Patty Unleashed

Patty Unleashed: 12.15.21

This is my last column for 2021, and I’m glad this year is ending. Let’s just say it and I didn’t really get along. I had two broken feet, a fall that landed me in the hospital and a variety of other maladies. But the year wasn’t a complete loss. A plan I hatched 12 years ago actually worked.

Regular readers know I have a large family. There are 13 years between my oldest brother John and me. I am actually closer in age to his son. John was married and out of the house by the time I was nine, so I really don’t have that many childhood memories of all six of us. I also grew up in a family that never said the words ‘I love you.’ Oh, I knew I was loved, but for some reason, it wasn’t something we ever said.

I decided 12 years ago I wanted to know my siblings, not casually but as adults. So, I set up a monthly sibling lunch. No spouses or parents allowed. I know they thought I was up to something nefarious, but they kept showing up. They gradually got used to the hugs I gave them and the ‘I love yous’ until it became part of our routine.

Over these 12 years, we talked about our kids, sports, politics, our worries (okay, mostly mine), old family lore (lies), new family lore (more lies) and anything else you could think of. At each lunch, my brother John asked the waiter who was the oldest and who was the youngest. They never, ever guessed I was the youngest, even with the Botox. The lunches would last well over an hour. Sometimes everyone could make it, sometimes not. All of us talked too loud—especially John and me. All of us laughed a lot. No one else in the restaurant ever appreciated our presence.

On Nov. 9, one of my tribe died. John had a massive heart attack right after doing some landscaping work with my other brother Mike. When John and Mike were young, they lived near Brentwood Park and played in the dirt, in the creek and, well, wherever. Somehow, I think if John knew he was going to die, he would be OK with the way he did because he had the chance to play in the dirt with his best buddy.

John was 74, in excellent health, took no medications and still ran 5Ks with his grandkids. Unexpected is an understatement. He leaves behind the person he loved the most for 52 years, his wife Mary; four children, John, Matt, Katie and Michael; eight grandchildren and five lunch partners.

When I got home from the hospital on Nov. 9, I hunched over the toilet bowl crying but wanting to barf. I talked to him the day before about an issue I was upset about. He did his big brother thing and assured me everything would be OK. The last thing
I said was “I love you,” and he said, “I love you, too.”

So, this year when you are making your New Year’s resolutions, make them simple. Don’t worry about your weight or getting abs. Instead, tell those you love just that. Three simple words: I. Love. You. John died knowing I loved him, and I knew he loved me. It is a feeling everyone should have. Second, take time for your family. You just don’t know how many days you have left to play in the dirt. Here’s to 2022! Peace my Peeps.

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