Five Years

Five years have passed by so very quickly. And yet, every July 3, I recall that day, vividly.

I recall the surreal, foggy morning in Saugatuck.  I was camping with my friends, and decided to call my dad for the first time that weekend.  The calls went unanswered.  I recall seeing “The Devil Wears Prada” with my friends because it had rained that morning, and not being able to enjoy the movie because I kept checking my phone to see if he had called me back.  And then, after the movie, getting the news that tore through my heart.

The ride back to camp, and arriving to find my tent taken down and my car already packed.  I will never, ever forget the kindness and love from my friends as they worked so hard to get me out of there as fast as possible.

Getting my friend Rafael to drive my car so I didn’t have to drive it myself was another blessing.  I don’t remember much of anything from that trip.  I just wanted to get home.

Sitting in my mom’s kitchen that night, hearing fireworks going off in the distance.  The low thuds of each explosion marking the celebration of the holiday that was, on that day, dead to me.  What was there to celebrate?  I was mourning. Independence Day would never be the same for me, and hasn’t since.

The planning, meetings, dinners brought by from friends and family.  Lots of decisions, and lots and lots of tears.  That was all part of it, too.

As rough as that day and the days that followed were, it somehow made our family that much stronger.  We never broke under the pressure and kept on going.

There was immense sadness, but also immense relief.  Dad had suffered for so long, and by the end of his life was so miserable, that he made us miserable, too.  I guess what kept us going (and sane) through all of that was knowing that he was finally at peace.  And consequently, we, too, were at peace.

I wrote about all of this five years ago, so I don’t want to re-hash every detail… but in the five years that have passed, so much has happened.  My nieces were born, and have given such joy to our lives.  How I wish he could have met and known Abby and Emily.  Part of me believes he does know them, and is watching over them closely; but had he been alive to meet them I know he would have loved them dearly.

But on the other end of the spectrum, my uncle– my dad’s brother– is nearing the end of his battle with cancer.  Unlike dad, his suffering is lingering.  I hate what’s happening to him, and how cancer has robbed him of not only his ability to live his life, but his will to live.  Once again, when the time comes, we will have sorrow, but also thankful he is no longer suffering.

So this year I am spending the holiday with my family.  I’m sure we’ll share some tears, but many more happy times.  And we will celebrate Independence Day.  Because although I thought it was dead to me five years ago, eventually, I have to move on.

Dad, wherever you are– I love you.  You’ll always be in my heart.

In Memory: Frances Reid (Days of our Lives) 1914-2010

As of this posting, the media has not quite caught on, but I have learned from numerous sources on Twitter and We Love that Frances Reid, who played the role of Alice Horton on “Days of our Lives” from the show’s début in 1964 until the present, has died at age 95.

Frances was not just any ordinary actress.  She had the warmth of a grandmother and everyone loved her so very much, simply because of the character she played, day in and day out, on television.  On TV, she was grandmother, great-grandmother, and even great-great-grandmother to dozens of family members.  In real life, she was grandmother to millions.

As far back as I can remember, I recall my Mom and my Grandma watching Days of our Lives, and I remember seeing this radiant woman on the screen and I always knew I’d like her.  She reminded me of my Grandma in many ways.

As I grew, and I started watching “Days” with my family, I enjoyed her adventures with Bo and Hope, her wise advice and drugged donuts (remember that?), and her love of her Tom and her family.  As it turned out, she truly was everything I thought she was when I first saw her as a little kid.

We watched her as her kids grew up, and had kids, and moved away.  We watched her and cried with her when Tom Horton died (when Macdonald Carey died), and we watched her grow old and frail, but still with that sparkle in her eye.

We knew she’d be leaving us soon, but the loss still hurts deeply. She lived a wonderful, rich and amazing life. I’ll always remember her.

I think I’ll get some powdered donuts today to celebrate her memory.

Brittany Murphy – the new Karen Carpenter?

I awoke today to the news of yet another celebrity death, albeit not anyone I was particularly a fan of, nor did I know much about her… but the news struck me as eerily similar to another celebrity death that still, to this day, haunts me.

Take a look at the pictures below.

Brittany Murphy and Karen Carpenter

On the left is Brittany Murphy, who died today at age 32 of cardiac arrest.

On the right is Karen Carpenter, who died in 1983 at age 32 of cardiac arrest (which was later attributed to Anorexia Nervosa).

Aside from those similarities, note the similarities in their facial features.  The gaunt, stark chin.  The long, flowing hair that disguises the thinness of the neck.

I’m not a doctor by any means… but I can’t help but wonder if Anorexia didn’t play a part in Ms. Murphy’s death.

I find it frightening that the entertainment industry as a whole has still not learned its lessons from Karen’s passing.  Why are our actresses, singers and other performers being subjected to this mentality?  What is this teaching our children?

These photos do not show either woman at their worst.  I have seen much worse photos of Karen Carpenter, where she looks like a skeleton with skin on her face; and I have seen much worse photos of Brittany Murphy, where the effects of what had to be an eating disorder were very apparent.  But photos aside, the similarities– which COULD just be coincidences– are just too obvious to ignore.  Time will tell.

