Dunkin Donuts

My love/hate relationship with Dunkin Donuts is well documented. It mirrors, in a way, my former relationship with Planet Fitness: I don’t really like your service or what you offer 100%, I don’t give you my full commitment, but you meet my basic day-to-day needs so I remain loyal for the most part.

I have far more negative experiences with Dunkin than positive ones, with the ratio falling somewhere around 5/2. For every two good experiences, I have five horrible ones, which usually result in one of the following things happening:

  1. I write the coffee off as bad immediately and discard it.
  2. My sandwich is made wrong (missing an ingredient, wrong bread type, not fully cooked) but I eat it anyway.
  3. My sandwich is made wrong (missing an ingredient, wrong bread type, not fully cooked) and I discard it.
  4. I wait so long for my order that I can finish a large coffee, sipped slowly, before my sandwich is made.
  5. I receive a “free donut” because a “higher-up” feels bad that I’ve been waiting so long.

Based on my experience yesterday morning, I finally decided that enough was enough, I had to vent about this establishment.
Every time I, or anyone for that matter, walks into a Dunkin Donuts and pays money for a product, we expect the product to be made our way, correct? My order yesterday couldn’t have been simpler: “Medium iced coffee, light and sweet, with liquid sugar please.” “Will that be all?” “Yes.” I received, after a literal 7 minute wait, a medium iced coffee with a splash of milk and no sugar whatsoever. So many things go through my head after a moment like this, and I’ll try to outline them all. I don’t mean to berate Dunkin Donuts employees, I really don’t, but your job is to make coffee and make sandwiches that involve no actual cooking skill and no meal prep or design. I feel compelled to do this, for their sake and mine, because every customer deserves a satisfactory experience.

My first problem with Dunkin Donuts is the number of employees on shift compared to the output in the place. Yesterday alone we had one person on cash register, one person tending to the drive-thru, one person making sandwiches, one person making coffees, and two people taking up space. Why do you have employees clogging up the back that are not contributing? Or perhaps they should be but they just aren’t? I guess that’s for “corporate” to decide. In any case, maybe the line wouldn’t be 12 people long with literally the first person in line being served and the other 11 waiting. Or in yesterday’s case, you wouldn’t have 4 of us standing at the sandwich area waiting for coffee and food because one person is making coffees and one person sandwiches. Common sense tells me, and should tell the two employees standing around, “Hey, one or both of them should make some of the coffees to get these people taken care of.” But I suppose browsing your cell phone or whispering to an employee who actually is working is far more important.

Next, I seriously question the “skill” of most of the employees. I’m telling you right now, hand me a cheap visor, apron, and custom name tag that reads “R*8” with some stickers on it, and I could make coffees exactly how they should be without any formal training. I’ve never worked in retail or in customer service, but I’ve been a cook at an Italian restaurant and I’m a business owner, plus I make my own coffee daily and let me tell you, I’m never disappointed.

Not only are the skills lacking, but the general ability to understand basic instructions is as well. As an employee of somewhere like this, your job is no simpler than this: Listen to what the customer asks for and provide them with exactly what they asked for, nothing more or less. If I ask for liquid sugar, why are you giving me granulated sugar? More importantly, anyone with any basic concept of chemistry knows that solids won’t dissolve in cold water very well, so why in the hell is granulated sugar in an iced coffee even an OPTION. You should offer liquid or melted sugar standard, without the customer even having to ask for it. I swear for every 10 times I ask for liquid sugar, except for when someone I know serves me, I get granulated 4-6 of those times. It’s amazing to me that something like that can happen.

When it comes to sandwiches, I always ask for croissants, I never change that. The reason I even like croissants is because Dunkin Donuts messed up an order of mine years ago. I asked for a bacon, egg, and cheese on a plain bagel and received the sandwich on a croissant. I liked the croissant so much that I always order them now, but you see my point. I’ve had sandwiches come out frozen all the way through the center. I’ve had the wrong bread, wrong meat, no cheese, even no egg once. It baffles me all the time, so much so that when I order from Dunkin now, I fully expect there to be something wrong. I purposely don’t order drinks with too much in them so that the order remains as simple as possible, thus reducing (in theory) the chance of a mistake. When placing my order, I’ll wait until the previous item was punched into the register before going onto the next thing for fear of them missing something or typing something that is wrong. It’s obvious that I shouldn’t have to do any of this.

