Monday, June 20, 2011

Cat's in the Cradle

A personal note…this post really has little to do about melanoma or skin cancer, but is a memory of my brother Jeff who is the inspiration for my blog site and current awareness campaign. 
Typically, a posting with a song title is more likely found over at the Hotel Melanoma (check out Rich’s blog if you haven’t yet, and prepare for some toe-tapping).  The title of this posting is indeed that of a song, but it has further meaning for me.
A little over a year ago, I had a dilemma.  I had only a limited amount of vacation days at work, and two out-of-town events to which I was invited.  One was a family reunion, but technically not my family.  A couple years after my mother died, my dad married a wonderful lady named Kitty.  Apparently her family, the Finch’s, held a family reunion every two years, and my dad asked me, my wife and my kids to attend the one scheduled in June, 2010.  I really don’t know Kitty’s family at all and wasn’t sure I wanted to drag the family 6-plus hours to West Virginia to spend a day or two with strangers.
The second event was my 30th high school class reunion.  I had attended a different university than many of my high school friends, and then my life and career path took me on a far different course than theirs.  While I kept sporadic touch with few acquaintances over the years, I essentially lost touch with many friends from my past.  I might have had little interest in attending the reunion, but Facebook helped me reconnect with many, and the temptation to go back for the reunion was strong.  I knew my wife would be bored with the events and my kids would not have wanted to hang around daddy and some other old people.
I wanted to attend both, but again, my vacation days only allowed me to attend one.  For me, it was a toss-up.  Spend time with family that, while our time together is rare, I’ll most likely see again soon…or visit old friends I’d not seen for decades.  At times when I had trouble making such a decision, I’d call my brother Jeff, so I did.  He shared some of the good times he had at his class reunions and also mentioned that he went to the Finch reunion two years prior and had a pretty good time.  Well, at least he would be there…but still I was undecided.  Then Jeff said four words…”Cat’s in the Cradle.”
My dad was 76 last spring.  While he was in generally good health, he wasn’t getting any younger.  Each time I saw him…at a frequency of every 3 to 6 months…he appeared to age every bit of it.  His advancing aging stopped somewhat when he met Kitty…she reinvigorated him quite a bit after his depression following Mom’s death.  Still, he was 76…and this is what my brother was referring to.  Essentially, it was much like the Harry Chapin song.   The father-son relationship in the song is such that the father is always too busy to play with his son time, yet the son continues to admire the dad.  And when the father suddenly has more time later in retirement, his son is grown and too busy to spend time with his dad.  What my brother was hinting at was that I should pick the family reunion and spend time with Dad…because we really didn’t know how much time we all had together.
I decided on the Finch reunion.  And I had a great time.  But the best part was that I got to see my brother and his wife for the first time in a few years.  Sure, I met a bunch of Finch family members that, honestly, I can’t remember now.  But I remember playing cornhole and passing Frisbee with my brother.  I also recall that he and I spent the morning together before the picnic sharing a hobby we both enjoyed…geocaching.  I’ll share a few stories about that another time, but the thing is, we spent about three hours together doing this activity.  Waking up early in the morning like a couple of fishermen, we headed out on our quest.  And we had a blast doing it!  In fact, I can’t recall anything we’d done together like that since we were kids.  My dad even made note of the fact, and commented how much it pleased him to see the two of us bonding and spending time together.
I suppose you can guess the irony of all this.  It wasn’t dad who I might not see again…it was Jeff.  The reunion was June 19, 2010…about a year ago.  That turned out to be a fun reunion for my family, and a special day personally with my brother.  It also was the last time I saw my brother healthy.  I talked to him weekly, and I saw him once more before he died of Stage IV melanoma, but that day one year ago was truly special, and shall continue to be. 
“We sure had a good time then, Jeff, we sure had a good time then.”


  1. Wow. A true tear-jerking story. What a precious memory you chose to share. I'm glad you had that time with your brother. How very special.

  2. What a wonderful, moving memory. Isn't it funny how a simple suggestion or thought can push you, in the right direction.

  3. Carolyn, thanks for the comments. It was indeed a special day, the best day. Ever since then, I've considered every new day the "best day ever"...and I tell my kids that every night when I tuck them in.

    Shannon, you're right. I was still torn whether I should have chosen the class reunion, even as I was driving to WV. But it turned out to be the right decision. Somehow, I was guided to the right decision...I should be so lucky to be shived that way more