I hope you are lucky enough to not experience the joy (heavy sarcasm font) of writing an obituary for a loved one.
You think you know someone until you have to sit down and write about them holistically. It’s less about the immediate feelings of grief on their passing, and more about sharing what made them special to people who, honestly, likely have similar experiences with them. You can’t make it too personal because other people are grieving too, but making it so bland that it has no personality is pretty lame too.
When my dad died almost eight years ago, he had lived a full life: birth, school, marriage, kids, jobs, church, etc. Logical steps along the narrative journey that were generally easy to write about because, let’s be honest, most of his life was behind him – he was 72 afterall.
I feel like I don’t really know my sister Jen. Sure, I’ve known her her entire life, and even though I don’t remember a lot about our first few years together – I was, after all, only 4 1/2 when she was born – she’s always been my “little” sister.
Growing up, Jen was always the tag along, surely annoying my sisters more than me in that regard, but still seemingly always underfoot. We teased her relentlessly, as older siblings often do, and there were more than a few times where she’d run home crying from whatever house we were playing at, only to have our mother yelling at us to come home and answer for our crimes. I still remember my mother yelling Robert from the front porch, the indicator that she was truly mad and not just calling me home for some other reason.
But that was fine, right? That’s what kids did, especially kids when there were four kids born over seven years and we all just kind of took care of each other, much to our own chagrin. We grew up, played together less frequently, but Jen was always there.
From the very first one I wrote, I had every intention of doing one of these posts with all your birthdays, kind of recapping the past year of your life as you move into the next one. But I’ve kind of failed.
I’ll try to be better going forward, especially now that things are really going to start happening in your life. Not that the past six years have been lacking things by any stretch, but with school and just growing up more and more, the next few years should be very big for us as a family, but especially you as you continue to develop your personality and learn new things.
On your fifth birthday last year, we were a couple of months into “the virus” as you liked to call it. This would define nearly all of 2020, cancelling school for you when you struggled with the version of online kindergarten that we were provided. But you are still as smart as you’ve ever been, and I hope that we did enough over the past year to get you ready for first grade in the fall, so you can return to school and meet some new friends and share your knowledge with the world.
You did well spending your days at home with mom and dad, entertaining yourself with your favorite toys, which varied from week to week. An obsession with the Titanic led to hundreds of LEGO models of the ship (and other similar ones as well), and you even watched most of the movie, though you cared more about it sinking than any of the boring Jack and Rose stuff. You managed to turn boring bricks into amazing ships, and your imagination knows no bounds, which warms my LEGO-loving heart.
Thomas and his friends still find their way into the rotation, and all over the living room. From reenacting crashes from the show to just building tracks from room to room, you’ve found a lot of joy in those trains. Like the LEGO model building, you were able to understand how the tracks went together and work, and while you wanted us to help you build, you would also just do it on your own if we were busy doing something else. I’m glad that you are still able to find joy by yourself, and I know that you are developing skills to share with other kids in the near future.
The big event of last year was our road trip with your grandmas, as we rented a van (probably your favorite part of the trip) and drove to some spots in Utah, Arizona, and Nevada to some new places and some of our favorite places. The virus limited some of our trip – I’m still bummed that we didn’t get to see Four Corners – but for the most part it was pretty amazing.
Arches National Park was a great start to the trip, a stop at the Grand Canyon was very amazing, and though we just drove through, it was nice to return to Las Vegas. This year, we’ll take another trip, this time heading to California and the things you want to see there, and we’ll also try to stay in Las Vegas for at least a day so we can soak in one of our favorite cities.
That trip was the one time we really left the house for any extended period of time. Obviously, we tried to stay at home so we didn’t get sick, and it seems that we escaped mostly unscathed. We will begin to journey out of the house a little more as the year progresses, like our trip to the Utah State Railroad Museum in Ogden not that long ago. We want to make sure that you get plenty of exposure to the world to prepare you for school in the fall, and you’ve been a true champ this past year in spite of all the things that were going on in the world around you. We hope that this resilience translates well once you start school in the fall, but I’m sure you will do amazing, but if it takes you some time to adapt, that’s okay too!
Since you came into this world six years ago this morning, you have been the most important thing in my life. Everything I do is to ensure that you are always taken care of, and trying to give you the best life that I can. I hope I’m doing a good job… though two of these entries out of six is not a good start. We’ll check back in another six years to see if I’ve been a little better about these entries in the future.
But even if I never write one of these things again, know that I love you and always will. Every so often, I’ll watch you doing something and just marvel at how far you’ve come from that little man that wanted to get an early start on things. The sky’s the limit for what you can accomplish, and I hope you succeed in everything you try in life.
Over the past few months, if not the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic, my wife Kim and I have spent some time discussing if Utah continues to be in our long-term plans as a place to live.
This is likely exacerbated by the pandemic. With minimal in-person contact with friends and family since March 2020, it’s easier to think that we could really live anywhere and keep in touch digitally with everyone as we have been doing. Kim has her “Constellation Club” friends that she “hangs out” with over Zoom and whatnot and I… have a couple of friends that I talk to on occasion. The joys of modern technology!
