Saturday, February 25, 2012

Act of Valor

I spent some down time today at the movies.  I went to see Act of Valor, which my mother totally guessed I would go see. Let me first say that the acting was sub par and it didn't bother me one bit.  Reason being is that 90% of the "actors" in the movie are real Navy SEALs.  Therefore, the acting isn't great but the action is. You don't feel like you are watching a movie, you feel like you're watching a documentary.  The look, the movement, the sounds, are all amazing.  After it was said and done, the movie turned out to be a very emotional movie.  
Two moments in the movie really caught my attention.  At one point SEAL Team 7 is about to deploy, or go "downrange" as they say.  The narrator of the movie, a real life SEAL, talks about what goes through his mind before he leaves.  The last thing he says is something like...before every SEAL leaves he thinks of his wife and kids.  He thinks about how he could/should be a better husband and father.  When he returns, he will pick up (where he left off) with that thought.  It was a pretty powerful moment for me.  Those brave men have the ability to critique themselves, with the desire to improve themselves, not knowing if they will ever return.  I couldn't help but think to myself, why don't we think that on a nightly basis? Every night when you lay your head down, you should think about how you can be a better husband, father, and man.  You hope and pray that the whole SEAL team makes it home, you know that in real life it often doesn't happen that way.  It is a just movie though, right?  You lose sight of that throughout the movie because internally you never forget that they are real soldiers. Art imitates and intertwines with life. 
The second part that really hit me was at the very end when the narrator reads a letter to a child of one of the SEALs.  It is a powerful letter written by Chief Tecumseh to his son many years ago.  The advice in the letter are as true today as they were then.  I am in awe of the wisdom shown by Tecumseh in this letter, and truly hope to live it out as the days move on.
“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and
its purpose in the service 
 of your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, Even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and Bow to none. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and For the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, The fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and nothing, For abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts
Are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes
They weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again In a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”
I am Facebook friends with Marcus Luttrell of "Lone Survivor" fame.  If you have not read the book, please do so.  I don't at all claim to be friends with him, but it is an honor to have that one small connection. I tweeted him today after I saw the movie, "@MarcusLuttrell I just saw  Act of Valor and noticed the names of your brothers (at the start of the credits) from your team.  Thanks, we owe a debt that can never be repaid."  It took all 160 characters, the limit on twitter.  I wished to say more but it never could have been enough.  I don't suspect the movie will win an Academy Award and thats okay, they wouldn't want one anyway.  Just a simple thank you is all they desire.  So if any SEAL, or anyone who has served is reading this...Thanks.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Not goodbye, just till next time!

Last Monday (a week ago) I had to take my mother to the airport.  I have had to go to the airport and leave my parents many times.  So much so, it doesn't even register any more.  I leave my girls at home multiple times a month, and even that doesn't get me emotional like it used to.  Something different happened on that Monday, something I was afraid was going to happen.  I have left many times, being left was a new experience.

My parents used to come to Lexington a lot, more as the girls grew up.  They would always come for the day, have dinner, and go home.  However, we never spent a lot of time together in one setting like I was fortunate enough to do with my in laws.  There was good and bad to both situations.  When one of the girls would have surgery, my parents were close enough to make the trek.  That also meant they could go right home afterwards.  When Mimi and Pop would come up (which wasn't as often), they would stay.  The advantage of staying is that you really get to be part of our family and learn what its like to live in our house.  You get to see the girls in a totally different light.  It was comforting for me to see Mom when I woke up, watch Zombies on TV as we dozed off to sleep in the family room, and have her at every meal.  Sort of like it used to be when I was a kid only better because now we have Brooke and the girls.  It was great to have Mom here to show her the house, Chicago, and spend that quality time. It puts real meaning to the phrase "precious present."  But hanging over me the entire time was the fact that come Monday she would be going back to Louisville.  Our journey to the airport was probably a little more quiet than usual.  We both knew what was coming.  Nina's big adventure was coming to close.  She really bonded with the girls the days when she was here and even the baby was reaching for Mamaw.  You always love your grandkids, but I could see that her being here took that to a new level for her.  I tried to put on a brave face, I am a man right Coach Gundy ? Anyway, being a husband, father, etc. etc. I could handle this.  Well when time came to for Mom to go through security, I knew it was time for me to say goodbye and let her go.  As many times as it was me going through security, very rarely am I on the other end.  Almost never has it been either of my parents I was saying goodbye to, with me being the one left behind.  As hard as I tried, as brave as I would like to think I am, I couldn't hold back.  I didn't sob, I didn't snot out my nose, but I did cry.  I was very sad, I didn't want her to go.

