Half a lifetime ago, it was esprit de corps. It was smoking breakfast, sleeping through lunch, and drinking dinner. It was hard working weekdays, and lazy weekends. It was little pay and long hours, and not caring about either.
Half a lifetime ago, days went by as years. The soundtrack was Blink-182 and Korn. The beer was warm and cheap, and almost all “home-cooked meals” consisted of some form of noodles or junk food. The only feelings were that of morning humidity and skinned knuckles. My brothers and sisters “in-arms” all shared in this routine eagerly. We’d all been through the same things, in the same places, around the same time.
Half a lifetime ago, 15 people would pile into 3 cars on a Saturday drive to the beach. Seven would return in a state best described not as “wasted”, but “happy”. The remaining eight would have stories to tell. There were no real bills and our biggest concerns were being on time and in uniform for Monday morning’s 5 mile run.
It was, simply put, fun. I miss it. Those were some of the best days of my life. Before I was a widower. Before I was a father. Before I had even met Megan, or even cared about meeting anyone. It was carefree routine, peppered with deployments to some far off land for a few months, again with the same brothers and sisters. Sure, there were arguments. There were times when we had to suffer through trying to sleep in 100+ degree desert heat, because we pulled the night shift. There were times when we had to wait for hours in line at the base barber shop, because every single Marine gets a haircut, every Sunday. There were times when we blew our car payment money on that cheap beer, and the Monday morning run was done with a hangover. But it was all worth it.
Or was it?Read more
It’s been far too long since I felt the sting of an icy wind hitting my face. Months have passed since I lazily stared into a campfire of my own creation, with nobody but my own self to discuss it with. I haven’t dunked into a mountain creek after a long march, and I haven’t been woken up by annoying crows, rather than an annoying alarm clock.
I have every opportunity to walk off into the woods for a day or two. It doesn’t cost much, other than the gas to get there. Winter has never stopped me either, in fact, I favor the winter when I’m out in the “back-of-beyond”. There are no insects, no stifling humidity, and most of all, no people. I can be truly alone with my thoughts, my triggers, and my memories. I can process the self-pity and pessimism that rears its ugly head every so often, without a facebook notification, ringing phone, or a TV interrupting me.
I don’t have any real excuses as to why I haven’t at least taken a day or two to be alone in nature in the past 4 months. But oh, do I sure try to find them. I have slowly been becoming grumpier. Angrier at minutia. Pessimistic and spiteful at the situation that I was thrust into. It’s a negative feedback loop...the more I NEED to be in those woods, the less I have the ambition to get up and go.
I’m using all of the tricks to talk myself out of it and avoid. I think it’s time to have a discussion of these finer points with myself. A “heart-to-heart”, if you will, with my own. It’s a time where, as I wrote over three years ago not long after Megan’s death, I need to flip the switch from suffering to determination. To dust myself off, climb out of my fighting hole, and just friggin’ DO IT.
Let’s talk, self. Have a seat and lets discuss the reasons your ambition is all but gone.
On a day-to-day basis, I’m fairly composed and not overly sensitive to things that remind me of Megan, her illness, or the fact that she’s gone. Shelby acheives honor roll like clockwork, and though it reminds me of how proud Megan would be, and I wish she was there, it’s an “it is what it is situation”, where I can be happy for both of us and go about my day. I can hear and talk about others that are sick, watch shows or read about widowers or illness, or drive by the hospital she was treated and died in, and it doesn’t really phase me.
Chalk that up to years of becoming desensitized to it all. Long-term illness has a way of letting you begin grieving long before it is “required”, so that you are already well into the process when the time comes. Although Megan’s death was “sudden”, in that we didn’t know precisely what day of the month it would occur, it wasn’t a “surprise”.
So, when a neighborhood stray cat was evidently hit by a car, at first, I thought not too much of it, and decided, with Sarah, that we needed to take care of it with a clear head and confidence. Out came one of the largest triggers I’ve had since Megan’s death.Read more
It’s Monday night. After a long holiday weekend, and a single day of work, I’m off for a week. Sarah and I are traveling to Texas tomorrow, to meet with her friends and family and celebrate the memory of Drew, as they’ve done yearly since his death.
The loose ends are tied up at work. Our bags are packed and we’re into the impatient “waiting game” that comes before any longer trip getting started. I wish we could just leave right now. Visions of the beach, and lounging beside the pool seem like they’ll take forever to become reality.
Aaaaaand my chest is tight. I’m uncomfortably nervous and anxious. Something just feels...well…”off”.
What would have been Megan’s 35th birthday was a few weeks ago, on July 24th. I would venture to say that, for most widows and widowers, birthdays are one of the hardest days to remember. They are associated with memories of fun times, friends and family celebrating that person’s day, and yet another year “in the books”. To have that annual event suddenly take on a different meaning and a different remembrance affects all of those who knew and loved that person.
Megan’s came and went this year with what has been typical since her death. I’m grumpy most of the day, but we do something to remember her, keep occupied, and have an enjoyable day in her honor. Cliche as it is, yes, it IS” what she would have wanted”. Multiple people ensure they post to facebook about how they miss her, and say “Happy Birthday” on her wall. Heartfelt paragraphs about things they remember doing with her, or “breathe easy” are digitally pushed to her in the afterlife via keyboard, somehow. There may have been a few less posts this year than last on that day, but still, her friends remember her birthday.
A few days later though, and facebook is silent. Memories tend to fade when you don’t have automated reminders popping up, don’t they? As far as the internet is concerned, life moves on until the next year, when suddenly it seems like everyone is thinking about her again.
I don’t have that option. I think about Megan...every...single...day. It’s a matter of HOW MUCH I think about her that changes, and August 6th was a doozy.Read more
Sarah, Shelby and I are in Texas this week for the 4th annual get-together of her and Drew’s closest friends. This is the second time I’ve attended, and Shelby’s first. I’ve met these people before. They are all already friends of mine, albeit not as close as Sarah is to them, but friends nonetheless.
There seem to be a lot of similarities between Drew and I. We were entirely different people, but I hear every day from Sarah of things that I do or mannerisms I hold that are “just like him”. His friends have welcomed me with open arms just the same; knowing that I’m a different person, but able to sit down, have a beer, and shoot the breeze through the night with me as if I’ve always been part of the group.
There is one thing though, an event, that both Drew and I experienced in much the same way. Meeting Sarah’s parents.Read more
My mother, daughter, and girlfriend have all lost their own mothers at a young age, all to different illnesses. Each of their moms had to stare their own mortality square in the eye, and hope for the best for their daughters. They did everything they could to love and protect their little ones in the time they had, but ultimately, they had no choice but to leave them to grow up without their biological mother.
Tuberculosis, Cancer, and Cystic Fibrosis. Those are the diseases that took my mom, Sarah, and Shelby’s mothers, each before their daughters were even ten years old. Though each is of a different generation and time in their life, they have all needed to learn how to become a mother after losing their own biological mother. They each picked up surrogate mothers along the way. Friends of the family, adoptive parents, neighbors, teachers, and other relatives were all able to form part of the village it takes.
But none had their biological mothers. I can’t begin to fathom that.Read more
My wife suffered from a long-term illness, Cystic Fibrosis. When I say “long-term”, what I actually mean is “life-long”. There wasn’t a day that I knew her where she didn’t have some sort of symptom or complication directly due to her condition. Even after her transplant, every day was filled with special medications, dietary and activity concerns, and the constant knowledge that the bottom could drop out at any time.
As blunt and morbid as it may seem, her death brought closure. It brought a bit of simplicity to everyday life. Make no mistake, I would much rather have her here, complexities or not, but that is a separate issue in my mind.