hallow halloween. and the morning after.

Diddy,

Pictures, pictures, pictures.

Children. Smiling. Happy. Alive. Each wearing a costume somehow cuter than the next. I found myself pausing on some pictures a little, or a lot, longer than others.

The same ones always make my heart stop beating for a second too long. Those of the ‘Shadow Children’ – kids who are nearly the same age you would and should be, if asshole cancer didn’t murder you. There are five ‘Shadow Children’ who regularly appear on my Facebook feed. Once upon a time, I had to keep their parents ‘hidden’ from my feed. Seeing them, particularly because it was always in an unexpected fashion, was far too painful. One by one, I’ve somehow ‘unhidden’ their parents again…except for one. And that’s because, among other all-too-similar circumstances, she was born just three days before you. I purposely go to her Mommy’s page to look at her when I’m feeling really strong – but more often when I’m feeling really, really desperate to know what you’d be doing, how big you’d be, things you may like, etc.  Now a days I find myself staring longingly at the photos of your ‘Shadow Children’. My focus always lingers on their eyes. As I silently beg them to tell me if they see you anywhere. If they know where you went. If they can help me find you. Alas, they cannot.  However, I am relieved to report they are all healthy and happy. They appear especially happy this morning, because they participated in a time-honored Halloween tradition of Trick or Treat over the weekend. The lucky itty-bits are still high on sugar.

Speaking of Trick or Treat, I haven’t been brave enough to stand at our front door to hand out candy and wistfully watch child after child skip away, only to close the door and retreat into our home which sits unnaturally quiet and eerily empty. The last few years I’ve made sure to be out of the house when the mobs of adorable, innocent children come a knockin’. This afternoon, I made plans to have lunch and then head to the mall with Nana. When she pulled into our neighborhood to drop me off, a parade of kids in costumes passed in front of her car. I suddenly realized I had the Trick or Treat times wrong; I arrived home an hour too soon. In a panic, I told Nana there were a few things at Target I needed to get. So she whisked me off to Target, where I ambled up and down the aisles until the coast was clear.

I strongly feel like kid-centered holidays should come with a disclaimer, a reminder, a warning to the non-bereaved. For example, Halloween should be prefaced by any combination of creative PSAs which could air on the radio, tv commercials, shit…through ads on Facebook: “Parents, this Halloween take time to consider that some of those doors on which your adorable (blonde haired, blue-eyed, two and a half year old boy) will knock, house heart-broken people. People who desperately want to be parents, and have cried countless tears over their failed attempts to become someone’s mom or dad. People who are moms and dads, but their child cannot go trick-or-treating, or wear super-hero costumes while posing for super-cute pictures. Because their child is dead.”

Like mine.

The morning after a ‘holiday’, particularly the ones which are largely child-oriented, is almost harder than the actual day itself. Because our world is connected by social media. Social media – at which like a car wreck, I can’t help but looking. Post after post reminds me that I’ll never know what you would’ve wanted to dress up as this year. And I’ll forever wonder, at just two and a half, how many houses you’d have walked to, and how many you’d have opted for a ride in the wagon to make it a little further…before ultimately becoming too tuckered out to last any longer. I’ll never know if you would’ve proudly proclaimed some adorably mixed-up version of, “Trick or Treat!”, or if you’d have gotten an unexpected case of stage-freight, and froze – with your pumpkin clasped in your outstretched hand, hopeful to get a mini Snickers bar anyway.

I’m willing to bet I wasn’t the only Momma left wondering this morning. I know of far too many Moms who wonder what it would’ve been like to have had the privilege to walk their own little girl or boy through the neighborhood, and hear how cute they look in their costumes. I imagine they scrolled through their Facebook feeds today, and with tear-blurred vision stared into the eyes of the ‘Shadow Children’, as they mourned their child whose picture they should be uploading.

Parents who don’t belong to the worst-club-ever don’t know the thousands of tortures, just like this, which exist in our (new) worlds. Only a bereaved parent knows of the sucker punch which waits around every corner. No matter how cautiously you turn the bend, no matter how meticulously you scan the surroundings – there is no preparing for the blow. Although there isn’t a day that goes by that we need ‘reminding’ of what we’ve lost – some days all it takes to surmise the magnitude of what we’ve lost…is a picture.

