Today is my third anniversary. It's actually been a blah kinda day sitting in the middle of a pretty damn good week. I got a job offer yesterday which is a huge relief in the wake of a layoff. We'll call it an early anniversary gift.
We watched our wedding video last night before bed ... I hate my voice. I really, really hate my voice. I mean, there are so many other things I could nitpick on about myself from that wedding (like my hair, my body, my sweat - Jamaica in June) but no, it's my voice I reserve the rolling eyes for. Damn my deep-voiced parents!
We didn't make any plans for today, really. We kinda wing it on big occasions, which wouldn't be so bad if we didn't have decision-making issues as well. Spontaneity is inevitably served with a side of What do you wanna do? - I dunno know, what do you wanna do?
Eventually, at 9pm, we decide we want to go to dinner at Venuti's in Addison. J has shot a couple weddings there, his most recent being last weekend, and swears the food is out of this world.
We're heading out to the car, dressed up and looking nice and we run into our upstairs neighbor Michelle. She and her husband Chuck moved in upstairs only a few months after we moved into our condo and we have gotten along very well even though they're in their 50s. Down to earth, very kind people.
A couple of months ago, we noticed Chuck was looking ragged and his voice was shot. I asked him if everything was okay and he said he'd been to the doctor and they were testing him for lung cancer. They didn't yet have the results when I spoke to him, he said they'd have them within the week. We found out about a week later that the results came back positive. J talked with him not long after that and Chuck said he was told it was terminal.
Now, Chuck isn't a smoker nor is he an unhealthy man. He's in his early to mid 50s, loves to fish and when I say loves, I mean he'd choose fishing over just about anything else. Real rugged kinda guy, very soft-spoken and nice, silly moustache, salt and pepper hair and always willing to help out if needed. His wife Michelle is a massage therapist and yoga instructor - she may be in her 50s but she looks like she's in her late 20s, perhaps early 30s. Hot babe kinda lady.
So we run into Michelle. She's getting out of her car, her two dogs are in the back seat, the normally sedate Yorkie is yapping like crazy while the normally frenzied mutt is sleeping beside her. We exchange pleasantries and then ask Michelle how Chuck is, as we've done everytime we've seen her in these last 2 months. She drops her pleasant smile and says Chuck died two days ago, he's gone.
It's been a long time since someone I know has died - our friend Mike's mom passed in early December and we attended her wake (open casket, an hour after having 2 wisdom teeth removed and the novacaine hasn't worn off yet ... yeaaaaaaa) but we didn't really know her. We knew Chuck. We'd talk about all sorts of stuff with him while he walked Zena and Scruffy. He was planning on retiring in 10 years and moving up to Wisconsin to live on a lake full-time. On the weekends, he and Michelle escaped to that lake cabin and couldn't wait till the day they wouldn't have to be weekend residents only.
God royally screwed them; as Chuck lay dying upstairs from us, unable to go "home" one last time for lack of nearby medical care, torrential rains caused their lake to overflow and flood their cabin and maroon their pontoon boat.
Michelle hates the city, isn't even really crazy about the suburbs - she loves peace and quite and countryside with few people. So she's selling her condo and moving back to Wisconsin, cleaning up the cabin and going to grieve where she feels more at home.
So this is what is crowding my head as we pull off to dinner.
Venuti's is gorgeous, big money in that, and the food is 5-star to this 3-star lady. After deliberating between about 6 entrees, I decided on the linguine with steamed mussels. I fell in love with linguine with clams the summer before my senior year in high school when I spent 3 weeks out in San Francisco with my uncles and they took us for a weekend to Santa Cruz and we had dinner in this joint on the pier and I thought I'd try linguine with clams because I was going to be a senior and my palate was growing up. I loved it. Absolute smash! But I never ordered it again because I thought maybe that Santa Cruz joint was phenomenol and I'd never find it as good again ... and bad clams are BAD.
But tonight I decide to go out on that limb again, with mussels, and I think there's no need to worry about my love for linguine with clams or mussels again.
We talked about many things over dinner but I think both our minds were on Chuck and Michelle.
After dinner, with leftovers in the floor well, we decided to head to Dave and Busters for some arcade fun. I was ecstatic to see they had some old school arcade games like Donkey Kong, Galaga, Centipede and my favorite: Donkey Kong, Jr. I cultivated an unhealthy arcade addiction as a younger person: my Dad took me to Vegas a couple times and he would head off to his games and I would head off to mine. Only difference was he could watch me play my games and I had to gesture to him from the boundary of the casino when I needed his attention. Donkey Kong, Jr. was one of those games I continually fed quarters to. I never got that great at it, not like I did with Galaga and Galaxian (virtually the same game except you couldn't retrieve a kidnapped ship in Galaxian).
Not much has changed. I didn't even make it past the second level. I knew I would waste our investment in front of that machine if I didn't pull away voluntarily so I left willingly after watching "Game Over" dance across the screen.
We tried out various other games and then spent the rest of our card on a Lost World sit-down game shooting velociraptors and T-Rex. I accidentally shot a couple of people too but when the screen is flashing left and right, humans wearing camouflage look just like deadly dinosaurs. Anyway ... it's not like I actually knew them.
So now I'm home again, starting this blog over, my mind still unable to wrap itself around the fact that Chuck is never going to prop our recycle bin up against our garage door Tuesday afternoons, that Michelle will be selling and moving away, that a man who isn't even 55, never smoked, keeps active and loves his family and friends with all his heart isn't going to watch his sons marry or have kids or take his grandsons fishing. Of course life isn't fair, hell I could spend the rest of my life expanding on that subject but it seems all the more unfair when it's a person you know and you know how good a person he is ... was.
Michelle told us to go out tonight and celebrate each other, that she and Chuck celebrated each other when he was alive and that there was no time like the present to love with all you've got. I guess I'll try to remember that a little more from now on.
And on that note, it's time to go be with my husband as our third anniversary winds down.