A Thought: 8 Months Gone

Today marks the 8th month since that horrible day. I don’t know about anyone else, but it seems like I’ve been in a time-warp. 8 months?! How is that even possible?! The words fail me today, so I will leave you with some of Dave’s own words.

Back when we moved to NYC, and both Dave’s and my English was pretty poor (I was 14, Dave was 11), we entered a beautiful school in Brooklyn Heights that allows students to pursue whatever interests they can dream up. Dave decided he wanted to give pottery a try. Well, due to a little language mix-up, what he saw in the course listing turned out to be POETRY not pottery – a big surprise on that first day of class. Regardless, Dave must have liked it, because he ended up staying in that poetry class from 5th grade all the way through High School.

Dave wrote many, many poems during that time that we recently rediscovered. Dave kept his writing to himself, so I hesitate a bit to share this. But, just as Dave was good at getting me out of my comfort zone, I was good at doing the same for him. In his thoughts about fragility and impermanence, I see March 1st.

The trees were shaking.
Then I hear thunder.
I looked outside again.
Now the trees were shaking even more.
It was a scary sight, something so
Powerful, so big, so strong.
And yet, shaken up so easily.
Crack…
Or should I say,
Broken so easily.

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I think the poem may be from beginning of high school — so around the time of this photo

A Thought: On Strength

People tell us that they admire our strength. Honestly, I don’t feel strong. I don’t think my parents feel strong either. Many days we’re not quite sure how we made it through. In the early weeks after Dave was killed, my mom would say that she didn’t know how she was breathing, and we all knew exactly what she meant. Now, things are a little more manageable.

I guess.

It’s so hard to put into words what life is like now.

My life looks, mostly, “normal.” I walk my dogs. I shop for food and cook. I go to the gym. I attend classes, run data analyses, teach, have meetings and write reports. So, anyone looking in would see a busy grad student. But, mostly it feels like a facade. Just underneath the surface, more often than not I’m thinking about what happened on March 1st, about how long it’s been, about missing Dave. There are constant reminders of him everywhere I look. If I see a patrol car pass, I wish I could talk to the officer – to feel closer to Dave’s experiences, to thank the officer for doing their job, to talk to someone who knows on some level what all of this means (so far, no luck — I’m much too boring for the police to pay attention to me!). When I see a bird of prey overhead, I remember how much he loved them. He could identify the exact type of bird by their outline as he watched them from below. When someone mentions their sibling, I feel a knot in my stomach. When I see something ridiculous, I hear the joke Dave would have made. Sometimes, I manage a chuckle.

Spending time with my family and people who knew and loved Dave is the time when I have permission to let what’s under the surface come to the forefront. In those moments, with those people, I can just be in that grief – however it may express itself. Instead of pushing my thoughts and feelings to the side, I can let them come and go. The best part is, everyone understands. I think that in allowing myself that time, I can work on building myself up again.

So, whatever strength I have is coming from the love and care around me. The grand gestures aren’t what makes this easier — it’s the little reminders that you’re thinking of us: the random texts to say hi and the absurd snapchats that are best forgotten soon after opening. It’s the clever, gritty jokes that remind me so much of Dave’s sense of humor. It’s getting made fun of for being a “tree-hugger” or “super-liberal” (I imagine a cape-wearing superhero). It’s the little tributes to Dave that pop up regularly on Facebook, or just new comments on old posts. I see you think of him and of us, and I know you’re sharing our burden.

So, we may not feel strong, but I guess we’re still standing, still taking one step at a time into, hopefully, brighter days ahead. We’re doing what needs to be done, and we’re doing it with you by our side. So, thank you.

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Our table in the Texas Senate chamber for the Star of Texas ceremony on 9/12/16

Birthdays Without You

On Sept. 1st, Jared sat by me and asked me what we should do for my birthday. And just like that, I started crying. Every day since we’ve reached September, I knew these days were coming. My birthday today. Dave’s birthday two days later. Just two days apart, we celebrated them together as kids and as adults (forget the teens…we were annoyed by each other then).

