Today America experienced the peaceful exchange of power between two presidents. It was a day of mixed emotions. Some Americans were sad to see President Obama’s term come to a close and are dreading a Donald Trump presidency. Some Americans were thrilled to see President Obama leave office and are excited to see President Donald Trump take office. Some Americans didn’t like either of them and are probably sick of all of the Facebook posts. Most of us probably watched the events on TV while some Americans from all over the country traveled to Washington, D.C. to celebrate or to protest.
This post isn’t meant to incite political feelings. I almost didn’t write it. I also thought about writing it and waiting to post it until feelings about the current situation died down. But the reality is, the pendulum of time and American opinion is always swaying back and forth and this blog isn’t about that. This is a story about me and my husband. This is not a political blog. This is a blog about grief, life, love and resilience. But politics does play a backdrop in our story so I ask that you put aside partisan politics before reading this.
Bryon and I first met the weekend after the election of 2006 in Louisville, Kentucky. It was the Fall Board meeting for the Young Republican National Federation (YRNF) and it was during the Northeast Caucus. I was the lone Maine representative in a room that was predominantly filled with New Yorkers and one New Yorker kept interrupting me when I was giving my report. The other New Yorkers thought he was hilarious but I thought he was obnoxious and rude.
I went back to Maine and didn’t put any more thought into that rude New Yorker until March 2008. I was attending a leadership conference in Albany put on by the New York State Young Republicans. There was one person who seemed to be running all the logistics of the event and I went up and introduced myself to him. He informed me that we had already met in Louisville. Then I remembered that he was the one that kept interrupting me. Luckily for him, I believe in second chances and I gave him the opportunity to redeem himself.
Needless to say that that weekend was the start of a friendship. A friendship which turned into love soon thereafter. We did the long distance relationship thing for a year and we both managed our political activities in our home states and with the YRNF. A year into our relationship, I decided to take a leap of faith and I moved to Albany. It was one of the scariest things I have ever done. I never got involved in New York politics. Partially because it was a whole different animal compared to Maine politics. I let my fear of not succeeding in a more aggressive political arena keep me from even trying. The other reason, as Bryon once accused me, was that I had spent years working my way up in Maine politics and I was simply not interested in starting from the bottom again. He was absolutely correct. But I also knew it was time to focus on my career, our relationship and eventually, our family.
At home we watched a lot of politics. We watched all the debates, Republican and Democrat. We watched Canadian and British elections. Bryon was always fascinated with the Westminster system of government and I was mesmerized by the BBC infographics. There even was a period of time that Bryon recorded “The Prime Minister’s Questions” each week off of C-Span. As the title states, it is where members of Parliament ask the Prime Minister’s questions and if you think we are not civil in the U.S., then you need to watch The Prime Minister’s Questions.
Bryon was fascinated with Canadian politics and admired former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Somewhere in our house we have a Progressive Conservative Party of Canada winter hat. When I was pregnant, we were visiting his parents in Buffalo, NY and we drove to Canada to go to a Canadian maternity store called Thyme. Our visit was during the Ontario Provincial Elections and commercials about Tim Hudak played on the radio. Tim Hudak represented the ridings of Niagara South and true to any campaign, some commercials were scathing and others sang his praises. One commercial sang his praises and then ended with “paid for by Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.” Bryon and I both immediately said something to the effect of “Oh, okay, we want Tim Hudak!”
One time Bryon asked me if I thought he should run for president. I said no. It was not the answer he was expecting. He expected me to tell him he was smart and that he would make a great president. He asked me why. I immediately told him it that he couldn’t run for president even if he wanted to because he was not 35 years old. Bryon breaks out in a huge smile and says he loves me so much and he loved that that was how I answered his question.
Bryon and I had one of those relationships where we would talk about everything from religion and politics to trivial matters like cat videos and our bodily functions. (Sorry but it’s true.) Even though we were both Republicans when we started dating, we disagreed on many issues. Over the years, we seemed to disagree less. I like to think it was from all our conversations with each other. I know he expanded my mind and turned me into more of a critical thinker. Maybe I had some effect on him too.
As the 2016 Presidential Election got underway, we were critical of Donald Trump. We both liked Marco Rubio. We both has a soft spot for “Jeb!” We watched every debate, except the one that played on the last night of our cruise. One night I was at the gym when one of the debates began and Bryon had recorded it on DVR and replayed the highlights when I got home.
Then Bryon got sick and was fighting for his life. The same election I was obsessed with no longer mattered. I remember sitting in the ICU waiting room and watching the news and it was just so foreign and removed to me. It was hard to believe that just weeks before, I was so emotionally invested in this election and now it seemed so trivial. I didn’t care who was running this country as long as I had Bryon with me. Because at the end of the day, the most important thing is my family.
My first election day after his death was much more difficult than I had anticipated. I was lost as to who to vote for. I did not have Bryon to discuss all the options. Ironically, I usually never saw him on election days because he was working. Usually he came home around 3 am. When I went to bed that night, I was half-expecting to be woken up by him at 3 am and hear all about election night. But I was only woken up by the TV that I had left on.
I thought I was indifferent about the Inauguration but this morning I was thinking that while we were not fans of President Trump, we most likely would have been in D.C. today. We would have been visiting with old friends from our YRNF days. We might even have been crazy enough to take our 2-year-old daughter because we took her everywhere with us and we would want her to witness history. Bryon would have been scheming of a way for him to have his picture taken with Joe Biden because, despite partisan politics, he loved Joe Biden.
I will probably always miss him more on political days. My life will never be the same. Bryon is gone. This is my new reality. It’s just me and our daughter. Bryon was not one to sit and watch life pass. The best I can do is try to take my daughter on as many adventures and try to teach her to live life to the fullest just like her father taught me how to do.