My family has begun tossing around the phrase me time, after my mother asked my dad to go somewhere, anywhere, for a couple of hours so she could have some me time alone in the house (one day he sat in the YMCA parking lot facing my house and read a book because he thought the senior citizens center was closed, and he didn't want to get out of the car, and indeed it is a struggle, or bother anyone).
Apparently my me time is between 4-5:00 a.m. and around 7-8 on vacation days. Today me time started at 3:45 a.m. or maybe is it just a counter balance to the family time we've been having. Pat and I hosted four of the millenials in the family from the 21st through the 26th. Then two of the millennials were replaced the 27th with the arrival of the heralded Florida millennials. We have spent countless hours at my parent's house eating, laughing and playing games. Notice I didn't mention arguing. That was a hard word to spell!
I have and only will work one day between the 21st and January 2nd to spend time with family. The early morning me time affords me the pleasure of a quiet house, reordering the kitchen, catching up on bills, or blogging and Facebooking. Yesterday Chuck came over at 6:15 a.m. to try to get his 1984 Mercedes running, a diesel engine that to all appearances doesn't like cold weather, so I did have some company!! This endeavor involved space heaters, much maneuvering, and eventually a tow to a warm garage. He did arrive safely back in Indiana, luckily, and only a day late.
It is wonderful to see everyone; the first time I have laid eyes on Eli and Hannah since August. Funnily, when Eli walked in, it didn't seem that long ago, nor when Hannah walked in a bit later. I took this week off specifically to be available when they are. They have a lot of people to see on their short visit so I want to be home when they are.
We have been lighting the Always and Forever candles for Adam so he can be with us. Already it has been a Christmas to remember, but the me time sure is nice!
It got me again. My uber -talented nephew Ethan was doing a piano performance at Wesley Village where my parents live entitled "Bach to Tackett." Grandma gave it the boss title, and Ethan nailed it with selections from Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussey, Copeland, his jazz repertoire, original pieces and ending with "Christmas Melody" arranged by his truly.
About 8 residents and 9 Vick relations gathered in the chapel. Ethan introduced each piece (several times in progressively louder decibels to appease the audience, namely Grandma), and even gave a brief music history lesson when one of the elder ladies shouted out, "Beethoven was blind, wasn't he?"
Ethan prefacing one his original pieces with something along the lines of, "This song is called I Will Wait for You and it's about when you lose someone you love. This song is very special to me," was enough to start the flow. I'm so proud of him and how amazing it is that he can write and sing such beautiful music and not break down himself. He sang at Adam's memorial and Eli and Hannah's rehearsal dinner, choking everyone up. I didn't look at anyone else yesterday, but I'm pretty sure it socked the nine of us family members in the gut. The elder ladies must have wondered what was going on.
It snowed this morning and we are having nice family time. We had a Willy Wonka marathon last night, a private family yoga session, a walk at Veterans Park, and of course, strawberry making. I am going to bake my almost famous "Poppy Seed Delight" bread and try a new casserole, Cinnamon Roll French Toast. I wouldn't say I am "bah humbug" but I didn't put up a tree or stockings or do much shopping. The spirit of Christmas is still alive, and Adam lives in our hearts this year and always.
Plans to shop and dine with Cal today were cancelled due to his coming down with a flu. I decided I wanted to drop off a care package anyway. When Pat balked I said, "I won't be able to do this forever, someday he will have someone else to take care of him." So off I went like Little Red Riding Hood to deliver homemade candies, banana bread, soup and Dunkin Donuts 1.5 hours away.
On the way I conjured up different memories of traveling this route, mostly in the wake of Adam's death, to visit the boys. I also tried to imagine what Adam's state of mind was after Christmas 2015 that led to his suicide. It wasn't terribly painful, surprisingly.
I surprised Cal at his door, but I think he was happy. I did his laundry, changed his bedding, took out the garbage, washed dishes, helped hang a picture, picked up some quarters and some Sprite at the gas station, and we managed to talk as well. He had a couple of personal blows recently, but handled them well. Life continues to throw curveballs at us all.
We discussed Stranger Things, and I forgot to tell him ever since I started watching, my bathroom lights have been flickering so maybe Adam is trying to communicate with me...or it could the new electrical system we had installed. You gotta watch the show.
I had a feeling I would hear the song Africa today and sure enough it was the second song I heard on the radio on the way home. I have my own past associations with this song, but now I clearly consider it Adam's song, ever since I found out he and Kelsey used to belt out the chorus to each other. He told her it was played at Bill's and my wedding, and I found this so endearing. BTW, it too, was played on Stranger Things. I belted out the chorus in the car along with some tears. A Peoria station was playing a Flashback Weekend from 1979-1982. I wondered why I hated Journey and Styx but liked Cheap Trick and Boston? Little Red Riding Hood arrived safely home, with no big bad wolf, although I did see what looked like a jackal at the Duncan Mills junction.
The rest of my weekend was spent attending a concert of incredible opera music and seeing the movie Coco with friends. Both were top notch. Best opera voice and Disney movie I've ever seen. All in all, it's been a great couple of days. If I manage to fight off the germs I was exposed to, I will consider it a roaring success.
Yoga is the first physical activity that felt right for my body (well, maybe the second). I was never good at any sports whatsoever, I hate to run, I didn't start exercising regularly until I was in my 30's, and I'm a horrible dancer. The only reason I can think I wasn't the last kid picked for teams in elementary school, is that I might have been prettier than some of the other un-athletic girls.
When I stepped into my first yoga class in 1997, I was surprised to find it was much more difficult than I thought, in an exertion type of way. If I really exerted myself (which I tend to do, because I like to do things well and right), I found the poses could be very challenging especially when held for longer periods.
My first teacher, Pam, is the gold standard I have held all my subsequent teachers to. Her style of teaching is very precise, and she is explicit about the placement of all body parts and the pattern of the breath. This was an excellent introduction and foundation, and when I did branch out to other teachers at other studios and retreats, I felt comfortable that I was taught the fundamentals and was able to participate without feeling out of my league.
One of Pam's tenets I heard many times was how important daily practice is outside of class. She even had a habit of going around the room and having each student report how many times they practiced that week. For 16 years, I would say, "O" "1" or maybe an occasional "2" and wonder when this daily practice thing was going to affect me.
Then along came 2013. I was having a really hard time accomplishing the workload I was given as a 4th year school social worker. Not to mention the emotional toll a new coordinator had on me. I lost 19 pounds in 3 months time. I was commuting an hour to work each way and felt I had to be at work by 7:00 a.m. in order to keep on top of my new schedule. That meant I was getting up before 5:00 a.m. five days a week. I decided early that year that I would get up early enough to start about a 15 minute yoga practice each morning to help me cope with stress. I credit this routine with getting me through that year without walking off the job. Yoga practice allows for brief rest periods, and this is a lovely concept when applied to life. They really do help mitigate life's stresses.
Then along came 2016. I was keeping up my daily practice because I found it was good for my mind, body and soul. Thank goodness because Adam's death was an overwhelming blow, and I needed anything I could anchor to to get through those first anguishing months.