Perhaps my dislike is towards most employees, because there are workers who know me and who make my coffee correctly 100% of the time, and I’m thankful for that. But should I really have to make sure I go into Dunkin when they are on shift? Should I be taking such advanced measures to ensure my order is correct? No, but it’s exactly what I do. As I’ve been writing, I decided “I’m going to send this complaint to Dunkin themselves and see what they say, if anything.”

You don’t need a 4 year degree to make coffee or toast a bagel and heat up an egg and meat and put them together, there shouldn’t be so many issues with my orders. And we are just talking about MY experiences. Dunkin serves probably millions a day, and I’m one person in Pleasant Valley, NY with these issues. Something tells me I’m not the only one.

In conclusion, my ultimate point is this: I don’t walk into Dunkin Donuts and pay my money as a charitable donation. I certainly don’t hand it to the cashier and give them carte blanche to make or serve me whatever they want. My money should directly translate to my order being 100% correct, every time, without an input or opinion from the person making it. I correct what I said before, you’re not MAKING coffee, you’re just pouring it and adding ingredients to it. Let’s try to make our relationship a better one, and if that isn’t possible, let me pay you and come behind the counter and make the coffee myself. If that isn’t possible either, I’ll just take my business on down the road, and you can serve one less person incorrectly.

Leave a comment

Filed under General

New Year-Summer of 2015

Every year summer ends, but life goes on. I’ve always found reflection useful, and it helps me prepare for what’s ahead, but also allows me the ability to relive choice sections of history. This year is no different. Instead of my normal summer reflection, I want to compose my list dating back to the first of the year, because I’ve slacked on writing and want to cover more.

This list reflects decisions, observations, realizations, reactions, and general feelings. I usually go for 40, let’s see how far I can make it.

1. For the 26th consecutive year, I have been drug-free, cigarette-free, hospital visit/stay free, and STD free.

2. I haven’t consumed alcohol in 3 years.

3. I can locate the Big Dipper no matter where I am within a few minutes.

4. I’ve been in business for three years now, and still going.

5. I drove to the hospital on a cold winter morning not knowing what I would find, with nothing but thoughts of life without my brother rushing through my head.

6. Foo Fighters – Times Like These

7. I have not played a single inning of softball this year.

8. I filed the second lawsuit of my life. The case begins in September.

9. I got to see all of my children on Father’s Day weekend, I’m happy for that.

10. My glass is always half full.

11. Before you ask me about my lifestyle or feel like accusing me of something, look up the definition of “Straight-edge” then look at the back of my right arm. It’s a lifestyle choice, not a gimmick.

12. The gym remains my sanctuary.

13. I listened more than I spoke.

14. I created a flag football team and entered a brand new league, a very enjoyable experience.

15. I spent over 24 consecutive hours with my three closest male friends, something that hadn’t occurred in over 3 years. I would gladly go to war with any of those guys.

16. I cried for the first time in 3 years.

17. I’m so consumed with finding my own happiness, that I would never spend even one minute trying to take happiness away from anyone else. Everyone deserves it.

18. I made sun tea, was given a blue Gatorade, and fell in love.

19. I found a passion for baseball again.

20. By my own admittance, I’m not always the best father to my children. Circumstances sometimes dictate how much time I spend with them, and while I can’t change that, I can put my best foot forward for them.

21. Clayton returned to New York and we drove 4 1/2 hours to a wedding and had a blast. I’ve only ever been to two weddings: both relatives of his and obviously both with him also attending.

22. I found Jim randomly in New Milford at 11:30 at night.

23. I hate admitting that sometimes I may need help. I always try to tackle my problems head-on by myself and try never to lean on others or make my problems theirs. Going against this and after much thought, I saw a therapist. I can’t say it was a bad decision.

24. I have been ridiculed all summer long because someone I knew started a 1 on 1 fight, lost that fight, and now whines that I didn’t help them.

25. Not every day is going to be a good day, but any day can be the best day.

26. My age. Clayton said to me this summer “Hey man you realize we will be 30 in a few years?!” I do realize that, but I feel great every day.

27. I’ll never be the biggest guy in the gym, or the smallest. But there is no one I would trade bodies with.

28. I cut my own hair for the 11th consecutive year.

29. I haven’t had soda in 10 years.

30. It will take more than a rumor-laced Instagram post with 33 likes, numerous comments, laughable physical threats, and undeserved gossip to ruin my mood, day, week, month, year, or life.

31. I haven’t done nearly as much fishing as I thought I would this year.

32. I’m not jealous of any human being on this planet.

33. I didn’t accomplish any of my life goals this year. I did, however, think of a few more.

34. I had a semi-long conversation in person with both the father and brother of an ex girlfriend at a jobsite. While our relationship didn’t necessarily go smoothly, it’s nice to know that people are above holding grudges. Life’s too short for foolishness.