Many people think that grief is some sort of “process”, which has an end. Trust me when I tell you, it doesn’t. Because every single day, for the rest of my life – there will be a morning after…filled only with shadows of you.

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Brush your teeth and hop into bed.

Stay with me Sweet Boy,

xoox,

Momma

P.S. You’ll always be my little Boo!  (Sorry. Momma couldn’t help herself. Look at that. Even when I’m sad, I’m still funny.)

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go get my girl.

Paxton,

No. No. No. Not again. I simply cannot do ‘this’ again.

Our beloved Ms. Nicole is so very, very sick. She is so sick that no one is saying what everyone is thinking; Nicole.may.not.make.it. Which is precisely what has been running through my mind on a constant loop: “Nicole cannot die.” “Nicole cannot die.” Diddy, Nicole cannot die – because she has so many reasons to live. This is all so entirely fucked up and beyond unfair I could light the world on fire with my rage.

At this point, no one knows quite what went wrong, all we know is that Nicole, a 26-year-old picture of health, grace, strength and beauty, went into acute liver failure and desperately needs a new liver – and she needs it now. On July 8th, we thought our pleas were answered, as a match had been secured, and a liver was on the way to save my super-hero sidekick. After 14 long, torturous hours of waiting, the Transplant Team ultimately determined the liver was not going to work. How is that possible? How is any of this possible?

Only a few days ago, Ms. Nicole was on top of the world. She started out her summer with two a-days workouts, sunbathing and wedding planning. She is punch-drunk in love with her hunk of a fiancée, who she is marrying next June. In fact, just last Saturday she bought her wedding dress. It was the very first one she tried on. Overcome with excitement, she sent me a photo of her in her perfectly-perfect dress. Her smile was so bright and bold it nearly overshadowed the beauty of the vision of her in that perfectly-perfect dress. Almost. Now she’s in a coma, lying in ICU, and has been moved to the #1 spot on the National Liver Transplant waiting list.

Nicole has a Caring Bridge page, she has a Go Fund Me site. She is being sustained by a feeding tube and a PICC line.  Her insides are being infiltrated with an onslaught of steroids, chemotherapy, methadone, and dopamine. While her body is frail, it is swollen nearly beyond recognition. Nicole is fighting for her beautiful, bountiful life – and NO ONE knows how any of this happened. You already know that all the horrifying parallels of your fights have set a million and twelve triggers into motion for Momma.

I received a text from hunky Tyler today that said, “Nicole is in ICU…but, she is in Room #12. It is the best sign we’ve received so far.”

Nicole Grace. I am certain she and I are long-lost soul sisters. One of the many reasons I love her so much is because she has helped sustain my life during the darkest, loneliest parts of this walk – when the twists and turns took me lower, and the darkness got even darker, Nicole held my hand a little tighter. Further, Nicole possesses uncanny strength. She is strong-willed, strong-minded, and strong-bodied. In fact, the very definition of her name, Nicole, means: “victorious people”. That simply is no coincidence. She has lived up to her namesake in a hundred different ways. This simply must prove to be her greatest victory yet.

Please keep doing everything Momma has asked you to do. Now is not the time to rebel, my spicy little  monkey. Ms. Nicole needs you. Take good care of her. I will do my best to help her family and Tyler in any way I can. But I feel helpless. There is nothing I can do or say that is going to make this easier. All I have to offer is that I know what it feels like to watch the love of your life fight for his/her life. And I am not dead from the pain. Most of the time I wish I was. Nonetheless, I am still here. That’s all I’ve got. That and I am just so sorry.

I love you more than all the stars in the sky.

Go get my girl, Sweet Boy.

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xoox,

Momma

 

 

two years. too long. to the moon and back.

Diddy,

July 2nd. The date I last held you in my arms, as our hearts drummed in tandem. The date I last kissed your beautiful, perfect head and soaked in your sweet baby smell. The date of the worst day of my life…times two. This day will never get easier. I will never stop recounting every hour, every minute, every last moment that lead up to the last one we shared together. I will never forgive myself for not taking you to the doctor sooner. I will never stop wishing that I could rewind time and find a way to save you. I will never stop fighting your fight. Most of all I will never stop loving and missing you madly. Never. Ever.

