Grief talks in gibberish and the journey will never be what you planned it to be
Author: Mom Mom Mommy Momma - Angela!
I was just Angela till I became a mom to my babies Andrew and Alec. I've had wonderful things happen and horrendous things happen in this journey of mine but through it all I still look for a smile and hope for better days ahead.
The pandemic hit sometime in February and now it’s the end of June. I feel like it’s been a day and an eternity. What’s really strange is that I feel this way about everything since you died, Andrew. Living without you right here with us, bothering us, making us laugh, filling the spaces with your warm solid frame, smelling you near me and not hearing your laughter is a maddening and eternal pain that no one wants to keep hearing me talk about. It’s not that they don’t care it’s that they don’t know and those who know understand on a level that words aren’t necessary. I miss you. I miss you every single second of every single day and although I know I’m not going crazy I know I’ve gone crazy.
Lately I feel
That I can’t pretend
I may never ever see
The likes of you again
I take a walk, I come back home
Then I sit a spell
Watch the ponies dance around
The empty wishing well.
Way back then by John Prine
“Watch the ponies dance around the empty wishing well” just about sums it all up. I’m just waiting. Waiting for this year to be over. Waiting for tonight. Waiting till it ends.
What the actual fuck. How could things get any worse? Here’s how. You died. Then Alec died a little and I can’t stand watching that. Then Papi had a stroke a year after you died and I can’t stand watching that. Then this pandemic hits 2 years after you died and I can’t stand watching this. I can’t even write. I got nothing right now. I’m just waiting.
I remember everything, Andrew. I’m just waiting. I’m just watching the ponies dance around the empty wishing well.
I’ve been dying recently but not like 6 months ago or even close to the way I died 2 years ago on May 25th but I’m dying recently in a bad way. Last year on May 25th I wanted to scream like I normally do and I did scream like I normally do but I knew that wouldn’t be enough because it does nothing but hurt my throat. Not only is my heart ripped into shreds but now my throat hurts too and somehow, I can’t stop screaming even though I know it’s useless. It doesn’t bring you back. Nothing does and every day I know this and I die in that thought every day. I’ve been dying recently because the 25th is upon me again and it seems like you died yesterday but also 1,000 years ago. It shouldn’t matter that it’s the 25th of May. I mean what the hell is that but a number on a calendar that humans invented to secure a time in space but honestly it’s nothing and it’s everything. I think only a mother who has lost a child can truly comprehend the fact that time is a myth. It’s forever all the time. I loved you and Alec before I was even born so I know I will love you both long after I die because we know the truth. But the 25th is almost here and I find it impossible to be still on that day and this bothers me because every day is November 6 or November 28 and every day is May 25. Everything I feel is wrapped up in those 3 dates but I feel the love and the sorrow the same every day and I miss you. I’m dying recently. I think it’s worse this year but outwardly it doesn’t seem to be because I’ve gotten so good at hiding my daily dying.
How could I not be good at hiding it. I’ve been dying every day since my mom died in 1971 and I was just 3 and a half. That picture of us is the last family picture taken of us and your uncle Hugo is in it but he’s the photographer so we actually are getting a glimpse of how he sees things so in essence we are Hugo in the picture. Trippy isn’t it. I wonder if it was 3:33 when this picture was taken or maybe my mom died at 3:33 AM. I don’t know but I do know that it’s her who wakes me up at 3:33 in the morning and she has been doing that as long as I can remember and I know it’s her. I feel her there even though I don’t remember what she felt like but it’s her. I know she can feel me dying now like never before and last night must have been really bad because this morning out of a deep deep sleep I sat straight up at 3:33 and I was clear headed looking at the clock because I know that feeling when she’s there and sure enough it’s 3:33 again. I’m not saying this lightly. I know it. I know why she was there too. I’ve been struggling about where I will spend the day on the 25th because part of me wants to be in bed all day and not get up once and I just don’t know if I can find the strength to get up and do what I know I’m supposed to do. At 3:33 AM today I knew exactly what the message was. I saw water and I knew.
