May, May go away.
Don’t come back ever again.
I fucking hate May.
I’m dreading this entire month, Diddy.
I miss you madly.
Stay with me, Sweet Boy.
July 2nd happened. It was hard. It was painful. It was scary. It was sad. I did not die. I wanted to. But I didn’t. In fact I spent most of July 1st pleading – to no one in particular – to please let me die before morning. Alas, July 2nd came. And I had no choice but to face the one year anniversary of the last day I kissed your beautiful face and held your tiny, sweet hands in my own. To make matters more difficult – it was sunny, warm, and bright outside. It was as if the atmosphere took happy steroids and some invisible force catapulted me into a vibrant backdrop fit for a post card. Surrounded by quiet air, blue skies, green trees and wide open spaces – I couldn’t have felt more vulnerable if I had tried.
What I had been busying trying to do was shift my paradigm of thinking about July 2nd. For months, I spent a good deal of time and energy convincing myself that pieces of July 2nd hold a silver lining. After all, it is the day you ended your brave and gallant battle. It is the day you stopped feeling pain. I told myself time and time again, July 2nd was your very own personal day of liberation. I did my best to prevent July 2nd from simply being “the day my son died”. To help ensure the focus was not solely on the sadness in losing you – but also on carrying on your fight – I even declared July 2nd as National FU Cancer Day. My family, friends, co-workers, and many other special members of your adoring ‘fan club’ joined my pseudo movement. Despite Momma’s very good intentions, July 2nd proved more heart-wrenching than I could have ever anticipated.
I intentionally spent much of the day entirely alone. There is simply no one left in my life who knows exactly what happened in those final days…and final moments with you. I didn’t feel like faking it with my well-intended and kind-hearted friends and family. Maybe I should have. But, I didn’t. I ran away. I ran away to a place I’ve never been, where I knew absolutely no one. And there I stayed for precisely two and a half (2 1/2) days. I spent nearly the entire time searching for you…and, also searching for slivers of peace and slices of resilience. There were moments when I felt you with me: absolutely undeniably with me. And others when I felt like you were millions of miles away.
Back in Milwaukee, my very best lovelies and some of my closest family threw an epic “Celebration of Paxton”. To no surprise, they went over the top, bonkers to put together a celebration fit for a prince. (You are most certainly worthy of an affair of such nature.) Their ultimate goal: to send you love in such abundance, that you couldn’t miss if you tried. Rainbows and love served as the theme of the celebration. Each of those lovelies painted their nails a certain color to reflect the colors of the rainbow. (Broph even did hers as clouds!) They also made sure to paint their middle fingers gold…extra, sparkly-gold just for you. The extra-sparkly-gold middle fingers were used to send cancer a whole-hearted, united, resounding “FUCK YOU”. They sent that off at the part of the day they were feeling spiciest. The kids painted signs – outfitted with giraffes, balloons, rainbows and most prominent of all: your name. The adults recounted stories of your smile, your wonder, your innocence, your bravery. Music played, libations flowed, laughs echoed, tears fell. At the end of the night, when the moon illuminated the warm, summer sky, each one of those good people sent a wish lantern, full of good, sweet love, up into the sky for you. (***Lala’s was so chocked full of kisses, she wasn’t sure it would get off the ground.) I imagine you watching it all. I picture you smiling when they pulled out their inner-gangsta and gave cancer their gold-sparkly-middle fingers. I hope you felt all of their love, Diddy. Most important of all, I hope you know their love exists for you EVERY day. Not just on the day that marks the anniversary of the day you decided to end your fight.
