“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.
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.
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.
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 sale was finalized and proceeds transferred while we were in Florida.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It was so good to see Jo and Cyril meet in person at last. We were on the side of the angels that day.
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.