Just let it out

This past Sunday the kids and I spent the afternoon with the folks at the dive shop where Mike used to work for an Easter celebration.  Though spending time with them is always enjoyable and meaningful, it still brings up memories, which lead to the heartache of just missing him.

As I stood there talking with a gentleman about some life events, my mind wandered around thinking about how if Mike were here talking with him, his mind wouldn’t have drifted, he would have been engaged in the conversation.  And shortly after that hit me, one of my children came up and asked for help opening a favor.  And so my mind wandered again, but trying hard to gracefully step back into the conversation taking place.

I told a friend about a story one of Mike’s co-workers had told me a while back.  Though this story about Mike impacted me deeply at the time, I haven’t thought about it in some time.  Recalling the way it was told, and reliving the oh-so-Smitty moment, left me with a gaping hole in my gut.  At dinner that night with the kids we had Mike’s iPod playing in the background, when “that song” came on.  The one that will forever be related to Mike, and his death.  I got through most of the song, willing myself to not let the drops slide from my eyes.  Until Eli looked at me sideways, got a concerned look on his face, and asked if I was ok.  I couldn’t stop it then, and just let all the emotion from the day, and the song, and just plain missing my love come streaming out.  Eli got up from his chair, came over to me and wrapped his small arms around my body.  And as he was rubbing my back he said to me, “It’s ok Mom, just let it out.”

I often feel terrible about all the sadness my children see in me.  I try hard to hold it in and manage my emotions so they aren’t subjected to it.  And I usually hold myself together quite well, if I do so humbly say so.  But there are times when it all just spills out and they see me in the pit of my grief just barely hanging on.  Then one of my sweet babies will grab me a tissue, I’ll wipe away my tears and we go about with the rest of our day as if nothing happened.  It’s ok for them to see me cry as long as they know why — I can have those moments of missing him so much and wishing he were still alive, as long as I pick myself back up off the cold hard ground and carry on, warrior.

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Baseball is now our life

Eli started playing baseball.  This is his first time playing, he didn’t start off with t-ball, he went straight to coach pitching.  Not because he’s that good, but because of his age.  I wish we would have started last year so he could have played t-ball first.  But, nonetheless, this is where we are.

For anyone who knows my awesome son, you know how amazingly athletic he is…uh…NOT!  So much so in fact, he tends to fall over just looking at a crack in the sidewalk.  Poor kid.  First day of practice they were working on their stance, legs spread, one knee bent loaded back, and awkward Eli fell over.  {Shaking my head here.}  Even so, he left his first practice totally loving it!  He told me he was nervous before he started, but by the end he really enjoyed it!  I was sooooo happy to hear this!  I was worried we’d committed to this long journey of baseball, 2 practices a week and 2 games a week until the end of May, and he wouldn’t even like it.  Thank goodness I was worried for nothing!

He had his first game this past Tuesday and I was surprised at what a baseball mom I became!  I came alive, rooting him and his team on, cheering for every effort given!  I loved it, as did Eli.  And throughout it all, I kept thinking how proud of his son Mike would have been.  I often try to picture Mike as a dad in certain situations, but there was definitely something special about this.  Maybe because it’s just one of those dad things, dreaming about one day playing ball with their son.  I remember Mike talking about that when we were pregnant.  And now I can feel his excitement for his son as I’m watching him from the bleachers.

Though Eli may not be the most athletic member of the Cardinals team, he tries really hard.  He wants to do well, and he’s making improvements at every practice.  If only we had better coaches who actually showed up for practice and games, Eli might even have the chance to become athletic.  But unfortunately we got put on the “leftovers” team, a mismatch of those who didn’t fit in anywhere else.  All that aside, we’re enjoying our new found baseball lifestyle.

And I know Mike would never have missed a practice or game, he would have been the proudest dad out there, beaming from ear to ear!!!

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Happy 45th Baby

I can hear it…the teasing I would have been doing, and the laughter from him about it!  He secretly would have enjoyed my little jabs here and there about how old he was.  Since he’s six and a half years older than me, I could get away with that, and it was always one of those “couple things” we shared.  It first started one night not long after we met when we were standing/leaning on the back of his 4runner after a late night of dancing and fun at a local bar, Coconuts.  I remember the shock I felt after he told me how old he was when I asked, simply because he certainly appeared young, but it was his vibrant nature and excitement about life that seemed so youthful.  I definitely would have pegged him for mid 20’s, when at the time he was actually 32.

