hemingway. shoes. fake therapy…brought to you by the number 6.

Diddy,

Today Ernest Hemingway spoke to me. He’s a legendary author and journalist. He won the Nobel Peace Prize. He passed away on July 2nd. (Literary terms deem this dramatic irony. Or perhaps it’s considered situational irony? Regardless, it’s all kinds-a fucked up.) His ‘message’ took my breath away. That doesn’t happen easily these days.

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A life story in six words? Six wouldn’t suffice to tell yours. However, Hemingway certainly chose his wisely. 

Speaking of shoes; your collection rocks. You have three pairs of Jordans. Fly, blue Vans – Ugg slippers too.

No, I’m not writing in Haiku. I’m just making six word sentences. Six times two always equals twelve. Cancer always equals fuck, fucking you. I’m sad, tired, angry, and scared. Six is my fake therapy tonight.

You didn’t wear your baby shoes. Rest assure, they’ll remain forever yours.

Thank you for being my son.

I miss you; I love you.

Stay with me my Sweet Boy.

xoox,
Momma

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BC. AC. FuC. And Uncle Dave sings Baby Blue for you. (Don’t tell Auntie Kupa.)

Paxton,

When I lost you, I lost so very many things: my only child, my chance to mother you; all the things you were and would have been; our little family; my future; my place and identity; my confidence; my naïveté; my view of the world as a safe and just place.

I can easily say my life is now divided into two distinct parts: Before Cancer (BC) and After Cancer (AC). In addition to mourning the loss of you: my dream come true – I’ve also mourned over the version of me I lost when you died. Some days, I long to have her back. Not as often, or remotely as desperately, as I long to have you back. Yet she is gone. You are gone. I am here: living in my AC world. Without you. And without the Danna I knew for 38 years.

Most days, however, I would not trade in the new version of me. (Other than if to have our entire BC world back…the one where you never got sick, you never suffered, and we never kissed good-bye one.last.time.) Given no choice in the matter, I have morphed into a different woman. Naturally, there are parts of me which are still broken and empty. Some are broken beyond repair. How couldn’t they be? When a parent loses a child, they lose a part of themselves. Beyond that, they are permanently rocked to the very core of their soul. The only way around this truth – is if they simply do not have a soul. However, there are also pieces of me which are far wiser, stronger, and more refined than that of my former self. All of which can be attributed to the fact that particles of you flow throughout my body and are contained within my soul.

Perhaps my former self needed to lose her naiveté, her blind trust, and her belief that those she loved would never betray her. She needed to become strong – in a entirely different capacity: one which allowed her the strength to see the world as it is, not how she willed it to be. She needed to acknowledge that the most difficult times do, in fact, reveal people’s true character – and she had to accept all which was unveiled. She needed to learn, the really hard fucking way, to always trust her god damn instincts.

Though few and far between, there are times where if I quiet my mind long enough, I vividly see the gifts you’ve left for me. Despite the depth and breath of the pain I experience from having lost you, I see reminders all around that I, too, have gained. Not enough. Not nearly enough gain for the hefty, immeasurable price of losing you. Still, you must always know that you alone are a far, far more profound gift than the torture and the despair of living in my new world without you.

My AC world is mournful and tenuous at times. Yet it is also beautiful, meaningful and sublime in a way I never imagined. Gibran describes it best when he prophesied that only after having really “…looked into the eyes of such sorrow” can one find their way to pure joy. For the infinite joy you have brought into my life, and the promise you continue to bring…I remain humbly and infinitely indebted.

It should come as no surprise, Dave has a little diddy for you, Diddy. Allow him to serenade you into a peaceful slumber tonight. Rest your head against my chest. Close those baby blues…Momma is right here.

Thank you for helping your Momma become a better, stronger, wiser woman. 

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

a spicy monkey. a high-jacked computer. and my day is made.

Sweet Diddy,

One of my girls at school needed to take her test at my desk today. The other 15 places to sit in my classroom simply wouldn’t suffice. While she was at it, she made herself right at home. As she sat at my desk she ate my pretzels, used my hair brush, tapped around on my computer, noticed my Pandora was open, and created herself a new radio station on my account. Why not? When I busted her, I pretended to be mad. Like all my ‘kids’, she knows I (mostly) pretend to be mad at them. Disappointed is all-together different. Mad? Well, that almost always just doesn’t happen. First of all, these spicy monkeys keep Momma’s heart beating. Secondly, they need more love than most others in the world. Moreover, they deserve even more love than they need. And like I said…they keep my heart beating.

