Ode To Joey

14 06 2014

Dad 01Tomorrow is Father’s Day. One year ago, I wrote a post about how celebrations like it can get lost among all of the other “fake” holidays on the calendar. I also noted how much I really like the Father’s Day, and how much more special it was with my Dad after I had children of my own.

I think about my Dad all the time, and he’s been on my mind more frequently leading up to this weekend. I wanted to write about him, and share some of my memories,. But as I started to gather my thoughts it all seemed eerily familiar. Deja vu all over again? Then it hit me… I’ve written this post many years ago.

One of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life was eulogize my Father. It was a sorrowful, yet exhilarating process. I relived some of that this morning as I sat in my living room reading it… bawling my eyes out.

By the time my Dad passed in March 2009, I had become a eulogy veteran. First Mom, then my Aunt… both in 2004. I also reread those two speeches this morning… more bawling! But after reading my Dad’s, it occurred to me that I was going to say anything more – or say it any better – than I did that day five years ago. So I’m going to “steal” from myself.

Some thoughts about my Dad…

I would like to start my speech by going over my Dad’s various nicknames. There is Joe, of course. Joey. Yukon Joe. Daddy Joe. Pop. Pop-Pop Joe. And Jello… my cousin Karen gave him that one. When I moved out and left him with a house full of women, some called him St. Joe. Only one person that I know of called him Joseph, and that was our pastor, Father Dunleavy. I referred to him by a few of those names, but I mostly called him Dad. And to anyone who would listen, I also called him the nicest guy in the world.

This week my sisters and I have been flooded with accolades and stories about my Dad. Almost all of them contained that word – nice. To quote a few… “He was such a nice man.” “The nicest person I ever met.” “He was so nice to me”. A former neighbor called him “the nicest person on Bandon Drive”. I’m sure she meant no offense to anyone of the other neighbors.

In all of my years with Dad, I have never heard him say a bad thing about anyone. Not once. I’m sure you will agree that this is an incredible feat.

Dad 02When we were growing up, my Dad worked two jobs – mostly to keep us in Catholic school. Throughout our childhood, Mom ran the home and Dad was the silent provider. When I was 15 years old, Dad got me a part time job at the Four Chefs Caterers in Mayfair where he worked that second job. It was great to have that extra connection with him, experiences that only he and I shared. I think I worked there for three years or so. Dad had worked there since I was very young, and a couple of years after I left. Looking back I realize how hard that must have been – working 15 hour days three times a week, and most Sundays. In later years I would often say how I missed some of the traditional Father/Son time. But he did it for his family, he sacrificed for us – without question or hesitation.

My Dad was simple man. He worked hard, and delighted in the time he spent with his family. “Ah Family, that’s what it’s all about.” That was one of my Dad’s favorite phrases. When he was getting therapy after the strokes, the therapists would ask me what hobbies or interests he had. His favorite things in the world were his children and his grandchildren. He would rather have a conversation than read a book. He would rather have a laugh with you, and sometimes a cry. He would rather do something for you, than do anything for himself. His favorite thing was just being there in the room, while all around him the chaos of grandchildren would reign. In the middle of it all was Dad, sitting and smiling.

Another of his phrases was “God bless us”. That was usually reserved for when technology was placed before him. Like cable TV versus 3, 6, and 10. Or the microwave that he seldom used. Or the VCR that he never used. He delighted that he had an answering machine after my Mom passed away. I remember showing him my digital camera and explaining that I just looked at the pictures now on my computer or iPod, instead of prints. He would just shake his head and say “God Bless Us”.

He would really enjoy the computer technology that allowed me to print the font on these pages so big that I don’t have to use my reading glasses – what he called his “cheaters”.

