You can prepare for all catastrophes except the one where your child dies.

“The Fort” in Maryland

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.

On our trip to Colombia. You were in your ultimate YOLO so be prepared mode during that trip.

It’s all dark across the waterway now.

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*

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.

These Hands…

When an old song that meant so much to me when my boys were little happens to jump out at me at the most unexpected time I once again realize there are no coincidences

My dad is the best dad in the universe.
No, really. He is. More on him in future talks. Right now I’m still in shock from what I walked into yesterday at his apartment.
As I am the youngest of 5 and the only girl I am obviously his favorite daughter and it shows. However, when my firstborn, Andrew, came along you would have thought my dad had completely forgotten about his 4 defenders and 1 shining goalie. We kind of became flat Stanleys for him because when Andrew arrived it’s as though the color came back into his life in an instant. Andrew was the sparkle in my dad’s eyes that had been lost when my mother died in 1971. With Andrew around and 2 years later when my youngest, Alec, was born my dad lived again. He would do anything for those boys. Anything. But Andrew really was the brilliant piercing sparkle. And that sparkle lasted for 22 years, 6 months and 19 days. Don’t get me wrong. He loves his other 7 grandkids and even Alec is so very special but the truth is there was something about Andrew and it is undeniable. Andrew touched him like no one has ever touched him including his favorite daughter. When Andrew died the little bit that was left of my dad’s shattered heart turned into dust. He went downhill quick and exactly one year to the day of Andrew dying my dad had a hemorrhagic stroke and almost didn’t make it. I spent a week sleeping in a chair at the hospital with him. Four weeks later he was back home but this time he went to “The Gardens”. Memory care.

Papi has been in The Gardens since June of 2019 making small progress and I have been visiting him daily, helping with everything. Everything. Hardest thing to live through other than the death of a child is becoming a “parent” to your own parent and watching them fade. To have to endure both things simultaneously is honestly enough to send anyone to the bin. I don’t know how I keep going. But here I am.

Yesterday when I walked into his room I was actually shocked because Bloomberg wasn’t on the TV. He watches Bloomberg 24/7. He was a numbers guy and although he can’t do his math any longer, he knows green is good and red is bad and he watches it all day long. So when I heard music coming from his TV I had to see if it was a commercial or something. It wasn’t. It was Jewel in concert on AXS. My dad doesn’t watch AXS nor does he listen to music and much less to Jewel. He wouldn’t know that I loved Jewel and the song Hands was a favorite of mine and that I played it in the car with both my boys for years when they were little.

“If I could tell the world just one thing

It would be that we’re all ok

And not to worry because worry is wasteful

And useless in times like these

I will not be made useless

I won’t be idled with despair

I will gather myself around my faith

For light does the darkness most fear”

Jewel

I don’t believe it was an accident that I walked into this yesterday. This song, back in the day, used to make me cry and I would think “heartache came to visit me but I knew it wasn’t ever after” and felt so much sorrow that the tears would just flow. I would think about the sadness of losing and not ever really knowing my own mother yet also knowing that the immeasurable love I felt for my beautiful grandmother and my 2 precious children was a true blessing and the tears would flow. How true that heartache can visit but it doesn’t have to stay there all alone forever. We can allow love and happiness to come in again and I did. Not knowing that the universe had this other future sorrow in store for me just a mere 16 years (or so) later that would bring me to brink of wanting to die myself. Not knowing that I’d be tested again on my belief in hope and internal balance. I knew even back then that every little thing we have, feel, touch and smell is a fleeting thing but back in those days I would cry because I knew at that moment that I was blessed to be able to love again. I was a mother and my children allowed me to truly love again. Not knowing how devastating a loss I would meet again. I have been talking a lot recently about my frustration with having to take care of my dad and not be able to just run away to the beach for a couple of days for some grieving time. I know this may sound selfish and it may offend some but I feel completely robbed. Robbed of my beautiful child. Robbed of my happiness again. Robbed of my time and lastly robbed of my memory of my dad who was the strongest man I ever knew. I feel robbed of my time to grieve. I feel horrible.
All.
The.
Time.

And then Jewel is singing her songs on AXS in my dad’s room yesterday and he’s just sitting there with his eyes on the TV and I know exactly what is happening here and why. I smile to myself and proceed to talk.

“Hey Andrew. I feel you. I know you want me to pay attention to the song again Andrew-baby. I know you see how I am slipping these days and turning towards the numbing agent of vodka again and you, of all the souls out there, know where this leads. I see you, Andrew.” (Mama! Live your life that the fear of death can not enter your heart.)

“We will fight, not out of spite for someone must stand up for what’s right
Cause where there’s a man who has no voice there ours shall go singing”

Those lyrics never touched me until yesterday. It’s as though Andrew were in the room talking. That was him. Andrew’s soul was the “Stand up for what’s right and sing for the ones who have no voice” kind. He was there to remind me what I already knew and was beginning to lose focus of:

“My hands are small, I know,
But they’re not yours they are my own
But they’re not yours they are my own
And I am never broken
In the end only kindness matters
In the end only kindness matters”

How could I not do the most for the dad who did the most for me and my children? How. I am not cut from that type of cloth. I will live my life that the fear of death will not enter my hear because in the end only kindness matters.

“Thanks, Andrew-baby. You’re my first baby!!” (Oh mama. You’re my second mama)