August 14th: Cheeseburger, No Lettuce.

August is a tough month in my family. I do not know how one month can gang up on a particular group of people, but it does, and I hold a big grudge about it. Mostly it started back in 1990, when at the end of August my dad, Ed, died unexpectedly. That’s a big black mark. Then it just rolled from there.

August 14th, 2000 was the day we lost my mom, Mary Jane. Mom was a great lady who had been through far more in her life than was even close to fair. The main thing was her struggles with mental illness. I am not one to skirt around how much that affected her, and therefore us as kids. It led to years of her physical health declining, she was a smoker for many years. So in 2000, mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. It isn’t fair to say that cancer is what took mom, but it was because of the diagnosis. She ended up having a mastectomy that unfortunately she was not healthy enough to endure. She passed away from complications after that surgery. We went through a lot with this, she wasn’t herself after the surgery, and we had to fight to keep her hospitalized. They wanted to send her to a nursing home to rehabilitate, but we knew she wasn’t ready and got into it with hospital administrators to keep her there. She died there.

So, in her memory, every year on her birthday (May 31st) and the anniversary of her death, I go out to a local restaurant and have one of her favorite meals: Cheeseburger, no lettuce, with fries and a Coke. The no lettuce thing is a big deal- Mom had a way of telling servers more than they need to know, and she would always say she couldn’t have the lettuce because of her teeth. When I get people at the restaurant that give me their dietary issues as a part of their order, I always know Mary Jane is close by.

Back to August sucking. It was 5 years ago, while I was out having my Mary Jane tribute Cheeseburger, no lettuce, of course. I got a call from my sister, she had just heard that our step brother Tommy, had apparently had a heart attack in his sleep, killing him. Tommy had lived a rough life. He was diabetic, and had substance abuse issues. So now this sad anniversary has a ride-along. I don’t really know what Tommy’s favorite meal would have been, but he gets partial credit while I celebrate Mom, because who doesn’t like Cheeseburgers, no lettuce?

At some point, August will have something good to give us. It has to, that is just the way it is. This year is not that year, right away at the beginning of the month we got the news that our niece, Connie, had died of a heart attack. She was only 42. She too had a tough life and it wore her down physically as well as mentally. Her passing is sad, but her soul can know some peace now, probably for the first time. Some of our family will have a small amount of time to say goodbye to her today. She wanted no funeral, and the family is abiding by her wishes. So if you are the praying type, say one for her, and tuck one in for my family. It’s been 2 weeks since she passed, but there has been a little turmoil getting her this far, and now she gets a little piece of August 14th too.

I want to bring this back around to a happier tone, and at the heart of it is love. Lots of love exists in my world. To lose people and hurt means you loved them very much. And that love doesn’t go away just because you lost that person. I carry these 3 beautiful people with me, they are a part of who I am along with all of the people I still have. August cannot take that from me. I won’t let it. So this evening, I will head out for that delicious Cheeseburger, no lettuce, fries and Coke. (Pepsi is ok, if it has to be that way.) I get a lot of joy out of that meal each year, it calls back to better times with good people. Loss is a part of life, but thankfully, so are cheeseburgers.

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