Monday, May 31, 2004


As far as I was concerned, he went quietly.

My mother called me a week ago last Saturday and said that my grandpa had had a stroke and a heart attack that day and that he really looked like he didn't have many days left. The doctor had given him anywhere from three days to six months. My grandpa. The tall, bulky, gruff man we traveled to Los Angeles every summer to visit. After all the false alarms during the last few years since my grandma died, it looked like this might actually be it.

I thought about when I should go up to Idaho to see him. Given his history, I was sure I'd have a lot of time to make that decision, but still, the way my mom and dad were describing him didn't sound good. Work was a problem. I had a full schedule, at least one of the projects a live broadcast that couldn't be rescheduled. I called my mom again and she told me he was asking about me, whether I'd come to see him before he went, and whether I'd sing at the funeral. This settled it for me. I'd take Friday off and go up that weekend. My Uncle, who lives in California, couldn't make it until then either.

We packed up and made the three-hour drive on Saturday, a week after I'd first learned of his condition. I expected to find a house full of guests at my mom's place and have to make other sleeping arrangements, but, luckily, we missed everyone.

I went in to talk to Grandpa. He was in the other master bedroom, the one vacated by my parents when I was a kid after they had built the "grand master bedroom" over the garage. The home-hospice provided by Medicare had put him in a hospital bed. He really was in bad shape. He seemed to have trouble breathing and was aided by an oxygen tank that sat in the living room connected by a long tube. I just stood there for awhile. He looked so out of it. When he spoke to my mom, the voice was faint and raspy, vulnerable. With effort, he turned his head to look at me and said, "How have you been, ____," calling me by brother's name. I figured that was a sign of him being incoherent until he added, "If that is _____. I can't see very well." Then I could tell that he was actually very alert and his mind was working well. I told him who I was. I didn't want to be in there. He and I never really saw eye to eye. I lived with him and my grandma for a summer in L.A. when I was a teenager and we had our struggles. I learned to love him and realize that he loved me but I never really overcame the wedge between us. But that began to change when he pulled me close, still surprisingly strong, and embraced me. We didn't exchange any words. The hug said everything.

Later the nurse came and began to do something in his room. She came out and asked my dad and I if we'd help her. She was trying to change his bedding. He seemed to be in a lot of pain every time she touched him. I helped to roll him over so we could get the soiled pads out from under him. He hadn't eaten for five days but he was still so heavy it was quite a struggle. I was bombarded with emotions as I helped. Here was this man, still so substantial, yet so helpless. I felt closer to him in that moment than I ever have. I felt like he needed me and I wanted to be there to do whatever I could.

The next day, my uncle and two of his kids arrived. The last time I saw them was when my grandmother died a few years ago. Before that I think it was about twenty years. When I learned they were there, I went into the room and saw my uncle, a stout, good-looking man, holding my grandpa's hand. I blundered into the room, sticking my hand out and saying "how've you been!" and not realizing that I was interrupting an intimate moment. He was gracious and we talked for a second and then he resumed his nearly one-sided conversation with his dad. Grandpa was obviously glad to see him there. A week before he had asked if he was coming to see him and my mom told him he was coming on Sunday. He didn't say another word about it, just hung on and waited patiently. After they talked for awhile, my mom gave Grandpa some pain medication which put him to sleep. We visited with my uncle and his family for a while and then they left. Grandpa lay there gasping for air, his mouth wide open, for a few hours. We hung around watching tv, the kids jumping on the trampoline outside. Then my mom asked me to go to my brother's house to see his new apartment. When we got there, he was waiting for us outside. I rolled the window down and he said that my sister had just called. "Grandpa's dead." I heard a sharp intake of breath from my mother which startled me. She'd been so strong through all of this, so ready for him to go and be done with his pain and his loneliness for his wife, that is shocked me to see her react this way. She instantly gave the pickup gas and made a sharp U-turn and we were on our way back. "I knew I shouldn't have left," she kept saying. "Something kept telling me that he was going but I still left. I wanted to be there when he died."

We got back in less than five minutes. He was so changed. His face was completely flushed. He still had his mouth opened as if struggling for air, but there was no movement. Nothing can prepare you for that moment when you realize someone is gone. We'd all been expecting it. It was inevitable. But it hadn't been fact yet. Now he was truly gone. No more Grandpa. No more disagreements. No more looking into his eyes and seeing the love.

The hospice nurse was called and she drove over and confirmed the obvious. Then, half an hour later, my cousin and her mortician-husband came over. Another cousin I haven't seen for ages. I really enjoyed talking to her. I found myself wishing that it didn't take a death to get our family together. My dad and I helped get Grandpa on the gurney. The move was awkward and he was heavy. It wasn't very smooth, as my cousin put it, but he'd seen worse. That's the first time I've ever done that.

