Thanksgiving Before

Mom, Grandma, Susie, Barney, and Dad

I wake up hung-over. The night before, I took my little brother Matt (home from Ohio University for Thanksgiving) out on the town. He didn’t realize the night before Thanksgiving was like a Perrysburg High School reunion, the bars of our small hometown overflowing with alumnus, all there to see each other, reminisce, and get irresponsibly spiffed.

I shower, drink some coffee. Around noon, Matt shows up at my tiny, one bedroom apartment that sits above a railroad tracks. I’ve lived there so long, I don’t even notice the noise disturbance or the way the glasses in my kitchen vibrate like tiny Christmas bells.

We open the first beer of the day: Winter White Ale from Bell’s Brewery up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. For some reason, we decide to watch Reanimator. I sneak a quick cigarette out my back window and scream and laugh when the dead cat comes back to life on my TV screen.

Soon, Mom calls and says she and Dad are heading over to Papa and Grandma’s on Walnut Street. Matt and I open another round of beers and pretend to bemoan family time, although you can tell by the way we both get sort of giddy, jumpy, that we can’t wait to get to Papa and Grandma’s—and not only for the snacks. I wash the smell of smoke from my hands and put on my winter coat.

The Schwind homestead is a big, brick house with lots of windows and towering trees in the front yard. Based on the cars in the crooked driveway (hell on high heels), Aunt Susie is already there and my parents, too. Uncle Barney might stop by for a quick bite, but he’s always so busy with friends and parties all over the Toledo area—a popular guy. We pass a row of plastic pink flamingoes to the side of their drive.

Matt and me

As always, the front door creaks when we walk in. The house is overly warm and smells of turkey and Papa’s cologne. And there he stands! Papa wears a thick corduroy shirt of deep red, khaki pants, and dress shoes. He always looks ready for church. He’s already mixing a pair of gin and tonics in tall glasses, painted tennis rackets on the side. After he gives us both a kiss (shouts, “Sara baby!”), he pulls two more glasses from the cupboard for Matt and me.

The women—Susie, Mom, and Grandma—somehow fit in the kitchen, as well, despite the lack of counter space. Susie has on an apron. My mom and grandma don’t seem concerned with their semi-dressy attire (fancy sweaters) as they sip their own cocktails and flit about from piles of potatoes to casseroles, shouting, “Did you check the turkey?” It won’t be ready for hours, but it seems imperative to constantly open the oven anyway.

Matt and I wander through the thin hallway that leads from the stifling heat of the kitchen, past the living room where in a month we’ll celebrate Christmas, and finally to the TV room, where my dad sits on a small, bedraggled couch with his Canadian beer and a handful of peanuts.

There’s a spread of food on a circular green table: salami wrapped pretzels, Papa’s famous nacho dip, sliced cheese and crackers, and a cornucopia of mixed nuts. I go right for the pretzels and find them a perfect complement to my gin and tonic. The three of us take our respective seats, not once settling down in Papa’s recliner—because he’ll be there soon enough to watch the game.

For the next two hours, I bounce back and forth from the kitchen to the TV room. I don’t cook; it’s never been expected of me, and I don’t mind. I’d rather watch football anyway. I make conversation with my little circle of family. We’re not ostentatious—no over pouring of cousins and spouses for Matt and me, yet to be found.

Uncle Barney does stop by. Despite the cold temperatures, he’s in a Buckeyes t-shirt, sweating. He travels with his own beer cooler and drinks two, three, in the span of about thirty seconds. As my father would say, he’s “cutting the dust.” Barney talks loudly, laughs with further volume, until I find solace in the repetitive nature of sports with my dad, brother, and grandpa.

We feast at 5:30. The turkey is golden brown. Papa carves it, of course; it’s his one defined responsibility—that and consummate bartender. Then, we dig in. By the time I’m done with my first plate, Aunt Susie hasn’t even sat down. She always has to make sure everything is perfect.

Mom and Dad
Mom and Dad

Matt, Dad, and me down three plates before Papa and Grandma have finished one. It’s a Schwind thing, the slow eating. It’s been an ongoing joke since Charlie Brown met Snoopy. My dad heads back to the TV room before everyone is finished, as does my brother. Waiting for Papa to finish dinner is like waiting for a slug to cross the finish line.

By the time we wrap up for the evening walk, the world outside glows in a moonlit shade of navy. We don winter coats, hats, scarves, and gloves. It gets cold so early in Ohio. We take the same path, as always: walk up Walnut Street, turn right on Indiana, and then left on Louisiana into the heart of downtown Perrysburg.