Dad 04When cable TV did come to the Langan house, it awakened Dad’s other love – sports. Especially Philadelphia sports. I knew his morning routine by heart… Wake up to watch SportsCenter, listen to KYW radio while making his breakfast, then switching to Comcast SportsRise while eating. Sundays during the fall were spent at my house watching the Eagles. We would always be recapping the previous night’s Flyers games. And when he came to live at our house last April, we got to enjoy one of the finest seasons of baseball ever played in this town – together. We watched almost every game, and even got down to see one in person. As the regular season ended, Dad had another stroke, followed closely by a third a few days later. He missed the playoff run and the championship we all shared. The Phillies Word Series win was bittersweet for me because I didn’t get to experience it with my Dad.

And “so forth like that”… another of his favorite phrases connecting almost every sentence he uttered. 

Having Dad live with us was an adjustment, one we were very happy to make. His first stroke was pretty mild, so after a few weeks he was almost back to normal. Our various routines were quickly established and my sons loved having their Pop around. He was so easy to live with, and he wanted to help with more things than he was capable of. If I was going to the store, or to soccer – or anywhere – it was “Come on Dad” and off we would go. Johnny’s job was to take him for his $5.00 haircut every few weeks. He loved the Senior Citizen Discounts. Dad would delight in seeing Colin burst into the room, usually at 100 miles per hour with a pratfall at the end. He loved that he and Colin shared birthdays, but after the stroke he sometimes couldn’t remember the date. 

And the man never met a meal he didn’t like! Robin loved that about him. She would say, “Are you hungry, Dad?” His response was always, “Getting there.” An hour later came the familiar refrain, “Robin, THAT was delicious!!” But Dad’s best friend in our house was Stan, our dog. They were already buddies before he moved in, and now they were daytime companions. Dad loved to give the belly rubs, and Stan loved to get them. And his frequent walks on our street introduced him to more neighbors than I know.  Some of them probably considered him the “nicest guy on Orion Road”.

Dad 03Last September we all enjoyed Irish Weekend in Wildwood. That weekend produced the YouTube sensation Dad Dancing video (below)… the best laugh you will ever have. One night, Dad and I decided to forego the boardwalk and slip into a bar to watch the Phillies. It was the best of times, and it was also the last drink we had together.

And “so forth like that”… A few days later he was back in the hospital, felled by the first of a series of strokes that eventually brought us to this day. It was only five months ago but it seemed much longer at the time.

Along the way there were many hard days and nights. But in this time I discovered that our family is so strong. My sisters and I have the best and most supportive spouses, and our children make us proud… most days. But I would like to thank several people that helped me through these difficult times.  Bob and Rita Kiessling, Dad’s neighbors for over 40 years – who he missed so much. And all of the neighbors on Bandon Drive who kept him in their thoughts and prayers. My coworkers and friends at Penn Emblem supported me, and granted me the support and flexibility to take care of the things that needed to be done. And if you ever have to go through something like this yourself, seek advice from people who are experienced. I thank God for Marie Gallagher who helped me tremendously, and never told me what a pain in the butt I must have been.

And when it came time for Dad to leave us, we were so lucky to have the staff at the hospice floor at Saint Joseph’s Manor. All of us were there, supported by family members and friends, Dave Carr, Rose Poretti, Chris and Bob Taylor, Helene Borell, and Sandy Bickel and Richard Saunders. For the rest of my life I won’t forget my cousin Joanne Langan stopping in around midnight on Saturday… to say good-bye to Uncle Joe.

Thanks to you all.  “And so forth and so on”…

Forever, when I think of my Dad I will remember his laugh and the smile that never left his face. I’ll never again experience the big greeting I got when we saw each other. But what I will miss most is the sense of peace that he had – very calming to all around him. I won’t be able to watch a Phillies game without thinking about him. And I’ll also remember this past week, last night and today.  When all of his friends and relatives told me what I already knew – that my Dad was the nicest guy in the world.

“Family… That’s what it’s all about.”

That’s what I said five years ago, with a some changes because I’m a bit of an editing nut these days. I have nothing to add, other than I miss him very much.

Happy Father’s Day, Joey.

