The Hardest Thing I’ve Had To Write

David Everett Osborn, 54, of Silvis, died Saturday, Nov. 29, 2008, at Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, Ill., after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer.
His visitation will be 3-8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 3, at Christ the King Catholic Church, Moline, with services at 10 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 4. The Rev. Don Levitt will officiate. Cremation rites will be accorded. He will be inurned at St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, East Moline, at a later date. Sullivan-Phillips Mortuary, East Moline, is handling arrangements.
Dave was born Sept. 8, 1954, in Moline, to Everett and Rita Besser Osborn. He married Margaret Fitzgibbon on June 11, 1983, in Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Rock Island. This July they celebrated their 25th anniversary. They adopted their two children in January and October of 1988.
Dave was a driving force in his work as an assistant state’s attorney at the Rock Island County Courthouse for 29 years. In that time he prosecuted innumerable cases and took on the responsibility of updating the office on changes to the criminal law as well as appellate and post conviction duties. He was an excellent resource for all departments and his constant presence and dedication made him a pillar of the office. He was awarded the 14th Judicial Circuit Criminal Justice Award in 2006 for outstanding performance and involvement in the criminal justice community.
He helped establish the Rock Island County Drug Court Program and was an officer and board member of the Illinois Association of Drug Court Professionals, as well as a member of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. Last year, he was presented with the Judge Getty award from the IADCP for his outstanding achievements in the drug court movement.
Dave was heavily involved with his church, serving as a Eucharistic minister at Christ the King and on the parish council at his former church, as well as on the Silvis Library Board. Dave was a diehard Cubs fan and loved classic rock, Oreos, and, inexplicably, doing the dishes. He made the best grilled cheese sandwiches known to man, lousy tuna casserole and will be sorely missed by all who knew him.
He is survived by his wife, Margaret; daughter, Catie Osborn, Silvis; son, Michael Osborn, East Moline; brother, Tim Osborn, Palatine, Ill.; and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.

To The Driver of the Red Pickup Truck: (Published August, 2008)

Hi. It’s me. You know, purple running shoes, black shorts, favorite blue tank top?

Well, it’s not blue any more, thanks to you. That strawberry milkshake you threw out of the back of your crappy pickup truck really improved the look.

I mean, I should have known that running on your personal, private highway was in poor taste. But oh, man, how can I ever thank you for showing me, via air-born dairy product, that you disapproved?

I mean, I was ALL the way over on the sidewalk, which I’m sure impeded your view around that half mile straightaway. And plus, I mean, I was all happy looking with my ipod and headband. How dare me, sir, how dare me!

Perhaps I startled you. I mean, it would be hard to concentrate on anything else, what with the sound of your dying engine and all of that Shania Twain blasting out of your cheap speakers.

I’d like to apologize for my rampant disregard for your vendetta against public display of kneecaps. Or maybe it was my headband. I mean, it did perfectly match my once-blue tank top. I can understand how coordination might be something you fear. I would have flung my melted milkshake in terror as well, had I come across something so terrifying as a girl in a blue tank top running down a hill.

I mean, I was merely 40 feet away from the “Beware of Pedestrians” sign. It would be easy to misconstrue that sign as a warning against attack. I do look like the type to suddenly attack the lone motorist. Especially considering that I was singing along to show tunes. That’s a sure sign of an Attack Pedestrian.

From this day on, I promise to do my best to not do anything as silly as avoid your melted rain of strawberry hatred, but rather, to accept it as my punishment for breathing more than my fair share of oxygen. I mean, shallow mouth-breathers like yourself just don’t need as much oxygen, and there I was, breathing heavily because of my run. It was terribly selfish of me, I know.

I should probably explain what a “run” is. You see, some people, like myself, enjoy this thing called “fitness.” I know that this is a new and difficult concept for you, sir, but if you’d just stop crunching on potato chips in between spits of tobacco, you would have noticed that this “fitness” thing isn’t communicable. You can’t catch it, so lobbing your sugary drink was really rather unnecessary.

But also, thank you for that final kicker: the way you partially stopped at the stop sign and oh-so-casually lobbed your half-finished cigarette out of your window. That was great. As if your feelings on outdoor exercise weren’t clear enough, I learned more about you today. We share something in common.

I, too, love litter, polluted air and forest fires! You see? Your sticky pink beverage of lactose-infused hatred was wasted on me.

So, in closing, thank you, sir, for educating me, and reminding me why I am going to England in 34 days.

Because in England, redneck jerks like yourself are shipped off to Australia before they can cause any trouble.