They lit the little Christmas trees up and down the strip that morning after the Thanksgiving parade. Already, shop fronts gleam with white lights and reindeer. We wander all the way to the statue of Commodore Perry. We glance at the muddy Maumee River. We cuddle close to stay warm and begin to celebrate, because the walk makes it official: Christmas time!

When we get back to the house on Walnut Street, the dishes are magically clean. Grandma never goes on our after-dinner walk, so I assume she did them. That or a secret clan of Italian elves she keeps hidden in the basement under the ping-pong table.

We return to the kitchen, decorated with paper turkeys and a fake flower arrangement. Together, we eat pumpkin and banana cream pies and drink coffee spiked with Bailey’s.

Uncle Barney heads home, following a sweaty, wet kiss to my cheek. The rest of the boys retire to the TV room where Papa promptly starts snoring in his reclining chair. Mom and Susie do the last bit of straightening up. The house still smells like turkey. It’s still too warm, which is why we start to doze off until Dad gives Mom the eye that clearly communicates he wants to go home.

Matt goes out to meet friends, and I head to my little apartment on the railroad tracks, rocked to sleep by my faithful trains, tummy full and wallowing in the beauty of tradition, that Thanksgiving many years ago.



Let’s go to Costco with an anxiety disorder!


When my husband asks me to go to Costco, I feel like I’m being punished for doing something terrible. Not terrible as in I shrunk his favorite shirt in the washer. Terrible as in, “Wench, you burnt my chest hair with a blowtorch! Now, get ye to Costco!”

I was hellbent against joining the place, despite several of our friends’ insistence that Costco is “The Happiest Place on Earth” (which is actually Disneyland, but I’ve never had the heart to tell them). Jake talked me into it, but even walking in to get our membership cards, I remember thinking, “Oh, so this is what evil looks like.”

See, there’s this famous story in my family about my mom at Christmas time at Meijer, a superstore in my hometown. She was overstimulated by the lights and the crowds and she couldn’t find my dad, so they had to call his name over the loudspeaker: “Dave Dobie, paging Dave Dobie; please come collect your crazy wife in produce.”

The lesson learned? Stay away from superstores, especially if, like me, you suffer from an anxiety disorder.

Costco wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for EVERYTHING ABOUT IT. I headed there today, post-workout, so I felt all limber and jovial until I reached obstacle one: The Parking Lot of Death. I don’t know if my fellow consumers are literally trying to kill me or if their cell phones are so far up their asses that they’re uncomfortable and can’t reach the brakes because they’re too busy screaming, “Please, get this cell phone out of my ass.”

Then, in order to enter the members-only champagne room (there isn’t really champagne; there should be champagne), you have to show your members-only card, which I’m sure makes other people feel really special but just makes me feel like I’m about to enter Auschwitz.

You have to get a cart, because everything at Costco is in bulk, because Jake and I obviously require 30 ROLLS OF TOILET PAPER AT ALL TIMES. The shoppers at Costco move like sea turtles following city lights. They’re slow, vacant, and probably, someday, a huge bird will swoop down and bite their heads off. (I bet Costco owns huge birds! They probably stock the huge palates of 30-roll TP!) It’s impossible to be efficient, because everyone moves around the floor-to-ceiling aisles, mystified by the free food samples that probably cause cancer.



Now, picture me: medium height, skinny, post-workout bandana, haunted look, and sallow cheeks. Picture me curling into a smaller and smaller ball on the top of my cart. I chew my lips. I stutter-step and try to breathe, but they apparently suck all the air out of Costco, and I CAN’T BREATHE! I have to hurry because if I don’t hurry I’ll die of asphyxiation, but I can’t hurry because the lady in size 20 jeans in front of me won’t decide if she wants fifty or one hundred pounds worth of hot dogs.

If you’re lucky enough to make it to the register, everything is almost all right. You pay, you smile, you run like hell for the door with all your toilet paper, but then, you have to pass the exit test where nice-looking ladies (who are probably vengeful dragons) check your tab and make sure you aren’t stealing anything. And then to The Parking Lot of Death!

By the time I’m back in my driver’s seat, my head is spinning and I’m thinking, “Why don’t I keep bourbon in my purse? I should totally keep bourbon in my purse.”

Costco is like hell with fluorescent lights and the smell of microwaveable food where the majority of its inhabitants are chubby and slow-moving. Maybe, just maybe, some of the customers never leave. They circle the aisles on auto-pilot. They forget their families, their names. They stay forever. They become Costco employees.


