Growing up

I never wanted to be a grown up. Sure, I wanted to be an adult, as in over 21, but a grown-up. Not hardly. I wanted the world without responsibility. A full-on 24 hour party.

I only recently started to refer to myself as a grown-up. At 40ish (well 39). I feel, finally, like I get it. I’m a grown-up and I like being a grown-up. It’s a title. An honor, actually. I feel like I’ve achieved something.

Someone bring me a trophy. It should not have a bowling figure on the top. It should have a star or a giant #1. Oh, it should be engraved as well. With my name and achievement. Something along the lines of:

Barbara Mulvey-Welsh

Grown-up

It’s about damn time

It should sparkle too. A lot. Being a grown-up is hard. Damn it. You get no accolades for doing the right thing. The responsible thing. Yeah, it stinks. You do get personal satisfaction so at least I have that going for me.

It’s time to mount up children of the 60s and fulfill our destiny as grown-ups. No whining, no crying, no bumpers, no helmets. Full on contact grown-up-ness.

It’s pretty cool, actually. But it’s not for the faint of heart.

Who has the balls to join me?

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Boys to Men

Dad gave me the best advice about boys and dating. One day, I think I was about 16, I was heartbroken after a HUGE fight with the current love of my life. I thought for sure we would stay broken up and my life would be ruined. I was a little high-strung when I was a teenager. Hard to believe, right.

I was probably crying when Dad yelled, “Jesus Christ (he prayed a lot) Blondie! In 20 years you won’t even remember his name!” He then went on to say, “Boys are like trolleys, stand still for 5 minutes and another will be right along.” He most likely added, “Enough with all the damn crying.” Ah Dad, always bringing the warm and fuzzy. It had also been several years since Dad had waited for a trolley since 5 minutes, yeah, not so much.

Little did he realize I would take that advice to heart. Not the stop crying part, the trolley part. Literally. Over the next several years I enjoyed dating and meeting new guys. Breaking hearts and having fun.

When I was 19, I met my husband. Not Pat; that’s still a few years off. No, I’m talking about my practice husband, Dana. We dated for a long time but were only married briefly. He was older than me by about 5 years. And smart. One of the smartest people I’ve ever met. Also, kind of a jerk.  But he’s not the point of this blog, I am.

I met Pat the year we lost Dad. On Halloween. We had a fight. We fought just about every time we saw each other. I was still married, although we had already separated. Pat and I slowly became friends. And along with Ed and Greg, we proceeded to get in loads of trouble and have a hell of a good time! Pat asked me out several times. I always resisted. I think I knew that it could get serious. Pat and his stubborness finally wore me down. The rest is history.

I don’t classify relationships in my life as mistakes, especially intimate, romantic relationships. Each important partner in my life left me different. Those experiences have left me, me.

Dad was wrong; I do remember that boy’s name. We’re Facebook friends and I’m glad that we are. We were important in each other’s lives at one time and I’m glad that I didn’t damage him beyond repair. I was a bit of a bitch. Hard to believe, I know. He taught me the importance of being gracious to those that love you. It took me a long time to understand that lesson but I’m glad I finally got it.

I’m (almost) sorry that I’ve lost touch with Dana. He gave me an education. Literally. He broadened my world and taught me how to think critically and impartially. He also taught me that some people need to control those in their lives in order to feel complete. Those types of people are not emotionally healthy and need counseling not a spouse.

That brings me to Pat. I can’t imagine my life without him. Seriously. Our relationship is about the only subject I can’t write about. Every time I start, it seems so trite and stupid. Hearts and hope and gah, stab me in the face, please!

Love you, Pattycakes. From the girl I was when we met to the woman I am now. You’re the best man in the world for me and I’m glad you can tolerate my particular brand of bullshit.

