In Memory of Justin

What do you do, when you wake up day and find out that someone who was far too young passed on?  When it was someone that you had known and even been talking to a week or two before they had passed?  When it’s so sudden that it doesn’t feel real?  That’s what I’ve been wrestling with for the last couple weeks.  It’s a hard thing to think about.  I’ve had a dear companion die very recently, and on the 19th, I found out that a friend of mine who I am horrifically ashamed to admit I hadn’t kept as close to as I should have also died.  It’s an ugly world.  Where lights can get snuffed out in an instant.  It’s a reality I have been aware of for far too long.

Normally with these I have done things going through the lives of the people I am remembering.  Thing is, I didn’t know Justin in his early years.  The two of us met in high school, through another friend who I haven’t been keeping up with the way I should.  So, I figured I would just reminisce on the memories I did share with Justin, and the thoughts about the impact that he left on me, along with what I believe has and will stick with me.

Been trying for days to think of how I first met Justin.  Wanna know the crazy thing?  It was my sophomore year in high school.  You know how long ago that was?  That was in 2004.  That was 14 years ago.  Holy fuck!  That feels like two lifetimes ago.  I feel like I’ve been in my 20’s for forever.  No joke, it feel like I have been doing this for fucking eternity.  High school is this vague conception from some other eternity long passed.  It was such a blink in the vast ocean of time after my head injury.  Before then is all pretty vague.  I don’t remember things the way normal people do.  I don’t remember the past like some movie that I can put on.  To me it’s like conceptual thoughts.  There are sensory experiences, bits and pieces that play like a movie, and other things that are a shadowy extrapolation.  It’s hard to understand, I know, but that’s the best I can describe it.

One thing about Justin is that just like our mutual friend, but nowhere close to myself, he was a pretty big guy.  A pretty tall guy.  You know, for all you normal sized midget people.  To me he was average.  Right where I’m at.  Because I’m not really tall.  I’m normal.  The rest of you all are short.  It’s a conspiracy and everyone is in on it to have me thinking I’m tall.  But he was a pretty tall guy for all you normal people.  So is our mutual friend, Bryce.  Him and I go back much further, but that’s a story for another day.

I do remember that I met Justin through Bryce because of his father.  His father was the teacher who led the ELP group at my school.  He also became one of my favorite teachers years later, when I had him for Drama.  Guy was the best example of a fun teacher.  He had fun lectures, did fun projects, and had everyone get involved.  Including something that I hear had disappeared from the school and for which I gained a TON of notoriety for – lip synchs.  Those productions were some of the most fun I ever had during my boredom at high school.

Because Justin’s father was the head of ELP, and Bryce was in that program, I spent many a lunch period chilling with him in the room that his father was cornered up in.  That was where I met Justin.  Tall, braggadocious, and he had a lazy eye.  To my credit, as much of asshole as I was in high school, I never made light of that.  I’m proud of myself for that fact.

So let me run through some memories that stick out in my mind from our time together.  There was this tiny little kid named Jake.  I know his last name, but I’ll keep that to myself, but it sticks out for how odd it was.  Thing about Jake, he was a tiny kid with some physical disorders that contributed to his absolutely tiny size.  It also led to some health problems for him down the road which are also quite tragic.  But Justin had a rather fun idea – why not put Jake in a backpack and carry him around?  So he did.  That’s exactly what he did.  Put that tiny young man into a large backpack and carried him around.  If we had had camera phones, I’d be attaching that video here, mark my words.  Yeah, this was before the days where everyone had a phone to record video.  The horror!  All of these memories get to be in my heart.

Then there was the time that Justin had a video camera and decided to record me.  Now, in high school I was something of an edgy asshole.  As such, I tended to let my mouth wander away with me.  On this day, he recorded me saying that if I was going to cripple America in a substantial way, it would be by blowing up Congress during the State of the Union address.  Strategically it is a valuable time to strike.  It would cripple this country in a very profound way.  It was made known to me by his father at the time Justin was recording and egging on my response that one could consider that video a terrorist recording.  That did admittedly give me pause.  I wasn’t the insane idiot that I am today who fears no consequences.  At least I wasn’t as aware of it then.  I found out something about that later.

Over the last couple years, I’ve been fighting depression in a very big way.  It’s been getting harder and harder.  The winter is always the worst.  I live in an icebox where it’s dark all the fucking time during the winter.  I feel so trapped when that happens.  I’m stuck and I have nowhere to go.  My social network has fallen apart in recent years, and my attempts to salvage whatever I can have resulted in abject failure.  This hits me especially hard considering that one night, I was very dour on my social media, and Justin reached out to me.  He was genuinely shocked at how unhappy I had become.  He told me that he had always looked up to me in high school.  That my anti-authority and debonair attitude had struck him as something worth looking up to me.  I didn’t have anything nice to say back.  I said that I’m an asshole with a bad attitude and that nobody should look up to me.  Given where we are now, I genuinely wish I hadn’t said that to him.  Thank Groj that that wasn’t the last conversation we had.

Another memory popped into my mind.  I was part of a play that was being put on.  I forgot what it was, but my role was to be the backup lighting and sound guy for Justin if he couldn’t be there for whatever reason.  So I ended up attending the performances for this show.  There were a couple.  The one that sticks out is where Justin and I was being dutiful, but there was an older acquaintance of the two of us named Donnie who came and sat with us in the back.  Now, Donnie must have been high, because he was absolutely out of control and would not shut the fuck up.  It came down to my compatriot and I thinking up a very depressing solution to the problem.  The fact that it took this to make who was now a grown man keep quiet is just depressing.  We gave him some paper and a pencil to draw on.  What he came up with was equal parts amusing and utterly immature.  The two of us recalled later with some amusement how we got a grown man to be quiet by treating him like he was five.  The irony isn’t lost on me.

