Little moments

This weekend I did the first of my long runs for my half marathon training.  My training cycle has gotten off to a slow but steady start.  I have joined a new gym called Metabolic Meltdown and I do those workouts on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays and I run on Tuesday, Thursdays and Sundays.  I was having trouble motivating myself by just running and I need more strength so I hope this plan works.  So far I have been enjoying it.

So on Sunday I took my daughter to the local university and did the 3 mile loop around campus, plus one extra mile.  

It was the longest four mile run I have ever done.

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First of all, since I have slacked off on my training, I gained weight and I was pushing a stroller with my almost 3 year old.

It was hot.

My daughter kept dropping things and I kept having to stop and pick them up.

I didn’t want my daughter to fall asleep on the run so I kept her entertained by singing Old MacDonald since we watch OutDaughtered all the time.  OutDaughtered is the show about two year old Quintuplets.  My daughter refers to the show as “Babies.”  All I hear is “I want to watch Babies!”  Anyway, there is an episode where they are singing, or supposed to be singing, Old MacDonald in a recital.  So my daughter and I sang Old MacDonald and my daughter kept choosing “chicken” so this Old MacDonald had a farm full of chickens.  Old MacDonald can thank for me sneaking in one cow and one cat.   

My daughter saw one of the Albany city busses and kept saying ice cream truck.  I told her it was a city bus, but she wouldn’t believe me.  I told her she would disappointed if we went over and tried to order ice cream.

But I made it through the run.  I think when I reach the six mile mark on my long runs that I will need to get a babysitter.  I can’t be pushing the stroller for 8 miles.  I will go nuts.

I was really wanting to get an iced coffee but I decided to stop and let my daughter run around the fountains.  She was so happy which made me happy.  Life is about the little moments.

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My one fun night in New York City

 

Bryon spent the last two and a half weeks of his life in New York City.  I had him moved from our regional medical center because he needed better care.  It was two of the most optimistic and the most scariest weeks of my life.   I was optimistic because he had a world class medical team caring for him.  I was scared because he was still very sick and I knew that even if he survived, the road to recovery was going to be complicated.

I don’t usually think about my time in New York.  I mean, it ended with Bryon dying.  

Yesterday I was reading about how one of my blogging friends spent her birthday in NYC.  She spent part of her day in Washington Heights, which was the part of NYC where Bryon’s hospital was located.  

It dawned on me that I can’t ignore New York City forever.  Someday I will  have to return.  I may want to take my daughter to see the Rockettes or take her to the Natural History Museum.  Or the Bronx Zoo.  Or maybe I would go with my Spanish teacher friend to find an Argentinian restaurant.  Or to see The Bangles with Kimmy Gibbler and my Latin Teacher friend the next time they go on tour.  It would be ridiculous to avoid a whole city for the rest of my life because of what happened.  I will probably just avoid Washington Heights.

So I was reading my blogging friends birthday post and then I was on Facebook.  I checked “On This Day” and sure enough, it was a post about the one fun thing I did during those two and a half weeks.

My daughter’s Godmother came down with her (now) fiance and got hotel rooms in the Times Square area.  She was telling me all about the city as we drove downtown.  I am a small town girl from Maine after all.  We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant.  It was my one fun night in New York City.

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Margarita
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Tacos
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Seinfeld restaurant
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View from the hotel room

Though there were other good things about being in the city.

I had a family to stay with.  They didn’t even know me but they knew Bryon.  They welcomed me into their home and they were so kind to me.  They stay ended up being short but had Bryon survived, he might have been in the city for months.  They never once gave me a time limit.  I know they were rooting for the slow recovery.  It would worth a trip to NYC to see them and have them meet my daughter.

Bryon’s friends in NYC got to see him.  That was great.

The team was much more optimistic and Bryon’s spirits were the best they had been through the whole ordeal.  In Albany, Bryon was too depressed to facetime with our daughter, but in NYC, he was happy facetiming her.

Bryon still had his sense of humor.  It took me a week to figure out that I could take the express train to get to the hospital faster.  He shook his head and rolled his eyes at me.

But right now, NYC remains the city where Bryon died.  Maybe someday I will return but it probably won’t be anytime soon.

Recharging: Hiking at Thatcher State Park

Yesterday morning Kimmy Gibbler asked me if I wanted to go on a hike with the kids to Thatcher State Park.  I was game.  I had never been to Thatcher State Park but I have always heard it was a lovely place to visit.  My local blogging friend Melissa recently visited Thatcher Park and wrote about her trip.

I just had to make an emergency stop at Target to get a pair of sneakers for my daughter because I think I might have left them in Chicago.  Once we got a new pair of sneakers, (and some fruit snacks and some juice boxes and some bottles of water) we were ready.

