We made it through your 30th birthday Justin and today we are 4 1/2 in grief years. I can look back and see how much we have grown in six months, now we start the climb to the fifth anniversary of your death. We had a plan in place for your birthday yesterday and it actually worked. The nausea was intense in the morning, reminds me of the first two years of grief where I didn’t go anywhere without pretzels, they could quell the nausea. We have learned high protein knocks it back also, an invaluable lesson.
We escaped the house and its memories and found ourselves at REI in the shoe department. Our quest, hiking boots so that we can start to challenge ourselves with day and weekend hikes in preparation for our Camino in 2016. Our first experience last September in REI was overwhelming, we were six months older this trip, much better prepared. The young man in the footwear department graciously pulled out pair after pair of shoes and boots for us to try on and easily answered all our questions. We both loved the Keens we tried on, and I thought of you, Justin, your feet so scarred from multiple surgeries, we will walk this for you. We grabbed some Darn Tough wool hiking socks, no excuses now, we have all we need to walk any terrain. I have my boots beside me as I write, I was unprepared for how attached I would become to them in a day, but they are a symbol of hope and a dream.
The very best sort of dream, a dream where there is not much money to make it real and the odds are stacked pretty high, impossible dreams force us to be impossibly creative. Impossible dreams sharpen our focus, they bring clarity.
We contentedly stacked our boots and socks in a cart and meandered over to backpacks. And this experience truly revealed the growth we have made, I have made. The gentleman in backpacks rudely snorted when we shared with him that the end game for our backpacks was the Camino, but we wanted something that would suit us well for shorter journeys. He said something about everyone doing the Camino since the movie came out and was snarky and deprecating in his tone. Then he asked if we saw the movie, Doug replied “which one?” A bit of spluttering, “well, you know, the one called “The Way” I think.” We replied in the affirmative that we had seen that particular film. He waited for us to offer more information, other than a simple “yes” to his question. I realized that he was bordering on being a jackass, and that jacksasses have no right to our story. I would not tell him that it was our eldest son’s 30th birthday, I would not tell him of a boy’s scarred feet and body that would never walk the Camino, I did not tell him about sandals that sit by my desk waiting for their ticket to Spain. Those are soul stories, reserved for those who are kindred spirits. I fixed him with a quiet stare and replied that our Camino started long before the movie and that we would like to see some backpacks. Justin had sent us an email July of 2010, the year he was killed, it included a link to this article, Prayer Filled Run Along the Camino. You see, he had the Camino on his mind long before we did, he was dead two months later. Yes, the movie “The Way” might have been a catalyst for our journey, but I believe it was started as a collaboration between our boy and St. James. A journey that has been nurtured by a beautiful soul who has taken time to write back and forth and answer my questions as I reached out for guidance from the American Pilgrims on the Camino.
We listened as he prattled on about how we needed to bring everything to the store that we would be taking on our trip and see what size backpack we would need, yeah – no. He was busy showing us 65 liter packs that were as big as I am, we humored him and I tried on a couple, oh to have had a picture. I dared not catch Mr. Jackson’s eye, we have warped senses of humor and it is not always appreciated. We thanked him for his time and made our way to the checkout sans enormous backpack, very satisfied with our boots and socks. I actually am dreaming of an Osprey Kyte 36, the “go anywhere, do anything” day pack. But there is no rush to have everything, there is no need to have everything. I believe that we will have all we need when the need arises, not before.
We had mugs of hot cocoa and flourless chocolate cake for your birthday dinner, Justin, both were exceptional. We didn’t talk much, I still can’t say your name to your dad, all that rests bottled up bubbles to the surface and I can’t see or speak for the tears. But I feel we did a good job honoring your birthday yesterday, we got out of bed – anything beyond that was extra credit. You and Ryan are in our every heartbeat, our every thought, we never walk alone.