Mike Welker

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.


Quality Time

The way the math works is that Shelby was born eleven and a half years ago.  Megan died when she was seven, and Sarah came into our lives when Shelby was eight.  That means that Sarah has had approximately half the time, at this point, that Megan had with Shelby.  A third of Shelby’s life has been with Sarah.

Somehow, Sarah and I got into a conversation about this a few days ago, and it really got me thinking.  Though Megan had double the time so far, it doesn’t necessarily mean she got the “better” years.

Sure, Sarah did not get to witness Shelby’s first steps.  She wasn’t there for her first words, or her first day of school.  Shelby learned to read without ever having known Sarah existed. Trips to Myrtle Beach, Maine, and the Great Smokies are all Memories that Megan and Shelby shared, and that Shelby still reminisces about.  

Sarah never changed her diaper, or made a bottle for her, or fed her disgusting strained peas in a high chair.  She wasn’t around when Peanut had her first school presentation, or got to walk in a parade.

Ultimately, she didn’t give birth to Shelby.

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Semper Fidelis

Yesterday was memorial day in the United States.  Every year, on the last Monday in May, we Americans fire up the grill, go to parades, ignite fireworks, buy red-white-and-blue everything, and celebrate the unofficial start of summer.  We hang our flags, complain about the heat, and have a drink or four to commemorate the day off from work.

Meanwhile, like many holidays in the United States, we forget the actual meaning and purpose of the holiday.  Memorial Day was originally called “Decoration Day”, and no, it didn’t signify decorating our McMansions with red white and blue windsocks and ensuring our patio furniture had just the right feng shui to go with our new $700 grill that we got at a Memorial Day blowout sale.  It was originally intended as a somber event to honor Union soldiers who had died during the American Civil War. One would visit a cemetery to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers. It morphed into including all men and women of any war after World War I.

History lessons aside, it’s a tough day for many widows, but for the majority of Americans, it’s a day off.

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Of the many titles I've held (Marine, Husband, Engineer, Brother, Son, Uncle), the one I am most proud of is "Father"
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