Category Archives: Andrew

Which son do I miss the most?

Which son do I miss the most?

We have all heard it from our friends and even said it ourselves – “boy I miss my son being a little boy – do they have to grow up?”  Yea, they do, fortunately or unfortunately, they all do grow up and get older. But we all miss them as little boys – no matter how old they get.

CCI09272014_00011I look at pictures of Andrew when he was five or six or even ten years old. The smile. The innocence. The potential. He was always happy, smiling, and fooling around as that little boy. He was a good student – not great, but good.  He was a good hockey player – not great, good – but a great teammate. He was a coach’s player – all of his hockey coaches loved him, as they all have come to his memorial games and praised him as a gracious teammate and as a student of the game. I look at the pictures of him when he was in elementary school, and he is smiling and laughing in every one of them. He very rarely cried, really never got upset over trivial crap, and always had a positive attitude. Whenever we had teacher meetings they would tell us how much of a pleasure he was in class. He didn’t always do his homework, or follow instruction – but nevertheless, he was fun to have in the class.

I really miss my little Andrew.

0285Then there was the high school and college Andrew. The one wearing a suit once in a while and caring about how he looked and what others thought of him. Still laughing and fun, but a little more serious as he grew up. He focused on things that he enjoyed, or that challenged him. He discovered a Rubik’s cube and studied it until he figured out how to solve it. He did not just solve it – he had to figure out how to solve it, so he could repeat it. He perfected it to the point that he was able to solve it in less than a minute. That was the focused Andrew. We would talk about life, and what he was going to do when he got older. He learned how to program – some in school but mostly on his own. He taught himself to play the electric guitar by watching YouTube videos and listening to his friends; he was too impatient to take lessons once a week. He had many friends, both a hockey group of friends, and a group from school. He took up snowboarding while in high school, and we made many trips to local mountains, as well as New England so we could all ski together – but he was by far the fastest and best amongst us, although Nicole did keep up with her big brother. Then we would all get together as a family at the end of the day and enjoy a great family dinner. Those were special times. He also learned to drive, and loved driving and loved his car. It set him free – driving with the windows open, stereo on, no shoes….I loved to drive with him just to see the relaxation and enjoyment on his expressive face.

I really do miss that Andrew as well.

Then there is the Andrew I never got to meet. And I think I might miss him the most.

I will miss Andrew starting to work and telling me about his job and what he is doing. Telling me about what he enjoys at work and what his challenges are, about the problems he is solving and the friends he is making at work. I will miss going skiing with him in the exotic places we talked about but never got to go. We wanted to go skiing in Europe or Canada one day, I think I would have liked doing that with my son. One thing I will miss of course is Andrew getting married and starting his own family. Listening to the complaints and stresses he has with his son – and reminding him of what he was like as a little boy – and smiling. Watching him mature into a man, working his way up the corporate ladder, or more likely building his own business so he could make his own decisions and be in charge.

I think I really would have liked to grow old one day, and have my son come visit me, sit down on the deck and talk about life.  Hopefully he would have grown up and matured enough to actually listen to me and to take my advice. But I could only hope for that.

I really do miss him.

Yes, they have to grow up, but they leave us with many great memories along the way.

We lost Daisy…

Daisy in her later years

I walked into my daughter’s room at 9:00am, stood there quietly and watched her sleep for a few minutes. I had to wake her up with some bad news, and I dreaded it. I stood there for a few minutes, then quietly backed out of her room and let her sleep.  The memories were just too deep.

Four years ago, a few months before we lost Andrew, I had gone through this pain. Our beloved lab of fifteen years, Daisy, had grown old and tired. She had lay down one afternoon and decided it was her time. She stopped eating, stopped drinking, looked at me with her tired eyes, and closed them. She was still with us but we both knew her time had come. I had to let my son know.

I called him that evening. Not dreading the conversation, but dreading the aftermath. I had to tell my son that our family pet, that had been his companion since he was nine years old, that slept with him, that licked him when he was sad, that comforted him and loved him unconditionally, was about to pass away. And Andrew was so far away at college. It killed me that he would not be able to hug her, hold her, or be there to comfort her in her last hours. He was far away, and alone from us. I could only imagine the pain and sorrow he felt. I could hear it in his voice when I asked him how he was.

That killed me. To this day, almost four years later I remember the call I had to make the next night. We lost Daisy about 10PM. She passed away in my consoling arms, while we lay together on her bed. I could tell the end was near, so I held her close in her last few minutes, comforted her like she had comforted everyone in our family so many times over so many years. But there was nothing I could do to help her, nothing I could do to forego the inevitable, nothing I could do but to ease her uncertainty. She was not in any pain, which gave me a lot of solace. But she was gone.

