Monday, March 30, 2009


Who knew he could play the accordian? What a wildcard!
Uncle B and Reilly
Can you guess which one is NOT a Klungreseter?
Uncle John, Bryan, Bob and Dad

Aunt Shirley, Bryan and Shannon
Family Reunion Cruise-October 1999
Bob and I are sailing away tomorrow to the Mexican Riviera. So don't expect any posts until next week. We are celebrating our 16th anniversary and my birthday. So in honor of cruises, I share with you tonight some stories of my only other cruise.
My mom and dad paid for their kids and grandkid to join them in celebration of their anniversary in October of 1999. A whole lot of other Parkers were there too. It was a really fun time despite the fact that I had a 2 year old and a big pregnant belly with me. That is why I can't tell the entire story about this cruise to Ensenada! Bob and I were back in our cabin by 10pm and did not share in any of the late night adventures that the rest of the tribe participated in. I am hoping my parents will add their comments about those nocturnal happenings.
I do remember that we ate--A LOT! Ordered room-service for the first time. Bryan thought it was FANTASTIC to order a PB&Js at 2am. We went on a glass-bottomed boat in Catalina where Bryan rivalled the tour guide for his job. He was so quick and witty. I think half the tourists thought Bryan was the actual tourguide. Reilly was afraid of all that sea weed. And the lochness monster--which Bryan got her started on.
We went into Ensenada and bought a bunch of musical instruments for Reilly. The top photo is Bryan sitting with a cap on the ground, playing that crazy mini-accordian and singing off-key. It was a riot! And I believe some unwitting passenger actually tipped him. He was such a nut. Fearless and funny. I heard rumors of late-night swimming and karaoke. But you will have to wait for those tales. I was snoring by then.
I plan on being awake much later on this trip. But he won't be there to keep me in stitches. I know there is video footage of one of his antics onboard. If I can figure out how to post it, you are all in for a treat. That guy should have been a comedian!


Before pink was the new black :0
Bryan in the back with the Peace sign
I can name the others but since I did not ask their permission, I will just leave you guessing.

On the coach on the way to Mazatlan-or maybe on the way back?
They all look pretty beat.

Senior Trip-Summer of 1990

My parents sent my brother to Mazatlan with his buddies for his senior trip. I have no stories to tell because I did not go with him. But I found these pictures in his stuff and since we are headed to the Mexican Riviera ourselves, I thought it would be appropriate to post the pictures today.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Hiking at Santa Rosa Plateau with Grandma & Grandpa



March 29, 2009
Acts 20:24
"I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me -- the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace."

I planned on posting on our family hike to Santa Margarita Reserve yesterday. Tip-toeing into the cold river and wading to the shade for our picnic stirred up memories of the Kern River. I wanted to join the dot-to-dots together and weave my childhood stories into my life story in a meaningful way. But I logged on and here was the Scripture for the day. Combined with a tough day at church, I am compelled to write a new blog. I can't help myself. It is the task set before me.

I need to review first. If you have been following this blog from the beginning, you remember that I am writing it for my children. I want them to "know" their Uncle through my stories. But I understand that there are other people following this blog, reading Bryan's story and meeting a "new" Bryan, a side of him you may not have known personally. Some of you are meeting Bryan here for the first time because you did not know him while he breathed. I am not being presumptuous; I am making these comments because others have shared with me these very remarks. If I were writing this ONLY for my children, I would not add this post today. Because we have spent the last three months talking about its subject when we sit at home, when we walk along, when we lie down and when we get up. I have been impressing the importance of this message on my children's hearts in the best way I know how. And praying for God to fill in all my gaps and over all my weaknesses. But they are not the only ones reading here today. This blog is for someone else. Maybe it is you?

My brother's sudden death made this topic of utmost relevance in my life today and the days surrounding his death. Really, I feel like this very pressing matter is THE paramount matter. I shared the same words with my brother many times in our adult lives. We had this conversation many times. The outcome of those discussions is the reason for my hope for Bryan. That he is in Heaven with Jesus enjoying an eternity with no more tears or suffering or anguish. My hope is in the gospel of God's grace.

It is by grace that Bryan was saved from an eternity separated from God. It was not of himself, so that he could not boast in anything he had done or said. It was the free gift of salvation. It was not because Bryan was a good man (though he was) or that he lived a good life (because for the most part he did, just like you and me) that I have this hope for him. I have this assurance because of Christ's work of mercy and grace on the cross on his behalf. Not because I believe my brother had that whole christian life figured out. His death proves that he did not. But then neither did that famous thief on the cross beside Jesus. And he was promised paradise for simply believing and confessing with his mouth who Jesus is.

