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Monday, August 8, 2011

An Ode to Those Who Have Given Their Lives for Us and Who's Lives We Carry with Us

On this day one year ago my uncle passed away. I vividly remember being in the San Antonio airport, waiting for a flight to Albuquerque, when my father called me and delivered the news. I broke down and couldn’t believe it.

With his passing, my family bloodline shrunk to four: my mother, father, brother and myself. It was a blow to all of us. He had been sick for a long time and had battled numerous ailments in the past decade, but he was just beginning to regain his health when he fell ill for the last time. He had had a very rough 2010 with surgeries, hospital stays, and constant oversight and nursing. Uncle Dave had always had health issues, but the future was starting to look bright. He had recovered from heart surgery and was regaining his strength. Yes, we worried every time he went to the hospital, but rarely was it as serious as the last time. I knew that he was unexpectedly back in the hospital and I wanted to fly to Wisconsin to see him. My father told me no, stay in San Antonio with your friends and that he would keep me updated on any developments. When my father called me and told me that my uncle had died, I didn’t know what to do. My first and strongest reaction was to change flights and get to Wisconsin as soon as possible. Again, my father told me not to. He said that he would take care of everything and that Dave did not want any kind of public funeral service. Still, the urge to travel to Wisconsin was great and hard to ignore.

Today, sitting in Miami, rain pouring down outside, I am filled with thoughts of my uncle. I loved him as much as one could and will always cherish every memory I have of him. As my brother and I have already reminisced today about him, his laughter always brightened a room and he had the presence of someone twice his size. I always looked forward to holidays with him, especially in the past few years as I might only see him once a year. He always traveled to see us and sacrificed so that he could. There is nothing that he wouldn’t do for us and nothing we wouldn’t have done for him.

I am filled with more emotion today than I expected because I would probably not be here in Miami if it were not for my uncle. It is his car that I am using and drove across the country and it is the trust that he left my brother and I that I am using to help pay for my personal expenses in law school. I will never be able to repay him for those gifts and everything he has given for me. It is hard to write this because words cannot describe what it is like to have someone in your life who gave everything so you could have everything. The selflessness and generosity my uncle always showed my brother and I are values that I want to live by and promote in my kids (when I have them).

I decided to write this post not because of the anniversary of my uncle’s passing, but in memory of him and everything he gave my family. I will not dive into the cliché of holding your family close and their importance. However, I do think it is important to understand those that have provided the lives we live and that we carry their memory with us where ever we go. I am not an overly sentimental or emotional person, but just thinking about my uncle, something I do every day, can and does bring tears to my eyes. As I wrote above, carrying on his life and his meaning in my life is a goal and life purpose for me. Without a doubt that will be difficult and require a commitment, but it pales in comparison with the commitment that he made to my brother and I and how much he has given us. I do not know where my life will take me; but what I do know is that where ever it does, my family will be with me every step of the way and I will carry their memory and everything they have taught me with me.

I have lost relatives before, but as I have gotten older it has gotten harder and I believe that is because my connection with them strengthens over time. Death is a fact of life, but it shouldn’t be the end of someone’s existence. Their memory and impact should continue in the lives of everyone they positively impacted. You don’t have to take time out of your day and talk your loved ones or make a grand gesture to them, just reflect on what they have meant to you and how they have affected your life. My brother, father, and I reflect on my uncle Dave every day and it helps us keep his life and memory alive and further his impact on this Earth. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Drive - Part 2

It seems like it has been ages since I blogged. Truth be told, it has been over a week since I blogged or even though about a post. I’ve been too busy driving from Washington, D.C. to Miami, Florida and moving in to my apartment, well, condo.

So, I already posted about the first half of my road trip, which was a great three days traveling East across the US. However, it only got me halfway to my destination. In DC I had three days to relax and enjoy my time there before a grueling week of driving and moving.

What to say about DC? It was a blast! I saw a lot of friends, spent time with my family, and got to enjoy all of my favorite places one more time. The one negative was an inability to see a few people due to conflicts and travel, but I will be back in DC in a few months, just not sure when yet… (Probably not homecoming, sorry Paul.)

In order to best spend my time in DC, the day I got there the very first thing I did was go to The Tombs. If you don’t know yet, that is my favorite bar. It was my haunt for my Senior year at Georgetown and holds an incredible number of great memories, life experiences, and friends. The only disappointing thing is that they have yet to install the plaque on the wall for all of us who went to The Tombs and purchased something every day for 99 days. The 99 Days Club is a special bond that members of the Georgetown community have with the bar and it is one that destroys wallets and credit ratings, but endears its members to the bar and each other for life. Anyway, I had a nice long lunch at Tombs, saw some friends that were there for the same purpose, and eventually made it to my brother’s house. I relaxed there with his roommates until it was time for dinner with my mom and stepdad. It was great to see them, even though they were coming to Miami just three days after I drove down here. Oh well, family is family, so what can you do?

Thursday came and the Nationals game with the infamous Tranimal was nothing but miserable. It was so hot and humid that you regretted going and sitting outside to watch two terrible baseball teams attempt to play a beautiful game. We didn’t stay for the last two innings because we simply couldn’t take it anymore. Thank god. I love baseball, but not in those conditions. Thursday got better because my brother and I had dinner with our Dad at Café Milano in Georgetown, which is one of our favorite places to go. Other than the waitress ordering me Tuna when I wanted Veal, it was an absolutely fabulous meal. The irony, and I’m sure my father will find this as amusing as I did, that there is a Café Milano on South Beach (no relation) that I’m sure he and I will experience hopefully sooner than later.

Friday was nice because my brother had the day off so I got to spend some quality time with him and also had lunch at Tyson’s Corner with my friend Christine, who is studying for the CPA. I found that in the three months since I graduated so many of friends have already begun to do incredible things and their lives are changing so fast. I have countless friends who are already working, studying for various high-level industry certifications, and making an impact in the lives of many. I know that sounds very aloof and idealistic, but it is true. I know people in banking, tax, accounting, medicine, nursing, sales, marketing, and law. It amazes me to see my friends studying for the CPA or becoming an investment banker and what that means for their career and life and how quickly they went from being a college student to being a real person in the real world; oh how we grow up fast. Haha

Well, Saturday came and then it was time to head South to Cary, NC to see my stepdad’s sister and her Husband. Mary and Paul are great. I hadn’t seen them in years, but I had an amazing time with them catching up with Beefeater and Tonics on their porch. They’re great people who I am honored to know and have the privilege to spend time with. I cannot wait for them to come to Naples for two months at the turn of the year to spend the harsh Carolina winter in Florida. I will certainly be making the drive over to them a few times once they come down my way.

Sunday was a long day. I woke early and left Carolina soon after 8AM so I could arrive in Orlando before dinner time, and I did just that. It was great to see my boy J.R. in Orlando and stay in his pretty swank pad for a 22 year-old bachelor. We had some organic burgers in downtown Orlando and then proceeded to walk to a very large cigar shop and bar to have a smoke, an Old Fashioned, and a Mojito. It was quite the highlight and I know I will be back up there before long. As my last stop, I couldn’t have asked for a better time.

Well, then it was on to Miami and that was about a 4 hour drive, not too bad after the 37 that came before it. I cannot describe the feeling of turning into the condo complex after 2,300 miles of driving that spanned 41 hours and 8 days to take me from Racine, WI to Miami, FL. Once I got down here and had my keys, it was all moving in and building furniture, but that’s a post for another day.