It’s going on 5:40 p.m., and I’m still at school. As you already know, Momma need not rush off to the gym, or to the grocery store in order to be home in time to let Lucas out and/or to make dinner….much less to pick you up from day care, get you fed, bathed, and ready for bed in time to snuggle up and read a bed-time story – or three, before tucking you in for a peaceful night’s sleep. Instead, I take my time perfecting innocuous tasks, before aimlessly venturing down familiar hallways, through familiar doors, to a familiar parking spot – straight into an unfamiliar life.

As I contemplated whether I would go to the gym, or just run extra-long when I got home, concurrently further avoiding the transition into a new life I never wanted, a song began to play through my SMART Board. Instantly entranced by the lyrics, I closed the 38 windows I had open so I could see the name of the song and artist. (No. I didn’t do what normally functioning people do, and save the work which I was perseverating over perfecting in the first place. It’s fine. I’ll try again tomorrow.)

The tears which fell from my eyes have already left salt-marked stains on my completely lame, but also completely free, GO ARMY! desk calendar. I instinctively know they will serve as an unlikely source of comfort in the upcoming weeks. As I will recall this moment with heightened precision. For it is one of those rare times…that I know you are with me.

Thank you for helping my spicy monkeys love me. Thank you for helping them embrace my broken spirit, my shattered heart, and my many, many flaws. They are of your most brilliant and treasured gifts yet. Thank you for sending me this song – compliments of the spicy ones, who take the liberty to high-jack my Pandora account, much like they have taken the liberty to high-jack my heart…because they know damn well, it’s the only way in anymore.

Here is your lullaby for tonight. It’s from Momma…and one of her spiciest monkeys.

My arms should’ve been fierce enough to have kept you safe.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

Trick or Grief. Halloween was worse than I remember last year.

Little Diddy,

I’m not sure how I got to be 40 years old without realizing Halloween is one of the most child-centered holidays recognized in our society. This is the second Halloween without you…but, I simply don’t recall last year being this difficult. Maybe it’s because last year I was in a deep freeze? Maybe it’s because Iast year I instinctively knew as an 8 month-old, I’d have taken a few obligatory pictures of you in your costume – possibly next to your pumpkin – before I quickly took you out of the over-stuffed charade just in time to avoid an epic melt-down.

As a 20 month-old little guy, I have a feeling you would’ve been far more fascinated in the hoopla of Halloween, or at least the candy aspect that comes a long with it. (What can I say? You got your Momma’s tastebuds!) By now, you’d have identified favorite cartoons, favorite books, favorite characters in your favorite T.V. shows. It’s safe to say you’d have only just begun to express the very fabric of which you are weaved. You’d also have been able to say, “Tweeeeeeat! Peease?” Oh, Diddy, Diddy, what would you have been for Halloween? Besides anything you wanted.

Today I played the game I’m so good at playing. The one where I teleport myself into a parallel universe. In this universe we are together, we are happy, and best of all you are healthy. I find myself excited that our “Fall Fun Day” has arrived. I see myself constantly glancing at the clock, as I can predict almost the exact minute you will begin to stir from your afternoon nap. Once you are changed and fed, I grab the 3 or 4 bags of things you need, may need, and probably won’t need – but I neurotically tote along anyway. (I’m a professional at packing these bags; so we need not discuss how much easier it’d be to leave home without them. Momma just does it anyway.)

I can almost feel myself carrying you to the car and gently placing your bundled dupa safely into your cow-print car seat….which has now faced forward for so many months I have to strain to recall how long it’s been since you faced backwards. My thoughts are periodically interrupted by your squeaky voice excitedly calling out “Twwuck!” Tweee!” and “Pupkk-kin!”. When we arrive at Elegant Farmer, I hoist you out of the car and set you on your feet. Your tiny hand reaches up, and instinctively entrusts a guide in my own as we traverse the man-made corn maze. As the breeze briskly meet our cheeks, I reach down to make sure your hat is all the way over your ears. Moments later, I wipe your runny nose with the back of my mitten. You are blissfully unfazed by the elements; but, I can’t help myself from worrying anyway. I hear the echoes reverberating off the tops of pumpkins as you excitedly stake claim on the one you want to take home. No matter how big, how small, how lopsided or flat-topped, it is absolutely perfect.