I asked Bryan over and over again if he believed on the Name of Jesus. And he confessed with his mouth that he did. He loved and believed in Jesus. He truly wanted to be like Him. And as simple as that sounds, as unbelievably uncomplicated as that seems to be, that is absolutely the only thing the Bible requires for someone to be saved. Bryan could not earn his place in Heaven. Just like I couldn't. It was a free gift. And even though Bryan struggled to live a life of freedom from sin (as I do), he believed on the Name of the Lord Jesus.

In the days surrounding Bryan's death, I struggled with reconciling that knowledge with the circumstances surrounding his death. I think others would call it a "crisis of faith". The aftermath of that crossroad has not been fraught with fallout and blight. Instead the outcome has been increase and strength. My faith is deeper and wider than it has ever been before. In some way, I understand grace and the free gift of salvation in the sweet way that reminds me of how I believed when I first became a follower of Jesus as a teenager.

A few weeks ago I spent hours pouring over the coroner's report of my only sibling's death. It was awful and unbelievable and surprising. Many of you believe, like our family did at the beginning, that Bryan died as a result of alcohol poisoning. That is what the detective on the case suggested to my parents after considering her interpretation of the scene. But Bryan's autopsy revealed that there was absolutely no alcohol or drugs in his system. He was sober at the moment of his death. His body had given up its struggle against the hard living and poor health choices that Bryan inflicted upon it. His days were numbered by his Maker and December 14 was the day appointed for his last breath.

All the prayers and tears and begging and pleading done by my family on Bryan's behalf were answered in that single moment. Bryan went home to the Place he was made for, to join the Person he was made for. Free at last. Delivered from the sin that so easily entangles. Healed and whole. In that moment, everything was complete. I feel certain that Bryan does not have any questions like, "Why?" or "How come it had to be this way?". Questions we are plagued with as we are still here aching over our loss. Bryan sees clearly now whereas when he was here on earth, he only saw in part. Everything Bryan was made for, what he was created to be, whole and strong and beautiful and glorious, he WAS in that moment just after he breathed his last. And he was sober.

I was made to testify of the gospel of God's grace. In order for me to finish the race well and complete the task that God has set before me, I feel the need to ask you the same questions that I asked my brother, the same questions that I discuss with my children over and over again: If today was the last day of your life, do you KNOW without a shadow of doubt that your home for eternity will be Heaven with Jesus? And WHY do you believe that?

The answer to the second question is as important as the first. "Because I am an American", for instance, would not be the correct answer :) Or "I am a good person". Also not right.

I don't mean to be a freak. But I guess I am. Because I cannot NOT do what I was made for. And I can't help talking about Who I was made for. My prayer is that someone reading this blog needs to hear the words I have typed today and give careful consideration to their answers to my two questions. If you are that someone, please let me know. I have a cool booklet that explains the Way much better than I can here. I can get a Bible to you too. My brother's death is teaching me how to live. I am unafraid of sounding like a freak, if it means someone hears the Truth who hasn't before. This blog is posted with prayers for that person, maybe it is you?


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Christmas Past

Bryan is in the Ram's helmet. He was a Chief's fan as an adult--but growing up, he got Rams stuff from my dad. Dad is still a loyal Ram-fan. Grandma Birthday is popping her head up in the back of the picture on the right.

We spent every Christmas Day at my Grandma Birthday's home in San Pedro. I can still place all the furniture and nic-nacs in my mind. I loved that old house. My brother did too.
1980, Bryan is 8.

