Family, Failure, and Pride

To say the past few days has been a whirlwind of emotions would be quite the understatement. My emotions have been like freshly scattered earth during the Dust Bowl; my current state won’t remain for long, and where I end up is anyone’s guess.

Early this week I received the first of five final grades for this semester. It wasn’t good. I wasn’t expecting it to be great or anything, but I audibly gasped when I saw it. I went through the entire cycle of grief over something as insignificant as a grade, a number on a piece of paper. I cried in front of my girlfriend about how detrimental it would be to my future and how should’ve done better and so many other things.

That single bad grade and how bad I felt about it only exaggerated the fact that I don’t have a clerkship this summer while many of my classmates do. And my below average grades. And the future.

Thoughts creep into my mind: Am I really cut out for law school? Should I be doing something else? Am I not good enough? In my mind, the answers are “No, yes, no,” but I can’t bring myself to accept any of those pontifications. I’m not sure if that makes them wrong or just make me hardheaded.

That whole inner-dialogue, stemming from a single number, affected my entire mentality and thought process for a solid two days. I was aimless in my thoughts and actions, felt inadequate, and constantly justified and reassured those thoughts by going through the same thoughts over and over again.

Then my girlfriend, Aubrie, took her last final of her third year of medical school.

I didn’t do much more than entertain the cats to keep them from distracting her by headbutting her door and meowing outside it, but I was present. She walked out with a sense of relief and defeat, but the fact that she finished rejuvenated me. I was so incredibly proud of her. Three years of medical school finished. Not a small feat in any sense of the word.

I rained praise on her like she was a wilted flower that needed reviving.

“You are so intelligent and so beautiful and I am so proud of all that you have accomplished and all that you will accomplish,” I told her.

“I haven’t done anything!” she said, but I was quick to reassure.

We go back and forth a lot as a couple, a lot of times as jokes, but sometimes in debate. We’re two hard-headed individuals, should we have expected different? It leads to meaningful conversation and a stronger sense of understanding and connection between the two of us.

The very next morning, after my own jubilation of Aubrie finishing 75% of medical school, I got a call from my mom.

“Pop is in the hospital with congestive heart failure and his kidneys aren’t functioning.”

I cried. I didn’t know what to think or do. He’s had scares in the past: Pop had survived open heart surgery, broken ribs, a heart attack, getting shot in war, and so many other things. It was unfathomable to me that he could just…die? Heart failure as his cause of death? Not an accident using a pole saw with his walker or trying to do an organized burn on his property when he can’t walk or even stand like he used to. Not even a shop accident. Heart failure.

I suppose it’s a sign of long life that your heart just gives out, but it seems like an anticlimactic ending to one of the most interesting lives I’ve ever heard about. Maybe that’s looking too much into the cause of death and not into the life lived, but it just feels like knowing him, he deserved a fantastic finish to go along with his fantastic life.

In the end it’s probably irrelevant, but what tears me up is that I know he would care. He wouldn’t want to go in a hospital bed. But I don’t want to write this as a death sentence, either. He’s still very much alive, just with a slim chance of living much longer.

At the end of the day, all of these events, as different as they are, invoked such different emotions in me. There’s a reason for that, and while I’m not 100% for certain what that reason is, I have a feeling it’s to tell me that something as insignificant as a grade doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. The joy of the success of my loved ones, the health of my loved ones, can be taken at any minute. Cherish it all, even the bad, disappointing moments. Why? Because they make you feel something, and at the end of the day feeling something is far greater than feeling nothing.

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