Today’s Guest Blogger: Haze Hayes the Dog

Hi folks! I’m Haze Hayes the Dog and it’s my birthday! So Dad granted me one wish after I blew out the candle on my doggie burger today. So I wanted to ask him if I could blog on his site. He said, “You might as well since I haven’t been able to blog much lately.”

I used to blog so often and dad’s thinking of leaving me the computer so I can do it again while he’s at work. I type slow but that’s because my paws aren’t very long and it’s hard for me to reach the keyboard sometimes.

But the reason I wanted to blog is because dad’s been busy lately. Besides running the campus ministry at St Joe’s and doing a bunch of other things there, Dad’s been busy with mom. She’s OK, but they’ve been a bit worried because the doctors found atypical cells and something else on something she called a mammogram. I’m not really sure what it is but I know I go on the breast cancer site to give people free ones because mom tells me that I should.

They’ve been so good to me, so I thought I’d ask all of you to pray for mom this week because tomorrow she gets the results of her breast MRI and while we’re pretty sure everything is benign, we can’t be positive until tomorrow–so we’re keeping vigil until then. Regardless, mom needs some minor surgery even if everything is OK. So that will happen on Halloween. “Trick or Treat—my long wagging tail!” I said when I heard that and licked mom on the nose which made her laugh and get a little grossed out.

So dad’s been a bit preoccupied. So my gift to both of them is to give you readers an opportunity to pray for mom, so that everything will be OK no matter what we hear tomorrow. We know it will be because God will be with us through all of the challenges in our lives, no matter what happens. Like that time that the Horses in Central Park in New York freaked me out and made me bark because I was too afraid. Or when the German Shepherd up the charged me and dad. Or the time I slid into the coffee table. Or when I ate a piece of a brillo pad.

I kinda get into messes sometimes. Dad deals with a lot.

So if you’ve got an extra prayer, send them mom’s way. She’s still a bit worried even after she didn’t freak out in the MRI tube. I think I’d like the MRI tube because it’s like my crate, but I don’t think I’d like the noises it makes. That would hurt my big ears.

So despite all the stuff mom and dad have been through they still had time to buy me a new toy and a Halloweenie Sweater. Sweet! They said I get hamburger for my birthday which is a special treat too! But I only want one thing for my birthday and that’s to be sure that mom is healthy.

So if you don’t know how to pray, I can help you today. Check me out and then do what I do:

And let all the dogs in the church howl: Amen.

Great-Grandma in Her Stockinged Feet Talking to the Moon

I’m starting to hear stories from my father that he’s never shared with me before. Last night we talked on the phone for a long time. I had been worried about him because my mother’s been fairly sick lately and I know that gets him down.

He always has a story for me. And last night was no different.

He began; “I remember when I was home (Waterford, Ireland will always be “home” for him) and I was up at about 9 in the evening and I looked out the window and there was my grandmother outside in the frost with just her stockings on looking up at the moon for herself. I went out to my uncle (My father was orphaned at a young age, he remembers his mother but has no memory of a father) and asked him why grandma was out in the frosty night in just stockinged feet?

He told me I was crazy, “Grandma went to bed at 8PM and has been sleeping ever since.”

“I figured I must have been dreaming and so I went back to bed.” he said.

He continued: “The next morning I awoke and I went and made the tea and toast by the fire which I would bring to grandma every morning. We made toast by the fire then, no toasters at that time, y’know.”

“When I got to the room she was indeed sleeping and I called to her to wake her up but she kept right on. She never woke up. I ran to Mary (his older sister) and my uncle. Come quick! She’s gone! She’s gone!”

Hearing this story, made me think that my Father was a young man maybe in his late teens. So I asked him, “Dad how old were you when this happened.”

“Oh I guess I was about 7 years old.” he said flatly.

My dad is now 84. I’m amazed he can remember the scene with such vitality but then again, finding your grandmother dead in the morning at 7 after seeing a vision of her in the night air isn’t exactly the kind of thing you’d forget.

