Wednesday, May 20, 2009

May 21st

Tomorrow, May 21st, is Jeff's birthday. He would have been 37. It also would have been our 15th wedding anniversary.

For Jeff's last birthday, his parents were in town visiting. Aubrey made him some of her famous oatmeal/chocolate chip cookies instead of a birthday cake (his special request), and we watched the American Idol finale. His main birthday gift was a basketball hoop that we installed next to the driveway a month or two before his actual birthday. I don't remember if we got him anything else. I don't remember celebrating our last anniversary at all.

Jeff was typically very good about anniversaries (especially when you consider that it eclipsed his birthday). For our 10th anniversary, Jeff surprised me with an anniversary ring with 10 diamonds and surprised me further by secretly bringing my mom, grandma, brother, sister (and her family) all to Milwaukee to visit. We went out to dinner at Mo's Steakhouse and had a once-in-a-lifetime feast and spared no expense. I like to think he would have done something equally fantastic for our 15th. I hope he would have taken me on a trip--just the two of us. I haven't had a "real" vacation since he died (unless you count the ill-fated trip to Nebraska that ended in a puking extravaganza), but I really can't afford to take any time off from work. So, instead I imagine he would have planned something very memorable and over-the-top. I always liked the idea of a big anniversary party--with my friends and his friends and our friends. With our families and kids. I wasn't patient enough to wait until our 20th anniversary and had secretly hoped to have such a party on our 15th. But, after Jeff got sick, I stopped thinking about the future, and I'm glad now that I'm out of that habit.

My parents were married for just over 12 years, and when Jeff and I passed that milestone in mid-2006, I felt a sense of relief and accomplishment. As we passed the 12-year mark, I joked with Jeff that I had never experienced an intact family past that point, so I would be on a new learning curve. It is the single hardest and saddest realization of my life, thus far, to know my children might now be able to say the same thing to their husbands and wives someday. Little did I know when I said it that Jeff and I would not make it much past that 12-year mark, and today--on what should have been our 15th anniversary--I would be back on familiar ground.

So, I don't know what tomorrow will bring. Today, I've been wistful and weepy. I dread tomorrow and, at the same time, I'm excited for it to come (I guess old habits die hard). Mostly, I worry that the hours will tick by without fanfare or acknowledgement. I know there will be no more cards or flowers, and even though I'm sad to miss the occasion, I can let go of my anniversary easy enough. It's worse to think that Jeff's birthday will disappear into the rear view mirror and that he will no longer be celebrated. I know that chief among Jeff's fears was that he would be forgotten. I now share that fear, too.

One of my high school friends, named Travis, died six years ago. Like Jeff, he was handsome and engaging and universally well-liked. A few of my other high school friends have been busy this week planning the annual golf tournament that is held in his honor--the proceeds of which go toward funding a scholarship in Travis' name. When I heard that so many people in my class were still dedicated to keeping Travis front-of-mind and who were still sacrificing time and money to honor him SIX YEARS after he died, I was . . .well, oddly, I was jealous.

Earlier this week I called Jeff's high school. I knew that shortly after Jeff died, a couple of his classmates had established a Jeff Dodd Memorial Scholarship, and because it is nearing the end of the school year, I was curious who won his scholarship and how much the school awarded in Jeff's name. The foundation office at his high school informed me that once the balance in his scholarship fund reaches $10,000 it will generate an annual scholarship of five percent ($500). Until it reaches that benchmark, it cannot fund a scholarship and no money will be awarded. I asked more questions and they were very kind and generous in giving me answers. But, to date, Jeff's scholarship only has $1,200 in it. I supplemented that with a donation in memory of Jeff's birthday and our anniversary, but we're still not even at the half-way mark.

So, I was disheartened to hear that without significant contributions, Jeff's scholarship may never even generate an award--and I'm afraid time and distance from Jeff's death will only make it less likely people will contribute. In other words, I think people were most likely to donate while both his life and his death and the stories of both were fresh in people's minds. Now, I worry that this attempt to memorialize him will die on the vine. So, I was jealous to hear that people were still turning out to give money for Travis (which even I, myself, have done in the past), and that Jeff's memorial is stalled.

So, my desire to memorialize him well has been reinvigorated and I hope that tomorrow, in particular, will bring clarity and that the best ways for me to honor him will begin to come into focus. I'll see how well I do at work tomorrow and how long I last. If it's too much, I'm sure I'll think of ways to comfort myself. I already have one fun distraction planned. I was lamenting to Liz that I don't have an anniversary this year and she reminded me that this month marks eight years that she and I have worked together. So, we are going out to lunch tomorrow for our own "anniversary." Liz, you better start planning the big party now for our 15th! Ha!

I'll report back soon to let you know how it goes. Until then, take care and thanks as always for checking in.



Monica said...

Hi Kelly,
I know tomorrow will be tough as you struggle thru the hours, but I have found something worth celebrating every May 21st... it's "national strawberries 'n cream day" :-) just know I will be thinking of you (and Jeff) tomorrow. take care, I really do plan on visiting some weekend this summer...

Mary H. Dodd said...

Dear Kelly,
I will never forget May 21st and the baby boy that changed my life. I was so lucky that my 2 sisters came to be with me while I was in labor. They were 16 and 11 at the time, but that didn't matter, I was glad they were with me. We had a picnic at the park in Beatrice. I remember walking the park to try and relieve the pain. When Jeffrey Neal Dodd was born that evening--8#9oz.he was perfect to me. Of course we didn't name him until we held him and figured out what fit him best. Little did I know that my life would never be the same. Nothing like a baby to bring you to your knees and think little of yourself. God had a plan for this new baby boy named Jeffrey Neal Dodd. I will try to love a little more because of all the love he brought into my life. Thank you for sharing on the blog--it means alot to us. Gary and Mary

Mary M Clay said...

Happy Anniversary, Kelly! Thank you for the blog! Bryan and I will definitely be thinking of and celebrating Jeff's 37th birthday today. Hope you have a wonderful anniversary lunch! :)

Jason Bryant said...


Jeff will never be forgotten! I specifically logged on to your blog today because I knew it was his birthday and your anniversary.

I had also checked on the balance of the scholarship fund and was disappointed. I am guessing that not enough people are aware of it. I think we need to just have an event... I was thinking a fun run at Pius (Since Jeff was in CC and Track) and raise some money for the scholarship. I am sure we can get it to the needed $10,000 in the next few years!

Thanks for keeping the blog up!

Take care,


Laura Gilbert said...

Kelly, I'm celebrating Jeff today, and I hope that you find comfort somewhere instead of pain today. I believe that what you two couldn't give your children in quantity of years together, you made up for in quality love, partnership and joy. We won't forget him, OK? Promise, promise. Laura

SandyS said...

A few years ago I was visiting our Grandma Orr, and it was Monica's birthday and the day that Grandma & Grandpa had gotten married, when Grandma Said" Today is my 79th anniversary" or whatever it was I don't remember, then I said" but Grandma Grandpa's been dead for quite awhile now." And she told me " He might be dead, but I'm not and it's still MY anniversary, and I'm going to celebrate it" So from Grandma's mouth, to my ears, to your eyes: It's STILL your anniversary celebrate it. ( I went and bought her flowers, if she wanted to celebrate I was going to too) let everyone know you are still going to celebrate yours and that you want cards etc, and like grandma you can still celebrate it.