October 30, 2017

Our Flip?!

Mike and Amy headed back to Vegas, I stayed in Chicago to get the ball rolling. I didn't know how long I'd stay, I only knew there was a lot to do. I first thought I'd stay long enough to collect my dad's cremains. I planned to begin cleaning and sorting through my dad's place to pass the time - I figured I'd have to wait for probate to sell the condo.

My hope was to drive my dad's car while in town, but his brakes were barely functioning. I had a friend that is a mechanic give it a look, it definitely needed brakes and calipers. Plus, a whole lot more. More than the car is likely worth. I thought I had no choice, but to extend my rental. However, my aunt kindly offered to let me use her vehicle. I quickly accepted knowing I'd be amassing a great deal of debt handling my dad's affairs. No will, no beneficiaries, assets and real estate meant probate was unavoidable. It was new waters to navigate. I was fortunate to settle my mom's estate with small affidavits and avoid legal fees. I gained a great deal of knowledge in Nevada, but I'd learn little applies in Illinois.

In short, Illinois is racket. Everything is more costly and has more red tape. The cost for direct cremation, for example, was nearly double in Illinois compared to Nevada. That was after a slew of phone calls, too. The first few quotes through funeral homes were four, yes 4! times as much as we paid La Paloma in Las Vegas. It was a pill I couldn't swallow, we persisted. By cutting out the middle man, we saved a bundle by going to Skyline Crematory. They were professional, timely, compassionate and I was very appreciative they weren't out to take advantage at such a vulnerable time.

I began by finding a probate attorney on Avvo. It's like Yelp, but for lawyers. I weighed options, got Mike and Amy's input and ultimately decided to get started right away. I pulled as much paperwork as I could for the appointment, and only had to follow up with a few items. The consult was a whirlwind. Naturally, I was overwhelmed. I have already carried the costs of my mom's estate since she passed, and the burden of my dad's was far greater. Cook County has incredibly high taxes, even for a modest condo in the 'burbs. Fortunately, there was no mortgage. But once you combine the taxes with the monthly HOA, insurance and utilities; I was looking to carry at least a grand per month. At least, I did not have to wait for probate to list the condo. I only had to wait to petition the court before I could sign the sales contract as representative of the estate. Initially, it was a relief to learn this, but it solidified the fact that I had an insurmountable task ahead of me. Time was of the essence. Though, I was grief stricken I knew I had to be practical and sensible.

The attorney recommended a real estate agent. I followed up with her to gauge how to proceed. She was helpful and informative. The market has grown stronger, but it's no where near the level we are experiencing in Vegas. I also realized I was heading into the second slowest season for real estate sales. School was just about begin, and winter was coming. My fear was confirmed, I was in race against time. However, she was encouraging and said that life happens, even in stale markets. You just never know.

My dad lived in his condo for 20 years. He was a smoker, he rarely opened the windows and never used the A/C. The condo was nearly thirty years old, it had been in our family since '93. My great grandparents bought the place for my aunt to live. She passed, shortly before my parents divorced. My dad moved in, inherited her belongings and collected his own over the years. My brother and sister had both lived with my dad for periods of time. My brother's room was the master with attached half bath. My sister had the other bedroom. My dad had always preferred the couch to a bed, and that didn't change when he had the place to himself. The rooms have pretty much been frozen in time. The living areas were neglected since my dad had lived in Vegas the majority of the past two years. I bought cleaning products with the intent to scratch the surface so I'd know how to best proceed.

Frank flew in late afternoon on the day I met with the attorney. After picking him up at the airport we grabbed dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant, Gum Wah. I rattled off everything that occurred and I learned so far. Prior to his arrival, I told him I was okay and it wasn't necessary he come. I knew he had a lot on his plate with work, I didn't want to burden him with being away and knee deep in all that was mounting around me. He didn't hear of it. I was happy he came. The hug was worth the trip alone, but little did I know how much was ahead of us, and how much I'd rely on him.

