Wednesday, March 5, 2014

On This Date in 1999 (March 5)

Sandy and Charles

I think Andy’s basketball season last one weekend too long. His team is scheduled to play in a tournament this weekend, starting late this afternoon. On Wednesday, we learned that only four other teams will be participating. It hardly seems worth the effort. All the teams play against each other, and then the top two teams will play a championship game on Sunday afternoon. Although Andy plays only one game today, three games are scheduled for tomorrow. At 10:00, noon, and 3:00. After last weekend’s exciting Tri-County tournament, which Middleton won convincingly, anything else seems anti-climactic. If the boys make it to the championship, I won’t be able to see the game, as the library initiates Sunday hours on the 7th. I scheduled myself to work the first three Sundays of operation, both to work at the reference desk and get a feel as to how things go. We are expecting to be extremely busy. People in the community seem to be very excited about these expanded hours.

Sitting:  Carole, JoAnna, Paul

Standing:  Ruth, Mim

On Wednesday, just before taxiing Andy to basketball practice, he asked me, “Dad, how many times a week do we have supper as a family?”

“Oh, probably two or three times,” I answered, without giving my answer a whole lot of thought.

But I did wonder, “Why is he asking me this question?”

Later that evening, I picked up a copy of the Elm Lawn newsletter that he brought home. It was just a single sheet of paper with short articles printed on both sides. The one that caught my eye: How Often Families Eat Dinner Together.

Nights per week:
  • Seven 22% 
  • Five or six 30% 
  • Three or four 26% 
  • One or two 17% 
  • None 5% 

So then I thought about it. Today (Wednesday) is a no. JoAnna’s at an Airport Commission meeting, and I got home from the library too late to fix a meal for the boys and me. Tuesday is my evening to work. I usually spend two hours at home in the middle of the afternoon to break up a long (11-hour) workday, but since I have to be on the reference desk at 5:00, a family supper is not an option. On Monday, JoAnna fixed chicken cacciatore in the crockpot – and almost didn’t make it home in time. Though a bit rushed, it was a family meal. ONE. JoAnna and I attended my cousin Charles’s wedding late Sunday afternoon, leaving the boys to fend for themselves. Following Andy’s championship game on Saturday afternoon, the family went to Culver’s for an early supper before 5 o’clock mass at St. Bernard’s. TWO. Friday evening, in Mount Horeb, where the basketball tournament was held, JoAnna and Eddie and I went out for supper at the Main Street Bar & Grill between games. The coaches wanted to keep the boys at the school. Outside of Crandall’s take-out, it was the first fish fry we had in quite some time. Thursday. I can’t remember that far back. Wait a minute. I think it’s coming into focus. Another crockpot meal. Stew meat simmered in cream of mushroom soup served over noodles, family style – literally. THREE. 

Sitting:  Shirley, Ruth, Carole
Standing:  Don

Perhaps you’d like to read more about last weekend’s basketball tournament. The four best teams in the two 5th grade leagues were matched up. Middleton handily won both its games Friday evening, 51-37 against Stoughton, and 37-28 against Waunakee, two victories which put them in the championship game against Sauk Prairie, the team that tagged Middleton with its only loss, one of their first games of the season. There was electricity in the air of the gym Saturday afternoon. The bleachers may not have been packed, but both teams drew large and vociferous contingents. Except for the last minute of the game, it was a see-saw battle, the fans loudly applauding each team’s good plays and generally screaming encouragement. With Middleton leading by two points with 1:00 showing on the clock, our guys scored six unanswered points. Andy scored a critical basket on a fast break, which put Middleton up 31-25 with 20 seconds left. The crowd acted as though it was at the Kohl Center for the NCAA finals. But it was one of the most truly exciting sports contests I have ever watched, and I don’t just say that because Andy was part of it, although I can’t deny that our son’s presence certainly gave the game an extra edge. Everyone was breathless by the time the final buzzer sounded, the fans more so than the players. I wish someone had videotaped this game. Even after-the-fact, you could have felt the intensity. You would have also been very proud to see how well Andy played. He has very noticeably improved his game this season. 

