Browsing Tag: family


    My daughter graduated from high school tonight

    June 5, 2020

    T is finished with high school. Well, not quite. She has one teacher who’s taking advantage of the bizarre pandemic-created schedule that has schoolwork continuing through June 9. So my daughter has a few more days of schoolwork even though she graduated today, June 5.

    No, she’s not shown on the photo above — that’s the Hanford HS Choir singing the national anthem near the beginning of the festivities. T doesn’t like her name or photo being posted online, and we’ve always agreed with and respected her wish for privacy. But that photo above shows you what graduation was like. All virtual/remote, and we watched it on TV in our living room.

    Sure, it was weird in a few ways … like our graduate not needing to wear her cap and gown during the ceremony, for starters. But TBH, we were all impressed at how well the whole ceremony went down. It was well thought out and there were no glitches at all. And it was pretty cool to see General Jim Mattis involved (he lives here), along with Foo Fighters’ bassist Nate Mendel (he’s an alumnus).

    But enough of all that. In this house, the day was all about T. She graduated with honors, and you bet I was proud to see “Honor Student” on the screen when her name was called during the listing of the grads. But the thing is, as proud as I am that she graduated with honors, I’m even more proud of how she did it:

    She worked her ass off until the very end, even though she didn’t have to.

    Her grades have always been good. Never once in her elementary or high school life have we had to worry about that. So as the second half of this year began, she surely could’ve coasted along and still passed easily.

    But she didn’t.

    When the pandemic hit and schoolwork moved online, it was pretty difficult at first because no one knew what they were doing — especially the school and teachers. She was frustrated in the beginning, and she could’ve shut down and said “screw this.”

    But she didn’t.

    At some point, online learning was such a struggle that the schools announced that students’ grades would not be allowed to dip below what they were on March 17 — the date that home schooling began. My understanding is that if you were passing then, you’d pass the class as long as you finished the attendance and coursework requirements. She could’ve gone into autodrive and been satisfied with her March 17 grades.

    But she didn’t and wasn’t. In fact, she worked hard enough to raise her grades before graduation.

    If ever a student had an excuse to get a serious case of senioritis, it was T and it was these last two months of her senior year. She’d already committed to a college for the fall, so it’s not like she really needed to impress anyone at the next level. Graduation was pretty much a guarantee under any circumstances. But she kept working. And working. And improving her grades. And improving herself.

    T … I can’t begin to put into words how proud I am of you for that. I’m so proud to be your dad.

    Now go kick ass at college, and kick ass again in whatever career path you take. And don’t ever quit. Hard work will always win. Always.


    Happy 21st birthday, Sean McGee

    December 16, 2018

    My world changed for the better 21 years ago today. My son, Sean, was born and I got to meet the first blood relative I’d ever known. I will never forget the moment my sisters-in-law brought him out to me and I held him in my arms. (That’s the first picture below.)

    The Italian singer Andrea Bocelli has a song called “L’Incontro” that begins with Bono reciting a poem, and I will always think of that moment when I hear the words:

    While like a giant, proud and happy,
    I take my baby in my arms.
    Fragile, innocent, and alive.
    And like a little bird,
    he’s pushing against my chest,
    abandoned, quiet, and safe.

    For an instant, almost sweetly,
    my destiny appears to me like a dream
    and I see myself, old and surrendered,
    seated there near the coal fire,
    waiting for the evening
    with the anxiety of a child
    just to see him coming back home
    with the gift of his smile,
    of his words and kindness.

    It’s like a promise
    that can solve the enormous joy
    of one of his caresses.
    Then I wake up and I’ve already forgotten,
    but inside of me
    the kid’s trapped soul advises me
    that this newborn child
    is already more important to me
    than that of my of my own life.

    Happy 21st birthday, Sean McGee! I love you and am glad you’re my son!!!


    Joan K. McGee, 1933-2017

    October 16, 2017

    (The day after my dad died in 2015, our family was visiting with my mom and I mentioned that I was surprised dad hadn’t asked me to give his eulogy. Mom spoke up immediately and said she wanted me to give the eulogy at her funeral. I began writing it almost immediately. I delivered it today. Mom died last Wednesday, October 11, with all three of her kids bedside. We’re all hurting, but we know she was ready to go. She wanted to be back with her husband, and now she is.

