A Lesson in Forgiveness

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In his somewhat less than fully coherent email earlier in the week, Ed attempted to teach me about the importance of forgiveness.  In a brief note of follow up yesterday, he again reiterated his belief that forgiveness is necessary for healing.

There are a few key things about forgiveness Ed doesn’t seem to understand, for example: There are people who should not be forgiven – namely those who would take forgiveness as a sign that they weren’t so bad after all; this way of thinking opens the door to rationalization of their past, and future, behavior.  Ed has never understood the breadth or depth of what he has done; forgiving him before he fully comprehends would be downright self-destructive for me.

The problem inherent to forgiveness is that the power resides in the transgressor’s hands. The psychological impact of forgiveness on the forgiver is determined by whether or not the transgressor has made amends.  Forgiveness without amends leaves the forgiver with diminished feelings of self-worth.  To date, Ed has not sought to make anything right, he has sought only to move on.

Pain is deeper and longer lasting when the transgressor intentionally caused it – repeatedly.  This cannot be overstated; when you repeat a destructive behavior time without number, you did not make a mistake – you demonstrated something real and lasting about who you are.  Forgiveness for this [child abuse] is a process, and it is dependent wholly and entirely upon the transgressor’s sincere acknowledgement and acceptance of responsibility for ALL wrongdoing, and their  forthright desire to make amends for what their behavior caused.

Despite Ed’s belief in forgiveness as a panacea, it isn’t simple.  I am not simple.  My self-respect, peace of mind, and understanding are not based in my forgiveness of my father; and to forgive now would leave me despondent because he has not earned it.  Any benefit I could derive from forgiving him would come through his personal growth and desire to make right what he destroyed.

The kind of forgiveness I’m speaking of takes time and concerted effort to earn.  You don’t close the cycle and end the abuse quickly or easily, and those you have harmed need to know they are valued, treasured, cherished and loved now as they always should have been; they need to know it is safe to forgive.

Forgiveness is sobering, and honest.  And while we embrace the sentiment, “To err is human, to forgive divine,” it cannot be universally applied.  We cannot reap the benefits of forgiveness alone, we need the full and complete cooperation of our transgressor, and therein lies the quandary; those with the capacity to destroy the lives of their children seldom, if ever, see the need to repair.

So you see Ed, the ball is most definitely NOT in my court.

I Will Tell My Story

“Violators cannot live with the truth: survivors cannot live without it. There are those who still, once again, are poised to invalidate and deny us. If we don’t assert our truth, it may again be relegated to fantasy. But the truth won’t go away. It will keep surfacing until it is recognized. Truth will outlast any campaigns mounted against it, no matter how mighty, clever, or long. It is invincible. It’s only a matter of which generation is willing to face it and, in so doing, protect future generations from abuse.”
Christine Oksana

I will not go back to silence, to a time when not proclaiming my truth made me complicit in Pat and Ed’s lies.  I. Will. Not.

This blog has given me catharsis and solace – and an unmitigated view of the events that shaped my young life and led to a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder.  It is my story, and I will tell it.

For others – the perpetrators of abuse, this blog is a stark, cold, bleak mirror reflecting the darkness of their soul. It has led to embarrassment, shame, and even confession. It has brought fervent denial, offered in vain; disbelieved by those who matter most.  It has exposed character flaws and vile, repellent acts committed only by the cruel and depraved. It has shined a light on generations of abuse; morally bereft parenting practices that have led to estrangement, alienation and mental illness.

It has brought me peace.

I have been fully well for a long time now; my thoughts clear, my feelings and emotions tempered only by what is real and true – it is good, so good.

I do not do this out of a need for revenge – nothing I could ever do would be enough anyway.  I do this because it is right, and it is true.  I offer no apology to those who would be far more comfortable with my silence – I did not ask to be Pat and Ed’s child.

“So often survivors have had their experiences denied, trivialized, or distorted. Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality. You can say: This did happen to me. It was that bad. It was the fault & responsibility of the adult. I was—and am—innocent.”

The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis 

When we give shelter to those who have abused and tortured, when we cloak their sins and embrace their lies, can we really believe in our own goodness and integrity?