That night we went to my dads. We cracked the windows - literally, the wood splintered all along the frame. Fresh air seeped into the place, but the smell of cigarettes was still so thick it stung your eyes and lingered in your lungs. I got to work on the kitchen. I started with the sink (and moved on to the counters and stove). If I could turn that around, I'd had hope for the rest of the place. Low and behold, I had it looking like new. Elbow grease and SOS pads to cut through the gunk. We can do this. I guess you could say, it became our first flip.

We returned in the morning, with Frank's mom, to begin packing. Frank also arranged for a dumpster and we planned to pack and move whatever was salvageable into my mother in law's storage shed. When the condo was empty, we'd paint and replace the carpeting. Once we got started, we didn't stop. I put in ten full days and nights. I'd get to the condo by 9AM and I'd stay until at least midnight. Frank was only going to stay a few days, but he kept rebooking his flight due to set backs.

Wednesday, we started the day shopping for carpet. It was tough to find a place that could install in a hurry. The big box stores and name brand places were no help. We found a hole in the wall place nearby, they had cheap carpet in stock that looked nice. An appointment to measure was set for the next day and we scheduled the install for the following Wednesday. With that, the deadline was established. The rest of the day we packed and loaded as much as we could ourselves. Our friend, Bill, loaned us his pick up truck. It made the process much easier.

Thursday, the dumpster arrived and real progress began to happen. We met the neighbor, Mike, during one of the numerous trips to the dumpster. He lives in AZ, but had been in town for a few weeks cleaning out his mom's place. She had passed suddenly too. He offered some rags and such that we took knowing we could use for cleaning or painting. The dumpster was full midday and we just kept adding to it. Lesson learned get the bigger dumpster. That evening, Frank enlisted the help of our friends from high school. The extra muscle allowed us to clear the condo of furniture in a hurry. After showering, we took our friends to Beggars for dinner. It was nice to catch up and relax.

Friday, Frank took the ride with me to pick up my dad. When we returned, we moved what was left, shopped, pulled toilets, patched holes and began to prep for paint. We grabbed dinner with friends, and planned to begin priming with Kilz after. Our friend, Dan, was coming by to lend a hand. Bill had also loaned us his painting supplies so it saved us a fortune. We returned to the condo to find the bathroom under a few inches of water and it was flooding the back bedrooms. The carpeting in the hallway was completely saturated. We couldn't stop the water, it just kept coming up from the shower. Snaking the line didn't have any success, it was well after hours, so we had no choice but to place an emergency call with Roto Rooter. There was a soft blockage in the main line. Very common these days with so-called flushable wipes, paper towels, etc. We sit on ground floor at the lowest elevation so we took the brunt of it. Joy. No amount of rags could dry this mess. Believe me, I tried.

I wish I could say I was stoic, and thankful, we were here to find it. But no, I lost it. Complete meltdown. The flood brought my anxiety to new heights. What if this happens after the new carpet is installed, when I'm back in Vegas, etc. Frank calmed me, he and Dan, took control of the situation. We borrowed fans and a shop vac from Bill. Not only are we fortunate to have him for a friend, but he also lives around the block and has better inventory in his garage than Menards. Which by the way, is the poorest excuse for a home improvement store. That place infuriated me on the daily. Life would have been much easier with a Lowes or Home Depot nearby, but I digress. Rather than painting, the evening was spent sucking up as much water from the carpet as possible. We left leaving the fans run all night.

By morning, it had not dried one bit. As the day went on, the smell of mildew grew stronger and stronger. Still, we pressed on. We had 5 gallons of Kilz on the walls. Thanks to the help of my Aunt Sandy. Trouble was that the walls were so parched they gulped the primer like a tall glass of water on a hot day. Worse, yet, the smoke stains kept bleeding through. We added coat after coat, Frank tried buying a sprayer to speed up the process but it was garbage. Brush and roller was the only way to get the coverage that was needed. That and 50 coats, maybe?

