Monday, February 29, 2016

Found this picture

Our family on Pikes Peak 1999

February 29

Happy 13th birthday Alyson! I don't really wish to be 13 again. No, not at all. I like the Google heading today. This day doesn't really exist, does it? Feels like it to me since I don't have to work on this odd Monday.

After a hearty bowl of steel cut oats (the real kind) with blueberries and walnuts, maybe a leisurely hike through the petroglyphs for my last day in ALBQ. I got all my souvenir shopping done yesterday at quaint Old Town. I even said a prayer for Adam on my knees in San Felipe de Neri parish church. Very spiritual place. We ate red chile brittle and pinion brittle. The chile brittle was far superior if you ever get a chance.

Lunch at El Pinto, an Albuquerque institution followed by our own Oscar party with leftover pizza. A super nice day. I wore an old shirt of Adam's and strangely enough it smelled like him even though I had washed it.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sunny Albuquerque

This respite to Albuquerque in the works for a year and ticketed since early January has been restorative to say the least. Friday I was a little tender, having gotten up at 2:45 a.m. for an early flight. Arrived after noon in ALBQ. We had to return an Aerobed to Costco and ate our way through the store on tasty samples.

I got to tell the story of Adam to yet another avid listener and fellow mother. Our kids were an even bigger topic than usual. After fresh bread and homemade dipping oil with a side of fresh tomatoes I retired early and had the best nearly 11hours of sleep I can remember. We had the recommended specialties for breakfast (mammoth cinnamon rolls and breakfast burritos on homemade flour tortillas) at the iconic Frontier restaurant on Central Street, aka Route 66. ALBQ is a wee bit tacky compared to Santa Fe, and Alyson calls it the Wild West where the rules don't apply, eg you are expected to bribe the police and judges and gun toting is mandatory and obvious, though I haven't actually seen that yet. The locals have names like Bronc, Laredo and Shaw.

Off to Ojo Caliente mineral springs past the beautiful Espanola valley. The spa is up a bit in the mountains and features multiple outdoor shared hot springs, one being Arsenic pool which is somehow good for you. We spent about four hours in various temperatures from tepid to sizzling, took in the steam room and sauna, ate our picnic lunch of quinoa salad, swung in hammocks and commented on the array of hairy backs. It was about 70 degrees outside, the canyon walls rising up around us, the sky clear blue; just what my soul needed.

Back to ALBQ and my request to make our own pizzas at one of Alyson's Dominos. It was a blast putting on apron sans hairnet and pretending to be employed! My pan pizza and marble brownies were pretty damn good, too. Went to bed quite stuffed.

It surprises me how the sounds through the window are country and not city. Enjoying the music of Toto and Bonnie Rait. It's good to be among one's own generation.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


A tribute to Adam as given at his Memorial Service 2/6/16

By Chris Vick

If anything, my nephew Adam was tenacious. He believed given enough hard work, effort and
determination he could achieve the impossible. Case in point: The Sandcastles.
Pretty much every summer when Adam was a boy my parents would come to visit me in
Portsmouth, NH. And pretty much every summer Adam would hitch a ride with them.
Sometimes we would go to Boston or the Berkshires or the White Mountains but our favorite
excursions were to the ocean which was only about 15 minutes from my place.
Our favorite beach was not one of the big crowded resorts like Hampton Beach but an off the
beaten path stretch of sand called Foss Beach. The downside of Foss Beach, although it was big
and spacious at low tide, it practically disappeared at high tide. So we would check the paper in
the morning in order to arrive at the beach as close to low tide as possible, whereupon Adam
would begin building a sandcastle. And later as the tide eventually reached his structure, it would
of course, be destroyed by the waves.
But every day we went back Adam would declare “Today I am going to build the biggest,
strongest sandcastle ever and it WILL survive!”
He would work all afternoon on his project (with occasional breaks for swimming and boogie
boarding) until finally the tidal creep would reach his castle of sand and begin to undermine the
front wall, the first line of defense. Whereupon Adam would run in front of his structure as the
waves receded, gathering strength in anticipation of the next heavier and more destructive
assault. Adam would shout at the ocean, wave his fist, even pick up handfuls of sand and hurl
them furiously at the waves. Eventually, when none of these tactics worked, he would lie down
in front of what was left, sacrificing his own body for his beloved creation.
Finally, as usual, the tide would win the battle and leave the beach as smooth and flat as when
we arrived. Adam would shrug and go for one last swim as we packed up the beach accessories.
And, as we said goodbye to mother ocean, Adam would take a final look around and say
“Tomorrow…I will build a sandcastle that will last forever.”
Adam, I’ll keep building your sandcastles every summer and maybe, just maybe, someday…..