Grandma Goes Home


What do you do the morning after you lose someone you love? Even if that death was for the best, following months (years) of illness, suffering, and grief? We lost Grandma Schwind last night: the last remaining grandparent in my family, the matriarch. She left us at 7 PM. She navigated her way past the pain, the hospital bed, and all the other old, sick, and suffering at her nursing home to see Heaven and Papa and her beloved son, lost much too soon, Barney. Last night, Grandma went home.

It’s a relief really. Ten minutes prior to The Call from Ohio, I was having trouble eating. I was telling my husband how the wait was killing me. My chest ached with tears that would not fall, not until I felt Grandma’s absence. I’d been holding onto phantom pain for two days, ever since Grandma’s breathing changed, ever since she stopped eating. I hadn’t cried. The tears wouldn’t come. The saltwater simmered in my chest but would not boil, not until my mom called sobbing at 7 PM to say, “She’s gone.”

With those two words, tears came in earnest—sobs that shook my body as Jake held me until even the dogs came and wrapped us in their tail-wagging embrace. Jake said, “Some dogs can smell cancer. What makes you think they can’t smell when you’re upset?”

0011Leonilda Schwind was once a Macy’s sales clerk in New York City. Of Italian descent, she had that wicked foreign appeal; plus, she was gorgeous. I think my grandfather fell for her immediately when they met at that picnic in Central Park. They were married for sixty-six years before Papa died last October. They had four children, three grandchildren, and lots of great-grand dogs.

By the time Papa passed, he was one of the last of his friends still standing. Same with Grandma, and if the clouds rumble today, it’s because there is a huge party happening right now, above our heads. You might hear Frank Sinatra on a chilly breeze or maybe smell gin.

I don’t feel sad this morning. I’m sure, over the course of the day, there will be bouts of stark reality—the reality of death. It’s difficult, living so far away, when someone you love dies. It’s easy to pretend it isn’t real. A few months ago, even, there was a moment when I was on the phone with my mother, and I almost asked her to put Papa on the phone. I didn’t say the words, thank God; I hung up and stood there, shaking. And even years after my Uncle Barney’s death, I still have those moments when I think, “Oh, my GOD, he has to hear this …”

I know death is real. I know Grandma has gone home to her Lord, her family, her friends. I mourn the loss of the stubborn, funny, beautiful woman she was, not the bedridden sick person she became. There are so many memories, so many stories (too many to tell here). It’s a relief to know Grandma isn’t sick anymore. She’s probably in Heaven, her twenty-five-year-old New York self, glitzed up in the latest fashion (I picture a big hat) with her curly, black hair; big, shining eyes; and a smile that could light up all of Times Square. Papa is there, too, in his sailor uniform, his ears a little too big for his head. And Barney: thin and smoking cigarettes and laughing, laughing …

The older we get, the more people we know on the other side. Grandma might have had us here on Earth, but she had a crowd of revelers waiting for her arrival last night in Heaven. And of course, a kiss from Papa, and perhaps a quick, “What took you so long, Lee? I missed you.”



Screw You for Saying Life Sucks


I’ve had a lot of people tell me lately that life is not a bowl of cherries. I’m not sure what they’re trying to accomplish by the routing of this cliché. Is this supposed to make me feel better?

I was in Florida for a week, and I never wanted to come back to Phoenix. I wanted Jake to move to the beach with the dogs and me. Burn our house down. Forget about our jobs, our belongings. Become perpetual beach bums. I could bartend; he could fix and rent out bicycles. So long as we were near the sand, the water, and the lifestyle.

While there with my brilliant Aunt Susie, we scattered Grandpa Schwind’s ashes into the sea. She reminisced; he never missed a sunset when he was down on Longboat Key. He would wander to the beach at night and say, “Thank you, God.” He planned his whole day around it.

Saying goodbye to Papa.
Saying goodbye to Papa.
Susie and I had an amazing week together. We rode beach cruisers to visit the friendly peacocks down the street. We spent all day at the beach and saw two baby sharks. We drank Kryptonite cocktails at the Daiquiri Deck, and I ate enough oysters to kill a small child. I even took a long walk on the beach in the middle of a torrential rainstorm.

I came back to Phoenix, hoping to keep the “beach mindset,” and I failed immediately. Life got in the way. First, there was the aforementioned “chicken incident.” There was an overburden of work and the stress of trying to sell our house. There was a premenstrual emotional breakdown on Saturday. Finally, yesterday morning, a close friend of mine passed away.

