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 those boys in the way they shouldn’t bend.

Today, Joshie and Juju 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; god love 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, Juju poked his head back in my direction – one more time…and waved good-bye. I almost collapsed right onto the floor.

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…but good.

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 adequately or accurately 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 when 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. On the other hand, I am 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 have made it abundantly clear that you’re hopelessly in love with them.

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 Joshie & Juju’s faces; the next, the dried ice cream off of Paxton’s chin. Each of them 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 older boys a hundred times over for the myriad of ways in which they so effortlessly love my son. We will all head to our respective homes, and sleep soundly while when dream of of all things happy.”

Paxton, I plea for a different ending, over and over again; one where no one dies.  Most especially not you. Then, the panic of it happening again, anytime, anywhere…sets in – followed quickly by the spiraling of obsessive thoughts, (What if…If only?). 

Ahh, those boys: they will never understand how they have 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 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 always 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.

xoox,

Momma

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you can’t stop her. you can only hope to contain her.

Diddy,

You stole your Auntie Kupa’s heart long before you two ever met. I recall precisely the day I realized “it was written”.  In November I was admitted to the hospital and placed on medical bedrest to prevent very premature labor. All eyes were on you. But, Kupa wan’t satisfied. She needed to see for herself that her Baby Blue was in good hands. (We didn’t officially know you were “boy” anything. But, your crazy Kupa insisted she did.) Fielding phone calls was challenging. Providing anyone with an update of any type was impossible; our condition changed like the impending winter wind. So, Kupa did what she does best: took matters into her own hands. She set out on an impromptu trek across the state. The roads were icy, the sky dark, the air bitter. Kupa cared not. She was on a mission. Donning her trademark combat boots, head band, and black leather jacket – Kupa made her grand entrance at WAWM Hospital. With a flash of her smile and a wink of her eye, she managed to sweet talk her way past the Nurse station, right into my “No-Visitors Allowed” corner-suite room. That part isn’t surprising in the least. If there are rules (or laws) to be broken, Kupa is there to do so. Usually with a sly tilt of her head and a mannerly, “Thank you very much, mother fucker.” But that’s besides the point.

Prior to coming to the hospital, Kupa made a quick pit stop to pick up some (unnecessary) gifts for you. Among the lot of items: an array of outfits. In the event you came early, she wanted to be sure you had “…fly shit to wear”. My favorite of the bunch was one you ultimately wore so very often: a green and white stripped, fuzzy, snap up pajamas with froggie eyes where your toes went, and a froggie face atop of your tiny dupa. Following in a close second: a black onesie with a plaid patterned skull on it – complete with matching socks and two different bibs…each with a variant skull and bones.

I didn’t get to spend time with Kupa that day. Moments after her unexpected arrival, Momma was whisked off to a room, which resembled NASA headquarters, for observations. A very long ultra sound, as well as a slew of other tests – all which involved pokes, prods, gels, head lamps, and heat lamps ensued. After an eternity of conferring, questioning, and talking in coded doctor lingo, each member of our ‘High Risk Maternal Fetal Pregnancy’ team concurred “…that is one happy, healthy baby…who is perfect in every way. Our biggest hurdle will be keeping mom pregnant.” (The time the entire world was most concerned about your viability was precisely when you were the safest you’d ever be. The irony of it all now makes me vomit.) Alas, hearing the words “…happy and healthy baby” caused me to spontaneously burst into tears of sheer relief. I knew in my heart there was simply no way I would deliver you early. I refused to let my body fail you.

Before leaving the NASA-like procedure room, I was hooked back up to bells, whistles, buzzers and a computer monitor which tracked your every move. My tummy was lubed and strapped tightly with two heart monitors: one for me, one for you. I’m pretty sure they hooked us up directly to the red-line at the Oval Office too. When we were ready to roll, a small brigade of dear nurses wheeled us back to my room. Lying in the middle of my bed, propped on my pillows, was the most frightening zombie, voodoo, gangsta doll-esque creature I’ve ever seen. The sight of this ghastly thing caused Momma to burst out in shot-gun laughter: a hearty, deep-from-the-soul laughter – which should’ve thrown me directly into labor. Your Kupa is one sick, twisted chic. A sick, twisted chic who has a heart gold once she decides she loves someone. Although we quickly agreed your “Kupa Dolly” was the most beautifully misunderstood doll-esque critter in the world, we tucked it safely away in your closet…just for good measure. Your Daddy said you could have it when you were two. I said when you were 19.

Your Kupa checked on you a few times a week for the next 13 long, nerve-wrecking weeks we remained on strict bed-rest. Naturally, she came to see you many times after you were born…both before you were sick and a host of times thereafter; whether we were in the H.O.T. unit or at home for what always proved to be far too short of a stay. In hindsight, it is so very clear. From the very beginning, nothing could keep Kupa away from her beloved Baby Blue: an unfriendly work schedule, hectic wedding planning, four dogs and a home to tend to, sparse money, temperate weather, a beautiful fiancé, long distance treks, least of all – mother fucking cancer. Paxton, your Auntie Kupa would have given her life to spare yours…her heart to spare your Momma’s. I hope you know by now, you are one of the most cherished loves of her life. Kupa would do anything, anything in this world to protect you, your name, your honor, your spirit.  Simply put, when it comes to her Baby Blue, all bets are off.