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Missing My Baseball

19 08 2013

1971 Topps #598 Wise

I love the sport of baseball.  I just don’t like it lately…

Some of my best memories from growing up in the 60’s and 70’s have to do with baseball.  I played ball from ages 5 to 15 at my local youth organization.  After that I still had some choose-up games with friends, and then played softball into my late twenties. These were great times… Harry Kalas’ silky smooth voice on the radio, sitting behind that pillar at Connie Mack Stadium, watching Rick Wise’s no-hitter in my basement on that small b&w TV… with my Dad.

I’ve said before that one of the worst things about getting older is that you can’t get enough guys for a 9v9 baseball game. Even worse is watching the game that is played today.  I miss the game of my youth, so here’s MY list of some of the things that I think are wrong with baseball… maybe other sports as well.  In no particular order…

Performance Enhancing Drugs – It would be easy for me to point to Alex Rodriguez and make him the poster boy for this issue.  But MLB had a “nod, nod, wink, wink” attitude towards PEDs from the beginning. It’s funny now to see them come down so hard on players when they let it happen for so many years.  Any entry in the baseball record book in the last 30 years has been rendered meaningless. While I’m not suggesting that all players achieved success with a boost, you just never know for certain. And by the way… A-Rod is still a douche bag.

Free Pete – Cut the bullshit, Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame.  The absence of one of the top five players in history diminishes the institution.  He’s not O.J. Simpson, who’s still in Canton, by the way…

I’m Pro DH – Bring doubleheaders back. Lots of them. And not the day/night crap either. Screw what the player’s union says… they are getting paid millions of dollars to play a kids game.  Two games in one afternoon won’t kill them.

I’m Anti DH – Lose the designated hitter. Pitchers are ballplayers and should be made to hit. And if you can’t play the field anymore, its time to retire. But why stop there? Let’s have courtesy runners for players who can’t run the bases.  Maybe let them hit off a tee when the hand-eye coordination starts to go. The only thing that the DH rule accomplished was taking a good deal of strategy out of the game. There is nothing more beautiful than a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt… a lost art in the majors.

Jewelry – Oh good God, what is with the jewelry?  Seriously?  I guess those rope things are fashion statement that I am missing.  But wait a doggone minute… I’m reading now that the ropes “stabilize your electric current inside the body” by “allowing the flow of energy.”  Sounds like another performance enhancer to me!!

Crappy Game Giveaways – I’ll never forget leaving Connie Mack Stadium that summer day… so pissed that I got a bat signed by Johnny Briggs, and my cousin got Johnny Callison.  Bat Day was the best ever, but probably gone because of security issues. I know that’s not baseball’s fault. But giveaways and promotions only exist now to court corporate sponsorship… “Modell’s Sporting Goods Kids Run The Bases”, for example.  I’d still like to see a cap, or a ball, or a batting glove adorned only with the logo of my team… not a company.  Crap at it’s finest.

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All-Star Game – It used to be the event of the summer, full of trash talk and hard play.  Now it is a joke, long ago ruined by too many free agents and trades.  There was a sense of pride to play for your league, against the “other” league… with nothing on the line except bragging rights.  Home field advantage in the World Series is just plain stupid, and clearly hasn’t given the players any incentive.  If there is nothing to play for, why play?

Managers In Uniform – This is one of my biggest pet peeves.  In no other sport in the world do managers and coaches wear the same uniform as the players. Picture, if you will, the svelte Andy Reid wearing a white Eagles jersey and silver pants during the game.  I’m still scrubbing my brain to erase the image of 80 year-old Don Zimmer in that form-fitting Red Sox uni…

Bench Clearing Brawls – Mister Batter, if you’re hit by a pitch, shut up and go to first (watch Chase Utley). Mister Pitcher, that’s a warning… do it again and you’re out of the game (you’re a major league pitcher… have some control). Field players, don’t take one step in or you’re out of the game too. Everyone else stay on the bench and in the bullpen, including coaches. No reason to be on the field anyway.  Now all of you… grow up and set a better example for young fans.

