It’s 3:33 again

My family when we were still whole…

There’s something in my heart

And it feels like fire

There’s a yearnin’ in the river

And it feels like home

Take me down, take me down to the water

Feels Like Home ~ Caamp

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)

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

…The Piano Man

“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.

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)

Sing us a song you’re the piano man….