Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 8:32a.m. my mobile phone rang. When I looked down I thought “Aunt Marilyn, what does she want now?” (Sorry, Aunt Marilyn.) My family knows that from 7am to 7p.m. I’m focused on work and usually hit the IGNORE button on my phone when they call. Something told me to hit the ANSWER button. I’m glad I did.
“Your Uncle Joe passed away this morning.” she whispered so softly I could barely hear it.
“What? That’s not possible.” I responded with tears already streaming down my face. It was possible and it had happened. My life would never be the same.
Growing Up with Uncle Joe (on the ranch)
My Uncle Joe was like a dad to me. I spent my summers on the ranch playing in the pool as he trained the horses on the track that was directly alongside it. My Aunt Joan would bake brownies for my sister and I and I’d make sure to bring her fresh lemonade outside during the day. I’d help out feeding carrots to the horses in the front pastures.
Grape Nut and Fruit Loops Mornings
When I grew up and moved back to Chicago five years ago, realizing how cold it was here, I began spending months back on the ranch with them during the Winter. Christmases and New Year’s Day celebrations were spent alongside my Uncle Joe. Each morning I’d wake up to head to my c’office bouncing out of my wing of the ranch to say “Good morning, Grape Nut” to which he responded, “Good morning, Fruit Loops.” and off I’d go until supper time (2p.m.).
So you see, the call I got on Wednesday at 8:32a.m. broke my heart and shattered the world I’ve come to know and love. Who am I without my Grape Nut? I’m still his Fruit Loops, that’s who I am.
Uncle Joe’s 5 Life Lessons
- Do What You Love | Uncle Joe (aka Joseph W. Nero Sr.) was an International Award-Winning Harness Racer, Breeder, Driver and Trainer that, alongside his Standardbred beauty Fly Fly Solly took home the Invitational in IL, NJ and NY leaving behind a 43 year legacy in the world of Harness Racing.
- Love With All Your Heart | In each picture of him you can see the love and adoration he has for his wife, children, grandchildren, family – and of course his horses. He loved greatly.
- Family Comes First | One of twelve siblings, he was the father of six, grandfather to sixteen and great-grandfather to ten; most of all he smiled more than any man I’ve ever seen when one of his family members walked in the room.
- It’s Never Too Late to Start Over | My Aunt Joan and Uncle Joe were each other’s second spouses and on October 9th of this year they will be celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary; he in spirit and she in life. Now that’s a testimony to making marriage last, even if you have to find the right “one” the second time around.
- Never Give Up | Despite a close call two years ago and a tough disease, he smiled, laughed, loved and lived everyday to it’s fullest.
When you’re ready to throw in the towel on your career search or recent endeavor, take a lesson from Uncle Joe and think to yourself, life is truly a gift. Instead of giving up, go for a walk, take a deep breath and think of the lessons he has shared with all of us.
Goodbye Grape Nut; you’ve taken a piece of me with you yet you’ve given me so much more of you.