So here it is almost 2018, and I have found a yoga class and my daily practice that help keep me sane, flexible and grounded. It has truly become an important force in my life.
There is someone who has been with me every step of the way, my rock steady for 25+ years. Our most devastating year was 2016, of course, when we lost Adam. We lost ourselves at times, too. The image comes to mind of Pat visiting me at my Topps grocery store bakery job, with a 3 year old Adam (Nuke to him) on his shoulders. He would often pick him up at daycare, and spend the evening entertaining him while I worked. During this time the notorious "grape video" was made. Adam and I both appear a bit uncomfortable in front of the camera on a tripod, as Pat fake stuffed grapes up his nose and made iconic "Pat" jokes. He introduced Adam to Terminator 2, the "thirty dollar gun" and "Edward Cigarhands," our crusty and scary next door neighborhood drunk, who teased children with a rubber snake.
We have held each other up when the other was down, even when we didn't know it. Through the recent cancer scare, Pat has gone above and beyond to support me, and I don't give him enough credit. This blog's for you, Pat. Here's to 25 more 💙 (foibles and all).
It's still sinking in: I have an oncologist. I have been to his office twice, and it is an ominous feeling. The staff go about their business like any other medical practice, but I can't shake the idea that death is hanging from the ceiling. I look at the other patients and feel 'sorry' that they are here, too. I feel like they are doing the same. I have driven by this office hundreds of times, and never pictured myself walking through the doors.
Even with the "least bad" breast cancer diagnosis, and being given the choice not to do radiation at this time, I know I could be back with worse news in my future. It's like that door is open, and I am always at risk now. That said, I'm not dwelling on it, or living my life any differently. (self doubt says I should be living more joyfully or as if each day is my last)
When I came home from my second surgery, the hospital gave me a pink bag of goodies. A heart shaped pillow, obviously hand sewn was included. It is just the right size to fit under my arm and take the pressure off my incision. It is also just the right size for hugging when I sleep. That simple pillow has given me great comfort on this newest journey.
My boss warned me about this. She calls it Sudden Temporary Upsurges of Grief (STUG). After a year and a half since losing Adam, they are farther apart. In the words of a wise mother I know who lost a son, "It doesn't get easier, but you get more used it."
It's difficult to think about events of two years ago (fall 2015), when we had no idea Adam was in trouble. Here's how a mundane thought morphs into a mini-grief attack: I learned yesterday Hannah is attending the national Musicology conference this weekend in Rochester, NY. Two years ago, Hannah was at the same conference which was held in Louisville, right in Betsy's backyard. In fact, she stayed with Betsy. That was the same weekend my parents, Eli, Cal and I all traveled to Betsy's for Ethan's starring performance in Man of LaMancha. It was a really special, fun time when everyone was happy and we didn't suspect anything was wrong in the world. A mere three months later, Adam would be dead. That's how my mind goes.
October 17, 2017 was an especially hard day. I remember crying in the morning, periodically during the day, and that night. I don't know why. I wrote: I feel like Adam is being left behind by friends, work pals, even some of my own family. Today was a sad day, a down day. Sometimes just thinking of anything that happened while he was alive makes me incredibly sad.
After four days in my PJ's, I felt like going to work Tuesday. Wednesday evening I felt well enough to walk two miles at the Y. I guess that was overdoing it because my incision felt really bad afterwards. Well, certain movements invoked stabbing pain. Intermittent.
So tonight I am just taking it easy after three full days work. I should mention I met with my doctor yesterday and the pathology report was great. I will see an oncologist after my incision is healed to plan for radiation and follow up meds to ward off future cancer.
It's still sinking in, and I had a mini breakdown talking to my boss today. I realized how much I miss my kids. All this activity and built up stress kind of hit me. I felt like I kind of sucked at work, but those weeks happen.
My mom brought over a case full of old letters, grade reports, and various other yellowed documents for me to peruse while I'm convalescing...I seem to enjoy reading my own letters the most, fancy that.
I came across this letter from me to my parents which was dateless but I'm guessing was around 1983, when I was living in Des Moines and going to Drake. The odd thing is, Betsy had mentioned this incident a few weeks ago, and I had no memory of it. Then lo and behold, I find this:
I see what you mean about these boring letters. Well, let me tell you about when I was asleep on the couch one night with all the windows open and I awoke to hear flapping about the room. I froze in fear. Then I screamed to Stacey in the next room that there was a bat in the apartment, and she yelled, "Crawl in here quick!" So I hit the floor, wrapped in a blanket and crawled as fast as I could to the bedroom, and was let in the door to the bedroom when the bat was flying across the room the other way. We huddled scared shitless in the same bed all night and ventured out of the bedroom the whole next day only to the bathroom, covered head to toe, of course, in a comforter (bat proof). Even today, I throw a fit when a window is left open for a night, and I think the sound of the refrigerator is abtabat (see I get nervous typing its name).
This may come out a little mumbo jumbo because I just took a couple of pain pills, but my recent "bombshell" probably needs a little more explanation.
On Tuesday of this past week, Pat and I met with my surgeon, a well skilled, kind and humorous man, to get the results of a breast biopsy done two weeks earlier. I did really well waiting the two weeks, not really that concerned since I was told "calcifications" are 80% benign. About 8 days in, I had a moment of panic, then calmed myself down, but that morning I was really starting to sweat it, figuring that taking that long had to be something.
So, we were told my tissue was sent to Cleveland Clinic for additional staining to confirm the diagnosis of "Ductal Carcinoma In Situ." What I took and prefer to focus on is, "Stage Zero," this cancer does not have the means to spread since it is contained in the milk duct. He said I would need another surgery to make sure all the margins were clean, and that was done Friday. I was very pleased to be put in the surgical schedule so quickly. He thought I would then be taking radiation and an estrogen blocking drug for five years.
The way this came about was a routine mammogram (I've been pretty faithful to do this annually since age 40) back on September 8th. It was my first 3D mammo, and I got called back to look more at the left breast. After that came back I was advised I would need a biopsy and set up with the surgeon of my choice. He said he we would try "Plan A" first: a stereotactic (needle) biopsy. That didn't work because of the location of the spots (no lumps). "Plan B" was then scheduled, a surgical biopsy under general anethesia. I bounced right back from that to work the next day. This is when the two weeks waiting began.
I thought this surgery would be the same, jump up and dance around...nope. It definitely has more pain, and I could not have worked the next day (yesterday). I couldn't even get dressed. I had plans to grocery shop, but slept instead. I had to cancel something I committed to for today, which really bugged me, but I just didn't feel up to cooking dinner for 15. I am hoping to feel well enough to take a young friend to a crafting event I have been looking forward to. We'll see.
This morning as I was waiting for surgery, Pat told me a picture came up on his Facebook this week that about took his breath away. Here is the picture:
Look at the reflection in the left side window of the church. Can someone say spooky? It's not spooky to us, but incredible that when we first took this picture one year ago, no one noticed the image of Adam watching us and over the toy jeep dug up in the backyard. I looked up my original post from October 2016 ( for the complete story go to http://myrtlemae.blogspot.com/2016/10) to find the picture and sure enough I saw it immediately, when directing my attention to the windows. It looks like one of those 'filters' the kids use on Snapchat or whatnot.
