Saturday, January 24, 2015

What It Feels Like To Miss You...

Dear Gavin,

As I sit here in my bed, tears dripping onto my chest, I am forcing myself to type these numbers - one year, nine months, ten days.  It makes me sick that it has been that long since I last held you, touched you, breathed you in.

So much has happened - yet so much has remained the same.  I still manage to get up and function every day.  I still parent Brian - and now, Hope - with the same enthusiasm as I did when you were alive.  I still miss you desperately every single day.  Yet in less than two years our family is so different!  Hope has added a new energy and a different dynamic - something I never expected to happen to our family!  And Brian is maturing - gaining confidence, losing teeth, making friends.

What would you be like now?  I wonder that at least once a day.  Brian and Hope play "chase" around the house.  Can you imagine that?  She's one - and he's six!  But she runs away from him and glances back over her shoulder and they laugh and laugh.  Would you be running with them?  I'm sure of it. As I watch the two of them I can almost see you whizzing by.  Would you be talking now?  I'm sure of it.  I bet you'd have opinions and requests.  And I'm positive you'd join the daily fights that Brian and I have over who loves who more - and who loved who first.

Tonight I was snuggled up in a chair with Brian and his iPad and we pulled up YouTube.  For a little while we got lost in videos - Hope eating spaghetti for the first time, Brian finding out he we going to be a big brother, you and Brian riding the fire trucks in Ocean City... it was fun to walk down memory lane.

Then he clicked on a video that turned me inside out.  Especially when I saw that it was posted "two years ago."  That was harsh.  

Soon it was bedtime and, no surprise, Hope needed a lot of extra snuggles before she settled in for the night.  She has inherited her older brothers' gift of somehow picking up on just what her Mommy needs.  As I held her in the chair where I once held you, I was grateful for the time to just sit... and stroke her hair... sing to her... feel needed... and cry.  As she cried, I cried too.  Her tears were likely born from frustration and not knowing how to handle her hectic insides so she could feel better. Ironically, my tears were for the same reasons - but the depth of our pain is vastly different.  I hope she and her brother never have to feel the kind of pain that comes with losing a child.  There's nothing like it.

I miss you.  You know what it feels like to miss you?  It feels like shit.  I resent that I have to miss you, quite frankly.  I hate that you had to go.

I've since watched that video of the two of us several times as I sit here in bed.  Something was so different with you - something was clicking - and from that day you continued to wow us.  But then - bam.  You were gone.  I'll never, ever understand it - as long as I live.

So I will continue to wake up each day.  Parent with enthusiasm and pure, unfiltered love.  I will continue to celebrate Brian and Hope's milestones while counting the days since your final breath.  I will keep on watching old videos - and will make sure we keep talking about who you were and how you lived and what you meant to us and how you changed everything.  

You really changed everything.  

You really changed me.



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

After School Specials...

I'm so grateful to be a stay at home Mom.  It's truly something I always hoped to be.  And I feel lucky that I have so much one on one time with Hope during the day while Brian is in school!  That is such a treat.  I really put off a lot of things both inside and out of the house just because I love to hang out with her at home.  Some days we are still in our pajamas at lunch!  We love to read...
...and laugh.
Hope loves to "sing" and dance, put things in and pull things out of containers, and play with her Little People toys.  Here she is in what I like to call her "Little People Party Pod."  Ha!
Sometimes she even tries to rock and dance and sing when she's on her rocking caterpillar!

But what I think I do most of is follow her.  Everywhere.  And it's my honor, really.  I feel honored - privileged, really - to be able to follow her every hour of every day and see her grow and develop and learn.  It's the best gift.
With all of that said - the two of us are in love with the same boy and we miss him a lot during the day!  When I announce "Brian's bus will be here soon!" - Hope stops what she's doing immediately and I have her attention.
Here's what happens as soon as Brian comes in the front door.  He takes off his shoes, his coat, his backpack - he runs to the bathroom to wash his hands - and then he announces "I'm going to play with Hope before homework, Mom."  I would never dare argue with a man on a mission!
(notice he lost tooth number two?!?)

