Saturday, February 28, 2009

Read the NEXT post first! These photos go AFTER.

OKAY, it couldn't be THAT bad with a view like this-huh?
And cute kids like these:
Kate, Samuel, Peter, Bob, Reilly, and Aidan cooking S'Mores

Kate and Peter enjoying S'Mores

Samuel and his slimy worms, I mean bait.

Aidan and his makeshift fishing pole.

Reilly keeping warm.

Gone Fishing

Check out that proud-of-himself grin!

Dixon Lake, Escondido in the '80's

"Gone Fishing" that's what I should have left on the last post so ya'll would know where we have been the last couple of days. My scathingly brilliant idea was to surprise my kids by whisking them away to the wilds of Lake Skinner for a week. We would bike, hike, play, sketch in our nature notebooks, fish and have fun while leaving all our cares behind us. I wanted to laugh and enjoy my kids again--you know I shared that I have been a bit grim and grumpy. I was leaving my "thinking mind" behind--no big philosophical questions to ponder just sunshine and A LOT of exercise. So they would plop into their sleeping bags exhausted after our nightly campfire and s'mores. Doesn't that all sound nice?

You know where this is going don't you? We had a camping trip that will remain in the annals FOREVER as THE WORST trip ever. But I can laugh about it. I bet Bryan would too! There is just too much to list in the snafu section so let me just list here for posterity: screeching alarm, no heat, changing propane tanks in the middle of the night, the toothless, patch-eyed Park Ranger, sleep walking/night talking baby who shared our bed, barfing, raining, and not a single fish to be caught. There is more--but you get the idea. And I thought I would sit in the sun and read/journal/write some thank-you notes while my kids explored nature. NOT! I didn't even get my pen out.

So we are home. And I am back to blogging. I should tell you, my brother didn't like fishing too much. Honestly, I think it was just a bit too much sitting for him. My daddy came to share the fine art of casting with my kids (he is left-handed, you should see Reilly throw out her line!) so I sat with him on the shore of the lake today and asked him to share some stories with me about him and Bryan fishing. So while Kate was amusing us with her theatrics, Aidan was scavenging for rusty hooks and old weights, Peter was trying to swim in a no-contact lake, and Samuel was patiently waiting for a nibble, my daddy talked.

My dad loves fishing (just the right amount of sitting for him) and I know he took Bryan often. The Kern River was a family favorite all my life. So we all grew up fishing. Dad and Bryan went out to Diamond Lake when it first opened. Bryan was jazzed--reeling in a large trout. Right as he was about to bring it in--his reel and rod just crumpled into pieces and the BIG ONE got away. Heard that before? Me too. I can't confirm the veracity of this story :0.

Another time, my dad, my grandpa and my brother went out to Dixon Lake for some generational bonding. The three of them got up before daylight and made a spot for themselves on shore fishing. The whining started with the first raindrops. Bryan wanted to go home. Dad wanted to stay. Fish always bite in the rain--they think the raindrops are insects on the surface. At least that is what I am told. Grandpa was a softy, Daddy was a die-hard. Grandpa took Whiner home. Dad stayed. When Grandpa returned for him, Dad said he caught 15 trout. Again, I cannot confirm or deny the truth of these fishing tales. I am just the narrator.

I think I remember deep sea fishing with Bryan one time when we were teens but the details are foggy. I will try to convince my dad to share some more of his stories. You are gonna bust a gut when you hear about his hunting adventures with Bryan. They will make my Nightmare Camping Trip sound like a 5star vacation.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Friends have shared with me that they pack up and put away stuff that makes them think of their recently departed loved ones. I suppose they need to do what works for them. But I haven't done that. In fact, Kung-Fu Panda stares at me from my armoire, the huge photo of Bryan and our kids the last time he saw them is nearby, his memorial picture is on the fridge, his yearbooks and college writing journals are beside my bed, we have his CDs downloaded on our iPod, his face pops up continually on my screen saver slide show, not to mention all the gifts he's given us over the years, he is everywhere around here. And then there is this blog--a daily remembrance of his life. I have to look at my pictures and go back in my mind to mine for the memories so I can tell his stories. I think about him daily. Sometimes hourly. In the beginning, it was by the minute. Maybe time does heal all wounds?

