Surrounded By Heroes

My daughter’ picture as part of Robert Fogarty’s Dear World series on Joplin. His work is amazing. To see more click the picture!

Life is filled with contradictions; mundane mixed with miracle, tragedy with celebration, amazing strength with humbling weakness.  Contradiction makes life both difficult and powerfully beautiful. 

Ten years ago, on May 22, 2002, my first child David was born.  He turned my life inside-out and upside-down.  He taught me that love can be frightening in its intensity.  He made me look at the world differently.  Everything suddenly mattered so much more except, of course, for those things that suddenly mattered so much less.  Motherhood, like life, is also filled with contradictions.

Today is a day to celebrate his life.

One year ago, on May 22, 2011, our birthday celebrations came to an abrupt stop when the tornado pounded through Joplin.  The tornado also turned my life inside-out and upside down.  It also taught me that love can be frightening in its intensity. 

Today is a day to remember that loss and fear.  To, once again, allow myself to be swept away in gratitude that those walls bent but did not fall.

So today, at 5:40 in the evening, I will close my eyes and sit in silence for a moment with my community.  I’ll remember what happened a year ago today.  I’ll remember the lives lost and the neighborhoods destroyed.  I’ll remember that, like my girls’ picture reads, we are surrounded by heroes disguised as neighbors and strangers.  I’ll take that moment so that I can remember; once again, that everything we hold dear is fragile.  It’s a scary reminder.  It’s also the ultimate inspiration to live fully today.

But then I’m going to open my eyes and watch the young man sitting across from me blow out the ten candles on his cake.  David inspires words like hilarious, serious, sensitive, tough, kind, and brilliant.  He’s totally weird in a normal kid sort of way.  We’ll celebrate with pasta and chocolate and presents.  It’s good to be ten-years old.

We are taking this day back from the storm.

Keith, I’m deleting your Facebook account. I love you. Happy Birthday.

Happy Birthday, Keith!  Today is my husband’s birthday. 

Well, for those of you wrapped around technicalities like birth certificates, yesterday was Keith’s birthday.  I had to do a reschedule.  Wives can do that. 

As Keith said on Facebook yesterday …wait a minute … let’s stop right there. 

“As Keith said yesterday on Facebook” are words I never thought I’d put together.  Keith doesn’t do Facebook.  In fact, his NOT doing Facebook is, quite frankly, the secret to our marital bliss.  Because I do Facebook.  And sometimes I name names and tell tales.  Sometimes (okay, lots of times) the name is Keith and the tale is designed for my awesome friends who think a good, you-won’t-believe-what-my-spouse-did/said/thought story is funny.  Sometimes (okay, lots of times) the tales are not designed for the eyes of my aforementioned spouse.

I went on Facebook yesterday to post that I’d rescheduled Keith’s birthday:

“How bad is it that I just told Keith that, due to my insane schedule today, his birthday will be tomorrow, August 12, this year instead of today, August 11? Dates on birth certificates surely leave some wiggle room right?”

I also, lovingly, posted this on the Keith’s profile that I’d set up for him over a year ago:

“Keith, all that’s on your Facebook page is hunting pictures. Maybe it’s time to spruce things up a bit now that you’re no longer in your EARLY thirties! Also, due to scheduling challenges your birthday will be on August 12 this year. Surprise!!!”

One of my sweeter friends responded with a nice:

“Lol!!!! I’ll go ahead and say, “Happy Birthday Keith!” today :)”

Then (and you can surely imagine my surprise, shock, horror) the following comment, from KEITH STEVENS (!), appeared:

“Thanks Lori. My mom thinks it my birthday today too.”

I yelled out to the back of the house, “Uh, Keith?  You okay in there?”  Surely someone had stolen his Blackberry and used it for social media purposes.  Keith replied, “I am.  I’m on Facebook.”  Yes, Keith, I know.

Comments started flying back and forth between me, friends, AND KEITH on Facebook.  At some point I called him demented.  Not sure where that fit in. 

Anyway, as he was leaving to go to work Keith said to me (in real life  … so old-fashioned), “”I think it’s interesting that in the five minutes that I’m on Facebook this year you manage to tell the world how old I am, reschedule my birthday publically because of your schedule, and call me demented. Nice.”

Has my run of Facebook freedom ended?  Have I ever been able to keep my comments (i.e. status updates) to myself before? Does a wife have a right to declare, “Today is not your birthday this year?”

Anyway, at some point in the day, Keith posted this comment in reply to a friend:

“Thanks! Amy is pretty awesome even though she just bumped my B-day to a new time spot. I didn’t fully realize the power of marriage until today!”

So, to wrap it all up (like a present on his birthday), Keith’s pretty amazing and I’m not just saying that because he called me awesome on Facebook.

He’s a man’s man. (I’ve never really known what that means but I think it has something to do with his ability to change oil, shoot with accuracy, and kill bugs.)

He’s a wonderful father. 

(For example, Molly is going through a phase where she insists on buckling herself into her car seat.  We’re not allowed to even back up the car until she’s done.  It can take a long time.  Car seats are tricky for little hands.  Just yesterday, while waiting for an extended period of time, Molly launched a protest because Keith backed the car out.  She sat for a moment, refusing to continue the buckling process, while berating Keith with a verbal tirade that only a three-year-old can manage, “Daddy, I not ready! It not safe! You moved!”  Keith, loving father, turned to me and said, “I think I’m going to have a freaking stroke.”   If this whole engineer thing doesn’t work out, Keith has a career waiting for him at Hallmark.)

In addition to being paternally poetic, Keith is also the tooth-brusher, pancake-maker and night-time cuddler.  He’s also the man who saved my girls’ lives on May 22 in Joplin.  He’s their hero.  (He’s my hero.) 

He’s an understanding, accepting husband. 

He’s a generous friend. 

So, Keith, I wanted to tell you happy birthday.  We’ve been through a lot this summer.  And if anyone deserves a great day – it’s you.  Regardless of the actual date of that day!