Holy CRAP! I REALLY AM going to be an UNCLE!

This past Sunday my mom and my sister’s mother-in-law planned a mini baby shower for just the family so that my sister could get a jump start on all the things she needs for the babies.  Since Beth was put on bed rest so early, they had to cancel the plans for a big, all-out shower with family and all of her friends because there was simply no way she could attend it.

But as the days and months went on, Beth suddenly realized that she needed those things.  Baby clothes, baby towels, blankets, bibs, bassinets, bowls, bottles… everything in twos (or more), and just about anything and everything else that starts with the letter “B” and then some.

So the Grandmas went into full panic mode, which means they calmly contacted all of our cousins and my brother-in-law’s cousins and family and got the word out that a “mini” shower would be held at my Beth and Geoff’s house.  Thankfully, everyone came through with flying colors.

Now usually baby showers aren’t my thing.  I may be gay, but the whole process of opening gifts and everyone going “Awwwww it’s another blankie!” or “Awwww isn’t that cuuuute?  A breast pump!”  gets a little weird for me.  So I initially didn’t plan on going to the mini-shower because, for one, I figured it would be like that; and for another, I kind of wasn’t invited.  (The original intention was to have all the female members of the family there.)

But then reality hit me like a sledgehammer:

“Hey dumbass, you’re these babies’ uncle.  You need to be there.

Which was followed by the shining realization:

“HOLY CRAP!  I REALLY AM GOING TO BE AN UNCLE!”

Granted, I’m not the ONLY uncle, but I AM the ONLY uncle on my sister’s side of the family.  And that carries a hell of a lot of responsibility.  Which included getting my uncle-butt over to my sister’s house to be at her shower, with a gift in tow.

I wanted to get her something she really needed, so I called my mom for guidance.  She told me they still needed a second bassinet, so I placed the order and scheduled it to be delivered to their house.  It didn’t make it in time for the shower, so I printed out a picture of it and put it in the card I brought, with a note saying it would probably be delivered very soon.  It arrived today.

The shower itself was really nice.  I saw some of my cousins that I haven’t seen in quite a while and a few other people I hadn’t seen in a very long time.  Mom made barbeque beef, which was delicious and there was a lot of food for everyone to go around.  My cousin brought her daughters and everyone enjoyed playing with and holding the baby.

Beth stayed in her recliner almost the whole time.  She’s a 30 weeks now and is starting to get uncomfortable very quickly.  The babies are moving around a LOT, which of course is wonderful news.  They’re healthy and very much on schedule.   At their last ultrasound, Baby “A” was determined to be just over three pounds and Baby “B” was just shy of three pounds.  Six pounds of baby and more to come.  Yikes.

It’s just amazing to see this happening to my little sister.  It’s been such a difficult road to get to this point– from failures to successes to scary moments to hopeful happiness.  She’s so ready to have those babies, and we’re all excited to have them, too.  But we want to have them when they’re ready– and not a moment sooner.

And when they do arrive, their Uncle Rick will be there with Grandma Jill, probably crying our eyes out with joy.

I probably won’t be having any kids of my own, so these little girls are all I have.  I want them to know that their Uncle Rick is going to love them unconditionally and will be a big part of their lives.

It’s still hard for me to wrap my brain around the idea that I’m going to be an uncle very soon.  But I think when the moment arrives, I’m going to be the best darn uncle those little girls could ever have wished for.  They deserve it, and so does their Mom and Dad.  And with their Grandmas here on earth and their Grandpas in heaven watching over them, they are going to be so very loved.

Pretty lucky little kids, I’d say.

Help me Hustle — AGAIN!

As you may recall, last year I participated in the Hustle up the Hancock, a fundraising event for what was then called the American Lung Association of Greater Chicago, but is now named the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago (RHAMC). The premise of the event is to climb to the top of the John Hancock Center— all 1,632 stairs; all 95 floors.This was the first time I had ever done anything like this, and truth be told, I barely made it– but I did make it. It was an incredible feeling to accomplish that goal.

Help Me Hustle!So I am happy to tell you that on February 24, 2008, I will be participating in the 11th Annual Hustle Up the Hancock event to help raise money for lung disease research and education.

I will join thousands of others throughout the Chicago land area to raise funds for Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago (RHAMC) as we aim to promote healthy lungs and fight lung disease. You may think that it’s crazy to climb the John Hancock Center but I am doing so because I am able. I can breathe freely, and there are many people who are not as lucky as I.

People like my mom.

My mom was diagnosed with Emphysema in 1995, and has had Asthma for most of her life. For the last 12 years, I have seen the toll that this disease has taken on her life and her well-being. While she is still able to get around and live her life, the disease is slowly robbing her of her ability to do the very things that she has enjoyed all of her life. As each year passes, it gets harder and harder for her to perform simple tasks– from walking from her car to a store, to even taking a shower.

I also suffer from Asthma symptoms, and am a prime candidate for the disease, since it runs in my family. (My grandma also had Emphysema and Asthma.)

With your support, people like my mom can be helped. Your assistance will allow RHAMC fund research and support lung disease research and programs for people with lung disease.

Please click the link below to go to my personal donation website, and make a contribution. Any amount is accepted– and every amount is appreciated.

Last year, with your support, I raised $1,165.00. I am hoping to top this by raising $1,500 this year – maybe even $2,000!  Every penny goes to the RHAMC, and every penny is well-spent.

Rick Aiello’s Personal Fundraising Site

I will be updating my progress, again, right here on the Launching Pad.  Click here to see how I did last year.

Thank you for your help… and wish me luck!

