‘We Seem to Have Reached the Age Where Life Stops Giving Us Things and Starts Taking Them Away’

“Brutal couple of years, huh, Charlie? First Dad, then Marcus.”

– Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones1

Saturday, Oct. 16 | Day 11: We bought the flowers, as usual, at the Publix supermarket in Dade City, though this time we carried them aboard Terra Nova to the cemetery down the street.

Flight-wise, our ride to St. Pete Beach, Florida, was much better this year than last. No U-Hauls were needed. We had no mechanical problems, other than a nail in a tire on the return route. More on that later.

Bungeed to Terra Nova’s rear rack.

On the road, there was plenty of time for reluctant reflection (inside my helmet) on 2021 as a year of loss, of both people and places.

My father died of COVID on Jan. 23 and my beloved Aunt Jo of the same on June 12.

And then there was Cyril Kúdela, the Eastern European cousin of my father and Aunt Jo, who died April 29 in Piestany, Slovakia2. Incredibly, he and Aunt Jo wrote each other throughout the Cold War, letters that kept the Petras family connected over decades.

Cyril, on his CZ Jawa motorcycle, with his two daughters Iva and Kamila.

And wise and kind-hearted Bob Russ, a colleague and old friend from my days at the Sandusky Register, died Jan. 23, the same day as my father. He was only 63.

On Linda’s side, Rich Stapin, the husband of her cousin Pat, died Oct. 5.

Our family house in Bedford Heights, Ohio, which my parents bought in 1959, was sold Oct. 12; I’ll never again step foot inside my childhood home.

The house on Eldridge Boulevard in Bedford Heights.

The sale was finalized and proceeds transferred while we were in Florida.

Which explains the necessity of our four visits to Regions bank in South Pasadena, Florida, thanks to miscommunication among Ohio attorneys and title company. Folks here at the bank were super-nice and extraordinarily helpful, especially Nicole.

We parked the bikes in Floral Memory Gardens, trimmed the grass around the headstone, and put flowers in the vase, as we did the year before, and for nearly a dozen years before that.

Emphasis on purple, her favorite.

And, after visiting the cemetery, we found the lot on Bahia Drive in Zephyrhills, Florida, where my grandparents moved in 1963, has a new mobile home on it, owned by strangers.

The lot stood empty after the original house was condemned and torn down a few years ago.

Linda and I had discussed buying the house at one point, but it wasn’t feasible. The owner abandoned it after taking out too many loans he was unable to repay and everything was locked up in legal disputes that continued until the demolition. Another childhood place gone.

The new house on the former site of my grandparents’ home.

We ended the Zephyrhills house-and-memorial-park duty by stopping for ice cream at Dave’s Treats3, the old Twistee Treat4 on Route 54, not far from my grandparents’ former place.

It’s a comforting part of the Zephyrhills ritual.

Time keeps moving but I still don’t know how to deal with loss. I think the only thing left to us is to remember and respect who and what we’ve lost, and to remind those still here that we love them.

And to be aware of what time we ourselves have left, keep moving forward, and live as fully as we can, with few regrets as possible.

Marlene and Linda, during her visit to Washington. We enjoyed showing her the District.

I was thinking of all this (inside my helmet) and I got a text the very next day, Oct. 17, from my cousin Joey that my wonderful cousin Marlene had died.

Marlene was truly a special person and I always enjoyed her wisdom, her outlook on life, and her company.

I last saw her in Cleveland on July 13 and was aware of her medical problems but I did not know how bad they were. Life is ruthlessly taking things away.


1 – The title of this report is from “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (2008). I don’t remember much about the movie but I’ll never forget that line, spoken by actor Jim Broadbent. It rings so true.

2 – The two sections of the family probably would not have known of the other’s existence had it not been for those letters. And Linda and I (and Aunt Jo) wouldn’t have traveled to Slovakia in 2006, our first of three visits.

Drahovce, Slovakia, 2006: Linda, Cyril, Aunt Jo, and Cyril’s grandchildren Linda and Ivo.

It was so good to see Jo and Cyril meet in person at last. We were on the side of the angels that day.

I’ve written about Cyril a few times; I admired him and though we visited him and his family three times, I will always regret not being able to know him better.

3 – The cone-shaped building is irresistible. And the ice cream there is always good.

4 – The buildings are 25 feet tall, according to the company website. They’ve been around since 1983, apparently.

And finally: In the top photo (from a wall in my workshop here at Starbase 8) that’s Dad and my brother Rob with Endurance at the American Motorcycle Association Hall of Fame Museum in Pickerington, Ohio. We’d gone there in the early 2000s to look at Indian motorcycles. On the left is Van Dale Yasek, the father of my best friend Van. Cyril, of course, is there, too.

4 thoughts on “‘We Seem to Have Reached the Age Where Life Stops Giving Us Things and Starts Taking Them Away’”

  1. Thanks George, you paint pictures with your words. You are indeed, a wordsmith. Hope your hearts are alright.♥️

  2. It’s nice to see your version of “the things we carry” packed onto the motorbike. Ochre pigment scratched onto rocks are thought to be the first human artwork; ancient ancestors imagining what couldn’t be seen, and wouldn’t otherwise exist. The journey continues.

  3. Thanks for sharing your difficult experiences over the past year..Life gives and it takes away. Your article helps me realize that you cannot take one thing for granted. Even the home where you grew up. My parents are still in my child place home and they have no intention of moving anytime soon but it would feel strange to see another family in the place I lived in for almost two decades. Although there’s been many losses over the past couple of years, I have hope that things will get better with time.

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