The Passing of Time

I first started this blog in the Fall of 2010, when Tristan left home to attend Westminster School. The intention of the blog was to share updates on Tristan as he was at prep school. The blog initially was called Westminster All the Way, but changed to Brotherly Love when my writing started to encompass the activity of all the boys. The name also had to change because Aidan left to go to Cardigan Mountain School and then Williston Northampton School. Over the past seven years I have been on and off writing in the blog, but I think it is time to get going again because there have been some significant changes in our lives.

First, Tristan is no longer the awkward boy that left seven years ago to Westminster School. He is now a Junior at Lehigh University majoring in Psychology and just starting his third year with the Men’s Lacrosse team. Secondly, after spending a year at home working, Aidan is now a freshman at Ithaca College where he is playing on the Men’s Lacrosse team. Aidan is in the Communications School where he is taking writing classes hoping one day to write for movies, shows or video games. He has settled in very well and is even working on campus. And finally, little Dallyn is no longer so little. He has also left the nest and is a Sophomore at Choate School. He worked extremely hard to get into the school and is in the middle of playing football this Fall. He hopes to play hockey in the Winter and lacrosse in the Spring. He has grown up so much over the past year that it amazes me when I look at him.

So Tracey and I have an empty nest at home. It took us 25 years of marriage to get to an empty nest with the full knowledge that they probably will be back again soon to mess up the basement and increase our grocery bill. We do not have to buy two jugs of chocolate milk every three days. The leftovers in the fridge last a little bit longer and the house is very, very quiet. Only when you really think about it does it feel a little lonely in the house.

I spent a lot of time with the boys. No, not just a lot of time, but an incredible amount of time. They all went to the school I worked at so we would drive together to school, I would see them all day and then coach them in the afternoons. And with Dallyn, I spent the most time. He was the one around when the other two were away. There was a lot of one on one time. Some days were awesome and other days were tough. He received a lot of attention and also he would take the heat because the other two were away. Now he is away too. So the drives to school are a lot more quiet then it has been for years.

When you have kids you need to let them take their wings. As much as I want to have them close they need to explore the world and figure out what they want out of life. They may choose to come home and they are always welcome, but I did not have children to dictate to them their course of life. As difficult as it is to watch them stumble I am getting better at letting them hit the bumps. Not saying I don’t have my opinions.

Time sure does not stand still, definitely not for me. I guess I do miss them a bit.

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America the Beautiful

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When you send your children to school in the US it becomes part of your life to be in tune with the current events of the neighbors to the South. This has been part of my life for close to three decades, ever since I was a young student at Dartmouth. My curiosity has been heightened the past six years since Tristan and Aidan have been at school. In the past year the political events going on down south have caused me to seriously consider the consequences of what could be a tumultuous November when a new President is elected.

I am a Canadian, first generation son of immigrants that came to Canada from India. When I think about how far I have come since my mother and then my father stepped into this country I am amazed at what they accomplished and I have been able to accomplish through their decision to start anew here in Canada. Based on my background it would be safe to assume I am not a proponent of the Donald Trump school of thought. His campaign that started with the calling out of Mexicans, only brings back the painful history of my teacher father coming home and telling my mother of the racial slurs that were written about him in school textbooks. Those memories still sting.

When I read the news and listen to the political commentary that emanates from the United States I am amazed at the lunacy of the events. How did this powerful nation get to this point of fragmentation and divisiveness? Is there any common sense at all when it comes to politics? I think of my oldest son, Tristan, sitting among his American friends possibly shaking his head in disbelief. Do they talk politics? Where do his friends stand on the issue of the Second Amendment, Black Lives Matter, the birther issue, political transparency, national security and the Supreme Court? Do they care or are they so immersed in college life, lacrosse and parties that these conversations are left for post graduation? I hope not. I hope he can pass on Canadian wisdom from his “outsider” perspective. I would like to think he is compassionate and caring, and able to formulate positions based on the goodness of human beings.