Yesterday, he created a train - and even made a ticket that he handed to Hope who, right on cue, handed it back to "the conductor."
Today was a whole different scene!  Brian's school let out early for what was supposed to be more snow than we actually got - but who cares!  Brian was coming home early and we were psyched!!  Hope was napping when he arrived so instead of rushing in to play with her - he rushed OUT to stand in the snow...
...and try to eat it!
And then the two of us quickly got to work finishing his first big school project - a Diorama.  Brian was able to choose an animal for his Diorama and he picked the Lion.  The two of us did some research about lions on the internet and he chose three topics to focus on.  He had to create the diorama (with help, of course) and then write a three sentence report that he will be reading to his class tomorrow!
We enjoyed working on this together over the past week - from the research to the crafty parts.
Going to "Michael's" for supplies was really fun!  We found tiny cans of spray paint and decided we would spray the entire shoe box to make it look less "shoe-boxy."  Brian chose spray paint that would make it look like sand in a desert...
...which then led us to find the ground cover that looked like sand.  Then we used lots and lots of tape and sticky glue to hold everything down... even the Lion that had caught and is about to eat the Gazelle.  Hey - it's the circle of life.
He is so proud of the finished product!  And he worked SO hard to write his report with neat handwriting!!
We practiced his presentation so many times - including the "tour" of his diorama in case he's asked to explain it to the class.  Here was his final practice today...

I can't wait for him to walk in the door after school tomorrow to hear how it went.  I'm sure this will be the answer I'll get:

"good."
Either way - his two cheerleaders will be here waiting with a fun snack and a big congratulatory hug!

Good luck, Brian!


Monday, January 19, 2015

An Accidental Blessing...

Just the other day I was going through the photos from "Gavin's Playground Party" - and all I kept thinking was... I can't believe that happened.  I really can't!  Hope was a tiny infant when I came up with the idea and, in retrospect, it all seemed to just come together like magic.  I cold called so many people from my kitchen with Hope over my shoulder the majority of the time... and so, so, so many people said yes.  Yes, they would offer me space in the Expo center for next to nothing.  Yes, they would donate their time.  Yes, they would donate raffle items.  It was all just unbelievable and, as you know - between the actual event and the online auctions - it brought in over $63,000 for a future All Abilities playground at the hospital where Gavin was cared for... loved... and died.

One of my favorite parts of the online auction I had was the "Special Needs Section."  I took a chance and called companies that we had used for Gavin over the years - for his special needs bed, for his KidWalk - and was thrilled when they donated items.  Items that were really expensive... very important... and incredibly helpful to families and kids.  One of those companies that said yes was Firefly!  They donated an Upsee - which was brand new and not even on the market yet! - and two "Go To" seats.  This section of the auction made me so happy because I knew, first hand, that getting special needs equipment could be really difficult... very expensive... and sometimes downright impossible for some.  I was really so, so grateful to Firefly for their generosity.

I must have stayed on a list of theirs - maybe a "special needs Mom blogger" list, I'm guessing - because one day there was a big box from Firefly on my doorstep.  I sat on the kitchen floor with Brian and Hope and opened it up with excitement.  To be honest, it felt for a second like Gavin was still alive.  I had no idea what was in this box or why it was sent to me - but I knew it was going to be awesome and, for a split second, I forgot that it wasn't for Gavin.

When I opened the box it was almost like sunbeams came shining out of it.  

And as I opened it more and more... I still didn't understand why it was sent to me, but I felt like I had won the lottery.  It was their brand new Playpak.  
Brian and I pulled it out and started playing with the pieces - each piece can be attached with velcro to the unfolded bag, which becomes a bright, colorful mat.

"Is this like a puzzle or something?" Brian asked.  

"No!" I told him.  "Do you remember how Gavin had a hard time sitting on his own?"

