Thursday, March 26, 2020

Mourning During COVID-19

I hope that this doesn’t sound cold or mean. My dad picked a good time to die. My brother and I flew to South Florida a few weeks ago to see him before he passed away. Then, my family and I drove to Pittsburgh for the funeral. We also held Shiva, the traditional seven-day period of mourning after the burial, at my parents’ Pittsburgh synagogue. Although some people greeted me by touching elbows at the funeral and at Shiva, this was still before social distancing started, and people came. Then, I returned to Northern Virginia, attended services at my synagogue and was able to host a Shiva one night at my home. That was Sunday, March 15th. That was also basically the last day I left the neighborhood. Oh, in case you're wondering, we were able to have a minyan at my home, so I didn't need to ask Larry David or Bill Buckner to join us.

In traditional Jewish culture, there is a 30-day period of mourning after burial called Sheloshim, which includes the first seven days of Shiva. Mourners can return to work, but there are some other restrictions that still apply. In normal times, I would go to synagogue daily for prayer including reciting the Mourners Kaddish with at least 9 other adults. (Again, needing a minyan.) Well, my synagogue and likely every other place of worship shut down because of the coronavirus. Enter the online service! I participated in an online service via Zoom with a Pittsburgh synagogue last week. It was weird, mostly because I didn't know anyone leading or participating in the service and since this was the first online service for everyone. Even though everyone’s in their own home, there’s still a community to this, so it was nice. Plus, this was the first time that Ziggy was able to see a service. (He has joined me on several work video calls too. Why should a laptop be on my lap when he could be there?)

My synagogue hosted a service on Wednesday, so I actually knew the rabbi and some of the people there. Then, I saw on Facebook that a friend of mine from college was hosting an online service. Oh, I should probably mention that this friend is now a rabbi in Denver. It has been really cool connecting with her again, and I enjoy her service and being a part of "my Denver community" from 1,700 miles away!

With schools closed and my office closed and my five-person family being in the same house together 24/7, there really hasn't been any time for grief or reflection. My rabbi gave me a few books about death and grieving, but they are sitting unopened next to my bed. I'm working from home now, but it's definitely not my normal schedule. There are several breaks during the day to be with the kids, so after they go to bed and the dishwasher, trash, laundry, and Ziggy's litter box are taken care of, I'm back on my computer doing work. If we were in our normal routine, I probably would think more about my dad during my commute to and from work. I'd definitely open the books.

Through all of this, the online services have given me a little bit of a routine at a time when there is no normal routine. It's comforting knowing that I have a set time each day to participate in this. Full disclosure: Although I generally wear a nice shirt, I often wear pajama pants during these services. I probably shouldn't share this. Oh well. So if the kids come bursting into the room during the service, I'll probably just sit there with my eyes closed and apologizing so that no one can see me wearing pajama pants.

Looking back at the last few weeks, I'm grateful that my dad died when he did. We knew that he didn't have much time left, and it was a blessing that we got to spend time with him and my mom before he passed away. I feel awful for families dealing with loved ones passing away now, particularly of those dying from the coronavirus. They aren't able to be in the same hospital rooms as their quarantined loved ones. Funerals are being delayed or done on a much smaller scale. I was able to spend time with family and friends in the immediacy of my dad's death. It definitely brought comfort. There's not that same type of comfort or closure for friends and family of loved ones passing away today.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Stick To Sports

I feel bad for my friends who are sports bloggers. It goes without saying that I feel bad for a lot of people right now, but this is a sports related post. Sort of. While there have been times over the years when I considered making Sean’s Ramblings exclusively a Pittsburgh sports blog, I always found this limiting. I like writing about my kids or entertainment or just what’s going on in my life. So while I still write about sports, I have never been a traditional sports blogger. So while I can write about various topics, it’s going to be tough for sports bloggers to come up with content over the next few weeks, months, etc. (Unless you have a blog about football and you can spend months writing about Tom Brady.)

Since we're in a country without sporting events taking place, I thought I would share a few things. First, the XFL announced last week that the league won't be playing its regular season games. I assume that means that there won't be a postseason either. You know what this means? I'm the XFL fantasy football league champion!

ESPN has a game called Streak for Cash. It's a monthly contest where you pick various props such as who will win NHL, NBA, NFL, MLB, soccer, and college games. There might also be individual props such as points scored or goals per game. Anyway, whoever gets the most picks correct in a row per month wins $25,000. I've played for years and never come close to winning. Anyway, with no major sports going on, the props have been quite interesting. There's a Singaporean Premier soccer league match. The Russian Super basketball league game. The other night featured whether the first Mega Millions lottery ball would be odd or even. There's even been "The Masked Singer" and "Survivor" props. I'm all for seeing what props appear next!