Thoughts At The End

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me to know that Ed got away with child abuse, rape and God alone knows what else, but it is less important than it once was.  In some small way, knowing the people he has fooled into believing he is a good and decent human being – the people who are, in reality, nothing more to him than props necessary to support his own self-delusion, know the truth.  They. Know. The. Truth …

what they do about that is their concern.

I’ve been silent for a few months, taking stock and reflecting.  That I saved all of Ed’s email, and thus his admissions that every word of this blog is, indeed, truth gives me an almost unimaginable upper-hand.

And yet, I don’t feel any sort of closure or relief.  At the end of the day, he proved me right; People Don’t Change – that is not solace.  He knows what he did, but he doesn’t know, or care, what it caused … how deep and dark the abyss he left his children in really is.

And when the chips were down, when he could have found redemption, he turned his back on all responsibility for who he is, and what he’s done, in favor of a life that is nothing more than a cover-up, and lie.  No father – no decent man does this.

So when you read this, and I know you will, remind yourself that while he appeared to be protecting you – the only person he was protecting was himself.

The Last Word

 

I have been stable for a long time now – years really.  Oh, I’ve had bouts with insomnia, and cycles in which stress and fatigue caused my Bipolar symptoms to recur, but I’ve caught it early and those symptoms were, for the most part, very mild.  No psychosis, no deep depression, no impulsive behavior.  If you just met me, and didn’t know I have Bipolar Disorder, nothing about your interaction with me would tip you off.

I am not a spontaneous person by nature, and I over think everything; logical almost to a fault, my emotions seldom get the better of me.  I almost never react in the moment.

But when Ed-the-Narcissist sent me the following note – prompting the ensuing exchange – on April 3rd, during the height of my sister’s most recent crisis, something inside me snapped:

Hi Tim,

 

I said I would go and see Elizabeth after Easter, but for got [sic] I had a jury summons for this week and have been selected to be on a jury expected to last up to 6 weeks.

 

I will get over to see her when I can, and wanted you to know my current limitations.

My reply:

Ed,

 

There was absolutely no expectation on my part that you would reach out to Elizabeth in any that matters; you are a coward, you have always been a coward.  You have not changed.  

 

Jury duty?  In what universe are you a representative of another’s peers? Who the hell are you to sit in judgement of anyone else’s behaviour or choices?  Are juries now comprised of criminals?  

 

My God, Ed … for once, just once, really look at yourself.  

 

His defense:

 

Tim

 

I have no answer for this, The court system has privy to criminal records, so between them and the DMV  jurors are reveiwed [sic] and selected.

And I am still in the jury selection process.

 

The last word:

 

Once again, you miss the point entirely.  I was not speaking of legality, I was speaking of morality – very different things. You are able to exist as you do in society today ONLY because of when you were convicted, and expungement.  Nothing will ever alter the fact that you are a rapist and child abuser, Ed.  Nothing.

 

Your daughter is ill, she will likely die, because of what you did to her.  The fact that you feel no obligation to face that within yourself speaks volumes about your character … today.  Your refusal to reach out to her in any way that matters makes you a coward – and far worse.  

 

No decent human being would condone your behaviour, then … or now. 

 

I haven’t heard from him since …

 

His immoral and egocentric choices didn’t trigger me – I didn’t get sick; I didn’t become depressed or manic – just irrevocably resigned to his complete lack of integrity, honor and character.  He no longer has the power to cause me even  a moment’s instability, and that’s a damn good thing for me to know.

I didn’t say anything to him that isn’t true, but I’d like to have been able to say it devoid of anger and frustration; you can’t win a battle, much less a war, with a narcissist – and I understand that now.   Anger and frustration have passed; lesson learned.

He will die without ever understanding …

and that no longer bothers me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What It Takes To Forgive

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“I remember you being hurt at the picnic and crying. You had done something I told you not to do and got hurt. Instead of comforting you and making sure you were OK, I got furious and literally dragged you across the lenght of the park (Washington Park across the street and down the block from our house), down the block and into the house. I remember people yelling at me not to be cruel to such a small defenseless child and my telling them to “f  * off, you were my son and I treat you anyway I wanted.” That I own completely as being a real A.. hole. You were being just a 5-6 year old kid wanting to be a part of the grown-up games, not some piece of trash on which I could vent my anger.