I cried for a long time, feeling empty, as we all do when losing a cherished family pet. But what I dreaded was causing my son the pain and anguish I was feeling. But I had to do it. I pulled myself together and made the call. We both cried on the phone for a while, then we hung up. It helped knowing that Jovi was there with him, that he was not alone. Dorothy was here to help me. But I wept that night. Not only for Daisy, but for how Andrew was feeling. As a father, I never want to see my children cry, especially for emotional reasons. Nor would I ever want to bring them bad news that would cause them that kind of pain.

But here I was again, standing next to my beautiful sleeping Nicole, having to wake her up with similar sad news. A few minutes earlier I received an e-mail that my mother-in-law’s cat, Stanley had passed away early that morning. We knew Stan was going to pass soon.  Last summer he was very lethargic and could barely walk. After a vet visit, Stan was diagnosed with an enlarged heart, given some medications and was doing well for the past year, but over the past few days he had relapsed and was losing the battle. My mother-in-law was all alone in the house with her beloved cat and companion, and her grief. Someone had to go over and be with her.

Nicole is very close to her grandma, visiting her almost every single day when she is home. She also loved and cared for Stanley very deeply. She would go to grandmas and cook, and garden, and spend hours playing with Stanley.  When she returned home she would come with stories of what grandma said that day, and what the cat did. I have tons of pictures on my phone of Stanley that Nicole had texted me over the years. About as many as I have with Andrew hugging Daisy.

But I backed out of her room. I took a shower, got dressed, got my composure (made some unnecessary loud noises) and went back for a second shot. This time when I walked into her room, she was sort of awake.  I took a deep breath and told her the sad news of Stanley. She was upset and saddened, but it was also expected. What was more important is that she was eager to get up and go to grandma and comfort her and be with her. That made me happy to see that selflessness and compassion that she so readily possesses.  I went back to my room to get ready for a client as I heard her leave the house to be with grandma.

Seeing our kids in pain is one of the worst feelings a parent can experience. But seeing the joy and compassion pets teach our young children makes the pain of losing these family members almost tolerable – almost.

 

“I see dead people – they don’t know they’re dead”

During the past few years of attending group meetings, and many one-on-one meetings with other bereaved parents, I have heard a lot of parents say that they want to be reunited with their lost children. The sooner the better, regardless of anything, they just want to be with their lost child again. I hear this and it hurts. It truly causes such an emotional conflict within myself that I can’t forget it. Of course I want to be with Andrew again (and for those who do not believe in the afterlife, the concept of heaven, please forgive this part); I want to hold him, I want to talk to him, I want to tell him that I still and have always loved him. I want to tell him so many things that I will never be able to. It hurts me to my soul to not be with him and not have him to hold.

Who knew he would change my life so much, both when he arrived, and when we lost him.

We have all heard of parents who have died of a broken heart and are now with their lost children. We have heard this within our own groups, within our extended friends, and in the recent news. There are also parents who have chosen to not take care of themselves medically or emotionally after their children have passed on, in the hopes of meeting an early demise. Very upsetting and disturbing.

These parents have stopped living their lives. For all intents and purposes, they are no longer alive. They are already dead – they just don’t know it.

I have thought about this a lot lately. Partially because of the news that surrounds us, as well as experiencing this phenomenon with a couple of close bereaved parents. Where do my thoughts lead me? My determination? I have concluded that I must live. That I want to live. No matter what we have experienced with the loss of our children, no matter how bad we feel, no matter how much life might suck in this moment, I know that my dear beloved Andrew wants me to live. He wants me to be with our family, he wants me to enjoy my life and experience the things that he never will. He wants me to be there for Nicole, to enjoy her life with her and watch her grow. He wants me to be here with Dorothy, to love and protect her for as long as I can. He wants me to be here for me, knowing I have more to give. He knows, as do I, that he will be there for me one day when I get to wherever he is, no matter how long it takes me to get there. But not now.

Although Andrew’s time with us is over and his work here on earth has been completed, my work here on earth is not done yet. And my point is, neither is yours – my readers, my friends, and mostly, other bereaved parents. I am publishing my book soon, and I know that my writings have helped many other bereaved parents and families. Maybe that is my cause, my work that has not yet been completed. Maybe that is what Andrew’s death has driven me to do, to speak for others who cannot express themselves, to help other people understand what we are going through, to be a voice in the ear of other parents. They are working hard; to stop drug addiction, to make the streets safer, or to raise thousands of dollars for targeted medical research. These are the missions of our lives now. It is not what we planned for, not what we wanted, and not what we had hoped for, but it is the direct result of our children being taken from us. Hopefully our actions and dedication can prevent other parents from feeling the pain we do every day.

For those of you who miss your children, and I know we all do; for those who are lost without them, and we all are; for those who want to be reunited so much and hold them again … think about your life. Think about what your son or daughter would want you to do. They don’t want us to suffer. They don’t want us to be in pain or be among the living dead while here on earth.

They want our lives to have meaning. They want their memories to drive us to do something significant. No matter how hard that might be, to live, it is what they want for us. Even if the most significant thing we can do right now is to get out of bed every day and breathe – that is better than not getting out of bed.