That picture was taken at the beach in Venezuela when we lived there for a few years. Papi would take us to the beach on the weekends and I know it was the happiest times in our lives because I remember snippets but this picture tells the story. Papi smiling like that. My mom laughing like that. Gabriel and his joking around with that million dollar smile. Juan and Santi all serious as usual and there I am analyzing. Calculating the looks on their faces and taking it all in. Near the water where I’ve always felt like that is home. I still feel the same way and I know Andrew felt the same way about the water too. Maybe the way I am looking at my mom and dad was foreshadowing of something I already knew was coming so I took it all in as much as I could. Maybe. I don’t know for sure but I know Andrew was the same. Took everything in. Everything. Maybe he knew. Maybe we both have that fire in our hearts.
Last year on the 25th I took us to the water. To feel closer to home. To be where you loved to be. To honor you. But this year has been beyond complicated with the Covid pandemic and everyone has gone crazy so my grief is now compounded with additional emotions of uncertainty and disbelief that people can’t see how silly they are worrying about who’s fault this is and upset about wearing masks. People don’t get it. We are being handed an opportunity to love deeper and instead many are worrying about “rights”. I don’t have room for anymore pain. I’m dying recently. There’s something in my heart and it feels like fire. There is a yearning in the water and it feels like home. Take me down, take me down to the water.
That’s where I’ll be with you Andrew. My first baby. *My second mama* (pats my head the way he used to)
“When all is said and done I’d never count the cost. It’s worth all that’s lost. Just to see you smile”
Just to See You Smile performed by Tim McGraw
Every time I hear that song I cry. Not because of what he’s actually singing about but because of how this simple line in the song reminds me of you and Alec and a few of the simple things that brought you both such joy and how I would give anything just to see you smile like that again.
I can’t find a picture of us ever eating a cinnabon but I know we did. Hundreds of times. They sold them at the mall. The one in Gaithersburg. Lakeforest Mall which no longer exists. Funny how things change so much that you cry because it’s really not funny at all. The Cinnabon was downstairs near Sears or JC Penney. That part I can’t remember exactly but I remember the times we had there. Neither one of you would ever have known this because I would never have told you but we really couldn’t afford those Cinnabons yet your delight eating them was so simple and genuine that if it meant that I had to work an extra hour a day just to see you smile from eating a Cinnabon I would have worked as long as it took to earn that extra money for those Cinnabons on the regular. Just to see those beautiful smiles.
When you were little you’d both just ask for them not thinking one little bit about it and I would get us 3. One for each of us and we’d sit and eat right there at the mall. You and Alec would have just been done running around that play area in the center of the mall. You’d be almost sweaty. Grinning and ready to go on to the next adventure. But first: Cinnabon. But you, Andrew, loved them more than either Alec or me and as a teenager you understood that it wasn’t that easy to just “get something” and your eyes would always wander towards any place that sold Cinnabons. At the airport on our travels, sometimes gas stations as we drove down 95 to Florida, random places we’d find ourselves in or if we ever went to a mall anywhere you’d see them and you’d be shy about it but I knew. I’d get you your Cinnabon and you’d smile that smile and say “Oh mama. You’re the mama” and you’d pat my head the way you always did. I just wish that I could stay there in those times. Forever. Just to see you smile.
Your little 5 year old smile, Andrew. I can’t believe how clearly I can see your 5 year old face. Your hair was soft and wavy. Your little teeth were perfect and your smile was like a flash of beautiful little white miniature chiclets. Your big brown eyes full of sparkle, spirit, mischievous adventure, a little sadness and a lot of kindness. Those eyes never changed. I can see you clear as if you were right here with me this very second. Fork in hand eating that Cinnabon. Smiling and smelling of that sweet Cinnamon and frosting mixed in with that dewey boy sweat. Delighted with the world.
Maybe I always knew this was a fleeting moment and I’m glad I “wasted” all that money on those Cinnabons. Best money I ever spent. I’d do it all over again. Just to see you smile.