Umpires – News flash to all MLB Umpires… not one person in the stadium has plunked down their money to see YOU officiate the game.  Stop getting in players faces when they disagree with a call.  Stop with the flamboyant signalling of outs and strikes.  The fact is… if you have done your job well, no one should even notice you are there.

A LOT of Games – I’m hoping this is the year that the World Series gets cancelled because of snow.  Well… not really… but I’d love to see my point proven.  The boys of summer should not be playing in the winter.  Adding yet another round of playoffs is owner’s greed, pure and simple.  Plus… is it all necessary?  After 162 regular season games, do we not know who is the best team?

That’s my view… please comment below.  And at least give me some props for not mentioning soccer…





B-MUSINGS… Cool August Night Edition

13 08 2013

“B-Musings”… random blurbiage and ping pong balls rattling around my dome.  Why?  Because I can, and I have a blog!

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Beachin’ It – In a previous post, I mentioned my new found longing to be at the beach. It hasn’t waned. Fortunately I was able to get to the shore a couple of weeks ago and quench that thirst. My friends know that I am not one to stay at the beach for more than an hour… two tops. So the 10 hours over two days I spent sitting on the sand was a revelation. Granted, I was blessed with the right mix of great weather and great company… the perfect storm. It also came at the right time, in what has been a very hectic few months.

I’m going back next week, to plop my ass on that chair again. Can’t wait… I seem to be a poster boy for change lately, and I have to say I’m enjoying it.  Look out, fudgy wudgy man…

Culling the Facebook Herd – I like to go into my social media contacts periodically, and “unfriend” some people and places with whom I no longer interact. Recently I cleaned out a bunch of brands, bands, movies and other assorted “Likes”. Alas, I also jettisoned about 10 people who have thus far failed to enrich my social media experience. But as I was going through the exercise I came to four Facebook friends who are deceased. Obviously I was aware of them in my list, and each had very different levels of friendship for me. It’s nice that friends and family still drop comments on their pages for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc.

So… those four will remain. Until I see them again.

The Soccer Supporter Mentality – I spend a decent amount of time explaining this concept to my non-soccer friends, so I thought I would throw it out for some comments. I fully expect Philadelphia Union striker and rising star Jack McInerney to be playing somewhere else next year, and I’m okay with it. If he moves to Europe, he will develop faster and better than in MLS. And that is good for U.S. Soccer, the priority.

Unlike any other sport, the true fan places country over club.  I think it is the best way to go, we support our national team first, then we have favorite domestic and/or overseas club teams… and we are rabid about all of them!!!  For me… USMNT, then Union, then Manchester United. The goal is always to fortify the national squad. Nuff said…

photo1Wedding of the Century – I often call Joe O’Hagan my faux cousin, when in fact he is my oldest and dearest friend. Our Moms were best friends growing up in Belfast, and travelled to America together on the Mayflower (well… that’s what they led us to believe).  So Joe, myself, his and my sisters grew up as cousins. He’s been a swinging bachelor for all these years until the fair Jennifer finally lassoed him to the ground. When I got news of their pending nuptials I expected an epic event, and was not disappointed.

It was a grand day, epic in its tradition and simplicity. I was honored to be asked to do a reading at the traditional Catholic ceremony, and I delivered it with my usual panache. The reception was held at the same classic venue that hosted my Senior Prom 35 years ago, and the place hasn’t changed one bit! The flashback feeling was aided by a great DJ who played Sinatra and other standards during dinner, and pulled out all the classic wedding reception dance hits… “Celebrate good times, come on!!” Joe’s nephew gave what might have been the greatest best man toast ever, and the newly married couple danced to an absolutely perfect song choice – the beautiful “At Last” by Etta James.

It truly was an epic event. All that was missing was a whiskey sour fountain and the garter / bouquet tossing, omitted I assume because of the groom – throwing anything is dangerous at his advanced age. But there were four other things missing… Joe and Marie, and Bunty and James. No doubt they would have been delighted that after a half century we are all still together.  Real family… no faux, mofo.

