I keep having these dreams where I am working at LLNL and my dad is there. He dials my extension and asks me to come up, and we talk about life and catch up. Then I wake up.
These dreams are haunting. I awake feeling this deep ache in my stomach. It’s long after coffee and getting started on my day that I start to shake that haunted feeling. I am not sure if haunted is the right word, what I am trying to describe is an awareness of pain and loss that I have dealt with, but I know is not right. This is not how it’s supposed to be.
The dreams are very accurate. My dad and I used to catch up in his office very often. We both worked in the same building, just a floor above mine, and in the same department, so it made sense. I miss those times so much.
In my dreams it feels so real! Dreams might be mingled with real memories in a vivid stew of unconsciousness. All the details are right, down to smell, the “feel” of his office, and the joy I had in sharing news about my wife and kids. Sometimes I would asking a programming question and spend time working through a place I was stuck. Other times he would go on and on about how the batching worked on the clusters. I both love and hate it. Love it when it’s happening, hate it when it’s over.
I recently created a mailbox that I was sure was what my dad used for email for my mom and him. I was right. I don’t get much there, mostly spam. But for some reason I love the spam. It’s guitar and theology related, and it feels, for a micro moment, that he is alive. I see his name in the greeting and it’s attached to something he loved.
I miss my parents so much, especially during times when I long for support and encouragement. It’s so hard to find those things these days, which deepens the longing even more.
I’ll keep checking email and having dreams until one day when all that is broken and wrong is undone.
This week as I am going through the Jr. Penetration Tester course on INE, we are covering programming in C++. This is leading up to a C++-assisted exploitation, the next section is much the same but using Python. Oh man, I am reminded of why I never got deep into C, despite my father having years and years of experience with it. It’s not C, it’s C++, but going through this course is really making me miss my dad. He passed away this year, exactly 2 years to the day from when my mom passed away. Tech and programming has always been a connection my dad and I have shared.
The Sabbatical has been both good and really rough. This time away from work has freed up headspace for me to really process a lot of stuff and deal with some roadblocks head on. I am so thankful for the company I work for and the care and attention they put into our happiness as employees.
Even though it’s rough going through this, it’s bringing up some good memories. I really wish my dad could see me embracing coding more these days. Cybersecurity is proving to be an incredible challenge that is a lot of fun. I wish I had gotten into this a long time ago. Dad would be proud.
I added a section to my father’s memorial site that talks about his time at LLNL. The lab has an internal newsletter and the content of this page was provided by the article they will be running in the newsletter, including several memories from co-workers spanning the 45+ years he worked at LLNL.
Today was a life changing day. In January of 2019 my mother passed away. Today my father suddenly and unexpectedly passed away, just two short years after my mom. I have never liked January, it’s the let down after Christmas. It’s the Monday of the year.
The feeling right now, aside from the loss and sadness, is a profound disconnect from who I am. A very large part of my identity was being a son. I was close to my parents in youth, into adulthood and deep into the years of being a parent myself. I feel like a branch disconnected from a tree. I am not sure how else to describe it. It’s loneliness and bewilderment rolled into one large and overbearing monster of a feeling.
I no longer have that connection to my past. Who I am is now changed. The me that was brought out by them is no more. It can’t be. Not without them. And silly things, like being able to call or text them for a detail from my childhood is gone. I am disconnected from that information and from that vivid and wonderful world of memories that sentimental people like me enjoy visiting. I don’t like this, I want to pretend it’s not real. That’s not possible though, that’s why I am writing this post now. As soon as my head hits the pillow, the floodgates open and it’s almost too much.
All that being said, I feel I am able to handle this. In fact my worries and my hurt center not around what I’ll miss about my dad but squarely on how my siblings and my kids are affected by the events of today. In our world, my mother and father were very close to us. This loss is huge. The future and how this plays out for the years to come is very much unknown.
You know, when I mentioned my identity before, how a large part of it was in being son, it’s true. I am feeling this deeply and it’s scary. Though in a much more real and eternal sense I still retain a sonship. It’s different, and it feels different, but without this knowledge and conviction, I don’t know how I would be okay. And I am okay. Some of my kids and family are not okay today, but they will be. Just as it was with my mother’s passing. There is healing that comes with time and life that comes from each other.