Monday, February 22, 2016

Another Monday

I might not be the only one feeling off today. Deflated, achey, down. Thinking things like, he'll never read another book, he'll never go to work, he'll never watch Making a Murderer or assess James Franco's performance in 11.22.63. I'll never get to hug his skinny frame, see him walk in in new sneakers*, find his balled up socks by the couch, make him 2 grilled cheeses at odd hours. Sometimes I think I have been too blunt, too direct, not emotional enough. My emotions feel buried deep inside so that I am able to go on but it's getting tiring. I have to remind myself what I tell my clients. There are no wrong feelings. No wrong responses. Yeah, right.

I no longer wake up crying, more just thinking. Before work I washed up some of Adam's clothes. We have pretty much dispersed his things to family members and friends but there were a couple of shirts I thought the boys might want, plus I wanted to return his work uniforms to Little Saigon. Why?? I figure that's one less thing someone has to buy; they could just hang them up for people to wear if they forget or spill something if no one needs them. So I am taking them out of the dryer to put on hangers and out falls a $20 bill. Grab another shirt and out falls another $20 bill. I wonder how he knew I spent all my cash this weekend. Later on I pull out the rest of the clothes, a third $20 bill for Pat.

We gave some of Adam's coats** to his old boss/friend Mike, and he stopped by wearing one of his coats, and handed us a set of keys from the pocket.

Adam with an early grilled cheese smile

*Adam had no less than 10 pairs of new and like-new sneakers.

**Adam had multiple coats; apparently he was known to bet coats when out with friends (Fight Club?).

I am not ashamed or stigmatized by what has happened. I'm just getting tired.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Denecke Love

The Deneckes who accepted Adam as one of their own from Day 1, have been profoundly affected by his death, as this cherished letter shows. The last line captures something no one else has said.

The Denecke cousins up to the point Adam and I entered (Adam in green hoodie) 
this enormous and loving family

*if you click on the pictures they will enlarge*

Susan, Orv, Eli and Cal, 

An hour does not go by where I don't get hit by a wave of sadness thinking about you guys. I first think about the hole that has been created in my soul never to be filled again. I then think about what Adam must have been feeling and cry for his sadness and struggles. My thoughts then turn to all of you and I struggle to keep myself together. Your sadness and loss must be exponentially worse than my own and that is impossible to imagine.

I understand you have received tremendous support over the past several weeks that has provided some level of comfort. I need you to know that you all must lean on us, your family, to continue to provide support over the coming months and years. We feel so deeply for your loss and will do anything to help you through times of struggle. What happened is sad, it is not fair and hard to understand. These facts will never change and we all need to figure out ways to pull you through the low points. 

You represent the greatest family on earth. Everything you do, all the decision you have made in life, all come back to "the family". I try to model myself after you all but I can't compare - your commitment to family and each other is 100% pure. The fact that you are such a wonderful family makes this tragedy more painful. I can only hope that the wonderful legacy Adam left will somehow relieve some of the pain.  

I will always remember Adam by his smirkish, mischievous smile that said to me "I am happy, I am up to something, and I am going to laugh when you finally figure it out."

I love you all, 

Charlie Jr. (Uncle Chib-A-Pet)

Post Script: Charlie Jr. (aka Nipsy) is the third to youngest of the 10 Denecke siblings. My boss (who is a therapist also) says to look out for STUG (sudden temporary upsurge of grief). I think I am having one now mixed with deep appreciation for people and life.

Adam in Mard's basketball hoop

Patrick (facing away), Adam (catcher's mask) and Kobie (a Coke and a Lacrosse stick)
These three were all born in 1988

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Difficult Day

Warning: this post may contain painful subject matter.

