You Only Live Once, This Is How I’m Doing It!

Tag: death

Saying goodbye

There’s so much death surrounding me. Most notably I found out my uncle had cancer.

Four days later he was gone.

Yes, you read that right. Four days from diagnosis to death.

He was a really great guy and, even though we weren’t related by blood, when he married my aunt he definitely became family. Nothing can take that away. Not even death.

He lived in Alaska and I haven’t seen him in a long time. He loved Alaska. He always spoke of it beautifully and I meant to go visit him there one of these days. I put it off too long.

He frequently commented on my Facebook updates and I could always count on a couple cheesy email forwards from him on a regular basis. They never annoyed me though, I enjoyed the silliness or the ridiculousness even if I never forwarded them on to anyone else. He was the only one I knew who forwarded those kinds of things on still.

I’m going to miss those stupid emails.

I’m going to miss him a lot. Even if I didn’t see him much he was very much a part of my life. The internet is awesome like that.

In memory of him I’m posting an incredibly embarrassing picture of myself with him. Because this is how I’ll always remember him.

This was him, my baby sister, me and his beautiful wolf  Tawny.

Okay take a minute, we’ll acknowledge. Oh god, the shorts! the bangs! the awkward smile! So much going on here. It was 1996 y’all.

Moving on.

I feel completely blindsided by this. Like, knocked over, could puke, blown away, out of my mind that someone can get taken away this fast. It makes no sense.

I’m happy that he didn’t suffer for a long time though. According to his daughter he passed away peacefully and in no pain. Really that’s better than the long drawn out awfulness that cancer can be.

Still, I wish he didn’t have to go at all. I feel robbed. I’m mad at myself for not seizing the moment and taking a trip up to Alaska to visit him. I will go to Alaska one of these days but it would have been better to have someone that I love and who loves the state show me around.

Since I couldn’t be there to say goodbye this will have to do. He is already very, very missed.

Two birthdays

This past Wednesday my nephew turned 1.

Today my dad turned 74.

Seventy. Four.

In celebration of both their birthdays we all met downtown at Lincoln Park Zoo.


We ate lunch, saw animals, acted like animals…


turned into super heroes….

And basked in the glory of the brisk spring weather and each others company.

My dad’s birthdays are always kind of hard on me mentally, especially since he had his stroke last year. I love him so incredibly much and it’s hard for me to accept the fact that he’s getting older. It’s hard for me to not view each birthday as one step closer to losing him.

I hate that those thoughts creep in. Birthdays are supposed to be happy. They are supposed to be a celebration of life. It’s easy to celebrate life when that life is so fresh. My nephew is such a sharp contrast, just turning one. He has so much life ahead of him and it’s exciting to imagine what it will be like.

It’s harder to purely celebrate when you know the life has more years behind it than in front. I don’t want to think like that but it hangs over me like a shadow.

Today, instead of letting those thoughts consume me, I fought to stay in the moment. Because today had so many special moments. Maybe made even more special because of the bitter-sweetness in them.

I will not let the fear of the future spoil the potential happiness I have today. Today I celebrate my dad. My funny, stubborn, loving, outgoing, wonderful dad.

Goodbye Little Friend

Today I said goodbye to someone who has been with Joel and I from practically the very beginning. We got him a couple months after we got married. We’d just moved out of my hometown to be closer to Joel’s new job. I was lonely and needed a friend. So off to the pet store we went and spent $14 on a little blue parakeet.

We named him Einstein.

No particular reason for that name except I thought it was funny. He almost got renamed when my nephew Hunter saw him for the first time and exclaimed “TURTLE!” Einstein seemed to fit him though so it stuck.

Through the years he was my little buddy when I was home alone waiting for Joel to get off work. He loved the sound of running water and punk rock music. He was also probably Five Iron Frenzy‘s littlest fan. He loved to rock out. He rarely ever screeched or made the loud obnoxious noise parakeets are known for. He mostly just chirped and sang pleasantly or had little conversations with the birds outside the window.

He was a afraid of almost everything. He didn’t even like to be held for a long time. We tried to get him toys and even another parakeet buddy but he wanted nothing to do with them. As long as he had his music or running water he was happiest.

He eventually warmed up to us and realized we weren’t out to kill him. When I spent a year based in DC while Joel was back here in Chicago he and Joel became really close. They never lost that special bond. He was meant to be a friend to me but he ended up being Joel’s confidant during all the hard times while I was away.

Then the last couple months he started to look a little rough. His feathers weren’t as bright and he went through a molting phase that didn’t ever really end. The last couple weeks he started falling off his perches. And then in the last few days he just didn’t try to get up on them anymore. He just hung out at the bottom of his cage. His one little foot curled up under him and he never used it anymore. We had to move his food and water onto the floor of his cage so that he could eat and drink.

Then this morning he sang one more quick little song. It stood out to me because I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I heard him actually sing.

Then he let out what sounded like a painful cry. I went over to check on him and part of his bottom beak had broken off completely. It was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. I called Joel and he rushed home so he could take him to the vet. I was too much of a mess to go with him. It just broke my heart to see him in such pain.

Joel and I said our goodbyes to him and I stayed home and just cried. The vet said it was nothing we did wrong. He couldn’t be 100% sure without very expensive blood work but all the symptoms pointed to a tumor. It would have cost hundreds of dollars to even try to treat him and there was no guarantee it would do any good. He was just in too much pain already so we decided the kindest thing was to put him down.

I miss him so much already. The cage is already in the garage because it’s just too painful to see it sitting there empty. Looking at the spot where it used to sit makes me cry though.

