My Problem With Normal

In the first few days, there was a lot of talk about getting to a new “normal.” That is, a new “normal” without my father. Because regardless of how I felt, how I wanted to literally go back in time and fix everything, my life continued on and I had to go back to doing what I’ve done every other day in my life.

After six months, there is a “new normal” for me. It looks a lot like the old normal, with some added depression, less social interactions, and a lot more tears, a lot more emotions caught in my throat. But I still go to work, I still drive an hour home, I still spend time on the computer, and I still just go on.

But what no one told me about finding this new “normal” is that when it becomes normal, it starts to feel like it’s always been like this. That you forget how the patterns of a person fit in the first place. That you start to question whether that person was ever really there at all in your “normal” and not just a story.

Of course, he was there. My father shaped my life for 33 years, but what about all the years thereafter when he’s not here? How can things ever be “normal” if your normal is missing a pattern that helped shape you?

Six Months

I did not cry yesterday. The distractions afforded by play-off football, a Seahawks win, and binge-watching a new show on Netflix allowed me to have one day with no tears. It does not sound like an accomplishment, but it was a brief solace from what has been true every day for six months.

(I’ve already failed at having a day two.)

Half a year and sometimes it still feels like yesterday that he was here. Where’s he just slightly out of my reach, still only one phone call away. What’s worse, though, is when it feels like a lifetime, like it has been so long that I question whether he was really here at all.

It really makes you question time, grief. The past is your present and the future is something you avoid thinking about because how can you picture something with out him.

I don’t look forward to the next six months or the years thereafter. And I’m told it’ll get better … with time.

July 2016

Each day that passes
takes me further away.
Each sunset is a hundred miles
each sunrise, a thousand more.

And what destroys more than
each added mile, day after day
is the thought that I can still just
turn around, back to you.

The Story of My Flag

There has been a lot of media attention surrounding the United States flag due to Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the national anthem. And while I may have differing views from him, this post isn’t a deconstruction of those views. Instead, it’s my story of my flag.

Ask any kid who grew up on a military base what happens at 5 o’clock in the afternoon and they’ll tell you – the flag is taken down. The call of retreat is played and everyone stops. Literally. Cars stop in the road, soldiers take off their cover and stand at attention, and kids stop playing. My father always made it a point to respect the flag going down (and probably when it was raised, while I was fast asleep). Although you didn’t have to get out of the car, my father did.

He never talked extensively about his military service, likely because he couldn’t. I would hear the occasional work gripes – usually about a computer issue. (At the time, I didn’t know that my father was more than just the IT guy of his unit because he did so much more.) But I know he was proud to serve and fight for his country. I remember a phone conversation I had with him.

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Week 6: My Birthday

Dear Dad,

It’s my birthday today, but you knew that. I’m in Fresno for a couple depositions, so if you tried to call this morning, you would have gotten my voicemail.  You’d say “Arrow, this is the Dad,” and make a joke about there being something important going on today.  Then, you’d say happy birthday and sign off like we always signed off to each other.  You would almost always call (the few times you couldn’t were usually when you were out in the field or Korea); I never had to fear you’d forget.

After I got done with the deposition, I’d look at my phone and see I missed your call.  I would actually listen to your voicemail rather than just calling you back immediately like I usually do.  I would laugh at the joke and smile because your voice would be so happy and will remind me how much you love me and how much I love you.

I would call you back as I was walking to the hotel.  You’d answer with another “ARROW!” and a “Happy Birthday!”  I’d tell you where I was at.  And that I got a new phone because of the weird battery issue I had the other day.  (You’d ask why I didn’t just get a new battery and I would tell you my reasons and you’d chastise me, but would accept the result.)

You would probably be on the way “to the Mom’s,” after stopping by the Commissary.  Say something about a computer issue at work, and not having enough time to get everything done.  You’d tell me that we were still waiting on the inspection for the license of “your house.” I’d ask if you got the sprinkler system fixed yet because someone ran over one of the sprinkler heads and that was the next thing on your envelope “to do” list.

“Hey, so do you get to watch the Patriots pre-season game tonight,” you’d ask.  No, I’d reply, probably not. “Did you want to use my GamePass? I get those.”  No, I’ll just watch the Olympics and do some work in the hotel room; are the Seahawks playing?  “Yeah. The Vikings, I think. Cowboys next week. Hope your Patriots can hold on until Brady’s back so we can beat you at the Super Bowl.” Yeah yeah yeah.

If we were still talking by the time you got to Mom’s, there would be a small complaint about the garage door not opening after pressing the button.  It’d take a few tries, but you’d get it.  You’d walk into the house, making your way to the kitchen and find mom preparing lunch.  You’d hand the phone to her and say it was me.  Then you would go back to the car to get what you couldn’t carry while juggling the phone.  If I was lucky, you’d get back before Mom hung up and I would get to say “I love you” to you and one last poke.

I’d have two birthday cards waiting for me in my mailbox when I got home tomorrow.  They’d both be funny ones; you probably laughed as you did when you picked them out.  You would call on Saturday from Mom’s phone because you were driving her somewhere, just to make sure that I got home okay.

We would talk like we always talked, which would be enough. Even now, it would be enough to change how I feel today. Because it’s been six weeks without your phone calls and the first birthday without you.

Maybe, one day, I’ll only remember what used to be rather than what isn’t.  And maybe one day, I’ll trick myself into remembering this phone conversation rather than what really was.

I miss you. I love you.

A(nother) Beginning

au•gust

noun, the eighth month of the year

adjective, respected and impressive

It is not surprising that the month of my birth is a time of reflection. I have many more regrets than I care to admit and I’m sure many more accomplishments that I brush off too quickly. And this year, I find myself having difficulty putting my thoughts into words. Or maybe it is more that I am hesitant… because writing it makes it real and hard to avoid.

Turning 30 went good for me. Turning 31, not so much. Still working on how I’m handling turning 32.

Part of me still feels like I’m pretending to be an adult, just waiting for someone to call me out. Another part of me sees the age, slowing realizing that I can’t really make up for not being “young” enough when I had the chance. I can spend hours listing my regrets over the past few years. But as I titled this post, this is more about a beginning.

This year will be about making more good choices than bad, about making more of an effort to take care of me (finally). About growing up but staying young at heart. To be a little bit more fearless and open.

Because, August.