With the Irish, all of our stories are true and some of them actually happened. However, this is a story that I know is true and indeed it actually happened. It’s now one of the only memories I have of my great-grandmother and I have no personal experience of my grandparents on either side. So I see all this history through the eyes of my parents. My father had to hear stories of his parents from this woman who he found in the “thin place” that night as we Irish say, in the place between death and life, standing up looking at the moon on a cold Irish evening.

I’m often not one for these kinds of stories. But today I am. And I know that when I look to the moon tonight, I may just do so in stockinged feet and remember the woman who raised my father for just a short time, who helped him get over the death of his parents before she died herself. One of his only female role models and who gave my father the spirit of being a man for others, as he has been for me for more than 42 years and for my mother for more than 62 years of marriage.

The moon and my great-grandma will now be forever linked in my mind. We are truly all connected by God to one another. And perhaps when I look and find the moon in the sky I can pray a prayer to God for a woman I have never met, but who moves me to gratitude this day and who probably has prayed for me for decades.

Maybe we’ll even get to sing in the moonlight together.

Do You (or Did You) Have Helicopter Parents?

A great, great article in yesterday’s Washington Post on dealing with helicopter parents from two university officials. I especially liked their last two paragraphs:

Having raised smart and accomplished kids, most parents are able, with a little guidance, to recognize the difference between being a constructive partner in their child’s educational journey and being a counterproductive, infantilizing, control freak.

As for those who choose to ignore that advice, we have a simple message: Should you decide to park your helicopter in the middle of the freshman quad, you will be ticketed and towed.

They recommend not disconnecting parents from children or even encouraging that “kiss them good bye and text them twice a week” approach. Rather, they hope the parents can stay connected and encourage them to use all that the campus has to offer. Not a terrible idea.

I thought back to my own college years, often riddled with anxiety because my mother has never been healthy. I always feared that I’d be away at college and find out that she had died. Now at 84, and still not healthy, that anxiety has subsided significantly, even with me many more miles away in Buffalo to her Yonkers. My college roommate put it succinctly on my mother’s 80th Birthday.

“You’ve always had this anxiety about your mother dying. I think you can let that go now.”

And I did. From that day forward.

But looking back, I also realize that I wasn’t always that anxious about being disconnected from my mother during my college years. What I think served me well was a simple household decision my roommate and I made back in our freshman year in 1988:

We didn’t get a phone.

We used a local pay phone on the dorm’s first floor. My then, roommate, a bit of a ladies man, would get a bunch of calls there to the point where the first floor guys wanted to chip in and buy us a phone.

But I remember not calling home as much that year and the separation was good for me. I had to stand on my own two feet and sure I made some mistakes. I got railroaded by a Modern Language dean who made me take a German course, which I subsequently flunked. They placed me in second level spanish but it was over my head and there were no openings in Spanish I, so I was told I needed to start a new language immediately. (You were supposed to meet the literature level of the language by the end of your forth semester–I ended up back in Spanish and completed the requirement a semester late).

I made poor decisions about sleep. I drank a bit. Dated the wrong girl too many times and generally tried a bit too hard in too many ways.

Would it have been better for me to have a parent walk a bit closer with me during that time? Some would say yes, but I say “Hell no.” I needed to make those mistakes and learn who I was as a person outside of my parent’s ideas about that. And I ended up being involved in Campus Ministry without much influence from them at all.

I remember during a club fair for incoming students and their parents, I walked around and signed up for the radio station and campus ministry on my own. My dad was kinda happy about that. We checked out the other clubs and came across debate which I liked and signed up for and then we stumbled upon the Gaelic Society.

Dad: “Put your name down there!”

I did so and found out at the student club fair that essentially the club was more of a party scene drinking club that also learned a bit about Irish language and culture between the parties. I’m sure some took the latter very seriously, but most simply went for the booze and parties.

If I listened to dad, I may very well have flunked out of college.

I think dad hoped I’d find a nice Irish lass there…but instead I married a Brooklyn Italian that an Irish girl named McCormick introduced me to well after my Fordham days…

And she’s perfect for me.