After our adventure through the maze – I contemplate a hay-ride. But, not this year. I realize I’ve saved only enough time before ‘breaking point’ to sneak you inside for a caramel apple. I ask the girl to slice the apple in extra tiny pieces…then bite them into even smaller bits just to be sure you can chew them. I don’t ration the caramel. Momma gives you free reign on the good stuff on special occasions. With sticky hands and caramel-stained cheeks, we drive straight to Grammie’s for extra-special loving. Momma passes out from exhaustion on the couch while Grammie steals good loving from you. But first we discuss all things perfect about Paxton…including how much you are talking, how much you seemingly grew just since last week, how you look this cousin or act like that cousin – but agree you are unique in every way. Mostly, we marvel over how irresistibly adorable you are.

Do you know we went to Elegant Farmer once? You were tucked safely away in Momma’s tummy at the time. It was just weeks before being placed on bedrest that we spent a sunny afternoon in October enjoying what was slated to become one of our little family’s Fall traditions. In fact, it is one of the last outings we had before being sequestered in a hospital room, and then in our bed at home for the next 13 1/2 weeks. It’s painfully ironic that in anticipation of the future, which I was certain held so much promise, I envisioned many of the same things that day as well. The main difference being back then my heart was full of hope, my soul full of happiness. I remember laughing at everything and smiling at nothing. I also remember peeing two times in a glorified-outhouse. I was so punch-drunk in love with life, I would’ve been content peeing right in the middle of the corn maze.

I did not go to Elegant Farmer today. Instead I drove through our neighborhood to the big, yellow house on the corner that sits dark & empty. On the other side of my wind shield, I noticed the houses which line our street had seemingly transformed into grave yards overnight. Front yards more closely resembled something from ‘American Horror Story’ than suburban dwellings. Lawns lay blanketed with headstones, skeletons hang from garage doors, and cotton-stretched spider webs float in the breeze. Suddenly the ghosts and goblins, intended to symbolize a childhood wonderland, morphed into a literal haunting…of a childhood lost. I nearly suffocated at the realization that grave yards, headstones and skeletons more accurately reflected my reality of living in the “Land of My Child Died”, than that of a child-centered celebration. A shriek snapped me out of my trance, and also forced me to inhale. It took a few moments to register that it was the sound of my own cry.

I know it’s make-believe stuff. I know my reaction is not normal – even for a grieving Momma. I know this is one of those moments I should never, ever tell anyone about. But I am tired of keeping so many secrets bottled inside. I am tired of feeling like no one else in the universe knows what I experience in the course of a day. I am tired of being a sitting duck every damn time I venture into the world. I am just tired. I know there are a few people who say I am wallowing in my grief, and that I am choosing to remain in a ‘dark place’. (As if anyone would choose one single aspect of my life.) In fact, the grief of losing you is simply a part of my life now. It is not my entire life; but it is a part that cannot be abandoned. So really, what I am choosing to do – is courageously face my truth. Perhaps those people should stop wallowing in judgements and assumptions. Instead they could try to one thing in their lifetime that remotely reflects truth. Or, they could just fuck off.

You could have been whatever you wanted to be on Halloween – and every other day too. I promise I would have done everything in my power to support you in realizing your smallest of hopes and your wildest of dreams. You were bound for greatness, Paxton. I am so very sorry you got sick.

Trick or Tweeeeat, Sweet Boy. I’ll save all the red Gummy Bears for you.

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xoox,

Momma

Your spark has spread across the pond…to the wild, wild west, and everywhere else too. But I’d rather you were asleep in your crib.

Diddy,

My little Diddy Bop…how I miss you so. More oft than not, I don’t quite know how to begin my letters to you. Perhaps the only normal part of my existence is the abnormal feeling I get when I realize the only way I can communicate with my son, who was killed over a year ago, is through letters he may or may never read. Good thing for you (because as my child, you have obviously found a way to read these) I’ve never been one to conform and do what others perceive to be normal.

Once I begin writing to you, I feel more normal and most certainly more at peace than I have in days. At the close of each letter, I tell myself, “…just write him one note every day….no matter the reason…no matter how profound or inconsequential the message”. But, most days I am still not brave enough to creak open the lid of “Paxton’s Box” and allow myself to participate in the single most vulnerable act: expressing my feelings through the written word. When it comes to writing to you, there are more days than not when it is simply too difficult to navigate the vastness of my grief, especially in total solitude (except for the companionship of my laptop and Sir Giraffey).

Each week I receive notes, cards, emails, Facebook messages and letters from complete strangers, long-time friends, long-lost friends, and your dearest earth angels who prefer to remain anonymous. Each correspondence serves as a tangible reminder that people, both near and far, are thinking of you, loving you and…holding you close to their beautiful hearts. The notion that I am not the only person in the universe missing you at any (and every) passing moment, often is the very thing which allots me the will to survive another day without you. While I do my very best to at least acknowledge I have received them, I simply do not always have the strength to do so. Ironically, it is typically the messages which mean the most that replying to proves most challenging. (I know it’s ass backwards; it’s just the way my world works.)

