Tag Archives: joy

Some Guy

She almost fell off her chair with laughter.

“What did you just call Daddy?” she asked me, interrupting my story and giggling so much she could hardly get the question out.

“I called him ‘some guy’,” I answered with a laugh because her giggles floating through the air were contagious.

“But Daddy’s not ‘some guy’ – he’s DADDY!”

“But he wasn’t always Daddy, Beary Girl. First, he was just a guy I worked with,” I started counting off on my fingers, “then he was my boyfriend, then my fiancé, then my husband, then your Daddy.”

“I just can’t believe you called him ‘some guy’, though! Why did you call him that?”

“Well, goofy girl, if you let me finish the story,” I reached down to tickle her side, sending her off in giggles again, “you might find out!”

While I gave her a minute to catch her breath, I thought about the trip we were getting ready to take, the trip that prompted my story. A road trip to Mount Rushmore, a good twelve or so hours away, in our new-to-us minivan. A trip her Daddy and I had talked about taking, that early spring in 2013 when we knew time was getting short and we wanted to cram in as many minutes of life as we could. We booked a flight to Hawaii, got out a map and circled all the places we could find within reasonable driving distance, checked airline miles and hotel points, and planned to travel with our girl. But we didn’t plan fast enough and cancer caught up to us. His body was too tired, too worn out.

He died before we could hit the road.

But this year, I pulled out those plans, dusted them off, asked myself, “Can I do this?” and decided that yes, I could, and yes, I had to – for Kevin, for our girl, and for me. I didn’t want to leave his dreams undone if I could help it. She and I sat down and planned our route – where we’d stop, what we’d see, how long we’d drive each day. It turned out the fastest route to Mount Rushmore took us right through Omaha, Nebraska. And took me smack dab into a whole lot of memories. Things I hadn’t thought about in years, but were special, funny moments that I wanted my daughter to know about, so she could learn more about her wonderful Daddy, the Daddy who had to leave her much too soon.

My first trip to Omaha was in 2002 with my sister and her two kids, ages two and nine at the time. We’d heard the Henry Doorly Zoo was amazing, and it wasn’t too long of a drive with a couple of kids, so we loaded them up and took off for the weekend. When in Omaha, one must eat steak, so I found a local steakhouse – the site of my later infamous “some guy” remark. When I ordered a filet mignon, I told my nephew, “Now, I’m going to try this with some butter on it, because some guy at work claims it’s the only way to eat a good steak.” Sitting side-by-side in our cubicles at work, Kevin had heard me talking about my weekend trip to Omaha, and, being a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, offered up his favorite steak-eating tips. I listened because even though he was just some guy at work, I’d already starting thinking I’d like him to be more. I wanted to go back to work and tell him I tried a steak with butter and it was as fabulous as he’d said it would be. I wanted him to know I listened and I wanted him to figure out I wanted him to be more than “some guy”.

It turns out butter on steak is great, and I told him so as soon as I got back to the office.

And two months after my first trip to Omaha, Kevin and I had our first date.

“Are we going to eat at that restaurant, Mama? Can I have butter on my steak, too?” My Bear had stopped giggling and looked at me expectantly as I finished that part of the story.

“We might. It depends on what time we get there. And, yes, you can have butter on your steak.”

“Mmmm…steak,” she said dreamily. She’s her Daddy’s daughter all the way.

While she thought about steak, I thought about the next part of my Omaha story.

By November 2004, Kevin and I had been married for a little over a year. We were both in our thirties and we wanted nothing more than to start a family right away, but it just wasn’t happening. We were about to dive headfirst into the world of fertility treatments and I was depressed and sad and scared and a million other emotions. But Kev was my rock. He set aside his own disappointment and took care of me. He called me at work for no reason, he held me when I cried all night, and when we realized what we were up against, he said, “We need to get away for a few days.” We’d just watched “About Schmidt”, a movie set in Omaha and, it turned out, a few scenes were filmed at the “some guy” steakhouse – Johnny’s. When Kevin found out I’d been there, and the part it had played in our little romance, he wanted to go there, too. He did some more research and found a mystery theater dinner train in the Omaha area and some World War II planes. That was my Kev: always taking care of me, thoughtfully planning a perfect weekend getaway: the zoo, the Strategic Air & Space Museum, some good steak, and the dinner train.

And it was perfect. I can still close my eyes and hear Kevin’s voice reading the script on the dinner train, because he was one of the lucky guests to be chosen for a part. And I love the photo of us at Johnny’s, in the spot where Jack Nicholson stood in the movie. And I especially loved ordering a filet and trying to tell Kevin with a straight face, “You know, some guy once told me to put butter on my steak, that it would taste so good. You should try it.” I couldn’t make it through my sentence without giggling, especially when Kevin started in with his rumbling laugh. And even when we got back from that weekend and the doctor told us we had less than a 1% chance of conceiving a child, God had other plans. Plans that included a curly-haired baby girl with her Daddy’s face. It wasn’t an easy road, but it was worth every hard minute of the journey when, after an emergency cesarean, the doctor held up our little Bear and Kevin hugged me, with tears streaming down our faces.