There are lots of little pieces of abstract memories that pop in and out of my head.  Sitting in that tiny corner room chatting about whatever nerdom or geekery that we were into at that time.  I can’t think of specifics.  Hanging out with the girl who would eventually come to be my ex.  There are so many memories from back then that pop into my mind, but they don’t have shape or form.  I can’t hear the words I said and the picture is like the broken up worlds of the pictures in Life is Strange. I wish I could think of more.  Been wracking my brain for days.  Over a week now.  So surreal.

As I said early on, I had talked with Justin not long before he died.  A few weeks ago, I posted this article about how a woman chopped a guy’s dick off for not looking her in the eye during sex.  But she had such a lazy eye that I joked “which eye was he supposed to make eye contact with?”  Was dying of laughter.  Still funny thinking about it now.  Fate being what it is, Justin saw my post, and decided to comment on it.  At first he played all butthurt because of how he also had a lazy eye.  But I could see right through it.  He found it as funny as I did.  Led to some pretty good conversation.

A couple weeks later, I open my Facebook to see that my friend had died.  On the 16th.  Apparently it had been in his sleep.  The cause of death has not been determined as of yet.  I found out about it on the 19th.  I don’t think it feels real yet.  Like it’s one of his absolutely terrible jokes.  Justin was not good at humor.  So many dead baby jokes.  I laugh now, but that’s just because of hindsight and the some warm nostalgia.  Edgy teenagers trying to be edgy.  Still feels like I could get a message from Bryce like “gotcha!  Dumbass!  You should have seen the look on your face.”

Been postponing this post for a couple reasons.  First it was to get my information straight in my head.  Try and remember what I could.  But also because I didn’t want to rush this out the door and put even more hurt on his family.  His father was one of my favorite teachers, and I feel for him so much.  There was some other family that I never really got to know on a very personal level.  A sister and mother, both of whom I was told are pretty cool people.  My heart goes out to his father so much.  I cannot begin to imagine how awful it is to lose a child.  Was told that in June, on when would be his birthday there is going to be a memorial service, of a sort.  I told them I will be there, and I meant it.  Going there will be the hardest thing I have ever done.  Not a family member passing, but a friend.  Someone whose connection is something that is unique to him, myself, and the friends we had in common.  But I wouldn’t miss that for anything.

I guess that’s all I have to say.  Will be sending this to his family, and I encourage anyone who remembered his and feels comfortable sharing their own memories to post in the Comments.  If you haven’t commented before, I have to approve all newcomers, so if it doesn’t appear right away don’t sweat it.  But I always do, so don’t worry.

Now comes to hardest part.  How do I close it.  What is the quote that I want to say to close this out.  Don’t have many of them.  We didn’t keep up much in person, and the memories from back then are muddled.  Was looking through what I have in text that has stuck with me all this time.  Will post the one I like best.

Until next time, a quote,

A human life is something hard to play “god” with
Not that there is one.” – Justin Joehnk

Peace out,

Maverick

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In Memory of Lizzy

If you would have asked me today if I would be doing this post right now, I’d have told you fuck no.  No way.  Because I know that I wouldn’t be here when this would be happening.  I’d be out with her and I would know that it was coming.  But an unbelievably selfish individual decided to take it upon themselves to make this decision for me, and now I am here, writing a post that I have been thinking about for weeks.  And I can finally get something out of my head that has been nipping away at me for weeks.  I don’t think I’ll ever forgive the person who decided to make that decision for me.  Ever.  My best and most loyal friend died tonight.  She was kind, sweet, lovable, had four legs and was covered in fur.  It was my cat.  Her name is Lizzy.

19 years ago, I was there when we went to the pet store and picked her out.  They had kittens for sale, and I went with my mother to pick one out.  My parents had a policy about not getting boy cats.  They tended to have bad bathroom habits and are little shits.  The last cat we owned had the moniker “shitty kitty” for the fact that it shit all over the place.  Thank Groj it wasn’t an indoor cat.  It lived in my old man’s garage.  Before you say that’s cruel, he kept it warm in there for the vehicles.  We had a large property, so kitty had never known an indoor life.  Peanut Butter was his name, even though he was orange and white.  Never did ask where the rationale for that name came from.  It was my sister’s cat, in name alone.

When we got to the pet store, there was a cage with all the little kittens inside, and they were all cute as fuck.  But there was one that stuck out above all the rest.  See, it was climbing the cage wall, with a look on its face of – get me out of here!  From that very moment, I knew that this kitty and I were going to be best friends.  As luck would have it, that kitty was a girl.  So we picked her out and headed home.  My kitty has NEVER liked confined spaces, so on the car ride home she was miserable.  But I was eating chicken strips, and gave her some of the chicken.  That made for a happy kitten.  Every time she has been in a vehicle since, she has been a VERY unhappy camper.