We continue to receive gifts and messages. Thank you Adam for looking out for me on this day I had a health concern, and sending me this sign. Indescribable!
Another trip to Springfield this past Thursday, this time with Pat. We did a little shopping after my doctor's appointment. We even went to the White Oaks Mall without me feeling like a tire around my heart. We were even able to drive by Little Saigon without my stomach dropping. I took Pat to Five Guys and he absolutely loved it. It fits his personality nicely: simple, repetitive, predictable, quality.
The one thing that got me, was getting into that Christmas shopping mode at Kohl's (the stores are brimming with stock) and as I reached to touch a shirt, I think, I realized I will not be shopping for Adam again this year. Wowza. You just never know where this stuff comes from and when it will strike you.
It was nice to have the whole day off and just lounge around when we got home, with nothing really needing to be done.
I made it all the way to Springfield for the Out of the Darkness Walk without shedding a tear. I met up with Betsy, Tim, Ashleigh, their friend Michael from Edwardsville, Zach (Cowboy), Jon, and Sam to walk for Adam. A smaller group this year, but I am still gratified for who showed up. Afterwards, we dined at Little Saigon. Unfortunately, Elliott and Asian Zach weren't working. The table was boisterous and Adam's name came up casually as if he was just busy serving another table.
The next morning, Betsy and I walked around the campus of University of Illinois Springfield, where Adam attended for 3 years. We found Adam's first apartment, and took pictures at the iconic fountain in the center of campus. It's been 9 years since we dropped him off for this life in Springfield. He made amazing friends, and they stayed in touch for 5 years after his graduation.
The fountain at UIS
Adam's first apartment at UIS
It hit me on the way home listening to this Elton John song:
I've been blessed to be Adam's mom for 27 years and continue to be. I've been blessed to have three fine young men given to my care. I sobbed hard for the beauty I've been given. By the time I got home all I wanted to do was wrap up in Adam's fleece Husker's blanket and nap it out. I fell fast asleep and slept hard.
I thought I was going to work at 8:00 today, coffee and water in hand, purse heavy with fruit on my arm, when I realized, IT'S TUESDAY. I don't go in until 9:00.
I just had a memorable weekend in Chicago with three other women who lost sons to suicide 14 years ago, 2 years ago and 8 months ago. We are all in different points in our journey but were able to share many thoughts and emotions with each other and see where we have come from and where we are going. I feel blessed to know these women, but honestly, I did reach out and pave the way for this to happen.
This is Us
We had a full slate of activities planned which was exciting and invigorating. Our stories were woven into everything we did and the long train ride each way was also a conduit for connection. It was unique because it was easy to bring up any question, topic or memory of our sons. There are some similarities and many differences among us. It was new to me to be one of the 'seasoned veterans' so to speak, rather than the newbie still dealing with raw emotions. I would say I've softened over the past 20 months.
Me trying to catch Cal's friend Reid in the Chicago Marathon
Someone else caught this smile...Reid running for the AFSP- he raised over $1000.00!!
Of course I have heard of Route 66, the original highway from Chicago to LA. I have seen many touristy traps in Springfield, IL and even Albuquerque, NM, but never really driven on it. Last weekend I hit a new Route 66 destination: Lincoln, IL, where Cal now lives.
On my way to Bloomington from Lincoln, I actually traversed the infamous Route 66. I didn't actually see this image, but I did buy a postcard of it ($1.50). Something I've always wanted to do is drive the whole route. Kind of funny coming from someone who doesn't really like to drive that much. I think I discovered on my Florida trip I have more driving stamina than I thought. And I thought it would be fun to stop at all the kitschy diners, dives and road side attractions along the way. Maybe on a motorcycle.
I got down and dirty with my oven this morning. Pat had put a limp pizza directly on the oven grates last night and it basically melted into the bottom of the oven. I sprayed it down last night and cleaned the grates. This morning I jolted out of bed with dirty oven on my mind. Yeah, it was long overdue.
And that's how we get our Kicks on Route 66 and Calhoun Street.
Having a moment. This morning at aerobics class this song came on at the end. It hit me in the feels-bad. Our kids used to watch An American Tail, the Fievel movies nonstop on the old VCR. This is not a song you hear anymore, and the words are killing me:
After our weekly Sunday chat (Mom, Dad, Betsy and me), I thought, "This could be a Family News article." Every Sunday conversation contains at least one instance of Dad bemoaning the lack of Family New submissions and the technology hurdles he has encountered (but that's another story- and one to raise my blood pressure, which I am trying to lower [but that's yet another story]).
This story here starts with my report that Pat has lately become concerned about developing early Alzheimer's. His mother has some form of dementia, but it wasn't a particularly early onset. We then talked about how most people of a certain age, do worry about this so Betsy decided to give us a memory test of three items to be recalled later (or not): helmet, picture, dog.
The conversation meandered and Dad mentioned he will be going into his "rabbit hole" when Mom's sewing club comes over tomorrow. He went on to say he favors this name over "man cave" because he once had a shirt he was very proud of that had a rabbit on it rather than an alligator. This was at the height of the Preppy style. His old friend Charlie Mayer used to remark on it and dubbed himself "the fox" and Dad "the rabbit." I was quick to point out this was a sought after Albuquerque (never before told story/tale) as opposed to the dreaded Minneapolis (previously or recently or especially oft repeated story). Albuquerques are hard to come by as we all age.
Shortly thereafter, in all innocence, Dad began one of his famous Minneapoli about how he doesn't like to see men kissing on TV. In an effort to stop the direction this was going I blurted out, "Has anyone read James Lee Burke?" since they all love mysteries, and I hate them. Betsy immediately spoke up, "Dave Robicheaux, I love him!" Mom and Dad both claimed they "never heard of" either. Betsy then chimed in, "I recorded myself reading an entire novel of his for you guys and you said you liked it. Blank silence. "New Orleans, detective...?" They both then vaguely claimed they remembered. Note of defense: this was over 20 years ago when they were living on Calhoun Street.
Are you ready for the results of the Memory Test? Here they are after about 50 minutes:
Dad: helmet, dog
Susan: helmet, picture, bike, bicycle
Mom: helmet, picture, dog
So who's worried now?
Today Pat and I moved my mom’s Queen mattress set to our
house. We are hoping this is the last moving we do for a while. Mom had
casually mentioned wanting to get a new bed last spring, and offering me or my
kids her old bed, which has been fairly lightly used. This finally came to
fruition today. (Never mind she doesn’t have a bed to sleep on now…*)
The past year and a half have involved more change and
movement than I care to think about.
2016 started with the terrible news of Adam’s suicide in February. We
were shaken to our core, but soon learned life keeps moving. Eli graduated
college in May 2016 followed by Cal in December 2016. Both earned teaching
degrees and credentials. Eli married the love of his life Hannah on June 4,
2016. Our lives were enriched as Hannah joined our family, while we continued
to grieve in our own ways Adam’s not being here to celebrate the milestones
together. Eli took a teaching job close to Macomb and the newlyweds got their
first apartment together. Some of our furniture moved in with them. We acquired
more to fill in the spaces. With Eli and Cal venturing out into the world, and
knowing Adam would never return home, Pat eventually cleaned out and
redecorated all three of their bedrooms.