My girl and I didn’t end up eating at Johnny’s Steakhouse when we stopped in Omaha on our trip last month. We found a different steakhouse, close to the hotel. The instant I saw it, though, I knew Kevin would’ve loved it. It was very old school, red leather and ornate, and had all the touches he loved in a good steak restaurant. Forever her Daddy’s girl, the minute I started reading from the children’s menu, “There’s chicken fingers…” I was interrupted with, “Mama, no one comes to a steakhouse to eat chicken!” And I thought, You are so right, Baby Kev. And, little girl, thank you for giving me another memorable story about Omaha to add to my collection.

From some guy to boyfriend to fiancé to husband to Daddy. It makes my girl laugh to think about it, but it makes me smile. He was all that and more.

I’ll keep telling my girl the stories that make her laugh, and stories that make her think, and stories about the man I loved, the man who adored her, the man she should’ve been able to get to know on her own, in his words not mine. And all of them will begin the same way.

Once upon a time, there was some guy at work. And, it turned out, he went on to be other amazing things: a great boyfriend, a wonderful husband, a compassionate friend, and a doting and loving Daddy.

And in telling my stories, our girl will see: It takes some guy to be all that.

Still Throwing Clouds

From a post in July 2013:

Little bits of fluff – dandelion puffs, maybe? – float through our yard. My girl jumps from her swing, chases the bits with outstretched hand, slowly guiding them to land delicate on her dirt-scratched fingers.

“Look, Mama! Clouds! Daddy’s throwing bits of clouds down to me!”

And she is surprised and delighted by the joy of a new game with Daddy. And I want to believe her whimsy. I want to believe that Kevin has found a way to play with her, to continue to share our little moments of life, to somehow fill the deep void of aching sadness.

I want to believe that little puffs of joy float through the air, impossible to miss if you watch and wait.

From this evening:

We were on our way to my girl’s award ceremony, where she’d be presented with the badges she worked so hard to earn, and take part in a bridging ceremony, as she moved to another level of the troop. A night of accomplishments, of celebration…of family. I felt the familiar twinge at what — rather, who — was missing from this evening for my girl.

Her Daddy.

And then, as I drove down the highway, on this beautifully cool late spring evening, we cruised through a cloud of puffy things floating about in the rays cast by the setting sun. Little bits of fluff, swirling, circling the truck, dancing along our path.

She giggled, “Daddy’s throwing LOTS of cloud down to me, Mama!” And I smiled and we laughed and she hoped Daddy wasn’t getting in trouble with God for tearing up the clouds so he could play a game with her. She still believes in the bits of clouds, knows that her Daddy will always find a way to be with her.

And finally I remembered.

He’s not missing. He’s still right here with us.

Throwing bits of cloud. Throwing us joy.

Always Safe

“Mama!” She squealed in delight when I joined her at the edge of the beach, the cool water splashing over my toes. She danced in the surf, jumped over the waves, and shrieked when the sand rushed from under her feet, pulling her into the ocean. Water has always been her magic, and to have the vast gulf spread out before her was almost too much.

“Mama! Come in the water with me, please?” She turned her shining blue eyes, her Daddy’s eyes, on me.

How could I resist those beguiling eyes?

I tossed my phone into the beach bag, then took her hand and followed her into the pounding, yellow-flagged surf: medium hazard, moderate surf and currents. If she wanted to play farther out, she’d definitely need me with her.

“Mama?” she confided in a voice low over the waves’ roar, “I like it when we go in the water together, because we can go out farther, but you can hold me up when the big waves come so I’m always safe.”

And, boom – there it was. God always finds a way to remind me of His promises.

Kevin died two years ago – and I’m still here. Somehow. Honestly, in the weeks that followed his funeral, I’m not sure I thought I would make it through that much pain, that much grief, that much heartache. It hurt too much to breathe, to sleep, to eat, to talk…

It just hurt too much to live.

And, honestly, sometimes it still does.

But God is still here. He’s been here through it all. And when I forget that, as I have lately in the loneliness of grief and the busyness of life, He speaks through my beautiful Bear.

Stay with me, He reminds me. We’ll do this together and when this pounding, yellow-flagged life comes at you too big and too much, I’ll hold you up. You are always safe.

I smiled wryly to myself and waded out a little farther with my girl. She watched the waves rolling toward us and I swung her up, over and over, laughing at her screeches as she kicked the white caps that rushed by. And even when a massive wave caught us unaware and knocked us into the surf, I held on to her and kept her safe. We came up together…drenched…and laughing.

She is always safe. And so am I.

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Psalm 5:11

Blessings?

I played this song at Kevin’s funeral and, lately, it’s been one I sing over and over to myself. It’s hard this time of year, with spring peeking in on us and Easter approaching. It’s hard to be in a season where new beginnings and the hope of a new season and the promise of a new life are everywhere I look. Because for me, the juxtaposition of the world awakening is harsh against the memory of the month when my world died.

What if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?