This past week, I received two messages which affected me very deeply.The timing could not have proven more critical. Today, with their borrowed strength, I will tell you about the messages and the women who sent them.

The first came from a woman all the way across the pond – in London. She learned of your story through Facebook. By her own admission, she avoided reading any of my Warrior Momma entries when she stumbled upon them via friends’ of friends’ shared posts. She said while she initially told herself it was merely an unconscious choice, she now realizes it was more likely out of fear. She called herself one of the stupid – naïve, uneducated, blind. The other morning, Jessi confronted her fear. She clicked on one of the entries. And as she says, her world was permanently altered. Jessi ultimately blew off an entire day of work to read every entry. She relays that she read every single word, and listened to every single song. Then Jessi wrote me. Among many other things, she said, “…so I’m writing to say ‘thank you’ for introducing me to your Paxton and to tell you that your mission is working because for every person, like me, who moves from the unseeing column to the light there is one more person to help fight the fight. Like so very many people around the world, I am thinking about you and Paxton. I am joining your fight.”

Serendipitously, Jessi is running a Survival of the Fittest event in London in November for an England-based charity called CLIC Sargent. The race benefits children with cancer and their families. Admittedly, the race meant less to her yesterday than it does today and it will mean more tomorrow as she continues to think about more ways to fight. For every pound donated to her race, Jessi will personally donate an American dollar to the Paxton Andrews Foundation. Very best of all, Jessi asked if she could run this race in honor of you! Of course, I said “YES!”

The next message came from a woman, named Bree. She lives a little closer to home – only 2,000 miles away in Arizona. Bree sent me a link to a song, named “How?” by Regina Spektor. She explained that while she never had the good pleasure to meet you, and hasn’t seen or spoken to me in over twenty years, she thinks of us daily – most especially when she hears this song. She also said her life has been changed by your story…and she promised to carry you in her kind heart for the rest of time. I promised Bree I’d put the song on your special playlist; the one I play for you on days, like today, when it’s exceptionally difficult to be so far away from you.

Bree has a baby boy of her own. He was born about a year after you. He is perfect. He is adorable. He is happy. He does not have cancer. Although she’s not said as much, I get the distinct sense Bree’s appreciation of her beloved son has been enhanced through your brave fight…through your beautiful soul. l just have a gut feeling about this. But, you know how I feel about trusting my instincts.

Paxton, I am so grateful that you continue to find ways to send me signs and messages of love and strength. I am extremely proud of the way you use your life spark to change peoples’ lives in ways so profound they cannot even explain…and evermore proud that you you allow your soul to shine so vibrantly, that even complete strangers can’t help but to fall in love with you…even when they are afraid to. But, never mistake the fact that I would trade the awe and wonder of of these intangible forces to have you back in my arms where you belong. I would far rather the only people who knew your name lived in the confines of my (now empty and sad) home. Simply put, I want you back.

Here is your lullaby tonight, sweet boy. I promise I will never forget one memory. Let’s close our eyes and find each other in our dreams.

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

Stay with me, sweet boy.

xoox,

Momma

18 months. a run. another run. and yo mama!…just wants you back.

Paxton,

I do not like when so many days pass between the times I quiet the noise in my mind and calm the quake in my soul long enough to sit down and write you. Rest assured, regardless of whether or not I write, I am thinking of you, worrying about you, and most of all wishing you were here with me throughout each moment of every day. I’ve come to realize that the times I ‘shut down’ on writing coincide with the times I shut down on feeling. Every morning before I force myself out of bed, I remember the promise I made to you. I remind myself that even though my entire world has crumbled before my eyes – my son is depending on me to keep his spirit alive. Although I almost always want to roll over and sleep until I never wake up, I (eventually) force my feet to the ground, put on a mask (of bravado) and set out to face another day. Truth be told, there have been stretches of time when, despite my greatest intentions and most valiant efforts, it is just far too difficult to execute the charade. The past few weeks have been one of those stretches. Among a cluster fuck of events I didn’t see coming were: July ending, August 6th, and today…August 12th.