I can understand why people put their dead loved one's stuff away--it hurts to look into those eyes in photos. To think again on the missing that is filling up your aching heart. To remember that he isn't here anymore to make you laugh. It is painful, I concede that point. But I still like him surrounding me. I don't want to forget him. I don't want it to be weeks or months or years without thinking about him. Thinking about Bryan and remembering his life helps me want to be a better person--more like him in a hundred different ways. So even though the price is high--that emotional rawness and freshness that comes from choosing to think about him and not just putting it all away because it hurts--I am grateful for the sweetness that comes with thinking on the good stuff about my brother. Thanks for doing that with me each day.

My kids get it. Kate wept for missing Uncle B last night. I consoled her and hugged her and cried with her and prayed for her. If it wasn't all out there for her to remember and acknowledge, then we couldn't share the consolation. Peter still recognizes his uncle's happy face on the computer and runs to point him out. Someday they will have these stories, the ones I have remembered here on this blog, to keep their memory fresh. I don't want to forget.

I was looking through his old Sadie Hawkins pictures (hi Salina!) and his watch caught my attention. It was one of those SWATCH ones with a guard on the top of the face. Again, an '80's thing. I never owned one because I am not a spatial-temporal person so time is no big deal to me. Neither is fashion. Bryan was big on both. He liked having the "latest" things. My dad has his son's jewelery box, a handsome, manly one, on his bathroom counter. I looked through it the other day. There are four watches in there. Nice ones. And rings and a dozen necklaces and bracelets. My mom wears the BK charm, that Grandma Birthday used to wear as a ring, around her neck on a silver chain. My dad wears the ring that Bryan special ordered when he was with me at the mall one day. He liked fine things. He took care of them.

All of this is so surprising to me. But not entirely, I have always known we were so different. I don't even own a jewelry box and even if I did, it would be pointless--I only wear my wedding band. But I like touching the things he took pains to chose and care for and wear with pride. It makes me feel good to have them close. I hope that someday my sons will have wrists hunky enough to wear those nice watches. Until then, it makes me happy that they are near and not packed away or given away. I guess we all grieve in different ways?

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Bob, the kids and I went for a long bike ride today. The sunshine is such a happy respite! While I was warning my kids to stay in a single file line while in the bike lane on our busy streets, I told them to be sure not to follow too closely. They didn't want to rub tires. It triggered my memory and so I share with you today a few dangerous scrapes Bryan and I got into as kids on our bicycles.
I can't remember what his bike looked like. But I know mine was lime green with a big tan seat and a white basket with fake Gerber daisies on it. One time, we were riding together down at Calvin Christian School's parking lot. They had some construction going on so there was gravel strewn on the pavement. Bryan was racing around being a daredevil. I think there were other kids to impress. He took a turn too sharply. His pedal scraped the concrete and he lost control. He slid on his side like Evil Knievel and came to a stop in the middle of the gravel. When I finally got to him, he was trying real hard not to cry in front of the other kids. I left him there and raced back to our home to get our parents. They came and drove him home.
When daddy assessed the damage, he discovered that Bryan's entire thigh was covered by a medium pizza sized "strawberry" complete with gravel that needed to be plucked out bit by bit. UGLY. But it gets worse. He couldn't wear anything that touched the oozing wound. If he HAD to go out in public, at least there were OP shorts--remember those surfer shorts--extra short? He wore long tube socks up to his knees and Vans shoes to complete the look.
My grandpa put this horse healing salve on his sore--it was bright purple and it stunk. It stained everything it touched. I guess this was before neosporin? I have no idea. He walked around in his undies for most of the month until it healed. It was summer vacation so at least he had that going for him. That horse ointment worked--it didn't even scar. I sorta feel bad that Bryan is getting all his stories told without being here to object, "Hey, that's not right. Don't tell THAT one!" But there has to be some fun in all this suffering :0
Another time, we were in Jr. High school together. We rode our bikes to Grant Middle School. It was quite a ride--probably 5 miles one way. Well, I said Bryan and I were good friends. But I did not specify WHEN we became close. We were not so much at 12 and 13. So we were riding our bikes to school and I was pleading with him to stop tailing me, stop riding so close. My sweet younger brother did not listen and rubbed tires with me. I will never know if it was intentional or an accident. It was my turn to experience the nasty wounds complete with gravel removal. But the little nice lady whose house I crashed in front of drove me to the school office where they phoned my mom. Let's just say that Bryan's backside hurt in a different spot after my dad found out what he had done.
When I told Kate the story today, she said, "So THAT'S why you always tell us not to rub tires and not tail." Now you know.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Random and Weird