It is very difficult to separate ourselves from what is going on in the United States. Tristan’s closest friends are American, his girlfriend is American, he is a Canadian living his life in America. This was not more evident than in December 2012. Tracey was visiting Tristan as he played in the Christmas tournament with his Westminster hockey team. On December 14th a young man opened fire in Sandy Hook school killing 26 people including 20 young children. The mass shooting occurred a few hours away from where they were, but it shook up the entire country. It shook me up. The United States and the gun culture. When you send your child to the US to go to school you should not have to worry about guns, but I can tell you that it is on my mind every day. I listen to the politicians debate the Second Amendment and it boggles my mind that a country as powerful as the US can not do something to reduce the number of gun deaths. Is it too hard to change or has everyone accepted the fact that gun violence is the norm in American daily life?

After the tragic events at Sandy Hook, the Westminster hockey coach printed out name tags for the players that bore the names of children lost that day in Sandy Hook. Instead of their lockers bearing each player’s name and number the lockers now would say the name of a child from Sandy Hook. Coach Tim Joncas, bless his heart, was trying to give his players perspective of what their life was all about and the fragility of their existence. I did not find out about this until after the school year, but that action taken by Coach Joncas still profoundly affects me. Tristan’s locker now bore the name of Daniel Barden, a beautiful seven year old boy that died that December day. To see more about Daniel I urge you to go to this Facebook page. I carefully read each new post on that page because I want to remember Daniel and not let him become a distant memory. That would be too easy.

On January 5, 2016 Daniel’s father Mark introduced President Obama before the President announced new executive actions on gun control. When I saw Mark Barden I thought of his beautiful little boy and I thought of my boys. I thought of my American friends and their country. I thought of their kids. I watched Obama wipe away his tears and I saw a man who cared deeply about his beautiful country. Something that had seemed so far from me suddenly came hitting home to me. That press conference was so difficult to watch. It still resonates with me so maybe that is why this election seems so personal to me. With one son in the US and possible another one there next fall there is so much at stake in this election, I truly believe the beauty and grace of America is at stake and the entire world is watching. I am hopeful the beauty of America wins this election.

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Fall Brings New Beginnings

The Fall around our household has always represented a new beginning. The kids would start a new year of school, the hockey season would be starting and even though the cold weather would be nipping at us, it was a fresh start for everyone. Over the past six years the Fall took on even a more prominent part of our lives as Tristan and Aidan would leave for school. Fall is upon us again and more new beginnings.

But first, the last eight months have been a whirlwind of activity. Aidan, after four years of Williston Northampton School, graduated. There were several bumps in the road, but he made it through. Tristan finished his freshman year at Lehigh where he was able to have great success on the lacrosse field. The classroom presented challenges that he had to overcome. Dallyn was the stay home son, trying to forge his own identity. He has grown so much this past year and is ready to make some big strides in his life. And for Tracey and I, we both hit the age of 50 this summer, making it extremely obvious that time stands still for no one.

When I actually think about what the kids have been up to it amazes me. Their opportunities have been so much more than I was offered at their age. Aidan was able to travel to Iqaluit to work on a movie as a lacrosse double. Tristan was able to join him on the movie shoot as the location moved to Toronto. Tristan again was playing box lacrosse in Ontario before getting traded to play for Calgary to end his junior lacrosse career. Dallyn traveled for three weeks on the East Coast of the US playing in lacrosse tournaments. He ended the summer playing in a box lacrosse tournament in Toronto.

Through all the activity we were able to have a short couple of weeks together as a family at home. We were able to celebrate Tracey’s 50th birthday as a complete family with many of our friends. We even had Tristan’s girlfriend Allie up from New Jersey for the birthday party. You take for granted the family time when the kids are young and dependent on you for everything. Now the family time is sacred due to it being a non-renewable resource. They grow up, they become adults. You take whatever time you can get.

Fall brings new beginnings which means Tristan is back at Lehigh ready for Fall ball. Aidan is home this year as he takes a gap year before deciding on his post graduate plans. He has been accepted to attend Ithaca College where he was recruited to play lacrosse. At this point though, his primary focus is on making some money to help offset his college costs. And baby Dallyn is no longer a baby. He is in high school with no idea what the future will await him.

Let’s enjoy the Fall. I am hoping for a warm Fall, but more importantly a Fall with even more opportunities and growth.

 

 

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Oh Canada!