That said, my students probably have better relationships with their parents than I had with mine. I wonder if they are more open or if their parents are more lenient. I’ve met some pushy overbearing parents (usually mothers, but the occasional dad) and heard stories from several colleagues of parents calling campus ministry disappointed in their children not wanting to be involved and then blaming the campus minister for it.

But here’s one thing I remember dearly…my Campus Minister got my parents and my sister to write me letters of support on retreat. Those were quite meaningful and a complete surprise. I wonder if those letters would be as meaningful to many of my very connected-to-their-parents students? I wonder how many parents would even write a snail mail letter instead of e-mailing it?

At UB, we have a big commuter population and many of those students head home very quickly and continue to attend mass with their parents at a local Buffalo parish. I could never wait to get back to our campus parish after a summer at my parent’s local parish. But today’s students just like being home more. And thus, many don’t get a chance to explore their inner spiritual lives as deeply on their own and a weekend retreat is far too much time away from the comforts of home. I end up taking what I can get and doing a lot of days of reflection and twi-light retreats, which are often hardly as powerful, in my mind, but seems to work for the students.

So I wonder, is it good or bad that parents are much closer and even have to be appeased more in university life today? It’s probably in the middle (as are most things). If they can be encouraging of the student to find their independent voice, I think their involvement is awesome, but if the child is living for them, perhaps even through them and never learns how to stand on their own two feet–then that’s a problem. A good example is my sister and brother in law who have talked with their oldest about whether or not she should take a semester off to go work on a once in a lifetime kind of project. They’ve helped her weigh pros and cons but the final decision rests with my niece alone.

So students, what might you think? Do you hear the rotors of your parent’s ‘copter? Or are your parents more hands off? And which would you prefer them to be?

Reason 985 Why I Refused to Learn How to Irish Step Dance

I didn’t want a late night talk show host to kick me in the face:

Hysterical. My mother really wanted me to learn as a kid and I somewhat regret not learning now as a 40 something adult. But I had enough people making fun of me in the 4th grade and didn’t need any more. Today it would probably be “cool” to do this but in 1980 when I was 10, not so much.

Oh well, perhaps there’s still time. My wife and I are off to go practice in the kitchen to this you tube video. I will try to not kick the dog in the snout.

One Word: Dad

I was in 5th grade and I turned my head to the side to look at the clock and that was when it happened. Three hard bangs on the top of my head with a fist. I’m surprised I didn’t have a concussion. I looked left and Dana LaBruciano, the little girl who sat next to me, just sat there stunned with her mouth agape. She whispered, “You OK? Tell your parents!”

And I did and it was one of the only times that I saw my father fill with rage. “Has he hit anyone else?” he asked.

Indeed he had. So my father began to call the father of another student who had been hit—or punched, I should say. Together, these fathers calmly, but firmly, went to the principal and asked for the teacher’s removal.

Eventually they won, but not before an final incident. The same teacher pulled me out of an assembly for talking and told me to go to the office immediately.

One problem: I hadn’t said a word.

I started walking home at the end of the school day, embarrassed that I had to sit in the principal’s office and mad that I had missed the movie we were watching in assembly. And then that familiar, old brown Chevy pulled up next to me.

Dad’s home early.

I told him what happened and he threw the car in reverse and pulled into the school’s parking lot where he parked illegally. Ken, the school custodian, knew my dad well since my dad was also a custodian in the school system.

“OK to park here for a second, Ken?”

“Sure, Mike, stay for a hour if you want! Nobody’s gonna move ya.”

My dad barreled through the doors. Even today, he’s not an imposing man at 5’9″ and 160 pounds or so, but this day he compared with Muhammad Ali. His chest popped out and the veins in his neck were visible.

I expected him to head to the office and give the principal a piece of his mind. But instead of turning right, he turned left, and headed for the stairwell. He then turned to me and said,

“This IS the way to your classroom isn’t it?”

I nodded, “Yep. Third floor.”

