🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩
My Back! 😳
Thirty-five years ago today, my first grandparent died. Grandpa was my favorite grandparent, and in looking back, I think it was because of his willingness to join my world. Grandpa played games with me endlessly. He taught me how to play rummy. He would spend hours on his knees setting up plastic bowling pins just so I could knock them down once again with a tiny blue plastic ball, and it was only later in life, well after he was gone, that I realized he did so despite great pain in his knees from being an old man.
Grandpa’s story is an immigrant’s tale. He fled his home in Sicily when he was 16 years old, running away from what we think was an abusive stepfather — though it was a topic Grandpa evidently talked very little about to anyone.
Alone, he got on a boat headed for America where, armed only with an eighth-grade education, he started a new life that ultimately would lead to, well, lead to a lot, including me. Over the years, he was a barber and a maintenance man, a husband and a father and a grandfather. He never lost his thick Italian accent nor his enthusiasm for me. Every time I saw him, every time I spoke with him on the phone, I was greeted with a boisterous “Johnny Boy!”
Grandpa and Grandma moved from their Yorktown Heights, NY, home to Sun City West, Arizona, when I was still small. Grandpa hated winters, and he solved that problem pretty well, I would say. Because of that move, I was able to see a different part of the country, falling in love with the foreign scenery of the desert Southwest that was so different from my suburban NY home.
Grandpa lived in a senior living community before those were a dime a dozen. As part of the community, there was an arcade, which, to a small child of that era, was literal heaven. I’m not sure why a senior living community had an arcade, save for the fact that grandchildren loved it — and I was such a grandchild. One time on vacation there, I got in trouble for something or other and my father (Grandpa’s son) grounded me, my punishment being that I couldn’t go to the arcade.
A few hours later, Grandpa said, “Hey Johnny Boy! Letsa go for a ride. I’ve-a gotta go to tha hardware store.” I was always down for a drive with Grandpa, so I went. It wasn’t long before I recognized we were headed in the direction of the arcade.
“Johnny Boy,” Grandpa said. “Your dad, he’s a good man. But he’s not always right.”
I turned to look at him.
“Itsa not easy to be a dad, and your dad, well… he doesn’t always get it right. Letsa go to the arcade.”
So we went. Grandpa fed quarter after quarter into the various machines, cheering me on at football and Galaga and assorted other games.
On the drive home, he said: “Letsa keep this one between you and me, OK?”
So we did.
Later in life, I learned my father was fully aware of what his dad was doing. He understood nothing can get in the way of the love a Grandpa has for his grandson. So he let it happen.
Grandpa’s death came quickly. One day we got a phone call to tell us about the cancer. Two week later, my father, uncle and cousin rolled into town in a rented RV with my extremely-ill grandfather inside. Grandpa hated to fly — and, truthfully, he was in no condition to be on a plane. So the trio had flown out to Arizona and driven him back to New York, keeping him as comfortable as possible, which wasn’t much, given his condition.
Four days later, on May 17, 1987, he died while I was at a pizza joint with my cousin. I hadn’t eaten much in days, refusing to leave Grandpa’s hospital bedside, though he, at best, was in-and-out of consciousness and never seemed to really recognize that I was there. On that Sunday afternoon, I succumb to my hunger and the pleas from my family, “Johnny, you’ve gotta eat something. Please. Go.”
So I went. When the elevator door opened back on Grandpa’s hospital floor, I was met by my tearful mother and another cousin, telling us Grandpa had died.
For years, I blamed myself. Yes, I know that doesn’t make sense, but I was a 12-year-old kid who rationalized that Grandpa had managed to stay alive while I was there and only died because I left. Maybe that’s true. Maybe he waited for me to be gone so I wouldn’t watch him die. I’d like to think that perhaps, maybe, that was Grandpa’s last gift to his grandson.
Thirty-five years later, I have one last remaining grandparent alive. She’s 95 and not in great shape. It’s a sad thing when a grandparent dies. Too often they take so much family history with them. You can try to recapture it through genealogy — I’ve actually done quite a bit of that myself — but you can never find all the rich oral history that people take with them solely because there’s no one there as much anymore to hear it and pass it along.
Nothing can make you feel quite so old quite so fast as back pain. I was sitting here this morning typing when I was leveled by back spasms under my left shoulder blade. For. The. Love. So far, no relief, even with the Theragun.
Boy The Elder sent a few texts from Germany this morning. They’re at the Dachau concentration camp. BTE noted the sign over the gate, which translates to “Work Will Make You Free.” F’n Nazis. Seeing other humans as less-than-humans didn’t start with them and, sadly, it’s didn’t end with them either.