It’s cliche, but don’t forget to embrace your family and friends. Don’t take for granted the moments you have right now. My dad’s last post on Facebook was sharing a photo of kittens playing. It’s a cute share. I saw his last few shares and thought, “heh, dad and these silly posts”. I am going to miss those.
White, orange and yellow from top to bottom, with an ultra sugary sweetness that is both intoxicatingly addictive and sickening at the same time. Fair warning though, they are hard to put down once you start eating them, and you always regret eating them. Well, at least I do. Eating Candy Corn is not something I intend to do, where as eating bacon is intentional. I am not sure I really even like Candy Corn, especially the ones that take the form of little pumpkins. (That’s even more sweetness per bite than a mock kernel of corn) The most important thing to know about Candy Corn is that for me, Candy Corn means the start of fall.
I remember when it started. It was the summer I moved away to Montana for 3 months, the first time I left home. It was right after graduating High School. I received care packages from my mom. I loved getting those! It was like home came to me! Opening the carefully wrapped package from my mom, shipped from my hometown so far away created a pocket of space just large enough to envelop me. For a moment in time, my family, their love, the smell of home, the feelings of security and acceptance, were as real as if I was home. There were always three things in these care packages. Pop Rocks, Candy Corn, and a letter telling me about life at home and encouraging me in what I was doing.
I moved back home after the summer, a few years later I started an internship a several hours from home, got married, had kids, and life marched on. One thing never stopped. Every year in October a bag of Candy Corn would show up from my mom. Every year I would eat that Candy Corn, and the Candy Corn Pumpkins and feel both happy and sick (sugar).
This will be the first October when a bag of Candy Corn will not arrive for me. I won’t stare at the bag and tell myself that my mom is sweet, but I just can’t eat that candy. I won’t resist for several hours before finally tearing it open and inching just a bit closer to diabetes. This year October will come and go without that pocket of home forming around me as I break open a package from my mom.
This year Fall will not be quite as amazing as it usually is. I cannot imagine the smell of the leaves being as sweet. The rush of life that comes from a bitter cold breeze against my face as it attempts to defeat my jacket, beanie, scarf … won’t be quite the same. All the fun small clues that winter is coming will be diminished this year.
It’s time to pass this little Candy Corn tradition on. I think this year I will send a bag of Candy Corn to one of my kids. All my kids still live at home, but I am sure I can find an excuse to send a package. The Candy Corn experience must live on.
The bike path starts at the edge of my old neighborhood, it begins at the sidewalk and winds all the way through to the other side of town where it ends by Granada High. I have taken this path countless times. As a child this path would take me to many adventures! Then later in life I would ride my bike to Spanish class far, far across town. As an adult it was great for casual walks with a child in a stroller.
Today the bike path served as a tour through many memories.
It’s a hot day, in the high 90’s, the although it’s hot, I really want to go for a run on the bike path. It’s been over 20+ years since I have traveled the whole path from start to finish. As I head out, it’s almost instant … like traveling back in time, I am a kid again and so many of the same sights, sounds, smells and feelings are waiting for me. The warmth of the sun feels like an embrace, my footfalls sound familiar against the blacktop crunching the leaves and twigs, and the smell, the smell is distinctly my town. It’s eucalyptus and sycamore trees mixed with vineyards and a hint of licorice. Also, maybe a little bit of the rodeo grounds and farmland. It’s a 7 mile round trip and it proved to be an experience I won’t forget.
I remember when I was a kid that I spent a lot of time outside playing with my friends. I was fortunate to grow up on in a court which was on a street that had two other courts, each one full of kids close to my age. We used to play newspaper tag, around 20 of us, and these were epic games involving brilliant strategies and sneaky routes that took us from one back yard to another to cross into other courts. When the sun set, we would change things up and the game would be flashlight tag. The evening fun would end when someone’s mom yelled at us to go home.
The sun is beginning to cause me to sweat as my pace quickens and I traverse a few hills. My breathing increases but it’s not just the run or the heat, it’s a physical reaction that occurs when a really good memory is vivid. It really is like being in the moment so long ago, for just a fraction time. I am not sure if it’s a longing as well, and I am not sure what the longing would be for. To travel back in time and live the moments over again, knowing what I know now so that I can harvest everything possible from it? Maybe?