I now have a sunny yellow meditation room and a deep blue
guest room. I slept in Adam’s old room for over a year, and it has recently
been repurposed a dark green to house our part time guest, Regine, a graduate
student from Cameroon.
I was lucky to be able to travel and help move Eli and
Hannah earlier this month to Gainesville, FL where they will both be graduate
assistants and earning their Master degrees (trumpet performance and musicology
respectively). This necessitated some
more furniture moving and giving away of pieces. Cal quickly followed with
equipping his first solo apartment in Lincoln, IL with several large items from
our house, including his bed. He will be teaching 7th graders social
studies and geography and coaching 3 sports.
It is exciting and satisfying to see my ducklings take
flight, but of course we will miss having them close and dependent on us. All
this moving and rearranging and reorganizing brings emotions of pride,
happiness, and sadness for the new lives that are starting, and the one that
has ended. The good days outweigh the dark days, but know that Adam is never
far from my thoughts, even if I look or feel “fine.”
Some things I have learned (and re-learned) through these
changes: appreciate the little things (clean sheets, a beautiful sunset, cooler
weather, legs and arms that can ride a bicycle, the ability to pay a bill), ask
for help and accept it, let your emotions be okay, take time for yourself to be
quiet and take a risk or two.
I recently spoke to the Macomb Rotary Club about the Out of
the Darkness Walk. It was terrifying to stand in front of a large group and
speak my truth about Adam and suicide. But, I will not stay silent and pretend
suicide cannot affect anyone. Two fathers of boys from Adam’s high school class
were in the audience. A dialogue was started within the meeting, and I was
approached afterwards with meaningful sharing. My heart felt so full after
When I attended my first Out of the Darkness Walk in 2013,
it was with my dear cousin Laurie in mind. I never thought I would be touched
by suicide again, or in such a profound way. I started Macomb’s first Out of
the Darkness Walk in 2016 to honor Adam’s memory, to cope with my own grief,
and to do something about preventing suicide from bringing down more lives. I
will again be coordinating the Macomb Walk September 23rd and
walking in the Springfield, IL Walk October 14.
I would appreciate your prayers, thoughts, support, or donations at www.macombwalk.org , www.springfieldwalk.org or by mail to
417 E. Calhoun St. Macomb, IL 61455 for the American Foundation for Suicide
*lest you think I left my mother bed-less, she chose to
procrastinate buying a new bed and will be sleeping on a hide-a-bed, stating
that she won’t get a new bed until she gets sick of sleeping in the living room
I keep getting these flashback photos on Facebook to ----years ago. I do enjoy it. So here is one from Labor Day Weekend 2014 in Louisville:
I literally just learned a new trick. I was looking for the picture I had saved to my desktop to upload, and it wasn't there. When I went back to my desktop it was there, so I reduced down my blog and drug the picture onto the page. Wow, so much easier than the steps of uploading.
Anyway, this particular Labor Day Eli, Cal, Hannah and I somehow got to Betsy's house the same weekend Chris, Donna and Megan were there. By somehow, I know we drove, but don't know who came from where. Eli was entering his sophomore year at ISU and Cal and Hannah were frosh at Spoon and WIU. Wait, that's totally wrong. Eli was a senior and Cal and Hannah juniors. Cal had just transferred to ISU then. We went to that weird Bluegrass and Whiskey Festival on Sunday.
Even if Adam wouldn't have normally spent this holiday with family, it still makes me sad that he can't join us this year. I found myself unable to sleep last night, unable to nap today, rehashing painful memories in step by step detail. I managed to keep myself busy when I decided I didn't want to dwell there too long.
I am hoping to start a new tradition, but don't tell my kids. Here it is (drum roll)...
A weekly letter, parcel, surprise to my kids.
That didn't sound too exciting did it? It's kind of a family tradition that started with Betsy's and my Family News circa 1974 (which my dad has lovingly taken over long ago). Next was the weekly Sunday letter to China, which would arrive months later. Then I resurrected the Family News when my kids were young and I felt so far away in Buffalo.
It's only been two weeks and so far so good. I think they enjoyed getting something via snail mail. Never mind I don't think Cal knows to check his mailbox on a regular basis; this new generation! They think everything comes electronically. And it practically does. Everything except love from your mama.
**Please note my sidebar and a new blog that has been added called Stories from Heliotrope U. This blog is written by my dad's old friend Loren. They shared an office in the WIU English Department many moons ago. He's a great guy, swell storyteller, and English master extraordinaire, so get out your dictionary and give him a read.
There's a song called The Rip Tide by Beirut. It came up on a "mixed tape" Eli made me that I was listening to on my long trip (15 hours) from Gainesville to Louisville 8/7/17. Wow, it makes me weep. It has nothing to do with Adam really, except it was also on my Ipod when I walked the YMCA track almost every evening after Adam's death. It's haunting beauty ripped my heart out then and now. I have to admit after moving Eli and Hannah to Florida, it felt a little like another loss. Here are the lyrics:
And this is the house where I
I feel alone
Feel alone now
And this is the house where I
Could be unknown
Be alone now
Soon the waves and I found the rolling tide
Soon the waves and I found the rip tide
This is the house where I
I feel alone
Feel alone now
It was funny for this song to come up after a day at the beach. Sunday I was body surfing the Atlantic waves, jumping and chasing bigger waves, drifting further down the beach, when suddenly I found I couldn't touch down anymore and was further out than I thought (nothing really dangerous my rational mind knew). I decided I should start swimming to shore, but didn't seem to be making any progress. Suddenly the thought came, "Could I be in a rip tide and not know it? in which case I should be swimming parallel to shore...No, that's ridiculous." But still, I had that moment of panic.
This morning I sat out on my back stoop, a ritual I had in the aftermath of Adam's death, for the first time in a long time. The carpet beneath me was wet from last night's rain, and I didn't stay long. On the drive down to Florida I was emotional then realized it was 8/2/17, 18 months since my best boy ended his life. My special boy was moving to Florida to start his new life, and truly I am grateful and excited for this adventure.
Yesterday I spoke at the morning Rotary group about the upcoming Out of the Darkness Walk and why it is important to me. Looking out I saw two fathers of boys that went to school with Adam. It is incredibly difficult for me to do this, but I am not going to let that stop me from shining the light on this topic.
I've been back to reality almost two weeks, and it seems like there is nothing to write about. My kitchen is clean, bills paid, coffee in hand, and a blank mind.