Closure

Wow, it’s been a whirl-wind week. I can honestly say, one of the longest of my life. I’m glad the drama is over and we’re settling back into our routines.
I love closure so thought I should assess the aftermath; I’m surprised at how many positives I can identify.
Positive 1

The high school program is in the hands of a capable new head coach. Pat has spoken with him several times and he’s impressed with his knowledge and passion for the game. He expects great things from these young men and he’ll be in attendance at as many games as possible. His biggest worry through this whole thing was that the program would suffer needlessly. So far that seems unlikely.
Positive 2

Dylan likes the new coach as well. He’s still not cleared to play but the coach has kept him on as team manager and is using him in drills and warm-up consistent with what his doctor allows. Dylan and Pat are planning his lacrosse comeback with determination and precision. I’m thrilled to see Dylan’s work ethic kick up a notch.
Positive 3

Pat’s still coaching. He’s back at the youth level. It’s a good place for him. He’s great at fundamentals and is really great at engaging kids and keeping them interested. He’s a positive and happy person and that’s infectious. I’ve told him for years he should really be an elementary school teacher.
Positive 4

I was worried about Emma. When this first started, I noticed that she was closed-in and complaining of stomach pain. Something that I haven’t seen from her in over a year. Emma, for the uninitiated, had a pretty serious anxiety problem when she was younger. I was worried this was the beginning of a back-slide. It wasn’t!! We talked about it and we moved on. A clear sign that the anxiety that plagued her for the first 11 years of her life is, finally, managed! How amazing is that!?
Positive 5

Our family and friends. Wow, did they rally. I expected the family, especially the sisters. That’s what we do. It’s who we are. Family first and forever. No questions. Don’t want Dad coming back and snatching us all bald-headed! Other family rallied as well. Cousins, cousins-in-law, friends we consider family.
Another positive from this event, we’ve reconnected with friends that had drifted away due to schedules and busy lives. Pat and I are committed to making sure we don’t drift apart again. Their support and, in some cases, unvarnished opinions, helped tremendously.
Some of the silence has been deafening from family and those we considered friends. We’ve also made new friends from this and we’re both glad for the gift of more amazing people in our lives. Not everyone gets to learn who their true friends are.
Positive 6

My family. Meaning, Pat and the kids. We did a lot of talking this week. We talked so much I actually wished I could stop talking! I know right! Don’t think that’s happened in like, ever!
We’ve always trusted our kids with the truth. We did this time as well. They didn’t let us down. They really are remarkable people and I can’t wait to see the grown-ups they become. The way Pat handled himself was a true lesson for both of them on courage and honesty. I hope they are both able to refer back to this episode to inform actions in their lives.
Positive 7

Our relationship. Pat’s and mine. I really didn’t think I could love that knobby-headed freak anymore than I did, but I do. This could have put us in a dark and ugly place but we wouldn’t let it. We faced this like we face everything, united and as a team. We’ve become stronger for our experience.
He surprised me last night. He called me and asked me if I’d like to go out with him. On a date. A real date. Just he and I. At a restaurant. That has waiters! I jumped (not literally) at the chance.
I love you Pattycakes now more than ever.
That’s about all the positives I can manage right now. I’m sure more will crop up later.
All in all, not a bad week.

The Picnic Table

dadwithchris

Dad in Taunton with Chris

In this story, the sisters are grown and most (all but me) had started their families. The grandkids had taken over center stage and my parents (Papa and Grammy) were loving every minute of their rapidly expanding family. They had recently left the City and moved to Taunton. This was a few years before Dad died so that puts us early 90s. It was all very Green Acresey! Not kidding. Well except Mom doesn’t look like a Gabor and they were poor and they didn’t have a pig. But you get what I mean!

Dad got it in his head one day that he needed a picnic table. Not just any picnic table. No that would never do for Dad. It had to be the perfect picnic table. This picnic table was to be an object admired by all who saw it. It was to be a stunning work of craftsmenship.

Dad designed it. He had it built. He brought it home. It took priority in the yard. You would see it, there in the yard. Silent. Empty. Simple.

As you approached the table, you felt more and more uncomfortable.  Something was off. Weird. Unsettling. Wrong. So very, very, wrong.

It was a freaking monstrosity. The kids were afraid of it. How can you get something so simple so wrong. Seriously, it’s a table and benches. Not rocket science.

The proportions were a mess. I’m 5’1″ and I needed a stool to get on the bench. Or a running start. Which I could affect much easier back when I was 25. Small children trembled when they were called to eat.