 

Now the hard part, the violent uncontrolled spankings, these I remember most deeply. I don’t remember the specific incident where you lost control of your bowels; I just remember being told that it happened. I do remember spanking you so hard my hand hurt, not the physical pain I was causing you, and that my hand hurt after I was through, and for several days thereafter. That incident remained so deep in my heart that it was one of the unresolved items I had to face during counseling sessions later- coming face-to face with the horror of what I did to you. That took me a long time to face and accept all that anger in myself and to resolve NEVER again to do anything like that. And I never have!”

 

 

The text above is from an email from Ed I received not long after he first contacted me.  It was difficult to read, and until now impossible to process or respond to …

The incident he recalls from above – the one where his hand hurt for several days following the beating (I will never refer to this as spanking) he gave me is one of dozens such incidents – but he usually used a stick or a belt to beat me, telling me he wouldn’t use his hand because he didn’t want his hand to hurt … so much for the pain deep in his heart.

And the day of the picnic, after he got me home, stripped me naked and beat me with a belt so long, so hard and so violently I actually remember being afraid he was never going to stop – and when he finally did, he left me alone, in the bathtub, sobbing incoherently.  The trauma of that day will never leave me.

And as for his never beating another child – he hasn’t had the opportunity; his own grew up, and his step-son, Jeffrey, had his mother and father for protection.  Not beating another child required no resolve on Ed’s part to accomplish, no personal growth or discipline to achieve.

Ed,

Now …

tell me again how it is you knew you had done all of these things to me, yet you didn’t know why I cut you out of my life.

Or that you cannot recall the many MULTIPLE beatings you gave me just like those you’ve confessed to … or the day-to-day hell I suffered and survived just being your son.

Today – you need to confront this horror with me.  Therapist be damned – you know exactly who and what you were while I was growing up, and you know exactly what you did time and time and time again.

You want my forgiveness, and I want to forgive you, but for that to happen you have to get completely real and honest with yourself and with me.

The time for selective memory has passed, no more seeing yourself through the veil of isolated incidents.  You were a violent, cruel, rage-filled and terrible father throughout my childhood; you beat so often and so hard my fear of you was palpable; you (and Pat) are the cause of mental illness and scars no one can heal.

And for God’s sake, stop with the daft, “I didn’t know, ” nonsense; you were there when it all happened, hell you did it!   You lived the same life in the same house I did – every. Single. Day.  What you recall above should be enough for you to understand we aren’t discussing an occasional mistake made by and otherwise caring and devoted father – we are talking about the fact that you were an angry out-of-control father who heinously abused his children at every turn …

Child abuse, Ed.  Child abuse you committed over and over and over again.   

See yourself as you truly were,

and own your truth, all of it.

 

Own Your Truth, All Of It

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The other day, in response to this post, my aunt Bev sent my wife the following message:

“Holy cow! I just read Tim’s blog.  Guess you can’t change the spots on a leopard, after all.  I can’t believe what an ignorant so-and-so Ed is.  Oh, wait a minute, yes I can!  I still can’t get the sound of Tim’s screams out of my head as he was beating him.  I don’t remember it happening every time I was there, but it happened a lot!”

My aunt is about ten years older than I am, and she was very often at our house when I was growing up – her support in recent months has meant a lot to me, and my family.

I’m coming to understand more and more Ed’s self-denial.   It isn’t that he’s denied beating me – he knows he did, but his recall is extremely limited.  My therapist thinks this is due to his unwillingness – ardent, decided refusal – to face the trauma of his own childhood, coupled with the fact that he beat me so often the events themselves have all run together in his mind.  There is also some serious cognitive dissonance: the man he sees himself as now is antithetical to the man he was in my childhood, and we are talking about his acceptance of the fact that he was an Abuser – a heinously bad father and human being.  Whatever the problem is, it is his to solve.

I’ve tried to be as kind as I can – tried to understand how hard it must be for him after all these years to be faced with an angry adult child who needs for him to revisit a past he has spent decades trying to deny.  But his alternate reality isn’t reality, and his rewriting of the story – to make it partly a work of fiction to ease his own mind, doesn’t work for me.  I have struggled and fought too hard to recover from my childhood to accept half measures – or anything less than total recall, from him now.  What he is doing is offensive, and it is insulting.