And now is where this blog post turns dramatically. Want to know one positive thing about the NCAA cancelling the men's and women's basketball tournaments? Liberty University's men's team, who earned an automatic birth, will not get to play. I'm sure that most of the students, faculty, and staff at Liberty University are good people. The problem is the school's president, Jerry Falwell Jr. I wrote about Falwell being a sore loser after the Virginia elections in 2017. Less than two months ago, Falwell tried to get some Virginia counties to secede and join West Virginia (and he's still working on this). This is completely absurd, but I guess it's politics by someone who is supposed to be spiritual leader and educator. He's all for free speech...except when it comes to people at his own school. Oh, Liberty University also owns Freedom Aviation who sells jet fuel to the Pentagon. I'm not sure how that fits into the school's mission.

Now, Falwell is being dangerous. Last Friday, he went on "Fox & Friends" and said, "You know, impeachment didn’t work, and the Mueller report didn’t work, and Article 25 didn’t work and so maybe now this is their next attempt to get Trump,” he said. This meaning the coronavirus.

You can even hear the anger about the school having to cancel residential classes.

University President Jerry Falwell, Jr., said, “We originally believed it was safest to return our students following their spring break instead of having them return following greater exposure opportunities from leaving them in different parts of the country for longer periods. But, the Governor’s recent decision to limit certain gatherings has left us no practical choice because we have so many classes of more than 100 students. We want to provide for the continuity of our students’ education while doing what makes sense to help slow the spread of the coronavirus to our university family and local community.” The school has one of the largest online student populations in the world, so they can of all places can handle social distancing better than most.

The whole point is that Liberty University, meaning specifically Falwell Jr., doesn't need any type of positive exposure from the basketball team. He's the worst.

I'm going to end this post with something good. Here's Will Ferrell being a soccer referee a few weeks ago.

This isn't a movie. Apparently, all of the parents in this league need to volunteer, and he's a parent. The uniform is legit, so it's possible that he really is a certified soccer ref. Just another thing that me and Will have in common!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Hypothetical Presidential Scenario

Let’s say that President Donald Trump dies from the coronavirus. Before we get too far here, Trump apparently got tested for the coronavirus recently, and the results came back negative. Still, a few members of the Mar-a-Lago resort tested positive for the coronavirus as did a Brazilian official who took a picture with Trump. Therefore, it’s certainly not far-fetched to think that Trump could get the coronavirus. Plus, despite his now-former doctor's statement that Trump would be the healthiest president ever, he’s still in his mid-70s and in a high risk group.

Now, I want to point out that I don’t want Trump to die. Lose the election in November? Yes. Get locked in a castle tower without Wi-Fi so that he's unable to use Twitter with the only way to use the internet again is to grow his hair out and let Stephen Miller climb his hair to rescue him? That would be interesting.

Back to the scenario. Let’s say that Trump dies from the coronavirus on April 2nd. With most of the primaries complete, I assume that the Republicans will select a candidate themselves at their convention. (Assuming there is a convention this summer.) The result would probably be Vice President Mike Pence at the top of the ballot with someone younger (Nikki Haley?) as Vice President.

Next scenario. Trump is in a coma for months or dies on October 15th. Do we postpone the election? Keep the ballots as is with a Trump/Pence ticket?

Finally, Trump get re-elected but dies on November 15th. I read a book ("The People's Choice") by TV political correspondent Jeff Greenfield years ago with this type of scenario. It seems like the Electoral College would decide in this case.

I’m sure that I know people who are Constitutional scholars or can pretend to be on the internet who can give their opinion on this. What do you think would happen?

Photo by Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Monday, March 16, 2020

My Dad (1946-2020)

My dad passed away just over a week ago at the age of 74. I was fortunate to have been able to see him in Florida just before he died. I have no idea whether or not this is real, but my mom says that he waited to see me and my brother before passing away. It's a little comforting believing this to be true. 

I thought I would post what I shared at my dad's funeral. My brother helped with this. Please note that even though I feel like I've shared my brother's name on my blog before, I replaced his name with just "N" below. 

Most people think of my dad as being a nice guy and for his sense of humor. He was the master of the "give me five, on the side" game. He regularly shared stories and told them so convincingly only to be kidding the entire time. If you knew my dad, you got used to this and generally found them funny. If not, well, apologies to all of the restaurant wait staff over the years who were really confused as to whether or not he was serious about ordering a hot fudge sundae for dinner. 

