Sometimes I Pretend

that it didn’t happen.

that he isn’t gone.

I pretend that he is running around campus like a chicken with his head cut off. I pretend that he’ll call me on the way to class and bitch about something and tell me how busy he is and he has meetings here and there for government and fraternity and has two tests and is going to fail them miserably.

I pretend that he is concocting up another trip that is sure to cost us nothing if he uses miles and points and finagles this and that, so can he can he can he please go to (London, New York, Colorado or Fiji).  My answer in my pretend is what it always was: NO.

I pretend that he is counting down the days until he comes home, right now it would be three days until he came home for Thanksgiving break.   I pretend he has his speech about how he has to get out of here, he loves school, but he needs a break and can’t wait to get home.  I pretend he has planned our sushi outing, our pho outing and Bagel Cafe.  I also pretend he is doing is annual kvetching about how he hates Thanksgiving and the food, but can we buy this this and this on Black Friday for Chanukah.

I pretend that my he is part of our daily life.

I’m just pretending.  It’s not going to happen and it hurts SO.DAMN.MUCH.

He Was With Her First

He was “with her” before it was even a thing.

He first became obsessed with Monica Lewinsky as a young teen, don’t ask, I’ve said he was a weird and quirky kid.  (Side note: when he was two, his dad and I were discussing the Lewinsky Debacle at the dinner table.  Mr. Big Ears asked “what’s a blow job?” My answer was “when you blow out the candles on your birthday cake.” He bought it for the time being).  In high school he  started reading all about the Clintons, and then specifically Hillary.  There are several Hillary books still sitting on his bookshelf in his untouched bedroom in our home.

He is “Hillary” in his brother’s phone contacts.  The brother would randomly say “Hillary just texted me” and it cracked me up every.single.time.

During his freshman year in college, Hillary came to speak at his university.  He was the FIRST person in line, hours before her speech, to ensure that he would get in and get a good seat.  While standing in line, he was interviewed for the local news about her speaking at the school and he was so proud to be on tv.  We have the video footage, but I just can’t watch it.  My mom said she watched it today and it was just so painful to see him so alive and animated. This was three years ago; I mean it when I say he was with her from the beginning.

The last time I saw him was in March during his Spring Break.  He had visited a friend in Colorado for the first part and then was home for about five days at the end of his break.  He left here on Sunday, saying it was only about six weeks until he’d be home for the summer.  If only….he died in in the early hours of Saturday, six days after he had left here.

When he was home that week, he was talking about his summer plans. He was all over the place.  Part of him wanted to go to dental school and was contacting local dentists to shadow them during the summer.  He also said that he would like to work on Hillary’s campaign (of course, none of these positions would have brought in any salary……another story all together).  It has been so hard to know that none of those summer plans were ever realized.

As we sit waiting for the polls to close, the votes be counted and the results to be announced,  I weep for my Hillary fan. I miss him, I’m angry with him and I ache for him.  He would be so freaking crazy, excited and anxious right now; I can hear him calling with all his angst and enthusiasm, going crazy with worry and on the brink of this G-d willing, historical moment.

If nothing else, just let her win so we know his vote would have counted.

Missing Home Ghost in so many ways

My husband’s favorite day of the year is Halloween. It goes with the personality; he is a comic book collector, loves  all things sci-fi and zombie.  When we were first dating in college, he arrived in my dorm room (I was already asleep) dressed as a blue smurf- I remember him kissing me and getting that silly blue face make-up all over me.

Needless to say, when we had kids, he would be driving this holiday.  He decorated the  house, planned the costumes and bought tons of candy. I, fell behind, excited for the kids, but never really into this holiday.

It must have been #1’s second Halloween, he would have been about 20 months, when hub was decorating our first home, the town house, with this silly blow up ghost.  It was in two pieces; the the front of the ghost suctioned to the outside of our  window next do the  front door and the back end of the ghost suctioned to the inside of the window so it looked like the ghost was flying through the window.

#1 was fascinated by the ghost;  touching, looking, poking at it.  This kid was very verbal at 2o months, we would quickly learn that he NEVER.SHUT.UP.  Hub asked him what he wanted to name the ghost and, very appropriately, #1 said “Home Ghost”.