“I can’t forget the way you looked at me. Just to see you smile. I’d do anything…”
You were ready for Covid-19, Andrew. Of course you were. I know it. Alec knows it. Everybody who knew you knows it. Hardest thing during this pandemic is the fact that you’re not here to make sure we are all going to be ok. So strange. To want you here for a pandemic that nobody wants to have around. It’s just no fun without you. Even being worried is no fun without you. So crazy to think that I miss you during such a crisis that I wouldn’t want you to go through! It is insanity that I feel this way and I know it but no one is sane right now anyhow so what now. What the actual fuck now.
Katie texted and said she went into the attic at the condo to look for a table or something and saw some heavy duty plastic containers up there so she looked inside. She said there was food, water, some pills in packets the blankets and other stuff. She said she knew right away they were yours. Your family survival kits. Each person had enough for weeks of survival. I forgot to look in the attic before we left the condo. I honestly thought the boxes were still in Maryland but then I kept thinking that you had them for the hurricane down here in ’17 and I’m all mixed up.
I have no joy right now. Of course I don’t. Duh. I can’t paint my rocks these days. I can’t write these days. I can’t sleep these days. I can’t move these days. I’m exhausted. I can’t sleep and I am not awake. Alec misses you and it’s coming out as anger and rejection. He rejects everything and I don’t know if it will get better. I have no clue about anything right now and I am pretty sure I never did and I don’t believe I ever will. Whatever.
You can prepare for a catastrophic event. You can never prepare for the death of your child. I can’t sleep anymore. I see you everywhere, Andrew. I just miss you and your sense of wonder. Your laugh. Your “mom. YOLO”. I can’t sleep anymore. I’m not YOLOing right now. At all.
I don’t know for sure but I think I’m supposed to go pick up your boxes. Maybe there’s something there we need. Maybe there will be a reason to smile in there. Maybe there will be a good ole Andrew prank in there. There may be a little YOLOing in there that I need to see. Maybe.
It’s just one of those weeks I guess. I got nothing but grief right now.
“It’s a pretty good crowd for a Saturday And the manager gives me a smile ‘Cause he knows that it’s me they’ve been comin’ to see To forget about life for a while And the piano, it sounds like a carnival And the microphone smells like a beer And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar And say, “Man, what are you doin’ here?”
~ Billy Joel
There are no coincidences. Ever.
How did Nate, a guy who I had never previously met and had only known Andrew for a short while before he died, know that the Piano Man was the perfect song for the video he made for Andrew’s celebration of life? He didn’t. He didn’t know how that song was interwoven into the fabric of my life since high school and how I had told my boys about the way it changed my life because my 11th grade english teacher used it in our class to teach us about similies, hyperboles and metaphors but what I got out of it was that life can be interpreted beautifully through lyrics and music. Nate knew nothing of this. He felt it. Because the universe leaves nothing up to a mere coincidence. Not one single damn thing. Not birth. Not death. Not a second of the journey in between.
I’ll admit it. At first when I heard the song choice Nate had made for Andrew’s video I was upset. Mad upset. Not sad upset. Why The Piano Man, Nate?! I put the thought away. I couldn’t handle the reality of it just yet. I spent the next year and a half avoiding the thought, emotions, message, everything…and every time I heard it come on the radio…switch. Immediately. Nope. Not yet. I’ll let you know when I’m ready.
Here’s the deal. It took me a year and a half from the day Andrew died to admit that, yes, yup…Andrew was the Piano Man. It’s true.
I miss you, Andrew. The day you were born my hospital room filled up with people. All your aunts and uncles, cousins, your grandparents, great-grandmother, my friends and it seems as though you were the talk of the floor because random nurses would come in to “see this baby we keep hearing about!”.
Looking back, that was your spirit. You attracted and welcomed everyone into your life regardless of anything that others may have perceived as “unsavory” or “negative”. It was incredible and I’m sure frustrating to your brother, Alec. Don’t get me wrong, Alec is an introvert by nature so it’s not the attention you got that frustrated him. He was frustrated by your nonstop talking and activity level! But Alec couldn’t be without you and he really did become the voice to so much of your joking around that you two became quite the pair. You got Andrew AND Alec. Always. It worked out beautifully. What a pair. What a blast.