Reflecting on Jennifer Hudson's loss

Two years ago, I felt pain like I had never felt before. Losing a parent is the hardest thing anyone has to experience in life– aside from, I would guess, losing a child.

But to lose a parent, a sibling and a nephew all at once…

I just don’t know if I could deal with it.

Surely by now you’ve heard about the murders of Jennifer Hudson’s mother, brother and nephew here in Chicago. News like this is terrifying and horrible, no matter whose family it happens to. The fact that it happens to be the family of a recent Oscar winner and singer with an album currently on the charts is irrelevant. This would be news even if it was a typical family living a typical life.

The question that remains is not “How does this happen?” because the answer to that is, simply, “It just does.” Things like this, unfortunately, happen all the time, all over the world. There are crazy people out there who think nothing of taking the life of an innocent 7-year-old child, his uncle and his grandmother. It sucks, and we grieve inside when it happens, but that’s the reality of the world we live in.

The question that remains is also not “What is happening to people today?” because things like this have happened for centuries, and will continue to happen for centuries to come. Residents blame the police and the politicians, the politicians blame the schools and the families, families blame themselves and everyone else. There are fingers pointed in all directions but never any answers.

No, the question that remains is neither of these. The question that remains is, “How does one cope with such a terrible loss?”

When my father died, it was sudden. He was sick, yes, but he wasn’t dying. One day he was there. The next, he was gone. Poof. No more. Whether he died of a heart attack or at the hands of a murderer, the fact remained that he was gone, and we were left to carry on from that point forward. There were no long goodbyes or final words. It was over in an instant.

The pain we felt from that point forward was immense, but I can’t help but imagine what it must be like to experience that times three.

Add to that the emotional trauma of having to identify bodies and speak to the police about finding person who did it. It takes an incredibly strong-willed person to endure that sort of torture.

I grieve for Jennifer and her family. Because the added pain of this situation is that Jennifer Hudson is a celebrity; therefore this story will continue and be talked about for months afterward. Trials will happen and convictions will (hopefully) be handed down, and it will all be in the news.

At least when I lost my dad, my family was able to move on from the point of the funeral in relative peace and quiet, and we healed in our own private ways. The Hudson family won’t get that sort of healing time. And for that reason, I grieve for them the most.

Just a few quick things…

I felt like a celebrity this weekend!

I went out with friends on Sunday night after chorus rehearsal in celebration of the three-day weekend. Even though it was freezing-ass cold, that didn’t stop us from having a great time.

We started at North End, where I quite literally bumped into a handsome stranger (who looked familiar to me) and was instantly smitten. Unfortunately he was with his friends and I was with mine, so it didn’t go much further than that. I just hope he answers my Craigslist “Missed Connection” ad. 🙂
After that we went to Sidetrack, spent a couple hours there, then grabbed our coats to head over to Roscoes to finish the night off. As I left the coat check, someone stopped me and said, “Hey, are you Rocket Man?”

“Yep, that’s me!” I said. “I read your blog!” he replied. And then he told me his name…

…And now I have to BEG his forgiveness because I totally wanted to mention his name right here and now but “Thing about me #35” states that I am absolutely HORRIBLE at remembering names! I even tried repeating it to myself at least 10 times while I crossed the street after meeting him, and I STILL forgot it. So… if you are out there, please comment and make yourself known again. And please accept my apologies!

Still, it was kinda cool being recognized for my blog! 🙂

Who’s supporting whom? Now you can find out!

The Huffington Post has created a simple search engine so you can find out who your favorite actors, actresses, celebs; or even your co-workers and neighbors are supporting in the 2008 Presidential race. Fundrace 2008 is an easy-to-use applet that shows just which side of the fence these people really are riding.

For instance, the President and COO of News Corp, Peter Chernin, has donated to the funds of three different candidates– but you’d be surprised which three candidates received his donations. And Lorne Michaels, Executive Producer of Saturday Night Live, has donated to the funds of two candidates — but Lorne likes to go both ways– so to speak.

Heath Ledger 1979-2008

Heath Ledger

Wow. I totally did NOT see this one coming. Blind-sided me like a Mack truck.

My co-workers and I have a thing about celebrity deaths and dead pools and stuff like that. It’s a weird thing, probably a somewhat grotesque thing, but I guess we’re just fascinated with it and what happens when celebrities die. Well this month has been a bonanza of celeb deaths: Brad Renfro, Suzanne Pleshette, Bobby Fischer, Christopher Bowman, and now Heath Ledger. They say these things happen in threes, but this is getting to be a bit much.

Obviously, Heath Ledger’s death is especially poignant due to “Brokeback Mountain.” My friends and I went to see it the week it was released and while some of us loved it and others were a little more lukewarm, we all agreed that Heath and Jake Gyllenhaal did an amazing job with the characters. Especially Heath. There was just something electrifying and heartbreaking about the way he brought that character to life. I thought this then and I think it now — he is and was the James Dean of our generation. Whether that means he’ll be lofted into the mythical stratosphere with the likes of Dean and Monroe and Elvis is doubtful; but to me, he represents that sort of magical quality that James Dean had. An amazing, talented actor, taken away much too soon. Truly, a tragedy.