    In honor of my mom, here’s the full text of the eulogy I gave today. I hope she would’ve approved and enjoyed it.)

    I asked on Twitter a couple days ago, “How long is too long for a eulogy?” The most common reply was “10 minutes,” which is crazy talk! As if a son could eulogize his mom in just 10 minutes. Those replies must’ve been from people who never heard the great WD Howells quote:

    “A man never sees all that his mother has been to him until it’s too late to let her know that he sees it.”

    Ain’t that the truth?!? Anyway, I have no idea how long this is gonna go, but I can promise you it’ll be more than 10 minutes. So I hope you’re comfortable. I’m gonna try to hold it together through the whole thing, but no promises — mom taught me that it’s okay for guys to be sensitive. So, here goes…..

    I’m going to start with a confession: I didn’t think my mom would live this long. I always thought that mom and dad would be one of those couples where, as soon as one dies, the other one follows pretty quickly. Death by broken heart. That’s what I thought would happen to mom after my dad died in 2015.

    Her heart was certainly broken when he died. They were the most in-love couple I ever saw — and ever will see. About five years ago, my wife, Cari, and I were taking a marriage class at our church with friends. There was a lot of group discussion, answering questions together, sharing stories … stuff like that. One night, the discussion began with this question: “Who has the most successful marriage you know?” It was the easiest question ever for Cari and me — not ours, but Joan and Charlie McGee. I remember telling our group how much mom and dad loved and respected each other — the two keys to a wonderful marriage.

    Anyway, I sat right next to my mom during dad’s funeral mass, right there in the front row. Saw her tears, heard her sobbing, felt her pain. She actually held it together much better than I expected her to. I was kinda surprised at the time, but in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been.

    We all sold mom short her whole life.

    Dad was bigger than life, this really successful real estate guy that everyone knew and loved. And mom? Oh, she was just along for the ride. I know that’s how it looked to a lot of people — me included, sometimes. But that wasn’t the reality. Mom was a lot more complicated than that. She wasn’t along for any ride; she was doing the driving more often than not.

    So let me tell you about the Joan McGee I knew.

    Mom was strong — she had no choice but to be strong in order to put up with my dad some days. And my sister, Maureen. (Love you, sis!) Alright, and to put up with me, too, every once in a while.

    Little known fact: Mom was the disciplinarian in the family. I bet you thought that would’ve been Charlie, but nope. Mom had this thing where, whenever something went wrong in the house, whomever was involved would have to write out an explanation of what happened. And an apology. And a promise not to do it again. When we were going through her papers last week, there they were — dozens of letters from all three kids detailing our transgressions. She saved them all this time.

    (READ ONE)

    Mom is the one who kept order at home, and she was really great at it. But she knew you didn’t keep order just by being strong — you had to be smart, too.

    There was a period of time in the 1980s when my dad and I argued a lot. Mom usually stayed out of it, but she was always there when it was over — not with strength but with wisdom, making sure I understood dad’s side and respected him no matter how much we disagreed. And even if she disagreed with him, too. This was the Pisces in her — empathy at all times. It’s funny how you don’t realize how smart your parents are until you become a parent yourself.

    But as smart as she was, Mom didn’t mind letting you think you were smarter. It’s weird — I was pretty much a straight-A student throughout grade school, but I hated taking tests. Don’t know why, I just hated them. At least 10 times during every school year, on a day that I had a test to take, I “tricked” mom into thinking I was too sick to go to school. I’d rub my forehead on the pillow really fast to make it warm so that it felt like I had a fever when she came in to wake me up. Or I’d take the thermometer and hold it tightly in my fist to warm it up. Sure enough, mom would tell me I needed to stay home from school. I got to miss the test and take it some other day. I always thought I was pulling the wool over her eyes. But now that I’m a parent, I know I wasn’t. She knew what I was doing all along.

    Mom had high standards for all of us — herself, dad, my sisters and me. She expected dad to treat her like a queen, and he did. She was royalty in our house. My wife wrote about mom’s death on Facebook last week and one of the words she used to describe mom was “regal.” That she was. Dad made sure we all knew early on: Do not mess with your mother. She’s queen around here.

