I've gone from "Dad" to "Dude."


I’ve gone from “Dad” to “Dude.”

Although sometimes he keeps it in the family and calls me “Bro.”

As in, “Dude! Bro! You don’t know how to dance the Floss?! You really don’t know anything do you?”

He’s too young to talk smack, isn’t he?

And when did it become okay for him to make fun of me?

Okay, I’ve never been able to dance. But still.

Wait, how does he know that I can’t dance and how could he possibly know that it touches a nerve? I’m lanky! These arms have nowhere to go. I don’t need to justify myself to him yet do I? How long can I be the cool dad?

All those cliches’ about “where did the time go” and “those were the days” and “I remember when you didn’t even have arm hair”. They are real. I made up the arm hair one. Coining a phrase.

But the arm hair! When did he get arm hair!? I still have to remind him to use shampoo on his head hair. One step at a time here.

And when did he learn to get himself dressed? And how does he know what looks cool? Wait, why does he care if he looks cool? Where did my little boy go?

I think he looked cool when I dressed him in clothes that made me look cool.

“Aw, he’s wearing a little Pink Floyd T-shirt. He’s such a cool little baby.”

Actually, I’m the cool one stranger. He can’t dress himself you know. I may even be his bro one day.

Those were the days. When he wore shirts that matched my musical style.

As long as he doesn’t pick out a Sublime shirt one day. Or Coldplay... The horror.

He has favorite TV shows now. And he knows all the characters. When did this happen?

Where did the time go? He just started recalling his home address accurately but now he can tell me all the names of the cast of the Full House remake. I tell him I watched it when it was just “Full House.”

“Dude, Bro! It’s Fuller House. You really don’t know anything do you?”

“You know these people aren’t real right!” I said.

I then blew his little mind when I showed him behind the scenes shots of them filming on YouTube. At least he still thinks TV shows are real. Well, did I guess?

I forced that growth spurt.

I gave him a million dollar bill a few weeks ago that a passenger gave me in exchange for a safe flight. (I told the passenger I’d give him a safe one either way… you know, self preservation.)

The boy didn’t buy that it was actually a million dollars. Not even for a second.

“This isn’t real.” He said hardly even looking at it.

Not even a tiny suspension of belief?

“How do you know?” I asked him.

“Well, it doesn’t have Donald Trump on it. Million dollar bills have the president on the front.”

I didn’t know where to start.

I simply offered, “Dude, you’re just a little kid.”

He replied, “I know Bro.”

My Father Will Forever Watch Over The Florida Aquarium


I was humbled to be able to take part in the unveiling of an incredible statue honoring my father at the Florida Aquarium this week in Tampa. The Aquarium commissioned artist Yeins Gomez for the project and the result took my breath away... a beautiful metal bow-tie wearing Stork standing above his three little Storks calling to mind his three grandchildren. Mr. Gomez was able to capture so much of my father’s spirit and our Stork proudly stands outside near the Children’s play area of the Aquarium. So often when my dad talked to me about what they were working on at the Aquarium it wasn’t always the animals or conservation efforts he was most excited to talk about… it was the work they did to capture the attention of kids.

One of my father’s last projects at the aquarium, in addition to the remodeled children’s Splash Pad and the Carol J. and Barney Barnett Learning Center, was a partnership with the Havana National Aquarium in Cuba on coral research. Having Cuba’s Mr. Gomez put so much of his heart and attention into this sculpture would make my dad feel blessed for sure. He had plans to fly with his team on their first trip to Havana but was unable to make it down and as fate would have it I operated one of those Tampa/Havana flights with some of his team on board. Instead of my father making it to Havana, Yeins was able to bring a little bit of Cuba to him.


And a Stork! Obviously, this long-legged bird has played a huge role in our story. Growing up my dad had stationery made that read “From the Desk of Thom Stork” with a bird drawn into the S. We had NY’s Stork Club memorabilia scattered about our house. The front door of that home had big glass panels with Storks etched into the glass. As you can imagine, both my father and I (and now my son I hope) have always been called “Stork”. My dad told me he tried to get the license plate STORK once but it was taken by an OB/GYN.

My favorite part of the unveiling ceremony was after it concluded and I watched guests approach my Father’s statue and witness them take pictures with him and read the inscription on the bottom.

“A child reminds us that playtime is an essential part of our daily routine.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson.

My words of thanks .