Graduation Column 2006

When you read this column, I will be free. Free of homework, lockers, pop quizzes, cafeteria food, and fluorescent lights—well, at least until college starts next fall. But something will be different then.
The small things I take for granted every day will be gone, reduced to only memories…that’s depressing. The stupid plastic fence that I tripped over every morning on my way to band, the horrible parking jobs of my fellow students, even “Lake Alleman”—all that will be replaced with another fence, another parking lot, another giant puddle—everything’s changing and I don’t know what to think.
On one hand, hooray! No more high school—and that means No. More. Uniforms. EVER!!–Which means that I loose celebrating with my friends when I find a pair of blue pants. Hooray!– I’m finally done with paying a dollar for a bagel—but that means I loose sitting with my friends at lunch every day, complaining about the lack of a salad bar (even though we all know that we’d still buy french fries).
I’ve heard college is wonderful, but it seems to me that my time in high school was amazing… not just learning—it was the stupid antics that made everything worthwhile. It was falling off the stage, or laughing at the Great Gatsby. It was watching 20 people fall asleep in one class period or listening to friends tell their tales of high school hilarity.
I’m ready to graduate, don’t get me wrong—I want new experiences -I want to grow, change, better my mind–but at the same time, I wish that my friends could come with me, that my favorite teachers would still teach me.
People keep asking me if I’m excited for graduation. I usually say “yes” and change the subject. Even now, 6:19 AM Saturday morning, I don’t know how I feel about all of this. I’m excited, but also scared out of my mind that my life is going to be a dismal failure and nothing I’ve planned will come to fruition. I worry about many things, but most importantly, I worry that I’ll settle for less than what I’ve dreamed. That’s a cheery thought.
People keep saying “Oh, high school is the best time in your life”. Now, I don’t know about my fellow graduates out there, but hearing this scares me. This is as good as it gets? Sure, it was tons of fun, but telling me this is the high point of my life does not exactly contribute to my willingness to fling myself out into the real world.
I’m sorry to disappoint folks…I guess I thought that by writing this column I could figure out how I felt, but now I’m even more confused.
But maybe that’s how I’m supposed to feel. Maybe I’m not supposed to know right now. Maybe I’m supposed to be anxious and excited at the same time. Maybe (this is just a crazy thought here), but maybe that’s why I’m so conflicted. I just want to know that everything will work out okay in the end.
And maybe that’s what scares me. I hate not knowing. I hate guessing, I hate planning and I hate waiting. But that’s what the future is, isn’t it? Isn’t just hoping and working and striving towards your goals at all costs?
This morning I watched the sun rise. It was amazing.. It was like looking on the future—there is always going to be another sun rise, a new day to live and grow and change. Maybe next year I’ll have to watch the sun rise from another window or another hill, but the things that matter, the things that make me “me” are not going to disappear just because I park my car in a new parking lot or meet new people.
And maybe that’s the answer that I was looking for all along.

Being Average

Hello, my name is Catie…and I’m average. Some people think that being confronted with one’s own mortality is difficult- for me, this isn’t the problem. The problem I face is realizing that in the grand scheme of things I am completely average—and in our culture, average is not good enough.
There are billions of people on this planet, and only a hundredth of a percent of them get any sort of recognition. Think about it–how many people do you know who are famous, (and no, your roommate’s cousin’s friend’s sister’s neighbor who knows Justin Timberlake does not count.) It’s irritating, really—the fact that for most of us, we will never get that chance to win an Academy Award (or present one, for that matter).
But why is this? It’s certainly not the fact that we are without talent—there are dozens of incredibly talented people I know personally, but none of them will ever be famous—and I want to know why. It seems that anyone these days can have a bad reality TV show on MTV,  so there must be something else that I’m just not seeing. Are my parents not important enough? Is my butt too big or my house too small? Do I need to dye my hair blonde? Wear contacts? Do I need shorter skirts and tighter tops or something? Who do I see about this? Who’s the guy that sits in his office and dictates to us what ‘celebrity’ means?

I’m tired of being told that I am not good enough, not pretty enough and not rich enough to truly be the epitome of success in America. Why can’t I just be a good person with many friends and be considered successful? Why does the size of my bank account and the numbers of cars I own determine the level of success I have reached?
The 80,000 or so people who tried out for American Idol this year thought that they deserved a chance to become rich and famous—and as of now, only three people have been chosen to become the next “American Idol”…and they get more press each day than do the millions of people who are dying of starvation, AIDS and genocide in Africa.
The most ironic thing about all of this is that the people we consider to be successful are people that we, as average Americans have nothing in common with. Recently, the Disney Channel started an advertising campaign that stated “Disney Channel stars are just like you!” While this is a cute sentiment, I don’t believe that I will be recognized the next time I walk down the street and asked for an autograph. People won’t be creating websites about my early childhood any time soon, and I’d like to think no less of a person because of it.
When do we, as American citizens (and as citizens of the world, for that matter) start stepping up and declaring that the size of our pants and the brands we wear will not dictate our worth? When do we start to look at our neighbors and outstanding community leaders as the people we want to emulate, instead of the air-brushed and photo-shopped people in magazines?
When do we finally stop living vicariously though others on televisions and start embracing our own potentiality for change?

When do we start turning off our televisions and start turning the pages of books? When do we stop relying on magazines to show us what beautiful is and start going out into the world and creating that beauty in ourselves?
When do we finally look into the mirror and see not our average-ness, but the possibility we have for changing the world—one small, tiny, average step at a time?

