Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Where Did I Leave Off...?

Well, let's do some quick catching up.

My Dad did die, in fact I did have to make that decision shortly after that last writing. I never got around to eulogizing him here. Maybe I will when I've better processed losing him. It's been nearly 8 months and I'm just not there yet.

Lost a couple other people, near and far. My Uncle Frankie's widow, Toni lost her brother a couple weeks later, crushed under a car he was trying to repair. My neighbor lost their 20 year old daughter to a brain tumor... Well, that's enough of that.

Life is like that. Findings and losses, victories and defeats, tragedies and triumphs. You don't get to separate them. You find them climbing on each others' backs for your attention. You don't get to enjoy or suffer them in isolation. You go from feeling kicked in the teeth to euphoria, pulled and pushed at the same moment. You probably linger on the item feeding the euphoria because the other is too painful. Yet when the euphoria wears off, the pain is still there to deal with. If you're lucky you've found a little bit of perspective that will make the pain easier to bear, or at least give you a little added strength to stand up under it.

The company I work for is, for the most part, a really good company to work for. Forgetting the "in this economy" crapphrase that I'm so tired of hearing, it's still a good company to work for. That said, we're not without our problems. At the same time that I felt my own production team was kicking my teeth in with a lack of communciation and follow through (notice I said "felt," truth is we've got a lot of growing pains and they're doing a bang-up job) I got word that my sales in the first quarter were high enough to win me a trip for my wife and I to Hawai'i this summer. So I'm really pissed and really delighted at the same time.

Actually, now I'm over the pissed part, because we've begun dealing with those issues in what I would call a constructive, long-term way, but I'm still going to Hawai'i in July.

We attended a cancer benefit concert last Friday in Berkeley in the name of my late brother-in-law, Dino. It was a beautiful party/concert. Dino's old band played, his dad and brother joined in on a couple songs, his mom and dad got up to speak to us, and they apparently raised over $6,500 dollars to benefit cancer research. We also got totally hammered, but that's a fringe benefit.

Yet the next day, when we went to see Theresa's mom, she was bawling, because she misses him so terribly. We all shared some tears together. You can't separate them, you know.

Life is like that.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I'm Still Here

Yeah, I'm still here. Between work and the current madness I've just not been able, nor had much heart, to post.

You see, my dad is dying now, as we speak. Just a few days after Dino's service, he called me to say he'd been diagnosed with advanced liver disease (cirrhosis) and needed a liver transplant.

As sons ought to do, I talked it over with him and with his doctor, then got papers drawn up by a lawyer, all that power-of-attorney stuff, y'know. Dad was more than happy to sign it all. He's always needed a lot of looking after, and had no qualms about taking full advantage of his neediness. Well, that was my little cynical streak talking in the midst of caring about him and loving him.

I was concerned with all of the details of getting him into and through the candidates process. When your liver shuts down, a lot of nasty things happen inside you. We had to get him into an extended care facility, a rest home of sorts, because stuff would keep happening to his body that required constant supervision, which he didn't really have at home.

Home. He's been living with his sister, bless her heart. She lets him stay there out of love and caring, and he's really not very grateful. The man is destitute. Everything he has besides a few pieces of furniture is the $100 bill and his latest paltry social security check I'm using to open up a bank account for him. I had intended to use it to get his mess of bills in order and set up a little allowance for him. Now we're probably going to be using it toward his funeral expenses.

Fortunately he spent just enough time in the army to be eligible for a range of VA benefits, and he's 65, so he gets Medicare, otherwise who knows where he'd be right now.

They're going to try another couple things over the next 48 hours. The likelihood of them working is severely low. I live 4 hours away, and after spending several days there, then coming home to take care of that front, I'll be up again on Thursday and, barring a miraculous turnaround probably need to make the decision to let him go with some peace and dignity.

Then write my third eulogy in less than two months.

I feel like this has become the Death Blog.

I hope he somehow finds a way to survive. Whatever he does, I hope this season is about over, because I really just want to take the time to blog about some little things of little significance, like movies and cupcakes and whatever.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Dino Scoppettone - December 12, 1969 - August 18, 2008

Back in 1966, a woman named Mary Swall found herself pregnant and alone. With no other options, she gave the baby, a little girl, up for adoption. That girl, Theresa, grew up, and eventually became my wife, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

A couple years a later she married her teenage sweetheart, a young musician named Dick Scoppettone, of Harper's Bizarre fame. She had two more children, Dino, and his younger brother Nick. They lived their lives, and Theresa lived hers with her family. Theresa was often curious, and imagined that Mary was too.

Back around 1989 or 1990, my wife started her search for her birth mother in earnest. She talked it over with her mom, who had a few reservations, but out of love for her daughter was very supportive. So supportive, in fact, that on Theresa's 25th birthday in 1991, her mother gave her a birthday card that included the full name of her birth mother. We're still not sure how or where she got it, but she probably saved my wife months, maybe even years, of research.