We reached the classroom and my dad wasn’t even winded at the age of 50 after climbing 6 flights of steep stairs. He walked into the classroom and got right in the teacher’s face.

“Did you pull him out of an assembly today?”

The teacher smiled one of those “I’m hoping you calm down” smiles and told him that he indeed had.

“Why?”

“For talking.”

“Really? Because he says he was sitting quietly. And my son’s no liar. I can tell when he’s not telling me the truth.”

He was right. I’m a terrible liar.

Two of my friends were in the room with us and one said to me, “Man, your dad is mad! What’s he gonna do?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “Just watch,” I said.

“Look, you smashed your fist three times on his head and I intend to do all I can to get you kicked the hell out of here. I’ve worked in these schools for 20 years and (he took a step closer) I…will….use…every…year… against…you!”

He walked out with the teacher pleading with him, grasping for anything. “Well you know Michael’s a bit sensitive. I just gave him a love tap that’s all.”

I got brave then.

“No sir, you had given me some small taps on my head in the past. But this time you POUNDED on my head. HARD! Dana even saw it.”

And when the principal called young Dana down the next day, who confirmed my story, that was enough.

My dad was brave enough to stand up for me. And often, I’ve not been able to stand up for him. Classmates would make fun of me because Dad cleaned schools for a living. I began to avoid the topic of what he did for a living to protect myself from the abuse. I’m ashamed of that today.

I loved when he would visit me in college, but perhaps my favorite day was when I got my master’s degree at Fordham. In my graduate school years, I got to know all of my professors pretty well including the dean, Fr Ciorra. I could see my dad beam with pride when I introduced him and mom to the dean. Dr. Kieran Scott, my mentor, and also a son of Ireland, had a long talk with him, sharing stories from the old country like it was yesterday that they were both there. Dr. Thomas Legere and Dr. Bud Horell shared a few laughs and talked about how they enjoyed having me in class and looked forward to my book’s publication. There he was, my immigrant father, talking with learned men and fitting in with ease.

We Irish, traditionally aren’t always good with praise. Studies have even proven that. My Italian wife can’t understand that as her family is quite generous with praise. But my Dad often bucks that trend. Fordham magazine did a spread on me once. The second my dad got the magazine in the mail he picked up the phone.

“That’s a great article. I’m so proud of you!”

The truth is that he should be proud of himself, because I do most of what I do because of him.

I try to stand up for the needs of the working poor, for immigrants, for the powerless. I give much of my time to the students at UB and to those who seek me for direction because my dad always had time for me and for others. Time is often not a factor for me when something is worth doing–my dad taught me that.

He’s now 84 years old and has cared for my mother and this family for 62 years. He tells a good story and can stretch the truth a bit, as we Irish like to do. He looks at my mother as if she’s the same 20 year old girl he met at a church social, approaching her because he saw a large spider climbing up the back of her dress. After he knocked it off, he was hooked on that beautiful woman, his Evelyn. And he has lived with her through her many illnesses, standing by her side unwavering. And my Marion has his dedication to be thankful for, because he taught me how to be a husband. And she tells me I’m a good one.

So today, Dad. Know that you are a well loved man. Though distance keeps us apart these past three years, I think of you every day and I am grateful that I had a Dad as wonderful as you.

Happy Father’s Day.

Of Spiders and Sheep

In anticipation of Father’s Day, I have been thinking of my dad, Michael F. Hayes, Sr this week. He’s 84 and he’s my dad because of a series of coincidences.

He was born in Waterford, Ireland. His mother died when he was very young (about 7, if my memory serves) of the flu! Ireland was a developing nation then and they worked the farm for a living. His own father remains a mystery. “They told me he died.” he once said to me. “But I don’t know much else. He may have been some merchant marine or something who was just ‘passing through’ or something. I never inquired. I figure what I don’t know can’t hurt me.”

He was given the opportunity to go and work on a sheep farm in Australia. He was excited at the chance of having his own farm to run in a new place.

