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My Netflix subscription has just been validated with the addition of all 7 seasons of the show Californication. While the show is not for kids, my point will be. The story is set around a self-loathing writer named Hank Moody played by David Duchovny. Hank is an alcoholic, sometimes drug addict, sex addict who is trying to repair his relationship with his daughter and her mother. I’m not going to review the show (though I highly recommend it), but it had me thinking. This character has so many issues, but the one thing that he holds above all is his relationship with his daughter.

I have been blessed with 3 awesome boys. They are funny, entertaining, and I feel lost without them around. I think about them constantly. There are times I come home and they can’t wait to tell me what’s on their mind and there are days they won’t say hello for hours. They each take turns playing the role of my wing man.They are all alike, but yet could not be any more different.

The one thing they don’t give me is that look a daughter will give. That look I see on this TV show from a young girl who loves her father so much despite all his indiscretions. I have a feeling that in real life, the relationship flips when the kids get older, but by then, you miss some key bonding years. When they want something, they ask their mother. I am always the second person they want to talk to about their day. My niece travels to Pittsburgh with my brother to see the Steelers play every year. I take my boys to a Yankees game and they keep asking me why mom didn’t come!

I love my boys more than anything, but once in a while, it would be nice to be looked at through the eyes of a daughter.

So…Is this all in my head or is there some truth to the different relationships we have with our children?

My son Luke will be turning 11 this week. I started this blog a year ago and have found it somewhat therapeutic sharing my thoughts where he has been the nucleus.
I just sent a text message to Luke that I will share with you, and then I’ll explain. The message was “Morning Luke! Remind me that I have to talk to you later ok? I love you”.

Couple of points:
• From a grammatical perspective, this message is flawed
• The fact I am texting my son to remind me to tell him something when I see him is a flawed action
• The biggest flaw? My soon to be 11 year old will not be able to read this text until his 8 year old brother makes him aware of it.

Like most people who decide to have children, our lives changed dramatically when we had Luke. It will change many times over in that timeframe, and most days, I got it all covered. There are some days, like today, that I do not. We have seen Shane outgrow Luke to an extent. It was tough to accept. Yesterday, the beginnings of that scenario reoccurring took place.
Luke and Cole have been a team all year. Cole looks up to Luke like a little brother should. Every night after dinner Shane and I shoot the basketball around in the driveway. We ask Luke and Cole, but they usually say no. Recently, Cole has been showing an interest in basketball and when he opted for dribbling in the driveway instead of playing “Slugterra” with Luke, the look of confusion on Luke’s face was then tattooed on my brain. So much so, that I am thinking about it 16 hours later.

I think I have come up with a remedy. I will take Luke’s imagination and rekindle mine. I used to love playing out scenario’s from my favorite television shows when I was kid. Whether it was the Dukes of Hazzard, Star Wars or G.I Joe, my mind was always going. That might be the best birthday present I can give him.

My advice to anyone who will listen. Life is full of flaws. Hell, I am severely flawed! Don’t get wrapped up in what you think should be happening and enjoy what is actually taking place.
I spend so much time thinking of ways to change or fix Luke when I should be devoting that time to how Luke is going to fix me.

To anyone who is reading this. Thanks for reading the last year and thanks for listening.

I have a point here, trust me. It will it all come together in the end…

Back in June 1998, I was going to take a day off of work to go see the Braves play at Yankee Stadium. It was the first time Atlanta would be at the Stadium since the Yankees defeated them in the 96’ World Series.  At the time I loved Baseball more than most things in life and I really loved a good pitching matchup and wanted to see Greg Maddux. When my father found out I was skipping work to go to the game, he gave me a variation of the Sonny line from “A Bronx Tale” and told me Greg Maddux isn’t going to pay my bills. A little extreme, but a good point.

With the recent passing of Robin Williams, once again I started thinking about celebrities and all the energy and effort we put into learning about their lives, paying what we pay to see their movies all for what? A few hours of entertainment, yes, but to take it any further than that is just a waste of your time. You’ll never know these people, because, well, you DON’T KNOW THESE PEOPLE. Sure Robin Williams has made me laugh (I went through a phase where I talked like Mork) he has also made me cry (Did you ever see Good Will Hunting)? But despite being aware of his substance abuse issues, I didn’t know he was depressed and had financial problems. Now we found out he had the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease.

I remember, my mother telling me that River Phoenix had died. It was the day after Halloween back in 1993. There was early word that he died of a drug overdose. My initial thought was “no way! He’s a vegan that loves life”.  Well, apparently he was a vegan with a heroin addiction. Again, no idea. Why did I not know this? Doesn’t watching “Stand by Me” 4,000 times qualify me as a subject matter expert in the lives of the actors who play the characters I love?  Answer…no it does not.