I tripped over Kate's favorite childhood book, something or other about bellybuttons. The girl was once obsessed with that particular part of her (and others) anatomy. You can imagine all the explaining I had to do with that one. Ever just have a random thought triggered by someone or something or some song? That's how I got on bellybuttons with you today. While we are here, Aidan loved having his ears rubbed when he was a baby. Reilly hummed when she was eating. Samuel was enthralled with another part of his anatomy. Peter enjoys his toenails painted. Kids are eccentric. I like remembering the funny things my kids did/do. I wish I written down all the things that made me chuckle, things that today I cannot recall for my life. I need more memory on my hard drive.
Bryan used to "bounce". He would lay in bed (it actually began in the crib) and get in a semi-push-up position and bang his head on his pillow. Some of you are thinking that THAT sure explains a lot. He did it in the car too, only not with his face into a pillow but the back of his head into the car seat. As I type this, I am trying to pretend that I am you, and you have never seen Bryan perform this phenomenon. It just sounds weird. It was. But I was so used to it that I truly thought all boys went to sleep "bouncing".
I remember my mom in the tiny green Datsun B210--telling my brother to knock it off. The car was jerking back and forth. Couldn't be good for the alignment or gas mileage or HIS HEAD! He bounced the screws out of his bed. He messed up the formation of his nose. Oh glory, it is comical to picture it now. I never laughed about it then. It was "normal". What IS normal after all? Everyone seems normal until you get to know 'em.
By the way, I used to "roll" while trying to go to sleep. Rocking back and forth and humming. My kids were mild compared to me! Our gene pool in question again. My mom always told me not to worry, someday I would stop that annoying habit. I did. The night I got married :0 I wonder if Bryan ever did?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

THE Gift

Uncle B, Aidan (nephew), Bob (brother-in-law, my hubby), and Samuel (nephew)

I don't pretend to know how to help my kids grieve their uncle or process all the questions they have as a result of his death. I am just managing this grief of my own. It is exhausting. But I do know that the kids miss their Uncle B.
Kate's birthday is in a few days. In the past, she would be looking forward to her date with Uncle B and getting excited. Uncle B took the kids to Toys R Us for a "pick any one thing you fancy" date. Talk about a child's fantasy come true! They did not have to consider whether it was practical, whether they had two of the same already, how much it cost--Uncle B just bought it. And he didn't rush her. Kate likes to go up and down every aisle and examine every option. UGH! That would torture me--I don't have time for that. But Bryan took them alone, let them peruse the entire store and never once uttered, "Alright already. CHOOSE!" I think Kate picked the same thing three years in a row. That would drive me crazy--what's the point? But Bryan saw the point clearly--that is what she wanted. And he wanted to get her what she wanted.
Bryan was only a phone-call away. He enjoyed the pumpkin patch, the baseball practices, the ballet recitals, the birthday parties, the spontaneous field trips. In this picture, just nine months before his death, Bryan joined our family in Escondido at the Icoplex for an afternoon of ice skating. He was terrible at it. If he were here, he would confirm that. But he laughed and kept up with the kids and had a good time and sore ankles. I love that my kids knew, really knew, their Uncle. That is the priceless gift he gave them. Even better than a shopping spree at Toys R Us.
By the way, my daddy is carrying on the tradition inspired by Bryan's keen understanding of kids. He will be taking Kate for an overnighter and shopping event this Friday. The legacy continues.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Eye of the Tiger


I love this picture! Make sure you have your speakers on to read this post--
for added effect!
(***The Playlist is back to normal, the song was only on for the day the post was written. The song was Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" Sorry you missed it :)***)

"Face to face, out in the heat

Hangin' tough, stayin' hungry

They stack the odds, still we take to the street

For the kill with the skill to survive"

