A Friend in Need

The Facebook Dad Bloggers

The Facebook Dad Bloggers

Last month, there was a reading for all the graduates of the Creative Writing program at the University of Baltimore. I had about 15 friends and family members there to support me as I read from my book, a memoir about being an at-home dad. Among those supporters was the at-home dad that started and then introduced me to a network of almost 800 other blogging dads around the world, Oren Miller. We had met for a beer one night last summer, when I had questions about how to get my twitter feed to populate into the Dad Bloggers twitter column, along with about 7 other technical questions. On this night, he was there with his wife, Beth, and I was able to introduce my wife to the man who had been so integral in the growing success of my humble little blog, having supported it by including me in his weekly dad blogger roundup and highlighting a video of mine in one of his posts. And now it’s time for me to support him.

Oren was diagnosed with Stage Four lung cancer the following week. As he says on his blog post entitled Cancer, “People in my condition have about a year to live on average, and treatment is now limited to making the next year more bearable. There are other options that may be discussed later, including experimental treatments, and I’m staying optimistic, but frankly, I think I know where I stand.”

Since I found out, I’ve been wondering what I could do to help. I want to show my support, but I also don’t want this to be about me and my need to show my support. I want Oren and his family to know that I will do what I can to support him in his time of need, but I also don’t want to be a burden on them by constantly asking to come over and hang out and maybe share one of his special brownies. I was able to go to his house once a couple weeks ago and his daughter Madeline was an excellent hostess to my daughter Mabel, wearing a Minnie Mouse tutu (which prompted Oren to admit that he had lost control over her wardrobe) and giving Mabel a tour of all the little pink castles and other pink playthings in their play room, while Liam kept running down to give us the Brazil/Croatia score. I was happy to show my support on this day, but again, I didn’t want this to be about my need to show support. Just before I left, Oren casually mentioned that the cancer had spread to his brain.

A day later, Brent Almond of Designer Daddy sent a message to the Dad Blogger community about a fundraiser to help send Oren and his family on one last vacation. I believe the original goal was $5,000. I don’t remember exactly, because that goal was shattered in a matter of hours. Less than two weeks later, the donations have exceeded $27,000. The outpouring of support has been phenomenal, which has made me proud to be a part of this community.

Many times, people are reluctant to help someone in need when others are present. In fact, the call to action is disproportionate to the number of people present. This is called the “bystander effect.” I am happy to see so many people supporting the Miller family and unlike so many causes I’ve justified my way out of in the past, I’m happy to have had whatever it is I needed to have to be a part of Oren’s support network, however little my part may be. In addition to all the support Oren has gotten from his friends and family, Give Forward (the fundraising site) has agreed to contribute $25 for every blog post written on behalf of Oren, which is really excellent of them.

Oren’s prognosis is grim, and he still shakes his fist at the Gods for the unfairness of it all, but he is trying to accept it, and on the occasion when I put myself in his place for long enough to feel the pain that comes with not being able to see my beautiful daughter grow up, I am at least a little happier to know that Oren may be able to feel this support through the pain, and that he can use this fundraiser to give Madeline and Liam a few awesome memories of the great man who gave them everything he could for a tragically short period of time on this earth.

If you want to help this family, even with a donation of $1, I’d consider it a personal favor. This is a guy who believed in me. A guy who supported me by showing up to my book release party. A guy who met me on a weeknight in Baltimore to answer a stupid questions about twitter, which I don’t even use anymore. Because he wanted to help. And now I want to help him. You may contribute here. I also recommend you read his piece on finding out he has cancer. But don’t do it in front of anyone you don’t want to see you cry. Also, go give your kids and your parents and your spouses a big hug. It helps. Thank you.

Dads For Oren

Dads For Oren

Between Father’s Days

Me and Dad, April 2005

Me and Dad, April 2005

For the first 30 years of my life, I celebrated Father’s Day by paying tribute to my father, though not necessarily always well. I celebrated Father’s Day during my college years by taking off work for the weekend, driving up from Baltimore, and playing tennis with Good Joe. But my dad was at least present on my mind. For the next seven years, I honored his memory by creating a routine of watching Big Fish, rereading a story I wrote about him, and writing about him on a blog no one read for what I called “Father’s Week.” Last year, I became a father.

I look forward very much to the days when Mabel is old enough to want to do something special for her daddy. But sadly, I’m not sure a 0-year-old really understands the concept of celebrating something more today than you did yesterday. She doesn’t even really understand the concept of object permanence yet, and likely just assumes that Jenn disappears into the train station for 10 hours a day. If there comes a time when she wants to make daddy some dry, misshapen pancakes hours before I’d rather be awake, I will happily indulge her. But until then, I’m between Father’s Days.

The hat doesn't make me look good. I make me look good.

The hat doesn’t make me look good. I make me look good.

As an at-home dad who spends on average 163 of 168 hours per week with my daughter, the concept of going out with her doesn’t appeal to me any more than it does any other day. That’s not special. That’s my job (which, by the way, is the greatest job there could ever be in the world, and I’m so very grateful to my wife for allowing me this opportunity). So I went to a movie last year. By myself. That was different. That was special. Though it was the crappy new Superman, so maybe hiding in the basement while streaming Arrested Development might have been a day better spent. But still, that’s what I wanted to do.

This year, I’m going golfing for the first time since D-Day almost two years ago (if I can dig my clubs out from a mound of outgrown jumpers, strollers, and 30-gallon containers of poop-stained onesies), because I have the opportunity and it’s what I want to do. Which is great. But it doesn’t feel like Father’s Day. It feels counterintuitive to celebrate being a dad by leaving my child for longer than I’ve been apart from her in her lifetime. But I suppose that’s what I’m relegated to in the position that I’m in for another few years. And I look forward to the days when Mabel hops on a train, comes back from college for the weekend, and plays tennis with her high school friend.