Circle of Life

It was bedtime, and I was trying to get Hawk into his jammies.

“Hawkie, would you hand me that night time diaper right next to you?” It was literally an inch from his right hand.

“Daddy, it’s my birthday so I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to.”

I told him that if he wanted to have another birthday, he’d hand me the diaper.

And so ended an emotional 24 hours for yours truly.

Friday the 13th was both my son’s fourth birthday and also the day of the memorial service for my Aunt Shirley.

Technically, she was my mom’s aunt, but we’ve always called her Aunt Shirley. The Christmas card they sent our family was always inscribed, “Love, A. Shirley and U. Forrest,” as if Aunt and Uncle were their actual first names.

She was my grandma’s sister. My grandma died when I was six years old. Nothing could replace her, but Shirley certainly reminded me of my Nanny in many ways. They definitely looked alike, with those distinctive Kurz features that were also passed down to my mother. They cooked many of the same recipes, things that are still Thanksgiving staples in our house. The meatloaf was my favorite entree and the pea salad my favorite Thanksgiving side.

They both had a fondness for Wheel of Fortune. Back when I was little, Channel 9 in Oklahoma City used to have a phone number you could call when you knew the answer to every puzzle. When that show aired every evening (5:30 p.m.? Can’t remember for sure) Nanny was in her chair in front of that TV religiously, and she was picking up the phone and calling as soon as she knew the answer to every puzzle. I don’t think she ever got through and won the prize, it was probably rigged anyway. I don’t know whether Shirley used to call the hotline or not but I know she was a big fan of the show.

My favorite shared attribute of theirs is their sense of humor. They both had a very dry sense of humor which was passed down to my mother and to me.

Just a few months ago, my mom had hip replacement surgery at McBride up in north Oklahoma City, close to Shirley’s house. I stopped by and visited. She seemed to be doing great. I know she has had some physical problems but mentally she was very sharp, especially for someone just half a year away from turning 90. But only a month or two after that, she found out she had an advanced cancer and decided against treatment.

I have to stop here and praise my mom. She visited Shirley every single day, sometimes making two trips per day. She was up there for several hours at a time and it wasn’t good her hip to be sitting in uncomfortable chairs for that long. But she never complained about it. Between mom and Shirley’s daughter, they provided constant companionship during those hard final weeks.

Her service was on Friday, and there were several moving moments. Two of my cousins (technically second cousins) shared their thoughts, which made the connection between Shirley, my grandmother and my family seem even more real. Also, my brother used his immense musical talents to sing “How Great Thou Art,” which was very touching.

We held off on Hawk’s fourth birthday party until the next day, and it was a lot of fun. He wanted to go to Chuck E. Cheese, so we let the kids play all the games they wanted for an hour before coming back home and eating pizza and Missy’s delicious birthday cake.

Maddux (in the mismatched blue pants and orange shirt) and Myra (purple dress) enjoyed dancing with Chuck E. more than Hawk (standing to the left of Myra), who quickly exited the stage.
Hawk was much more into this game.
Missy’s half chocolate, half vanilla cake was great as usual.

I looked back at some old pictures from when Hawk was a baby, and it seems kind of crazy that we don’t have any babies anymore. We’ve always had a baby! At least one! Hawk is smart and mature enough to be in pre-K already but Missy and I are glad to have him around the house all day for another year.

I loved watching him and the other kids play games and have so much fun at the party. At night, trapped in my own thoughts, it was depressing to think about how fast life happens and how quickly it vanishes. But there’s nothing I can do about any of that, except try to make the most of each day and enjoy the time I do have with the amazing people I get to call my family and friends.

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