Near our house was what we referred to as “the pits”. As you may have guessed, these were two huge and very deep pits that were full of vegetation and a creek. You could wander for hours in them and still not experience all the adventure that that lay in wait. Often times we would head past the pits and follow the creek for a few miles and end up near the rodeo grounds where there was a junkyard. Hop the fence and there was usually a fresh supply of old TV’s just begging to be broken, which we were happy to oblige with our wrist rockets or just a good old fashioned river rocks. On the opposite side of our neighborhood was a really great park that had open fields that we would use to play baseball. The baseball games were the highlight of my summers. Between us all, we had all the equipment we needed to play a “real game”. When we got tired of that we would jump on our bikes and ride all around the neighborhood, using the “brick walls” to travel from one end to the other, and if we felt like putting in the effort, we might ride a few miles to the bike jumps and spend hours winding through the maze of trails and jumps that were frequently used by bikes and dirt bikes. Summers also involved running a lemonade stand to earn money to swim at the “lab” pool which was at the end the main street by our house, that or May Nissen pool, across town, but that required a ride from parents and was less likely.
The sights and sounds are so very intense, and my run is now at the point that all my runs get to, that point when the run feels good. For me it takes 2-3 miles to get there before breathing, muscles and movement, and rhythm are all locked in the run is enjoyable. It crosses my mind that I have so much to be thankful for. These memories I have, I did nothing to make them possible. I did not forge a good childhood, I did not deserve a good home life. I was blessed and that’s it. My mom was incredible, she made it so that when I set out each day to do whatever I would do, returning home to my family was my brightest thought. Not everyone has that.
I took this past week off to get some much needed downtime. I spent my time at my parent’s house with my kids. Though a lot about my hometown has changed, some of it has remained the same. There are pockets here and there that take me from 2020 and back to the 1980’s. The pits are all but gone, giving way to development. The park has been revamped and a lot of the land has modulars on it now. The neighborhood is much like other neighborhoods in this area, very few kids are out on bikes and playing hard. These are different times for a lot of different reasons. My dad grew up here as well and has passed a lot of stories about this town and his childhood on to me. I find myself doing the same with my kids, trying to paint for them a picture of what it used to be like to be a kid in this town, in this neighborhood.
My run ended back at my parents house where I was happy to collapse on a couch and impatiently wait for my eyes to adjust to the lack of light. The run I had just taken on the Bike Path was an unexpected treat that I enjoyed every moment of. I hope I can do it again soon.
As a “city kid” the last few years have brought a lot of new experiences as I stumble my way through life on a small family “ranch”. Over the years we have accumulated chickens, ducks, goats, horses, many dogs and cats and the occasional vagrant 4 legged creature. I have almost grown accustomed to the joys and the sorrows of bringing new animal life into the world. Almost being the key word.
A Brief History
The chicken population on our ranch started with 20 chicks purchased through the mail. They grew and grew, which motivated us to build a second coop, and then they started to lay eggs. I really did not think or care much about the eggs aspect, we just wanted to have chickens to see what it was like. Then tragedy struck and a dog killed all but 4 of the chickens. It was awful. I know to most people, and rightly so, view chickens are utilitarian, they provide eggs and/or meat. I am not sure the incident would have been as heart wrenching to others as it was to us. We raised these chickens from chicks, named them, and established a daily routine with them. They were a part of our family. I know, I know … they are chickens, birds, and sometimes they seem almost prehistoric, like little raptors that might attempt to eat you if you lay still long enough.
A few days after the chicken tragedy of 18′, we decided to rebuild our chicken population. It took time, but we got up to about 60 chickens. Today we hatch our own by either letting chickens hatch a clutch or taking them selectively and putting them into a large incubator. We love our Ameraucanas, blue egg layers with a very friendly disposition. They will run to you and jump up to your shoulder and just hang out there. I mean, they do this with the kids, I rather not have a chicken anywhere near my face.
What surprises me is that when an egg hatches, I am still in awe. I can’t help but praise God for his brilliant design. Most of the time the hatching starts with peeping. The chick inside the egg starts to peep and we know it’s close to time. My wife and I will pick the egg up and whistle at it, and almost always the little life inside echos back our whistle with a peep. There then seems to be three approaches that chicks take to escape their calcium fortified birth pod.
1. Punch a hole in the egg and breath for a bit
A small hole forms in the egg shell and a beak sticks out and begins to open and close repeatedly. The peeping increases as does the breathing. Then either an hour or so goes by and the chick emerges, or 10-15 hours later the chick emerges.