It really is puzzling to me — everyone who knew my immediate family – friends, extended family, teachers – even school administrators – knew he beat me.  And they all understand he was an abuser – it didn’t happen once, or even twice – he violently and cruelly beat me, often.

It is as though he takes some sort of refuge in not recognizing how frequently he hit me; to his way of thinking its easier to reconcile isolated events because those he can see as mistakes; the truth exposes him to be a monster – a man he just cannot admit to being. Or maybe he is just a  Stubborn, pig-headed Shockley.    If stubborn pride is the case, I can’t mean much to him …

And then there is the real possibility he made the attempt to reconcile – to the extent that he has, to appease the people in his life now. It wouldn’t look good at all – after they read this blog, or were informed of its content, for him not to reach out to me.  Was I a fool to give him this chance?  Perhaps …

what he does now will define him forever in my mind.

Reconciliation: A Step Back

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Ed,

Just so we’re clear — my ability to communicate effectively isn’t altered due to Bipolar Disorder; you and I just think in fundamentally different ways.  I teach, I write, I perform a highly technical and complex job and I interact with friends, colleagues and family with no glitches at all – my cognition isn’t different from anyone else’s, nor is it in any way impaired.  (psychosis not withstanding, but you haven’t known me in a psychotic state, or anything even close to a psychotic state) Be careful assigning your failure to properly communicate with me to my having Bipolar Disorder – to make such a ludicrous assumption would be to display your ignorance and bias.

Here’s the issue:  I don’t understand how it is – how it can possibly be, that you don’t understand the story, or that you are unable to get it. You wrote the story for the first two decades of my life; you beat me, Ed.  You were an asshole – not just one day, but every day.  My memories are clear and vivid and real, so please don’t try to exonerate yourself by oh so ignorantly asserting that my memory is impaired, or my cognition faulty, due to Bipolar Disorder. If the fault lies in memory impairment, or cognition, you’re the one with the problem.

I didn’t write the letter about mental illness to give you an excuse for poorly communicating with me, I wrote it to give you some background; if you can say “happiness is a fickle virtue,” of Elizabeth not being able find real happiness, after all I had shared with you, you obviously don’t understand all she deals with because of your reprehensible parenting.  If what you got out of that letter was a belief that my responses to you are different than you expect because I have Bipolar Disorder, I can’t help you understand — no one can, you see ONLY what you want to see.  You don’t get it because you don’t want to – you cannot face yourself.

The fact is, during the first twenty-two years of my life, you failed Universally; as a father and as a man.  That is the story, that is all there is to it.  And after the ball game, when you went into the bathroom through the exit – presumably so you didn’t have to wait in line, I was appalled.  Where is the kindness and consideration you want me to believe is so much a part of you today?  Where is the integrity?  That was an asshole move.  Now, if there is something I don’t know – if you went in and waited in line, or if you are incontinent due to having had prostate cancer, I will amend my sentiments, but if it is nothing more than it appeared to be, the move speaks to your character and I don’t like what it says.

Regarding the bet YOU made.  What I felt when reading your texts was two-fold: one, you had to address something – meaning I could just wait in your opinion, without even the consideration of your telling me you had to end our conversation for the time being, and two; you were attempting to weasel out of your bet.  Perhaps I don’t get your sense of humor, I don’t think I ever did, actually, but you came across badly and that is on you, not on me, so it has nothing to do with Bipolar Disorder. I understood exactly what you said, and what you implied.

It should be fairly obvious to you by now I am still angry – I didn’t really think I was, but the bathroom incident at the ballgame, followed by the bet text, followed by your most recent email to me has shown me that I am, and rightfully so.  I’ve let a lot go, but not everything and I don’t think I can do that until you get honest with yourself, and with me, about the monster I knew you to be when I was a child.

You want me to detail every beating so you can share my pain — they all look just like the ones you’re willing to recall.  There were dozens of them, Ed.  I begged you for mercy, which you never gave.  You humiliated me time and time again.  The self-admitted asshole you were the day of the church picnic IS THE MAN WHO RAISED ME – HE IS THE ONLY FATHER I REMEMBER.  I cannot make this anymore clear.  You were a miserable bastard, a complete and utter failure, and your failure led to some pretty dire consequences; I’m reminded every single day when I take Risperdal, Wellbutrin and Lithium of the father you were.