We didn’t hike long or anywhere steep because we had small children with us, but it was still a really fun outing.   I look forward to many more!

Do you hike? Where do you like to hike?

 

The start of our love story 

July 31, 2008
Somewhere in cyberspace

Bryon: cool

  when are you coming in tomorrow?

4:59 PM me: Depends on when I wake up and get on the road 🙂

 Bryon: lol

5:00 PM me: I actually wish I had known this was going to happen. I originally wanted to take tomorrow off and come out Thurs and go to Cooperstown on Fri

  But it was not meant to be. No baseball hall of fame for me

 Bryon: its not that great.

5:01 PM me: overated?

 Bryon: yeah. but I havent been in a few years

5:02 PM me: Thanks for crushing my hopes…

 Bryon: thats me though, you may like it

  you should come out early tomorrow and go.

5:03 PM Its not far from albany

 me: I doubt it

 Bryon: doubt which part?

 me: Isn’t it like an hour away?

 Bryon: yeah.

 me: I doubt I will want to drive another hour after driving 8

5:07 PM Bryon: I would be interested in going again, I would go, and drive.

 me: But’s it’s lame…. 🙂

 Bryon: yeah but there is a great brewery in cooperstown

 me: so the truth comes out…

5:08 PM Bryon: lol

 me: when would I have to be out there if I were to do that?

5:09 PM Bryon: whenever, Cooperstown is an hour from albany, I have a meeting until 1, so whenever you would like.

5:11 PM me: Mapquest says it takes 7 hours and 23 minutes to get from Surry, ME to Albany, NY

  When does the baseball hall of fame close?


16 minutes

5:28 PM Bryon: sorry i was away there

  

  the hall closes at 9

5:29 PM me: I figured that out. Went to the website.

  I am used to Maine, where things close at 5

  🙂

 Bryon: that is why NY is better

5:30 PM me: If you say so…

5:31 PM Alright, I will plan to be out there around 2 or 3. That way I don’t have to get up at an ungodly early hour

5:32 PM Bryon: sounds good

​This is the conversation that led to our first date, brought to you by gchat.  What can I say? We are representative of the social media age.

I always teased him about this conversation, about how the Baseball Hall of Fame was lame until I said I wanted to go.  Bryon never tried to hide the fact that it was me he wanted to see.

 *  *  *

August 1, 2008
Cooperstown, NY
Albany, NY

Nine years ago today I went on my last first date.  I was a Maine girl in New York and her “friend” took her the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.  At first there was a work scheduling conflict but it ended up working out.

After going to the Baseball Hall of Fame, we weren’t ready for the date to end. So we had dinner at The Pump Station.  The after dinner, we weren’t ready for the date to be over so went to Mahars.  Then Lark Tavern.

August 2, 2008
Saratoga Springs, NY

Bryon and I were at the New York State Young Republicans Day at the Races.  We spent the day avoiding each other because we didn’t want anyone to know that something was going on between us.  But we snuck away to the paddock for some time alone together.

 *  *  *

August 3, 2008
Albany, NY

I say good-bye to Bryon.  I was sure this was going to be a fling.  None of this made sense.  He was seven years younger than me and lived three states away.  I mean, he just graduated from college and I was almost 30.

But love had other plans.  And we never looked back.

 

A conversation with NFL player and patient advocate Rolf Benirschke

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to attend an event with NFL player and patient advocate Rolf Benirschke.  This event took place at the New York State Capitol and was put on by GOBOLDLY and New York Health Works.  The event was attended by a diverse group of people including legislators, legislative staff, researchers, pharmaceutical company representatives, representatives from healthcare organizations and patient advocates.  I was excited to have the opportunity to attend this event.  I am trying to learn as much as I can about health care and patient advocacy.  I attended this event with one of my best friends, Jen.  She is the New York State and Vermont Advocacy Director for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

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The event opened up with NY Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo).  She talked about her experience working with hospitals in Buffalo and how they collaborate with private companies who are working bringing the latest medical technology into Buffalo Hospitals. She also shared a personal experience about a friend with lung cancer who was receiving a cutting edge therapy in New York City that was developed in Buffalo at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.  

Rolf Benirschke was in his second season as a kicker for the San Diego Chargers when he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.  In his third season, he collapsed on a cross country flight and had to have two surgeries and spent 5 weeks in the ICU.  Like Bryon, he lost part of his intestine and went into septic shock and had organs shut down.  He came close to dying.  Rolf states that he didn’t know why his life was spared, but he was given a second chance.  He got his position back with the San Diego Chargers and played for seven more seasons.  