Coincidentally, it was 14 years ago last night that my father spoke at my wedding to my wife Susan right here at the Florida Aquarium. Right over there.

It was from right here that he would call me every New Years Eve at midnight to wish me a great new year. This is where we honored his life on the night of his funeral. This is where he loved to take his grandchildren. When I visited town he would bring me by to show me the latest offerings. This is where he loved to interact with the families and the guests of the Aquarium. They were all his guests. He welcomed them in like he was bringing them into his own home.

I can’t think of a more perfect place for him to be honored. For this statue to be placed here where he gave so much of his heart. Our family has so many memories here and I’m certain we will have many more in the future.

This was his home and where his heart was and I am humbled to know that this is now where he will be remembered forever.

Even before this day and before this gift to him, and us, when I’ve come by, this is where I’ve most felt my father’s presence. I look down at the Aquarium every time I fly into Tampa and think about him. I am grateful that that feeling can be shared by all every time they see our big Stork here.

He loved us all and as I mentioned, he loved his grandkids. He cared so much for all the children who visited. He was always most proud when he told me about the work the Aquarium was doing with education, field trips and in the camps offered here. He would often tell me about the school groups that would come by. I love that this statue shows that. A proud Papa Stork standing over his three little birds. He kept us safe under his wing and like the little storks under his wings here he will stand and watch over all of them.

He will be here forever watching the kids when they are at their youngest as they play outside. And he will still be here as they grow and as those same kids mature and make their way to the exhibits inside. And then when they are older yet, when they come here for summer camp maybe they will come out here to say hello. He will still be here when they return to visit as they grow older. And then when they have children of their own they will tell their little birds about how they used to play out here with Papa Stork watching over them too. I love that he will always be remembered this way. More importantly, he would love that too. He really loved it here and he really loved all of us.

And personally, on my wedding night 14 years ago last night he spoke of sending me off with my wife to start our new life. I was stepping out from under his wings that kept me safe. With this statue, every time I fly out of Tampa I’ll be able to look down past the aircraft's wings and see him here protecting and watching over each generation.

From Donna, Ericka and me. My wife Susan and Brother -in- law Kemel. My father’s two sisters and my Unlce Doug. And of course from Tajai, Judah, and Imani. With all our hearts. Thank You so much for this gift. It really is an honor to be able to celebrate my father’s life like this.

Thank You

Approaching the One Year Anniversary of My Father's Passing

My father was dying this time last year. I knew it. He knew it. We all did. The difference though was that he handled the news so much better than we did. Unlike us, he never complained or expressed the unfairness of the situation. He never said “too soon.” We did. Everyone who came to visit did. Even when he must have been in pain, my father never winced. I would wince. He’d tell me to stop it.

He stoically lived each remaining day and only occasionally addressed the matter. A thought would cross his mind like he was running a checklist before an upcoming trip. He would remember a chore my stepmom would soon inherit.  “Remind me I need to teach her how to use the digital camera.” I nodded “okay” but broke down inside each time.

She and I handled that checklist with significantly less grace. Like when we were resetting their email password and it was his phone that rang for the restore option. Silently, but with welling emotions, we both looked at each other knowing his cell number would soon be silenced as well. What other accounts are associated with that number? There was so much to do. Too soon.

I am grateful that during the month and half that elapsed between his diagnosis and passing I was able to be at my father’s side for the milestones that marked the progress of his final days. To ride with him the last time he drove . To then become his driver. To help him eat. To help him walk.

During that time it was not lost on me that the circle of life was spinning. I was back in my home town driving my dad on the same streets where he taught me to drive. That wheel was spinning each time I grabbed him a towel like he did for me so many years ago… so many times. Once he was my humble caretaker. I was now honored and blessed to become his. To return the favor. Circle.

I was there with him when he patiently told his cancer doctor he didn’t think treatment was the best option and “we’ve” decided quality of life at this stage is better for us all. “I’m going with the four month plan you mentioned.” He was referring to the estimated time he was given. He was at peace with this decision and a stop at the hospital chapel confirmed that for me when he joked that you can’t light the candles… because of the oxygen tanks. Turning on the candle brought us peace.

Four months? He didn’t make it that long. Too soon.

I was there for his last meal and his last holiday.