I was going to write the backstory of how I came to stay at the US Ambassador's residence in Malta, and barring no other topics today, I will proceed. My sister went to college at the University of Denver back in the 80's, and I followed her out right after I got married the first time in 1985. She had met a nice group of friends in her dorm, and they remained friends throughout their time there. Kristin was her first roommate and continued to be her roommate for several years. She was Adam's first babysitter. Claudia was a viola major from Colorado who later landed in the Chicago area after attending Northwestern for her Masters and works as a professional musician. Kathleen was also from Colorado, and she continued to grad school at Columbia and joined the State Department in 1994. She has been working her way up the ranks since then, working with John Kerry when he was Secretary of State. She was recommended for the Ambassadorship sometime in 2015, and was confirmed in January 2016. Betsy and Claudia attended the hearing and swearing ceremony in Washington, DC. Correct me if I'm wrong, Betsy.
Betsy has always been a loyal friend and family member and makes efforts to sustain and nurture relationships. It's one of her many great qualities. I was lucky enough to tag along on her trip to Malta and was made to feel very welcome, safe and relaxed on this vacation of a lifetime- MY JACKIE O. HOLIDAY, as my friend Sharon called it.
It was sad to get up this morning (Saturday July 15) and know that I am leaving Malta. Betsy, Ethan and Claudia are staying until Monday. I will be traveling international by myself for the first time. To say I was nervous is a slight exaggeration...suffice it say I barely slept the night before and all my clogged digestion problems were resolved.
I snapped this shot on my way out of the armored Surburban, good-bye safety and security (jk).
My taxi arrived early before 10 a.m. Only took 20-25 minutes to get to the airport. I ended up two hours early in the tiny airport waiting. Flight was on time, and landed successfully in Frankfurt. I passed Frankfurt passport control without incident or 'meanness' by the German guard. I got to my gate in plenty of time (2 hours layover) to spend the last of my Euros on trinkets.
The 747-8 jet was fully booked and they asked for volunteers to check carry-ons, and I was trying to be helpful and went for it. It was pretty heavy and large anyway. At check in I asked for aisle seats so I could get up without bothering somebody. I was in the next to last row, but on the aisle, so I was greatly relieved. Also, close to the bathroom. Lufthansa serves some pretty good meals (two per 8 hour flight). Since it was 5:15 pm when we boarded, I thought dinner would be served pretty soon, and I was ravenous having only eaten a small yogurt and two small peanut butter cookies our housekeeper provided. No such luck, we had a snack and a late dinner, but it was delicious- chicken breast, creamed spinach, potatoes, salad, roll, and dessert.
I watched "A Single Man" without the volume which was really a beautiful cinematic movie I had seen previously. I then watched and listened to the History of Chicago Transit Authority band. This helped drown out the intermittent child screaming and the Zika virus coughing, sneezing and nose blowing that was incessant. I then put on "Kong: Skull Island" with very low volume and dosed maybe 45 minutes.
I was beginning to wonder if I would regret not having my carry-on when we got to Chicago and had to clear customs, with only a two hour layover. The lines were long, and I mean ridiculous, to get to the self serve kiosks where you scan your passport and declare any hazardous items. I quickly was checked through customs finally, grabbed my carry-on off the carousel, and re-checked my bag to Springfield. I was told Terminal 2, gate F4. I knew about the train to the terminals and it was pretty convenient, but I was starting to worry about the time. When I got off at Terminal 2, and tried to enter security, the lines were all closed and one lady was luckily packing up her stuff. I asked how do I get into Terminal 2. She told me to go over to Terminal 1, and walk back. GREAT! Now I am starting to sweat and run back to the train.
Guess what? I was outside security and had to wait and go through the whole process of being scanned and checked. Now the time is getting short...but the lines were moving and at least my plane wasn't set to take off for about 25 more minutes (unlike another nerd like me who went to Terminal 2 and had to go back on the train- everyone else must have gotten the secret message).
As I start running back to the other terminal, I glance quickly at the board and my flight is already boarding. I make it to gate F4 and straight onto the plane. No air conditioning but hey, I've made all my connections by the skin of my teeth. We arrive in Springfield at 10:15 pm, but it is 4 am or past to me. I got my bag and headed towards what I thought was a hotel, but since there wasn't one on my way our of the airport, I headed home, listening to the oldies again and thinking about getting a smoothie at Beardstown McDonalds.
Once I consumed the smoothie, the driving got pretty tough. I was struggling to focus and keep my head lights from blinding oncoming cars. But I made it safely and into the shower and my bed.
It was a trip for the ages. Thank you for listening!
I totally lost blog steam on Friday and was consumed with my digestive tract, not upset just extremely lethargic. I just invented the term Poop Lag (as opposed to Jet Lag). Kathleen took us on a fun day to Sliema for some shopping. This included the armored Suburban, two body guards and the tail car with two guards. I don't know why I am so fascinated with this? At the mall, two guards, one who was actually Malta police, followed her everywhere. I didn't see if they inspected the bathrooms before they let her enter. I'll try to remember to ask.
You can see Darren in the white shirt and unnamed police in the blue (click on picture
to enlarge) waiting for
Kathleen outside a store. (I was kind of afraid to take their picture too close).
We walked the Strand with one of the guys in front and one behind Kathleen at all times.
At first we thought he was strategically placed behind a rock or wearing a thong but when he flipped over one of his balls got caught for a moment between his legs. Argh I hate when that happens.
I thought these rocks were really neat. They were cut to help trap salt.
It sure is nice when your Subrban drops you off at point A and picks you up at point B! We had a nice lunch at Mama Mia where the guards ate pizzas at a nearby table. The Suburban then dropped us tourists off at Mdina, Mdina...Malta's oldest city, completely walled, situated inland and high above Valletta. It was surprisingly breezy and cool here.
St. Paul's Cathedral (built 1697-1702)
Mdina is one of Europe's finest examples of an ancient walled city and extraordinary in its mix of medieval and baroque architecture. The history of Mdina traces back more than 4000 years. According to tradition it was here that in 60 A.D. that the Apostle St. Paul is said to have lived after being shipwrecked on the Islands. Furthermore it is said that St. Paul resided inside the grotto know as Fuori le Mura (outside the city walls) now known as St. Paul's Grotto in Rabat. Lamp lit by night and referred to as "the silent city", Mdina is fascinating to visit for its timeless atmosphere as well as its cultural and religious treasures.
This photo is of St. Paul's Cathedral, and was actually built after St. John's (hence the moniker "Co-Cathedral) in Valletta, however I think that is due to having to rebuild.
We ended the day in residence having a sing along of show tunes with Claudia at the baby grand piano. Our singing was reminiscent of Florence Foster Jenkins, but we had fun.
So this happened: today was boat day and Kathleen's first day off. The Ambassador goes Nowhere without security so five of us and two guards piled into a black Suburban. But first it took all the security plus military guard with AK 47 to open the gate. Claudia took a series of hilarious pictures from inside the Suburban that made it look like they were all flogging someone on the ground. It was really a scream...
We were tailed by another black car with security who then stood at attention on the dock while others carried our coolers. We boarded the boat and only Joseph had to actually accompany us. I guess you get used to this when you are the Ambassador??
Here is where Joseph sat for 8+ hours, except when jumped in after Kathleen.
Our boat took off from the marina at Kalkara. We took a harbor cruise, then headed out to sea, forgoing the Blue Lagoon as the wind was not right to go that direction, and too many tourists swimming there anyway. I love old buildings and here is one on the waterfront that is slated to be renovated into shops on the lower level and flats up above.
