Day 118/365 John, Part II

A few months ago I shared a letter I had written about the death of my cousin, John. He passed away two years ago, and the letter was my way of processing this.  I shared my thoughts about alcohol and drug addiction; about what it had done to John, and to our family.

John’s eleven year old daughter, Megan, is here visiting us for three weeks this summer.  As I listen to her play upstairs with my girls, I can’t help but sit here and think about John, and how badly I wish he could have tackled his demons. How I wish he could be here, laughing with me over the girls’ hijinx.

So, tonight I wanted to write a little about John. Not about alcoholism, and what a vicious beast it is, but just about John and who he was before he was taken from us, bit by bit.

John loved to laugh, and to make others laugh.  Everyone loves to laugh, but John had this look of appreciation he’d get on his face when someone really amused him – especially if he wasn’t expecting it.  I loved catching him off guard with my humor. John laughed with his whole body. With his mouth wide open, he would often bend right over laughing.

John (right) laughing with his cousins, Billy (middle) and John (left). I love this one.

John was outgoing – he could talk to anyone, and he could win just about anyone over. He was charming. Many of my girlfriends fell for John.  He had so much charisma, and he loved women. This included my grandmother, with whom he lived for a stint after graduate school. I still remember their joint answering machine recording – you’d hear John say, “You have reached John (and then grandma piped in) and Lynette…” Grandma was the envy of all (mostly elderly widows) in her condo development that year!

He liked things to move at fast pace. Sometimes this was at odds with my day-dreamy nature. He’d tease me for being slow – playing cards with me (having to repeatedly nudge me when it was my turn) just about put him over the edge.  I laugh just thinking of him pretending to bang his head on the card table.

It wasn’t all roses with John – he was so passionate, and with that came fire. He had a temper.  Sometimes this was problematic, and sometimes it was just funny. He was intense. As I write this I’m smiling, because his temper did provide some comedy.  He was almost always able to laugh at himself after the…incidents.  Like the time he was so frustrated with golf during a family vacation that he chose to walk several miles home in 90 degree heat down the side of a south Florida highway rather than to suffer through another minute of golf!

He was such a smart guy, and he had a few different careers (and from what I recall, more than one Master’s degree), but the jobs he loved best were the ones in which he was in a position to help others.

John loved deeply. He was an affectionate guy and wasn’t afraid to express

John and his dad, my Uncle Ed.

his love for his family and friends. John was so proud to be Megan’s father. He was always talking about how smart, funny, and adorable she was. If he could have stayed sober for any reason, I know he would have done it for her.  He couldn’t do it, though – not for anyone.

So, we have to let it go – the pain of that, difficult as it is – and be grateful for this beautiful young woman he brought into our lives.

I see in her John’s outgoing nature, his humor, his affection.  At eleven years old, she is so outgoing and adaptable. She gets along with everyone and anyone. She plays so well with my daughters, who are eight and eleven. She has also endeared herself to everyone else in our family, from the adults all the way down to my two year old nephew, who presently has a serious crush.

She’s a wonderful kid.

I know you couldn’t stay, John, but we are so grateful for the gift of her.



Day 76/365 Ruthless

“YES! I’m back, baby! Look out!”

I grin as I pass the dice to my oldest daughter. “You are just like Papa,” she says, smiling and shaking her head as she rolls her turn.

I was taken aback by the comment. It filled me with a sudden warmth.

I welcome any opportunity to be cast in the same light as my dad – even if it is relative to insufferable game play.

God, it was so much fun to play games with dad.

You see, he was one of the kindest, most gentle and selfless people you could ever know. Game play was the one area in which he allowed himself to be completely obnoxious, and we loved every minute of it.

(Editor’s note – no one in my family finds my obnoxious game play to be endearing. I’m still working on that).

What I loved even more than being compared to “Papa” was being gently reminded that my girls really had the opportunity to get to know my dad. We are all incredibly lucky for that. It is my intention to make sure they don’t forget him.

If I have to do this by continuing to be an incredibly obnoxious and ruthless game player, so be it.

It will be an honor.