Monday, July 28, 2014

One Life


Everybody deals with grief differently. Our responses to it are as unique as we are. It's not my place to judge how others grieve, nor would I want them to tell me how to grieve. I have chosen not to let grief  win.

When I found out Dan had died, I knew that my life would go on. I knew this with utter certainty. I consciously choose not to let Dan's death be my death too. It wasn't an option. I have three children who need their mom. I'm the only parent they have left. I owe it to them to  be as healthy mentally and physically as I can be. I owe it to myself. I owe it to Dan. The last thing he would ever have wanted would be for me to give up on life because he was gone  He loved life too much for that. He loved me too much for that.

 I love life. So I choose life. I choose not to be miserable. I know it is not going to be easy (and for the love of God people stop telling me how hard it's going to be. I get it. I'm living it everyday).

There will be hard days. There will be days I stumble. There will be days the loneliness engulfs me like a Bay of Fundy fog. But the fog will lift, and a new day will come. And eventually the good days will out number the bad.

I will enjoy my double doubles and my gin and tonic (without drinking so many that my lips get numb). I will savor the taste of fine Norwegian or Dutch or Irish chocolate (yes I've gotten lots of yummy care packages, I love my friends). I will inhale the scent of the ocean I love so much (but not the smell of rotting seaweed, that stuff is just nasty). I will treasure my friends and the time I spend with them. I will laugh, most especially I will laugh.

I will always love Dan. I will always miss him. I will always be sad he is gone. There is absolutely nothing I can do to change what happened to Dan. Nothing. The only thing I can control is how I respond to it. He would be the first one to tell me to get on with it, to pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again. And so I will.

I have absolutely no idea what this new life has in store for me. Or if I will spend it alone. I hope I won't, only time will tell. The only thing I do know for sure is that  I will never join the army (they won't let me join as a CO or an RSM, and I really hate ironing). Oh, and I also know I'm  not going to move to a commune as I'm not particularly fond of goat leggings, which a friend tells me are a must to join a commune.

We only get one life to live, and this is mine. It's time I start living it again.

Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life. ~Eleanor Roosevelt
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Goat Rodeo


When Dan was in Afghanistan I decided to write a blog to chronicle for him the things he was missing. Whenever he got a chance he would read the blog and catch up on everything we had been doing while he was gone. It also helped me deal with the stress of his deployment.

I've decided to start a new blog about starting over, and making a new life. Finding my new normal. Hopefully writing it will be therapeutic, and will help me figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life. Because right now I have absolutely no idea.

You might be wondering about the title of my blog, A Goat Rodeo.  It was one of my favourite "Danisms".  In case you don't know what a Goat Rodeo is, the Urban Dictionary definition is a situation that is very difficult, despite energy and efforts, to instill any sense or order into it. Yep, that's my life in a nut shell. A goat freaking rodeo.

A lot has happened in the nine weeks since Dan died (still so surreal writing that). We've had his funeral and memorial service, and two burials (a double double). Connor has graduated from high school, and gone to his prom(s). I've sold a house and bought a house.

I'm exhausted just thinking about it all, which I try not to do too often. It overwhelms me, and that is no fun. There is still so much to do this summer. Connor goes off to RMC in two weeks, the packers come the week after. I'm not looking forward to either of those events. But I can't think about them today. I'll worry about them when the time comes. Today there are other things I need to focus on. I haven't quite managed that yet, but there are still a lot of hours left in the day. But first coffee.  I still have priorities.

"I've developed a new philosophy... I only dread one day at a time." ~Charlie Brown (Charles Schulz)
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Friday, July 18, 2014

For Dan


First and foremost I want to acknowledge Dan’s crew. Blair, Alex, Cowboy and Garth, we are so relieved that you are all ok, and we are so glad you are with us today.

I would like to thank you all for coming today. We have been completely overwhelmed with the response to the terrible loss of Dan. His loss has literally been felt the world over. This is not just a testament to what a wonderful guy he was, but also to how strong the bonds of our military family are. You have come from near and far, some from across the world, to be here, for Dan and for us, and we are so deeply touched. The support we have received from our friends, our International Family, our Regimental family and the Brigade has been nothing short of amazing, and there are no words to express our gratitude for all you have done for us. You have all been our strength. It is so much easier to stand when you have so many people holding you up.

