Today, a friend and her daughter came over and we hung out and worked on some organizing around the house. I decided to tackle the trash bags sitting in the computer room that had been brought from AFD– John’s personal things from his locker. I haven’t had the strength to look at them. They’ve been here for well over a month. Today, with my friend here, I decided to open them up.
John’s life at the firehouse was separate from our life together. I’m not a firefighter. I don’t know much about firefighting. John’s told me a lot and I’m eager to learn, but like the horses are my thing- firefighting was his thing. He could tell you the names and breeds of the horses and knew that Tiny and Amber were decedents of the great Doc Bar. But he didn’t know the intricacies of riding or horsemanship. Same with me and firefighting, although honestly, I probably had more interest in firefighting than John had in my “lazy assed horses.”
But he respected my passion and my love for horses, just like I did his love and passion for firefighting. Both are hobbies/careers that take up a lot of time and can cause rifts in relationships. That is one of the many things that I’ll always love about him.
Going through his stuff there were some things I knew I wouldn’t find. I knew I wouldn’t find a photo of me in his stuff. No wedding photo. No photo of the two of us. No photo that he liked of me. I’m sure some people would think that was odd and maybe it is. But, that’s the way John was. If you asked him, he probably would have had a reply like- why do I need a photo of Mary, I see her all of the time. I often missed him when he was gone, he rarely missed me. I think a lot of that is that he just saw it as part of the job- John was a professional through and through. Maybe he even took our relationship for granted to an extent- like it would always be around- always be there. We had a great relationship and we loved each other very much. Maybe he figured we were adults and adults don’t miss somebody when they don’t see them for 24 hrs. John really wasn’t a very emotional person. Sometimes I think that comes with the job- firefighters and police officers see a lot of things that normal people don’t. Things that normal people don’t want to see- death, dying, blood, body parts, fires, sickness, etc. What they experience can also be confidential information in some cases. John also had experienced a lot of loss- he lost his father in 1994 and his mother in 2004. That can change a person.
Having Nathaniel changed that for him… he smiled more than he ever had and you could just see the love for his son… it shines through in all of the photos of the two of them. I know he missed his boy when he was at work. He’d come home and just hug Nathaniel and tell him how much he missed him.
Being diagnosed with stage IV made John more emotional, too. Not to say we had gushy emotional in depth conversations about feelings, but he shared more than he had before and he started telling me “I love you,” more than he ever had. He used to rarely say it. He knew it bugged me. He would reply that it was trite and overused and that I should know that he loved me. It just felt nice to hear it… to know that he meant it.
I had gotten John some photo magnets of Nathaniel for Christmas or for his birthday or both. They were in there. Along with our Christmas card from last year. He loved his son more than some fathers will love their children in a lifetime. John was the best father.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that he had actually taken the little fan that I had gotten for him to work. Often times things that I got for him were just put aside. Now, who knows if he actually used the fan or not, but at least it made it to work.
There was one thing that I didn’t know he had, but I sort of knew why he had it- a stuffed flying flingshot frog It is reminiscent of the “No Balls” frog. John also had “No balls” listed on his FB page as his quote. “Young buck. Old School,” used to be his quote on the firefighting forum, The Watch Desk. “Young buck. Old School,” made sense to me. “No balls,” I just didn’t get it. Once I asked him about it.
His explanation was showing me “Frog in a Blender” on Joe Cartoon.
I understand the “Frog in a Blender.” I found it funny, but not hilarious. I also missed the point of why he would use it as an avatar and quote on his pages. So… if anybody wants to explain the significance… I’d appreciate it…
Of course… you can’t always be a serious all business sort of guy. He did love watching “The Simpsons“, “Family Guy“, and “American Dad.”
There were a few DVDs. Typical firefighter ones like: “The Complete First Season of Rescue Me” & “Ladder 49.” I loved “Ladder 49,” but hated the ending… isn’t everything supposed to have a happy ending… sigh… Of course in my “movie”, my firefighter dies of cancer… so no happy ending here either. There was “Saving Private Ryan.” John love Mel Brooks. I being deficient in movie watching have seen very little Mel Brooks. Geez… every since John and I were dating he mentioned how I needed to watch Mel Brooks movies… in particular “History of the World Part I.” That was in his locker. Along with “Spaceballs,” “Young Frankenstein,” and “Blazing Saddles.” Sadly, I don’t think I’ve seen any of them– I can say I’ve watched “The Producers” and thoroughly enjoyed it. Maybe I’ll just have to watch some DVDs… There were 2 vidoes from a comic I’d never heard of, Bob Nelson. Probably everybody but me has heard of him, but me. I’m not a whiz when it comes to pop culture.
