I really don't know where to begin or how to do this...again. You'd think that I'd have this kind of thing down given the shit year we've had and how many of these I have emotionally written.
Like, this really sucks.
Looking back a year ago no one could have anticipated what 2020 would turn into. Last year at this time, Chas's Mom would have less than 30 days left of her colorful life. Christmas was stressful because we knew we were facing the inevitable and this was the last Christmas with her - but we made the best of it that we could.
A little more than a week after Christmas, on January 2nd, 2020 heaven would have a new Angel as her Mom, Miss Dale, and Nanna, would go to heaven cradled in the arms of her only daughter, my Chas.
To help grieve with the process, we remodeled the home, moved and flip flopped rooms and stuff. All to help make the space and environment tolerable to live onward with the next steps in our life now without her Mom.
Only three short months later covid would rear it's asshole head to the US affecting everything we know as normal - including the availability of toilet paper. Days before school would be canceled locally, Chas's God Mother, her Nanny, would pass away on March 11, 2020.
Life progresses and the dust settles...
Another three short months later, days before our Brother Ryan's birthday, Ryan would tragically find his Surrogate Father, Shawn, (Chas's Mom's ex-fiance) lifeless on the floor on June 2nd, 2020. Shawn had stayed in close contact with Ryan and our family even after he and Dale would split. He died too soon at only 47.
They say things come in threes... to hell with 2020 already! Are you happy?! man things sucked. Just as we rearranged our home to help us move on with Mom, we would also bring Ryan into our home for a number of months so he could get on his feet again and live onward.
But the wake of 2020 will not and has not stopped.
Like a normal'ish Monday, I am at another handyman job.. damn it was gorgeous outside.. the sun was beaming.. cold if a breeze came by, or cold if you sat in the shade.. but I'm out, hoodie off, hustling and making progress.... there I was, knees bent on the ground as if praying to the sky, but looking down instead assembling outdoor cafe lights for a client. Suddenly I got a facebook message from someone I've never met asking that I please call her as it relates to her Uncle John...
Chas's Mom's John.... our John.. Poppa John.. My bonus Dad. Looking to the sky I dreaded making this call.
Fuck. Not again - please I pleaded!
On the other end of the phone, "I'm sorry, I have some bad news..."
Like the aftermath of a bomb or grenade going off... all I could hear was a tone in the ear. the sunlight of the day faded to black... this cannot be happening. Again?!
"I'm very sorry to tell you, but they found John at home passed away"
No, no, no, no. I thought.... we just, I just... no... fuck.. what the hell...
[I'm even holding my breath now as I recall and type these words]
As if I had been practiced or conditioned for such news, the conversation was collected, but direct and to the point. I'm looking around at this mess of shit I've created in my clients yard.. damnit!... I have to go....
I have to call my Chas.
Standing and collectively pacing I made another difficult phone call. I wanted to make sure she was at home, and told her I would see her in a bit. She said no, what's up. I said I need to be home for this, I can't do this over the phone.... no, you're scaring me Josh, what's going on??
"Love, they found John at home passed away"... I could hear her heart explode and her body drop.. followed by a distant scream and the sound of throwing up. Man I felt helpless... I consoled her as best I could and we quickly ended the call. My client who also is awesome buddy of mine was way cool. He encouraged me to leave my stuff as it is, come back when needed, leave the tools and everything.. "dude, it's ok".. after not wanting to be a jerk mess maker and his constant support, I said thank you, grabbed my keys and left. My tools, ladder, stuff, all my shit is still as his house as I write this....
I did NOT want to write this.. not here, not ever...
Here I sit, in my new office facing the wall wiring this about our John, my bonus Dad... All I can remember at this freaking moment was the day after I wrote about Chas's Mom.. John wasn't here that day. We called him with a heads up and he quickly made the 12-14hr drive from Elko Nevada to be here. Having called and told him Dale passed, he responsibly pulled over later on and stayed the night to get rest. Then later that morning he arrived at our home to be here with us as we all grieved.. What I remember is like having my heart ripped out and still being alive right now.
