wrestling…and my entire life is summarized in one word.

Paxton Bowe,

I’ve spent a good deal of time throughout the past several months watching your warrior brothers wrestle their way to the top of the GMC conference, and through the WIAA Regional and Sectional tournament. Momma sat in those bleachers – a complete nerve ending: picking her eyebrows, biting the inside of her cheek; all the while holding back my visceral urge to run onto the mat and stomp each competitor brazen enough to try to bend or maneuver one of her boys in ways they shouldn’t bend.

Today, Juju and Joshie left for the WIAA State Wrestling Meet. I sent them on their way, with bags and bags full of ‘all the right food’, ‘good luck blankets’, ‘motivational notes only-to-be-opened-at-specific-times’, and ‘pinkie promises’ to keep me updated with every last detail. After hugging them for the fourth time, I released them for their chariot…okay, a yellow school bus – but a chariot none the less. God bless them for putting up with my neuroses. I did my best to burn the image of them running towards the gym doors, filled with fleeing innocence, into the permanent parts of my brain. As they rounded the corner out of my view, my darling Juju stopped; then poked his head back in my direction – and waved good-bye…one more time. I almost collapsed right onto the floor. Goodness gracious, as you know – I love that Juju more than words can explain.

I shoved the sob rising in my throat firmly against the back of my chest. As I held it in place, tears began to beat against the backs of my eyes.  True to Wrestling Momma form, I pinned the pressure and the tears in place…right up until 3:09. As I attempted to flee for the Exit door – my ever-insightful, keenly astute friend stopped me in my tracks. She said, “This all has to be equal parts heart-warming and heart-breaking for you.”  And just like that, I came undone.

Yes. It is equal parts heart-warming and heart-breaking. Every last part about my AC life  is neither one, or the other anymore.

I wish there was a way I could explain my AC life, without having to ever become who I am now. I am still the person I’ve always been; yet I am not the same at all. I am still a mom, yet I am not able to mother…all at the same time.

The a pain I carry is unlike any pain I can describe.  This pain is always there.  It doesn’t nap during the day, or get safely tucked into bed at night.  It follows me everywhere, it never leaves my side – like you should be doing. Only this grief-induced pain is not cuddly, nor sweet and it certainly does not make me smile, squeeze my face, or give me good-night kisses.

My grief is almost always coupled with guilt. It is relentless in nature. I am consumed with guilt after I devote hours on end attending your warrior brothers’ wrestling matches. I never got to watch you learn to walk, see you run – and I certainly will never be able to attend one of your sporting events, or participate in a parents’ night….as I proudly meet you at half-court, while donning an oversized button displaying your handsome face. Oddly enough, I’m equally consumed with guilt when I don’t attend their matches – as I feel like I am letting both them and you down. After all, you’ve made it abundantly clear that you’re hopelessly in love with them too.

I still catch myself bargaining to have both worlds. The “inside-my-head” voice plays on loop, “If I can go pick Paxton up from daycare, and bring him to the meet – I won’t beg for the boys to win again tonight. Instead, I’ll just take them all for ice cream. (Or celery sticks if they’re cutting weight.) One minute, I’ll wipe the dried blood off Juju’s sweet forehead; the next, I’ll clean dried ice cream off of Paxton’s chin. Each of my boys will remain blissfully unfazed by my OCD; as they’ll be lost in a world only traversed by the spiciest of monkeys. Before the evening closes, I will thank my pseudo son, Juju, a hundred times over for the myriad of ways in which he so effortlessly loves you. We will all head home, and sleep soundly while when dream of of all things happy.”

Paxton, I plea for a different ending, over and over; one where no one dies.  Most especially not you. Then, the panic sets in – complete with screams of thoughts screeching against my conscience. (“What if ‘it’ happens again? It could – anytime, anywhere: when will the other shoe drop? If I love these boys too hard, will they, too, die prematurely?). 

Ahh, my boys. My sweet and spicy boys. Juju will never understand how he, in particular, has saved my life over and over again. Alas, they’ve set out to participate in another long-awaited, well-deserved, exciting experience. Please give them both extra special doses of bravery throughout the weekend. As always, watch over their vulnerable hearts…which this mixed-up, fucking world has already shattered into a million little pieces. When you find me in those bleachers, biting the insides of my cheek, and picking my eyebrows – climb into my lap. Momma’s arms will wrap you tight and hold you safely … right where you belong.

I miss you. I love you. I hope you are happy.



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Stay with me, Sweet Boy.