35. I went to Atlantic City for reasons other than celebrating my birthday or my brothers.

36. I wake up every day and try to be the best person I can that day.

37. I don’t have a hard time looking in the mirror. No one is perfect, least of all me.

38. I mass deleted social media apps, phone numbers, friends, followers, etc.

39. I go to sleep every night and wake up every morning happy. It’s been a long time coming.

40. While I own a cell phone and use it daily, I could survive just fine without it.

41. People ask me almost weekly how I am in the shape that I am. My advice always starts with the same first line: Step 1 is showing up.

42. Other than those closest to me, I don’t care what anyone thinks about me.

43. No, I am not part owner of Under Armour.

44. It takes far less energy to be a good person than it does to be a horrible one.

40. I am 26 and have 3 young children. I also have a caring, understanding, compassionate, loving girlfriend who isn’t mother to any of them. After spending months and months working, going to the gym, and coming home to sit on my ass and sulk, someone finally kicked my door in and gave me an opportunity. I’ve always been afraid to walk out on the limb again, for fear of it breaking and being hurt. When the courage finally surfaced, I walked to the edge and learned to fly.

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Death…Then What..?

Last Friday I went to the movies with my brother Ray and we saw “Furious 7.” We had seen the previous six movies, including the last two in theaters together, so it was only tradition to watch this one. Only this movie felt different, because you were watching someone act in the film that was no longer with us, that no longer breathed air on this Earth. Since that movie my mind has been racing, as it often does. I’ve been thinking about death.

I used to always be able to say that death had never really interfered with my life, and for years I was absolutely right. The only real close person to me that had passed away was Clayton’s uncle Dave, who I had worked with and I knew on a first name basis. I was sad, mainly for Clayton because they were close, but I was alright. My grandmother passing away changed this outlook for me, and it has largely remained the same since then.

I remember being young (between 5-10) and I would wake up in the morning before everyone else in my house and think about things. Sometimes, for really no reason, I would think about life without my grandma, and I would cry to myself. I never spoke of these moments to anyone, choosing to keep them to myself (like most things). When the news finally came of her passing, my first response, however, was not to cry. I felt like a gallon jug of water that someone had punctured on the bottom, the water slowly running out of the jug until it was empty. I felt extreme sadness, while also feeling nothing. I spoke of this in my previous post so I am not going to detail it here, but death has touched my life now.

I think about it often, is death truly the end for a person? I am not spiritual or religious, so I suppose I don’t believe in Reincarnation or Heaven, but I think about how cool it would be if such a place exists. Everyone tells people that they will “see them again” when they die, but will they? Or do they just say this because it is the norm? I would like to think I will see my grandma again one day, to have another deep conversation with her, but what if our time together ended when she passed away?

To think about death is also to think about life. Science says that during the creating of a person, there are millions of sperm cells, each with its own DNA makeup. I think about how I was the one in the millions. I think about how I’m me and if my parents had any other child, what would they be like? Would they have habits that I don’t? Would they be similar to me, maybe a copy? I guess I obviously have no way of knowing.

I think that a person is afforded, if they are lucky enough to remain healthy for that long, perhaps 70-90 years alive. I think about how I can improve myself physically every day, to prevent the breaking down that will inevitably occur and to prolong my life as long as possible. I joke that I’ll never die, and who knows, maybe I won’t. I’m 26 going on forever, maybe. I think about life without me, how others will conduct themselves if I’m no longer around. I think about all of the random people I have ever helped in life, whom I have only encountered once, and never again. The man who had run out of gas down the street from the gas station who I pulled over for and helped push his car into the station. The girl at Oswego whose ID card I found on the campus grounds and sought out to return it to. The people whose lives may have been saved with the blood that I donated. None of them will know when I pass away, and don’t even know my identity. Will I see them “down the road” and be able to discuss with them how our lives crossed paths, if only for a moment?

I have a tattoo on my forearm, designed by my best friend Jim, that depicts an hourglass. In the bottom section of the hourglass, the space is roughly 3/4 full with sand. The sand is pouring through the middle and the top section is about 7/8 full. Every tattoo I have has a deep meaning, I don’t believe in random tattooing and I don’t believe in displaying something on my body or in my life that holds no meaning. This hourglass says “There’s always time.” It may be translated in any way you see fit. I like to think it relates to everything in life. No matter how hard life gets, or how many times you’ve fallen, or hurt someone, or been hurt, there’s always time to improve your circumstances or make progress for the positive. In terms of this piece, there’s always time as long as you live, I suppose. Since I have no idea of knowing what happens after you take your last breath, I don’t know if there is time to do anything when you’re gone. But as long as you’re “here” on Earth, moves can be made.

