I remember Cinnabons and I remember love

“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…”

….Just to see you smile

Dreams are awesome. Also: they suck

“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.

What a happy day.

Oh, Andrew. You’re my first baby. (Oh mama. You’re my second mama) He really did say that every time. I wonder.

The Cat(s)

No. “No more pets” I had said after our big Yellow Lab and best friend, partner in crime, the drooler, Cooper passed in 2011. The boys and I agreed. Cooper had been with us since Alec was 1 and Andrew was 3. He grew up with the boys and was, in essence, their sibling. He went through the divorce with us and somehow knew to stick by the boy’s side just at the most needed times. He made messes and made us angry and made us laugh and we loved him deeply. He was our Coops the doops. We were all heartbroken when his time arrived and knew that was it. No more pets.

This morning I’ve been up listening to a cat which has learned to come in to our house in the middle of the night to eat and then it leaves. I’ve seen it hanging around outside on a few occasions and it is getting more comfortable being close by. Our other cats don’t seem to mind it too much either. This morning it has been crying outside and I just wish I could hold it and make it feel better.

Like it’s one of my kids.

While I try to figure out what to do I, of course, think of Andrew and how all of this personal crazy cat lady business began. I blame it all on his stubbornness and downright disregard for my wishes.
Jesus, Andrew. Now I’m up at 4 AM worrying and taking care of a cat which I can’t even pet and I’m not even sure if it will ever let me!
(oh, mama. YOLO *insert goofy laugh here*)

“You cannot share your life with a dog…
or a cat, and not know perfectly well
that animals have personalities and minds and feelings.” 

Jane Goodall

Kids. They know which buttons to push. Andrew met Katie in high school through a serendipitous event and those two ended up dating for years after. Those two were always at our house when they weren’t either at school or work doing all their we’re so happy together things and life was just rolling along with it’s usual twists and turns. And then that fateful day in the early summer of 2014 arrived.

I pulled up to the house with Rick and I see Andrew and Katie come outside to greet me. I was smiling and waving hello and they were smiling and saying hello when I noticed Andrew was carrying something. Small. Very small. I stopped in my tracks and knew.

There, in his arms, was a tiny little kitten.

“Take it back, Andrew” I said with a stern face.
All the smiles ran away.
Then I actually saw the little kitten. Looked at it.
My eyes saw and my brain processed.
And my heart. And I knew. The kids saw my eyes at that moment and they knew too. All the smiles came running back. And Gizmo became family that day.

Gizmo about 1 and a half years old. October 2015

Gizmo was the kind of cat who hung out at all the neighbor’s houses. He was adventurous, friendly, smart and very loving. He came home every day. We would call him and he would come home to our calls. Until he didn’t. October of 2015 he went out to play and never came home. We looked everywhere. We had to go pick him up at different places in the past. People would call us from his tag and we would go get him. He was never too far away. He is chipped and once we got a call from the pound because someone found him after he lost his collar and tag and turned him in. He was known all over town. The local police officer who lived in our neighborhood loved him. She took pictures of him inside her cruiser and would send them to me. He was a rock star. We have our suspicions of where he might be but we can’t be sure. I still look for him. You never know.

Gizmo was the first of three cats we ended up with and right now there’s a 4th cat who is quickly becoming “ours” albeit from a distance but still. Here I am at 4 AM figuring out how to get some food into it’s belly. All thanks to Andrew. My lover of nature and animals and sea life. Funny to think I actually said “Take him back”. No. It doesn’t work that way, does it? Not at all. Andrew knew I would never let Giz “go back”.