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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Grampa's Memorial (Art Dillingham)

I spoke for a few minutes today at my grandfather's memorial. He died on Saturday, at 87 years old. The following are my notes, though I didn't read it verbatim.

If you'd like to know a little more about my grandfather — and thus a little more about me — this is as good a place to start as any other.

Read the Full Story

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Ten years? Really?

In 2001 my work life was all about Conversant, my personal life was all about Corinne, Shane, and a house full of cats and birds.

I don't remember much about 2002, except that I reconnected with Steve Davis, someone I've known practically since I was a baby. We've always had our faith in common, and found that now we also have our bikes.

Two years later Shane was gone. That's all that year (2004) was about. Nothing else mattered. Hanging on to Corinne, propping her up, making sure she understood how much I love her and need her still, and trying to help her cope with a pain that defies belief.

2005 was a pretty big year. It included the release of Firefox Hacks (my first time in print!), tutoring the Pride kids (Avonlee and Ethan) in math, the PMC and its software auctions, the main author of Firefox Hacks (Nigel McFarlane) committed suicide, Corinne and I met the crew of the Atlantia, Jed moved in with us, I made friends with Jimmy Lehn (morning DJ at a local radio station), and we celebrated Thanksgiving at the Westerly WARM shelter. Finally, 2005 was the year I first started playing with Prototype. (Wow, i can't believe it was that long ago.)

In 2006 I met Greg Pierce years after he had worked for me at Macrobyte, my friend Darren and his wife Angi brought home their adoptees from Nepal, I wrote the "custom events" code for JavaScript that is *still* being used on Apple's web pages, attended the first Rails Conf, and I finally got to meet and begin forming a friendship with Rich Siegel and started working on language modules for his company's main software product, BBEdit. Jed left us, and headed for British Columbia and the woman he would eventually marry. Finally, we met Mike and Shannon late in the year.

2007 was unreal. If not for the pictures, most of it would be forgotten. I helped man the booth for Bare Bones at MacWorld Expo. Mike and Shannon moved in with us. Lauren was born! Mike and Shannon went away for a while. We did our best with Lauren and truly, completely fell in love with her. Visited her parents a lot. Finally met Jim Roepcke and Sean McMains at the second RailsConf (while Corinne stayed home with lauren). Jed married Alycia (and I got to attend, way out there in B.C., while Corinne AGAIN stayed home with Lauren), my grandfather turned eighty, Jed and Alycia came out for a visit (and haven't been back since), Corinne and I celebrated our tenth anniversary, and my sister and brother-in-law had their third daughter.

Shannon came hom again in January of '08. Lauren started walking and talking, and turned one. We got news (on the day Shannon came hom) that the house was being sold so we'd have to move (after ten years). Corinne, Ellyn and Lauren went to FL (Lauren's first plane ride). Richie (Shannon's eldest) came to live with us. My parents came to live with us, for a few months. I went to FL in October with Ellyn and the grandparents to pack them up and move them to Ellyn's house. The year ended with a terrible sprained ankle and a move from Mystic to Westerly.

In January of '09, Mike came home and the family was all back together. Unfortunately, in June they all left again. The relationship slowly thawed, but then in September they disappeared to North Carolina without warning and we thought they (especially Lauren) were gone forever. We got a ten day visit with Lauren in October, but taking her home was the second most difficult and painful thing I've ever done.

2010 started out with a brief visit from the Deanes, but after that the contact (via Skype or telephone) dwindled to nothing within a few months. I entered a serious depression (my first), which I tried to fill or bury with World of Warcraft. In March a rainstorm tried to wipe RI off the map, and in May I was brutally attacked by some blood clots that came from nowhere and landed in my left lung (killing part of it). In June, the Deanes moved back to the area, and we got regular visits with Lauren again. It took her a few minutes to remember us, but once she did it was like we were never apart.

As I write this, Lauren and Corinne are sleeping in my bed, above my office, just a few feet right over my head. I don't know what changes are coming our way next, but right now we have joy and I'm taking nothing for granted.

Happy New Year, everybody.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Chaos and Chronology

It feels like everything has changed in the last month. It's thrown me off balance and I don't expect a return to normalcy until January.

The first big change is that Richie came to live with us much earlier than he was supposed to. Richie is Shannon's son, Lauren's half-brother, and he's 2 1/2 years older than she is. For most of his life he's been living with Shannon's mom, first here in CT, and for the last two years in North Carolina.


He's an extremely bright lad, but he's had very little discipline and, conversely, is afraid of nearly everything. He wakes up every night screaming and crying, and often sleepwalks while crying. An example of the fear: Dad and I took him (and Lauren) sledding on Sunday. Dad sat him in the sled and pulled him up the hill... but he wailed in terror the entire time… going UP the hill. (Going down it was no better, so that was the extent of our sledding.) The lack of discipline manifests itself as him tending to do whatever he wants, even when we're standing right there asking/telling him not to (hit the kitties, throw the ball at the window, jump on the couch, etc., etc., etc.)