I think Phoebe will miss him too although she was never a big fan. I blame that on the geese that used to live in the backyard of our old apartment. Bullies. But we could always say “Where’s Einstein?” and she would run to his cage. If he got too loud she would run over and grumble at him or stare at him in interest.

He was old and up until the end he lived a really nice life. I wish we would have taken him to the vet sooner. I feel so guilty that we let him be in pain at all much less letting it get to the point of his beak breaking. We knew in the last several days that he was really sick and we’d probably have to have him put down. I just didn’t want it to be true. I wanted him to suddenly perk up and be his happy little self again.

We did the kind thing, although I wish we’d done it sooner. Knowing that doesn’t make it any easier though. He left a void bigger than I imagined he would. He was always just there, in the background making my day a little brighter and more pleasant with his song. And now he’s gone.

A part of our family died today. I miss you so much my little friend.


You are missed

Today we had the funeral for my step father-in-law, Ron. I can’t really come up with the right words. Saying goodbye is really hard. It just doesn’t seem right that he won’t be around.

Phoebe still runs around the house when we’re over at my mother-in-law’s house looking for him. She begs for food so much more because he could never resist her little face. She adored him. When a dog adores someone I think that says a lot about them.

She really adored him.

He was only 58. That’s way, way too young. It’s good that he’s not in pain anymore.

But it was too soon.

I sat next to my dad at the funeral. I can’t imagine losing him. Ever. He’s so much older than Ron was. My dad is going to be 73. Ron was only 58.

Fifty eight.

It’s just so unfair.

I don’t deal well with death. It makes me sad and angry. No one I know should ever die.

The fact that people I know are mortal? Terrifies me.

I want to put every single person I love in a bubble. They are not allowed to leave me. Ever.

But unfortunately part of life is death. I’m not ok with that but I don’t really get a choice in the matter.

This holiday season I’ll be holding everyone I love a little bit closer.

And I’ll be remembering the one who is missing.

Cruel irony

When Joel first started working where he has for the last four years it was a good hour or two commute from where we lived. I was unemployed at the time so I did a lot of sitting around the house, watching tv. (sound familiar?)

One day for some reason (either I was bored or we had somewhere to be right after he got off work) I went with him to the little town where he works. It’s an adorable little town and while he was working I walked around and explored. While exploring, I wandered past this cute little toy store. What drew me to it was the beautiful display of Madame Alexander dolls in the window. I thought how fun it would be to work in a little toy store like that.

As the thought went through my mind I noticed the help wanted sign in the window. I took it as a sign that I was meant to work there. I walked in, filled out an application and not long after I was hired. It wasn’t a high paying job but because Joel already commuted out there for his job I just rode along. Even though it was retail they gave me a Monday through Thursday 9-4 schedule so that it coordinated with Joel’s work. We even got to eat lunch together every day.

It was one of my favorite jobs ever. I was basically playing with toys for a living. If we got a new craft I got to try it so that I would be able to recommend it to customers. A new Lego set? I got to put it together. Vendors actually send kits specifically for that purpose! One day I spent my entire shift figuring out a Rubik’s cube.

Other days I’d have to rearrange stuffed animals, straighten shelves or set up displays. Breaking down boxes was about the most intense the job got physically. I also got to wrap presents for customers. It was a dream. Not to mention the ladies that I worked with were wonderful. Since it was small place there were only five other employees. We talked and laughed and had so much fun. I don’t ever remember thinking I didn’t like my job there. Not once.

Photo credit : Erica Benson

The owner was a prominent man in the community. He was an older gentleman so he didn’t spend a ton of time at the store anymore. He was one of those white haired, grumpy looking old men. Despite his grumpy exterior he was a very generous, good employer. He also didn’t act old for a minute. He traveled all over the world on a regular basis. From China to Brazil to Europe and everywhere in between. I feel like the year I worked there he spent more time on trips than at the store. He was past the age most people retire though so it was well deserved.

Around Christmas time was the best time to work at the store. People would come in and make massive purchases. I’m talking hundreds of dollars worth of toys. Then we’d bag them, label them with their name and address and store them in our basement. We’d later wrap them and then on Christmas Eve they would be delivered to their house. We were seriously Santa Claus.

The only thing about working there in the winter time was the owner was obsessed with keeping the sidewalks clear in the front and back of his store. In case you weren’t aware, in Chicagoland in the winter? It snows. A lot. We constantly had to go out and shovel and salt things down. If the smallest layer of ice was left he was very unhappy about it. Even if it was still snowing we had to go out and shovel things.

I could have worked at that store forever but in April of ’07 I was offered my job as a flight attendant. Since being a flight attendant was my dream job the choice was obvious. I was still sad about leaving. It was just such a great place to work.

Not very long after I left, the owner sold the store. It remained a toy store much the same as it was before but he was free to travel and live out his retirement without worrying about running a business. It seemed like it was going to be a great thing for him and his wife. They even were high mileage members on my airline so I always hoped to have them on one of my flights.

Unfortunately that never happened. This past winter he was going to a Bible study at church. He slipped on some ice on the stairs and hit his head. Because it wasn’t a busy time they’re not sure how long he lay there before he was found. He never regained consciousness. It’s so bitter and ironic that something he was so insistent about was what killed him. It’s just unfair. He was a good boss and a great man. He was well loved and is very much missed.

I was reminded of all this because tonight they dedicated a street sign to him today. We missed the ceremony (don’t ask) but it brought him back into my mind. He lived his life making children and people happy. I will always remember him as one of my most favorite bosses.

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