On Thursday, my sister Sam called me to let me know that our cousin was in a wreck and did not make it. I was completely beside myself, and also I was speechless. I didn't have the words to express how I felt - it was so sudden and unexpected. Samantha did a beautiful job of putting his loss into perspective. Thank you, Sam - I needed this.
My cousin, Robert, died tragically on Thursday afternoon. He was in that really bad car accident on Riverside Drive that you probably heard about on the news. Someone was turning in somewhere and probably just didn’t see him. He was 30 years old. He was on his way to work at the Creek Nation Casino.
And now that I have all of those details out of the way, I want to tell you about the last memory that I have of my older cousin, who referred to himself as Cornbizzle. Because I know that a lot of people have a lot of memories about him, but mine are really funny and precious and memorable before you even take into account the fact that he’s not here anymore. Before now I was sure I would never forget the night that Cornbizzle helped me move, but now I want to make 100% sure that I write this down before I forget and just look back at that night with a warm familiar glow that has no real details, just the faint fondness of a good night. Isn’t it funny how death makes you think about things like that? And just a fair warning: this is going to be really long but I promise I’ll try to keep it as entertaining as possible. Because it was entertaining. It was one of my favorite memories before and it will be one of my favorite memories forever and I want to share it with you.
On October 20th, Amanda Babe and I moved into our new apartment on Riverside with no real plan as to how it was going to go. Her family was set and ready to help her with her stuff, but I was basically on my own (because really, I feel like your parents are responsible for helping you move the first time and then after that they are DONE and the novelty has worn off forever, get out get out so I can turn your room into a puzzle room/cat den) and I had no idea how I was going to get my ridiculously heavy boxes of books, kitchen utensils, and a half broken (but still fabulously comfortable) couch up three flights of stairs. However, I work best on my toes and I absolutely was not worried about it at all.
So after Amanda’s room was primly and lovingly put together by the most caring of hands, my real work began. I’m very fortunate for a few good friends in my life, like Nikki and Thurman and Amanda. They were both there and carrying everything up the stairs and tossing it into my room. Maybe you remember a status a month ago about my room looking like it was inhabited by squatters; it wasn’t an exaggeration (but I’m proud to say it looks awesome now). Things were falling together, but there was still that broken couch in my little UHaul trailer, as well as my giant bed and frame halfway across the city that I would have to collect at some point. Still, I wasn’t too worried.
Thurman, Amanda, Nikki and myself unloaded this ungodly heavy and ungodly broken couch from the back of this UHaul trailer and toted it (albeit very slowly) across the parking lot and to the base of the staircase. It wasn’t AS bad as it could have been, we naively thought as a collective. Then it was time to push it up the stairs. Suffice to say, it didn’t happen and I think I remember at one point Nikki almost being crushed to death into the cement while Thurman cooed encouragingly at us from his position of pulling. So we were left with a giant couch at the bottom of the stairs, no one else was answering our texts to come help, and it was getting really dark.
I was getting a little worried.
We were all sitting on my couch that was sitting at the bottom of the stairs outside, perusing our phones for people that might be able to help us. It was looking pretty bleak, to be quite honest. Then I remembered my cousin Robert lived really near my apartments (like, a mile point five) and he was always posting about lifting heavy stuff on fcbk all the time and could probably prove this strength by helping me carry a bunch of stuff. So I sent him a text, not really expecting a response. I mean, would you really be excited to help your cousin move a giant couch on your Sunday night off of work up three flights of stairs? Because to me, that sounds like a horrible time. But less than 10 seconds later, he was texting me back for my address and said he was on his way and he’d be there in 20. And ten minutes after that, his little tires even squealed as he pulled into a parking spot.
We stood around and made casual introductions before I put him to work. And of course he had the usual complaints about this couch that every single normal human in the history of ever would have.. such as why were trying to salvage it when it’s so broken, and why is it so heavy, and what the hell did I do to break it in the first place, and how did I get it down three flights of stairs from my old place (which is why it’s broken, duh). But he hefted and along with Thurman’s help, they carried it upstairs and into the apartment. And then they put it against the wall. Then Cornbizzle sat on it and told us about himself and how he was in the military and how he was thinking about getting new tattoos.
However, the story doesn’t end there because like I foreshadowed earlier, there was still a bed across down that needed to be picked up, a UHaul trailer to be dropped off in Broken Arrow that was two hours late, and the bed had to be carried upstairs. I hoped the promise of beer and pizza would be enticing enough for these guys to help me, but I think I knew deep down that they would help no matter what and probably smile at me while doing it. So there we were, Amanda, Thurman, Cornbizzle and myself needing to figure out a way to fit into my dad’s tiny cabined truck. As in, there was going to be lap sitting by some strangers and definite cramped quarters.
Cornbizzle smilingly offered to ride in the back of the truck all the way to Broken Arrow. He spoke of it like an adventure. It wasn’t too cold out that night, but it was still definitely fall night time and it was still the back of a cold truck. Still, desperate times call for desperate measures so off we went.