The bowl of cherries comment came about when I admitted to someone I didn’t really want to live in Phoenix anymore. I want to move back east. I want to be near the ocean again, and the longing to do so is a resounding ache in my chest.

Then, David died yesterday, and a friend told me death was just part of life and that life isn’t easy and mortality is a bitch and blah blah blah—I don’t know if this kind of talk helps other people, but it only makes me angry.

beach picPeople telling me life is hard does not help. People giving advice only makes things worse. I need to channel the girl I was on the beach last week, walking in the rain with the tide on my toes. She was so blissfully happy, filled with joy. She was free.

My Grandpa Schwind would have wanted me to be that girl always, every day. David (who reminded me so much of Papa) would have wanted the same. In the past six months, I’ve said goodbye to both of them—such joyful, peaceful, kind men, who would never, ever say, “Life is not a bowl of cherries.”

I need to find the girl I was on the beach, but I need to remember these two important men I’ve lost, as well. We scattered Papa on the beach because now, he can watch the sunset every night. Every night, he can say “Thank you, God.” I am utterly lost, but I can’t buy into this bullshit about life not being fair, life being hard. The negativity will drown me.

I won’t listen. I won’t hear. I’m done being told to keep a stiff upper lip, to be strong. Another friend recently said I needed “joy and ease.” She wanted me to say it like a mantra: “joy and ease.” Okay, I can get behind that. Life might be hard, but it’s also a lot of fun. Screw anyone who says otherwise.


Why My Husband is Hot

Jake Bauer1
My husband is cut like Brad Pitt in Fight Club. He has honey brown eyes that melt women into puddles of lusty angst. He has a single dimple when he smiles, and he smiles a lot. He has an ass that Michelangelo would have sculpted into a fifty-foot statue. He has a voice that makes Jell-O quake. And those are his lesser attributes.

Jake married a girl with depression. He married a difficult wife, and yet, he makes adorable growling noises and kisses my neck until I laugh. He holds me when I cry. He tells me—no, he makes me believe—everything will be all right, because he will never leave me, never stop supporting me.

He volunteers at an organic farm, and I love when he comes home all sweaty and covered in dirt. He always kisses me and says he needs to shower, but I don’t let him because I want to hold him. He makes me proud to be his wife.

Jake is so funny, he could make Louis CK laugh and blush. It doesn’t matter if he’s having a bad day; he will drop everything to make someone else feel better. He does it with a smile—a joyous smile that’s wrought with happy wrinkles, from his mouth to his eyes.

He dances like a white Usher. We joke that it’s because his brother is gay, and his bro can dance, too. Jake dances with no ego. He doesn’t care if people think it’s funny that a straight guy just loves to dance. He also doesn’t care that people thinks he’s a nerd for loving bad eighties elevator music.

My husband lives with no inhibitions, no fear. He is the bravest, most honest person I know. He is immediately embarrassed if he gossips. He sees the best in people, and he has taught me to try to do the same. He has taught me so much: how to be comfortable with myself and how to believe I am beautiful.

My friends have a nickname for Jake: Mr. Hottie McHotterson, and it’s not just because he fills out a pair of jeans. It’s not just because he rolls up the sleeves on his button-down shirts to show off his ripped forearms. My friends think he’s hot because he makes them feel better when he’s around. He does that to everyone.

My husband should be on posters. He should be on billboards with his six-pack abs hanging out. But he should also be on posters that say “This is a real man. This is what every man should strive to be.” He is perfect within his imperfections—his sweet snoring, his messy cooking style, and his bed head, half-mohawk blond hair.

He is what I spent my life looking for, and that makes him hot. Hotter than the desert in July. Hotter than the love anyone deserves.

Jake Bauer 2


You Are a Broken Toy

Doll 2
Depression makes you feel like a broken toy. You once had use, but now, you’re forgotten, sprawled in the dust beneath a child’s bed. You can’t remember what it’s like to not be broken. You can’t imagine anyone fixing you.

So you lie there, tired, broken, and no one can reach you—not even mom’s feather duster.

Depression destroys you. It makes you forget how to work or how to eat. It makes you want to sleep but not cry. You are beyond crying. You feel nothing but a crushing pain in your chest. You feel nothing but aching muscles and the strange beat of your heart that seems louder in the silence.

It’s very quiet under the child’s bed. In the dust.

It’s not scary under here, not like the movies would have you think. There aren’t monsters under this bed—just you, the broken toy. You are in pieces. You can’t hurt anyone.

