If many of my posts sound like a broken record, it’s because they are. For those of you old enough to remember, the slightest scratch on a vinyl album could stop the music in its literal track and replace it with two seconds of repeating sounds. It was aggravating when it happened. You could hope that it was just a blip. A speck of dust or an oddly perfect combination of bass vibrations that was causing the needle to jump back in time.
It usually wasn’t. Being that the spiraling track of a record was actually a groove cut into the plastic, you couldn’t just “buff out” a scratch all that easily. You couldn’t completely erase that imperfection. Every time the turntable spun to that exact point in your playlist, you would be greeted by a reminder that you didn’t handle your album with enough care, or that someone else mishandled it.Read more
20 years ago, I woke up to a screaming drill instructor, chaos, mind games, and effectively running everywhere I went. I lived in a green uniform, seeing no other colors but black, green, and brown for months. I swam in 10 foot deep water with 120 pounds of gear, went 3 days and 48 miles of marching on 4 hours of total sleep (and one meal). I didn’t speak with my family for 13 weeks, other than the occasional letter. I ran until I died, and then ran some more. Rifle marksmanship, hand-to-hand combat, history, military legal codes, uniform standard, rappelling, gas chambers, and a multitude of other subjects were drilled into my head, non-stop, and if I should not be sufficient in any given one, I would be held back and given another week on that godforsaken island in South Carolina.
Marine Corps recruit training (boot camp) was the hardest thing I had ever done, and for a long time, I thought it would be the hardest thing I would ever do.
If it was, I wouldn’t be writing to you today.Read more
Seventeen years ago, today, I was driving back from the base medical office to my shop after receiving some vaccines. It was a beautiful morning in North Carolina. Slightly on the muggy side, but the sun was shining and the temperature was perfect.
As was common at the time, I tuned to Howard Stern on the radio, and after a few minutes, he mentioned that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. It was all he was talking about. I thought that it was a bit. He was doing tasteless schtick as he had always done.
I arrived at my shop, and walked into the rest of my platoon huddled around a small black and white, portable television, with mouths agape. Not 30 seconds after my arrival, I watched live, as a second plane crashed into the other tower. The news was quite on the sensationalist side with estimates of upwards of 10,000 people trapped in the upper floors of the burning buildings.
We stared at the news footage, listening to speculation about terrorist attacks, navigational failures, other possibly hijacked planes, and all of the other “guesses” that the news was making. We were interrupted by our commanding officer, telling us to fall into formation immediately, as the roar of F-18s and Harriers taxiing on our air station became more noticeable.
We were briefed about the two crashes in New York. Another crash into the Pentagon was confirmed. Yet ANOTHER plane was missing, last seen heading east towards DC. We were to be put into a state of full-readiness, returning to our barracks, packing our gear, and awaiting orders.
I was 20 years old. Most of my platoon ranged from 18 - 22 years old. We were confused, anxious, and scared.
We were not patriots.Read more
How about something a little light hearted? Instead of writing morosely and trying to explain metaphors, I’ll look around the room and just take stock of where I am, nearing 4 years since Megan’s death? I don’t feel like “finding meaning” today. Not every day has to have “meaning” when it comes to widowerhood.
Sometimes, funny things happen irrespective of our widowship (is that a word?). Sometimes, I just like to sit back and observe, and point out coincidences instead of “signs”. Sometimes, I just want to sarcastically write about funny things I notice, will no ill-intent, in the hopes that I can make someone smile, or perhaps even laugh.
Sometimes, the world doesn’t revolve around the fact Megan is dead.Read more
There were so many reasons for Megan to be proud of Shelby. From her sheer intelligence, to her love for reading, to even her quirky weirdness. She appreciated that Shelby had a love for nature, at least tiny animals and flowers. We would take Shelby camping at least once a year, but due to Megan’s condition, that was the limit.
We took one “backpacking” trip as a family. Shelby was about 5 years old, and carried nothing but a few stuffed animals and granola bars in her pack. Megan had received her transplant, and thus was just healthy enough to schlep some weight and contribute to a one mile hike into the wilderness of West Virginia to camp.
I was proud of Shelby at that point for her enthusiasm. We hiked in a thunderstorm, to a small patch of territory in the middle of nowhere, and she loved it. There was no apprehension about not having four walls, light at the flick of a switch, or running water. She, like me, actually wanted that lack of modern conveniences.
Since Megan’s death, Sarah, Shelby and I have taken a few more “easy” trips. Each has had the same effect of me being proud of Shelby, although I’ve had to be proud for both Megan and I. She’s still been carrying a very small load, considering there were two adults to shoulder most of the baggage for her.