The Christmas Bows

The Christmas Bows

When my Mom moved out of her parents’ house, my Grandma decided she wanted to do something special for her first Christmas.  So she bought several yards of bright red felt, created a pattern, and sewed, by hand, 50 red bows for her Christmas tree. 

Mom and Dad's Tiny TreeEach bow was about five inches wide and three inches tall.  They were all “tied” with a small strip of felt and sewn in the back, and an ornament hook was sewn in to hang the bows on her Christmas tree.

When we were kids, we had an oddly shaped artificial tree.  The ornaments didn’t hang on the tree, they more or less “laid” on the tree.  As the years went on, we replaced the old tree with a new, more symmetrical tree, and we decided to be more particular about how it looked.  So we decided to drape the garland from branch to branch and hook a bow at each point.  This way we had a much prettier tree, and we could feature my Mom’s Christmas bows more prominently.  It was the perfect way to honor Grandma’s memory, and continue the family tradition.  We continued this tradition even when we replaced the big tree with a smaller tree (shown at left). 

When my sister and I moved out of their house, my Mom decided to continue the tradition further.  She purchased many yards of red felt — a slightly coarser and thicker grade felt than Grandma had used — and copied the pattern from one of her own bows.  She cut the felt, created the bows, and sewed them together; then glued the “tie” on and the hook in the back.  She created 50 for me, and 50 for my sister.

When my sister and I opened the bows that Christmas, we instantly burst into tears.  We knew Mom was making the bows, but we didn’t know she was making them for us.  And from that Christmas on, the bows adorned each of our own Christmas trees. 

So this weekend when I put my tree up, and I open that box of bows, I will instantly be reminded of how much love went into them.  And I will remember how much love went into the bows my Grandma created for my mom.  That’s what tradition, and love, is all about.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Our Guardian Angel

My sister and I are pretty sure that we share a common guardian angel.

Her complications with the pregnancy were stressful and scary, but in the end she is fine and so are the babies.  She is now at home resting– as she will be for the next few months. 

Some higher power wouldn’t let anything happen to those babies.  Whatever it was… and whoever it was… we are, of course, eternally grateful.

But that higher power didn’t stop with my sister.  He– or she– but probably he– was watching over me, too.

Friday I was on my way up to Evanston to see my sister in the hospital after work.  I was driving down Lake Shore Drive, and I noticed that the car wasn’t responding like it usually did.  My car has a manual transmission.  It took longer to accelerate, and when it did accelerate, it felt very rough.  I was concerned, but I forged onward.

I got off of Lake Shore Drive and came to a stop, where the car died.  I restarted the car, and when I tried to accelerate, it barely moved.  I knew this wasn’t going to end well.  So I detoured off my path and headed toward home.

I was able to get the car on my street, and found a parking spot.  I attempted to park the car, but by that time any acceleration was completely lost.  I tried changing gears, but nothing would work.  I was stuck in the middle of my street– half in and half out of a parking spot.  SHIT!

I called the garage that services my car.  They recommended a towing company, and I called and arranged a tow.  So there I sat– right in front of my apartment, blinkers going, in the way of traffic, waiting for a tow.

About 10 minutes later, a tow truck slowed down behind me.  Now mind you, my street is more residential than anything, but it is rather busy… and there are a few repair garages around the corner, so tow trucks do frequent the area a lot.  This guy slowed down and asked me if I was waiting for a tow truck.  I said yes, figuring he was my guy.  He responded that he wasn’t, but he’d be happy to help me out.  He then asked me how much the towing company was charging me, which was $60.  He offered a tow for $40.  I said “You’ve got a deal!”

Ten minutes later, my car was safely parked at the gas station (which, thankfully, was only a block away from my street).  All I had in my wallet was $35, and the guy took it with no arguments at all.  I got his card.  There are GOOD PEOPLE in the world after all.

After I was home and settled in, I made all the phone calls– told Mom I was stuck and not coming up, and told my sister I couldn’t see her that night. 

The next morning the garage called with the damage– a burned-out clutch.  Holy shit!

If that would have happened on the highway, I would have been royally screwed.

They checked everything else on the car and everything looked fine– so this was definitely a necessary repair.  It’s expensive as hell, though, at $800.  Sigh. 

But still, I can’t deny that it could have been so much worse.

I did get up to see my sister on Sunday.  I got on the El for the first time since my kidney stones in May– and it all went fine.  The El station was right next to the hospital, so it was no problem at all to get there.  

Our visit was one of the most meaningful and touching in our recent history.  We were alone– no parents, no husband, no family– just us.  It was the first time we had actually been alone with each other since we were kids.  We talked a lot, cried a little, and shared a lot of things we haven’t been able to share in a long time.  And, of course, I got to see my sister… pregnant.  To say I was moved is a major understatement.

She looked tired, but radiant.  But most of all, she looked happy.  She knew her babies were OK, and she was OK.  And that’s all she wanted. 

When we got to the subject of Dad, we both teared up.

“I wish he was here right now, Rick.”  She said.  “He would be so happy.”

“He is, Beth.”  I replied.  “He’s here, and he’s happy.   And he loves us both so much.  I think we have an extra-special guardian angel up there looking out for us.”

“Yep, I think so, too,” she said. 

Funny thing about family.  No matter how big or small yours is… the bond of family is something that can never be broken.  I think it only gets stronger as we get older.   Even the craziest, knock-d0wn-drag-out fights can never tear those ties. 

I’m a pretty lucky guy.  I may be alone in the relationship department, but I am surrounded by lots of really wonderful people– both here and beyond.  And no matter how bad things get, that thought gets me through to see another day. 

I guess I’m not all that alone after all.