Whether you’re given 90 years or 15, a long prosperous life or a short, difficult one, I believe you make it yours. I was in church once and the pastor said that your time on Earth was a pit stop, asking the audience, “What matters more, your 90 years on this Earth, or eternity with God?” I was offended, because what kind of question is that? To me, if you believe in religion, that’s perfectly alright, but I don’t. I try not to take anything for granted, because I want to make my “90” years worthwhile. I want to have lived a life that impacted at least one other life. If someone can look back on my life and say “Rob influenced somebody, he made an impact on their life while he lived” then I will go feeling accomplished.

I believe that there is a way to live forever. You do it through the people you lived with and shared life with. My grandma hasn’t died because I keep her alive through memory and story. So long as I’m alive, and others who hold her dearly, she can never leave. You die when you’re forgotten by everyone.

Paul Walker passing made me think about death, but also about life. His tribute made me see that he isn’t dead, only gone.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Bernita M. Bailey (9/8/1921-9/25/2012)

January 31st, 1989, sometime after 8:00 p.m., Sharon Hospital, Connecticut. I took my first breath of air on this planet that night, and I’ll have taken over 200,000,000 by Saturday, my 26th year of life.

September 25th, 2012, sometime shortly after 5:00 a.m., Sharon Hospital, Connecticut. My grandmother took her final breath on this planet that morning. She took over 700,000,000 breaths over her 91 years of life.

I’ve been lucky to have 26 healthy years, but I’ve been unlucky to have been plagued for the past 3+. I shared my time on this Earth with my grandmother for just under twenty-four years. I learned about life, listened before speaking, and grew up earlier than most. It’s taken me over three years to sit down now and tell her story, to sit down and tell our story. It won’t do her justice, or bring her back, nothing will, but I want to tell it.

My grandmother was always like a third parent to me. My parents would go to work or go out with friends and my two brothers, sister, and I would stay home with her. She was 68 years old when I was born, and 74 by the time my sister was born, but she was always up for the challenge. We lived in Pawling until I was four, moving to Dover Plains after that and living there for 13+ years until we were all older. When we moved, my grandmother came with us. She always lived with us, and I’m thankful for that. As I grew up, my relationship with my grandmother evolved, and she became my closest friend. We spoke for hours on end in the kitchen, from the time I was about ten until she passed. She liked to drink hot tea and eat toast, things that have become every day occurrences for me. We would talk about anything, the Yankees and Cowboys, which were her favorite sports teams, the weather, the neighbor’s antics, life. She taught me different card games and we would play them as we spoke. I look back and just remember asking her so many questions. I’ve always wanted to learn as much as possible, and I still do. I would listen to her speak, ask questions when I could, and take everything she said to heart. Sometimes we would be up until 11:00 at night or later just talking. She would fall asleep in the chair in our living room as I watched television so I would wait for her to wake up and keep talking more. Maybe she was annoyed with me sometimes, who knows.

As I entered high school we got closer. I would go to work with her over the summer in Pawling. She worked at the funeral home for years, and would take the train from Dover to Pawling and walk to the funeral home, which was probably a mile or so. I marveled at her ability to do this, and it was her routine year round, up until she was in her mid-80’s. One morning we couldn’t take the train because the lines were doing maintenance so they provided a bus instead. The bus didn’t stop at the train station though, instead making a different stop in town, so we walked to the funeral home from there. We were crossing this one intersection and my grandma (in her 80’s) tripped over a small pothole and fell to the ground, scraping her elbow. I immediately helped her up and we kept walking. She never let the small things affect her, life was too important and not worth “crying over spilt milk,” as she would often tell me.

Entering my junior year, talk of going to prom came up. I had a girlfriend at the time but the topic wasn’t urgent for us, so I didn’t really pay attention to it. A few weeks before the tickets went on sale, I asked her to prom and she said “yes.” I was excited and felt happy to be included in something that you get one chance at in your life, unless you go to prom with someone older or younger, but I don’t count that because it’s not your prom. I told my grandma and she was happy for me, as she always was, being my biggest supporter. She told me she would pay for it all, and didn’t hesitate in making that offer. She put me to work making the necessary phone calls to order my tuxedo and a corsage for Kayla. I was on the phone with the tuxedo rental company when my phone beeped to notify me that there was an incoming call. It was Kayla. She broke up with me during that phone call and I came back on the line with the salesman and said, “Never mind, my girlfriend just broke up with me, so I won’t be going to prom, thank you anyway sir.” My grandma said she would still pay for me to go, regardless of if it was alone or not, but I respectfully declined. I loved her kindness, and it’s one of the great traits I carry with me to this day. She went above and beyond for me and wanted nothing in return, and that to me is greatness.