Things have been unfolding like rapid fire on this side of the universe. With each new development, your existence is reinforced beyond one single, solitary, sliver of a doubt. July 2nd, began with a much-anticipated phone call. Given the date, I vacillated on whether or not it was right to take the call on the worst day in history. But, something in the deepest part of my soul told me a you had a message you wanted to deliver…and the timing of your message was no coincidence. I braced myself against the wall in the furthest corner of your bedroom, with Giraffey and Little Tiny Bear clutched in my sweaty, clenched palms as I did my best to process the information being relayed to me. As the words rolled off of the caller’s voice, tears of relief, joy and guilt burned down my face. Her words slowly turned into background noise, as I said over and over again, “…my Sweet Boy is pure, pure perfection.” Not only was the news perfect in every last way – the timing of it, naturally, couldn’t have been sweeter. I don’t know what I ever did to deserve you, Paxton Bowe; but, I will spend the rest of this life trying to make you proud.

My heart has never known such a juxtaposition of joy and sorrow…elation and guilt…relief and dread. Nonetheless, I wanted to throw you up in the air and tell you all about the wonderment and miracles which are coming our way. My mind in knots, my stomach reeling – and you nowhere to be found, I ran straight to the bathroom and threw up my breakfast instead. Twice. I guess once for each year we’ve been apart.

Your Uncle Stephen & Lala had a small gathering at their house in your honor. I will hate that those types of gatherings exist as much as I’d hate if they didn’t for the rest of eternity. Almost all of my lovelies were present; although the mood was light, everyone’s hearts were heavy. We did our best to wear fake smiles, complimented with faux-laughter and make-shift contentment. But, each of our souls was silently crying, while simultaneously wishing there were never a need for such a shitty reason for a shitty gathering. Shit-o-versary cards don’t exist…nor do shit-o-versary cakes or gifts. Because everyone knows there isn’t anything in the entire world that could minimize the shittiness of such a date: not cake, not cards, not packages in shiny bows. Not even all the people you love the most in the entire world contained in one room, holding you up, and telling you that you are not in this shit storm alone.

At nightfall, adults and children alike launched wish lanterns into the damp and dreary sky for you. Mine was so chocked full of kisses, I didn’t think it would lift from the ground. But it did. And, I followed its glow until it was swallowed by the moon’s clouds. Then I watched a little longer. I hope you saw this corner of the sky light up for you. I hope you felt the waves of love we sent to you. I hope you know how deeply and desperately you are missed. I hope you understand I would give anything in this mixed up world to trade places with you.

Thank you for the phone call. Thank you for my lovelies who surround me with their love, even though I don’t deserve it, nor have the strength to reciprocate it. Thank you for the greatest gift of all – being my son.

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Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox

Momma

Eddie Vedder. Mookie Blaylock. Mr. President.

Diddy,

As you know, I’ve recently formed an unlikely – yet totally healthy, obsession with Pearl Jam. How they ever managed to slip off my musical radar, I haven’t a clue. But it’s a damn shame. Nonetheless, every time I hear a song by Pearl Jam, I have a visceral reaction of sorts. Their lyrics seemingly lace through my tattered heart and wrap around my torn soul, and somehow make me feel a little less hollow.

Eddie Vedder, in particular, possesses talent which I feel is uncanny and I am certain goes unmatched. He should probably be President. I swear the man could croon the world into peace. But, I’ll settle for him singing you into a peaceful slumber. After all, you are my entire world.

Sleep tight, wherever you are. Here is your lullaby for tonight…a la Mr. President.

I miss you desperately. I love you even more.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

Before. After. There is no in between.

Paxton,

May is officially here and I’m trying my best not to go into freak out mode.  You know what May means; and no matter how many Jedi mind tricks I attempt to sell myself – one’s subconsciousness always knows the truth: May will never get easier. May 8th: diagnosis day. Mother’s Day: the day you started chemotherapy. (i.e. The day I allowed poisonous venom to be pumped throughout your teeny, tiny body. One of a thousand ways in which I failed to protect you.) May: the beginning of the end. May: there is no escape.

I will come up with some sort of plan to get through the shitty days of May.  I realize how very lucky I am to know that I will do so surrounded by some of my most favorite people.  Having my lovelies by my side will help ease the pain a bit. But the body never forgets. No matter where I am, who I am with, what I am doing – every cell within me remembers the pain of these dates.