So he's gone. We're back in Utah but we're going to turn around and go back on Wednesday for the funeral. It's the end of an era. It's hard to believe.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

It's Summertime and the Livin' is . . . well, it's ok.

I can't even remember what it was like to be freezing every day and night and it was only a couple of months ago. Every year passes by so quickly and yet I seem to live only in the moment, not remembering much about the gone-by moments.

I'm sick...again. Last night as I lay there in bed, not breathing, sort of sleeping, I was sure I would call in sick this morning. My throat was blazing and head expanding. When I did get to sleep, Princess Rufflebutt, whose bottom was in my face, let one go that would rival my work buddies and I woke up. But this morning I didn't feel so bad. Things aren't completely cleared up but I don't feel nearly as terrible as I did in the middle of the night. So I went to work after all.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004


Why does Katie Couric fight with her guests for air time? I'm watching the Today Show and she's interviewing Glen Close and Patrick Stewart and, like almost all of her interviews, it's a painful tug of war between Katie and the people who've flown into New York to plug their movie. Katie has three hours each morning to get her face and voice on TV. I don't know why she must vie for time. She's praised for her interviewing skills time and time again and I can't understand it. I love the interviews where she gets shut down, and this one was one of those. Glen Close was in the middle of answering a question and Katie started answering for her. This is a common occurance in a Couric interview, but this time, Ms. Close continued, raising her voice, and Katie had to shut up. But she would not be undone. She insisted on ruining an intelligent conversation about King Richard the Lionheart and film making by ending the interview with her seventh-graders words about how hot the actors were. Is that an incentive for her daughter to get her homework done or something?

Yesterday I made an attempt to cut some distance off my ride home by turning off my regular route and hoping the path I took would cut to the South at some point. I rode about a mile, still not out of my way if I could get access to the South. The air was filled with the putrid stench of decomposing fauna from the "clean green landfill" to my right. To my left was a fenced-off wild-life preserve. I've been riding this eight miles for a while now and I never knew that existed. There were good ol' boys in there trucks there but I couldn't find a hole in the fence to get through myself. I would have thrown my bike over but there were a bunch of a "keep out" and "no trespassing" signs. I can't say no to a sign. I kept riding until I came to a dead end. Actually, the road kept going but the land is apparently owned by someone who doesn't like people so I had to turn around. There's so much beautiful land around here and very little of it is accessible. There's an entire mountain range, the Oquirrhs, near my house that's owned by Kennecott Copper. At any rate, my "shortcut" added about half an hour and a mile to my ride. I'm glad I had my knee brace.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

On That Note

A couple of days ago I was asked to sing at the funeral of a neighbor whom I had never met. The leader of our local church unit (we call him the Bishop) knows I can sing and asked me if I would do so on Saturday. I'd be accompanied by our neighborhood prodigy, an 18 year old violinist who's played with the symphony and is now on a break from the Cincinatti Music Academy. I said sure. I never got together with the violinist but I figured that we're both good enough at improvising a song and we both know the hymn (It was "A Poor, Wayfaring Man of Grief.") well enough that we'd squeak by. Besides, I'm just lazy. Well, it was a mistake. It turns out that the Bishop never told her I was singing and she figured she'd just play an instrumental arrangement of the hymn that she had. She found out otherwise on our way there and we quickly figured out a simple plan: She'd play an introduction then I would sing melody while she played the alto line for three verses. There was no way I was singing all seven.

It was a simple graveside service. There was a prayer and then we performed our little extempore number. I guess it was ok. No one said a word about it. But then, the thing wasn't about us. The family was an odd collection people, few of whom seemed to be actually related to the deceased. It lasted about fiteen minutes and then the whole family took out cigarettes and lit up while the violinist, her father, and I waited by the car, the sun beating down on us, while the Bishop and his wife talked to the family for another half an hour. I was glad to get home.

Friday, May 14, 2004

They Say It's Your Birthday

Well this has turned out to be a very nice birthday. I was bummed at first because I knew (and I was right) that my coworkers would forget to take me out to lunch like they do every year. Every year we take the scheduler, the photog, and the stage managers to lunch on their birthdays, and every year mine is forgotten. Of course they always appologize and then they take me out the next day--in this case it will be Monday--but it still saddens me a little. I've even gotten to where I broadcast the date to everyone the day before, but somehow it's still overlooked. I know I'm a baby. So this morning I brought some soup with me, which was a good thing because without it I would have had no lunch.

But then things started looking up. All of you nice folks out there (you, too, Mom) started sending me wonderful birthday greetings, Pat, a lifer at the TV station who's the only one who never forgets, brought me his customary Hostess Cupcakes, and, when I went to Hollywood Video to rent a movie for tonight, the guy who rang it up said, unprompted by me, "Oh, happy birthday! The video is on us tonight." I musn't forget my wonderful wife who knows I'm sensitive about my birthday. She was very kind and bought me a nice blackberry pie (I hate cake). So this is great. Thanks everyone.