    Whenever I did something that didn’t meet mom’s standards — and it happened more than once when I was young — she’d remind me that the McGees are patricians, not plebeians. And thank God we had one of those huge, 40-pound dictionaries in the house, otherwise I would’ve had no idea what she was talking about. She really liked to use a lot of big words in everyday speech and forced us all to look up anything we didn’t know. If those words are new to you, too, she was basically telling me that we’re not commoners and common behavior will not be tolerated. The “but all my friends are doing it” argument never worked with mom because she never wanted us doing anything that everyone else was doing. She wanted us to do better.

    Expectations? Oh yeah. There was a day when I was in Little League and mom was in the stands with all the other parents. It was my turn to come up to bat, and just as I’m walking from the dugout to the batter’s box, when the crowd is quiet, mom stands up and yells out, “HIT A HOME RUN FOR YOUR MOTHER!!!” Oh man … talk about embarrassing. I wanted to keep walking right through the batter’s box, out the side fence and all the way home, two miles away. But I stepped in the batter’s box and got ready to hit.

    Now, understand that when I was 10 years old, I was as wide as I was tall. Speed was not my gift, but if I got my weight behind a swing, I could sometimes hit the ball kinda far. Well, on this at bat I did hit the ball kinda far, but it didn’t go over the fence, it just rolled and rolled and rolled. So I started rolling around the bases and didn’t stop until I got to 3rd base. The fat kid — one of my nicknames at the time was “meatball” — actually hit a triple, which is way more rare than a home run. I was on top of the world! And then when the clapping and cheering stopped, mom stood up again and shouted, “I SAID I WANTED A HOME RUN!!!”

    Yep, she could be demanding. She expected a certain type and level of behavior from all of us and never hesitated to let us know when we weren’t meeting those lofty expectations. When I got to my teen years — AKA, the time when you think it’s okay to talk back to your mom — I once told her during an argument that she was a snob, and I thought “Bam, you got her good with that.” Well, she quickly fired back with this: “Nothing wrong with being a snob. We set the standards for everyone else.” I think that quote should go on her gravestone.

    Speaking of quotes, wow did mom love words! She loved to read. If you ever visited our house in Levittown, you probably remember that our bathroom had wallpaper that was covered in Shakespearean quotes. Take my word: That was mom’s home decor sense, not dad’s. (He would’ve had the Pabst Blue Ribbon logo all over or something like that.) Whenever I’d come home from school with some issue or complaint, or something that was bothering me, she’d fire off a Shakespearean quote that somehow could be related to my situation. She had a quote for everything; you couldn’t stump her. When I had girl trouble in high school, she’d tell me, “The course of true love never did run smooth.” Thanks, mom. Sympathy via Shakespeare.

    As business-like and logical as dad was, mom was every bit the opposite — feelings, emotions, the arts. She could quote poems and poets old and new. She loved books. Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet” was a favorite of hers. As was a book by Richard Bach called “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.” Those two weren’t relegated to the bookshelf with hundreds of others; they lived on our living room table for decades.

    Now, I’ve done pretty well for myself in online marketing, I’ve made a good name and all that stuff. But it wasn’t until my U2 book was published in 2008 that I figured mom felt that I had a successful career. I was a published author — she liked that. She also kept my book on the living room table and I’ll just apologize now to everyone who visited her since 2008 because I know she told you all about that book and how proud she was of me. Trust me, I tried to get her to stop and put the book away, but nope.

    Mom liked music, too. And that’s saying something because my sisters and I certainly made her listen to some dodgy music at home in the ’70s and ’80s. But mom went along with it and never complained, even when Maureen and Chris went through their disco phase in the ’70s and I went through a “I love hair bands!” phase in the ’80s — Bon Jovi, Quiet Riot, The Scorpions. You remember them, I’m sure.

    Mom liked Billy Joel, Janis Ian and Simon & Garfunkel, especially. It wasn’t so much the music that she loved, but the words. U2 was always my band — still is — and mom eventually came to like them, too. She had a favorite U2 song called “Running To Stand Still,” and her favorite verse went like this:

    You gotta cry without weeping
    Talk without speaking
    And scream without raising your voice

    She loved the poetry of it. I’ll forever think of her when I hear that line and that song. One of the great joys of growing up for me was getting to teach her about U2 and their music and what they stood for.

