Three months after my discharge from the Marine Corps, at 22 years old, I met my wife Megan, on December 10th, 2002. The very next day, I was drawn like a moth to a flame into dealing with a long term, terminal illness. Megan had Cystic Fibrosis, and after 8 years or declining health, she received a double lung transplant, and a new lease o life. Our daughter Shelby was born in 2007. In early 2014, those recycled lungs, which had brought our little family three years of uncomplicated health and happiness, finally began to give out. She died from chronic organ transplant rejection on November 19th, 2014 while I held her hand and let her go. I'm a single father and widower at 34 years old, and no one has published a manual for it. I don't fit the mold, because there is no mold. I "deal with it" through morbid humor, inappropriateness, anger, and the general vulgarity of the 22 year old me, as if I never grew up, but temper it with focus on raising a tenacious, smart, and strong woman in Shelby. I try to live as if Megan is still here with us, giving me that sarcastic stare because yet again, I don't know what the hell I'm doing.
As I write this, Sarah is cruising at 30,000 feet over Indiana. She’s en-route to Chicago, then Phoenix to spend 6 days with Drew’s mother at a conference. We woke up early this morning to get her to the airport, then for me to get Shelby to school and myself on to work.
For the next week, I’m back to basics. I’m effectively a “single father” in the sense that it’s my sole responsibility to make sure Shelby is taken care of, the clothes are washed, the lawn is mowed, and the bills are paid. Sarah has been here for almost 2 years now, and as time has progressed, her and I have become more and more of a team.
I won’t lie, having Sarah making sure that I knew when Shelby’s after-school activities were, or making sure that we had some food pulled out of the freezer for the next few days is nice in more ways than one. It’s funny, really. We have become so “in-tune” that she doesn’t trust me to be able to take care of myself and Shelby for a few days on my own.
I am 36 years old. Soon to be 37. Although I’ve held the titles of Marine (6 years), Lifeguard (3 years), Father (10 years), Widower (3 years), Husband (9 years), Boyfriend (9 years, cumulatively), and Student (13 years...I never went to college), the title that has been with me the longest, up to this day, is “Employee” (21 years).
I have been employed since I was 15 years old. I started as a lifeguard in high school, then on to the Marine Corps. After that, I worked retail for a few months, and as an iron pourer in a foundry for the better part of a year before finally landing a job in IT...my “career” field.
The longest stretch of time I’ve had “off” since I was 15 years old was 10 days.