On New Year’s Eve as my father was just a few days from passing he lay in his bed… as he wished and as we had planned. Family was there and the neighbors were celebrating. Sitting alone with him in his dark room as the New Year soon rang in we could hear fireworks outside. I could see the occasional burst of lights through the curtains. I think he could see them too. The sounds and the lights, though sometimes chaotic, enhanced the sense of peace I was feeling from him.

I am forever grateful I was able to be with him that last month and especially those last days. My father, through it all, put me at ease.

So now that I am in the first anniversary of those times I reflect each day on what little milestone we were passing. How we each dealt with the inevitable. How my father gave us strength even when his was fading.

A Pro and Con to Having Just One Child.

Pro: You only have one mouth to feed.

Con: That same mouth often only has one person to talk to.

I am his entertainment. I am his captive audience. I am his sounding board for his really great ideas about really great things that really can’t wait until later.

I find that as I attempt to disengage myself from a conversation that is growing mundane or trivial or monotonous it feels like I am yanking on the starter cable of a lawn mower hoping to get it to catch so his words can be his own muse and his engine can run on it’s own. Every few sentences I give it another tug until the motor catches and it runs at full tilt.

“You know Dad. I think I would like to get a family of worms to keep as my pets.” He interjects into my quiet drive time.

“Oh, that sounds like a great idea.” I respond.

“I’m going to name the parents Wormy and Brownie and the kid worms will be called Squirmy and Turkey.”

“I don’t really think Turkey is a good name for a worm.” I say.

“No Dad. It’s a really good name. A really good one. Turkeys live in fields and fields are full of dirt and worms live in dirt. Turkey is a really great name for a worm. You don’t know these things. I do. I know everything about worms.”

“No. I think you named it Turkey because right after you said Squirmy your little kid brain went up the alphabet to the next letter which is T and you took the sound of Squirmy but with a T in the front so you stumbled on Turkey.”

“You’re wrong Dad. I didn’t name them yet. We don’t even have worms yet. See, you don’t know anything about worms like I do.”

Just a little tug on that lawn mower starter cable. Pull the choke out some. Yank a little harder.

“I think worms bite.” He says.

“No. They don’t.” I answer.

“Well, some do. You don’t know about worms. Remember?”

Full pull on the cord. The motor catches. I’m out and sit back to let the perpetual motion machine that is his seven year old brain whirl on it’s own for a bit.

“I guess some worms bite. They have mouths because they have to eat. So if they have mouths I guess they bite. But they eat leaves and dirt and little pieces of trash so their mouths must be so small. So cute! Maybe they sleep with their mouths open like I do sometimes? Their eyes must be so tiny! Wee!! I can’t wait to get worms! I’m going to put them in this cup. This would be a good cup for them. It even has a lid. But what will I drink out of? Can we share the cup? No. That’s dirty. I will wash them first. Wee!!! I can’t wait to get worms!”

Listening to him talk gives me an idea. Maybe I’ll invent a white noise generating machine for parents. It will have a microphone and a speaker and it will take in their little voices and generate an equal and opposite audio wave than the ones that comes from their little face holes. Equal and opposite? Didn’t Newton say something about that? The sounds that come from a kid's mouth will have an equal and opposite reaction inside the brain of a parent?

And then I realized something. We are the same. He and I are the same but with one huge difference. At some point you learn how to flip that switch that allows you to disconnect your thoughts from your mouth. He just says everything he thinks!

“I think I’m going to strap a Fitbit to your face and see how many times your mouth moves in a day.”

“That’s a really great idea Dad.” He says.

I guess I said that one out loud.

“Okay then. Let’s go dig up some worms!” He says.

“Yes Son. Let’s do it.”

On Grieving

After our son was born I called friends who already had kids and apologized to them for not being more excited for them when they became parents. I didn't know until I saw our own son how awesome it was. How could I?

I did the same after my father passed. I called friends who had already lost a parent and apologized for not being more sympathetic for them at the time. How could I have known?

And then I became acutely aware of the grieving of others. A mention of a loss or a diagnosis stops time and puts me back in the moment when I heard the news. The news that changed things. While a smell can take your mind back to summer camp just a few words arranged in the right order can transport your heart back the same way. The day I heard the news. How I held it together for a few minutes and then cried on the shoulder of the first person I saw. I didn't know her too well but she was older and could see it in my eyes. She was part of the club.

That's the club you join when a parent dies. A club that every human throughout existence who has outlived a parent has joined but yet it can still can feel like a party of one. While you are told many cliches when you are in the fog of it the one that is never overused is the one that comes from a club member. "I know what you are going through."

