Friday, February 7, 2020

Bittersweet Birthdays

I came across this picture a few days ago. And I can honestly say it brought me to my knees. Grief is sneaky that way. It hits you suddenly and unexpectedly. A scent. An old, familiar tune. A faded photograph.

Grief never really goes away. It just lurks under the surface. Waiting for the next song, the next photograph, the next special occasion to resurface

When Dan died, so many people told me I would be angry. But I’m not. And I never have been. Anger, bitterness, and resentment are such toxic emotions. I’d already, we’d already, sacrificed so much. I refused to give my emotional energy to those toxic emotions. And also I saw no point in being angry at a LAV and a hole in the ground. So I chose gratitude over resentment. Some days that was easier than others, but I chose gratitude anyway. Because the hardest days were the days I needed it the most.

So today I’m not angry Dan isn’t here to celebrate our firstborn and only son’s 24th birthday. I’m not thinking about all the birthdays he’s missed. I’m grateful for all the ones he was here for. But that doesn’t mean I’m not a little bit sad. I’m actually god damn sad. And that’s the thing they don’t tell you about grief.

The rest of your life will be bittersweet. All of those happy joyous occasions will always be tainted by a tinge of sadness. That is the duality of life after loss.

Today is one of those bittersweet days. Dan was over the moon ecstatic when this little guy was born, twenty-four years ago today. Twenty-fours years. How can that be? I was twenty-four when we had him. I remember the first time Dan held him. He stood there and looked at him in awe. 

“Hello Old Man. I’m your Dad.”

He was an incredible Dad. The kind of Dad I wish I’d had. The kind of Dad our son will be because he learned from the best. I’d say Dan was even better at being a Dad than he was at being a soldier. Which is saying a lot, because he was one hell of a soldier.

Since he’s been gone, I’ve been the only parent. Both Mom and Dad. I’ve tried to fill his shoes and be as good of a parent as he was. Sometimes I do okay at it. Sometimes I fail epically.

The last six years haven’t been easy. Far from it. Especially for this little guy that followed in his Dad’s footsteps. That’s hard enough to do when your Dad is alive, even harder when you put a uniform on less than three months after your father is tragically killed.

He has literally worn his father’s name tag for the last five years. He, more than any of us, has had to carry the weight of that name. The pressure and expectation that come with it have been overwhelming at times. There have been missteps and setbacks. But every time he’s picked himself back up and he’s persevered. He’s grown into an incredibly compassionate, empathetic, resilient young man.

Sometimes when I see him in uniform, it’s like déjà vu. A blonde version of a boy I knew a long time ago. So much like him in so many ways, a little bit like me in others. But mostly himself.

When he was in preschool his teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He looked at her very seriously for a minute before answering. “I want to be Connor Robert Bobbitt.”

Finally, at twenty-four he’s becoming his own man, making his own way. No longer lingering in his Dad’s shadow. His Dad would be so incredibly proud of him. I know I am.

Happy Birthday, Old Man. Thank God you have better taste in glasses than your Dad did.


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