Anyone else ever feel like they could present stone tablets with the direct handwriting of the creator of the universe on them and the powers that be would say, “Hmm. That’s nice. Now about that new initiative …”? Yeah. Me too.
In Other Writing …
What makes a good coach? Interesting question, but it’s the wrong one. Oh, that question has all the right words. They’re just in the wrong order. If you want to talk about what makes a good coach, we can list a bunch of coach-worthy attributes — things such as charisma, assertiveness, fairness, consistency. But again,…Keep reading
Today’s Reasons to Keep Living
- Seeing an old college friend on Thursday.
- The chiropractor needs my business.
- I have an important doctor’s appointment today.
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🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Weird Date 🪦Nature Walk🌳Bulldog Bath 🐶 If you have a date walking around a cemetery, you’re either weird or goth, and neither Wifey Poo nor I were wearing black today, which I guess tells you all you need to know about us. Old cemeteries are something of a fascination for us,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩So Long, Kid 👨👦Steak Celebration🥩Chip & Joanna 🪚 Regular readers of my drivel know that I’m kind of an emotional guy, which is like saying that Jack kind of could have fit on the spacious floating door with Rose in Titanic. So it should come as no surprise when I say…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Cash 4 IRS 💰Cash 4 Workers 💸Sound of Silence 🤫 Be extra careful on your taxes this year. The IRS is expected to receive nearly $80 billion when The Inflation Reduction Act eventually becomes law, and its plan is to hire 87,000 full-time workers. More than half of the $80 billion…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Spoon Nose 🥄👃🏻Dump Truck 🚚Twitter Traitor 🐦 Every night, I strap a mask attached to a long hose to my face so I don’t die. Not satisfied with looking kinda like an idiot, I then wrap a flexible Velco-enabled strap around my chin and fasten it on top of my bald…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Thanks, Yankees ⚾Kitchen Moment 👩🍳McDonald’s Glasses 🥛 Wifey Poo and I were recent college graduates and months away from becoming Married Folk when our relationship nearly faced its greatest test. The New York Yankees were rolling toward their first World Series appearance since I played with Matchbox Cars, and the St.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Mammoth Dilemma🦣Zombie Pigs🧟🐖Stadium Pals⚾ Finding the fossilized remains of a Wooly Mammoth in New Mexico isn’t exactly news. It seems the furry elephants loved to hang out in the land so frequently visited by aliens. What is news is the condition of the fossils from the latest find. Some of the…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Ankle Shot 🦶🏻Teamwork 🤝🏽Talkspace Stupidity 🤪 Over the years, I’ve played catch with Boy The Younger dozens and dozens of times. From those early days of him aimlessly flinging an oversized soft thing a few feet forward, to now when he’s zipping a real baseball the regulation distance from a pitching…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Creative Desert 🎨So Long, Supra 🏎️Taco Truck 🌮 I have absolutely nothing today. On most days — even the really, really bad days — I can push out something creatively worthwhile. A blog post. A flyer. A video. Not today. Today I have jack shit. This is professionally problematic, considering my…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Hungry=Stupid 😋Strategic Planning 📅Bed Sizes 🛏️ Hunger is a strong motivator. This, most of us know. Yet I witnessed this truth at a whole new level this weekend. Wifey Poo and I traveled up to Hannibal, Missourah, for a few days. Hannibal, for you uncultured folks, is the hometown of Mark…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Change 🌀Me, Different 😷Bad Baseball ⚾ I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Most everything in humanity is governed by two intertwined forces. Supply and demand. Scarcity. Whether its the economy or human emotions, everything about us is geared toward responding to these two things. For example, when there…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Double Standards 🦅Birthday Deals 🎁Video Guy 📹 The United States has a problem with hypocrisy. Don’t worry, though; it’s nothing new. It just happens to be glaringly apparent right now. Our revered Founding Fathers got things off on a really bad foot when they penned the lofty statement that all men…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Revolution 🌍Rain 🌧️Refund 💰 By this time tomorrow, I will have completed 48 trips around the sun. Or is it 47 and I’ll be starting my 48th? Whatever. I’ll be 48 years old tomorrow. I have to admit, I’m feeling kinda blah about it. Looking back, this past revolution was busy…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Bitchy Mother Nature 🌧️⚡Tech Woes 🖥️Maturation 👦 Overnight storms made for a restless night, as waves of rain and thunder rolled through our section of Missourah. Flash flood warnings pinged my phone sometime in the middle of the night, and by the time I left for my drive to work, eastbound…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Rollercoasters 🎢Sad Puppy 🐶News Roundup 🤖 It’s possible to think a lot of thoughts while plummeting 90 feet at a 90-degree angle while staring up at the sun. This I learned yesterday while at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missourah, with the Core Four, Div, Wifey Poo’s baby sister and baby…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Date Day 🤟🏽Prison Justice 👊Universe Questions 🚀 Wifey Poo and I ended up having more than 12 hours to ourselves yesterday here in the Midwest Redneck Mecca of Branson, Missourah. Boys The Elder and Younger, along with BTE’s lovely girlfriend of nearly three years, and Wifey Poo’s baby sister and family…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩WFH WTF? 🧑💼Rebel Ball ⚾Psych Myth 🧠 As a writer/columnist/blogger/thought-spewer, I always enjoy when I get something out there before anyone else. I dug that when I was a newspaper journalist, and I dig it now. That’s why I’m happy to be hearing national publications and sites like Business Insider starting…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Fahrenheit 🌡️Blindingly White ⬜Alone Time 👴 Muricah is very much a reactionary nation. Much of what we do and who we are is because we were pissed off about the way someone else did things. Monarchy? We’ll have a democracy, thank you very much. The metric system? We’ll measure stuff our…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Tryouts ⚾BBQ Sauce🍖TMNT🐢 There is cause for celebration in the Core Four: Boy The Younger has been drafted. Sadly, we’re not talking about the ongoing Major League Baseball draft. Rather, we’re talking about the sick modern world of Little League baseball. Not to get too “Get off my lawn!” on you,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Growth 💗Dreams 💤Redecorating 🛋️ There are moments in a dad’s life in which he can see the growth of his sons quite clearly. Sometimes that growth is physical. One day, Boy The Elder was a short, stocky little boy and then, boom, he came home from his high school job at…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Burn Pit🔥Alaska Ass🍑Nose Hair🐽 Having a plan is a far different thing from having a plan work out. I’m really good at the former, yet the latter seems to be extremely elusive. Yesterday, my plan was to take the huge pile of chopped-down cedar-tree limbs that have been in my backyard…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Jewel💎First Kiss💋Slow Ahead🐢 Wifey Poo and I are headed out into the sweltering hell that is Missourah this evening to see the woman who, should she knock on my door and say “let’s go,” I am fully empowered to join in the next part of life’s journey. I jest. Sort of.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Parenthood 🚓Alexa 📋Quick-Hitters 👋 Just about every statistic imaginable tells us we shouldn’t have kids — at least, not if we’re concerned about our own happiness, mental health, marriage, career, finances, time or ability to buy a really boss car instead of a freaking minivan. Yet here we are, still a…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Lawrence Pfaff Sr. Sucks 🚓Engagement Talk 🌯Quick-Hitters 👋 From what I know of Lawrence H. Pfaff Sr. of Belmont, NY, he was kind of a douche. The 81-year-old man died on June 27. I never met him. Never even heard of him. Until I read his obit. And about that obit?…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Travelling Companion🚓Free Beans 🌯Unfollowed 👋 Brandy Bottone is either stupid or brilliant. Whichever it is, she’s also right. The Texas woman was traveling in the HOV lane — which, for the country folk out there, stands for High Occupancy Vehicle and is reserved for cars with two or more people to…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Slots 🎰Dude Perfect ⚽Bye Bye Facebook? 👋 My mother-in-law (AKA The Judester) is nearly 81 years old and has knee problems that keep her from getting around too well these days. Watching her stand up from a chair is to feel pain yourself. Yet when I walked into the Ameristar casino…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Reflections on Grandma 👵Kids & Death 👨👦👦Don’t Say It 🤫 My grandma died yesterday, four days shy of her 96th birthday. As it goes with people at that age, it wasn’t a surprise. She had been fading for more than a year and, though she still was breathing, that version of…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Sleepwalking 🧨DnD Gang 🎲Gas Idiots 🛢️ If there were a day-by-day measure of the collective output of workers in these here United States of Amuricah (and for all I know, there is), I would venture to guess that July 5 ain’t our most productive day. I base this on my observations…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Stupid Parade 🧨Math Matters ➗What Amazon Reveals 🚚 Not being a hugely patriotic person at this point in my life, I made no plans to go to any Fourth of July parade this year. It seems mighty foolish to be celebrating freedoms that are eroding right before our eyes, though I…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Alone Time, Girl Time 👩👧Picture Hanger🔨What Amazon Reveals 🚚 Wifey Poo and I found ourselves in an interesting position at home today for a little bit: Alone. Boy The Elder took off for Six Flags with his buds, and Boy The Younger left with a friend and his family (Chicken Owner,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Oil Change 👨🔧Goose Lover🛦Church & State⛪ Based on my history, the last place anyone should ever look for me is underneath a car. Yet that’s where I found myself late this morning, side-by-side with Boy The Elder as he showed me exactly how stupid I’ve been all my life. I’m not…Keep reading