I wish you peace, and hope you find that inner path that is waiting for you. It is the path your child has laid out for you, that we must find it in our hearts and souls.

Dear Abby – Can I give you some advice?

CCI01072017_00000I recently read a letter to Dear Abby asking for her advice on holiday cards – and it shows that some people, our Dear Abby included, just don’t get it. I am also sensitive enough to have warren this entry last week but held off posting it until after the holidays.

In short – the reader aske d if it was appropriate to send a holiday card to a friend or family who experienced the loss of a child or spouse that year.  Abby told her that there is no rule, and those who are grieving would appreciate knowing they are remembered.

 

That is where the miscommunication is (misguided advice is more like it).

Most cards say HAPPY HOLIDAYS! in big letters. Or MERRY CHRISTMAS, or HOPE LOVE & JOY. Something that is very joyful, happy, and celebratory. And that is great. That is what holiday cards are supposed to do – convey the joyful holiday season.

But for those who have lost a child, especially those who have suffered this devastating loss in the past year, we are not going to have a happy holiday, a joyful season, or a wonderful week off from work. It is much different. I am going to light the candles of Andrew’s menorah, as we have done for the past three years, without him. It will be right there beside Nicole’s, and ours. We will say the Chanukah prayers – with a tear in our eyes, but a smile on our faces as we give Nicole her presents. Christmas Eve and Christmas day we will be with Dorothy’s family cooking, relaxing, and opening presents. All without my son, who does not get to open presents anymore, who does not get to enjoy the holidays, who does not get to spend time with his family anymore.

For Dorothy and I, this season is not totally merry, joyful, or even happy. Of course we get to have Nicole with us, and she is our joy and our lives. She makes us smile, and it is because of her we get up every single day and look forward to life. But we still miss our Andrew.

So, when bereaved parents get cards that say MERRY CHRISTMAS – we open them and say our holidays will not be merry, they will not be joyful. We don’t have our children with us anymore. At best we will survive the holidays, put on a smile on our faces when we are with our surviving children and with our friends and family, and be as polite as we can. But it is a very difficult season for us. You should all know that.

 

Now back to Abby. She says one thing that is correct – those who are grieving would appreciate knowing they are remembered during this season. Yes, we would love that. But not with a bright and cheery holiday card with bells and balls. But with a small hand written note or Thinking of You card. We love to receive letters or notes or cards like that – they brighten our entire week. All you have to say is that you are thinking about us, that you too, miss our lost children, and that you wish us peace this time of year. A long note is not necessary, but of course those are nice as well, but just a short sweet note that lets us know that you are thinking about us. That our family and our children are in your prayers and your thoughts this time of year.

I have attended many group meeting with bereaved parents around the holidays and I hear this so many times from so many parents. There are some bereaved parents who don’t even open their holiday cards, their loss is too raw and painful. Others open them and pile them away in a box. We do love to hear about your children and see them in their holiday best, but just be sensitive and realize that we can never take those pictures anymore.

Please don’t take this post as criticism or condemnation of what you have been doing your entire life. Holiday cards are a great thing, and we do enjoy receiving them – now that we are three-and-a-half years out. All I ask is that you be sensitive to those who are newly bereaved, or those who might be several years out but still very sensitive and having a hard time dealing with life and the holiday season. If you truly care about them, if they are truly your friends and family, a short phone call, no matter how hard that is for you, to tell us that you are thinking about us this time of the year, is so much more appreciated. Or write a personal note saying that you are thinking of them. Stop by and say hello for a few moments and show them you really care. That would make our holidays meaningful so much more than a holiday card.

I know this post may not be so popular, but I have never written to win popularity contests – just to enlighten those who have friends and family that have experienced loss. If you want to send a card, go ahead, I don’t want to offend or upset anyone. Sending holiday cards are very special to some people. All I ask is that you realize who you are sending the card to, their situation, and take an extra moment to do something that would really be appreciated by them.

Now I ask one more thing. After you have read this – print it out. Fold it up and place it in next year’s holiday card box. So when you get ready to go out and purchase cards, or you make your card list, you can re-read this post and maybe give a little peace and a smile to someone who is grieving.

Perry

dear abby

Plan your escape

IMG_20151019_164156_329I arrived at my annual software conference around 8am – the time the doors where scheduled to be open.  I went into the amphitheater, and immediately saw that the back-row corner seat was taken – damn. That is my safe seat. I own the back corner seat – no matter where I go. I tried but failed to find out who the devil was who owned the bag reserving the seat. So I did the unthinkable – I moved her bag over to the second chair and I settled into the end chair of the fifth row – my seat!

That is my safe spot; my safe place at these conferences and meetings. I have come to learn that I need an easy escape, an easy way out. And there is no better seat for an unobstructed exit than the back row corner seat.