It was a surreal experience to be sitting in a waiting room of the Springfield Police Department reading "Little Ways to Keep Calm and Carry On: Twenty Lessons for Managing Worry, Anxiety and Fear," which I had found among Adam's belongings 15 days earlier.

We had been uplifted by the kind people at "Ds  Auto Plaza" (as in Dee's) an hour earlier when we went to pay off Adam's 2009 Chevy Impala yesterday. The owner, D, shepherded us into his office amid condolences and positive words when we announced we were Adam Tuttle's parents. D kept saying, "He was my man, a model customer" and expressing his shock and disappointment at this young man ending his life. He showed us his payment history reiterating how he wished he had more customers like Adam. He had helped Adam trade in his water/flood damaged Audi and purchase the Impala. At one point he answered his cell phone, telling the other party, "I have a situation, I am having some fellowship." He asked if he could keep the obit I had brought to prove Adam was dead. Several other employees told us how nice and polite Adam was when coming in every month early to make his payments in cash.

Now we are waiting for the detectives to decide if we can view any of Adam's last effects (note, journal, cell phone). The Springfield PD could not have been any nicer to these parents arriving at 3:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon to try to get some answers to an unanswerable question. When we entered the otherwise deserted building a man in a suit asked if he could help and we explained why we were there. Turns out he was head of investigations and accompanied us upstairs to the above mentioned waiting room while he scouted around for our detective, whose name we had forgotten to bring. Another kind detective came out a few minutes later to let us know Det. Henson was out, but they would reach him by phone to find out how to proceed. It was explained that the items would not be released until after the Coroner's Inquest*, which is standard procedure. More nervous waiting, and a couple of updates later, a third detective, a tall, young man entered the waiting room clutching a couple of photocopied pieces of paper. He tried to prepare us and offered to make a copy of "the note" and send us home to read it, but I insisted on looking then and there, which I'm sure he was anxious about our reaction to.

In two pages of Adam's deteriorating chicken scratch, it was clear that Bella was on his mind as he wrote, "she isn't worth it," "she kind of used me" and other references to this being his last day. Keep Calm and Carry On was struggling with What the Fuck in my mind. There was clearly a decline in his handwriting and mental state as the note progressed, with alcohol playing a role as well. We read what we could and handed the letter back. The nice young man with the arduous job of delivering this note, again offered his condolences with true empathy. There will be time after the inquest to decipher and digest it more fully if we so choose. For now, I have the answers I need.

For the first time this morning, my thoughts go to, what if I had called him that Saturday, even if he didn't answer. Maybe I could have interrupted his downward spiral and got him to think outside of himself-you know, the Butterfly Effect (one of his favorite movies, by the way). That answer will not be so easy to come by.

A Coroner’s Inquest is an inquiry into the manner and cause of an individual’s death, conducted by the Coroner or Deputy Coroner with a court reporter and six jurors present. The jurors are citizens of the county in which the death took place.
The purpose of an inquest is to present  information concerning the victim’s death in order for the jury to determine the cause and manner of a death. The cause of death is often readily apparent and obvious, based on the facts, circumstances, medical evidence and in some cases, toxicology and autopsy results. The real essence of the jurors’ responsibility is to establish the manner of death (Suicide, Homicide, Accident, Natural or Undetermined).

Friday, February 19, 2016


Uncle Kevin, Uncle Mike, Uncle Tim, and Uncle Chris all had special relationships with Adam, as he was the doted-on first nephew or niece in both families for about 5 years. But the deepest relationship was clearly with my sister Betsy. I think an early story illustrates this point perfectly. In 1991, when Adam was 3, my parents drove to Buffalo to visit and then take Adam back to Macomb and on to Omaha for an extended vacation. I was having some personal issues I'm not sure my family was fully aware of, but this plan would buy me some time to secure housing (I had suddenly become homeless).

On the way to Macomb (after getting several exits down the interstate and returning for "blankie"), my parents drove to Louisville, KY to visit Betsy and Chuck. I was told Adam was a bit disoriented, and in the dusky evening light, Betsy came outside to greet them, and Adam said, "You look just like my mommy." I think this cemented their closeness in his mind, as it was probably his first time away from me.