He nodded - and I definitely had his attention.  I always have his attention when Gavin is the subject.

"Well, it was even harder for him when he was a baby - like when he was Hope's age!  This Playpak would have been a miracle for him."  I started playing around and creating different positions with the pieces.  "See, I could have put it like this and maybe Gavin could have sat up and played a game on the floor with you!  Or, I could have put it like this and he could have laid over it to read a book on his tummy with me."

"Cool!  Can we keep this for Hope?" Brian asked.

I felt myself turn hot.  I almost felt like I had stolen merchandise - I was sure this was accidentally sent to me.  Part of me, selfishly, wanted to keep it - not for us, but to give to someone who needed it.  I explained to Brian that I had to write to Firefly to tell them they sent it to us by accident - and that I would ask them if we could give it away to someone who could use it.  Brian loved that idea and we both agreed to cross our fingers that they would say yes.

It turned out that it was an accident - I had been added to a Mommy blogger list of people who received items from them to review.  They felt terrible.

"No need to feel bad!" I said.  And then I begged them (well, I didn't really have to beg at all - but I was prepared to!) to let me keep it.  I knew JUST who could use it the most.  I was so happy when they said YES!  I also told them that if EVER they wanted to send ANYTHING to me - I would be THRILLED to write what I thought about it as long as I could do a giveaway or find a perfect home for the item.  They said YES to that, too!!

Before I tell you what I chose to do with this Playpak, I have to share one thing.  This entire, accidental exchange felt, to me, like a little message from Gavin.  Even though I know I am needed by Brian and Hope every day - there are times (lots of times) that I feel useless.  When Gavin was alive, I lived and breathed his needs.  My mind was always one step ahead trying to come up with ways to help him, foods to feed him, alternative therapies to take him to or try, and definitely staying on top of the new equipment that could help him was a biggie.  I'm telling you - if I had had this Playpak when he was a baby - it would have been like GOLD.  Making sure he felt included was huge to me - and this could have helped him on so many occasions.
I loved having this Playpak in my home and imagining how I could have used it with Gavin.  I even showed it to Miss Wendy, Gavin's former Physical Therapist, and she was really impressed with it as well.

I thought about doing a giveaway - but giving it to just one person and disappointing many others just felt bad to me.  So I came up with a way to help MANY children in one fell swoop.

I contacted Miss Christi, who was Gavin's Early Intervention teacher through the Cerebral Palsy Association.  
I knew that it would be very well cared for in her hands - and that she could lend it out to Early Intervention therapists as they visit children in their homes!  I remember when Gavin was in Early Intervention - I loved when the therapists would bring something I'd never seen to our home.  It was kind of a running joke that any time a therapist brought something new to show me - I'd run out and buy it before the next session!  I loved having new things to help Gavin!  I also know that therapists would be really grateful to have something so new and shiny to bring to their "kids" during therapy.  Even if it was just so they could prop them on the floor as they played.  

Christi agreed and she sent me the following:

The Firefly Playpak will be a great addition to our equipment lending library at CPA. We will have the opportunity to loan it out to families of children with special needs for them to use it on a short or long term basis depending on need. It will also allow families to trial the Playpak before they look to purchase it. Advantages of the Playpak over other more static seating systems are its flexibility and portability. The Playpak is an item which families can take with them easily and set up in a variety of ways to best support their child, whether they are at home, a sibling’s soccer game, or dinner at grandmom's.  It will allow families to include their child with special needs in more activities, knowing that they have a secure seating option which can be popped in the car and taken with them to their next activity.  The machine washable fabric will help families use it more confidently, knowing that they can throw it in the wash if food or paint gets on it. We are very excited to have it as the newest piece of our lending library!

Thank you, Firefly!  Not just for the Playpak. And not just for allowing me to gift it!  But thank you for making me feel useful... closer to Gavin again... even if it was just for a moment or two.