Of course, his stores sometimes backfired. There were times when he was completely serious, but you thought he was kidding. The best example of this was on the day that N was born when he played tennis with a friend. My dad shared that my brother was born earlier that morning at home and the friend obviously didn't believe this since why would N be born at home and why would my dad still be playing tennis that day. The friend got home only for his wife to tell him the news of N's birth when he walked in the door. 

He also told us on April Fools Day that the Pirates traded Tony Pena, one of our favorite players. We obviously didn't believe him and it's not like we could check our phones to find out that it was really true. It turned out to be a pretty good trade for the Pirates.  

I'm not sure that N and I could have asked for a better father growing up. My mom has shared that he was eager to wake up in the middle of the night for feedings and to change diapers because he wanted to be involved in our lives immediately. 

When I was probably in first grade, my parents saw that there was a soccer league starting in our community and signed me up. Soccer in Pittsburgh in the early 1980s was not exactly widespread. Even though he knew practically nothing about soccer, he became a coach and continued coaching our soccer and baseball teams for years. 

My dad loved being a dad and spending time with us. There were countless times when he'd come home from work, and we would ask him to play with us. I'm sure that there were a lot of days when he was tired or maybe had a long day from walking around the Monroeville Mall, but he'd take us to the playground or the basketball and tennis courts. Even when I was in high school and college, he still regularly beat me at tennis even after he worked a full day.

We became big sports fans, and especially Pittsburgh sports fans, in large part because of my dad. He took us to Pirates games and the occasional Penguins and Steelers games since those tickets were a little harder to get. But he also took us to Pittsburgh Spirit soccer games, way too many baseball card shows, professional wrestling events at the Civic Arena and even Pittsburgh Bulls indoor lacrosse games. 

I model being a father after my dad. Even though they can frustrate me at times (which I'm sure I never did with my dad), I love being a father to three amazing boys and I know N does to his kids. I like taking them places and have inherited the role of being a coach to their teams. He was always there for us and involved in what we did. He truly was a caring and loving husband, brother, father, and grandfather and we'll miss him.

After I posted my dad's obituary on my personal Facebook page, I received scores of very kind comments. Thank you so much to everyone who offered your condolences. It really means a lot. I also thought I would share a few that really touched me.

* I am so sorry to hear of this. Your dad was a wonderful man. I have so many good memories of him. He was such a fixture in my young life. There is such a large group of us that were so lucky to know him and be coached by him.

* I am so shocked and saddened, Sean. Your parents were both always so wonderful and welcoming to me, and I can't imagine the heartbreak for you, N, your families, and your mom.

* I remember him driving me and [redacted] to the airport to welcome home the Penguins after they won their first Stanley Cup. I'll never forget how excited he was when we finally got into the building.

* I hope you, your mom, N and your family are comforted by all of your special memories with your dad. He was a wonderful man and I am so happy I got to know him when we were in college.

* [Redacted] wanted me to pass along his condolences to you. He said that your dad was a great soccer coach with a wonderful sense of humor.

* Oh, Sean, our hearts and thoughts are with you all. Your father was a second father to me.

Thanks again Dad for showing me how to be a great father and for always being there for me.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Voting Results In My Neighborhood

I like my neighborhood. It’s a community of about 1,800 condos, townhouses, and single-family homes in Northern Virginia built around an 18-hole golf course. The fact that I can say that I live on (or across the street from) a golf course sounds much more fancy than it is. There’s a pool we use in the summer, a playground for the kids, and tennis courts and a fitness center that I barely use. It’s also a unique community in its diversity. All ages live here, and there are people from many different cultures and ethnicities. It’s been a good place to live over the last 10 years.

With today being election day in Virginia (and several other states), I thought it would be fun to go back to see how candidates have fared in our precinct since I moved here. Here are the results from the 2012 and 2016 primaries.

In 2012, Mitt Romney defeated Ron Paul by a 2-to-1 margin. Were there no other candidates running in the 2012 Republican primary?

In 2016, Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio(!) got the most votes. What's amazing to me is that Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, and Carly Fiorina all got exactly 1 vote each. Jim Gilmore got two!

Overall, based on the November general elections results in both 2012 and 2016, it appears that there are more Democratic voters than Republican voters in my precinct, but it's not a huge majority.

Anyway, I just thought it would be interesting to share this, and I plan on updating this post soon with the 2020 Democratic Presidential primary results.