Look at his Winnie-the-Pooh footed Pj's! I have Wonder Woman on. My parents put nuts and tangerines in the bottom of our stockings, along with other fun stuff, and we have carried on the tradition in the Fitzpatrick home. Gotta love the mustard-colored shag carpet!
I know I said that I was going to start a series on Christmas but it has proved more difficult than I anticipated. Christmas was Bryan's favorite time of the year. He began his love for the season as a child and it only grew as he did. As children, it was rare to find Christmas photos of us in jammies. We liked to sleep in my dad's old t-shirts. We would wake up and enjoy a quick family Christmas and then dash off to do our Christmas Day travelling. Grandma and Grandpa's house (with my Grandpa's "perfect" noble fir trees--always my brother's inspiration) and sometimes to my Grandma Flo's. Always to Uncle John and Aunt Barbara's (where Bryan and I would try and "best" our cousins in the coolest gift competition. It never worked because they had the home field advantage and we were only allowed to bring one present with us to show off! I am still bitter :). And then to my godparent's and my dad's best friend's Hy and Shirl. We put on quite a few miles for one day. I remember being exhausted from all the festivities but Bryan thrived. He loved the hustle and bustle and gift-opening and yummy treats. And he loved being near his family.
It is one of my great regrets that we did not stick with the tradition of travelling on Christmas Day with my parents and my brother. They did it every year except last Christmas. Bryan always wanted us too. And Bob and I did start out our marriage joining them. But when our children came along, it was too hard for me to take them from my hubby's side of the family. And going to both was too taxing...yada, yada. So I don't have the recent memories of extended family time. I know that I can't take it back. I realize that we did make the decision that we thought was best for our family at the time. But hind sight is 20/20--you know? And if I had known then what I know now--that my Christmases with my brother, my children's beloved Uncle, were going to be cut short, I would have savored every single minute with him.
We have been watching home movies the last couple of weeks around here. Christmas 2004 was on two nights ago. Uncle B was "santa", handing out all the gifts under the tree. He must have bought out "Claire's Boutique"--the girls went nuts for his presents. My eyes were fixed on his face on the screen. It glowed. He had the unique ability to capture the essence of child-likeness, even when he was in his thirties. He was radiant. Christmas will never be the same.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

One of those Days

I can remember no details about this photo.
I think Bryan is 5 or 6 and it is the late '70's.
But evidently, my mom was having "one of THOSE days".
I am not having "one of THOSE days" today. If I were, I would not be attempting to blog. You know those days: where everything goes wrong, nothing goes your way, and you are surrounded by clueless (or contributing) people who have no idea of all the plates you've been spinning and how they are all about to crash down around you. Ever had a(ny) day(s) like that? My mom did. As evidenced by this picture. Bryan and I certainly kept her busy. She was in the trenches with two young kids and no reinforcement troops. I can relate to that season in life. I am in it myself. But I am not as forsaken as the forlorn gal in the above picture. I have her--my kid's beloved grandma. Here. Close by. Every-ready to lend a helping hand. A shoulder to cry on. A compatriot in the hard things in life (like buying a bathing suit). My mom. One of my best friends. Thanks for coming over every afternoon and keeping me sane. I am sorry you did not have your mom or a close girlfriend to walk through days like the one you were having in this photo. But it makes me grin to see Bryan's goofy face, completely oblivious to your struggle, just being a boy. And a cute one at that! I am glad you made it out alive, Momma!
PS You passed on that gene to me, Mom. The "Pretend-It-Is-All-Good" chromosome is missing in me too. Even for a photo op, you and I both are incapable of faking it. Bryan must of hogged those genes. He was so good at the happy face.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Rodeo, the Circus, and the Pirates I Have Loved

I just like this picture--and it shows the yellow table for two that I cherished when I was little. Bryan has a PIRATE hat on--just like Peter!
It is the same chairs that Bryan and I used as our bucking broncos
in the next photo when we were much older.
I wish I still had that table set!
Christmas 1976ish?
Our children at their Penny Circus yesterday.
Cartwheeling Kate, Aidan the Strongman, Circus Master Reilly, 'Fraidy-Cat Frank the CowClown (Samuel), and Pirate Pete.
They charged admission but the audience (Grandma, Beempa, Bob & I) were happy to pay.
March 2009

