“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.
“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 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.