And, now I’m supposed to do what exactly?

Here are a few of our past birthdays that we celebrated together.

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Sept. 2007

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Sept. 2009

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Sept. 2013

Last year, I was in Virginia and Dave was in Texas, so as a poor substitute for having fun celebrating together, we sent each birthday message on via text and Facebook.

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“Bruderherz” literally translates to “brother-heart” and is a ridiculously cheesy, old-fashioned German term to refer to a beloved brother. Whenever I wanted to annoy Dave (so, very regularly), I’d tease him by calling him that in a super-irritating voice. Reading my silly Facebook note, black on white, and understanding that not six months later he would be killed hurts beyond imagination.

We never know when our time is up, so the only thing we can do is to love and care for the ones who are important to us. Laugh with them. Cherish them every day.

Love you, Dave. I know you knew that.

A Memory: Maine Summers

Dave LOVED Maine. He always enjoyed our family’s house there a lot more than me. He loved that it was away from the madness of NYC. He loved to fish and snowmobile and kayak. He loved to invite his friends for a vacation and have a good time up there together. In fact, he always declared that he’d retire in that house.

There was a while, before Dave and I moved out, when our family would spend most vacations in the Maine house. It would take me a while to stop being annoyed at the excruciatingly slow dial-up internet and the complete lack of cell phone reception (except for on that one rock!), but Dave always settled into his routine quickly. He’d have our parents drive him to Rusty’s to get lures and worms and then he’d set out planning how he’d catch the biggest salmon or trout, right off of the rocks at the edge of our property. He could spend hours on those rocks, despite the black flies and mosquitoes, protected by his fishing shirt and a hat, no matter the temperature.

When he didn’t fish off of the rocks, he and our dad might spend the day trolling the lake with the boat. Usually, if we went on the boat, we would leave at dawn, stopping to get freshly-made, still-warm donuts. On the occasions when I’d decide to fish too, I’d basically cast and hold the fishing rod, panicking the moment something actually bit. At that point, I’d hand Dave the rod and he’d handle it from there. But, it was the company that brought me out there, really. I didn’t care about the fish. There was something beautiful and soothing about just being out there with those two. If our mom joined, we usually didn’t fish. We’d just take a long ride in the boat, enjoying when our dad would go extra fast, loving when our German shepherd Quindy would take her spot at the head of the boat and bop around, completely fearless.

Occasionally, Dave would convince me to take out the kayaks, with all of his fishing gear, to go try to catch something a little further out from the rocks. It was always quite the adventure: loading the kayaks, pushing them out into the water and climbing in without the whole shebang turning over. We didn’t have a dock, the rocks were uneven and slippery, so this was all a lot harder than might be imagined. We’d then row out, position our kayaks right next to each other, kind of securing them to each other by placing the oars over the kayaks. Then, we’d sit there, fishing, chatting, and letting the lapping waves carry us wherever. I don’t remember us catching much like this, but when something did occasionally bite, the whole set-up was precarious enough that the kayak might tip over!

When the mood struck us, we’d sometimes kayak along the shore for a little excursion to this shallow, marsh-y area. There the lake would be completely still, with the trees and sky reflecting brilliantly in the water. It was probably some of the most undisturbed and beautiful wilderness that was easily accessible to us. We’d see bald eagles or moose or other wildlife. By the time we’d head back home, our arms would be tired and we’d alternate between quiet, steady rowing and frenzied competition to prove our rowing prowess to each other.

By the time we’d get home, our mom and dad would have probably have fired up the grill and made some cajun shrimp or blackened salmon, and maybe we’d all watch a VHS rented from the little store in town.

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A Memory: Summers in Spain

Our grandparents had a house on the north-Atlantic coast of Spain in a small beach village called Espasante. Starting when we were little there were several summers that spent with them there. These are some of my favorite memories of my childhood.