For the past week or so, and more so yesterday and this morning, Eli and I have been carrying on this discussion about what we think today would have held, if his dad were here.  It’s been fun to hear how his mind works, and what he would want to be doing with his dad.  A few of his comments included:  that he would have loved to sing Happy Birthday to him, and wishes he could hear his dad laugh;  Eli has baseball practice on Wednesday nights, and he thought that his dad wouldn’t care if he had to watch him playing instead of having a party;  he thinks that I would have made him a cake, and he wishes he could be the one to decorate it;  he wonders if his dad would’ve liked to have a party;  he thinks “for sure he would have liked to be in the water” probably scuba diving, or maybe just swimming.  And so, in order for me to help Eli have a small connection to his dad on his dad’s big, special day, I saved a few cupcakes from Eli’s birthday and froze them, thawed them, and Eli gets to ice and decorate them when he gets home from school today.  He’s looking forward to it sooooo much!

Last night during dinner, Eli said he wishes his dad could come alive just for one day, each year on his birthday.  It tore me up inside.  But in an effort to not lose complete composure, I chuckled a little and said that it might make it hard because then it would be like he died again each year the day after his birthday.  But we both looked at each other and said at the same time, that it would be worth it.  Just about anything would be worth getting another day with him.

My world today is consumed with memories of Mike.  Each little ache and pain have been rolling out of my eyes and down my cheeks.  I miss him immensely.  I wonder if anyone knows just how much.  Probably not.  Seven and a half years tends to dull people’s memories and typically makes the sorrow dwindle.  But not always.  I can attest that yes, I’m getting by, I’m surviving on a daily basis.  And I’m proud of that.  I’ve certainly come a long way in those years.  But there are times that I can’t even fathom how much I miss him.  And I wonder why it overcomes me so intensely during those times.  When those moments come at me and knock me over like I was hit by a truck, it can take days or weeks to come out of that fog.  And I just will sit in bed and wish I could go back in time, to that happy place wrapped up in his arms.

People used to say, and sometimes still do, that Mike gave the best hugs.  I felt warmth and complete serenity when I was in the happiest place on earth, in his arms, snuggled up against his strong chest.  After he died I thought I’d never get to experience that feeling ever again.  But, I am beginning to see that I may have been wrong…Eli is becoming pretty damn amazing at giving hugs recently.  And just last night, he stopped eating his dinner, got up and came around the table to me, and just hugged me.  Out of nowhere.  I closed my eyes and for a split second I felt transported back in time and I lost myself in one of Mike’s amazing hugs.

Wherever he is, I hope he has some time to stop by for our birthday celebration for him this evening.  Happy 45th Birthday to My Love!

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Christmastime….

It’s still difficult, seven years later.  Getting out the Christmas tree ornaments and decorations that were once Mike’s, knowing intimately how much he loved them, is a struggle each year.  However, it’s one small thing that brings him here with us.  I can gaze as the beautifully orchestrated tree, notice those few precious ornaments that Mike’s hands once held, and feel his smile upon my heart.  As I tell Eli to be especially careful with that one because it was his dad’s, I see how he shifts from excited to put as many ornaments on the tree as he can to slower and more deliberate with his movements.  He even asks me to double check to make sure it’s on there real good, so it doesn’t slip off and break.

The internal battle rages on between my love and excitement over my favorite holiday, and the sadness and longing, wishing he were here with us.  Some of my most treasured memories of Mike are of this time of year, and the ways we celebrated it.  I miss him.  God, oh God how I miss him.  It’s crazy really, he’s been gone longer than we were together, but forever my heart is his…

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7 years later…

Unlike years 1-5, the 6th and 7th anniversary were different in some way.  The agony wasn’t as consuming.  It was certainly still there, but it didn’t capture my heart and wring it dry as it used to.  I still feel as though the world stops when I’m underwater, as I run my hands over the raised, golden words “husband” and “father”.  But as I gaze lovingly at the growing little “trees” making their home there, and I know it’s what Mike would have wanted, the world begins to spin once again.  And as I emerge from the water and share a beer with friends while talking about the years that have passed, I’m actually able to smile instead of cry.  Is this what they mean by only time can heal?  It does feel as though my heart is healing, slowly, achingly slowly, as the days go on and on.  Because I’m able to think about Mike in a beautiful way, most of the time.  There are still moments where I’m stricken with sadness and cannot stop the tears even if I wanted to, but seven years later I’m noticing those moments come less frequently.

