The day I found my voice

This was the first piece I wrote as a widow.  It was a Facebook note called “A Mini-Memoir”.  I wrote it one year ago.

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Bryon McKim took me by surprise.  Those close to us know that the first time I met him was in November of 2006 in Louisville, Kentucky.  2006 was a bad year to be a Republican and I learned that because I lost my race for the Maine State House. (At least I won my hometown. Thank you Surry!)  The weekend following the election was the Young Republican National Federation (YRNF) Board Meeting in Louisville.  I first met Bryon at the Northeast Caucus.  I was the only Mainer in a room full of New Yorkers and there was one in particular that would not shut up when I was giving my report on Maine.  And we all know that that New Yorker was Bryon McKim.  He didn’t make that much of a lasting impression on me except that I thought he was rude even if everyone from New York thought he was hilarious.

Our story really began in the beginning of the 2008.  I was coming to a New York State Young Republican (NYSYR) event to try to build bridges between the NYSYR and the Maine Federation of Young Republicans (MFYR) of which I was the State Chairman.  New York and Maine had been on opposite sides of the previous YRNF election and our relationship was not good.  I was nervous about the reception I would be receiving so my best friend Tiffany came from Chicago (Illinois and New York had been on the same side of the previously mentioned election but it did not affect the friendship between Tiffany and me.)  It turned out that I didn’t have anything to worry about.  All the scary New Yorkers were perfectly nice to me.  I noticed one person who seemed to be in charge so I went up to him and introduced myself, “Hi.  I am Kerry Sullivan, Chairman of the Maine Federation of Young Republicans.”  He responded with “I know.  We met in Louisville.”  Then it clicked.  He was the a-hole that wouldn’t shut up when I was talking.  Luckily after a year and a half, I seemed to be (mostly) over it.

Over the course of the weekend, Bryon began to try to get my attention.  I thought he was nice enough but I was aware that he was several years younger than me so despite being flattered, I kept letting him down, albeit gently.  I told him I was too old for him.  He didn’t believe me.  At one point, I pulled out my drivers license.  I do remember him staring at it in disbelief.  I definitely liked him but I was not looking to fall in love, especially with a younger man who lived eight hours away.

Heck, at that point in my life, I didn’t believe in love.  I was also told that I was too picky.  I  had a list of ten items.  Funny this is, I don’t remember all ten items.  I would tell people my top 3 (Republican, Catholic, Red Sox fan) and I was told that was not reasonable especially in Maine.  There are Red Sox fans, but not many Republicans or Catholics.  I know number 4 was Irish.  (That was a bit of a stretch as Bryon was only 1/8 Irish.  I guess it didn’t end up being that important.)  I do remember two of my other items on my list.  One was that I wanted a man to be intelligent.  Preferably more intelligent than me because I like to surround myself with smart people and I like to learn from those around me.  And I like personalities with a lot of depth to them.  I  wanted a man who could go to the symphony and a wine tasting one night and a baseball game with hot dogs and beer the next night.  I wanted someone who wouldn’t be bored with Museums and historic places.  Someone would wanted to do interesting stuff but also the simple stuff. I was told that those two points are not reasonable.  I knew what I wanted and I didn’t want to settle.

Anyway, I digress.

For the next six months, Bryon and I started to get to know each other better.  First through google chat (I think it was called g-chat then) and then we went to the next level and started texting.  Serious stuff that involved actually giving each other our phone numbers.  He convinced me to come out for the NYSYR day at the races.  I agreed and I decided to come out a day early to go to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  I asked him what he thought of the Baseball Hall of Fame and he said it was lame.  I said that was a shame because I was hoping to go and surprisingly, out of the blue, Bryon changed his mind and said that it actually wasn’t lame and that he would take me.  So we went to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  After visiting the Hall of Fame, we weren’t ready for our date to be over so we decided to head back to Albany for dinner at the Pump Station.  Then that turned into drinks at Mahars and then Lark Tavern.

The following day was the Day at the Races.  We didn’t want anyone to know we were a thing so we spent the day on opposite sides of the group.  We acted like we barely knew each other except we did sneak off to the paddock at one point.  I left New York not sure what was going to become of us.  He was younger and lived eight hours away.  Neither of us wanted a long distance relationship.  But our relationship only seemed to get stronger.  Our communication changed from text messages to actual phone calls.  Nightly.  I remember having to put my phone on speaker and hold it a certain way or else I couldn’t hear him.  Cell phone reception in rural Maine wasn’t that great.

