I arrived home, car loaded down, to my aunt and uncle in town for my cousin's graduation from Montana State. Zack was the last of the three of us cousins, Blake, me and him, to attend MSU. Both Blake and Zack played football for dad; Blake as an All-American Tight End, and Zack as an outstanding center whose career was cut short by bizarre injuries and happenstances.
The Tuesday after graduation I interviewed for my First Professional Job. On Friday afternoon I took a phone call while at the temporary job at my mom's medical office, in which I was offered my current position. Elated, I hung up the phone, finished my shift, walked down and told my mom the happy news, and went to Target to buy myself a celebration gift. I remember being on the phone with a friend, standing in the card aisle, and listening to a downpour of a spring thunderstorm.
I couldn't get a hold of my dad all afternoon. My dad is not a phone guy, so I didn't really chalk it up to much. Target purchase in hand, I walked into the kitchen of my parent's home to find my dad leaning against the counter.
CK: "Have you talked to mom?"
Dad: "Yeah... (with a gentle resigned look on his face)"
CK: "I got that job with the City!"
Dad: "That's great kid; I just got fired."
And nothing has really been the same since. My mom came home, clutching the mail she'd picked up on the way in. A thick packet from their retirement investment advisor had arrived. Mom threw it on the table with a "well guess that's trash now."
My sister arrived home an hour behind my mom. In a fate which still makes my heart freeze up, she heard the news about dad being fired from a good friend of hers, whose dad had been MSU's basketball coach until he was fired the previous year.
"Oh Gretchen, I'm so sorry," said Mikeala.
"For what?" Gretchen asked.
(and this is where I get really, really angry that an institution to which my family gave so much couldn't have the dignity and grace to at least give my dad 24 hours to notify his family before offering a fucking press release just in time for the 5pm news. You stay classy MSU.)
I made margaritas. No one drank them.
We sat there and stared at each other. Shocked. Hurt. Angry. Upset. Livid.
And though I try, and it gets a bit easier every year, I still have a hard time moving past those emotions.
Especially knowing that four years later, on May 17, 2011, my parents are still pretty unsettled.
Knowing that this episode has taken years off of their lives. Added years to the length of time they'll work before being able to retire. Added lines and wrinkles and worry and stress and weight and hurt and scars on their hearts that will probably never really heal.
I'm proud, or maybe more astonished, that my family has made it through the past four years. It has not been easy; it won't be easy moving forward. But life can't be easy, and if I was to learn that lesson, better at 22 years old than later, right?
Personally, the last four years have been pretty darn amazing for me. Successful job, relationship, marriage, dog, health, career, etc. And I'm grateful to have found a guy willing to take all of that on. It's a lot of baggage; this bitterness towards my alma mater (which happens to be my husband's too). I'm working to let go of it, but damn this bitterness is tough to rinse from my mouth.
We are alive. We are resilient. We have bounced back.
And damn if I'm not already looking forward to October 29: the date Idaho State University plays in Bozeman against Montana State. I'm challenging ISU to throw for 500+ yards of passing.