This sucks SO FUCKING MUCH!...
There's sweet John in the empty room where Dale once laid.. (my office) The blinds are open that morning because he liked the sunlight, and without Dale, who didn't like the light, the blinds were open and he's quietly crying... cell phone in his hand I could tell he was reading... he was reading the gratefulman post I had just written about his Dale. Fuck this just kills me. As if you could overlay our bodies of posture... here I sit in the same room typing... less than one full year, 17 days to the year to be exact, John would be sitting within an arm's reach of me crying and reading at the loss of Dale... here I now sit, crying and typing at the loss of John. Man we loved him.
John came into Dale's life when she needed it most. She was a couple many years outside of the relationship of Shawn and was out still finding her way... Being a lifelong bachelor, John found himself on some dating page some 7-8 years ago and happened to come across Dale's profile... or something like that.. and well, the rest is history. :) Up until this time, Dale had only found comfort in younger men and we had always playfully given her shit saying she needed a real man, a grown ass man... sure'nuff!... John would be older, well grounded and responsible! Perfect! Dale needed someone to take care of her as she had been the one to do so.. and John would do that and more! It was a great match. It didn't take long before we all would fall in love with John. If John had grown a large beard he would have been the real life embodiment of Santa! Loving and just damn gentle and awesome. Although I have been with Chas for going on 20 years or so (I lose track all the time) I haven't really had a "father inlaw" before. Yes, I know her Dad, and yes he is my father inlaw, but we don't have that kind of relationship. Dale has always called me son and treated me like one of her boys since I met Chas and became part of her life. We all knew of John and loved that he loved Dale. Fast forward to Christmas of 2018.. Ironically timed as I write this gut wrenching story. Christmas of 2018 ended up being likely the best Christmas Chas and my little family had ever had. My brother from Utah and his entire little family AND Dale and John all made it to our house for Christmas. There wasn't any family drama, nothing of the sort... damn it was wonderful! Like really, incredibly wonderful! After opening presents, here John sits, playing with Tristan. T wanted John to sit at the table and watch him build his lego. How boring!! ... but lovingly so, patiently so, like a doting grandpa, poppa John, sat there and gave Tristan all the time he needed. You could hear John ask random questions as Tristan played and monologued about only shit a small kid could and would do about lego.. #boring... hahha!
Stumbling through my grief stricken self I started looking for past memories of John and found a gem :) Here's a video of Dale opening an "adult" toy we got her as a gift. Her absent gentle minded'ass self can't process what she's been given. You can hear John's infectious laugh as he photographs her, meanwhile we all taunt her unawareness of the gift. :) it was a wonderful moment!
Amazing to me that this was only 2 years ago... so much trauma! so much shit has passed I cannot process that this was legit only two freaking years ago... Sadly this moment in time, only one month after this video, just days before Dale's 56th birthday in January of 2019, we would find out that she had Pancreatic Cancer. :(
So goes the prelude to 2020.
Throughout that difficult year of 2019 the relationship knot with John grew even tighter. John had no children and had never been married. John and Dale planned on getting married, but the news of cancer and all the insurance bullshit out there, such a thing would have been financial suisicde to a married couple. So they lived and loved as one without getting married. Over that shitty time, John would travel 4 hours from Elko Nevada to Salt Lake City Utah, then back 4 hours again to get home. He would lovingly do this every week throughout Dale's chemo treatments. He would be her advocate and her shoulder as they went through this. John never complained, never got angry, nothing.. he soldiered on and loved and loved.. Such a life situation our families communicated all the time with each other. As Dale's cancer would progress she would ultimately move from Elko Nevada and come live in our home in Surprise Arizona during Halloween of 2019... John came at that time as well and stayed the entire month of November. He wasn't scheduled to go back to work until I came home from my first hunting trip. I had never hunted nor do I enjoy camping! hahah! too much work! let me do some yard work and I'm a pig in shit! [ I did enjoy my hunting experience though :) ] Over all of this time John and I developed our own random unique "to us" relationship. He would talk to me about his stories of hunting while exchanging stories of his life in his Naval Submarine life... he was a former electrician who ultimately found himself behind complex electrical programing and system design as his job for working with a global mining conglomerate. Me being a hardcore nerd, one who is a designer/builder at heart and a former electrical designer who specialized in construction - of complicated shit, John and I hit it off very well.. John never called me son but he sure treated me like one. He loved and adored our boys and was always there for Chas as she and John went through Dale's cancer together. It wasn't a trauma bond, but the life and love gained and earned throughout such a stressful time rooted him deeply into our hearts. When Dale passed and was no longer with us, John headed back to Elko to start over living as the bachelor as he once was before meeting Miss Dale. Having grown so close to him while knowing where he was headed all by himself, Chas and I kept in touch regularly with him. I can't imagine his pain living in the home all alone like he once did, but by himself... He played it off, but he was in pain.
