26 September 2009

Parents Weekend - Year 2 (LONG!)

After the upheaval of the last couple of weeks here in the Den, I was actually looking forward to getting on a plane yesterday to see Our Lady of BYU for this year's Parents Weekend festivities. This is the second year of our participation.

Flight out was good although I think Mother United is changing their boarding policies without telling anyone. My boarding pass said boarding was at 10:02AM for a 10:22 AM departure, so I left the filthiest Red Carpet Club on the planet (the one on the appropriately named "F" Concourse at ORD) at 10:00AM and I got to the gate about three minutes later. The agent said, "Are you going to Salt Lake?" and I said yes and urged me to get on like it was the last flight out of Saigon. I get on the plane and it is full. Here's the rub though - we didn't close the door until about 10:20AM. I have no idea what the spasm was about...anyway, we left on time and landed in SLC 30 minutes early.

I stopped to see a good friend on my way down to Provo and it was great to connect with him. We laughed a lot and even engaged in a little bit of conversational lecture, well, I did.

After I checked into the hotel, I called Our Lady of BYU and she invited me over to her "ghetto" apartment. Clearly, she's never been to a real ghetto. I will say this though...the carpet stains which are probably 20 years old give her place a crime scene investigation feel. So after the brief tour of her palace, we went up to campus to pay homage to the Wilk. I was reminded that the condo I lived in when I was there is in fact a total hole now. Seriously. After the homage tour on campus, we got her some groceries and then got together with her friends for dinner.

We went to an earnest little place in Provo called Guru's Cafe. It wasn't bad for a Provo restaurant that espouses a philosophy. You can tell that because of its decor, right down to the Buddha head. Nice touch. It's an eclectic menu with an odd ordering concept. You line up and order off the menu to one totally overwhelmed cashier. This is highly problematic on a busy Friday night. Highly. It didn't seem to bug the kids, but it did me.

That being said, dinner was great. We kicked it off with sweet potato fries. These were a gift from the heavens:

I had the shrimp tacos and for being in land-locked Utah, they made a mighty good shrimp taco:
The mango salsa rocked

Dinner was fun listening to Our Lady and her friends go on about college life. Lots of boy drama. Texting has changed the dating scene, I certainly learned that last night. It was a good time.

This morning kicked off with the Parents/Alumni 5K. I was nervous about this as I have not run at all this week and this is at a much higher altitude than the plains of Illinois that we call home. Couple of things in my favor this year - it was much, much warmer for one and I felt like I had eaten right in advance. The race started late, of course. Nothing like Mormon Standard Time. The course was lined again with the international students, mostly from Asia. They were good cheerleaders but I'm sure they thought we were all maniacs. Here's what was doing before the race:

Me and Our Lady
Looking like a complete spastic as I approach the finish line

This was a good race. I finished 89th overall and bested last year's time by about two minutes. It was all good. We got breakfast afterward at Jamba Juice and I am totally on board with their oatmeal, even though it's made with spew, I mean, soy milk. I recommend it!

And now we've got the game this afternoon. Man, the winning Cougars better show up. We CANNOT have a repeat of last week's debacle. At least, I get to enjoy the game with Our Lady. Of course, I'll be in the student section with her and will be the oldest one by about twenty years. Pathetic.

20 September 2009


So it's my birthday today and I'm one year older and feel none the wiser. I'm 43 today. So 43...what does that mean? When I think 43, I think about the last person who ran around with the title of 43 and that was our 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush.
Dubya formal

According to Wikipedia, here's some things that have gone down on my birthday:
- It's Feast Day for Korean Martyrs
- There was a Papal Schism in 1378
- The Bersaglieri entered Rome and ended the temporal reign on the Pope in 1870 (lots doing on 20 September for our Roman Catholic friends...whew!)
- The first Cannes Film Festival was held on this day in 1946
- And on this day in 2001, the above-mentioned 43 declared the "war on terror" before a joint session of Congress

I remember that speech. My dad was laying in an ICU in Phoenix awaiting a quadruple bypass and that was what we watched with him in the hospital that night. Nothing like a little declaration of war to take your mind off impending massive invasive surgery. Nice.

It's been a good day. So good to be home and sleeping in my own bed. Our tradition of getting breakfast in bed held. Although since I get up so early, it's a drag for the kids. The stunningly patient SML made chorizo burritos, or as I lovingly call them, my own little version of Liquid Plumber - the pipe cleaning outcome is the same - for me and they were awesome. It was a food-centric birthday, including a gift certificate to the best in Israeli dining, Naf Naf Grill (my love for the Naf has been well documented here as well as on my Facebook page), and a real cool new cast iron pot for some additional kitchen adventures. Dinner tonight was spaghetti carbonara jammed with CHUNKS o'garlic, spinach salad with sun-dried tomatoes and orange peppers, and garlic wheat bread. We'll top it off later with red velvet cupcakes. Red Velvet Cupcakes are my new obsession. Complete fixation. Seriously.