We are making progress with him, and I'm very fond of him. His situation is just so different from Lauren's, and we weren't prepared for it. Literally — he wasn't supposed to move in until after we moved to RI. Shannon's grandmother died in November, a couple weeks before Thanksgiving, so Shannon's mom (Brenda) had to come up here anyway... it just made sense for us to take Richie then instead of forcing them to make another trip in late December or early January.

Shortly after Richie came to live here, the week before Thanksgiving, my parents moved out of our house in Connecticut to a house in Missouri. My Dad has a new job out there working for a friend (starting in January), so he's giving up his business here (which had fallen on very hard times anyway). Dad flew back again the following Monday so he can finish up his last few contracts, and will be flying back to Missouri on January 2nd.

Of course, while he was gone we gave my parents' room to Richie so he wouldn't have to sleep on the floor in his Mom's room. So when Dad came back he had to pump up his king sized air mattress… to sleep in my office.

Back in January, while I was driving to Norwalk to pick up Shannon and bring her home, our laandlords told us we have to move. They didn't push it, which is good because the house we're moving into is still occupied by Ellyn and Gary (Ellyn is my Dad's sister), Katie and Tom (two of their three kids) and my grandparents (who officially moved in with them at the end of October). They're all moving to a new house in Bradford just a few miles from where they live now, but it took 6 months longer to finish the new house than was expected. Originally they were going to move in June or July, but I just helped them pack the first moving truck yesterday!

Now that they're moving, so are we. We'll be living in Westerly, RI, this weekend.

Of course I still have lots of work to do in the midst of all this chaos, and my poor, little, pea-sized brain does everything it can to find escape routes from all the chaos.

But wait, there's one more big change coming. A week after my Dad leaves, Mike — Shannon's husband, Lauren's sire — comes home. January 9th.

Please forgive me if you've expected something from me but I'm late with it. Or if I stood you up for coffee, like I did to Joe Cascio *twice* in one week.

Life is total chaos right now, but it should start to settle down in a couple of weeks.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Nobody's Home

My grandparents needed some help with "things," so Ellyn (technically, my aunt... Dad's sister) asked Corinne to go down with her for a week. Originally they were going to drive, but (thankfully) I talked them out of that idea. They flew out Tuesday afternoon, and come back on Tuesday the 22nd.

With Corinne out of the house for a week, I can't sleep at home. (Shannon's 21, her husband won't be home for another nine months, and I don't want anybody getting the wrong idea.) Since I can't stay at home, I suggested they take Lauren with them also. Shannon and I both need to work, but one of us would have to take the week off to watch Lauren full time if she had stayed at home.

Thus, my first tweet of the day, yesterday, "Woke up alone in a strange house in a small bed, far from home." (The bed was in Ellyn's & Gary's guest room.)

For most of the week they're gone I'll be working from home, but mornings from Thursday to Saturday are at Rich's house. He and his family are out of town, so I'm making friends with his gigantic, 30-inch Cinema Display and officially Getting Stuff Done™. In the afternoons I'm heading home again, going for a ride (weather is PERFECT this week), then working at home until late evening when I head back into Westerly for the night.

Yeah, I'm missing my girls. :-(

Corinne and Ellyn both report that Lauren was a nightmare on the plane down there. She screamed more often than she was quiet, and just wouldn't settle down. She slept great Tuesday night, but terribly Wednesday night and awoke everyone except Gramma. When Corinne and I last spoke, Lauren was screaming in the background.

I think my girls miss me, too. ;-)

Shannon's son Richie was supposed to be up here now for a three day visit, but that was canceled at the last minute. So Shannon is bored, but has Saturday off and is going bowling with her friend Jen.

Quick status update on Shannon: she is now working a second job at a Hallmark store, and can't seem to decide between starting a cleaning business (simply because her Mom says she could make good money doing it) and going to school for massage therapy (which is what she really wants to do). I'm strongly in favor of the massage therapy (because, as I said, it's what she really wants to do), but she also wants to get her son back. If she's working one or two jobs and going to school for massage therapy, there won't be much time left for her kids. I'm hoping she'll just keep on keeping on until Mike comes home in January.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Like a Leaf in the Wind

We left the birthday party after cleaning up the Carousel Building, at mid-to-late afternoon.

Traffic was very heavy on Route 95 South, as it almost always is in the summer time on a weekend. This being a long weekend, the traffic was extra heavy.

There was a pickup truck about five hundred feet ahead of us. We were in the right lane, driving sixty-five mph. Corinne and I were talking.

Something looked odd about the truck, something was moving around. Before I could figure out what it was, a double-bed-sized mattress flew out of the back, fourteen feet into the air, and floated along for a few seconds like the first leaf of autumn. It was very cool. And crazy dangerous.

The mattress floated over the cars in the high speed lane, spinning gracefully, and landed in the grass in the median against the guardrail.