    But of course, it normally went the other way. She was the one teaching me — teaching us — day in and day out. There are a million things I learned from her, but a couple that I still find myself living by today, as I approach 50 years old.

    One was not to micromanage your kids. She loved us enough not to smother us. She let us be ourselves. She let us make our own mistakes, because she knew that’s how we learned. She let us find our way, when maybe other parents might’ve tightened the reins.

    In my high school years, I lost interest in going to Mass. (Sorry, Father.) On Sundays, I’d drive to the 11 AM Mass, walk in and get the church bulletin as proof I was there, then turn around and go to lunch at Wendy’s or McDonald’s or someplace like that. Then I’d drive home, show mom and dad the church bulletin and all was good.

    But mom — again, smarter than she got credit for — knew what I was doing. I remember her sitting me down one day and explaining how I could never let on to dad what I was doing because he’d erupt. But she was okay with it because she understood that I needed to find my own way. We talked about God and faith and I specifically remember her saying that it’s natural to question and doubt and, as long as I was always looking for answers to those questions, everything would be fine. It’s a lesson that I’ve applied with my own kids, both in their teens, and both dealing with their own questions and doubts about faith. I’ve told them the same thing: keep searching, keep asking the important questions. That’s mom talking through me. Her wisdom lives on.

    Another huge lesson I learned from mom was that learning doesn’t only happen in the classroom and from textbooks. There was a day … I think it was 1979 or so … I was 11 years old, so that would be 6th grade. Mom came to me and said she was keeping me home from school the next day. Why? Because some politicians named Ronald Reagan and Jim Coyne were going to be speaking at Oxford Valley Mall and she wanted me to be there. “It’ll be a good experience for you,” she said. And she was right, of course. I was amazed by the whole scene — the pomp and pageantry of the politicians, the music playing, the speeches about improving the world — or improving Bucks County, in Jim Coyne’s case — the huge crowd of people cheering and clapping and waving flags. It was fascinating. And look, here we are almost 40 years later and I remember it in way more detail than anything I would’ve learned that day in 6th grade.

    She felt the same way when the Pope came to visit Philadelphia that same year. I should be there because it would be a good experience. There were huge crowds — like 1.2 or 1.5 million people — and we sat in traffic for hours, but to this day I remember running across a green lawn along the Pope’s route and getting up to the barricade and watching him go by. I got to tell all my friends in school that I had stood within 25 feet of the Pope. It was incredible, another experience I’ll never forget. Another experience mom wanted me to have.

    For all her love of books, mom knew that life and learning is also about experiences. And so Cari and I take that lesson and apply it to our kids, too. I took my son to his first U2 concert when he was seven years old because I knew it would be a good experience for him. It was. And he’s been to about 10 more U2 concerts since then.

    Experiences. It’s why my wife and I loaded up the car in 2006 and, for our summer vacation, drove from Washington state down through Oregon, through northern California to southern California and eventually all the way to San Diego. We saw amazing sights — what a beautiful country we live in. We visited with family and friends. We spent wonderful time together. Our daughter was only four years old but even she remembers that trip today, and I’m sure she always will. She says it’s her earliest memory.

    Experiences. Mom knew that’s what life is all about.

    I’ve spent a lot of time talking about books and baseball, learning experiences, arguments and stuff like that, but I want to make this clear: The thing we should remember the most is how much mom loved her husband and kids. Problem is … I don’t really know how to explain that, to put it into words.

    I’ll try by saying that she was always there for us no matter the situation, no matter the day or time or anything. She always wanted to take care of us. For the past 20+ years, I’ve lived on the west coast and I’d come home to visit a couple times a year. Without fail, every time I walked into her house to visit, the first thing I got was a hug and kiss and the first thing she said was, “Are you hungry?” She never stopped being our mom; it was her full-time job, and she loved it. She loved us.

    Mom and dad never had kids of their own. I always thought we were the strangest family. Five people, but all three kids were adopted. Maureen and Chris were the only blood relatives in our house.