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Here we go again.

Stating the obvious here, I haven’t written in a while.

Out of respect for my daughter’s dad, I thought it would be best if I took a break from expressing my grief.  We’re not together anymore and haven’t been for a long time.  Writing helps me work some things out in my head, so you may just notice me here more often.

Here I am, once again facing death in it’s face.  I cannot seem to find another way to move through this other than writing (tried painting, tried running), so here goes.

A very close friend passed away a week ago Friday.  A close friend of mine, and he was also a close friend of Mike’s.  I’ve known him for as long as I’ve known Mike, we all worked together at the same place I met my husband.  Since learning the news, I’ve been there in his home with his widow, also a very close friend, and I’ve been reliving the aftermath of death in an all too familiar manner.

The moment I learned of the horrific news, I screamed.  I was thrown into shock.  A shock that lasted for days.  I couldn’t speak.  A friend asked me if I were huggable-I couldn’t even say no, I just shook my head.  I couldn’t eat, I was physically sick to my stomach.  Every single moment of my day and night were consumed with thoughts about this death.

At the time of Mike’s passing, this man and his then fiancée (now wife) were there for me in so many ways.  When I needed stuff done that Mike would have done, I called him.  Replace my rotten porch railing so my new little walker didn’t fall through - I called him.  Drill a hole in my front door for a peephole - I called him.  Clean out the boat rotting away in my backyard - I called him.  Yardwork - I called him.  The list goes on and on.  He was a connection to Mike that was here, tangible, alive.  And though he was a quiet man, he was a profound thinker and always had more going on up there than most anyone knew.  Mike’s passing hit him hard.  He recently opened up to me about not being able to talk to me about Mike because he just couldn’t take it seeing me so upset.  He felt the pain and sorrow I was going through.  And not only that, but he just plain missed Mike.  They were good friends, and I’ll never forget the many evenings we spent at his house eating a freshly speared fish that he’d cooked, or playing games, or drinking beer together.  There was much more depth to this man than most people ever had the privilege of knowing.

I struggle with what to do now.  I see what my friends had to go through with me after Mike died.  There’s a certain balance one needs to find in a situation like this.  Though nothing will change the fact that I’ll be there for my friend, and their children, it tears me up inside the entire time.  I know some of the anguish those sweet innocent children will suffer in years to come.  I have experienced explaining death to a child for years.  It never goes away.  It never gets easier.

It’s so sad.  It’s freaking awful.  It’s unbearable.  It’s unfair.  I can’t believe he chose to leave…

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5 years

It’s shockingly hard to believe it’s been 5 years.  I remember vividly the moment when my world shattered beneath me and the baby growing inside me.  I remember it like it just happened, and I wish I could delete from my mind.  Many things have happened during these past five years, things I never could have imagined.  In fact, sometimes I’m still surprised I’m here today, amongst the living.

October 5th, 2007 forever changed my life.  I am no longer the same person I once was.  I realize that most of us aren’t the same people we were five years ago, but it seems different to me.  When talking with friends, I realize how differently I look at life now, differently than I used to, and differently than “normal” people do.  I find myself thinking about death on a regular basis, and the “what-ifs” in life.  I clearly recall moments of break-downs I experienced, walking through the grocery store and literally falling to the floor sobbing, unable to comprehend how everyone else could go on with their lives like the world hasn’t just ended, only to remember that it was only my world that crashed.  Or sitting at the park with my newborn son, watching a young family kicking a ball, which included a father, and knowing that would never be us.  I no longer have these horrific break-downs.  It’s amazing how we grow into stronger, more adaptable people as needed.  When five years is not really that long in the grand scheme of life, I still never thought I’d be here.