It may have been an accident.
But boy, did that accident turn into a blessing.
Not just for me... but for the many children who will sit tall and proud and feel, maybe for the first time, included.

p.s. - don't forget to keep sending me things - whenever you want!!  

If you would like more information about the Playpak and how you can purchase one for your child or organization, click HERE.



Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Flashbacking...

It started last night.  My Mommy radar was activated - but only slightly.  Hope was clinging to my leg and looking up at me with pleading eyes - crying and almost yelling at me.  She even growled at me.  That wasn't unusual - she does that every night when I'm making dinner.  But during dinner, she barely ate.  Now THAT was unusual because this one loves to eat.

After dinner I sat on the floor in the playroom to read a "Magic Tree House" book to Brian.  Hope was all over me - begging to nurse and wanting to be held or walking around and touching her head. Hmmm, I thought.  She seems tired is what I thought.

I nursed her in her room and we both fell asleep for almost an hour.  Typically she is anxious to get out of my arms and lay down.  Hmmm...

Around midnight she woke up crying - not unusual lately because of her teeth.  But as I opened the door - and heard her soft cry - I knew.  Something was wrong.

I could almost feel the heat radiating from her crib before I even touched her.  The thermometer read 103.6.  We walked downstairs to the kitchen and I gave her some Tylenol and then called the doctor. Crap - another office was on call covering for them.  They don't know me - know our story - and likely wouldn't know how much I was "panicking while trying not to panic."  Since Gavin's death from an out of the blue febrile seizure - I have "fever phobia."  I know it's illogical and I get all that - but sometimes feelings overrule facts.

The on call doctor told me to give her Tylenol (check) and keep her comfortable until our regular doctor's office opened in the morning.  I sat with Hope in the corner of her room - in Gavin's chair - and rocked her back to sleep as her fever creeped down.  Eventually I put her back in her crib and set up shop with a pillow and a blanket back in the chair.  But sleep wouldn't come.  Was she breathing fast?  She seems to be breathing too fast.  Let me feel her head - is she still hot?  Is she breathing too slow?  Is she even breathing?  Let's just say it was a long night.  

I finally decided I should try to close my eyes - and went to my own bed.  I was just drifting into sleep when I heard her cries.  I looked at the clock - 5:20.  I stumbled to her room and as I lifted her out of her crib I felt like my hands were on fire.  The thermometer read 104.9.  I quickly walked downstairs with her in my arms and started to draw up the Tylenol while calling the doctor again.  Part of me wanted to skip that whole part and just pack her up and head to the emergency room... but I was wrestling, once again, with trying to remain calm vs overreacting and not sure where the balance was - it's very hard to explain.  Honestly - I second guess everything now.  It sucks.

The doctor said to head right to the emergency room, of course.  I woke up Ed, who has been in bed with the flu for days, to tell him.  He warmed up the car for me while I packed up some quick essentials.  Before I went downstairs, I noticed the light on in Brian's room.  The commotion must have woken him.  I went into his room and gently explained what was going on...

How ironic that just the DAY before, Brian and I fell into the discussion of Gavin's death - the fever - how the fever rose too high, too fast that it made Gavin's heart stop beating.  How he travelled to Heaven... leaving his 'suitcase' behind.  And now I'm sitting on his bed, looking into his wide eyes, telling him that I was taking his baby sister to the hospital because of... a fever.  It wasn't fair.

Brian walked downstairs to say goodbye to his little sister and I promised him that I'd let him know how she was.  I left him with Ed who would get him on the bus and off to school.

It was dark and cold outside as we drove the half hour to the emergency room.  So dark that I couldn't see Hope's face in the mirror.  She was quiet - surely sleeping - but my mind was racing with thoughts.  As I drove my baby to the hospital knowing she was burning up and listless I willed myself not to panic.  But the thoughts kept on coming...