"Wow!" I yelled. Corinne babbled.

He clearly didn't know anything had happened, so I sped up to tell him. Before I could get there, the car to his left "explained" it to him. He pulled over, and I asked Corinne if she thought I should help him.

Normally, I would just pull over to help without thinking about it. This time I had my wife and (someone else's) kid in the car. On a busy highway.

Corinne babbled some more. I pulled over, way into the breakdown lane, and backed up slowly towards the pickup. Traffic zoomed and roared past us.

He was a college kid. The first thing he said to me when I jumped out and walked back to his truck was, "Where did it go?" I pointed out how far back it had flown away, and described the scene to him.

"My roommates warned me that would happen."

"Oh, you mean because you hadn't tied it down AT ALL?" I didn't ask. Instead I just nodded.

"What should I do?"

I gave him three bungie cords out of the blazer to tie down the box springs, and told him to go up to the next exit (6A), turn around to go North back to exit 7, turn around again to go South, and then pull over into the median near the mattress to recover it.

He thanked me, shook my hand, and we drove away. I immediately decided he was too, uh... well, I decided he still needed help, so I led him all the way back to the mattress.

(Aside: I must say that pulling out of the high speed lane of a busy highway, onto the grassy median, is not for the faint of heart. Whoosh.)

By the time he pulled up behind us, I had the mattress in the air over my head. He ran around to release the bungie, I threw the mattress on top and passed the bungie back over. He couldn't hook it properly, so I ran around to do it for him.

After thanking me a couple too many times, his final pair of statements were equally amusing.

First, "I'm not going to tell my parents about this."

Second, "What do I owe you for the bungies?"

Just don't get yourself or anyone else killed on the way home today, buddy, and we'll call it even.

Eighty Laps

My father's father (Arthur Dilingham, Sr.) has a beautiful birth date: 7 • 27 • 27. It's symmetrical and palindromic, and also happens to mean that this summer marked the end of his eightieth lap 'round the sun.

Saturday his wife, his children, his children's children, his children's children's children, and a very (very, very) small percentage of his friends and extended family from around the world gathered in his honor to tell him just two things: "Happy Birthday," and "We Love You."

The party was held at Goddard Park in Warwick, RI, at the old Carousel Building.

There was a very cool tribute video assembled by my cousin Tiffany and her husband Josh (with, I think, the aid of the rest of the NH contingent of Dillinghams and their kin). It included pictures and/or video of most of the family, and a stirring, deeply emotional, recorded message from Barry Van Heerden in South Africa. (I've heard Grampa sing Barry's praise many times over the years, but I had no idea that he looked at Grampa as a father and mentor.)

Corinne shed a few tears when she saw Shane's picture in the video. Tif had written to me in advance to make sure it was ok. (Of course it was! Including and remembering him is always better than the alternative.)

They even included at least one picture of Lauren in there. That was cool, especially as Gramma and Grampa have both treated Lauren as their latest great granddaughter.

There was also an open mic on the stage, where we were all supposed to tell stories. Unfortunately, though some of us inherited some of Grampa's storytelling talents, none of us will eve be The Master Storyteller that he is. So, most of the stories were told by him! Three times he (literally) lept onto the stage to tell another story, and then hopped back off it again to retake his seat. (Eighty years old, hoppping onto and off of a two-foot-high stage! He's spry.)

He told the Bert and I classic, "I am Gagnon, Champion Moose Caller" story, but (more importantly) he also told some of the TRUE funny stories from his life, including the one about the skunk in the ventilation system at his school in Dighton, MA. I think his school principal probably went to his grave wondering who did that.

I have tons of stories I could have told, but couldn't think of the best ones until after we left so I never took the stage. Had I remembered, I certainly would have recounted the trip to Florida with him, Jed, Dad and myself (I wasn't ten, yet), to move Aunt Marrion. The highlights of that drive to FL included:

  • Arthur Fiedler's Greatest Hits (Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B!)
  • the brain teaser about the man with three sons
  • the brain teaser about the egg-laying chickens
  • Dad and Grampa acting like it was hot the moment we crossed the state line
  • Aunt Marrion freaking out when Jed and I happened to be in the vicinity of Grampa's wallet
  • feeding the seagulls on the beach

Everybody picks on Dillinghams for being... well, Dillinghams. Smart, knowing it (all of it), easily brought to tears, always having an opinion, and "talking until we think of something to say." Though Gramma had as much of a hand in forming us as did Grampa, there's no doubting the source of those particular characteristics. :-)

But, as much as we tease him and each other for those things — endlessly — we love him for them, too. We're a big family (wink, wink), and he’s been the patriarch for as long as most (any!) of us have been alive. (So it's not that we think he's perfect, or pretend that he is. It's that hearing him speak yesterday, and hearing everyone else speak about him, it's clear that he inspires us to aspire to perfection, and we're all better for it.)

Happy Birthday, Grampa. I love you, we all love you.

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