Remember this song? It makes me laugh every time I hear it! It was the summer of 1982 (or 3?) and Bryan was making weight for his Pop Warner Football team. He was ten or eleven but he was a BIG kid--my grandma called him HUSKY. If he played at his weight, he would be in a league with boys who were much older and much more experienced. My dad talked my brother into fasting, running, and sweating to lose the pounds needed to get into the age/experience level that Bryan truly was. This pic is of him in foil-like undergarments covered by sweats with a wrapper towel and ski hat for good measure. It all was a part of the strategy to accomplish his goal. I did mention that this was summer? It was hysterical. Who does this kind of thing? Bryan. I loved that weird guy. He made weight and played with boys his age. Hanging tough, staying hungry. This moment was the auspicious beginning to one of his favorite stunts--he "sweat" to make weight over and over and over again for the varsity wrestling team, in the future.

This is just as embarrassing to type as it is for you to read: I was a cheerleader at the same time. Really. This song, Eye of the Tiger, was THE song for the year. I listened to it over and over and over again as we practiced our routine for competition. The crazy things girls do in short skirts. Bryan was tackling little boys and I was shaking my booty to the Rocky soundtrack. What a happy childhood we had. I mean it. I am still laughing as I remember it all. If Bryan could see this photo, he'd enjoy a good belly laugh too.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Snow Bunnies to Buddies

On the bunny slopes learning with a little girl!
Bryan in Big Bear
(sometime in the '80's by the looks of that spiky hair!)
Oh boy! Sorry I left that last post up for so many days! What a downer :0 But it was Valentine's Day, we enjoyed a three day weekend in our jammies, and "I can see clearly now the rain has gone". The sun is shining. And I am ready to post a more upbeat story today. Whew.
My mom and dad started renting/borrowing cabins in Big Bear when we were little. But as soon as we were teens, they had to up the ante. We learned to ski. After that, my parents were guilted into regular trips. They would rent all our ski equipment, buy us winter gear, borrow a cabin, buy us lift tickets, and drop us off at the lodge with fun money for an entire day of adventures. In the beginning, he and I were satisfied to be each other's partners. We were beginners and a bit self-conscious. Then Bryan discovered the Black Diamond runs and I was no longer a compatible ski buddy. I skied side to side in a safe and conscientious manner, avoiding fellow skiers and bumps. Bryan skied straight down, refusing to let men, women, children or moguls to deter him. He spent a large portion of his day waiting for me at the bottom of the run. The moment I made it down, he wanted to race back up for another run. He never let me pee or snack or flirt. We had come to an impasse.
Here is where my brother's future expertise made its beginning: Persuasive Bryan started in on my hapless parents. They didn't even see it coming. From this trip (the one in the photos) on, my little brother talked my parents into letting him bring friends with him on our skiing trips. Now, I would be lying if I said I wasn't a bit disappointed over the years that I did not get to bring a friend. But my brother was good, really good, at getting his way. And true confessions: I enjoyed having some those hunky boys along on our family trips. Isn't that naughty?
One time we had another family join us and they had two boys Bryan's age (which is very close to MY age, you remember!). They were a much more experienced skiing family than ours so theirs took Bryan and me skiing with them one day. We skied all day. And all night. This single day bumped our skiing up to the next level! The mom taught me how to ski faster and hit moguls and stop in a fancy way that sprayed up snow and drew attention to a teenage girl who like it. I am sure there is proper ski terminology for what that stop is called but it has been 20 years since I have been on the mountains in skiis. My brother has discovered all that on his own.
I learned many valuable lessons that day and night on the slopes: wearing two pair of wool socks would have been smart, letting your gloves get wet is a mistake, hot coco at a ski lodge is rarely hot, skiing off the lifts at the top of a Black Diamond run is only terrifying until you have done it 17 times, sitting on ski lift with a teenage boy other than your brother is exciting, my brother was a masterful manipulator whose skills benefited me MANY times :) in years to come. Bryan was soooo convincing. I learned all that on the side of a mountain in the snow. I am so glad we grew up together Bryan.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Stop the world, I want to get off.

