Eleven years ago today you walked me down the aisle, stood with me in the front of the church while “Butterfly Kisses” played, kissed me and shook DJ’s hand and told him to take care of me. So, on my 11th anniversary, I spent the day packing up and cleaning out the house of your dreams that you never had the chance to enjoy. The house on the lake. The everyday fishing. The place that you couldn’t wait for all of us to see; for your grandkids to come spend weeks at a time; the small town; the “community”; the waking up, pouring a cup of coffee, stepping out to your second story deck and overlooking a large flowing lake that was calling for you to fish, boat, relax and enjoy it.
I’m sorry. I didn’t “get it.” When you and mom told me last September you were moving, my heart sank. I was so sad and so mad. I couldn’t understand why you’d leave your grandkids, your church you love, your good friends, your kids, your “I can be there in a few minutes” or “we’re just going to pop over” status. I hurt both for me and the fact that all these years I wouldn’t be minutes away if you needed something --- help, my husband’s tool, a visit to the hospital, lunch, dinner, etc. I was soooooooo very scared that my worst fear would happen, and I wouldn’t get there in time to say goodbye. I hurt so bad for my kids. It broke my heart trying to explain to them WHY grandma and grandpa wouldn’t be there to babysit, do Saturday morning breakfasts, come over for dinner with a quick phone call, stop by just because, go fishing at the dam site, and just be around for the day to day. I thought of all the things you and they and I’d miss out on.
And then we drove to Stockton, Missouri yesterday. As we got off the interstate and onto the two lane road that spanned 40 miles to our final destination….. I started to get it. It was wide open and the space between the houses became more and more distant. Then we went from nicely paved roads to twisty, turning road ….. and I thought (as I’m the one who has horrible car sickness) yep, that’s my dad, make sure it’s deep in the middle of nowhere and only those that can stomach the trip will find it. As we got further from “town”, I said to my husband, “How the hell did they find this place. I’m not sure it’s a mark on the map.” But in that same instant I thought …. I could see years upon years of coming here. The Nevada exit with the 180 degree curve would signal to the kids “we’re almost to grandma and grandpas.” The two lane highway would be an ok trip except if there’s ice or snow --- then DANG that last half hour is going SUCK! The right turn at the four way stop in Stockton’s town square would yell, “FIVE MORE MINUTES” and the final right turn and up and over the road with the view of the lake and the house on the left would celebrate “WE’RE HERE!!!” I can see you and mom, knowing we’re on our way, standing on the deck, looking up the road waiting to see our car turn down the street. I can picture the kids jumping out of the car, running around the huge yard and begging you to take them fishing even before the suitcases were carried inside.
Then I spent a day INSIDE your house and the life you saw, and I GET IT!! I GET IT!!! It was beautiful. I had a plethora of “what could have been” moments. I could actually SEE them! Your chair is in the living room ---- I could SEE you sitting there with the kids running around, mom and I fussing in the kitchen, and waiting for Curtis, Adrian, and Keaton to show up. I could SEE the kids running in the yard while the adults sat on the deck with a fire and cocktails watching the activity and listening to the squeals and laughter.
I had a hard time sleeping…..I laid in bed and cried, begging you for forgiveness for being so mad and cold to you and mom when you bought this place. I cried for what you didn’t get to realize. You worked SO hard while we were growing up --- working at work and in the garage to support us, missing sleep, and making sure your family was supported. You fought SO hard the last four years for your health. The new kidney seemed to give you a new lease on life. YOU DESERVED IT! Damn it! You deserved a BREAK! You deserved to just ENJOY and BE, not have to fight and worry!!!! How can life be so flipping cruel sometimes?!?!?!?
So, today, everything is packed up and ready to go! I’ve kept it together and even had laughter and GOOD memories while being here …… and mom asks “you, ok?” and suddenly, I’m NOT. You know in the movies when an individual before they pass out or die has their life flash before them --- I saw that ….. I saw years and years of trips, family moments, laughter, pictures, and more than I can write happen in front of me. And it was more than I could hold in. I GET IT!!!! The ONLY part that sucked about this is that it was 5 ½ hours away --- but all the sudden it seemed travel-able. I’m sorry!!! I completely get it. I see your face beaming. “Come see my lake. Go put your suit on, let’s jump on the boat. Noah, Caleb, Keaton, grab your poles and jump in the truck – we’re going to the dam for a bit before grandma finishes dinner.”
It was hard to say goodbye to something I just said hello to. And then I saw mom walk through the house and say goodbye and bury her head in Curtis and sob for a moment. It was HER dream too. I can only imagine she had all my visions plus thousands more. Somehow, though, she had made the decision that it was ok to say goodbye…..ok, maybe not ok, but what she decided this was the decision for her. For the amount I hurt ---- I can only imagine hers is, at minimum, 100 times greater.
The drive home was hollow…… the conversations with your grandsons as to why we won’t ever be going back there is beyond tough. They ADORED the place. They miss you so very very much, and, as a mommy, that breaks my heart. I’m trying my best --- but I’m not sure I’m doing it right.
I love you. I’m so very sorry for not “getting it” when I should have. I’d give ANYTHING for you to be able to live there --- I’d even help you pack, knowing it’d hurt to have you leave Omaha. ….. but that hurt could NOT compare to the hurt that exists in my heart having you NOT here at all.
Eleven years ago today you walked me down the aisle as I began the married, wife, mom phase of my life. I’d even bring my favorite bottle of wine to share if I was sitting on your deck in Stockton with my husband while saying “Cheers” with you and mom and remembering the last decade. Next year this won’t hurt so much, right?