Like I said, it's really been a good day. Our Lady of BYU called (remembered the old man's birthday!) which was completely awesome. And she didn't have to have her mom tell her to call. Talked to my mom and she's had another good day, given all that she's been through and it was a terrific day of getting religion. Our church youth sang today and brought me to tears with how good they were. So while I'm none the wiser today, I'm happy and grateful. It's been a good birthday.

18 September 2009

The man I want to be..and, oh yeah, the man I don't

One of the things I've learned about my Dad since his death is how pretty much every one he met felt like he was their best friend. He was a great man, I always knew that, but I didn't realize how much he touched all those he met. This was drilled home to me today in two places.

Early this morning, I stopped at CVS to pick up one of my Mom's prescriptions and when I gave the pharmacy tech my last name, she paused and asked if I was John Lyons' son. When I said yes, tears welled in her eyes and she told me how much she appreciated my dad. She said that he had learned the name of her new baby, remembered it, and always asked how the baby was doing. She mentioned how much she would miss seeing him. My dad was at the pharmacy a lot and so made a good friend there. Later this afternoon, I finally got the dry cleaner that Dad used to see if he had anything there. When I walked in, the Thai owner asked me for my phone number in order to pull up the order. I gave him my parents' number and he looked at me and said, "You aren't Mr John." I told him that no, no I wasn't and that I was his son. I then explained that my dad had recently died and I was stunned by his reaction. Tears filled his eyes and he called his wife over to say that Mr John had died. She put her hand to her heart and said nothing for a moment. They both were overcome and then began to express their condolences. It was stunning. It struck me how my dad made every person he ever met feel valued and like a friend. He truly was no respecter of persons.

It's made me think about the kind of man I am and I realize that I have to repent. Need to change my ways just a little in order to live a life more like his. I need to be better about making people feel like a friend. I've got to be a better man.

One way not to do it, though, is not eating this monstrosity:
The so called Wise Guy Burger from Red Robin

What on earth would be "wise" about eating this? It's a burger with mozzarella sticks, marinara, peppers, and pepperoni piled on it. No good can come from this. None. How could this make me a better man? It would only make me a deader man. So I am going to vote no and work on being a better man as noted above.

17 September 2009

Finding normalcy

With apologies to the 1920 presidential campaign of Warren Harding, I'm going to use the word 'normalcy' here. Normalcy is what I'm after while I've been with my Mom since my Dad's death two weeks ago today. How strange to write those words and to think that it's been two weeks. It's a daunting task to try and bring a sense of normalcy to the life of someone who's lost their spouse of more than 50 years with no warning. But I think we are getting there.

Since arriving here on the the 4th, it's all been about getting my Mom settled into her new life and routine without my Dad. I've been amazed by the outpouring of love and concern shown to my Mom by literally hundreds of people. It's been amazing. My brother, sister, and I are in the unique position of not knowing what to do with all the offers.

I am so proud of my Mom and how she has gone from strength to strength during this traumatic experience. With each visit from a friend or card in the mail, Mom seems tap another vein of strength. I am in awe of her. I am also really proud of how we've pulled together as a family to find the best solutions for Mom going forward. I am confident she's going to be OK. I'm feeling a lot better about heading home this weekend. A lot.

11 September 2009

Funeral Bouncer = FUN...not so much

It's been an interesting couple of days here in the Lyons Den. The Boy turned 14 yesterday and last night, during the visitation for my father, I found a new career path should my current one go south. Funeral Bouncer. I'm telling you, this is the greatest thing ever.

My mother had fretted that no one was going to show up for my father's visitation. She missed the mark. Hundreds, I'm not kidding, literally hundreds of people showed up. People were there long before the 6:00PM start time. It was a beautiful tribute to my late father and to my mother. As the line grew increasingly long, it seemed like the conversations that people were having with my mother, who was seated along side my father's casket, kept getting longer. Seriously. So in short order, while standing along side her, I'm easing into my new role as funeral bouncer. I'm having to tell people, in my kindest way, to move it along. Hop to with the condolences. One thing I will say is that my mother drew strength from every single person who knelt at her side, or who hugged her. It was amazing. This lasted for more than three hours though. I was shredded by the time the night was over. Shredded. I will say I was enormously proud of how my whole family held up.

This morning brought another brief viewing and another round of funeral bouncer fun before Dad's funeral at 10:00AM. Again the line this morning was something else. Dad's services were beautiful. The chapel and adjacent overflow rooms were filled to capacity - yet another tribute to my Dad. Mormon funerals are an interesting thing. Not usually chock full of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. They very often look and sound like class reunions - but without the drinking, fighting, and awkward situations, for the most part. It was so good to see so many of our good old friends over the course of the last two days. Wonderful and soul-affirming. I am also indebted to my parents' friends who have been so amazing.

The service today was, as I said, beautiful. The tributes paid by my father's friends were touching and wonderful. It was my honor to give my father's life story, or eulogy, today. I hope it was what he wanted. I've been able to give him a couple of gifts, I hope, since he died a week ago. I've spoken in front of a lot of groups, both large and small, in my life, but nothing humbled me like this audience. To have my little family, my siblings, my aunts, cousins and close family friends right in front was daunting. I'm grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who made it easier to get through.

