This morning I had received some sad news that my friend Drew had passed away.
Back in 2005, I attended my first ever YRNF event. It was a convention in Las Vegas and a sweet guy from Tennessee sat down at our table. That was the start of my friendship with Drew. For five years, he was friendly and always a kind friend.
He was the nicest guy ever and I never once heard anyone say a bad thing about him.
For the non-political types this may not seem like a big deal but it is in the political setting. In the political setting, someone usually hates you for no reason at all. Speaking from my own experience, I can say something polite and diplomatic and I will still be called a bitch.
ButI never once heard anyone say anything bad about Drew.
Even Bryon, who could be cynical at times, loved Drew and thought he was nicest guy ever.
He was special.
The news hit all my old friends from this era of my life and we were messaging each other. It’s funny how death gives us that gift. It made us all take a moment to reach out to each other and comfort each other.
My cousin and her husband are going to be relocating to Drew’s city and I told them I’d visit when all this craziness is over (i.e. Janet Mills takes Maine out of “time-out”). In addition to being excited about seeing family, I figured that while in town, that I would catch up with Drew.
And then James Taylor starts playing in my head “I always thought that I’d see you again.”
It’s hard to make sense as to why people die young, especially people who are so special. I’m still struggling with the whole “God is good” and “God has a plan” thing. I still maintain if that was true, then God is a shitty-ass planner. But in some ways, it makes sense. I do feel like we all have things we need to learn in our lives. The special people, like Drew and Bryon have less to learn and accomplish it early while some of us seem to make the same mistakes over and over again, myself included. At the rate I am going, I will live to be 120.
Eh, some things will never make sense. I will never understand what God is thinking.
Drew, you will be missed. Thank you for always being a friendly face in a sometimes hostile environment (i.e political meetings). Heaven is an even better place now.
Another trip around the sun since you’ve left this Earth.
It’s been…a year.
A crazy year.
I don’t think 2016 Bryon could even comprehend this year.
You’d be like the 1996 Ice Man.
I am past the disbelief of your absence. I am in more of a “it is what it is” mindset.
But I can’t help but feel that there are some parallels to when you left and now.
When you left, we were in the midst of a crazy presidential election, the likes we had never seen before and now, we are in the midst of a crazy presidential election, the likes we had never seen before.
I can’t turn on the TV or scroll Twitter (yes…I tweet now. Imagine that?) without hearing about potential election fraud and mass mail in voting. I try not to go down the “What if” rabbit hole but I often wonder what you would think.
I don’t think I can convey how much I’d love to have a conversation with you about this. But even if I were granted that conversation, the conversation would never be long enough.
Since I am not really talking to you and this is really only an entry in my blog that few people read, people are probably wondering why I am talking about politics on your deathaversary blog post.
But it is what is flowing and I can’t stop the flow.
I mean, we met because of politics.
Politics is intertwined with our story.
We met for the first time in 2006 but it was the time we met again in 2008 that mattered.
We had kept our budding romance a secret because we didn’t want it to be the topic of gossip within the political organization we belonged to.
We decided to meet in Boston over Labor Day Weekend because it was between Maine and New York. We were going to meet up on Friday, which was the day between our birthdays. (Yours was Thursday, Mine was Saturday).
I had called you on Thursday night to say goodnight. You had been out celebrating and you told me that I was old like John McCain and you were young and hot like Sarah Palin.
Yet, I still went to Boston the next day.
I had fun on my birthday, recounting that story to you because…surprise…you did not remember.
You made it up to me but taking to see the Sox play at Fenway.
Though let’s be honest…you wanted to go to Fenway as much as I did.
But despite the fact that I am hearing so much about (potential) election fraud, I can’t help but think about how it was your dream to work on a presidential campaign as an attorney. I know without a doubt that if you were still alive, this would have been the year that dream was realized.
But, again, I try not to go down that rabbit hole.
I need to focus on what is in front of me and I can’t dwell on all of your dreams that were never realized.
I don’t mean that to be a bitch. But you are gone and I need to live my life for me.
I also don’t want to accidentally project your dreams onto your daughter because she might internalize them. She needs to live her life and have her own dreams.
I do get sad when I think about your unrealized dreams.
Though a good friend of mine recently remarked that you and I did more in our short time together than some couples do over a lifetime.
I think we did the best with what time we had.
