All the Way Home

Last Sunday Kid B asked Sheepdog to take her to the park so she could do some goalkeeper training.  Kid C tagged along and they worked out together for a couple of hours.  There was lots of punting, drop-kicking and goal kicking.  I’m sure there were some dive drills as well.  Afterwards, Sheepdog and Kid C got back into the car.

“We are stopping at the grocery store for a few things on the way home.  You should run back from here,” Sheepdog said to Kid B.

Kid B hates running as much as I do, but she is required to do it for her overall soccer conditioning.  Sheepdog convinced her that is was only about three miles to our house, and he explained the route that cut through a safe neighborhood and kept her (mostly) off of the busy main roads.  She grumbled at him, but nevertheless she put one foot in front of the other and soon she was running.

Run, Forrest, Run.

Run, Forrest, Run.

I had taken both of the boys to the pool for a bit that morning while they were training.  But the weather had taken a turn for the worse, so we were back at the house even before Sheepdog and Kid C returned with their groceries.  I inquired about the missing Kid B.

Sheepdog explained the plan for her to run home with a very proud smile.  I knew that he had been trying to get her to do this for months now.  But I also knew that Kid B didn’t know the route very well and Sheepdog is beyond horrible at giving directions.  I was not happy.

“Did she actually want to run home, or did you force her to do it?”

“She knows it is good for her!”

“Did you show her exactly where to go?”

“No, I didn’t show her… but I told her.”

“It has been a while since you left her.  You even stopped at the store.  Shouldn’t she be home by now?  Does she at least have her phone with her in case she gets lost, or it turns out instead to be 10 miles from there to here?”

“Um… (quietly) no.  But I’m sure she’s fine.”

“Great, Dumbass.  I am going to go give Kid E a bath.  Kid B had better be back under this roof, safe and sound, by the time I am done.  Go get back in your car and drive around to find her if you have to.  Don’t you dare lose one of my babies!”

Sheepdog laughed at me, but I gave him a look so he knew I was not joshing.

A few minutes later, I heard the garage door open and his car was gone.

By the time I finished with bath duty, Kid B and Sheepdog were both standing in the kitchen.  Kid B was sweaty and tired, but she was, indeed, just fine.  I breathed a sigh of relief, and then I asked exactly what happened.  This is what they told me:

Sheepdog’s directions were wrong (well, duh).  First, she got lost in the park.  Then she got lost in the neighborhood.  Eventually, she made it out to the main road and started heading back to our house, but only after she had added a couple of extra miles to her run.  By then, Sheepdog had driven out to find her.  He had the top down on the car and he saw her running on the sidewalk and made a gesture that conveyed, “What’s up?  Where’ve you been?  What’s taking you so long?”

At first, Kid B just smiled back at him.  But then, overcome by frustration from him making her run home and getting lost in the process, on the side of a very busy road, my fourteen-year-old daughter flipped her Dad the bird, real big and dramatic-like.  And then she just kept on running… all the way home.

Coincidentally, I would have done the same, exact thing.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Remembering Braden

You know the feeling when something bad is coming and the thought of it makes you really sad?  It is called anticipatory grief.  When you are experiencing anticipatory grief, you do everything that you can to prepare yourself, and you begin to think that you will be able to handle the bad thing when it comes.  Except that when the bad thing actually happens, you feel like you got punched in the face and then kicked in the stomach, over and over and over again.  In reality, there is no way to be prepared at all.

I had a dream early this morning that I was falling down a deep hole.  I dropped and dropped for what seemed like miles, clawing at the dirt as I flew down desperately trying to get purchase on the wall.  After a very long time, I hit the ground.  In my dream, I screamed from the utter and complete agony.  My bones were broken and my head was throbbing and spinning.  I hurt so very much all over.  And then I woke up.

But that was when the pain became really intense.  Because I remembered that Braden was gone.

Braden Dean Smith died peacefully at home in the early hours of Monday, May 13, 2013, surrounded by his family.  His fourteen-month long fight with leukemia had left his body and mind exhausted and worn, far beyond his mere nineteen years.  He tackled his illness with bravery and intensity, but the disease was simply insurmountable in the end.  He is survived by his mother, Stacy, and his father, Steve, as well as five younger brothers and sisters… Chloe, Maddie, Cameron, Rachel and Eric.  He is also loved by countless family members and friends who consider ourselves so lucky to have had him in our lives.

I am so very grateful that Braden is no longer suffering, even while we are left behind to suffer in his absence.

Braden was exceptional.  He had book and street smarts.  He was athletic.  He was funny.  He was passionate… about sports and politics and religion.  And he was also compassionate and caring and forgiving.  He was a great friend and a doting boyfriend.  He wanted to go to college and get married and have a family.  He wanted the good life.

But even when he was in the middle of the hardest battle he would ever fight, he was always looking out for those around him.  He was kind enough to indulge my anticipatory grief and go to lunch a few times with me over the last few weeks.  We talked about everything and nothing, fears and regrets, hopes and dreams.  It was inspiring to me and those conversations, as well as many others we had together, are memories I will always cherish.

I am so very sad right now.  My sadness comes in waves.  I am sad for the profound loss that his family is enduring.  A mother and father lost a son.  Siblings lost their big brother.  My daughter lost her first true love.  I am sad that a young man with so much potential had to suffer and die before his life ever really got started.  I am sad over the loss of my friend.  My grief is no longer anticipatory… it is here.

I know that it is healthy and normal to be sad and to grieve, especially over the loss of someone so young.  There is no rule book or guide to follow, but it is very important to seek counseling or fellowship immediately following the death of a loved one.  Fortunately, we have each other to lean on, confide in, reminisce with.  We need to remember Braden, talk about him, share stories about him.  It will help us and it will make Braden happy when we reach out and help each other.  Do it to honor him.

These pictures are from one of my favorite days with our whole family, including Braden, after he had been diagnosed and had gone through a transplant.  He was getting his energy back and it was a nice day, so we went over to Webb Bridge Park to play on the playground and throw around the football.  It was pure and happy and good.  Remembering that day will always make me smile.

It will not bring him back, but it will keep him eternally alive in our hearts and our memories.

I sure do miss you already, Kid.  Until we meet again…

Wish me luck for tomorrow…