Saturday, August 31, 2013

Another trip around

I’m 47 years old today.

The big Four Seven.

Happy Birthday to me!

And today started at about 5 a.m. when the younger son couldn’t sleep and woke me up. I tucked him back in and he went to sleep right away and then, well, I didn’t. I just lied in bed for an hour before the dog came to the door and began her pity growl. I have to give her credit. She knows not to bark and wake up everyone. She knows how to do this kind of under the breath mini growl sound that just wakes up Lori and me. I was starting to feel myself almost be able to fall back to sleep but I knew I wouldn’t so I told Lori I’d get up so Dolly the dog could curl up on the bed with Lori. Which they both like.

So, I’m going to be tired for my birthday. Which I guess is another way that being 47 years old feels like being 46 years and 364 years old. Tired.

Let me stop right here because I know this sounds like I’m complaining. It sounds like a good set up for an “I can’t believe I’m really this old and tired essay.” And while there is some truth to that, what is more true is how full my life is. I say “full” because it’s hard for me to use the word “blessed” or “wonderful.” And even hearing the "happy" in happy birthday gives me pause. Those of you who have been reading along for the past several years know why. Three years ago I “celebrated” my 44th birthday; the first one after Amy died the previous April. I was rolling through the heavy rumbling of grief aftershocks and was very much unsure where my life was leading.

And yet here I am. With a full life.

I have to say it starts with my two boys. I’ve mentioned this to several people – had I not had those two boys I don’t know what I would have done after Amy died. It wasn’t like I ever made a conscious decision, it just happened. Instinctively I had to dust myself off quickly enough so I could continue to be a present father to them. It wasn’t overnight, and plenty of scotch ran through me that first year. But we made it through. And now I have a guitar playing middle school-er and a baseball playing 3rd grader. This past week was their first week back to school and, well, so far so good! They continue to amaze me in so many ways.

Then there are my in-laws. Amy’s family, that is. We could have chosen to lean away from each other. To let our grief and anger be directed towards each other. I’ve heard those stories. But that isn’t what happened. It was mostly, exactly the opposite and now I have what I have to believe is a rare thing: an amazing and loving relationship with my in-laws.

And of course my family and my extensive network of friends from all over. I can so easily remember middle school and high school and wondering if people liked me or not. Trying to fit in. Be cool. All that stuff. That was a long time ago and the shadow of that insecure adolescents has faded but still lingers and shows up from time to time. Objectively, though, I am rich with family and friends.

Then there is Lori. When I put myself out there to start dating again I really had no idea what to expect. It was all online and I felt nervous and guilty and excited and really very unsure of myself. I think I would tell people I felt “wobbly.” But I told myself I would find someone to date through the holidays. It would be good to have someone to be with since the holidays could be tough and after that we’d break up and then in the spring time or so maybe I’d start dating for real. That was the story I told myself.

Well, like a lot of stories I tell myself, that one didn’t go as planned. Instead Lori and I fell in love. There is more to this story, of course. Like how she and the kids got to know each other, how she brought dogs and cats into our lives. How she got to know my in-laws and how they welcomed each other into each other’s lives. How she joined a family still very much off-balance and accepted it for what it was and embraced it. Embraced us.

After we had been together for a few months and it was pretty clear my plan to break up with my holiday date was coming apart. I told Lori that I was waiting for her to come to her senses and go back to her life. Yes, of course I would be sad if she did, but I wouldn’t be surprised. And then more time passed and I would tell her that she must either A) really, really love me (us), or B) be crazy because no sane person would choose this life.

She kept saying it was A and whatever evidence I could find for B was not that strong and probably not as valid as the evidence she found for me to be crazy. And that was good, because I really, really love her too. Which is why I married her in June. And that puts me in yet another demographic: Widowed-Remarried. And yes, there is a Facebook group for us.

I could go on and on about ways my life is full: my amazing work colleagues, my church, the new venture Lori and I are creating. But I’ll stop and sum it all up with one concept. One philosophy that is becoming my religion: The enduring and healing power of Love. I view it not just as a human emotion but also as a natural force. Almost like gravity or the weak nuclear force. I fantasize that someday in the future some clever scientist will be able to show how subatomic particles bombarded with the love force behave differently and convey advantages to the host and then we’ll have certain proof of our singular purpose as a species. The one thing we can do that no other in the universe can: Love.

So, it is a happy birthday. I can say that. Though today I’m tired and have a slight fatigue head-ache, I feel pretty good. My life is full. Filled with love.


  1. Another wonderful, emotional post. Thank you for sharing your birthday and your thoughts and feelings, John! It's very joyful to read about how full your life is. I agree that LOVE is the best religion. Hopefully we aren't alone in the universe with our power of love (certainly our pets know how to love). :)

    1. Happy birthday John! I know that tired but full feeling.