The Little Doll and the Giant Grasshopper.

Once upon a time, in a small town, that fancied calling itself a city, there was a beautiful friendship.  It didn’t start off smoothly.  In fact, it was the most unlikely of friendships because he was a giant grasshopper and she a tiny doll, controlling her portion of the world in a magical throne. Sitting on her special throne, she breathed in the cleanest of air through a minuscule tube, discreetly placed beneath her tiny nose. At 6’2″ and 150 lbs., the giant grasshopper bounded about, usually with a big smile on his face, happy to be alive in his own world; tolerating (yet not completely conforming to )the world presented to him. Energy abound, always moving quickly, his long limbs propelling him, one of his unique powers was speed . His job was to race on the track in the summer and on the ice in the winter with the best of all of the other specials (and sometimes regulars) like him and he did well, bringing back to the hub, ribbons of red and blue and medals of bronze, silver and gold. The giant grasshopper also had natural rhythm and could pound out head nodding and foot tapping beats that kept the other specials in the hub moving while they worked….when the drumming didn’t bother them that is…and if it did, he would switch  to humming and singing popular tunes they all knew and loved.

In spite of his wonderfully unique powers, the giant grasshopper struggled to make friends in the regular world because he couldn’t come up with interesting conversations. He knew in his head what he wanted to say, but it didn’t always come out of his mouth just right and he chose to say very little. Still, people tried to get to know him, tried to speak to him but it was the specials and their subjects in the hub who loved him enough to accept him as he was – a giant grasshopper of few words but with with actions that spoke louder than anything anyone could ever say.

The first day the giant grasshopper was accepted into the hub, he frightened the little doll to tears with his long limbs, big movements and loud quirky noises. For weeks she cried and complained that he made her afraid and for weeks he didn’t understand what he was doing wrong but the loyal subjects who worked for the specials did not give up because they knew the tiny doll and the giant grasshopper were good for each other and they were determined to help them become friends. By the end of their first semester together, the loyal subjects had the most unlikely of friends sitting beside each other, eating lunch. They rode the same chariot to the hub every morning.  On breaks, the grasshopper was even seen standing still ( something that was very difficult for him to do) looking over the doll’s shoulder while she controlled the world through the game she was playing on her tablet.

In time, the tiny doll got quite used to the energetic, musical grasshopper. She became so comfortable having him around, she even ventured out of the hub to help the regulars at the local food bank. Though she hated having to take her magical chair on the lowly city bus, she would go in good spirits if her friend the giant grasshopper was by her side. If he could not go, neither would she and if anyone tried to force her to go, they would be subject to her well-honed power of feist. Time passed and the unique bond between the giant grasshopper and the tiny doll grew stronger. When she would not eat, the grasshopper would sit beside her and simply say “Eat your food,” and she would. When she wanted to keep talking, even though he didn’t seem to be listening, he was as he was just happy to be sitting among the doll and the other specials. When his brother, the locust, taught him how to text, the grasshopper invited the tiny doll to join him and his other special friends for dinner at a local restaurant or to join them for an hour of bowling. Time and again, the little doll refused but one day, she said she would come to dinner if he promised never to ask her to go bowling again. She came to dinner twice and and giggled and smiled through the entire meal, the grasshopper fascinated by her her pretty painted little fingers and toes.  Whenever the doll was broken,(i.e. crying) like a true man, the grasshopper made it his job to fix her.

“She’s upset. Why is she crying?” he once asked.

“She does not want to go to the dance in the gym,” the subject replied.

“Okay. Look…just… Dance with me,”

Tears ceased and the problem was solved and another year in the hub came to an end and the specials and their unique powers went on break. The little doll was old enough to move away from the hub and live full time in the world of regulars. She played unique powers baseball and she attended unique powers dance class and though she did not see the grasshopper everyday she texted with him and came out to dinner whenever she could. The giant grasshopper had gotten used to the little doll’s absence from the hub and not seeing her on the chariot that transported them to the hub every day but the texts helped to keep them connected and he was thrilled that he was going to get to see her at his upcoming 18th birthday. She was the first name on his guest list and though he did not have any great words to say to her, he was looking forward to spend time with her and the other specials and their unique powers as they shared ideas on how to teach the lowly regulars how to properly run the world.