A couple of things about funerals - I don't recommend them in Arizona in the heat of the summer. It had to have been more than 100 degrees when we got to the cemetery. Brutal. Just brutal. And the stunningly patient SML wonders why I have no interest in moving back here?! On a more favorable note - the funeral potato is an awesome thing to serve. Who knew that with stuff you've got sitting around - potatoes, cheese, corn flakes, cream of mushroom soup, and a few other surprises and a baking dish, you've got yourself some deliciousness.
Oh funeral potato?! Is there no end to your goodness?!

The day is nearly done. I'm grateful for its gifts. I'm saddened it had to happen. I'm ready to help my mom do what she wants to do. I'm also ready to sleep for a really, really long time.

09 September 2009


It's a birthday day here in the Den. The Boy turns 14 today. What a great kid! He came and stayed with the stunningly patient SML and I last night here at my Mom's. I think he's had enough of mothering from his bossy older sisters. So he came out here and has been hanging out with my Mom. He made her dinner last night - a PB&J, heavy on the jam. Knowing my visceral hate of peanut butter, the Boy made that sandwich without complaint. He also put on a silly movie to watch with my Mom and got them both laughing. Laughter was a welcome sound in this house, can I just tell you?

I am so proud of the Boy. He livens up our house, or any house, for that matter. he brings us great joy. He's kind, empathetic, loud, funny, and never gets down. He's never met a sport he doesn't like. Not quite sure how I wound up with such a good kid - well, I am, thanks to his amazing mother.

He's also incredibly understanding. He gets that this birthday is going to be a little different. He knows that we'll really celebrate when we get home. We'll still do breakfast in bed this morning but the rest of the day will be a bit more challenging. Dad's visitation is tonight and funeral tomorrow. Relatives arrive today and so much to do. But the Boy is just being awesome about all this.

Awesome is a good word to describe him. I am enormously proud of my 14 year old. Happy birthday, son. Love you, Dad

06 September 2009

The peace Sunday brings

I find it funny that I can travel to time zones that are 11, 12, and 13 hours ahead of my own Central Time Zone and adjust without an issue, but when I make the quick leap to a time zone two hours behind me, I can't make heads or tails of time and I can't sleep. Happened a couple of weeks ago when I traveled to California and it's happened now here in AZ. But I am so glad that Sunday - the Sabbath - is dawning. Sunday is a day of peace.

I suspect some of my sleeping has been impacted by my Dad's death and the fact that the stunningly patient SML and I are staying with my Mom. I am amazed at the strength that my Mom is showing. To be sure, her agony and loss are palpable. She's lost her husband of nearly 51 years. You don't just snap out of that. He waited on her hand and foot and cared for her like no other and so his loss is profound beyond words. It hurts to see her weep, but it also serves as a powerful reminder of how I must live and honor and serve my own wife.

My parents were well-loved and the outporing of love that's been shown has been amazing. Utterly amazing. I am comforted by this as I know that love will transition into action as people will help us as we work now to support my Mom. It was delightful to sit yesterday and listen to my Mom reminisce with two couples who have been friends with my parents for more than 40 years. Recollectios like those will be key to some of the things I will as I speak at Dad's funeral on Thursday.

I am so gald that it's Sunday. I'll have time to get my thoughts togetheras I prepare to represent our family at Dad's service. And today is all about family as we will gather at Church and have a moment to reflect on our Father in Heaven's plan for each of us. We'll be with our extended family as we gather to bless our nephew Jack, the newest baby in our extended family. What a sweet manifestation of our Father in Heaven's plan - we'll welcome this new baby by giving him a name and a blessing as we prepare to bid farewell to my Dad after a life well-lived. We'll bid farewell knowing that this parting is but a temporary one. We will be together again because of Christ's viotory over death. As the familiar hymn goes, "I know that my Redeemer lives! What comfort this sweet sentence gives!" All I can say is amen to that.

03 September 2009

In memoriam

John H. Lyons
February 8, 1936 - September 3, 2009

I can't even believe I am writing these words. It can't be happening. Four hours ago, I'm sitting at the office and my cell phone rings - it's my brother calling. I pick up and he says, "He's dead. Dad's dead."

What do you say to that? He wasn't ill, he was fine. He'd gone out to the backyard to putter around and he's struck down by what appears to be a massive heart attack. We still don't know. I'll know more tomorrow when I get there.

I am reeling as I think about the influence my father has had in my life. I can't imagine a better example of Christian service than him. I can't imagine a better example of patience. He was an amazing husband to my mother - nearly 51 years of marriage. She was his life - he truly served her with his whole might, mind, and soul.

So much going through my mind right now. This much I know. I'd be a fool not to live a life like his. The best tribute I could pay him is to turn out something like him. And I am so grateful to a loving Father in Heaven for I know that because of His plan and the sacrifice of his Son, this separation will only be but a moment.

Dad, I love you. I miss you terribly. We'll see each other again.