Browse Category: Stories


The Sam Snyders, 2004

Today is my Dad’s birthday. He would have been 80 years old. He died 14 years ago when he was only 66. He has pancreatic cancer in that photo above. He was about 6 months into his ordeal at that point. You can see the ordeal in his thinning frame. I was 42 and alive as all hell in that photo. I’m coming up on 56 now. That’s only 10 years away from my father’s age at death. As my face ages, I see his face in the mirror more frequently. I look for hints of year 66 and the ordeal. I try to see through that to what I might be at 80. I want to make it that far. At least that far.

My youngest child is almost 2. I want to be in a photo with him when he is 42. That would make me 96. I want to be there for that photo and countless photos with all my children between now and then.

I haven’t fully thought this out, but I think my Dad’s passing at a relatively young age is part of what motivates me to run long distances. I want to be alive. I want to run through the woods and conquer all the mountains. I want to do it so I can keep on living. I want to be healthy, strong, and unstoppable.

Do I actually live this way every day? No. More often than not, I’m a lazy gluttonous slob. I’m my own worst enemy. My spirit is willing to live to 96, but my flesh is weak. It’s weak for cakes and pies and candy and potato chips. It’s so weak it can barely carry its own 223 pounds.

I need to snap out of it and lose 30 pounds. There are miles to be run and years to be lived. I need to get with the program. 66 is only 10 years away. It might sound morbid: my father’s death drives me. I am ever trying to outrun my own death. If I keep moving fast enough, maybe the cancer won’t be able to catch up to my pancreas.

Yet, even as I write this, all I can think about is a cake that’s sitting in our kitchen. I won’t lie. I’m going to eat some as soon as I publish this. Then I’m going to bed. “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake, blame it all on that cake.”

Other posts about my Dad:

F*** You… And the Chevy You Rode In On

F*** You… And the Chevy You Rode In On

I was approached by a rather awkward young fellow on Walnut Street in Philadelphia this afternoon. I saw him cross from the other side of the street. I noticed that he noticed me and then lingered at the corner.

He had a small notebook and looked about 30. I assumed he was about to harangue me with climate change propaganda or ask me to fill out a survey about my understanding of gender issues.

“Excuse me, sir,” He timidly said.

“Hey, what’s up?” I said in a friendly yet subdued tone to match his timidity.

“I’m sorry, sir. I gave the finger to that pickup truck because, well, because he made fun of me and said something ugly to me.”

I gazed intently down Walnut Street, not seeing a pickup truck but stalling to allow my brain to adjust to the reason why this man approached me, as opposed to what I assumed initially.

This fellow was noticeably bothered by what he just experienced. He needed a little support. He was like a stray puppy that just got kicked in the hind quarters. Plus, the eczema on his neck was an indication that he probably carried enough stress every day. So I did the only sensible thing.

I raised my middle finger after the pickup, as best I could with a Bruegger’s bagel in my right hand and a coffee and my left, and proclaimed, “Fuck that guy!”

The puppy stammered, “Uh. Yeah! YEAH! FUCK THAT GUY!”

“You have a good day!” I said as I left him on smiling on Walnut.

Thoughts About My Dad


Today is my father’s birthday. He would have been 77, but he passed away. It’s been almost 11 years. You can do the math on how old he was when he left.

My thoughts about my dad have covered a wide spectrum over these 11 years. At first, I didn’t feel anything. It wasn’t that I didn’t care. It wasn’t that I had no feelings for him. It was that I didn’t feel anything regarding his death for a few months. And then it hit me one day and I cried. Stoic during the days of his sickness. Stoic during his funeral. Weeping months later.

I went through a strange phase once the emotions hit me. I did a lot of drinking. By myself. At home. Alone. The strange thing about that is that I did not drink in my younger days. My father enjoyed going to bars to be with his buddies and have some beers. He used to ask me to go have a beer at one of his favorite places now and then. I turned him down. It just wasn’t my thing, and I was busy being a single dad, and a lot of other reasons/excuses. So, it was quite strange that I drank heavily after he died. I remember feeling that it was a way to connect with him then. Somehow I was able to transcend life and death and connect with my dad through a bottle of wine or two.

All that passed. (My liver rejoices.) I’ve remembered a lot about my dad over the years. I’ve come to understand him better as I get older. I now understand why he felt the way he did about certain things and acted the way he acted at times. I’ve been able to connect with him in that way.