Home Ghost became a staple in our Halloween decor.  There were times when we may have had just found the front or just the butt, but Home Ghost made his way onto the front window every year.  That year, #1 and dad were Oompa Loompas- they both had orange faces, silly wigs and overalls.  #1 was so cute, walking around saying Oompa Loompa having NO idea what exactly an Oompa Loompa was.

The highlight of hub’s Halloween costume making career was when #1 was about four.  Both he and hub were obsessed with trains.  Did I mention “obsessed”?  We collected all of Thomas the Tank Engines. They would sit for hours on our living room floor making intricate displays out of the wooden track pieces and bridges and tunnels. When #1 would finally go to bed, hub would continue with the tracks for hours, he would then take pictures of them (that was before the days of iPhones, this was on a regular camera, maybe even with film) and be excited to surprise #1 with his fancy track when he woke up the next morning.

Well, #1 decided he wanted to be Gordon for Halloween. Gordon was one of Thomas’ side kicks, all I remember is that  he was a big blue engine.  Hub went with it and ran; he constructed a Gordon costume out of a large appliance box.  It was painted blue and had intricate straps and contraptions so #1 could easily maneuver the ensemble. create.

They were adorable; the two of them.  Excited and pumped for Halloween, Home Ghost guarding the house as they went off to Trick or Treat.  I wasn’t on the route with  them, having stayed behind with #2 baby and to hand out candy, but folklore has it that #1 only managed to lug the big heavy costume to about two houses (and mind you, these were attached town homes, thus VERY close together) before it was too heavy and he wanted nothing to do with it.

I am sure you can imagine dad’s disappointment and frustration that his work of art was barely exhibited throughout the neighborhood.

When #1 was five we moved to our current home.  #2 had his second birthday here and this is the only home in which #3 has ever lived.  The house is bigger, the yard is bigger and the Halloween decorations got bigger.   Hub was decorating for Halloween before it was popular; we moved here in 1999; there were no orange  Christmas lights strewn on every porch like I saw last night.  He was on the cutting edge of Halloween decor (side note: as a Jewish family, we don’t have much opportunity to decorate).

Our blown up Halloween yard became the talk of the neighborhood.  One particular little boy from two houses down was petrified of our house.  He would stand on the street while the rest of his group bombarded our house for Kit Kats (I did send one back with his sister to drop in his bucket).

Those were the years when hub hosted the neighborhood Halloween party.  Pizza and chips and junk lined the tables on our driveway. One thoughtful  neighbor alway brought vegetables hoping the kids would ingest a nutrient or two before the big sugar push (I guarantee, none were eaten).  The highlight was the dry ice; hub and his buddy would concoct some kind of potion resembling a witches brew that would be all smoky and steamy for the kids to admire.  We also had a fog machine; I’m not remembering how that worked, but always a favorite for the hub.

#1 loved Halloween for many years, but then it became a source of pain.  As a very quirky kid in his pre-teen years, he had an array of friends, but not a lot of good buddies. He didn’t hang with the guys and play sports, so group activities were a source of some stress and opportunities to feel left out.

Yesterday morning as the Halloween excitement grew on FB and throughout the neighborhood, I reflected on our past Halloweens.  #2 and #3 are too old to trick or treat.  They each went to parties over the weekend in costume, and both were stuck inside studying for multiple tests last night.

My thoughts were on the painful years for #1.  He grew to really dislike Halloween because it was a sensitive topic (he did regain is joy for it in college when he was happy and confident, overflowing with friends and mischief).  I was feeling sad holding onto his painful memories of Halloween’s past.

Hub did not decorate this year.  He didn’t even carve the pumpkin that we got for free from a local realtor (first time he ever did not buy multiple pumpkins).  He did put his energy into Halloween baking;  he’s been in the kitchen for weeks trying out recipes and decorating cookies, cakes and candies. It was a sweet distraction and he was excited to take the goodies to work and celebrate there.  I’m sure the combination of overwhelming grief and the notion that our family had outgrown the trick or treating days contributed to his lack of holiday spirit.

I didn’t get home  until after 7:00 last night.  Hub had gotten home earlier and said he just had to pull out a few decorations.  He put them outside each with a little candle to light the front path.