2. All at once!
This approach is to be silent, no cracking of the egg, no signs of anything. Then within 5 minutes there is a chick. These chicks almost always tend to be larger and within a few minutes are walking fine and dry out pretty quick. I hypothesize that they are late bloomers and rather not mess around with the drama of hatching for 10-15 hours and just burst into the world ready to go. I imagine they won’t be moving out any time soon either …
3. Still silence
That last approach is really not an approach. Every now and then an egg will start to hatch and then stop permanently or it will never even start. We don’t have enough experience yet to know why this is, other than sometimes life simply does not happen due to complications we are unaware of. Only once has a chick hatched and not made it, and this is 1 in about 100. Currently we have 1-2 chicks being born every day.
What happens after a chick hatches is quite entertaining. They are slimy, confused and floppy. As in they flop around a lot. Within about 30 minutes they are starting to dry off and look a little more like a bird and less like an alien. We have a “starter box” under a heat lamp which helps them dry out. Within about 80 minutes they are pretty dry and fluffly, they look like chicks now and they can walk around a bit. They look totally drunk doing so, but they can technically walk around the box and move to where they are comfortable with the heat. They absolutely need the heat but they will move in and out of range of the heat lamp as needed. Within 3-4 hours, you would never guess that the bird was just a few hours old. They peep, they drink water, they peck at food and are ready to socialize with similar sized chicks. They are however, not super friendly unless you handle them the first few hours of their lives, but even then I think that instinct is very strong in birds and they just don’t prefer to be near you.
The process is much the same with our ducklings, but they 100% want nothing to do with us no matter what. They are pretty much jerks, but they are cute and their eggs are my absolute favorite. With ducklings you just need to be vigilant about water. Because they want to swim in anything that has any water in it. They splash it out and/or get it dirty and then they have nothing to drink. You also can’t have chickens and ducks together as chicks and ducklings. Ducks are super dirty and they will make the chicks sick. As adults they get along fine. While we have 4 coops for the chickens, the ducks prefer to wander on our property and often sleep in the grass out in the open or near their pool.
I mentioned earlier that eggs were not our intention to being with, but now they very much are. We get on average about 2-3 dozen chicken eggs per day and about 8 duck eggs. As our birds mature that number will go up quite a bit. We have learned some great tricks and tips for getting our layers to produce quality eggs. I’ll save that for another post.
So there you have it. The simple joys of hatching and owning chickens and ducks. It’s a lot of work, but it really is a fun thing to do, especially with kids. There is a huge amount of stress release as well, not sure I can really explain why, it just is that way for me personally. Our kids range from 6 to 18, and they all participate in some degree or another and enjoy it. Also, if you want some fresh eggs … let me know.
It’s no surprise that the most vivid memories of life, the moments that seem stuck in time, are often cemented into memory through joy or pain. What is surprising is how closely the two exist. In the times of deep pain it’s the joyful moments that pull us through. They mingle together in an awful yet wonderfully poignant way.
The gathering was beautiful. I saw faces there that I have not seen in years. Many years. The fellowship and the memories we shared with each other made every second feel as warm as coming home after a long time away. A pastor from long ago, hymns that soothed the open wounds and deep sense of loss, my wife’s arm around me, my children comforting my dad and siblings, the sounds of sadness all around us, and the casket sitting there with my mom inside. It was unreal. Speaking to the crowd, but not remembering a word I said except for this. “If you do not know Jesus, consider that the love you felt from my mom was a taste of what it’s like to know him.” Loading the casket into the Hearse, feeling the weight of my mom’s body, knowing “she” was not there, yet seeing and feeling that her body was. It’s a feeling I cannot describe very well. It’s something I won’t forget.
The funeral felt like a stop on the way to a final destination. I knew that when we buried mom in 4 days that it would be then that I would lose all composure, the busyness of planning everything and the constant contact and fellowship with my friends and family would cease. So in the days between we laughed, we cried, we played board games, went on long walks, felt anger at death, and lost a lot of sleep. Pain and joy mingled together. Feeling alone while sitting with each other, a hole in our lives where mom existed.
It went really fast. We arrived and moved mom’s casket from the Hearse to the grave. No one said anything official, we just sat and stood there staring at the coffin. My brother said “See you mama llama, have fun in heaven”, and then the staff asked if we wanted to see her lowered into the ground.