We all know Dan would hate all of this attention. Oh, don’t get me wrong he loved attention for his ridiculously ugly shirts or his outrageous costumes (and yes, I was slightly concerned with how well he pulled off the Dorothy costume), but he never liked attention for his own personal accomplishments or for himself, that just wasn’t his way. He was the epitome of humble, always. Today, I’d like to tell you a little bit about my Dan. For 25 years he was my heart, and I was his, and we often marvelled at how lucky we were to still be together after so many years. My Dan wasn’t really so different than the Dan you saw at work, just a little goofier maybe. Dan was a classic Maritimer, down to earth, friendly, and chatty. He had a way of connecting with everyone, no matter how old or young. There was not one pretentious bone in his body. Dan was, well, he was just Dan. And he wasn’t the only one in our family who liked to talk, shocking I know. It’s a Maritime thing, storytelling is what we do. But don’t worry, I promised the RSM I’d keep it under 2 hours, and I will try my best.

As many of you know, Dan and I met when we were 17, on our very first day of school in grade 12. He was a new student at our high school. His Mom had registered him as Danny, but due to a typo it was recorded as Dandy. Now I have to tell you this was particularly amusing as the mascot for our local Apple Blossom festival was Dandy Apple. Imagine a grown man in tights wearing a giant apple costume. You can see why as a 17 year old he was not amused. Dan had told one of our classmates he had been born in Germany, who in turn then told us all Dan was German. This was pretty exciting to a group of teenage girls in small town Nova Scotia so you can imagine our disappointment when we discovered that Dandy was actually Danny and he was just as Canadian as we were. It wasn’t long though before we discovered what a great guy he was. Even in high school, Dan was that guy that everybody liked, especially me. And I was pretty lucky that he liked me as much as I liked him, though to be honest as I recall, I probably didn’t give him much of a choice.

The Bobbitt family are one of those families that everyone loves as soon as they meet them and from the very beginning, they made me feel welcome. If you want to know what made Dan so special, you only need to look to his beloved parents, John and Maureen. Loyalty, integrity, love for the soldiers... Dan could have had no better teacher on how to be an officer and a gentleman than John. Of course his work hard play harder attitude may have also come from his father. And that goofy grin we all loved so much? Well, I’m here to tell you that’s definitely a Bobbitt trait because I’ve seen the exact same one on John and John’s father Ben before him. I have to tell you one of my favourite Dan stories, because it involved his Dad. We were first posted here in 1994, during the height of the John Wayne Bobbitt era, remember him? If you don’t Google it, you won’t be disappointed. One day young Lt Bobbitt was approached in the mess by an RCR Lt Col. “Bobbitt.. Are you any relation to John Bobbitt?” Dan’s immediate response, thinking here we go another Bobbitt joke, “No sir, I’m not related to that asshole.” The Col replied, “That’s too bad, I served with him in the RCR and he was a great guy.” “Oh you mean my Dad, yeah he’s not an asshole he’s a great guy”. Dan’s enormous heart and his remarkable compassion came from his mother. Maureen taught him to embrace life, the people in it and every adventure it brought. She also taught him how to vacuum properly which I personally was always very thankful for. Now you may have noticed Dan was sometimes a little scattered, and had difficulty keeping track of some of his belongings. How many hats did he lose in Afghanistan again Chadley? I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that this tendency may have come from his mother, she has been known to lose the odd purse or pair of glasses.

Dan definitely had a penchant for getting into mischief, and no we will not speak of the river crossing. I know that it will come as no surprise to you that his earliest and best cohort in crime was his younger brother Mike. If Dan alone was a handful, Dan and Mike together were a force to be reckoned with. I’ve often thought Maureen must have had the patience of a saint when those two were growing up. I can’t even begin to list all of the shenanigans these two got up too, but my particular favourite will always be the time they mixed cat food into the bowl of peanuts. For the record there are no such things as heart shaped peanuts.

With these beginnings it’s easy to tell why Dan was such a great guy. Dan was the best father I could have ever wanted for our children. You just need to look at them to see what a great Dad he was. They are the most resilient, courageous children. They are my three anchors in the stormy sea. Connor, Elizabeth and Katherine you know how proud of you your Dad was and he loved the four of us more than life itself.

As Connor, Libby, and Katy can tell you, life with Dan was never dull, or quiet for that matter. Dan loved to torment the girls, and he usually didn’t stop until he was successful in getting Katty to roll her eyes, or Libby to call him Daaada . And yes the phrase “Seriously Daniel are you freaking kidding” me was commonly heard in our house, most often on Friday nights after happy hour, oddly enough. There were times that I really thought he would drive me out of my ever loving mind, but as most of you know, it was impossible to stay annoyed with him, which would piss me off even more. Dan was the most patient man but he had a remarkably short fuse when it came certain things, printers, the garage and trying to get the kids to help with the dog were the things that were guaranteed to drive him crazy. I always marvelled at how he could get 540 soldiers to do whatever he told them to do, but he couldn’t get three teenagers to pick up dog poop without a fight. He always said herding cats was easier than dealing with teenagers.