But I am not unable to communicate properly because of that man – you are.  Read what I write, listen to what I say — and take it as gospel, don’t spin it, don’t see it through your eyes.  I am not a hard-headed, stubborn Shockley, I abhor that trait, that kind of person – I am able to see and feel and process the pain of others, even when doing so makes me understand myself to be a miserable human being. Sometimes it’s necessary to see ourselves through another’s eyes to truly know ourselves.

When you can do that, when you’re ready to do that, please let me know.  Until then, enjoy your trip, don’t drink too much bourbon, and we’ll see you and Marie for Catch Me If You Can and dinner to follow on June 12th.

Tim

Arduous Journey

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None of this is easy, if I have made it appear easy, I apologize for the unintentional duplicity.

Depression is hard, and mine has returned.  It isn’t as deep and dark as it has been, not by a long shot, but I’m not exactly myself either.  To top it off, I’ve been hypo-manic as well – and mixed states are hard to treat.  I’m taking Lithium and Wellbutrin, and balance is returning, but the process is slower than I would like and I can be impatient.  I’m still working, still engaged in life, still involved with my family and friends – and I still very much want to be; that isn’t a facade – I’m not just going through the motions this time, so I know it could be much, much worse than it is; the benefit to having been here before is recognizing the signs quickly, before they spin out of control and drag you into the abyss.

Naturally, because I hadn’t been depressed for a long time, my therapist and psychiatrist began treatment by assessing what had changed in my life; “what were the triggers and or stressors?”  The answer wasn’t immediately clear, but over the last few weeks it has become obvious …

Ed – having Ed in my life is what has changed.  That isn’t bad or stressful in-and-of-itself, but the thoughts and feelings it evokes can be.  I shared with my sister that he is trying now, and I can see it – the things he has done for my daughter are thoughtful and kind and would be for any grandfather, but all I can think of is how different my life would be, how different our relationship would be today, if he had valued me in the way he values building a relationship with her.   And that is just one example …

I still don’t know if people change; I’m beginning to think they just acquire a better mask.  I’ve seen glimpses here and there of the father I remember – a man quite unlike the man he sees himself as today.

Early in our email conversations, he mentioned that he “checked in with me mentally every year or so.”  Aside from not knowing exactly what that means, it baffles me; I am his son, did he not feel a sense of loss?  He also indicated that he “sought therapy for anger” – anger he believed to be directed at me for having ended our relationship … he felt anger with me? I was incredulous.  Then I remembered, and it didn’t take me long – anger was always his go to emotion.  Was he grieving our lost relationship, as any normal father would; did he replace the pain he felt with anger?  Would he even recognize this if it were true?

I don’t buy his not knowing exactly what he did to me, don’t appreciate his inability to look at life as it truly was while he was raising me.  The deeper we get into a new relationship, the more this concerns and bothers me.  I know some things are best left in the past, and I’ve let go of a lot in the months since we began speaking again – but I’m finding that the past is made relevant by today, and that bit of irony can be cruel, messy and complicated.

Rhonda asked me the other night what I wanted from Ed now, and I replied; “I want him to be a dad.” The deeper meaning behind those seven words is this:  I want him to feel something about who he is to me; I want it to matter and to be important to him — I want him to view fatherhood like I do … and that just can’t happen; he has no idea how to be a father, much less a dad.  So I have forgiven him this shortcoming, but I’m still left with a man who makes almost no sense to me.

He has apologized to me, to Rhonda, to our children – and we all appreciate that, but I don’t think he has any understanding of the depth of what he did; how can he?  He refuses to engage, to remember.  He likes who he thinks he is now, facing the monster he was would be hell, but for his apology to have the meaning it should have, he needs to do this.  I need for him to do this – on his own, deep soul-searching – a willingness to face who and what he was.  A willingness to feel my pain, and my sister’s.

And it would mean a lot if he’d do some research, find out how to support a family member with Bipolar Disorder – if my child were diagnosed with an illness, any illness, I wouldn’t rest until I’d become an authority on the subject.  This is what dads do.