“OK, his uncle said! If you’re going to be a sheep farmer, you need to go and see if you’ll like that work first. So we’re going to send you out to a sheep farm here in town.”

He went to the farm and a guy there began to show him the ropes.

“So you have to grab the sheep like this. And then turn his head and slit his throat like this!”

My father nearly puked.

“OK, your turn.” He said as he handed him the bloody knife.

My father looked at the sheep as he grabbed him by the throat and the sheep looked back at him ….

“BAAAAAAHHHHHHH”

“Nope. Can’t do it.” And the trip to Australia was off.

He was thinking of settling in Ireland but was tired of farming. His sister, Mary, was given the opportunity to come to the United States but she didn’t want to go, loving her homeland too much.

“I’ll go!” my dad said, immediately.

And that was it. Back then, you likely would leave and never return to your homeland. After all, who had the money to travel then? My dad was an uneducated man leaving his country for the most powerful nation on earth. It would be a tough ride. He ran elevators, worked in laundries and factories. He even worked in a cemetery for some time with his father-in-law before finding a good union job with the Yonkers Board of Education where he worked as a custodian, rising in the ranks to chief custodian over the course of 30 years.

Along the way, he raised two children, my sister and me. Two miscarriages between us led me to be his late in life baby at 40, 16 years after my sister was born. They kept trying for that second child.

But both of us are also happenstance children. Because if it wasn’t for a spider he never would have met my mother.

At a church social, my dad was standing by, minding his own business, and a beautiful young woman stood nearby him fixing a drink. Unbeknownst to her a large spider had crawled up her dress and had made it’s way to her shoulder. My dad leaped into action.

“Excuse me, Miss. Hold still. Now don’t jump. There’s something on your back here, let me just KNOCK it off (STOMP)!”

“Oh my God, was that a spider! Thank you!”

“You’re welcome….um…”

“Evelyn…Evelyn King.”

“Mike Hayes… Evelyn King, do you dance?”

62 years later, they are still dancing.

All because of a spider crawling and an inability to kill sheep.

He never did return to his homeland. I was the first in my family to visit his beloved Waterford in over 50 years. His sister who gave up the trip, has since died. Dad never saw her face again, save a video of his nephew’s wedding, delivered when he came by on his honeymoon.

Instead the spider and the sheep led him to stay in New York and he became my dad and his Evelyn’s husband. And that was more than enough for him.

And so today I give thanks for all of nature’s gifts. The curiosity of the spider and the merciful cry of the lamb. I pray that I have the same mercy in my life (I suppose I should never eat lamb again) for others and maintain a healthy sense of curiosity throughout my life.

But most of all, I remain grateful for each day after the spider and the sheep. For that’s how I came to know this man who is my more than my father.

He’s my dad. And for that alone I am more than filled with gratitude.

The Grace of Coaching

David Quo thinks that he was an ass at his kid’s soccer game. Why? Because his kid is far from becoming the next David Beckham, the kid doesn’t always listen to the coach and he thinks he did a good job when he kicks the ball into his own net.

And all that annoys David–who’s far from an athlete himself.

But I share the following viewpoint with him:

I HATE the coddling of America’s youth. I HATE everyone always been told that everything is terrific no matter how much it sucks. I HATE that we lead the world in self esteem and suck at math and reading. I HATE soccer games that don’t keep score. I HATE participation ribbons. Now I’m mad at our culture too.

I REALLY want to say, ”Well buddy, you’re trying and that’s AWESOME. But part of trying is listening to the coach. Why don’t you try that too?” I want to give him a hug and tell him how much I love him and how great he is actually doing at this, his first game of any sort. I really do want to say those things. But I don’t. I just sit there with the staggering knowledge I just told him he did badly.

I used to coach kids at a summer came. I would add that some of these kids were so afraid of the ball that they’d run away from a ROLLING ball. The key is getting them to believe that you aren’t giving up on them–but also (and more important) to not praise them when they don’t get it right.

