Monday, March 29, 2010


One week ago today, my father died. Ever since I've been sitting at this computer watching my cursor flash on off on off off on off, unable to commit anything meaningful about his death to this blog.

My feelings about my father resemble a game of pick-up sticks: there are jaggedy, pointy things buried at the bottom of the pile and as soon as you disturb one, several others come unloose as well.

My father was a brave man. He was paralyzed in Vietnam at the age of 21 when a bullet tore through his left shoulder and exited via his spine. He spoke many times about the men he served with - men of grit and valor who sacrificed for their country and each other.

In the early years of my life, he was often depressed and bitter. I don't blame him for this. I cannot even begin to imagine how he felt losing use of his legs - and with that, the ability to dance, walk, run, jump and make love - at such a young age. He comforted himself with substances both legal and illegal. His choices weren't always the best, and they sometimes got him into trouble.

Worse than any of that, it was sometimes difficult to connect with a man whose body had been so unfairly broken – whose emotions and spirit had been turned inside out. Our relationship was complicated and not always easy.

But he was my father and I loved him. He was a man who chased me and a friend around the house in his wheelchair howling like a wolf. He taught me how to take pictures and develop them in the darkroom he had in his home. He visited Ireland and sent me postcards every other day detailing his adventures. He took me to see The Rolling Stones. Twice. He paid for my college education because he knew it was my ticket to a better life and I have always been so very grateful for that.

I know he loved me and I know he knows I loved him, but that does not make up for years of other things never said. Missed opportunities. Chances not taken. I am full of grief and regret this week, and probably will be for a long time.

On Friday, we held his funeral; a mass and burial with full military honors - taps, color guard, a 21-gun salute and a flag folding ceremony. I spoke at the mass, delivering a short eulogy at the end. It was a send off that I hope made him proud. I will leave you with those words:

* * *

I am a writer. I write to process, to record and to destress. My father was a writer too. I like to think that my love of writing is a gift from him, one of many he gave me throughout my life.

My father was a war veteran. A hero. He was a philosopher and an historian. He loved politics. He was an avid reader and a painter. He always had a good story to tell. He was a genealogist who researched our family tree back hundreds of years.

He also loved astronomy. With his telescope, he could identify all of the planets. When I was a young girl, he would wake me in the middle of the night sometimes so that he share an eclipse or meteor shower with me. I remember standing on the back step of our house in Clarksburg in my pajamas looking up at the sky with him one night as a comet blazed overhead.

“See Kim, see?” he said. “Isn’t that beautiful? You won’t see that again in your lifetime.”

I saw.

And even back then – at only about 7 years old - I knew why that moment was so spectacularly awesome in so many ways.

Thank you, Dad, for many, many things. You will be missed; you will be remembered. Because for the rest of my life, I will look up into the night sky and imagine you out there somewhere – chasing that comet.


Michael Gorman
1947 - 2010

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A girl's best friend, at any age

Yesterday, I met with Peanut's teacher to talk about her progress in school.

It was an overwhelmingly positive meeting. Peanut's teacher describes her as bright, happy and polite. She says she's already reading beyond what's expected of her for kindergarten and that she is doing well in all her activities. One thing she needs to work on is her handwriting, which has always been her weakest link. Those fine motor skills are slow coming to her.

Another is focus. She tends to get a little day-dreamy sometimes and needs a regular tap on the shoulder to stay on task. But otherwise, she's doing just great, which is a relief because we struggled with the decision of when to send her to kindergarten. We were afraid she'd be bored if we kept her out an extra year, but in hindsight, we definitely made the right choice.

I'm amazed by what they teach in kindergarten now. I remember kindergarten being about social skills, shapes, colors, number and letter recognition and not much else. Now they learn to read and write, start building the foundation for things like algebra, use the computer, learn Spanish and talk about Monet's impressionism.

They write every day - short stories and sentences. We're told spelling doesn't matter so much as sounding out the words and including consonants and vowels. Outside of her classroom, there was a bulletin board covered with the children's work. They were asked to write about what they'd do with $100. The kids wrote everything from "give it to poor people," to "buy Legos."

The apple did not fall far from the tree apparently, because Peanut has decided she will spend her $100 on something near and dear to my own heart:

A girl's best friend

Maybe by the time she gets to first grade, she'll realize she needs a few more zeros on that bill. I'm not about to break it to her.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

It's an honor just to be nominated . . .

OK, admit it. Haven't you always wanted to be able to say that? To be chosen among your peers as one of the best and say, "it's really great just to be here among these talented people"?

Today, I can say it.

Alejna at Collecting Tolkens nominated my post about deceptive food labeling as one of the best Just Posts of 2009.



I'm truly amazed and honored to be included. Truly. I've already read through a few of the other nominated posts and they're so, so great. Alejna has organized the posts by category to showcase several talented bloggers writing about a variety of important social issues. Please go read them and vote.

Maybe, just maybe, you can even throw a vote my way. :-)


Give a little, gain a lot

Today I was a chaperone on my daughter’s class trip. We went to a local community theater to see “Click, Clack, Moo.” I was a bit concerned, even skeptical, of how a 10-page children’s story could be transformed into a 60-minute play, but it was actually quite cute. There were songs and dancing and a lesson at the end about compromising with others.

Compromise is a funny thing. Of course, we all do it and it’s an important skill, but in obviously there are times when we’d rather not. And I know there are some things on which I don’t want my daughters compromising – their dreams, their goals, the person they choose to marry.

I sat on the bus ride back from the theater with Peanut nuzzled against me. She was so excited to have me there as a chaperone – so proud to have her friends see me there with her – present. A mom who is present.

I know the day will come when she won’t want me around her friends. She’ll roll those big gray eyes and ask me to drop her off at the corner and, whatever you do, don’t kiss me, Mom. I remember being that way with my own mother. I’m sure it wasn’t easy on her.

But today, she was sweet and snuggly and so very much mine. When the day comes that she doesn’t want me anymore, I’ll oblige, I suppose. I’ll wait in the shadows, guiding when needed, loving always. But giving her the space she needs to grow. To develop. To dream. To live.

Because that’s what parents do.

We compromise.