There was a baseball glove with some balls. The firefighters used to play at work. I remember when John bought the glove and some balls. I believe he got a great deal on a large quantity of balls and sold the ones he didn’t need on E-bay. He commented that the Navy didn’t like it that much when their balls when over the fence. I know he looked forward to playing when they had the chance. One of John’s comments when he was stage IV is that he wanted somebody to teach Nathaniel to play catch. With my ball handling abilities… that’s not me… volunteers gladly appreciated.
There were some tools that I don’t know what they are and locks without combination. At least the locks are open. I don’t know if there is symbolism or irony there or just two locks. I’d love to ask John to explain what the tools are are or how to use them, but I can’t. I saw something that was blue nylon. I wondered if that was his rigging for lifting people (sorry, I don’t know the technical terminology). John was an expert at knots and doing different rigging. He was part of a Cecil County rope rescue team. Once he wanted to practice, so we went over to the firehouse and I ended up hoisted quite high in the air…. lol… a lot of fun, but the harness was NOT comfortable… lol… Part of me wanted to investigate. Part of me knew, I’d crumple if that’s what it was.
There was a computer cable, a jump drive, and some CDs. John was a computer whiz. It’s not surprising that he had some type of computer stuff at work.
A comb, his razor, lotion, a LiveStrong band, a mosquito repellent bracelet, boot polish, and leather cleaner (actually my leather cleaner for my tack– no problem, I’m sure he got more use out of it) were also included. I brush Nathaniel’s hair with one of John’s combs. I’ve thought, what will I do when it breaks? Now, I have a backup.
There was an envelope of some paperwork. It looks like some reports and classes that John had written up. He’d been the instructor for a lot of them. John LOVED teaching. He was so excited about AFD having their own academy. He was going to be an instructor. His eyes lit up when he talked about it. Sadly, he got sick and was barely able to teach at all. His helmet with the instructor shield was in the box. It even still smelled smoky- who knows when he last used the helmet- he was pulled out of work immediately upon his stage IV diagnosis in February. It’s hard to believe that after all of that time it still smelled smoky. I love that smell. I still do, even knowing that his firefighting may very well have contributed to his death. Bottom line- firefighters have a higher rate of melanoma than the general population.
He had a lot of clothes and his bed linens. They’ll be nice to keep for Nathaniel and if I ever loose a lot of weight, I know I’d love to wear his t-shirts.
There was a Thank You note from an elementary class that Menassa, Joe, & John had visited to teach fire safety. I wondered if Joe & Menassa had gotten Thank You’s also or if they’d put it in there for my benefit. Whatever the case…. I appreciated it. John participated in a lot of fire safety events at schools and he did a spectacular presentation for becoming a firefighter that he presented at our local (I think) middle school (may have been HS).
John was passionate about firefighting. He loved being a firefighter. If only all of us could share that same passion and love… we’d all be happier and the world would probably be a better place.
I think about my desk at work. If anything happened to me… what contents would get boxed up and returned to Nathaniel. Most of my things would be discarded- confidential company info. Then, there are some printed and cut out photos that I used to display (of the horses, cats, John, and Nathaniel) that are now in desk drawers. There are the trinkets that people bring back for the team when they go on vacation and an American flag that the company gave us several years ago. There are a few commendations from when they used to give commendations.
Right now my desk is pretty bare. I have a laminated funeral card and my calendar from Shutterfly that I made with Nathaniel (and Nathaniel & John) photos. For the past several years, I’ve delighted in making calendars and photo books. I think I’m done for a while– too emotional– back to generic.
It was hard going through John’s things and hard writing about it. It’s getting to the point- what is left? I know as I eventually get the house cleaned and if I ever get the basement cleaned, I’ll run across more things of John’s that I didn’t know about. But I feel like his work chapter is closing. I don’t want it to close, but sadly, I feel that it is.