Eleven days ago, my cousin, Alex, fell and hit his head, and he’s been in an intensive care unit since, while the neurology team works to reduce the swelling in his brain. His wife is by his side, his sons and his mom, his dad, sister, brother and their families, and legions of friends and extended family are near and far, rooting for his recovery with hopeful energy and urgent prayers. Emotions vary with the news of the day. He’s all we’re thinking about.
I keep trying to write about him, and about this trauma he and his family are experiencing, but I keep deleting it because nothing seems right enough. I do know, that when he’s awake and he goes back to read what we’ve written here and on Facebook and Instagram and such, he will make so much fun of us. “God, you guys, obsess much? I mean, I kind of figured I was the center of your universe, but seriously, maybe get a hobby.”
So, here’s what I’ve decided I want to say about Alex, the person we know, the person we expect to come back to us in his full, glorious, goofy self any day now.
He is a tall ginger with a kind heart and hysterical wit. While being one of the most creative, passionate people I know, he does it without being at all condescending or obnoxious about his art. He’s a hella masterful chef, and has cooked in some of the swankiest kitchens on the planet, working with some of the best chefs in the world, but still goes crazy for our grandma’s apple pie and golombkies. (I should clarify: golombkies are Polish beefy cabbage rolls, nothing untoward or Lord of the Ring-y. Apple pie is…apple pie, but better, because grandma made it).
His determination and drive is something else. He wouldn’t settle for anything less than the best training in the industry, and traveled the world learning food. While most of us in our 20’s were still figuring out what we wanted to do when we grew up, he was singularly focused. He moved coast to coast, training at the best cooking school, apprenticing at the most sought-after restaurants, running his own kitchens, starting restaurants, all while somehow being the coolest uncle to all the nieces and nephews his siblings were hatching back home in Michigan.
Even at the top of the high-stakes (steaks?) restaurant game, he was NOT A PRICK. My understanding of million star restaurants is that the chefs are usually, what’s the word…giant prats, and that they have to wear those toques (tall white chef hats) to contain their egos. That’s never been the Alex I’ve known. Easy-going, warm, quick to smile, quicker to laugh, SO, SO silly and strange, kind, and just a little bit crazy. Did I tell you about the time he moved to Alaska to live on a fishing boat? Or how he swears he once met a civil war era soldier ghost while living on Mackinac Island? Or how all of his mom’s silver hair is because of him in high school? (To be fair, maybe he really did think the driving age was fourteen?) 😉
A few years ago, that cuddly hive of nieces and nephews drew him back home, back to his family, so we’ve been so lucky to have him close, cooking, teaching, and making more family! His wife, Anna, and her son, Adon, are simply the smartest, coolest, best people, and the adventures continued, but now, instead of traveling alone, Alex has his A Team in place.
Alex and Anna got married outside on a day that was projected to be dreary, stormy, and miserable, but turned out to be brazenly sunny. They made themselves a second generation ginger Alex (he prefers “Xander,” thank you very much), who defied odds when he sailed out of the NICU after a scary birth, all stubbornly happy and healthy and huge.
This A Team will not be stopped; persistent, stubborn, brazen, joyful, hopeful, ridiculous, astounding. They have so many adventures still in front of them. Alex will come back for them, for him, for the world that is way better off with him here, rocking the shit out of it.
“Ok, Ok. I think you’ve gone on long enough, cousin. They get it. I’m the greatest human being who’s ever lived. When you build the statue, make sure they get my nose right.”
Guess what? Spending 11 days in the ICU, and all the recovery that comes next is extremely expensive. Join me in contributing to the A Team fund, if you’re able: PayPal.me/AlexSchulteFamily