You should have turned 18 months old today. The notion of you being a year and a half, and the fact that we’d have spent every waking moment of an excitement-filled, action-packed summer together, made today more difficult than most other “month markers”. I still do something new on the 12th of each month to honor the date on which you were born. So far it hasn’t been anything grandiose or complicated – just new. I simply cannot bypass an opportunity to participate in a novel activity as a way to recognize such a happy and beautiful event. The layman likely remains unaware of my ritual; I don’t talk about it with too many people…other than you, of course. The fact that both of us were born on the 12th sweetens the pot. Besides being totally radical, it also serves as another intricacy of our very own secret society.

Today didn’t start out well. But by mid-afternoon I managed to gather my wits and set out to pay tribute to the 12th. I drove to a new park…far away-ish from our home, to run. At one point during my not-at-all-easy-or-even-kind-of-fun-run, a little yellow finch flew right in front of me. Even though the 918% humidity, a too fast pace, and a heavy heart made breathing nearly impossible, I said aloud, “Well. Hello there, Diddy.” I know it was you. I even got chills all along my right shin again. After my run, I sat on a picnic bench and took in the scene around me. One look into the late afternoon, grey sky was all it took to determine I hadn’t done nearly enough to make you proud. So I stood up, hopped off the picnic bench and ran more. Somehow I managed to go faster and feel stronger that round. Confident you’d be at least sort of impressed with the second wind I pulled out of my ass, I headed home.

Tonight I embarked on a second new adventure. A special, little girl managed to sway me  to support her request for an impromptu stop at the cutest frozen yogurt shop, Yo Mama!. The kids at BCHS have been talking to me about it for months. Your cousins convinced Ms. Allison to take them, along with her three daughters, there a few weeks ago. They’ve been raving about it too. So I finally went. Unbeknownst to me, throughout the month of August a percentage of Yo Mama! sales will be donated to the Ronald McDonald House. Serendipitous? I simply think not. I believe you knew it was the exact place I needed to go to provide a meaningful end to an otherwise not so meaningful day.

The entire time I was at Yo Mama!, visions of you eating a tiny bowl of frozen yogurt looped through my head. I saw streams of yogurt running down your pudgy, but perfect, wrists and dripping onto your t-shirt; as you’d surely have insisted on trying to feed yourself. I imagined diverting your attention just long enough to allow me an opening to swarm in and pick tiny pieces of napkin off your chin…which remained stuck after failed (and obsessive compulsive) attempts to wipe your adorable face clean. I pictured you running over to the crayons and paper at ‘Mama’s Art Board’ to create a colorful, firestorm of happiness before setting back out into the warm, summer night. As I passed the art board, I paused. Seemingly on instinct, I put down my yogurt and drew a picture for you.

I am sorry it’s been so long since I have written. Such a large part of my life is consumed by matters with which I would never burden you. You are my baby and need not worry about such affairs. I will shield you from the heartache the same way I would have if you were here where you should be. I will concurrently strive to be alive instead of to merely exist. (A feat far more difficult than most could begin to imagine.) Yet, I know there are days when I fail miserably. In turn, I fear I leave you deeply disappointed. On those days, and on the good days too, please hold onto this truth; carry it with you in the deepest part of your beautiful soul. No matter where I am, who I am with, or what I am doing – I am always longing for you to be there with me.

I miss you. I love you. I wish you could have had frozen yogurt today too.

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Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

home is where your lala is.

Paxton,

It’s official. Lala and Uncle Stephen have moved to town! It is hard to process all they’ve done, and undone, in the past four months. Besides the obvious upheaval moving one’s family across the state entails, your Lala is severely allergic to change. All who know her know this to be an undeniable fact. For example, Lala has still not been able to ‘part’ with her sticker collection. She’s been hauling around albums upon albums of stickers for 30 years…yes, 30. She has, however, finally parted ways with her straw-wrapper collection. You heard me Diddy; your crazy daisy Lala used to save the wrappers to the straws she drank her milk with at lunch in 6th grade. (Promise. Ask Nana and Papa.)

Alas, when the shit-of-all-shit hit the fan, Lala could be kept at bay no longer. Without further contemplation, she and Uncle Stephen listed their house in spring. It sold in four days. Without further ado, they began their search for a new home in the Milwaukee area. They found just the perfect one, in just the perfect neighborhood. In turn, your cousins are the new kids on the block, and they will be the new kids at school this fall. Lala will quit a job she loves, and will eventually take one she may or may not like at all. For now, she is living with a friend in Madison, and coming home on the weekends. Uncle Stephen is manning the three kids, two puppy pups – one who cannot walk, and a house in half-moved-in, full-court chaos. (Just another example of Uncle Stephen’s heart of gold…and patience of steel.)