I think there’s a reason this song is running through my mind these days. It’s a reminder of God’s love, His mercy, His faithfulness to me in this devastating grief. A promise of His care, of His keeping me and my daughter close to Him. It’s spring after winter, and joy comes in the morning.

“If your revelation hadn’t delighted me so, I would have given up when the hard times came.” (Psalm 119:2, The Message)

The Long Walk

She held the memory out to me, the edges smoothed gently from handling and hugging. It was a treasure and I accepted it as such.

I looked at it, turned it from every angle, thought about what it might mean, and raised questioning eyes to hers. “This?”

She nodded, a smile playing at the corners of her Daddy’s mouth.

We veered right at the line to the London Eye, and quick-walked through the small tree-lined square, dodging people heading for the Embankment as we hustled the other direction – to the street, with cars nipping neatly from lane to lane and busses squealing and hissing as they pulled up to a stop, then belching a thunderous roar as they swerved back into the always-moving traffic. I saw the blue bus approaching our stop, the one we were rushing toward, but without so much as a pause, it glided on, not breaking the pattern of traffic for two weary travelers from the States.

“Was that it, Mama? Was that our bus?” My daughter had seen it, too. “Why didn’t it stop? Didn’t it know we were coming?” The questions came quickly now, anxiety on the horizon.

“I don’t know, Beary. Maybe it wasn’t on this line – maybe it was a Purple Line bus that’s cutting through. I couldn’t see that far.”

I tried to keep my bewilderment from infecting her anxiety. “Let’s go wait for a few minutes and see if another bus comes by. That one was earlier than the driver told us it would be, so…yeah, let’s just wait.”

We’d gotten off the tour bus about half an hour before, hungry after visiting the British Museum. I remembered a fish & chips place on the Embankment, but it was getting late, so to make sure we had time to eat, I asked the driver how long we had until the last bus – at least forty-five minutes, he’d assured me.

Or not.

My girl played on the sidewalk, spinning around this crack, jumping over that one, while I scanned the street, willing a blue tourist bus to rumble our way. Five minutes…eight minutes…twelve minutes… It was obvious that the last bus had passed by. I only had a few pounds in cash, not enough for a cab. I didn’t have an Oyster card yet, because we’d been using the tour bus to get around, so the city bus wasn’t an option, either.

“Okay, Beary, let’s go.”

It was time to start walking.

“Do you know where we’re going, Mama? Are we going to get lost?” The questions pounded out with each step we took on the London pavement.

“Nope, we’re not going to get lost. We can figure this out, right? Westminster Abbey is right up there, and I remember the bus coming around that corner this morning, so if we head that direction, we should find the Palace. It’s huge, right? I mean, how can we miss Buckingham Palace? It’s going to be a long walk – I won’t lie to you – but we are definitely not lost.”

My confidence reassured her and she swung my hand as we waited to cross the street. We wandered back across Westminster Bridge, stopping to listen to the bagpipes, then kept going. We paused to admire the last bit of sunlight splashing across the Abbey, then started walking again. We meandered the sidewalk along St. James Park and played with the statues we came across. Each time the idea of being lost niggled into her brain, we came across a huge “YOU ARE HERE” map posted along the sidewalk and I pointed out where we’d been, where we were, and where we were going.

“Almost there, Little Bear! You’re doing a great job!” My stride was longer than hers, but she’d kept up, even running ahead in places to explore a bench or a statue, waiting for me to catch up. So confident was she in my navigating ability, she even conceded to a quick detour to see the front of the Palace, since we were so close. Forty-five minutes after we left the London Eye, we straggled into our hotel room and collapsed on the bed.

“That was a really, really long walk,” she murmured, “but we did it.”

My mind looked at each bit of the memory, then I handed it carefully back to her and asked, curious, “Why did you pick that one, baby girl?”

“Because it was an adventure! And we were together. And you didn’t get lost.”
Her simple statement made me smile.

There are days I feel like I’m not going to make it. I miss Kevin so terribly much. It’s been days and months – and now, how impossible!, almost years – since he’s been with us and I feel sad. I feel cheated. I feel overwhelmed and bewildered. I don’t make great parenting choices some days, but my daughter is filled with abundant grace and she forgives me over and over. Because she knows as much as I do: we’re in this together.

I don’t want to overanalyze her memory. Maybe it’s as simple as she explained: once she realized we were going to be okay, it became an adventure that we shared. A long walk through London. And she likes to think about that adventure when she thinks about us in London.

But for me, if I take it a little deeper, it’s a little more. For me, I can see parallels to our life, the life we have without Kevin. Left behind and forced to figure out how to get to a safe place. Worrying about getting lost in the grief, but instinctively knowing that we have to stick together, figure it out as we go along. Knowing where we have to get back to – a feeling of family, a place of happy and content – and knowing we can make it if we just keep going. Starting to feel more confident in this unexpected life, able to take a break from the grief and see the beauty around us.

Knowing that through all the sadness and misunderstanding and tears, if we stay together, we won’t get lost. The road always curves toward joy if we just follow it.