I also attend a business networking group on a regular basis. I know all the people there, I work on many of their computers, and I am friends with many of them. But there again, I have a specific seat. It is in the corner of the table set up like a U. The corner that is closest to the door. That is my safe place, my safe seat – and every week that is where I sit.

Why these specific seats? Why after all this time I still need this safe place? Is it an OCD thing? Not really. It is more of a comfort level.

For months after we lost Andrew I could not go to these meetings for fear of losing it emotionally. For the fear of someone bringing up how great their son is, or that they are going to college to visit their child, or anything that would just be too hard for me to handle in public. Anything that would make me fall apart in front of so many people.  So the first meeting I did attend, which was months later, I sat at the end of the table. I had my keys in my pocket, one eye always on the door, and just felt so unsettled. But it wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t easy, but it was doable. And the fact that I had that out, that I had that straight, unblocked path to the exit, made it bearable.

DSC_0844During those first few meetings, and all the way through the first year or two, people have come up to me to talk about my beloved Andrew. They would talk about my writings, about their experiences, about how my writing has affected them. I love to hear that. I love to hear that my writing is helping others, and that others are benefiting from or passing along my posts. That is why I write them. And sometimes when I hear that, when we talk about Andrew or the website, I do shed a tear, I do find it hard to get words out of my throat, I find it hard to keep it together.  But I need to hear it, I need to know that Andrew is still helping others, that his short sweet life and sudden passing is helping others. It keeps me going, keeps me motivated to write, and keeps me motivated to just get out of bed every day. But I must have my out; I need to know I can say thank you and walk away. For me to talk, or even listen the way I do, I need to know that I can get out fast. That gives me comfort.

 

This is my advice to other bereaved parents. I know that you are afraid to go out, that you are afraid to interact with others. I have been there, and have talked to so many people who have been there, or who unfortunately are stuck there for years. Dorothy and I felt that way for a long, long time. It took us a while, a real long while, to feel comfortable enough to go out to an event or a party or wedding. Afraid that if we did lose it, if we saw something that brought our pain to the surface, we would be stuck in our seats – or if we tried to get out we would make a scene and have to ask others to move in order for us to get out and hide.

DSC_6274That is when someone taught us what I am passing along today. Plan your escape. Plan your way out. Don’t let your grief and your loss make you stop living. Maybe your loss is so new, so close that you can never image that you would ever go out again. But trust me, trust every other bereaved parent, that one day you will go out. One day you will resume your life – to some degree. You will have to go to a best friend’s wedding, a business conference, Thanksgiving dinner, or even to the movies. Plan ahead, that is all there is to it. Get there a few minutes early to get those seats that can get you out in a hurry. Get end-of-the-row seats in a theater, get that corner seat near the door at a show, or get the seats farther from the dance floor. Our children want us to go on. They want us to remember and honor them, but in life and in living – not in pain and isolation. All in time though. All in your own time.

 

Unknown Territory

We are getting into unknown and unexplored territory with Andrew now. Maybe unexplored is not the right word, but an area of his life that we really have no idea about.

When we lost Andrew, he was in his senior year of college. We actually lost him on the first day of classes of his senior year. For the weeks and months that followed, even though he was not here with us, we knew what he would be doing if he were here. We talked about how he would be doing in his senior year. We talked about the classes that he was in, about the places he would have gone to in Boulder to eat and shop, and about the times that he would have been home for vacations. We talked about his friends and what he would be doing with them at night and on the weekends.

Andrew Karate Cert

A happy memory of Andrew’s karate days.

During that first year we talked about things we knew would have happened. We talked about how he would have come to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving and brought his laundry home with him. In December Dorothy and I debated as to whether he would have come home with Jovi and spent the holidays with the family, or if he would have gone to Vail and spent the days skiing.  In May we talked about his graduation ceremony that he would have walked in, dressed in his finest t-shirt and jeans under his cap and gown – just like high school. We would sit by his fire pit outside and know that he and his friends would have been sitting there joking around and talking about life and their cars.

Andrew Dorothy Boulder

Andrew’s first days in Boulder

Time went on. We knew that he would have been working in Denver during the summer. I still work with those people with whom he would have been working, and Andrew’s name comes up once in a while. He would have taken the bus every day to the office, dressed in his version of business casual, and maybe gotten a lift home from someone in the office a few times a week. Jovi would have been waiting for him, ready to talk about his day in the office, and talk about what she did during the day. I would have loved to watch him maybe get a promotion, move to a different department, learn something new at work. But it was not to be.

Some of his friends played hockey after graduation, I would like to think he would have as well. I am pretty sure he would have flown back to NY and he and I would have driven his little sports car that he loved so much back to Boulder where he was living for work. I would still go out there a few times a year to go skiing, and Dorothy and Nicole would go and visit him often as well. But we never got that opportunity.

