2015 52 Week Project // Week 16: A Stroll Down Memory Lane (With Before & After)
So this week's blog post is going to be a bit different than all of my other ones: I'm not going to talk about the image, or how it was shot, but rather, I wanted to make a record of all of my memories of Ryan before they became blurry and I couldn't remember them anymore. For those of you who don't know, Ryan Tachell, at 18 years old, was in a motorcycle accident on April 16th. He was put on life support over night, and was taken off the next morning. He passed away on April 17th, but his life was not wasted. He was an organ donor, and saved 4 people's lives with his own.
But that's not what I want to focus on here. I want to focus on his life, and some of my happiest memories with him. So here's how our story begins:
My parents and I moved to Elk, Washington when I was 5. We found a small little cabin home on Reflection Lake, where for the most part, everyone was neighborly and the community interacted with each other frequently. That's how my parents met Josh and Ryan's parents, and within our first year living here, our parents became friends. Josh was my age; we were both 6 at the time and Ryan was 4. We quickly became like the three musketeers, hanging out every weekend, spending bus rides together, and spending every day in the summertime at each other's houses. We went back and forth having sleepovers at each others houses, where we would stay up late to play Pokemon on our gameboy's (mine was lime green. Be jealous.) and in the mornings Trish would make us crepes for breakfast and we would play as long as we possibly could until our parents separated us. They were some of my best friends, and our families were each other's families. Their home was my home, and vice versa. One particular thing in the Tachell home has always, and will always stick out to me: the photo of baby Ryan completely naked, sitting in a pot, wearing a chef's hat and holding wooden utensils. To this day this image still cracks me up; it's completely burned into my brain and is something I would always remind Ryan of every time I saw him. The kid never got live that one down.
I truly, truly, miss these days. I remember the highlight of my weekends was when I could ride my bicycle up to the Tachell's to knock on their door and ask if I could play with Josh and Ryan, or when they would show up at my house on four wheelers and we would take laps around the neighborhood on them. One year, we all went swimming in the lake on April 1st, and our parents told us we were crazy. The lake was freezing cold but I think we lived in it for half of our childhoods. Swimming was a huge part of what we did for fun! Even in middle school and high school, I remember that Ryan would see me out on my dock from across the lake, and swim all the way over just to say hi to me or hang out for a couple hours.
As we grew up, we all grew apart. Mine and Josh's friendship faded out in middle school and when their parents divorced, our families didn't get together as often as they used to. However, Ryan and I were always close. We were 3 grades apart but he always sat with me on the bus and remained my friend. I remember that we always used to be mad about the fact that we were never in the same school, until high school when he was a Freshman and I was a Senior.
Bus rides were a highlight of our friendship. Bus 18 was the place to be; all of us lake kids rode it together and if you were sitting behind the middle folding seat, you were a part of the club. My friend Kaitlyn and I always used to sit together behind Josh and Ryan, where we would giggle and pull their hair and torment them endlessly. It became a war of hair pulling and wrist grabbing, and eventually Ryan figured out that he was quick enough to grab my wrist right before I let go of his hair, and he would squeeze it so painfully that it put me in my place pretty quickly. Since then, that has always been one of our jokes. If I ever insult him, all he has to do is mention that he'll grab my wrist, and it's game over!
In the mornings, Ryan would get on and I would wave him down to sit with me in the spot that I'd saved for him. We'd pull out my MP3 player, share headphones, and listen to music all the way to school. He'd kill me for telling people this, but for the sake of memories, I will say: He always made me play Rihanna. The kid loved Rihanna and he wouldn't admit it to anybody. I would tell people that that's what we were listening to and he always denied it.
As we came in to high school, I was so happy I got to see Ryan on a daily basis. For those of you Riverside kids, you know about senior parents, but of those of you who don't, RHS had a program where as a senior, you could team up with 3 other seniors and be "parents" and have between 6-8 freshman "kids". We mentored them, checked up on them, and helped them adjust to high school. Between my group of friends, there was about 8 of us, and so Ryan was one of our freshman children. What most people didn't know is that we definitely stole him from another family. When names were being drawn, we tracked him down and convinced him to trade into our family so we could hang out with him more often! So, yeah, we may have cheated the system a little bit. But I'm so glad we did.