The day the giant grasshopper and his brother the locust were planning to text the specials about his birthday dinner, their mother found out that the little doll had died the day before. Her most unique power was her most dangerous power and though she was successful keeping it at bay, it snuck up on her and with no time to put up her defenses, it overpowered her and took her to Heaven.

When the giant grasshopper’s mother told him what had happened to the tiny doll, she was not sure how he was feeling about losing his friend.

“Do you remember Grandad Grasshopper?” his mother asked. The grasshopper nodded. “Tell me what happened,” she said.

“He got sick.” he replied, looking out the window.

“And?” his mother urged.

“He died,” he said, looking her in the eyes.

“Yes, he did. You know your friend the little doll?”

“Uh huh,”

“Well, son, she got sick and she died,”

“Oh.  She died?”

“Yes. Like Grandad Grasshopper, she got sick, she went to the hospital but they could not fix her and she died but just like Grandad, she is sleeping now.  She’s sleeping forever and is in no pain. She’s not sick anymore and she is in Heaven,”

“With Jesus?”

“Yes”  The grasshopper listened to his mother’s words, nodded and said,

“Okay, thank you. I’m going to my room now. I’m good,”

From time to time over the next day, the grasshopper would ask “The doll is gone?” or “She died? The doll is dead?”  and his family and his loyal subjects would confirm that she was indeed gone. His mother told him that there was an opportunity for him to see the doll one last time and say goodbye and the grasshopper decided that was a good idea. When his day was done at the hub, he changed out of his uniform into  a nice shirt, tie and jacket and went to where the doll was resting. He saw her picture, he signed the guest book and waited in line to see his friend. Being taller than everyone in the room, the grasshopper saw her lying peacefully in her casket.

“There she is,” he said. “She’s sleeping. She should wake up,”

“She can’t, son, remember?  What happened to her?” his mother asked him.

“She’s dead,”


“Dead, dead…forever,”

“Yes, she is asleep forever but she is…”

“She is in Heaven like Grandad Grasshopper, with Jesus.  Are you okay?” his mother asked searching his face to see what he was feeling. The grasshopper said nothing but gave the thumbs up. As they approached the doll’s parents, hugs and words of kindness and sympathy were exchanged and the grasshopper shook hands with her family members and nodded when they thanked him for coming. He stopped and stared at her, his his face unreadable and he moved along the line of people to the very end where he took a seat on a nearby sofa. Hugging a cushion close to his chest, he buried his head into it then lifted it, revealing a brief smile.

“What do you want to do now? asked his mom. “Do you want me to take you home?”

“I want to see her again,” and he rose, looking even taller than he was, walked to where the little doll lay and knelt beside her. His loyal subject told him that he could touch her if he wanted  and he did, gently placing his large hand on her tiny one. He paused for what seemed like an eternity then he sighed and said, “Well…see ya…I love you…I’ll miss you,” He got to his feet, turned and left the room but not before taking the memorial picture card of her and gently kissing it before putting it in his pocket.  Noticing his mother’s face, he asked,”You okay? You look sad,”

“I am,” she replied “Thank you for asking. I am sad but I will be okay. How about you?”

“I’m good,” Let’s go home,”

For a few hours after the visitation, the giant grasshopper would randomly tell his mother, father, brother and loyal subjects that the doll had died. He would get reassurance from them that she was never waking up and that she was gone forever but she was okay because she was in a better place everyone called Heaven.  The photo of them at the food bank and the card he took from the visitation are in a visible place in his room and I suspect, in spite of the challenges of his  unique powers, he does feel deeply and he will always remember his friend, the little doll.




To C: You Will be Missed but Not Forgotten

I have a heavy heart this week. I just came off a heavyhearted October when we laid Logan’s friend’s sister to rest and this morning I found out Adam’s friend and former classmate died suddenly yesterday. She had a medical condition that rendered her to a wheelchair and she had special needs but she was, we thought okay.  She recently graduated from high school where, like her Life Skills classmates she stayed until she was 21.

