Saturday, February 01, 2020

Six Years In

This last year to year and a half has been hard, which is why I've stepped a little away from the writing. My son has needed more of me, and I didn't want to air his business. I haven't even asked my husband what he thought about whether or not I should write about his stuff. I just don't. One day, that can be his story to tell. It's getting better though, so there's that.

This may be our last First. It's been six years since Connor peacefully slipped away while we all slept. Six years since my husband had to come tell me that he was dead. Six years since I woke up believing my family was here with me, only to find out minutes later that we were no longer a family of 5. Since we called the police, and had to tell our 7 and 4 year olds that their brother had died. Since we had to call our sisters and brothers and moms and dads and friends and tell them this. And it was a Saturday, just like this year. That's our last First. A day completely empty of the normal get-up-and-go. In many ways, I'm glad it was a Saturday because it meant that everyone we had to call was in a different headspace - it wasn't rush hour and people weren't at the workplace.  Most of them were home, or alone where they were. They were able to gather themselves and then come gather with us. We had so very many people come to us that day. People who came and took the boys so we could handle the business of a police interview and a trip to the hospital.  People who brought food and drinks. People who just came and sat and accepted that at one minute we were laughing and then the next crying and then again laughing and then sometimes, asleep.

It feels like it has gone so fast, and that time has dragged almost immeasurably.

Today, we'll go to an early basketball game and cheer on our youngest.  But beyond that, we may not really do much except be here, and we invite you to come be here with us as well.  We'll light the candle in his lantern given to us by dear friends, and put up photos of him, and hang out and be as kind to each other as our slightly-less-bruised hearts can be.

Just don't bring lasagne. We're still not ready to eat that again after 6 years ago.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Paying It Forward

So if you have been on my facebook timeline lately you may have seen what's been going on. But just in case no, here's a tl:dr review:

Families at our elementary school donated $$ (I set up a Google Form and was the point person) so we could all buy tickets for our crossing guard who REALLY wanted to go to a World Series game. We gave him the tickets Wednesday AM. It's gone a little viral.

Anyway, people keep thanking me for this. I keep deflecting it. All I did was set up a Google form.

I thought a lot about this in the last two days. What it comes down to for me is this: about 5 years ago I really wanted tickets to see Foo Fighters at a show in Richmond. I put that out to the universe (via social media) in a bit of a snit.

THE UNIVERSE DELIVERED.

I thanked a lot of people, and to this day feel a debt of gratitude for all the efforts made on my behalf.

Our crossing guard, Jeff, is a friend to all. He has been a stalwart and smiling presence at school since late 2014. We all love him. He may not even know my whole story (though if he reads this, he'll learn in this blog) but my need to pass the good on, especially to someone who makes our kids' days brighter, has been weighing on me since September 2014. Just knowing I could play a part in filling his bucket made the craziness worth it.

I'll never be done paying it forward, but I'm thrilled that not only was I able to help out in this, but also that the attention it's getting is resoundingly positive.  If you go and Google "Mr. Jeff" in the news tab, you'll see he's trending. I can't think of a person who deserves the recognition more.

Go Nationals! Finish the fight!

Friday, July 26, 2019

Rainbow Connection

If you have been on social media, you may have seen that The Muppet Movie is celebrating it's 40th anniversary, and Fathom Events is showing it in theaters for two nights. You've missed one...it was last night. You can still check for July 30. I strongly recommend.

So if you know me, you know I have had a lifelong affinity for the Muppets. I think (and have always thought) that they are wonderful.  I remember finding out when I was a junior in high school that Jim Henson had passed away so unexpectedly and I cried and cried and cried. It was not the first time my family thought I was maybe over-dramatizing something...and not the last. But I was heartbroken. Who would give voice to Kermit, who was my guiding star of Muppet-ness? He is, in my very biased and unable-to-be-convinced-otherwise opinion, the absolute Best of them. He is kind and thoughtful and works towards a solution when something goes haywire (and if you ever watched the Muppet Show, you know that something always goes haywire). But he's not a paragon. He gets irritated. He yells. He gets frustrated and waves his arms wildly and makes THE FACE. You know THE FACE. It's literally my favorite thing about Muppetness.  This face:


RIGHT? It's the best.