After Ryan finished eating lunch with his friends, he would always come up to where we sat in the hallways and ate to spend lunch with us. I always had fruit snacks in my lunch box, and he stole them every. single. day. In fact, the kid stole my food all the time. Have I ever mentioned how much he can eat? If you knew him at all, you knew he could consume more calories than even imaginable by any human being. I have this memory from when we were all little, where we were trying to guess what the other person was thinking. I'd say, "okay Ryan, your turn, what am I thinking of?" and he's always respond with "Pizza!" and I'd say, "no, guess again!" and he's sit there for a while and respond with something like "Hamburgers!" The guy was literally always thinking about food. We all joked around that he's probably a werewolf because he eats so much, and he's always burning warm, even wearing a tank top in the middle of December.
Another food related story: one time, I was having a get together over the summer with a group of friends. In typical Ryan fashion, he saw all of us from across the lake and decided to swim over. Someone had brought over a bag of Doritos, and so guess what he decided to do? Eat them on the spot? Nope. He literally grabbed the open bag of Dorito's, held them over his head, and swam back across the lake the whole way, carrying them. Yes, let's just take that in: he swam across an entire lake with an open bag of chips, just so no one else could have them.
One day during our many summers spent together, one of my top favorite memories with him happened. We were sitting on my deck, under the gazebo, when a bee flew in my face and I began to freak out. He told me to calm down, that it was just a bee, to which I replied, "I don't care, the thing could have stung me!" He said "but it was just a bumble bee! They're fuzzy! You can just cuddle with them!" Literally, he was talking about cuddling with bees. I gave him the strangest look, and then he did something that no one would expect, and yet was so Ryan: he saw a bumble bee sitting on a plant nearby, and, in no exaggeration at all, began to pet the bee. Ryan freaking Tachell was sitting there, casually petting a bee, and stupidly giggling about it like it was nothing. Cuddly bees; who would have thought? It's been our inside joke since then and is still one of the funniest things to me.
So, senior year came to an end, I graduated high school, and life moved on. I didn't get to see Ryan every day, but we still kept in touch, and we always invited him to hang out with us. We always seemed to forget how much younger he was; I mean, here's a group of 18 and 19 year old teenagers hanging out with a 15 year old and we never noticed the difference. Ryan was so mature in some ways that you forgot you were hanging out with someone who was still in high school. Not that I even cared, he was one of my best friends, and as an only child, the closest person I've ever had to a brother.
As his senior year approached, I took every chance to tell him that I was going to shoot his senior photos. He was so excited to have me do them for him, and I was excited to shoot them as well! Last September, me, my friend Colton, him, and Trish, spent a couple hours walking around downtown Spokane shooting against various brick, graffiti, and fenced backdrops. The light was unusually amazing that day; it was smoggy but still sunny out, creating the most perfect, soft, bright light. I wasn't expecting to get the best lit shots but I was pleasantly surprised with how great they came out. His shoot was one of my favorite senior shoot's I'd done to date.
I remember posting his preview of his shoot, the photo that is currently his profile picture on Facebook. The stinking thing got like 100 likes which was so much more than I was used to, and as I was looking at who was liking it, the theme became common: high school girls. I remember texting him and telling him that I was going to take partial credit for all the girls that were swarming him. He just laughed, like it was nothing new, that he got that much attention from girls all the time. And he did! The kid was a stud, and on top of that was just well loved by everybody. His smile was contagious and his laugh was something I can't forget. We used to joke with him that he had the stupidest jock laugh, which only made him laugh harder, and made us laugh harder too.