Reconciliation is a One Step Up and Two Steps Back process;  many, many stops and starts all predicated on the past as it is reflected in today.

It isn’t easy, it’s more complicated than anything I have ever done before.

Understanding

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My therapist has suggested small, targeted, facilitated group therapy for my continued care – I’ll still see her PRN, but this group addresses aspects of my life that can lead, when not successfully managed, to stress and relapse.

The first session was on Forgiveness.  Interesting timing as I have been actively trying to forgive my father …

In our situation, I put reconciliation before forgiveness – it usually works the other way around.  I had to know him today to determine if forgiveness is even possible – the man he was in my childhood didn’t deserve consideration from me.

Come to find out, forgiveness was never for him to start with – not that he doesn’t want it or need it – but for me.  I know, lots of you tried to tell me this, but it didn’t make sense – forgive him for my peace of mind?  Really?  I kind of see it now.

Here’s the thing:  he is trying really, really hard – and I appreciate that.  I see his effort – it is tangible, palpable and sincere. And that effort, that feeling that comes from knowing we are both striving to rebuild and reconnect in a new, healthy, positive way is what allows me to say – I want to forgive my father.

Yet there are times when my anger with him is just below the surface; I am not as patient with him as I would like to be – as I know I should be.  The past cannot simply be erased, and it does have an impact on the here and now.  None of this is easy – my wife says I make it look easy, at least most of the time, but it takes concerted effort in certain moments to remain calm and centered, focused only on today – and sometimes my struggle is  obvious.

I work diligently to control Bipolar anger and rage, and I know Ed has battled anger and rage issues of his own throughout his life – for the common ground you’d think this might provide, it doesn’t …

I have never once raged at my children.  I have never lost control and hit my children.  I have never hurt them, and I damn sure haven’t ever beaten them …

So anger and rage, which might be seen by Ed and I as a common enemy, actually leaves me feeling in all ways superior to him – as a human being, as a man, and most importantly as a father.

Ed doesn’t know how to be a father – based on what I experienced as a child, and what I still see today, fatherhood is utterly foreign to him. He tries now, and that means a lot, so I remind myself that I can’t hold him accountable for not understanding that which he lacks the innate ability to understand …

I was, and still am, an emotionally connected father – my respect, love and admiration for my children knows no bounds.  I built relationships with them that began the moment they were born.  I was never punitive or authoritarian – I taught by example and I explained right and wrong over and over and over again, patiently.  I wanted them to like who I am, to respect – not fear me, and to love me genuinely, not merely because I am their father.  I knew all of this, somehow I just knew it …

and Ed didn’t.

So I am choosing to forgive, because it is right for both of us.

At some point, I hope the residual anger dissipates …

and I hope my feelings of superiority melt into a true sense of friendship and equality, because I really am committed to having a new and meaningful relationship with  my father.

Reconciliation Update:

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It all started last weekend, it was time to plan and book our next trip.

As my kids have grown up, I have learned that scheduling a family trip can be a daunting task — but I was determined, so we sat down with five different schedules and came up with a small block of time (read VERY small block of time) in which we were all available.

Destination and date chosen, Alaskan cruise in August,  it occurred to me that I wanted to spend some time with Ed; I wanted to reconnect completely – I wanted to be a family again.

This trip is special; it marks my daughter’s, – my my youngest child, eighteenth birthday, and her high school graduation … and I wanted my father to be part of it.

but I wasn’t sure Ed would say yes to my invitation …

So, I bet my wife dinner of the winner’s choice, prepared by the loser, that he would decline.

Her response, “YOU  will be making Osso Bucco with Parmesan Risotto, Caesar Salad and German Chocolate Cake …”

I emailed Ed, extending the invitation to be part of our family vacation.  OUR Family Vacation

And it turns out I will be making Osso Bucco with Parmesan Risotto, Caesar Salad and German Chocolate Cake – but not just for my wife; Ed and Marie are coming, too.

I will also be brewing some Blackberry Beer to celebrate the evening …

We have two visits planned for March – attending performances of Sweeney Todd and Disney’s Mulan, both of which my daughter is in, and in April my sons, father and I are participating in a poker tournament together …

It’s all going very, very well.