By Sunday, we had both new toilets installed and 10 gallons of Kilz on the walls. Progress, but there was still so much to be done. The paint fumes weren't enough to tackle the horrendous mildew stench that now overpowered any remnants of cigarette smoke. It was nauseating. We cut away and discarded the wettest sections of carpet to rid the odor and allow the concrete to dry. Midday I was exhausted and my hands were crippled. I came to the realization that I couldn't - we couldn't - possibly finish the job ourselves.

Frank found a guy on craigslist that could come Monday with a professional sprayer. He said he could knock out the unit in a day for a few hundred bucks. Originally, I was going to do the bathroom and kitchen myself, but ultimately, agreed to let him do it all. We stopped painting, and started prepping the condo to be sprayed. My dad's place has gorgeous oak trim, cabinets and doors throughout. Protecting the wood became my obsession. Much to Frank's dismay. But it was in perfect condition. I know oak isn't trendy anymore (give it a few years) but I believe in restoring the integrity of natural wood. It should only be painted when the condition is too poor to otherwise salvage. Deep down, I'm sure my obsessing over the wood work was my way to focus on the tasks at hand rather than dealing with the emotion of the whole experience. So, he humored me and we taped every linear foot. We covered the cabinets and doors in plastic. It was looking very much like a scene from Dexter.

The painter got right to it. There were still areas that needed covering so I fought to finish, but rather quickly the whole condo filled with paint in the air. I could feel the sting in my lungs. It was time to get out. I didn't get every surface covered. It is, what it is.

We camped outside, the lull allowed me to go through years of mail while I sat with Frank while he smoked a cigar in the shade near the dumpster. He had just a couple hours before his flight home, we said good-bye so he could clean up before his mom dropped him at the airport. He never got to see the finished product first hand, but I sent pictures each step of the way.

The painter did knock out the whole place in a day; he also, found the walls to be extremely thirsty. Said and done, there were 20 gallons of paint and Kilz primer on the walls. They were so saturated because there wasn't enough time for the paint to dry. The sprayer left drip marks - all over. There was overspray on the wood trim. The tile in the entry and bathroom were never protected so they were fully covered in paint.

I was devastated. The job was done, but not to my standards. I had taken such care and attention to the priming, and it was all for not. The walls and ceilings were clean and bright (though, in hindsight, I should've went with a much darker color than white) and we were nearly rid of the smell of smoke. Even the mildew smell took a backseat to the smell of paint. So, all is not lost. Sigh. It is, what it is. This became my mantra. I got a rag and bucket and got started immediately cleaning the trim, and later the tile. Fortunately, I had not yet cleaned the wood so the years of smoke and dust provided just enough grime to create a layer of protection. It was tedious and time consuming, but I had it looking like new. While I was crawling along the floor, I realized how wet the carpet still was in the bedrooms from the flood. I pulled up the carpet and piled it in the middle of the room to allow the concrete to dry.

The paint fumes were too strong when I arrived on Tuesday morning, I couldn't get anything done. While I let it air out, I visited an old friend from high school. She had a baby a few months earlier and I was eager to meet him. We had a nice visit and ordered Lou Malnati's. After, I shopped for window coverings, shower curtain and other necessities to finish the condo. When I got back, I ran into Mike the neighbor. We traded notes and commiserated with each other. Loss alone sucks, but this part, is really the pits. With Frank back in Vegas and his mom gone to KY, I was solo. Bill stopped by to look in on me & Mike would ask if I needed anything when he'd run errands. Thankfully, I didn't encounter anymore disasters. I tried to sand the wall to correct the drip marks and repaint but it was too long of a process and my time was up. The carpet installers were coming in the morning. I had to move on. It is, what is. Sigh.

Wednesday's lesson was that the cheapest price for carpet does not mean its the best. The carpet itself was fine, the color worked better than I imagined. It really tied everything together and the multicolor will hide dirt and traffic marks, which was really great for showings because once it's listed since no one will be there to maintain it. The installers were friendly, but lord were they slow. I figured they'd be done by lunch. I was wrong - it took 8 hours. And, they still had to come back the next day to finish the job. When they arrived they assumed there had been a fire in the unit, fresh paint, wet carpet that smelled of smoke and mildew. "Nope! Just a smoker and a flood", I replied.

