While Derek was in Korea, it was often running I turned to when I felt lonely or sad or just existentially funky. When Derek left, aside from leaving a giant chasm in my heart (kidding, kind of) he also left his big clunky Garmin watch that he bought for runs with his team when he was in college.
The Garmin was on the counter right where he’d left it and it kept catching my eye. One day I decided to put it on. The watch was far too big for me and wobbled around on my wrist no matter how tight I strapped it, and sometimes held charge poorly. Nevertheless, I took it out for a test run.
I gained a strange sense of comfort running with his Garmin watch. It felt good to know that the watch sliding around on my skinny wrist had once sat securely on his, accompanying him and his track teammates or just him alone on many a run through the suburbs of Chicago. It made me feel connected to him, doing something he loved with the watch that had so faithfully kept track of his runs for so long.
The longer he was gone I started to find myself wearing the Garmin even when I wasn’t running, a tangible symbol of connection and closeness when he was so far away. And in a weird way it really helped. If I couldn’t be with Derek or talk to him very much, at least I could be doing something that he loved and holding something of his with me. I’d find myself subconsciously touching it, wiggling it around and thinking of him.
Military life brings with it many difficulties, including extended times separation and minimal communication. At times it is just plain hard, and I don’t want to paint the picture that just playing with Derek’s watch made it all hunky dory. But it did remind me of some truths I could hold onto when the hard stuff felt really hard.
So, dear Garmin watch, this one’s for you. Thank you for reminding me that Derek and I can be connected even when we are apart. During this absence a dear friend of mine encouraged me that God can still grow people together in marriage even when physical distance separates them. In its own strange little way, the Garmin reminded me of that. But now for now, he is home, and to quote an oft quoted Derek-ism, “all is well with the world”. I am so thankful.
Because we live in a Buzzfeed world, and as a Type A firstborn I find list making gratifying beyond belief, I thought I would do a two part series of things we miss and love about our little Alaskan life. This is Part 1, things we miss. I am someone who always picks bad news before good news when proffered the choice, so let’s start with what we miss. Disclaimer: these are minor annoyances. I do not want to take a tone of complaining or sounding ungrateful, because I don’t think that’s healthy and it is really not an attitude I want to cultivate. Any complaints are meant to be humorous in nature and really are not that bad.
Target. This would be more me than Derek. (Duh). I had no idea I could miss that big, beautiful, Eden of relatively inexpensive home decor and clothing and everything else I need in life so badly. On the plus side, our budget has been thankful for this development. Now I am not walking out of Target with 3 candles and a banner from the dollar aisle that reads “blessed” that I just had to have. You know. One time I even found myself missing the smell. I am like a clingy ex-girlfriend who just cannot let go. Oh Target, shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Chili’s. I know, I know. The mediocre chain restaurant where Michael Scott once held the Dundies. I’m just as surprised as you are. This one is more Derek than me. I cannot even count how many times he has said, “I just wish we had Chili’s…” and gotten a mournful look on his face as he gazes into the distance, kind of like the face you make when you have eaten the last Girl Scout cookie or finish a series on Netflix. There is something to be said for a reliable, mediocre, somewhat delicious chain restaurant. (In one low moment he told me he’d even settle for Applebee’s. We won’t discuss that lapse of judgment here).
Amazon Prime actually taking 2 days. Moment of silence. Sometimes Amazon Prime shipping takes two weeks or more. (I kind of feel like a privileged brat saying this, but it was an expectation adjustment). One good thing was, I realized that it actually didn’t matter whether or not I got my cast iron skillet in a week or 10 days. I couldn’t control it, and it eventually got to me. These are lessons in patience, and also being grateful to even be able to buy things online. Some people don’t have that luxury, and it is a luxury.
Chick-Fil-A. I don’t even know what else to say. The lemonade. The perfectly fried
chicken. The waffle fries. It is the food of the gods. I’m pretty sure I could make a top 10 list (or 100? too much?) of things I miss exclusively about Chick-Fil-A. #mypleasure
The city of Chicago. Granted, I totally did NOT take advantage of having one of the world’s greatest cities at my fingertips and now regret that choice. (Sry Chicago). There was always the option of “going downtown” when all else failed. I cannot tell you how much I regret not going to Cubs games or concerts downtown in the name of “staying home”. Laaaame. Especially in winter in Fairbanks it can be challenging not having a vast array of urban activities at one’s fingertips.
Short winters, and spring/fall. Lol. It is currently April 14 as I write this and brown crusty snow still stubbornly remains on the ground. Buh bye.
Friends and family. Our parents could book a trip to Paris from Chicago and get there 1) more cheaply and 2) more quickly than they could get to us in Alaska. This is really hard. It’s hard missing out on life events of siblings, friend’s weddings, and the simple things like grilling out together and going to church. It is also hard watching your friends back home hang out and not being able to be part of that.
Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza.
Like Chick-Fil-A, this is deserving of its own list. Where to start? The perfect buttery crust? The perfect marriage of cheese and tomato sauce? There were countless nights in Wheaton when we were stumped about what to do for dinner and would look at each other, share knowing glances, and jump in the car and drive 20 minutes to Naperville where there was a Lou Malnati’s restaurant. Lou Malnati’s was served at our rehearsal dinner. We love Lou’s so much we even refer to Lou as if he is our friend, by his first name. Lou 4 ever.
All in all, like I stated above, these are minor things. We have what is important to us, which is each other, a church family, community, and a cozy little home. We both have completely fallen in love with Alaska and are so grateful for our life here. And like Walt Whitman once said, (since I can’t seem to write a post without quoting poetry, sorry), “we were together. I forget the rest.”