warning: long post
How do I begin again? In my last post, now over 2 months ago, I was shifting and drifting, unsure of myself and my place in the world.
Lots happened in December & January that makes the person writing this today somewhat different than the girl of the 12/3/09 post, if only in mental outlook (which counts for quite a bit!)
Good stuff happened in December. I went to Las Vegas for a business conference the first weekend of December. In a whimsical moment, I got on stage and sang “Son of a Preacher Man” to oodles of my co-workers and was glowingly complimented. What a huge rush. With so many talented friends, not to mention Han & DK in my own house, I tend to shy away from this kind of creative/artistic release or expression. But it felt great!
There were also awards presented at the conference, and I was one of the recipients. (BTW, I am deliberately avoiding any mention of my actual job or company name because it’s just not good to do on a personal blog.) I was surprised and grateful. It was so awesome to be told how deserving I was of the recognition by so many of my co-workers. When I got back to work, I also learned that I was being promoted effective at the beginning of 2010. Again, wow! One of the benefits of the promotion was an upgrade in seating. Silly as it may sound, I was over the moon to know that I would soon have an actual office. Side note: remember the movie “Working Girl”? The last scene when she arrives at her new job and learns that she has an office? Yep, that’s what I’m talking about.
December was also filled with preparing for the holidays. To keep costs down, but still infuse meaning into our gifts, Han & I had decided that we would make a family cookbook, using recipes from our relatives that we’ve gathered over the year. We also did our annual CD, adding a couple more recordings to last year’s version. I think both items were awesome and I’m so proud of them both. We want to keep building on them every year. The cookbook will be a wonderful representation of the diversity in our families, and the CD will allow everyone to hear DK as she grows up, while giving Han & I another outlet for our crafts.
There were parties and gatherings that were good, but the big event was our trip to Utah. (DK was going on a cruise with her mom for the holiday). We budgeted and planned and figured it out. There was no way I was going to miss being with my family. Han’s dad had called us the weekend before Christmas to ask if we could come up there the day after Christmas. As much as we would have liked to go visit, the distance and cost were too much to overcome.
We headed to Utah in a moderate rental car, with coats & hats, ready for winter. We brought along Dan Brown’s latest, “The Lost Symbol,” which I read aloud while Han drove. It’s awesome because it helps me stay awake (I am a notorious car-sleeper) and Han gets to take in a new book. We love discussing the storyline and trying to guess who will be cast for each character in the movie. We spent the night in Mesquite ($27 room!) and ate dinner at a great Mexican restaurant we discovered when we rolled through back in 2007.
We got to Salt Lake on Christmas Eve. We spent the evening catching up. I got to tell them the news of my promotion and about the Vegas conference. My sister looks fantastic, almost to her goal of losing 100 lbs. My folks were pleasant and loving as ever. T is growing like crazy, and Marty is the same as ever, always has a story or two to share.
Christmas day was good. Your standard gift-opening and lounging. I think that’s the day we also saw “Sherlock Holmes” or that might have been the 26th. Not sure, but what I do know is S made some great food for us every day, and I hope she’ll contribute some of those recipes for this year’s cookbook (hint hint). We also went to one of their favorite Mexican restaurants. I didn’t care for what I had but I think it was an unwise choice, not that the food was bad. Our plan was to leave on Monday, 12/28 and the time between was intended for lounging and visiting. It was all good.
Then bad stuff happened. On the 27th, Han decided to go back to our room for a while so that I could have some family time. MT & T were off shopping so it was the original family unit. It was nice. My phone ringer was turned off for some reason (it is rare) and when I checked it, Han had called a few times. I called him right away. His father had collapsed during his second sermon that day complaining of something wrong with his heart. [If I haven’t mentioned it before, Han’s dad is a pastor (thus my song choice in Las Vegas). He (along with his wife and the children they had together) moved to Washington to start a church (which they did).]
At that time, we weren’t exactly sure what had happened. JB (Han’s dad) was in the hospital and Han was waiting to hear more. He said that it seemed like it would be fine and to just continue on with my day with my family and he’d let me know more when he did. Lots of emotion. Lots of deliberation. Do we go there or not? What if it’s no big deal? What if it’s a huge deal? Finally, we decided we should go, drive to Seattle. We were closer than if we’d been in San Diego and the circumstances seemed urgent. With the decision came the added “real” issue, like how would we manage it financially? The budget didn’t include a side-trip to Seattle. Thankfully and amazingly, my mom & dad gave us some money. It would get us there and then we’d figure it out. They took me to our hotel and Han came down so we could all say good-bye in the lobby. He also was able to give us an update. He had spoken to his dad who had said he was in some pain. Han had let him know we were on our way and that he loved him. I said good-bye to my family, overcome with love for them and so appreciative of the fact that they could understand the decision we made. While there was a moment when I considered staying when Han brought up the idea that he could go alone, the decision to go with him was a supremely adult one for me, and one I would never change. I know he would have made the same decision if the situation were reversed.