That evening I could finally see the finish line. Things were really coming together, but I was falling apart. I was so torn. I was positively crushed that I was moving at such a rapid pace, but I was so proud of what I accomplished. It no longer looked like my dad's place. This fact was so horribly bitter sweet. I was determined to finish one room fully. Amy's seemed to be easiest, but there was one problem. Painters tape that her and Jeff put up more than ten years ago was still there. When I asked her why they never removed it after painting, she said, "it was too hard." Trust me when I say it was no easier all these years later. But my obsession with the trim wouldn't allow me to leave it. I persisted and eventually it was all gone.

The next day, I hung new sheers, vacuumed and one room was finally complete. Not a moment too soon, either. I had scheduled meetings with two realtors for Thursday. I knew I wanted the paint and carpet complete before I let anyone give me a market analysis - first impressions and all that, it had to be clean and smell good to get people through the door. I hoped to have the condo photo ready Thursday, but it wasn't. There was still much to be done. But I was comfortable letting the realtors see the place. It was time to find out what we were working with, and hopefully, all of our hard work was worthwhile. Both were impressed overall. Each had different suggestions to "finish" it like replacing dated light fixtures to painting the cabinets or gutting the bathroom. I valued their opinions, but I was done, I put all the time, money, blood, sweat and tears into it that I could manage. I ultimately decided to list with the agent the attorney recommended. She was familiar with the area, which was important to me because location was the condo's greatest selling point.

Meanwhile, I was down to my final 24 hours in Chicago. Months ago, I had booked Frank and I a trip to San Diego. I actually booked it twice. Because the Mayweather/McGregor fight was announced, and of course, it fell during our trip. I had to rebook to accommodate Frank having to work. Flights were booked on Spirit so I essentially paid for the flights twice for the change. It was important that I go - not just for the expense, hassle, but for my sanity. I had been through the ringer physically, mentally and emotionally since my uncle's call on the 8th of August. I need to get away. I needed rest. San Diego was the perfect distraction.

I was a bundle of nerves when I woke Friday. I think the lack of sleep was really wearing on me. My to do list seemed a mile long. My brother was back in town - I was terrified and thrilled to show him the condo. It was a major change since he left 11 days earlier. He had booked this trip in advance, he was going to visit a friend in MI and stay with my dad a night or two. I was lucky to have him, because I simply could not get it all done. My aunt came over to help, too. They were both shocked by the transformation. Time ticked by way too fast - much of my morning was wasted making returns and running all over trying to get keys made. There were just so many finishing touches. We made a great dent, but the floor in the laundry room was still covered in paint. Tools and whatnot were still scattered about. I hadn't hung the curtains for the patio slider. HOA requires window coverings, I asked Bill to come by and hang it. I didn't have the proper tools to even attempt it. I returned everything that was borrowed, said good-byes exchanged numbers with Mike, and got cleaned up before my brother took me to the airport. Tears welled up in my eyes as I closed the door for the final time behind me.




I was flying Spirit and only had my personal item. I also had to secure dad in my bag (now, there's a story for another time) with whatever else I could fit (photos and important docs). Mike tackled the rest of the to-do list, Bill hung the curtains, and my aunt came by for one last clean sweep before the Realtor scheduled the photographer.

And... That's how we flipped my dad's condo in ten days.

I could not be more thankful for the friends and family that went the extra mile for me. I could not have gotten so much done in so little time without their help. I'm forever grateful.

October 16, 2017

Then, There Were Three

Our family has weathered a number of storms. It's true, the past few have been the most difficult, but we've stuck together through it all. The bond the three of us share will carry us through the hardest times and propel us into the future of countless joys.

