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.
Through our twenties, Megan and I (well, mostly me) got into a mountain of debt. Cars, trips, entertainment, and just plain “things” were being spent upon all the time. There were quite a few medical costs sprinkled in there too. By the time we hit 30 years old, we were at our wit’s end with bills. Megan’s disability prevented her from working, and besides that, she had her hands full with a toddler either way.
It had become so stressful to manage money. It was beyond overwhelming to sit down and process numbers and balances and interest rates and minimum payments. I had relied upon Megan to do most of this for quite awhile, but it came to a point when it overwhelmed her as well. Some bills slipped through the cracks, late charges piled up, credit card bills became ridiculous (to be fair, mostly by my own doing), and there was even a moment where we feared our electricity would be turned off.Read more
Up until about age 30 or so, I was a fairly social creature. I made friends easily, whether it be through work, spending weekends in the woods with groups, or wrenching on cars. Through my twenties, not only did Megan and I make “couples” friends, but I had my own as well. Friends that Megan appreciated herself, but really, they were people that I hung around with.
Most of these friends were around our age and roughly the same stage in life. When Shelby was born, it wasn’t long before our closest friends were having their own children. All seemed in order in the world. Both of our thirtieth birthdays were spent with largely the same people at a local winery, having some drinks, laughing, talking about our children, cars, donkeys (long story), illness, and whatever other mundane subject we all shared interest in.
We would all attend football games together. Or go to the movies, festivals, car shows, or just “hang out”. Even when Megan would be admitted to the hospital, she had frequent visits from our friends. I would go fishing or hiking with my “buddies” whenever I had the chance, and Megan would do much the same with hers (well, not fishing or hiking, but you get the idea)
Seven years later, and that part of my life seems foreign to me.Read more