As you got older and the two of you went separate ways for your studies I saw it even clearer. You would come home from any class you took or job you had and you would tell me stories of the people you met or have become friends with. You never judged. You were truthful but without judgement. You always found a way to see the good in others. It was you they were coming to see. It was you.
Did I ever tell you about “foreshadowing”? I learned about that in college in a film class. I probably did tell you. Foreshadowing is a technique used in movies where the director gives you a clue in the beginning, or a chapter, of the film as to what will happen but it’s not meant to be understood. It’s meant to create an expectation and in the end, as you look back on the movie, you will be able to say “oh yeah! I get it”.
Foreshadowing is not just a thing used in films. It’s everywhere and the universe always prepares us for the ending. We just don’t know it until later.
I heard the Piano Man in 11th grade. That song touched me in ways I’ve never been able to express to anyone properly. It told me everything about you. I just didn’t know it was going to be you. Oh Andrew…it was you.
“Son, can you play me a memory I’m not really sure how it goes But it’s sad and it’s sweet and I knew it complete When I wore a younger man’s clothes”
I found Nate’s number the other day and finally asked him why he chose the Piano Man. This was part of his response:
“When I listen to it –the piano man is this guy who is helping to bring some joy and happiness around to other people” he went on to say, “When I met Andrew even though it was only for a little bit he was super friendly and I kind of just got the feeling that he was someone who touched a lot of lives”
He did. He still does. I still get messages from his friends telling me how thinking about what Andrew would have said or let them talk about with him has helped them going through something difficult at the moment…and it’s him who they’re coming to see….still. And he’s there for them. As usual.
“Sing us a song, you’re the piano man Sing us a song tonight Well, we’re all in the mood for a melody And you’ve got us feelin’ alright”
I won’t change the station anymore when that song comes on. I’ll cry and let the emotions carry me towards you. My first baby. (My second mama)
“All the snow has turned into water Christmas days have come and gone Broken toys and faded colors Are all that’s left to linger on I hate graveyards and old pawn shops For they always bring me tears I can’t forgive the way they rob me Of my childhood souvenirs” ~ John Prine ‘Souvenirs’
Last night I heard the news of John Prine being hospitalized with this hideous virus and I have to admit that at first I almost felt nothing. Numb. After the death of my beautiful Andrew I’ve felt constant pain and sorrow and it seems as though I now have a delayed reaction to tragedy. I realize John has a chance at recovery and I pray to the universe for a balance to his health but the news of his hospitalization awoke in me another flood of emotions which started as numbness but then took over me like a tsunami and there I was. Sitting in a pool of tears. Spitting nails at life again knowing that this is just the way this cookie crumbles and it will continue to crumble and crumble. I’m not made for this world. I feel too much. No one should feel all of this.
I am sick of the suffering. I am sick of the sadness. I am tired. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. But of all the things I am so sick of, John Prine had the gift of being able to put my feelings into words and music and he did it long before I knew I was going to feel this way. I’m sick of having my childhood souvenirs being robbed. I want them back.
I want to watch my sons run into the house smelling of sweet summer sweat. I want to see Andrew throw his gear down and talk a mile a minute while Alec pushes him and tries to get a word in edgewise. I want to see them running down the street like bolts of lightning. I want to be there again. Oblivious, frustrated and happy. I want to be getting popsicles for the gang in the heat of the sun. I want to hear the yells and the thunder of their feet upstairs while I make pancakes. I want my souvenirs back. I want to hear the radio playing all my favorite songs as I sit there and dream of the days to come with all the innocence and hope I once had.
Just make me an angel who flies from this old heart ’cause to believe in this livin’ is just a hard way to go.
May the universe shine it’s magnificent light over us during this pandemic. May it shows us compassion and understanding. May it bring out the best in all of us, lead some to put pen to paper and blend the words with beautiful music and may that magic help us heal our broken hearts.