As Whitney Houston said “Didn’t we almost have it all?”
The ride with you was worth the fall, my friend and a moment in the soul does last forever and I’ll never love that way again.
Nothing can take away what we had over those eight years.
After you died, I was bombarded with projections of what people thought our relationship was. I felt like I had to live up to those projections.
But now I don’t feel the need to do that. Our relationship was ours. The good and bad.
The exciting stuff like vacations.
Even the things that only we thought was exciting like watching the Ontario Provincial Elections on Canadian C-Span or gush over the BBC Infographics during the British Elections.
I don’t think I will ever meet anyone who would want to watch Canadian elections with me. Or, more importantly, I don’t I will find anyone that will know how to access the Canadian C-Span feed and have it play on the TV.
A good friend of mine teases me about the fact that I tend to measure periods of time by presidential administrations. But my life seems to follow a pattern. The Clinton years were my school years (high school and college). The Bush (43) years were my early adult and political years. And the Obama years were my Bryon years. And while I make zero political predictions in this blog because this is a grief blog, so far my Trump years have been my widow years.
I do feel about to turn a corner.
I remember when I was sad.
Like, sad all the time.
Like, so sad I cried for hours at a time.
I remember playing my “sad songs” list on spotify and just crying. Nothing like sobbing on the bathroom floor while playing “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday.”
And I need to put it here because you like Boyz II Men.
I remember when my life felt like it was over and I was just going through the motions. I felt like I was dead inside and the sadness would never end.
And while I am sad while writing this, I know that the sadness this sadness is temporary. I no longer feel dead in side.
It took me a long time to get here but I am happy again.
And while I never thought I would have the mental capacity to even think about politics again, it’s back. That’s a good sign, right? Hello old friend.
I have accepted that some wounds never heal and your death will be one of those wounds for me.
A little late but today is still Friday! You survived the week!
Do you know what this means? It’s time for some Good Vibrations Gratitude!
Since I was too busy last week, I did not do a Gratitude post so this is going to cover the past two weeks.
Time with my daughter
Dance class and gymnastics class never get old.
The fact that summer is almost over
This is probably an unpopular opinion but I am ready for summer to be over. I am from Maine and this humidity is killing me. I am not going to rush the end of summer because I know Fall will be here soon but I can’t wait. Bring on the pumpkin spice!
A good concert with a good friend
One of my besties and I got a chance to see REO Speedwagon and Chicago at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC). It was a great time. Personally I thought the REO Speedwagon half was better than Chicago. I like Chicago’s music but it was very mellow and almost a let down after rocking to REO Speedwagon. Just my two cents.
Getting by with a little help from my friends.
Some of my friends have stepped up to help me clean out Bryon’s storage unit. When Bryon died, so many people said that they would be there to help in any way needed but whenever I ask for help, it is always the same few people who offer to help.
There is no way I could I ever payback these friends for the kindness they have for me. I could not get by without these friends. No mentions, they know who they are.
The little memories that make me smile.
Bryon and I had a good 8 years. And every day, I am usually reminded of something funny he did.
I was driving my daughter to dance class and Orleans “Still the One” came on the radio.
Now, if you are a longtime reader of this blog, you may remember that Bryon and I met while participating in politics. (Don’t worry, this is not a political blog. A story may pop up here and there but there will not being any preaching. Grief and death don’t know political parties. I love you all!)
Anyway, John Hall went one to become a Congressman in New York State and in 2010, Bryon and I, along with some of our Young Republican friends worked on a campaign weekend and we dropped literature for his opponent, Dr. Nan Hayworth.
And I remember Bryon writing this tweet and thinking it was so funny.
He could have been tweeting in this picture.
And even though he is gone, I am grateful for those little memories that make me smile.
Today is my best friends birthday. I won’t share how many years she has but it is more than me.
With the exception for three months where I lived in Indiana, we have always lived a plane ride away. So we don’t get to see each other nearly as often as we like.
But as a birthday challenge of sorts, I wanted to see if I could reconstruct all the times we have seen each other.
We first met in April of 2006 at the Young Republican Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. More specifically, she was sitting in front of me on the shuttle to the hotel from the Romanian Embassy.
We saw each other again at the Young Republican National Federation (YRNF) Cleveland Board Meeting but we weren’t really friends yet.