At that moment I thought about two people.  I thought about how I have seen my wife do this a thousand times in our relationship.  No matter how many times it happened, she would always cry when she left her parents.  I never understood why until it was me crying in the airport.  I always knew she was strong, I never realized how brave she was until I was the one with the empty feeling of seeing your parents go and not knowing when you would see them again.  I also thought of a friend Patrick Stiff.  He lost his Mom over a year ago. It was unexpected and too soon.  I thought about how brave he is, on a daily basis, knowing that he would love one more time to say goodbye to her like I was fortunate enough to be doing at that moment.  I never knew his Mom, but Im pretty sure she would be proud of the strength he shows.   Thinking of both these people helped me take one step forward, otherwise I would probably still be standing there at the airport.  After you take that first step, it does get a little easier.

This is all part of the deal with us being in Chicago, I know this.  Mom's trip was a last minute trip, so I didn't even know it was going to happen two weeks before.  Regardless, it was hard to swallow the first time and it may be hard every time.  So to all my loved ones that may come up to visit us, there are a few ground rules we must follow:
1) Understand that I may get upset when you leave.  Its sort of what I do, I hope its not embarrassing
2) Don't leave without planning when you will come back.  It helps to know when you will return so that those left behind have something to hold on to.
3) Do whatever you can to come.  The time shared is precious and means the world to us.  You are always welcome.

I watched Mom until I could no longer see her, then I stood for a little bit longer.  I knew I had to get to work and that there were things to do.  In the end I was thankful for that moment.  Lots of people would love to be able to say goodbye to a loved one, one more time.  Mom and I can still talk on the phone, Skype, plan our next adventure.  When you put it in that perspective, saying goodbye in the airport isn't the worst thing in the world.  The tears, albeit slightly embarrassing, are just love.  Thats all.  And thats okay.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A real mans man.

I dont remember much about my grandfather (pictured above). I called him PawPaw.  When Brooke and I found out we were pregnant, my dad didn't know what he wanted to be called.  At first he wasn't sure about being called PawPaw.  He held his dad in such high esteem, I dont think he wanted to be compared to Burbon.  I also think that part of it was that no matter how far away you get from the death of someone you love and admire, it still stings when you think of them.  Being constantly reminded of that hole that can never be filled, would be too difficult for some.  But just like my PawPaw wasnt your average man, neither is my dad.  I sortof convinced him that he needed to be called PawPaw too.  Everything good that I saw in my PawPaw, I also saw in Dad, and then some.  Everything important about my PawPaw, I knew that Dad could teach to my kids.  In my opinion it isnt a burden for Dad to now be called PawPaw, it is an honor. Each generation getting better and better at being PawPaw. And some day, God willing, some grandbabies will call me PawPaw.

My PawPaw died when I was about 8 years old, and for the last few years of his life he lived 12 hours away in Jacksonville, FL.  Most of what I do remember are things that you don't really want to remember.  I remember when he got sick, I remember when he get sick enough he had to move back to Louisville.  I remember the last Christmas he spent with us when he was a fragment of himself before he passed.  I remember waking up on January 11th and seeing my Dad home from the hospital, knowing that this meant his dad had passed the night before.  Those are the memories that stick out in my mind.  Occasionally, some random things pop in my head.  I remember the old astro turf he had on his back porch.  I remember some of the toys he had for us when we came to his place.  In fact, I damn near remember every inch of his townhome in Jacksonville.  The smells, I can remember his distinct smell. He smelled like a man. In a good way.  Every once in a while I will catch a wiff of it from something else and I think back on PawPaw.  I remember the outside smell of his place in Jacksonville, FL.  "Alligator farts" as we would call it.  It was really just the sulfur springs.  I guess I remember a lot about PawPaw's surrondings, but I dont remember much about him.  And that's okay.  I am thankful for the time we did shared, when too often you never get to share that generational bond.  A bond that I am so glad my girls get with their grandparents.

My grandfather's name was B(o)urbon.  They didnt spell it right, so he went through his whole life with his name spelled Burbon.  The story behind why he got that name is another blog for another time.  I have found myself talking about him a ton lately at work.  Almost as if I really knew the man, but I didnt.  Much of what I know, I have learned from my dad.  I think that was one of Burbon's best lessons.  He taught Dad what it means to be a faithful and loving husband, as he was to my grandmother.  He taught Dad what it means to really be a father.  He taught Dad what hard work means, true dedication, and the most important word between men.... loyalty.  Just about every quality you could ever want in a person, that was Burbon.  While he never really got to teach those lessons to me, he did teach them to my dad, who in turn passed them on to me.  I guess that was really PawPaw's greatest lesson.  Love.  He would be proud that I am trying my best to pass those lessons he taught my dad on to his great grand babies.  But of all the things he taught Dad, there was one thing he did teach me directly.