Rodeo Riders December the early '80's

I love connecting my life as a kid with my children's. It makes me feel like a child all over again. Bryan and I were goofballs. We lived out in the boonies and had no neighborhood buddies to play with. So when we weren't in school, we were each other's only playmates. Kinda like my homeschooled kids. They are weird too.
Chuckling over their strange antics and creative play and wild imagination takes me back to the day. Bryan and I came up with some pretty funny stuff to do to keep ourselves amused. The above picture is us being Rodeo Stars riding our bucking broncos. Looking over my shoulder as I am writing this post, Aidan exclaimed, "Is Uncle B in his underwear??????" He was aghast. I don't have the heart to tell him that I have a bunch of indiscreet photos of him playing in his undies. I can't wait to show them to his wife one day :)
I cannot remember the details of our imaginative game here. I can surmise by the photo that I was mighty proud of the band-aids I am showing off. And Bryan could only find one shoe. But I do many clear memories of playing war, fort, GI Joe, barbies, knight and damsel, cop and robber, coloring, and countless other things that kids play. I did them all, with my brother. He was my first friend. My good friend. Those were fun times. I didn't think we were dorky or silly at the time. I was just glad when he would play school with me. I was always the teacher (like Reilly is always the boss in their games). Right of the firstborn, I guess. And he was happy when I would consent to play toy soldiers with him (he always won the war). I hope my kids enjoy reminiscing over sweet childhood memories when they are my age. I want them to grow up close and loving with each other--just like Bryan and me.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Soundtrack for my Life...Today

Every time Jeremy Camp's song comes on our car radio (or our computer), my children cringe. I guess it was past due time to update my playlist. I forgot to put it on shuffle on so "There Will Be a Day" popped on every day. They are burnt out. I bet you are too. But I need to add a caveat to the music I added this time--it is mine. Not Bryan's. I am not sure he has heard but a few of them. But they are the songs that mark my life today. Where I am at this moment. In Track 2 I hear my sweet Savior's words to me, to you too. And "Show You Love" is my anthem for today. A reminder song--I am determined to let Love be my language as I interact with my neighbors, the lab technician, our librarian, my children, my mom, you. And the others? They represent my change in heart. My healing heart. God is good. All the time. I am blessed. I remember that today. These songs are mine. But I am a part of Bryan's story too, so indulge me. Or click on the pause button and read in silence. Bryan would not have chosen these songs. But if he were here, I would not be writing a blog. And so this music is for my heart while I sit here everyday and mine the wealth of treasures my memory holds. May it be a sweet sound to you too.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Cold Shower

One of my supreme delights as a teenager was to catch my brother unaware and pour a huge cup of ice cold water over his head while he showered. I particularly enjoyed abusing Bryan during wintertime. But you know what they say about payback? Boy, was he better at assailing me while off guard! Bryan and I mastered the stealth secrets necessary to sneak up on one another successfully. Our goal was not only to terrify each other BUT to use torture tactics. It added to the fun! It was a running gag we played on each other for years and years.
I have told my kids these things. They knew that Uncle B and I LOVED to scare each other while lying in wait somewhere. I tell them stories about me at their age so that they will know that I understand how hard it is too be good :), I am not THAT old. Anyway, yesterday Peter ran straight into my arms protesting, "Not my momma! Not my momma!". The fierce way he clung to me was endearing. Then his naughty brothers and sisters ran up to us, giggling. Not one of them can keep a secret--so the story spilled out. Kate devised a scheme in which they would collaborate to pour ice water over my head while I showered. They assumed Peter would go along with their mutiny. Not my boy. My noble, knightly two-year old protected me from his traitorous siblings. I wonder what kind of funny business Bryan and I would have pulled off if we had more mischievous minds to connive with? It's a good thing Mom and Dad just had the two of us. I think Bob and I may be in trouble.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Stringing Popcorn

Christmas Some Year
You are on to me. I am avoiding writing about Christmas after all my big talk. It has proved harder than I imagined. I can't believe I won't share another Christmas with Bryan. My brain is small and it cannot wrap around that fact just now. I will add that I am so grateful that I have spent EVERY single Christmas morning of my life with my brother. It is a gift that I will treasure in my heart until we are reunited. Not many families are as close as we were. I know that now. I did not know it then. I consider all the years I was given with Bryan a special prize. And I am beginning to think about Bryan's death in a new way--not so much pity and sorrow for myself, but finally the abillity to think about Bryan and what his life is like now. And so I can be happy for him. Even though I am still sad for me. Hard to explain. But it seems "more right" than pure grief.
So I will just post some quickies...this picture was taken in the late seventies in our old home in Ontario. We are sitting around that formica table I can still remember, stringing popcorn and cranberries. Bryan is about 6 or 7? Love those big 'ole bunny teeth! It may look craftsy and traditional but stringing garland is hard work! I am sure my mom did most of the work and we did most of the snacking.
When I moved out on my own at 19, my roommate and I were nostalgic and hokey. We decided it would be sentimental to string our own popcorn for our first Charlie Brown tree. Deanna and I popped bowls of popcorn and threaded and pulled and threaded and pulled. Do you know hwo many times the pieces just broke after all that threading and pulling? After hours, we had one small rope to ornament our tree. WAY too much work. So I commend you today, mom for your endurance. I have never even attempted the tradition with our children! But now I know why you switched to fake garland when money wasn't so tight.
PS Yes, Meredith, this story was prompted by my craving for popcorn this week. :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Luck of the Irish