But now it is past that. We have moved slowly, carefully, and regrettably into unfamiliar territory. We have very little idea as to what he would be doing now. Would he have stayed in school for his graduate degree? Would he have disliked the corporate software world and left the job – or would he have thrived in that challenging environment and shown everyone how great he really was.

He loved to help people. He loved to sit and listen and analyze people. He learned this in his last two summers at home and his time with friends in school. I wonder if he would have decided to go back to school for a degree in Social Work, Psychotherapy, or some related field so that he could pursue his love for helping others. During his last summer, he found a therapist that he really connected with. He helped Andrew with strategies on how to handle stress. He helped him deal with crowds and groups that Andrew never liked to be in. He also helped him cope with the pain and anguish related to his kidney issues – which ultimately led to his demise.

He would come home and tell me that he really respected this therapist. He talked to his friends about him, about what he was learning, and how it made him feel. It probably would have changed the direction of his life – had he had the time. But this is territory beyond what we know, uncharted territory, even pushing the limits of what we could have imagined.

We are now in this uncharted territory, and will be from now on. Past what we knew what was going to happen to Andrew. Past what we can reasonably assume and postulate about our son’s life. We are now, at three years, into just thoughts and imagination as to what he would be doing. And that is dangerous territory. And hurtful territory sometimes. Would he be married by now, like a few of his friends? Would he be starting a family, going to grad school, or even working with me full time – which we talked about a lot. Would he still have his Mazda? Or did the money he made at work enable him to buy a new fancier and faster car with more bells, whistles, buttons and gadgets. Would he be going to watch Nicole play hockey at school as often as he used to? Who knows.

From now on, we are looking beyond what we knew. We are imagining things that he might have done, paths and direction we hope he might have taken. That is our job now. Andrew is as strong in our memories and thoughts as he ever was. But the thoughts now are more of our hopes and dreams and our aspiration of what he could have been – the same hopes and dreams and aspiration we had for him on the day he was born. Pretty ironic.

 

This post is inspired by Tyler’s mom.
I just hope I did her thoughts justice.

 

Everyone Dies Twice

We lost our son, Andrew, about three years ago. His physical body, his laughter, his smile, all that was Andrew, they all died that day. We had his funeral, sat Shiva, and memorialize him during those sorrowful weeks. He was gone. We could no longer hold him, no longer laugh at his humor, we could not share stories with him, or be amazed by his tricks with the Rubik’s cube. His physical presence was gone, forever. He died, as so many have before him, and everyone else will one day.

What brings Andrew’s death to the forefront of my mind is a recent conversation I had with a member of our synagogues ritual committee.  While we were discussing a memorial candle project he would like me to be involved with, he casually said “everyone dies twice.” That simple statement is what impacted me.

Dad at graduationLet me take you back a ways. I lost my father when I was 15, back in ’79. He passed away of a heart attack, suddenly and unexpected at 46. At the funeral, and in the days that followed, we were surrounded by our relatives, long-time friends of my parents, members of the temple, many of my father’s business associates, and some of my parents friends from their Marriage Encounter group. The funeral procession from the packed chapel in the city out to the cemetery in Paramus was huge – dozens and dozens of packed cars. The throngs of people that passed through our home during the week that followed was overwhelming. There were tributes to my father in Women’s Wear Daily, there were dozens of trees planted in Israel in his memory, and the list goes on. It truly was humbling for those of us he left behind.

I don’t even recall where we were or what that big white rock behind us is, but what I remember is that we traveled a lot with my parents.

Then the inevitable happened. The encounters involving my father and his memory began to dwindle. My father’s friends and colleagues have obviously gotten older, many of them have passed away. Many of our close relatives have also passed on. It’s the natural cycle. But what has dwindled that I am concerned about is not his friends or family, not the people nor the relationships – what has dwindled are the memories and stories that have kept my father alive for my sister and me over the past 35 years. They are dying off slowly – the memories – along with the keepers of those memories. It is like our father is dying again, only slowly this time.

Dad and me in brooklynWe hear fewer and fewer stories of my father from fewer and fewer people. They have moved on, passed away, or no longer talk about him. It is also getting harder for me to keep and recall all of those memories and stories in my head.  What I think about is that in several years, not too far into the future, there will be no more stories. There will be no more memories. My father will be a person who lived and died a long time ago, left behind a loving family, was the subject of stories and memories that another generation told. But one day, he will simply be a headstone, a relative from the past. A name no one really remembers.

Now I know that Greg and Todd, and Nicole and others still have many years ahead of them, and hopefully they will remember some stories of my father, their grandfather that they never met. And maybe they will tell them to their children, who may in turn remember them. But eventually, and not too far in the distant future, those stories will inevitably fade, it is just natural.

That is the fate I fear for Andrew. He lived a mere half of the years that my father lived, and had a fraction of the friends and experiences that made up my father. There are many stories that Dorothy and Nicole and I tell about Andrew. And we hear others from Laurie and Roy, Spence, Caroline, and Andrew’s friends and teammates. And we smile every time we hear a story, no matter how many times we have heard it before.  Even just the mention of Andrew’s name makes us smile.