We made plans to meet up in Boston on August 29th, the day between our birthdays.  I called him up to wish him a happy birthday on the 28th.  He had been out celebrating.  He told me he was young and hot like Sarah Palin and that I was old like John McCain.  (Remember, it was 2008)  Yet I still went to Boston the next day.  I had fun recounting that conversation to him as we rode the Red Line into Boston.  He made it up to me though.  He took me to a Red Sox game on my birthday.  If that isn’t love, then I don’t know what is.  And it was that weekend that I realized that this wasn’t just a passing fling.  It was the real deal.  I never would have known that weekend that almost exactly eight years later, I would be attending his funeral.

It’s easy to be negative.  Some days I struggle to stay positive.  Some days I am not positive at all.  Other days I am almost optimistic that despite this sad chapter, I might actually still have a good second half of my life.  The reality is that right now I feel lost and like an empty shell of who I used to be.  I feel like I am going through the motions.  I hate the term “new normal” because I hate that I have to find a new normal.  I was perfectly happy with my old normal.  I am one of those people who likes to have a 1 year, 5 year, 10 year plan.  It may not be detailed but I liked being able to look down the path I was anticipating and have a general idea as to what was going to happen.

I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen in our planned future but Bryon was there.  The other child (or children if I got my way) would have been there.  We went from being a family of three with plans of being a family of four to a family of two.  Now it’s just Maddy and me.  I don’t even know if two people fit the definition of a family.

Bryon had all these plans he wanted to do when Maddy was older.  He will never take her to a father-daughter dance.  He will never make her dates nervous.  He will never get to play catch with her or teach her how to ice skate.  He won’t ever take her to a Broadway play.  He won’t walk her down the aisle when she gets married.  He won’t take her on the proper Disney trip he was planning.  We spent a day in Epcot last February and we went to a character breakfast, but not the fancy, expensive Princess one.  Bryon said if he was going to spend that kind of money, he wanted Maddy to be old enough to enjoy it.  I know I can take Maddy to Disney but the thought of being in the Happiest Place On Earth without Bryon makes me cry.  And I am not sure that is allowed.  It’s like a sick and twisted joke.  He did this to try to be healthier for himself and Maddy and then this happened.

We would have taken a lot more cruises.  We would have eventually hit all the Caribbean islands.  I would have continued to lobby for an Alaskan Cruise and Bryon would have continued to say that an Alaskan cruise sounded boring. (We had two cruises booked.  I cancelled one and pushed the reservation out on the other.  I don’t know when I will be ready to cruise again, if ever.)   We had plans to someday go to Scotland, Ireland, England and Germany.  He wanted to go to a Chelsea game in London.  He wanted to visit the Scottish Highlands where the Fraser clan originated.  He wanted to buy a BMW in Germany, drive it around Bavaria for a week and then have it shipped home.  He said something about avoiding some sort of import tax that way.  I am not sure.

We would have probably outgrown our current house pretty soon and would have moved somewhere bigger.   We’d probably would have argued about that house.  I would refuse to live in a ranch house or a house built after 1950.  Bryon would probably tell me I was being too picky.  I would  have dug in my heels on hardwood floors as opposed to wall-to-wall carpeting and Bryon would have eventually agreed with me because he would know I was right.  Bryon would have held firm that we would never have a swimming pool, trampoline or a swing set because they are liabilities.  I would have pushed to live in the country and Bryon would have probably said there was no effing way he was going to live in a place where he would need to buy a gun because of wild animals.

Now that has been ripped away.  I look at my future and all I see is nothingness.  I know it will be filled with new adventures and of course, time with Maddy but I don’t like not knowing what to expect.  I thought I had my life figured out.  I am not good at this “one day at a time” thing.  Not only do I  have have to mourn the death of my best friend and the love of my life, I have to mourn the loss of my future.  I know an optimist would tell me that my future is a blank canvass and I can color it any way I want.  Perhaps that is true but I didn’t ask for a blank canvass.

I also have to figure out who I am as an individual which is a daunting task.  The Kerry McKim that was Bryon’s wife, no longer exists.  I am not the same person I was on March 24, 2016.  My life forever changed when Bryon was admitted to the Surgical ICU on March 25.  I will never go back to being that version of Kerry McKim again.  The truth is, there are some aspects of who I am that got pushed to the back burner during my time with Bryon.  It wasn’t intentional.  He just always had ideas and sometimes my ideas went to the background.  And I let that happen.  He didn’t do it on purpose, though it did cause tension in our relationship at time.  Of course, now I am glad that I got out of the way and let Bryon accomplish what he needed to do since his time on Earth was limited.