It's St. Patrick's Day and I was pinched over and over again today. I forgot to wear green. How sad is that? My name is Kelly Fitzpatrick. Pathetic. But here is the cincher...I have not one single memory of St. Patty's Celebrations with my brother--he worked at Hennessey's Tavern for many, many moons. And he ALWAYS worked the busiest night of the year: March 17. So I have nothing to share. Do any of you, friends and family?

Monday, March 16, 2009

"I'm Your Huckleberry"

I know I said yesterday was the beginning of a series on Christmas stories--but I changed my random mind. One of my daughter's friends was here today for co-op. On her t-shirt were the words "I'm Your Huckleberry!" She did not know what it meant, she just liked the shirt. It had one of those cute Little Mister caricatures along with the line.

Val Kilmer utters the line: "I'm your huckleberry." in the showdown scene of Tombstone. It is the best line in the movie, the best portrayal of Doc Holliday in Hollywood (in my humble opinion :). Bryan loved old westerns (like the rest of my family, he has seen EVERY John Wayne movie made). When Tombstone came out in 1993, Bryan raved about this retelling and we all went to see it. Even though the plot is about Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday was Bryan's favorite character. He plagiarized the tag line, "I'm your huckleberry." Whenever I see those words it makes me think of Bryan, not Val Kilmer.

Bryan borrowed other movie lines and made them his own: "Skadoosh!", "Anyone? Anyone?", "It's but a flesh wound.", "My name Indigo Montoya. You killed my father, now prepare to die." Actually there are so many as my mind fills up with them that I cannot list them all here. Nor can I promise to remember them all. He had an uncanny memory. He reused quotes from Brave Heart and Aladdin equally well. Bryan was just a real funny fellow.

Verse for the Day:
March 16, 2009
John 11:40
"Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"

Bryan believed, is he seeing the glory of God at this very moment? I rejoice for him tonight. Thank you Jesus, for those exhilarating words. And for allowing my brother to see your glory by Your grace alone.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Major Award

Bryan with his leg lamp--Christmas 2006

Well, I have a TON of Christmas stories. If you knew my brother, you remember that Christmas was his favorite time of year. Up until a couple of years ago, he went all out--thousands of lights inside and outside his home, the largest noble fir tree he could find, gingerbread houses, huge stockings, extravagant gifts, every Christmas movie ever made, singing all the oldie's carols beginning in October, I could go on and on. And since I began this blog on New Year's, I did not post on Christmas stories at all. Besides, it would have been too painful since he was not there this year to do it up. So I am starting a series on Christmas this week. In March. I told you I was random.

My brother loved Christmas movies. He had dozens of them. He would being watching them after Thanksgiving and he didn't stop until he had re-viewed them all. I think his fascination with yuletide cinema began when we were children. My parents used to take us to the theater to see whatever family Christmas film was showing on Christmas Eve. It was a tradition we kept for more than ten years. I can not claim to know his absolute favorite (White Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life would be list-toppers) but I think one of his most treasured ones was: A Christmas Story. I can't go into the entire plot here. You will have to rent it for yourself. But it is a hysterical movie that really has little to do with Christmas (and it has a few naughty words and sassy kids). My brother had the lines memorized (yes, memorized) so he could edit it for my children's benefit. He would anticipate the bad words and skip ahead--the movie became uncleB-rated.
Anyway, the subplot of the movie is a father in the story winning a "Major Award". It turns out to be a fishnet stockinged, high-heeled lady's leg lamp. It is a bit farcical. I won't spoil it here. If you have seen the movie, you are chuckling with me right now. You know what mysteriously happens to the major award.
So when my parent's found a replica lamp that year, they jumped on the chance to purchase it as a gift for Bryan. You can see from the photo above that he was very appreciative. The last we saw of that lamp, it was in a place of honor at Hennessey's Tavern in Carlsbad. I think it should have a plaque on it : "In Memory of Bryan--the guy who loved the real Christmas Story and is finally enjoying his Major Award!".