After three sticky, icky days of packing the Madison house and then the most enormous U-haul truck known to man, the Siodlarz family set out on the final leg in their relocation to Milwaukee. Your uncle drove the U-haul, which was pulling another U-haul trailer. (A last minute, “Oh shit. Our stuff isn’t going to fit!” required an impromptu additional trailer rental.) Your Lala was driving the kids and puppy pups in the chocked full mini-van…which, for visualization purposes, was also outfitted with a very stuffed car-top carrier. (Because apparently they still make those?!?) As she made her way from the Beltline in Madison to I-94 towards Milwaukee, an unmistakable message from you emerged high in the sky. In a state of giddy disbelief Lala reached for her phone and called me. She said, “DD….guess what is staring me right in the eyes?!? The most beautiful, vibrant rainbow I’ve ever seen! I don’t know about you, but where I live, not a single drop of rain has fallen in weeks!” I couldn’t get a word in edgewise because Lala was hyperventilating in a half-laugh, half-cry. It didn’t matter. Nothing more needed to be said. We both knew it was you thanking Lala for coming to get your Momma.

A relocation of such nature would be a huge undertaking for any family. But for Lala, it is unprecedented. The realization that Lala and Uncle Stephen uprooted their family, their home, their children and their careers largely in efforts to live closer to Momma is astonishing…and humbling. The love and support they’ve provided throughout the past few years has been unwavering and steadfast. This, however, supersedes my wildest imagination…even from Lala the Wonderful.

Over the past six weeks, I travelled to places both old and new. I set out on that journey in search of peace. To be honest with you, I did not find the peace I was so desperately seeking. However, I’ve come closer to accepting that given all I’ve lost in the past year – my soul may simply never be quite the same. Perhaps the peace I’ve been seeking, the kind that once lived deep inside of me, is not meant to ever live there again. I can’t begin to imagine what the future holds, nor I’m I interested in trying to guess. For now I am channeling my energy into staying “present in the present”. In this moment, I can feel pieces of my broken heart shifting closer together. Your Lala and Uncle Stephen’s unbelievable demonstration of support is the synergy behind this shift. Even if the pieces don’t ever completely converge, I am grateful beyond measure that five very big pieces of my heart are now merely a 15-minute drive away.

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Close those baby blues. Sleep sound. Worry not. We are going to be okay. You and me together…we can do anything, baby.

Here is your lullaby for tonight. It’s in honor of your “One”; your Lala.

I miss you. I love you.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

silence is a sound. you are really gone. and cancer is still a giant asshole.

Hi Diddy,

I made it back to Wisconsin.

Coming home threw a giant curve ball my way. In my absence, somehow the house has grown exponentially larger, quieter, and lonelier. In hindsight, maybe a part of me was half expecting to come in the back door and find a house filled with all things baby boy: trucks, Legos, puzzles, and books spattered about the downstairs; plastic dishes, rubber spoons, and sippy cups in the sink; the iconic sweet sent of Burt’s Bees Buttermilk lotion in the air. I was snapped out of my trance by the time I reached the bottom of the upstairs staircase. By then I knew even if I ran to the top and lunged into your room – I wouldn’t find you happily kicking about and ‘whoo-whoo-ing’ in your crib.

Every so often, I still have fleeting moments when I forget you are really gone. When they happen, my breath is sucked right out of my lungs, and I swear the world stands still: for.just.a.split.second. Each time they happen, I am positive it will be the last time. I’m always surprised and somewhat embarrassed by them. They also scare me a bit because I feel like I truly may be going crazy after-all. But, then I get pissed and realize I am not the crazy one. Cancer is the crazy one. I think about how very unfair and unacceptable it is that you were cheated from a life which held such promise – and that the world was cheated from a soul which held pure goodness.

I wonder if the day will ever come when I whole-heartedly believe, in the very core of my being, that all of this actually happened. I had a son. He was a miracle. He was beautiful. He was perfect. He was funny. He was brave. He was everything I dreamed of…and more. He was the part of me which had been missing my entire life. Then, just like that – he got cancer and died. No matter how long I wait, or how much I beg, plea and bargain – he is never, ever coming back. I honestly don’t know if my subconscious will ever allow my conscious state to fully digest the gruesomeness of my reality. It defies all logic, reason, science and what is right and fair in the universe. Above all else, it is simply too god damn hard. Anyone who thinks I should simply “…accept my reality” and “move on” – as though losing my son, and then the rest of my entire world (in the span of seven months), is merely an unfortunate kink in plans akin to an unforeseen head-wind on a magic carpet ride to Disneyland – can fuck off. Or they can choose which one of their children they will watch get slowly tortured and brutally murdered by cancer…and ultimately die in their arms. In fact, they can do both. Then we can meet for tea and eat crumpets while they tell me all about how beautifully they’re accepting what life threw their way. And I can apologize for telling them to fuck off.