Some examples:
“Good try but how about this way?” “Look, here’s what you’re doing wrong–not THAT way, it’s THIS way–now you try! Nope, try again. Good job!”

None of those voices can be in a raised tone. In fact they should be hushed tones mostly, with an added “You can do it, I know you can.”

One of the most awesome moments of my life was when a 6 year old afraid-of-the-ball-for-far-too-long shot his first basket. It was grandma moses style and it took him 20 attempts—but it was just the two of us and watching Mark Kissel’s face light up was worth every second of hard work. I remember him and his smile and how I held him over my head like the Stanley Cup and we ran around the gym together and grabbed a snack right after that basket.

Wanna know what happened next? He wanted to go practice some more. And he made 7 more baskets.

Kids want to get it right and improve their skill and they want mentors and coaches who guide them firmly and not just lie to their faces and tell them that they are great when they know they suck. The key is gentle firmness as well as patience. Instruction doesn’t have to be angry or browbeating. But it also doesn’t have to be superficial.

Not every kid deserves a trophy or a ribbon. But what every kid deserves is the respect of a coach who takes the time to make sure that they are being instructed properly and that they believe in them. Even when kids lose (I cried hard after that first little league loss—we lost 27-0. You’d think I would have caught on after the 3rd inning when we were down 13-0.) they need to have the support of a coach–and their parents. “It’s OK to lose. We all lose. Indeed we can’t win them all. We’re gonna lose again. They key is doing your best and pushing yourself to do better next time.”

Those were the words of Tom McKineley, my first little league coach.

And they are indeed words to live by that I have not forgotten for nearly 40 years now.

Now go find a kid and have a catch. And make sure he doesn’t throw like a girl.

And make sure she doesn’t either.

Banning Ice Cream From Brooklyn Parks

So a delighful rant is on Jezebel today that I really enjoyed. It seems a bunch of mothers in Brooklyn’s posh Park Slope are banning together to oust ice cream vendors from their local park. Now it’s not because they don’t want their kids to get fat, rather, it’s because they don’t want to say “no” to them. Imagine that.

Cassie Murdoch of Jezebel.com begins her rant with this eloquence:

Oh, good god. Yes, let’s ban the sale of ice cream within 100 yards of schools and playgrounds. You are seriously furious that someone is trying to make a living in your vicinity? Well, I live in Park Slope, and I am furious that you bring your children into the the nail salon while I am trying to enjoy the yearly manicure I splurge on in peace, and I am furious that your child regularly runs into my feet with his scooter. But I do not try to ban your child from my sight. Why? Mostly because I am too lazy to get into that kind of legal battle. But also because I am an adult whose parents taught me that the entire world does not revolve around me. They taught me that I will not always be completely happy; that I sometimes need to wait for things I want or not get them at all; and that other people have just as much of a right to do what they want in this world as I do. And you know what? I cried a lot when I was young because these lessons pissed me off. And my parents were annoyed by my crying, but they dealt with it because they knew that in the end it was better for me to cry for five minutes than to grow up to be a complete asshole. It’s called parenting, and it’s hard work, whether there’s ice cream involved or not.

And as for the point that another made about kids becoming diabetic and/or obese, Murdoch has even more advice:

First of all, if occasionally eating ice cream in the park gave you diabetes, most of us would have died before the age of ten, but also, she is aware that if her kids aren’t begging her for ice cream, they’re going to be begging her for some other thing—even if it’s something sad like the kale chips she brought to the park in her bag. It’s what kids do: they needle, they whine, they constantly try to get whatever they can. And it’s your job to deny them, again and again, until they grow up to be people who the rest of us can tolerate being around. It’s also your job to give them ice cream once in a while so they don’t hate you for depriving them of all joy in life.

Entitlement starts young these days because parents don’t have the marbles to say no to their kids. And I realize that kids can be a pain and that they whine and drive you crazy. My dog barks until I give him a treat every time I eat and I usually just give him a kong to get him out of whatever hair I have left in my head. But sometimes I ignore him as well. He’s trained to know that if he wants food he has to be submissive. Most of the time Haze the Dog is better behaved than most children I encounter and even a few entitled college students I meet as well (but only a few–most college students want limits and guidance).