Towards late afternoon, Momma met up with a new friend. She and I have had plans to unite for months. We met through childhood cancer; which we hate. But, we decided to be friends on our own; which we love. She lost her beloved son to cancer 26 months ago – just before he turned four years old. His name is Ronan. His mommy’s name is Maya. A few months ago, Ms. Maya was kind and gracious enough to invite me to her childhood home to spend some time with her on what she quipped as “…that horrible, awful day”. She explained how she and her family run away on Ronan’s “Death Day” too. The first year, she wanted to get as far away from the place Ronan died as possible. So her family headed to Boston. However, when they got to Boston Ms. Maya had a very difficult time. It turned out her tummy didn’t feel right in Boston. In fact, “…she fucking hated it.” She asked her strong and kind husband, Daddy Woo, to take her to Maine instead. So he did. It was reassuring to learn I wasn’t the only Momma who needed to run far away from the place I was on the day you were taken away from me.
In fact, so much about being with Ronan’s mommy was helpful in getting through the day. She knew all the things I was thinking before I could even get the words to come up my throat and out of my mouth. She talked softly, and slowly. She was thoughtful with her words, and compassionate with her eyes. Ms. Maya took me to a beautiful restaurant which held special meaning to her. When I couldn’t eat, she was unfazed. She simply placed her hand atop mine and said, “It’s okay, Momma. You tried.” After my non-meal, we went to a magical place tucked deep in the heart of the city. We spent nearly three hours there. We walked all about the grounds: sometimes talking, sometimes thinking…sometimes crying, sometimes smiling. The entire time each of us staring far off into space. Although we didn’t say as much, it was obvious what we were scanning the skies for: our “Lost Boys”. It was at this magical place where I especially felt you with me, Diddy. Did you see me? Was that you? (I’ll never stop hating that I have to ask these questions.)
When we parted ways, Ms. Maya and I ended our visit, the same way we started it: by hugging…and sobbing. Hating what brought us together…but, grateful we were brought together. I gather there is a secret society amongst we unfortunate mothers who know first hand the gruesomeness and helplessness – which magnifies the enormity of the loss – of watching your child wage a war against cancer. In each other, we found someone who shares the same rage over the lack of awareness about childhood cancer, and also the same passion in bringing about real change to the world of childhood cancer. We also found a slew of other things we have in common – which are more light-hearted and girlie. But, for now, those are secrets for only Ms. Maya and I to hold. Late in the night, Ms. Maya called to check on me. Among other things, she said, “I’m sorry we are going to have to be friends forever because of this. But we are. I love you.” Thank you for sending her to me, Paxton. (You always send me the best ones.)
So there it is, Diddy. July 2, 2013. It was nothing like I wanted it to be, nor like I imagined it would be. If I had control of any of the major changes in my life – I’d have switched so many things about the day. However, as irony would have it…I found a sliver of peace and a slice of resilience by running off to an unfamiliar place, to spend the scariest day of my life alone, and the rest of the time with a girl, who was once but just a stranger.
I miss you. I love you. I ache for you in every cell in my being.
Stay with me, Sweet Boy.
The past few days have been filled with activity. I’m still on my nation-wide search for peace. Which makes the “filled with activity” somewhat counterintuitive. That’s pretty typical for your Momma, I guess.
Speaking of activity, I’ve been running a lot. Mostly because I haven’t had a gym I can readily go to for months. So I do ninja type things using my body’s resistance and I run. As for the running thing: it turns out I like to chase people. Not in a creepy, killer way. Rather in an “I can catch you” way. Your Momma has somewhat of a competitive side, what can I say? It’s been doing wonders for my pacing. I have a few different routes, depending on my mood and on my legs. There are hills everywhere, and some days I swear someone replaced my legs with Clay Matthews’ legs. Anyway, on my short, non-hill route, I turn around when I hit 12th street. I’ve been trying to hit 12th street, at 12 minutes for two weeks. I finally did it this morning! I also clocked out the distance….exactly a mile and a half. If you do the math, that translates into an 8:00 minute mile. Pow. Your Momma may be old, but she’s slowly getting back into fighting form. I don’t think I could keep up an 8:00 minute mile pace for 4 miles or 5 miles. Unless of course I was chasing people, or just trying to impress you.