I graduated high school on June 23rd, 2007. My parents were bringing my grandma to the ceremony and I was looking forward to it. I always wanted her to be at my functions. They had planned a graduation party for me at my house afterwards, so the day was shaping up to be a good one. I remember being in the first row and looking into the crowd, scanning to see where they were. When I located my parents I did not see my grandmother, wondering where she was. They told me after the ceremony was over that she was having issues with her hip, which hurt on occasion, and she didn’t want to slow them down with her walking, so she was waiting for me at home. I remember being sad in that moment, because I really wanted her to be there.

That graduation party is very memorable for me because someone there took a photo of my grandmother and I standing side by side outside in the yard. I believe this is the only photo of her and I taken in my adult life, all the rest are of me as a child. I have the only copy of that photo and it hangs above me on the visor of my truck, held there by a “Guardian Angel” visor clip that my grandmother gave me and made sure I always had in my car. It reads: “Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly.” I didn’t know when she gave it to me that the guardian angel it refers to would be her in the future. To be honest I never pictured a day where I would have to exist without her. I still don’t, it’s difficult to grasp when I dwell on it.

I went away to college from 2009-2010, attending SUNY Oswego, which was about five hours from home, and when the car left my driveway I cried. I sat in the back seat and broke down to myself, because I would miss out on so many talks and moments with her. Upon arriving and moving in, and throughout the semester I made sure to call home often. My grandma and I spoke the longest out of everyone, that’s always how it was. I was glad to move back home after college and reclaim the moments I treasured most.

Life moves in mysterious ways and after a few years I was living on my own. I remained in contact with her and still visited on weekends often. I visited my parents house for my grandma’s 91st birthday on September 8th, 2012. It was crazy to me, 91 years I thought, and it was like she never changed. She was always the same person, physically and mentally. That night I showed up and my mom warned me that my grandma wasn’t herself, and was in poor health. I entered her room to find her laying in bed, very frail and weak. This wasn’t the person I knew, not by any means, and the transformation seemed like it had happened overnight. She could still speak and I made sure she knew I was there and wished her a happy birthday. Her spirits were high despite her physical condition. My mom told me later that night that on Monday, they would seek to get her some medical care, which they did.

My brother Ray and I went to the hospital that Monday, September 10th, to see how she was doing and learned she had a few minor issues and needed some intravenous fluids to get her back on her feet. She need nutrients that her diet didn’t give her and by mid-week when we visited again she was her old healthy self again. We brought her a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, which she loved, and we sat and laughed and talked with her for hours before leaving around 10:00 that night. The hospital told us that they would monitor her and think about releasing her shortly, perhaps during the following week, which made us happy.

I received phone call, I believe it was Thursday, September 20th or Friday the 21st from my aunt telling me that my grandmother had suffered from cardiac arrest and that she may not make it. I remember driving down route 9 in Wappingers, I had just left work and was driving at the time of the call, and I broke down in traffic. I remember it being bumper to bumper traffic and I was speeding and darting in and out of the lanes to get to her as fast as I could. I knew the drive was over an hour and I had one stop to make. I stopped at a red light and there was a young girl in her car in the next lane looking at me as I cried and I made eye contact with her, realizing she had noticed me but didn’t really care. I pulled into the car dealership that Ray worked at and with tears pouring from my eyes, told him what our aunt had told me, and told him to come to the hospital with me. He told me he couldn’t leave work so I went by myself. I got there to find her asleep in the hospital bed and the nurse asked me to sit in the waiting room for a second, she wanted to speak to me.