As they lowered her into the ground a flood of memories raced through my mind. I wanted to hug everyone there, and run away at the same time. It was just my family present. We threw flowers into the grave and instead of lingering, we left. I don’t know if it’s because the pain was too great or if it was because it was so bitterly cold, or if we all knew that the casket held just a shell. Maybe it was all these things and more.
My wife and I drove back to my parents house alone so instead of going straight to my parents, I drove up into the hills so that I could see Livermore from up high. It was a sunny and clear day, the hills and the vineyards were an absolute radiant green, as if we were looking at a photo of a fantasy valley with filters to make it look amazing, yet it was just that way on it’s own. You want to feel amazing in those moments, but the reality is that I felt both pain and sorrow mingled with the awe and joy. The joy of the presence of my wife, the beauty before me and the memories scattered all over the town below me, and the joy of knowing my mom is no longer suffering and is with Jesus where we all long to be. Deeply saddened, because though death has lost it’s sting and the grave it’s power, today death seems to have the victory. I cannot go home and talk to my mom about the experiences of the day, nor can I now text her and let her know I am thinking of her and I am looking forward to the big family meet up in February. The one I deleted from the calendar this afternoon because it’s no longer going to happen. We did make our way home and then played board games for several hours as we enjoyed the company of each other.
I can tell things are going to get progressively worse as far as the feeling of loss. That pain is very real and it’s debilitating at times. Thankfully I do not mourn as one without hope as 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 says, because this is temporary. But I do mourn as does my family and our friends.
The folks who run the funeral home said that our service was not like others they have been a part of, they really enjoyed it and said several times they would like to have met my mom. That’s pretty cool.
You were amazing to me. So many things made you amazing. A mom that other mom’s wanted to be like, you offered guidance and direction, love and friendship to anyone and everyone. You always thought of yourself last. When no one was looking and no one knew, you gave of yourself freely and sacrificed.
You raised me and my siblings in integrity. You even raised my friends, you homeschooled us and you gave us incredible life skills. You taught in scouts, in 4-H and at church. You poured everything you had into us, never holding anything back.
I do not remember a single time in the 42 years I was blessed to be your son where you even came close to failing me. You excelled in all things and you did this all the time. I was loved and cared for beyond measure.
There are so many people that your life has touched. So many lives that are better and richer because of you. You were amazing to me, I had no idea just how many other people you were amazing to.
You were a mother to my children. When they lost their mom, you stepped in and did so much thankless work. You never asked to be recognized or praised. You just wanted to serve. You and my family stepped in and we raised them together. Even as you drew your last breaths, you were surrounded by my children, loving them, serving them.
My relationship with Jesus is because of you. My passion for people is from you. I forged my way in the world and have accomplished many things because you encouraged me and cheered me on. You have always been there for me. I could call, I could come home, I could reach out at any moment and your beautiful smile, you bright eyes and your welcoming voice were there. Failures did not take me out, nor did tragedy or pain. You made me to be a resilient man.
I can’t believe you are gone. I can’t believe it mom. I want to text you right now and tell you all about how impossible things seem right now. I want you to tell me it’s going to be okay. I want you to tell me how to best love my kids right now as they deal with loss, as they feel this emptiness as I do, they too are losing their “mom”. But I can’t. Your chair is empty. I stared at it for hours today, as if you were going to materialize there and everything would be right again. That cursed chair is empty and it will never again be where you sit and greet us all as we come in from the cold world into our warm home.
I can do this. You raised me to handle things like this. You taught me to hurt and to mourn and then dust myself off and focus not on myself, but on others. That’s what you did, all your life. You were a picture of what Christ taught us to be. Servants to all. You loved the people in your life like Jesus.
Everything hurts, but I know it’s temporary. Everything in Livermore reminds me of some aspect of my childhood. Millions of brilliant memories. They bring me joy mingled with excruciating pain. But just for now. You know how I am getting through? Jesus. My wife. Dad, Doug and Sharla. My kids. People from our past who are saying the most wonderful things about you. I would give 10 years off my life for 30 seconds with you. I did not get to say goodbye and I so badly want to say goodbye.
I will see you in the future mom. I’ll do my best to continue the legacy and love people by loving God with all my heart, mind and soul.