While I run, I am always on the lookout for signs of you. It seems like I receive the best ones, when I am not trying so hard to find you. Yet the other day, I stumbled upon one. Literally. On the side of a dilapidated, vacant building, there was a painting. It was a simple compilation of wild flowers and colorful butterflies. Within the collage, in blue paint, were the words, Baby A. It took my breath away. My entire pregnancy you were Baby A – short for Baby Andrews. We didn’t want to find out if you were a boy or a girl until your grand reveal. For the record, I knew you were a boy. In fact, I was so confident that I secretly bought a few boy clothes before I was sentenced to bed rest. (You never got to wear those outfits. It breaks my heart whenever I look at those in particular.) You will always be my sweet Baby A.
The Baby A sign pales in comparison to the run where I found the most amazing thing. (That’s for Ms. Britta. She can’t stand the word amazing. In fact, her crazy daisy self sent me a text at some absurd hour to tell me ‘amazing’ has now surpassed ‘moist’ and ‘luscious’ on her most hated word list. You can agree that’s a pretty serious claim.) I digress, I was half-running across a street when I spotted an object lying in the middle of the street out of the corner of my eye. Sophie! I pivoted, lunged forward, and scooped her into my hand within half a second. I turned in what seemed like 112 circles. No one was in sight. Not a soul. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. So, I did both. I clutched Sophie in my sweaty, shaky hand, and carried her with me for the rest of my run. The entire time, my mind raced. “The little-little who dropped her must be so entirely sad.” “I have to find the little-little.” “Paxton would be so happy if I can get her back to her rightful owner.” I went back to the scene of ‘Rescue Sophie-Two’ at the end of my run, half expecting to find a frantic mom scavenging the streets for her. I envisioned the relief on her face when I handed Sophie-Two to her, and planted a kiss on her little-little’s forehead. But, no one was there. With a heaviness in my heart, I took Sophie-Two home. She has been hanging out with Giraffey and Little-Tiny-Bear ever since. Until you whisper exactly the right thing to do with her, Sophie-Two will stay with us. We will take extra special care of her.
In even more exciting news, I connected with a long lost friend a few days ago. I haven’t seen her in 16 years; but that hasn’t stopped her from being one of your ‘Super Fans’. Little Cary has demonstrated stead-fast support for you, in ways both big and small, since last May. Truth be told, my dear, kind, generous friend just happens to have one of the biggest hearts on the planet. After learning she lives in the area, I decided to go out on a limb and send her an email. Unbeknownst to me, LC had just gotten home from work and was going through her mail and email. That afternoon, she received a letter from the museum asking for her annual pledge. LC threw the letter in the garbage. As, she had already decided in lieu donating to the museum, this year she would be donating to the zoo – specifically to the care taking of the giraffes; in honor of you! Moments after her “donation rotation” decision, she opened her email and found the message from me. She is confident this chain of events was not serendipitous. I have to agree. Without pause, LC and I had solidified plans to reunite the next morning. Upon sight, she wrapped me in her arms, and hugged me good and long. Just like that, it was as if no time had passed since we were last together.
A day of non-stop chatter, evolved into dinner, and rolled right up to night-time. LC has something big in the works to help us honor you, Paxton. That woman may be “little”, but she packs a punch. I know she will do whatever she can to lead the “Charge” in helping Momma put childhood cancer on the map. There are one (or two) other very little things she’s trying to help Momma secure as well. All in good time, Diddy. Your Momma has certainly learned how to exercise patience in the last two years. Nonetheless, I am so inspired by LC’s fierce passion for you – that even if nothing materializes, my heart can smile knowing you have another Super Mom who is intensely committed to helping you live on, and to seeing that childhood cancer is put firmly on its ass.
This afternoon, I am heading out to spend the weekend with LC’s family. Somehow, their hearts are even more beautiful than their beloved, adorable son. I am looking forward to being surrounded by familiar faces, warm love, and good souls. I will be sure to keep you posted on the things we get ourselves into. LC already has one plan for Momma. She is able to get me into one of the most beautiful and serene Hindu Temples. She thought it may provide an opportunity to feel closer to you…perhaps, find a sliver of peace to put inside my heart. Peace. It is precisely what I am in search of after all.