What if she's seizing right now and I can't see her?
I can't pull over each time I'm worried - we'll never get there!
Those damn news reports about this deadly flu - I'm sure this is the flu - dammit! - why do I keep remembering about those news stories.  There was a child that died recently from this flu!!
Surely God wouldn't take another child from me.
We all had flu shots!  I can't believe this year's flu shot doesn't cover this strain.
Am I being tested, God?  Is this a test?  Are you trying to show me that I can survive fevers?
I wonder if the ER will treat me for these crazy, illogical thoughts...

About one minute away from the hospital, Hope started to cry.  And so did I.  I was so grateful to hear sound from the backseat.  Clearly I have post traumatic stress - if it's not obvious.

The security guard, as soon as he heard the baby, came over and helped me get into the building fast. Lucky for me, there were only two people in the waiting room with us.  We were brought back quickly - they gave Hope a dose of Motrin to help her fever come down more - and we were brought to a room in the Emergency Department.

By the time the doctor saw her, her fever had come down to an acceptable temperature.  But when the doctor put a scope into her right ear she gasped.  "Wow, poor baby!  This ear is badly infected," she said.  I couldn't believe it.  How did I not see that?  Know that?  And then she checked the left ear and had the same response!!  Two badly infected ears.  I felt instant shame.  I know it's illogical (again) and maybe it seems extreme - but I take it so personally when my kids get sick.  Because I do so many things to keep them healthy, when they get sick I feel like I've failed in some way.  No need to write to me about this - or the fever PTSD - or the overreacting to having to drive my child to the emergency room - I know my issues.  When you lose a child in such a random way - well, you just have to ride out the waves of recovery.  And part of that, for me, is worrying about my remaining childrens' health.  A lot.

The doctor was about to discharge us after prescribing antibiotics, but I wasn't done.  What do I know, but I felt those fevers were a little too high for ear infections.  I asked if it would be possible to test Hope for the flu.  After all, Ed has it.  And through the night I noticed her start to cough and sneeze.  The nasal swab for the test was not fun for Hope - or for me as I pinned her down - but sure enough, it came back positive.  Influenza A.

Part of me, to be honest, was hoping they would keep her. But that was the fear-based part of me that would not be able to handle it if anything happened at home.  But most of me was grateful when the doctor discharged us home.  There are too many illnesses in hospitals and the last thing we need is to add another diagnosis to our winter.  Or as I like to call it - the WORST WINTER EVER.

Back at home, Hope perked up a little and even had more of an appetite once I got her on a Motrin/Tylenol cycle.  I even had a chance to relax on the couch while she and Ed slept.  

I'm still 'on guard' and won't relax until Hope can go fever-free without medicine.  I'll probably sleep in her room again. If this morning taught me anything it is this...

I got nothing.  This morning taught me nothing.  But it did remind me of how quickly and without warning we lost Gavin.  And that, my friends, is a very painful reminder. I had the flashbacks all night to prove it.

Hope will be fine.  Ed will be fine.  We will all be fine. And they make hair dye that I will pay good money for to cover up the damage from this experience.

Thank you for caring about our little family - and for all the prayers that poured in for our little girl today!!


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

So Far Behind I'm Ahead...

I have this nagging worry lately.  I fear that poor Hope is getting the short end of the stick when it comes to this journal.  I can picture her as a grown up reading and reading all about Gavin and then Brian and then Gavin and Brian together - as I chronicled every day of their lives.  Then I can see her eagerly reading to get to her part.  The part where a week will go by without a single update.  Oh boy.  I better start putting money aside for her therapy.  Ha!
In all seriousness - I have had little time to write and I'm so far behind on updating.  I can't believe this - but we have another sick person in the house.  Ed has the flu.  This has, without a doubt, been the sickest winter in our history.  We had plans to head up to Lexington, Massachusetts for a few days this week to tour the area and work with a realtor (just in CASE we end up moving with Ed's company - nothing is decided yet) - but we had to cancel that.  We had also planned to go to New Hampshire after that so we could meet my niece, Emily's, brand new baby, William!!  I am officially a "Great Aunt!"  So I'm quite crushed that we won't be making that trip.  We'll reschedule for another time.  Hopefully this illness will stay with Ed and not spread around to the rest of us.  I really can't take another round of this.