Now I do get to do the things that Bryon never wanted to do.  I like to do boring things like take drives to check out scenery and Bryon couldn’t stand that.  To him, there was no point. I could go on an Alaskan cruise if I wanted or to a National Park (Bryon had no interest in going to the Grand Canyon even though I told him pictures don’t do it justice.)  I can live my life at a slower pace.  It could sometimes be exhausting keeping up with him though it was exciting.  I loved every minute of it.

However, I don’t revert back to being Kerry Sullivan either.  Kerry Sullivan was a young girl who was bored and wanted “more.” Bryon changed my world.  He challenged me.  He encouraged me.  He believed in me.  I am tasked with taking the best parts of being Kerry McKim and the best parts of being Kerry Sullivan and make them into some sort of newer version of Kerry McKim.  I just don’t want to be viewed as Old Widow McKim.  While I am definitely a widow, I don’t want it to define me.

So where does that leave me?  Everyone talks about stages of grief.  Personally I think stages are bullshit.  The first one is supposed to be denial.  I was never in denial that he died.  I watched him slowly die for five months in the ICU.  I can tell you that he never gave up.  He fought until the bitter end.  I think almost anyone else would  have given up long before but he kept fighting.  While he could communicate, he obviously couldn’t express himself fully and I can’t imagine what it must have been like for him to have to lie in a bed for five months, not being able to move and having to be dependent on me or a nurse for simple tasks like changing the channel on the TV.  He had his mind up until 36 hours before he died.  It must have been hell for him to be lying in that hospital bed without being able to articulate his thoughts.

The second stage is anger.  Well of course I am angry but that will be another post for another time.  Third stage is supposed to be bargaining?  Bargaining for what?  He’s not coming back.  Then desperation.  Again, he’s not coming back so I don’t know what there is to be desperate about.  The final stage is acceptance which is probably the only stage that makes any sense.  I don’t even know what it means to accept that he is dead.  I know he is dead.  I know because all the tasks he did are now my responsibility.  (I am beginning to wonder what I even brought to the table?  I think all I did before was change diapers and make sure there is milk in the fridge.  And I wasn’t even that great at the latter.)  I know he is dead because once in a while I think about something to ask him something and then I remember that there is no point in texting him because he isn’t going to answer that text.  I know he is dead when I am watching one of our TV shows and they make a joke that he would have found funny.  He isn’t there to laugh.  He wasn’t there to discuss the issues surrounding the election.  I know he is dead every night when I lie in bed alone. Even though I know he is dead, there are times where I think about certain memories where he was so full of life and then I think about him being dead.  Then it hits me me- the pang of disbelief.  Disbelief that someone so full of life can be gone.  That realization always takes me by surprise.  It stings.  Every time.

I also have to accept that even if he had lived, our future would have not been what we planned.  He would have had some long term medical problems.  Doctor visits to NYC or Boston would have become the norm.  We certainly wouldn’t be traveling on cruise ships in the middle of the ocean far away from American hospitals.  Before this crisis, Bryon liked to take care of everything.  It was as if his goal was for me to never have to worry about anything.  I am not going to lie, I enjoyed that and took full advantage of that.  I was thrust into the caregiver role and even if he survived, he would have been sick for a very long time, possibly for the rest of his life.  The carefree days would be over but I would have continued to fight for him.

Maybe this is some sort of “post acceptance” processing.  I know he is dead.  He is never coming back at least in any human form.  Some widows get upset about “being left behind.”  I am not.  I don’t want to be in Heaven or wherever spirits go when in the afterlife at least not until it is my time.  I want to be here and with Maddy.  But I am, in a sense, left behind to try to make sense of what happened.  I ask myself why at least once a day.  Why did this have to happen?  And why did it have to happen like it did?

Then there are all the other questions.  Did I do something wrong?  Did I miss something?  Was I not paying attention to something the doctors said?  Why would God let something like this happen?  What did we do to deserve this?  Why does Maddy have to grow up without her father?  When will all this pain go away?  When does it start getting easier?  When will I start to feel like myself again?  How can I feel like myself when I don’t even know who I am as an individual?  How much is Maddy aware?  Does Maddy even remember him?  Will Maddy grow up feeling cheated?  Can I give Maddy a happy life without her Dad?

So many unanswered questions.

The only question I can answer is- would I do it all over again even with the same outcome?  That answer is yes.  Not just because of Maddy.  I am a better person because of Bryon McKim.