Kupa knows of Zombies, ganstas, and tattoos.  She knows of bats, chains, swords, and guns. Truth be told, she knows of all things badass. Kupa knows bad mamma jammas who are so bad, and so jamma that when they dare come into public – she never uses their real names. Coincidentally enough, Kupa also knows her way to Indiana.

Your Kupa tells me she’s heading to a small town in Indiana to tend to some business regarding her Baby Blue. Word on the (underground) street is – she ain’t rolling alone.

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I love you. I miss you. I hope you are safe.

Stay with me Sweet Boy,

xoox

Momma

Stupid people scare me more than zombies…or ganstas, so there.

Diddy, Cancer is stupid. And people are stupid. I try to ignore the stupid people of the world the best I can, but as it turns out, I am not good at it. I guess because I’m still human. I wish I were a zombie. Then maybe I wouldn’t be bothered by stupid, ignorant people. I would just rip their hearts out and eat them, perhaps making them feel a fraction of the pain I feel on a daily basis. Auntie Kupa would be jealous; she would rather be a zombie too. Sometimes the stupid people of the world say stupid things like, “Oh, I know how you feel, because when my mom died….we ALL have the flu this week – you can’t imagine the chaos…my son had his tonsils out and it was tortuuuure…my boss made me have the worst week of my life”. Please hold on a minute while I rip out your brain; as it turns out you’re not using it. Thankfully, your good, pure, kind Daddy is here to talk me off the ledge “…everyone else’s life has not stopped just because ours has…that IS a crisis to people who still live in our old world.” I am not ignorant. I am aware other people are suffering to make it through each day. In fact, I know there are even many, many other moms and dads who have lost a child. But guess what? They didn’t lose you, Paxton. So there is no comparing or justifying. You are you, and you are mine. Therefore, nobody else knows the depth and breadth of this pain. This pain is my own, this sadness is my own, this loneliness is my own. I would never tell another bereaved parent, “I know how you feel.” Because I don’t. I understand some aspects of their heartache, but simply put, no two losses are comparable. It’s something that goes without saying amongst we “bereaved parents”. A certain understanding exists between the moms and dads pretending to live without our beloved children. Grieving Parent Street Code – I guess. (Admit it Diddy, it makes you smile to learn your Momma has turned out to be a little bit gansta.) The silver lining of today is the rainy gloomy weather. At least I have that going for me. First of all, it’s mid-January and 50 degrees…which is helpful in supporting my case that the world is truly becoming more fucked up by the day. And the rain adds just the right dirty, muddy touch to help express how I feel, without me having to say a word. I was even able to take a break from the tears on my way to work this morning. The rain strummed on my windshield, and the fog muddled my vision just enough to cry for me a bit; so I let it. Then I arrived at work, where I have to put on my fake, half-smile. Today especially sucked because I was trapped in a conference room filled with people who I can’t, and won’t, let into our world. When I’m at work, I have to use all of my strength to push the sobs creeping up my throat down to my tummy. I am better at containing throwing up than I am at containing sobs. But, I don’t want to push down the sobs anymore – just because the stupid people in the conference room wouldn’t get it. I want to drop to the fetal position and kick the shit out of the stained, blue, itchy carpet and tell everyone, in between sobs, that I am the one who needs inpatient treatment – not the kid who is there because despite loving America, proving so by saluting all things red, white & blue, is trapped in shackles and, therefore, can’t run from the bad guys who are chasing him. I wonder how different this world would be if we all acted the way we felt really felt instead of hiding everything behind our lip gloss and faux professionalism? I’ll bet it would be a complete mess; but at least it would be a TRUE complete mess, versus a FAKE and insincere mess. Truth be told, I’m not much different than my student who was ‘committed’ (again) today. Everything I say – or think, but don’t say (not because I’m trying to be polite, but because I’m too damn tired) is far from normal. I realize, and own, that I am filled with extra, spicy anger; but it goes beyond that. I don’t think about normal things anymore. No matter the conversation, no matter who it’s with – all I think about, as I lose track of what I’m supposed to be listening to, is why you got cancer. I play the game that I am so good at playing: it was the eye drops I used, the supplements I took, the physical therapy I made you go to at far too early an age. It was the changes of formula, the (way too much) Karyo syrup I (accidentally) gave you for his (non) constipation. I made you too hot from all the blankies, let you cry too long, laid you on his side instead of your back. When you were misdiagnosed; I didn’t push the doctors hard enough; I let the shock suppress my instincts to question and challenge. Mostly, I fear I simply may have determined your destiny long before you were born by choosing your name – Paxton. Daddy insists there is nothing I did other than love you just exactly the right way. He reassures me ten times a week that we did everything we could have possibly done to save you. He insists, repeatedly, the outcome would have been the same, no matter what. I still don’t believe him. (Somehow, your sweet Daddy keeps loving me all the same.) Everyone tries to pacify my “guilt”. I guess I have little credibility due to being the irrational, traumatized, broken-hearted Momma. I don’t need credibility though. I just need you back. That’s all, really. Goodnight, my love. Should you run across zombies or gangstas, tell them you are my baby; they will protect from the stupid people. I will look for you in my dreams. Stay with me, sweet boy. xoox, Momma Gangsta Love