Things have been busy and fun and the days are fast and filled with all kinds of new tricks and fun adventures.  Here are some highlights...

Hope loves to perform and can now do "So Big"... clap... give high fives!... and make fish faces!!
The relationship between Brian and Hope has taken a turn... for the even BETTER!  Every day when Brian bounds off the bus, he can't wait to play with his sister.  

He wants to teach her how to dance...
...they play with her toys and now they place chase around the house!  Hope is running now and she loves to try to catch Brian.  They run around the house laughing and laughing and laughing.  It's the best sound in the world.
Last week we had a small snowfall and Brian was so anxious to get out there and play.  It was so, bitter cold that day and I felt bad telling him I couldn't go out with him.  I thought it was too cold for Hope.  But Daddy saved the day when he came home from work and took Brian out in the dark!
They had the best time.
Hope's love affair with books continues.  Her two favorite books are a book about Apples (and she can say "Apple" now!) and Gavin's musical "Itsy Bitsy Spider" book.  
That's another sound that is music to my ears.  Gavin used to play with that book all day long.
This past weekend, Brian and I made "Christmas cookies" together!  Before you get too impressed, I bought these "ready to make" Thumbprint cookies from my friend, Claire's, business - HomeCooked in Paoli, PA.  They are delicious... don't create a mess... make Brian feel like a rock star baker... and did I mention they're delicious?  Brian gets very into the baking - even donning an apron he made in pre-school last year before he got started.
After pushing in the middles to create a little 'bowl' with a measuring spoon, he filled them with jelly.  He was very careful and precise - I was quite impressed!
I am hoping that we have a future baker in the house.  Mommy loves her desserts!  (When someone else makes them.  Let's be honest.)  Through no fault of Brian's - who never touched the oven during this process - the smoke alarm went on while baking.  Because that's what happens every dang time I attempt to cook or bake.  I wish I was joking!  It never happens to Ed!!  Conspiracy theories are swirling in my head... ha!
Last Sunday we went to the Church where I grew up... was baptized... got married... had our children baptized... and where we had Gavin's funeral.  We were invited to help our favorite priest (who married, baptized our kids and said Gavin's funeral mass) celebrate his 90th birthday!  What a great event it was.  Brian and Hope got all dressed up for the occasion.  As you can see, Hope is thrilled...
After mass, the celebration was held in the gym/cafeteria of my old grade school!  Brian was filled with questions.  Was this your classroom?  Which table was yours in the cafeteria?  Did you sit on this actual toilet in this actual bathroom when you were little?  He wanted to know everything.  I wish I remembered - this was 50 years ago!  (give or take - ha!)  As we were sitting at our table, which had china and crystal and delicious food - Brian leaned over to me holding his water goblet and said, "Mommy, this is soooo fancy.  Do you think they'll have a piñata later?"  I nearly spit out my own water!  When I told Father Kelly what Brian had said, he laughed and told me that there wouldn't be a piñata but he did have a big surprise coming at the end.  And boy, did he!  He had Mummers!  (If you don't know what Mummers are, it's a Philadelphia thing.  Fancy costumes with lots of sequins, banjos and other instruments, songs and strutting.  Lots of strutting.  You usually see Mummers in our annual New Year's Day parade in Philadelphia.)

