It has been a while since I’ve talked about my boys. In the summer of 2007, Dylan and Destry were placed with us through the foster care system. They’d just had their 7th birthday. Nine months later, we officially adopted them into our family.
They are juniors at Herriman High School now. I feel the way most parents do- One day they were little boys, and the next day they’d become young men. I am grateful for the good people they are, regardless of the strange parenting they receive. They both have huge hearts.
What follows is a year by year photo essay, starting with their first weekend in our home up to last Friday, when they attended a school dance.
August 2007-Onion Days Parade and picnic, Payson Utah. Seven years old and not quite sure what to think of their current situation. They did get some swell MetLife swag.
Summer 2008- We went to Liberty Park in Salt Lake City for a play-date with some friends. We arrived early (or were the friends late?). Here, Destry (left) and Dylan (right) ponder the pros and cons of swinging.
On the year anniversary of their adoption, we took them to Timpanogos Cave. Dylan is on the left.
October 2010- Halloween morning in our kitchen (our Sugarhouse, Utah home). I’m not sure what Dylan is supposed to be, but I’m assuming Destry is dressed as a tourist.
June 2011 Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. One of our favorite places to vacation. I like to make the boys stand next to random statues (I have quite the collection). It likely makes me a bad parent (joking), but they are always good sports about it. Well, they used to be.
Outside Smith and Edwards Country Store in Ogden, Spring 2012- A bad hair period? Perhaps, but we’ve always let them wear whatever clothes they liked and have their hair as long, short, sloppy as they wanted.
Cancun, Mexico Spring 2013- We’d been at the resort less than five hours and both of them already had their summer tans going. Cancun is both boys favorite vacation destination.
October, 2014. Back in Cancun. Both boys look much older than the previous Spring. Here, they are posing with a kid from England they met while swimming about. They were inseparable for five days. I’m not sure they’ve spoken since.
The lads and me, Fall 2015 in our South Jordan, Utah kitchen. Dylan is sporting the rhino look, while Destry and I model a less severe style.
Track season, Spring 2016. Orem, Utah at Grandma Kempton’s house. While this photo is clearly posed, I am stunned at the difference 8 months can make. These are no longer boys, but young men.
Outside our South Jordan, Utah home- Last weekend, February, 2017. They had a grand time at the dance, and by all accounts, were perfect gentlemen.
It is funny, I feel I haven’t aged all that much. Yet somehow, in what feels very much like overnight, my family has changed from this-
It may have happened quickly, but if I stop and think, the years, events, vacations, good and bad days are floating about for me to remember. I am grateful for each and every day being their father. I’m a lucky guy.
The sun came up this morning. Not surprising, but still a good thing. Right now (late morning), the sky to the west is a lovely deep blue, and a light breeze is blowing from the south east. Autumn is usually my favorite time of the year. This one has been vexing.
I sat out on the porch, sipping coffee and watching the cars pass (people on their way to wherever, whatever), taking in one of the last warm mornings of the year, contemplating.
There is much to think about.
Today, I am grateful for small things because the larger context of the world feels overwhelming. I am thankful for my family, for friends, who mean the world to me.
I love them
I am also missing my two girls, which isn’t a new emotion, but very near the surface today. I love them too. Dogs are the best. They love regardless. Always, unconditionally. They have much to offer and teach us.
Some days are harder than others, and some events more poignant and devastating (which is of course a matter of perspective, a point of view, but that doesn’t diminish their affect). Yet after each one of those difficult moments, the world keeps spinning, offering us another chance to make a difference, continue fighting.
Maybe this time, this today…
Someplace to start, at least. An opportunity to recommit, determine to love more fully, work harder and make my small corner of the world better.
I can control that, at least.
Yesterday was a hard one. Hearing that 50 people were gunned down (and at least that many wounded) at a dance club in Orlando, Florida was difficult to process. Each time this happens (and it happens a great deal in my country), I am confronted with a moment of shame. I get angry, mourn for the families, forgetting that this sort of thing happens with too much frequency in far too many places on this planet, and more often than not, I hardly pause.
It is understandable to be more affected by events occurring closer to home, and while I didn’t personally know any of the victims, we share a country, which sometimes feels very important.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed, disillusioned and depressed, and I admit, for most yesterday, I wallowed only in dark places.
But I do not want to fall into the trap of perpetual pessimism and negativity. Instead, I will focus on the good in my life- I have wonderful family and friends. I am healthy and live in relative safety. I am a fortunate person, blessed beyond measure. I have plenty of food to eat, clothes to wear, and for the most part, horrible things aren’t happening to those I care most about.
There are beautiful places in the world, and I happen to live in one of them-
It is necessary to be sad, to be angry and outraged. These atrocities should not be tolerated or ignored, but I refuse to let them consume me or change who I am. I’m choosing love, again. Sometimes, it is the harder choice, but it is always the better one.
Club Xenon was located in the Sugarhouse neighborhood of Salt Lake City. It was one of the few places young people from different social classes, musical taste, race, religion could and would gather together. All the city kids hung out there. On weekends, us suburbanites would sometimes join in, driving from the south end of the valley, along the Interstate and into the big city.