In an age where some people get to know others based on their social media profile. Are we getting to a point where we know family members and friends, actual people that are in our lives the same way we think we know celebrities?

I had a family member leave us due to depression. This was just before the Facebook era, but I am pretty sure his Facebook profile would not have told me he was going to take his own life.  We live in a busy world and if you slow down a second, you feel days behind. There really isn’t enough time for everything and everyone, but make time to be involved with those closest to you. If everyone does that with just one person, we’d all have someone looking out for us.

My company recently acknowledged my volunteer efforts with Beautiful People and rewarded me with tickets to a Yankees game in their Luxury Suite. A great gesture on their part yes, but I’m not sure the word “volunteer” really fits my situation. I mean what’s my other option? Sit around and not have Luke participate in anything? I’m kind of just being a dad so Luke could just be a kid.

I was a little nervous about taking the boys to the Bronx without my crutch that is my wife, but figured how hard could it be? We’re in a suite, so the kids are contained. Any father would agree that the toughest part about taking your kids to a sporting venue is the disgusting bathrooms, so that was covered with a private facility. We figured out what I will call the fastballs (Luke’s medication, snacks for the car ride), what I didn’t count on was the curve balls that were thrown my way.

Possibly the last time we see Derek Jeter

Possibly the last time we see Derek Jeter

 Mickey Rivers signing for the boys

Mickey Rivers signing for the boys

First Pitch, Curve –
The walk from the car to the Stadium – simple math, I have two hands and three kids. I constantly say my children are lacking the street sense that I grew up with in Queens. It was nice that they did not see a difference in walking on River Ave as opposed to my quiet street in Warwick, but it was really bad that they did not see a difference! I would eventually round everyone up and make it to the game safely.

Second Pitch, Curve –
Luke’s food allergies – this is an area that my wife usually handles. Whether it’s cooking at home or eating out, she has it covered. The suite we were at had all the food you can eat, but unfortunately it had NOTHING Luke can eat. Thanks to a very concerned suite attendant, he managed to get me three sliders, no buns, for Luke. It took me 3 innings to take care of this, but all was good once the burgers arrived.

with Mickey Rivers

with Mickey Rivers

Third Pitch, Fastball (over the plate)
My time with my boys – My overall experience would be sent to deep center, over the wall. We never get to go to a baseball game. I haven’t been to the new Yankee Stadium prior to this. My company took care of me the way I took care of my kids. It was a late night, but one that doesn’t happen often.
When I grew up, I was ten minutes from Yankee Stadium and five minutes from Shea. To say we were at either stadium twice a month is not blowing smoke, it was just so easy to do and we did it. We don’t have that luxury now or the time, but appreciate the times like this.

As an added bonus, we got to hang out with former Yankees centerfielder Mickey Rivers, who after 2 minutes my boys were talking to him like he was part of my family. We then said our goodbyes to Derek Jeter.

So on a night where I was outnumbered 3 to 1, I think I prevailed as the hero. From Shane’s face of astonishment when he first saw the size of a Major League ball field, to Luke chanting DEREK JETER! To Cole’s fascination with Mickey Rivers’ gold tooth with the star on it, it was a night to remember.

I have spoken plenty of times about the organization Beautiful People -Adaptive Sports League for Children with Disabilities. Since we’ve been a part of it, the discussion of wanting our own sports park has been a hot topic. I am hearing we are closer to having that.
For those who don’t know, we currently play baseball on fields in the town of Wallkill, Soccer at Middletown HS and Basketball at the Goshen BOCES center. Sounds like a lot of driving right? In addition, there are “fill in” events such as Bowling in Walden, wiffle ball in Chester and Track & Field in Middletown. Many of these Beautiful People families are in the same situation as we are. Multiple children involved in multiple activities at the same time of these Beautiful People events.
All the buzz about us finding our own property is great, but it had me thinking, why is this so difficult? Every day I stare at this bracelet I have in honor of Daniel Fratto. on the bracelt is a favorite saying of Daniel’s, “How hard can it be”? I live in Orange County and I do love the open land, the minimal traffic and rolling hills, but it’s not all a “Sound of Music” type of setting. There is plenty of land that is literally doing nothing. There are run down barns and inactive farms that are an upstate version of an eye sore. Why not build a park that is just for these kids who have to go through so much? A place for our families to call our own and not worry about time limits. We could have concession stands, where, like when I was kid, we could give jobs and responsibilities to those with special needs who might not get that opportunity elsewhere. Little things that most wouldn’t even think about would mean the world to these kids.
With all the camps, gym time and practices most of us have access to throughout the year, we tend to take it all for granted. I am one of those people. BUT…I am also one of those parents who are part of the struggle as well and that part of me thinks the system blows.