Friday, March 13, 2009


Bob, Reilly, Bryan, Mom, Dad, Cousin Chad
Mom's Birthday 1998

Sorry I'm stuck on Sushi. This picture was taken at Todai Sushi and Seafood Buffet where my brother took my mom for her birthday. She loves sushi like Bryan. My brother always brought flowers for us gals, for Mother's Day and Birthdays or for special occasion at all. His favorite little flower stand was near his old place in Carlsbad. I think Bryan learned about the secret of flowers and ladies from my Dad. Daddy has always been good at giving his womenfolk flowers. Bryan followed in his footsteps.
I can't remember much about this day (I was there.) except that his exuberance and zeal for trying out new yummies were contagious. Bryan had a way of passing along his excitement and fervor to everyone around him. He was a contagious guy. He was so convincing that I think I even ate stuff other than California rolls.
Bryan got excited about a lot of things. Not just food and paintball. He loved children, books, movies, all kinds of music, sports, laughing, the list is long. But what really got him going, truly fired up, was people. Bryan was a people lover. All kinds of people. He could talk to old people, scary people, mean people, quiet people, people of every color--it didn't matter if he had anything in common with them. He just liked people.
I said he was a contagious person; I pray that his genuine respect and appreciation for all sorts of people will stick with me.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Travis, Danny and Bryan in 2001

Extra family are in town since my uncle is in the hospital. My cousin and his girlfriend visited at my parent's house this weekend. I had not seen Danny in years. He used to live in San Diego for about four years when he was in the Navy. He and Bryan used to hang out. Dan was sharing some good times with us.

I knew Bryan enjoyed sushi. Dan and our other cousin Travis, who was at the Base in Pendelton as he is a Marine, joined Bryan at Sushi Taisho. It was an all-you-can-eat buffet of sushi in Carlsbad. Uh-oh! The three of them sat there and gorged themselves until the manager kindly requested that they leave and never return again. Danny said they ate upwards of $3000 worth of sushi. I cannot fathom food costing that much nor eating enough of it to be asked to leave and never return--but that is the story I got from Danny. Since he is a Parker not a Klungreseter, I am more inclined to believe it! :)

I have been on those buffet adventures with Bryan myself. Red Lobster's Crab Feast--whew! I think the crowd we were with kept the restaurant from making a profit that day. Another time, Bryan took us to Pechanga or was it Harrah's? for their all-you-can-eat extravaganza. Crazy! Klungrester's should be banned for life from buffets. Evidentally, Bryan was--from Sushi Taisho. Thanks for sharing Dan.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Paint Ball Wars

Bryan, Will Varnell, Dean Vasquez, Dad

Where is BOB?

The first time I saw Bryan when he returned from an afternoon of paint balling, I was mortified! He and his best friend Dan Polta were war weary and bruised. Bryan's arms and sides and legs and well...everywhere were bruised with these huge ugly ball shaped welts. It was ugly and awful. He and Dan were grinning from ear to ear. I remember that the bruises continued to change colors and get bigger. I have no idea why this would be fun for guys. But you have read that before--I certainly do not understand what makes men tick and I absolutely did not understand my brother. I sure liked him though.
For my hubby Bob's birthday last year, I planned a Paint Ball Party for him. Only a few brave buddies joined him. Of course my brother and my daddy came. It was some open warfare place in Elsinore. Blazing HOT day. And they had to wear protective gear to cover every square inch of their bodies. Bryan had his own gun, mask, and boxes of ammo. The rest of the guys had to rent their equipment. I bought rounds from Walmart to save money but Bob said I did not get nearly enough. My dad said they used thousands of rounds of ammunition. Consumed every last drop of liquid that I packed in their ice chest. They were covered in paint, sweat and dust for hours and hours. Alongside 10 year olds with hi-tech, supped up range and velocity guns. They had rentals that didn't shoot straight or discharge properly.
My dad said that my brother was an agressive attacker. Dad called himself a strategic defender (less movement involved). Dad complained that Bryan, in his exuberance, had failed to mention one very important fact: when you get hit with a paintball--it stings. REALLY bad. Sounding fun yet? I think they finally gave it up when a nine year old snuck up behind my dad and beaned him in the neck. They had the same welts and bruises I remembered from my first exposure years ago. It was just as horrific. The guys displayed their wounds like badges of honor. Compared the sizes and color. Incredible. I don't know how the skinny guys survived (or the nine year olds--I guess they don't get hit?).
I only lament that my three sons will never have the chance to share in the "fun" of those kind of guy things. My brother was so anxious and excited for them to be old enough to do stuff like that with them. But in keeping with my intention to remember the blessings and not dwell on the missings, I am so glad that my husband, father, and brother shared mutual interests and each other's company.

