Fireworks in Hayward

In case you missed our smoke signals, you should know that we made it back to Hayward, just in time for the humidity, mosquitos, glow parade, and fireworks. It was a blast, especially playing with Cora, Colt, and the Byom kids! Even though we couldn’t barhop for kiddie cocktails due to the pandemic, the great outdoors and open water never disappoint, especially since I was spared the swimmer’s itch that other campers had to endure. Still, itchy or not, we made good s’mores and snores and memories!

Slumber Party!

Since most pools are closed this summer due to COVID-19, Genesee & I decided to meet up with the Martinez family at Lake Wazee for some fun in the sun, a butterfly exhibit, a baby skunk show-and-tell, and, of course, waterfront shenanigans.

And because I’m a sweet talker, we added another passenger for our ride home when I convinced mom to let Amaya spend the night. It was my first slumber party and it was a success!

Sleepovers are the absolute best, except for that unfortunate part when we all fall asleep. But, I’d do it all again if it means I get to wake up next to one of my favorite friends!

Return to Hayward

On a whim, we decided to pull the boat and camper to Hayward for a weekend getaway! But first, we had other things to pull…. like my wiggly front tooth!

Once me and my toothless smile arrived in Hayward, we maximized our time by fishing, boating, and taking sunset strolls along the beach.

I love how life slows down a little bit in Hayward. Here’s to hoping the time goes quickly in between this visit and the next!

The big six

Because this was my first birthday without Papa, I didn’t realize how much I would miss those Wal-mart gift cards he would send me every year.

But my sixth birthday was still a happy one because my village made sure to shower me with gifts, and love, and cupcakes.

In fact, turning six was quite the ride…

…literally! And being surrounded by family, eating a Pizza Corral supper, and playing with toys didn’t just bring me joy; I also felt a sense of normalcy. It was almost everything I needed…

…Still, I’d trade it all for one of Papa’s gift cards if it meant he could be here with me to celebrate.

The great mask debate

Remember that cute message about how the societal response to the COVID-19 pandemic was an incredible act of global solidarity? …Where we all followed the CDC guidelines and did everything we could to take care of each other, especially the most vulnerable loved ones among us?

Well, that didn’t last long.

Masks have now been added to the long list of non-political political issues that divide our non-United States, so, this should be interesting…

Easter 2020

Somehow, even amidst a year that had quickly become abnormal, lonely, and darker, and despite the fact that we were sleeping in a camper on the edge of Papa’s Mukwonago driveway, the Easter Bunny still arrived. Thank goodness!! I think we all needed some bubbles and sidewalk chalk in our lives right at that moment.

Coloring Easter eggs with my aunties brightened the mood as well! But to top it all off, I decided to lose a tooth to also test the Tooth Fairy’s locating skills. Because it probably wouldn’t hurt to discover a nice monetary tip next to my Easter basket, am I right? Who says money can’t buy happiness?

The aftermath

In the aftermath of losing Papa, I had to take on new responsibilities, like…

1. Loving on Papa’s pups and teaching Genesee how to cultivate her inner fur momma

2. Getting my (golf cart) driver’s license so I can help make trips to the dumpster

3) Learning how to research real estate on Zillow (thanks, Aunt Nay Nay!)

4) Getting cars ready to sell by being a cute photo bomber in the advertising fliers (Mustang for sale; Little dude not included)

5) And, of course, watching for signs of visits from Papa and Nana Florence, like when these two geese visited Papa’s front yard!

Missing Papa is a big job, but I think he’d be proud of my work ethic.

The Obituary

Gene David Florence | December 15, 1945 — March 21, 2020

Gene David Florence (Pee-Wee/Armpit) was born to eternal life and reunited with his long lost 1969 Shelby GT 500 KR and his beloved wife, Margarita Navidad Florence. He made it home, but late for supper, on Saturday, March 21, 2020, after a sudden diagnosis of terminal cancer at the age of 74.

Gene was lovingly survived by his daughters Helen Renee (Jonathan) Fuller, Chelsee Rebecca (Ernest Graham) Florence and Amanda Regina (Joel) Goodenough, and his dear brother Norman (Gerry) Florence. He was the adored Papa of Brooklyn, Jaeger and Genesee, and the great-grandfather of Isalina. Gene will be greatly missed by his faithful furry companions Sugar, Bella and Lulu. This ripple of grief will also be felt across countless cherished friends and relatives.

He will reconnect in the afterlife with his parents, Raymond and Helen Florence; his sister Patricia Florence; and his brothers Raymond (Marjorie) Florence Jr., Wendell Florence, LeRoy (Virginia Phillips) Mitchell and Richard “Dickey” Mitchell.

Gene’s many impressive lifetime achievements were a result of his unprecedented work ethic. He was a dedicated family man, a tireless provider, an always-helpful companion and a talented mechanic. There was nothing Gene couldn’t fix with a rubber band, bungee cord or zip tie. He was a man of great character who was unapologetically honest and didn’t take people’s sh*t unless they paid him to (through his successful septic pumping business).

The world was not ready for the force of Gene Florence, but he remained resilient beyond measure and paved a better future for all. A Marine of multiple wars, Gene served this country in Vietnam, fought for the right to marry interracially, picketed for Union rights alongside Teamster brothers, stood up to Mukwonago’s racial discrimination, and fearlessly faced his final battle against cancer.

A celebration of Gene’s life will take place at Waukesha’s Church and Chapel Funeral Home on a summer or fall date yet to be determined. Until then, you can find Gene in the aroma of Papa Murphy’s pizza, hear him in the lyrics of Gregory Abbott’s “Shake You Down,” or look for him in the clouds above any used car lot.

Church and Chapel Funeral Home is serving the family. Online obituary, condolences, and future memorial service information can be found at

The Homegoing

With essentially no food or water intake for weeks, Papa stopped talking in his final days on earth. But somehow, he mustered up the energy to have one last phone conversation with Genesee and I before he left.

And then he was gone.

On March 21st at 9:45 p.m., Papa passed away peacefully, surrounded by the love of my mom and my aunts. They held his hand and sang his favorite song as he went to start his spirit journey.

We are heartbroken, but grateful that he didn’t suffer for long. This whole situation happened very quickly, in fact. …Imagine being “well” enough to drive yourself 40 minutes to the emergency room in a stick-shift vehicle, spend 2 weeks in the hospital before learning a devastating diagnosis, returning home on hospice, and then only surviving 2 additional weeks. That’s what we watched happen to our Papa over the last month.

Sometimes life isn’t fair. Sometimes life is too short. Sometimes love is painful.

But as they say, “grief is the last act of love we have to give to those we love. Where there is deep grief, there was great love.”

And so, for now, we grieve….