In the days that followed our dad's passing, we were exhausted and stunned. There was only one place to dull the numb. Johnson's Beach was calling us home. It's where we spent a number of summer days. Nearby, West Beach was far more popular. I went a couple times with my aunt and cousins, but our parents were never ones to follow a crowd. They always opted for the path less traveled. I have no doubt it is where I acquired my sense of adventure.

Growing up, my dad spent his summers at my grandparents home in Chesterton, IN. He spent many of days at the beaches that dot the shores of the Indiana Dunes State Park. He was most fond of Johnson's Beach and we too would develop a penchant for it.

The dunes were unlike anything I had ever seen. Far bigger than any hills I had known. I'd struggle to run up as high as I could before my feet would tire beneath me, then, I'd fall to the ground and roll to the bottom while trying to tighten my smile to keep from eating a mouthful of sand. I brush myself off and try again. Rinse and repeat.

I loved it most when storms were brewing up sizable waves. Big waves were my favorite. My best memory was in 1990, my brother and sister were small so they stayed behind with family. It was an incredibly humid day so we went to the beach. As the day went on the waves grew bigger and bigger. It was a struggle to swim to the sand bar like we would routinely do. The waves were so fierce in the afternoon we were easily turned into pretzels. It was positively fun. We splished and splashed having the best time. Mid afternoon the skies turned dark and electricity filled the air. Our wet hair stood on end. It remains one of the wildest sights I've seen to date. The ominous clouds signaled that it was time to go. We grabbed lunch at the Lure which was tradition. It was there were learned a tornado ripped through Plainfield, IL. It is the only F5 tornado that has struck the Chicagoland area. Watching the news coverage that night I recall feeling guilt that the storm delivered us the best of times, but the destruction was devastating for so many.

Returning to Johnson's Beach proved to be more challenging that anticipated. It had been about 18 or 19 years since I had been back. I took Frank one summer just before the 4th of July. After buying fireworks at the nearby stand, we had a spontaneous day at the beach. Mike and Amy had been more recently, but it had still been a few years. Our memory isn't as vivid and the trees and brush have certainly grown over time. We eventually found our way. The dunes aren't as big as I remember them - the bias likely comes from being surrounded by mountains these days - it seems the beach has eroded too. Having less shore made it far more crowded than I can ever recall it being. The water was calm as could be, and painfully cold, to me. Though, others didn't seem to mind.

That afternoon the three of us we sat in peace and reflected on the memories that were born here. Ones that will live on, and forever, be cherished.

October 11, 2017

3-0 VGK!

The night began with a poignant ceremony that struck a balance of solace and celebration. As each player was introduced they honored first responders from our community with an escort to the ice. The lights dimmed for 58 seconds of silence to honor the victims of the Route 91 shooting. Their names appeared in a golden glow on the ice. I doubt there was a dry eye in the arena. It was moving and inspirational. I knew this night would be one for the history books, but I never could have imagined such a somber start for our Knights. However, having the team, fans and the community join together for this inaugural season home opener was just what the city needed to begin to heal.

Once the puck hit the ice, it was game on! Two goals in the matter of minutes. It was nonstop action throughout the game. The energy in the arena was unparalleled. We'd go on to win 5-2 against the Coyotes, securing victory for our first three games. A first in NHL Expansion history.

It was a night I knew I had to be part of, and it did not disappoint.

There you have it. Vegas Golden Knights hockey has begun.

October 9, 2017

Two Months Ago

We were celebrating my sister's birthday a day early. She'd be working the actual day of, which she shares with my dad on August 9. I got the family together and we went to Shake Shack at the District for dinner. Afterwards, we headed back to my house to continue the celebration with cupcakes. Shortly, after we returned, my phone was buzzing. I had missed a call from my aunt that lives in Chicago. It was highly unusual for her to call, especially this late, as it was nearly 9PM PST. I immediately called back, my uncle answered - it is here, when my world begins to blur. Even, now, weeks later, it remains unclear.

