October 7, 2010
So, I’ve been in Chicago for over a month now. I’m still coming to grips with that, in fact. It’s not that it feels like it’s been longer or shorter than that. But labeling that span of time as a month just doesn’t sound right at all.
I think this is largely because there was so much leading up to me actually driving to Chicago. There were months of planning, dreaming, praying, and preparing that were just as significant as the move itself. A month doesn’t sound right, because I’ve been “here” in this new phase of life for much longer. But that 15 hour drive? Saying goodbye to my parents, sister, friends, and home? No, no, that was just a couple of weeks ago.
If you’ve followed my trip at all, you’ve probably realized that I love Chicago. Adore it. The city is absolutely fantastic, and I would not trade the past five weeks here for anything. But Chicago itself was only part of the reason I came here. Of all the attributes of Chicago that drew me here, the most significant one was that it wasn’t Dallas. My loving family, phenomenal friends, and charming life as I knew it were nowhere near Illinois.
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August 27, 2010
Well, it’s finally happening. It’s nearly a month behind schedule, but it’s happening. Next Tuesday, the 31st, I will be falling asleep in the city of Chicago, IL. I’ve got an apartment leased, rent in the mail, and rental car reserved. Here we go.
Monday morning, I’ll pick up an SUV from Avis, drive it home, load it up with all of the stuff that I’ll be taking with me up north, and probably try to take a nap. Then around 9:00 or 10:00 Monday night, I’ll set off for the wild north. It’s about a 15 hour drive, so I’ll probably see the Chicago skyline crest the horizon around noon on Tuesday.
Lord willing, I’ll pick up the apartment keys, spend half an hour hauling all the stuff from the car to the apartment, then drive a mile downtown to Avis, drop the car off, and spend 15 minutes walking back to my new home.
The apartment I’m leasing is a total of 325 square feet. For perspective, that’s about 18.5′ x 18.5′, or a mid-sized living room. It’s a bed, office desk, bathroom, closet, small dining table and corner kitchen. I don’t even know where I’m going to set my piano up. I’m on the third floor, and I’ve got a small window that looks north over a parking lot and Division St.
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September 19, 2009
Earlier this year, I came into possession of a journal of my great grandfather’s. It’s not a full-on, soul-baring journal. It is – as the front cover displays in gloriously deco font – a Line a Day Five Year Journal. While Poppy didn’t write in it every day – and he typically wrote more than one line on the days that he did – it did end up truly being a 5 year journal. The first entry was New Years 1945; the last was New Years Eve 1949. Wow.
As the story opens, Poppy (christened Houston Epps Sr.) is 42, Jerry (my grandmother) is 18, my great aunt Glenna is 14, my great uncle Houston is 20 and fighting against the Japanese in the South Pacific. My great grandmother, Maurine (affectionately known as Mimo), is age unknown at this point. I’m guessing 40, give or take a year or two.
A lot had happened between then and the last time Poppy put pen to paper five years later. Poppy and Mimo had celebrated their 25th (Silver) Anniversary. The war had ended (marked by a simple entry “Japan Surrendered Unconditionally To-day”), and Houston was back home and had started dating, become engaged to, and married his wife of over 50 years. Glenna had dropped out of high school (with her parents’ consent), then re-enrolled and graduated on the recommendation of her new employer. Jerry had become engaged twice, called both weddings off, and started dating my grandfather; they were married in mid-1950.
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March 4, 2008
The other day I was talking about something from my early childhood – I don’t remember what it was – and I absentmindedly added, “Yeah, that was probably 20 years ago.” Twenty years.
It feels weird to be able to vividly remember something that happened 20 years ago. I was at my cousins’, watching in terrified awe as they jumped from the third step of their staircase to the carpet miles below. I was sitting on the back of Mom’s bike, soaring through the Duck Creek Greenbelt in the early morning with the lingering taste of Raisin Bran still on my lips. I was filling a lapse between Super Mario Bros. and Gyromite by watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I was living on Sycamore in Garland, falling asleep in my firetruck bunk bed to Dad gently singing House at Pooh Corner.
Twenty years ago.
I don’t feel like I have twenty years’ worth of memories to pull from. But, I can’t think of another span of time that sounds more appropriate. It just feels strange to have my conscious existence summed up so concisely. To me, it wasn’t twenty years ago, it was at the beginning. The beginning of me. The beginning of everything.
That period in my life doesn’t move, but it keeps getting further away. I will always have been four years old in March 1988, but not so long ago that was 15 years ago. Not so long ago, it was 10 years. Not so long ago, it was last week.
I can still taste the Raisin Bran.