As I got to know Adam’s classmates, I realized they all wanted what ever teenager/young person wanted – to hang out with their friends without parents hovering. So I started inviting them all to join Adam at a restaurant once a month, or go bowling or go to the movies. They loved it! They were just friends, hanging out with no parent interruption and they were just like everyone else.  C came out a couple times this year and she had a great time. She had a sweet giggle and she always had her make up on and her pretty little painted toes. This afternoon, Adam was going to text her and invite her to his birthday dinner next month. His teacher called me this morning with the news and we both were sobbing and she and I decided that she would tell him first and then later this afternoon Tom and I would tell him again and help him understand that she is gone.

Adam is autistic and struggles with emotional display but he showed compassion towards C. He was concerned whenever she cried and he tried to make her feel better. They did their Co-Op at the food bank together and she ventured out to that commitment partly because Adam was going to be there with her. I think C was one of my son’s true friends and we will miss her. At least, we have one photo of them together and I will frame it for him so he will not forget her.

I am torn up by her passing because once again someone who represented all that is good in this life has been taken from my son and from so many people. I feel for her mom as I know how much she sacrificed and how hard she tried to give her daughter the best possible life and now, just before Christmas she is gone. My second boy, Logan, in his attempt to comfort me and make sense of yet another young person’s death, said,”I believe in my heart she is already back. I believe she has returned in the form of a newly born human. She will grow with no health problems and she will run and jump and dance and she will not be sitting in a chair anymore. We may even recognize her in someone else,”

I hope my son is right. I also hope if her spirit is soaring, that she soars about her friends and that she finds Adam, and sits on his shoulder and that she guides him and watches over him and helps him as he moves into adulthood. I can’t stop crying for the loss of C and there will be an empty space at the table next month but they will raise their glasses to her and she will not be forgotten.

Rest in peace C. My son was your friend and he really did care about you and I know you cared about him.

When Some Lives Are More Concentrated Than Others.

On November 6th , Logan opened his text book and froze when he saw her name written in her handwriting. She went to his school a few years before, took that class and wrote her name in that textbook. Just one week prior, we bade her farewell. The young woman who passed was Logan’s friend’s sister and she died way too soon and approximately 10 years after her older sister died of the same disease.  In his life, my 15 year old has been to three funerals and two visitations and this year death stunned him twice when two young people he knew, both of whom attended his school, passed away. At the start of the summer a young girl who went to his school passed away on a popular high school graduate trip. She was quite unwell with flu-like symptoms and whether due to dehydration or a combination of her symptoms, she stopped breathing, her heart stopped and she died. She died  when her adult life was on the eve of being born.

At 15, when someone young like you dies, it pauses life as you know it. To a young person, the death of a peer means a suddenly discontinued Snapchat streak, no more Instagram posts ever and tons of comments and likes the person will never see and though their social media accounts can still be seen by all, they hang there, inactive and heavy.  Images live on in social media but the lack of activity is a haunting reminder that they were deleted from life and it is unfair and shocking and hard for young people to understand. Young people are supposed to feel invincible.  They are supposed to have big dreams and plans and send snaps and post selfies on Instagram and have hissy fits about unimportant things. They are supposed to try and convince their parents to let them do stuff and go places. They are supposed to argue, slam a door in frustration, eat all the food in the house, always need a ride and when they finally get their license, always need to borrow your car. They are supposed to try and fail and achieve awesome things that make parents and teachers and coaches proud. They are supposed to find everything embarrassing. They are supposed to be awkward, be curious, push their boundaries, test our patience and become socially active. What they aren’t supposed to do is get terrible diseases and die. They aren’t supposed to go on a vacation and return in a casket.  Death should only be for the very old – but it isn’t and as a parent it pains me to see another parent lay their baby to rest.  I have no idea how one moves on from the death of a child and I hope I never have to deal with that. I have dealt with a lot in my life but I fear losing my children is beyond my strength.