Despite the echoes I hear as I walk to and fro our rooms, accompanied only by the silence swimming through the air, a part of me feels relieved to be home. I am still comforted by being in your room, among your things. I know you are with me wherever I go. I know your things are merely things. I know your room is simply a floor, with four walls, which not too long ago was filled with hope, dreams, and promise. Yet, I also know memories of you and I are more vivid in that sacred space. Whenever I’m feeling especially far away from you – I retreat to your room, if only for a minute, and I feel just a tiny bit closer to you.

One of the thousands of things we didn’t get to do together nearly enough is read bedtimes stories. I read to you every now and again…sometimes in the middle of the day, sometimes when I get home from work, sometimes right before bed – whenever it is I am able muster the ever-elusive grace to choose a book from your shelves and say the words out loud. When I don’t have the composure to use my voice, I sit in the glider and quietly turn the pages as I imagine you there with me. Alas, some of the most special people in your life gave you the same book for your (non) shower gift. They picked it for you because it was one of their favorites. So, I tend to choose it more often than others. I’m a quite certain it is one of your favorites too. Goodnight Moon is on deck again tonight; it’s been far too long.

Goodnight stars. Goodnight air. Goodnight, ‘silence’ everywhere.

Goodnight, Diddy. I’ll look for you in my dreams.

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Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

She’s got a way….each and everyone of them.

Hi Sweet Diddy,

I arrived at Britta’s yesterday morning. I can’t remember a time I’ve ever been more relieved to be with one of my most special lovelies. Britta moved to Northern California almost one year ago. In fact, her move – her new job – her trip to India – were all delayed because she stayed in Milwaukee to be by my side after July 2nd happened. Despite all the new wave, unspoken expectations which come with the territory of a woman determined to climb her way to the top of a male-dominated business world – Britta adamantly refused to allow the pressures of a new, big time, high-profile job to call her back to California. In hindsight, Britta’s commitment to us, when we needed her most, is not unusual at all. Her priorities have always been family and friends. Her heart is as giant as it is genuine. So, Britta stayed. She stayed and helped Lala make a slide show and a playlist for your memorial late into the night. She took me, in a catatonic state, and held my hand as I ambled through Mayfair to find a dress for your memorial. (I didn’t end up wearing the one we got that stupid day, because the “most perfect one ever” arrived moments before the very last second. But only after first being trapped in the Colorado hellfire’s. Despite my zombie-like state, irony of such nature was not even lost on me.) The morning of your memorial, Britta came to our house. She sat me in our downstairs bathroom and did my make up and then my hair. When it didn’t seem possible she could do more, Britta executed the greatest challenge of all time. She readily agreed to read the letter I wrote you at your memorial. And, she did so bravely and beautifully…just like you.

In the past year, Britta has taken yet ANOTHER big, fancy, baller, shot-caller job – and moved again. One day, this girl will run the world; or marry Luda and have babies a plenty. Whichever she decides on first. Needless to say, I haven’t had the energy or the courage to make the trip out here sooner. She & I decided it was imperative, however, that I work in a pit stop while on my nation-wide tour for peace. In the planning, we realized this summer marked 20 years of being friends. (Yeph. Britta is old, huh?!?) As you know, Britta inherently possesses the synergy to generate fun wherever she goes. With the realization of our 20 year anniversary added to the mix, I have a feeling this visit is about to be ah-mazing. Britta has plans galore in the works. All of which I’m sure will prove to be a mother load of fun. And I will do my very best to allow the “happy” to seep through. But as you know, sometimes I get so tired and so sad – I feel happiest just sitting quietly in the company of someone with whom I feel safe (i.e. Britta).

I haven’t seen much of the city yet. But I can say with confidence it’s hands-down my favorite of the four places she’s lived since she moved to California five years ago. Upon my arrival, I was met with a package which was delivered to Britta’s house. It was waiting for me on my bed. (Fresh flowers and bottled water were also at my bedside.) I digress. I was mystified because in my grief-stricken + heart-broken haze, I didn’t even know her address – much less figure anyone else would. For some reason, I wasn’t surprised to find the package was from Grace. Knowing my plan to arrive at Britta’s on July 3rd, Grace contacted Britta and arranged for a special delivery. Along with a beautiful card, which I will keep forever and ever, was a “July 2nd shouldn’t be July 2nd” gift: healing-bead bracelets…giraffe patterned, with an angel wing charm to boot. I love the bracelets. I love Grace too.