BCM 08-28-1985 – 08-21-2016

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” ~Dr. Suess

 

Michigan and the Canadian countryside

Last weekend I took my daughter on our second big adventure since Bryon passed away.  My best friend from Maine, who had been living in Florida with her fiance, just relocated to Ann Arbor, Michigan.  I looked at google maps and saw that it was about a nine hour drive.  I ascertained that it would be long, but it was doable.  The drive to my parents house in Maine is usually about 8 hours so this would only be a little longer.  I decided to make this into a “runcation” (which I will write about in another race recap post.)  To make an exciting weekend even better, my other best friend from Chicago decided to drive up with her daughter.  In case you forgot, she was the one who consoled me as I sat on the floor in a Las Vegas casino crying a month ago.

I couldn’t seem to get my act together all week so I was packing on Friday morning and got a later start than I had wanted.  I kept feeling like I was forgetting something.  I had to remind myself that there were Targets in Michigan and if I forgot anything, I could just get it at Target, along with other stuff I don’t really need but I will decide I can’t live without.  We finally got on the road around 9 am.

Our trip was pretty uneventful, though we ran into some snow but it was sunny by the time we were in Western, NY.  Before we knew it, we were at Niagara Falls.  My gas tank was just below a half of a tank but I stopped to fill my tank before entering Canada.  Anyone who travels to Canada knows, gas is very expensive and it is wise to fill up on the United States side of the Border.

I was nervous crossing the border without Bryon because I had read on the internet that Canada was careful about children crossing the border without both parents.  If you are a single parent traveling with a minor, you need a notarized letter from the other parents stating it’s okay.  Well, Bryon wasn’t here to notarize any sort of letter.  So I brought my daughters birth certificate along with a copy of Bryon’s death certificate.  (We also have NEXUS cards)  I was chatting with the Canadian Border agent who was very nice and she said it really was a concern when parents don’t bring any ID and it was clear I was my daughter’s mother.  She did look at our NEXUS cards and my daughter’s birth certificate.  The border agent said she didn’t need to look at Bryon’s death certificate but told me that it was a good idea to have it on me just in case.  

My daughter finally fell asleep in Canada.  The drive was long and uneventful with lots of farmland.  Bryon and I had never traveled further than the Niagara region so Southern Ontario was all new territory.  I found myself wishing he was on the trip with us.  For starters, he would have been doing the driving.  Second, we drove by so many places that would have excited him, like the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.   I imagine the conversation would have gone something like this:

Bryon: Let’s stop!  It’s the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame!

Kerry:  You don’t even like going to the American Baseball Hall of Fame.  You think it’s lame.

Bryon: But Kerry…It’s the CANADIAN Baseball Hall of Fame.

Kerry: But…you aren’t that into baseball and a visit will take up a lot of time and we want to get to Michigan before it get’s dark.

Bryon: You are a Miss No-Fun.

I also thought fondly of Bryon as I drove by London, Ontario and saw the sign for the Labatt Brewery.  He loved Labatt.

I was bored with the radio in the car and ended up listening to the CBC news.  I decided that would be my cultural activity of the day since I would not be stopping at Tim Hortons, or the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame or the Labatt Brewery.  I drove by a really large wind farm that went on for 45 minutes.  Then I was finally in Windsor, Ontario and then I was crossing the Ambassador Bridge into Detroit.  The Bridge was beautiful and I couldn’t take a picture because I was driving.  There was a very large American flag.  I don’t know if it is because I am generally a patriotic person or if it was because I was glad that my long drive was almost over but I started to belt out “America the Beautiful” when I saw that flag.  My daughter was not impressed.  I can’t blame her as I am not exactly a good singer.  Actually my singing is not even tolerable.  Poor girl.

We made it to Ann Arbor around 7:15 after google maps took us on an interesting drive in Detroit. I was so excited to see both of my best friends.  Since I don’t use people’s names in this blog, I am going to refer to my friends as “my Maine best friend” and “my Chicago best friend”.  And I will refer to my Maine best friend’s fiance as “the Scientist” because, well, he’s a scientist.  We sat down and ate some Domino’s Pizza (which I learned is headquartered in Ann Arbor) and drank some Aldi wine (not too bad).  My daughter was excited to see my Chicago best friends daughter and they wore princess dresses and chased each other until it was time for bed.

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Good Night, Michigan
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All tuckered out

I woke up early Saturday morning to make my run to Target to buy the items I forgot, along with those other items that I didn’t really need but decided I can’t live without.  My Chicago best friend came with me and we decided to do the “divide and conquer” approach and I think we were out of there within 20 minutes.  It was quite impressive.