Dave was always a bit afraid of the water and waves since the water could be pretty unruly in that area. He’d mostly stick to the beach and the shallow, calm puddles that would form after the tide. He’d roam around while I splashed in the waves, and then we’d take walks along the beach to look for hermit crabs and pretty shells and to watch schools of small fish rush around in the shallows. In Espasante, Dave also learned how to fish with our grandpa. Our grandparents would take us on long walks through the Eucalyptus forest to go eat delicious meals. The smell of eucalyptus always transports me right back to those walks. In those days, Dave was a much more adventurous eater than me, happily eating seafood while I mostly stuck to the same dish of steak, fries and salad.

When we weren’t at the beach, we would play in the sand in front of our grandparents house — building large “sculptures,” or pretending to run a restaurant. In the afternoons, we’d go fetch our obligatory ice creams. If we were lucky, we’d get two in one day! In the early evenings, my grandma liked to prepare a kind of “happy hour” with adult beverages for them, soda for us, and chips or olives and nuts or other goodies. Sometimes we’d go for tapas in town.

There are a couple of stories I think of whenever reminisce about our time in Espasante. The first is when we went squid and octupus fishing with a friend of my grandparents. He took us out on his boat and we all tried our best to catch dinner. On one occasion, someone, I think Dave  caught a small-ish octopus. Of course, once he pulled it out of the water, it wasn’t an easy task to get the creature off of the special hooks, so this family friend jumped to help him. As he’s working to get the octopus off the line, the frightened creature sprays ink…all over his face. The funniest part of this scene is that he wore glasses, and when he removed the glasses, he had ink all over his face, with two clean areas right around where the glasses had protected his skin. We all burst out laughing! It was the funniest thing!

The second story about Espasante took place one night when Dave and I were playing with some friends who were also there for the summer. I remember something about eating grilled sardines right out of a fire on the beach. At some point our grandparents were ready to go home and told us to come home within a certain time frame. Well, Dave and I were having way too much fun and ignored the time frame, and then additional calls for us to come home. We finally sauntered back to the house when it started getting dark. My grandma wasn’t going to let us off the hook easily though. She’d drawn the curtains and turned out the lights and made it appear as if her and our grandpa had already gone to bed.

I guess we felt pretty bad about having ignored her calls, so when our knocks went unanswered I unfolded a lounge chair to make us a bed on the patio. When we lay down Dave told me he was cold. So I put my arm around him and found whatever I could to approximate a blanket and we were ready to spend the night out there.

Of course, our grandma was watching this whole scene from behind a curtain and let us in the house after a couple of minutes. She always said it was the sweetest thing watching how I was taking care of him. Like “Hansel and Gretel” she liked to say.

There are a million other beautiful memories of our times in Espasante. Like when I eventually succeeded in teaching Dave how to love the ocean (with the mantra that he should trust me that I will keep him safe) and then we never wanted to get out anymore! Or, the time we found an abused stray dog and named her Hap-Hap and we were so heart-broken when we had to leave her behind at the end of the summer. Or, seeing dolphins jumping through the waves in the distance. Or, the aroma of hot bread that would waft through the streets on our way to the baker every morning. The list is endless.

I will treasure these memories to the end of my days.

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Me, Dave and grandpa at a grandma’s “Happy Hour” in August, 1998

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I’m pretty sure this was Dave’s first SERIOUS fish he ever caught.

 

A Memory: The Best Deal of my Life

I was about 14 and Dave was about 11 when, shortly after we moved back to the U.S., we got some pet-mice. A simple purchase of 3 female mice turned into a saga of 3 female mice, one of whom was already pregnant and ended up having 11 babies. We had to do research about what momma would need to feel comfortable having her babies — separating her from the other mice, not touching the nest too early (stressed out mice-moms will kill and eat their own young! Yikes!), separating the male/female young around the age of three weeks before they are mature enough to…uh…make their own babies (this is a whole complicated process since their sex organs aren’t visible at this age). Anyways, you now know a lot more about mice then you ever needed to. Long story short, it was quite the adventure.

