“Woo-hoo! Get over here, you little fart! Oohhh, I’ve missed you!” I think I heard some form of that greeting more than 100 times in my life. But it’s over. There’s no going back to the place I heard it.

Team-lifting Grandma O’s couch out of the truck with my brother this past Saturday morning, it dawned on me: This very second, right now, exactly — moving grandma into a senior living community — is one of those moments we never anticipate. It was such a poignant thought, if I had tried to verbalize it, I would have burst into tears. Thank God for the task at hand to distract me.

Losing our final biological grandparent to the grips of dementia has been a fairly gradual, sad separation. She hasn’t yet lost her life, but she’s certainly lost IN this life, exhibiting the most common traits of Alzheimer’s Disease and having been so diagnosed. It’s too hard for me to think about, let alone document, the troubling changes in her behavior and how they hurt our close-knit family. I know our experience with this tragedy is not entirely unique and other families’ accounts are well-documented. Suffice it to say, she’s increasingly confused and angry about where she is, why she’s not “at home” — wherever she thinks that might be — and scarcely remembers me, my wife and children, or how we all fit together even when we’re in the same room. Never mind all the moments of the past 40 years we’ve spent together, she’s likely to forget what we talked about in the past 5 minutes.

I wish I had taken better mental notes of my final moments in her house. The last Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or even just my last beer with her at the dining table in her tiny kitchen. What was the last joke my cousin Kyle told me there? Who was the last person with whom I shared a long, lingering goodbye? Did Grandma stand at her front door waving as I drove away, and did I beep my car’s horn in reply? I must have. I always did.

None of us knew when or how this time would come, when the landscape of our holidays and lifelong family traditions would change forever. That’s what moving Grandma O out of her house represents to me. To be sure, the deteriorating health and eventual passing of each of my grandparents has been cataclysmic in its own right, triggering shockwaves throughout my extended family, reshaping our traditions and relationships. But this feels like the big one. The last one. And yet she’s still here… another helpless witness to the culture shift. So, rather than a positive transition allowing her to live out the rest of her life with quasi-independence, this feels more like throwing in the towel; the final resignation; failure; loss.

I wish I could close my thoughts with some consoling, insightful takeaway, but that doesn’t fit with my brooding nature. Some things just never get better or less sad to me; not that I’m constantly morose. Yes, I have a large, amazing family, and we’ll continue to gather for holidays and celebrate each others’ major life events. I know traditions inevitably evolve over time, especially with regard to where they are carried out and who’s keeping them going. I accept those things. I don’t struggle so much with change per se as with having it forced upon me.

On second thought, I guess that’s exactly what it means to struggle with change. Without life pushing me in certain directions, I’d no sooner be inclined to change spending Christmas Day at my grandma’s house than I would be to change my last name. Change dictated by ourselves hardly feels like change at all. Aging and diseases rob us of that control. Time marches on, change is inevitable, and I DO have a problem with it.

When I think about Grandma O waking up in her new, unfamiliar place, living amongst and being cared for and visited by unfamiliar faces, I’m afraid I’m destined for that, too. And I’m afraid, going forward, holidays are going to trigger that fear in me as we try to figure out what our new traditions will be.


Eulogy for my Grandpa

I cried and choked my way through eulogizing my grandpa at his funeral. I hate funerals. I know, who doesn’t, right? More specifically, I hate how I behave at funerals and how my mind wanders because I just don’t know how to act when I’m somewhere I don’t want to be. Basically, I’m nobody’s emotional “rock.”

Anyway, here’s my tribute:

Some people watch Growing Up Gatti on TV, but I’ll take Growing Up Golpe any day. Thanks to my Grandpa Jerry, I experienced a sense of entitlement and good, old-fashioned spoiling I thought reserved for very few privileged kids. He had the house with the in-ground pool, the Cadillac, his own shop with a bunch of people working for him (including me at times… and probably half the people in this room!), he traveled, golfed incessantly, threw awesome holiday parties, and gave me cool presents. He took me fun places (most of which also had a full bar), and if I caused trouble, sometimes he would not-so-politely tell the staff that I wasn’t hurting anybody. Luckily for me, he always had what seemed like an endless supply of quarters for video games. But the coolest part was that every person, in every joint he took me to, knew him. I used to think it was so odd that all these strangers acted like they also knew ME, shaking my hand, calling me by name everywhere we went, until I realized it’s because Grandpa Jerry bragged about me. ALL. THE. TIME.

Over the years, I began to piece together a method to the madness of the abundant lifestyle he heaped on all of us. The pool, parties, gifts, trips, and even giving us jobs around the shop: they were all just devices intended to bring us together and keep us close as a family — and it worked! I loved swimming at his house and playing in his basement. I loved bowling with him at Pastime in the shoes he bought me for my birthday. I loved golfing with him with the clubs he gave me, and hanging out at Hillcrest, lookin’ fly in the blue blazer I got from him one Christmas. I think he loved to spoil me rotten, and he did it in a way that included me in his “larger-than-life” life, and that made me feel six feet tall. [Which is a big deal since, at 5’9”, I’m one of the shorter Golpe grandsons.]