Today marks the day you should have turned two years old. Today also marks the second birthday we did not spend together; making our average 0-2. Pretty shitty stats, which have been pre-determined to only get shittier. It just doesn’t add up. Among a host of other reasons behind the fact that I simply cannot make sense of it all, I’ve now had 40 birthdays: complete with cards, candles, cakes, presents, and parties celebrated amongst family & friends. You got zero. Zero. The thought of it all makes me want to drown myself in a pool of my own puke.

The day you were born is, hands down, the happiest day of my life. There are so many days which are extra-difficult as they are now impossible not to associate with losing you: May 8th, July 2nd, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Christmas…and Mondays-Sundays too. However, February 12th, 2012 is the day I associate with warmth, happiness, peace and – for the first time in my life – wholeness. February 12th will forever remain the most beautiful day I know. I refuse to let cancer steal your birthday too. Fuck cancer.

In the spirit of celebrating your special day, I decided I couldn’t allow another February 12th to pass without buying a birthday cake. I enlisted the help of your ever-present Lala to aide in my quest. Lala contacted Aggie’s Bakery, and explained that she was calling on behalf of her sister, who had a special request. Lala told the owner, who we now know as the lovely Deb, that I wanted to pay for a cake for a 2 year-old. She then gave a brief summary behind my desire. I couldn’t be in the room when Lala made the call; when she was done – I asked her how she possibly got the words out. With tears still falling over the brims of her big, almond eyes – she said, “I was okay, until Deb started crying.”

We quickly composed ourselves and headed to Aggie’s. Our composure didn’t last long. As soon as we identified ourselves to Deb, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Even her husband, Aggie, couldn’t come to the counter. He did, however, greet our eyes with a gracious smile and a kind wave. Deb grabbed my (freezing cold and shaking) hands and held them within hers, as she said over and over that she was so sorry. She also told me how honored she was to be a part of such an amazing gesture. In an effort to collect herself, she went to the back room to get the sketch of the birthday cake she is in the midst of designing for the 2 year-old ‘little dolly girl’. I envision her to be adorable ~ her cake is adorable too. When ‘little dolly girl’s’ mommy picks up her order on Saturday, she’ll be met with a bill paid in full – and a card from you and me. In return, a simple request…when singing “Happy Birthday”, as her 2 year-old tries (probably more than once) to blow out her candles, that she pause for a brief moment to feel the peace and innocence of your life spark. As I have a feeling you will be among them…watching over ‘little dolly girl’ on her special day. Before we parted ways, Deb rounded the counter, and hugged me good and long. She told me I was an incredible woman, with a beautiful heart. I corrected her. I told her it is you [Paxton] who is the incredible soul, with a beautiful heart – who inspires every ounce of good within me.

We met up with some of my most favorite lovelies and spent the rest of the day spreading PaxLove all over town. It should come as no surprise that imparting good fortune onto others, in your honor, brought a sense of much needed peace to my heart. Yet, I’d be remise if I didn’t admit that doing so required every ounce of my fragile strength to refrain from free-falling, face first into a snow bank – and staying perfectly still until I froze to death. With each step I took, I imagined how differently February 12th would be had life worked out how it was supposed to, and you were here where you should be. The complete juxtaposition of all the forces at play made my head pound, my stomach twist, my heart hurt, and every cell of my being ache.

The first thing I said this morning was, “Happy Birthday, Diddy.” As with each moment I experience or sediment I express that is even remotely happy, rip tides of guilt ensued and swallowed me whole. That being said, I want to clarify a few things with you – solely for the sake of making sure you don’t misinterpret Momma’s words. Please consider these my wishes for you, on this – your 2nd birthday.

When I say, Happy Birthday

I really mean the happiest day of my life, and the only real “Happy Birthday” was the day you were born. Every birthday thereafter simply serves as a cruel reminder of another year you didn’t get to experience.

When I say, Good Night

I really mean I stay awake all night, worrying if you are warm enough, wondering if you are safe, apologizing that you got sick, and begging someone to help you catch the kisses and feel the love I beam up to you.

When I say, I miss you

I really mean I search for you everywhere I go, among every crowd I scan, and in everything I see; as though you are merely lost – and if I can just find you, I will be able to finally bring you back home.

When I say, I love you

I really mean that I would trade places with you – endure all your pain, absorb all your discomfort, take all your sadness; that I would give my life for yours…over and over again.

When I say, Forever

I really mean forever and ever. And then a little bit longer.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Paxton Bowe.

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Stay with me, Sweet Boy.