Our niece, Nicole Zabelny, died thirty years ago. Her heart was enlarged. I babysat for her and her two sisters on Wednesday nights for almost three years while my sister, Ann, was working as a hostess at Waldron’s in Webster. I would leave work early and ride my bike out there, down the big hill on Browncroft or the even more dangerous one on Empire Boulevard. I’d play with the kids, feed them, struggle to get them wound down and in bed and then put a baked potato in the oven for my sister to have when she got home. I’d have a beer with my sister and Peggi would come out to take me home in the car. I loved every minute of it. Nicole was always a delight. She was very creative, talked of becoming a writer, and had big plans for her life but it was cut short. Way too short.
Just before she got sick, she asked me to paint her portrait. I said I’d bring my camera out the next Wednesday and take a photo to work from. Nicole made a big deal of the sitting, picking the white chair on the porch as the location and wearing her favorite t-shirt and then spending over an hour in the bathroom putting on make-up. She was twelve. By the time she was ready to sit down it was getting dark and there was barely enough light for the film in our old Canon FTb. I had the film developed when the roll was finished but Nicole was already gone by then. She was such a positive force. She will never be forgotten.
Shortly before our niece, Nicole Zabelny, passed she created a children’s book in her sixth grade art class. Her book, “Counting At The Circus” is available here as a free download.