The other night after dinner, I found myself cleaning up while the girls were getting their showers.  I was still sort of hungry and wanted a snack.  It had been a long trying week, I needed something good.  Well, there wasn't much to choose from in the pantry.  It consisted of a bunch of organic stuff, baby food, and organic baby food.  One thing did catch my eye, graham crackers.  I hadn't really had them in a while and I figured it would do.  Graham crackers on the surface are not a very good treat.  Sort of bland, sort of tasteless.  It is something that Hadley likes, but after all, she hasnt had anything but paste like substances, a few french fries, and boob milk.  With all due respect to I'm sure the top notch milk that my wife produces, Hadley isn't the best judge at what is good food. But then I remembered something I used to do when I was a kid.  I remember dipping my graham crackers into milk.  It is an amazing combination when you dip your graham crackers into a glass of cold milk.  I can vividly remember sitting on a counter top with my PawPaw and doing that same thing with him.  He taught me what a great snack that was.  We don't have any pictures of it, so I know my memory is a legit memory, not just one of a photo.  I remember being in our house on Helmsdale and he was visiting from Florida. I remember it like it was yesterday.  Graham Crackers and milk.  Thanks PawPaw.

In a very serendipitous moment, two days later,  Reagan grabs the box of graham crackers from the pantry and gets up on her bar stool (something her PawPaw would be proud of).  She says "Dad, can you get me a glass of milk?  You used to eat this with your PawPaw, and its good."  I couldn't help but laugh and also fight back a tear.  Apparently I had already taught her the lesson my PawPaw taught me.

Every day I go to work,  and behind my desk where I sit is the above picture.  Burbon holding his youngest grandson with the beat up eye from falling down the stairs.  Sometimes I look at it for strength, sometimes I look at it and laugh.  No question though, somewhere in Heaven PawPaw is proud.  

Have a great day girls!

From Brooke all the way to Hadley Badly, parts of this song remind me of each of them.  Have a great day, see you when Daddy is done with work.

Monday, February 6, 2012

You take the good, you take the bad....

It has been an adjustment for us, moving to Chicago.  There are so many things that are different, I don't know where to begin?  I will write about the differences of the city at some point, but today I want to talk about work.

I used to get up every morning, feed the girls, and then I would walk into the dining room for work.  When I was done working, I left the dining room.  Lunch was spent with the girls and I didn't have a commute, I was always there.  It was an amazing situation because I was always surrounded by those I love, and who loved me back.  Now it is much different.

I wake up each morning and go work out.  For the most part I still get to feed the girls breakfast, but then the chaos starts. I shower and always end up still sweating after my shower.  This is a combination of not enough time after my work out, and me hurting to get out of the house in time.   I get in my truck and drive 30 minutes to work.  Once I get to the LMT, there is always so much work waiting for me before I sit down.  I had to retrain myself to get ready (which takes time) and go to an office every day.  It had been years since I had done that and I was out of practice.  Don't get me wrong, in a short time, I have come to consider my work buddies, family too.  One of my highlights of my day is when we all go to Nippert Hall and have lunch together.  Something I am told is new since I became ESR.  I truly enjoy the people I break bread with and see throughout the day.  I feel a sense of family growing in all of us.  We may not always agree on everything, but that is okay.  That is what families do.

It always pains me to say goodbye to my girls in the morning and they never want me to leave.  I think the worst part is how little I see of them every day. When I get home around 6, i have 90 minutes before they are in bed.  I feel as though they get bigger with each passing day, and I am there less and less to see it.  They don't know what its like to have a daddy that has to go to work everyday like all the other dads do.  Their entire life, their daddy has worked from home.  It has been an adjustment for Brooke too.  She went from a mother/teacher, to a full time mother.  She needs a break by herself, but when?

Despite all the challenges I am thankful and enjoy the company of the people I leave my girls for.  They are great people, who do great work.  Being in a strange city, in a different environment, it is great to have people you feel comfortable with.  It makes the sting from leaving home hurt just a little bit less.  Just like "The Facts of Life," you take the good, you take the bad.