Betsy, Blankie, Adam

Over the years, their bond grew as we visited back and forth often, despite the distances. She never forgot a birthday or holiday, and made special efforts after Adam's brothers were born to single him out for attention and notice. Aunt Betsy had a special bag of dinosaurs at her house that was always the first thing Adam would ask to play with. She planned fun activities and projects to entertain him. Adam was always first even as he grew up and grew apart in many ways. Betsy always made sure to personally invite Adam home to Macomb when she visited and traveled to him if he couldn't make it if only to eat lunch, go shopping or have a short talk. Betsy is the only family member besides Calvin to have slept at Adam's apartment in Springfield, and she traveled to Springfield just last November and had lunch at one of Adam's favorite Indian restaurants.

I know Adam's death has been excruciatingly hard on her, especially as she tried to be strong for me, when her heart was breaking for the little boy she loved so well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Beast Mode

After a few days back at work, I realize I am still in an emotional minefield. There are so many layers to what has happened, with more being revealed as time goes on. However, I have been churning around some thoughts that need to come out.

*break to get a cup of coffee*

You have probably wondered like I used to, how anyone could remain standing, let alone function efficiently when losing a child (or anyone close really, but especially a child of any age). I certainly did. All I can say is that something took over me (besides coffee) and I was a machine, a beast in overdrive. Decisions came quickly and easily, although I consulted Pat on almost every move. 

Here are some early tips, if you will, or ways I coped:

  • Keep pens everywhere and one notebook and write everything down (lists, your thoughts, feelings, ideas for thank you notes, phone calls, numbers)
  • Don't even think about wearing mascara for a few months
  • Dress comfortably (I wore the same cozy sweater day after long day)
  • Take care of your partner, treat each other gently
  • Don't feel bad if you don't cry, don't feel bad if you do cry, don't feel bad if you laugh, don't feel bad if you experience joy again. Let your emotions flow. There are no wrong responses.
  • Use social media if you are comfortable doing so to say the things you wouldn't put in the newspaper. I use it to connect to my support system and to reach out to Adam's friends. I learn more about him everyday.
  • Other people: Let them know it's okay to cry, even if they didn't know your loved one. I've been on that side and know how hard it is to approach a grieving person as I wrestled with my own emotions.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A New Day

Today is very cold, but clear, sunny and bright. I saw my first live cardinal on the way home from some errands. I love you, Adam. I am finding strength I never knew I had. I wanted to share a few more thoughts about Before and After.

Planning Eli and Hannah's wedding with the kids and Brenda on 1/31/16.

Having kind of a down day 2/1/16 and seeing a meme to the effect of "Be happy to be alive. Some people don't have this opportunity." Note to self (literally): "I'm happy to be alive."

A Land's End catalog I was reading, left open on the table, while I ate lunch 2/2/16.

An umbrella on my chair in my office 2/2/16. It was raining that morning.

Discussing lunch plans 2/2/16 for Little Saigon with a co-worker when we attend a workshop in Springfield on March 11.

Losing my pocket calendar.

Using humor to cope with situations.

Finding solace in putting things in their place, cleaning up, writing thank you notes.

Asking for help and receiving and accepting it.

Signing letters/cards as a family for the first time without Adam's name.

Planning Eli and Hannah's wedding in a way that we'll remember Adam and save his place, yet not diminish the joy of this special union. It breaks my heart that I was told that Adam had been in to be fitted for his tux. He was to be the first groomsman after Cal, the best man.

Realizing that nothing that important was lost with my calendar. The important things on it, I will remember.

Waking in the middle of night restless and writing. Making it through a few nights and writing this entry during normal hours.

Being less worried about and more generous with money, leaving bigger tips.

Cooking for the first time 2/13/16- mushroom and cheese omelet, whole wheat toast.

Staying connected with my husband.

Still not reading a book.

Finding a half drank Diet Pepsi in the refrigerator and not knowing when I drank the first half of it.

Starting to exercise again 2/9/16.

Using humor to cope with life and death.

Truly feeling happy to be alive.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Raw Emotions

As things and life adjust to the "new normal" I want to share my first thoughts after hearing of Adam's death. This was written in a hotel room in Bloomington-Normal the night of the day that everything changed. I went to work today and went all day without crying, and it almost feels disrespectful to his memory. So here goes:

How many did times did I play this scenario out or wonder how anyone could go through such a thing? Not what I thought would happen in the middle of a counseling session on a Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. on 2-2-2016.

