Monday, November 2, 2015

Holding out

From Mom's Cupboard
Dear JJ,

As I sat in my parents home I saw the spices my mom used.  She cooked until two years ago when macular degeneration made it unsafe for her to cook. You can see that she put big print on the jars so that she could see what they were to add them to the meals she made for my dad.  She did what she could.

Then when she became nearly blind, and could no longer cook my dad would take her daily to breakfast and then to lunch.

Every day my 91 year old dad would take her out to eat.

Then it got to where he couldn't do that.

They are both in a safe place now - where they are fed, and looked after.

Forced retirement for both of them - but it is ok. It is ok to retire.

It has been a hard week to see my folks move into assisted living. When I was in mom's kitchen I could hear her tell me to taste the food, smell the food, add more flavor. I could see my dad sitting at his desk balancing his checkbook in case the bank made a mistake. But mostly I remember being a little boy in their house- with mom and dad bigger than life, being protected and loved.

You will know me as an older dad. I will retire from my job when you are still a young man.

But know this - I will never retire from being your dad. And I will do as much as I can, for as long as I can, to be there for you - to make you laugh, to encourage you to be a nice person, to let you know that your are loved.



One of the last times dad brought mom to breakfast and ordered for her off the menu - she is blind.
I suspected when I took this photo of them walking to the parking lot it would be one of the last times dad could drive her to breakfast. Now they are in a good place and dad no longer has to drive them. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Being a son

Dear JJ,

Leaving you this morning to check on my parents in their new home was tough. It may seem silly, it may not be important to you - but I won't be there for Halloween tonight. I won't be there to go around the neighborhood with you.

But today I have to be a son, but tomorrow I come home to be a dad.

But here is your pass: if you ever feel like you have to  check on me - or your mom, but you have a little one who wants you - stay home. I will be ok.



Sunday, October 25, 2015

When Dad Cries

Dear JJ,

I remember the first time I saw my dad cry.  We had a car accident when I was about your age. We were all fine. Got to the hotel, and settled in and then dad cried - and mom comforted him.

The second time I saw him cry was after Uncle Jimmy died - his second son, the one named after him, the one you are named after.

When mom had to go to the memory care center, he cried. I heard him on the phone as we were talking.

Today I left him in his rehab unit in Portland. He had been in the hospital a few days, having fallen and thankfully Uncle Ron was there to call 911.  Now in rehab to get some strength back, and then soon to be in an assisted living center with mom.  I caught a flight up yesterday, to see him and mom.

I dropped by this morning on my way to the airport, and after I hugged him he cried.

Sons do that to us. I know - I have you. I've seen my dad, a man who at 91 has aged well, but still his body is failing him. I see how he appreciates his sons. I know how he feels.

Sometime son I will see you and when you leave I will cry. I'm sure I will when you go off to college, and maybe a few other times. It is what dad's do. It is ok.

Looking forward to seeing you later today.


Dad - we always like our coffee

Looking forward to seeing you
Soon they will be together in assisted living- they have been for 67 years. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Dear JJ,

At 3:30 am my brother called to tell me he sent my dad to the hospital. Not the call you want to get at 3:30 in the morning, but calls you know will come.

You were sleeping in our bed - happy to be between mom and dad in what you call "the big bed."

I know when you get older you won't be "invading" our bed. But at that moment, hearing that - I could look at you sleeping, see the smile on your face, plant a gentle kiss on your cheek and let you know that dads feel this way. We know our time is limited. We love being dads, and when bad things happen - it is a refuge for us.

While dad has been in the hospital I talk to him several times a day. Each time I talk to him he thanks me for calling. I know how he feels.
You never know when your parents leave if that is the last you will see of them

Thank you for being my son,



My favorite assistant- helping me make ribs

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Gentle JJ

Dear JJ,

I feel lucky that you are such a gentle kid. It is manifested in the way you treat animals, your classmates, and everyone. One of the teachers said that you demonstrated a lot of empathy. 

Oh you are plenty boy - you like to rough house, you enjoy being chased - but mostly, you are a happy kid who takes care of those around you. 

Never lose that. 



Sunday, August 23, 2015

Friends and Dad

Dear JJ,

Today you had your friend over to play - and what I really liked is when I got home you said, "There's my dad, I always kiss my dad."

Then in the middle of playing in the swimming pool with your friend you said, "Hey, where is dad?"

You are going to have lots of friends, JJ - but dad will always be happy to kiss you, and always smile when you come running to greet me.

I just don't want this dream to end


My two favorite people
We got a box! A fort - oh and the chairs were free

My favorite Sous Chef

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

To hear your voice

Dear JJ,

When you first giggled, as an infant - your mom and I smiled. I remember thinking - if I were to die, and want to have the last pleasant though, it would be to replay that giggle in my mind. It makes me smile.

My mom, grandma Simpson, isn't doing well. At 87 she doesn't have much time left. In some of her bad moments she will call "just to hear your voice." I'm her son, her little boy, and yet one of the things she just wants to hear is my voice.