The thing about grief is that it comes out of nowhere. Sure there are the moments that come up that you'd really like to share with them. There are the moments when a question arises in which the answer literally has been taken to the grave and you will never know the answer. But then there are the surprise moments when your mind hits an infinite loop of a memory. You lock in for a bit. My mental record skips and that last note is played over and over again. Luckily, my soundtrack is full of great songs.

For me my mind will stumble on a memory and it will replay in my head as if I was there again. I think it's memory’s survival strategy. My brain is making a back-up rewriting it a few times to ensure it sticks even as my record gets scratched with age. In many of these flashbacks, I'm the only one alive who knows the story now and I think my brain is ensuring it doesn't fade away.

I think I've been good with this. I don't think I'm callous or avoidant or unengaged. I think I'm good. I think being there with him when he needed me most and being able to say goodbye has allowed me to look forward and cherish the memories. It has allowed me to carry his lessons of fatherhood into my own family.

Watching my seven year old and remembering my times with my dad when I was that age have helped me look to the future. The memories I will make for my boy. To etch those into his permanent record.

Being a father to my dad’s grandson has helped me grieve.

Teaching Irony through Sarcasm

  I have the luxury of working weekends and being able to pick up our son from school most weekdays. I watch with joy as he bounces down the steps from his school happy to tell me all about the things he did during the day. Rarely does he come out upset. Never has he come out needing comfort. Until this week. I was waiting with the other parents as we stood around making fun our kids behind their backs… as we do. The doors opened and he came flying out full of wails and tears. He looked inconsolable. The other parents parted making a red carpet like path for him to have easy access to my welcoming arms. He collapsed to the sidewalk at my knees gasping for air between his breathless screams of agony.

“Oh my son. What happened man?! What’s going on?!” I cried back to him.

“I didn’t have time to finish my stress ball!!! My stress ball! I didn’t have time when the bell rang!!!” He cried out at what to me appeared to an incommensurate amount of tears.

Perhaps I misunderstood him?

“Say that again? What’s this about?”

“We were making stress balls and I didn’t get to finish mine! It’s not done! The bell rang and it’s not done! This is the worst day of my life!!!” He yelled.

I stood stunned. The other parents watched on trying to listen in to get a clue as to what horrors must have happened inside. Several seemed to be bracing themselves for what they may face when their little bundles were released from school.

Once I understood what was happening all I could do was laugh. A lot.

“This isn’t funny! This is horrible! This is the worst day of my life!”

I restrained my laughs but spoke through a smile. “You know what you need son? A stress ball.”

“I know! I need a stress ball and I couldn’t finish mine in time. Oh!!! Why me!!!”

“No.” I added. “What’s funny here is that you need a stress ball because of this stress ball situation.”

He didn’t get the irony. I promised him we’d make some when we got home.

“But you don’t know how! You’ve never made one! This is so horrible.” He argued.

I told him we would google it. I'm sure it's just flour and balloons. We can handle that.

But I didn't watch the youtube video result on how to make them. I actually didn't read anything more than what was in the search results. At home I improvised how to get the flour into the balloon by using the nozzle from a cake decorating kit. I filled it with flour and forced the powder into the balloon by blowing really hard into the nozzle. Really hard. The balloon was now full of flour and my compressed air. Once the stress ball was inflated and after pulling my mouth and nozzle from the balloon all the flour erupted from the contracting balloon back into my face. It really was a pretty spectacular scene. It was like a stylist shouted “Powder!” and then some stranger hit me with a pillow full.

The boy laughed out at what to me appeared to an incommensurate amount of joy.

And I stood there stunned, looking at him through my flour covered glasses and he said, “Now you could really use a stress ball huh dad?”

I think he learned irony.

My Father's Eulogy


My father passed away on January 2nd of this year. I've had several posts in mind but haven't had the energy to put them down. This is the eulogy I read at his service. Maybe this will help me sleep a little better until I can get something better down.

My parents visited the Vatican last year. I have no proof of this but I think there was motivation behind the trip. I think it was a job interview. If it was... he got the position. The new VP of marketing for the rebranded Pearly Gates... and Gardens. He’s probably already had turnstiles installed and is calling each evening for the days attendance.