I don’t live in a normal world anymore. I live in a world that I often feel very alone.  I tend to do alright in this world. This world without you is so hard for me to live in, but I have done my best to make it bearable by living each day the best way I’m capable because I hope against all hope that you are watching me, and that you are with me. I refuse to disappoint you by being a loser Momma. You may say this new perspective has given me a clarity I never had before. I guess that all comes with the territory of living a life that includes a line of demarkation: a ‘before and after’.  My before cancer life, and after cancer life are unequivocally two completely, wholly, vastly different lives.

The always absence of you is more ever-present during certain times and certain days; May being one of those times. As always, I will keep you tucked as close to me as possible, and carry you with me in everything I do and everywhere I roam.  Thank you for not giving up on me.

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

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox

Momma

 

 

i don’t worry about not being normal. i only worry about you. (and maybe zombies. only sometimes.)

Lil Diddy Bop,

When I woke up this morning, it took me a few blinks to remember I was in Florida. I came here with two of my loveliest lovelies on a hunt for sunshine. It is the second time I’ve been to Florida and the upteenth time I’ve set out on a big o’ jet airliner and fled for unfamiliar land since you’ve been gone. No matter where I roam, the pain of missing you follows.

No matter how far, how often, or how abruptly I flee from home it is impossible to ‘run from grief’. To salt the wound, there also isn’t anything that feels right about being able to jump on a plane at any given time, and fly off to any given destination. I am supposed to be at home, with my two year old son – pinching his cheeks, and my pennies to save up for his first trip to Disney World. Instead, I’m laying in a strange bed, alone, in Boca Raton. Putting me about 185 miles from Disney, and 180 degrees from the life I should be living.

It’s impossible not to think about how wonderfully different life would be if cancer didn’t steal you. Glimmers of that life play through my psyche regularly – whether I stay at work later than normal, run multiple errands (in order to avoid going to an empty home), once I arrive at my barren, quiet, perfectly tidy home, on the weekends…and every minute in between. When I embark on an excursion outside of my day-to-day routine, I am stuffed with extra heaps of guilt, sadness, rage – and a hefty side-serving of confusion. How did this all happen?

My super-kind-extra-special lovelies are keenly aware of the angst such situations cause my heart. They couldn’t have been more supportive in their reassurances that everything would be alright. Even though I’ve heard that before and everything turned out the exact opposite of alright – I couldn’t help but trust them implicitly.  This is just one of the many reasons I love them.

Yesterday, as I was drying my hair, the all-too-familiar feeling of my heart lurching up into my throat started. Anxiety. It is as normal now as grief. And as breathing. I was certain something had happened to your “specials” in transit to Nana’s. I should’ve left them at home: in the fire-proof safe, locked in the fire-proof cubby, in the depths of the now fire-proof, bullet-proof, zombie-proof basement. But the fear of zombies conquering Milwaukee in my absence trumped my fear of the risk of having Nana take your ‘specials’ to her house for safe-keeping. Dammit. I chose wrong again. The other shoe had dropped. It all made sense. It also explained why no one was calling me. They didn’t want to ‘interrupt my vacation’ with more bad news.

My mouth filled with pre-puke saliva as I frantically lunged towards my phone. With a shaky hand, I pressed the button to call Nana. She didn’t answer. I shook out a text. No reply. I called Lala. No answer again. I sent her a text too. Again, nothing. I called Nana back. Oh my GOD… the fire – the car accident – the ER -the next death – the next memorial – the next obituary to write…the zombies.  And, just like that – the loosely stacked ruins of my AC world, collapsed like a house of cards caught in the vortex of a tornado.

I know there are people who find my thoughts neurotic, paranoid, or psychotic. Rest assured, those people don’t know what I know. I know all too well that there are absolutely no guarantees about anything in this life. I know that babies die for no explainable reason, from unthinkable accidents, from horrific acts, and from the biggest asshole murdered of all time: cancer. I know that evil exists. I know that some people are born without a soul. I know about things I never knew about knowing.

I live in a perpetual state of waiting for the other shoe to drop. I am constantly on edge, on guard, on call for something else to happen…again. Any time, anywhere. I am always expecting to trip over another dividing line. Another before and after.

