Exhausted doesn't describe...
Wednesday was spent traveling to Michigan to do the one thing I dreaded most. But not without some light entertainment along the way. Such as airport security questions.
Option 1: Take off big stinky boot.
Option 2: Get felt up by large gender neutral security guard.
I don't like hard decisions before noon but I chose to remove the boot and got though there without incident. My checked bag must have looked suspicious though because it had a search notice inside when I got it. Airports are great for people watching because there are ALL types of people crammed into small spaces. Sometimes strangers decide to talk politics. The rednecks and old people in the waiting area were in a very heated political debate. There was some yelling and gesturing. Best part, they had the same opinion. Just stating the case differently. I love people.
I drove from Detroit to Stevensville in record time and stopped at Pizza Hut to see my buddy Chuck and my boy Ian. 2 birds, 1 stone.
By 7:30pm I was sitting at April's kitchen able taping pictures of Benji to a piece of poster board for his funeral. In all those pictures he was so happy and had a sparkle in his eye when he was with his girls. The way he looked at his daughter in those pictures somehow turned from beautiful to heart wrenching. Annabelle was running around the house finding little trinkets and pictures that her daddy gave her. As she excitedly described her favorite picture of her family, the picture she drew for her daddy after they found him, and the compass he used to find his way I realized that this little 7yr old is so much stronger than all of us.
|Showing off her artwork.|
|"I drew this for daddy because|
we liked to fly kites together"
My friend Mikey brought over some bubble wrap for stress relief. It cheered us up a bit.
|These 3 are like little carbon copies of each other.|
|2 pots. We mean business.|
Me and April have been going to the TA for years. The best conversations happen over questionable truck stop coffee and this was no exception. We held ourselves together and caught up on a couple years worth of coffee talks and discussed how to move forward. Around 3am we decided we can't solve all the questions in one night and I took her home.
Thursday was pretty busy.
First things first, find some warm clothes. Mom and Dad were out of town and she told me to help myself to warm clothes from her room. I checked the closet for a hoodie and just stood there for a moment.. no hoodies here... I am pretty sure this is the sweater and dress shirt closet. Not sure though. (Sorry mom)
|Dear Hoarders, ...|
|Return hoodies or else.|
Oh, here they are in the corner. Safely guarded by the sister of Chuckie...
After cautiously choosing something out of the pile I headed off to a coffee date with Aunt Jane. This woman is awesome. She went to church with us when we were kids and we reconnected years later through facebook. I don't remember everything that we talked about but it was great to catch up (for like 2 hours!)
|St. Joe Michigan lighthouse|
I stopped down at the pier to see the lake and take a couple quick pictures. My boot instantly filled with sand and it was chilly, so I didn't stay too long.
|What IS that thing|
|Chuckie's sister told me you took that hoodie...|
I went back to Mom and Dad's to relax for a bit before heading to the first visitation. Max was there pouting because Mom wasn't back yet. He kept me company anyway.
Visitation went as well as can be expected. If you were there and I didn't see or recognize you, I'm sorry. Everything was so surreal its sort of a blur. Lots of people came out though and I had the chance to meet so many people that I've heard stories about or were legends to Ben. That was pretty special. The family has a lot of support and Ben was very loved. That's for sure!
That night I was snuggling Belle into bed again and we were feeling a bit silly.
Belle: please stay with me tonight, I want you to sleep with me.
Me: I can't
Me: because your fingers are in my eyeballs.
I have no idea what I did on Thursday night but I am pretty sure that it involved very little sleep. If I hung out with you on Thursday after the visitation please let me know because that chunk seems to be missing. Perhaps I was just at April's house until 3am? I know I didn't drink all weekend so that's not it... Seriously. No. Idea.
Friday was hard. Deep Breath. Power Through.
I slept longer than I expected and got a late start. My sister Nikki made me coffee for breakfast and I headed out the door. I got up the hill (yup, they have hills) just in time for the afternoon train. Sighed and took a big swig of my apparently still scalding coffee. Spit that all over the place and realized this day wasn't going to be as easy as I hoped.