From there began a relationship that was the most loyal and true that I have ever had.  See, while she was around everyone, there was no denying that Lizzy was MY cat.  Everywhere I went, she followed.  If she was outside and I tried to go places, back in the first house I lived at in memory, she would try and follow me.  So I’d have to put her inside.  I named her Lizzy, after my grandmother on my old man’s side.  Her first name was Mary, but her middle name was Elizabeth.  So I shortened that down to Lizzy.  But over the years that wasn’t what I would call call her.  Lizzy got shortened to Liz.  Then to Wiz.  Then to Wiz-Biz. Or Wiz Cat.  Or sometimes “you’re being annoying.”  Silly kitty.

After leaving the first house we lived in with her, we moved into my grandparent’s on my mum’s side’s old house.  It was a home that they homesteaded in, ages ago.  There is so much history in this house.  Part of me is glad that it’s still in the family.  At this new house, Lizzy had so much more area to explore.  A huge property, a lakefront, and all the voles a kitty can eat.  Oh yeah, there was a serious vole problem when we first moved in.  Lizzy took it upon herself to help deal with that problem.  Using kitty violence.

During the summer, Lizzy hated to spend time inside.  She would spend hours upon hours on end outside.  Sometimes we would let her out late in the evening, only for her to be out all night and come in the next morning.  Part of me wonders how she was never attacked by an owl.  But she did have the right fur color to blend in with the undergrowth.  So many funny memories.  Like, seeing her shimmy up a wall.  See, my parents had a balcony into their bedroom from the third floor.  On nights where she would be out and want in at 4 in the morning, she would shimmy up the wall and then go onto their balcony and whine until someone let her in.  Or she’d whine outside my window.

But the thing that I loved most was how she would spend her evenings and winters with me.  Since she hates the snow, kitty would spend all of her time in the winter cooped up indoors with me.  I had this amazing blue chair.  It had these really tall arms, and my kitty’s favorite place to rest was there.  See, I moved around too much for her to be comfy on me.  I’m not one of these people who says that if the cat is comfortable I can’t get up.  Pussy can move.  But she knew I gave her tons of love, so she would rest on the arm of my chair, watching movies with me and watching me play games, then judging when I made mistakes harshly.

So many little memories that I can chain together.  Like on Christmas, where she would attack the wrapping paper and get all wrapped up in it.  Or when we put garland on her and had her indignant face.  I would give my last 10 years to be able to go back and get a picture of that.  Alas, when I was a teenager we didn’t have camera phones that took really sweet pictures.  Think that was before my head injury.  She would always watch us set up decorations and judge us harshly, but she loved getting attention.  Wish I had been better about getting her Christmas gifts.

Thing is, she didn’t want lots of toys.  She got to go outside and wander around and have fun.  Plus, something I did that nobody else did – fight with her.  See, sometimes she would want to get into a fight.  I ever had a special glove for it.  It was a work glove with a leather exterior.  She’s wrap around that and claw the living shit out of it for a few minutes when I’d go at her belly when she is in a fighting mood.  My cousin would fight with her too, except he was an idiot who did not wear a glove, and she would fuck up his hand.  He would joke that she loved it, and part of me does wonder if there is some validity to that.

Another adorable thing about her is the fact that she had both of the dogs my parents owned scared to death of her, even though both of them were big enough to bite her in half.  The first was Zoey, then her puppy, Riley.  In both cases, it’s because she was so mean to them as puppies.  Like any puppy, they went over to her and wanted to be best fwiends.  But she wasn’t having that.  They would know who the top dog in the house was, so to speak.  After slashing their puppy faces up, both of them knew that love from her came at her pace, not theirs.  It is so cute having both of these dogs being so much bigger than her yet scared to death of her.  Poor Riley.  As the much more friendly of the two, he kept on trying to get love out of her, but she was always a bitch to him.  But eventually the dogs and her found a happy equilibrium and all was well in the world.

Moving in to the last house I have lived in, my parent’s sunset home, things changed.  See, Lizzy has been getting old.  The years don’t show on her because of how small she is, but for a while she was fine.  But then things started to happen.  See, her hearing was getting worse and worse.  Eventually, she went totally deaf.  It was a bummer.  And for her, I genuinely believe it made her scared to death, all the time.  I also contend that her vision was going too.  At night, she would make this really ugly noise that sounded like she was in pain, but I think it was her being scared and not being able to hear or see where she was or where she was going.  This led the parents to believe that she was losing her mind, and while I joked it off, part of me wondered.

Months went by, and she was sleeping more and more.  Eventually it got to the point where she was sleeping almost every second of the day, only to wake up and cry.  The parents were not enjoying it.  As I was living in a place that didn’t allow pets, I tried to make excuses for it.  Then one day, I get told the my parents are wanting to take her to the vet.  The idea is that we need to get an answer on this, and if there is no cure, and her quality of life is just going to get worse, to put her down.  I made very clear that I was going to be there for that.  We went to the vet and they said that her kidneys are indeed shutting down.  But it can be prolonged.  With some diet change, she can get many more months of life.  Maybe it should have ended there.  I don’t know.  But it didn’t.  Which leads me to the last four days.

I went out last weekend because the parents said that her problems are getting worse, it’s clear that her mental state is not well, and it’s time to say our goodbyes and be done.  I was going out more to tell them I had damn well better be there when it ends.  I was there when we picked her out.  I was owed that.  It ties in to that thing I haven’t been able to get out of my mind.  We’ll get there.  However, the mum was unable to bring herself to say that we’re going that far.  So I went home thinking that I this could go on for much longer.