Good times, good people, good craic.

bemused-instructor

Meet Herb… Official “Face” of the B-Musing Blog Post.  Are you B-Mused now? A-Mused? Both?

Let me know by commenting below… Herb needs to know!!!





Daddy Day Care

15 06 2013

Father's DayI don’t remember Father’s Day much growing up.  I think because my Dad worked two jobs most of that time, and probably wasn’t home.  My Mom wasn’t given to sentimentality, so Mother’s Day is not very memorable either.  Those days were certainly simpler, different times.

Now even Father’s Day is a little lost in the shuffle.  Someone pointed out to me yesterday that it was “National Strawberry Shortcake Day”!  That is so awesome, I love that stuff!!  But yesterday was also “Flag Day”, commemorating the 1777 adoption of our national flag.  It’s a “real” holiday, made official by an Act of Congress in August 1949.  So when I look at my calendar on June 14th, I’m celebrating the yumminess of Old Glory.  Maybe I’ll have some dessert after dinner.

I must rage against all of these made up holidays that have clogged my calendar.  For example, today is simultaneously “Smile Power Day”, “National Jugglers Day”, and – my personal favorite – “National Hollerin’ Contest Day”.  I better run to the store and get a Hallmark card for all of my smiling, juggling, hollerin’ buddies.  You know who you are!

Hasn’t this gotten a little out of hand?  And it’s not just days we recognize.  Just so you know, June is Aquarium, Candy, Dairy, Adopt a Cat, Fresh Fruit and Vegetables, Rose, Turkey Lovers Month… and another fave –  National Accordion Awareness Month!

Before I start getting hollered at by cat lovers, I understand the need to recognize important people and events.  I’m all for Nurses Week, Teachers Month, Hug A Policeman Day, etc.  In work, Customer Service Week is awesome!  But of all of these recognition days and calendar cloggers, I’m going to throw my considerable weight behind Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

Tomorrow is my 23rd official Father’s Day… “official” because I did get some special treatment before my oldest was born in 1990.  And I deserved that living with a women in her third trimester, and working with a boss going through same.   So I will unabashedly say that I like this weekend.  Not because of any one memory that sticks out, but because of a few little things the day or weekend brings.

I love the cards from my boys, the phone calls from my sisters, and now all of the fun social media stuff.  I always get to choose my meals and whatever I want to do.  I get control of the TV remote – hilarious because I always have that!!  It’s just a good day!

A few years, Johnny had soccer tournaments on this weekend – that was great fun!  Our sports club, Academy Sabres, holds an excellent event this weekend… Father’s Day Tent City – a campout on the soccer fields!  And of course, Father’s Day for me is watching the final day of the US Open.

I think about my Dad this weekend too, and I miss him.  Once I became a Dad myself, Father’s Days with him were always so much better.  Better, because he was retired and we had more time together.  He would be here a lot for whatever I was doing with my sons.  Three generations… cool shit.

Tomorrow will be unexpectedly great because Colin is coming home from the shore tonight to be with me for Father’s Day.  He’s heading back early Monday morning for work… I’ll take it!  Johnny is working tomorrow night, so I’m looking forward to a great morning and afternoon with my sons.  They are both adults now, and the days of climbing all over me like the photo above are gone.  So I’ll take all the conversation and laughs they have for me now.  Later I’ll fire up the grill, and my ass will be planted firmly on the couch watching Tiger, Rory and Phil, with my beverage of choice!  It’s shaping up to be a great day – this Dad doesn’t need anything else.

Because of a few things that happened this week, I now realize that nothing in our lives is guaranteed.  While this might be the first Father’s Day for some guys out there, it may be the last for others.  So enjoy the hell out of it, my friends!  That is my plan!  Tomorrow and every day, the only thing that is guaranteed is that I will love my boys for the rest of their lives… not just mine.

That said… Happy Father’s Day!  Have fun and some great food!  Because Monday is “Eat Your Vegetables” Day.