In my memory, there were at least two dance floors- one for the top 40 hits of the day, and another for the alternative music lovers, like me and my group of friends. I can’t remember if the alternative dance floor was upstairs or down, front or back of the club, but I do remember the music, and the way kids danced to certain bands. It was the late 80’s, pre-Nirvana, the tail end of the hair bands, and hip-hop had not yet infiltrated the mainstream of white middle America. We all wore our hair long and straight. Mine was not quite as long as I wanted, and I felt some envy, watching who I thought were the cooler kids, bangs below their chins, heads down, dancing to music from bands like the Cult, Descendents, Celtic Frost, (early) Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dead Kennedys. I was into most of these bands, pretended to like the others.
While many of the details about Xenon (colors, smells, actual number of times I visited) have faded, I do remember how I felt when inside that club- a mix of excitement, fear, happiness. I was out with friends, 18 years old, feeling like I was grown up, ready to take on the world, all the while unaware of the multitude of life events that were almost upon me, lingering just outside my vision.
In the early 90’s, the club changed names and musical focus, going more Gothic, then Grunge (I hate that word), until finally, as part of the grand redevelopment plan for the area, the building was torn down in favor of a drug store.
My wife and I moved to an apartment just north of Sugarhouse in 1995, then bought our first house on the east end of the area in 2001. Living there was wonderful. It was the offbeat part of Salt Lake, a place that didn’t fit the conservative stereotype. It was different, unexpected.
Things change, and often what makes something interesting or strange draws in a crowd intent on improving it. More families moved into the area. The surrounding neighborhoods became more gentrified. The quirkiness of Sugarhouse began to be discussed using phrases like blight on the city, or a hot bed of criminal activity.
The people behind those phrases had money, and money always wins.
The area has undergone more than its share of upscale makeovers. The head-shops, piercing studios, record stores, dance clubs, and sexy boutiques have moved away or been torn down, replaced by expensive condominiums, high end restaurants and shopping. Few if any of the original buildings remain, and in many ways the area seems more bland than vibrant.
If you look though, you can still find a few amazing places-
A great coffee shop.
a few tasty pubs.
and one of the best libraries ever.
I’ve moved back to the suburbs and it was a good decision. My kids are happier, have amazing friends and opportunities, but if I am honest, I desperately miss living in Sugarhouse, even with all the changes, it still fees like home.
I go back often, it isn’t that far away.
I sit on the sofa, looking out the window at the large tree across the street, watching as the wind waved through the upper branches. The dog sleeps near my feet. When I make the slightest movement, she lifts her head and looks at me, ready to move if I move. It is her compulsion. She must be with me when she is with me. I often wonder if she is every fully asleep, as the slightest disturbance launches her into instant action. When she was just out her puppy stage (awkward and spindly), her acute hearing, light sleeping, registered passing cats in the dark of night. She would begin rapid fire barking, deep and frightening, waking me from dreams, confused with sweet adrenaline tingling to my toes.
I’d call her name out of reflex.
She’d offer one last bark, then a muffled growl.
I is for intrepid
There were times I am certain she saved us from criminals. One night, she leaped onto the bed, nearly crushing me, intent on something just outside the window. I could hear nothing but her, and looking out, saw nobody worthy of her attention. The next morning however, I discovered depressions resembling footprints in the soft dirt near our bedroom window.
For 14 years she protected and loved us. She was part of our family. We loved her back.
No one lives forever, and even the most fearless of us age and break down. She became the sweetest of old dogs, affectionate, but still attentive, always staring into my face, as if she was memorizing it, as if she knew her time was short.
October 13th, 2015 was her last day. We made it grand, though nothing could keep it from being crushingly sad.
I miss her.
The text message read, “I pick up Hannah at 3. Until then, I will be having coffee at the shop across from her school.?”
He looked at his watch. 2:30. It would take five minutes to get there. He had to leave for work no later than 3:00. She knew that. He shook his head.
The car hummed along city streets, the smell of slow cooked beans wafting from the back seat. Janet had planned a pot luck for staff meeting, and his beans were always a favorite. Simple really, slow cook them, super slow with lots of ketchup.
Ketchup made things taste better.
She was sitting outside with the autumn leaves (strewn across a wooden table that was bolted to the ground). When his car pulled in, she stood up; a half wave. She’d worn his favorite jeans, the right leg too tight against her calf. Steam rising from two cups of coffee blew to the east; a storm coming. He took a deep breath, opened the car door and walked towards her. The diamond she still wore winked back at him, conspicuous and violently cruel.
It’s Thursday. I’m a bit melancholy, and I’m listening to Wilco. I should make better choices. What are you doing?
Oh yeah, tell me what you think of this tiny tale, please.
A rough month, capped off by the sudden passing of my father in law. The family is bonding together, relying on each other, and finding strength in our common bond. I am lucky in that manner, blessed with great family.
Understandably, I am not thinking too much about writing successes or insecurities at the moment. I apologize to anyone who stops by this month only to find this. I will be back at it soon, and will offer a IWSG post next month. Until then, reach out to those you love and let them know it. None of us are guaranteed one more moment. Savor them all, and love those who fill your lives.