July 30, 2006
Two weeks. It’s been two weeks and three days since my last post. The primary reason for this hiatus happened two weeks and two days ago. On that day, July 13th, my cousin Colin died. His doubts, fears, regrets, sorrows, and Lord only knows what else got the better of him, and in what can only be described as a moment of weakness, he leapt from an overpass in the early morning hours. So, as can be expected, I’ve had much on my mind. Now, I realize that should be more a reason for more frequent posts, since the most common excuse that I have for not posting regularly is that I don’t have enough to write about. Unfortunately, I’ve had a bit of an overload in the mind, and I just didn’t know what to write or say, let alone think about the whole situation.
I first tried posting on this just a few days after it happened, but I just couldn’t make it work. And, I didn’t want to really post about anything else, and just pretend that this never happened, either. So, that’s my disclaimer.
Honestly, Colin and I weren’t that close anymore. We were great friends when we were kids, but as we got older, we drifted apart, as most childhood friends do, frankly. So, his death didn’t affect me as much as it did many others, because I didn’t see him in my daily life. I was out of town when it happened, and my mom called me the morning that it happened, and it was shocking to hear, but it didn’t just bring me to a screeching halt. I stayed sitting down for a minute or two after I hung up the phone, but then I got up and finished working for the rest of the day.
The real blow came when I came back that Friday. I was helping my mom put together a slide show for his funeral, which was the next day (Saturday). My parents and I were trying to figure out what song to play during the slideshow, and my dad suggested “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe. At that point, I pretty much had the slideshow done, and while it had been sad to see all those picture of Colin (often with me right beside him), I really hadn’t gotten very emotional over it. However, while I was putting some fiinishing touches on it, my dad played the song just to see if it would fit, and that just did it for me.
I haven’t cried in a long, long time. Frankly, I can’t even remember the last time that I got teared-up, let alone cried. That’s not something I’m proud of, honestly, but that’s how it is. Or was, anyways. ‘Cause I cried. I’ve never really like I Can Only Imagine. I don’t know why. Maybe it was too overplayed. Maybe I didn’t like the context that it was usually sung in. But, in that context, it hit me. Looking at those pictures of Colin, and listening to that song, I cried. And when I had the slideshow finished, and I showed it to Mom and Dad, I cried. And, at the funeral when we showed it, I cried.
I got teared up countless other times during that 24-hour period between my getting back home and the end of the funeral. And most of those moments were when I was looking at how it was affecting the members of my family. Nobody was safe from it. Grandparents, cousins, second cousins, great aunts, sisters. And that was the hardest part of it all. Not how it was affecting me, but how it was affecting my family.
Colin was about three months younger than myself. He would have been 23 this Halloween. While he wasn’t technically a “kid” anymore, he was still one of “the kids” in the family, since only three of us have been married and only one has any children. So, I think it goes without saying that this has been an incredibly difficult and challenging episode for my entire family. Colin was the first of any of us to die. Save for grandparents and one distant 3rd or 4th cousin that I hardly knew, nobody in the White/Armstrong/Epps family has died. It’s hard enough when a grandparent, or even a parent dies, but at least it is somewhat expected. While we always pray and hopefully expect that the day is far off, in the back of our minds we know and expect that at some point in our lifetime, our parents will die.
Parents shouldn’t outlive their children. It is unnatural. The older generations should pass on before the younger ones do. And when one goes out of turn, it sends everyone reeling. And that is what my family has been struggling through the past week. And the nature of how it happened only served to make it all the more painful. Not a person who knew Colin hasn’t since thought to themselves, “What could I have done to help him?” “If only I’d known.” “I should have seen it coming.” Unnatural.
So, for me, the toughest part of this whole ordeal has been watching my family suffer through this. Colin’s brothers are crushed. Colin’s parents are crushed. Through the grace of God, Colin was a Christian who only slipped out of the light for a while, so we know that he is with the Lord now. While that gives hope, it only softens the blow, as anyone who has lost a loved one knows.
Speaking for myself, I am over the worst of it. Heck, I was over the worst of it by the time the funeral was over. It’s tragic, and “unfortunate” doesn’t even begin to describe the situation. I’d lie if I said that I don’t think about Colin every day, and I probably will for years to come. But, I have accepted it, and life continues. However, I haven’t tried listening to I Can Only Imagine in its entirity, but just hearing the intro the other day sent emotions surging through my body. I think it interesting that my last post, written less than 12 hours before this happened, talked about this very thing. A song that I used to not like much at all now affects me emotionally more than almost any song there is.
That’s all I have. Not an incredibly deep or well-organized post, I know, but unfortunately, my mind isn’t incredibly deep or well-organized, either.
Such is life.