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When we were little, Bart and I loved Star Wars.  I'm just old enough to have seen A New Hope in the theater, though definitely during a re-release (probably 1978 or 1979).  Our dad is a fan of science fiction, so we saw all three of the originals almost as soon as they hit the theater.

When we got cable tv in the early eighties, any time Star Wars was on HBO, we watched it.  We had, get this, an audio tape of A New Hope that we used to listen to all the time.  We played Battleship, we listened to the tape.  We played legos, we listened to the tape.  We had that thing memorized and would say the lines along with the characters.

As adults, we were excited when Lucas Films decided to do Episodes I-III.  We were disappointed when they sucked so badly.  We were excited when they re-released the remastered with additional scenes episodes IV-VI.  We were shocked and annoyed when Lucas sold the franchise to Disney, but excited when Disney announced the new episode would arrive in theaters in December 2015.

It was not long after that announcement that Bart was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer.  He died in April 2015.

He didn't get to see The Force Awakens.

There are a lot of things I hate about cancer, but one of the things that I hate the most is that Bart won't get to see episodes VII-IX.  That probably seems like a strange thing to hate about cancer, but if you knew Bart (and some of you reading this do), you know how much he loved Star Wars.

Several years ago, he bought like 5000 pieces of Legos off of eBay (because he also loved Legos, and he really loved Lego Star Wars).  Probably a good 200 of those pieces were Stormtroopers, several Darth Vaders, and a few other characters.  I remember the Stormtroopers in particular because 1. he thought the Stormtroopers were the coolest anyway, and 2. I actually built a Lego Stormtrooper honor guard for his memorial service.

In case you doubt me:

Note the Stormtrooper T-shirt and the Star Wars Lego set.


When December 2015 came and The Force Awakens released, we were all pretty excited to see it.  Jeff, Liam, and I saw it a few days after it was released, and then the three of us went to see it with my parents a few days after Christmas.  While we enjoyed it, we were definitely somber as we left the theater.  No one said it, but we were all thinking about the missing person in our midst.

When Carrie Fisher died last year, I cried.  The Princess, the General, was gone.  I knew then that I would probably cry during episode VIII.  I told several people I would be taking plenty of tissues with me.

Last night, Jeff , Liam, and I went to see The Last Jedi.  I was very excited and prepared with paper napkins from the lobby.  I didn't know when the tears would start, but I knew they would at some point.

And then:

Excitement mixed with sorrow is a weird feeling.  It took all of three seconds for tears to run down my face.  Happy tears because here it finally is!  Sad tears with the (overdramatic but legit) thought that "I'm watching this for my brother."  More tears when the third sentence of the opening crawl began with "Only General Organa..."

I think I quit crying about two minutes into the film, but it wasn't the last time. There is a certain scene with Luke Skywalker that immediately made me wonder what Bart would have thought.  If I had to guess, it would have involved a jaw drop and use of the word "fuck."

I miss not being able to talk to Bart about the new movies.  I wish I could talk to him about Poe and Rey, Han Solo's death, the theories that Ben Solo and Rey were actually twins, how Carrie Fisher's death might affect the last film, the lack of Luke Skywalker in The Force Awakens, what The Last Jedi might lead into for Episode IX, and so many other things.

There are so many things I miss because Bart is gone, but I miss him most acutely when a new Star Wars movie comes out.

Yesterday was Memorial Day.  It was also, technically, Day 3 of Liam's summer vacation, though he insisted it was only DAY 1! because the previous two days were the weekend.

The past three days, Liam has told me he's bored more times than I can count.  There are 101 more days of summer vacation, and I'm really starting to dread them.

Are you familiar with Phineas and Ferb?  If not, the theme song to this (TOTALLY AWESOME!!!!) Disney cartoon will introduce you to the general plot:

Here are the lyrics in case you need them:

There's 104 days of summer vacation
And school comes along just to end it
So the annual problem for our generation
Is finding a good way to spend it

Like maybe...
Building a rocket
Or fighting a mummy
Or climbing up the Eiffel Tower

Discovering something that doesn't exist (Hey!)
Or giving a monkey a shower

Surfing tidal waves
Creating nanobots
Or locating Frankenstein's brain (It's over here!)

Finding a dodo bird
Painting a continent
Or driving your sister insane (Phineas!)

As you can see
There's a whole lot of stuff to do
Before school starts this fall (Come on Perry)

So stick with us 'cause Phineas and Ferb
Are gonna do it all
So stick with us 'cause Phineas and Ferb are
Gonna do it all!
(Mom! Phineas and Ferb are making a title sequence!!)

The problem is that most kids aren't Phineas and Ferb.  I wasn't, and I was a kid in the land before time (AKA no internet.  My GOD, what did we DO before then?!).  Even so, I managed to keep myself contentedly relaxed and bored by entertaining myself.