His words, “I  had to do it, but I couldn’t bare to bring out Home Ghost.”

The two of us sad sobbing on the couch as hundreds of little monsters, princesses and ninjas stomped though neighborhoods collecting their loot.  Oh how I miss my Home Ghost.


A PTSD Kind of Day

Odd event today.

I was at my office waiting for my 11:30 family therapy client.  The mom, dad and seventeen year old daughter were all coming separately due to differing schedules.  The mom, chronically early, arrived about 11:22.  She used the rest room and then was sitting in my teeny tiny waiting room when I heard her  phone ring. After a few more seconds, I heard her side of the conversation escalate.  I quickly escorted her into my office  to avoid bothering the massage  clients relaxing in adjacent offices. She talked for a moment or so and then hung up and told me that her daughter had been in a car accident on the way to my office. The daughter, who had called, was okay.  Her dad, who was also on his way, had seen her and was at the site of the accident.

I asked the mom if I could drive her over to the site.  She said she was okay to drive, it was only about three minutes from the office.  There were sirens in the background that I didn’t really hear until the mom said “they must be going to the accident”.  That detail filed away in my unconscious.  The mom took a few deep breaths and then quickly left.

They would have been my last client for the morning so with hours until I had to be back at the office, I packed  my computer  and headed to my car.  I started driving; had I taken a left onto the ramp, my normal route,  I would have skirted around the accident and gone directly home.  Instead, I saw the traffic lined up due to the accident and I stayed in the lane progressing slowly towards the accident.

After a few missed lights and backed up cars, I could see the site.  I saw a fire engine, an ambulance and several police cars.  I saw the dad standing in the median of the road.  And then, I saw my client’s  SUV flipped upside down and squished on the side like an accordion, glass shattered all over the street and pieces of metal strewn about.

Upon seeing the car I uttered, to no one, “Oh My G-d”.  I immediately started shaking and my stomach flipped.  I could feel the apple that I had just eaten contemplate coming back up. I saw the ambulance and assumed that the seventeen year old was settling in with the paramedics.

I had never, until that moment, experienced anything like post traumatic stress symptoms.  I knew right away that I was feeling re-traumatized from the call that woke us the night  that our son had died.  The physical symptoms were clear and obvious; the shaking that I felt at that moment was a hint of the shaking from the night that we got the life changing call. Again, I was/am completely  shocked by the power of the mind-body connection and utterly amazed at how sophisticated these systems within our bodies operate.

I did drive, very cautiously and safely, over to a parking lot where I could park and walk to the scene.  I felt a little odd walking past police officers and right into the mess on the road, but no one stopped me or said anything.  I went to the median where the mom had just joined the dad and simply checked in with them.

The daughter was, in fact, in the ambulance about to be taken to the local hospital a half a mile away. Dad said she was really okay; she had a few cuts on her hand and was very much in shock, but the doctors would check her out to make sure that nothing was overlooked.  Mom followed the ambulance to the hospital and dad and I talked for a few minutes.

Apparently, an elderly woman had run through a red light and crashed into my client’s car.  The dad showed me where the car had hit a tree, taken a huge chunk out of tree trunk and then probably ricocheted and flipped several feet farther down the road.  The car was a scary mess;  I questioned how could she have suffered only a few scratches on her hand.  Dad said “airbags and a seat belt”.

I double checked whether there was any way I could help or be of service, and when he said no, I walked back to my car and quickly felt the extent of my shaking.  I drove home in tears; not a lot of thought, just tears.  I  just wanted to hold my puppy.  When I got home I had to sit, hold her and just be.  It took a while to settle down.  I called a friend, then walked the dog to a neighbor’s home;  I needed to talk about this. I was really shaken up.

I texted with the mom and then the daughter called me when she got home.  She said she was okay; they had taken some x-rays, but nothing was broken and she didn’t even need stitches for her cuts. She reported to being in shock and when asked about driving said  that she would “only drive a car that is sturdy and safe with lots of air bags”.

Walking away from that accident was a miracle. The shape of that car was horrible.  I am so grateful that she is okay.

I can’t help but think how differently it could have played out. I can’t help but think how many others have died or been severely injured in accidents and their lives and that of their families are forever altered in the span of seconds.

