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Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Leader of the Pack

A few days ago, I posted a blog on MySpace that I didn't post here. I've received a few emails from Home Fires "regulars" whose feelings were hurt because I chose to only post it on MySpace.

I rationalized doing so because I convinced myself that it would be just my luck, I post something serious and unfunny, and Rosie O'Donnell sure as hell is going to finally see my link in the Ask Ro, come back to my blog, see the unfunny post and say, "What the..." and forget all about how funny she used to think I was, and completely toss my request for consideration as a comedy writer for her show.

I snapped out of my fog this morning. Number one, Rosie isn't one to judge. Secondly, she is as real as I am, and I know she would understand life happens even in my world.

Never mind the fact, that, I really don't keep anything from my "home fries" at Home Fires. (Yes, I know, so many people think it is Fries, rather than Fires. Either way, it's all good.)

So I'm here to fill you in, and apologize. So much has happened in the last week.

My 38-year-old cousin Paula died five days ago. She always had a heart condition, but no one seemed to know she was so sick. She had flu-like symptoms, simply said she didn't feel well, and collapsed. They couldn't revive her.

I remember when we were really young Mom would say, "Pray for Baby Paula." Every night we prayed for her as she endured open heart surgery, then recovery. If she came down with so much as a cold, we would pray some more. Just a small cold could take her fragile life.

By the time we hit double digits, she was like any other kid, except she had a "zipper" on her chest. She never got offended at my fascination with her scar. And she only smacked me once when I suggested the surgeon accidentally took out her booby bones while he was in there.

We spent a couple of weeks of the summer of 1984 together at her house. I remember the year because Van Halen's album 1984, just came out. We listened to that until the tape warped. I felt like more than a cousin. For the first time in my life, I had a sister who I didn't want to fight with, tell on, or cause bodily harm to.

We ran amok. Thankfully for us, her parents were patient and kind.

We got older. Life happened. I married. She married. We moved even farther away from each other. I'm on the boarder of Iowa, she was living in Indiana. We turned into wedding and funeral friends. Sad, really.

When I got to the funeral home to say goodbye today, I saw many other family members whom I haven't seen since the last wedding or funeral. It was so nice to see everyone. I just wish the circumstances were better.

In memory of Paula, I started a family blog, hoping history doesn't repeat itself. Hopefully it will become a fun place where each of us can post and share family pictures, recipes, memory lane stories etc.

I feel like such a self-absorbed asshole for not taking the initiative to get to know the grownup Paula and the rest of the Lane gang. It's not like we don't have the best time ever when we do get together. Maybe a virtual stomping ground will keep us in the loop of all the goings-on in each other's lives. This was the best way I could truly honor her memory.

Do me a favor. Make a phone call to someone this weekend, any one of your friends or family members that you haven't spoken to in a while, just to catch up. Let me know how it goes.

Lane 1 has worked every available hour, since his 16th birthday, for this day. He has put half of every paycheck into a special account. Now, my son is the proud owner of a 1985 Dodge Omni.

Amazingly enough, he loves his car. He calls it the golden bullet.

I bought my first car when I was 17, six months older than he is now. It was a 1978 Plymouth Horizon hatchback, which looked very much like his, only mine was blue. It had almost 200,000 miles on it, and his only has 84,000.

For the low, low price of $675 it was all mine. He only paid $400 for his, leaving plenty of his saved money in the bank. Mine was the smallest, dirtiest, smelliest, non-workingest car you've ever seen. But, it was mine. It had the smell of old car, mold, dust, cigarettes and pine tree air freshener, just like his.

Unlike my first, his was owned by one person. You guessed it, a little old lady who kept it safely in the garage during the winter and drove it to the local market, bingo parlor and church in decent weather. The body is in amazing shape, unlike mine. He appreciates his so much more than I did mine back in the day.

When Lane 1 and his father pulled up in that car, Lane 2 tried so hard to not laugh. I warned her one day she too would drive a beater and feel proud. We ran outside to greet them. Lane 1 welcomed us in to take a cruise. My internal mother system went into happiness overdrive when I noticed the speedometer only went up to 80. Although 80 mph is fast, chances are a car that old won't be able to go top-speed often.

"80, huh?"

"You know, Mom, it says 80, but it means 55. Lucky for me if I'm going down hill at top-speed it hits almost 70!"

His excitement brought me back to a time when my 3-year-old son zoomed his Hot Wheels cars over my arms and the top of my head, using me as his race track. I miss that little boy as I look at the man before me.

His car ran really well. And that son of mine just couldn't stop smiling. As scared as I was for this day to come, I believe it was relatively painless compared to what my mind had conjured.

He dropped me and Lane 2 off and drove to his friend's house...three houses down.

Bill and a few other friends who also recently got their first beaters, started a "club." Lane 1 asked if he could join "The Beater Brothers." (I believe there's a double entendre joke in there somewhere.)

Lane 1 said to Bill, "So, here's my beater. Can I be in the club now?"

Bill said, "Dude, with that car, you can be the leader of The Beater Brothers."

So it is with profound motherly pride, that I present you with...

...the leader of the pack. Can I get a "Vroom, vroom!" from the congregation?!

Have a great weekend, everyone!