My father was born into a farming family in rural Nebraska and spent his first 12 years there until my grandmother moved him and my Aunt Suzanne to her hometown of Savannah after their father passed.  In 2012 my wife, son and I along with Donna and my Uncle Doug had the privilege of joining my Dad and Aunt on a return visit to Nebraska. This was the first time they had been back since they were children. On that trip I watched my dad explore where he came from. Miles and miles of perpendicular roads with hardly another human in sight.

My father never budged at a challenge. You can’t just call it work ethic because it’s how he lived his life. From grade school to fatherhood, whenever I talked with him about a struggle he would guide me and help me figure out how to get through it. Often we would walk away with an inside joke about the event that we would share and laugh about for years later. Even after being told he had cancer he never complained or fussed about the card he was handed. It was after I saw that farm and imagined what his life was like there in Nebraska that I was able to start putting the pieces of his character together. Farmers work in harsh environments. They create things from barely nothing and work with the resources they have at hand. They start with a seed. I have many brothers and sisters here in Tampa that got their professional start through my dad. We were all his seeds.... And all of you became family. From Busch Gardens and Adventure Island and Sea World to most recently the Florida Aquarium. You took all of us into your family as much as my dad brought you into his. Thank you all for everything you did for us over the years. I’ve joked before that Ericka and I grew up in a theme park. That makes many of your our baby sitters.

I’ve taken many vacations to his second hometown of Savannah. My family and I were there just this weekend. Savannah is a social town. Especially when you are a descendant. It is a Catholic town where everyone knows each other, looks out for one another and barter with what they have. Your character is as much your currency is as what you have to offer. Add these skills to the work ethic my father learned from the farm and you are starting to get a better picture. He was always looking out for his Tampa, his Florida and all of us here. And he was never without a free ticket. When he’d give out a few to a family... if asked he’d simply say he worked at The Aquarium. Or Busch Gardens. Or Adventure Island. Or Sea World.

My father was humble. He was honest. He worked hard and taught me that work is not work when you love it. These are the things I will pass on to my son.

I know I’m not alone in saying that since being told of my father’s diagnosis… today, this service and the idea of his passing have been on my mind and in my heart constantly. I would wake up in the middle of the night and it would take me a few seconds to remember why I felt so horrible. The feeling would be there before I could remember why. But one night I fell asleep and had a dream about this day. I was here at his service. We all were. We were all here to celebrate my father’s life and accomplishments. But in my dream he was here at the altar too. He was loving you guys. All of his people. Many of you… his seeds. When I awoke from that dream knowing he was happy... I felt at peace. And finally slept.

I now know why I had that dream. Because he is here. I think one of his other initiatives at the newly rebranded Pearly Gates and Gardens is a hand stamp program for return visits back to see us and check on us. And this is exactly the kind of inside joke my father and I would have shared. And now it’s one I hope to forever share with my son. Going forward, whenever he feels like someone has been looking out. Whenever he feels that someone has his back… I’ll suggest it was his Papa.... and that he must have gotten his hand stamped.

A 1980 Tampa Tribune Article Featuring My Father on Parenting



"With my 5-year-old son, I'm experiencing the greatest love affair I’ve ever had,” said 31-year-old Thom Stork. "There are lots of rocky roads, no question about it, but you can say that I’ve really found my child. I’ll freely admit that for four years he was there and I loved him and we did things together. But I didn’t know him. I wasn’t his best friend.”

“I recently took my 7-year old son out to lunch to talk about my plans to remarry,” said Alan Baker, 38. "I wanted to know how he felt about it. He said, 'Well, Dad, once in awhile you have a really good idea.’

I said, ‘Well, thank you, and I’d like you to be the best man at the wedding.’ He said, 'That’s wonderful — what’s a best man?’ ”

“There’s no way to know when something really special will happen between you and your child,” said Dr. Joseph Ferrandino, 38. "Not long ago, I sat in the audience while my 8-year-old daughter auditioned for a part in a play. As she stood on the stage, they unexpectedly asked her to sing a song. My heart stopped, thinking she’d be afraid or embarrassed, but to my surprise she said OK, and began to sing 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in a strong, clear voice. It was a touching moment I‘m glad I was able to have.”

“Through my son, I discovered the child in myself,” said 29-year-old. Joel Hunter. "I remember once getting all excited over a kite I bought for him when he was about 5. We were out running with it against the wind. I was having a ball, but when I looked down he was crying. I asked him what was wrong, and he said, 'Dad, you won’t let me hold it.’ I was so involved and having such a great time, I almost forgot to let him participate.”'

