When you lose someone you love, a part of you is always searching for their soul. When you lose a bunch of people you know, you wonder how big the party is they are throwing in heaven and do they have a Pac-man game? After my Aunt Ann died, we would find bits and pieces or a reminder of her somewhere. My dad always said if he could come back and let us know whether or not Heaven lived up to the hype, he would. If he couldn't, he would at least send a sign. After that, every time there was something that reminded us of Ann, my Aunt Kathy would say- Oh my God- It's a SIGN. In my family, we believe in guardian angels. That's probably because we have so many. It's comforting to carry their memory with you. Sometimes it's a picture, or a song or something significant to that person that makes you think of them- but you can't drop a hat in my family without it being a sign.
My brother Bob was a great kid. I wouldn't have said that 20 years ago, but then again I was probably recovering from some prank he pulled on me. We spent the better part of our childhood seeing who could hit the other one harder(me), burp louder(me) and ride faster(him). Of course, there came a time that he got tired of holding back and stopped following the advice to never hit a girl, but I had been pushing his buttons for years and "shoulda seen that one coming" as dad put it.
When we were little, there weren't McDonald's on every corner. Going out to eat was a rare treat. We grew up on a little street in Toledo, Ohio called Longport Dr. We lived there with a collection of families that were some of the best you could find. The kids were all the same ages, we all had similar beliefs and everyone was pretty poor so the best solution was to get a keg and hang out by a bonfire. But every now and then we would get together at Little Ceasars- which was a sit down joint at the time- grab a few pizzas and a couple pitchers of sodas and beer and have a good time. There was a single Pac-Man game against the wall and there were usually about 8-10 of us kids vying for a turn. The person playing would get the chair of honor since none of us was tall enough to reach the joystick on our own. I hated playing while people hovered over my shoulder, so I usually waited until the crowd died down- but not Bob. He would get in the zone and play Pac-Man until someone pulled him away. He wasn't intensely competitive, but there was something driving him to get his name to the top. I was always jealous because instead of his initials- he could put in his whole name BOB. Of course, mind you I was probably 5 at the time and EVERYONE called me Jenny. Everyone- I didn't become Jen until much later, so it didn't even occur to me. Bob played fiercely- but I'm pretty sure there was an employee there who spent every waking minute playing as well- because the high score was unattainable. He walked away in the top 3, but disappointed.
Later that year, we ventured to the upper peninsula of Michigan. It was late one night and it was a spur of the moment trip. As we drove through the night, mom and Bob slept and I watched the headlights illuminate a tunnel of falling snow. It looked like it was snowing sideways and I was relieved when we finally reached the little Inn where we were going to stay. The next afternoon we bundled up in our snow gear and trekked to the local pizza joint. They had 2 games, Centipede and Pac-man. It was perfect. Mom and dad could sit for hours and we were entertained. Centipede was totally more my style and so Bob and I never fought over the machines. I remember running to the machine with a fistful of quarters. Looking back, we must have spent a small fortune on those arcade games- but looking back as a parent, that fortune was probably well spent for the hours of quiet given to my parents. I remember being mid game and hearing Bob's familiar cackle. It's the same goofy giggle my son has and it tugs on my heart to this day. He started jumping up and down. He had done it- he had gotten the high score. You never saw a happier little boy.
A few days ago I was thinking about putting together some stories and pictures for the kids of their uncle and their grandpa. Just because they can't meet them, doesn't mean they can't get to know them. I sent an email out to some friends and family, asking for their stories as well. My cousin called my aunt who later called to tell me all the signs she had since she received the call. We chatted briefly and she had to get back to work. The girls were quietly watching a movie and so I logged on to the computer and there it was....The Pac-Man Google. I could be mistaking coincidences here for fate....or it could just be a sign.