Now here I sit on the floor of the bathroom in a hotel in Blo-No feeling less connected to my emotions than I did when a friend's child died of suicide or overdose. I truly thought the first bad thing to happen to me would be my dad dying. There's a weird feeling that I brought this on by imagining what it would be like to lose a child in the past.

I'm glad we came here to be with the boys who have never experienced a trauma either. We are a solid unit and my biggest fear is that he felt on the outside of that. He was my best boy (just a nickname I gave him as a baby). He was in my life longer than anyone outside of my mom, dad, brother and sister. His favorite movie as a two year old was "Bull Durham" (he loved the Clown Prince of Baseball), which Pat coined his nickname "Nuke" from. He loved the Ninja Turtles, Hey Arnold, Terminator 2, and the various Star Trek series as he got older. Well, technically Pat let him watch T2 when he was 3 and he was enamored of it. One of the first presents Pat got Adam was the "30 dollar gun" (water of course). This was the opposite of the way Bill and I had tried to raise Adam with regard to violence. Since we had a "no gun" policy up until we split up, Adam once resorted to chewing his toast into the shape of a gun. I disgress...

This has not sunk in. It comes and goes, the disbelief and numbness vs. emotion. I don't think I have let go yet. Bill actually put it well tonight when he said it was difficult for Adam to be Adam. He said he knew was troubled for a long time. I think Adam could have used writing to process his emotions and perhaps he did, but it wasn't enough.

We had a good year. More visits, better talks, shared books (he got me into Stephen King: 11-22-63, Dr. Sleep). Why this day? Why now? Why did he have to do this? Why couldn't he ask for help?

Monday, February 08, 2016


We are all getting signs. On the way home from Blo-No Wednesday morning Pat and I saw an eagle flying low over a field on route 136. If that wasn't him, at least I knew he was flying free and watching over me.

Cal was watching a game Wednesday night with a friend(s) with sound muted (standard Denecke-Tuttle procedure) when Cal said to Elena, "I'd like to listen to music." For about five seconds the volume on the TV flipped on to play music from a commercial.

On Thursday on the way home from Springfield with boxes of Adam's stuff in the van, Pat was talking about finding the Raptor's ball he bought Adam before we moved to Macomb at a Raptor/Bulls game, with Michael Jordan's comeback team. Adam was enamored of the ball and apparently stared it instead of watching the game. As Pat is telling me this story, we hear frantic beeping from one the boxes, one of Adam's bazillion watch alarms was going off! Adam wanted the story told at his memorial service. He continued to comment through the watch alarms on the way home, letting us know when he approved of what we were saying.

I had been thinking back over the last time I communicated with Adam which was by email. We talked about the 2 dragon coins from my mom's house I had found in a box in the basement I wanted to give him. He was excited that I now had one to give him (I wasn't sure I had the original one my parents had given me for Adam the year he was born). It was bugging me that I had actually deleted my emails very recently and I couldn't read the messages and find out the date I last heard from him. Over the weekend, something messed up my email, and I shut everything down on my computer and when I restarted the next day, my email came back in Safe Mode. All my messages were back, and I could see that I sent him a message on 1/29/16 that he didn't reply to. The conversation about the dragons took place on Sunday January 24th.

A quick trip to the attic to retrieve Adam's box of baby memorabilia revealed that I had the original dragon coin plus now the two from my parent's house. I was able to give Eli, Cal and Ethan each one before the memorial service. For those not familiar, these coins are housed in beautiful silk covered boxes with tiny bone fasteners. They were purchased in China in 1988 before my parents and sister returned from their year of teaching in Sichuan Province.Perfect.

Illinois State beats Witchita State on Saturday after the service. Go Redbirds!

Denver wins the Superbowl (Adam's birthplace). Go Broncos!

Eli told me his first day back to student teaching (2/8/16) the junior high band was playing a piece called "Year of the Dragon." He had his dragon coin in his pocket.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Celebrating the Life of Adam 2-6-16

I went to bed smiling for the first time in five nights last night. I woke again around 2:15 a.m. crying. That's how it goes.