And that brings us to tonight.  I got a call from the mum saying that my kitty had “died in her sleep.”  She could have let it stay there, but she decided complete honesty was a good policy and told me that that was a euphemism for she had indeed been fast asleep, and my old man had put her down himself.  Believe it or not, I do buy that she was asleep.  My girl couldn’t hear.  Sneaking up on her was very easy.  I’d seen first-hand how she can sleep if you are right in front of her.  I don’t doubt that she never woke up before he ended it.  With one bullet.

Before you go saying how disgusting and horrible that is, I’ll head you off.  I don’t hate the method.  It’s quick, and if she’s asleep and doesn’t know what’s coming then it’s painless.  Here’s where I take insane levels of umbrage.  I was there when we picked her out.  I was there when we brought her home.  I was there from the very beginning, and I fucking deserved to be there at the end!  Though, I would have asked to do the more typical euthanizing, because I don’t want to think about the mess.  That’s kind of horrible.  My girl died alone.  She died without me there.  It hurts me more than you can know.  The old man decided that since the mum and I couldn’t bring ourselves to do the deed, he’d do it for us.  I had a right to be there with her at the end, and that selfish person took that right away from me.  When I was rightly upset by this, it is then me who is turned into the villain, as is always the case.  My family has never valued my opinion and is quick to throw any transgressions I have ever committed squarely in my face the moment I am upset with the parental authority figures.  I got a clear lesson in how little they respect me.

My companion, my confidant, my dearest friend.  Someone who stood with me during all the worst parts of my life.  When I lost friendship after friendship because the significant others of those people didn’t like me.  When other “friends” turned their back on me because I’m weird or I have feelings they don’t like.  When my cousin/brother I never had stabbed me in the back.  When I lost relationships, one in a bummer way and one in a way that did irreparable damage to me because of how it ended.  She was there for all of that.  And I wasn’t there with her to say goodbye.  It hurts me more than you can possibly know.  Someone took it upon themselves to do that and I am quite upset with them right now.  Given what happened between us afterwards, I don’t know if our relationship will be able to mend.  We’ll see what happens.

I normally try and close these things out with something that the person I am doing this post for told me, but since this particular friend was a cat, I decided I would close this out another way.  See, I’ve had this song rattling around inside my head for the last few weeks.  At every funeral I’ve been to, there is a hymn that has been sung.  It holds a lot of resonance with me because of how much I have grown up with it.  I’m not a spiritual person.  I think people who believe in the magic sky wizard are childish beyond the capacity for rational thought.  But since there will never be a funeral for my kitty, I thought I’d close out with this lyric.  Those of you who know what the melody to this is without looking it up are pretty alright in my book.

Until next time, a quote,

“I was there to hear your borning cry,
I’ll be there when you are old.
I rejoiced the day you were baptized,
to see your life unfold.”

Peace out,

Maverick

In Memory of Riley

The things that happen one Sunday afternoon while you are completely unaware.  Just a normal Sunday afternoon where I am doing something really cool, and find out something happened suddenly.  The way life is, most days.  There’s this great video I watch anytime I am having a bad day and while it may not make me feel better, it makes that day suck a little bit less.  In that video there’s a line that says that the real worries in your life is something that will find you on some idle Tuesday.  It also says that your life is 50% chance, just like everybody else’s.  I just got finished putting a peanut butter cheesecake in the oven and decided to call to wish the old man a happy birthday.  That’s when I found out what happened.  The family dog, Riley, had seized.  It was bad.  Now his mind appeared to be gone and he was running around smashing into things.  He wasn’t getting better.  There was nowhere they could take him.  After all his health troubles up to this point, it was clear what had to be done.  Call my old man callous for ending the dog’s pain with a bullet instead of an injection, but it was quick and he didn’t suffer.  That’s more than most can say.

Riley was the offspring of our old dog Zoey, who I did an In Memory post for.  She was given to me after a major surgery.  A pure-bred lab, she was an awesome dog.  But she was not my dog.  Not by a long shot.  Just like her puppy, she was my old man’s dog.  Everywhere he went, she followed.  We bred her with another pure-bred lab and had a whole bunch of puppies.  Riley was unique among them.  The whole lot of them were black as obsidian, except him.  He was white as a sheet.  Little albino dog.  The only one from the litter the family kept, he was the most loyal dog you could imagine.

More than a little of a momma’s boy, everywhere that Zoey went, he went.  Everything that she did, he did.  Make no mistake, for how much bigger he got than her, it was clear that she was the top dog.  It was so fun to watch when he would finally get on her nerves and she would run his big ass down and bowl him over and get on top of him in an act of dominance.  Like the wolves they descended from, she is the alpha dog.  Of that there is no question.  And he was a good kid.

However, like I said, he was most definitively the old man’s dog.  I told this story in the post for Zoey, but I knew who everyone was at the house on the lake by how they walked.  My cave was in the basement, and everyone in the family had their own walk.  Sally (my mother) was always slow and plodding.  She was never in a hurry.  My sister’s walk was angry.  A fitting theme, since anger is her stock and trade.  But the old man always had the clickety-click of doggy feet behind him.  Everywhere that he went, those two were there.  If he was out plowing snow, they were in the plow truck with him.  If he was on the 4-wheeler doing work outside, they were on the back.  It was kinda cute how the two would fight over who got to sit on his lap when he would be watching the news at night.  Never would he have let that be the case when he was younger.  My old man got so much more lenient as his years are getting on.