I love all my special lovelies, Paxton. I’ve always said I have the very best friends on all the planet. But, the past year has proven this to be less of an opinion and more an undeniable fact. Without my most special lovelies, I would not have made it through July 2nd. I would not have made it through May 8th….or February – all of fucking fuck February. I would not have made it through March, April, May or June either. I wouldn’t have made it through many dark days and endless, terrifying nights in the confines of the last year.

Maybe each of my girls was strategically placed into Momma’s life along the way? Perhaps someone far, far wiser than I has know all along that there would come a time when I ‘d simply be unable to push through one more day without the borrowed strength and bestowed grace of these brave souls? Not one time, did the love and support of these girls waiver. In fact, they did not as much flinch.

Paxton, Momma’s girls share a sisterhood so sacred it is almost unspeakable. They know what I need, and what I don’t need, without me having to say a single word. These girls are the truest form of unconditional love. This is why after the shit storm of my life, I still feel lucky and blessed. So very blessed. Was it is you who placed each of these girls in my life’s path? After all, our souls have known each other before this life….and we will know each other long after this life. Isn’t that right? Yes. In fact, as I write this it makes perfect sense; it was you. Thank you so much. I don’t know what I would do without each and every one of them.

Most of all, thank you for being my son.

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Here is your lullaby for tonight. It will forever remind me of the special lovelies you’ve sent me along the way.

Sweet dreams, My-My.

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

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

songs. signs. and a very silent storm.

Paxton Bowe,

Yesterday, I spent the better part of the morning driving through the city, soaking in the beauty of newfound surroundings, getting lost and then getting found. Normally, the times I was lost would have frustrated me and (inadvertently) lead me to swear at idiots who cut in front of me, and whip-off even bigger idiots who insisted on driving slow in the left lane. (Right after conquering cancer, I’m coming after slow-left-lane drivers.) However, you and your Busha keep me both comforted and amused. Calmed into in a blissful haze, I continued to explore. In the confines of four hours, on several different radio stations, I heard: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, “What a Wonderful World”, “Brown Eyed Girl”, and “Yellow”. Each time another song came on I called your Lala. With each call, she broke into her trademark, barely audible giggle. Through a tear-crackled voice she’d proudly proclaim, “He’s such a good boy, DD.” Yes. Yes, you are Diddy.

Knowing Lala was in the loop, you made sure to include her in the fun. Just when I thought you were done for the day, Lala called to tell me “Brown Eyed Girl” just came on the radio in her car all the way over in Milwaukee!

However, the most profound “musical moment” happened as I was finishing up my evening run. A song titled, “Storm”, by Lifehouse came onto my iPhone. I don’t know how it popped into my queue; I am certain I’ve never heard it before. In fact, I really don’t recall ever adding any songs by Lifehouse onto my iTunes. As the lyrics played, the world around me came to a standstill: my body paralyzed: my insides numb. The only thing that seemed to have any movement were the chills that rose to the surface of my skin, and the tears that streamed down my face.

You sent me a perfect compilation of songs, baby love.  Now that I know music is  one way you tell me you are with me, the melodies filled my broken heart with remnants of you. Like most things which involve having to parent you from so far away, receiving the songs made Momma equal parts happy and sad. Happy you are sending me signs, even more happy you are with me. Sad because you shouldn’t have to ‘send me signs’ to let me know you’re near. You should amble over to me, outstretch your little arms, and hop right up into my lap. Nonetheless, I enjoyed our day filled with secret messages. I think I smiled more during that four hour excursion than I have in the last four days combined. However, the song by Lifehouse has rested heavy inside of my heart. How it got on my iPod and came into rotation – on all days – seemed too serendipitous to be merely a coincidence. I believe it was to provide me with a vehicle to reciprocate your beautiful efforts, and send you a song.

If art were ever to imitate life, mine is reflected most perfectly by this song. Much like having you, and subsequently losing you – this song is one of the most painfully beautiful things I’ve ever heard.

This is your lullaby tonight. May the lyrics fill your heart with reassurance that there is nothing I would rather do than be exactly where you are. Nothing I rather have than you wrapped in my arms. Nothing I would rather hear than your squeaky voice. Nothing I would rather see than your adorable face. Close those baby blues and fade into a peaceful slumber – Momma is right here.

I miss you. I love you. Sleep tight.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox

Momma