Wouldn't this be a grand place to live?!
Our captain was the competent, kind and accommodating Alec, an ex-pat Brit who studied film and cinematography before the call of the sea became too strong. We saw many sites on our harbor tour, before reaching our private swimming cove. We got to help raise the sails, and I got to steer the boat. It was much more difficult than it looks. I got us pretty tippy a couple times before voluntarily relinquishing control. Before taking control back Alec goes, "you can turn the autopilot on now" and flipped a switch. Good learning experience.
The cove was not really private but was nearly deserted. I was first to jump off the boat into 6 meters of water you could see to the bottom of. I was surprised to see what looked like waving grass. I floated over to the nearby rocky area and was freaked out by the cushiony matter when I touched down on the rock. I slipped climbing up and broke my string of days without bruising my legs. Got a nasty one. I rescued a broken diving mask from littering the ocean then paddled back on my noodle.
Kathleen and Ethan were next out to explore what we dubbed the Azure porthole or portal if you prefer. Shortly after they swam off we see Joseph dash below deck then dive in after Kathleen. Apparently you can't let the Ambassador drown. When they got back, Ethan and I took off for another cove since Alec had now jumped in and we seemed to have plenty of time. This time I took goggles, and it was fascinating to explore the sea floor and underwater rocks. I also saved the ocean from a wooden clothespin. Just doing my part for the environment.
We took a leisurely cruise back and discovered more rocky swimming areas and one tiny beach. It's so unique how the Maltese mostly swim off the rocks, cliffs, and ledges. We saw a large shipping operation, and I napped and sunned on the deck and it was truly divine.
Back at the marina, we were met by our "team." BTW, security is local Maltese.We returned our cargo to the trunk where I noticed bullet proof vests and felt even more Bourne or Salt. I thought I was going to have to stop the brigade to hurl, but I made it without incident. Betsy and I stayed up late talking, and I felt my bed pitching all night, which was a pleasant sensation. I do love the rocking and everything about a boat.
Today we went for a small boat ride to the Blue Grotto. This is what I've been missing- the clear blue Mediterranean Sea. We are staying and touring mostly inland, so this was thrilling to get out on the water. The only problem being, I didn't know we could swim there. People are climbing and jumping off the cliffs everywhere or just lounging on the rocks or in the sea. Then again maybe it was a good thing. Most all of them had hot little bodies. Ethan jumped and somersaulted in in his shorts. Good for him! Claudia and I thought he was in the porta potty with gastric distress for that half hour or so.
Here we are getting ready for our boat ride.
The porta potties are attended, too, just to keep you abreast of local toileting issues. So the Blue Grrotto has a perfect view of the islet of Filfla, jutting out of the Med and used for target practice by the Brits until 1970 when it was declared a nature sanctuary. Our driver claimed white sharks have their babies there and then travel on. Did not see any shark tank rentals for my sister and me to dive in, 47 Meters Down-style.
Our little boat to the grottos held about 8 people. The water and the cave structures were stunning. The pictures just can't do it justice, like most things. It was only about a half hour ride or less. Ate on the terrace above, an early lunch. I thought our Serbian waiter was tastier than the food.
The Blue Grotto
Betsy and I entering the ephemeral light.
Our e-taxi arrived early to carry us to the Hagar Qim and Mnajdra temples built ca 3600 BC. The 4D movie offered the comfiest seat in all of Malta with cold air conditioning, cushions, wind, rain (mist) and surround sound. Didn't tell much about the temples. We walked the covered temples, contemplating the enormity and significance of it all, and Ethan and I hoofed it back up the hill. As we have come to say, "If Ruth can do it, so can I." Kathleen told us about Ruth Bader Ginsburg's (heretofore RBG) itinerary, at 85 after two bouts of cancer, and it put us all to shame. The temples were surely built on a stunning location.
Model of the Temples
The infamous hill between the two temple sites.
Back at the ranch, I took a dip then walked up to the market for provisions. Our chef Rodrigo is preparing us a Mexican feast with chorizo. I don't think that is commonly found here. It smells divine. And with that I am going to hop back in the moment and enjoy he rest of my day. Ciao xoxo
We all got up to Rodrigo's fabulous mini-quiches before departing on the bus for Valletta. A two dollar 45 minutes bus ride was better than any carnival or amusement park ride I've ever been on. Our lady driver was amazing. I believe the rule in Malta is drive down the middle of the narrow street until you meet an oncoming car then swerve left at the last possible second. It feels a little like a constant game of chicken. Park at your peril because these buses can only barely squeeze down the lane, and when we encountered a delivery truck blocking the street, my seatmate nearly blew a gasket. The bus driver was honking and a girl on a mobile was looking very stressed in the street. I assume it was her delivery. Anyway, they eventually moved and our capable driver safely delivered us to the walls of the city of Valletta, Malta's capital. The Triton fountain was under refurbishment so we missed that.
This is what the street of Valletta look like.
Our first mission was to find a battery for Ethan's camera which died at a most unfortunate time. We asked in shop after shop and were led to several different camera shops, but no luck finding the right battery. Our big destination after viewing the Grand Harbour from Upper Barrakka Gardens was St. John's Co-Cathedral. I did not realize I would come face to face with Caravaggio's breathtaking painting Beheading of St John the Baptist in the Oratory of the church. No photography allowed and could not do it justice anyway. Caravaggio was imprisoned for time in Malta, that cad, and completed this in 1608 two years before his untimely death. The raking light and the realism of his work, particularly the anatomy of his figures is un-be-lievable. It's incredible how this art holds up 400 plus years later, physically and emotionally.
We walked some more and chose a quaint indoor trattoria and we were all pleased with our Italian fare, especially the pillowy four cheese gnocchi that I can't stop thinking about. We then headed back to the bus, picking up gelato (found the advisably brown pistachio) and blended coffee drinks. Can you believe I passed?
Back to the villa for a nap and a long poolside swim and social time. Another wonderful day in Malta!
After getting lost on the way to the bank, made it back to the embassy residence in a little over an hour. It should have been 10-15 minutes. I was feeling a little nervous, even knowing the Ambassador personally. Maybe more like foolish. The streets didn't seem to match the map, and the folks I asked for help were of no use. To boot, when I got back, I thought I only got 150 Euros for 300 Ameican. Checked my wallet and it was actually 252 Euro.
Betsy was kind of mad I ran off by myself while she was sleeping so we walked up to the San Anton Gardens, a public park on the president's palace grounds. By now my feet already getting tired and it's hot as blazes. You will have to check Facebook for pictures as I can't figure out how to add photos on the tablet. We got a cold drink across the way at a public area of the Villa Bologna. BTW, the embassy residence is known as Villa Apap Bologna and is literally across the street (Tiq).
Villa Apap Bolgna (now Queen Elizabeth stayed here with Prince Phillip, and possibly conceived Charles here (according to legend).