Rolf also stated that while he was in the ICU, he received 80 units of blood.  This was in 1979 when blood screening wasn’t as safe as it is today.  Rolf contracted Hepatitis C.   Rolf was given therapies for Hepatitis C which worked.  He expressed gratitude because he knew that he was lucky.  He brought up how Arthur Ashe contracted HIV from a blood transfusion that he received while having heart surgery.

It was inspiring to see Rolf share his story because the only way we are going to make positive changes in our healthcare system and patient care is by education.

We are living in exciting times when it comes to medicine.  My job is in oncology data and I see it.  They can test some tumors for the specific markers within that tumor and a patient can get a treatment based on their specific tumor markers.  I truly hope that diseases with a grim prognosis will be curable in our lifetimes.  

Jen and I got a chance to speak to Rolf.  We discussed barriers to patient care and we discussed part of Bryon’s story.  I encourage everyone to get out there and learn about the healthcare system.  You don’t need to work in healthcare to learn about it.  You never know when you need to apply that information for your own care or that of a loved one.

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All that remains

I am going to preface this post by stating that Bryon and I did meet through politics so politics plays a role in our story and it may come up from time to time.  However, this is not a political blog.  It’s a blog about grief, life, love and resilience.  There will be no political commentary from me.

* * *

A seer sucker suit hanging in the closet.

A vintage briefcase bought at an estate sale.

A shelf of books.

A pair of size 13 Aldens in the closet.

A whole bunch of Brooks Brothers bow ties.

Bryon’s Albany Law Rugby sweatshirt with “Shrek” embroidered on the sleeve.

Several copies of Smithsonian Magazine and The Economist.

A lot of political memorabilia.

His coat hanging off the back of a dining room chair.

A six pack of beer in the back of the fridge, untouched after 14 months.

His laptop bag filled with a folder of travel documents from our last cruise 15 months before.

One voicemail I found in the deleted files on my phone.

This is a list of items that remain from Bryon.  This is certainly not an exhaustive list. These items are reminders of who he was and the life he lived.  The capture aspects of his personality and his passions.  These very reminders sting whenever I look at them, but at the same time, I can’t get rid of them because they are all that remain.  Every time I get rid of an item that belonged to Bryon, I feel like I am getting rid of a piece of him.

But so much more remains of Bryon’s memory than the items that clutter up my house.

This weekend I had the honor of co-presenting the first ever New York State Young Republican Bryon McKim Alumni Award.  I was touched, but I wasn’t expecting to get as emotional as I did.  Bryon and I hadn’t been actively involved in this organization for a couple of leadership cycles.  There were several old friends but most of the faces in the crowd were new to me though they welcomed my daughter and I as if we were old friends. This organization had played a large role in our life for several years, both at the state and national level.  I was reminded that this was our beginning.  Our love story started at a New York State Young Republican Event.  If it wasn’t for the Young Republicans, Bryon and I would never have met, fallen in love, gotten married or had our daughter.  It was almost as if I was in the part and present at the same time.   Being at that meeting brought up all those emotions because even though it had been years, once I was sitting down at that dinner, it almost felt like I was reliving those memories.

I just think about all the ways the people who knew Bryon have chosen to honor him. The Bryon C. McKim Memorial Derby Party.  The Bryon “Shrek” McKim Albany Law School Memorial Alumni Match and the Shrek award.  The New York State Young Republican Bryon McKim alumni award.  People don’t choose to honor your memory if you hadn’t made some sort of difference in their lives.  Bryon touched so many lives and I appreciate that his memory being honored.  So many people die and ultimately become forgotten and it is comforting to know that Bryon won’t be forgotten.

It means so much when the recipients of these awards say wonderful things about Bryon in their acceptance speeches, though as time passes, I expect that the recipients of these awards will remember Bryon decreases.  Eventually they will only know about Bryon through his legacy that is passed down by others in the respective organization.

Everytime I go to an event that honors Bryon, it still hits me like the proverbial ton of bricks that I am attending a memorial event.  Memorial events are to remember dead people.  Bryon is dead.  Gone.  He is a memory.  But I will show up because it is important for me to honor Bryon’s memory and honor those who choose to keep his memory alive.

Bryon has left behind a legacy of friendships.  Bryon had built relationships with so many people from so many different areas of his life.  But his legacy of friendships isn’t just with those he had relationships with, but also with all the people that have been brought together because of Bryon.  Bryon was a really good mediator which was a talent that could be a headache for him at times, but he took the responsibility of this talent seriously.  Many of my friendships are the result of the bridges that Bryon built between others.

