December 01, 2005

Life History, Part 1

Morning workout
90 minutes
Aerobic heartrate

I never told you about Thanksgiving, did I? Look at that, we passed right over the Thanksgiving holiday and I didn’t even let you in on the plans. Shame on me. Shame shame. Well let me open the shades and let you look through the window into my family. Of course, it all starts with a stroll down memory lane. Or at least as much of it as I can remember. I’ll just make the rest up.

By any other account, we would be a highly dysfunctional family. I grew up in a small town in Connecticut where the only thing to do is go to New York. My mother and father were separated just as I started going through puberty – as if all the sudden bodily growth wasn’t scary enough. Conveniently, though, dad got a place right down the street from where my sister and I lived with mom. A place just a few blocks from the beach, I might add. Not a bad location for a pubescent young thing such as myself. As it turns out, I ended up seeing dad more after the separation and, thanks to his guilt, I got a lot more gifts than when he was still living with us. Lucky me.

Shortly after my parents got separated and dad moved to his beach-house, my mother went down to Florida to tell my grandparents she was getting divorced. I stayed at my dad’s place that night so my 15 year old sister, Laura, could spend her first night home alone. It was a big night for everybody. Unfortunately, it didn’t go so well. Apparently mom’s parents didn’t take too much to the idea of divorce, being a bit old-fashioned as they were. So she didn’t have that grand of a time down there in Fort Lauderdale. And then there was the telephone call. It was somewhere in the middle of the night when the phone at my father’s place began to ring. My dad picked up the phone, listened for a few minutes, said “get out of there now” and rushed off. I, of course, went back to sleep, not really having a clue of what was going on but expecting him to return shortly.

Apparently my sister had burned down our house. Well, I take that back. The fact is it wasn’t her fault at all. You see, it was November and very cold. Snowing, in fact. Laura was asleep under her electric blanket when some faulty wiring set it on fire. She woke up to find herself sleeping on a bed aflame. Seems like a crazy circus act, but trust me, the house was no circus and Laura didn’t put on much of an act. She woke up in a smoke filled room with the electric blanket perhaps a bit hotter than one might expect. After calling dad (and waking me from my sound sleep, thank you very much) she ran outside into the snow to wait for the fire trucks.

Nobody ever tells me a thing in my family, so I was pretty clueless on what was happening. I slept soundly through the night with not a care in the world. The next day I awoke to learn that our house was destroyed. That didn’t seem to help the stress levels for anybody in the family. Mom flew back home pretty darn lickety-split and Dad… well, dad wasn’t so happy. Let’s just keep it at that.

Laura, mom and I spent the next year crammed into a small rented apartment while our house got rebuilt and that didn’t make any of us really happy. There was a lot of anger and sadness floating around, not to mention the really crappy clothes I had to wear. You see, all my real clothes were ruined with smoke damage, so mom had to buy me new stuff. Not wanting to do a lot of shopping, or really any shopping at all for that matter, she grabbed the first thing she could find and bought it in assorted colors. Needless to say, I spent 8th grade wearing Adidas t-shirts everyday.

So what with the faulty wiring on the electric blanket, my sister nearly losing her life, our house nearly burning down and me, a poor pubescent child, suffering from all sorts of trauma, we had a good lawsuit on our hands. Somehow when there’s a lawsuit a-callin’, all the crazies swarm like a school of cockroaches on a stale piece of fried chicken. Between the insurance brokers, firemen, lawyers, contractors, adjusters and just plain wackos showing up at our door, I had a tough time keeping everybody straight. To make it worse, mom started dating around this time as well. It was really tough to keep track of whether the crazy comb-over misfit tramping through our place was here to assess the damage or to make the moves on mom. Sometimes it was both. And so they tried their hardest to be nice to the angry teen girl and the little kid in the Adidas clothing, but they didn’t have a chance in hell of me liking them. And my sister? Well, I don’t know if she really liked anybody at that point. I know she really liked my Mickey Mouse shirt though, cause she kept stealing that from me.

Mom’s string of dating turned into a bit of a blur for me. A year or two went by and I couldn’t remember a single guy I liked. Then, on one 4th of July, mom met Dan. They fell in love pretty quickly. Lo and behold, my sister and I actually liked the guy. Next thing I know, Laura and I are left home alone as mom and Dan gallivanted off to Florida, St. Thomas, New Hampshire and all sorts of other just-short-of-exotic locations that normal people don’t really plan vacations to. Fortunately, the trips all occurred during the spring and summer when there was no chance of another electric blanket debacle.

Dan seemed to fit in nicely with the three of us. He was friendly, funny and caring. He was also divorced and had three teenage chillin’ of his own, so that probably played a part in his being a laid back type of guy and not a wacked out freakball like most of the other specimens that had been walking through the door. He didn't even have a comb-over!

Well, one thing led to another and mom and Dan decide to buy a house together and get married. Wham-bam? You betcha. One day my sister is sleeping on a bed of fire, the next day I’ve moved to the neighboring town, and suddenly am playing the part of Greg on the Brady Bunch.

Mom and Dan got married on November 23rd, right before Thanksgiving. That was 21 years ago. Over the past 21 years, the entire Brady Bunch has grown to be very close. There are 13 of us now, counting husbands, wives, nieces and nephews. The only thing dysfunctional about us, is that we’re functional. The extended family gets along better than any family should be allowed to. Well, there’s another thing dysfunctional about us and that is that we’re all avid – borderline addicted – athletes. Runners, bikers, triathletes, duathletes – you name it, we’ve got the lot of ‘em.

So every Thanksgiving, the entire clan gets together for a family celebration and, let me tell you, its non-stop good times. Laughs a-plenty mixed in with a heckuva lot of exercise. Every year we get together in Florida, save for a couple of side trips (like last year’s European Family Vacation, when the 13 of us spent a week in northern Italy). Throughout the year we are scattered across all corners of the states, the 13 of us. But for four days every November, we hunker down in Tampa and escape the world in a tryptophen-induced eating, drinking and running family celebre.

I brought Catherine down for Thanksgiving this year. As you can imagine, that’s a pretty big step to bring a girlfriend to such a treasured, borderline-holy experience. I’ve dated people for years and haven’t brought them down. And here I am, only 3 months into this relationship and…. Well, you get it. Cat, of course, fit right in. Arguably, better than I do. She’s wonderful like that. My youngest niece, Samantha, likes her better than me, which is sickeningly painful and overwhelmingly heartwarming at the same time.

About three years ago we added a new family event to the calendar: The St.Anthony’s Triathlon. It happens every April, the halfway point between Thanksgivings, as it turns out. This year four of us will be competing: step-brother Hugh, step-brother-in-law Craig, sister Laura (in her first triathlon ever) and, of course, moi.

I love my family.