After we returned to the house, we packed up to take the bus downtown.  My daughter really enjoyed riding on the bus.

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Who knew the bus could be so much fun?

The plan was to take the girls to the Natural History Museum at the University of Michigan. They had a great time running around and looking at the artifacts but they began to get tired and hungry.  We had made it through the first two floors and the Scientist went up to check the third floor and said there wasn’t as much there so we decided to leave.

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Natural History Museum at University of Michigan
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Natural History Museum at University of Michigan
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Natural History Museum at University of Michigan
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Natural History Museum at University of Michigan
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Natural History Museum at University of Michigan
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Natural History Museum at University of Michigan

I wanted to do some shopping so we stopped at The Den to buy my daughter and myself an article of clothing that said “Michigan” on it.  

We then had lunch at Hopcat which was delicious and very reasonably priced.  I had the tacos which were delicious.  And I don’t know what the seasoning was on the crack fries, but they were amazing.  My daughter learned the hard way that the hot sauce was not ketchup.  There were some tears but I still think she handled better than some adults would have.  The hot sauce was really hot.

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Hopcat- Ann Arbor

 

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Hopcat- Ann Arbor
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The attitude ❤

When we returned, I put my daughter down for a nap and my Chicago best friend stayed with the girls while my Maine best friend and I went to the race Expo which I will write about in another post.  After we went to the Expo, we needed coffee so we went to a Meijer that also had a Starbucks.  In 2007, I lived in Indiana for three months and I forgot how awesome Meijer was.  It’s like, one of the seven wonders of the Midwest.  Anyway we were in desperate need of caffeine and I also had to get the Starbucks You Are Here mugs.  It’s my latest obsession.  Anyone else into those mugs?

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I was here.

After the girls woke up from their nap, we made plans to go to a Mexican restaurant, Los Amigos.  The food was really good and I am a Mexican food snob.  I was excited to see Chilaquiles on the menu because I think the only place I can get them locally is at El Mexicano in Saratoga.  I was excited that they had a train.  It was like Governor’s except it was a Mexican restaurant and we were in Michigan, not Maine.

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Los Amigos- Ann Arbor
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My Maine Best Friends Sampler.  I think it took her three days to eat all of it.
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Chilaquiles- Los Amigos, Ann Arbor

 

We were all exhausted Saturday night and didn’t stay up late. 

Sunday was race morning which, again, I will write a separate race recap.

After the race, my Chicago best friend and her daughter left.  My Maine best friend, my daughter and I drove 45 minutes to Dearborn to go to The Henry Ford.  It was pricey but I felt like it was something you need to do in area.  We were starving so we had lunch at a diner in the Museum.  It was an actual diner car from 1946.  Jut don’t expect to get a diet soda because when my Maine best friend tried to order one, the waiter informed her that there was no diet soda in 1946.  However, the prices were not reflective of 1946 and they did accept credit cards.

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The Henry Ford
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The Henry Ford
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The Henry Ford

My daughter took a cat nap on the car ride and was tired and was beginning to lose it after the cars, trains and planes so we decided to call it a trip.  I didn’t feel too bad because my Maine best friend decided to buy the membership because she figured out that a membership would pay for itself in two trips.  She also figured that this would be the place that out of town guests would want to go so a membership made sense.

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The Henry Ford
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The Henry Ford
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It’s a Maine thing
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The Henry Ford

We had a relaxing Sunday night.  We ordered Chinese food for dinner and just hung out and went to bed early.  

My daughter and I were on the road by 7am.  We had a morning stop planned in Windsor, Ontario.  When Bryon and I got engaged, I went on theknot.com and was active in the September 2012 board.  Theknot.com was glitchy so we moved our group over the Facebook and we are still an active group.  There have been so many milestones, babies, new jobs, new houses as well as divorces, illness and now death.  I am the first widow of the group (though one of the ladies of the group was a widow who married her second love in Sept 2012)  Anyway, one of the ladies on the board lives just out of Windsor (she blogs here) so my daughter and I met her at a Tim Hortons.  I have known her online for over 5 years and it was exciting to finally meet her in person.

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Friends and Tim Hortons in Windsor, Ontario

After our visit, we had a long car ride back.  My daughter slept for about half of the Canada portion and none of the New York portion.  We stopped for lunch at a rest stop just outside of Buffalo.  The drive was long and uneventful and we made it home around 6 o’clock.

