Yesterday was the anniversary of my parents’ deaths; they died on the same day four years apart. One was expected, the other was not, but both hurt just the same.
When my last parent died, we hadn’t been on good terms due to some choices I’d made and how he reacted to them and also the influence of my stepmother. We hadn’t seen each other in three years or spoken to each other except for maybe two emails. When he died, I was a junior in college and sort of just fell apart so much so that I took a leave of absence from my Corps of Cadets, didn’t go to my Army ROTC Spring FTX. This was kind of a big deal because your entire junior year is spent prepping for an evaluation camp held between your junior and senior year which evaluates your potential and is a huge portion of determining your branch and future assignment. It’s like the Army ROTC equivalent of a thesis defense, screw it up and you’ll pay for it for years.
Everything Army was particularly difficult for me to get through because every class, every PT session reminded me of him. I was painfully haunted that he’d never see me graduate or commission, get married, and that he’d never even get the chance for us to have a better relationship. Every mile I ran hurt. Every time I put on my uniform I ached inside. I also wasn’t a particularly nice person to be around, either. I remember one day another student was complaining that the salad bar was out of something and I ripped her a new one because how could anyone be so stupid to complain about that when there were so many worse things she could be missing? To all who knew me then, I’m still really sorry for how I lashed out at the people around me who only wanted to help. As painful as it was, running was my self-imposed treatment for my grief. My dad was a runner which made it worse, but also helped me feel like I was still connected.
It’s been ten years since he died and fourteen since my mother died. In a few years, I’ll have lived as long without a mother as I did with her. That loss was a lot more painful while pregnant as I tried to envision how on earth I was going to be a mother when I didn’t have one and was pretty sure I had no maternal instincts (I still maintain I don’t, but I took every class offered by the hospital and the post).
As I mentioned before, I was kind of an emotional wreck that whole spring. I was offered the opportunity to not go to the Army evaluation camp that summer. I probably should have taken it but my main motivation was that I didn’t want to repeat my MSIII year. Unsurprisingly, I did poorly because I just didn’t care about any of it still. It all seemed like a enormous waste of time and effort when there were so many other things, real things, that Actually Mattered instead of exercising Vietnam-era tactics and being evaluated on them.
I’m glad I did go, though. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have met my husband, I don’t know what I would have commissioned as, but I know my path would have been different. I don’t think I’d be here now, in this house with my dogs and cat and sleeping baby snuggled against me. I used to be so angry but now I’m just sad that my daughter won’t know them, and I’m sad for my dad that we never got the chance to have a better relationship before he died. I am thankful that he got me into running and that my mother, who had skills that Martha Stewart would envy, left me with an appreciation for crafts, cooking, and a deep love for dogs.