(I just found the actual date by looking at my Facebook wall to a post I wrote that day) It read: “September 21st: One doctor just spoke with me, telling me my grandmother is a strong woman. Her heart recovered and bounced back from cardiac arrest.” She went on to tell me while she had come out of it, if she slipped into cardiac arrest again, they may not be able to bring her back and would have to let her go. I remember saying out loud “I don’t want to hear this, I didn’t come here for that talk.” I went into her room and spoke to her some, finding it hard to find the words. I haven’t always been the best about opening up in person about my emotions, and this time was no different. I said “hello” and told her I wasn’t here to say goodbye to her, because she was going to beat this and walk out of that hospital one day soon. I thanked her for everything she had ever given me in life, the lessons, the hard talks, the knowledge, the love. This wasn’t an ordinary person in that hospital bed, to me this was my hero, and she was fighting, not giving up. I made it my goal to make sure my other siblings got to see her before she left, if in fact she was going to leave. My sister went with my parents that weekend and I brought my brother Matt with me to see her at the end of that weekend. I went back myself and fell asleep in the chair next to her bed. I felt that if I left, I would never see her again, so I spent every minute I could with her. I would speak to her sometimes and she would nod to me. She could hear me, but couldn’t say anything back. She was fighting.

I woke up on Tuesday, September 25th at a little past 5:00 in the morning to my phone ringing, it was my aunt calling. I didn’t pick up the phone. I had an idea as to why she might be calling, but refused to hear the words. The call ended and I laid there in bed, my mind was totally blank. My phone beeped to tell me I had a voicemail and I said “Nope, I’m not listening to it.” After another half hour or so I went out into the driveway and listened to the voicemail, and my worst fear became my reality. I still remember my aunt’s words as if they are being spoken to me now, “Your grandmother went into cardiac arrest this morning after 4:00 and they let her go.” I hung up and the burden of telling my family members was on me. I was the first one to know, and I didn’t break down in that moment, I had to hold it together for now. I called my parents’ house phone, and no one answered. I called my sister’s cell phone, no answer. I tried the house phone again, and my mother answered. I told her, and she began crying, she woke up my dad and brother Matt and told them. She said Megan had went to school and it would be best to tell her after she got out of school, so I agreed. Megan must have noticed the missed call shortly after because she texted me asking what was up, and I told her that I had something to tell her but wanted to wait until after school. She told me “Rob it’s ok to tell me now, I’ll be ok,” almost as if she knew, and she called me and I told her, both of us crying. One person remained, and I knew it was going to be the hardest discussion yet.

Since I had slept over Erin’s house that night, I still had to go home. I made arrangements to not work that day, drove home to where Ray and I lived, and just stood in the driveway for about three hours in a hoodie and jeans shooting a basketball through a hoop. I have no idea why I did this, and really didn’t put much thought into it other than doing it. My friend Joe, whose house it was, came outside and asked me what I was doing, I told him and he just left for work without asking me anything else. I finally went inside and sat on the couch for about twenty minutes, pondering how to tell Ray. Finally I walked down the hallway to his room, knocked on the door and said “Hey man, nan passed away shortly after 5:00 this morning” and walked back outside. Shortly after, Ray came out and left for work and we didn’t speak much that day. We’re much in the same, in times of crisis, we don’t say much.

It’s taken me over three years to write this, as I said earlier. I’ve drafted so many pieces in my head over those three years, never committing to put the thoughts into words. I didn’t know where to start. How do I write and accurately describe someone who meant more than words on a screen ever could? Why was she gone? Why did I feel as if it was a lie somehow? Many questions, hours of thought, no answers.

I always joke about never dying. People balk at it, because obviously no one lives forever. I beg to differ however, as I found my solution to that riddle at a very young age. You can only truly die if no one remembers you. Even if only one person carries your memory with them, you still exist. And to me, my grandma is still alive today, because even if everyone else forgot about her, I never could. I’ll write her story and have someone read it to me if I should be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease one day, because I love the story.

She will live on so long as I am physically alive, because in many ways, her personality and mine are parallel. I have so many traits now as a young adult that I look back and realize she had as well, the most important of which is altruism. By definition, altruism is the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. It means that you are kind and generous to others always, without ever looking for or receiving compensation for your actions. It’s a marvelous trait, and one I’m glad she bestowed upon me. I have learned to ignore people, another very important one. In my younger days when someone was mouthing off to me I had the habit of wanting to say something back all the time. My grandma would take me aside and tell me “Robert just let them talk, don’t pay any mind to it, it’s not worth it.” I’ve dealt with much controversy using that line of thought. I wake up every day and look for purpose, choosing not to live a boring life. I surround myself with few people, because you can’t rely on everyone. I’m smart with my money, often frugal regardless of the amount in the bank. I believe in hard work, in doing the dishes every day, and in eating my vegetables. I “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” I drink hot tea all of the time, I enjoy the simple parts of life, such as birds chirping, and I never take anything for granted. Above all, I’m lucky to have shared this Earth with Bernita M. Bailey. That’s my proudest achievement.