So this little trailer had to be dropped off at this rinky dink half gas station thing in downtown Broken Arrow. When we got there, I apologized profusely for my trailer being so late and begged to not be charged the 30$ service fee for being late. The guy really wasn’t having any of it, but then here came Cornbizzle wandering up and stood there very intimidatingly and frowned a lot. I still continued to be overly nice and charming to this guy. As it turns out, I didn’t get a service charge, but when we were leaving both Cornbizzle and I were congratulating ourselves as why there wasn’t a fee: I was sure I charmed the pants off of that guy, and Cornbizzle said something along the lines of when you’re faced with a 300lb Native dude, you don’t want to piss him off. We each laughed at the other: I know kindness prevails, and he knew brawn prevailed. I still don’t know why there wasn’t a service charge.
So then it was off to my grandma’s house to get my bed, Bizzle in the back of the truck once more. It was probably close to 10 in the PM by this point and the goal was just not to wake up my grandma since she was so kind in letting me store my stuff at her house for the interim weekend. We get to my grandma’s house and immediately my old little grandma wanders out, blinking around. I’m trying to work out the logistics of how this bed is going to fit into the truck, and I hear Cornbizzle talking in his booming voice to my grandma and her soft little replies. I don’t remember how it went, but I know it was something along these lines:
Cornbizzle: GOOD EVENING, MRS. SANDERS! I’M ROBERT! DO YOU REMEMBER ME? I’M GEORGE’S SON!
CB: WE ARE HERE TO GET SAMANTHA’S BED! HOW ARE YOU? I HAVEN’T SEEN YOU IN A LONG TIME!
I still don’t think my grandma knew what was going on.
With the bed loaded, we were ready to head back to the apartment but we were faced with a last problem that none of us foresaw: with the bed in the back of the truck, where was Cornbizzle going to ride? Answer: in the cab with us and it was time for a little lap sitting with strangers.
I was driving the truck, Amanda squeezed in by my side, Cornbizzle sitting in the passenger seat, and Thurman was in his lap. We set off down the street, vision skewed by this giant bed and cramped quarters. Thurman and Cornbizzle were squawking good naturely at each other, me and Amanda were giggling at how absurd this moving experience had turned out to be. Robert was laughing because Thurman cuddled against him, Thurman was laughing probably because he was perched in the lap of some random dude he had just met. Cornbizzle assured us all of this staunch heterosexuality, but made it clear that his time in the military made him not mind dudes. Then Thurman got hot and off came his sweater, and Bizzle squealed about Thurman stripping on his lap. I think I was shouting about something. All four of us were howling with laughter. I was crying I was laughing so hard.
In that moment is how I’m going to remember my cousin for the rest of my life.
After that, we went to Walmart to pick up some things and I used Bizzle’s giant phone to order a pizza. He assured me that his phone was a million times better than my iphone, and probably cheaper, too. He smelled shampoos with me and helped me decide that the blue bottle in my shower right now is the best. He stole a shopping cart from someone so I could carry my shampoo. When I asked him what he wanted on his pizza, he told me he would literally eat anything I put in front of him. He asked Amanda a million questions about being a teacher, even though she was dead tired. He asked her if any of her students are in love with her. She said she didn’t think so. He told her when they start bringing her apples, that’s when you know you’re in trouble.
We got back to the apartment and ate pizza and drank cheap beer and laughed about all sorts of things. Cornbizzle told us about his job a little and told us that he basically exclusively hangs out with native peoples, but he would make an exception for Amanda and that she could be his token white friend. He told us about how he really liked McDonalds and working out at 10GYM with his friends. He lamented about the fact that security guards can’t carry guns. He told us a little about being all over the world in the navy. He told us about how much he enjoyed living on Riverside, and how excited he was for us to be living so close to each other. I invited him to my birthday party, and he was truly excited and told me he would bring me a bottle of birthday Jack. He told me about how when I texted him he was in the middle of watching some sports match with a friend at his friend’s house and upon receiving my text, he didn’t even tell his friend where he was going, that he just read my text that I needed help, slammed down his beer and walked out. Because I was family and that’s how much family meant to him. I probably rolled my eyes and made some smart ass remark, but I mostly remember just being stupidly grateful. And I told him that. Because really, he saved the day.
I didn’t know Robert very well as a child, but we got to know each other pretty well as adults. He was my friend. I enjoyed his company. He made me laugh. He helped his family when no one else would, and I think that’s a legacy he would be proud to leave behind. I love my cousin. I love our memories. I love the time that I was blessed to have spent with him.
So hug your family. Tell them you love them. Tell everyone you love that you love them. Cornbizzle was driving to work, a two mile drive he made every single day. And now he’s not here any more. I know everyone always says to enjoy every second to the max because you’re not guaranteed another, but I feel like this seriously puts it into perspective. You’re not guaranteed your drive to work. I’m not guaranteed my walk down these stairs.
I hope Cornbizzle was happy that day. I hope he was excited to go to work. I hope a song that he liked came on the radio. I hope he thought about that night every once in a while and laughed about it. I hope he knew how grateful I am to him.
Right before he left my apartment that night, I asked him why people call him Cornbizzle. He looked at me like I was stupid and said, “Well, they called me Cornbob.” And that was that.