I can’t help but think how this life was spared.  Thankfully, she will graduate, move on to adulthood and probably have a family of her own.  There are decades ahead of her to live fully and make an impact on her little corner of our world.

Who, what, how is that decision made? These random events that happen every moment of every day; some walk away from what could be devastating and life changing having a ripple effect on hundreds of lives related to that one.

And, some, like my son’s, don’t.

He doesn’t get to walk away.  Instead, he died. His life ended and the ripples continue to impact so many of us ever.single.second of every day.

Who, what, how is that decision made? and why??? why did his life have to end?

Some Mornings

Some mornings….it hurts so much I can’t move.

Some mornings….I just stay in bed.

Some mornings…I take #3 to school and get back in bed.

Some mornings…..  I am okay and run around like normal.

Some mornings… I have to pull myself together and get to work.

This morning, I ache. It hurts, it is physical.  I need to let it out, it’s like a  huge cotton ball stuck and then there is a little release when the tears start.  Is it ever enough? Will mornings, days, evenings, nights ever not hurt so damn much?

I keep thinking that I’m putting him on a pedestal, and I’m not. He was one big fat pain in the ass.  He made me SO angry. He had such poor judgement. And, he was so funny, and so caring and so fun and such a pain in the ass.

I ache for the pain in the ass.

I am so angry that I have two wonderful kids and this is consuming me. I am so angry that this ‘me’ is who my daughter is now growing up with.  #2 isn’t here and barely notices anyhow, so it’s not affecting (or is it effecting- I always struggle with those two) him.  But, her. She is living differently and being parented differently because of HIM and it’s not fair!

He made a fucking stupid choice and she suffers and I suffer and so many of us suffer. So, no, he is not on a pedestal, if I could I would wring his neck.  And, yet I miss him SO much.

A friend of his is at another school.  She posted something this morning.  Initially he wanted to go to that school so badly.  I KNOW if he had went there he would be alive…..I KNOW!

And, he didn’t and he isn’t and for that I ache and ache and ache…

Powerless over his power

I need to say something but I don’t  know what. I am living this life in various dimensions. There are days I do, I smile,  I relate and interact. There are days that I don’t. I sit, I cry, I look at pictures and I am in absolute disbelief that this beautiful boy that grew inside of me, that infuriated me like no one ever has and that made me laugh harder than I have ever laughed is no longer on this earth.

Guess what kind of day I’m having…..right!

His face, so so powerful which is why when I see a picture I have to shake myself to believe the reality.  Sometimes I see photos that his friends had posted, photos that I haven’t seen or photos from a long time ago, and I still have to remind myself of the unthinkable truth, he is gone.

You see in life this kid was bold, loud, obnoxious, funny.  He’d be talking in our kitchen, his six foot body towering over all of us, and we’d have to say “shh”, he didn’t realize the power of his voice.  He didn’t realize the power of his words, he didn’t realize his power.

He didn’t realize the power he had over his sister. For years he would tease and taunt her and squish her little self-esteem.  And, then, just last year at her freshman homecoming dance he told her how beautiful she was.  I think it was the best thing that she had ever heard.  He didn’t realize the power of his words and how good he had made her feel.

This weekend I hugged her as she went off to another homecoming dance, looking as beautiful and happy as a girl can be; I drove away in a fit of tears.  Her brother wasn’t able to see this beauty. He wasn’t able to give her another glowing compliment and she wasn’t able to receive his power, his power that was good, often so much good.

His power was infectious.  He worked with pre-schoolers and babysat many of them. These little people that had only been on this earth for 2-3 years were sucked into the vortex of his power.  He could laugh and dance and create with these little souls. They revered him, and he them.  And yet, he could appreciate their humor and sassy and would report back to me all of the hilarious and wonderful observations they were making about their worlds “come look at my poop, it’s the shape of a light saber”, “when I rub lotion on my arms, it makes me have big muscles like my dad”.  He brought out the best in these kids and they in him.

His power could come out negatively too.  He could be very angry, critical and intolerant.  I do believe that much of his criticism of others came from self-criticism.  It was easier to point fingers at each and every person that crossed his path than to feel the doubts he had about himself.  It is here that I suffer so.  How could I have eased those doubts? How could I have given him a stronger and more positive sense of self?  Would it had made a difference? Would it have changed his untimely death?