For example, every day that Sally would leave for work in the summer and he didn’t have to go to work, the two would be up on the bed.  He would bemoan how spoiled the two are, but deep down I knew that he kinda liked having two big pals to do stuff with.  I was never big on the outdoor stuff or the vehicle stuff, so he got to have a couple of happy helpers to be with him.

When Zoey passed, I think it hit Riley hard.  Dogs process death differently than us, and he was a very lonely dog for some time.  But then he came back and life resumed for the big white mutt.  For a couple years he was the only family dog and he was just like Zoey.  Everywhere the old man went, there he was.  If anything, he was much more insisting than his mummy-dog.  He had to absolutely be involved with everything.

Then things took a turn.  He had a health problem which caused one of his eyes to be in a massive amount of pain, all the time.  This was on top of digestion issues and fatty deposits he had.  Pure-bred dogs have a lot more health problems than mutts, and he was no exception.  After surgery to remove the eye that was in pain, he was a happy dog again.  But his health had been declining more and more.  Today, it all came to a head.  As was told to me on the phone, he started having seizures and then subsequently running around and losing it.  He was smashing into things, like he couldn’t tell where he was or what he was doing.  I was told that the old man took him outside to where he wanted to lay him to rest, next to Zoey, and ended it.  Once-again, think him callous, but he did what had to be done to stop his pain.  My family isn’t rich, and his mind was gone. I can’t imagine how much it hurt, but the deed is done.

Riley was a good boy, and while he wasn’t my dog, I am going to miss him.  He was a good boy, and now my parents only have one pet left – my cat.  And her health is declining fast.  She’s completely deaf and I think she is really scared at night.  She yowls like she is in pain, but I don’t think she is.  During the day she is alright.  I think her vision is going too and she’s scared.  Her hair is getting matted and she sleeps virtually non-stop.  I think this will be her last winter too.  I suddenly am feeling very alone out here. But all that is a post for another day.  I’m really tired right now, and I got laundry to do.  Being an adult sucks.

Until next time, a quote,

“A dog is the only thing on Earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” – Josh Billings

Peace out,

Maverick

In Memory, In Ink

I have a friend named Quinn.  Ever since she was ten years old, she lost the ability to speak.  She got incredibly sick.  It was a disease that caused massive inflammation all over her body.  She nearly died.  A fever of 104, death nearly came for her but she came back from it.  Now she no longer has the ability to speak.  It’s been a very hard life for her.  You don’t really think about the value that the ability to speak has until you lose it.  So much of her life was hurt, and she has been trying to come back from it for as long as she could.

Through all of that, there was her incredibly supportive mother.  Even when she found out that her daughter was gay, and her father kicked her out of the house, her mother did everything she could to help her.  To the point that they ended up getting a nasty divorce because the mother hated the father for how he treated their daughter, which in turn translated into how well he treated her sister because she was the child he had always wanted.  Meanwhile, Quinn had her mother.  When she was really little, as I understand it, Quinn was a very talkative little kid.  Her mother called her “Chatty Monkey.”  It was with this in mind that when she died, Quinn had an idea for a tat.  But since she has no artistic talent, it just stayed as an idea, until now.  With the help of my dear friend Kathryn, it has finally come to fruition.  As it will when it is immortalized on Quinn’s skin forever.  One of three tats, all of which have great significance for her.

16901932_10155070158909111_1716337255_nThe monkey is to stand for the nickname that her mother had for her all her life.  The gun is because her mother was a crack-shot, most specifically with a revolver.  The smoke is because, the unfortunate truth is that her mother was a chimney.  You can extrapolate how she died based on that.  Woman went through a pack a day.  I try not to judge how people live, but as her coughing got worse, even Quinn felt terrible.  The woman left our state to go be in a warmer climate, and it did help.  But it only went so far.

A wonderful woman has passed away.  She left a legacy of a connection between mother and daughter that is unmatched, from a girl who life has been horribly unkind to.  How people keep their memories close.  Quinn is putting this memory on her hip.  So when you see this image, keep in mind the connection it symbolizes.  Let me know the connections that you have with people who have left your life and how you keep that alive in the Comments.

Until next time, a quote,

“Death is not the greatest loss in life.  The greatest loss in life is what dies inside us while we live.” – Norman Cousins

Peace out,

Maverick

In Memory of Ellis and Betty White

Ellis and Betty (right and center-bottom) with Patty and Frank Merrigan (left and center-top)

Ellis and Betty (right and center-bottom) with Patty and Frank Merrigan (left and center-top)

Man, I don’t even know how to start this.  How do you start talking about the lives of two people who have affected so many? How can you begin to explain the emotional attachments that they formed over the course of their long and happy lives?  This is genuinely the most difficult In Memory I’ve had to do, to date. It will probably be the most difficult one I will ever have to do, until…well, I think we all know who that will be.  My grandmother, Betty White (not the actress, although I have joked with her about sharing the name with her), passed away this morning.  I’ve been pondering, for hours, on how to write about this.  It’s unfathomably difficult.  See, my grandpa, Ellis White, passed away before I was doing this.  Now, I thought that I would do this for both of them.  I may not believe in an afterlife, consciously, but there is still a comfort that comes from believing that two people who have been apart for a little while are now reunited.  There’s so much to talk about.  Bear with me.  I’m doing this while a lot of emotional dust is getting stirred up.  Don’t know how long to get it done.  These two people, Ellis and Betty, led a life that shaped a community.  They won’t be remembered by all America, but an entire generation of people in this part of the world that my folks still live in remember.  But I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself.

