My Aunt Ruth passed away last week. She was 74.
Jill and I got on a plane the next day. Every step of the way getting here seemed to be pitted against us, but we made it.
With the funeral, I had a few minutes to become reacquainted with people I haven't really seen or talked to in ten, fifteen, or twenty five years. Sure, Facebook and other online mediums give us the ability to reconnect, but do we really? Is there really a replacement for shaking a hand, touching a shoulder, or hugging someone you haven't seen in over two decades or less?
And then there is New York itself. I was born and partially raised in New York. My home may be in Utah, my "back home" may be in North Carolina, but my roots come from the Empire State. I haven't been here in nine years. Nine years to the month. Nine years since my Uncle Eddie died. Edward Palmatier. Ed. The very husband of my Aunt Ruth.
I have to admit, there hasn't been an October since 2003 that I haven't thought about Uncle Eddie. Having no living grandparents since I was around four or five years old, I only had aunts and uncles to look to for the love of a grandparent. Uncle Eddie was always the most accessible uncle, and he filled the role of grandfather for me. Interestingly, he held many fatherly roles in his life, from my own father to cousins and one-time strangers, yet never had a child himself.
Since then, I've lost an aunt and an uncle on my mother's side as well. I wasn't close to that uncle, as he often chose a life beyond family ties. I once lived next door to the aunt, who was known to pull ears as punishment when I was a child. As an adult, I found a new respect for her, and discovered that love always resided in her heart, despite what I thought as a kid.
And now I've lost the wife of my Uncle Eddie. My roots have been pulled. I didn't want to lose Aunt Ruth, in part because I felt like she still had time with us, and also in part because I knew what that would do to me and other family. It reminds me of my own mortality, and with much difficulty, that of the immediate family around me.
But being in New York, carrying my aunt's casket to it's space next to my uncle, I've felt like I'm not only saying goodbye to Aunt Ruth, or seeing the nine years since Uncle Eddie's passing for the extended farewell it really was, I feel like I'm also saying goodbye to my childhood. I'm saying goodbye to New York. And it hurts. It all hurts so much. I can come here a hundred times between this trip and my own death, and it will never be the same. There are people missing from my life, and one of them is a part of myself.
I revisited my aunt and uncle's grave today. The dirt's been replaced. The flowers that were left behind cover the dirt, a bandage on a wound that cannot truly heal. Tire treads appear at the foot of the area where she was buried, where I know the crane lowered her body next to her husband's. The headstone hasn't been altered yet to include the date of her death.
A mere fifteen feet away sits the headstone of my grandparents, as well as my father's own uncle and grandfather - my great-grandfather. When you stand within 25 feet of three generations before you, knowing there are other distant Palmatiers in graves throughout the cemetery, and throughout the countryside of the state of New York, you tend to put things into perspective. The billions of piece of the universe that converged from everything around us to become us quickly returns to the same universe. It happens to each and every one of us. Some day it will happen to my parents. Someday, it will happen to me. And it will happen to my own offspring.
I haven't said this on my blog yet, but my wife and I are expecting, soon to know if we have a son or daughter to bring into this world. My eldest daughter just turned thirteen. My son turns eight next month. What will I leave for them when I am gone? Will someone else know me the way I knew Uncle Eddie? Will someone know my wife as they knew Aunt Ruth? Will I leave more mark than an etching in stone when I pass away? Will my great grandson stand over my grave many years from now and wonder what kind of man I was?
The tears I shed for Aunt Ruth are for so much more. They include the final realization that my time here is more limited than I realize. One day, sooner that I'd like, I will return to the universe that we all emerge from.
The question I now face is simple. Will I be a mere headstone in a cemetery? Or will I be Eric Palmatier? Husband, father, grandfather, uncle, friend, coworker, and author. Can I provide more than a patch of grass to walk over to find yet someone else who had passed on?
It's time I decide.
I recently moved on from my old blog. I blogged quite a bit from 2005 on, with the culmination being 2008 when I blogged every day for a year (some days, admittedly, not my best). Following my year of blogging, I practically stopped entirely.
Part of the change was a then up-and-coming wedding. I also had a promotion at work that year. It was busy, and after blogging daily for a year (a leap year!), I needed the time that I had set aside for blogging each night for other things.
But there was something else to it. I've known it for some time, and I've mentioned it in the old blog. I needed to move on, and so I did.
I love blogging, and still do. Blogging served a purpose. When I was leaving the LDS church (or as I like to call it, returning to my normal life), I needed an outlet for my creativity as well as my frustrations. At a time, I was running two blogs, one about my exodus from the LDS church, and the other was just fun and silly personal stuff.
In time, I didn't need the exmormon blog, and moved on to the personal one. Around the same time, my first marriage fell apart and I needed to take hold of my life, which was when I started the previous iteration of a new eric.
This morning, I was looking at my blog stats and where visitors come from. I noticed a hit came from a blog titled "Post Mormon." Following it, I found a new eric listed among many post-mormon blogs. While not surprised by this, I decided to look through the list. Many of the blogs are owned by people I know through my exmormon experience. But looking through the blogs, most of them seem to have gone quiet. It seems that I am not the only one who moved on.