I think my favorite personal story about Grandpa Jerry is this: One day, he was looking garishly handsome as usual, I greeted him with a hug and kiss and told him he looked nice and that I liked his tie. He literally gave it to me right off his neck.

[I wore the tie as a pall bearer for his funeral — click to enlarge photo]

I served as a pall bearer at my Grandpa Jerry's funeral wearing one of his ties.

I served as a pall bearer at my Grandpa Jerry’s funeral wearing one of his ties.


delicious widget

I love this widget! Too bad I can never use it properly while married to Melissa. She won’t gamble when it comes to dining out.

Detroit restaurants on Urbanspoon


Free Personal Breathalyzer

I received an email from Buy.com advertising a personal breathalyzer device for $40. I’ve often wondered what BAC my breath would register after drinking various quantities of alcohol, so I seriously considered buying the device. Little did I know, in just a few hours, I would discover a way to get a breathalyzer reading absolutely FREE!

Our friends’ band, The Hook, was playing a free concert at Depot Park in Clarkston. Melissa and I got out there exactly at the scheduled showtime of 6pm. They rocked our faces and then we walked over to an after-party at Greg Martin’s apartment on Main Street. Between the hours of 7:30pm and 12:00am, I opened four bottles of domestic light beer and drank most of them. I also ate two slices of pizza and immeasurable quantities of chips, salsa, and other dips. We left Greg’s at midnight.

Melissa and I walked about a block back to the Depot Park parking lot. I pulled out heading east toward Main and made a right. Oops! I meant to go north toward I-75. One car passed and I made a slow U-turn. As I completed the maneuver, I spied a Clarkston police car on the right, almost directly across from Depot Road. Sure enough, the officer pulled in behind me and fired up his lights.

Officer: I stopped you because you came up the wrong way on a one way street back there and then made an illegal U-turn, so… Merry Christmas!
Me: Oh, man! Okay. I’ve never been to that park before. I’m sorry.
Officer: How much have you had to drink tonight, ’cause it smells like a lot!
Me: Not THAT much. I started drinking at 7:30, and I had, like, three… plus… beers?
Officer: Okay, well, why don’t we start with your license and registration? [after I comply] Alright, Rodney, why don’t you come on out and follow me back here. [after I unbuckle my seat belt and open my door] Have you ever had a PBT before?
Me: Mmmmm… nope.
Officer: [says something about the breathalyzer, then asked me where Eastpointe is, what I’m doing out there — assessing my faculties, I presume] Okay, go ahead and blow in here.
Me: ..oO( Should I blow hard from the gut, or shallow from my mouth? )

I didn’t feel buzzed, yet I couldn’t help but be nervous. The device emits a low-volume whistling noise. I couldn’t see the digital readout

Officer: Why don’t you go ahead and try that again.

The device whistles again. Following the exhalation, this time I see the readout:  .0012.  *Whew!*

Officer Awesome then sent me on my way without a single citation, asking that I pay better attention to the signage.

Pressing my luck, I asked about why my u-turn was illegal. “They’re not always illegal, just here in the Village on Main Street,” he said, pointing across my vehicle. I looked in the direction he was pointing and, sure enough, there was a very helpful “No U-turns” sign just 20 feet ahead. Can you believe I still didn’t get a citation, not even for stupidity??


If you want to immerse yourself deeply into the depravity of mankind, shop for a used car on Craig’s List. Maybe the phenomenon is limited to Metro Detroit, I couldn’t say. Regardless, it seems the process of valuing and putting up for sale a used car transforms once probably decent, honest, family-oriented people into greedy, lying, unscrupulous versions of their former selves.

I followed up with more than 50 of these “private marketers” and, after three weeks, decided to retrospectively document some of my favorite ads to highlight their variation from reality. (Luckily, and perhaps not coincidentally, none of them has sold yet, allowing me to copy-and-paste the actual content!)

2001 Subaru Legacy 4 door Sedan AWD ……………… Mint! – $4950
Mint condition, 4 door, auto, 2.5L/4, all wheel drive, air, tilt, cruise, pw/pl, CD, alloy wheels, good miles, 28mpg/hwy, super clean, reliable, no issues, runs/drives great.

This car belongs to my co-worker who has since left the country. I do not know its history; please run a CARFAX report and let me know what it says. Also, please don’t dig around CL too much, or you’ll see this exact ad paired with photos taken from different angles in the same driveway and a different phone number — and possibly all the other cars I’m selling as “private owner.” Lastly, the night before you are scheduled to drive an hour to see this car, I will take it to a shop to have that front-end noise investigated and it will not be ready at our agreed-upon time (9am). Darn bearings!

2004 Ford Taurus SES *GREAT DEAL* – $4600
94K, 2.4 valve, clean title, runs and drives great, clean inside and out. Asking $4600 obo.

