Remembering Which Way is Up

When I was a kid we went to the beach every summer and, naturally, I spent a lot of time in the ocean. I’ve never technically been that good a swimmer, but I did over time get very good at messin’ around in the waves – dodging, jumping, going under, and otherwise having a blast at old Poseidon’s expense.

One day, probably after a storm, I was faced with what is still to this day the largest wave I’ve ever seen that didn’t involve George Clooney or mediocre sci-fi movies starring Matthew McConaughey. The thing was huge and I happened to be too far away to dive under it and too close to it to run away. I was, however, perfectly placed for the wave to break directly on top of me. I had just enough time to inhale and then I was tossed about, pounded in to the sand, thrown in the air, lather, rinse, repeat.

I think there were a few moments in there where I legitimately thought that I had met my end, that I wouldn’t be able to orient myself enough to find the surface. I didn’t know which way was up, so I did the only thing I could do.

I waited.

And, eventually, the waters calmed. Light from above reasserted itself. I remembered which way was up. I swam. I broke the surface. I opened my eyes and took a breath.

Which is, a little bit, how the last three years have felt.

I don’t mean that in a bad way, just that things are dramatically different from the last time I posted. Back then I was in a different job and was not a father. Now I’m in a new job and, well, let’s just say I know way more about Thomas the Tank Engine than I ever thought I would. Being a father (and being the husband to a mother) is one of the true joys of my life. I love it.

But… it’s also very hard. And sometimes exhausting. Ok, often exhausting. For the last two and a half years, I’ve had my head down – learning how to be a dad, re-learning how to be a partner, moving from one urgency to the next, making food, drying tears, always always doing that next thing that is need to move him out the door or get him ready for the day or ready for bed or… ¬†¬†Well, you get the idea. Somewhere in there (and I don’t mean this as dramatically as it will come out) I think I lost myself a little bit. Lost those intangibles that I need to make my soul put one foot in front of the other and move forward.

Writing is one of those things. This blog is one of those things.

But now, I think, I’m finally at a place where I can return some focus to the things I need for fulfillment. I’m not saying I have this whole “raising a kid” thing figured out, far from it. What I am saying is that it feels like the waters are calming. That I can finally see which way is up.

Ad it’s time to break the surface, open my eyes, and take a breath.


If you Google the words “Joanna Rae Plummer”, you’ll get nine hits.

The quotes are important, because that will force Google to look for all three of those words in exactly that order. Otherwise, you’ll get lots of unrelated fooferaw that isn’t germane to the here and now.

Anyway, nine hits.

Doesn’t seem like a lot for 32 years of life. Especially when you remember the spark, the joy, the aliveness that she carried around with her every day. Seems even less when you realize that of those nine, one or two are out of date phone book listings, a couple are obituaries of grandparents that mention her name, and the direct references are either her obituary or news articles about the trial.

So in today’s online, all-information-available-all-the-time world, you can’t really learn all that much about my cousin Jo, except for some details about how and when she died.

What am I thankful for this Thanksgiving? I’m thankful for the twenty five years I had with her, and for a lifetime of memories that I will carry with me. I’m grateful for her wits and her humor, for her skill at showing me worlds that I didn’t even know existed. For instilling, deep within me, a sense of wonder.

There are things in this world that can never be indexed, collated, related, or queried by the internet. They live within us.

Joanna Rae Plummer – Jo – was killed nine years ago tomorrow – November 24th, 2002, a victim of domestic violence.

I’d give anything in the world to have her back. But since that isn’t the way the universe works, I choose to be thankful for all the time we shared and all the memories she left me with. They are a gift of limitless value.

May we all live our lives in such a way that we might give a similar gift to those we love.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.