Off Topic: The Loss of My Nephew and Friend Ben Bleszinski

Since I've always been about writing ever since I was little, I believe in the power of writing as therapy. If you'll bear with me for a little bit, I wanted to share something about one of my best friends in this world who passed away a week ago today in a car crash in Connecticut. Some of you know my nephew Ben Bleszinski. And the reason you know him is because he used to come out to California for a week every year since he was 14 years old. Ben told me once that he wanted to go to AN Day because he wanted to see how I'd been able to bring a bunch of A's fans together. I think ultimately he wanted to be impressed with what his uncle had built.

He most definitely was and thoroughly enjoyed that day. I have many, many stories about my nephew Ben because I got to know him very well through the times he came to spend with me and the annual trips my family would take to Connecticut. Ben was always reading AN and became a surrogate A's fan mostly because of his uncle's passion. I'd bought him an A's hat and an A's Chavez tee during his trips out here. Ben would often know about stuff happening to me before the rest of my family because he dove into my interests. He was a rare kid in that way, most kids that I've had experience with were so wrapped up in their own life and dramas, they didn't take the time to get to know others. And it's clear just how much people loved Ben from the fact that a Facebook page dedicated to him has more than 1,400 members. There were at least 1,000 people at Ben's wake.

I just got back from Connecticut and my brother asked me to do Ben's eulogy at his mass this past Friday. I somehow was able to pull myself together enough to do it and after the jump, I'll share Ben's eulogy with you. I just ask that if you have a few extra dollars, please make a donation in Ben's name to Big Brothers/Big Sisters here. Thanks for reading and I'm sorry for the off topic discussion, I just want as many people as possible to know something about this rare and beautiful kid who I loved dearly. I hope you got a chance to meet him at that AN day. Even if you didn't, I hope the paragraphs below help you to get to know him just a little bit.

Hi I'm Tyler Bleszinski, Ben's uncle.  I'm humbled by the amount of love that people have shown for Ben. At the same time, I'm not shocked.  Because Benjamin Bleszinski was one of the most lovable people I've ever known.

Losing Ben is one of the hardest things I think many of us here will ever have to experience in our lives. He was a source of such joy and laughter for so many people. Everything from his dry, often pointed sense of humor to his general awkward and clumsy demeanor.

 Ben was always the gangly kid who knew how to talk a lot of trash.  He would play video games with me and taunt me in his lisp, "I'm gonna kick your ass, Uncle Ty."  I could only laugh at this kid who weighed less than my five-year-old daughter but could talk quite a game.  But that was the beauty of Ben. He always made me smile. No matter what, he always got me to smile.

I met Ben when he was an infant just after my father Walter, Ben's grandfather, passed away of a sudden heart attack. Ben was only a couple months old at the time, but it felt special to hold him even then. I remember Greg had coerced me when Ben was only about four years old to buy him his first pair of skates, claiming, "Come on Ty, then when he gets to the NHL, he can thank you as his inspiration for buying him his first pair of skates." I told Ben that story a few times throughout his life, especially after I'd come watch him play hockey here in Glastonbury trying to motivate a meteoric rise to NHL prominence.  Ben and I were having a conversation on the phone right after my son Alex was born in February.  Ben, being the thoughtful person he was, told me, "Uncle Ty, I want to buy Alex his first pair of skates so when he makes it to the NHL he can thank his cousin Ben for getting him there."  I can only hope that my son grows up to be half the remarkable young man Ben was. And I'm hoping maybe I can talk Nate into buying Alex's first pair of skates instead.

Even though I was Ben's uncle and tied to him via family, he became so much more than just family to me. He became one of my best friends through his annual trips to California and long online chats. But I suspect that I'm not alone in that. Ben made everyone feel loved and important. He was one of those rare personalities that just made life better. No one can make any sense of the fact that we've lost such a beautiful soul.  He's not here with us anymore, but I feel fortunate that I spent so much time with him. My life was richer and better because Ben was in it. His visits were one of the highlights of my year and when he'd leave, I would mope around for a couple of weeks with my wife needing to remind me that we were going to see him again in a few months when we took our annual trip to Connecticut.

I'd love just watching movies or playing video games or traveling to see Alcatraz or Laguna Beach or the Oakland A's with him. But the best part about our times together were the times when we'd often sit in comfortable silence, just enjoying each others' company.  Greg and Marianne raised a wonderful son, a fantastic friend, a beautiful brother, a great grandson and someone who will always be with every single one of us.  I want to end this with a quote from one of Ben's favorite movies because I think it's been going through my head ever since Tuesday morning.  It's from Shawshank Redemption, a movie both he and I loved.

Sometimes it makes me sad, though... Andy being gone. I have to remind myself that some birds aren't meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up DOES rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they're gone. I guess I just miss my friend.

I miss you Ben. And I love you.    

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