This adventure was still bittersweet.  I didn’t miss Bryon as much as I did when I went to Vegas.  Maybe that was because Vegas was the first adventure since Bryon passed.  Maybe it was because both of my best friends were there which provided twice the distraction.  But even though travelling without Bryon may have been easier, I still got sad when we passed the University of Michigan stadium because Bryon was such a sports fan and I knew he would have been excited.  I guess I just have to have faith that he comes along with us in his way but I just wish he was physically still here to go on these adventures with us.  I miss him so much but I must carry on for him, for my daughter and for myself.  But it does make me feel good that I am still fulfilling the promise I made to him in the final hours of his life.  

Vegas Vacation

Every winter, Bryon and I liked to go on a cruise.  We had one booked that was supposed to leave today.  We were supposed to sail on the Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas and we were supposed to sail out of Miami and go to four brand new ports (Labadee, Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao).  I cancelled that cruise even though my daughter’s godmother said she would go.  I appreciated her offer but declined because I would be too sad.  Cruising was our thing and if I were to go without Bryon, I would probably cry the whole time.  And it would not be fun to be on a cruise if you are crying all the time.  Maybe someday I will be ready to cruise again with friends.  

My best friend was going to Vegas with her husband and her two year old daughter because her husband was in a tournament and she invited my daughter and I to come along.  I figured it would be nice to get away and see my best friend.  I don’t get to see her often because she lives in Chicago.  I remembered the promise I made to Bryon that I would take our daughter to see the world.  We would do Vegas Mom and Toddler style.

This was my first time flying by myself with our daughter.  I used to fly by myself all the time as a singleton but I only flown by myself once since I was with Bryon.  That was to my best friends wedding in the Cancun area (same best friend I was traveling with on this trip).  Bryon wasn’t able to attend the wedding because it was during his busy time at work.  I remember being overwhelmed on that flight because I got so used to travelling with him.  And he even booked that flight for me and even researched what to expect when going through Mexican customs.  He was so organized.  He had a folder with all pertinent travel documents and he did all the heavy lifting.  But he is no longer here and he would want my daughter and I to continue living so I figured we would be brave it by ourselves.

In some ways, traveling with my 2 year old on a cross country flight wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be.  I was prepared for everything to take longer.  Luckily we had TSA Pre-check so security was easier.  The car seat couldn’t fit through the bag screener and I was instructed to bring the stroller to the metal detector and I had to wait until they were individually checked.  Coming back they were able to put them both through the bag scanner.

Luckily my daughter likes to people watch so she is generally entertained in places with lots of people.  But I had brought books and dolls.  Also, toddlers like to eat and there is usually lots of food in airports so I think she ate three bananas, an orange and a bag of M&M’s.  I also had gotten her a frozen yogurt with strawberries on it.  She ate the strawberries but pretty much played with the rest.  Maybe not the best dinner but I was more concerned about keeping her happy.   I guess there could be worse things for her to eat too much off.  All I know is when I went to grab some M&M’s, they were gone.

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Fun at Newark

When we used to fly with Bryon, he usually did most of the heavy lifting while I took care of our daughter.  He always made comments that he was the pack mule.  Well this time I got to be the pack mule and take care of our daughter.  So I texted one of my good friends, the one that I can talk to completely uncensored (nothing I say can shock her) and I said that I needed to get a boyfriend just so he could come with me on vacation to help with the heavy lifting.  Experience at installing car seats would be a plus.  I would even pay for the fictional boyfriend’s vacation and he wouldn’t even have to hang out with us.  During our conversation, I remembered that I am not ready for a boyfriend (even if he is fictional) and I would then have to break up with this fictional boyfriend after vacation and give him the “yeah…this isn’t going to work…it’s not you, it’s me…” speech.  Also, I like to travel a lot so I would need an off-again, on-again type of relationship.  I was starting to become stressed out over this fictional relationship.  My conversation with my friend concluded that next time I will just check the car seat and learn more about minimalist packing and wait for a real relationship to come in it’s own time.

I was surprised that so many people were willing to help.  Turns out I don’t need a pack mule boyfriend.  I did have offers from many people to help carry my bags onto the plane and to carry the carseat.  I was surprised at the kindness people showed us.  Or maybe it was pity.  Most likely, they were just victims of my daughter’s adorable looks and charming personality.

Our flight was supposed to arrive around 8:30pm (close to the time that my friends flight was due to arrive from Chicago) but we didn’t get in until after 10pm (local time so it was after 1am Eastern time).   My best friend and her husband and daughter came back to the airport to get us.  It was so good to see my best friend.  It was late and we went to bed when we got back to the hotel.