I continue to think I could have been better, more patient, more loving, more positive.  I could have built him up instead of been frustrated and critical.  I could have shown more unconditional love….I could have I could have I could have…

Why do I think it would have mattered?  I wonder if he had felt more confident would he have been pulled to the life that he lead? Would have have been less of a risk taker? a thrill seeker? Had less of a need to be the life of the party, the seeker of BEST and craziest of all things?

Sure, he was the funniest person I have EVER met, but that came with a price. To be the funniest and most outrageous, he stepped out of every box, said things that no one would ever dream of saying out loud, the fact that he thought some of these things, as hilarious as they were, was often disturbing.  But,  by stepping out of that box time and time again, he put himself at risk.

Sure, we knew it, we told him, we punished him and warned him.  Did we think it would lead to this? No, I really didn’t.  I didn’t. When he went abroad, as a joke I said “don’t get arrested and don’t die”. Really, it was a joke, because his stupid, risky choices could lead a mom to say such things, but did I really really think we’d end up here?

And, he, with his power and his twenty-one year old sense of invincibility thought nothing could happen to him.  This kid called me time and time again telling me about many people that he had heard had died; suicide, drug overdoses, car accidents.  He had a big circle and knew several friends or friends of friends that had died.  Every single time he called me in tears, his grief, his sadness, his disbelief, and you know what he said? He said “I’m so sad for their families”.  One of my biggest worries is that he is aware of his family, what his risky stupid powerful decision did to his family.

I ache, I grieve, I despair… think that I have a lifetime of missing him and carrying only  twenty-one years of memory with me.  His power, so so strong, both good and not-so-good.  My heart breaks as I think of the lost potential of his wonderful power.

On Sabbatical

Stirring the matzah ball  soup.  Picking up the challah.  Setting the table.  Baking the chicken.

That is what I do, that is what I always do on erev Yom Kippur.  Then I clean up, put on some decent clothes and attend the Kol Nidrei service at my synagogue.  There has never been a time when I didn’t do this.  As a kid, I ate the meal my mother made and then we went to services.

Okay, one time, September 1991. We were on our honeymoon.  I felt so guilty that I was  missing Yom Kippur.  I called a synagogue to see if we could attend in Hawaii.  They were going to charge $100/ticket to attend services ( a common occurrence for most synagogues to charge non-members to attend High Holiday services.  It’s a huge debate, one for another post). I decided that the $200 my brand new husband and I would have spent at synagogue would be better spent on the catamaran trip we were eyeing.  Off we went, sailing on the beautiful Hawaiian shores; I rationalized that I was closer to G-d on that boat than I would have been sitting at some random synagogue I found in the Yellow Pages (there was no Google in 1991) .

Should I have gone to services? Would that have spared me the nightmare which I live every hour of every day? Am I being punished? I don’t think so, but I can’t help to doubt every move I have made to deserve this life that I am now living without my kid.

So, tonight, I sit on my couch eating a regular dinner with my dog begging for a bite.  #3 is at dance, #2 at college probably oblivious to significance of the day and hub is working late.  There is no holiday meal, there is no holiday acknowledgement and, for me, there is no holiday.

Last week for Rosh Hashanah we did the same thing; the same thing being nothing.  It was odd to cruise around our town like a regular person.  I love Rosh Hashanah; the weather is often that perfect new Fall feel. I see everyone that I know at services and schmooze with them, laughing, wishing everyone a  Happy New Year and often having some meal or another with friends. I always notice the regular people in the neighborhood doing every day things while we observe the holiday. I see kids walking home from the bus and moms shlepping to the grocery store and I realize how the world keeps going even while the Jews stop to pray.

Last week, and now, I keep going.  I can’t stop. I can’t read the prayers. I can’t praise this G-d that allowed my son to die.  I can’t atone for my sins, for tho’ I have many, I have not hurt anyone as much as I have been hurt.  I can not ask this G-d for forgiveness when this G-d allowed my son to be taken.

No! it isn’t right. It isn’t fair.   I weep, I ache, I shake myself in those moments when I STILL can’t believe it is real.

How can he not be here? How?????  and therefore, how could I possibly do this holiday tonight?