We had the family back together again in Edmonton, after close to a year. Tristan had not been home for eight and a half months and the last time we were all home together was last Christmas. It was a great break having the brothers back together again after such a long time apart. Aidan went back to school on January 4th. Tristan did not have to go back to school until January 15th, so his break was close to a month. It was great to have him home for so long, but his departure this time was very difficult for me. It was nice to have time with him and just as I was getting comfortable with him being home it was time to leave. Friday afternoon was a tough one. I am getting used to the possibility that there will be lots of gaps in time for all of us to be together in the future. It really can be a downer when I think about it.

When Tristan and Aidan were young they had dreams of playing college lacrosse. They both chased their dreams and Tristan was able to secure an opportunity at Lehigh University and Aidan is working hard to see if he can reach his goal. What seemed so far away is now becoming a reality. With that reality comes the realization that it takes a huge sacrifice by the kids, but as well as the family. As the Canadian dollar takes a nosedive daily in value against the US dollar, the reality becomes harsh. As I told Tristan over the holiday break I need to work 45% harder to be able to pay the college costs. I think back to the mid to late 1980s when I was at Dartmouth and my parents were paying for my school. It all comes full circle. The Canadian dollar was weak at that time and I have very little clue the impact on my parents. Now I share that pain. The dollar forecast is bleak, but the determination to support the dream is strong. As long as the kids bust their ass, all I can do is bust mine.I know for a fact that my mom and dad worked so hard to allow me to go to Dartmouth and the least I can do is provide the same opportunities for my kids. I love Canada, but I sure would appreciate being paid in American dollars right now.

Aidan is nearing the end of his Senior year at Williston and Tristan is heading into his Freshman season as a member of the Lehigh men’s lacrosse team. They have worked hard to get to this place and I am sure there is a lot of work ahead. The dreams that started so long ago here in Canada are taking shape south of the border. It was nice having them home, but they have things to do.

 

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Unconditional Love

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When I first started this blog five years ago it was to document Tristan’s time at Westminster School as he left home at age 15. The blog evolved as Aidan left home and it changed even more as I started to capture the daily events of all the brothers, including Dallyn. The boys all have their own distinct personalities, but they also share some very similar traits. They all are quiet people, not wanting to be the center of of attention. They do well at school, but are not child prodigies, just hard working boys in the classroom. They all love their video games and movies. They rarely fight and the physical altercations among them are very rare. When they are all together it is awesome to see how well they get along.

As Tristan and Aidan have grown up they have spent so much time away from home. They have turned into independent young men. They are able to navigate themselves at school, with their teachers and their coaches. I believe in the five years with both of them away I have spoken to a total of two teachers about academics. The two of them have taken the responsibility for their academics and have acted admirably.

I love my boys and I miss Tristan and Aidan so much when they are away. It never really hits hard unless I consciously  think about them being away. When I am busy it is easiest. My mind is somewhere else and I can concentrate at the task at hand. Not so easy when I am idle. It has not been easy lately. Since Aidan has left, about four weeks ago, Aidan has rarely spoken to us. Tracey did see him when we were in Syracuse a few weeks ago, but his contact with us has been minimal. This is not the first time Aidan has backed away from contact. He did the same last year when he was in lacrosse season and was working though an injury. He wanted time and space to figure things out on his own. It seems he is in the same frame of mind now. Maybe it has something to do with his hasty departure from home to go back to school. Something is amiss. All reports from Williston are positive and he seems on track at school. Maybe this is a minor blip in the big picture of life.

I guess in the Parent Handbook I received when the kids were born they missed the chapter on how to deal with your children when they do not want to talk to you. I can tell you I am not dealing with it well. Tracey is so much better about this than I am. I know it hurts her, but she is so willing to give Aidan space and allow him time to work it out on his own. This does not sit well for me because I always want a response. I need the communication and it makes me sick that I can not hear his voice at this time. I can not even get a text message or a comment on Facebook. It bothers me even more because Tracey, who has always been there for Aidan, can not get anything from Aidan.

I am the father and I am suppose to fix everything. I guess in this case I need to step back and hope that within time things work itself out. I love Aidan and all my kids unconditionally. As difficult as this is for me and how frustrated I am, the love continues. This is not easy to write. I putting this out there because it is therapeutic. I need to share my thoughts. It makes me feel a tiny bit better. I can remember myself at 19 and life was far from clear. Take a deep breath and believe in your kids.

