Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Proud Father Returns To The Blog

Hi I am sorry I have been away for so long. It is just that for the last month I have been splitting my time between practicing law, raising money and awareness for Scleroderma and the Scleroderma Foundation, and being both a full time Dad and part-time Mom to my two son's.

As most of you who read this blog know, my beautiful wife MaryRose has been afflicted for the last nine years with Scleroderma. It has not been an easy fight for her or our family. I stroved to keep things together even when frankly I thought the world was falling apart. It has rarely been easy, but always been worth it. Over the years, MaryRose has slowly lost her ability to walk distances and her physical strength and stamina has been greatly reduced. She suffers from cataracts which render her blind in the sunlight due to the steroids she takes. She lives a half life and misses a lot of the good stuff. However it is better than missing all of the good stuff so we usually look at the glass as half full around here. Besides we are confident that a drug that will better her lot is right around the corner.

For almost Eighteen years now, I have also been a Father to two wonderful sons. Though very different in temperament and talent, they share certain values that make me proud to be their dad. They are both very honest. They are dependable. I can count on them to complete any task I give them. They are indispensable to me in the office and at home. They too have had to deal with a lot of things kids their ages shouldn't have to deal with, all things being even.

Probably in large part due to their mom's illness, they both share an empathy and sympathy for those less fortunate, although they may handle it differently. Sal my older son is very generous and will participate or donate his money or time to charity. He really doesn't talk a lot about it. He expresses his emotions about the disease and about suffering through the music he makes. Frank my younger son is more hands on. He will organize and run events, he will take more time out of his schedule to console and listen. He is my wife's main caregiver when I am away. Both entertain us. Sal with his tremendous musical talent, Frank with his ability to improvise funny stories and speak in various voices. Both are very fine students.

June was graduation and moving up month. I attended Four concerts and four separate awards nights. I took pictures at Pre-Prom and I watched both boys in their formal ceremonies: Sal's graduation and Frank's moving up program.

Sal's big award was the Louis Armstrong award for Jazz musicians. He has led his school's jazz band all year on Tenor sax but he anchored it for the previous three years on Baritone Sax. He was also a All-State Jazz alternate selection on "the Bari" and of course was again in the All county jazz band. Additionally Sal began teaching younger students how to play. His spirit of giving back to others and his patience with children and interest in teaching, awes me.

He also won a number of awards for his work on the High school speaks and debate team. His graduation was a tough one for me, in that I coached Sal for many years, and so not only is he leaving but so are so many kids that meant so much to me over the years. Sal has had an amazing gift for picking good friends. It is a tribute to his personality. Sal graduated with honors. He is heading off to study the Middle East and International Relations in Washington DC. I am sure this blog will be featuring some stories about him and his studies as the years wear on.

Frank has always been "the little brother". A tag along to Sal's many games, concerts, and other pursuits. This year Frank continued however to shine himself. Frank is interesting in so many ways. He is quiet much of the time. He is humble but not falsely so, and he has a confidence that belies a number of physical ailments that have been debilitating.

Frank was this year's student council president. He wanted this to be a meaningful year for his classmates and himself. His student council succeeded on many fronts. They raised a lot of money and awareness for Cystic Fibrosis and The Scleroderma Foundation. Throughout the year I saw Frank represent his classmates by taking their issues to administration and pushing for change. I also saw him become a sounding board for kids who were going through their own kind of Hell. Illness, divorce, bullying, death, suicide, Frank was often the first person they would go to. He would push them to Guidance counselors, teachers and sometimes he brought them to me to help. Othertimes. When those adults weren't getting through, they asked Frank to lead and befriend a suffering kid or speak to the bully.

I was amazed at his ability to get people to listen to him. Students, teachers, administrators and even other parents would come up all year and tell me stories about my "little boy." I would sit and wonder who they were talking about, because at home Frank is not the President, he is my comic relief. As the year has worn on he has done some amazing things for and with people. He has also kept up top grades.

At the time of the Moving up assembly, Frank recieved two big awards. He was first chosen by his teachers as the "Core student" the valedictorian of his section so to speak. Moreover, however, he was selected as the winner of this year's "Bartels" award (named for a former teacher and community leader) for the student that overcame great personal struggle and still succeeded showing courage and perseverance.

In giving the award, the Vice Principal made a point that taught me a lesson. I will use his words:

"Although facing difficult personal issues at home...Frank still came to school everyday ready to work and succeed. However it wasn't his academic success that so impressed his fellow students and teachers. Rather it was the way Frank dealt with (his peers and everyone else that he met.) It is said that his ears are bigger than his mouth, yet when he speaks, everyone listens..." Wow. Now there is a lesson for every lawyer if I ever heard one.

Right after the last ceremony, Frank, MaryRose and I flew off to set him up in a summer program at a college out west. He is spending the summer on a college campus, learning about one of his favorite subjects: US Government. It is a very rigorous program and I am sure Frank will do well in it. Sal is working in the law office with me this summer helping me on a book I am hoping to write and working on our civil rights cases. In all it has been an exhausting emotional time. I have not have much of a chance to put together these blogs. I also would not have traded the last 30 days for anything in the world. What a great month this was.

Thanks for letting me brag a bit. Tomorrow I will return with all the things I have been thinking about for the last 30 days. In the meantime visit our sister blog Long Island (Criminal)Trial Law
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