Four special moments in the lives of four Tampa fathers. These fathers however, represent a new and increasingly prevalent breed of men who, either by choice or circumstance, are raising their children alone.

While the number of such men is growing, the percentage is hardly mind-boggling.

Steve Sessums, a Tampa attorney who limits his practice to marital and family law, found in a recent study in Pinellas County that mothers received custody in approximately 75 percent of all contested cases. Sessums points out that these figures would probably closely reflect those for the state of Florida as well.

"While accurate statistics are hard to come by, my experience tells me that in well over 90 percent of the cases that never reach the court (by far the greatest number), the divorced woman also assumes sole custody,” Sessums said.

In the last few years, several factors have begun to change this traditional pattern. Some divorcing couples decide the husband should take the children because he makes more money.

In other cases, the wife expresses a desire to pursue career interests or to find self-fulfillment outside the role of wife and mother. And some women believe that their husbands may do a better job of parenting.

Whatever the reasons leading more men to raise their children alone, those involved have found themselves thrown back on their own resources in new and challenging ways. They’ve experienced, as any new mother soon learns, the boredom, frustration and occasional pain of caring for young children.

However, with this newly found knowledge of the humdrum comes the joy of knowing unexpected moments of gentle ecstasy with their children that many say makes it worth the effort.

Thom Stork, promotions manager at Tampa’s Busch Gardens, has had custody of his 5 year-old son, Christopher, for almost a year. In many ways, his experiences closely parallel those of Ted Kramer in the recent film. "Kramer vs. Kramer," which depicts a young father coping with the business of raising his son alone.

"I cried through most of the Kramer film,” said Stork without apology. “To some extent, I identified with Dustin Hoffman as Ted Kramer because I am in the same business. He was in an ad agency, whereas am in a marketing department.

"I was also very work-oriented,” Stork continued. “I probably didn’t spend enough time with my family. Now leave work at 5, because I have to meet the needs of my child.”

After their 8-year marriage ended in divorce, Stork and his former wife agreed that he would have full legal custody. Both parents felt that Stork was in a better economic position to take care of their child.

"I said wanted him, and believe strongly that a son should be with his father,” Stork said.

"The first thing people said to me was, "My God, how are you going to handle this?” Stork said. "Sure there were questions, and it was confusing for me until learned how to budget my time, but from the very first day knew I could do it. I’d been raised knowing how to do basic things, such as cleaning, but didn’t know how to cook.”

Stork’s first attempt at cooking was almost as clumsy as the French-toast scene from the Kramer film. In the movie, Hoffman ineptly stuffed. bread into a coffee cupful of shell-laden batter under the watchful eyes of his son, whose deadpan reply was: "I don’t like it folded, Dad.”

What Kramer was to fench toast, Stork was to spaghetti. “We ate out a lot at first," said Stork. "But my first meal was scream. I wanted to fix spaghetti, but honestly didn't know how to cook the noodles. I called one of the women at the office and asked how to do it, and she said, ‘You dummy, you read the side of the box.’ At Christmas she gave me copy of the Joy of Cooking.

Another parallel to the movie occurred one night when Stork was going out. Any evening out for Daddy is always well-planned in advance,” Stork said. "Walking over to my neighborhood babysitter on one of these rare occasions, Christopher went into tirade of ‘Don’t leave me.’ We marched back home and sat down for about 10 minutes of talk and reassurances. When we went back, he pulled the same thing again. I flew off the handle, almost physically dragged him home, threw him into the bathtub, washed him and put him to bed with no dinner at 7:15. Was screaming at him, and he at me. I just shut the door and left.

“About an hour or so later I went into him and we talked. We talked about how Daddy has to have time for himself. I think that one night, even though it hurt us both, was a big step forward.”

One major difference in Stork’s experiences and the Kramer film was an absence of conflict between his job and the needs of his child. While Kramer ultimately lost his job because of this conflict, Stork credits his company with being very supportive of his decision to raise his son.‘ "My relationship with this company from the top man down to my immediate supervisor is that ‘If that little guy has doctor’s appointment or needs you, you go,’ Stork said.

While Stork received sole custody of his child, some men have joint or shared custody of children following divorce. This arrangement enables couple to develop pattern for dividing the time child spends with each parent. Usually, one parent will be the primary parent, or the one responsible for greater portion of the child’s care.