It would be at the YRNF Fall 2006 Board Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. This was when we would become friends. I had just lost my race for State Rep back in Maine. This was also the board meeting where I met Bryon.
March- We had a YRNF Board Meeting in New Orleans.
Then there was the Young Republican National Convention in Hollywood, Florida in July.
That fall I lived in Indiana. I know there was an evening I was staying the night near Chicago and my work partner and I took the train in to have dinner with her and another good Chicago friend. Sadly, I don’t have a pic. It was 2007. I still used a flip phone. Don’t judge.
She also took a flight to Louisville to work on a campaign. We knocked on doors somewhere in Kentucky. I don’t have any pics of that weekend either.
A friend and I drove up to Chicago one weekend and we went to Navy Pier.
Sometime in the Fall of 2007 was also the YRNF Board Meeting in Houston, Texas.
By the holidays, I was back in Maine. Her family didn’t celebrate Christmas so she came to Maine to celebrate with my family. She flew into Manchester, NH and my Michigan Best friend (who still lived in Maine at the time) came with me to pick her up. During a blizzard.
We celebrated the holidays in Maine.
It’s not a Sullivan holiday without a trip to the range.
We then took a trip to Boston. There were Irish pubs…
…and Scorpion Bowls…
…and some wicked bad karaoke.
We also walked the Freedom Trail in the freezing rain.
And we went to Cheers and these guys were our dates for five minutes.
I was still living in Maine and I was traveling out to Albany for the New York State Young Republican Leadership Conference and she decided to fly in. (This weekend was also when Bryon and my love story began)
I had missed the Young Republican Leadership Conference that year because it was the same year as the Maine Republican Convention. I guess when scheduling it, Maine didn’t matter or something. But we had a Maine Young Republican Conference in Portland and she flew in for that.
She flew in that Fall to help with some campaigning. There was a hurricane in the Gulf of Maine that weekend. Luckily, it was far enough out in the ocean that we really just had rain. But we ending up painting signs in a barn.
Oh and there was some more bad karaoke.
And then there was the YRNF Fall Board Meeting in Nashville.
First there was the Spring YRNF Board Meeting in Orlando.
Then there was the Young Republican National Convention in Indianapolis. And I have no pics from us. I feel like she may have worked and drove in late. Or maybe I was a jerk friend who spent too much time hanging out with my boyfriend. I was also running for Northeast Regional Vice Chair and I know I was consumed with that.
Since I have given you a lot of pics of bad karaoke, here’s one of Bryon singing good karaoke.
The Fall 2008 YRNF Board Meeting was in Kansas City, MO. I was recovering from tonsillitis and I barely left my room. I emerged for meetings because I was the Northeast Regional Vice-Chair and had to be there. So no pics. But we were both there.
We both happened to be in Indianapolis for two separate events. I was in town to watch Bryon’s alma mater’s basketball team play Butler in the Bracket Busters. She was in town with her boyfriend for a race. We met up for dinner at St. Elmo’s Steakehouse. This was the winter of illness so I was out of it because I had bronchitis. That spring she came out to visit me in Albany but I had picked up a really bad case of Gatroenteritis while working in the ER. But she still came anyway, but I was not any fun.
We did not see each other this year. This is a sad year.
And the beginning of 2012, she came out to Albany for my engagement party
Then there was my wedding
And her wedding in Mexico
We didn’t see each other in 2013. We were too busy being newlyweds.
I flew out to Chicago in February for your baby shower. We went to the Sears Tower and we were both pregnant and stopped to rest on every bench we saw and used the bathroom every time we saw one. A far cry from our old days. No pictures because we both feeling tired and pregnant.
Her family came to visit mine in Albany. It gives me goosebumps to think that this would be the last time she would see Bryon.
Bryon had been in the ICU for 4 months and been transferred to NYC. She made plans to come to NYC on Bryon and my birthday weekend and she arranged with my father to meet halfway between Albany and NYC so she could bring my daughter to see him.
But that weekend never happened.
Well it did. Just not the way you planned. But it ended up being a funeral weekend in Albany. I was grateful to have you there for me.
Bryon’s funeral was there the day before his birthday. We went out for hibachi for his birthday with some friends. My daughter and I were so sick that night (from a gastrointestinal illness, not the food). I laid down on the couch and was too wiped out to even move. I remember thinking “How can I do this alone?” You took turns with my parents taking care of my daughter through the night and then went to whole foods to buy me some probiotics in the morning before driving back to NYC to get your flight.