Ellis and Betty white didn’t originally live in Alaska.  They came up here from South Dakota.  When they first came up here, they lived in Anchorage.  They set up a house on Raspberry Lane.  My granddad owned a gas station, and they lived pretty alright.  Well enough that they eventually came to live in Wasilla.  They homesteaded out here, buying a pretty sizable chunk of property.  From there, they became part of the web of life out in Knik.  Back when it was all people homesteading.  They were here.  Something that

Betty and the kids

Betty and the kids

people don’t know is that Betty lived out in the Homestead on her own, most of the time.  Ellis had to work in Anchorage, to put food on the table.  But she wasn’t living here alone.

The two of them had five children.  The oldest was Kathy.  Then there was Dick (his name is Richard, but most everyone calls him Dick.  Always have), Scott and Jim.  The last was the youngest of the family – Sally.  She just happens to be my mother.  Funny how that works, right? (Just kidding.  Sort of) Five kids, four of whom were absolute hellions, but the telling of some stories around the campfire (I’m lookin’ at you, White Man!).  Betty had to raise them, for the most part, by herself.  But don’t you go thinking that she was some pushover.  Oh no!  When Betty got mad, that woman meant business!  You were getting an ass-whoopin’, you better believe it!  She had to deal with the homesteading life and raise five kids, she was a tough old gal.  They just don’t make them like that anymore.

But her toughness was directly tied in to how much she loved her kids.  See, Betty had to deal with a lot of stuff.  The foremost was her son Scott.  I barely got to know him.  I hardly remember anything from before my head injury, but I barely knew him before that.  The last time I saw him was when I was around five.  He had some problems.  Scott was gay.  He wrestled with that in a time and a state where that lifestyle was beyond frowned-upon.  It was part of the reason that he ended up having a severe substance abuse problem.  I’m talking the hard stuff.  This substance abuse, along with some mental problems, eventually lead to his death, many years ago.  Betty had had to deal with that for a long time, and she was able to keep her composure.  I have no doubt that it was hard on her.  I can’t even imagine.  But she carried on.

The connection to family that Ellis and Betty had was profound.  See, a ton of their family ended up living up here.  The foremost was the Merrigans.  Betty and Patty were two peas DSCN0153in a pod.  There are so many stories about the two of them arguing for a LONG time about who would pay when they would be out eating.  The two of them were tough women, both of whom had their fair share of problems, but were made stronger because of it.  And that tight bond led to two families being close in a way that most singular families aren’t.  But don’t think that their ties to family only went to the extended one.

Betty and Ellis were very close to their own family.  There are pictures out there of them sitting with their grandkids, back when we were babies.  They would love to see their grandkids.  Thankfully, because they lived on a lake and were down the road from a large chunk of them, they got to do this rather often.  I always got the impression that this was a happy thing, for them.  They also liked to travel with their family.  There are fond memories of time spent in Seward, with them in their ancient-ass motorhome and me and my family in the camper on  the back of the old man’s truck.  You ever see the vehicles that the family drove around, we looked like the Clampetts, sometimes.  The Clampetts go to Seward!  But they never mind.

Indeed, traveling was something that the two loved to do.  There are so many stories of the many trips that they took.  They could have told you, for hours, about how many times they had gone to all sorts of places across the country.  But I like to think that their trips to Seward, fishing with members of the family, was their favorite.  Or at least Ellis’ favorite.  He loved his old boat.  It was a pretty small craft, but I have vague memories of him sitting in his chair, fishing pole in the little holster on the side, looking peachy as can be.  Maybe I’m wrong.  We do color history with our own perspective, don’t we?  I admit that mine is less colored than most.  After all, with my head injury, most of my memories before my head injury were mush.

Homesteading Ruggedness!

Homesteading Ruggedness!

And the two weren’t just big on helping their family.  They were tight with the old community of both Knik and Wasilla.  The two of them were among the ones who started the Wasilla Food Pantry, at Good Shepard Lutheran Church.  That’s the place that I grew up attending.  Nice people, there.  Unlike some people, I left religion on good terms, due to how I grew up in a church filled with pretty nice people.  It’s going to be hard, seeing how hard it is on them, when I am there for the service next weekend.

There are so many people who could tell you so many stories about Ellis and Betty.  So many people who have stories that are just bursting about their interactions with those two people.  They lived a life that was fuller and more enriched than almost any of us are going to have.  Part of me wishes that I had taken the old journalist approach and cataloged all the stories that they had, from as many people as I could.  I know that the White Man has a thousand and one stories to tell.  Although, with him, you gotta take it with a grain of salt.  He’s the king of bullshit.  To live a life and touch the lives of so many.  It’s a little overwhelming.  How can I give those two the credit they so rightly deserve about a life that they lived that was so full?  I’m still debating this.  I’ve given you all pockets of knowledge, but it goes so much farther.  How can I do justice to a life like that?  It’s too much.  As I sit here, Chris Botti playing in the background, I am so uncertain.  Maybe I should have waited a few days, to collect my thoughts.  But you know, this felt right.  It felt right to talk about this now, when it is fresh on my mind and I can think of the most to say.

Still, I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the lives they shaped and all the memories they share.  Now, I won’t claim that my grandma and I were the best of friends.  We had our disagreements, and those were sometimes very unpleasant.  But you know, I don’t hold on to stuff like that.  Especially now.  Old disagreements fall by the waist-side, and we think back to the good memories.  Memories of days gone by, that make me lament for a history that I barely remember, where things were so much easier, and I didn’t have to be scared about everything the way I am now.