My cousin Charles, Lila’s son, who is 62 years old, got married for the second time last Sunday at Bethel Lutheran Church in Madison. JoAnna and I were expecting a short, informal service, but it turned out to be a musical extravaganza. Charles is an accomplished organist and composed much of the music for the ceremony. My cousin Mim, from Beloit, sang five different songs at various intervals. (She also sang at our wedding.) There was a reception in the church basement afterwards. Both Lila and Signe (two of my dad’s sisters) did not recognize JoAnna or me. In fact, Lila chillingly reminded me of my dad. Her face has the same mask-like appearance that my dad now wears because of Parkinson’s. Lila must be similarly affected. Ruth, my dad’s youngest sister, is, at 84, as spry and vivacious as ever. She’s the only child of Herman and Anna who still has all her marbles, so to speak. I don’t mean to sound disrespectful. As they say, sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying. 

Genevieve and Tom

According to Mom’s recent letters, Dad’s situation continues to deteriorate. He is sleeping more now, which, in a way, is a blessing for her. He’s very contrary; he won’t listen to her when she tells him to do something and will occasionally try to hit her. Once in awhile he’ll lose his balance because of this uncharacteristic movement and fall. Being a fulltime homecare provider is taking an even bigger toll on her now. It may sound like a horrible thing to say, but she seems to be getting to the point now where she thinks Dad would be better off dead. And I can understand that. Physically and mentally, there is very little left of Dad. In her latest letter, Mom says she tries to concentrate on the 50 good years of their relationship and not the stress and sadness and loneliness of the past five. I’m sure Mom often feels like a prisoner in her own house. She doesn’t get a whole lot of help, even from Larry, Barb, and Dale. And maybe I’d tune out of this situation if I lived in Warren. 

Enough depressing stuff. 

The boys and I are doing an instant replay of last year’s spring break. Since JoAnna is unable to get away for an entire week, having just started her new job in the Department of Justice, I decided a visit to Warren was in order since we may not have an opportunity to do so this summer. We’ll leave Middleton around noon on Friday, March 26th – the boys being able to leave school early – and drive as far as a Holidome in South Bend or Fort Wayne. I’m sure it will be a quiet visit in Warren, which is now or has never has been a happenin’ place. The boys and I will sleep at Larry and Kim’s cabin, which means they’ll be able to stay up late watching TV without disturbing Grandpa. We’ll begin our return trip on Thursday and spend a couple day in Chicago. I bought tickets for a Bulls game on Friday, April 2nd. Plenty of cheap seats are available now that Michael Jordan has retired. I’d also like to take the boys to the Art Institute, which I think Eddie would really enjoy. Otherwise, our itinerary is still in the formative stages. 

JoAnna is flying out to Pennsylvania for Julieanna’s christening. She’ll leave Thursday after work and return late Sunday evening. The plane ticket costs $300, but then Madison to Allentown requires two stopovers, I think. At the same time, she bought our tickets for the Louisiana trip. The total: just over $1,000, which I think is very reasonable for the four of us. We leave on a Wednesday and return on Tuesday. This will be a short (thin?) vacation that will likely be sandwiched between the end of Andy’s baseball and the beginning of his football seasons. 

I got a call from Andy’s teacher yesterday. She was very concerned about the irresponsible attitude he’s been developing lately, over the last couple weeks, specifically. I mentioned that JoAnna and I were concerned, too. All of a sudden, he didn’t have any homework. “I did that at school,” he would say whenever we pushed for details. As it turns out, he was blowing everything off – not completing classwork, not noting assignments in his homework folder, not returning school library materials when asked. As a result, he was given an in-school suspension yesterday, with my blessing, on a day when the rest of his class went on a field trip to the Madison Civic Center to see a play about Thomas Edison. That consequence provided Andy with a much-needed slap in the face. I talked with Mrs. Ball again this morning, and she reported an immediate improvement in Andy’s attitude. I scheduled a conference with her for next Wednesday, since I felt very strongly the need for a face-to-face followup. Andy, of course, will be included in our discussion, since this is all about him.

The weather turned nasty today. We might have as much as five inches of snow on the ground tomorrow morning. The trip to Oregon, for game one of Andy’s basketball tournament, took twice as long as usual. They crushed a Madison team, 55-8, Andy scoring 8 points, coming this close (||) from a breakaway game for him, i.e. 16 points.

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