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Welcome to Las Vegas!

My cell phone never adjusted to the time change and the clock stayed in Eastern time so it didn’t surprise me that I slept in until 10am Eastern (7 am local).  We had a view of the strip and the girls were fascinated with the tiny cars down below.  They kept exclaiming “Cars!  Cars!”  My best friend and I got our two daughters ready which was quite an ordeal in itself.  As I was getting ready, a few of Bryon’s contacts (he used the daily disposables) fell out of my toiletry bag.  He probably put them in there while on our last cruise in February 2016, a month before he got sick.  I threw them away as it didn’t make any sense to keep them. I felt a twinge of sadness because over time, those little reminders of Bryon are going to slowly disappear.

After we were finally ready, we went down to the lobby and had crepes at one of the cafe’s in the hotel.  (We were staying at Paris).  We then went next door to Planet Hollywood to do some shopping at the Miracle Mile Mall.  I was on a mission for the Las Vegas Pandora beads.  And I wanted to buy my daughter a Vegas T-shirt as well as a Vegas Christmas ornament because I like to collect Christmas ornaments from places I travel too.

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Crepes!  Oh lala!

For lunch, we went to Hash House A Go-Go at The Linq.  The portions were HUGE.  Then we walked around the Venetian, got Gelato, dealt with several bodily fluids (ah, motherhood) and then got lost in Ceasar’s Palace.  My daughter lost a shoe which we never found.  We went to use the elevator because of our strollers and there was a homeless man sleeping in the elevator.  So we had no choice but to (carefully) use escalator with a stroller.  Then we went back to the hotel to curl our hair before going out to a steakhouse where I got Maine lobster pasta because I am weird like that.

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Who orders Maine Lobster pasta at a Steakhouse?  

Oh and it was raining.  In the desert.  I am still kind of confused about that.

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Nightlife. Like 9pm. 

The following day we took the girls to M&M World which consisted of 4 floors of pure excitement.   I felt the need to buy my daughter a M&M stuffed animal (yellow), a M&M mug (yellow), a Christmas ornament (yellow- notice a theme?  I think it is my daughter’s favorite color) and some overpriced M&M’s (but oh, all the color choices!  But not yellow because you can get those in regular packages) and I spent so much that I could get the M&M character blanket for $5 so of course I did.  And I bought the $2 reusable tote bag because I am a sucker like that.  I got pecan pie M&M’s which were delicious and my best friend got butterscotch M&M’s which she let me try and they were amazing too.

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She couldn’t contain her excitement.
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All the colors!

After M&M world, we walked over to New York, New York and had lunch.  The kids had hot dogs and the adults had pizza.  We then walked through the castle (i.e. The Excalibur) and took the tram to Mandalay Bay.  We planned on taking the girls to the Shark Reef Aquarium.

I had stayed at Mandalay Bay in 2005 when I attended the Young Republican National Convention.  It was the first of many Young Republican National Federation events that I would attend.  As I walked through the hotel and convention center, I started reflecting to my best friend (i.e. verbal diarrhea) about how eerie it felt to be in the place that changed my life.  I didn’t know it at the time, but my decision to attend that convention in 2005 completely altered the course of my life. I had a great time at that convention and I made connections and decided to get further involved in the organization.  I met my daughter’s godmother at the following board meeting in Little Rock, AR in the fall of 2005.  I met my best friend the following spring in Washington, D.C. at the Young Republican Leadership Conference.  She was sitting in front of me on the bus that took us to and from the reception at the Romanian Embassy.   And I met Bryon at the Fall 2006 Board Meeting in Louisville, KY.  If I had not attended that convention, I would not have (eventually) met my husband or my close friends, I would not have my daughter and I would not be living in New York.  Also, almost all my friends in New York became my friends originally through Bryon.  This completely blew me away.

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An event that would change the course of my life.

We took the girls through the shark reef aquarium.  I was very impressed.

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Mandalay Bay 2017
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Mandalay Bay 2017

 

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Mandalay Bay 2017
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Mandalay Bay 2017

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Mandalay Bay 2017
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Mandalay Bay 2017
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Mandalay Bay 2017
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Mandalay Bay 2017
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Mandalay Bay 2017

After the aquarium, we drove down the strip and to the other side of the Stratosphere.  We passed Silver and Gold, the pawn shop from Pawn Stars.  We also drove through some local neighborhoods.