I carry you with me everywhere I roam.
I miss you. I love you. I hope you are happy.
“Tu me manqués”. In French, that translates to “You are missing from me.” I love that – as it is far more accurate than to simply say, “I miss you”. (Although, also true.) Today is June 2nd…as of today, you have been missing from me for eleven months. You will be missing from me, every single day, for the rest of my life.
“Tu me manqués.” The French are brilliant. The French are sexy. The French are in love with love. The French also love bread. Best of all, the French drink wine…all the time. My friend, Lisa, in Los Angeles may be onto something in telling me to take my broken heart to France.
This weekend was not an easy one. Most of them aren’t. For the first time in my life, I am NOT a fan of the weekend. (Don’t ask me how I intend to get through summer….which is, in essence, one never-ending-torturous weekend.) The weekends go extremely slow. Each day is impossibly long – and the nights, well, those are even longer. As usual, I spent most of the weekend alone. My company basically consisted of my thoughts. Well, my thoughts and a Milwaukee County Sheriff who introduced himself after pulling me over on Saturday. “Hi. Not nice to meet you sir. Yes. I know why you pulled me over. You want to make my day shittier than it is naturally.” I was flying, Paxton. But, it was not entirely my fault. There wasn’t another soul on the road…the sun was out…and JT was on the radio. Further, I was driving Nana’s brand new whip. Given it is far sassier than Momma’s car, I couldn’t even tell I was moving – much less that I was going 80 mph. (Yes, I know…a tad excessive.) In addition to accidentally speeding, there was no ‘proof of insurance’ in Nana’s car. So, the friendly Sheriff gave me a ticket for that too. Truth be told, the Sheriff actually was quite friendly – but only because he found me to be quite amusing. Ultimately, he felt badly enough that he “gave me a discount”…and only charged me for 19 mph over, instead of 25 mph, which apparently significantly reduces the price of the ticket. But I’m still mad at him. Needless to say, despite the fact that Mr. Sheriff and I got along swimmingly, Momma is still out a million hundred dollars, 4 points, and a squeaky clean driving record. To salt the wound, I was racing around town to get to the store to buy food to make a “dish to pass”…for a party I ended up not being able to attend. Quite an expensive dish to pass right into my garbage. But, I did anyway – because, I could care less.
I wonder if they have speed limits in France? I bet they don’t…at least not for moms who’ve lost their only child – especially when she’s en route to a party, which marks the first real plan she’s had in three weeks. If the Municipale accidentally pulled me over, for accidentally speeding, I bet un policier would’ve given me a hug, a baguette, and a bottle of wine. He probably would’ve told me to screw the appetizer – and advised me to head directly to the party, as fast as I damn well pleased.
So another day, another weekend, another month without you has come and gone. Life without you is so abundantly sad and wholly empty that words will never suffice to explain it. I know in the very, very depths of my bones that this was not your destiny. You were not supposed to get sick. You certainly were not supposed to die at the age 20 weeks and 1 day. You were bound for greatness, Paxton. I am your Momma, so by default – I know things about you that no one else in the world could ever know. It’s not their fault that they don’t know; they are not your Momma. Being your Momma is my job, and my job alone. Part of that job is to follow my instincts….the same instincts that kept telling me something was very wrong with you. My intuition also tells me that there is something very wrong with many things which have occurred in my life. I don’t care what anyone tries to riddle me in efforts to help make sense of complete nonsense. I know I am right when I say…all of these “events” are entirely wrong.
This is a photo of the Pont de l’Archevêché in Paris – more commonly known as the “Locks of Love” bridge. This breath-taking attraction allures visitors from across the globe. Two people, who love each other, inscribe their names on a padlock, attach the lock to the fence on the bridge, and throw the key in the river. Legend has it, that this act solidifies their love as one which will last forever. Momma needs to get to this bridge. I will get an extra fabulous padlock. I will write “Momma & Paxton” on one side, and “Danna & Diddy” on the other. I will lock up our love. I will throw away the key. It will last forever…and ever…because France says so.