Monday, March 9, 2009


I had planned on writing about paint balling tonight but I changed my mind. Stay tuned for that tale. My parents came over for dinner. I made a huge pot of tortilla soup with all the fixings. The nine of us sat around our looooooong dinner table. When the eating was done, we cleared the table and brought out the dice for a friendly game of 10,000 (I won!). The room was filled with my favorite people in the world and raucous laughter. I had a good time. It was fun. But there was an empty chair.
Bryan would join us a couple times a month for nights like this one. We would feast and then get down to games. He liked Blitz, Taboo, Catch Phrase, Scattergories (he could find an answer for every name on his list--no matter the letter) and Balderdash. That game was his specialty. If you've played it, you know that it entails bluffing and making up fake definitions for real (but ridiculously obscure) words. He was the master! Only my father-in-love Tom plays it better. The two of them together! I think it may have happened once. I forget who won?
Bryan introduced my palette to so many interesting foods that I would not normally have given a taste. Tortilla soup is one. He took me to Chili's and ordered for me (he is the only human on the face of this earth that I ever allow to do that for me!). Tortilla soup and southwestern egg rolls. Never would have given either item a second glance. He just "knew". I loved it. Now I make my best friend's recipe as a staple around here. I even made it for him once (thanks Meredith).
I want to say that things are getting back to normal for our families. People have commented that we look happy or we sound good. We are laughing. We told stories tonight. We enjoyed each other's company around our table. But Bryan wasn't there. And I missed him. His empty chair made my heart ache. I guess this is the NEW "normal".

Friday, March 6, 2009

Little Known Facts

A few of you have asked, so here are a few of the reasons for the delay in blogging lately. Last week both sides of my family faced troubling health issues. My uncle is in critical care after having surgery on his lungs. They are filled with a mysterious and yucky infection. He will be in the hospital for a few more days as they attempt to get his fever, infection, cough and "gunk" issues worked out. On the other side of our family, my cousin's hubby was diagnosed with cancer and will be undergoing a procedure on Tuesday to discover the extent of the tumor. He is a very young daddy to be messing with the C word. To those of you who are praying people, would you join me in asking for their healing?
This year I have had to reexamine my ideas about life and death, health and illness. All I have come up with so far is that it is all real fragile and there are just no promises about how it is all going to look. You just can't plan for this stuff. I feel grateful to know the One who does. So even though it has been an emotional week, I am trusting the Lord with my uncle's illness and my cousin's husband's diagnosis. That sounds pretty pithy considering my brother just died tragically. I am not sure how to explain why I have this trust in God. I simply know Him to be trustworthy. He has proven it to me over and over again. That may not resonate with some of you reading here. I understand. But the Perfecter of my faith is taking the little mustard seed that I possessed before this year and growing it.
Okay, so that explains the delinquency. Now here are some little known facts about my brother to reward you for your understanding:
Bryan was a really good bowler. And a great square-dance partner! Really. I am not talking about the Wii bowling here, I am telling you about the real thing. My parents joined us up in a bowling league at Palomar Lanes in Escondido. We were on the same team and I am not sure if mom and dad bowled on a team on the same night. I have no idea why they thought we needed more extra-curricular activities. Baseball, softball, football, cheer leading, how did they do it? Whew! But they bought us our own balls, engraved with our names, those dorky shoes, cool bags and even monogrammed towels. We spent one night a week bowling. I loved it. I don't know if Bryan did. I can't remember. But he was pretty good. Bryan was a Pro at the Wii bowling this last year, but I am convinced it a result of that early training. NO! We did not wear zippered, monogrammed, polyester team shirts.
As for square dancing, Bryan was my partner. Right and Left Grand! Promenade two by two! What exactly does Do-See-Do mean? My parents thought it would be a good family night. My mom and I had huge petticoats and goofy dresses. Bryan hated it. I would infuriate him when I threatened to tell his junior high buddies that he square-danced with old people once a week. You know, looking back on it, I admire my parents for their efforts to keep us united and close. It may have been cheesy and mortifying to pre-teens, but we did grow to enjoy it once we learned to bust the moves. And believe it or not, I have used my square-dancing abilities quite a few times in my past. I am not sure Bryan ever did.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Notebook