    Me? The first time I ever saw a blood relative was when my son was born in 1997. But I’ll tell you this: I never once felt like I wasn’t my mom and dad’s son. They may not have conceived me, but they sure as hell raised me — especially my mom, running things at home while dad was out doing real estate deals left and right.

    As I was growing up, my friends and the other kids at school were always fascinated to learn that I was adopted. Maybe they’d never met an adopted kid before. As we talked, it was inevitable that they’d ask me this question: Don’t you want to know who your mom is? And I’d tell them, I know who my mom is.

    She was without question the most real and honest person I’ve ever known. No pretense. No faking things. No one was ever as comfortable in their own skin as she was. She never put on masks. She knew who she was and, if you didn’t like it, too bad for you. Your loss. She wasn’t gonna change who she was to make you happy.

    I’m not sure what I’m gonna do on Sundays now that I can’t call mom before or after the Seahawks game. I’m not sure what I’m gonna do when I have questions about parenting, or need a good potato salad recipe. (Hers was the best). Don’t know who I’m going to ask when I need someone to remind me about something I did or said when I was young. There’s a void in my life and all of our lives going forward.

    Since mom loved books so much, it seems best to end with a quote from a children’s book that came out last year. It’s called “The Girl Who Saved Christmas” and the author is a guy named Matt Haig. I haven’t read the book, but this quote spread online a few months ago and I loved it. It’s a man talking to a little girl named Amelia, whose mother is ill. Might be her dad talking, might be Santa … I don’t know. But it goes like this:

    “The love of a person never disappears,” he said softly. “Even if they might. We have memories, you see, Amelia. Love never dies. We love someone and they love us back and that love is stored and it protects us. It is bigger than life and it doesn’t end with life. It stays inside us. THEY stay inside us. Inside our hearts.”

    God bless you, mom. We miss you already. We love you forever.


    A 25th Anniversary Mixtape Playlist for Cari McGee

    November 2, 2016


    Today I celebrate 25 years of marriage to Cari McGee, the most wonderful human being God ever made. There were times when it didn’t look like we were gonna make it 25 months, much less years, but here we are thanks to God’s grace and a lot of hard work to make our marriage work, survive and thrive.

    We started dating in 1987 and, like most guys (and maybe girls, too?) who had a girlfriend in the ’80s, I used to make Cari mixtapes. (C’mon, you know you did, too. Mixtapes were the best, and for all the amazing things the internet has brought into our lives, we also need to remember that it killed the mixtape, and that’s borderline unforgiveable.)

    Anyway, these mixtapes were songs that reminded me of Cari … songs that we both loved … songs that said something across the miles … songs that, for one reason or another, played an important role in the early days of our relationship. I made a bunch of them — some that I kept for myself and played while I was home from college for the summer, and at least a couple that I sent to her in California, or brought with me for our next year together at Pepperdine.

    For the past several weeks, I’ve been thinking about doing something special for Cari for our 25th anniversary (beyond our anniversary trip) and one day it dawned on me: MAKE HER A MIXTAPE! YES! Obviously we can’t make an actual tape; they stopped making and selling cassette decks and blank tapes like ages ago, but I figured I can use the internet to make the next best thing.

    So below I present my wonderful wife with a modern-day mixtape, created on Spotify: 25 Songs for our 25th Anniversary. She’ll know why all these songs are included, but our kids won’t and most anyone else that reads this won’t, either. So I’ll include a few quick comments below to explain things.

    Stand By Me: This was our wedding dance song. It was an embarassing, junior prom-like slow dance. But it was our first as husband and wife, and nothing else matters.

    If You Leave: The main theme song from Pretty In Pink, the movie we watched on what became our first date on March 19, 1987.

    I Melt With You: No special meaning, just a song that we both love and included on several mixtapes while we were dating.

    Coming Up Close: I used to take the lyrics of this song and spin them into poems during our college years, and give the poems to Cari. At the time, the poems seemed Very Deep and Meaningful. Today, we’d call them “overly melodramatic” … “emo” … or maybe just “really lame.”

    California Dreamin’: Another frequent mixtape song, especially when I was at home in Pennsylvania and missing Cari on the other side of the country.