It's my Birthday and I'll Bitch if I want to.

I'm grumpy. I think I have an ulcer again. I hate going to the doctor. The only consolation to all of this is right now I have a beautiful little baby sitting in my lap who seems to love me. All of a sudden I'm a little more cheerful.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Space Trading

I usually don't gel with theater people. It's nothing personal, we're just polar opposites. By definition, they're generally very outgoing and vocal and I'm reticent and shy, reluctant to open up much at all around other people. Confident people don't bother me. It's actually easier because they can fill in the gaps in conversation caused by my natural silence. But it rubs me the wrong way when the outgoing nature of thespians comes not from confidence but an innate desire to make their presence known, to outshine everyone else in the room. This was certainly not the case with the particular thespian I worked with yesterday. Paige Davis from Trading Spaces on TLC was in my editbay shooting a show that will air next month and she was terrific. She made it a point to learn all of our names and she never lost her energy and fun nature even though the room was insanely hot and we worked until about 8 in the evening. At one point, when we were all becoming a little ragged with the long hours, she was still joking and acting pretty silly and she said, "How come none of you have as much fun as I do?" And her good-naturedness was completely genuine. We got pictures and I'll post those tomorrow. I didn't know the rest of the crew either. We spent a lot of time in close quarters and we had to get to know each other. We're all from different parts of the country and that was the topic of conversation most of the time. Needless to say, I really enjoyed myself. If Paige happens to stumble onto this site, break a leg on Broadway in ten weeks! Congrats.

Friday, May 07, 2004


My eyes are inflating like emergency life rafts. They get like this whenever I'm around long-haired cats but I can't resist them, especially affectionate ones. I arrived home yesterday just as my family was pulling out on their way to soccer practice. My wife motioned me over and I got in the van. Then she informed me that there was a cat in the house. My family is not used to having animals around the house so when this long-haired tabby wandered into the house they reacted the same way they do every time a bird makes it's way in: Like a tiny, militant country defending itself against invasion. I guess the boys got out their horns and whistles and drums and whatever else they could find and attempted to chase the poor feline (which, it would later become apparent, was incredibly friendly and docile) out the door. All they succeeded in doing was frightening at least seven of it's nine lives out of it and chasing it into the tiny space under the stairs. There it stayed until two hours later when we returned. I led point into the house and called, "Here kitty" and it came right to me. The instant it was in my arms it began to purr luxuriously. But as soon as it saw my family it stopped and struggled to get away. I let it out and assumed it would go home.

Last night I dreamt that we had a cat. In my dream it was crying for food and water but for some reason I wouldn't give it any. I finally did and it became very delighted. I woke up to my alarm and heard a steady mewling from outside. My wife said it had been doing that all night. My eyes were already itching from the night before but, as I said, I couldn't resist. I went outside and there it was, on the front porch, crying for food. There's something so satisfying about a small creature expressing affection, responding to your touch. I have one around but my eyes couldn't take it and my family would probably scare it to death.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Old Man

It's birthday time at our house. My three-year-old is now my four-year-old. This morning I woke him up before I had to go to work and said, "Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday." He had stayed up late last night and was very grumpy so his response was, "I know! I know!" and he didn't even want to come open his presents. So I didn't get to see his reaction. I hear that when they went to the store to pick up his Incredible Hulk birthday cake, he was still mad and he stepped on it. Now there's a crater in it. It's his day and he can do whatever he wants to his own cake, I guess.
Apparently he had a good time later, though. He got a golf set and has been hitting the links. He also got a toy power drill and, in his words, has been "screwing" everything in the house. My wife hopes he doesn't mention that around the neighbors but I think it would be a hoot.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

I've never had much money. When I was growing up we couldn't afford anything. My friends all thought I was lying when I told them it would do no good to ask my parents for money for the movies or candy. And that hasn't changed for me all that much. So I have a problem spending money. I had pretty much decided that I was going to get that amp I wrote about but when I went to checkout at the Musician's Friend website, the total price scared the pee out of me and I cancelled it. Then on Saturday I went to Guitar Center and looked around. I couldn't find the amp there but I started playing around with a Crate amp that was half the price of the other. It was smaller but I got to thinking, I'm not planning on being a rock star or even performing. There are other things I need to buy that will make money but this won't. What I didn't realize was that there were smaller amps that sound great and have a lot of features and are a lot more affordable. So I bought it.

I've also decided to get the mini strat for my boy. He seems so excited about it and promises he'll practice. I understand what you all have been saying about the accoustic, but those are harder to play than an electric and I don't want him getting more frustrated than he normally would. So I'm going to go for it.