Snooping through Bryan's stuff revealed a few more treasures. I already told you about the notebook with his journaling for an English 101 class in a previous post. In that notebook, Bryan wrote a letter to John and Trina Klungreseter in May of 1994. Kinda smart--he was required to write so he shot two birds with one stone. He fulfilled the class requirement and penned greetings to his cousin and his family who were living far away at the time. Only bummer is--he never mailed it.
It is a pleasure for me to see his handwriting and to "hear" his voice as he updates his family and asks about their lives. In his briefcase, he had some of the pictures in this post along with school pictures of their sons, Justin and Nik. So today, in honor of the sweet relationship he shared with his cousin (remember: John's mom is our mom's sister, John's dad is our dad's brother--kinda complicated but not illegal), here are some pictures to enjoy.
PS-I mailed the letter to you last night John.

Bryan, Trina and John Klungreseter

Cousins Justin and Nik

What a grin! Oh how I miss that face.

The three amigos again--Hennessey's Vista

Cousins as close as brothers

I told you he could sleep anywhere!

I miss that laugh too.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Wee for the Wii

Uncle B and the kid's grandparents bought them a Wii last year. Bryan was almost as excited to try it out as my boys. If you have ever played the Wii, you know that a big part of the fun is "creating" your personal "mii"--or your player persona. His audience watched in rapt attention on the couch while he picked out his hair style, coloring, facial features, sun glasses, hat, eye brow shape, the whole nine yards. I wish I knew how to get a picture or copy an image of his mii here so you can see how classic it is! The HUGE funky sunglasses are a hoot.
He tested out all the games. Too bad I don't have videoed his maiden voyage into Wii Sports. Golfing, bowling, tennis, baseball--he mastered them all right before my children's very eyes. Remember, we grew up with Pong and Atari. He had an X-Box at his home; he was an experienced gamer. He shocked and awed my family. But the BEST was watching him box--oh man! He punched and performed and played the pugilist. It was a sight to behold. And the sound effects? Unbelievable, indescribable, uproarious. He was drenched in sweat when he finished. He was determined to become a "pro" status. I think he did that first day.
Some of you can't comprehend my Wii lingo here, so sorry. But here is the greatest part of the Wii: Uncle B pops up in the sports games as teammates or competitors. It is neat that he is immortalized on our video game. Thanks Uncle B, for the gift that keeps on giving.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Come and Get It!

Feasting! But at someone else's house!

Dinner was on the table when I returned this evening from a baby shower. My oldest daughter prepared the meal. I didn't have to lift a finger. I give you this background information because I have been trained to do so--I am married to a man who likes to understand how my brain gets where it gets. He has asked me, "WHAT made you think of THAT?" over and over again in our many moons together. Now it just comes naturally to provide the additional information before starting a story. So this is what precipitated this blog: my messy kitchen.

Bryan enjoyed cooking. He picked up trade secrets and helpful hints and yummy recipes while working in the food service industry all those years. He made up creative concoctions to eat. He would call ahead and let us know he was on the way to town for dinner with the family. He'd pick up a kid or two and head to the market to purchase the stuff he needed to make a meal for us all. Bryan would never consent to using what we had in the freezer or pantry--he needed to start from scratch. He was persnickety about his ingredients though he rarely followed a recipe.

My mom and I would flip a coin and argue about whose home we would eat at. You see, my brother was used to cooking in a restaurant kitchen with busboys and prep people who would clean up after he him. I don't think he cooked too often in his own kitchen--grilling outside is the exception. He had no idea what it meant to CLEAN UP after himself. AND Bryan used EVERY single pot, pan, utensil, dish, plate, cup either my kitchen or mom's would look like a cyclone went through it when he was done cooking.

But it was worth it. Really. My mouth is watering just thinking about the meatloaf and penne pasta and grilled chicken and peppercorn pasta and fish tacos and pita creations with baba ganoush (he went through a real Mediterranean thing for a while) and his famous eggs and spaghetti with chicken. Whew! I need to stop that. Making myself hungry as I type. I can't say that I miss my messy kitchen--because I still contend with it daily to remind me of my brother. But I long for his zeal and pleasure and excitement over feeding us all well. He sure liked to have happy eaters.

Okay--I am off to knock out that kitchen. Reilly is a little like Uncle B after all.

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