Weekend Shawn

Shawn Brimley with giant pumpkin near Halloween before he got cancer

One of Shawn’s favorite things to do was to have dinner on a Sunday night with other families.  He loved the weekends, and he wanted to make them last.  This usually meant we’d find our house full of kids and our fridge full of beer as the weekend rolled to a close on Sunday evenings.

When Shawn got sick, we did this a lot less, and once he was in the hospital, we obviously didn’t do it at all.  After he died, I couldn’t even conceive of how I would manage to have friends over or do anything fun again.  One day, about two months after Shawn died, Claire looked at me and said, “mom, are we ever going to have parties again?”  Then she paused and said, very matter-of-factly, “or….because Dad’s dead, does that mean no more parties?”

My heart broke a little with that one.

I told her that of course we would have parties again, but for now, it was hard for me to figure out how to do them.  She thought I meant it would be difficult to plan the logistics of a gathering, but of course I was talking about something much bigger than that.  How could I face a party without the guy who made them so fun?

The other day I was with a few of my friends and their husbands, having a dinner at one of their houses.  The kids were playing outside and we started talking about some article that one of them had read about twin siblings who are also porn stars – with each other.  None of us believed that it was a true story, but none of us wanted to google something like that on our phones either.  So we took to speculation and our conversation quickly turned pretty ridiculous.

While we were all laughing at our conversation, I had this overwhelming feeling of loss.  I said to my friends, “oh, man, there is no one I miss more than Shawn right now because you KNOW he would have about a thousand hilarious comments to add to this conversation.”

Everyone started laughing and talking about all the things he might say, and all the ways he would make us all laugh even harder.

I was crying but I was laughing too.  “I miss him so much right now,” I told them.

God, I miss him.  I miss him all the time, and I think the fact that I miss him when discussing the topic of twin porn stars is possibly the most insane thing I’ve written on this blog to date.  But it’s true.  I miss how he would take any topic and make it ridiculous.  Sometimes, it bordered on inappropriate (like I’m doing right now), but he always made people laugh.  Washington is filled with people with serious jobs and serious lives and damn, Shawn wanted his weekends to be filled with just serious fun.

At his funeral, Michele Flournoy spoke.  Colin Kahl was a pallbearer.  Chris Murphy wrote a beautiful tribute.  If you live in DC and are part of the political world, you know that these names are big DC names.  These three people were also all Shawn’s friends.  But so were so many other people, most of whom don’t have their own Wikipedia page.  In fact, if there was one thing about Shawn that was definitely true, it is this:  he didn’t care if someone was a stay-at-home mom or the damn Secretary of Defense.  If you were at our house, he just wanted you to have fun and enjoy the weekend.

I know this is true, because many of our closest friends only realized what Shawn did in his career after he died.  “I didn’t know Shawn was such a big deal!” one of my friends said to me a few weeks after Shawn died.  “Why didn’t you tell us?”

I laughed.  I’m not so sure that Shawn was such a big deal, but he certainly did a lot in his 40 short years on this earth.  And yet, his accomplishments are not what I miss about him.  I don’t think it’s what anyone who really loved Shawn misses about him.

What we all really miss is “weekend Shawn.”  We miss the guy who wanted everyone to forget that their jobs started in just 12 hours and who encouraged us to instead sit back and have just one more beer.  We miss the guy who looked forward to a backyard party more than he looked forward to a year-end gala.  We miss the guy who would make a funny conversation into an epically ridiculous discussion that made us all laugh even days later.

And I miss the guy who would pull me onto his lap when I’d try to end any party.  I miss how he’s say, “just 5 more minutes!” and try and get the weekend to last just a little longer.  I miss how much he simply enjoyed life, and how much I enjoyed life because I got to be around him every day.

5 Replies to “Weekend Shawn”

  1. Dear Marjorie,
    That ache of missing someone is so terrible and yet beautiful all at once. A real tribute to the type of person Shawn was but also to the quality of the relationships he had. I can feel your pain in your writing. I hope that getting it out, on the screen and reading your thoughts is assisting you to move through the grief. Know this: it doesn’t get easier but you get better. I can see that you are doing so much to be real about your grief and for that I commend you. It takes courage to be honest about pain.
    Keep going.x

    1. Thank you for such a sweet comment. I really appreciate the support. It’s a day-by-day struggle to confront the grief and also live my life. One day at a time, I guess.

  2. This one was hard to read. They are all hard to read, but this one was tough. I can’t imagine the day to day loss you must feel. You and the kids are feeling it more than anyone. Love you, miss you and can’t wait to see you!

    1. I know – it was the blog post I loved the most from the summer, because it was so much about who Shawn was as a person….fun-loving and warm-hearted. People like that are rare, and we miss him terribly. Love to you. Can’t wait to see you.

  3. […] Here’s the interesting thing – I was at their farm with a group of national security experts. We had all met in our 20s when everyone was starting out, and we remained friends for many years. I was vacationing with people who worked with Shawn at the Department of Defense and the White House, people who knew him professionally as a rational and serious analyst. But we didn’t talk about that part of him at all. Instead, we talked about the guy who was always the most fun at parties and the one who made sure that things were never dull. We talked about “weekend Shawn.” […]

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