about the men i love... for the girls that are my world.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mindful of the Memories

The month of May. Not sparing on my emotions, that's for sure. It seems to be full of dates and events that spark a memory for me. Mostly unknown to everyone else of course. I once read somewhere (and forgive me, I'm sure I won't quote it perfectly) "When someone dies there are two dates that everyone else remembers, the ones on their headstone....but for the people that loved them what really matters is what the little dash in the middle represents...their life." It's amazing just how much that rings true. There was a lifetime of dates, and memories, to be remembered and lived out, through those that loved them.
May 4th, 2001, was the day that started it all.... Brian and I went out on our first date. He came to pick me up and was driving his moms car. I remember thinking that he looked handsome in his yellow plaid shirt :) We went to the Outback Steakhouse and unbeknownst to me, Brian listened and paid attention to how I ate (whether I smacked my food or not) before he asked me out on a second date. I guess my manners were up to par that night.
Now this year, 11 years later, on that date, I traveled to Topeka with our daughter. Not to celebrate the day that her Mom and Dad started a relationship of dating, but to honor her Father at the Governors Annual Fallen Officers Memorial Ceremony. That would not have been exactly what I had in mind, to celebrate an anniversary...
But none the less, that is where we are.
Of course Natalie's birthday brings a flood of memories back to mind. I remember it like it was yesterday (as any mom does). But now there are other little things that come to mind. Like the day after she was born when we were released from the hospital, it took forever to get discharged and by the time we were driving home we were both starving. Brian took us through the drive-thru at Taco Bell. I, of course, insisted on sitting in the back seat next to Natalie, who looked so tiny and barely fit into her car seat. I can remember Brian looking back at us in the rear view mirror of the Altima. He asked me what I wanted and then said "Natalie, can I get you anything??? Nachos? Choco taco for dessert?" It still makes me smile to think about it. After we got home I took a shower and when I came out into the living room after getting cleaned up Brian was asleep in the recliner, with the purple boppy wrapped around him and Natalie curled up next to him in one arm, and our little dog Willie on the other side. I went and got the camera to take a picture, but the memory card was full. What I would give to have that photo now....I should have deleted just one picture, but I didn't. Although, I guess it doesn't really matter.... No I don't have a hard copy to look at or show anyone else, but that image is etched permanently in my brain forever. And that will have to do.
This month ends with Memorial Day. I have always known what Memorial Day really was, other than just a 3 day weekend. But never have I appreciated the importance of it, like I do now. I know that is my fault, I should be thankful for all those who have served our country and community, and have paid with the ultimate sacrifice. And don't get me wrong.....I do thank them. But lets face it, it the reality of it changes when you tie it to someone that hits close to home. And I am planning on spending this weekend being thankful for all those who have given their life so that we can live the way we do. And I guess it's corny but I feel myself overwhelmed with exactly that on this Memorial Day weekend.... memories.
When you break it down, that is as simple as it is. All that we have that links us to our past. The good times, and the bad. They make you who you are. And you cling to them. I think it's somewhat instinct. I looked at Kate today and she was hanging on to me, to my finger, to my shirt, to her sisters hair :) So it makes sense that we hang on to what we've got. And hang on to the hope for more. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

What are the odds?

One in 5,500. Those were the odds that we were up against, the odds of a police officer being killed in the line of duty (according to Officer.com, in an article posted in January of 2009). I remember sitting next to Brian, at the end of the year in 2008, for the spousal support class before his graduation. We were seated at the front of the room, and posted above the chalkboard, in a row, were pages printed out from the Officer Down Memorial Page. Each one, a picture and a description of an officer that had been killed that year in the line of duty, since they had started the academy in July. It took me awhile to notice them and to realize what they were. I counted them....I think there were about 60 or so. I remember being worried, and the reality that he was embarking on a dangerous journey with this career, was starting to settle in. But honestly, my fears about him actually being killed were not something I let consume me. Not because I wasn't worried that it would happen, I was. I looked around the room at those 60 plus men and women, I thought about their families, their husbands and wives....did they have kids? It made me sad, but, like probably most other police wives, I thought 'that's never going to happen me. Not MY husband.
Later during the class, what really got my attention was his instructor talking about how the job would change our loved ones. How they, as law enforcement officers, would become cynical, would become stressed from things they dealt with on the job, how things they saw would change them. I started to cry. Brian asked me what was wrong. I told him that I was worried, about him taking on a career in such a high stress, and emotionally demanding job, not to mention the hours that he would work, the family events and holidays that he would miss. And then, of course, there was the DANGER involved in the job. i loved him and I didn't want anything bad to happen. I'll never forget, he gave me a kleenex, put his arm around me and simply told me. "Don't worry, everything will be ok." Brian was a man of few words, most times. But that was all he needed to do or say. And we went on with the class, on with the evening and we had a good time, making new friends.
After he started working, I worried some, but not too much. I insisted that he tell me he loved when he left the house every time or after anytime that we talked on the phone. And he always did. But I didn't overwhelm myself with worry. You can't. Or you would simply never get anything done. You wouldn't be able to function. As Brian was approaching the end of his field training, we had been anxiously waiting  to find out which shift he would be working. I was desperately hoping for him to be placed on first shift. Since I worked nights as a nurse we needed the opposite shifts so that someone was always home for Natalie, requiring less help with her. Not to mention I wasn't crazy about him working at night, for obvious reasons. Most of really bad stuff just happened at night, right?
I will never forget when he called me. I was at work, and of course he had to tease me first, he couldn't tell me what his assignment was right away. When I kept asking him if he was going to be working first shift, he just kept saying "Hmmmm....I'm not sure." He couldn't pass up an opportunity to aggravate me. Classic Brian :) Of course he eventually gave me the details. And I was so relieved. Things would be perfect, he would be working first shift. This would be best for Natalie and I wouldn't have to worry about him so much. I mean, what's the worst that could happen during the day, out in the county, right?
Boy, how naive was I? I had no idea that we were about to win the worst lottery of our lives. And all because of someone else's evil, selfish, pointless actions. Sometimes it is still hard for me to wrap my head around the reality of what happened to him. Hard to believe that he really is gone. 26 years was far to short of a life for him. Unfair, hardly describes it. I miss him so much and think about him all the time. And I thank God everyday that, although he only had 26 short years here on earth, 8 were spent with me. And I thank Brian for teaching me so much about marriage and what kind of wife I want to strive to be, making me a mother, and loving Natalie and I unconditionally.
I only had 8 years with him, but now I have 8 years worth of memories, and looking back, I wouldn't change a minute of it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