Life is hard. Today, my friend came to my rescue and saved Valentine's Day for my family. I had forgotten about it. She invited me over, set out the card-making supplies, let me steal her creative ideas, allowed me to ice and decorate sugar cookies she had baked--all for MY hubby and kids. They will wake up to treats and valentines from their mommy. I am not myself. Things that usually matter to me, excite me--don't today.
It's not that I am not happy for Bryan that his struggle is over, his race is finished. I am. I have praised God a hundred times for that very fact. I am just sad for me--mine isn't. This week has been tough. He will always be 36--even if we did celebrate his birthday without him. I, on the other hand, will age with each passing year. Each year without a brother. Spending all this time looking at yearbooks, reading words from the past, looking at childhood photos has made me a bit nostalgic, a lot mournful. I think I need some sunshine! :)
Anyway, I am not that young, pure, innocent girl anymore. I have suffered and seen ugliness. We all have. Bryan did too. And he wasn't as tough as he let on. This world can be cruel (I acknowledge that is can be fabulous too! But I am in a grim and grumpy mood. My favorite song is still "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong. Though I am not singing it tonight. ) and I did not fully understand that when I was younger. I remember when I went bungee-jumping: I was so fired up, fearless. But when I finally looked down from the top, I screamed in panic: "I changed my mind!". Well, I changed my mind about this ride--I am ready for the hurting to stop now.
But I will go on. My weeping momma will stop crying every time she says his name. My quiet daddy will be loud again. My kids will wake up to a mommy who has remembered how to grin. It is going to be okay. Do you know how I can type that--even when I am feeling blue? Because I have been reading the Word. And it is True. And I have Hope. I am praying for a new song for my family. One we can sing even through the tears. Will you join me in that prayer? Sorry there is no humorous story tonight. But I guess this is part of the ride. And I don't get to decide when I get off. So for now, I am hanging on for the bumpy part.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Last night I hit the mother lode! I found a treasure trove of written artifacts in my brother's own hand. The archived pages, college-ruled notebook paper safely stored in a yellow Pee Chee folder for more than 20 years, were written in my brother's tight, neat handwriting. They are a gift. I love the way he made his "y"s. I am so glad that somehow, Bryan saved these words he penned in High School. I discovered and devoured them today.
Piecing things together, I believe that as a sophomore at EHS, Bryan had Mr. O'Conor for English. One of the regular assignments was to journal or write an impromptu composition. There are more than a dozen. The Pee Chee folder revealed many secrets to me. I did not know that my brother DESPISED our principal. It was very apparent in his very opinionated writings. I had no idea he had views on organ and tissue donation. He spoofed Madonna, quoted Robert Frost, retooled the lyrics from a Beatles song, wrote scathing commentary on closed campus lunchtime, demonized his principal, memorialized my Uncle John. From his own pen, in his own words, he disclosed a few more parts of himself to me. I share one with you today.
Me by BDK
The gusting wind blows through my hair,
But standing there I do not care.
A solitary tear glistens in my eye,
But I swore to myself I would not cry.
So instead of shedding my tears,
I reminisce of the past and present years.
And suddenly I recall all my worst fears,
Of hissing snakes and shaking piers.
I look down through my feet at the cliff descending below,
At the waves rolling in achingly slow.
I think of my mother and of my father,
And I realize now why I had bothered.
I look down again at the hard rocks below,
And realized, it wasn't that bad.
Written in October 1987 when Bryan was a 15 year old sophomore at Escondido High School.
Yesterday, the words written in my very own hand made me cry, "2008 is gonna be great!" Twenty years ago, Bryan composed, condensed his fears, "hissing snakes and shaking piers", in one line of a poem. In the end though, things don't always turn out the way our written words define or describe them. But they are still there, saved on a blogspot and in a Pee Chee folder.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Birthday Card

So I have been on Facebook again connecting with Bryan's old friends. Today was fun (thanks for the pictures Shelly). But I decided that since I have been suffering from brain fade I would go tonight to my parent's and get all his yearbooks and other stuff from a box in their garage (thanks Shannon). It was good. I found a birthday card that I sent him last year. If you came to his memorial, you heard me give Bryan's eulogy (along with my dad) and one thing I lamented then was that I was not sure if I told him what a neat guy he was or that I was so proud to be his sister. God is so good to put this card in my hands. Let me share with you the card I gave to my brother on his 36th birthday, one year ago, on February 5, 2008:

As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man. Proverbs 27:19
A great brother is a wonderful blessing.
A great brother is a good friend and an understanding listener.
He knows how to make everyone smile--
but he also knows when he just needs to be there with his care and support.
You can count on a brother like that.
And you love him, pray for him, and feel thankful for him, too--
on his birthday and always.
You have always been a great brother and wonderful friend. I'm so glad we're family.
Happy Birthday
"Bryan, You are one of my FAVORITE people. How blessed I am to have you as my brother. I thank God continually for YOU! 2008 is gonna be great! Praying for His joy, His peace, His light to be yours as you live out this next year of your life. I love you. Kelly"

A Face for the Name

Aunt Ingrid with her girls, Kathryn, Lynsey, and Amanda
The Peace & Love Commentor has a face!
Thanks for all your encourgaing words Aunt Ingy.