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The Strip  2017
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The Strip 2017
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The Strip 2017
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The Strip 2017
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The Stratosphere
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Pawn Stars
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Pawn Stars

We decided to have dinner at Burgr, one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants.  When the food came, my daughter had an epic tantrum.  I admit, I am spoiled because she is generally a very easy going and well behaved kid.  I know they say you can’t reason with a toddler but I can usually reason with her.  But she wasn’t having any of it.  She was tired and she was overstimulated.  I had to take her out of the restaurant and I strapped her into her stroller.  I found a quiet corner where I sit down on the floor and I start crying.  My best friend came out and I proceeded to completely melt down about how it all wasn’t fair.  Why did Bryon have to die?  How come everyone else in the world gets to be happy except me?  It wasn’t supposed to be like this.  We were supposed to grow old together.  Not one of my proudest moments and I couldn’t even blame it on alcohol because I was sober.

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Gordon Ramsay’s Burgr
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My Sandwich that I didn’t get to eat.

After I finished my meltdown, my best friend and I went to Holsteins in the Cosmopolitan for adult milkshakes. That made things better.

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Adult Milkshakes at Holsteins

This trip was great because I got to see my best friend and my daughter got to play with her daughter.  But I couldn’t help but feel like Bryon was missing.  It felt like he should have been on this trip with us.  He would have loved Vegas.  He would have loved the fact that the people came from all walks of life (including the homeless man sleeping in the elevator).  He would have loved the gambling and all the food.  He would have loved the casinos.  He would have loved the ride through the neighborhoods near the strip. He had been my travelling buddy for 8 years so I definitely felt his absence.  While I know he will always be with me and that does comfort me to some level, I hope in the future I won’t feel so empty from his absence when I travel.

A Promise

During Bryon’s final hours, one of our closest friends and I sat in his room and we would take turns going over to him to talk to him.  He wasn’t conscious at this point but no one really knows how much he heard or if he could even hear us at this point.  But we continued to talk to him.  I am not going to tell you about everything we talked about but I am going to tell you about one promise I made to him.

I was probably rambling at this point.  But I started talking about our travel maps.  I struggled on a good first anniversary paper gift but decided that we should buy a large map of the U.S. and a huge map of the world and put them on large bulletin boards and pin all the places we travel.  True to my nature, I even found a way to make it more complicated by adding color coded pins to denote places that only I had traveled  (blue) and places that only he had traveled (green).  We used red pins for the places we traveled together and yellow pins to denote places that we both had been but not together.

In a perfect world, I would have made these maps for him and given them to him as a gift.  But I knew that there was no way I could hide them.  So I presented my idea to Bryon and he liked the it and true to his “take charge” nature, he located the items online, purchased them and put the maps with the adhesive onto the bulletin boards. He did let me help with the assembly.   He even indulged my system of color coded pins.  Though one day as a prank, he put one of my pins in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia even though I have never been to Africa and didn’t tell me.  He waited until I figured it out.  He thought it was the funniest thing ever so I left the pin in place.

Anyway, as I was talking (or rambling) to Bryon during his last night on Earth, I started talking about these maps.  I remember saying that I couldn’t believe that there wouldn’t be any more adventures together.  We loved to travel.  We had so many plans and so many places we wanted to visit. We would never go to San Diego and visit all the Top Gun places.  We would never go to Branson, Missouri (it was always his dream to go to the Nashville of the Ozarks.  A dream I never understood).  We would never go to Scotland, or Seattle, or London or Texas.  Travelling with Bryon was amazing because he was a planner and he would make the best of wherever he was.  We could be in some random place but give him 5-10 minutes on his phone and he would figure out the top tourist attractions, the most random tourist attraction, what famous (or not-so-famous) person lived there, if there was a Waffle House or a Chick-Fil-A nearby and what the best local places to eat and grab a drink and he would come up with a plan to see it all. Literally, all I had to do was show up and enjoy the amazing vacation.

Our adventures were going to be over.  We wouldn’t put any more red pins into our map.  But I told him that I promised that I would still take our daughter on adventures even though it would be hard to do it without him. Bryon would want her to see the world.  We brought her everywhere with us.  By the time she was 16 months, she had already been on two Caribbean cruises.  Bryon wouldn’t want us to stop travelling.  I even bought special pink pins to denote our girl trips.

So today my daughter and I embark on our first adventure without Bryon.  It is going to be hard without him.  It will be the first time I will fly alone with my daughter.  We will be going to a place that Bryon had never been but always wanted to go.  We will be spending time with my best friend and her two year old daughter.

So get ready Las Vegas.  The McKim girls are coming.