Well, we ended up giving the 3 male babies away and keeping the females. Now we had 11 mice to take care of, instead of 3, and let me tell you…that’s quite a bit of work. The bedding in the terrarium has to be changed frequently or it gets smelly quickly. They have to be fed. And, if you don’t want them to be scared and shy, you have to spend time socializing them too! I can’t tell you how frustrated our mom got with us because she had to run after us to do everything we needed to do with those little creatures! But, we did “make up for it” with our regular mouse-circus performances. Fun fact: we even kept a journal about the mice that outlined their unique “personalities,” likes and dislikes, as well a any special skills they had (e.g., they were really good at balancing on a piece of string).

At that time we also had a cat. Dave and I were supposed to take turns cleaning the litter box, the same as we were supposed to take turns cleaning the terrarium for the mice. One time, Dave was feeling lazy and didn’t want to take care of the kitty litter. As I remember it, he also REALLY wanted this computer game that had come out. Somehow we ended up negotiating our pet chores and, taking full advantage of the fact that he was feeling lazy and wanted instant gratification in regards to procuring the computer game, I suggested what I still consider the best deal of my life. I told him, I’d do the kitty litter AND give him $50 for his game if he took care of the mice from that day forth.

He accepted.

While I took full advantage of poor Dave’s naiveté when I made this deal, I have to give it to him: he NEVER rescinded on our deal. He just kept cleaning the mouse cage till they were all gone.

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A few years after our “deal” with our German Shepherd Quindy & kitty Kiki

 

A Memory: Bottles & Dinosaurs

One of my earliest memories must be from not too long after Dave was born. He wasn’t a newborn, but probably less than a year old. That would make me around 4 years old. We lived in New Jersey at the time. I remember being in the bedroom on the bed, with Dave laying there, and my mom. She had brought a bottle into the bedroom, I guess in anticipation of feeding him. I’m not sure why, but she had to leave the room for a moment and she told me to wait to feed him till she came back. When she came back, I was, of course, already giving him the bottle.

I have no idea if this is a true memory or if I made this up at some point. No matter, there are a million little and big memories I have of Dave, starting with that one. Around every corner, there is something that reminds me of some part of our growing up together, which is both painful and beautiful to think about. Sometimes I can smile about those thoughts, and sometimes I just sink into sadness at the idea that this chapter of my life, the chapter with Dave, is now written. Because of that it’s that much more important to try to recollect and write up those memories. I will attempt to do to the best of my ability with my future posts.

An obvious childhood memory that comes to mind is that when Dave was little he LOVED dinosaurs – he knew EVERYTHING there was to know about each of them. He read this kids’ magazine about them and learned about what they looked like, what they ate, when they lived, how big they were, where they lived and so forth. You could ask him anything and he could rattle off the facts. They were his absolute favorite animals. He watched “Land Before Time” a million times, getting upset every time the momma-dinosaur dies.

He also collected dinosaur toys. He had standard “regular” dinosaurs, but also a collection of dinosaurs that were miniatures from a museum in London. He and I both got a set during some vacation. We would build structures, the higher the better, out of books for the “baby dinosaurs” and the big dinosaurs were the bad guys. Well, the carnivores were the bad guys – the T-Rex and the velociraptors. The herbivores were usually some kind of allies. Most of the game was just the little guys going about their business, and the bad guys trying to get them. Or, if one had been captured the little guys would band together and save it – always in time before getting eaten! Sometimes the little guys even helped out their bigger friends, though obviously they couldn’t scale the structures, so we’d have to build traps to keep everyone safe.

I loved playing this game with him as much as he loved to play them, but sometimes, my girly side wanted to incorporate some other ideas. So, occasionally, there’d be a dinosaur and my-little-pony cross-over event. I don’t remember those nearly as well.

A Story: The Legend of Stonewall

“As promised (although somewhat delayed), here is the true story of how Dave and Mike became the stars of Stonewall for a night.

Once upon a time, there was a girl who was flirting with me.  This was a rare occurrence, so when she invited me to her birthday party at the Stonewall Inn, I of course said yes.  Well, after Jessie and my boss told me to say yes.  The appointed date arrived and the 3 of us set out after work to join the festivities already in progress.  We walked through the door and as we started upstairs to the party, who should we see but the birthday girl. And her girlfriend. 

