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.
Shelby is nearing the end of her 5th grade year. In just a few more months, she will be off to middle school. All I have known of her for most of her life is that she is an elementary school student. Through the sickness, health, additional sickness, and death of her mother, she has never skipped a beat, still bringing home 3.0 or higher averages on every single report card. Her thirst for learning is ever-present, and instead of telling her to put the video games down and do her chores, we have to rip her away from books. She is a very “easy” kid to parent, really.
But there are moments that occur in Shelby and I’s relationship that I know she does not fully grasp the levity of yet. Moments that we share completely, yet that mean much more to me, as her young, inquisitive mind hasn’t asked the questions yet. She is still innocent. Even with the loss of Megan, she hasn’t become skeptical or fallen into the sometimes detrimental mindfulness that causes many of we adults to “spiral”.
So with that, Shelby and I’s last dance at the last father-daughter dance in her last year of elementary school was nothing more than a fun 3 minutes with her old man before moving on to her friends. To me, it was a huge milestone.Read more
Sorry I didn’t write you sooner. As fate would have it, your birthday was last Wednesday, and this just happens to be the best forum for me to do this, albeit only on Tuesdays. Sue me.
Anyway, this is the third year in a row that I’ve given you a birthday letter. Last year, it was about cake and bacon beer (of which I did NOT get to partake in this year...you’re slacking, although, I did make a cake that was pretty damned good). The year before, it was simply a personal thing, telling you about all the new things I was learning about being not only a widower, but dating a widow.
Mostly though, the song remains the same. I still would have liked to know you personally, even though it would have absolutley sucked to see you gone. There had to be something interesting about you that brought such a unique group of friends together. Friends who continue to remember your birthday every year. Friends who still hate this day, because it reminds them ever more so that you’re not there wearing a purple tiara and having a beer with them.Read more