“Memories they can’t be boughten…they can’t be won at carnivals for free”
This entry may not make sense to anyone. It’s OK. This is what I’ve been rummaging through in my brain recently.
I still walk around thinking you’ll just walk in and slam the door like you used to. I wait for it. It won’t happen. I know. I still wait for it. I keep wanting to talk to you about the pandemic. I know you’d be in a frenzy over preparing and being careful about everything. You’d probably throw a few conspiracy theories that “could be” behind it. There would be the endless jokes about it as well and I miss that so much. I seriously cannot believe your beautiful soul is not in your body any more. I know you’re here because I hear you. As I type this I know it was you making that sliding glass door creak. I feel you right here so I know it’s you.
Remember that time you bought the MREs and we had to keep them in the basement in that big container because “you never know, mom. We need to be prepared”.
I’m not prepared. I never was. I wonder what kind of “MRE’s” one could make for a mom who never wants to eat. I literally live off some vegetables and seafood, corn chips and cheese. Vodka. I hate love that shit. No more though. It’s a liar. By the way, I’m never going to The Olive Garden again. Ever. I don’t even think your grandfather realizes that the last birthday meal you two shared together was at your all time favorite birthday place and I miss you. I want to see you eat 4 bowls of that salad and go through your meal in 30 seconds. How many years did we do Olive Garden birthday salad. 10? 15? Probably 15. Had to be because we used to go there with your great-grandmother and she left in ’07.
18 minus 7. 11 years. You followed her 11 years later. How can that be. You really never had a clue as to how much she loved you. You must know now. We found about 25 chargers in your car when Alec and I cleaned it out to sell it. There they were. All those times you “cleaned” your car out. What was going through your mind?
Anyhow, I found the courage to look at our last messages on FB the other day. I miss you. I will make sure the cats have a way out in case of fire. You are still a good helper. You always will be. I miss you slamming the doors and then saying “Sorry, mom”. I hear you loud and clear. I always did.
We moved in to our home 2 years ago almost to the date. We live on the water so our backyard neighbors are across the waterway from us.
It seems like yesterday and also a lifetime ago thinking about the day we arrived. Andrew and Alec had driven down from our condo in Tampa, Rick and I along with our 3 cats and 1 dog drove 2 trucks and a boat down from Maryland and we somehow timed it just right that the 4 of us managed to meet each other a couple of blocks away from the house and, like a beautiful parade, we all marched on together the last few minutes as we made the final drive to the new house in Bradenton.
Such a wonderful day. Finally moved to Florida. Our dream had come true and for the next month and a half Andrew and Alec spent their days off from work here at the house with Rick and me. We cleaned, painted, set up furniture, went shopping for things, cooked and talked and fought and loved. I had no clue that just a couple of months later the old man across the waterway from us would become a companion I would never meet and that almost 2 years later I would be mourning his passing as well.
…And I miss you like the deserts miss the rain
Everything but the girl
The old man died 2 weeks ago. I knew it before anyone told me. I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to hear it. Rick told me a couple of days later because neighbors talk. I already knew. I had already been crying for a couple of days. How could he leave me? Didn’t he know that I counted on seeing his light on at 4 or 5 o’clock every morning since Andrew died? Didn’t he know that my first thought every morning since that horrendous day is to first scream (internally or externally and sometimes I don’t even realize it’s external until Rick grabs a hold of me) and then I wonder why…why is he gone…why so soon…why can’t he just come home now…why do I have keep hurting…why am I here…why can’t I go.. why am I’m still breathing…goddamn it why… and then I would see his light and somehow I felt a little tiny bit of comfort? How could he leave me. It’s all dark across the waterway now and I’m not sure what to do next.