In the movie Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella builds a ball field right through his corn field. Despite his financial situation, he does it for the love of the game (and because of voices he was hearing). His reward? He gets to have a catch with his dad. Well, in this movie, I am the dad. I just want to have a catch with my son. On his own field.

FMD-Field-of-Dreams

For more on Beautiful People please visit http://www.beautiful-people.us/

So my son Luke just wrapped up his final year at the Boces Satellite in Warwick.

I think it was the songwriter Dan Wilson who sang, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”.

This is the end of Luke’s 5-year run in this building. A building where he came into his own, made some friends and met some wonderful teacher’s and aides. I wanted to use this platform to say a special thank you to everyone who has been involved with not just his educational development, but also those who played a role in the boy he has become.

Luke with his Principle's Award

Luke with his Principal’s Award


All of this starts at home, but he is in school for most of the week and it’s so important that what we practice at home translates elsewhere and continues when he is in the care of others.

The end of the year awards ceremony is always a tear-fest for us. I kind of relate it to fighting a strategic boxer:

• From the get go you get jabbed at (you can feel the tears forming.
• A couple of songs go by, awards are given out one class at a time (you feel those tears rolling down your face)
• If you’re not crying yet, you will once the school year is wrapped up with a slide show presentation (Wham! Knock out blow and your balling)

This year we got a special surprise. Luke was awarded the Principal’s Award. My wife and I were not ready for this. Sure we have seen improvements with Luke, but to see his achievements recognized at school was something special.

The inscription on the certificate is as follows:
“Because of you our school is a better place to learn. You have proven to me by your actions that one person can make a difference. I applaud you for what you have accomplished and look forward to hearing even more great things about you in the future.”

I hope he looks at the end of this chapter with excitement and ambition to begin the next.

Happy Father’s Day to the other dads out there! I will leave you with my favorite father related quote:
“My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, “You’re tearing up the grass”; “We’re not raising grass,” Dad would reply. “We’re raising boys” – Harmon Killibrew

Last week, Frozen Ropes in Chester sponsored a baseball workout for Beautiful People. I wanted to say thanks to all involved. As far as I can tell, everyone had a great time. For me, a few thoughts came to mind:

1 – How awesome is this for Luke to play in this facility?
2 – Why is it so difficult for this Organization (Beautiful People) to have their own field?
3- Oh, how I wish they had turf fields when I was growing up!

BP at Frozen Ropes 1

BP at Frozen Ropes 1

After Baseball, we had some time to kill before the rest of the family returned from soccer in Putnam. Like many dads with one kid and time on his hands, I suggested going to the movies to see a borderline inappropriate film. Luke did not hesitate to say “YES!” when I asked if he wanted to see ‘X-Men Days of Future Past’. I come off very critical at times, but like everyone else, I am not perfect. I knew food was going to be an issue, so I picked up the healthy meal of Gatorade and a banana for Luke, with Skittles as dessert and everything was all good in Lukeland. The movie was a hit in our eyes, but it had me thinking once again about time travel.

If time travel was an option to you, who would you want to go spend time with? Elvis? Lincoln? A great grandparent?
Would you travel to the past or the future?

On most days I would give a well detailed response, such as hanging out with Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin and Whitey Ford at the Copacabana in 1957, but the more I think about this, I might take it down a notch. I wouldn’t mind going back to my old neighborhood, circa early 1980’s and befriending some kids that were looked at as being “different”. I find it so hard to believe that none of these individuals who were looked at so oddly did not have a disorder that we see as being so common today. I’d like to talk to their parents and their doctors. Whether it was the person who looked so much older than he was and aimlessly walked the streets by himself, the kids who were looked at as being weak or the really hyper kids who couldn’t control themselves, it bothers me to think they never really had a chance because as a society we weren’t ready for what was happening right in front of our eyes. I’m sure these actions can spark a religous debate, but if given the opportunity, wouldn’t you at least concider intervening?

We just wrapped up week two of baseball with Beautiful People. There’s a reason the word “special” is thrown around when discussing children with disabilities. The feeling you get from watching them accomplish something they could not do a year, month or even a day ago is just a special feeling.

Talking to a dad that I have not spoken to before, it was awesome to see his excitement that his son is hitting much better on his own than he did last season. He turned to me and said maybe soon he can work on him catching the ball. I feel the same way about my son Luke. He’s slowly getting more independent of me, which is a good thing. He hit the ball within 3 pitches today, which is phenomenal. This is our reality. I can accept that. The gentleman I was speaking to obviously accepts it.

I think it’s time other parents with children in youth sports who are not mentally or physically handicapped look at themselves in the mirror and stop making fools of themselves at their children’s events. The odds of your son or daughter making a living playing the sport you are dragging them to are as likely as me being able to dunk a basketball. It’s not going to happen. In the meantime, you are embarrassing yourself and your children for really no reason.