Friday night was a Vick-Tuttle-Denecke-Porter night to remember. Excellent food, Mom. Many memories, stories, love, music, and dare I say, alcohol passed around. I am pleased to have keep my 16+ years sobriety in tact, and could find patience and humor with those who chose otherwise. Grief has many different effects on people. I will have to say my parents made the right move taking their old piano to their new home, as it put Adam's father Bill at ease and reminded me what first attracted me to him. Ethan and Bill jammed the blues on the piano: Bill, Eli and Hannah freestyled "I'll Fly Away" on piano, ukelele, and trumpet; and Bill played and sang a heartfelt  "Your Song" by Elton John.

Adam's memorial service was more perfect than I could hope. An outpouring of love, stories, hugs, food, plants, flowers, tears, and professionalism was sincerely felt. Thank God for Uncle Tim, Uncle Kevin, Uncle Chris, Aunt Betsy, Grandpa Vick, Tim Yu, Ashleigh Lockhart, and Pat's guts, emotions, insight, intelligence, and willingness to share the Adam they knew. The music was freaking out of this world (Bill, Jordan and Ethan you have gifts most of wish we had a fraction of). Everything came together with divine intervention (thank you Adam and God) from the slideshow Eli and I put together to the food spread Brenda laid out for us.

The weather was gorgeous, yet time and temperature read -99 degrees (hilarious Adam) and ISU beat Witchita State (Cal thanks you). I have to hand it to you, Adam, your timing was impeccable.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Everything Changed

When I can't sleep, I write. When I don't know what to do, I write. At 2:30 p.m. on 2-2-16 my life split in half. It's now before and after that moment. That patient in the chair across from me will be etched in my story forever when I walked out of that room to my husband in the waiting room breaking down, completely breaking down. Like I've never seen and never hope to see again.

My son, my beautiful son, my best boy was gone. He died of suicide. We went straight to our two other boys.

Adam Nicholas Vick Tuttle, 27, of Springfield, IL formerly of Macomb passed away at his home February 2, 2016 in Springfield, IL.  He was born June 11, 1988, the Year of the Dragon, in Denver, CO to William C. Tuttle and Susan A. (Vick) Denecke. They both survive.
Also surviving are his stepfather, Patrick Denecke of Macomb; two brothers, Cal and Eli Denecke both of Normal, IL; maternal grandparents, Richard and M. Anne Vick of Macomb; paternal grandparents, Gary and Colleen Tuttle of Springfield, NE; and grandmother,  Ellen Denecke of Buffalo, NY. With us today are his beloved aunts and uncles Kevin Tuttle, Mike Tuttle and Julie Swearingen, Tim Tuttle, Chris and Donnamarie Vick, Betsy Vick and Charles Tackett, and his cousin, Ethan Tackett. His numerous other aunts, uncles and cousins are scattered from Maine to California to Australia and are with us in thought and spirit.
He was preceded in death by his grandfather Charles Denecke Sr.
Adam lived in Buffalo and Lockport, New York until the age of 8 when his family moved to Macomb. Adam, Shane, Derek and Justin formed a close neighborhood bond through elementary school. From a young age Adam had an instinct for the latest trends and seemed to be the first kid in Macomb with Under Armour, a Helio phone, and the fanciest paintball equipment. He wrestled from 3rd through 10th grade, often giving up 10-15 pounds due to his small stature. He played oboe in the band, earning first chair when the other two oboes didn’t show up for the tryout!
Adam graduated from Macomb High School in 2006, earning the distinction of “Most changed since freshman year.” He then attended Spoon River College obtaining an Associate’s Degree where he re-caputured his love of learning. He worked at the Old Dairy through high school and his years at Spoon. He then transferred to the University of Illinois at Springfield and graduated with a BA in Psychology in 2011. He completed an internship at the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Illinois offices.
Adam worked at Kiku and Little Saigon restaurants in Springfield for the past five years. Adam enjoyed music, literature, Asian food, fantasy football, the NBA, and debating any topic. He loved traveling, especially to Riverside Lakes to visit his Tuttle grandparents or on road trips with his Vick grandparents. He loved a good Hot Pot, crab legs, lobster, Oreo shakes, and other “fine dining” experiences. Adam will be forever in our hearts. We’ll make it through these tough times, for you Adam.

Cremation Rites have been accorded.