We all experience them…we have a moment, receive a phone call, attend an event, have a visit from someone, or come across a tangible “something” that triggers the memory of someone who has died. For me, it happened today. After having three out of four kids home for a visit with family on Sunday, then taking kids back to campus, having our eldest head back to Cincinnati, then a stop at the cemetery, I was truly doing OK. But, then the biggest trigger happened Monday afternoon…the Ann Arbor News reported that our local Max and Erma’s was closed. Now, to the majority of people this truly would not be a big deal…it was a local place where food may have been subpar and the service not that great, but for me, and my family we had a history with, as my kids called it when they were little, “Max and Mermas”. They loved it when we would go with their Nana and Papa, and Nana would get the “Erma Burger” and she would eat the whole thing. Or when their dad was out of town they would ask to go out for what they thought was a “fancy dinner”. With this closing a piece of our family history is gone…. but, mostly, a piece of John is gone. A closing without true closure for this family.
Birthdays are a big deal in the Crosby Flake Family. Many have heard me say more than once that, “each birthday is a gift wrapped up in itself”, and the best birthday gift is having the opportunity to “grow older”. The kids, no matter what their age, choose a place to go for their special celebration. For many years, Walter chose Mongolian BBQ, Henry only chose Applebee’s once, when he was turning 4 years old and they made the HUGE mistake of singing happy birthday to him and he cried and said he was “never coming back to this place again...!”, Lexi loved the Melting Pot (another place that recently closed, sad to say), and Scott loves TsuKasa (similar to our own Ichiban). While John chose Joe’s Crab Shack one year, he didn’t like it when they had him dress up in a Batman costume and pretend to fly around the room. From then on, it was Max and Erma’s. Every year. The last birthday he celebrated here on earth was at Max and Erma’s. He LOVED the food, the sundae bar and all of the fanfare they had for him.
In the early years of John’s Foundation, we participated in Max and Erma Days where John’s Foundation would get a percentage of that day’s sales. It was always a fun event to participate in as we would see so many supporters coming out to support the Foundation and connect with old and new friends. It truly put a smile on my face. The staff was always very kind and would ask me about John and his birthday celebrations there.
Since John’s death you could find us at Max and Erma’s on his birthday celebrating a little boy who loved his family, his friends, his school, and his community. He was funny, and bright, and really loved just being himself. He would skip through his school with such enthusiasm that it made his teachers, and parents who saw him, smile. Those memories can never be taken away from any of us. And while on March 10th we won’t be in John’s usual place to celebrate, we will continue to celebrate the many gifts he has left us with. He truly was a gift to me, and all who knew him.