Missing My Angus and Birthday Boy


robert

 

It’s my son’s birthday is in less than two weeks. I wrote this story a few years ago when he was still in college and Spring Break aligned with his birthday. It was always a treat that he could be home and we’d all celebrate. This year, I’m going to visit him in the Bay area and celebrate his birthday with him there.

I can’t help but get sentimental and nostalgic for when he was a young boy. He called me “sweetheart” because he thought it was my name. When we went to “Mommy and Me” at the Palm Springs Pavilion, there was a “good-bye” song at the end of each session. When his name was called, he’d toddle to the teacher and plant a kiss on her cheek. He was so sweet. Still is.

robert 1In honor of his birthday, I’m reposting a story I wrote when he invited 50 kids to his second grade party. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room, it’s about Angus our yellow lab of 15 years, who shared my son’s birthday.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one 8-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swallowing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

Angus5

In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

Angus8Happy birthday, son! We miss you, Angus!

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Who Knew? BINGO Is Good for You!

Selfie of Mom and me playing BINGO.

Selfie of Mom and me playing BINGO.

For six years, my daughter and I volunteered through a mother-daughter service organization. We had a dozen places throughout our community where we could volunteer together—from 7th grade through her senior year of high school.

Some of the philanthropies we helped out were Guide Dogs of the Desert, Angel View Crippled Children’s Homes, our swim team and the Braille Institute. We were required by the service organization—National Charity League—to put in a minimum number of volunteer hours per year.

One of the funnest and easiest things we’d do is show up at a nursing home and play BINGO with the elderly residents.

imagesI never thought much of it. It was something we’d do occasionally on a Monday night. My daughter would show up with her hair wet from swim practice wearing a t-shirt and shorts. On a big night a half-dozen other girls and their moms would volunteer to get out BINGO cards, the cage and set up seven or eight tables for the residents.

The girls would cruise the hallways and peak into rooms and ask if the residents wanted to join us for BINGO. The regulars would be waiting for us in their wheelchairs for their weekly game.

How did BINGO become so popular? Who invented the game? Here’s a link to a brief history of BINGO.

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I thought about what a difference it makes to the residents of that nursing home to have these young women escort them to BINGO. I never thought about it until last week—after visiting my mom in her assisted living home.

I took my Mom to BINGO for the second time this year. She’s had a blast both times. It got her out of her room. It engaged her mind. We had fun. She said “BINGO!” and won the first round. She had a smile on her face. She was excited to pick out prizes. She was interacting with other residents. Both times she’s promised to go back. But she never does. She’ll be sitting in her room again on Sunday at 1:15 p.m. in the dark, when she could be having another fun 45 minutes of stimulating her mind and getting exercise by walking down the hall and back using her walker. 

I wish they had a group of young ladies that would peak into her room and plead for her to go.

My mom after winning at BINGO. She wanted a fresh glass of water, because

My mom after winning at BINGO. She wanted a fresh glass of water, because “winning makes her thirsty!”

When my daughter was pushing a complete stranger in his wheelchair into the game room on a random Monday night with NCL, I had no idea how much it meant. Not only for my daughter—to learn compassion and think outside of her own immediate needs and desires—but also how much it meant to that elderly person. To get out, interact with people and have a little fun.

I wish we didn’t live two states away. I miss my mom. It was so good to see her so happy playing BINGO.

Here’s another article about how BINGO and the intellectual benefits for elderly.