My grandmother passed away almost 5 months to the day before my oldest son, Peyton, being born. She knew he was coming, but didn’t survive long enough to become a great-grandmother for the first time. She didn’t get to meet my two other children, Landon or Savannah either, and that makes me sad. I hope wherever her spirit lies, if she can look down on them now, she smiles at the sight of them. I hope she continues to lead me in some small way as I’ve always looked to her for guidance. And I hope she knows just how much I miss her every day, and can one day correct the battles I face within on a daily basis of the thought of her no longer being here.

My grandma and I had a tradition that developed when I was a child and continued into my twenties. Before I went to bed every night I would kiss her cheek and say four small phrases, in the same order every night:

“Goodnight, see you in the morning, I love you, sweet dreams.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Return (to the computer screen and the bike)

I often find that as my time is taken up with other things, it is my true passions that fall to the wayside. Writing has been a hobby of mine since my youth, and I always find myself stepping away from it for periods of time. I say I’ll be back, write more, post more, keep up on it, but I hardly ever keep my word. As I sat in front of the computer this evening, I saw my opportunity to open my life’s book again and add to its pages, so here I am. 

I want to fill sections of my life in that I normally write about, but have neglected to. I think I’ll start with my return to the bike marathon I began taking part in during my first year of college in 2007. This would be the marathon that I race in for charity, with the proceeds going to individuals with vision impairments who are in need of research, glasses, and other things related to that field. In 2007 I finished 5th out of 30, followed by a 2008 finish of 4th out of 20, which lead to a 2009 victory in a field of 28. From 2009-2011 I did not take part in the race and I had been missing it. After moving to Pleasant Valley, NY and into walking distance of where the race begins, I saw an opportunity to jump back into the race, and I did. 

I had a few weeks to prepare for the race but didn’t have a bike to use, a problem that was solved one day while I was at work. I had to run to the plumbing parts store to pick up some material and I passed a tag sale on the way. After noticing that it had a road bike for sale, I told myself that I would stop on the way back and purchase it, allthewhile hoping it would still be there. As it turns out, it was and for the small bargain price of ten dollars, it was all mine. The bike needed a little work and it wasn’t the type of bike I typically use (I like to go with an 18 or 21 speed, this bike was only a 10, which holds significant disadvantages) but it would have to do. 

The morning of the race, I had the same exact attire on that I had won the 2009 race in, black shorts and my long sleeve Under Armour top (the race is in September and tends to be cold, especially with the 9 a.m. start time.) I did my usual pre-race routine of a few laps around the parking lot and it was time. All I could think about was the possibility of a repeat, but I hadn’t entered this race in three years, which, coincidentally is the last time I had ridden a bike for any amount of time, so I wasn’t getting too ahead of myself. My main goal was my usual goal, to finish the race, number one, and number two, to never get off the bike, no matter what.

I started off in about 7th and for most of the race I was somewhere between 7th and 1st place. I noticed early on that I wasn’t going to dominate the hills as I had in past races because my physical condition wasn’t up to par with the demands of a 26.2 mile race. I struggled on the hardest hills but pushed on, leading about 5-7 miles of the race before surrendering the lead and eventually finishing 5th out of 23. It wasn’t a repeat win, but it was a victory for me. 

What I was most proud of was a moment in the middle of the race. I had been leading and two guys passed me, moving me to third. One of them slowed down and said he remembered me from the year I won, asking me “You used to run in this race, you won a few years back right?” That made me feel good. It’s always nice when someone on this planet notices or remembers me, especially since in most crowds I’m the quiet guy who lets his actions, not his words, show his true character.

Finishing 5th was only a disappointment because I expect the best results, and didn’t achieve them. But I gave this race all that I had physically and knew I had reached my limits, so I have nothing to complain about. I’ve been training on stationary bikes and in the gym since that race though and next year I expect the results to be much better. As with every sport that I play, I expect to win. That never changes.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Intro to Comeback

I’ve missed writing, I truly have. I write for many reasons, but mostly because it allows me peace of mind when I’m able to sit down and take hours at a time to project my thoughts onto paper. It is my release from my inner analysis, both of life in general and more importantly, my own life. All I’ve thought about this week is writing, and I’ll start with the post that follows this one.

At the end of every summer since this blog’s existence, I’ve concluded my summer with a list of memorable things from that summer, and I am going to do so again. I usually go for 40-50 things, so I’ll shoot for that and see how it goes. It’s been a summer to remember, that’s for sure.

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Into Deep Left Center…and GONE!

