or angry. He speaks like a man who has won many battles in life.

I love that about you Dad. Thank you.

About "Daddy OD"

This is my dad. This is our dad (& mom - Hi Mom!). Me and my siblings LOVE telling stories about dad. Sometimes we tell stories just to compare notes. Sometimes we tell them to pass on critical information or updates. Sometimes we tell them because we've all learned the ART of story telling from Dad. Some of my siblings have actual voice recordings of dad telling stories.

Some stories are historical. Some are comic. Some are "OMG, I never knew that!" stories. Some are full of love, some frustration. Some about comparing life experiences and fairness issues amongst all of us.

What I love most about these stories is that we never tire of telling them. They are a way of articulating our incredible fondness for our dad.

 I started this blog because I want a way to capture more stories about Dad. I hope everyone else, including you Dad, can be okay with that.

Mom and Dad at my wedding: 2001

My dad is an only child. He raised five children - plus a few extra random kids along the way. He's retired from the military. He is strategic and innovative. He can build things and fix things. He's somewhat like and engineer. He's a socializer, a historian and a hobby enthusiast.  Despite his story telling and talking abilities, Dad is a thinker and a doer. He is not a sitter and a philosopher. Whatever philosophical thinking goes on in his head, it happens all there. He processes internally and DOES externally. He doesn't sit still until he's done with something and once he sits still he falls asleep.

I LOVE my dad. I also happen to live 10,000 miles (give or take a few) away from my Dad. I skype with him, sure. But skyping requires him to sit. He's not so good at that. So what he tends to do is come along after mom has called him a few times, sit there and comment on how I look, fiddle with his hair, tell a few jokes and then lose attention and wander off. This is my way of getting dad to sit still and listen - oh how I wish you could, Dad. Because I love you and miss you a ton.