Depression is the bad thing you’re waiting for that never happens.

Depression is loss, but lost what?

Depression is the hope that this day will soon be over, because maybe you will wake up not so broken tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Maybe tomorrow, the child will find you under his bed. He will dust you off and sew you back together. He will play with you again and remind you what you’re here for.

You will remember how to work and eat and maybe even smile. Tomorrow.

For now, you lie in the dust and watch feet pass the foot of the child’s bed. You wonder: how do they do it? How do they go about their days? How do they keep their pieces together? When you are so broken.

You’re not even old! Barely played out! How did you end up in this dingy, under-bed place? How did you get here? But you don’t remember. One day, you were fine; the next, you weren’t.

Depression is the dark thing in your dreams, half remembered by morning.

Depression is the thief that takes and makes you forget how to give back.

Maybe you should rest now, sleep for a while, under the bed. Stop looking at other toys. Stop wondering how they stay together. Tomorrow. Tomorrow, you’ll be fixed again.


To be an Introvert

I attended a fantastic book signing at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe this weekend to see Ransom Riggs: a hilarious, talented young man who penned Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children as well as its newly released sequel, Hollow City. Ransom was sociable and clever, great at off-the-cuff jokes and comic tidbits. Meanwhile, I was a nervous wreck in my seat because there were too many people and the chairs were too close together.

Me at Ignite Phoenix, speaking in front of 900 people.
Me at Ignite Phoenix, speaking in front of 900 people.

I’ve fought for years to act the part of an extrovert. I do public speaking. I throw parties at my house. I come off as confident, outgoing, and a little eccentric. The truth: I’m painfully introverted, and it takes an awful lot of emotional energy to leave my house.

According to About.com’s Psychology page, “People who are introverted tend to be inward turning, or focused more on internal thoughts, feelings, and moods rather than seeking out external stimulation.” Introverted does not mean shy; it just means we’re happier in our own heads than in the center of a crowd.

Even the social butterfly can be an introvert, which is a perfect example of me. I am a social butterfly, but only for a certain amount of time. After awhile, I run out of words, and I literally need to get home before I have a panic attack.

The Huffington Post has an article entitled “23 Signs You’re Secretly an Introvert,” and it gave me a laugh. Among the listed items:

  • Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those people afterwards. (Can you say “Ignite Phoenix?”)
  • You screen all your calls—even from friends. (Guilty.)
  • You have a constantly running inner monologue. (The voices! The voices!)
  • You’re a writer. (Literally, this was on their list. No joke.)

I could go on, but you get the idea. As I said, I’ve fought to be an extrovert, because I admire people who are. Some of my best friends and social icons are extremely extroverted. They’re charmers. People like them, remember them. They love “doing things,” and I’ve wanted to be like that for years, but you know what? I’m thirty-one, and maybe I’m getting a little old to be someone else.

f4da910154a970b30270c93711ec96daSometimes, it sucks really knowing yourself, because you might not like what you find. For instance, I’m grumpy and unpleasant when I’m around people for too long. I’m horrible at returning voicemails because I hate talking on the phone. I’m in my head so much, I feel like I occasionally neglect my husband, my family, my friends … these are flaws. I don’t like them, but they are mine.

I once considered being an introvert a flaw, but no longer. It’s who I am. It’s who a lot of people are. I’d like to be like Ransom at Changing Hands. I’d like to be relaxed in a crowd and feed off the energy around me, but I can’t. And maybe I should stop trying.

The older I get, the more weird and introverted I become. Does this worry me? No. I’m just growing more comfortable with myself.

I am an introvert. I don’t want to go to that dinner theater performance because I’m terrified they might pull me on stage. I refuse to go on weekend trips with people I don’t know well, because I can’t be trapped in a hotel room with them. I know when to say “no,” but I say YES to introversion—because that’s who I am. Hear me roar … while sitting happily alone on the couch in my living room.


The Christmas Letter

The Dobie-Schwind-Bauer family in Ohio, 2011.
The Dobie-Schwind-Bauer family in Ohio, 2011.

This morning I received the yearly Christmas letter from the pastor at my church, and it came as a surprise because so far this year, I haven’t acknowledged the most heavily celebrated holiday on the Christian calendar.

In his letter, Pastor Bob enumerated the many things he loves about Christmas: the lights, the music, and the atmosphere of joy—and it’s all true; just ask my neighbors. They’ve had their Christmas lights up since November 29th.