In order to sit at the table and have a meal, you would first get the tallest person in the yard (generally Jay) to place your food on the tabletop. You would then get a running start and leap onto the bench. Hoping it wasn’t wet so you wouldn’t slide off the other side. Once you were firmly in place you would look, longingly, at the plate of food you couldn’t reach. That’s right. In order to have the correct angle, the benches were about four feet away from the tabletop.

Picnics were a blast!!

Oh, can’t believe I forgot the most important part. Weight distribution. Yep if the distribution of weight was not carefully calculated by NASA you would tip the whole thing over. You had to sit diagonal from someone and you had to sit in even numbers. If you dared to try sitting side-by-side, or across from one another, you would tip the contraption over and fall to your deaths.

Seriously. I think I lost two boyfriends that way.

She ain’t crazy; she’s my mother

I have a large messy family.
The matriarch of this mess – Grammy.
She’s a lunatic! Flat out crazy with a side of just plain nuts. Don’t get me wrong; I love my Mother. It’s just – Damn. She’s a lunatic. She won’t cop to it though. It’s everyone else that’s crazy. She’s the only one with sense. Yeah, see what we’re dealing with?
She’s about 879, in dog years. Not really, she’s 74. Medical science has kept her going for the last 10 or 12 years. She has a defibrilator that really works! Shocked the hell out of her a couple of times. She has circulation trouble from coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure so she uses a wheelchair when she leaves the house. To her credit she leaves the house often. Loves her bus tours with her sister Marie. They have a blast. A couple of old ladies hell bent on mischief and fun.
She used to live with us. Back when we first got married. In our apartment in Dorchester and later the house we bought in Roslindale. She stayed with us for five years before she went to Deb and Edwin’s. Not sure how long they had her. She’s with Laura now. And Eddie. Oh, and the dogs, DeeDee and Bella (a not prettier dog, I have never seen). Sorry Ed but that’s an unfortunate looking dog!
She’s had a long and sometimes difficult lfe but she still manages to look back on it with joy and love. I never understood it. She grew up one of seven and they really didn’t have much. She married Dad and had the five of us pretty quick, except Five (that’s Laura, the baby). Dad drank and wasted money. She had to manage on very little. I never heard her complain and I never really gave much thought to her struggle.
As she gets older, I find myself thinking more about her journey. Her experiences. I talk to her all the time. I’m just not sure we’ve ever had an actual conversation. She is the eternal in our world. Always there. Rarely changing.
Think it’s time for that conversation. Bet it’s going to be crazy!

Barbie Doll

This is blog three in a series of three. Read blog one here. Read blog two here.
I’ve never been much of a girly-girl. Sure I liked high-heels and make-up. Mini-skirts and dangle earrings. I also liked beer and fighting. So I blazed my own path. I’m not interested in opinion or advice (well some is ok).
It’s what I do.
I’m strong. I’m smart. I’m honest. I’m also Irish. That means I can take a punch and hold a grudge. Not necessarily in that order.
I got a pretty good kick in the teeth this week. But, like everything else, I survived. Not only will I survive. I’ll be strenghtened. Every aspect of my life will be better than it was.
I’m amazed at my family. We can do some jacked-up stupid things but no matter what, in the end, we have each other. It’s what we are. It’s who we are. It’s how we are. We are family… and all that crap!
Dylan has borne the brunt of the past week. He’s the one that needs to walk into the building every day. Face his team. His peers. It was the talk of the school. And it’s his walk to walk. And he has to do it alone. And he’s doing an incredible job.
I was angry. Really, really angry. At Pat. At the situation. At the over-reaction. At other things. That anger was starting to inform Dylan’s behavior. Last night during dinner we were talking and I didn’t like what I was seeing or hearing. Until I realized he was parroting me. I squashed it. Then and there. I let the anger go.
Nothing is more important than my family. Anger is useless and drags you to a level that’s not healthy.
I’ve talked a lot about the lessons for the kids and Pat. My lesson. I have courage and honesty. I own my mistakes and I let them make me better. As for the universe. I have one thing to say…
Next.

Pat

This is blog two in a series of three. Read blog one here. Read blog three here.

My family recently experienced tremendous upheaval. Thankfully no one died and no one was injured. However, it threw us into an ugly and nasty place.