Cool Uncles

29 05 2013

FesterApologies in advance for my liberal, Fonzie-esque usage of the word “cool” in this post.

Cool Uncles are a universal truth. There are more Uncles than parents, and lots more nephews and nieces than sons and daughters. My second favorite alias is “Uncle John”. First is “Dad”, but that is too large a subject for a measly blog post. My point is – I’ve had them, I am one… deal wit dat!

I love all my nieces and nephews. They currently range from 16 to 32 years old. They live as close to me as a few miles, and as far as 700 miles away.

All the relationships are good ones, some tighter than others. Measurable stuff these days as we are Facebook and/or Twitter connections, and I have all their cell phone numbers… “Hey bitches!” I’m sure that with them I get a coolness bump that I don’t have with my boys. And I’m also sure that my boys think their Uncles are pretty cool.

Joe Langan, my Dad and grand philosopher, used to say… “Aaahh, family. That’s what it’s all about.” Like my boys, the nieces and nephews are all hitting the various high points in life… graduations, prom, first cars, new jobs, boyfriends and girlfriends… all great stuff. I’m sure there is drama in their lives too, but that’s not my problem – another cool Uncle thing. My nephew David just got engaged, which is very cool! I’m sure that in no time I will be the coolest Great-Uncle ever!!! The thuds you just heard were my sisters fainting…

Looking back, I thought my Uncles were cool as well…

  • Uncle Mickey was a rebel, like his namesake, Michael Collins. He spent time in prison in Belfast, then had a long career in the US Army. A good, good man, full of stories, energy, and love of family. He lost his son, my cousin Michael when we were kids. There are five of my cousins in Ireland somewhere… I wish we were all still in touch.
  • Uncle Ed was a tall, quiet man… always present at our house on holidays. His car was left to me when he passed… a white 1965 Plymouth Satellite with red leather interior. Still my favorite car.
  • Uncle James was always smiling and laughing… he told the best jokes! I could write a completely giddy blog about the O’Hagan family… our dearest friends from my childhood.
  • Uncle Frank was great… Outwardly a little cantankerous, but I saw his heart of gold. I was fortunate to spend a summer in Colorado with the Falsettos when I was in high school… the best time. Forever glad that I got to have some quality time with him and Auntie Anne before they left us.

My only Uncle today is Tom Langan, my Dad’s brother. Perhaps the coolest of them all. My Dad passed in 2009 after a series of strokes left him unable to do much. While his body was willing, his mind wasn’t. Right now his brother Tom is going through the exact opposite thing. He is still the same sharp, intelligent, funny man… but his octogenarian body is letting him down a bit these days. While he is the only remaining link to that generation of Langans, I don’t think he is going anywhere soon!

Très cool Tom Langan is resolute that he wants to live his way. I admire that so much, maybe because my Dad didn’t get the opportunity. His daughters worry, because they want him to be safe… I do too. But what makes Uncle Tom so very cool is that his determination isn’t wrapped in anger. Because he’s such a good man, he is taking things in thoughtful stride. Granted I am not there all the time, and maybe my cousins would tell a slightly different story. But at 85 he’s earned the right to be a little stubborn. It’s that wonderful stubbornness that I hope to emulate, when the time comes. The thuds you just heard were my sons fainting…

I’m way too loud to ever be associated with quiet strength and dignity. I think my Dad had it, as does his brother. Although they were very different men and traveled on very separate roads, those Langan boys will always be two of the coolest cats I know.

I hope to keep visiting my Uncle as much as possible. Not sure if he gets anything out of it, but I sure do. I like to bend his ear about the family and my Dad. Because family is what it’s all about.

Be cool.

Bulleit_Rye_ManhattanMy Uncle Tom passed away on July 8th.  On his terms, in his home in Ocean City, NJ.  I got to visit with him a few times since I wrote this post, as recently as a couple of weeks ago.  As usual, we had a great talk.

Manhattans all around, on me…