More Photos--They belong with the post about Grandma Birthday

Grandma Birthday and Bryan-April 1993
Bertha Pauline Klungreseter
July 28, 1922-October 18, 1996

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Family Photos of the Week of the Memorial-My Parent's Home

Uncle Arnie & Cousin Jenn
Cousin Brittany, Niece Reilly, Dad David, Cousin Beckey

Cousins Nik, Trina, and John

The kids enjoying one of the many meals that friends provided for us ALL!

Aunt Shirley and her sister, Bryan's Mom, Vickey

Cousins-Mathew, Marc & Wyatt, Justin & Paige & Uncle Larry

The kids performing "Baby Shark"

Dad, Nephews Samuel & Aidan and Cousin Chad

Cousin Beckey and Pete

Aunt Emmy and Aunt Kathy

Uncle Larry

Bryan's Aunt Shirley and Uncle Arnie

Bryan's cousin Chad and Chad's mom, Aunt Emmy
Parker & Klungreseter Families December 2008

Monday, February 9, 2009

Genesis 3:19

Birthday Past

Tears were shed, stories were shared, hands were held, chuckles were stifled, ashes were scattered. Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 3:30 pm in Big Bear, our immediate and extended family and friends cast Bryan David Klungreseter's dust, all that is left of my great big, cuddly brother's earthly vessel, into the wind (and snow!). That final and painful task is completed.

As if the circumstances for our gathering weren't enough for a story, we encountered quite a few setbacks to make it more to Bryan's tastes--ludicrous, incongruous, morbid, lugubrious. Big words for: kinda funny if it wasn't so sad.

We got lost, we couldn't contact the owner of the cabin, when we finally found it, the alarm sounded while we scurried to get the disarm code, it began to snow, people slipped, i brought a script but didn't stick to my plan, it snowed harder, we prayed and listened to Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now" and told a few of our favorite stories. ( I liked yours best Gary--so like Bryan to pass the buck :) and then we each shared a private moment before spreading his ashes over the mountainside. It was good. It was bad. Can something be both?

Holding his ashes in my hands and tossing them into the air wasn't as hard as I thought it would be (I had read online about how it is done--downwind is the key). The handful of dust in my palms was not really my brother. The REAL Bryan, the best part of him, his soul, lives on and I hope to meet him again when my days here are completed. I do not grieve as the world grieves because I have Hope. So that part was not as macabre and mournful as I anticipated.

But going on, being there in Big Bear, sitting around the fire, eating french toast, playing games, laughing, snacking, telling stories, playing in the snow, all WITHOUT him is what was really hard for me. I tried not to think about it too much. But then a thought would pop into my mind, or I would remember a glimpse of the past, or I would look around and notice his absence, and it hurt. I guess that is what the future will be like, just moving forward, pushing past the pain and the "firsts" of life without him here and choosing to savor the sweetness of the past and clinging to my Hope for the future.

I rejoiced for my brother, thinking about him in Heaven with my Grandma Birthday. I gave her that name (her real name was Bertha Pauline Klungreseter) when I was a little girl. My other cousins called her other loving names but Bryan and I always called her Grandma Birthday. She was the life of the party in my eyes. For our childhood birthdays, Grandma Birthday brought the cake, the best presents, her huge smile. I made the jump from Bertha to Birthday quite naturally.
Bryan celebrated his 37th birthday (yes, I made him a year older in the last post!) with Grandma Birthday and Jesus and the others in our family who have gone home to Heaven. He got the better end of the deal, celebrating his life with no more tears or pain or shame while the rest of us got wet and cold and even a bit ashy while we remembered his birth 37 years ago. I can only imagine what kind of farcical and uproarious story he would have told about the service. I could just picture him cluthcing his chest and laughing hard while we stood there in the snow. I will wait with hope to hear his loud laugh and bask in his huge grin and feel his strong arms embrace me again. Until then, I am so glad you were born, Bryan.