The day after the funeral, I learned my school friend also put her baby to rest. She is a woman of great faith and she has weathered many storms. Her husband passed in their younger years, she found the strength to raise her kids on her own and if that was not enough, the disease took her baby boy as well. What is amazing to me is the strength and acceptance in these people who did the unimaginable.  From my friend’s posts, I felt a strong serenity within her. There was a feeling of gratitude for having been blessed with her son and to have been a part of his wonderful yet short life. From her posts I learned of the kind soul he was and that he had a wife and a son and another little angel on the way whom he would never meet. What I would ordinarily view as sadness I saw as blessings, gifts and hope because of my friend’s disposition regarding the situation.  So much loss was interpreted by her as an abundance of blessings for which she was extremely grateful.  Then I remembered watching the moments of the funeral I attended with Logan. I heard of all the wonderful things this young woman accomplished in 20 years. I remembered all the photos of her having fun, doing gymnastics, singing and she was laughing in ever single photo. I was so in awe of her boyfriend who played the guitar and sang about 4 hymns at her funeral and  then he sang the hymn after communion which was in essence a song about how much he loved her.  At just 20, this young man showed more character and strength than men twice his age and I was honoured to have the opportunity to witness him in his moment, albeit a moment of grief. The moment that grabbed hold of my heart and squeezed it was watching Logan’s friend’s dad carry his baby girl’s urn in his hands. Eyes red-rimmed, he still had that face – that pleasant, happy face, with that sweet grin. I saw his pain as he walked past the pew I was in, holding the small box that contained his baby’s ashes – holding it almost like he did the day he brought her home for the first time, I would imagine – he held her in his hands and he tried to make the lyrics to the recessional “Lord of the Dance”, escape his lips.

Young people, young parents and young spouses should never die. Dying should be for the very, very old.  Eyes should only shut forever when they have seen many, many, many years. Minds should shut down only after they have passed on wisdom to countless others. Hands should cease to create only after we have built sturdy kingdoms and only after we have molded and shaped the lives of many. Feet should cease to carry us and only after we have walked millions and millions of miles that justify our weariness and need for rest. We should all have long, eventful journeys but life isn’t always  generous. However, life is truly how we live it and what we do with out time. Life is directed by the choices we make in the situations presented to us. The journey can be eventful, rewarding and happy no matter how long it is.  I learned that at the funeral and I learned that by my friend’s disposition over her loss and I learned that in all that was said about the young lady who died just after her graduation. There was such a sense of peace within the families. Such acceptance and gratitude because they saw their children’s lives as a gift, a celebration and a blessing they were fortunate to be a part of. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the loss of these young people and I can’t understand why one family had to go through this twice with both their girls but I did come away with something that helps me accept the harsh truth of death in lives so young.  The priest concluded tearfully but with a smile on his face that some lives are just more concentrated than others and it is when the young die, we realize this because the young live like they are invincible. The young approach life with energy and a sense of hope and fun. Young people live like there is no tomorrow and they are busy filling the hours in their days with things that are important to them. As we get older, sometimes that youthful thing that allows us to live like each day is our last, changes somehow and sometimes we waste our hours on the things that bring us no joy – things that dilute our lives. I think the young are on to something golden because there is much positive to be said about a concentrated life.

Logan was glad that he randomly got that textbook and not his friend because as he said, if it was hard for him to see her name, it may have been devastating for her brother.  I agreed with him to an extent but I also told him that her name written by her hand in that text book will be there forever and if indeed his brother does see it one day, it may sting a little from the pain of losing her but I also think it will make him smile and bring him peace, knowing that when you leave your mark on this world, no matter how small, you are present forever and you never truly die.

So while fully understanding and respecting the phrase, I choose not to say “rest in peace” to these youngsters but “may your soul live on”. May your names be revealed to other students in the text books you used. May your name appear etched in trophies and banners in display cases in the arenas and gyms in which you competed. May you be visible always to your friends and teachers in the class photos you took in school and may all the smart, quirky, crazy, admirable and goofy things you said and did be vivid memories for those who knew you and loved you, for this is how the essence of who you are lives FOREVER.

The pain and suffering of illness is over. Death is the pause between the physical life you had and the eternal life of your soul.  There is no permanent end, therefore there is no death – only life.