Then, my phone rang. Nana. My mouth ran dry. Before she completed the first sentence: I exhaled. Everything was fine. I can always tell by her voice what she’s feeling even without her saying the precise words. Your special things were safe. Nothing was lost, tattered, ruined, burned or stolen. There was no accident, nor was there a trip to the ER. No one died. There was no memorial to plan. My house did not burn to the ground. As an added bonus: the zombies did not attack – yet.

I realize that my thoughts, fears, worries and obsessions are not remotely similar to those of mothers who are lucky enough to not have a dead child. I wonder if anyone realizes they shouldn’t be? Trust me, I’d trade my non-normal existence for their normal existence any day of the week. But my normal disappeared on May 8th, 2012…and was obliterated on July 2, 2012. All traces were expunged from my existence in February 2013. Anyone who feels the need to cast judgement, make assumptions, or spew conjecture about the thoughts which run through my mind on a perpetual loop should do the universe a giant favor – and fuck the fuck off.

I feel better knowing your “specials” are safe. I feel better because I’m writing to you. I feel better because I just said fuck a bunch of times too. Thank you for sending these lovely ladies into my universe…and for holding their hearts hostage. Half the time I am convinced the only reason they put up with me is because they are so deeply in love with you.

I wish you were here. Or, thatI I was there. I wish we were together – anywhere.

The sunshine always makes me think of you.

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Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

P.S. Today is your Uncle Stephen’s birthday. Sneak a butterfly kiss onto his cheek at the point in the day when you feel he needs it most.

 

 

 

i’ll up the ante again. and again.

Paxton,

A memory of you popped into my mind’s eye this morning. You were happily bouncing and cooing away in your bunny seat, while smiling at your (adorable) reflection in Mr. Cow. As always, I recalled every last detail with acute precision: from the the tiny crook in the lobe of your left ear, to your almost-but-not-quite-off-centered smile, down to the way your arm involuntarily pumped into the air. Your half-excited, half-serious voice echoed in my ears and straight through my bones.

It didn’t take long before I began negotiating, with no one in particular, for a deal they couldn’t refuse. Bring you back to me. I pledged anything – everything, in exchange for you in my arms. My desperate negotiation ended the same way it always does; with the harsh realization that no matter how grandiose or lavish my ante: it will never be enough. You aren’t ever coming back.

Should anyone still find validity in the age-old, psychological Stages of Grief, your Momma must be stuck smack dab in the middle of the ‘Barging’ stage. If you ask me, there is simply nothing universal about the time or way in which a person grieves. Suggesting that a prescribed way to mourn the death of your only child exists, is as insulting as it is ridiculous. In fact, I am quite certain it makes perfectly good sense that I find myself attempting to strike a deal with the universe to let me have the love of my life back in my arms.

Without a doubt, and without pause, I swear on all things good and pure, I would give anything…everything, to have you back again.

I believe it’s just about time for your afternoon nap. Allow the rain falling from the sky wash away any tears you’ve cried today. Let the lyrics of your afternoon lullaby line your soul; I mean every last word. Fade into a peaceful slumber. I will be right here when you awake. I will be here forever thereafter, too.

I miss you. I love you. I hope you catch the kisses I throw into the sky for you.

xoox,

Momma

P.S. Today is April 26th. You’d be 26 months old today. I am so sorry.

 

 

hiraeth. you are my forever home.

Diddy,

I spent the afternoon doing one of my favorite things, with one of my favorite people. I had a “special day” (aka “Day of All Yes-es!”) with your super hero side-kick cousin, Finn Foo. Whenever Finn and I set into the world together, I feel as though I could conquer the universe. I also feel more vulnerable than when I am in the presence of any other person; as million an one vibrations of how life should’ve been echo through my bones. I remain convinced he carries pieces of your heart within his soul, and pieces of your soul inside his heart.

After an action packed day, Finny climbed into “his side” of bed and began fade into a slumber. Moments before his almond colored eyes closed for the night he said, “D.D., When can I meet your other kids?” Equal parts confused and rattled by his query, I quickly assured him I didn’t have any other children. Sleepily, he persisted, “…yes you do; you tell stories about them all the time. I want your other kids to be my cousins just like Paxton.”  Oh sweet, innocent, adorable Finn.