just the beginning...hold the mayo, please

Photo by Travis Heying
After much thought and repeated nights of mulling over the same things in my head again and again, I have decided to record my thoughts and memories down. I don't know that anyone will care to read what I have to say, and I can guarantee that it will not always be grammatically correct, not everyone is going to agree with me and I will surely ramble at times, but none the less, here it is.
This is for my girls.

I have been finding myself very nostalgic lately. Not sure if it's the fact that I just had a baby, and hormones are still somewhat on overdrive. Or, if it's because my "big baby" will be turning five next month and is growing up all too quickly.
Since Brian's death, many dates and anniversaries are trigger points for heavy emotions. And most are dates that no one else would ever even think of...
Natalie's birthday has been a hard one. And as her 5th birthday approaches this year, I can't help but realize that she has spent as much time in her life without Brian, as she did with him.
It's funny the older she gets the more and more I see Brian through Natalie. Last night, after dance class, we went out to Braums for cheeseburgers. We rarely eat fast food, but I assumed she still liked cheeseburgers. When we sat down to eat, she proceeded to disassemble the sandwich and pick all of the cheese off. She informed me that she "no longer cares for cheese on her burger." Ok, I thought, no big deal...but then it occurred to me that as her taste buds have been becoming more and more refined she has become more and more like her father. No loner will eat ranch dressing (what 4 year old doesn't like ranch) or mayonnaise on anything, and prefers BBQ sauce over ketchup, and strawberry sauce on her ice cream over chocolate. Just like her dad. I don't know why it surprises me, she is half of him, and I know they are just small things. But it makes me smile, because those are things she never would have remembered.
The older she gets the more she amazes me. I can't believe that she will be starting kindergarten next year. I learned of her acceptance to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton yesterday. I can't wait to see her in her jumper and am so excited for all the joys that lie ahead in her school years. Then it dawned on me, as it always does, that Brian won't be here to watch her walk in on that first day. And this will only be the first of many "firsts" that he will miss. He won't be here to see her loose her first tooth, her first driving experience, her first date, graduation, ect. I could go on and on. And it makes me angry, sad and angry. I know people are only trying to make you feel better, when they say, "he will be there...he will see her.....he's always there, watching over you both." And don't get me wrong, I do believe that he is always here, watching over us. But it's not the same. Because he's NOT REALLY HERE.
But when it overwhelms me, I try to take a step back and think of all the blessings that Natalie and I have. What a blessing she is to me. And although I know that she and I have been robbed of so much, we are blessed with more. I am so thankful that Natalie is here, that she had the time she did with Brian. Thankful that she now has a father figure in Derek, whom she thinks of as a dad and he treats her as his own. Thankful that Natalie and Kate have each other, I always wanted a sister. And thankful that Natalie has no memory of September 28th, as where I can recall almost every minute of that day.
The other day, one of Natalie's friends was over and they were looking at the pictures in the hallway... there are several of Brian and I with Natalie as a baby. When Lauren asked Natalie "Who is that your mom is with? One of her friends?" Natalie replied "That's not her friend....that is MY DAD." And then she smiled and says "He's not here, but he watches me from heaven." They did not know I was in the other room, listening, holding back the tears. But all I could think is that I am so proud of her. I know that God has big plans for Natalie. And I find strength through her, everyday.