A big first happened this past weekend though. Shelby and I took our first trip together, just the two of us, and she started carrying some of her own baggage.Read more
I met Megan when I was only twenty-two years old. I was fresh off of my active duty tour as a Marine, having been in the communications specialty for the past four years. My “job” was, effectively, IT, just as it is now.
I was ready to “settle down” already. I had met a good woman, I was back home, with four years experience in my career field and only a car payment as debt. While I hadn’t (and still haven’t) ever stepped foot onto a college campus (well, as a student at least), in the data communications field, experience is worth more than any diploma.
I was set. All I had to do is land a lower level job, pay my dues and work my way up in the field. It would be an easy path to a successful, stable career. Megan and I were married less than three years after meeting, bought a house, and continued on, with Shelby arriving a few years later.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say I felt “stuck” by the time Shelby was born. I couldn’t even switch jobs, let alone career paths, because we couldn’t go more than a week without health insurance. We had built up some additional car payments, mortgages, and bills, and a newborn isn’t exactly cheap, even with help from family.
The feeling continues.Read more
Yesterday would have been Megan and I’s thirteenth wedding anniversary. It has been the fourth since she died. We didn’t quite make it to a decade together as husband and wife, but we at least got to have the experience of buying our own home and becoming parents. We got to have a formal wedding, with a service in a church and a catered reception in a rented hall. For all intents and purposes, our marriage and life together thereafter was “normal”, save for, you know, the whole long-term illness and death thing.
But I digress. Again, it’s been four years since she died. I’ve had a bit of time now to observe how this very specific date will occur each year, and I’ve noticed a trend…
...none of those who were our wedding guests cares about this date.Read more
Today, Megan would have been 37 years old. This is the fourth birthday since her death, and I can confidently say that they have gotten a bit easier. I’m not a ball of snot and tears, or missing her any more than I already do.
She’s s imply “in focus” today. There is no other way to describe it but “in focus”. On any given day, something occurs that makes me think of her. Shelby says something that sounds like her. It may be a five minute, fleeting memory, but regardless, she is in my thoughts. Four years of processing those moments have blunted the sharp edge of grief. Her birthday is no different, other than the fact that those moments occur throughout the day in a reliable, predictable sense.
The elevated awareness that she’s dead does, in fact, make today a bit more stressful overall. Her birthday doesn’t make any one individual thought of her “worse” per se, but the accumulation of them tends to just wear me out by nightfall. That in mind, I’ve decided I don’t care about being worn out. We’re physically in my favorite place on earth right now, and I’m welcoming the overwhelming flood of stimuli that will have me in bed by 9:00 PM.Read more
Something that Megan and I did every year or two was get family photos taken. While we had thousands of “candid” pictures, taken from our phones or old point-and-shoot devices, we were never posed, and neither of us were exactly professional photographers. We would make the appointment, pack up a few various pieces of clothing, and head to JCPenney for an hour or so of awkward positions and goofy smiles, followed by standing in a department store looking through each and every shot, choosing the six best, and deciding on a package. The photos are done well, and I like them, but the experience of producing them was not exactly the most enjoyable memory. If we could have had them without all of the other hassle (and money), they would have been perfect.
We still have some of those photos hanging on our walls. Shelby truly lives up to her “Peanut” nickname in most of them...being about 2 feet tall and 25 pounds at the largest. (for the record, I too have added about 30 pounds since then, so the “growing together” has a literal meaning). The memory of her simply being that size is the most enjoyable to me.
Megan has a beautiful smile in all of them. She was, simply put, photogenic, and she knew how to apply a good “picture smile”. For Shelby and I’s part, we did our best to smirk.Read more
As Sarah, Shelby and I near the time to depart for our summer vacation, I am reminded of just how different things were, and I am finding some appreciation of the very fact that as a widower, those differences weren’t always convenient. We’re traveling to my favorite place on earth, the Great Smoky Mountains, at the end of July.
Megan and I always took our “big” road trips around this time. In between her birthday and our anniversary, occuring about 10 days later. It was convenient, because of large annual festivals going on around home, it got us away from the tourists invading our space, and allowed us to be tourists ourselves. We always did quite a bit of shopping and “touristy” type things, but my eyes were constantly transfixed on those mountains, standing like 6500-foot ramparts on the edge of the tiny town of Gatlinburg.
I knew, given Megan’s illness, that the majority of the time spent in the trees, creeks, and cool air would be supplanted by more pedestrian endeavors in gift shops and restaurants. I would see far more people than birds. Kitschy “mountain man” shops, selling red plaid, black teddy bears, and pine scented soap would be chock full of persons wearing fanny packs and crocs, scoffing at the idea of walking any further than a few feet from their car to see a real black bear or smell a stately stand of pines on a mountaintop.
I hated the very thought of Gatlinburg, but I still loved going there. I still do.Read more