Do kids not entertain themselves anymore, or is it just my kid?

Last night, Liam and Jeff went for a hike with the Boy Scouts, and I had three hours all to myself. Most of which I spent on Pinterest  frantically looking at ways to keep a pre-teen busy during summer vacation.  Judging by the lists I saw on Pinterest, my kid isn't the only one who doesn't entertain himself when faced with NO SCREEN TIME. (Gasp!  What kind of mother AM I?!?!?)

The good news is that I have a tentative plan now from last night's research, one that doesn't include me being Head of Liam's Personal Entertainment Committee.  (I know, I know, I should have been thinking about this long before last night, but I didn't wait until the middle of July.  Point to me.)  I'm thinking: library once a week; reading time every day from all of the books he checked out; swimming (maybe every week); working on his blog (maybe book reviews of all the books he's reading?); filling up the Netflix queue with some good movies for a quiet afternoon; STEM apps on the iPad; begin to learn a new language on Duolingo; and other possibilities. (as you can see there's a whole lot of stuff to do before school starts this fall....)

Now you tell me:  what do you do to not be your child(ren)'s personal entertainment committee during the summer?

As an added bonus, here is the extended version of the Phineas and Ferb theme song.  Because it's fun.




First: mom, dad, and Christina, please don't read this.  I don't want to upset you more today than you already probably are.

Second, to the rest of you, an apology.

Different people have different ways of grieving and remembering the people they've lost.  Mine is writing, and sometimes I feel like when I write stuff like this, I become a bit of a drama queen.  I don't know if that's accurate, but it's how I feel about my writing at times.

If this upsets you, I'm sorry.


April 6, 2016

Dear Bart,

I don't have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times I've wanted to text you with something funny or call you about what happened in Star Wars or tell you -- again -- what a dumbass you are (sister's prerogative).

Elli is four now.  She decided last year that on her fourth birthday she would turn into a big girl and wouldn't be afraid of bugs anymore.  Shortly after that, she started pre-school and piano lessons, and she loves both.  She does her piano homework every day.  When she wants to talk to you, she looks up to the night sky and talks to the moon and stars.

Alex turned one two weeks after you died.  He started walking and now he loves to run.  And climb.  There are lots of pictures of him climbing on chairs and standing on the kitchen table.  It usually involves food.  He laughs all the time, unless someone pisses him off and then he says "HEY!"  He's almost the spitting image of you when you were his age.  Christina has shown him your picture enough times that now when he sees a picture of you he says "Dad!"

It's really shitty that your kids have to grow up without you, especially because you're a great dad and you love them so much.

We celebrated your birthday with a cook out and presents for Elli, Alex, and Liam.  Legos, which we put together in your memory.

In the fall, the crew at Volition planted a tree in your memory.

For a guy who said he hated people, you sure have a lot of friends.  Hundreds of people came to your memorial service and told us how good of a friend you'd been to them and how highly they think of you.  Your friends miss you and talk about you when they feel up to it.

Mom, dad, Christina, Jeff, and I talk about you too, as often as we can.  I like to tell them about stuff you did when were little, and because I'm the big sister, some of it's not so flattering.  And because I'm the big sister, I don't care.

I remember the day you were born, and I remember the day you died.  I've done a lot of remembering in the past year.  All of us have.  Our lives are now divided up into "before Bart died" and "after that."

I've lost track of the times I've said "Fuck cancer" or written "fuck cancer" or thought how unfair it is that cancer fucked with our family and continues to do so to other people.

But mostly I try to remember you when you were healthy.  How you used to make all of us laugh.  When you texted me a video of Elli singing happy birthday to Alex, even though it was for my birthday and you told her to tell me a happy birthday too. (I still have that video on my phone)  How Jeff used to catch you reneging in euchre when we were in high school.  The time you shaved your hair into a mohawk.  (I still have that picture somewhere)  How we used to play slap jack when we were little and that it usually ended up in us just slapping each other's hands for fun.  How you spent one whole summer holed up in your room listening to ZZ Top and the Top Gun Soundtrack.  How we used to listen to the audio tape of Star Wars while we played battleship or legos in your room.  The time the puppy peed on your rug, and I laughed while you scowled at me and the dog.  Playing with play-doh and eating dad's pizza eggs on Saturdays.

So yeah, I miss you and I'm still grieving (we all are, we probably will be for the rest of our lives), but I'm so glad that I got to be your big sister.  I wish we'd had more time.  I promise that I'll take care of mom, dad, Christina, Elli, and Alex.  I promise to keep talking to Liam about Uncle Bart, and laughing with Jeff about the stupid things the three of us used to do together.

I hope that wherever you are, there are lots and lots of legos.