My dad was found on the floor of his condo unconscious by his youngest of three sisters. She had went over to tell him that the family would be celebrating his birthday the next day at Bartolini's. It's a favorite of my dad's, they have delicious calzones. My dad doesn't have a home phone (he stopped paying the bill years ago). Not a big surprise, he never did like the telephone. Amy gave him a cell a couple years back that he'll turn on for special occasions. The only sure way to get a hold of my dad was to go to his house. He'd appear after a few taps on the window. However, this night, he did not. Even though his car was home. My aunt knew something was wrong and had the neighbor let her in. An ambulance was called immediately. He has had no insurance since he was laid off from his job in 2016, where he worked for 40 years. Without insurance, there was no choice in hospitals. He was brought to the hospital Mike and Amy were both born in. The hospital has since been renamed and had a shift in management after bankruptcy a few years back. I actually thought it closed completely, but I digress. My aunt left my dad's condo, and met my aunt and uncle at the emergency room. After a CT scan and preliminary tests they determined my dad was in renal failure and severely dehydrated. He was too weak for further testing so they weren't able to determine more. They moved him to ICU, my aunts (and uncle) left when they had him situated in a room.

After I hung up with my uncle. I had to explain the little I knew to my brother and sister. At least, we were all together. We immediately began searching for flights. Spirit had a red eye that left in two hours. We quickly decided to book Amy and I on that flight. Mike had just visited days earlier so he stayed behind to help with the kids. We quickly packed and made it to the airport with minimal time to spare. We opted for Starbucks at the gate rather than a beer, though, the latter was tempting. We were on edge. It wasn't that long ago we were left helpless traveling between hospitals in Pahrump and Las Vegas the day my mom died. And, when Frank's dad passed away, he died when I was mid-air. I was terrified my dad wouldn't make it through the night, and if he did, I was nervous about his condition. All I could do was replay the last time I saw him over and over again in my mind...

It was three week prior, I reluctantly dropped him off at the airport. He didn't want to go, but he insisted he had bills to pay. But he'd tend to his responsibilities and then return to us (in Las Vegas) long term. He asked that I mail him driving directions from his house to mine. I had printed them out and mailed them the very next day. I hadn't talked to him since, but planned to on his birthday - since his phone would be on, special occasion and all.

We didn't get a wink of sleep on the flight. We flew into O'Hare, I rented a car and then we drove to the south side. Thankfully, we were driving against the morning commuter traffic. Though, I was cursing the coin only tollbooth immediately outside the airport that forced me to activate the $15/day fee for the convenience of using the I-Pass. Such a racket!

Anyhow, we arrived at the ICU and we found my dad's room. He did not look well, but he was breathing... on his own. The nurse met with us to clarify medical history and update us on his status. Unfortunately, they hadn't learned much. He really needed an MRI, but he wasn't stable to perform the test. The CT Scan showed he had clear lungs. Amazing since he's been a lifelong smoker. But his organs did show signs of a possible metastatic cancer. His lab work showed excessively high levels of calcium. There was no sign of alcohol in his system, which indicated to me that he had been unconscious for a couple days. My dad was never without a beer or smoke for long. He was unresponsive with us at his side, his breathing was shallow, but otherwise he was fairly calm. I honestly thought he was sedated. When I learned he was not, I knew how dire the situation was. We were left helpless until the doctor showed to make his rounds.

My fears were validated when speaking to the doctor. Dialysis was the only treatment that could be started, but in order to do so, we'd have to agree to intubation. We knew this would be against my dad's wishes. Further, he hasn't been treated by a doctor in nearly 20 years, which would mean that dialysis would provide no quality of life he'd consider worth living. Even if we could reverse the renal failure, we still had the likelihood of terminal cancer to contend with. There was no winning this battle.

The silver lining of the loss of my mom is that it provided me the life experience of death. They teach us all about life in school, but they never mention death. It would be nice if death wasn't so taboo. After all, none of us are getting out alive. If you remove the emotion from death, the process of dying is rather fascinating. It's unfortunate that for most of us, we haven't a clue what to expect until we witness a loved one die. I was able to apply all that I learned two short years ago and be better prepared and more aware this time around. Starting with pain medication and followed by a DNR. Pain was all my dad responded to - talk about heart wrenching. My focus was to keep him comfortable, and alive. I could not have him die on his 61st and my sister's 28th birthday. It just wasn't fair for life to be that cruel.