Drive 30 minutes to a parking lot of my choosing, and I will see you there 45 minutes later. I am approximately 22 years old and I speak perfect English, which is good because my friend, who is approximately 19 years old and actually holds the title on this car, speaks only Chaldean Neo-Aramaic. You’ll need me to translate. The front and rear bumper covers match perfectly to each other, but not to the car. Only the rear bumper was worked on, though. The front has simply faded disproportionately relative to the rest of the car and now appears to have been replaced and painted by exactly the same amateur who worked on the rear bumper. It’s like an optical illusion. If you inspect the trunk, you will find water in the spare tire compartment. Obviously, this is NOT the result of a leaky, misaligned trunk lid. More likely, this car was sweating from being left in my warm garage for two days.

2001 Volvo S40 82k miles – $4499
2001 Volvo S 40 1.9T 4 cyl automatic dark blue, new tires, I just did the timing belt with water pump and engine tuneup, cd, ac, heated seats, abs, winter package, no rust or any oil leaks, all good.

I really love this car. So much, in fact, that it’s hardly left my driveway since its last reported odometer reading four months ago (81,558 miles). I can’t imagine why those liars at CARFAX would claim it was totaled in an accident five months ago. Remind me not to post the VIN when I re-list this thing next week.

2002 Honda Civic EX – $5000
Good condition, loaded with all power options including a moonroof, immaculate interior, 131,000 miles, automatic, cd player, looks and drives great, recent repairs include new tires, brakes, struts, battery. The timing belt and water pump were replaced last year(receipts available). Truly an outstanding vehicle that would be ideal for a student or for someone who commutes long distances. Selling price is firm.

Stop by anytime and you can take this car and my father-in-law to any shop of your choosing right down the road from my house. My price is pretty firm, though. Oops, did I say “anytime?” My bad. Please hang on while I re-list this car for $100 less and 1,000 FEWER miles. NOW when can you swing by?


My mom and dad are selling this car because they are going to live six months up north and six months down here and this was their extra car. (Yeah, I listed it as a Z24 originally, but I’m getting more inquiries by calling it a Z34, probably because they don’t exist.) Do your homework, come see the car, and we’ll both agree that I’m asking at least $1,200 too much, but I won’t budge. All it needs is some electrical work, tires, brakes, and someone to hold the driver’s door shut while the car is in motion. Huh? Oh, you were calling about the SUNBIRD I’m selling? Cool. See, the thing is my parents are gonna start living six months up north and — no, wait, I used that one already…. Doh! Now look what you made me do!! I have to re-list this stupid p.o.s. Cavalier under someone else’s name and number now! (As a Z24, of course.)


What about Bob’s?

For the past several years, our friends, Bob and Linda, have invited us to stay at their cottage in Port Franks. Usually, we can gather up three or four of Melissa’s other co-workers (Bob being one) to join us for a long weekend or so. This year, for whatever reason, it wasn’t going to happen. As Summer drew to a close, Bob insisted that Melissa and I should take advantage of one of our remaining good weather weekends at his cottage even though he couldn’t join us. Sometimes co-workers and acquaintances extend such offers facetiously; however, we knew Bob was sincere and we took him up on it.

Even though we hadn’t confessed it to each other, Melissa and I both felt a need to get away somewhere and reconnect. We spent two days just staring at each other, taking goofy & romantic pictures, walking, biking and smiling a lot. I loved every minute. :)


My 1st WebAward — maybe

The Web Marketing Association handed out its 2009 WebAwards yesterday. I won for my work on the Covenant House Michigan website. It is *possibly* my first award since there’s no telling if my other work has been recognized unbeknownst to me. 😉

Non-profit Standard of Excellence for Outstanding Web Development is a long award title which means we weren’t “best of show” or “best in category.” Still, it’s cool because we scored WELL above average and only missed an “Outstanding Website Award” by 1 point!

The back-end of covenanthousemi.org is all open source and I get to write some custom Drupal code. While I’m the sole developer, Melissa provides all the content with her partner-in-saving-kids’-lives, Maggie. Without the articles, photos, events, and social marketing updates, the site would be less than average, in my opinion.


Campo de Dymond I

Campo de Dymond I was a follow-up to the highly successful Dia de Campo adult sleepover just two weeks prior. Jerry & Robyn’s vision was taken to next level thanks to a variety of factors, including the extra long holiday weekend, lazer tag, camp meat experimentation, and of course, Missy’s pants 😉

The photo album is best viewed with the full Cooliris plugin. Alternatively, I recommend clicking through the online slideshow at PicasaWeb.

And now, whiners, see them on Facebook, too.


CAKE THIEF ALERT: My sister-in-law made me and Melissa an amazing tiramisu cake with crazy, edible versions of us as cake toppers. Today, at Covenant House of all places, somebody MUTILATED this work of art… but didn’t stop there. I need help. I swear this happened. Watch the video, please:


Grosse Pointe Ramble

Megan & Jerald spent the weekend with my Mom & Dad, so Melissa & I went biking today. After 25 miles, including a pit stop at Panera Bread and a jaunt up Lake Shore Drive, I can say without a doubt that her butt-sculpting exercises paid off BIG time :)

Oh yeah, we completed the following route at a VERY casual pace in approximately 3-1/2 hours:

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