How the List Changed My Life
*Today is my uncle’s birthday — he would have been 48. It seems like the right time to put this into words.
In September 2008, our family dog died. We had had Peaches for 15 years. We knew she was sick and not going to make it much longer. What was devastating was the way my mother chose to handle it. She felt that Peaches was her dog, and she should get to be the one to make the call on putting her down. The rest of the family felt it was the family dog, we all loved her, and we just wanted to be included and aware of what was going on. Unfortunately, this didn’t seem to get through. I received a phone call one night that our dog was gone, and I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. And although it pales in comparison to what was to follow in the coming year, the loss of our family pet was truly devastating and it seemed like the catalyst for bad things.
In January 2009, my uncle died. He was 46. He had the flu, and he took a prescribed medicine that interacted with another previously prescribed medicine and killed him. My uncle had a hard life, one that he had just recently started to work past. He had a good job, was finally living on his own, he was responsible for his two cats, and he was mending relationships with his dad and his brother (my dad). He was in a good place. It’s just heartbreaking that it was taken away from him before he could get all the way there. What devastates me the most is that he died so unexpectedly. I always thought there would be more time; to take him aside at my future wedding and tell him how happy I was to have him in my life; to exchange cat stories with him; to go to a concert and yell out “Blackbird!” instead of “Free Bird,” his favorite joke as a Beatles superfan; to play a round of golf and go to Universal Studios. And I will always miss my hilarious, clever, super-smart, fun, compassionate, caring uncle. We didn’t have a chance to say goodbye.
Not long after, my great-aunt died. We were down in Florida for my uncle’s funeral, and my grandmother got a call from her sister that she wasn’t feeling well and was going to the doctor to have it checked out. And then she was gone, from stage 4 cancer. Thankfully, we made it back from Florida in time to see her, and we did get to say goodbye. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be, saying goodbye to someone who knows that they are dying. Aunt Edna was kind and caring and loved her family so much, and we all miss her terribly.
Then in early November, my other great-aunt died. Aunt Rita was the feisty aunt, and she and my uncle had been very close. I’ll miss hearing her quips at family reunions. She had been ill a long time, and it was a blessing for her to be free from pain as much as it was sad for us to say goodbye. But it just seemed like nothing would ever be normal again.
And THEN the Monday after Thanksgiving, after I had spent a lovely holiday weekend at home with my family, I received a phone call from my sister that my mom was having an affair and my parents were separating. Going from happy family to divorcing because of cheating in a matter of days was pretty shocking and upsetting. My mother handled it all terribly and I really don’t know what the final outcome for our relationship will be. We are still trying to figure out how to deal with all of this, and it’s been an entirely unpleasant experience, to say the least.
For awhile things seemed to be going normally, and then my sister’s fiance cancelled their wedding a week before the event. Now this didn’t happen TO me, and it doesn’t really compare to the other things that have directly affected my own life, but I love my sister, and my heart broke seeing her heart break. To have to wipe away her tears and know there was absolutely nothing at all that I could say or do to fix the situation made me so sad. To watch her be depressed and just have nothing to say, because really, what do you say? It’s going to be ok? Of course it is, someday, but that’s not what one wants to hear in that situation. I just had to be there, and it made me feel powerless and out of control and depressed. Not to mention the doubts that it raised for the future of my own relationship, doubts that the bf handled with amazing grace and understanding. And then she decided to move to Ireland, a bold, brave move in my opinion, to get away for awhile and see what could happen for her there. But Ireland is far and flights are expensive, and I miss my sister.
So I really needed something to look forward to, to keep my mind occupied and to keep me feeling optimistic about the future. And the list been doing exactly all of those things for me. Whenever I feel bored and my mind would normally wander to the shitty things that have happened over the past two years, now I can focus on crossing something off my list instead. Or thinking of more things I want to do for the list after this one. It’s been keeping me interested and engaged in the world around me, and I LOVE that. My list is not just a list, it’s saved my sanity.
*And I want to share something I added to my Life List a couple of months ago… Someday I want to create a memorial for my uncle. A park where people can enjoy the outdoors and bring their pets, be with friends, hear live music… I know this is the kind of place he would have enjoyed, and I want to honor him with one in his memory. Someday, I will make this happen.