My husband was fired. He was the head coach of the Plymouth North Boys Lacrosse team. Parents trusted him with their sons and he let them down. One parent complained about a remark that he made in front of the players and he was fired.
Did he make a crude and vulgar remark on the practice field. Yes. He admitted it. To everyone and anyone that has asked. He has stood up and said he did. What he said was not racist. It was not sexist. It did not incite violence. It was not bullying. It was not aimed at, or directed toward, a player or another person. It was an crude remark and he should never have said it.
We have nothing to hide and we have offered to tell anyone over the age of 18 what, exactly, he said. Several people have actually said no, it didn’t matter because they know him and trust him. Others we’ve told. Almost to a person they told him it was crude and offensive. They also told him they don’t believe he should have been fired for it.
Pat has also defended the school. He has told players and parents that he put himself in the position to be fired. Ms. McSweeney has a difficult job. One I wouldn’t want. Do we think she handed out an overly harsh punishment? Yes. But had he not made the remark he would not have lost his job. Period. End of story. The ultimate responsiblity lies with Pat, it always has and we’ve always said that.
By now, you’re saying to yourselves “It’s her husband, of course she’s defending him!” Let me be clear: had the email accusation been correct, I’d have opened the can of whoop ass myself. In fact, I would be leading the charge to have him not only dismissed as head coach but also as my husband. See, in the anonymous email it said that while in a huddle he told his players about private acts that we perform. That’s right. In the privacy of our bedroom. Want to know how I know that’s a lie? Pat would never do that – ever. He has too much respect for me as a person, a woman, and his wife. The mother of his children. Oh, and his 15-year-old son was there. MY son.
Our lives have been turmoil. Phones ringing, buzzing, and jittering day and night. People stopping by the house. The outpouring of support for him personally and upset at his firing has been overwhelming. I knew Pat made a difference in his players’ lives but until this happened I had no idea how much they loved and respected him.
We’ve finally had a chance to catch our breath. I’m sorting out the lessons here. The kids, especially my son, are hurt and confused. Pat and I have to pull it together and heal our family. How do we want to frame this? How we handle it, will have a deep and lasting impact on them both. All of us really.
Talking to the kids about it, I’ve been impressed with how maturely they have both handled it. We were open and honest about what he said and the context in which it was said. They understand that their Dad had a lapse in judgment and he has paid an extremely high price for that lapse. They have learned that our family has an enormous group of friends and supporters in Plymouth and we can never truly express how much every phone call, email, text, or facebook message has meant to us. Truly we are humbled.
We, as a family, will be learning from this event for a long time. Some of the initial lessons we have discussed with the kids are: taking responsibility for your actions; that actions have consequences; that your reputation can see you through difficult times so be careful what you put out in the world.
My mantra over the last few days has been: Bad things happen. They can make you bitter or they can make you better.
I choose better. Every single time.

Coach

This is blog one in a series of three. Read blog two here. Read blog three here.

Let me tell you about a man. Not a perfect man. Not even close. But a good man. An honest man. A man that was able to look beyond the nonsense and see potential. Potential in the troublemaker; in the borderline student; in the restless; and the outcast. A man that sees potential in the future. In the faces and hearts of young men.

A man that with patience, and understanding, and humor built self-esteem one block at a time. A man that motivates young men to look into themselves and want to be better. Better athletes, better students, better men.
There are no perfect people in the world but some – the lucky ones – have a rare and special talent and they get the opportunity to use it. Not only use it but perfect it and make the world a better place.
Pat has that. You can see it when he’s on the field. Or in a group of his players. Pat’s a coach. Not a “live through the kids” coach. A real coach. One who understands that the sport, in his case lacrosse, is used to benefit the players. Not his desire. Not his ego. Not his agenda.
Pat got shafted – hard! By anonymous. It’s a shame that selfish, small-minded people will never understand doing something for the simple joy of doing it. To be a positive influence in the world. To affect change at the human level and doing it with dignity and respect and love.
I’m not done on this topic; not by a long shot. I will find anonymous. I have a pretty good idea but thinking and knowing are different and since I have morals and a code of ethics that informs my life, I won’t say. They know who they are.
They harmed a good and decent man and his family. My family. And that is unforgivable.
More important than that (yes, more important than my family) they harmed other people’s children. Boys – young men – that had a positive, amazing man in their lives and now they don’t.
Shame on them.