Life goes on. And she you made sure to make time for me this year.
Memorial Day Weekend we, along with my Maine best friend, went to Cedar Point in Ohio with the girls. To make up for the missed Disney Trip
Then we met up with some friends for a kid free trip to Austin, TX for my 40th. That trip was…interesting. Austin was great but it turned one of my friends were not really my friend after all. It’s seems stupid now but it was a lot for my brain to process. But she was loyal to me, like she always is.
I say we need to do a re-do. With the trip into wine country.
A year with a lot of change…good change. But I did not get to see her that year. There is next year, I said.
So I was supposed to be going to Chicago to see her this weekend as well as a wedding in Wisconsin. And all know how that turned out.
Let’s hope everything is cleared up for the rescheduled wedding date this Fall,
And this is where our story currently is. It is so cool to see our girls growing in these pics and that they will grow up together. Who would have thought that a friendship forged during drunken YRNF weekends would turn into a friendship that spans two generations?
This past weekend I had the honor of being invited to the New York State Young Republicans (NYSYR) Rising Star Reception. (Now for those of you new to the blog, this isn’t a political blog. But politics does play a role in Bryon and my story. I have beautiful friends in both political parties.)
Coincidentally this reception fell 10 years after the 2008 NYSYR Leadership Conference in Albany. I know this because Facebook had reminded me. I had met Bryon for the second time that weekend and that was also the weekend that our love story began though it would take me another 6 months to realize it.
This organization also generously held a raffle to benefit my daughter’s educational trust. I can’t put into words how much it means to me that an organization that was once a huge part of Bryon and my life hasn’t forgotten about us. Bryon and I never would have met if it hadn’t been for the Young Republicans. My daughter wouldn’t exist if it hasn’t been for the Young Republicans. Some of my best friends come from my Young Republican years. This organization has already given me so much and they still continue to give to us.
This reception recognized all the young talent in the organization and it reminded me of my own youth. When I gave my thanks, I mentioned how important the friendships I made in this organization both in New York and Maine, as well as friends I made at the National level. During those months that Bryon was in the ICU and those early months of widowhood, I received so much love and support from friends from my Young Republicans Days. Politics isn’t always “warm and fuzzy”, I asked them to take a moment to appreciate their friendships and not to wait until they were in my situation to realize it.
Even though I don’t participate in politics much anymore, I do think it is important to bring my daughter to these events because people come up to me and talk about Bryon. And while that makes me sad, I appreciate that they remember him and say kind things about him. But I think it is important for my daughter to hear those nice things being said about her father. He may be dead, but it is nice to be reminded that he had lived.
For everyone local who takes care of me.
My neighbor always plows me out and helps me with problems around the house. Bryon’s best friend is always ready to answer my questions and recommend people. Another friend of Bryon’s mows my lawn.
My house can be overwhelming at time and I am grateful for everyone who helps me.
I was having a rough couple of days (as you probably guessed if you read my blog) and one of my high school friends reached out to me to talk. There is that saying that sometimes the best mirror is an old friend and I think that is true. As I examine my life, I seem to have gotten in touch with a lot of old friends and these old friends help me remember that I was a complete person before Bryon and I will continue to be a complete person after Bryon.
Bryon was not one to live in the past and during our years together, I lost touch with my past. But the old me is still very much a part of me. (I think I feel a blog posting coming on about this).
This has been a long winter. Bryon and I used to go away every winter on a Caribbean Cruise but I haven’t been on a cruise since he was alive. Lately I have been thinking about it.
I do have a lot of exciting things going on this Spring and Summer that include traveling, a wedding and…the second annual Bryon C. McKim Derby Party.
More to come on the Derby Party in the next couple of weeks- stay tuned!
And I have a bonus gratitude this week-
My funny daughter
Despite having an epic meltdown when we got home from gymnastics (‘nastics class) tonight, I am grateful for my daughter and especially how funny she is.
The kids in her class all wrote a book and her’s was titled “I Don’t Know.” Her teacher told me she was adamant that that was the title. The whole ride home she kept talking to me about how her book was called “I Don’t Know.” She makes me laugh so much.
4:59 PM me: Depends on when I wake up and get on the road 🙂
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?
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?
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
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
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.
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.