It's hard for me to believe how quickly Hope has grown.  She's a little girl!  She's wearing dresses and tights and shoes and hairbows - and running!
Her hair is growing quickly and is still brown.  Her eyes are so unique - they're green and grey and have other flecks of color in them - they're beautiful.  Ed thinks they'll probably turn brown, but I'm not convinced!  
For the last week (probably more) she's been waking up 2-3 times a night.  Both of her eye teeth are coming in.  One is now out and the other one is emerging.  I've been a walking zombie as I've been getting very little sleep, but that's okay.  I've tried all kinds of remedies to no avail and even got a brand new baltic amber necklace for her (just in case the other one lost effectiveness) so hopefully that will help.  This is very different than our boys.  Especially Brian!  He never complained about a thing and I often discovered that he had teeth without even realizing they were coming in at all!  Poor Hope has been having a tough time of it, though, and we've done a lot of middle of the night bonding in her chair.
During the day she keeps me so, so busy.  This little girl is rarely still!  That's another difference between her and Brian.  You could put Brian down in front of a toy - come back in five minutes (kidding) and he'd look up and be like, "Oh, hey."  With Hope, you can't look away for five seconds!  If you do she's gone in a flash... rearranging the tupperware, fishing in the toilet, playing the piano...
Climbing the bookshelf...
Climbing the stairs!
Doing her hair...
Or trying on people's shoes!
She is such a fun little girl and I honestly love every moment that I spend getting to know her.  She laughs a lot, hugs a lot, protests a lot and just makes all of us so, very happy.

Brian was at the doctor yesterday for his annual physical and he passed with flying colors.  We love both of our doctors - Dr. Forman and Dr. Kienzle from Pediatric Associates of Paoli.  Dr. Kienzle did his physical and, as always, he had us laughing.  I've been torturing both of them since Gavin was an infant - taking photos of each of them with the kids.  I love that I have these photos (especially Gavin's) throughout the years.  Every time I bring out my camera, Dr. Kienzle says "I don't do this for anyone but you, you know."  I'm pretty sure that's because I'm the only goofball that does this!  Ha!
The nurses are wonderful there, too, and they're always so nice to my children.  Brian loved that she explained everything she was doing from listening to his heart...
...to taking his blood pressure...
...to checking for color blindness.
So far Brian's eyesight is perfect and we hope and pray it stays that way!  He has Mr. and Mrs. McGoo for parents so we hope he doesn't get our bad eyes!
He weighed in at 45 pounds and almost 3 feet, 9 inches tall.

Brian is also changing - a lot!  
He's more inquisitive and wants to know what we're talking about when he listens to Ed and I have conversations... how things work... why things happen.  When I picked him up early from school to head to the doctor for his physical, we had a little time to spare before the appointment.  The two of us sat in the car in the parking lot, which just happens to be in view of the hospital where Gavin has his first seizure and cardiac arrest before he died.  Brian wanted to talk about that day and asked me to tell him what happened again - a story I've repeated to him several times.  And then... the question I've been waiting for:

"How did Gavin get to Heaven?"

He was satisfied (for now) with this answer and didn't push for more information...

"Well, when Gavin died I bet he was surrounded by lots of people.  Angels and Jesus and all the people we love that are in Heaven already - like Pop and Darcy and Daddy's Mom and Dad and Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop.  I'm sure he wasn't scared at all. I like to think our bodies are like suitcases.  You know when we go on vacation and we pack all of our important things that we want to bring with us in our suitcases?  (he nodded)  And then when we get home we unpack our suitcases of all of our important things and then we don't need the suitcase anymore?  (he nodded again)  Well, our bodies are just like that!  All the important things are on the inside - our feelings and thoughts and our soul - all the things that make us who we are.  All the important parts of you - and me - and Gavin - and everyone - they're all on the inside.  So when Gavin died, all those important parts that made him special - his soul and his thoughts and his feelings and his love for us - that is the part that went to Heaven!  (Brian smiled and said "ohhh!")  He didn't need his "suitcase" anymore!  And because his thoughts and soul and love for us went to Heaven - that's how we can be SURE that he can still communicate with us from there.  We know that he still loves us and thinks of us and is waiting for us to join him one day."

Brian's only response (for now) was this...

"It's still really sad that Gavin died.  But that's really nice."

One day he will ask what happened to Gavin's "suitcase" - when he's ready.

And hopefully I'll be ready, too.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Our Not So Fairy Tale Life...