There were so many people there. They had to bring extra chairs in and it was still standing room only. Belle and April sat up front with Ben's family and I was in the back row with April's parents. I could see the girls in the front row and that image might be etched in my memory. Belle's head on April's shoulder. Seeing her whisper into her ear and point out the pictures up on the alter. The Pastor did a good job paraphrasing stories he'd heard at the visitation and talking to friends. He talked about Ben's favorite hobbies. Like hunting with his father in law (Ray), hiking with Annabelle, and playing guitar with everyone he possibly could. I made it though relatively well until they played his favorite song. (Everlong, by the Foo Fighters) Pretty sure everyone sort of lost it at that point. People had a chance to tell stories of how they met Ben and nearly everyone there played music with him at one point or had planned to. Ben had worked on everyone's car including mine, he helped anyone with any handyman job and even gave someone a house. Everyone chuckled at an impression of his laugh. (Belle said "why is everyone laughing, this isn't funny") He was always saying "Oi" something he picked up in Seattle. There was quite a bit of that too.
After the service we were outside talking and people asked me why I didn't stand up and say something. They figured I came all this way, I knew everyone there, and Belle is my god daughter... I just couldn't pull it together. And Ray (April's dad) head a grip on my arm, he couldn't pull it together either. I'll tell my story later, but its too long to add here. I looked over and Ms. Belle was wearing the mechanic shirt he got for her with her name on it. She is so beautiful!
|Belle straitening the trinkets and stones|
people left here
After everything was packed up I took April, Jason, and Belle and we headed out to the graveyard to visit Brian's grave. When Ben came here from Seattle 10years ago he brought his two best friends. Brian and Bert. Read about their time on the east coast HERE. Brian died a couple years ago and now Ben. Bert is not doing well but trying. Brian has the coolest handmade headstone I have EVER seen.
Another wave of people showed up here and we went down to Wecco Beach. Ben spent a LOT of time there playing guitar and goofing off when he was younger. Ben and Belle used to hike in the dunes together so she was pretty excited to go show me her favorite place to go with her dad. I couldn't go walk in the sand (Stupid boot) but I took some pictures anyway.
April, Belle, and Nikki
|My maid of honor and Loopy's best man, by the way.|
Not a bouey
|Seriously, best sandwich in the world!|
Suddenly we (I) were ravenous and desperately needed sandwiches from Baguette De France. Debbie (April's mom) came to get Belle and we headed to St. Joe. I had time to fill Jason (aka Stumpy) in on everything going on with Loopy. The job that sucked the life out of him for years and the job he'll be doing now. Those two have been best friends for 25 years and they have a lot of catching up to do. ACI has taken away SO much of his time that they haven't talked or seen eachother in about 5 years. Anyway, We grabbed Jason's car from the church, stopped in to see my parents who just got back in town and went to get some food.
I took Jason back to his car and April back to her house. I stopped in to say hi to Belle and Debbie. There were more people to see and stuff to do. I stopped to see Kevin and Ian. I was their babysitter when they were tiny babies and now they are college guys. (Yikes) After an hour or so my older brother Jeff texted to say he was at mom and dad's house. I headed back there to hang out and meet my nephew Ethan.
|Me and Shaggy. The one of me and Chuck didn't show up|
After they went to bed I went over to the Getaway to see my little brother who is the kareoke DJ there. After a whopping 10 min of listening to a drunk woman screaming in my face about who knows what I had to get out of there. I called Charlie and he met me over at 5 o'clock. We had summer school together back in the day and have stayed pretty close since then. He is moving to Boise Idaho next week so who knows when I'll see him again. On the way out around 2am I saw Shaggy. Another one of Loopy's good friends from WAY back in elementary school.
Around 3am Ethan woke up crying. I patiently waited for my mom to go get him.. That didn't happen so I got up to rescue him. He was pretty upset that Grandma didn't come to save him and wouldn't let me go. SO I got to bond with Ethan ALL night. He is a belligerent snuggler and was less than pleased that he didn't have his favorite blanket. Around 8am I brought him downstairs and went to bed. About 1 in the afternoon it was his nap time and he was back in the crib being sad, so I decided to give up on sleep.