Our kids should be playing sports for the reasons of making friends and learning how to work as a team with those friends.  They should be challenging themselves to improve, not looking at the sidelines for your approval.

In the last two weeks, I have witnessed the following:

In a meaningless basketball scrimmage – after an 8 year old slammed his knee on the hardwood, a parent supportively yelled “I better not see no tears”!

In a travel soccer game – as an 8 year old went down in pain, parents from the opposing team started to yell that the kid was faking the injury

The winner of the class act parent award goes to the guy attempting to deceive an 8 year old by yelling a 3-2-1 countdown, when there was 2 minutes remaining in the game (with a 20 pt differential).

Every Sunday at this time, I drive 40 minutes so my son has an opportunity to play baseball for an hour.  It’s an opportunity that few give, especially living in Orange County. My family is sometimes divided which we don’t like, but we manage and every week I come home from watching Luke play and I know I did something that was solely for him. Not something I failed to accomplish.

If you feel offended by anything I have written you might want to check yourself in the mirror. After that, go to your bank account and let me know how much money you have made playing the sport of your dreams.

If you are really feeling guilty and want to make it right, you can donate to Beautiful People here: http://www.beautiful-people.us/donate/

So, when does the panic set in? Let me go back a few years to try and figure things out…
When Luke and Shane were ages 4 & 2, their relationship had so much potential. A year later, they could have the best time just being around each other. In fact, they would have such a great time that I would literally see the awe in people’s faces when we were out as to hear them thinking “why can’t my kids be like that”? It truly was something special.

By the time they turned 7 and 5, the time spent together started to decline. Shane would want to play sports or be around his friends from school, while Luke was content with playing with his action figures and dressing up in superhero costumes. You could almost see Shane outgrowing Luke, both physically and mentally. I remember a time where we attended a local carnival and Shane completely flat left Luke to go hang with his friends. On the ride home, I ripped into Shane as if he did something so wrong, when he was just being a normal 6 year old. That’s when your emotions just go out of whack. Was I upset at Shane for not including his brother? Was I mad at myself for not doing more for Luke? Or mad at a higher power because I do not understand any of this? We’ve come so far when it comes to technology, yet nobody is able to tell us a reason for Luke’s condition.

Things are much different now with Cole in the mix, yet still the same. Luke and Cole spend most of their time playing with action figures and dressing up as superheroes. Shane pretty much does his own thing or has me to pal around with, while Luke & Cole are almost inseparable. Luke is 10 and Cole is 4. To say I am dreading the day Cole outgrows Luke is a major understatement and will be a VERY, VERY sad day in our house.

I guess you can look at this like an old movie. Rocky maybe. A movie that I’ve seen before and I know how it’s going to end. In the spirit of the NCAA Tournament starting soon, I’m trying to look at it on that level where we could have a fairy tale ending and David always has the chance to beat Goliath.

So when does the panic set in? The answer is never. Concern yes, situations will arise and we can stick and move. Take a few punches, even get knocked down, but keep getting back up. Never panic. Luke will sense my panic, but my concern has a chance of getting through to him. All we really ask for is a chance.

When leaving Luke’s basketball game with the organization Beautiful People last week, I had a thought that crossed my mind for the first time. Why do I do certain things for Luke that I don’t do for my other sons? I am like a walking advertisement for Beautiful People. I talk about it all the time, I blog about it, I raise money for it. I don’t do that for Shane’s basketball league. I mean, I rolled my eyes when I had to sell raffle tickets for this travel soccer!

I started thinking about further down the line and comparing youth sports for these two brothers to possible career scenarios. The word that kept coming to mind was opportunity. Luke will most likely not have as many opportunities as Shane or Cole.

I posted links to a couple of stories involving kids with special needs and sports. I love watching these stories. No matter how they come into my life, I always stop what I am doing and watch. They pull my emotions in different directions, but I love them. They force me to visualize my son scoring that basket, then cry to think he would be in that scenario, but I love them. If you look beyond the stories, you will look at the origins of what transpired. Like I mentioned in a previous post, it starts at home. Your kids are an extension of you. Teach them to be caring and that’s what they will be. Ignore them and teach them to be little you know what’s, and that’s what they will be.

In the first video, I would like to think that there are more kids in this world like the boy at the end of the clip. Whether that is true or not, I don’t know, but one could hope.
The second clip just gets me for obvious reasons. Recently, my son Shane wrote a letter to the Atlanta Hawks, basically just saying he loves watching them play and how he loves basketball. He wrote about his brother Luke and his disability and how he feels he plays ball for the two of them. We can’t control the cards we were dealt, but we can control how we choose to play them. When I hear my kids talk like that, I know we played a “Cool Hand”.

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