Of Masters and Memories – a Letter to My Father

Dear Dad,

Since you have been gone, I have to admit, I don’t feel your presence in my day to day goings on nor do I think you are watching over me.  I think, you are, simply gone but what I do have are memories and whenever I watch golf, especially the Majors, I think of you the entire time and miss you dearly. This year was the 81st Masters Tournament at Augusta National. It was a Masters of memories as this was the first year in over 60 years without Arnold Palmer in attendance; Masters Sunday would have been the 60th birthday of 2 time Masters Champion, Spaniard Seve Ballesteros and all the contenders had unique and interesting statistics that would add to the history of the Masters should they have won.  And after taking this all in, I realized this 81st Masters, Dad, is our 9th Masters without you but still we watch (me at my house, Mom and Reina at theirs) and we cheer and remember the things you said and smile as we predict the comments you would have made today if you were watching with us.

You would have loved the tribute to Arnold Palmer, Dad.  You would have been touched to see the ceremonial tee-shot and how much Jack Nicklaus misses his beloved friend and rival, tipping his hat to the heavens, teary-eyed.  The many memories of us watching Arnie and Jack on our dining room wall when I was little, flooded into my mind and made me smile.

Arnold and Jack – rivals & friends.

It also made me chuckle, Pops, at the realization that I really am half a century old!  We were watching the greats in sports from that monstrosity projector you would haul home from work because in our tiny Caribbean island back then, it was the only way people could witness such greatness, even if it was a week after history was made.  Next to you taking me around to see the costumes and hear the steel bands in the pan yards at Carnival time, watching sports, especially boxing and golf, was my favourite time with you.  Of course, later on when we were able to watch Wide World of Sports and numerous other televised sports as technology progressed, the four of us we were more comfortable in Mom’s and your room, crammed on the bed glued to the greatness we saw in colour on TV.

This Masters was beset with the obstacles of Mother nature.  High winds and rain made practice difficult and players ventured out to take shots whenever she allowed, for as little time as she allowed.  Fate had it’s hand in this year’s tournament too.  World number 1, wearing socks while taking the stairs in his rental home slipped and fell injuring his back resulting in him withdrawing from the tournament just as he walked onto the first tee. A former world number 1, was just happy to play, relieved to know that his mother’s cancer surgery went well, though nowhere the top 10 in the competition, he gave his best performance nonetheless.  Fred Couples showed that at 57, the love of the game could and sheer experience and maturity could put your name up on the leader board with the young guns right through to Sunday and Ernie held his head high as a 23rd attempt at trying to win this thing resulted in a last place finish.

In a tournament that belongs to a post Tiger dominance sport, it really is anybody’s to win today.  Of those yet to wear the coveted Green jacket, spectators (armchair professionals)  like to pass judgement on social media, using phrases like “not mentally tough”, “lacks maturity” or words like “inconsistent” and “choke” that really don’t apply to the game today.   Their words don’t apply because everyone is that good today.  Maybe it has to do a little bit with today’s clubs and balls, a little bit to do with advanced analysis of swings and stances with the use of high tech research equipment but mostly I attribute the calibre of golf I see with the passion for a game made sexy by Tiger Woods.  His drive to win, his love of being at every course, at every tournament and his love of the challenge of the game and his love of winning encouraged kids in TV land and later, in cyberspace, to go out and become stars.  Post Tiger, no one player has dominated each and every tournament the way he did because in their unique way they all dominate and it comes down to who can put the pieces together from Thursday to Friday and hold on to a lead or make a surge forward on Saturday and take it home on Sunday.  It is hard to win golf; harder than it has ever been and it is fantastic to watch.

Young Sergio with Seve 1999.

Coming into the final day, the leaderboard had Garcia and Rose, Fowler and Spieth with names like Pieters, Kutcher, Casey, Scott, Hoffman (who at 40 held on to the lead and stayed in the running right through to Sunday as best as he could) Schwartzel and slow to climb, but there nonetheless, McIlroy.  It was anybody’s to win and Dad, would you believe in a finish of the ages, in a playoff, Sergio Garcia won over Justin Rose to finally win a PGA Tour Major after 73 attempts.