Since moving back to Utah in 2014 after I finished graduate school, I never truly expected Utah to be the place that I would settle. I spent a decade living in Connecticut, another six months in the DC Metro, and Kim had lived in Illinois her entire life before moving with me to Utah. But my family is here; Utah has always been “home” to me, and I expected to spend at least a little time here while my parents aged and, eventually, Lincoln would get to spend some time growing up near his cousins. An unofficial deadline was placed on leaving the state again when my parents were no longer around.
But that’s changed a bit.
I haven’t always liked living in a super conservative state, but we’ve made a home here nonetheless. When we bought our current house in August 2020, we figured that signaled some level of commitment to sticking around at least for a little bit longer, though buying the house was more of “we need a relatively affordable place to live and it’s easier to buy it from my sister/landlord than trying to go out into the hot Utah real estate market and finding another place to live” than any true desire to live in Clinton forever. All things equal, we would’ve probably bought a cute little bungalow up in Ogden if not under such a time crunch for various reasons, especially if I was going to keep working at Hill Air Force Base.
But that all changed a little over a month later when I was offered, and accepted, a job with the NCUA. While I’m still getting over the feelings of imposter syndrome 15 months later, I finally found a job that actually feels like a career and I’m excited for the next 15ish years until I retire. And the thing that is amazing about the NCUA is that I can do my work from nearly anywhere, opening up the rest of the country as potential places to live.
All that to say this: I think my little family and I are not long for Utah anymore. Granted, all those great opportunities with NCUA can’t really start happening for at least 18 months or so, but we’ve reached the point where it might be time to start looking elsewhere. We’ve started to narrow the list down a bit, and we’ll probably spend the next year or so trying to figure out what works best for us in the future, whether it’s proximity to new virtual friends or ultimate career opportunities.
We’ve tried to make Utah work, but the past year has done little to convince us to say. From poor coronavirus response from the state – including the state spending lots of money on a political crony’s hydroxychloroquine supply – to the continued scraping the bottom of the barrel in funding education in the state – Utah’s per pupil spending ranks 51st – to the horrible air quality to the state voting overwhelmingly for the worst president ever (twice!) – it’s time to move on.
I was considering another run this year, with intentions of actually running a campaign. In 2017, I posted a few blogs, made a Facebook page, and just hoped that I would break double digits in vote totals. When Mike Petersen, whom I ended the 2017 election 58 votes short of usurping in 2017, voted no on making it easier to vote amidst the pandemic last fall, I was all but ready to throw my hat in the ring when the ballot opened up in June.
But after the election of Spencer Cox as Utah’s governor last November, the other candidate in that 2017 election, Karen Peterson, was promoted in her state job and decided to resign from the city council. Her seat was opened, and I applied, ending up as one of five candidates to fill the rest of her term and (potentially) run as an “incumbent” this November for a full four-year term.
I had my interview with the other four candidates, and I thought I did an okay job. Granted, I didn’t have a slide show like the candidate selected, nor was my wife sitting behind me during the interview, but I tried to express my thoughts as clearly as I could. Maybe I was thrown off a bit by the format, and changed my “presentation” around anticipated questions, but in couple hour old hindsight, I wish I would have expressed how I actually felt. What I actually thought what Clinton needed.
Instead, I sat idly by listening while coded language was used to discuss an opposition to “affordable housing” for all the reasons you would expect to hear from NIMBYs in one of the most conservative counties in one of the most conservative states. About a focus on “growth” that didn’t address the finite space and water available for future developments. I should have complained about the traffic; that seemed to be a winning argument. Or talked wistfully about how there used to be farms everywhere when I moved here… but there weren’t.
Once there were five candidates announced, I knew my odds were pretty slim. I haven’t been on the planning commission for one day, let alone 19 years. And I’m glad that I was able to espouse my comparatively “liberal” ideas about building housing so all can afford it and trying to limit future growth based on dwindling water supplies. I was so flustered, I wasn’t even able to mention how the recent UTOPIA fiber installation to bring wireless to our parks should be expanded to our neighborhoods and offered as a public utility. But I’m sure that wouldn’t have helped either.
In preparation for the interview tonight, I reflected on some of the things I wrote 3 1/2 years ago when I was running for city council. Noble things like working for free and only serving one term to allow others the opportunity to serve. Maybe those things were too idealistic for a city that has a long-tenured council and mayor. Maybe it didn’t matter or the right people didn’t see those thoughts.
I used to be excited to see where Clinton would find itself in the next ten years, but now I am resigned to the fact that the people in charge are more content with the status quo, the constant construction of single-family homes on smaller and smaller plots of land that used to be green space, these new homes needing lush lawns in the middle of the desert for some reason. And that’s okay. It’s just not the place I want to live anymore.
The question still remains (for the moment) of where the Eberhards will eventually end up, and how soon that move is made. And I don’t know if the next move will be the final one, or if that wanderlust will result in multiple stops over the next however many years. I have some ideas, but who knows what the future will actually bring.
Not being picked, or even making the “second” round of votes, is not the reason why we’ll be leaving. That’d be a real petty thing to base things on, and I am not that petty of a person. It’s just the last nail in the coffin, the penultimate thing that makes it easier to want to put this state in the rear view and move on to the next adventure.