I also know that, writing this, it is going to give a lot of people pain.  I do hope that, eventually, this helps people more than it hurts.  I hope that this post can inspire good memories, not sad thoughts.  I mean that, from the bottom of my little black heart.  I hope that each and every one of you can have good memories in your own lives, of the people you know who have touched you so much.  To any family or friends of the two who end up reading this, feel free to share a story in the comments section.  Like I said, I haven’t even been able to touch on how many stories there are.

And to Ellis and Betty, I hope that, wherever you are, you are happy.  Your suffering is done.  Age and pain can’t touch you anymore.  That long good night has given you both the peace that you had a fair amount of in life.  A service is going to be held at Good Shepard Lutheran Church.  You are going to be missed, by so many people.  It is with that in mind, that I am going to share a quote that is of great significance to me, to end this.

Until next time, a quote,

“This may not make much sense to you now, a young man at the beginning of his career, but one of the things you learn as you move up the ranks and get a little older is that you wish you had more time in your youth to really absorb the things that happened to you. It goes by so fast. It’s so easy to become jaded. To treat the extraordinary like just another day at the office. But sometimes, there are experiences that transcend all that.” -Capt. Katherine Janeway, Star Trek: Voyager

Peace out,

Maverick

In Memory of Zoe

The last post that I did like this, I wrote that I had a feeling that I would be doing many more of these before my time on this world was up.  There are days when I hate being right.  Zoe was a good friend to me.  She wasn’t the kind of friend who comes over and brings you a cold drink when you need it.  She wasn’t the kind of friend who you could nerd out with your newest games with.  She was just a friend who put her head on your lap and looked up at you, just glad to see that you were there.  Zoe, Shield Maiden of the Homestead, was my dog.

Zoe with her puppies.  The little white one is Riley.

Zoe with her puppies. The little white one is Riley.

Confused about the name?  Well, Zoe is a pure-bred lab.  Pure-bred dogs have to have titles.  Since neither of the parentals were good at thinking one up, they put the task to me.  Same with her puppy, Riley.  I had just watched the Lord of the Rings movies, so I thought of a name that was regal and whatnot.  She was a gift to the family after I had surgery.  Cervical fusion.  C1-C3.  The most unpleasant operation of my life, following an accident that has defined my outlook on life, forevermore.  She was such an excitable puppy.  She had a bit of a problem of peeing on the floor whenever people came home.  She just got so happy.  We trained that problem out of her by adulthood.  She wanted to be everybody’s friend.  Much to the chagrin of my cat and confidant – Lizzy.  Lizzy brutalized that puppy, to the point that even as an adult, who could bite her in half, she was afraid of her.  A trait that carried over to her puppy, Riley, when he tried to be her friend.

If there was a more friendly dog, I can’t think of one.  She was everybody’s friend the moment that she met them.  Hitler and Stalin could come in and she would try and be their best friends too.  I loved that quality.  Since the parents live out in the country, long walks around the woods were a favorite activity of hers.  Sometimes, she had a bit of trouble coming back when called.  The adventures were just too fun.

Now, while I say that she was given to me, the truth is that she wasn’t my dog.  Very quickly, it was the father-unit, Dave, who she bonded with.  Make no mistake, she was HIS animal.  Went absolutely everywhere with him.  Working in the garage, she was there.  Working outside, she was there.  In the plow truck clearing the road in the middle of winter, she was there.  She went absolutely everywhere with him.  He would complain, but the truth is, I think he liked having a little helper go everywhere with him.  One of my fondest memories from the old house is how I knew who everybody was by how they walk.  Since the basement was my favorite place to hang out, I could hear everybody walking around upstairs.  Sally (the mother-unit) had a slow and monotonous walk.  Not in a hurry to get anywhere.  The Sister had an angry walk.  For real, even her walk sounded pissed off.  I refuse to believe that she has arches on her feet.  But with the old man, everywhere he went, there was the clickety-click of doggie feet behind him.  For a while, it was Zoe, but then there was Riley.

See?  Such a momma's boy.

See? Such a momma’s boy.

Riley is her puppy.  He has been such a momma’s boy.  He doesn’t appear all sad, but then, dogs process death different than people.  I envy that about them sometimes.  Everywhere that Zoe went, he wasn’t far behind.  If she got attention, he had to have some.  There was a constant competition to see who got the old man’s lap while he would watch the news or TV at night.  But the neatest thing to me was when, even though he was so much bigger than her, when Zoe got pissed at him, she could run him down and throw him over, showing that he may be bigger, but she was top dog.  Given how large he got, that was so neat to see.

I got a call a couple months ago that it was confirmed that Zoe had cancer.  In her lymph nodes.  Not a good way to go.  She was having a hard time breathing.  When I got home from college for the summer, I got to hear how labored it was myself.  That was hard.  Her death was nowhere near easy.  She still seemed happy, but she’s a dog.  Dogs always seem happy, if people are being nice to them.  And we were.  By the end, her sense of smell was gone, her eyesight was getting really bad and her breathing was like the bellows.  We knew that it was time to put her to sleep.

I couldn’t be there when it was done.  I had to be at work.  We all have to earn money, right?  Been thinking about it all day.  I get home, hearing that it was done.  Part of me is glad that I wasn’t there to see it.  Too cruel a thing, for me.

