On the loss of my own Father, Kenneth D. Gray

I didn’t get to talk about my Dad at the Celebration of his life.  In a sense, I was relieved. I had so much to process, so much to think about, that week that to add on presenting and formatting a talk about the man who I had looked up to since I was born might be too much.

Instead, we heard from three great men who he was very close to.

Ron Lang was someone chosen for his knowledge of his early business life in Santa Cruz.  We’ve known his family since the early 70’s, so this made total sense.  His talk framed exactly the man I knew and was my hero.

Al Greeninger was next.  He talked about how Dad was the type that figured out how to get things done, and did them.  Another awesome talk.

Then, we heard from my Father’s most recent boss from Anderson Behel, David Mello. Dad had a great job with him there, and he knew him at his very end to be a man who did his job and did it well.

But what about him as a Father?  What was he like from the standpoint of what he did to add value to his kids’ lives?  How was he as a husband to my mother?  For that, you’d have to talk to Mom. Here are my thoughts are, and remember, I can’t speak for my other brothers, I just wanted to write down some thoughts about who he was to me.

He was an amazing Dad.

There was a tape we recorded together when I was like, 3.  He took the day off to stay at home with me and I shared with him what I found to be important. Songs and Stories.  He got out his guitar, and we sang together.

I know he was always busy with work and providing for us, his family, but he did always know his priorities as a Father and Husband and for that I’m quite grateful.

He gave us his all. I think he also did whatever he could to provide us with our basic needs and then some. It always seems like we got exactly what I wanted in life, whether it was a bike to roam the streets of Santa Cruz and Watsonville, or later, a car filled with gas, where I could travel wherever I wanted to go. We went on trips together to the Family Cabin in La Porte, CA and all over, including Northern and Southern California.

What Dad did though was he also provided us learning experiences, particularly workshops in my teens that really helped me understand the journey of life and why people end up where they are in their lives due to paradigms and processes that are unique to us.

Have a great day and hug your Dad or enjoy your kids as a Father.

All the best,

Matt

 

 

 

Advertisements

Why I love the 4th of July

IMG_20151127_105808654

This Fourth of July, I think of good memories.  I know a lot of holidays that involve presents and giving, or celebrating our roles in life – but the 4th of July is for us.  It’s a celebration of being who we are – Americans and life here in the United States.

Some may say that American Pride is a bit much.  They say that it’s not healthy to be proud.  They could say “pride is a sin.”  I don’t think so.  Pride in who we are and where we come from is healthy.  It’s important.  When you go to other countries, you realize everyone usually is happy with where they come from.  They all have their own traditions and their own reasons for parties.  Anyone who knows me, knows I love to party.

I think about the times when we would dress my Grandfather Gray’s dog Max up with the coon skins and be part of the E Clampus Vitus parade in La Porte.

I think about the BBQ I went to with Dad one year.  I think that was the same year I skated in the downtown Watsonville 4th of July Parade.

I think about the time I went with Andrea and Ennio to Lake Tahoe and watched some of the best fireworks I had ever seen.

I think about that time that I went up to see Phil Harrington up in NorCal and we watched fireworks with his family.

I think about that time we set off serious fireworks near our apartments in Normal.

I know that everyone has their own experiences of the 4th of July and not all good memories – for it’s a time where life can get a bit risky. You’re playing with stuff that can blow off your fingers if you’re not careful.  You’re setting off bottle rockets that can cause serious fires if you point them in the wrong direction.

However, the Fourth of July, to me, is to show off how far we’ve come as a people.  Fireworks to me represent a “for the hell of it mentality.”  It tells us that we can put our money into something that we’re just going to light up and watch it make some noise and just be what it is – a fleeting moment in time to celebrate without major expectations.

It’s also a time for celebrating tennis.  Usually Wimbledon is around this time, so I have great memories of watching the matches during this time of year.

It’s a time where there’s usually a baseball game, and really, how American is a baseball game?  It’s totally American.

We’re going to do a few things in our yard today with our neighbors – including volleyball and maybe some swimming at the neighbor’s pool if we’re lucky.

I look at my family here, and a whole lot of gratitude fills me.  I see the smiles on my daughters’ faces and they are looking forward to spending time with their neighborhood friends.

I realize then, that these Fourth of July celebrations are not about what I’m going to see, but what THEY are going to see and experience for themselves – and then I realize that being a parent is about providing great experiences for our children.

It’s not only being a great Dad but a great Husband as well.  I did some dishes this morning, I put on the Harry Connick, Jr.. music (’cause my wife totally has a crush on him ever since she met him at the local Normal, IL show a few years back, don’tcha know).  I’m gonna get some laundry done, maybe straighten out the basement just a little bit more – and remain happy with what I have today – a loving family, fabulous daughters and the memories of what my parents provided for me and my brothers.

I’m going to have the best 4th of July ever this year with the knowledge that I just recently got a job so I can provide for my family.  It’s a great feeling knowing what’s in front of me and forgetting a little more of what happened before.

I hope you all have a fantastic holiday.  Maybe if I get around to it, I can add some links to the photos I take today.  Remember how far you’ve come and hug those you love now before the weekend is over.  Embrace what we all sometimes take for granted:  FREEDOM.

 

 

 

Best Father’s Day Ever

Today, I reflect on the Best Father’s Day Ever. It was yesterday.

We had breakfast at home, then after, I got to open my gifts from my daughters.  They gave me some really nice things like funny cards, drawings, a stash of candy and a Muscle Cars book with a couple of cards to use – one was a Starbucks card and the other was a Barnes & Noble card.  I was really happy that we were heading to Starved Rock State Park with them, so I got ready.

We got in the car and headed up.  Listened to a couple of great cd’s… one of them was the Richard Marx solo debut, which I have always liked.  We talked about the time that Richard and I talked on the phone when I was a temp for Bobby Colomby’s office at Sony.  I would have wanted to talk with Richard about so much more than what we did talk about… like “the keys to unlocking the door to successful songwriting.”  We just didn’t go there.  Instead, we talked about the Secretary who wasn’t there.

When we got to Starved Rock State Park, we walked around the visitor center and I talked to the shop worker about the flood that happened there a couple of years ago.  We then headed up to the main lodge to wait for Melanie’s parents.

Brunch was amazing and I got tickets from Melanie’s parents to Schoolhouse Rock Live Junior that will be playing in Bloomington within a couple of weeks.  That will be a blast.

We shopped a bit in the store, then we headed out for a little hike.  In over 100 degrees, we walked out to Lover’s Leap and took pics.  After we got back to the car, we headed home.

We had a terrific meal at home as we watched one of our favorite shows at this time called Bloodline.  I am fascinated by the story, and it is incredible that Netflix has put together such a quality show.

I was able to talk with my Dad, Mom, Brother Russ. They are all doing well.

Today, however, I am in pain.  Lots of lower back pain, likely propelled by all the exercise we did yesterday.  I am not sure what is wrong, other than my weight is at a high and I have had quite a bit of pain in my knees in the last year.  My good friend Danny Fernandez thinks that it’s the weight and he’s probably right, but I have a feeling it’s something deeper than that.

I am going to take a break from blogging for a while.  I’ll call it my Summer Vacation and just spend quality time with my family and friends… focusing on the goodness of life and maybe ponder all about it later on in the year.

All the best to all of you and I hope your Father’s Day this year was the best one ever so far. It was for me.

It’s Softball Season Again

My daughter seriously got into softball a couple of years ago.  Sometimes it’s your friends, sometimes it’s your family who light that spark in you to get out there and play a sport with others.  With our daughter Grace, I think it was a combination of both.  Our nephews play baseball, so we would go see them play and I think she started getting interested a little in what they were doing with their friends.  We also had her watch “The Sandlot” as a kid, and I thought that showed her the fun of baseball. When she saw her friends were starting to enroll in softball, she probably thought, “Hey, I should do that!”

I never played softball as a child, but I did have a passion for baseball that eventually morphed into a passion for tennis.  Some of the movements of baseball are similar to the movements of tennis, that is for sure… and as a father, I wanted to encourage her to play tennis but it really didn’t seem like she was too into it.  She was wanting to play a sport that she could play with friends, obviously.

Over the last couple of years, I have really enjoyed watching her learn about the game as well as playing.  She is learning how to throw, how to hit and enjoying her current position which is catching.

As a first born, I think she is meant to be catcher.  She is a take charge kind of girl, the leader of our children (which is a group of two… haha)  I think as she learns the job, as she learns what it takes to be a catcher, she will get really good at it.  She recently took a catching clinic, where she learned the basics of the position as well as certain stances and motions to do to get into position and ready to throw to second in case of an attempted steal.

At her age group, the pitchers aren’t pitching 50 mph fastballs yet, but it will be interesting to see how the speed and accuracy of the pitches get over the coarse of Summer.

I’m so proud of my daughter, and I hope she just has fun at this age level as she is winning or losing.  I think that’s the main thing.  If she isn’t having fun, then it’s time to figure out what she will have fun at doing.  Nothing is telling me that she isn’t.

BloNo Softball, here she comes!

 

Introduction of BloNoDad

I’ve had a lot of ideas of how to include my many interests in one blog.  One was to create a blog where I would talk about technology and call it “BloNoGeek,” which I still have ownership of within Social Media.  Other ideas had the word “Townie” in it, as I was to prove myself as a local in the BloNo area and that’s what the locals call themselves.

But when I had a quick thought yesterday morning to name it “BloNoDad,” I knew I had something special.  I got the domain and I’m starting it up.

BloNo is a fun way to call Bloomington-Normal, IL.  I’ve seen it around the area and I fell in love with it.  I know it’s not popular with the locals but it’s all in fun.

I’ve been a Dad for quite a few years now to two beautiful daughters, Grace and Annie.  They are 7 years apart and couldn’t be more fun to be around!  I love their personalities as they are both outgoing and sensitive.  I know that they have a lot of my qualities as well as my wife Melanie’s.  It is exciting to see them learn every day and be a part of their learning.

But being a Dad is no easy task.  I am excited for their future but at the same time, I can’t help but wonder what will they will grow up to learn and where they will end up.  Will they move far away or will they live in the same area as us?  I hate to be selfish but I would like them to be close to us, as it would be so fun to be around both of them for many years to come.  I guess all I can do now is the best I can do.

I am not going to write much in this intro but I will say that I will be writing in this blog on the occasional basis in an essay format.  I just want to write small bits of what it’s like to be me, a BloNoDad with a variety of interests.  I am excited to discover what I will be thinking about and yes, it will be a challenge to sit down and write these essays as I don’t have a ton of time to write them, but I will make sure I do.

I dedicate these essays to my wife Melanie and of course, Grace and Annie. I hope they can appreciate my willingness to share my thoughts about fatherhood and it is my hope they will enjoy the learning about our life together as much as I do.

MKG aka BloNoDad