I miss you. I love you.
Stay with me, Sweet Boy.
Today has been a hard day. In fact, the past several days have been extra difficult. This seems to happen around and after the 2nd of every month. The time you were here went far, far too quickly. Now the days drag on so slowly…and are filled with so much down time. Daddy was at work all morning. As usual, Lucas was mad at me for being there instead of his beloved Daddy. The house was quiet. I don’t like when our house is quiet. It is eerie. It is scary. It is lonely. When it is too quiet, I find myself straining to hear your voice: coos, laughs, cries…anything. But, I don’t hear you; even when I hold my breath to be extra quiet. As I catch myself doing this, I remember, you are gone. That cruel reality check always makes me want to scream…break things…fall on the ground and thrash around. I have had to talk myself out of giving into those urges countless times. I fear that if you are watching me – which I so desperately hope you are – you would feel badly. I don’t fear, however, that you would think I was weak. I am weak. I am tired. I am sad. I am scared. All the time. Everyone continually tells me that I am “…doing so good“. First, I want to lean over and punch them as hard as I can. Obviously they don’t see my insides – my empty heart and my broken soul. They don’t drive in the car with me and see me cry every single time I am alone in it. I look in the rear view mirror 100 times a week – only to see your empty carseat base, fun mirror, and your blue & yellow riding hat from Grammie. Clearly they don’t see me and Daddy sit in silence, on opposite sides of the couch, every night, as we stare at the t.v., which is on, but not being watched. Neither one of us dare asking what the other is thinking…because the answer is obvious. And they certainly must not see me walk into your room each night before bed, first thing in the morning after willing myself out of bed – – or the countless times in between – – just to fall over your changing table and scream into your pillow. I haven’t yet gone into your room without crying. I miss you so much, little boy. But, despite the pain of your absence, I find comfort there. As I spend time in your room, I don’t have to close my eyes to picture you perfectly everywhere I look. I reach out for you, I hold your invisible fingers, and often sit in the glider to rock your ‘spirit body’. And, then I want to say, “By the way, you can’t do good.; you can do well. Fuckwad.” But, I do nothing – I say nothing, because as I said, I am too weak.
To drown out the silence, I started to overhaul the house. I didn’t stop for four hours straight. It was bittersweet; like everything we do or don’t do these days. It felt so good to purge, organize, de-clutter. We have so much useless stuff in this house. It is amazing how it all got here, or what I was thinking when I bought it in the first place. But, I was thinking the entire time, “I shouldn’t be able to do this. It’s a Saturday morning. I should be cleaning up Paxton’s highchair tray, and little plastic dishes, and teeny tiny spoons from a messy breakfast. I should be doing loads and loads of laundry chocked full of little boy clothes. I should be taking you to Nana’s, Lala’s, Grammie’s – – whoever was complaining the loudest that they wanted to spend time with you today. And, I should have plotted just the seamless timeline in which this would all coincide with your afternoon nap, so you’d be all ready for playtime with Daddy when he got home from work.
I found something in the attic that made my heart stop. I have spoken of it to several people, many times since you showed me the first of many double-rainbows this summer. I didn’t know, however, I still had it. In the dusty bin I almost didn’t open, there it was. I believe Lala or I got it from a pre-school teacher? Nonetheless, it was one of our favorite things when we were little. (Despite the fact that it androgynous in nature – a pin, a picture, a coaster – and that it’s worth less than five cents.)
I brought it straight down to your room and put it on your dresser. I hope you like it, Little Diddy.
You are with me every second of every day. Not a moment goes by that you are not on my mind and in my heart. I will never stop loving you. I will always be your Momma: you will always be my baby. Did you see me today?
Stay with me, sweet boy.