A Canadian-Belgian Jew, or How I met my birthmother

It all began with Lithuanians. Drunk Lithuanians, specifically. At a wedding.
Well, not real Lithuanians, nor was it a real wedding, but a group of us had been portraying them for about 5 hours when I sat down next to Colleen Winters and started chatting.

We didn’t talk about anything that particularly impressive, except that we got to chatting about our relative adoptions and the facts behind them. It was an interesting conversation, but I thought nothing of it.
Then, the next night, I went home and was talking to my mom and we somehow got talking about adoption, and I mentioned that Colleen and I had discussed meeting our birthmoms and our opinions about it.

My mom said “would you ever like to meet her”?

I said “Well, I guess? Just to see, you know. I mean, I have questions I’d like answered”.

So my mom left the room and came back with a letter that was postmarked May of 2007. It was a letter from my birthmother, who for sake of clarity will now be called Krista. Because that’s her name. In the letter, she wrote to say that I was free to write her should I have any questions, and she wasn’t trying to take over my life, but she’d love to hear from me.

So that was weird. So then I did what every responsible person would do. I Googled her. I found her in the first 3 minutes of searching, and a couple of cross indexes made me completely sure.

I debated for awhile. I mean, I was happy not knowing, but there is always that just sort of…wonder. I thought about when I was working at the court house and I had realized I had access to the birth records. I wasn’t sure what to do, and I remember Mex told me that this was something he couldn’t help me with–that I had to do this totally on my own….and now, the situation had come completely full circle..I was staring at the door to my birth mom, this woman who I had wondered about for so long…and it was completely up to me.

I decided to email her, while simultaneously freaking out to Steph, Andrew, Brittney and Abby. After about 10 revisions, I sent the email, kind of introducing myself, telling her a little about me, apologizing for emailing but hell if I was going to snail mail that shit.

So the next day, I heard back from her. It seemed like she was really nice, and she told me a little bit about herself. That was when things got Twilight Zone weird. Turns out Krista had gone not just to the same high school as me, but the same grade school, as well. Her parents were best friends with my grade school music teacher. She knew people I knew. I had been in a play with my sister and never known it. That was the weirdest part, I think. I had always thought that since I was born in Springfield, MO, my birth mom was far away. It turns out she was just visiting her sister when I was born.

So we exchanged emails for awhile, and then she asked if it would be alright if she called me. So she called me later that night,(while I was at the KFC drivethrough) and she seemed really nice. She mentioned that she might be in the Quad Cities that weekend because her daughter Zoey had a speech meet and could she call to do lunch? I said yes, but I didn’t really think anything of it until she called me at 3 on Saturday saying that she would be in town in a few minutes.

I suggested we eat at the Olive Garden, and after frantically trying to figure out what the hell I was going to wear (with help from Abby) I rushed over to the OG after stopping only to get flowers. So we met up, and it was a very surreal moment.

This is her…its just really, really weird still.

First off, she’s got GREAT fucking hair. And she’s really pretty. Which is good to know :). It was just weird–I had dreamed of this moment for so many years, and all of the sudden I was rushing out the door and my hair was a terrible mess and I didn’t know what was going to come out of it. (At least I didn’t get kidnapped like in Annie as Abby and I had previously discussed). And then I was sitting across the table with the real, live Amanda Virginia…who wasn’t Amanda Virgina at all, but a happy, friendly woman who I really liked.

But so we had lunch, and it was great. We got along very well,but I had to go to Godspell so I had to leave earlier than I would have liked. And I realized that I had forgotten to ask the most important question. What the HELL am I?

So I emailed her again, and survey says….Canadian/Belgian Jew!
Well, the Jew is by technicality only, but Goddamn it, I’ve joked about it long enough I’m embracing it.
See, my (birth) Grandmother was Belgian, and then immigrated to Canada, where she married my (birth) Grandfather who is German/Irish/English.
Then Krista married a Jew.

So it’s the wrong side, and I’m not even entirely sure that she was talking about my birth father, but either way. Still cool.

So….that’s the story. It’s still a little weird, and I don’t really know how I feel about the whole situation. I mean, on one hand, I’m really happy about meeting her, but there are just a lot of weird emotions involved. We’ll see what happens, I guess, but for now, I’m pretty happy with the way things have turned out.

It’s like making a new friend, really. I mean, I’m not looking for a new mommy. I am quite happy with the one I have. But now I have a younger sister named Zoey who is a senior in high school, who likes theatre and music and is on the speech team, and a younger brother and sister who are twins named Samantha and Teddy who are 8. Samantha is chunky and dorky, and Teddy is skinny and covered with freckles and wears big gold glasses. I also have three aunts and an uncle. Krista has a boyfriend named Dean who knows a lot about flowers and picked me out daisies for when she first met me because he thought they were fun and I seemed like a fun person.

So, it doesn’t end with Lithuanians, but at least now I don’t have to keep telling the story over and over.