And after he gets irritated, he recovers, and apologizes, and works again towards a solution. He's awfully human for a Muppet frog.

When I was, I guess, 7, my mother was in a choir where we lived in West Virginia. They did a concert of show tunes one season, and it happened to be after The Muppet Movie premiered. They decided to have a group of children sing "The Rainbow Connection" at the concert. It was my first public performance. I don't think there is any record of it, but I have flashes of memories from rehearsing it with my siblings and the other kids. What I remember most is that at the end, we were to walk offstage holding hands and swinging our arms to the ending "La-da-da-di-da-da-dooo...."

Fast forward to 1991. I was asked (or maybe I made it happen. This part is unknown now) to sing a song at the mass during our graduation weekend from high school. I said, "Sure - no problem. I'll sing this song." and plopped down the song "I'm Going To Go Back There Someday" which Gonzo sings near the end of the Muppet Movie.  I'm certain that the teachers and administration asked me to sing a hymn.  But I sang a song from the Muppet Movie instead. My dear former teachers, I'm sorry I was such a pain. I recall thinking when I was 17 that I wanted to sing this song because it speaks so plainly about wanting to go discover new things, which is what I thought (think) graduating high school and going to college was about.

Yesterday, as I went through my day knowing that I would be seeing the Muppet Movie in a big theater again, I started thinking about how I've had Muppets deeply embedded in my life for it's entirety. In college, for 2 years, I sent out Muppet and Sesame Street songs to a list of friends on an integrated voicemail system every dang morning. When I graduated from college and moved to Arlington, I decided to join a band. Then I learned there was a band named Gonzo's Nose and it was like, welp, yeah, that's the one for me. (Conveniently, they liked me too...). Last night, I went with Steve, who is the drummer and came up with the name of the band, to see the movie.

When I got married, I danced with my father to "It's Not Easy Being Green" performed by Ray Charles.  The song because I love Kermit and the Muppets, and the performer because my father loves Ray Charles.

Before we headed out last night, I ran upstairs to change. I rummaged through the drawer of funny tee shirts, thinking I can't wear a Muppet shirt...trying too hard.   I ended up grabbing an old navy blue tee shirt.  It has an outline on it of West Virginia and says "Almost Heaven."  I tossed it on, then later thought, "Huh...that's where I lived when this movie first came out, and a place that's deeply embedded in my heart just like the Muppets."

Basically, the Muppets are seamlessly entwined in my life and consciousness, and I never realized it until this movie turned 40.  These characters and songs and bits and everything all came along and delighted me (I hated Miss Piggy and still do but I had a stuffed pig as a child so you can already guess what it's name was...) and it turns out, just loving them this much has brought a lot more love into my life. When I went to see it last night, my 12 year old went with me.  He laughed so hard he cried. "Mom," he said, "This is so funny !!" I know, honey.  The best part of the Muppets, always, is that they absolutely love themselves, and that they are funny.

It kind of makes me want to be one.


Tuesday, April 09, 2019

For Dear Old UVA

So, yeah, I'm a basketball fan. And I'm an alumna of the University of Virginia, which means that for as long as my life has been, I've been accustomed to "my team" losing. There have been periods of greatness (men's basketball in the early 80s with Ralph Samson, football in 1990-1991 when we actually ranked #1 for a whole week, baseball in the past 10 years) and I'm absolutely certain that people will tell me in comments about things I've missed. That's okay. I know I don't have a comprehensive knowledge of this. Because really, my focus has always been men's college basketball, particularly the annual tournament.

When I was little, I so desperately looked up to my sisters, and especially to Shannon. As the one closest in age to me, she was the most likely target of this adulation, and also the one whose actions I could copy fastest.  Shannon played basketball, so therefore, so did I. We were never similar players. She was taller, and tougher, and frequently fouled out at her games. I learned to keep the book at her basketball games as our father often handled that for the team and he made sure to teach me as he did it. She taught me how to dribble, how to pass and how to shoot. As a shorter and less aggressive player, I gravitated towards the point guard position and played it for 3 years. I think I made roughly 10 points in my storied CYO career. But I ran the floor, and I loved it. We went to basketball camp together (and when he was old enough, our brother joined us) every summer, but never played in the same leagues due to age difference. And every March, we watched as many games as we could get away with. It was at the beginning of this time that UVA Men's basketball had Ralph Samson, and led the NCAA Division 1 and went to the Final Four. I remember not liking NC State at all (they kept beating us!) but now, as an adult, I look back at that and all I remember is The Shot and Jimmy V. And I love Jim Valvano. Hindsight and all.

We live in different cities now, but we text during every game we can.

Fast forward a bunch...like about 30 years. Tony Bennett comes to UVA and starts building a program, and despite it looking like it won't succeed because it's defense focused and slower paced, it does. The recruitment team pulls more and more successful players in to UVA. The school and the alumni started to believe we could do it.

Here's the thing about UVA and sports. We never expect our teams to be tops. It's just not how we proceed. Many students choose UVA for the academic opportunities. I get teased constantly about our abysmal record against Virginia Tech in football, and my response is always that the quality of my degree is not impacted by the football team.  Our alumni ranks are always waiting for the other shoe to fall when it comes to athletics.

So a year ago (plus a few weeks) when the men's basketball team notched the first historic #1 seed loss to a #16 (in the men's tournament. It irritates me to no end that it had in fact happened years prior in the women's tournament, but because women did it first, no one gave a shit because we all know women don't count. But I digress.) I sat on the sofa aghast and crying. I wasn't sad for me. I was heartbroken for the team, for Kyle and Ty and De'Andre and Jack and Devon and Isaiah, and all the other players, and for Tony. To know that for the rest of their lives, they would have this attached to them, and be asked about it, and worse...it just broke my heart.  I cried again the next morning when I told my sons about the loss.

When the season started, I was nervous. We all were. How do you step back out on the court after that? We were at the game - my Dad got us tickets. UVA won. And then they kept winning, until full-strength Duke. But every game I was afraid we would lose, and I wasn't happy with a small lead. I needed the leads to be significant so I could remain calm. And many times, the leads were significant.

Then came March, and another #1 seed placement. That first game was TERROR. And you know I spent half if it in the car because they played better when I was not watching. As they advanced by each round, I spent three hours in thrall/angst/elation/horror, which has not been good for me. I've been clenching my jaw at night and I have stress hives. Because of a game.

And they won last night, and finished their "redemption season" as National Champions. And I sat on my sofa (and also paced around my sofa) crying, again for those boys. For Kyle and Ty and De'Andre, and Jack and Kihei and tournament-strong Mamadi. For Braxton and Jay, Austin and Grant, Francesco and Francisco, and Marco and Kody and Jayden. For the managers. For the coaching staff, especially Jason Williford, who played when I was a student and was team captain in 1995 when they made it to the Elite 8. Now he's helped his beloved Hoos go all the way. And that brings me so much joy.

I know that no place is perfect, and UVA is included in that. Like any other place, it has history which has minuses and pluses. To me, it has always been Dear Old UVA.

So if you see me and say congratulations and I tear up, don't mind me.  It's just my joy seeping out.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Resilience

Many of you know that last week was the anniversary of Connor's passing. Five years have gone by, feeling both like the longest period of time ever, and the shortest.  We're on the cusp of what would be his 15th birthday coming up. Sometimes it shocks me that I've been a parent this long now.

When Connor passed, we asked people to plant trees in his honor, and many did. I wish I could see all the trees in person, and maybe one day I will.

My friend Anne from high school is an Arborist and designer. She planted a tree in Islamorada, Florida in Connor's honor. I've seen Anne maybe once since high school - at our 20th Reunion, but she didn't hesitate to plant that tree.


And she clearly did it just right, because last week on the anniversary of his passing, she sent me this picture and told me that the tree, still quite young, somehow managed to survive Hurricane Irma, which went right through the Keys. It survived 130 MPH winds and flooding. It is resilient. Just like he was.

We were told he was unlikely to make it to his 2nd birthday, maybe not his first. He made it almost to his 10th.

We were told he was unlikely to be able to continue eating on his own. He never once had a feeding tube.

We were told he was unlikely to have any capacity for holding his own weight, and while he never stood solo, we have a few photographs of him sitting with no assistance and no strapping. Just him and his abs.

He was the very definition of resilient.

Many people think that Lee and I are resilient ones - we advocated and cared for him, we continued building our family, we took each blow with as much grace as we could muster. But none of that would have been possible for even ten minutes without everyone around us who helped in myriad ways. I think all of us are more resilient than we think. As long as we keep talking to each other, and more importantly, hearing each other.

Keep growing, little tree.  Someday, hopefully soon, I'll come see you and bring some of the soil from Connor's garden down for you, so you can add his resilience to yours.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

An Unanticipated Threshhold

I know it's been very quiet here this year. It's been a difficult year, especially for one of my sons and in the interest of protecting his future employments I have not posted about it. As someone who worked for almost 15 years in hiring...the internet is forever.

However, I was talking about this person this week, and said out loud for the first time, you know when he turns 10, he'll have lived longer without his brother than with his brother.

I'll let that sink in. He'll just be hitting double digits. I'd have to live to be 84 and a half or so to reach that particular count.

Anyway, I couldn't get that sentence out of my head for hours afterwards. It just rolled around in here, bumping up against all the things I really needed to be thinking about. Finally, I pulled up a browser on my phone and looked up the days between Tucker's birthday and the day Connor died. It told me 1753 days are in that range.  Then I started with the day Connor died and went to Monday.

It told me 1752 days.

Yesterday was the halfway point. After yesterday, the rest of his life will always be longer than his life with Connor. Today is the official start of that.

Why did I phrase that in a way that would cause this to become the main thing I was thinking about? I mean, I know myself pretty well (I think) and I had to have known that a toss-off remark would implant itself into my subconscious until I knew exactly what those numbers were.

In any case, here we are. He'd the first to reach this threshhold.  Drew's will be a few months after he turns 14. That's 2021. I guess I can let this lie fallow until I get closer to that.


Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Quality of Luck

I have spent the better part of the year feeling down in the dumps, mopey, Eeyore-esque. I'm fortunate in that I can feel this, and that I can wallow in this and still go about the must-doings.

The last several weeks have had "lucky" come to mind a lot for me. We are all being affected, somehow, by what is happening in our world. Our world, right now, is fractured by a virulent and overwhelming argument about men and women and power and bravery and fear and justice. I am sure there are other factors, but those are the ones that roll off my tongue.

This is how I know I am lucky. I have, as a female in the world, encountered abuse, sometimes from co-workers, sometimes from friends, but I have never been truly assaulted, and for that, I am lucky. LUCKY.

Any person's safety and well-being, both physical and mental, should never, ever come down to that.

When words intended to subdue, or objectify, or humiliate me were casually or deliberately thrown my way, my immediate reaction, each time, was to throw them right back. How dare you say that to me? How dare you ask that? What is wrong with you that treating another person like that is all right?  Where is your humanity? And when it happened, usually in a co-ed and public place, everything quieted down, for a while afterwards. I cannot say that it never happened again. I can only hope that it didn't.

I never feared because I had my voice. And that makes me lucky, because there are so many out there whose voices aren't giving them the courage and the confidence and the righteousness to raise up their humanity and hold it above someone who would subvert it.

I may start coming out of the funk, and I may not. And during this funk, my voice has been a little lost. Today, Dr. Ford used her voice, despite terror and horror of memories no one should ever have. Today, I start to use mine again.