Obviously this night was not going to go the way I’d hoped.

But, we were already there and there was no way to make a graceful exit so soon.  In an effort to salvage the night, we racked our brains trying to think of who we could get to come out with us.  The rest of the platoon had undoubtedly gone home already, but almost immediately two names sprang to mind: Hofer and Sarro.  Regardless of the fact that it was after midnight, and they weren’t even working that day, there was no question in any of our minds that they would be together and they would come out with us.  Sure enough, when Jessie sent her text, it was met with a yes and a request for an address.

Shortly thereafter, Dave and Mike fought their way through the crowd and found us.  The first question they asked was: “So, what kind of place is this?”  Upon learning that it was a gay bar, they shrugged and ordered a drink. 

They then commenced to dance with each other and every girl around them. 

At one point, there was a girl standing behind Dave.  He and Mike would stroke her hair, and when she turned around, they would give her the best innocent look they could muster.  Finally, the girl’s girlfriend caught them.  I cringed inside, afraid that she was going to try to start a fight, but the boys turned on the charm and soon enough they were all best friends.  Unfortunately, someone who shall remain nameless spilled (deliberately poured) a drink on someone else, so she departed in haste, but the rest of us stayed until the wee hours, having a grand old time.  The next day, we were all the worse for wear but those of us who were there will still swear that it was one of the legendary nights out “when four-bys were fun.”

I wish I had a picture of that night with Dave and Mike in it, but I can’t find one.  Maybe it’s for the best that there’s no evidence of the shenanigans.”

~ Kerry, NYPD

A Thought: “Don’t fear us. Don’t hate us.”

The Facebook world is extremely emotionally draining to me right now. I have friends on all sides of the political spectrum and the anger, misunderstandings and generalizations are so glaring, so confusing, so overwhelming, that most of the time I just feel that this whole problem is hopeless. I’m stuck in the middle, able to see the various sides, but the gulf between the parties seems so vast. I’m confused that people only seem to recognize the pain on one side of the equation: Black pain or Blue pain. In my mind, it’s all just pain. And, instead of yelling at each other from opposite sides of the table, we should acknowledge when someone is hurting. I feel utterly helpless.

This helplessness has caused me to avoid commenting on a lot of controversial issues, not because I’m ignorant to them or because I’ve put them out of my mind, but because my thoughts are confused, my emotional capacity has been drained by the loss of my brother and best friend, and it simply feels like no reasonable dialogue can be had. At least not in my current state, and definitely not on social media.

But, once in a while, I see a message that I think captures something important – a message that seeks to clarify and reconcile differences, a message that emphasizes that we each can do better in our own little world, a message that ultimately desires unity. With his permission, I wanted to post one such messages by one Texas police officer.

Thank you for your words, officer. And thank you for keeping Dave in your heart as you go out in service of our communities.

“This is a little outside the norm here for me. You guys know this is usually an outlet for my sense of humor. But this was heavy on my mind today. In light of recent events, pretty much right at my own front door, I’m sitting here looking for the motivation to go to work, wondering why I do this. Then I’m very aware that 100s of thousand others across this land are going to work as well with the uncertainty of what’s waiting for us when we check in service. My thoughts are: we are peacekeepers; it’s time to work. However recently, we are hated targets.

Two young officers I respect have both reached out to this old man and asked, “what keeps you going?” One answer is “It’s what we chose to do.” The other one, most recently, pretty much answered her own question when she told me “We do it because that’s our job. We strap up because we are warriors.” She pretty much nailed it. That’s what we are for the peaceful.

I think we are the excuse used by the lawless for violence and now have to be, and need to be, the catalyst for change. We aren’t the killers many accuse us of being, but sometimes a life is taken, but NEVER because it’s a desire to do so.

There’s no way to describe what comes over you and takes place inside you when you point a gun at another human being. That’s something and someplace you never want to be. Well, we don’t either.

I think back over the last 30 years, why I chose this profession, or why it chose me. Simply put, catch the bad guys and help everyone else. It turns into a job of dealing with more bad guys than helping it seems like.