    Romeo And Juliet: One of the saddest love songs of all time, but one that we both love and sang/sing regularly when we hear it.

    Just Got Lucky: One day not too long ago, we discovered that both of us loved this song in the ’80s. And now, about once a month or so, we can be found dancing around the house with this playing loudly … much to the kids’ embarrassment.

    (I Just) Died In Your Arms: A popular mixtape choice, and the No. 1 song in the U.S. shortly after we first started dating.

    Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody: A favorite during our dating years for the irony that I was never anything close to a gigolo.

    Carrie: Duh. Obvious choice, right? I was always jealous that Cari had a song named after her, even if the spelling was different. I used to joke that Susanna Hoffs (of The Bangles) had written a song about me called “Matthew,” but never released it because she was broken-hearted after I dumped her. Actually, I still tell that joke. I need to get over this.

    Say Once More: Every couple has an “our song.” We’ve had a few, in my opinion, but I think this one was the first one we considered our song.

    Walking On Sunshine: One of Cari’s favorites and a song that will always remind me of her from start to finish.

    Sister Christian: This was apparently an important family song between Cari and her brothers … it’s a long story, actually. In a nutshell, Cari was “Sister Christian” in high school and so this song often made it on my mixtapes.

    Same Old Lang Syne: OMG, one of the five or ten saddest songs ever. But one that we’ve often sung together over the years when it gets played at Christmas.

    I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles): To help repair our marriage in the early days, I once drove non-stop from Twin Falls, Idaho, to see Cari in Hacienda Heights, California. That’s about 750 miles one way. The marriage was repaired and when this came on the radio in the years since then, we’d sing “I would drive 500 miles….”

    At This Moment: Another sad one, but we used to love watching Family Ties together. In the ’80s, I looked a lot like Michael J. Fox, and this one became a favorite for both of us.

    Don’t Dream It’s Over: A favorite for both of us that was on several mixtapes.

    Come Dancing: OMG, it would take forever to explain all the jokes and fun we’ve had with this song over the years — goofy, little husband/wife memes that make no sense to anyone else, but never fail to put a smile on our faces.

    San Jose: Another regular mixtape choice for the California connection.

    My Girl: “I got sunshine on a cloudy day.” Those seven words perfectly explain how I feel about Cari.

    It Must Be Love: Madness was such an underrated band, and we both loved this one. A mixtape favorite.

    Mr. Jones: Hehehehehehe. LOLOLOLOLOL

    My Eyes Adored You: Just about a year ago, we went to see the musical, Jersey Boys, in Las Vegas with good friends and we were all surprised by how many Frankie Valli/Four Seasons songs we knew and had forgotten over the years. We all got home from the trip and immediately bought a bunch of their songs on iTunes, but this one is my favorite of the bunch. Let the ’70s cheesiness play loudly!

    Back In The High Life: We both went through a little Steve Winwood phase during our Pepperdine years together. I recall many afternoons driving up and down Pacific Coast Highway with Cari while this whole album played loudly and we sang together.

    The Best Was Yet To Come: Not only was this a favorite of both of ours, but the title sums up where we are, even after 25 great years together.

    That’s it. I really could’ve put 50 more songs on here, and there were a few important ones that are missing due to Spotify vs. artist limitations. I’m sad, for example, that Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” isn’t available on Spotify. There’s also nothing from a little-known band called The Fat Lady Sings — their song “Arclight” was a favorite of ours in the 1990s, especially. And I could go on….

    But despite the limitations, I love this modern-day mixtape. My love, I hope you do, too. Happy 25th anniversary. Thanks for making my heart sing all these years.


    My son graduated from high school tonight

    June 3, 2016

    Sean graduated from high school tonight. I thought I’d be the one to keep things together during the ceremony — that Cari would do all the crying for us. Ha! Pretty naive on my part.

    This is my son we’re talking about. My firstborn. The first blood relative I ever met. (I’m adopted.) The person I’ve spent 18 years helping into manhood. And there he was, cap and gown on, walking into the Toyota Center to close the book on this chapter of his life.