It was only another week or two when they met for the first time. Theresa learned she had two half-brothers, Dino and Nick. In what now seems like an amazing miracle, the families fell in love with each other, so that our kids now have three grandmas instead of two. Theresa's mother always includes Mary in all the family events, and vice versa, when possible. In fact, I once had four tickets to the AT&T Pro-Am and took my mom and Theresa's moms :-) I may as well have not been there. The three of them are like the Three Amigas.

I tell you this to give you a little picture of how close our families have become over the last 17 years.

A little while after meeting Mary, we finally met her brothers. Nick was a quiet fella (and still is) but Dino was a life of the party kind of guy. He was an open book, a delight to talk to and kid with. Megan, and later our sons, fell instantly in love with Uncle Dino. We'd come to visit Mary, and Dino would be there, and the kids would cajole him into pulling out his Kermit muppet and doing a great Kermit voice for them for what sometimes seemed like hours on end.

Theresa and he looked very much like brother and sister, and in many ways, except for shyness or lack thereof, were very much alike. They both share a sharp and sometimes cutting sense of humor that seems to come out of nowhere and crack up a crowd.

Dino seemed to relish his role as Uncle and brother and brother-in-law. He was a very, very avid athlete in his youth, and sports fan throughout. He did have the misfortune to come into his awareness of fandom while living in Washington state, and so was saddled with the tragic fate of being a Seahawks and Mariners fan. He had the pleasure of reporting on the 2002 Winter Olympics, which I believe were in Albertville, France, for the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

He was a pretty knowledgable soccer fan too, esp. of the English Premier League club Aston Villa. Just before he was diagnosed, he finally got to watch his club play while in London. Unfortunately they were the visiting team at Upton Park, and the seat Dino was able to get was in the home stands. Unlike the USA, you don't sit among the home fans and cheer for the away team. Not without some pain, bruises, stitches, and maybe some broken bones. He and I shared a love of football, real football (soccer), and U2, and we could go on and on about those topics. Right up to the end, though, I gave him crap about the time he saw me in my Newcastle shirt, pointed at it and asked, "Juventus?"

Somehow he found his way to working with Electronic Arts for several years. You can imagine the fringe benefits for family :-) I surely took full advantage. On the other hand, it made Christmas shopping easier for him too! Sometime in the last couple years he moved to Sega. How did he get these gigs.

For the last four years or so he's played with a band in Oakland, where he lived, called Mirror Image. He was a bassist, and a good one, a fella who played bass because he liked playing bass, rather than many of us, who play it because nobody else in the band will.

When we gathered together, I often saw Dino and my wife having quiet conversations off in a corner somewhere. Now I loved Dino, but they had a connection from the beginning as though they had actually grown up together, rather than having to pick up 18 or 19 years late.

You often don't realize how much somebody means to you until they're gone. Or at least until you know they're going on their way soon.

Dino crossed over this evening, August 18, a little after 8 pm. My wife called me while I was in the checkout line at the grocery store to give me the news. She knew I wouldn't want to wait. Having to follow up that call by answering three times the question "How are you this evening?" was a very tortuous experience. My 7-year-old son was with me and, when we got to the car, he said, "Dad, you look like you're going to cry."

And so I did.

We love you, Dino, and on into eternity.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It's Today Redux

Eventually, sooner rather than later, and usually before we're ready, life has to move on from other things, or in the midst of other things.

Tonight is our final dress rehearsal for Mame. For three months my cast and crew have knocked themselves out putting this show together, and tonight we finish up with the prep work and fine tuning and call this thing ready for prime time.

And I think we are. Not in a "we've got this nailed" sort of way, but in a "Hey, this is going to work after all" sort of way. The show has really followed the standard path of getting off to a great start, seeming to go nowhere for weeks, trying to come together, a bunch of things going off the wire, then really coming together when you get everyone all dressed up.

My crew and I haven't been overly nervous, and I think it's only because we've seen this before in the many shows we've done.

I'm not going to say it's going to be slick like a Broadway Spectacular, but I think my actors and crew are going to bring our big house in the little town down.

I'm so proud of them. I'll have some pics from opening night to post over the weekend.

Until then...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Frankie Toohey - 1950 - 2008

You may have seen the TV news, or read online, or in the paper, about a small plane that crashed into a house in Oregon yesterday morning. A horrific event. My uncle Frankie was the passenger who rented the plane, just heading out to Klamath Falls for the day. No sooner were they off the ground than the plane went down, exploding shortly after impacting, killing five people, including three children in the house.

Frankie, like most of us, would never want to die. The thought that an accident he was involved in would take four other lives, especially children, would be unfathomable to him. He would have driven over a cliff on his way to the airport if he knew he could avoid hurting anyone else.

The interesting thing about Uncle Frankie to me is that I've only met him a couple times, and only once that I can remember. But unlike other family members whom I've seen regularly, Uncle Frankie means more to me than our meetings might indicate.

My friends who read regularly know about my dad, who has led a hard life, and with whom I've sometimes struggled, sometimes become very frustrated. My dad was the victim of some terrible abuses in his lifetime, most of which were committed against him by his own father and older brothers. His siblings always looked down at him because of the way he struggled to find his way in life, because of his faults, and because he acted like the victim of abuse often will.

