A Story: Surprise

You know how Facebook allows you to check what happened on this date in previous years? Well, for obvious reasons, I’ve become obsessed with checking it every day. I guess, in a way, I hope to recapture a bit of my interactions with Dave. Every few days there’s something funny or inappropriate he posted to my page, or some cute K-9 video I posted to his. It’s sad, but also somehow a relief to find something that connected Dave and me.

Today is a tough one. The app showed me the video of when Dave, Boris, and I surprised our dad for his 60th birthday just a few days before Dave was killed. It’s so heart-warming, but it’s also gut-wrenching to know that mere days later, from some of the happiest times we went to the absolute worst of times. But, in case you don’t know the story, here it is.

Knowing our dad’s 60th was coming up, we started scheming about what we could do to mark the occasion. Dave always had these ideas about gifting him something really extravagant, like a Harley (or when our mom said “absolutely not” to that idea: a snowmobile). Whatever the idea of the moment, he’d send me links to what he had picked out and was always lobbying for us to start putting money aside for it. Anyways, for this birthday none of us had that kind of money, so we had to come up with something else!

I live in Virginia with my hubby, an obvious possibility was for us to drive the 6 hours for a surprise visit. From there, the surprise mushroomed. I checked with Dave if there was any way he could fly in from Texas, and with Boris to see if he could come from Taiwan — we’re talking about a 20-hour trip here. We hadn’t all been in one place for many, many years since we all live really far from each other and, naturally, someone was always missing from our gatherings. But, somehow, this all came together. So, Jared and I drove up a couple of days early, and were the first unexpected visitors. But, it’s only a 6-hour drive, so this wasn’t all too crazy. Dad was happy, but had no idea what was still in store.

The next day, we made up some story about going to have drinks with some friends who were in the area. In reality, we rushed to the airport were Dave and Boris (with our niece, Valerie) were supposed to arrive. Instead of coming straight to the Newark, Dave had flown into NYC to hang out with his friends there for a few hours. So, by the time he arrived, he’d had a few drinks and, somehow, couldn’t find the international arrival’s hall. How is that even possible?! By the time he finally found his way to where I was waiting for Boris, he had a mischievous grin on his face as I pretended to be irritated. If you know Dave, you know exactly what he looked like with his slightly-apologetic-but-you-can’t-actually-be-annoyed-at-me face.

Shortly after Dave finally found me, Boris and my niece arrived from their long journey from Taipei. We all squeezed into the car and headed back to our parents’. When we arrived, Jared and I went in first and found my dad spread out on the couch watching the news. Dave followed behind me giggling and just sat down next to dad. Then, for the coup the gras, Boris and Valerie walked in, and my dad was completely speechless. Of course, the surprise was great and totally unexpected.

I have a video of the moment everyone walked in, but I can’t bear to post it. It’s too raw, to0 painful and I want to protect that private moment for our family. But, I took a couple of screenshots of the grainy video to include here.

The days that followed the surprise were perfect. We had an amazing 60th birthday dinner. We sat outside on the terrace, chatting, Dave smoking cigars. We had animated, at times contentious, political discussions (imagine imagine for a moment, discussing Bernie vs. Hillary vs. Trump with Dave was wearing a sparkly cowboy hat, drinking whiskey out of a coffee mug). Dave and I had a heart-to-heart about his job and his plans for the future. My mom, as always, told him she was scared for him every day.

So those days were perfect not because we’re a perfect family, but because we were all together. That alone was enough.

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A Thought: The Euless Police Department Awards Banquet

Last week, my family and I traveled to Texas to spend time with Dave’s love, friends and colleagues at the Euless PD Awards Banquet. It’s always unexpected to me how much it helps my soul to be around those who loved and respected Dave most. People who have that link to Dave offer a comforting place from which to experience the range of emotions we go through everyday as we somehow try to reach a “new normal” without him.

The awards banquet was tough but also beautiful. We even met and heard about the actions of people who we didn’t even know had been involved in the tragic events following Dave’s loss. It seems to me that hundreds of people provided their assistance — besides the obvious, officers, EMT, hospital staff, nurses, doctors and more, there were so many businesses, organizations, and city administrators who made sure everything ran smoothly, or who donated their services. Our family had no clue, for the most part.

So, just to really make sure we say it again: THANK YOU.

And, thank you, most of all to everyone who loved and continues to love Dave.

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A Thought: The Coming Days

We’re inching our way closer to the looming March 1st end-of-watch anniversary, and everyone is struggling. How could it have been a year already? The weeks ahead of this date lead to constant thoughts that essentially sum up to the worst countdown ever: every day is marked by a “last” something that Dave did or said.

Not long from now, on my dad’s birthday, I’ll think of our plans to surprise him for his 60th birthday last year.

I’ll think of my mild irritation when Dave couldn’t find the international arrival’s hall at Newark Airport (to pick up our older brother and niece before the surprise) because he’d had a drink too many with friends in NYC before he came to meet us. I’ll think about how he was immediately forgiven because of the mischievous smile on his face as he found me and gave me a big bear hug hello.

I’ll  think about re-watching the video of when we all arrived in Princeton for the surprise and my dad’s stunned face when one after the next family he didn’t expect walked into the living room.

I’ll think about the last heart-to-heart conversation we had the day before he left, where he told me how tough his job could be.

I’ll think about how when he said that he would only have a day and half of work coming up when he got home, I suggested to him that he just ask for those days off and just stay in NYC to hang out. I’ll think about how I really wish I pushed him harder to change his plans.

I’ll think about the last hug I gave him around 5am February 29th to wish him a safe trip home.