It has been only three years. We keep in touch with Andrew’s college roommates – Dorothy and Nicole had lunch with Gabe last month and spent the time talking about college, about Gabe’s job, and they shared stories of Andrew.  We have Andrew’s memorial hockey game around his birthday and we talk about him there and share stories and tears. Lonya is keeping his name and story alive with her annual Never Forget Andrew Hockey Event.  This is all great.

But Andrew’s favorite high school teacher and SAT tutor, Keith, who Andrew spent many lunch hours with has passed away. And with him went many memories and stories of Andrew. Uncle Cy, who Andrew used to talk to on the phone and exchange stories with is gone. The same for Aunt Beth, who Andrew spent every one of his birthdays with, and most holidays during the year – she is sadly gone much too young. And with all of these people the stories, their stories, and memories of Andrew passed with them.

Now I know that I will die my first death long before Andrew experiences his second death. But when will that day come? The day when no one remembers him anymore. The day when Andrew is gone, his friends are gone, his family is gone, and no one is alive anymore that knew him and loved him. The day that people will stop visiting his headstone to say a prayer, the day that they stop playing his memorial game, the day that no one is here to say a prayer for him.

In reality, I know that day is far, far away. But it will be here one day. And that thought kills me. The day that my son, along with my father, will be forgotten. The day there will be no more thoughts of them, no more prayers for them, no more stories of them. They will just be gone. And the thought of that hurts.

What my friend Andy so eloquently reminds me of is that I cannot focus on the second death of any of us. Rather focus on the memories that are alive now, the happy stories people tell us about Andrew, and the memories that we live with now. I have to learn to, and allow myself to smile at those memories. Smile knowing that his family and friends are retelling those stories, and smiling and laughing when they retell them. So as long as I am alive, and Andrew’s friends are alive, then he is still alive.

 

 

Footnote – Thank you Marvin for the inspiration.

 

 

 

My wife left me this weekend

They had to visit Ghirardelli or life would not be complete

Yes she did. We have been married for almost thirty years now. And this morning I drove her and our daughter Nicole to JFK for their trip to the west coast. For seven or eight years now they have been going on an annual summer road trip, just the two of them, to visit all of the Major League baseball stadiums. On this trip they are covering San Francisco and Seattle. And along the way visiting Napa Valley, Portland, and some other great places on the west coast. It has always been a mother-daughter trip that they very much look forward to every year. Besides the baseball stadiums, Nicole makes it a point to find places to eat that have been featured on Dines, Drive-Ins, & Dives. Restaurant Impossible, or other Food Network shows. They take tons of pictures, send me texts along the way, and come home with a lot of great stories – stories I know Nicole will remember for a lifetime.

Nicole read this book the year before the trip.

So why is this important? Why did she leave me? It’s important because it represents something that they used to do. The summer after we lost Andrew, they could not go on their trip. They were still mourning, and not wanting to do something that was a regular routine. We really did not do much that summer – just remembered Andrew, and waited in anguish for his one-year anniversary at the end of August.

 

Then two years passed. During the second summer, although still grieving and deeply missing Andrew, they decided to go on a short baseball road trip – and include me this time. Toronto Blue Jays stadium is not near any other stadiums, it’s out of the way, and had to be done as a one-off trip. Dorothy convinced me to join them for this trip. But it was more than a trip to Toronto – it was a trip to Niagara Falls along the way. That was the hard part.

DSC_9462The winter before we lost Andrew, when he was home for winter break, Nicole had several hockey games in Niagara Falls. I asked Andrew if he wanted to take a road trip with me, and to my surprise, he agreed to it. He really did love to watch his sister play hockey and he was proud of her hockey accomplishments. It made him smile every time he bragged to his friends about how good she was. And yes, he did brag about his younger sister.

Andrew and I took the drive up there – alone together in my truck for several hours. It was really an amazing ride. We talked a good part of the way, but when he was not talking, I just sat and listened for him to start the conversation – I did not want to be overwhelming.  For six hours up we talked on and off. It was the longest stretch of time, by far, that we had been alone together in years. Quality father-son time. I drove, he drove. We stopped for food along the way. I told him about the canal system that runs along the thruway, he told me about the mountains in Colorado. I told him about Andy’s uncle’s farm in Amsterdam, and he told me about the library at school. We touched on so many topics.

When we were up in Niagara Falls, the three of us accidentally went into Canada (I’ll tell you that story some other time). We went to eat at Planet Hollywood and walked and drove around for an hour or so. He loved the stores, the atmosphere, and the loud music, everything about the town. When it was time to return to the US for Nicole’s game Andrew wanted to stay in Canada. But without a passport or valid drivers license I didn’t think it was a good idea. He was not happy to say the least, but came home with us to her game.

