May is a complicated month for me.
There are highs. Alex and I share a birthday month. Almost inconceivably she is turning 25 in a little less than 2 weeks. I turn 50 at the end of this month. It feels like it was just yesterday that I was holding her for the first time at Darnall Army Community Hospital on Fort Hood. Now she is pregnant with my first grandchild. I am turning 50. 50. I am going to be a grandfather this year.
And I have a 6 year old.
It’s all surreal. May is surreal.
Because for all the complicated joy that these events bring, there is also complicated grief and sadness. Barb and I are separated and trying to figure out what the future looks like individually and for our family collectively. What it means for us. And it’s… complicated.
May brings ghosts. It is now the 17th anniversary of the worst month of my life - May 2005 in Anbar province, Iraq. The most violent month of the most violent year of the American occupation of that country. A month that changed me. A month that changed my relationship to violence, to war, to masculinity. A month that changed my relationship with myself.
I lost people that month. People I cared about. And I get to bring them with me into Memorial Day weekend. I guess it would be better to say that they are always with me. They just move to the front of the attention line this month.
And it’s hard. 17 years and the grief is still impossibly heavy. The guilt remains, no matter how much work I do. Why them and not me? Why do I get to be a grandfather, and Mike doesn’t? It’s not fair. We should both be here. And Sam and Kevin and every single person who isn’t.
Grief is complicated too. Because it’s not unrelenting sadness. There is joy in the memories. The times we laughed and joked. The times we were vulnerable with one another. The times we cared and shared and were scared without fear and without judgment. The times we were our true and best selves with the people who would both literally and figuratively save us. I remember them. In all their complexity.
May is hard. It is also joyous and beautiful. The trees are full and green. The forests are lush with bugs and birds and plants and flowers. The earth - despite humanity’s best efforts - still lives and breathes and will do so long after we are no longer here. She is bigger and better than we are.
Grief is complex. Joy is leavened by reality and time. Nothing is ever one thing.
This is the lesson of May. This is the hope of May.
Bye bye, April.
It’s gonna be May.
Be well y’all. Have a wonderful week.
And no matter what, keep pounding the rock.