But of all five of his siblings, his baby brother Frankie was his hero. No matter how down and out my father was, no matter how much he'd completely f***ed up his life from time to time, Frankie was always in his corner. As a young man, Frankie had his troubled times, sowed his oats, lived on the wild side, but he put himself together and became a very successful human being, and not just monetarily. He was bright, humorous, quick on his feet, and had a very kind heart.

In the midst of my dad's pretty dark life, Frankie was one of the brightest spots. I can hardly think of a visit, or even a conversation, when dad wouldn't bring up Frankie and talk about how great he was. I've heard story after story of the many things Frankie did to help out my dad, to support him, to strengthen his heart in bad times.

I realize I did't know Frankie as well as I wish I did, but I do know, and will always know, the Frankie who saw the best in my father when he was at his worst, who loved my father without condition, who was never at a loss for a quip or a joke or a kind word when my dad needed it.

I cried for Frankie, and for his wife, Toni, but I also cried for my father, who has lost one of the best things in his life.

After all, who wouldn't want a brother who loved you just for who you are, even when that wasn't all that pretty?

UPDATE: I think everyone is aware of this, but I don't care, it still matters. Those of us who are all blogfriends know Big Jeff Kos, who runs our friendly neighborhood Film Freaks Film Club. The Masoudi family, who lost two children in the same tragedy, are good friends of our beloved Kos and his family. This is a tragedy beyond words, and I simply hope and pray for peace and healing and everything the Masoudis (and Reimanns, of course) need to make it through this terrible ordeal. Losing any loved one is horrible, but losing a child, children, is unfathomable to me.

Saturday, August 02, 2008


Would you choose forever?

I don't mean forever in a timeless afterlife. Although I believe in Heaven, and although I believe we'll know who we are and were when we get there, I think it will be an existence where time simply has no meaning, where events and relationships will not be marked by their sequential relationship to one another and to a perceived "present."

My brother-in-law is in grave danger of death. He's 38. On May 11 he was in London at Upton Park, watching his team, Aston Villa, finish their season away to West Ham. Within about a week he was back home, diagnosed with a nasty tumor, a liposarcoma, that was growing faster than a weed. By the time they'd extracted it a few weeks later, it had grown to 30 lbs. They had to remove a kidney, adrenal gland, part of his liver, and part of his colon. Complications ensued. The pain was horrific, and the pain medications played havoc with his digestive system, keeping him from recovering properly from the surgery, which delayed initiation of chemotherapy.

Now they just have to go for it. The cancer is growing fast again, throughout his abdomen, all of the little pieces they couldn't get out during the first surgery.

It doesn't look good for our hero. I hang onto hope, because as long as there is breath and a doctor willing to try, there is hope.

When I take a break from just worrying for him, I think about time. A young man with all the time in the world finds he may be running out of time, possibly counting the remainder in days rather than years. Whenever time is running out, we always wish for a little more. One more day of vacation, one more night to work on that project, one more afternoon to spend with the kids, one more hour to complete that essay, 30 more minutes before going to bed, ten more minutes to finish the test, One more minute for one more kiss. We always want more.

Would we ever stop wanting a little more time?

Would we ever get to the point where we say, "Well, now that's just enough, turn out the lights already?"

I know some people do. People who've given up, who can't find a way through the pain. I don't even begin to understand that kind of hurt, and I hope I never find out what it feels like.

I can't imagine, knowing who I am now anyway, getting to the point where'd I'd just be ready to take off. Even though I look at it as the "final adventure," I can't see how I would be ready to just cross the threshold and head into the west.

If we didn't have to go, if our little flesh-tents didn't fall to pieces from eighty years of misuse and abuse, wouldn't there always be something in tomorrow for most of us? Kids, grandkids, great grandkids, great-great-great grandkids. Wouldn't it be worth another twenty years to get to know the next batch?

Yeah, yeah, there are whole stacks of side-issues; populations, finance, health, blah-blah-blah. That's not my point.

Knowing what you know of yourself now, however little that may be, can you see yourself getting to the end and just saying, "Yup, ready to go."

And don't just give me the answer you think makes you sound wise. I hate that phony crap. Tell on yourself. Would you step across in your own power? Or would you take another day, and another, and another, just to see what was in store?

I know what I would do.

After all, think of what you can accomplish with just one more day.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I'm in Love with Matt!

My wife showed me this video today. Maybe this is old hat to some of my friends, but it's brand new to me. This is a happy video. It's not funny, but it will make you smile. It's not sad, but it might make you cry. Please be sure to pause it as soon as you start it to let it load all the way. It's much, much better that way.

Watch it now before you read on.

All done? Beautiful, wasn't it? In this world full of hurt, hate, war, violence, crime, and AA's (you know who I mean, Joe!) it's moments like these that make you realize how little the heart of humanity really wants. Just to love, to smile, to dance, to forget about everything for a little while.

I don't know who this Matt is, but I like him already. I think you really have to love people for who they are to come up with something like this.

I was amazed. So many different people, from different places, different beliefs, different everything, yet did they not all understand this one thing? There were no language barriers, no philosophical gaps, no political divisions.

Just a song and a smile.

And a silly dance.


It's about me, dummy!!!


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