Refusing dialysis meant that my dad would be moved from the ICU and placed into a patient room until hospice took over. A social worker provided pamphlets and we were given a couple hours to choose a facility, without insurance, we were given two self pay options: the first was that I could pay out of pocket and the second was that I could lien my dad's condo. Neither were acceptable. Without income, I was convinced he could apply for Medicaid. The social worker provided no assistance in applying. We took it upon ourselves. HIPPA laws made it extremely difficult. As I continuously reached dead end after dead end, I started to seek hospices that accepted charitable cases and/or medicaid. The pool of options was quite small. I jumped through hoops. Amy even left his side to obtain financials from his home. It crushes me that we were dealing with all of this during my dad's final days.

The day after my dad was moved from the ICU I requested bloodwork to check his kidney function. There was no improvement - the kidney specialist signed off on his care. The hospital kept pushing hospice. I refused to bankrupt myself or my dad by going the self pay route. He did not devote 40 years of his life to work to have it all vanish for what would likely be minutes, hours, but certainly no more than days of hospice. I had to find another way or at least exhaust all other options. All I wanted was for him to be as comfortable as possible and pass peacefully. The hospital staff kept discussing his discharge plan and spoke of moving him to a hospice facility or back to his home. I couldn't understand why they didn't see what I saw. He wasn't fit to be moved. I felt he would die in transit. He had already spent hours, or likely, days alone on the floor of his home. We were not leaving his side.

Mike flew out a day behind us, I had him fly into Midway since I was deliriously tired (having been up for 40 hours straight or something equally as ridiculous) and figured I'd be safer to drive on the abandoned Cicero Ave in the wee hours of the morning. We stopped at White Castle, he was hungry and I was parched. I paid a premium for my diet Coke thanks to the Cook County Sugar Tax (one cent/per ounce). I think it was there Mike and I started our running joke that, "if you want it sugar coated, it'll cost extra."

Another day and night went by with family visiting. The hospital urging for hospice, me fighting for medicaid and that night we had the first nurse that treated us like humans. She was the only one that extended compassion and kindness to us. She happened to manage the floor, so I voiced my complaints that had been otherwise ignored. She saw that the staff followed through, she also took pity on us and brought blankets and a reclining chair. Our encounter with her shifted things; our day nurse was also kind and helpful. Soon, we had water and a second recliner. Our needs paled in comparison to my dad's so we didn't ask for anything, but I was taken aback by how we were ignored. In all of the hospital stays with my mom, the staff always offered water, blankets, etc. I really thought it was just vastly different because everyone was so cold to us.

The kindness came when we needed it most since dad was showing signs that death was near. He opened his eyes and had brief lucidity allowing him to make eye contact and respond to sound. This stirred up hope, but I knew coupled with his change of color and coolness to his extremities - the end was near. Just as I suspected, his condition worsened. A fever followed and later broke, it came as surprise that he was still breathing at day break. I thought he'd surely pass overnight. When my brother and sister woke, I had to share my fear I'd been dwelling on. I worried that dad wouldn't let go with us hovering. He never was one to complain or admit discomfort. He'd always retire to bed without a word or leave without farewell. I felt our presence was prolonging the inevitable. We decided to have a final moment and then take a walk outside to let him be. I was just sick over it, but it felt selfish to stay.

