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Two years

For me, it’s been two years.

On nights.
Two years since school was over.
Two years working the “dream job.”
Two years since the last time I got a full night’s sleep.
And two years since I got to tell my dad I did something.

He shook his head when I told him and said that he thought it was something very few people could do. Or do well.
He emphasized, “good for you,” but he looked sympathetic, adding that he was glad someone in the world wanted to do this job.

The job cleans up well, when you tell others about it. It sparkles in the sun and sounds like a badge of honor you wear because you help “save lives.” Or at least that’s how you spin it when you don’t want to reveal how emotionally draining it can be.
If you’re like me.
To this day, I tell anyone who will listen about the thriller stories from trauma, like notches in a belt. Trophies from something I got to be a part of.

But, also if you’re like me, you leave out the part about losing the patient who reminds you of your dad. You leave out the part where you got spit on or you can’t find a homeless shelter with any vacancy. Or you had to call child protective services.
And you leave out the part where you can’t sleep even on the nights you aren’t at work.

And after two years loving nights but feeling like I’ve aged 12, I have more news I want to tell my dad. Not that I’ve had none until now, it’s just that this is important.

This is my last week of nights. My last week of taking to much benadryl and staring at the ceiling.
And the day I found that out, my best friend asked me to marry him. And you would have absolutely loved him.
And, within the week, we’ll get to meet Callan. And in another month, Megan’s daughter.

And Dad, you’re really missing a lot.

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Collection of letters

Of the days I remember, I will always revisit June 3 as the most significant. The most poignant. Last year at this time I had graduated college, I had been offered my dream job in the ER, I had moved into my own place in Wichita and I was consumed by excitement and nervousness over my boards that would determine whether or not I could keep all those things. It was a rush. A high. I was driving back to barber county for harvest, my niece and nephew’s first, and was surrounded on all sides. That day, everything was falling into place. Nothing would touch me.

Tuesday, June 4th I lost my dad. Suddenly.
It was a shell shock. Like in the war movies when the sound cuts out and everyone moving around you slows down. Like being underwater and seeing everyone else able breathe. People in polite conversation say my dad passed away. It doesn’t feel like that at all. It feels like he died.

From that moment, every aspect of my life was rocked. I lost my dad. I passed the test the day after. I started the job and flipped my world from days to nights. My brother moved home for months to pick up the pieces. I lost touch with close friends and a significant 5 year investment. I grew up pretty fast, and every day I wish I could go back to the 3rd. Because the 4th sent everything I knew into a tailspin.

“I remember it every single day” is a cliche, horribly overused, Rob said. You remember it like a shotgun to the stomach while coming around a corner. Like how children trip roadside bombs in Fallujah. One minute your operation is routine and then suddenly and without provocation, in the middle of a meeting at work or beer with a friend your heart detonates. While paying bills or doing laundry, the weight you carry becomes all you know.

After that day, a friend of my dads recalled a memory where my father was describing his feelings about having grandchildren. He said, “It’s just getting to the good part.” And it was a year ago today that I felt that, too.

And I have this collection of letters.
They were my dad’s. Things he held dear, letters from Top, birthday cards from my aunt Joan…things no one would believe Brian kept. These letters are worth more to me now than the degree and the test and the job and the apartment. And now my sister has moved her family to Kingman and my brother, his, to Medicine Lodge.

This year, I have pieces of paper.
And my brother has a farm.