When I was a kid, I used to think that animals all had a kind of sacred place that they go when they die.  Some kind of place that only they can find.  Since the parents used to say that none of the cats that they owned died at home, I figured that when they got old, they went off to find that sacred place.  The final resting place of their kind.  I don’t believe in God or anything, but part of me still wishes that I believed that.  And that maybe, someday, I will go to that place, and find my friend again.  If there is an afterlife, I have a feeling that there is a ton of nature to explore.

That’s all I have to say, really.  I lose one more friend.  A friend who I’ll never get back.  Lately, I feel so alone here.  Alone, forevermore.

Normally, I close these things out with a quote from the person who passed, but this was a friend, and I don’t have a quote by them.  So, I will use a quote about the species.  Goodbye, my friend.  I hope that you are in a better place, even if I don’t believe that.

Until next time, a quote,

“Happiness is a warm puppy.”  -Charles M. Schultz

Peace out,

Maverick

In Memory of Kim

This is the second of these kind of posts that I have done.  I feel that I shall do many more before the years of my life have come to their conclusion.  Unlike the last of these that I did, however, this one is going to be a little bit more complicated.  Not because I had a complex relationship with my aunt Kim.  Quite the opposite.  Biology makes this a bit more complicated.  Allow me to explain, before I pay my respects to somebody who, while I can’t remember many of the details, I shall miss, in my way.

When I was 14, I suffered a very violent head injury.  It has left some very lasting scars, both physically and mentally.  That said, I am a much different person.  But one thing that happened is that most of my childhood memories before that point are muddled, or flat-out erased.  That said, my aunt Kim is no exception.

Now that I have said that, I guess I will addd my perspective to what is being said about my aunt, and what will be said when Sally and the sister-unit, Abbey, head to Healy to pay their respects.  I would be joining them, but alas, I have a problem with being stuck in a vehicle for an extended period of time.  Plus, this is not the time of year that I want to be going up north.  As the phrase goes, “baby, it’s cold outside.”  Alaska, am I right?

Anyway, here is what I do remember – Kim always liked me.  I’m not quite sure how I felt about her.  I am assuming that I did like her.  I’m sure all her lovey-dovey attitude did get some eyeball rolls every now and again.  I’m just not that type of guy, but I can understand why she is that way.  I do remember that she always was.  A point of amusement is that I hadn’t talked to Kim all that much after my head injury, and she found me again on Facebook.  When she did, she quickly saw that I am a MUCH different person online than when I am in person.  She was more than a little shocked.  This gave Sally quite the laugh.  Me too, a little.

I don’t know much about Kim’s history.  I was only really tight with a couple members of the family.  There is Sam, who I used to be really close with.  She kind of went her own direction when she got older.  I respect that.  We all do.  Still, it was cool.  Then there is Dick.  I have often made a bunch of puns about how a lot his stories are obviously 90% BS.  But despite the fact that our political and social views are about as far apart as it gets, we are still quite amicable around one-another.  The rest of her kids are unfortunately part of the group that I hardly remember, given my head injury.  It’s part of the tragedy of that incident, but oh well.  C’est la vie.

Quite recently, there is a point about my views that Kim seems to have taken some issue with – my atheism.  I do not believe in God.  I make no secret of this.  I don’t go around screaming about it to people, but if somebody were to ask, I would tell them, and explain my position.  In any case, Kim didn’t understand, and we had some…less than productive discussions about it.  But we still were pretty cool.

That is kind of how it is with most of my family.  They don’t get it, they may not agree with it, but they don’t get all upset about it.  I think that’s pretty cool.  It is part of the reason that it does leave me feeling a little bit disheartened that I can’t remember much about Kim before my head injury with much clarity.  I didn’t know all that much about her history before I met her.

All I can say is that Kim was a warm and fun person.  The rest of the family was always in a good mood when she was around.  She had this energy that they all seemed to gravitate toward.  I can’t say I was the same, but then, I’m really weird.  In any case, everybody that I knew that knew her had a wonderful opinion of her.  It was all smiles, and good times.  That is how a person should get.

Her passing was, and I know a lot of people won’t get this, but in my views, better than it could have been.  She passed away in a way that most of us won’t get to – quickly.  She died of liver cancer.  She had just gotten back from breast cancer, so this was quite a blow.  But this was a quick way to go.  There are a lot of cancers that consume a person, body and soul.  It turns their lives into a living hell of pain and suffering.  Liver cancer is one of the quickest ways to go.  While I still think it’s not a good thing, I think it could have been a lot worse.

She has left behind all her kids.  I hope Sam is alright.  I know that she takes things really hard on the chin.  She’s just like her mother – warm, fuzzy, and very emotional about things.  I will be sending this to her, as my way of paying my respect to a person who, I admit, I didn’t know as well as I should have.  Well, I did, but the self that knew her well, that younger self, lost that connection.

I don’t remember her enough to make some grand statement about her life.  I will say that she has accomplished a lot, and left behind a lot of people, all of whom are going to miss her, but all of whom have been touched by her.  Perhaps my greatest statement can be this – that sometimes, even if you don’t know a person, you can cherish the connection, and have a respect for the person because of how they have done so much, for so many people.  And that is how I feel.

Au revoir, Kim.  You will be missed.

Until next time, a quote,

“Wow, you’re either getting taller, or I’m getting shorter.”  -Kim White

Peace out,

Maverick