We returned to the room with a pit in our stomachs. He was just as we left him fighting for each breath. It was all so much, Mike decided to go for a longer walk. Amy and I stayed by dad's side. Mike returned with tacos. An odd find at 9:30AM but we were happy to have it. Mid-taco, his nurse entered the room for vitals. Thus far, I had observed her to be clumsy and sluggish. I didn't pay her much attention when she fidgeted with faulty machines, I just kept a watchful eye over my dad to be sure she didn't cause discomfort. As she made her next attempt at vitals, a new doctor entered as he made his rounds. We were distracted by him. Again, he was pushing for hospice, but at this point, the ball was in the hospital's court. Since they didn't get back to me on Friday, we were left in limbo over the weekend. While I was arguing with him over transferring to hospice, the nurse continued to fidget with the machine. My sister looked over and shouted "you can't get a reading because he stopped breathing." I dead pan stared at the doctor in complete frustation and threw my hands in the air "I guess it's not an issue now, isn't it?" I raced to my dad's side. That was it. Three days after his 61st birthday he was gone. My dad probably had enough (he was never one for fuss) and saw the opportunity to slip out. Proving he was a master at the Irish Goodbye.

October 6, 2017


Still reeling from the death of my dad and the anniversary of my mom's passing, Sunday's attack has left me raw. I'm extremely fortunate that I don't personally know any victims. I cannot say the same for friends of friends or friends of coworkers. But having it occur miles from my home in the city I love, to have that monster in one of my favorite hotels, to have so many causalities on the grounds I've attended events... Needless to say, I'm shaken.

My brother is a huge fan of music and he attends concerts of all genres. He could have easily attended the show. If my mom was still alive there'd be a good chance they'd would've been in attendance. Just a week before the attack my brother and sister attended Life is Beautiful together. I immediately acknowledged how vulnerable they had been and then the Sheriff and MSM confirmed it. My heart sank.

The other night as I slept in my bed in the early morning hours with my windows open I awoke to gunfire. Frank was in the hot tub. I quickly texted him, "I heard gunshots!" He confirmed he heard it too. My heart raced. I paused for sirens. Meanwhile, Frank had already opened the police scanner app. Best we could tell it was a murder suicide. Though, it never made the news the next day.

I won't succumb to terror, but I admit being on edge. I was fearful of my own death since losing my parents. Not the actual event, but leaving those I love behind. Particularly, leaving my brother and sister without anyone to count on unconditionally. Nothing like becoming the matriarch to acknowledge your own mortality. I've since learned worse, yet, is being faced with the mortality of my loved ones. So many are facing just that. I ache for them.

I was eager to attend fan fest for the Golden Knights on Tuesday, but the event was understandably cancelled. This weekend marks the first public gatherings since the attack. Frank and I planned a quick getaway weeks ago. I needed an escape for my own well being. Now, I'm feeling a bit guilty I won't be in my city to show my support at First Friday or the unveiling of the Healing Garden or the number of other events planned for this weekend. I will, however, attend the home opener of the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday. I shall rally, then.

October 4, 2017

Love What Matters

I've never been prouder of my city than I was on Monday. Everyone found a way to pitch in whether it be by a small or grand gesture. It was truly remarkable. Donations for blood, goods and services where not only met, but exceeded far beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Love was all around and kindness spread like wildfire. It warmed the (broken) hearts of our community.

Even when stuck in traffic during the morning commute due to I-15's Tropicana exit being closed in both directions, drivers were calm and allowed others to merge freely. As much as I love Las Vegas, I typically cannot praise our habits on valley roads. However, on Monday, kindness was also felt on our roadways.

Local efforts continued yesterday, though, it felt more "business as usual". Life does go on, so that return to normalcy is not only what many crave, but it's a natural continuum. I still felt a great deal of pride in regards to our community, but it was difficult not to be tainted by national media or social media. The sensationalism and circus made me sick. I understand that we all seek answers. They will come in time. Admittedly, I'm a huge skeptic. I question everything, probably to a fault. But. Goodness people! Have some decency and patience. There will be infinite amount of time to criticize, point fingers and push agenda. For now, Can't we just take a moment?!

I wish the media would focus on the beauty of humanity. Showcase the heroics that were displayed after this tragedy unfolded without being clouded by ugliness and judgment. I know, I know, I'm dreaming. But if you'd prefer to find the light in this dark time, turn to Love What Matters on Facebook. These are the real stories. The ones that need to be heard.