Dan loved to sing, though he couldn’t carry a tune in a paper bag. He had a remarkable penchant for making up ditties on the spot, often about the most ordinary things. And of course the more I asked him to stop singing the louder he sang. I never thought I would miss those ridiculous songs. Dan loved to go for walks, and as most of you in the Regiment know, he was a fast walker. And let me tell you he was no different when he walked with us. The kids nicknamed these walks, Forced Family Fun. Dan didn’t like to do things the easy way. We very rarely took the same path twice, and actually, very rarely did we stick to a marked trail. Of course, sometimes this meant we ended up crossing a flooded swamp or in some farmer’s field, or once on the completely wrong side of Killarney National Park. As Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and we took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference”. Because of Dan, we lived the Road not Taken.

Dan always wanted to be a soldier, just like his Dad. He first joined the Reserves, and then was accepted into the ROTP program after our first year at Acadia University. Being a soldier wasn’t just his career, it became our life, and we both embraced it and the wonderful people we met along the way. Our military friends became our family. Dan loved his job, and he loved this Regiment and the solders in it most of all. Henri Turenne said “You must love soldiers in order to understand them, and understand them in order to lead them.” And Dan believed that. The two proudest days of his career were the day he took command of D Battery and the day he took command of the Regiment. I know because he told me so. He was immensely proud of all the battery accomplished in Afghanistan, and though he was never one to brag, he boosted on numerous occasions that he had the biggest guns in Afghanistan (yes, apparently size does matter), and he was quite chuffed when the Taliban nicknamed the guns Dragons, prompting the Battery to be nicknamed Dragon Battery. His first post tour purchase was a dragon shirt in Cyprus and it became one of his most treasured shirts in his ugly shirt collection. But more than the size of the guns or the name of the Battery, he was proud of the soldiers in it. You were the most important thing to him, and he was humbled and honoured to be chosen to lead you into battle. It was a responsibility I can assure you he never took lightly or for granted. He was genuinely surprised when he was chosen to be the commanding officer of 2Horse, for he always believed there were others out there far more deserving than he. I lost count of how many times he said he was two ranks higher than he ever thought he’d be. On his change of command parade, he told you you had no one to thank but yourselves for him becoming your CO. He truly believed that you were the reason for his success. Quiet professionalism, accountability, respect, agility and teamwork. These were the fundamentals of his philosophy as a leader. Being CO was never about him, it was about you and the Regiment, and how you could best serve the Brigade.
Peter, Dan considered it an honour to work for you. He told me more than once how lucky he was to be here when you were the Commander, and how much he learned from you. And of course, you know he not so secretly believed part of the reason you were so great was because you were a gunner at heart.

This year at the Regiment was the best year of Dan’s career. He was living his dream. He was so proud of all you accomplished, at every level but he was especially pleased with the Fall Exercise. He knew he was expecting a lot from you, but he also knew that you the Regiment were more than capable of meeting his expectations. Not only did you meet them, you exceeded them.
Garth, you were more than just his RSM, you were his friend, and part of our family, and most importantly you were the keeper of his hats, which is a full time job in and of itself. You were his number one choice for RSM and he was beyond thrilled that his wish had been granted by the Army. He learned so much from you this year, and he appreciated all of the advice and guidance you gave him.
 
Jen, you were Dan’s sober second thought, and he valued your opinion immensely. I can tell you, he would be more than proud of how you have lead the Regiment and brought them through this tragic time.

Blair, Alex, Cowboy... you were Dan’s team, and he loved his LAV (when it wasn’t broken down that is), and he especially loved that Panini maker. Seriously, you have no idea how many times I was told he had better breakfasts in the field than at home. When he was in that LAV with you, he was in his happy place, and that gives me more comfort than you can ever imagine. He was doing the job he loved, leading the soldiers he loved. It was as it should be.

After his death a dear friend of ours wrote, “Dan was so many things, Dan was more than an officer, he was an ambassador for his country. The world might be a worse place without him, but those of us that were lucky enough to have known him are better for the experience”. And it’s so true, we were the lucky ones. And here we all are because of Dan, Danny, Bobby Danit, Daniel Robert, Lt Col Bobbitt. One man who meant so much too so many. And he had absolutely no idea the impact he had. He wouldn’t have would he? Because that just wasn’t his way.

Dan always said "you don't know what you don't know". Well Dan, I now know a shattered heart will still beat, I know our children are stronger and braver than we ever could possibly have imagined. And I know your soldiers loved you just as much as you loved them. They have honoured your memory and your legacy, and they have honoured us. Thank God the Guns.
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