PS Thanks for joining us dear family, Uncle John and Aunt Barbara, David and Jenn, Mathew, Marc, and Wyatt, Pete and Beckey, Tabitha, Paige and Brittany, and friends, Gary and Carrie, Justin and Mary Beth. I am so grateful to you all for sharing in our celebration of Bryan's birth and life.

PPS I will post pictures of the service when I get them from Mary Beth or David or Beckey--hint, hint :)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Scattering His Ashes

We leave tomorrow morning and head for Big Bear. It is Bryan's 37th birthday. He and I would have been the same age for two months. For many years, Bryan took us all up to the mountains to celebrate with him on or near his February 5th birthday. So we go without him tomorrow. But in his honor, to celebrate his life, to hug and cry and remember all the love he shared with us. It will be painful. One month and 21 days--that is all the time that has elapsed since his unbelievably sudden and unexpected and tragic and horrible and ugly and awful and unimaginable...death. The wound is too fresh, still so new and deep. But we go because what else would we do tomorrow? We must, I was compelled, we all are--to go where he chose to go and be where he liked to be for his birthday. I am not a glutton for misery. I wish with every cell in my body that I did not have this task before me: to spread his ashes, "...for dust you are and to dust you will return." On his 37th birthday. I add this to the blog because it is a chapter in his story and I cannot edit the story, no matter how badly I want to.

This is what I plan on sharing up there on the mountain, overlooking the lake, in some private spot as we cast his dust into the wind:

You can shed tears that he is gone,
Or you can smile because he lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back,
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see him
Or you can be full of the love that you shared,
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live in yesterday,
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him and only that he is gone,
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back,
Or you can do what Bryan would want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
It is a pep-talk for myself. If you loved him, maybe they are words of encouragement for you too. Please pray for our immediate and extended family as we gather to complete this last paragraph in the chapter of Bryan's story called death. It is not the final chapter of his story--his will go on for eternity. I am convinced and assured of that. But this is the last task left to his earthly body--to return from where it came.
ps-The Playlist for today is playing the music that I chose for the service.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

May the Force Be With You

Star Wars came out in 1978? I was born in '71, I can remember my mom jimmy-rigging the speaker at the drive-in movies so that Bryan and I could hear it as well as watch it. Drive In Movie Theaters--remember those? My parents would back into a spot in our pick-up truck, bring fried chicken from a bucket, and load us up on Milk Duds. They made us wear our jammies. I remember my brother being embarrassed to be out in public in his pajamas--I think he even refused to use the toilet because it meant walking there in them. As I am remembering, I think we were in a tiny green Datsun B210 for our Star Wars adventure. We were both so excited. EVERYONE had seen it--we wanted to as well. Remember what that feels like?
I remember thinking that the light sabers were amazing--my mind couldn't wrap around the idea of a sword made of colored light. A child's view! Bryan and I would pretend we had our own. Bryan was Luke, I was Darth. His favorite character was Chew-Bacca. He liked the sound effects the furry giant made. Star Wars was ahead of its time--the "special" effects were mind-bending to 7 and 8 year olds! We had many hours of fun pretending we were Jedi Knights and Storm Troopers. We didn't understand the bigger themes of good versus evil, right versus wrong, good guys beating bad guys. We just thought the spaceships were awesome and modern. We were terrified of Darth and his Death Star.
Our family is watching the early Star Wars movies for the first time. We just finished the one I watched in 1978. (Some of) My kids are 7 and 8. Bryan wanted to be a part of this childhood "rite of passage" but I put it off. I have stop putting things off. Yesterday, my kids and I popped popcorn in the middle of our school day, cuddled up during Peter's nap and watched a movie that my brother and I were enamored with and awed by when we were their age. It was so good to see this film (an icon from our childhood) from my children's point of view--just little kids enjoying an action-packed fantasy movie. They were entertained. No mining for deep meaning. No teachable moments explored. Nothing serious (or real for that matter). It was just fun. I laughed at the low-tech effects and silly plot. But they just enjoyed. I felt like I was a kid again, seeing it for the first time. This time, without Bryan. Oh to be 7 again!