Silenced by the need to stifle my sobs, I was unable to explain that when I refer to, “…one of my kids” – I actually mean, “…one of my students”. For once, my lack of composure likely worked in my favor.  A conversation of that nature would’ve only further confused the little guy. My arm was the only part of my body that wasn’t paralyzed by the reminder of Finny’s ever-complex existence of trying to navigate life without you – his wing-man. So I used it to stroke his hair across the top of his furrowed brow. I managed to eek out the only words which needed be said: “Paxton is my only child.”

As always, the voice inside my head ensued on one of its familiar rants. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that it’s talking to the ‘other people’ inside my head. So it’s fine. “Paxton is my only child. He is my only, miracle child. He is my only, miracle child who I waited for my entire life. He is my only, miracle child, who I waited for my entire life – and he is dead.”

My only child died. He was diagnosed with cancer when he was just 12 weeks and three days old. In 146 days, he raised an entire village. In less than one second, he stole my heart. Without uttering a single word, he rewrote the definitions of bravery, courage, grace and peace. My son took his last breath while safely tucked in his Daddy’s arms…with his cheek pressed against my own. I felt the warmth of his last breath brush across my lips. It is the only good-bye kiss I will ever get. And, it will suffocate me for as long as I am breathing. My only child is dead. 

No matter how many times I say it, even if it’s not out loud and only to the ‘other people’ in my mixed up head, I cannot wrap my mind around the incomprehensible truth. You are dead. I am not dead; yet I am not alive. I am fighting to live; yet begging to die; breathing yet suffocating; attempting to exhale, yet holding my breath; smiling on the outside, yet crying on the inside. My existence is every parents’ worst nightmare; only it is not a dream-state nightmare. It is a real fucking nightmare. It is my life.

Other parents complain about their kids spilling kool-aide on their carpet, their homes being a mess, their laundry piling out of control. Whenever I hear such banter, I swallow my grief whole while I silently beg to choke to death on my wishes to have problems just.like.theirs. Mud-stained, sticky-carpets; spilled milk, smashed peas and crushed gold fish crackers randomly strewn across my kitchen floor. I ache for the signs of the living, breathing, playing, alive in my home version of you. I long for the iterations of all that could have and should have been.

Instead, I have an empty chair at every meal, ‘loads’ of laundry that make me twinge with guilt and shutter with rage that it’s all I have, again this week, to wash. The contents which encompass your entire life sit neatly stacked in plastic bins – which have been organized with acute precision, in my attic. I can’t bring myself to verify as much – but, I know in my soul they now smell more of ‘stillness’ than of you.

It is true, I refer to my students as my ‘kids’. It is also true that I love some of them in ways the majority of the planet could never understand. In many aspects, I consider parts of them to be mine. I also love your crazy daisy, adorably unique, and perfect in every way cousins well beyond my own comprehension. I know for a fact parts of them are mine.  From the outside looking in, my life appears to be chocked full of love, from a vast continuum of children young and old. Rest assured, it is always empty. I’m left with an equation that never equates.  No matter how many times I recompute, the only one that matters – the only one who is really mine, is missing. A million more children, and a trillion more blonde haired, blue eyed boys, could never replace or erase the pain of missing you.

There is an eternal hole in my heart and in my life. It is the precise size and shape of you and only you.  No one and nothing will ever be able to fill this hole. Despite the incomprehensible complexity of being a bereaved mother, all that truly matters is quite simple. You are my son. You are my heart. You are my soul. You are my dream come true. You are my home. 

Diddy, you are as real to me now as you were when you were here in my arms.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

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xoox,

Momma

a grocery store. a bathroom stall. and a promise. like all good things – it ends with wine and gummy bears.

Diddy,

I hate grocery shopping. It is the stupidest concept on the planet. Let’s talk it through. You drive to the store, grab a cart…if you have my luck, the cart has a wobbly wheel, a sticky handle-bar, and/or a mind of its own. Only after spending five minutes pretending you aren’t irritated by the wobbly-wheeled, sticky handle-bar cart, you finally ditch it. Normal people, who shop for normal sized families are forced to search for another cart. Not your Momma. I just turn on my super hero powers and carry everything I need for the week in my tired arms. I digress. Then you walk up and down aisles, taking items off shelves and placing them into your cart. Just when you think the up-down-up-down is over – you remembered an ingredient you just can’t make that casserole without, so you loop all the way back to the first aisle.  Then…you stand in line.  You often stand in that line longer than it takes you to drive there – and home. Next, you place the items onto the checkout belt. Only to then pack the items into bags. You then take the 50 bags of food – that easily could’ve fit into 6 bags, and put them back into your cart.