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Oops, You Leave Tonight

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It’s very interesting how your children’s personality seems to stay constant from their very early days to their adulthood. When Aidan was just a youngster it became clear that he was a creature of extreme comfort. He just loved to be at home doing his own thing. He never needed a lot of interaction with others. He loved to play his video games or just put together little Lego models. This behavior continued and even now when he returns home he loves to just chill out, watch movies, play video games, workout, enjoy a nice meal at a restaurant and just be low key. We also know that when Aidan is taken out of his comfort zone there is a severe negative reaction. He does not welcome the change and in many ways repulses at the sudden unexpected discomfort. When he was a child the unexpected arrival of a substitute teacher would make Aidan go into sudden despair and tears. It was very touching, but also very difficult to deal with.

The past few departures to Williston have been early morning flights from Edmonton. That has proven to be a poor choice on our part because Aidan settles in at home and having to rise up at 4 Am to get to the airport becomes a battle. Usually it starts with Aidan not getting more than an hour of sleep, then making sure he leaves all his packing undone and then the final part of forcing the boy out the door. There are no warm hugs good bye, just a boiling over of anger at having to leave his warm cozy confines of the basement.
This year we had it planned out that a late night red-eye flight would be perfect. It would give us the whole Saturday to get things ready, have a good meal and avoid the tumultuous departure. We knew it was going to be hard still, but at least we were going to have some preparation time to diffuse the time bomb of the departure.

That, of course, is not how it all worked out because on Friday evening at 8 PM, Tracey decided to do a check of Aidan’s flight information. She quickly realized that 00;55 departure meant Aidan was in fact leaving in 5 hours, not the next evening. She knew it was a late night flight, but mistakenly thought it was Saturday night, not Friday night. She then had to venture downstairs, as Aidan was just lying down to watch a movie and crash for the evening, and tell him he was leaving in a few hours. That led to Aidan scrambling around to get his wash done and get everything packed.

He was not happy. In fact he was distraught. It is so hard for him to leave home as it is and then to throw him a screwball like we did was very difficult. He did not want to go and he made it clear as the clock ticked to leave that he was NOT going back. I can totally understand what he was going through. I would have been pissed off too. But knowing Aidan’s personality this was the last thing he needed to hear. I unfortunately had to do the Dad thing and approach his reluctance to leave with very little compassion. It was time to leave and it had to be known that there was no more discussion about it. He got in the car and it was a quiet ride to Edmonton International Airport. The  hug was quick as I sensed his pain. It was just a crappy way to send him off for his senior year at Williston.

When Tracey and I arrived back home it was past midnight on September 12th , our 23rd anniversary. We had just finished an evening of arguing about the flight mistake and then went through the emotional turmoil of sending our middle child away to school. No one was celebrating anything. That entire night Tracey checked Aidan’s flight status to make sure he made his connections and all flights were on time. Aidan, of course, did not actually let us know he arrived okay until he was at Williston. Thankfully one of Aidan’s friends Snapchatted Aidan at school so I was able to see he was back in his room and that friend also sent a Snapchat letting us know that Aidan was actually happy to be back. Once I saw that Snapchat I felt at ease again. He was back, smiling and with is school mates. It was all good again.

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Small Problems to Big Problems

When your child starts growing up the daily problems start to minimize in number, but grow in magnitude. I am finding so much of my time is spent on resolving issues for my kids. As much as Tristan and Aidan have created independence for themselves by going away to school, there are so many things they need assistance with. Travel, visas, medical, insurance and the list goes on. I know that the parent contract told me that I needed to accept these responsibilities, but there are days when it wears me down. Then I shake my head and stop feeling sorry for myself. My mother and father did it for me, especially when I was an ungrateful young adult. I need to take my own advice and “suck it up”.

School is around the corner for all of them. Tristan starts at Lehigh this week, Aidan goes back in a week and Dallyn is just days away from starting at Vimy.  There will be more problems and many of them will be resolved by the kids. A few will come my way. I will get antsy, deal with them and move on. I really should enjoy these moments, still being the father lending a hand even after all these years. If I look at it like this then it will lessen the aggravation. Or I can just suck it up.

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