“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…”
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.
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”
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)