From late 2006 through 2008, I went through another phase - namely, the metamorphosis from a shell of a man left over from the rubble of his first marriage into the new living creature that emerged with the marriage to a wonderful and amazing woman. It's no coincidence that my blogging seemed to halt right as I married her. It was the end of a phase in my life, and the beginning of another, just like it's been before, and just like it's been for others
After starting anew, I didn't need the blog as much. I posted here and there, but nothing more than a couple dozen posts a year.
Lately, I've seen the beginning of another new phase. Following the injury of my Achilles tendon in 2010, and the eight months I spent at home healing (thankfully, with disability insurance from work), I struggled to regain a normal paycheck at work. On top of that, my wife has been dealing with her own injury. These past few months, I've seen a change in my life. I have more stress than ever, it feels life, but I'm much happier than ever. Things are well at work. I've been writing a book in my spare time. I love my wife more than I thought I could love another person, even when I was married the first time. Sure, there are tons of challenges, but I can see a better life now.
And that was why I needed to renew this blog.
I don't know how much I'll be participating. I can't guarantee anything (as I said, life is busy). But for me, this is something new. It's not the same old blog, though it can still be viewed. This is a new eric, anew.
I moved on from the old blog. Again.
I had no expectations of starting out this new iteration of my blog with a political post, but here we are.
I won't be voting for Romney this year. It's not because I have never voted Republican. It's not because I could vote for Kermit the Frog and it would make no difference in the State of Utah. It's not even because I voted for Obama last time around (gasp, a shocker). It's because I don't believe that it's feasible for a "Mormon" to separate his or herself from the edicts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
I know that saying this will likely cause some backlash from friends and family both in Utah and back east. Romney might well be a great person. I could point out inconsistencies between someone who wants to save American jobs who once ran a business that eliminated them. I could easily point out that I don't agree with many of the current Republican party's talking points and beliefs (though I have in the past, and not that I always agree with the Democratic party's hot topics, either). No, the thing that worries me most is when the LDS church needs someone in public office to get in line, the have a good chance of getting their way.
I've seen cases where it didn't. For instance, the LDS c has supported local state issues, only to have the state legislature disagree and go in another direction. One such instance was with Utah's imigration law which mimiced much of Arizona's much-debated imigration law. The LDS church took the side of the teachings of Jesus Christ, namely the rabble about loving on another and whatnot, rather then the side of Glenn Beck and others. The state legislature, however, pandered to Tea Party ideals.
But time after time, LDS politicians - especially conservative Republican ones - have a tendency to follow the LDS standard. I only need to dive into the state's recent history with alcohol control to see the problem. But a different kind of incident has me more worried than the crusty old politicians in the state or US capitols. It's a small story that is hard to find in the Deseret News and KSL news websites - LDS owned outlets, might I add. I actually came across this from The Daily Herald, which was once about as Mormon as it could get without being church-owned. I've also had to find it on rival TV stations and newspapers, such as the Salt Lake Tribune.
Here's the gist of it: the LDS church, which operates a huge training facility for outgoing LDS missionaries before they leave to prostelitize for the church, wants to build a nine-story building on the property. There are two big issues here. First, the LDS church, when it built the Missionary Training Center in a residential area some years ago, promised the residents who have to live near it that they'd keep the height low of five or fewer stories. The second issue is that a nine-story building equates to a high-rise building in the minitropolis of Provo, and this one wouldn't even be next to the other tall buildings in downtown, rather it would be amongst residential buildings that commonly max out at two or three stories.
A group of people from the neighborhood banded together to oppose the new nine-story building. After weeks of resistance, the LDS church decided to simply call the Mormon neighbors faith card and take care of the problem. Instead of working with the neighborhood on a compromise, they "invited" residents to sistain their church leaders' decision to erect the building, and most of the opposition suddenly pulled out and approved the new building. In other words, the church's leadershup decided for them, so they better get on board with it. You don't question your LDS leaders. Period.
This should be disconcerting to many people. If the church can get a group of residents to change their minds on a secular and political issue, how much power does that church weild when it comes to a potential Presidential candidate? The LDS church has made it's opinion known on many issues, including gay marriage. A President has every right to act and exercise the power of their office as they see fit, even through their religious beliefs. But what if a church could circumvent the whole "eclesiastical advice" route and cash in on their own Manchurian candidate? Should a President, or any politician for that matter, be in the bnck pocket of a religious institution? Most of us recognize that far too many politicians are swayed by monetary needs, but what about religious direction? In my opinion, we should all be worried.
Romney hasn't given any indication that he'd bow to his religious leaders' decisions. But given that so many Mormon politicians, especially conservative ones, bend to the will of the church on a regular basis, what guarantee do we have that the LDS church would have NO means to effecting government policy?
None. We have none.
And for that reason alone, I will not endorse an LDS politician. They believe that most people whould live an LDS lifestyle. I believe they should represent all of the people in their jurisdiction, not just one portion of it. Be for or against conservatives and liberals all you want, at least we have the capacity (though rare as of late) to find common ground. When it comes to any church having too much say in a politicans actions, there's no common ground to be had.
If you don't want to vote for Obama this year, find someone other than Romney. Ron Paul. Ralph Nader, if you can write him in. Hell, vote for Kermit the Frog for all I care. I know I just might be.
This is the new eric. That's right, the old one is gone. Well, mostly gone. I did promise a change, and it's here. Now.
The old blog is still there, as an archive. The new blog takes over. A new start, a new look, a new direction. An even newer new eric.
Even IF the "a" is still there.