Monday, December 31, 2012

My Wonderful Theia Amelia Kartchner

I was born in a hospital. I know, that's not a very remarkable statement for a man of my age born in an American city - even a small city. But it almost didn't happen. My dad had a bowling tournament that night, and of course asserted he wasn't going to go. After repeatedly reminding him that she had been through this five times before - and so what if this baby was already more than two weeks past the due date - mom insisted that no baby was coming that night, and shooed him out the door.

Of course minutes later her water broke.

Mom called the only available person in our family who could drive: My Theia Amelia. She couldn't have chosen a more adept speedster. To say Amelia Kartchner drove fast is like saying Mario Andretti was a pretty good racer.

Over the years, Theia liked to demonstrate just how fast she drove in order to get me from Midvale to LDS Hospital - 15 miles away and in a time before freeways. I always left the car thinking my birth may have actually been a miracle.

Theia Amelia passed on earlier this month. And although I was terribly saddened by it, I also admit it was a relief - to her and to my cousins. Just prior to when she left this world, I stopped off at Prophet Elias, lit a candle for her ("the expensive kind" as she'd say) and I knelt alone in the empty church and asked God to take Theia Amelia in death with the speed she had taken me to life.  I've never been so pained and thankful for a prayer to be answered so quickly.

I don't know if it was the role she played in my arrival, or my status as the youngest child in our family, but Theia Amelia and I always shared something special. To her I was the smartest, best looking, most polite, and best behaved child you'd ever meet - even when I wasn't...actually, especially when I wasn't. She believed in me.

When I was 13, my brother John and I drove to Boise for a long weekend. John and our cousin, David, spent their time doing what 90% of teenage boys do - chasing girl. I did what the remaining 10% of us did - hung out with our middle-aged aunt. Man, did those two get the short end of the stick that weekend!

My dad was curious how I was nearly $25 richer upon our return from Boise. I innocently informed him that I'd won the the track betting on the ponies with Theia Amelia! Somehow he wasn't at all reassured when I told him that after giving me a little seed money, Theia made it clear it was entirely up to me to win more or lose it all.

What really stands out about our time at the race track wasn't my wins, it was a loss. There was a horse - I only remember the colors were orange - who was guaranteed to come in dead last. But I told Theia I just had a feeling that horse would win. She convinced me the odds were too great and I shouldn't bet on him. When Theia returned from placing our bets, she had a surprise for me: a ticket for that horse to win. My horse ended up coming in second - and Theia kicked herself for not buying a "win-place-show" ticket. It didn't matter to me, she had believed in me enough to place the bet.

I could write for pages about the adventures she and I shared: hunting for hidden fortunes in the old "hippie" house she and Uncle John had purchased as an investment property, sneaking off to get freezes that froze our brains (and made us cackle with laughter every time), laughing so hard with each other we couldn't breath.

But when I think of my Theia Amelia one memory will always put a smile on my face: the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times we would sit next to each other on a couch, her arm around my shoulder or her hand patting my leg, and we'd just quietly talk. We'd talk about everything and nothing. It was just the two of us, and it was wonderful.

I chose to make this tribute to my amazing Amelia the last Who's Your Daddy Blog entry for 2012 because it marks the end of what has frankly been a stressful and trying year.  In just a few more hours we'll ring in 2013 - fresh with promise and possibilities.

So good bye to the old. Good bye to my sweet, sweet Theia Amelia. Thank you for the lessons you taught me, the fabulous times we shared together, and most of all for making sure I was born in a hospital...even if you almost sent me back to one too many times to count by showing me just how fast you drove that cold March night.

May your memory be eternal.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

I Remember Tony

Today is International AIDS Awareness Day.  It's a time when - in theory - we set aside a few moments to remember those we've lost to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

I came of age during a time when people with AIDS were shunned. Members of Utah's legislature actually suggested quarantining people with AIDS or HIV in camps. Pres. Ronald Reagan refused even to mention the disease until the end of his second term - long after millions around the world had been impacted.

One of those people was my friend Tony Leone. In the time I knew Tony, I never heard him utter an unkind word; I never entered or left a room without having to experience one of his famous bear hugs (even when he was literally withering away); and I never felt anything but good about myself when I was around him.

Today, with pharma cocktails and non-detectable viral loads, it's hard to imagine that AIDS cut down so many in the prime of their lives.  Let's not forget them.

I remember DJ.

I remember Chris.

And I will always, always remember Tony.