    They did this thing where they had all the kids who’ll be going off to the various military and service academies stand up, and the whole crowd saluted them. That was pretty cool and yeah, I think I may have cried a bit.

    Then about halfway through the ceremony, I got messy when I started wishing that I could call my dad tomorrow and tell him about his grandson’s graduation. He would’ve been proud — you know, that father-to-son-to-grandson thing and all. (Cue “Circle Of Life” about now.) But I’m sure my dad was watching, anyway, and probably naively thought he’d be able to keep it together, too.

    Sean certainly didn’t make things easy on himself these four years. And so they weren’t easy on his mom and dad, either. But, as one of the valedictorians pointed out, we never grow when we’re comfortable. And so that’s what I’m most proud of. Sean fell down a few times, but he always got up. He never quit. And I think that’s a great trait that he’ll take with him. (But yo Sean, you don’t have to make things that hard on yourself in the next chapter.)

    Super proud of you, Sean McGee. Super glad you’re my son.


    Charles J. McGee, 1930-2015

    February 27, 2015

    My dad holding my son in 1998. One of my favorite pictures ever.
    My dad holding my son in 1998. One of my favorite pictures ever.

    (My dad died on February 5, 2015. I’ve been afraid to write this, but I need to.)

    Dear dad,

    I miss you. God, do I miss you.

    You were a super-sized presence in my life and it’s the strangest thing to realize that you’re not there anymore. I was thinking about something a couple nights ago — don’t even remember now what it was — and came up with a question that I couldn’t answer. I thought to myself, “Dad will know. I’ll ask him next time we talk.” And then it hit me: No. I won’t. No more questions. No more answers.

    I thought I was ready for this, but I wasn’t. Even after 17 years of preparing, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.

    When you had that massive stroke 17 years ago, that’s when it first hit me that you’d die someday. I flew across the country and walked into that hospital room and never saw you look so weak, so small. You tried to smile at me, but the left side of your body wasn’t cooperating. You could hardly talk. You could hardly move. You always seemed unbreakable up until that moment. You got stronger over the years (thank God), but every time I saw you I knew it could be the last time.

    I started writing your eulogy in my head on the flight home from that trip. And I’ve been writing it ever since, imagining the things I’d want to tell a church full of your old friends and neighbors and peers in Bristol … what it was like to be Charlie McGee’s son. I even imagined doing that at St. Mark’s church, which is where we just had your funeral last week. But damned if you didn’t ask your neighbor Jane to do the eulogy, not me. A tiny part of me was a bit angry about that, but let’s face it: I could barely stand up during the mass and would’ve never gotten through a speech without throwing up or passing out. Or both. And besides, Jane’s eulogy for you was marvelous so I give you credit: You made the right call. (By the way, I just sent Jane and Mary Ann a letter of thanks for all they’ve done for you and mom over the years — handwritten, of course, because that’s how you would’ve done it.)

    Since I didn’t speak at the funeral, here are a few things that I’ll always remember about you.

    I was about four or five years old, and it was a warm, sunny day. It was the first day, at least the first stored in my memory, that you drove me into Bristol, your old hometown. I remember sitting in the back of your Oldsmobile 98, an absolute boat of a car, the kind of car that gangsters and pimps — and my dad, the coolest cat around — would drive. It looked like this:

    "1971 Ninety-Eight" by Ksderby - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
    1971 Ninety-Eight” by KsderbyOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

    I remember you had your window down and we were driving slowly. As we got into the downtown area, people started shouting at us from the sidewalks. “Charlie!!!!” “Mr. McGee!!! How are you???” You shouted back and waved and I was just amazed how everyone knew you. You were already as cool as a dad could be, but this took it to another level. My dad was a rock star.

    Speaking of rock stars, one of my favorite days as your son was in the summer of 1989, or maybe 1990, when I was home from Pepperdine and somehow managed to convince you and mom to watch U2’s movie, Rattle And Hum. On this one Saturday, we spent a good two hours watching it together. I loved the chance to share with you something that was so important to me. I loved how you and mom would ask me to pause the VHS tape and explain what Bono was singing about or what someone said. My favorite moment was when, about an hour into the movie, you started crying as Bono gave his passionate “F**k the revolution!” speech in the middle of “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” That scene makes me cry, too.