He would watch TV or sometimes the kitchen light would be on and I could see that he was there right from my bedroom window. Open my eyes, scream, disbelief, shock, pain, tears, old man is there, a little comfort, get up, blur till whenever I passed out that night, repeat. Almost 2 years of this. It’s all dark across the waterway now. I miss him. How did he not know how much I counted on him being there? I know his wife passed some years back so I know they are finally together again and I feel relief for them because deep down inside I always knew he was waiting for that day to arrive. To be with her again. And I miss him.
Andrew, I hope you know how much I counted on you being with me. It’s all dark now. And I miss you like the deserts miss the rain. (Oh mama.)
P.S.* In real time as I re-read this and heard Andrew say “Oh mama” as he would have if he were here and heard me say what I think about I suddenly remembered the rainbow across the back of the house on the day Andrew died and it is not all dark. Comfort. This is how grief works in real time*
We lived on Alderleaf Dr in a little neighborhood that was magical.
There weren’t that many families there with kids when we first moved in around 1994 but neighborhoods turn over and by the time both my boys were born we started to see that other families were also having kids. Needless to say, by the time Andrew and Alec were 5 and 3 they had a seemingly endless stream of built in playmates for their daily adventures. Our neighbors across the street, Steve and Nancy who became dear friends, ended up having 3 kids who added so much laughter and screaming to our little magical neighborhood. Their oldest son, John, was Andrew’s best friend and partner in Neighborhood Defense. They were a riot. Protectors and destroyers simultaneously. My fondest memories come from those days when John, Alec and Andrew would dress up in their “war gear” and save the world as they destroyed our yards. Best days ever.
Time kept moving in our little magical neighborhood and, of course, things changed. Good friends moved away, kids grew up and our little dream world of magical days became a most wonderful memory. A memory, to me, that keeps me alive and brings bittersweet joy to my heart.
My dear friend, Nancy, who was witness and participant in our magical neighborhood wrote this the other day. She had a dream and in it Andrew came to visit. Warms my heart. Heals me. Please take a minute to read: https://nancywileywriter.com/2020/03/13/the-visit/
I have a Facebook page called “The Little Gigantic Things”. Nancy’s visit from Andrew is exactly that: a little gigantic thing. It’s these little gigantic things that touch us to our core. They are the little things that become the fabric of your being and these are the things that heal you.
“Like a heartbeat…Drives you mad. In the stillness of remembering what you had. And what you lost. And what you had. And what you lost…”
~ Dreams by Stevie Nicks
Andrew was with me all night long in my dreams. I can’t remember specifics but I’m all confused again this morning. Woke up scared with the same knot in my throat and tears ready to roll. Why did you have to go? I just can’t understand it and I know I never will. How can there be a “God who loves you so much” yet takes not only your mother when you are 3 and you grow up scared and grieving but then later after you have learned to live with that grief and let your guard down a little bit and love again…and I mean actually love again…this “loving God” takes away your first born child too? I’m 52 years old. I do not believe in a “God who loves you so much…”
Here’s the kicker for me. “Oh you’ll get to see your baby in dreams. But you won’t be able to remember them. You’ll just feel like they were with you all night and there are snippets of the dream you’ll remember but you will just wake up and realize that he’s gone. It was just a dream and you can’t even remember the details”. That’s how much God loves you. No. That makes no sense. I want him back and I don’t want it to be in a dream that I can’t remember.
But that’s never going to happen so I take my dream, my memories and my shattered heart and I carry that life with me here on this floating rock in the middle (or end or beginning) of the universe and I smile through my tears after the screaming stops. I smile because for 22 years he was with me. I carried him. I nursed him. I read to him. We sang together. We talked. We held hands. We hugged. We cried. We learned. We welcomed his brother together. We fought. We disappointed each other. We forgave. We loved. We love. We will always have that because we lived. And all of that, plus so much more, is real.
Andrew came to visit me in my dreams last night and I can’t remember what happened but I don’t need to remember the dream to know that I love that kid and his presence in my life for 22 years is a gift beyond price. I thank the Universe for letting me be a part of that magnificent soul’s life here on earth.
Oh, Andrew. You’re my first baby. (Oh mama. You’re my second mama) He really did say that every time. I wonder.