Monday, February 2, 2009


I have a few kids that are just like their uncle--book lovers. On Bryan's "my space" thingie, he adds that he enjoys a good movie (and he had LOTS) but nothing compares to a good book! Every day in the Fitzpatrick home, we observe a sacred hour: silent reading. I am serious. It is my refuge and refueling time. Our son Aidan usually loves this hour as much as the rest of us. But I have not been getting to the library like I usually do. He has exhausted our supply of "boy" books. Aidan has strict criteria. The books his sisters loved don't fly with him. I truly thought I had this voracious reading thing under control--just use the list from which I satisfied the other two appetites from. NOT! So I feel like I am back to square one. But without the drive, motivation, and time to get to the library. So I was desperate for our quiet time this afternoon. Peter was napping, the other three had found some book to occupy them, I wanted to curl up with a book, but Aidan was floundering. When Aidan is idle, things go awry. It is not quiet. The refuge becomes an asylum. I NEEDED something fast.
Uncle B to the rescue! A few years ago, my brother (who has earned THE BEST GIFT GIVER EVER award for his magical ability to please his recipients) gave me The Complete Calvin & Hobbes Collection. Not just "The Best of", no! The ANTHOLOGY. It is three huge volumes, hard cover, thousands of pages, tens of years worth--it is gigantic. It is great! It is among my prized possessions.
Now I have held Aidan off for years from reading these books from cover to cover. We have read my pre-screened choices together. But the books have been contraband to him, the forbidden fruit. And today, I let him pluck from the tree unbidden. I was desperate! I realize that all the subject matter is not necessarily appropriate for a seven year old boy, my unstoppable little force who does not need any help coming up with new ways to shake up our lives. Did I mention that I was desperate?
So he sat in my comfy chair right next to me and giggled and chuckled and talked to himself and just delighted in Calvin and his antics. It was a joy to behold. Even if I did provide him with a year's worth of fuel to fire his already overactive imagination, Aidan received joy from my brother's perfect gift. Bryan had been so excited to give it to me.
Last year (or was it the year before?), he bought the boys The Dangerous Book for Boys. He was so excited to read it that he stayed and finished it after they went to bed. He gave them a warning about page 109 and then let them at it. Then came Kate's The Daring Book for Girls. He just looked for ways to add zest and pleasure to the kids lives! And he was very eager to pass on his passions and interests to them. He was such a fabulous uncle. I know I have mentioned THAT before :) Aidan didn't even realize that I was processing our sacred hour and preparing to memorialize it in this blog. He was just enjoying a good book from one of my favorite people--a gift that keeps on giving from one stellar gift-giver!
PS I added the books to his shelf at the bottom of the blog if you want to check them out!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Bowl Sunday

San Diego Super Chargers-Didn't make it this year either!
Our family loves a good Super Bowl Sunday Party: the game, the food, the fun, the commercials (wasn't that Mr. and Mrs. PotatoHead one funny?). We just got back from one. Oh what an exciting game! Too bad for my Cardinals--I would have loved to see Kurt Warner get his ring. So close! I thrill in a good underdog story. Warner's story is classic. I couldn't help but root for him. Bryan loved underdogs too. Even as a kid, Bryan sought out the younger, weaker, geekier kids on the playground and befriended them. That is just who he was.
Bob and I are slowly watching some of the many Bryan movies from his dvd collection. The Goonies, The Sandlot, Brave Heart, Hoosiers, Rudy, Remember the Titans, you get the idea. All stories where the odds are stacked against one guy or one team. Yet against all odds, they defy the numbers, the circumstances and succeed! Bryan loved a good underdog just as much as me. Truthfully, I always kidded him about having a "Savior" complex--he so enjoyed caring for, rooting for and supporting the broken or brokenhearted. He was a merciful man.
Bryan was faithful to the Chiefs; he never switched to a stronger team. He didn't insist on always picking the winner. He was that kind of guy, loyal and faithful even when things looked bad and no hope was on the horizon. I loved that about him. I pray my sons grow up to have that tender heart that roots for the underdog.

WARNING! Tissues Required-Video Slideshow of Bryan's Life-Sorry the music was muted!