    You worked a lot, but you were always good about supporting me and joining me in the things I was interested in. You weren’t much of a sports fan, but when the Phillies, Eagles and 76ers had their great runs in the late 70s and early 80s, you were always willing to watch the games on TV with me. And in 1980, you somehow managed to score tickets for 2-3 76ers playoff games so that I could go. We were at The Spectrum together the night that Dr. J made that amazing, high-flying, behind-the-backboard reverse layup around Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — one of the greatest plays in NBA history, and I saw it in person thanks to you.

    I loved our trip to Malibu together in March 1986, when we flew on People Express airlines (remember them??) and stayed in a dumpy little hotel/motel right on Pacific Coast Highway, then spent a couple days visiting the Pepperdine campus and convincing the financial aid department to award me lots of money. Pepperdine was going to be a personal and financial challenge for you and mom, but you supported my decision to go there anyway, and spent a lot of your money to help me pay for it, too. I’ll never be able to thank you enough for that — Pepperdine is where I met the love of my life, and I wouldn’t be half the man I am today if I’d gone somewhere else.

    Speaking of being a man, in the end, I hope that’s where your legacy lives on. You taught me so, so much — mostly by example. You worked hard so that we could live a comfortable life — both at your job and at home. You did a lot of the cooking. You did the dishes. I do those same things, too, thanks to you. You made me start cutting lawns at age 12 so that I could help pay for the private prep school I wanted to attend. I made Sean start cutting lawns at age 12, too. You managed the family finances and taught me how to write checks, pay bills and balance the checkbook. I manage the family finances now, too. You used to save important articles and essays and poems for me, and you had me put them in a folder for safe keeping. I still have them, and I’m doing the same thing with Sean. (That family name poem? It’s his now.) And do you remember the time hot dogs were on sale for only 44 cents a package, and you drove me to the grocery store so we could load up a cart with 40 packages (not a typo) of hot dogs? Well, about a year ago, hot dogs were on sale for $1 a package. I ended up buying about 20 packages. Your influence on me is unmistakeable.

    My favorite thing about you, dad, was your relationship with mom. Holy s**t, you guys would’ve celebrated your 62nd anniversary later this year. 62 YEARS. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? No one stays married 62 years anymore, but you guys did. Cari and I were in a marriage class not long ago (don’t worry, things are great) and one of the discussion questions asked us to name another couple whose marriage we admired. You and mom came to mind immediately, for both of us. I told the group how the parenting experts always say that kids need to know and see how much their dad loves their mom, and how every morning the last thing you did before you left for work was give mom a kiss on the lips and say, “I love you.” And how that was the first thing you did as soon as you walked in the door at the end of the workday. The house could’ve been falling down around us, and that still wouldn’t have stopped you from kissing mom and telling her that you loved her. It was a beautiful example of love and manhood, and I can’t thank you enough for showing us how strong your marriage was every day.

    As you know, Cari lost her dad several years ago, and she’s been a rock for me lately. (The kids have been wonderful, too.) There’s another area where you influenced me, by the way: I found a wife that loves to read as much as mom, quotes great literature like mom, and who respects me like mom always respected you. As you got to know Cari over the years, I was so happy to see that you approved of my choice to marry her, that you loved her and loved having her in our family.

    Dad, the first couple weeks after you died were just … I don’t know. A blur, really. I was just numb all over. Still am to some degree. Focus and concentration haven’t been my strong suits lately, and my work ethic — normally at Charlie McGee levels — hasn’t been the same.

    But this week has been a little better. I’m allowing myself to smile and laugh again, to enjoy life the way I usually do. I’m making plans to see U2 concerts later this year. I’m getting back in the work groove. Each day seems a little bit more normal. But deep inside, I know it’ll never be the same without you.

    I promise you two things:

    1.) Even as life slowly gets back to normal, I will never forget you and I will never stop missing you.

    2.) I will visit you whenever I can, proud in the knowledge that my dad is remembered with other veterans at a national cemetery. You deserve nothing less.

    I love you, dad. I hope the rest of my life honors you and serves as proof to everyone of the wonderful dad you were. I can’t wait to see you again.

    Your son,