Josh and I are only 18 months apart, and we’ve always been close. I used to boss him around and force him to be my obedient student while we played school. Sometimes we’d build elaborate Lego lands. Our backyard was the place of many adventures. We had an old rope hammock, and I’d pretend it was a giant spiderweb and that I was a damsel in distress, helplessly entangled in it. Josh always came to the rescue.
He still does. He always shows up to help, to listen, or to make you laugh.
Josh is a big sports guy. He works in the sports industry. He can spout out sports stats like a stock ticker. He’s fiercely competitive. He’s also fiercely loyal. He will defend a family member or friend with the tenacity of Tiger Woods. He’s a team player, too. Josh has always been someone who thinks more of others than himself. That’s actually how this blog post came to be. He saw I was feeling burned out, so he stepped up to the plate (enough of the sports analogies, Katie) and sent me an email with this guest post. (I didn’t even have to pay him
too much to say how wonderful we all are.
So, I’m sitting here at 12:45 in the morning. This is pretty routine for me. Sleep has never been something I look forward to or have enjoyed. It always made me feel as though I was missing something. It’s also been the time when I would really start to think about everything in life. Death has always been something I’ve been afraid of, and sleepy time is when it’s on my mind the most. However, thanks to a re-dedication to faith and a wonderful family, I’m slowly overcoming my fear.
After I graduated from high school and moved off to college, I admit church was something that was often far from my mind. I always seemed to have something better to do on Sundays. In the last year or so I’ve really dedicated myself to trying to go to Mass every Sunday. I now know the pastor at my parent’s church. I also have gotten to know many of the people at my sister’s church. See, I’m a floater in a sense. I live just about right in between my parents and my sister, so I go to Mass with both of them. Often I tag along with my sister to help with the little ones when my brother-in-law has to work. I’ve become Madeline and Rachel’s Children’s Liturgy chaperone. It brightens my morning to see little Madeline raising her hand to answer the questions during the Gospel discussion. But my favorite part comes when all the children share their intentions for the Mass aloud. Madeline almost brings me to tears every week (we Pankows are an emotional lot). Most of the kids ask us to pray for a parent who has a cold or a pet that’s died. Not Miss Madeline. I’ll never forget when she asked us to pray for her mommy’s friend who “lost her baby in her stomach.” Now call me crazy, but that was something I would never expect a 4-and-a-half-year-old to belt out in front of a bunch of strange people. Not that I’m biased or anything being her godfather and all.
I’m not too biased about my parental units either. Thursdays are my weekly volleyball night at my parents’ church. I’ve been attending this for nearly four years now. Sadly, my mom can’t join me right now. As many of you read about on my sister’s blog, she recently had back surgery. I’m praying she’s able to return to the court within a few months. It’s just not the same without her. But I still swing by my parents’ house every Thursday before I head to volleyball. Today I stopped by and ate some pizza with them. Then we sat and watched two episodes of Jeopardy. The bad news is it was the Tournament of Champions, and I felt like a total moron. It has become somewhat of a tradition to watch Jeopardy with my mom. Even though I rarely know any of the answers (or am quick enough to blurt them out before the brainy contestants) other than in the categories of sports and movies, it’s still a blast. The greatest thing about it is just spending time with my parents. I think I’m one of the only 28 year old guys who enjoys sitting and watching Jeopardy with his parents as much as heading downtown with his pals. I feel like my mom and dad are two of my best friends.
In addition to my mom and dad, I’ve been blessed with wonderful siblings. I’m super close with both my brother and my sister. They both mean the world to me. I love chatting with my sister during one of her walks around the neighborhood. I always get to hear the great stories about her mail carrier delivering the wrong mail. Or the crazy things her kids said today. My recent favorite was when Madeline told her that Rachel had “un-concentrated her.” The first thing that came to my mind was orange juice, that Madeline is now of the “unconcentrated” variety.
My conversations with my brother are much different. We usually dive into sports or movies. We just had a our annual Fantasy Football Draft, and we’re constantly chatting about the strengths and weaknesses of our teams. But it’s not really the topics of conversation that matter whether I’m talking with my brother or sister. It’s the fact that I have two great friends who I can talk to about anything – including relationships with girls. In fact, my relationships with my family members has actually caused some problems in my dating life. See, I didn’t realize that all families aren’t as close as mine. Some girls I’ve dated found it intimidating that I spent so much time with my family. Maybe they felt as if they had to compete with my family. To me, it will never be a competition. Anyone who wants to be a part of my life is going to be a part of our family. If this is too intimidating for friend or girlfriend or if it means I’m going to be single, than so be it. I can live with that.
Now I didn’t think I’d ever say that. I used to be very afraid of being single for the rest of my life. It used to be right up there with death. However, while death still scares me from time to time (I’m working on it), being single does not. I’m not saying I wouldn’t give my left arm to meet the love of my life. But I’ve come to realize that life will go on.
One thing that has made this easier is having my nieces so close. I’ve always wanted a family of my own. For right now I have to settle for my sister’s kids. And I must say that settling is hardly what I’m doing. Her and her husband, Dave, have three of the most amazing kids in the world. I was lucky enough to take Madeline on a “date” a few months ago. We went to Moe’s and then to see the movie Up. It’s pretty safe to say that the pleasure was all mine. Life is so much richer getting to see those little munchkins. As Madeline’s godfather, I hope that I can help her in her growth as a Christian.
I realize I’m very fortunate to have them live so close. I often go to their house on weeknights to have a game night with Dave. We stay up way too late playing board, card and other types of games. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Dave more and more over the years. I had never really been that excited about having a future brother-in-law. However, now that I have Dave, I can’t imagine not having one. He’s truly been a great addition to the family.
It’s now approaching 1:30 a.m., and I’m starting to consider going to bed. It’s good to fall asleep these days. I don’t have to worry as much about being afraid of death or being alone anymore. Having a stronger faith and an amazing family has allowed me to rest easy every night – even if it’s only for a handful of hours.