On the way home I promised him we would return soon, maybe next winter. I promised him that we would go back to Niagara Falls as a family and he could walk around and sightsee, we would take the boat to the falls, he could go into the hippie shops that were everywhere, even go into the casinos and hang out.

I never kept that promise to my son. We, or should I say he, never made it back. There were not many promises that I made to my son that I did not keep, but this was one of them. And it killed me that this was on the list of things Andrew never got to do. So now, a couple of years later, we were going as a family in his memory, to a place he briefly visited but fell in love with. We would walk the streets and point out the places Andrew would have visited. We picked up items he would have thought were cool and would probably have bought. We looked at the tie dye t-shirts he would have bought. It was a very nice, but heartbreaking trip. But I fulfilled the promise that we would return, as a family, except that my son was not with us.

But the trip did accomplish something, something very important for us. We went away. We went on a trip as a family again. We smiled, we laughed, we enjoyed ourselves – despite ourselves. It was a step forward. A small step, but a step forward, not backwards, not to the side, and not standing still. We moved forward, which was a big deal.

So this year, Dorothy and Nicole take another step. They are doing something that they need to do. They are doing something that Andrew would have wanted them to do. He would have been talking to Nicole or Dorothy every night eager to hear about where they ate, what they saw and telling them how the dogs and car are doing back home. We would have all been happy. I am sure Andrew is watching over them these twelve days. Traveling with them on their trip for the first time, smiling when they smile, laughing with them, and I know he is happy knowing that they can smile and laugh and enjoy themselves, once again.

For now, during their absence, I am home. Looking at the calendar and reminded of the fact that Andrew’s anniversary is next week. Wondering how I am going to deal with that. But for this week, I am happy about this small step we all took.

 

 

 

 

They’re Happy

Dorothy, Nicole and I went to an off-Broadway show this week called Spamilton with some other dear friends. It was the first show we have been to since we lost Andrew. And I watched it in such a different light than other shows I have been to before. I was listening to the words of the songs and the melody of the music, but what I was more focused on was the actors. We were sitting at a table that was literally up against center stage. We were just a few feet from the actors (and actress). We could see into their eyes, and hear their voices versus the speakers.

Spamilot1What grabbed me was how happy they were. They were all Broadway actors acting in an off-Broadway production that is in a limited run. The show is a spoof not just of Hamilton, but the entire Broadway show industry. If you get a chance, go see it. But that’s not the point here. These actors are in a small play production – but they were so happy. They were visibly thrilled to be on the stage singing, acting and dancing. Their enthusiasm was contagious not only to each other, but the entire audience. Regardless of where they were, what play they were in, the size of the room – these actors were happy being on stage. They were doing what they loved to do, what they were trained to do, and what they are living to do. And it came through, from their inner most emotions, through their soul, and out their smiles.

I don’t know if they have day jobs, or if this is the only way they make a living, but anyone can see that they loved being on the stage performing. They are so happy doing what they love to do; I am sure any of us would be jealous of their ability to do what they love so much.

And I sat there and thought. Would Andrew be so happy doing what he wanted to do in life? I sure hope so.

I surf Facebook during the day, as many of us do, and I see this kind of happiness. Especially through Andrew’s friends.

Mikey2One of the players I coached several years ago went to college, then moved to Florida and starting fishing, and got a job many people would be envious of. He is now working as a production and marketing manager for a national fishing show. The show he produces has been seen on NBC Sports & The World Fishing Network. But what I see it this – I look at Mikey’s pictures on Facebook and he is smiling ear to ear in everMikey1y single one of them. He is holding up a fish here or there, riding on a fishing boat in clear blue waters, and is shaking the hands of others in the industry. Did he go to school for fishing? Probably not. He probably went for communication. I am not really sure how Mickey got the job, how much he is making, or anything else going on in his life – but what I see is that he is so thrilled to be doing what he is doing and where he is doing it. And it comes through in every picture he posts, every interview he does, and every show he produces. And it makes me smile knowing that he has found such a great place for himself in life.

Nolan2On the other end of the work spectrum, whatever spectrum that is, I see Nolan – I think he goes by the name Makk now. I also coached Nolan for many years on and off. Nolan calls me Mr. Grosser, even after i told him that was my father and to call me Perry, or coach. But he has been taught by his parents to be respectful and he was always respectful of me, as well as any other adult, he just naturally called me Mr Grosser. He helped out whenever he could, he did his chores at home when he was growing up, he wore a button down or collared shirt most of the time, and always finished his homework before his dad would let him come to practice. He was also a good friend of Andrew’s before they went their separate directions in school. But Nolan too has reached a place in his life where he is happy. He is a DJ – if that is what they still call them. He plays music – loud, very loud, in late night clubs until all hourNolan1s of the morning. There are the lights flashing, the 20-somethings dancing and screaming, and the blaring music that Makk plays to his throng of followers. Way out of the realm of what I ever thought Nolan would do when he got a job. He is loving it – and it shows. He has some serious tattoos, stays up all night to work, and plays music. I hear he is a great DJ, very well respected, and has a loyal following. I look at his Facebook page and see him in a white button down shirt in his family pictures, then in a t-shirt behind a neon monster of a DJ table in another. Here again, what comes through is that he is happy. He is doing what he wants to do, I assume he is making a decent living, and is in a very happy place in life. I am captivated by his success and comforted in my life from following Nolan.

