Most Sunday nights in high school, I made my way to the Sycamore Springs neighborhood in my hometown of Springboro, Ohio.
It was a house on Lakeview Court where I spent my Sunday evenings with my second family, the Krellas -- Matt, my best friend and partner-in-sarcasm: Cathy, the quirky and lovable, eat-your-greens mother; and Big Joe, the endearing grouch who affectionately dubbed nearly everyone he met “guy.”
“Heyyyy, guy. Want some peanuts?” he asked me weekly.
Aside from the ballpark, it was the Krella household where my zest for shelled peanuts earnestly blossomed. And Joe always had a bag waiting for me.
Joe Krella passed away last week. He was 54.
On Mondays, when I typically sit down to scribe my column, I attempt to put my heart on the page. Some weeks, given the topic du jour, my heart can be felt more than others. Today, my heart is worn out.
Without touching too much on details, I’ll simply say that Joe Krella’s heart pushed its limits. Heart failure accounted for his passing.
Big Joe wasn’t supposed to leave us soon. The fact that I’d never gotten a chance to sit down with Joe and enjoy a bottle of his preferred Merlot is reason enough why he should still be around, further instilling in me his push-your-buttons humor.
But, getting away from me, Joe wasn’t supposed to leave so soon because a mere four days before he died, he was walking his only daughter, Jen, down the aisle.
He wasn’t supposed to leave because his precious twin grandbabies, Abi and Luke, were turning 2 months old Nov. 15, and Joe’s son Joey and his wife Jacqulin would surely need a night off now and then.
Joe wasn’t supposed to leave because Cathy and he were finally getting back to their beloved Springboro following six trying years in Salt Lake City, where Joe served as the president and CEO of a hospital system.
He wasn’t supposed to leave because Matt and he hadn’t matched wits often enough.
To give you a sense of Matt’s humor, when charged with writing his father’s obituary, he typed the words, “Joe Krella left behind a wife, three children, two grandchildren, and a closet full of Champion sweatshirts.”
Joe was known for his colorful, decades-old, non-work attire.
This past week has reminded me of a profile I read a couple years back on journalist Anderson Cooper. Cooper, who has witnessed genocide and war and catastrophes first hand, said one of the most significant things he’s taken away from his work is that the difference between life and death is a snap of the fingers. It’s not some drawn-out event with music playing in the background, like we see in the movies.
We -- you and I -- are without any promises on the days we’re allotted here. These days need not be rushed and anxiety-ridden. The small things can’t keep us up at night.
As soon as you can, hug your husband or wife. Kiss your mother or father, and have a laugh with your son or daughter. Share a bottle of Merlot with someone you cherish.