Bryon was full of life and leaves behind so many stories, most of them hilarious.  At Saturday’s event, I was talking to a good friend.  Her father died when she was little and that she heard a lot of stories about her father through his friends and that she feels like she knew her father from these stories.  She assured me that my daughter will know Bryon from all these stories.  Many people have said this to me, but honestly, it was a sentiment that always felt hollow to me.  One of those comments that is well-intentioned but feels like it was just said to me to try to comfort me.  It meant so much more coming from someone who grew up in the same situation that my daughter will grow up in.  But my friend is absolutely correct.  Bryon has left behind a legacy filled with stories  and those stories will ultimately be passed down to our daughter through his friends.  And even though it’s painful to think that my daughter will not remember Bryon, I am thankful that Bryon left a legacy that includes all these stories and friends.  Not every child who loses a parent has that legacy.

On my two hour drive home, I just kept thinking about Bryon and our early years.  So I decided to end this post with pictures taken at various Young Republican events.  We weren’t good about remembering to take photos so please remember to take photos! Someday they will be what remains of you.

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Young Republican National Federation Fall 2008 Board Meeting in Nasvhille. Bryon called this our High School Prom Picture because of the way we were posed.
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New York City Young Republican Club Holiday Party, 2008.
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New York State Young Republican Convention in Staten Island, 2009
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New York State Young Republican Day at the races, 2010
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Young Republican National Convention in Indianapolis, 2009
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Young Republican National Convention in Indianapolis, 2009.  Doing one of the things he did best.
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New York State Young Republican Convention in the Finger Lakes (wine country), 2011

First Annual Bryon C. McKim Memorial Derby Party

I have two words to describe Derby Day 2017.  

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The first word is Epic.

We all came ready to celebrate the two most exciting minutes in sports.

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There were old friends enjoying each others company.  There were new friendships formed.  Lots of laughter, celebration and happiness were in the air.

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There were lovely ladies in dresses, hats and fascinators.  

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There were dapper men in seersucker suits.  

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Delicious food was served- bourbon meatballs, pulled pork sliders, mini Kentucky hot browns, mint julep chicken skewers and chicken and waffle skewers.  Because we all know that food tastes better when it is served on a stick.

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Makers Mark Mint Juleps were consumed in special Bryon McKim souvenir cups.  So many Mint Juleps were consumed that the bar ran out of Makers Mark two hours into the party.  Bryon would be particularly proud of that.  

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There was a silent auction full of amazing items that were generously donated from members of our community.  The silent auction was accompanied by friendly competition to outbid each other.

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The second word is Bittersweet.  

We were having a great time but we all knew that this party would not be happening if Bryon was still alive.  If Bryon were still alive, we would have been having our annual Kentucky Derby party in our backyard.  The backyard party would have been at a smaller scale but just as fun.

Ultimately Bryon had to die to bring us all together to have a good time.

As much fun as I had on Derby Day, I would have given it all back if it meant Bryon would still be here.  But I think I am reaching the point in my grieving process where I am beginning to accept Bryon’s death as it is.  I have days where I still ask “why” but I know that even if I can figure out the “why,” it doesn’t change anything.  Bryon will still be dead.  And there is nothing that can change that.

We can’t change the fact that Bryon is gone but instead we chose to take a horrible situation and make the best of it.  Many people die without leaving their mark (pun not intended) on this world but Bryon made his mark (okay, pun was intended this time) and we made the choice to keep his memory alive.  Derby Day had the potential to be a very sad day but instead, we chose to celebrate Bryon’s favorite day of the year.  And we celebrated in true Bryon McKim fashion.  I am grateful that I had so many amazing people to celebrate Bryon’s life with.  We all remember what a difference he made in this world. He helped so many people when he was alive and we chose to continue his legacy and help others in his memory.

I want to thank the Bryon C. McKim Derby Party Planning Committee: Vince Casale, Lynn Krogh, Danielle Grasso, Joseph Hanson, Jennifer Muthig, Mike Utzig, Nick Wilock, Jennifer Armstrong, Mike and Natalie Kosar, Sara Stein and everyone else who assisted in the planning process.  I am awe of your talent and you ran this event like a well oiled machine.  You could run a small nation.  Bryon would be proud.

I want to thank our sponsors for supporting the event and all the business who generously donated items for our silent auction.  My daughter and I are very lucky to be part of such a supportive community who looks after their own.

I want to thank Wolff’s Biergarten for all your hospitality and help putting on this event.  You were great to work with and made our experience enjoyable.

And I want to thank everyone who came out to support our event to celebrate Bryon’s life and keep his memory alive.  One of the biggest fears that a grieving person has is that their loved one will be forgotten.  Thank you for reminding me that while Bryon may be dead, he did live.

I look forward to celebrating with you again in 2018.