I look at these pictures, along with the images in my head of the actors from Spamilton and think. Would Andrew be this happy in life? Would he be doing something that he loves to do so much? Would he come home every single day happy and thrilled to talk about work? I like to think so.

Andrew wanted to be a therapist. He wanted to help others deal with their problems in life. He helped several of his friends in his last few years. He helped them get through their problems, listened to their issues, and offered some advice – even if it was from an untrained ear. Several people told me that they would sit and talk to Andrew for hours and hours – and he was a good listener. So I sit here and hope that he was happy doing that. I sit here and hope that if he did chose to go into that field to make a living, that he would be happy helping other, listening and offering help and support.

I thank the actors from Spamilton for opening up my eyes to this and making me smile. Although I went to see a play, I came away with so much more. And I thank Mikey and Nolan, not just for being happy in their lives, for letting me hope and believe that if their teammate and buddy Andrew was still here with us today, that he would be as happy and smiling in life as much as they are. Thank you guys.

 

We need to talk

I was up in Salem, MA, a suburb of Boston, this week for business. One evening the people I was with wanted to go out to karaoke, but being in the state I have been in, I was in no mood to join them in their festive singing. So I called my cousin Phil, out of the blue, around 8PM and asked if I can come by and say hello – Phil lives in the next town over from where I was staying. I have not talked to Phil for a year or two, but he had e-mailed me about my writing a while back, and we were close when I was growing up. I just needed to go and hang out with someone who was family, and Phil was more than glad to have me over.

I got to their home in Peabody around 8:15 and was greeted by Phil and his wife Claudia with hugs and smiles. I knew I had made the right choice rather than going out and being miserable, or staying in the hotel alone and being sad.

andrew at party2

Andrew and Todd talked a lot about life – never thinking it was going to be their last conversation.

We started talking about work, what I was doing in Boston, and life in general – all pretty safe subjects. Eventually we talked about Nicole, how she was doing, about her school and her hockey.  We talked about Dorothy, about her work and her family. We talked about a lot of stuff. In hindsight though, much of the conversation was related to Andrew – about his school, about his son and about Jovi, about my new tattoo of his signature (I will write about that soon, I promise). We talked about Andrew’s funeral, and they shared some stories about that week that I didn’t remember, or chose not to. We talked for almost five hours. I cried here and there during some of the stories, I got choked up more times that I care to remember. I shared pictures of Andrew’s son, and stories I had not told in years. We covered so much and went from topic to topic.

We talked about family, and of friends. About the ones we still talk to, and the ones that have moved on with their own lives. We talked about those friends that have stepped up and have helped us through this ordeal, as well as those who have disappeared from our lives for one reason or another. They shared their perspective, as well as listened to mine.

It was pretty late. Claudia had long since gone to bed, and it was time for us to hug, say goodbye and hope to see each other again some time.

On my way home, as I started to write this essay in my mind, like I always do, I came to realize that I had done much of the talking. Well, maybe most of the talking. Well, maybe Phil was able to get a word in here and there. When I left their home after hours of talking, I felt pretty good, almost relieved. We had talked about so much. I had gotten a lot off my chest, I bitched about people, I moaned, I expressed my feelings in ways I have not been able to, to a person I felt very safe to be with. Phil didn’t judge me, he didn’t interrupt me, and he made no judgments about what I was saying. He just let me talk – he could see that I needed to talk, and he would throw in a pearl of wisdom here and there. But more importantly, and the most important thing – is that he was there to listen to me.

I thought he would always be there for me to talk to…

There is a reason why I titled this journal We need to talk, instead of I need to talk. I hope this journal speaks not to my fellow bereaved parents or bereaved siblings, but to our family and friends. We need to talk. I found that out this week. We need you there to sit and listen to us. No matter what we have to say. Not to make judgments about us or our grief, not to analyze us, not to try to make us feel better – just to listen. Just to let us let off steam, let us cry about our children, let us bitch and moan if we need to, let us talk about what we need to. You don’t have to council us, we don’t expect you to understand some of what we say, or to understand or appreciate our grief. We know that. We hope and pray that you never truly understand how we feel, or what we are going through without our children in our arms. We just need someone to talk to.

Let me repeat that – that is how important it is.  We don’t expect you to analyze us, or provide us with some amazing feedback that will take our burden away. We don’t expect or want anything from you but a soft smile, caring eyes, and love. Just like what Phil did so perfectly.

I wish you all find your own Cousin Phil.