My last memory of him comes from a little over a week ago, on the Tuesday before his accident. Whitney, my roommate and I, were leaving our apartment complex, when we noticed an impound notice on her car that is parked right outside of our complex. I won't go into the details of all of that, but we needed to get the car moved from that spot within 24 hours or it would have been towed and impounded. So, we got in the car, turned over the key, and of course, it didn't start. In fact, it didn't even try to start: the thing was completely dead. I called my dad up; it was already 8 at night and my parents don't live in Spokane, so my dad said that we needed someone to jump our car and to find one of my guy friends to do it. I started scrolling through my contacts, and quickly realized that all my guy friends were either busy or didn't know how to jump a car, except Ryan. I didn't want to make him come into town on a school night, but if you know him, you know that none of that mattered to him. Our phone conversation went something like this:
Me: "How much of a good friend do you feel like being tonight?"
Ryan: "Ummm, why what's up?"
Me: *explains car situation* "Do you think you could maybe jump the car? Do you know how?"
Ryan: "Yeah I can do that! Wait, do you think it's possible to jump a car with a motorcycle?"
Let's just pause for a minute. Ryan had just bought his motorcycle around a week before hand, and we was so stupidly excited about it. I remember seeing his posts on Facebook and getting all of his snapchats about it. The kid loved that thing.
Me: "Haha Ryan I doubt it."
Ryan: "Okay, I'll drive over!"
Me: "You're the best! I'll make you dinner or bake you muffins or cookies or something! Thank you!"
Bribe him with food. Genius points for me.
So the phone call ended, and in around 30 minutes, he was at our door. We went to work trying to get the car started; we tried jumping it which didn't work, and eventually came to the conclusion that we could take Ryan's battery out of his car, put it in Whitney's, move her car, and put Ryan's battery back. We joked and laughed the whole time, and made a crappy situation into something good.
When we were finished, Ryan came upstairs and we made him breakfast for dinner. Yes, he'd already eaten dinner. But this was his second one, and when we cooked a whole package of bacon, he ate the entire thing, minus the 4 slices that Whitney and I had eaten. Thats's right, he ate almost a WHOLE PACKAGE OF BACON. The kid was super human. His stomach was bottomless. As we ate, we talked and caught up; he talked about how well his Marine's training was going, and how he wanted us to come to his graduation in San Diego when he got done with basic. He went out of his way to wash and scrub all of our dishes, which isn't the first time he's done that. One time, he showed up at my door the morning after I'd been up late with a group of friends, made us all crepes for breakfast, and did our dishes. Who even does that?! Ryan was the kind of person who did. He wasted one of his Sunday's once when I moved out of home to help me load all of my stuff up and down three flights of stairs. It's hard to find people in life who will constantly drop everything to go out of their way to help you, but Ryan was that person.
As the night became later, we all sat around on our couch and hung out. We'd mentioned that we'd just bought two light up hula hoops (yes, we're 5) and we forced Ryan to try and hula hoop with us. The image of him hula hooping in my living room and epically failing every time is something I'll never get out of my head. He had no shame though, and did it anyways.
As 11 PM rolled around, he decided to leave. He gave me one of his typical Ryan bear hugs, I opened the door and I said "peace out boy scout!" to which he laughed, looked at me funny, rolled his eyes, and said goodbye, and then he was gone.
And so here we are.
Somehow, those last hours I got to spend with him gave me peace about it all. I got to experience the absolute best of Ryan and the best of our friendship, and I'm so glad that an inconvenient situation with a car could become something that I'm so happy to have had. I don't want to talk about the moment my mom called me to tell me about what happened, or the complete sadness and emptiness that I felt afterwards, because that's not what all of this is about. I'm not writing this with the intention to bring attention to my own hurt or loss. I'm writing this to share some of my favorite, happiest memories of him with you all, with Josh, with his parents, and with anyone who ever knew him, and even if you didn't, you just learned a lot about one of the most amazing people I've been blessed to have in my life. In the midst of all of this, Ryan's life has brought us all so many positive memories and lessons that even though we all lost something, we all gained a lot from him too. His memorial was an affirmation of that; seeing just how many people were affected by his existence was a testament to his life.
Yesterday, as I was picking out which photo I wanted to use of him for my project, I went though all of my photos on my computer and on Facebook to compile everything I had of him. Here's a gallery of photos throughout all the time I knew him. I hope these make you smile as much as they made me.