To make these thoughts about my dad on his birthday a little fuller, I’d like to direct your attention to two articles I wrote about my dad years ago.

The first is from May of 2001, long before my dad got sick. It’s an article that wonders what life would have been like for me “If My Dad had Died when I was Young.”

The second is an article I wrote three years later in 2004 when my dad was several months into chemotherapy treatment for pancreatic cancer. Please read “It’s Not Like the Movies.”

Interestingly, I did not write an article after my dad died. Given what I said about where I was emotionally back then, it makes sense. But by the end of that year, I did write some brief thoughts addressed to my dad:

I miss you. It was all too soon. Sixty-six was all too young. I wish I would have been in the habit of telling you I loved you BEFORE you got sick. Christmas is coming. I’d like to postpone it until I can find a way to get to where you are and bring you back here with the rest of us. I wish we were closer while you were still here. I wish I wasn’t so angry at you when I was young. I wish I knew how to forgive you back then. I still regret that you were not a very open or affectionate man. Most of what I would have liked to know about our roots died with you. You were the last of the generation before mine. I wish you didn’t take all of your secrets with you. I could have used some of them. But all of that is okay. Thankfully, I did learn to forgive you even before you got sick. I’m happy about that. And I always knew that you never resented my anger. Thank you. I hope that one day we will stand face to face again. Then you can tell me EVERYTHING. Most of all, I just want to hear you call me “Sammy” again.

Happy birthday, Dad. When we stand face to face again, we are definitely going for a beer.

So this is Christmas


I am typically never in the mood for Christmas when the season starts rolling around. Every year I go further and further into December before I start feeling any twinge of interest and even farther to feel any excitement. Not many more years down the road I won’t sense these things until mid-January.

I know… I’m a Scrooge.

Well, I felt a spark of Christmas life on Sunday. There were two events that struck my flinty heart and made it smolder a bit.

First, there was shopping early in the morning at T J Maxx. Why was I not in church on a Sunday morning? Well, look, don’t judge. The good thing was that my wife and I found Jesus (and Mary and Joseph) at T J Maxx. What made me happiest about this was that the Holy Family turned out to be the perfect gift for dear friends of ours. It felt good to buy this object in order to give it away, just to be able to indicate to our friends that, “Hey, we are happy that you are in our lives.” (Even though one of us might be rather humbuggy.)


The second thing that jazzed me up a bit for this holiday was a Christmas concert at St. Paul’s Church in Clifton, NJ. The lighting of the dozen Christmas trees at the front of the church caused oohs and aahs. I think that’s what got me. I thoroughly enjoyed that concert: operatic singing, youth choir, singer/songwriter, baritone horn and trombone, cabaret style, congregational singing. I teared up a few times.

Here’s one song that I loved. It features our friend, Valerie Bernhardt singing and my wife accompanying on piano.

And here’s a song that just plain makes me happy.

I can’t guarantee that this little spark will turn into a real flame in time for Christmas. But there are still 10 days to go. There’s hope.

My Running Story

Princeton Half Marathon 2015
Princeton Half Marathon 2015

For most of my life I had been an on-again/off-again runner. I liked running but never seemed to be able to stick with it. For many years I was a wannabe long distance runner. But as the years increased and my running did not, I found myself overweight, on high blood pressure medicine, and depressed. My favorite pastime by then was lying in bed watching movies and stuffing my face with chips and salsa. Once I fell asleep while eating Ring Dings in bed and woke up to find that I had rolled on one. I had officially become a slob. Oh, and I was smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day. That was 5 1/2 years ago. I was pretty much at the end of my rope with myself at that point.

Coinciding with this dissatisfaction with my physical condition was the happy circumstance of meeting a wonderful lady who would become my wife a few years later. She was/is a very active girl and that motivated me.
I started walking every day. I cut out the Ring Dings (most of them). I cut down my portions. After 4 months, I had lost 20 pounds. That’s when I started running. After another 4 months I had lost another 20 pounds. My doctor took me off the blood pressure medicine. Four years later, my blood pressure is better than it had ever been.

My wife go me to run my first race, a 5K, in the spring of 2011. I was hooked! I did a few more that year. And more in 2012. Even more in 2013. In 2014, I got the crazy idea that I could run a half marathon. I ran my first half in October 2014 and was ELATED. I have now run 7. And this year my wife did her first (and then second and third) half marathon. She said that seeing me do my first two inspired her to go for it. Imagine that, the Ring Ding peddler inspired someone to run 13.1!

Onward and upward for the future!