If I had to sum up 2019 I would say it was a year where it felt like everything went wrong but turned out right. It is also a year that can be symbolized by one fateful day in mid-July. A day where I woke early in the morning to overhear my wife on the telephone discussing the liquid substance running out of her body with a nurse. It was a frightful morning as we had just passed the finish line of when a baby is viable outside the womb and in that early morning fog all I could do was fear the worst.
That wasn’t the beginning of the year however. The year began quite brilliantly with our business having grown to the point where we were able to take our first vacation in ten years. We can’t say our lack of vacations is all the fault of pet sitting and dog walking but it is a big part. When your job is to provide care for people’s pets when they are on vacation you hardly have time for vacation yourself. All the popular vacation times are when you need to work and then during the unpopular times things can be closed or certain destinations off limits. Nashville and Memphis, however, never close, but they do offer discounts. If you don’t mind the cold or dress in plenty of layers then off-season vacationing can be quite a fun experience. None of the crowds and reduced prices.
I do not think going to Nashville and Memphis during the coldest winter on record for those two cities caused us to miss out on any experiences. We did distillery, winery, and brewery tours. Saw the Country Music Hall of Fame, a show at the Opry, toured Graceland, and listened to Blues on Beale St. I would 100% do it all again. It was a very enjoyable and much needed vacation. But it was only the beginning to the year, and the rest of the year would be full of surprises.
What we didn’t know while we were on vacation was that Lara was already pregnant and that wasn’t to be the only surprise. After a business meeting and meal at one of our favorite local restaurants Lara told me she didn’t feel well and that she had been feeling nauseated quite a bit recently and thought she might be pregnant. That evening she stopped at a drug store and picked up a test. Later on that evening we had a positive result and she called to make the eight weeks doctors appointment right away.
When I say her being pregnant was a surprise it wasn’t an unwelcome one. It was quite the opposite. We had been trying for a couple of years to get pregnant and hadn’t gone to a doctor ourselves because we didn’t want the bad news that my sperm were too slow or her eggs too old. That in our careful planning of when to have children we had missed our opportunity. It turns out we had not, and at that first doctors appointment we got another surprise. There wasn’t just one embryo but two. We suddenly weren’t middle aged parents with one baby but middle aged parents with two.
At that point we knew having children was going to be utterly life changing, but we just didn’t know how (I’m still not entirely sure in that regard). The rest of the time until that fateful morning is kind of a blur. I remember we started house hunting as the house we were currently living in was ill suited for a family of four and that that was a bit of a disaster from sellers that outright lied to us to ones unwilling to admit that their ’90s HVAC was old and outdated. We ended up in the third house we put an offer on, and one that is much nicer and in a better neighborhood than either of the first two.
It wasn’t long after we finally moved in and got all our furniture that we ended up at the hospital. Once there we thought it would be Lara resting and incubating for most of the rest of her term, but that was not to be as one careless and crass nurse saw to. on the day our children were born my wife was in pan for much of it. She kept telling the nurse about this but the nurse just kept telling my wife that she wasn’t in labor and to quit her bellyaching. It got so bad that the second nurse told my mother in law to go to the nurses station directly and ask for the doctor. The ornery nurse who I hope by now has found another profession found out and screamed at that nurse and went so far to yell at my mother in law not to call me. Because of all this the call for me to get to the hospital came too late, and I missed the birth of my children. As I said before I sincerely hope that the nurse that was on duty for the day shift of July 14 on the 5th floor of Norfolk General has found a new profession more suited to her disposition, something like pit viper or loan shark, and is no longer nursing.
And here is where everything really changes. I won’t go into much detail on it as I did write over 90,000 words already on the matter and will be publishing them shortly after the new year. I will say that I found out that we have a lot of people on our side. Generous gifts arrived from unsuspected sources and already established friendships deepened. I learned that old friends, new friends, and forgotten friends will be there in times of trouble and I hope one day to repay this debt I now owe to the universe of friends out there.
One of the sources of our outpouring of support were friends I’d made online rooting for the same baseball team. I have met the vast majority of them in person and would consider many of them to be some of my best friends, but then there were people I’d never met that showed great support and sent thoughtful gifts and food gift cards. It was partly because of this love that I started to pay attention to baseball again.
For obvious reasons I hadn’t been following that closely as the team looked dead in the water at the end of May and we were busy preparing to have babies in our lives. I just couldn’t bring myself to emotionally invest in a disappointing season, but then things changed and the Nationals started winning and kept winning and ended up not stopping until they won the World Series. And they won the World Series after both my boys were home from the NICU and I was sitting in the nursery feeding them listening to the final out. It is a moment I will cherish always and never forget.
2019 was a year of ups and downs. Just as we found out who our friends were when we were dealing with having our babies in the NICU, not knowing if they would ever make it home or what impact being born 13 weeks early would have on their lives, we also found out who had no empathy or regard for us. August was by far the busiest month our company had ever had, and at the end of it multiple people had quit. Some of it might be partly my fault but I was distracted and reigning in a team member that was committed to doing things their way and ignoring any an all advice turned out to have dire circumstances. It led the them quitting and then one of our hardest working team members not liking that I wanted consistency of service quit to show us that they were irreplaceable (We quickly replaced them). Having the business virtually implode while dealing with visiting the NICU everyday and watching babies not yet 4 lbs struggle to breathe, being fed by tubes, and living in glass boxes made me feel defeated, and I was defeated.
If I had my druthers I would have let that be the knockout blow to the business. I would have lain there on the mat, staring up at the lights, and looked forward to preparing for whatever comes next. Lara was not so willing to lay down and take the loss. So we picked ourselves up, took the standing eight count, and fought back.
I can’t say if what we’ve done is winning as the fight isn’t over and won’t be for quite sometime. Life is a 15 round heavyweight fight that has no ending until it does and unfortunately everyone loses in the last round. The only thing you can hope is you leave behind a legacy strong enough that others are willing to pick up the fight where you left off.
The real message I have for 2019 is I’m still here. I endured a traumatic event and through the help of others kept fighting. I somehow read 37 books, wrote a book, and i’m now raising two of the sweetest baby boys I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Life is going to be a little less complicated after this. In 2020 I am going to follow the spiritual texts I read in 2019. I will be a man of action, action dedicated to raising two sweet and beautiful boys, and I will be mindful of how that action effects others around me. As my boys age I will teach them that lesson. Never take an action without first thinking how it effects others, but be deceive in your actions. This is the lesson I take with my from 2019 and I thank it for all it has taught me and hope the lesson I took was the correct one.