Usually, on December 1st, I’m ready for the holiday season, too. By December 1st, I finally allow for tinsel and 99.9 FM (the Christmas station). This year, something is different, and I’m not entirely sure what.

Is it Grandpa being gone? He was the ultimate lover of Christmas and Frank Sinatra’s “The Christmas Waltz.” He was our patriarch, and this is our first Christmas without him.

Perhaps because of this, I’ve been oddly emotional. While shopping for tree trimmings at Michael’s, for instance, I told Jake, “I gotta get out of here” and started crying as soon as we stepped outside. The next night, my husband (who is not into holidays) was the one who dragged out our fake Christmas tree.

I don’t feel giggly inside. I don’t feel joyful. I don’t believe Santa Claus is coming to town, and let’s not forget: my parents arrived last night. Yes, this will be the first time I’m not in Ohio to celebrate Christmas, but the grief people at Hospice say this is good. After a death in the family, you’re supposed to change up the holidays so the absence of a loved one isn’t quite as obvious. Yet, even with the arrival of mummy and daddy, I still don’t feel like decorating or singing carols or baking cookies.

But this morning, Pastor Bob’s Christmas letter was a revelation, because along with not thinking about Christmas, I also haven’t thought about Jesus.

From Pastor Bob’s letter: “My prayer for you is that as your scurry about with many and varied preparations for Christmas … the real meaning and message of Christ’s birth will not be lost. Pause and remember the message of Christmas is simply this: ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.’”

This holiday season may be tougher than most. My family will be separated into east and west coasts. I’ll be in the sunny desert when I really want snow. We’ll all be without Papa, and that will be hard. But Christmas isn’t about the decorations, the presents, or Frank Sinatra. Christmas is about a baby born in a manger—and it’s time I remembered.


Entertainment in AZ · Television · Uncategorized

Giffing Out

Kmart recently launched a new ad campaign for Christmas that features two happy shoppers “giffing out.” I know what you’re thinking: Kmart still exists? If you’re not thinking that, you’re thinking: What the hell is a gif? Well. Let me introduce you to one of my favorite time wasters.


A “gif” is an image format. Unlike the boring “jpeg,” a gif format supports animation. Basically, you can turn any video into a repeating image that repeats and repeats and honestly grows funnier the more it repeats.


Who has time to turn videos into gif files? I have no idea, although I often wonder because they show up so fast. You see something funny on the news? It’s probably a gif before the show even reaches your TV. I mean, these people are fast—like, faster than a Cumberbitch with a camera at The Hobbit premiere.


For me, gifs exist to make me laugh—and they do, often. And who doesn’t need a laugh, right? I’m not a computer nerd, but I did laugh at the new Kmart commercials. I say bravo to them for being hip with computer folk.


True, there are those who think the “giffing out” commercials are immature–but laughing at gifs is immature, so the advertising makes perfect sense.


Thanks honestly to all the insane fangirls, comics, and internet-obsessed who give me the gift of gif. Merry Christmas to me!



In Memory of Barney Schwind

Barney Schwind is dead: the man known across the Toledo area as “The TV Repair Man.” He wasn’t known to me as that. I called him “Papa.”

Saturday night, October 5, Papa passed on. For years, we watched him lose weight, lose his appetite. We watched him physically shrink, the man he used to be shed like clothing on the floor. Yet, despite old age and dementia, he was still Papa, who loved gin and tonics, always had Tic Tacs in his pocket, and did magic tricks with pieces of tissue paper.

Barney Schwind and Sara Dobie BauerPapa never lost his spark. He still yelled, “Sara, baby!” every time I called the house. He still made bad jokes, and I still laughed. He still jokingly held blankets to the side of his face every Christmas and sucked his thumb like a little kid. Despite the dwindling physicality—the mind that forgot my husband’s name—he was still Papa. And we didn’t love him any less.

He’s gone now. He died Saturday night after a huge, Papa yawn. We, as family, are left with many memories of this great man who wore gold chain necklaces on the beaches of Long Boat Key; who visited the Jagermeister tent at the German American Fest to hit on chicks; and who kissed me on the cheek each time I arrived and left his house on Walnut Street.

My family has lost our patriarch; my grandmother has lost her husband. Perrysburg, you’ve lost Barney Schwind. You were lucky to have him for so long.

Papa taught me how to be an optimist every day. He taught me how to have a smile for everyone. He taught me how to love unconditionally—and love eternally. He will be greatly missed … but in a way, I feel like he’s still here, giving me a big Papa hug and telling me he’ll always be close.

(Thanks to the Perrysburg Messenger Journal.)