It doesn't change. When I am not around you, and I call, sometimes I just want to hear your voice. And I suspect, if I know I am closing my eyes for the last time on earth, I will think of your voice and I will smile.


Running to see me at the airport, "Daddy."
Jumping at Jump City - getting wiggles out and laughing

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Five Years Old

Dear JJ,

Yesterday was your fifth birthday - and since you and mom were staying in Canada to escape the heat, I took a few days off to travel up there - because I remember when I was five. Well- I don't remember the birthday, I just remember my brother, Ron telling me that I was five years old. 

When I put you to sleep the night before your birthday I asked for a hug, because it was the last night I could hug my four year old son. The next morning I asked for another hug- because it is the first time I get to hug my five year old son. I know it sounds strange- but your dad meant it.

What you enjoyed most was having friends over and playing with them. You loved that more than the gifts - and that is a great lesson. 

No matter where you go son, and you have - in five years gone over 200,000 miles - the things you will enjoy are not things - but friends (and sometimes family) - but mostly friends. So make a lot of them, and forget the things- just enjoy the friends.


Our attempt at a family photo on your birthday - seems you were having too much fun 
Our Favorite Game

The best part of your birthday was your friends- not the gifts

Not that gifts aren't cool

Some are really cool

Yes son- two can play at not wanting a photo taken
Waking up Uncle Peter with "cymbals" 

It can have consequences  - wrestling time!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mom's shoe

Mom's shoe - left here when she was a little girl
Dear JJ,

We went to Norway for a family reunion.

When my mom was 9 years old, in 1937, she went to Norway to visit our relatives.

It turns out that when mom left, she forgot her dancing shoe in the summer home by the family farm. The place where they would take the sheep to graze during the summer. So they nailed her shoe up and said when she comes back they would give it to her.

When my grandfather would go back, he would write a bit in a note and stuff it in the shoe, and finally in 1997, mom got back and she and dad wrote in the shoe. They went again in 2007. I had heard this story growing up. Now I got to write in the shoe - for the first time.

Wanting a connection with our past is part of the human condition. Part of the reason this "older" dad writes this to you. Somehow that shoe represents that entire past of our relatives - and writing in it seemed to fill some destiny. I know, most have lofty thoughts with destiny - but trust me, the best destiny is feeling connected and loved - like you do with us, and now with your family in Norway


Nothing like fresh fish - with Cousin Silje and your new best friend Eline

And even though you didn't speak the language - you found a new friend, a cousin, you could play with and while we are all eating at the family reunion - always good to have conversation

In the summer cabin - things are "rustic" - but like your dad, you do your best thinking here

Inside the shoe - a note from my grandfather, Eric Otnes - and every

time he came back - another quick note

You two invented your own language  to talk.

In the background is the Stabur, built in the 1600's it is where salted meat would be kept, and cheese would be made. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Happy Birthday Gigi

Dear JJ,

Today is Gigi's birthday. 

You have a special bond with her- always have. But so have I. 

I was a new dad, at age 53, not really knowing what to do. For the first seven weeks of your life she was there- from your first hour. In fact one of the hardest days I had as a new dad was when we had to say goodbye to her after her being with us for seven weeks.  For her saying goodbye to you that day was hard for her - you can see it in the photo below.

The first two years of your life the only time your mom and I went out to dinner by ourselves was when Gigi was watching you. 

When you took your first plane ride, at six weeks old, Gigi came with us to Oregon so you could meet my parents. Of course, ten minutes before we got on the plane you had a poop-apocalypse. Your mom and Gigi just laughed and cleaned it up.

You are lucky son, to have Gigi. So am I. 

Happy birthday Gigi,


For the first seven weeks
A special bond the two of you have

You always have fun together

One of the hardest days of being a new parent is when Gigi had to leave
She has known you since the day you were born - in your first hour

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Waiting for Morning Coffee

Dear JJ,

You wake up when I am getting my second cup of coffee and we have coffee together.  Yours is about two ounces of coffee, two sugar cubes, some of your mom's adulterated creamer - and water.

But it is our morning coffee.

Yesterday morning I had to leave before you even got up.

When I got home you told me,

"I missed our morning coffee, daddy."

Writing this waiting for you to wake up so we can have our time.


Your tastes have changed - now you like coffee - but in the "purple cup."
Early this morning coffee - 
Adds water to the coffee
Ah - nothing like some coffee with daddy in the purple cup

We have had coffee for a long time together

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Auntie Bev

Dear JJ,

It was so nice to see you with Auntie Bev the other day. Your uncle Jimmy was unable to have children and I recall, many years ago, my mom saying, "Both Jimmy and Bev are crazy about kids." I also remember in my mom's darkest times when she was only remembering things of the past her saying to Bev, "He sure was crazy about you."

We all miss Jimmy  - but seeing you with her, helping her - it just brought some good memories of a man we all miss.


Uncle Jimmy and Auntie Bev 
Working at their yard in Oregon

Add caption

A little pond with some fish

Helping Aunti Bev