I love my husband.
Yesterday was Ed's 44th birthday.  For the next three months we'll be the same age!  I love joking with him that since he's Chinese - and they are taught to respect and even revere their elders - he really needs to respect and revere ME!  Then we have a good ha ha ha.  But the reality is... he does respect me.  Revere might be pushing it... I'm working on that one.  (Ha!)

Last night we got all dressed up and went out on a date to celebrate his special day.  It was nice to be out - just the two of us.  Even if we did talk about the kids most of the time!
Ask anyone who knows Ed... is related to Ed... briefly met Ed... all of them will tell you the same thing.  He is just the nicest guy.  That's really what attracted me to him initially!  We met while I was a flight attendant on one of his flights - totally random meeting as I never took this particular trip.  He was the most polite passenger I had ever served.

Before I married Ed - actually long before I even knew him - I had my life mapped out.  I'm sure I'm like most girls who dream of the fairy tale life.  Suburban home with a picket fence - golden retriever in the back of a Volvo wagon - two car seats and a husband who is doting.  I don't know what Ed dreamed about - but I am SURE it wasn't an alcoholic like me who, at the time, had caviar dreams and a pocketbook filled with airplane mini-bottles!  I'm exaggerating, of course, but the truth is - neither of us could have ever, EVER, predicted what life would have in store for us.

I will tell you - once I stopped drinking and got sober, I wanted to keep it a secret.  Forever.  There were many that knew - and witnessed me at my worst.  (I still feel shame when I see certain people!) But I hoped it would one day be hard for them to remember me like that... and anyone new in our life just didn't need to know.  Especially our children.  I was very against telling our children.  I had a fear that it would be held against me.  That one day they would not respect me for my alcoholism... or that they would pull a "but you did it!" type of thing.  Ed disagreed... he thought it was important that we tell the kids one day.  And he never said this until recently - he felt burdened by keeping the big secret.

When I wrote my whole, sordid story for Momastery - my "Mama Story" - I read it to Ed first to get his approval.  When I looked up - he was crying.  He was so, so proud of me.  This man has never shamed me for my past - and has been 100% supportive of my sobriety.  When I met him, he was a wine lover.  He had been collecting wine for years and loved to drink it... like a normal person.  After I got sober, he sold the entire collection.  Hundreds of bottles.  We never, ever have alcohol in the house - and, even though I never asked him to do any of this, he never drinks anymore.  Not just around me... I mean ever.  I'm so grateful for that.  I will tell you - having all of my cards on the table is the most freeing feeling there is.  I don't have to hide anything anymore!  And with millions having read my "Mamastory" - it sure does help to keep me accountable and sober!

We have gone through some horrible, tragic things in our marriage.  It is so far from a "fairy tale" it's not even funny.  We're not the perfect couple by any stretch of the imagination. We argue.  We take each other for granted.  We're stubborn.  But we always know that those feelings are temporary.  Nothing will tear us apart.  Ever.

The night before his birthday, we celebrated with the kids.  Brian, Hope and I went to the mall and Brian helped me pick out a nice pen we had engraved with "We Love You!" - and Brian chose some nice socks for his Dad.  
We also got a Carvel ice cream cake, Ed's favorite!  Brian played a practical joke on his Dad by putting an electric candle on the cake.  He got such a kick out of doing that!  
And an even bigger laugh as he watched him try to blow it out!  Ed has a great sense of humor.
I'm so grateful to have married a man who LOVES being a father.  Ed lives for these children of ours and they adore him.  As soon as he would walk in the door, Gavin's eyes would light up.  They had an undeniable bond.
Brian adores his Daddy and loves nothing more than to spend time with him.
And Hope?  Oh boy.  Ed is wrapped around her tiny, little finger.  
I wouldn't consider our life a fairy tale... and I am sure Ed wouldn't either.  But we love our life - and our little family.  I got lucky way back in 2002.  And I know it.  I won the love lottery... and to me that's much better than living in a silly fairy tale.

Happy Birthday, Ed!  We ALL love you so much.


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