And to Ash We Shall Return
I try to take a few moments every day to think, or to not think, I guess. I try to clear my mind of all thought and just reboot my soul. Often times this is where my best thinking happens, well…shortly after. Lately these sessions have been overwhelmed with incredibly heavy, heavy thoughts.
When you are growing up, you look at your parents as something ethereal. They are two humans, they’re mom and dad. You hear their voices as your falling asleep in the back seat on road trips, or through the wall while you drift off at night. No one tells you that one day you may be one of these things yourself. Or that you just may be the voice in the front seat.
After driving my family and the RV 8 hours to Reno, NV to set up our new home, I thought we were in the clear. I let my guard down.
Bronwen and I drove to Napa to drop our two youngest off with my mom while we began our orientation for the new job. We left Sunday night to head back to Reno to start Monday morning. We didn’t realize it, but as we drove away from Napa, several fires were beginning to grow, and soon would ravage the countryside formerly known as a world-class wine destination.
When Bronwen and I awoke the next morning, we were inundated with texts and news clippings of “Apocalyptic” wildfires ripping through the northern part of California.
Exactly. Where. We. Left. Our. Children.
How could this happen? How could I have driven my children into what would become the pit of hell in just a matter of hours? What’s worse, Bronwen and I couldn’t drive back and get them. Napa was beginning to close off from the North, East and West and they weren’t allowing people back in. In a moment of infinite wisdom, I decided to not leave the kids’ carseats with my mom to prevent them from getting driven around unnecessarily. I had, unknowingly, left my kids as sitting ducks as the fires closed in.
I had never before felt so sick to my stomach or so helpless. I tried to stay strong for Bronwen, but I was destroyed inside. I should have told her how I felt, but there I was trying to be strong again. I was already blaming myself for the destruction that was sure to follow. I screamed at the top of my lungs, inside my head.
My mother and sister were able to go buy carseats and drive our kids back to Reno just before the roads were officially closed. They made it unscathed and unaware, and I have once again been given a chance to do better.
As I sit here and reflect, I am conflicted. I am bombarded with guilt and disappointment in myself and my inability to adequately protect the ones that need me most. But at the same time I feel an incredible relief and then shame for not feeling more guilt.
I guess the point of all this is that we’re all human. Even my dad, in the front seat, was just a boy trying to play the part of a man the best he could. I am so scared that I will mess these kids up, or that they may get hurt. But I think that’s what makes me an ok dad. I’m trying really hard to protect them, and I think that’s what matters. When they grow up and tell me how I “don’t know what it’s like…” or that I “don’t do anything” for them, I’m going to smirk knowing that I have truly cried for them. I’m going to chuckle to myself and shake my head as I turn to walk away and think, “I pray one day you love someone as much as I love you.”
I love you, Skylar, Keighley, Lyric and Paxton. You may never ever know how much until you have kids of your own, but I do. I get it why parents get gray hair now, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love you.