College years, Inspiration, Refection

Tragedy and treasure

When I went to college in the fall of 1998, I was not looking for love. In fact, I was engaged to my high school sweetheart whom I had been dating for over three years. I was at college to work hard, study long and get my degree.

But then I met someone. My first impressions of him weren’t that great, but as I got to know him I liked him more and more. At one point I called my dad and he talked to this guy (who I wasn’t even dating yet) and my dad told me, “You’re gonna marry that guy.” I thought he was crazy.

I ended up breaking up with my fiancé, because my feelings were just so confusing. I started dating this other guy and really, the rest is history. We both lived in the dorms (that’s how we met) and when it came time to move out for summer, we moved in together. He was going to go visit his high school friends for the summer, but then I said “How about we move in together?” And he agreed.

Things were great. We both worked hard to pay the rent and all the bills. We spent all our non-working time together. He met my parents and my sisters, making the five hour drive over the Cascade mountains with me.

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For my New Year resolution in 2000 (new year, new millennium!) I wanted to start going to church. I had stopped attending church regularly about five years before then, but I had always felt guilty about it. He decided to go with me. I thought this was really strange, since guys didn’t like church, or so it seemed to me. He actually went first. I have always struggled with getting up early, so he went without me one week. He came home an hour later talking about how neat it was. After that, we went together and the missionaries started teaching him.

We were getting integrated into the church family when tragedy struck. We were actually on a road trip to see his family in California before school started back up again in the fall of 2000, when I received a call that my mother was in critical condition after a car accident. My sister and I would be the executors of the estate, so we needed to get there as soon as possible.

In the middle of the night, with the help of his aunt and uncle, we left our truck in California and flew to Spokane via Seattle. There are snippets of memory left about this time, but I remember so little. My world had been hit with the first real earthquake it would know. I do remember as we were driving into Spokane from the airport that it was all sunny except for one rain cloud over Spokane. I thought the heavens were weeping for my mom.

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Me, my Mom, my sister. Circa 1984

My mom did pass away after my sister and I, in conference with our family, decided to take her off life support. It was a lot for a barely- 20 year old to handle. Funeral decisions, going through her possessions, closing bank accounts and other personal things. All while my family was hurting and feuding amongst each other.

This guy, who would become my husband a year later, was there. He didn’t shy away. He didn’t hang back. He was my rock and my soft place. When my head was full of tears, his was thinking straight.

After three weeks away from Seattle, I needed to return to start my next quarter of school. And honestly it was a relief. Just school and work and regular life was a better alternative to the grief I was trying to process. I do remember not being myself and crying so easily.

This experience easily could have driven us apart. We weren’t even married. This ugly, vulnerable side of me could have scared him off. But it didn’t. What is it they say? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. This was so true for us back then and it remains so to this day.

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Celebrating our 15th anniversary in 2016

Some of our family asked why get married so young? Why not wait? But we had already been together for 2.5 years and we knew it was right for us. We got home from our honeymoon to Oahu, Hawaii late on September 10th, 2001. We woke to a phone call asking if we were ok. “Why wouldn’t we be?” “Turn on the TV.”

While thousands of personal tragedies were underway as the world watched, we had just begun our marriage together. We had already dealt with personal tragedy, and we did it together, coming out stronger on the other side. We still choose to allow the disappointments and hurt in our lives to bind us closer instead of splitting us apart. That is the best part of my marriage: it is built on a sure foundation of trust and love.

 

So on this September 11th, I remember how tragedy can turn to treasure if you let it.

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Background

Happy Birthday Mama

I thought I would be morose today. It’s my mom’s birthday. She would have been 54 years old. And she has been gone for almost seventeen years.

My mother-in-law is also gone as of nine years ago. And her birthday was three days ago. And yesterday was Mother’s Day.

Yeah, mid-May has been a tough time time of year for me.

But today I woke up and felt… good. For the first time in a long time. I am considering it a birthday gift from my Mama. Even though it’s her birthday, she is sending me a gift.

Background, Middle and High School, The Early Years

Football.

I am watching This is Us. We are on the episode when the Pittsburg Steelers win the Super Bowl. The conversation about their Dads watching football reminds me of my own Dad. He was a die-hard San Diego Chargers fan.

Professional football provided the background sound of my childhood. Sometimes it got annoying, having to make sure we weren’t blocking my Dad’s line of sight to the TV or being too loud. Actually, I don’t think he ever minded our noise. I don’t know that he even  paid attention to the commentators, because he sure was in his own world when watching football.

I remember one time he told us kids that his parents didn’t let him play sports when he was in school. He really wanted to, but they couldn’t afford it and didn’t think it was an appropriate use of time when there were chores to be done. My dad was the youngest of seven children.

When I was fifteen years old, I had had enough with football. This thing that dominated every weekend between August and February every year, I was done with it. So I asked my dad to explain the game. Naturally. Even though I had fifteen years of football watching experience behind me, I did not get it. (My conservative estimates put that at roughly 500 hours of football!) He explained the basics of the game, and it made my TV viewing experiences much more enjoyable. And then my senior year of high school I was a football cheerleader (don’t read into that too much). For a while there I really loved football.

These days I am the wife of a former player and mom of a future football player, and I completely understand why parents would not allow their son to play football. The fear of motherhood is not to be messed with.

I am at a point in my story that I am not sure how to explain football and my love-hate relationship with the sport. Do I embrace its influence in my life, or do I delve into creating some sort of symbolism with it? When we tell the stories of our lives, how much do we emphasize the positive and minimize the negative? Isn’t it funny that in the current moment, the opposite is true? We tend to emphasize the negative and ignore the positive. So I guess I will just leave it at that. Football: a neutral force in my life, both positive and negative, a balancing and evocative trigger of memories.