There are no bad kids, there are just bad parents and worse teachers who tolerate the parents’ behavior.

Dad, You Will Not Win MegaMillions

So I like the lottery. Sue me. I know it keeps the poor, poor and it plays on the false hopes of people that they might hit it big. It’s still fun to play and as long as you’re not a compulsive gambler and can handle it, there’s not much harm done. Hopefully the state lottery commission helps to build some roads or something.

But the odds of winning the jackpot are infinitesimally small. So small, they are, of winning once that I can’t imagine anyone winning twice.

Which is why my Father should stop playing the lottery.

I tell this story not to embarrass him or my family. I tell it because I love my dad and nothing would ever allow me to simply write him off.

But after you read this…you just might wonder. =)

So my mother is a frequent patient in hospitals because of chronic illnesses. It’s been that way for years in our family. One night when my father was leaving for home after visiting hours had expired (he always stayed until the bitter end–sometimes they threw him out!) my mother said, “Hey! Play my lotto on the way home.” They were frequent players of the NY Lotto spending maybe $5 -10 a week. Once in a while they’d hit for four numbers and win $80 or something so things often broke even. It was fun and exciting to watch the balls spin and hope one of the numbers were yours.

My father entered the car and began the short drive home. As he passed by the local stationary store (Do they even still have these?) where he’d play his weekly ticket, he saw Rosie, the store owner beginning to shut the metal shutters on the storefront. “Ah, the hell with it,” he said. “She’s closing up, I’m not going to bother her. She’s had a long day and so have I. I’ll play next week!”

My mother had a copy of her numbers in her hospital room as well. (Because God forbid, she doesn’t!). Her eyes weren’t cooperating with her that evening–sometimes the medication played tricks with her eyes–so a nurse who came by to see her was asked if she’d check the numbers for her as the balls rolled out of the machine.

I don’t recall what my mother’s numbers were, but here’s the words of the nurse which still tells the story nicely.

“Hey Mrs. Hayes, you’ve got that first number, off to a good start!”

“Oooh, you’ve got that one too!”

“Wow, another one! You’re rolling one more and you win something!”

“Winner! You’ve got another!”

“Mrs. Hayes, you’re one away—Oh my God! If the next number is 24 (Making it up for effect) you’ve won the jackpot!”

Announcer: “And the last winning number is….twenty-four!”

Nurse: “Twenty-four! Twenty-four! You’re a freakin millionaire! Holy Cow!”

The nurse was jumping up and down and then embraced my mother. She picked up the phone and began to call my father for her. She then handed her the receiver:

Mom: “How about THAT, huh?”

Dad: “How about what, hon?”

Mom: “Didn’t you watch? We had all six numbers!”

Now at this point my father is probably hoping that the number of a divorce lawyer isn’t anywhere nearby. Because the next words out of his mouth were…

“Um…I don’t know how to say this but…I didn’t stop on the way home. So we didn’t play.”

As they say, “You gotta be in it to win it.” Which is also the cry of Fordham Basketball each year they don’t make the NCAA tourney.

So I tell my dad that he might as well start playing the ponies—because that was his chance. He insists that it can happen again and technically, it can. It’s not likely, but then again, it wasn’t likely that he’d win once either.

As all good stories go, this one has a moral to it. Dad, we love you and you’re better than any millions that we could have won. Your kind heart gave someone a few more minutes with their family and that’s how you spent your time that might–unable to wait a single minute more to be with us. When we all go to meet our maker we won’t be grumbling about the extra dollars but rather the extra time we could’ve spent with one another but didn’t. We might die without millions but my dad never made me feel like I was “less than.” I’ve taken that lesson to heart.

If memory serves, I ran to my dad that night and hugged him. We’ll probably all die in debt in our family and that’s OK by me. Because the only real debts I owe is to God and to my family.

And even with millions, I can never pay them back all I owe.