While we hurriedly packed up to get on the road (it was around 4pm), Han got a call from his step-mom saying that something had changed and things didn’t look good. We hit the road in silence. I’ve never seen Han like that before. The relationship between him & his father has been turbulent, especially in his childhood and teen years. But as they both got older (there is only 18 years between them), they worked out some stuff between them and, I think, realized that maybe there are things that won’t get worked out. But, in a conversation we had when trying to decide if we should go, Han said, “But he’s still my dad. It feels like I should be there.” That’s when I knew we wouldn’t be sleeping in Salt Lake that night.
After driving for close to an hour, after calling his aunt (JB’s sister) and DK (who was flying home from her cruise), Han picked up his phone and called his step-mom. JB had just died. I will never forget the memory of watching him pick up the phone and wondering how he knew to call right then. Watching him wait for someone to answer. Both of us already somehow knowing, without wanting to admit it, what he was going to learn when the line was picked up.
I told him to pull over. He got off the freeway and we pulled into some desolate gas station. It was freezing cold and everything was grey. Crying. Han got out of the car and made some calls (his aunt, DK, his mom). I called S’s and let them know. Stunned. Shocked. Sad. After some time, we drove on. Destination the same but the purpose now entirely changed.
In a completely bizarre twist to an already surreal experience, we ended up spending the night in Burley, Idaho, my childhood hometown. Normally, there’s not much chance that Han & I would have ever happened to just be passing through this tiny town. But, it certainly wasn’t a normal trip so it somehow seemed exactly right. We got there in the evening so it was already dark, but it was still familiar. Eerily so. It had been probably been 15 years since I’d been there last. I was able to navigate us to the section of town where there were motels and we got a room. I think it was 6° F. Freakin’ cold. Han needed to rest so I went out and got us some fast food and later ventured to the Wal-Mart for Nyquil. I also bought a pair of $3 sunglasses because mine had managed to stay in Utah.
We were up early to get a jumpstart on the long drive. We wanted to be in Seattle that night. But we did make time to swing by my old house. We had also lived in a duplex but I was maybe 4 when we moved to the house and there was no way I knew how to get to the duplex. But the house was no problem. So strange to swim in that deluge of memories that washed over me as we sat in front of the house for a minute. Even the way the curbs are shaped was powerful. I remember thinking they were the best because they sloped, like a driveway. When I learned how to ride a bike it was no big deal if you went off the curb a little because it was smooth and you wouldn’t fall.
And with that we were on our way. And we made it. I read the Dan Brown book aloud nearly the entire time. It was distracting in a good way. But Han would point out good scenery if there was any. We had almost all kinds of weather, but we got there. And then we were there. With help from my mom, we found a cheap place to stay. The house was full and honestly, having a place to be able to go to was appealing.
I had met all of Han’s half-siblings & step-mom before, but had never spent any real quality time with them. That was about to change. And it had been a few years since Han had been there as well. They told me that having him there was an immediate comfort to the family. The fact that he looks just like his dad probably contributed to that feeling in some ways.
Each day we were there was a different emotional experience. DK flew up, as did JB’s sister and father, both of whom live in San Diego. The days were spent with the family, telling stories, singing, listening, eating. While I can’t possibly convey here the depth of being, feeling, knowing that occurred over that time, I will say that I came to love the family and was honored to be part of their experience with this sudden tragedy. Also, Han & I reached a different level in our relationship. There is a new gentleness between us, a tenderness that quite possibly can only be achieved through such a difficult time. We tried to find some balance with all of the high level emotion. We took drives through the countryside and along the water listening to loud music. We found an old saloon on a windy night that served deep fried clams that were delicious. We had an impromptu photo session at the Sound. From his iPhone, we sent out a photo and a message of love to our dear friends who we couldn’t be with on New Year’s Eve. They responded in kind from their own locations (Austin & San Diego). He & DK also were able to spend some time alone together to process what was happening. She is a frequent visitor and it was good to see her so comfortable among her family.
The funeral was on 1/2/10 and it was unlike anything I’d ever witnessed. Hundreds (including my mom & dad) also watched online. JB was a builder of people, and he had many followers. It was quite amazing. May he rest in peace.