I think tonight, I’ll try to pick up where Dave left off. David Hofer, one of our young officers whose life was taken recently, was a good officer and a kind young man. Dave, I think, pretty much set the example or set the bar for kindness to everyone, good or bad. Tonight my goal, other than to go home at the end of the shift, is to see how many positive encounters I can have, to be like Dave!

My beat is largely minority with some that have been identified as a threat to police. I personally don’t see ethnicity. I don’t see color. I see behavior and deal with the behavior. I see what’s needed and what needs or has to be done. I think you’ll find almost all in my profession see that the same way, believe it or not.

Don’t fear us. Don’t hate us. Just know we are there, doing a job most would never want to do. So much hate in this world. Someone I don’t know yet, will want or need my help today, so I guess I’ll get ready to go to work now and see what’s waiting out there.

Pray for the Blue, say a few words of encouragement to the next cop you see.

Pray for peace, love one another!”

To the Families of Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa

Today, I’m tired. I’m tired because as I’m mourning my brother who was assassinated in the line of duty on March 1st in Euless, Texas, I have to think about you. I think about the moment you received a knock on the door from uniformed men and women with somber faces. I think about how you walk up to the door thinking that this isn’t good. But, believing at the same time that it can’t really be bad either, because you love your officer. It just can’t be that bad. And, then it is.

It is, in fact, the worst.

I think about the moment you receive a phone call or a visit from a panicked loved one and you hear the words uttered that: “He was shot. He’s gone.” And all you can think is: “No, it can’t be. It’s not him. It can’t be him. I love him. He can’t be gone. He’s a good person. He can’t be gone.”

But, he is.

But, he can’t be.

But, he is.

He is.

I think about how you will rush to the hospital, or make your way to the funeral home. You will see the rest of your family and those closest to you, and you will sit in silence, confused, because this is all wrong. Then, something odd will happen or someone will say something funny and you smile or laugh, because this is all so unreal. And, you will think how can I possibly laugh right now. My husband is dead. Or, my dad is dead. Or, my brother is dead.

In the next moment, you will look around and wonder why you’re there, in that moment, in that situation. And you’ll remember that:

“He was killed.”

And you’ll think that it can’t be. He was a good person. This only happens to “other people.”

But, it happened. And, you’re really at the funeral home, making decisions about caskets and flowers.

I think about how your family in Blue will take your hand, squeeze your shoulder, bring you a plate of food that you don’t want to touch. They will glance in your direction, feeling helpless that they can’t do anything to ease your pain, except perhaps, get you to drink a cup of water and eat a bite of anything at all. You will feel ill. Your stomach will hurt. Your chest will feel so heavy. You will feel like you can’t breathe.

As you sit there, making decisions on music and viewings, you will think:

“How can a person bear this much pain.”

“How am I still breathing? How am I still walking?”

Some moments you will think: “I wish the world would just open up and take me away.”

I think about how you will go to sleep at night, exhausted, and when you wake up, for just a moment things will be ok, and then the knowledge of what has happened will wash over you and you will experience the deepest, darkest sadness you will ever know. And this will happen morning after morning, at least for a little while.

I’m no expert at grieving, but I’m a few months ahead of where you are. There is nothing that anyone will say or do that will feel right, because right now everything is just wrong. People will try to comfort you, tell you there is a reason for everything, tell you that an angel went home or that something good will come from all this.

Know that they mean well, but they can’t possibly understand what it means to have someone you love torn from you in the most violent way possible.

After Dave was killed I received a letter from a father, who lost his own son too soon. He wrote: “Time does not heal the pain.  The pain you feel at the loss will never diminish but every day you will get stronger in how you deal and cope with that pain.” This was the most helpful thing anyone has said to me.

These words will bring you little comfort in these horrible days ahead, but know that we are thinking of you. We understand. We’re here. You will, somehow, make it.

You have to make it, because your man in blue needs you too.

~ Meret H., sister of David S. Hofer, EOW 3/1/2016

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