After Claudia arrived and we lunched on fresh bread, fruit, meat and cheese, we took our e-taxi to Ta'Quali Arts Village, a repurposed WWII British barracks. There was a bit of a fuss about reserving a return ride for 5:15 because none of us had a cell phone, "no mobile no ride" even though they had agreed earlier by house telephone. Four of us all too cheap to get an international plan. They finally grudgingly agreed, but when we learned all of the shops closed at 4:00, we were somewhat nervous about whether we might be stranded in this rather desolate area.
Here is Claudia and Betsy goofy in front an ironworks shop.
The arts were cool, especially Mdina Glass works, the largest operation. We had to walk up a harrowing road to get there. Did I mention the drivers are kind of crazy and the sidewalks sketchy, if at all. We got back to the village, made some purchases after all these were handmade crafts. And still had over an hour to kill. The toilets were manned by unauthorized attendants whom Betsy paid a dollar to show us where the toilet paper was. This was a man, mind you. After we peed a woman came in to show us which one faucet worked.
We watched everyone close up shop, clear out, and drive away. The Hop On Hop Off bus worriedly made a pass and we waved them on. One lone backpacker walked through as we waited. It seemed longer but our cab got there within five minutes of our requested time and except for his interest in buying 'tactical arms' was a just fine ride.
We dined al fresco on the veranda this evening and it was simply lovely.
We lost six hours over the Atlantic over night so we left Chicago at 4 pm and passed through the night very quickly (dark), and 8 long hours later arrived in Frankfurt at 7am. Barely napped, had the window seat which you don't want because every time I want to pee or stretch I have to ask the poor German boy to get up. Had restless legs, hip aching, and The Great Wall for a movie. What was Matt Damon thinking? This aircraft was humongous, 10 seats across and a second floor.
We got through Frankfurt just fine and Betsy bought still water (distilled) and medium water (kinda bubbly). Then 2.5 more hours to Malta. When the flight attendant announced we had arrived the passengers actually applauded. Betsy had reserved a cab online and sure enough our guy was waiting at the exit with her name on a sign. 10 minutes to the Ambassador's residence, and armed guards at the locked gate. We basically have the lower level to ourselves and can walk right out to the pool.
The parlor upstairs on our first day.
This was on the front page of the newspaper when we got up one morning:
I left for Springfield Capital Airport at 7 am. I listened to Spingfield's oldies on the way - things like ELO's Telephone and Easy Like Sunday mo o o o o orn ing. I'm not gonna lie I missed Adam on the drive and just being in Springfield. I met a nice lady at the airport, she was actually younger than me but retiring from the Sangamon sheriff's department next year. I remembered my last (only) encounter with them being over Adam's death...
I saw a first this morning, a crop dusting helicopter!
Now I am waiting for Betsy and Ethan in O'Hare. I forgot how many damn people there are in Chicago. I found a quiet space and 30 minutes of free wifi. And when did dogs in airports become a thing? Okay there's a tattoo guy sleeping in front of me but at least he doesn't snore.
Not knowing what else to bring our host Kathleen, I picked up some of Chicago's favorite Garrrett's popcorn (cheese and caramel mix) and a Rocky Mountain English toffee apple. And I still have 2.5 hours until our flight to Frankfurt. Trump better not mess this up.
PS when did the 70 and 80's become oldies? I thought music of the 60's and maybe 70's was old...
Here is us waiting for our flight to Malta in the Frankfurt Airport:
Adam did come to me again, this time in a dream about Little Saigon Restaurant. It wasn't as personal, but at least he was there. This morning in the mail Adam got a letter from Film Streams. I don't know how he got on this mailing list, or why he used his home address, and I don't remember these things coming before he died. Oh the wonders...
I woke up and went downstairs. I thought I heard Adam crying on the couch, but he was talking on a cell phone, mumbling to someone. I tried to be all casual and went to eat some cereal. Then he was talking on a house phone to our great Uncle Lawrence or somebody like that. He was in the old TV room on the couch, and I sat down and we were talking and I'm trying to figure this out so I go, "Are you really here?" He goes, "Yeah." I asked how and he said he flashed a flashlight on the bed spread design. I was confused so he said, "You know when I was in the hospital in Camp Point and there was a portal there? I came through that."
I was trying to figure out how I was going to explain this to everyone when we had funeral and everything. He was real happy and comfortable, like it was no big deal and people would understand portals...and then I woke up.
I don't know why I am getting this sinking feeling, like something is wrong. While doing yoga this morning, I began trying to imagine how it felt when Adam was alive, I was the mother of his adult self, and he was living life in Springfield, working at Little Saigon, fairly satisfied with his life, or so I thought. Maybe it was me that felt satisfied. He was independent, never asked for a thing, answered his phone 'usually,' answered texts and emails regularly, visited often enough. Never gave a clue when something was wrong, always a stoic and impermeable emotional front.
I also began obsessing about when I found out he was gone: 2:30, Tuesday, 2-2-2016. A lot of twos and T's... that takes me to the place of thinking about how many days he lay there, when he shot himself, why he did it.
Good morning! Up at 5:00 a.m. on a holiday, what's the deal?
Maybe it's because of my upcoming vacation to Malta, or maybe the 4th today, but I have been thinking more than usual about Adam, popping up little thoughts, images and memories in my mind. It's still hard to believe he won't be celebrating today.
Fourth of July has never been my holiday, but whenever possible, Adam would spend it with his grandparents and dad at Riverside Lakes in Nebraska. Bill and I were never big on fireworks, but Riverside Lakes and the rest of the Tuttle clan take homemade fireworks displays to a new level. I think the Tuttles probably kept me shielded from what was really taking place. I saw (and heard) it for myself one year when Cal and I stopped over on our way home from a trip to North Dakota.
I was tired from driving and had a terrific headache and the banging was going on all day and night. I remember hiding in a back room of the basement trying to get some sleep and hoping no one would get hurt. Adam was at ease sitting on the retaining wall above the beach lighting off bottle rockets, M-80's, Roman candles, and lady fingers. He was around 17, and I guess he was well-schooled over the years by his uncles and Grandpa Tuttle.
I can't remember if we drove Adam back to Illinois, or were just stopping in because we were in the neighborhood. Anyway, this holiday will always remind me of Adam enjoying his time with his dad's side of the family. A piece of him will always be there.
The nest is nearly empty again, and I feel about half empty. As I once said, "I'm glad to see them come, and I'm glad to see them go." This time, less glad, but not destroyed...Hannah and Eli are taking Cal to his summer camp job, the same camp they worked the last three years. This year they are not able to go, but Hannah's youngest sister will be there, along with a gaggle of Macombies, but Cal is most looking forward to meeting new people. The staff is an international smorgasbord and the kids are New York city natives.
I am pleased that Cal was offered a full time teaching position in the school he was permanent subbing this past semester. He found his apartment this week, just before leaving for the two months in New Jersey. It all worked out just great. I am glad I got to help in the process last Monday, since I had taken the day off work.
So here's the thing. Every once in awhile I get sucker punched. Like when Adam's W-4 and health insurance verification for 2016 came in the mail in 2017. I just wasn't expecting that. This week, I was unable to find any record that the oil in the Camry had been changed since 2015. I realized in some ways I have been in a fog since Adam died. When I think about it that way, it seemed just a short while ago that Cal was going off to ISU for the fall 2015 semester, and I got the oil changed for him. Then 2016 blindsided us, and certain things dropped off the radar.
Funny thing, after months of terrible internet service, multiple phone calls, and finding out our internet was disconnecting an average of 23 times a day, Frontier sent two servicemen to remedy this situation. The younger tech guy told us that our computer was so powerful, it was disrupting the modem. He moved it further from the modem, switched out the modem, and Pat said "practically drooled" over the game computer I set up last fall that was Adam's. I hadn't related that it was about the time the internet starting going wonky, but yeah, apparently, Adam's taste in computers was top notch. Only the best for Nukie!
Pat went on a golf outing today, and it was a "blessing in the sky," as Cal would say. All I have committed to is one thing today, getting that oil change. I have lots of little dis and dats I want to do, and it's fun to just putter by myself.
I started reading Sheryl Sandberg's Option B after listening to her podcast about grief. She lost her husband unexpectedly while raising two young children. The book is part bio, part research on resiliency. If you're not familiar, Sheryl is/was the COO of Facebook and wrote Lean In about women in the workplace.
Page 21 reveals a familiar tune:
Just as the body has a physiological immune system, the brain has a psychological immune system. When something goes wrong, we instinctively marshal defense mechanisms. We see
silver linings in clouds. We add sugar and water to lemons. We start clinging to cliches.
I remember early after Adam's death, comforting myself with thoughts of being lucky to have had him 27 years, that everyone was able to get there for the service, that the arrangements fell into place so easily, that he wasn't living at home, so I was spared the daily void of him being gone and horror of finding him. Like my sister said, we could just kind of pretend he was "working" when the holidays or family get togethers came around. Cliches, or at least grief memes kept me going, knowing that others had gone through this, and understood how it felt.
I will add more as I work thought this book. I have a feeling it will be slow, because I can only handle so much heaviness at a time.
As I was thinking more about the gratitude I had in wake of Adam's death, as strange as it sounds, I was comforted that he had not been killed by a drunk driver, in a terrorist attack, or a random murder, because that would be even more senseless and would have left me angry and possibly bitter. As tragic and devastating as suicide is, it was something Adam chose to do. However impaired he was, I understand it on some level and suspect he had wanted it for some time. A random death would be even more unfair in my mind.
I can thank Adam for making me acutely aware of my mortality so that I feel an urgency to make the most of the time I do have on earth. I have heeded advice not to make large changes in early grief, but sometimes this feels like I have simply returned to baseline, and complacency with the status quo. I can teeter back and forth on this tightrope,
I had a wonderful Mother's Day, albeit, without Adam. It started with brunch with my parents and Pat. It was so sweet for my mom to cook our favorite, biscuits & gravy with hash browns. My parents are Rocks and help and support us in so many ways.
Eli wrote me a beautiful 3 page letter and spent part of the afternoon on the porch with us. Cal drove four hours, to surprise me with a few hours visit.
I see this everywhere, but may not have noticed it until it applied directly to me. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is. Out of all the grief quotes, advice, axioms and memes, this is the biggie. If mentioning Adam's name makes me cry, it's not because you reminded of something I'm trying to forget about. It is tears of joy (and some sadness) that you remember and have the courage to deal with emotions. I don't blame you if you don't. It's hard for me, too. But know that it means the world to me to hear others acknowledge my son's life and my role as his mother.
I cried myself to sleep last night. That hasn't happened in a long time. I miss that boy's skinny adult frame, and his firm toddler self, and everything in between. Still, still so hard to believe he is gone from this world. I pray for his safety and protection, his peace and freedom, and that he knows we love and miss him every single day. And if it is God's will, I pray that I will see him again.
I woke up (for the third time) to a loud crack of thunder.
The church lot is filled and the outlying parking lots jammed for this holy day. Another holiday without Adam. He wouldn't necessarily come home on Easter, but now he can't. We will miss him. This is the first holiday I've hosted since his death. First time I felt like cooking the big meal and entertaining the family at our home. There will only be seven of us. Just Cal staying here, so no fights over shower time. It feels a little hollow, like the cheap chocolate bunnies we used gnaw on as kids. Ears first.
Cal has been home for a week and the four of us have been hanging out some. It still feels weird that it's just us now.
I went to the attic to find some old journals and notes to compile a list of "greatest Adam quotes of all time." Because he was the most brilliant child (top 3 anyway).
Here are a few gems:
Adam: Who gave this locket to you?
Mommie: Aunt Myrtle gave it to me.
Adam: I'm scared of Aunt Myrtle.
Adam: Is she a turtle?
Adam: Don't laugh
To Pat and me from Adam: No hugging, no kissing, no putting your hands on each other. Your Nukie is Patrick.
[Nukie or Nuke was Pat's nickname for Adam- straight from Adam's favorite movie Bull Durham] I'm not scared of bats cause I always have a gun. I got a clam stuck in my mouth. Guess what I did to my mommy when I was cranky? I pinched her! Mommy, I love it when you pick me up from daycare when it's time to clean up. I'm a little bit sad I don't have a ba-ba (10/16/91).
Adam: I'm a little bit mad.
Adam: Because that jerk drove in front of you.
Adam: I don't have any feelings.
Mom: Yes, you do. You have all kinds of feelings- when you're upset, mad, happy, jealous.
Adam: What's jealous?
Mom: When you want something someone else has. Like if I'm talking to Pat and you want me to talk to you. Then you're jealous.
Adam: Oh. I went to Thomas' birthday party and I wanted to take my toys. And my daddy said the other kids would be "jealous."
This little guy was my buddy from age 25-30 (my age). Here's a couple little memories from my cloudy mind. At the time Adam was born in Denver I was volunteering in a women's shelter for survivors of domestic abuse. The shelter was located in Commerce City, just north of Denver proper. I honestly hadn't spent time in a place that poor before.
Does this picture give you an idea? I can still remember the smell of that house. Anyhow, I had been volunteering for some time, and was part of a new program where I was peer mentoring a woman after she left the shelter. I went to pick her up one weekend day to go to an event in downtown Denver (some type of craft show in a large convention center). She had a couple of girls, who sat in back with Adam in a rear facing car seat in the middle. I remember that drive as being excruciatingly long, because I was terrified that he had somehow smothered back there where I couldn't see him. That was probably one of my early panic attacks, but then again I was probably just a nervous new momma, and he was fine.
The year after we moved to Buffalo, Adam was two, and his dad decided to pursue a relationship with another woman and moved out. Our initial arrangement was that Bill picked Adam up Thursday after daycare (I had to work late one night a week) and brought him back Saturday afternoon. I'm sure they had some sweet adventures. One of my traditions with Adam was to eat brunch Sunday morning at a restaurant where my friend Mary Lou waitressed on the weekends. When it was nice we could eat outside. The restaurant was called Jimmy Mac's, and I always had one or two Mimosa's (I know). Then we would go wander around a local flea market in this really cool building on Main Street (they used to make cars here):
He was the best company. Very bright, inquisitive and up for anything. It was special to have that one on one time with my best boy. God, I miss this guy.