With my Itty-Bitty-Smitty at my side this October 5th, I read a speech I hope made Mike proud.  I tried to capture the pureness and essence of Mike, and let the friends and family I’m closest to know how they have helped me and done more for me than I could ever have hoped for.  I’ve wanted to be brave enough to do this for a long time, but when I get choked up just reading it, I knew I could never read those words.  This time was no exception, however when the time came, and I thought I was going to lose it again, sweet and innocent Eli helped to break the ice for me.  And I did it.   And I did more that day than I could even comprehend doing five years ago.  And may he rest in peace beneath the waves…

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Late Update

Sorry for the VERY late update!  For those of you who don’t already know, we’ve been spending some time in Ohio for the past couple of months, and will be here for another couple.  We arrived March 27th, and with no definite date set yet, plan to head back at the end of July.  It’s been fun, adventurous, and fulfilling family time.  The main reason for not writing is because I’m living in the house that my mom and dad built and only recently finished, which is near their horse farm, and away from most civilization, and has no internet.  Yes, you read that right, no internet!  So to work on my computer, and most importantly to write on my blog, I must pack up the kids and drive to my mom and dad’s current house and use their internet connection.  It’s sooo nice to be living in the new house, helping finish the little things as we live there (we’re still brushing our teeth and washing hands in the kitchen sink b/c we have no bathroom sinks), and to have a little privacy there, but it’s definitely not easy not having access to the internet at my every whim!

Things are going well here.  Eli is so very happy to be spending so much time at the farm every day, learning about the horses and chickens, running around in the woods, digging in the dirt, and having so much more freedom than he does back home in Florida.  Ainsley is slowly adapting to her new surroundings, very, very slowly starting to sleep a little better, and is now becoming mobile.  Mobile as far as rolling everywhere, but the crawling is just around the corner!  She just got her first tooth on the 28th of May, and she’s eating a lot more new foods now.  My days are spent getting Ainsley down for her naps, playing trucks with Eli, running and exercising more every day (just finished my first 2.5 mile run post baby!!!), making meals, and just being mom.

So if I don’t write more in the next 2 months, don’t be surprised.  It’s simply due to no time.  Hopefully when we get back to Florida I will have more time to update the blog and pictures (I know, I know!  Everyone wants to see pictures of Eli’s 4th birthday party and of how big Ainsley is getting!).

Peace my friends, and happy summer.

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Birthday number 42

Today should have been Mike’s 42nd birthday.  And after over four years I still have a hard time writing that.  His life was jerked out from under all of us, and I’m still occasionally wavering to hold myself upright in it’s wake.

It was harder than I expected it to be today.  Most likely because of my extreme lack of sleep, but also because of the questions and conversations from Eli.  He enjoys hearing those funny stories about his Daddy and keeps asking for more.  Until this morning when he blurted out, “Mom, I don’t really like talking about people that are dead.”

Eli’s looks and mannerisms are more and more like Mike every day.  Obviously it’s a constant reminder, but sometimes it still catches me off guard.  I mean, he’s his own little person, he’s Eli.  But randomly, like when I’m driving and I steal a glimpse of him in the rearview mirror, he looks so much like his Dad it hits me hard, like a punch in the gut.

So I’ve been thinking about doing something for some time now… but I’m just not sure if it’s the right time yet or not.  I’ve been contemplating taking off Mike’s wedding band that I keep on a chain around my neck.  It’s been there since the night of his memorial service, almost four and a half years ago.  It didn’t come off for my c-section.  It didn’t come off for cleanings.  It didn’t come off when baby Eli was pulling on it every day.  It’s not come off my neck ever.  This is a big step for me.  I know that taking it off doesn’t mean I love Mike any less.  It doesn’t mean I’m “over” it.  It doesn’t mean even that the grieving has stopped.  But I can guarantee that it’s going to mean that to others who might notice the change.  I haven’t made that definite decision yet, but perhaps I’ll get a feel for it, and should it not feel right, then I’ll try again later.

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the man I will create

His “memories” of his dad are only the ones I have sculpted for him.  I can create this image of his father that only he can picture in his mind.  I must do this to give him a sense of who his dad was, and help to mold him into a mere speck of the man his dad used to be.  It is not just to keep him alive, though that’s a big part of it for me.  But it’s also to subconsciously plant seeds in his growing little mind and to bring a smile to his face when he thinks about who his dad was.  I must make a change, because for the first four years of his life, he has lived my sadness.  He only knows that when I think about his dad, I cry.  He only knows my pain.  I can not say with 100% certainty that I will never again allow him to see my eternal grief, but I will promise myself and promise him that I will, from this day forward, do my very best to speak of his dad with a smile on my face and laughter in my voice.

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