No longer an Airline Captain and I've Lost My Mojo

GolfHotelWhiskey.comAutopilotFromtheMovieAirplane I’ve been an airline Captain since 2001. With a recent airline change I’m a First Officer again. The copilot. Just like Kareem Abdul-Jabar… and the guy who sat next to Sully. I’m one step up from Otto the autopilot in Airplane. I should have made business cards that said “Cool Jet Captain” while I could. (Mental note - change my voicemail greeting from Jet Captain to Seat Filler.)

I’ve switched seats and I’ve lost my mojo. I don’t know where to put my pen. My right hand moves to push the buttons even though they're on my left side now. And damned if I can’t make passenger announcements anymore.

For years I’ve been saying the same thing to the people in the back.


“Folks, this is your Captain speaking. Blah blah blah. Weather is blah blah blah. There is going to be a few bumps on our climb out blah blah blah.”

But now I start in with “This is your….”

And I’m lost. Flatline.

My inner voice screams “LINE!”

But it’s just me. No cue cards. No teleprompter. Just me… your copilot.

And I think I’m pretty dexterous on my toes. I had a six grade teacher tell me I need to think before I speak. She didn’t mean it as a compliment.

I can’t think before I speak. It just happens. And without the normal cadence of “This is your Captain speaking.” I’ve got nothing. Flatline.

Oh, and you know those pilots that walk around the airport with their sunglasses on? You laugh at them on the inside because they think they’re so cool? Maybe they’re also new and have lost their mojo too?

I was on a dusk flight soon after I switched seats and titles and the sky was getting duskier on final approach. I even made a comment to the actual Captain about how dark this new cockpit I’ve found myself in was at night.

He agreed though surely he knew what the solution was.

And then I said something about the taxiway lights being an unusual hue.

And then I stood in the doorway and said goodbye to the passengers face to face. Eye contact.

And then I went up and got a cup coffee at Starbucks.

And then back in the cockpit I said something about how my phone screen suddenly had a reddish tint. “Maybe it’s reverted to some strange astronomer night mode?” I said.

That’s when the Captain commented on my rose colored sunglasses.

“I don’t know what to tell you Elton.”


Avoiding the Dad Stereotype

Mr. Mom (1983) Directed by Stan Dragoti Shown: Michael Keaton
Mr. Mom (1983) Directed by Stan Dragoti Shown: Michael Keaton

It’s been nearly seven years that I became a dad. Seven years and I’ve done the best I could to avoid being the bumbling dad stereotype on tv shows. You know the one. He pours orange juice in his coffee and puts sticks of butter in their lunchboxes. I’m the modern dad. I wore the baby. I carried his diapers in my back pocket and bottles in my backpack. (Blue bottle = formula. Red = White Russian.) I went to Mommy and Me. He's starting first grade and I've made it without knocking back the dad cause or erasing the gains my fellow dads have made. We changed Amazon Mom to Amazon Family! I’ve carried the flag well I hope. Except for that one time. I was tired. It was early. He was just beginning to make recognizable sounds. I was just learning to ignore him. We were rushing out the door for daycare and I was knocking things off my before takeoff checklist. Never rush a checklist. I was calling out the items from memory and he was finding his voice. It was white noise to me but still distracting. Up until recently I was able to do my checklist in silence. He used to watch and listen. “How does this man do it all!” Now he wanted to participate and he was bad at it. Out the door and in the car. Checklist complete. I thought. Off we went. He made an excited noise and gesticulated. “Yeah yeah.” I said. Surely he was pointing out something he recognized from the endless rounds of flashcards. “I know. I know. Bus. Car. Dog. Cat. Great job man!” He gesticulated more. Made more fervent noises. “I got ya buddy. Kind of in a hurry here. That diaper situation was an unexpected diversion this morning. I know. I know. Bus or monkey or cloud or rocket ship. Great job!” Again with the pointing. “Yep. So smart. That is an elephant or a tiger or a dinosaur. Nailed it!” And this was how the ride to daycare went. And then we got there and I rushed him out of the carseat and into the school. And his teacher pointed and said to him. “But where are your shoes?” And he pointed and gesticulated and spoke pretty clearly. And I said, “Oh…. shoes!” And he repeated it in a sweet and a so very nonjudgmental voice. “Shoes.” He said. And I said, “Uh, Checklist complete?”

[Shrugs to the camera. Cue the laugh track.]