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forrest and jenny

April 4th.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a month already since Joey left this world and made her journey to the next. In some ways, it feels like only yesterday, and in others... it feels like forever.

Little Indiana is adjusting to being back home. Spring is here and with it the chance for Indy and me to spend lots of time outside in the grass and on the little wooden swing I hung from a tree for her. Like her mama, she likes being outside. She loves pointing out the horses to me or making sounds like she’s telling me all about the flowers or the windmill that turns up on the hill. She’s glad to see Ranger again and has learned to drop some of her food on the floor from her high chair so her puppy can come be next to her.

She’s also loving her new school more every day. She started therapy sessions there at High Hopes which she goes to a few times a week... learning to talk and even more so, learning how to use her legs. She has never liked using her legs (she pretty much pretends that she doesn’t have legs at all), but that’s pretty normal for kids with down syndrome. Their low muscle tone causes them to not want to use certain muscles and a lot of times that turns into delays in crawling and walking and other things.

When I dropped Indy off at school on Thursday last week, I stayed and watched her for a little while in her classroom as she did some fun ‘playtime with foam’ at the little table and then I went with her to her physical therapy session. Indy liked some of the exercises Miss. Kristen had her do, but some of them she wasn’t so thrilled about. I had my iPhone with me and captured a few moments to remember this time. My favorite part is near the end when Indy gets frustrated in the little walker... and signs “papa” for me to come and get her!

A lot of people ask me how I’m doing. I usually try to smile and say, “I’m doing okay.” And I am... okay.

I feel so many emotions all at the same time. Blessed. Lost. Proud. Scared. Encouraged. Tired. Thankful. I have a lot of good people around me and they pour love all over Indy and me. It’s hard to be in this old house without Joey, but I know she wants us here. And I know it’s where we need to be. I moved our bed to a different part of the room, against a different wall... because I needed it to be different. I sleep on her side of the bed now. I can’t sleep on mine. And when people come to dinner and they sit in Joey’s chair, I want to tell them not to sit there, but I don’t. But I want to.

I miss my wife... I miss my best friend. I miss her voice and her laugh and her eyes and her smile. It’s still hard for me to imagine that she’s not here, and she’s not ever coming back. But I know that time will make it easier. Because that’s what time does. It heals what is broken. There will still be scars, but I know there will come a day when I won’t miss her this much, when I won’t wonder where she is... and what she is doing right now in heaven.

I make the walk out to the cemetery behind the house every day and stand over the loose dirt and I talk to her. Like Forrest Gump talked to Jenny under the big tree that they played in as children.

Forrest loved Jenny like I love Joey. Simply. Deeply.

I am a big fan of the movie Forrest Gump. Everyone who knows me knows that. People laugh when I say that Forrest is one of my biggest influences. But honestly, he is. Joey knew it too. For our wedding, we had “Forrest & Jenny” printed on the back of our napkins at the reception.

And when we drove away from the church in my old 1956 Chevy, we had fifteen Dr. Pepper cans tied to the back of the bumper, because Forrest drank “fifteen Dr. Peppers” in one scene of the movie.

I don’t know if Joey loved that movie like I did. She never said. But she knew I loved it, and she proudly let me call her ‘my Jenny’ and quote lines from the film to her endlessly over the last 14 years. She thought it was sweet. And it was I guess. But the truth is, it was more than that for me. We all need people to look up to... people who can inspire us to be better people. And since I didn’t have a grandfather or father or anyone else to watch and listen to for some of those things... Forrest taught me. Yes, I know he’s not real, but in another way, he is as real as anyone I’ve ever known. When you watch a movie and you leave the theater, all you take with you is the memory of what you saw and what you heard. And in life, when someone special impacts you... all you are really left with is the memory of what you saw them do and what you heard them say. So for me, Forrest showed me how to keep a sense of innocence and light in a world that just grows darker and more cynical every day. And he seemed to only see the good in people... especially in Jenny. Though I saw Forrest Gump in a movie theater in Texas eight years before I ever met Joey... I wanted to love someone like that.

And so God sent me my own Jenny. And we got married and it was beautiful, just like the movie.

But then Jenny got sick.

And Forrest didn’t understand why.

And Jenny helped him through it as he stayed by her bedside.

And then Jenny left him little Forrest so he wouldn’t have to be alone.

And he stood alone beside a stone beneath a tree and he talked to Jenny.

And he told her all about little Forrest and his school and how smart he is and how she would be so proud of him.

And then the movie ended so I don’t know what happened after that. But I believe that Forrest was okay. And though his love for Jenny never faded, the pain of losing her lessened.

In Time. All in God’s time.

...I miss you Joey. You would be so proud of our little Indiana.


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