Well, here we are. We have almost made it full circle. Today is Schuyler's birthday. He would've been 26 today.
For a while, I kinda struggled with how to refer to this day. Should I say "today would've been Schuyler's birthday" or "today is Schuyler's birthday". I went with the latter, because even though he is gone from this Earth, today is still his birthday. He would have been 26, but today is, and always will be, his birthday.
Right now I feel OK. I don't feel great, but I also don't feel horrible. I do realize something, though. My 2 oldest brothers and my Dad are together in California. Amber, John, and Amy are together in Kewanee. That's why I wanted to go up...I'm the only one alone today. Yes, I have my wonderful husband and my amazing kids, but they are a branch off of the original family tree. I don't have my base family here, and that, in all honesty, kinda sucks.
But, right now, I really do feel OK. Amber, John, and Amy met at the cemetery this morning. They wanted to give Schuyler a shot (or two) of Jack Daniels, and then they would also throw one down in celebration of his day. Amber called me and put me on speakerphone so that I could take my shot with the 3 of them. Now I don't feel so disconnected from it all. I was kinda sorta there for that, and they were there with me.
I could hear the pain and grief in John's voice. That is so hard to hear, but I fell some relief that he is feeling it, and not pushing it into the depths of his mind and body. That would be so incredibly awful, so as bad as it is to feel it, I'm glad he feels it and lets it out. They were best friends, my brother and his son. They fished, hunted, worked, and played together. Like all friends they had great times and like all fathers and sons, had big conflicts. But in the end, they always worked it out. They were best friends.
I can't imagine losing that, out of order, as it were. See, we expect the child to bury the parent. It's not in our nature for the parent to bury the child. My Mom and I were best friends, much in the same way John and Schuyler were. But, we lost each other "in order". The parent lived her long and fulfilling life, and then left the child, me, to figure out how to navigate through the days without her.
So, today, as all days but maybe even more-so today, I will think of Schuyler often. I remember him as a tiny baby, as an adorable toddler, a mischievous teen, and finally as a grown man choosing to defend our freedoms. There are several defining qualities of Schuyler that those who didn't know him missed out on.
First of all, Sky was a charmer. He could have probably charmed the robe off the Pope. He had this smile...an incredibly illuminating smile. When he smiled at you, how could you even think to say NO? Normally his smile was followed by his laugh...oh, that laugh! That laugh wasn't just a chuckle...it spoke volumes. Most of all, that laugh said "Come on and give in....you know you can't resist THIS smile...you know I'm gonna get what I want"!!!
And he usually did!
His hug. Hug really is an inadequate term for what he did when he threw his arms around you. Embrace is probably closer, but still not quite on the mark. Schuyler could squeeze the life out of you with just his normal, "hey, great to see you again" hug. He never, that I can remember, gave you a quick squeeze. It was ALWAYS that humongous bear hug that made you realize the kid truly, honestly, and completely loved his recipient.
He loved, he really did. And, most of all, I know he fiercely loved his family. We all loved him...who could help but love that kid? But looking back on the letters, photos, and notes that he sent home it's absolutely clear...he loved his family. He enlisted and volunteered for 2 deployments so that he could protect us. He also volunteered so that those guys with kids and a wife at home maybe could stay at home just a little longer...he told me that directly on more than one occasion.
Schuyler could be a total goof-off. He could be so immature. But I firmly believe that when he put that uniform on, he was someone different. He was an American Soldier....he was a GREAT American Soldier. He took that job very seriously, and more than one of his brothers-in-arms told me that if they had to choose someone to have their back, he would always have been on the top of the list.
Simply, he was a good boy, who was turning into a great man. He died that day with 3 other great men who were defending the freedoms that we so easily take for granted. He left behind no children to carry on his amazing characteristics, but he left behind a family that loved him and continue to love him so incredibly much.
Happy Birthday Schuyler....this Jack's for you.