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.
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.
`Yesterday, the 26th, was Sarah’s mother’s birthday. Part of a tradition that she has done over the years is to have a small cake, and a bouquet of flowers, as a way of celebrating her, though she’s no longer here. It’s a simple gesture that means so much. She lost her mother when she was only nine years old. While her siblings were much older, and had much more time with her, Sarah had to “make do” with memories she only had as a little girl, and recollections of her older siblings.
Shelby, too, lost her mother at a young age. She was only seven when Megan died. She remembers quite a bit, but again, she was nowhere near adulthood when any memories she could form ceased. She relies heavily on myself, grandparents, and her uncle for the stories that she may have been a part of, but still too young to realize they were something to remember.
As we sat down to partake in the yearly birthday cake, I (somewhat in jest) asked Shelby if she remembered Megan’s birthday. She did not, other than she knew it was in summer (her guess was a month off). I wasn’t disappointed, for she’s still just a little girl. It is not like she has a date planner or had any part in actually NEEDING to remember the exact date of her mother’s birth.
After some good natured ribbing, and finishing our cake, Shelby asked a question to Sarah.
“Did you ever forget your mom’s birthday?”Read more