You wheel the cart to your car, and unload the 50 bags – which could be six, into your trunk. Then, you drive home. (You consider stopping for a drink to award yourself for a job well done, but you quickly remember your cash flow has just been spent on stupid food, which is in 50 stupid bags, in your stupid ass trunk – which you now hate even though it is an innocent by-stander in this whole stupid excursion.) So you just drive home. When you arrive, you take the bags inside. Even though you should take four trips, you insist you can make it happen in two. A dented can of beans and a leaking milk jug later, you curse yourself for trying to be Shera, queen of the grocery bag carrier, again.

Next up: you spend 20 minutes putting those SAME items you removed from shelves in the store, back onto shelves in your kitchen. It.truly.makes.no.sense.

Your Nana maintains that she’s never seen anyone more content with going hungry than having to obtain and make food. I will point out, I made more meals during the 8 weeks you and I were home on maternity leave than I did the combined 37 years prior. It’s fine. I was just waiting for the ‘know how to cook a meal’ gene that emerges after women have children. I always knew it would come.

This weekend, the whole ‘eating to survive’ thing trumped my distain for grocery shopping. So off to Sendick’s I went. It only took moments for me to realize I just didn’t have the energy to go through the motions of doing normal things, that normal people, with normal lives, and normal families partake in without blinking an eye. To buy myself some time, I ditched my cart…even though it wasn’t wobbly – and headed to the bathroom. I locked myself behind a stall door and attempted to give myself a pep talk. Before my first deep inhale, a mother and her toddler son entered the bathroom. I wanted to flush myself down the toilet.

I am assuming the little guy was about 3 years old – I never did get a look at him. His mommy was insistent that he go ‘potty’ alone, while she stood guard outside his stall door. The encouragement required to get him to agree to this arrangement was beyond endearing…and beyond heart-breaking. In the end, his mommy’s authentic support convinced this little guy that he was brave enough to ‘be a big boy’.  No sooner did his stall door close – did he began to rattle off questions.

“Mommy?”

“Yes, honey.”

“Are you still there?”

“Yes, honey.”

“Mommy. Mommy? Are you waiting for me?”

“Of course, sweetie. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Mommy…don’t leave me.”

“Sweetie, I will NEVER leave you.”

….pause, pause, pause.

“Never?”

“No, sweetie. Never.”

“Mommy, you won’t leave me…even if you die?”

(Audible gasp…Though, at this point, I still can’t say for sure if came from this little guy’s Mommy – – -or from me.)

“Of course not, honey. Not even when I die.”

“Mommy, if I die – I won’t leave you either. Because I don’t want to ever be away from you. Not even if I die.”

I am certain this mommy heard my stifled sobs, which were nicely echoing off Sendick’s, barren bathroom walls. It took all I had not to charge through the stall door, grab onto her shoulders, look through her eyes, and straight into her soul – while begging her to never, ever let her dear boy go.  Never. Not even for a second. Not even to encourage him to be a big boy and use the bathroom on his own. But, my legs wouldn’t have worked if I wanted them to.

There have been many times in the last 20 months when I’ve known you’re with me.  Other times I think it is you – but, I find myself wanting ‘more proof’.  Today falls under the former category. After all, only you would come with me on the most dreaded errand of all time, and follow me right into the grocery store bathroom – to make good and sure I knew it was really you.

The fear that management would be beckoned to check on “…the crazy woman hyperventilating in the Ladies’ Room” propelled me into action.  I swung the stall door open, threw water on my face, avoided eye contact with the reflection of the stranger who so often greets me in the mirror, and fled for safety. I quickly realized I was in a god damn grocery store…making it not so safe and cozy after all.

I ultimately left with two of the 24 items on my list: gummy bears and wine. There’s always next week.

I miss you. I love you. I would have packed really good lunches for you.

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Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma