I Don’t Know

The terrible twos, they tell you, are the worst years.  Yet still some others beg to differ, and claim that no, three is the worst year ever.  I’m beginning to realize that every age, is hard.

Late this morning I walked into the police station, and sat on the cold hard chairs rehearsing my story.  Its not so much a story, as it is the truth.  But rehearsing is needed when it comes to situations like these.  Situations that combine fears, and kids, and cops all in one.  I needed something solid to lean back on, and thus the rehearsing began.

He’s 16.  Stands a few inches shorter than me.  He has brown hair, brown eyes.  And I’m sorry I don’t remember what he was wearing, because I have failed at this whole parenting thing.  I didn’t take his picture that morning on the off chance he decided not to come home.  I didn’t memorize him as I drove by.  I glanced to the side, made a mental note that he was at the bus stop, and continued on my way.  Like I do every morning.

I took the other one to school, ran through the mental to do list for the day, and pulled into work a few minutes later than usual thanks to traffic that can hardly be called traffic.  And a few hours later my phone rang.  I don’t usually answer it, but yesterday I did.  “Dylan is absent again today.” the caller stated.  “Do you want to give a reason or stop in later today….” she trailed off while I mentally flipped through what had happened.  I sighed, told her I would get back to her, and, assuming he had decided to play hooky, went home to confront him.

Except he wasn’t there.

And he hasn’t been there since.

I spent the day knocking on doors, driving up and down the same roads, over and over hoping that by some small miracle – he would be there, and I could drive him nuts with the questions.  Where were you?  What were you thinking?  Why did you leave?  I continued to drive until the darkness gave way, and even then I stalked any random figure I saw walking down the street.

While he hasn’t ever been in trouble with the law, he has teetered on the edge of self harm more than once, and come dangerously close, too close, before.  The worry in the pit of my stomach grows, and hardens.  I waffle between intense anger, and nothing.  Because at this point, nothing seems to make sense.  And the things that do make sense, my mind simply refuses to entertain.

The questions they ask, I assume are routine, but cant help but shift nervously in my chair, wondering.  Fearing.  Are they assuming?  Are they just going to mark him down as another lost case?  Will they really do their best?  Try their hardest?  Are they just shaking their heads at the irony that I couldn’t see?  The stats that continue to play out?  Are they considering CPS?  Should I run?

“Would he contact you if he were in trouble?” they ask again.  And because I have no honest answer, and because I swore I wouldn’t lie to a uniformed officer, I shake my head.  I don’t know.

I really, don’t know.

It’s the only honest answer I have for anything.

I just.  Don’t.  Know.

As The Scar Appears

Truth be told, I have avoided the silent places.  The places in life where, if left too long, alone, with silence – the thoughts start to creep in.  The places where you can hear yourself think, and when you can finally hear yourself think, you start to entertain thoughts that you know you shouldn’t be.  The places where even your loudest thoughts cannot drown out the screams of the masses (or minorities, depending on how you look at it).  The places that take me down deep, and far back and threaten to never release its hold.  The places I do not want to be.  Yes.  Truth be told, I have been avoiding those places.

Somehow over the past few years, this too has turned into such a place.  A place that once brought me comfort and relief from the world spinning so out of my control.  A place where I could write down my thoughts and not have to worry about being picked apart.  A place where my thoughts could be removed, looked at, sorted out, and reassembled.  A place.  That I enjoyed coming to.  And somehow over the years, I have slowly started to scale back.

I have scaled back what I share, I have been scaled back on what I can share.  I look over my words, and feel the immense pain and sadness and the deep urge to just RUN.  I feel, for myself.  The thing is, the me of here, and the me now – are two different people.  Life isn’t completely grand, no.  It never will be for anyone.  But trying to write something now would have a much different tune than it did even a year ago.  It seems disrespectful, in a sense.  To write the words I have today, in the same place the words of me a year ago lay.

But I cant bring myself to completely do away with writing, because as much as air is to many, or all, so is writing to me.  I need the outlet, the release, the putting of words into sentences that don’t make any sense.  I need this.  For me.  For both the me of then, and the me of now.

We are a week away from what would have been my daughters 12th birthday.  And while that day will never go down as one of the best in history, it will never go down much like it did that first year.  Or even the second or third.  Where it was all I could do to not be completely engulfed by the horror that yet another had passed – without her.  There are still days when I am caught off guard by a song, or a memory.  A small face, or tiny hands.  There are moments where my heart skips a beat, and my breath gets logged somewhere in my throat and I wonder “What IF!”

But nothing can ever compare to those first years.  Nothing can compare to these past few years.  Nothing.  No one could have ever told me how completely ripped apart, scalded, burned, and beaten I would feel.  No one would ever have prepared me to love so deeply, that grief would literally try to tear my own life away from me – yet refused, because that would be too kind.  I could never have been prepared for the gut ripping, mind blowing experience of LIVING without life itself.  No one.  And yet here we are, so many, many years later…

And I am supposed to somehow, rearrange my thoughts and prepare articles, make dinner, wipe noses, raise kids, and feed the dog.  Somehow.  I am supposed to fold my thoughts out, write my heart down, and say what is on my mind.  But its hard.  Because life isn’t easy.  It never is.  Yet it seems almost trivial to complain, or whine about the things in life now.  Because compared to just last year – life is a cake walk.

My hope is to return.  With words.  And sentences.  And thoughts.  My hope is to once again be drawn to this place, and not to see it as only the words of a terribly sad life – but also of life today.  Because just as a scab eventually disappears, and an ugly scar is left in its place – so am I.  Still here.  Still breathing.  Still hoping.  Still waiting.  Yet much like a scar no longer resembles the skin that was BEFORE the wound, so my life will look nothing like before.

“It’s Ok”

The last words I would ever say to her, the words I said as she lay dying in my arms. It’s not, nor was it, as poetic as it sounds. Death never is. And at the time – I didn’t know those words would be the last I would ever say. They were just words of comfort – to her, to me, that somehow, someway – it really would be ok.

I would go on to say those words. Repeat them year after year. They became cliché, worn, worthless. “I’m sorry for your loss” they would say, and instinctively, as if to offer them some comfort, some release from the god awfully awkward conversation they had SOMEHOW managed to get themselves into I would reply: “It’s ok.”

But the truth is, I have come to realize, far too late in life, is that it isn’t ok. And it most likely never will be ok. And that no matter how awkward or weird or horrible it may make a person feel – it is NOT ok.

It is not ok that cancer stole my girl. It is not ok that she felt pain and suffered and had to die as I sat helplessly by watching. It is not ok that her life was cut short, and out of respect for others feelings – I avoid the topic – because nothing kills a conversation faster than saying “My daughter had cancer. But she didn’t survive.”

She is just another lost addition in the endless sea of statistics. She means nothing to anyone else, and might have been nothing but another number. But to turn a deaf ear to the cause. To the awareness. To the need to end this? Is NOT ok. And it never will be.

Not today, just another day in September. Not tomorrow. Not next year, or next month.

It’s not ok that childhood cancer still exists. No matter what way you look at it, it is never going to be ok.

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September

I can relate to this post.  So much: Awareness.  What a bulls*** word!

The Emotional Cost of Childhood Cancer

The Fiercest Warriors Against Childhood Cancer

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Some Videos:

The Childhood Cancer Ripple Effect

Stand Up To Cancer

Truly Brave

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My Own Personal Take On September:

To Remember or Not?

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Some Buttons:

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SUTC

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While in my experience, people get annoyed with the month of September, and everything childhood cancer awareness related, I say: Relax.  In a few days your life will return to normal.  Yellow will turn to pink, and people will once again move on without being forced to think about the unthinkable.  For me?  My life will never be the same.

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All I have are pictures.  Memories.  And regrets.

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Everyday I miss her.

Forgive the postings.  Forgive the colors.  Forgive the memories.  The remembrance.  The hope.  The fear.  Forgive me, and millions of others – for wanting to end this disease.  But for some, its all we have.  The small glimmer of hope – that maybe one day, others will be spared the pain of hearing the words: Your child has cancer.

Today You Turn Ten

This morning I called. Three rings and a few moments later – I was talked to a seemingly empty receiver. I knew you were there, listening, as always: The quiet breathing, occasional sniffle, and the dropping of the phone kind of tipped me off. But all that is beside the point. Today, you turn ten.

I originally planned on spending the day with you, as usual. Maybe get some pancakes, try and embarrass you a little. Who knows. I didn’t really have the day planned. I didn’t really know what would go down. But instead, last minute plans left me a thousand miles away – talking to you on the phone while you did what you do best, and listened.

I filled in the gaps, carried on a conversation as if you were giving answers right back at me. And then I hung up the phone and thought about what you hadn’t said. Not just today. But in the past five years.

Someone asked me the other day if I had ever considered buying you an iPad to help you communicate with others. I brushed it off with my common answer of not wanting to disable you from communicating outside of a piece of technology, and how I wanted you to be able to communicate with everyone – no matter what electronic you held in your hand. I stated my case. Then stopped and thought about what I had just said and wondered for a brief moment: Am I disabling you?

The things I do, I do with you in mind. I try to think about your best interest, and plan for future. I accept the help for you that I believe will give you the best results, and try not to hold you back too much. I try to push you, encourage you to expand, and try to give you the tools you need to grow…

But in all this, am I holding you back? Am I making the wrong choices? Am I giving you the wrong things, and holding back the right? In the name of helping am I really holding you back? In trying to push you, am I hurting you? In trying to grow your mind, am I really just inhibiting your abilities?

And then, in a brief moment of self-pity, where I feel sorry for myself – I cry out to no one in particular that if only you would talk. If only you would tell me. If only you could communicate with me. If only. I never asked for this. I never wanted to go down this road. I never. Me. I. What about you?

In all my thinking and planning and hoping and wanting and wishing – What about you? Do you wish you could talk? Do you wish I would stop holding you back? Are the things I assume about you really so wrong? Do I not know you the way I like to think I do? Are you really so different? Would you tell me if I were holding you back? Would you somehow let me know?

And then I stop. And think. And realize.

No.

You never asked for this either. You didn’t ask to be scared. To be hurt. To be torn down, and belittled, and left. You didn’t ask to live here. You didn’t ask for people to talk about you while you are standing there with them. You didn’t ask for me to selfishly wonder “WHY ME!” Yet you smile…

And you dance. And you laugh. And you show the world how to be a better person, just by being you.

And if there is one thing I should know by now, it’s what you have shown me, again and again and again. It doesn’t matter what life hands your way. It doesn’t matter who tries to knock you down, or gain from your failures, or triumph over your disasters….it doesn’t matter.

Because at the end of the day, you go home with yourself – not them. And at the end of the day, when you smile, and laugh, or even when you cry in frustration. Even on the days that are so hard – I am reminded. No. I didn’t choose this for you. No. I wouldn’t have chosen this for you. But you? You make this world so much better just by being in it, and you make me realize just how lucky I am to be in this world with you.  And no matter how tough things get, or how complicated and confusing things are – I am here to navigate those roads with you.  And I will always be here for you.

I hope one day you will realize that I have failed, so hard, that I don’t always make the right choices for you, but I try. And I will always try. Because YOU are worth trying for, and you always will be.  Don’t forget that.

Don’t let anyone hold you back, not even me.

Happy Birthday Buddy,

- Your Uncle

In The Midst of The Mundane

Life lately has been what I would refer to as, manageable. I can manage problems from a distance from the comfort of my phone. In fact, the biggest complications I have had the past few months have been deciding when to get my work done. Not how, but when. I have had the pleasure of disconnecting myself from life to take a breather.   In reality, the break should have been about finding some answers, establishing a plan to get not only myself, but the kids, through this world – successfully.

But instead, I have unleashed a hidden dream of mine and am afraid to put it away.

In less than a week, I will board the plane and be thrown back into the whirlwind of life. Rain will most likely meet me, problems I abandon four months ago will still be there and the whirlwind to get things back on track will still be waiting.

I haven’t done as much deciding as I would have hoped.   But in the midst of my down time, I have done some contemplating. Some begging. And lots and lots of thinking.

Life. Is. Complicated.

Sure that may seem obvious, but it is. It’s messy. It’s hard. It’s frustrating. There are so many words that could be used to describe it. Short. Unfair. Fast. Challenging. Exciting. Thrilling. Disastrous. Wonderful and daring to name a few. But there is so much of it that goes unnoticed. So much of life that just gets passed over, ran past, and forgotten.

How quick we are to forget. To take notice of someone other than ourselves. How fast we fail to remember that the world does not rotate around us. How quick we are to become frustrated with the mundane, day to day, in and out, seemingly meaningless tasks surrounding us. But in the midst of the mundane is where the beauty lies.

In the middle of school shopping, traveling, and working. In the middle of the night, the rough afternoons and the complicated evenings. On the days you just want to throw your hands in the air, and wave the white flag of surrender….there. In those moments. Is where life REALLY matters.

A few days ago I was talking with someone who had just passed their driving test. “I ran over a hedge, knocked over some flowers and ran up the curb. I thought for sure I had failed.” He said “But when I was done – he congratulated me, and said I passed. It wasn’t the problems I occurred, but rather how I handled them – that mattered.”

In the middle of the frustrating, hard, mundane tasks – Stop. These are the moments that matter the most. The ones that seem to have no meaning, and are full of frustrating, dead end leads. This isn’t saying I won’t be frustrated when its 1am and the kids still aren’t asleep. Or when I get phone calls that make my head spin. This doesn’t mean I won’t fall down. It doesn’t mean you won’t get hurt. It just means that life – is full of meaning. Even in the midst of the mundane, seemingly hopeless tasks.

One Day

I’ve spent a lot of my spare time lately, thinking. Even in those moments where I am incredibly busy – I like to stop, and look around. Take it all in. Memorize it. Freeze it. The other day I stopped eating, and looked around the dinner table with the people I was sitting with. Voices were muted, smiles frozen – and for a moment in time, I was watching the lives of people unfold around me.

This older couple, who have been through more than their fair share of trials – divorced yet remain good friends, sat side by side telling old stories about their son. Their son: who tragically had died many years ago. Their faces held the scars of stories from the past, their bodies old and worn. But the memories. They smiled as they recounted them. Together. Years later. Both in agreement of how the day had unfolded, all those many years ago when their son was small.

The story was ordinary, yet they both laughed and smiled. His name rolled off their tongue with no problem. No remorse. Nothing held back. I studied their faces, worn with time, for hints of sadness. But both being of the strong type – neither showed anything but sheer happiness. Perhaps, for being able to talk about their son with others. Sharing him with others. Sharing his memory with others.

Later that night, as I walked home, I thought over the story they had told. The story that conveyed so much detail – details that otherwise might have been forgotten, but due to the circumstances – will forever be remembered. The sun, the clothes, perhaps even the color of the soap. Preserved perfectly forever.

I often wonder what it would be like – to have someone to toss memories around with. “Remember when?”

Memories are quickly fading. Replaced with more relevant ones. Ones that are current, up to date, and remembered by more than just me. It’s kind of funny, that way. The mind can only remember so much – and more relevant information replaces the old. I don’t talk about her all that often, and maybe that is wrong. Maybe I am doing it all wrong. Keeping her memory to myself – only sharing pieces of her with those who really want to hear.

I don’t randomly burst into stories about her, and while that has a lot to do with my fading memories and the fact that I only have so many stories – stories that mostly everyone has – a lot of it has to do with me. Wanting to hold what is left of her back. And maybe that’s wrong. Maybe I should be willing and open and ready to share like it was yesterday.

With a smile. And an unguarded heart. One that isn’t crushed when someone turns her memory down. Maybe one day. One day I will be ready. Ready to share the stories I hold close out of fear of losing them. Ready to share her with the world. Ready to smile when I talk about her with others. Ready. To share her.

But until then, I will smile when others discuss their loved ones, knowing that while they may be scar covered wounds, healed by time, deep down – the loss of losing a child, of losing a loved one, of losing someone close to your heart, no matter how much has been healed by time -is still there. And will never completely, go away. Even though in time, you come to accept this.

And one day – I too will share.

Ordinary

I’m not the same person I was, seven years ago. Quite honestly, I’m not the same person today as I was yesterday – it’s just been a more gradual change and I have yet to notice it. It’s hard, today, to even write anything. My thoughts swing back and forth on a major pendulum. Life is good. Life sucks. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. In fact, I know I’m not. So often however, the “Life is good” part of me wants to take over. And the “Life sucks” part jumps in to try and save the day. I wish I could say that both parties do well at keeping me somewhere center bound, but more often than not – I am left confused.

You see – Life isn’t the same as it was. Seven years ago. It’s very much different. In the past ten plus years, things have changed from one extreme to the other. And through many of those years – I wrote. I wrote my way out of the ever changing days that kept my head spinning. I wrote my way through the difficult moments, and the days when I didn’t honestly want to see another sun rise. I wrote my way thought a lot of difficult moments, and yet – I am finding it increasingly difficult to write my way through the seemingly good.

Because it seems almost as if I am cutting ties with the past – and moving forward. Which is exactly what I am doing. I just don’t want to admit it. If I am too happy – then I should be sad. But if I am sad – Then why am I not happy? The ever constant pull to be the person I am not is taking a toll on who I really am. Which is really quite sad. Because for so long I have fought, to be here. To be who I am today. To be happy. To have to right to smile. And crash on those days that just simply suck.

Life isn’t always good or bad. There isn’t always black or white. There won’t always be a yes or no answer. Life won’t always be good. But it won’t always be bad. I won’t always be on one side of the pendulum – in fact, there is a lot of times that simply just are.

Moments that are, quite frankly, ordinary.

Seven years ago, was one side of that pendulum. It was one of the full extremes. Up one side, and down the other. Life was filled with moments that I didn’t honestly want to walk away from – even if there were better days out there. Seven years ago I didn’t have to wonder at the pain and sadness imaginable in this world – I knew it. I lived it. I breathed it. And I knew that if there was a day that would come where it would no longer be so intense, that it was always possible to relapse to that time.

The darkness. The pain. The sadness.

It was never something I wanted. Yet strangely, neither was this.

I never wanted to see the other side. The side of life that is full of ordinary moments, with crappy days sprinkled in, and blue skies every so often.

Seven years ago, I couldn’t imagine being happy again. But seven years later – I can’t imagine never being broken. I can’t imagine not living through those dark days. And maybe, that’s the point of crappy days, and broken hearts. Maybe, just maybe, they are there to show you what life could be. Maybe they are there to let you know that yes – crap happens. Coming out the other side won’t be easy. You will never be the same.

But once you go to hell and back – you really don’t care. You are just glad to be where the sun sometimes shines, and life is sometimes ordinary. And that’s enough.

It’s enough to make you smile. And it’s enough to keep you from going back there. Even when life throws you curve balls and threatens to take you deep within.

Seven years ago, I said good-bye to someone special. Someone who gave me what I needed to make it to where I am today. Her death took me to rock bottom – but it also gave me the will I need to not go back there. To that place that will forever haunt my dreams, and bring me down pleading to never leave this place: Where ordinary, is ok.

We miss you Molly, today and forever.

One Day Maybe

Tiny arms wrap themselves around me as far as they can reach. The arms of an overly happy one year old that has just spent the past ten minutes dictating what I could and could not do. Pleased with my ability to follow orders, and satisfied that I gave into her demands, finger jabbing, and babbling that made no sense. She gave me a quick cuddle while her parents ooh’d and aww’d over her random gesture.

I remind myself, almost daily, that running from memories will never work.

For a while, memories were what kept me going. And then a short while after – memories were too much. Now? They come and go. Fleeting moments that race across my mind, giving me a glimpse at what was, what could have been, and what never will be. My life. A fast-forward of up’s and downs, ins and outs. Nothing ever connects or makes sense, until one day…

Some days, it doesn’t matter how much of a pep talk I give to myself.

Her picture catches me off guard – and for a moment, I think I can see the sparkle in her eye. The one that always made me smile. The shy smile that gave the impression that she was a timid child – when she was anything but. It brings me back to a different time in life. A time that wasn’t good, but certainly wasn’t bad – because how could it be bad?

I scold myself for judging. It wasn’t something I was going to do. I wasn’t going to become one of ‘those’ people who judged everyone for doing ‘wrong.’ They are trying their best, doing all they know how – yet somehow, I feel cheated. Justifying my judging acts, I tell myself that if only…followed up with a quick I would never.

It’s easy for me to say I would always love her, never get angry, and only give her the best without being selfish. Of course I can say that. The only thing left of my daughter is the dim lit memory that fizzles out like a broken light bulb. The only memories left of her, are with me. Hardly anyone knows her, and hardly anyone wants to remember her with me. So yes, I would be the most patient, caring, loving person in the world – except that I know I wouldn’t be. Should the tables be turned.

Instead I accept the hug, and for a few seconds I imagine life a little bit different. And then I turn her back to her waiting, doting parents who love her more than life itself. And retreat to the memories. The ones that flip past too quickly, and turn off before I am ready.

Sometimes, the missing runs deeper than it should. It pulses through my veins like my own blood. Spurred on by the flickers of life that don’t belong to me. One day I will learn to stop running, and embrace the memories that are my own. And when I do, I will wrap my arms around her – and never have to let her go.