On Tuesday, October 25th, 2011 I watched the flight of the 42nd home run in Yellow Team franchise history, a shot to deep left center field that was a sure thing from the moment contact was made. It was hit on the last day of the Fall 2011 regular season, an eventual 24-23 loss to one of the two best teams this league has to offer. It came off the bat of a player who had never hit a regular season home run, inside-the-park or over the wall. That player had watched seven other players, including one female, hit a home run while donning a Yellow Team jersey. Perhaps, it was just time.

I was in my dorm room at SUNY Oswego during the Spring of 2009 when I decided that I wanted to introduce my very own co-ed softball team into the league in my town. I had a falling out with my best friend, Jim, in August of the previous year and we had not communicated in eight months. My first recruiting calls were to my brother Ray and another of my best friends, Clayton. I had to form some kind of initial roster before presenting my idea to the recreation director, who ran the league. I didn’t want to throw out the idea of my own team and not follow through with it.

A month or so later, I received an instant message from someone who I hadn’t in a long time. It was Jim, expressing his sadness over our loss of friendship. I had been thinking this same thing myself as time went on, but stubbornness coupled with the fear of contacting him without him being open to it kept me from initiating anything. It didn’t take long before softball was brought up and it was agreed that we would both represent the team as captains when the season began. He aided me in the recruiting process and the Yellow Team was born.

Fast forward to this past October and Jim steps into the batter’s box, the score is 19-18 them, top of the 6th, one out. The game had been going back and forth all night, with no team leading by more than seven runs. With seemingly no pressure on a player who has seen the pressure mount on him over the seasons, Jim tied the game with a solo homer. I speak of pressure because Jim has seen more pressure, even adversity, than probably any player in this league during my 6 seasons. He has been criticized by opponents, fans, even players who sit next to him in our dugout. I’ve continually been steadfast in my support of Jim, refusing to drop him in the lineup and refusing to make changes others seem to think I need to make. I say it all the time, and continue to, I believe Jim has the makeup to be the very best player on our team. The potential is all there: power, speed, commitment, everything that we look for in players who put our jersey on.

The home run, for me, was an adrenaline rush in itself. I remember watching Clayton’s first home run and just having this feeling inside me that made me yell as soon as he made contact. As everyone, umpire included, looked on to see if the ball was fair, I was already celebrating. I had the same response with Jim’s homer, somehow I just knew it was gone. I was driven to this conclusion first of all just because it was a fly ball, which Jim NEVER hits. He simply, for whatever reason, does not sky the ball, in pop-up form or fly ball form. As soon as I saw the lift, I sat up from the bench and watched it sail over the wall.

When looking at Jim’s career stats, I notice that this moment was long overdue. He had shown improvement offensively in every one of his 5 seasons. His years look like this:

Summer 2009: 7-24 (.292), 8 runs, 10 RBI, 7 singles, 5 walks, 1 sac fly, 13 strikeouts, .400 OBP

Fall 2009: 15-39 (.385), 17 runs, 17 RBI, 10 singles, 3 doubles, 2 triples, 10 walks, 6 strikeouts, .510 OBP

Summer 2010: 13-30 (.433), 11 runs, 27 RBI, 12 singles, 1 double, 8 walks, 6 strikeouts, .553 OBP

Summer 2011: 22-41 (.537), 12 runs, 16 RBI, 18 singles, 2 doubles, 2 triples, 2 walks, 2 sac flies, 7 strikeouts, .533 OBP

Fall 2011: 17-32 (.531), 12 runs, 10 RBI, 9 singles, 6 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run, 2 walks, 1 sac fly, 5 strikeouts, .543 OBP

Long overdue indeed and something that seems lopsided for someone who has 80 career runs batted in and only one of them is via a home run.

This post has been sitting in the “Drafts” section of my blog’s dashboard since last October. I have been thinking about it on and off at work everyday, thinking about finishing it, thinking about why it was left to sit, thinking about the future of  my softball team. I’ve thought a lot about number 13 and what he has meant to this team, win or lose. I’ve thought, more importantly, about what number 13 has meant to me.

My ultimate point is one of celebration. Irony would intervene, as it sometimes does, and allow for Jim’s first home run to come off of a pitcher named Norm, a former player on our team, and one of Jim’s biggest critics. I think that this home run was a way of showing people that hard work and preparation, teamed with sincere dedication (Jim lost over 70 pounds before the 2011 seasons) will bring anyone the results that they truly desire.

I feel like a father when I say it, but I’m proud. And I’m still cheering, even when everyone else isn’t.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports