It would have been, but it wasn’t

Wednesday, August 15th, would have been my twentieth wedding anniversary, except it wasn’t.  It’s like watching the Olympics a few weeks ago and thinking Meg would be winning a gold medal right now if she were a sixteen-year-old gymnastic phenom, but she can’t do a cartwheel, so this was not her Olympic year.

There are many things in life that were never meant to be.  For example, I was never meant to work in the health care industry.  A few years ago, Meg had oral surgery to help prepare her teeth for braces.

“Just wait until the gauze is saturated with blood,” the surgeon said. “Then remove it and replace it with a new piece,”

In the process of removing the nasty cotton, I vomited.

I am not proud of my squeamish tendencies.  Surely, a mother should be able to nurse her own child; but I have a weak stomach and a strong sense of smell, a terrible combination when dealing with bodily fluids.

Racing horses was another career I was never meant to have.  As a child, my brother once asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  “A horse jockey!” I declared.

Neil laughed, “That will be interesting,” he said.  “The horse will run a lap with you on his back, and you will have to jump off to carry the horse the rest of the way.”

Neil will probably deny having said that.  I state with certainly, that of the two of us, I have the better memory.  Neil killed a lot of brain cells doing stupid things in his twenties.  However, in his defense, I was 5’9” by the seventh grade, not the ideal body type for racing equine.

My fairy tale didn’t pan out the way I thought it would; my happily-ever-after took some twists and turns, and many things I counted on never happened.  Instead of celebrating my twentieth wedding anniversary with Scott, I celebrated my fifth with Tim.  Thank God my night-in-shining armor arrived just in time to hold Meg’s hand during surgery and replace the bloody gauze.


big stuff for a shy seven-year-old

Me at first communion. I am not sure what I was giggling about; first communion is not that funny.

My mom’s skirt makes her look like a polygamist, but props to Dad, all cutting edge in his sport coat and jeans.

In 1975, I was preparing for my first communion. (For non-Catholics, the two key take-aways are: First Communion is when you receive the Eucharist for the first time. The Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ. But when you’re seven, it just seems like thin, stale bread and really bad wine; however, sometimes they give the kids grape juice and then you feel totally lucky and chosen by God. Now I need to head to confession for disrespecting the Eucharist and revealing secret Catholic-kid stuff)

Prior to First Communion, you go to first confession where you explain your sins to a priest and he grants you forgiveness. This is all big stuff for a shy seven-year-old.

Mom and I spent time practicing what I should confess. I planned to tell Father Rink that I fought with my brother and didn’t always eat my dinner. Before heading to church, my mom sat with me on the sofa and said, “We’re going to leave soon, and you’ll be just fine, but if you never want to do this again, you don’t have to. You can talk to God whenever you want. You don’t need a priest with you to do that.”

I am certain there were not many other Catholic mothers handing out this advice to their daughters. I was only seven, but that comment from my mom formed the foundation of my relationship with God. It was a gift from her. It wasn’t so much about her faith in God; it was about her faith in me and my ability to choose.

A bucket full of grief

I was thirty-six years old when my first husband, Scott, died in a motorcycle accident. I was upside down for a while. I took me a long time to turn myself around.

Eventually I realized that holding onto grief took a toll. For my sanity, for my children, I needed a break from the constant, overwhelming torture of loss. I started to think of my grief as a tangible thing; if I could hold it, and I could feel it, I could release it. I needed a place to store my grief, a bucket I could shed my tears into and then put away, so I could function, so I could manage the new life I was constructing.

My grief bucket gets fuller every year. Since my husband’s death, I have lost my uncle, my father and my mom.

I imagine someday I will need a grief dumpster, like the ugly metal bins lined up behind supermarkets and busy restaurants. Or maybe a storage shed, a strong, four-sided contraption with a high-pitched roof to hold all the pain and longing.

In the meantime, I will cry into this bucket until I outgrow it and move on.

I’m glad you’re so concerned

We went camping with some friends and were sitting around the campfire when my sixteen-year-old daughter left to use the bathroom. She was gone for a few minutes when it occurred to me that I should have gone with her. After all, it was dark; we were in the woods; the campground was relatively sprawling. Who knows what could happen in a setting like this?

Minutes passed before my daughter returned. “Did you get raped?” I asked.

She rolled her eyes in pure female fashion and exhaled in a why-am-I-cursed-with-such-a-weird-mom kinda way. “No,” she replied. “I did not get raped.”

“Well, good. I was just thinking maybe I should have gone with you. It’s dark and wooded.”

Eventually my fourteen-year-old son left to use the restroom. When he returned I was standing at the picnic table. He stood next to me and for several seconds we quietly assembled s’ mores until he commented, “I didn’t get raped either; thanks for asking.”

I giggled.

“I’m glad you are so concerned about my rapablily,” he said. “I am highly rapable, you know.”

There’s butt talk everywhere

Because I hate the word fart and because my teenagers are too cool to use the word toot, my husband has created the term butt talk to refer to all things gaseous.

My husband and I had climbed into bed, confident that our three-year-old was fast asleep. Just as I settled into my perfect sleeping position, I heard, “Mommy . . . Mommy . . .,” from across the hall. Dragging myself up, I made the well-worn trek to my daughter’s room.

“Will you sleep with me, Mommy?”

Inside I am screaming, “Noooooooo,” but I take a deep breath and snuggle in next to her. I brush her bangs from her eyes and reach over to rub her back.

“My room stinks,” she said.

“Hmmm,” I reply, because every mother of a toddler knows that you can’t engage a three-year-old in conversation if you are trying to count the minutes until they fall back asleep.

“Yes,” she said. “It really stinks! Daddy leaves his butt talk everywhere!”

not if you’re actually being an ass hole

My two teenagers were watching TV. Never mind that is was an eighty degree August afternoon; they were deeply engrossed with a repeat of Ridiculousness. At one point, Cole quietly takes the TV remote control and leaves the room. He makes his way to the backyard, climbs a tree with a surprisingly good vantage point, aims the remote through the family room window, and turns the television off. Meg, confused, looks around for the remote. When she can’t find it, she walks across the room and turns the TV back on. This process is repeated several times. Finally, my daughter who takes AP courses in high school and is in advanced math, figures out the TV is not broken, or possessed by ghosts, but is being manipulated by her brother from his tree-top perch. Screaming ensues. Cole climbs down from the tree. A chase breaks out. I hear Meg yelling, “Ass Hole! Ass Hole! Ass Hole!”

I bark, “Cole, give Meg the remote control.”

He throws it at her.

I stare him down.

“Well,” he declares, “I think she should get in trouble for calling me an ass hole.”

I look at my son, the tree, the remote. “Not if you’re actually being an ass hole,” I reply.

Scott’s Memorial Scholarship

Scott Hanan

On August 15, 2002, Scott Hanan and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. As gifts to each other, we created lists, “Things I Want to do Before I Die.”

Scott’s list of 72 goals was sprinkled with the obvious—be 100% debt free ,drive a car on a super speedway, learn to fly fish. There were also a few that surprised me—take three college-level history courses for fun, read the Federalist Papers. There are items on the list he accomplished—build part of an addition to our house. And unfortunately, many he did not, including number 16—Put someone, other than our kids, through college.

Scott died in 2005 and over the past five years I have come back to the list. For all the goals and dreams, number sixteen has always tugged at my heart with the most force, perhaps because it is something that Scott’s spirit can still accomplish—with just a little help.

The Scott Hanan Memorial Scholarship Fund
Checks should be made out to: Auburn School District
please write “Scott Hanan Memorial Scholarship” on the memo line and mail to:
Judy Lutton
Auburn Community Scholarship Coordinator
Auburn High School
800 Fourth St NE
Auburn, WA 98002

For your reference, the Non-profit 501(c)3 Tax ID # is 916001640. Don’t forget to have your company match your donation!!

On June 30th, 2005, my life took a drastic turn. I believe the lesson to be learned is to balance missing Scott without missing life. Help Scott check number 16 off his list, and in doing so, help a student take a drastic turn, a turn toward the future.