Today, let’s talk about death.
Not that I’m an expert on death. That’s something I hope never to master.
But having witnessed death up close and then having experienced the aftermath — a deeply personal process which continues amidst chaos and confusion — I must admit it’s not at all what I expected.
Fact is, I’m not sure I knew what to expect.
Like I said, death is confusing.
The Petre Family in Bucharest, Romania, circa 1963. Ion Petre stands in the middle. Marieta is the little girl in front.
Ion Petre was born in Bucharest, Romania in 1952.
Despite growing up in a Communist country, Ion enjoyed a childhood filled with happy memories. His sister, Marieta (my wife) was born in 1961. Despite their nine-year age difference, they were inseparable for most of their lives. Wherever they lived, they talked and laughed often.
Ion was a dedicated student. He could have gone into just about any field of study and succeeded. But he enjoyed creating and building things most of all. And so, his dream was to become an engineer.
Ion served a mandatory tour of duty in the Romanian Army. Following his discharge, he attended one of the country’s most prestigious universities. He earned his diploma as a civil engineer.
Next, Ion made what would become a life-changing decision. Ion decided to leave Romania and immigrate to the West.
Monday mornings epitomize new beginnings. And so it was on October 7th, 2013. A new beginning.
But this particular Monday morning — so wonderfully warm and beautifully bright as the early hours are so often this time of year — was even more splendid. We were blessed with a special guest staying in our home. This was a rare intersection in all of our lives — to be together.
Ion Petre, my beloved brother-in-law, had come to visit us in Las Vegas from his home in Eindhoven, Holland. He was to stay with us for a months time. Oh, they joy of that. We tend to be a happy family, but the house was a more cheerful place with Ion around. He always had that amazing effect on the people around him.
We had so many exciting plans. So many shows to see. So many restaurants to visit. So many new places to go. So many new people to meet. Indeed, one of the great things about living in Las Vegas is experiencing things both old and new through those you love the most. It’s a far greater joy than seeing them alone by yourself.
The day was all planned out. This Monday morning was to include a short run in the 72-degree weather, followed by a lunch together at a favorite local Italian restaurant. We also considered making a hike up Lone Mountain that afternoon, which has a magnificent view of the entire Las Vegas Valley. That same evening, I was so excited to take Ion to meet many of my friends as a Monday Night Football watching party. It would have been Ion’s first time to watch American football. What a joy that would have been.
Such a full day. We had so many plans.
North Dakota Short Stories.
Until recently, five miles had been the closest that I’d ever come to being in North Dakota.
Five miles — as in 35,000 feet high.
And why would I ever go to North Dakota? Nothing against the fine people of that proud red-state voting, red-eat meating giant walk-in outdoor freeezer, but as far as I was concerned that territory might as well be called South Saskatchewan. Or Mongolia.
If there’s a lesson to be learned about how our perceptions often do (and should) change over time, it’s that exposure to something you know nothing about often makes you gain an appreciate for it. Except for Anthrax and FOX News, of course.
Fulfilling this pedestrian philosophical prophesy, days ago I penned the following narrative on what it’s like to stay in Downtown Fargo for a whole week. Read “FARGO” here.
What I didn’t reveal to you then are a few of the many things that surprised me about North Dakota. Did you know that:
Notice to the world: Do not, I repeat DO NOT, ask me to watch NFL football in a public place.
I have no interest in making small talk when my mortgage payment might be at stake. And since another losing wager probably means the humiliation of taking out a cash advance on my last credit card, I’m not really interested in hearing your personal problems.
Have a nice day and leave me the fuck alone!
But some people can’t resist what’s a natural temptation. Because my company is cherished by so many, I receive far more invitations to football watching parties that I can possibly accept. Sort of like being George Clooney. Inevitably, those who invite me end up disappointed and emotionally crushed. Sorry, but football watching isn’t mindless entertainment. It’s more like a financial lobotomy (especially true, if you’ve been following my plays).
However, over the last 11 years I’ve made one notable exception. I join some of my (few remaining) friends at Monday Night Football viewing gatherings here in Las Vegas.