At 37, he is no longer the best player without a Major title under his belt.  I remember you agreeing with the broadcasters that he was great but had something missing, some demons to conquer and no one understood why he was always the bridesmaid, so close to grabbing a Major title yet not able to close.  Today, on what would have been Seve Ballesterros’ 60th birthday, Sergio Garcia joined him and other 2 time Master’s Champion, Jose Maria Olazabal in being one of three Spaniards to win the tournament.  It was beautiful to see and even more beautiful to see the photo taken at the 1999 Masters of a young Sergio as the Low Amateur Champion beside the champion, Seve wearing the Green Jacket.

While I was happy for Sergio finally getting the win, I was disappointed my favourite, Rickie Fowler had his worst day on the last.  Rickie turned pro in 2009, the year after you died, so I don’t think you would have known of him but you would not have liked his flashy, colourful clothes and at the time, longish hair.  You would have said he was young and silly and dressed like a clown and I would have countered your point by drawing your attention to Payne Stewart, whom you loved and we would have agreed to disagree.  You would have fallen in love with Fowler’s game at the  2015 Players Championship where he was the victor.  You would have quietly admired the his stats in tournaments especially his top 5 finishes in Major tournaments . You would have admired him, but quietly so I wouldn’t call you out on it.

Rickie is quiet on the course in spite of his boldly coloured threads.  He doesn’t have loud outbursts, does not throw tantrums or curse and is more of an observer – a thinker.  He was not a country club kid, but a driving range kid who did what needed to be done to become a pro golfer.  Young and willing to define himself when he became a professional on tour, he grew up before judgemental eyes of television broadcasters, viewers and on social media which reaches people more than television and radio have ever and will ever reach.  In spite of the scrutiny, he continues to be himself, continues to redefine himself as he gets older.  He is blessed with a gift for golf – he has a long drive for his small stature and has a hell of a short game. Rickie is the Bobby Jones of our era when it comes to the putter, Dad.  He sees the green, the grass, and reads it all like a book and can visualize that ball dropping into the hole.  It’s like he can play a recording of what he wants to have happen in his mind.  He is also blessed with articulation and he is a smart and good looking kid  – the two latter qualities also can be considered a curse especially when it comes to the haters on social media who generally are a bunch of jealous twits.  He emulates the greats, especially Palmer and is well liked on tour and by fans.  His time can be now but he is human and though he has won on tour, with Sergio’s victory, he is now the best player yet to win a major and whenever he does, it will be great; it will be historic, epic and truly deserved.  He reminds me a bit of our Logan (though Logan will disagree because he is a teenager and God forbid he agrees with his mother).  He is talented at his sport because he is a hard worker. He is decent and is a good man and we see that unfolding in our Logan as he grows up .  He is generous and has an appreciation for his family and fans and people in general and shows great sportsmanship and is a good role model.  In the hands of these young gentlemen, Dad, I believe golf’s greatness will continue to shine for generations.  The sport has lowered the walls that once made the game elitist and stodgy.  The game is everyman’s game more than it has ever been and it is nice to see that the networks have figured out how to balance their cameras on skin tones darker than white.

It was a Masters of memories for the organizers, the players, the broadcasters, the fans, viewers and for me.  I remember you most fondly during the Masters and I know one day I’ll get to be there and see it in person.  I’ll see it for both of us because I remember how you so loved this game.  The grand boys have chosen different sports to excel in, Dad. It makes me a bit sad that golf is recreational for them but they have made their choice and that is what matters.  We will get out more now that they are older but my guys’ hearts are on the ice and Luciano’s is in extreme sports.  I wish we got more rounds in, you and I, but I won’t forget the ones we had.  I am flattered to this day that you admired my “natural swing” as you called it and I remember all the tips you gave me and I still have that hand written list of clubs that you said were my strongest weapons in my golf bag…which Dad, was your bag.  I still putt left and right handed and on a good day, I can drive the ball long …sometimes longer than the occasional guy and I think you would have enjoyed playing with me.  I’ve made a promise to myself to get out and play more often this year and I will remember you when I tee up; remember you when I putt and remember you when I put that bag on my shoulder.  There is no game more challenging, unpredictable, unforgiving yet fabulously rewarding than golf.  There is no game more scenic, more strategic or more refined and I am glad you made it part of your world and mine.  Till next Sunday, my dear Dad, when I tune in again and remember you and your love affair with the greatest gentleman’s game.