Michael Jackson died, (in case you having been living on Venus with your DSL and Satellite down and therefore didn't know) and it got me thinking. If you interviewed the bulk of the American public the day before he died, they would have blabbed about the pedophile rumors and the Wacko Jacko behavior and oh yeah... he had some good music, too. The day after he died, he was Humanitarian of the Year and the best damn entertainer/human being on God's green Earth. Now, I don't care that much about MJ and I don't give a rat's tookis which one you think, because this is my actual point.... Why do we wait until someone dies to say all the good stuff about them. Why don't we say it when they are alive?
I wrote a post back in May about two men that died in 2005 that meant the world to me, my Grandpa Wilfred Ash and my dear friend Bill Tatum. Now, I would like to think they both knew that I loved them, but did they know how much? All those things I said about them in my post, I would never have said to their face. How stupid is that? How back-ass-ward of us, as a society, to bust out eloquent and loving eulogies when the person you are speaking about can't hear you. Why don't we open up and tell the person while they are alive, instead of telling all their friends and relatives after they are dead?
With that in mind, I am going to tell you about my Aunt Patti (who I would insert a picture of, except I know she'd be pissed because she'd see it and think she has a double chin or something else ridiculous that no one else sees). She is very much alive, and while she is ill right now, I have all the faith in the world that she will recover. Life is all about ebbs and flows, ups and downs, and this down will come back up. Here's how I know. Patti Erpelding is the strongest, bravest person that I have ever known.
There hasn't been a time in my life where she wasn't "sick." I remember being so young and riding bikes to a pharmacy with Patti's daughter Heidi and Heidi said to me "did you know my mom is dying?" I didn't know that, and I am not sure I was even old enough to understand what that meant, but I didn't admit it that day. I said "I know." Later I learned that Patti had an illness that could some day claim her, but you know what? It hasn't. And you know what else... I am really old now. I am not that 10 year old riding a bike. I am 30. So that means that Patti has been stronger than this for long enough for me to go from bike riding to teaching my son to pedal his own bicycle. I don't know many people who could have that kind of fight and stamina.
Patti has seen her children graduate high school, college, marry, have babies and now watches her grandchildren grow up. The really amazing part is through this, through the times in the hospital and the transplant and the sickness and pain, she has remained this fantastic person. She isn't bogged down in the "life is unfairs" and she isn't bittered by the "why me" questions that I think I would drown in. She is funny and vibrant and absolutely the most caring mother/grandparent/sister/aunt that anyone could be lucky enough to have. I remember a day when we were visiting Iowa, where she lives, and she had to leave because her granddaughter Charly was really sick with a flu and Charly called to ask Patti if she could come see her. Patti dropped everything and went. What kid could ask for a better grandparent than that? She goes to every game, event, special occasion even if she's not feeling well, and it's because she cares more about the kids and their feelings than she cares about herself. She puts every single person before herself, because she loves them that much.
I have always felt a special bond to my Aunt Patti. I don't know if it was serving spaghetti on Easter (which rocked for me because I hate ham) or if it's because she is the only person who reads more than I do (and lends me books when she is done like she's my own personal Barnes & Noble). It could be because she shared my favorite color (yellow) and it could be because any time my hair or clothing went toward the...uhh...more unusual, to her it was always "unique." I do know it's because she will buy almost anything with a hood (and so do I) and she'll burst into song when the mood strikes her, and she almost always smiles when she talks, no matter what the subject is. The reality is, I can't articulate the all the reasons why this person is so special, but anyone who reads this and knows her will be nodding along with the simple statement... she just is. The bottom line is that this world would be a better place if there were more smiling, reading, family loving people like Patti in it. And my family is infinitely lucky because she's ours. I know in my heart that I have a really long time to wait before this becomes an issue, but I am not going to make the mistake of not saying it until it's too late. I love you, Patti! And you're amazing.