Although he never married Dale, he was very Dad like... In time after we grown'ass kids came to call him "Bonus Dad". Others called him PJ, Pops, Poppa John.. for me it was Bonus Dad. Sometime this year I ended up addressing him as so exclusively.. You could tell that he liked being called that.. never having kids of his own, it was a treat to give him that kind of relationship. John had a 2 hour bus ride to work everyday... then 2 hours back home... seriously every day. He was a religious follower of my blog and thoughts. Although we didn't talk all the time, he knew what was going on in my life. Although he didn't reply all the time, I knew he was there. It pains me to no measure that here I sit writing about this man, all the while, he religiously read them and supported me with them...
I remember after Dale passed away... I remember seeing him wiping his eyes and crying and laughing like a tough guy would in trying to "just be good" as he was talking to the boys after reading the Heaven has a new Angel post, he walked by and was patting one of them on the back saying "you boys are really going to appreciate all the stories your Dad has written about when your older".... and here I cry and laugh-cry, clear my throat like a tough guy would... here I write a story... a story that Heaven has a new Sait... his chipper'ass smile to my right, looking at me... hahaha, cry cry, hahaha... good lord I am a mess?!..
It was hard losing Dale and watching things unfold for everyone... It was hard watching Chas lose her Nanny... It was hard picking Ryan up from his apartment the day Shawn died, just footsteps from his suddenly lifeless body-life... literally footsteps away... all standing, being the source of reason while watching things unfold... You'd think I'd be numb by now... part of me is, part of me isn't... but this one is really hard for me. I'm pissing like crazy, I'm cold ALL the time now, my eye hasn't stopped twitching since that difficult call I made to Chas... this sucks... I feel a massive year long let down of total bullshit completely overwhelmed me.. all the while I'm laughing and crying at the same time... All I can do is torment myself with bullshit playful texts we shared... John the sweet man was an avid cook and smoker of meats... we would share "food like" war stories at the random..
Beyond food, we'd share, showcase, taunt other pics. :) A dear friend of mine gave me some amazing Peanut Butter Whiskey for my birthday... of which we shared with John... Knowing John was a whiskey man all I could do was taunt him. :)
He knew how "artsy" I am with all things.. so when he located some PB Whiskey in Elko! he was all kinds of awnry to respond to my text! hahaha
During Covid time this year.. he unprovokingly sent me this kinda shit text too!
My motivated, artistic rebuttal!
I was so moved and surprised by his alcohol artistry.. I was compelled to update his contact image...
He also knew how "Arizona" I can be and am without a doubt! bring on the HEAT!! .. so throughout the year he would taunt me with shit "Elko" weather!!
I just loved sharing random bullshit with him... he may have sent the same kind of texts to the other grown'ass kids... but he sure made me feel special! There was an amazing mountain just outside his front door... like, legit, outside his front door. He knew how much it meant to Chas and I to see and enjoy... this was a picture he shared of his wonderful snow'ass covered mountain... "Chas's mountain"
Although cold and snowy... I wish I were there right now.
I loved how he would just let me be me and share stupid shit with him.. A text message between Trsitan and I... HAHAHH! Which I knew the man would find it just as silly as me! :) Tristan: What is for dinner Me: your mom Tristan: That is nasty that I don't want my mom for dinner at all
I know, I know.. how rude to your child... but he was worth sharing this life shit with! I loved it! Beyond the silliness of things, he knew that I liked what he did.. so he would at random share with me his life and what he was seeing.. clips from his work. I loved, loved getting these from him. Small, but damn! it made me feel special!
It just kills me looking at these pictures... I understand why I am doing this.. I truly do.. but fuck man! this shit sucks!... :'( !!!! The date stamps in here just haunt me to no end... When I was a small kid, maybe 10 at best... I remember coming to the conclusion that once you are one year old - you have already lived the "DATE/day" that you will someday die... I know lame right... It's overwhelming when I think about it. I remember talking to Tristan some years ago about some deep like conversation shit... I told him the same thing... watching his small precious mind process the reality of what I was saying just kicked him in the ass.. !! it was awesome! Here I go through my mess of things as a memory.. someday I will have a new phone.. someday as of now I will no longer will get texts from my bonus dad... so at this self inflicted moment of total wroughtness... all I can do is capture the moments of time for me to look back on and laugh and cry... As I see the dates... I'm overwhelmed with emotion just thinking about what I said above... living the "DATE/day" you would die.... I see the dates.. some more than a year.. some less than a year... like a movie scene... brake lines are cut.... the husband leaves for work, kisses his wife goodbye... walks to the car... unbeknownst about the brakes... pulls out and drives away... cut scene to the tires... brake fluid leaking... a squish with every push... cut scene to a lolly jolly driver not knowing what's going on... or what's to happen next. cut scene to the tires again... suddenly when it counts... no brakes.. tormented with the knowing inevitable without seeing the inevitable... so goes these taunting dates. Instead, no cut scenes... just the sound of a clock ticking away because the date was already set sometime ago when Mr John, my bonus dad came into this world.... we all just didn't know it. Lord! I miss this man! :( !!
I know... I know.. I'm not making this easy on me at all...
Looking back on all the dialogue I've had with my Bonus Dad, I never had the chance to tell him exactly how I felt for him or how important he was to me, and how much I truly loved and appreciated him... I'm haunted, I'm tormented... damnit I hate this! Our Christmas tree right now... 9 days before Christmas 2020..
one present so far.
I am balling mess of shit right now telling myself this same exact story I'm telling you. The man never called me son... never. having not said what I wish I would have told him... preprocessing what's under my tree right now I feel what I believe to be the same kind of unsaid feelings I had for my Bonus Dad. After I got the box and finally opened it.. I was quick to send my buddy a text thanking him for it.
I did not receive a reply :(
The call from the person I never met, the distant Niece of my Bonus Dad, was Monday 12/14/20... Doctors say he likely passed sometime between 2 and 2:30 in the morning. I would like to think he read my thankful text and just didn't have the time to reply before.
tick, tick, tick just tugs at my heart.
I love you John... My Bonus Dad. :(
Fuck man... I am a complete disaster right now... can't even laugh cry this shit out.
The reality of this time stamp date of the picture is overwhelming!!! ...
Fuck this shit!!
No one in my little family could have anticipated a year like this by being orphaned in this capacity... but it's real, it's life. and damn it all to hell! ... the taste of my salty soke-faced tears sucks major shit!.. i feel like a child not knowing how to blow his nose. I sound like total a bitch right now sucking through my nose! hahah
the best thing I can do is respect it! as much as that sounds like total shit at the moment!
all I can do is love those who have chosen to be here in our lives, in my life like my Bonus Dad did.
Call it a message from father time, a strange moment captured in the past to be processed at a deeper level at a later time, I don't know?! .
but the man I know as John Cerini, my Bonus Dad...
I will always remember him:
As a man who thought deeply, spoke genuinely, loved much, laughed a lot, worked hard, gave freely, and was kind.
The right kind of things to live by. I miss you John - thank you for making me feel special. <3
John was a hunter, outdoorsman and a blue collar man...
Nothing is more fitting than such a picture for such a man.
Heaven has a new Saint, rest in peace Bonus Dad, I love you.
Your bonus son,