Happy 22nd

I am trying to wrap my brain around the fact that Connor would be 22 years old today. 22 years ago I was 2 weeks late giving birth to him. I had been on bed rest since December 18th of 1999. I had been poked and prodded and he was just to stubborn to come on his own.

Finally on the 14th I was admitted to Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton. By the morning of the 15th he still hadn’t budged. So I was headed for induction. At 3:32pm he finally made his grand entrance. Once he entered the world our lives were never the same. Kyle was now a big brother, and I was back in the world of no sleep. Something I don’t do well with.

He was a very different son than Kyle. Kyle’s world revolved around things with wheels, cars, trucks, heavy equipment. We actually had a conversation about one of his favorite videos as a kid. “Big Trucks and Heavy Machinery.”

Connor’s world revolved around balls, baseballs, footballs, if it could be thrown or caught, he was all about it. He followed Kyle everywhere, which I’m sure Kyle was irritated with at times.

Once Kyle started to play Little League Connor went to every practice, and Mark began to coach. Connor lived for baseball, wasn’t very fond of T-ball, he wanted to hit a pitched ball. He lived for spring so he could play baseball, Kyle played because all his friends did. Connor played because he adored the game.

In 4th grade some of his friends were playing Football, and then Connor wanted to play too. It terrified me, he was little and thin, but he was fast. He became the Quarterback, and got jersey #24. Which coincidentally was his girlfriend’s Krystal’s birthday.

They were together from pre-school until 7th grade. She was the only girl that could make him cry. Even when they were no longer boyfriend and girlfriend, they remained great friends right up to the end.

Krystal was the one friend of his. Other than Jordan, that was allowed to come see him in the hospital. I felt she had the right to say goodbye to him. She and her mom Missy came to see him. Krystal sat on the hospital bed and talked to him, held his hand and cried.

Once he went to Middle School he was a girl magnet, never without a girlfriend. But once Jordan came along in Tech, that was it. He adored her, and she him. I am certain that if Connor hadn’t died, they would be married, and I would be a Nana.

As much as I grieve the loss of Connor, I also grieve the loss of things that he didn’t get to do. Go to his Senior Prom, graduate from Tech, pursue his dream of becoming a Lineman, get married and have children.

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him, and miss him. His passing left a huge hole in my heart, a hole the size of Connor, with his huge personality, big blue eyes and those long eyelashes. Eyelashes that he hated and everyone always envied, they made putting his contacts in a challenge at times. I only had him for 17 years, not nearly long enough. But if my choice was 17 years or nothing, I will take 17 years every day.

Grateful for What I have

Last month Kyle’s girlfriend, and the young lady that I refer to as my “daughter-in-law.” Had her commencement ceremony at UMASS. She had already graduated, but due to Covid there was no ceremony. It was a bit of a cluster, caps, gowns and tassels were given out 18 months ago. So it stands to reason that some students were missing some of their gear. Holly had everything but one tassel, that she got a replacement for.

It was a graduation like I had never seen before. Graduates were not called up to walk the stage. Instead each “college” was called to have their students stand up, then the director of that college said, all degrees have been conveyed. What took the longest time was waiting for all the Johnny Come Lately students straggle in, and then the keynote speaker who just droned on forever.

But those 2 issues not withstanding, it was a beautiful fall day. We took pictures near the dorm that Holly used to live in, as well as the duck pond near the Fine Arts Center. The ducks didn’t bother me. (I have a well known fear of birds.)

As I looked at the pictures that we took I was so proud, and grateful. My son found a girl that he loves unconditionally, and she loves him the same way.

That doesn’t mean that Connor will ever be forgotten, how could he be? What it does mean is that I have chosen to be grateful for what I do have. Kyle and Holly, that love each other and love both Mark & I. The ability to have them in our lives makes me happy!

This rock that we live on keeps spinning, whether we want it to or not. Things change, love grows deeper, and sometimes loss does too. But I refuse to let that loss grow deeper. If I were to allow it to, the loss would steal all the joy that I have in my life.

Life is all about balance, work/life, love/loss/grief and the ability to balance all those things to remain sane. Some people would argue that my sanity has been affected by the loss of Connor. In some ways they might be right, but in other ways I have learned to compartmentalize my grief, so it doesn’t eat me alive.

Marching On

Today marks 4 years from the day that Connor had his accident. A day that flipped my world on its head and spun it like a tilt-a-whirl. The words “Your son has been in an accident, he is in imaging and by the time you get here he will be in a room”. Are imbedded in my brain for eternity. In all reality it was hours before they stabilized him, and we could see him.

This post will have some memories and reactions of people that walked through this hurricane with me. Jordan Hurlbert is first. She was Connor’s world, the amazing girlfriend that stayed with us at the hospital.

As we start the month of November, today, November 6th to be exact. I feel scatterbrained and emotionally exhausted. 4 years ago today, my life (as many others) changed drastically. I’m a pretty simple person, as I am pretty private about my life as well, especially on social media, but every year on November 6th I feel as if to keep me from crying and feeling emotional for the day I can write a message and only hope Connor can see.

The words of Jordan Hurlbert::

4 years ago today I rushed to Baystate hospital in Springfield with my parents to meet Mark and Tammie after hearing second hand that Connor had been in a terrible car accident. When we arrived I was trying so hard to keep my emotions sustained and not become a puddle of tears, I was praying for the best but preparing for the worst. All I wanted to do was see Connor, When Mark grabbed my hand and brought me through the set of double doors he looked at me and said “he’s still our Connor he just looks a little different right now, he has some swelling and bruising, he can’t talk but he can hear you” those words are imbedded in my head. I don’t think I ever really give thanks enough to both Mark and Tammie as well as both my mother and father for how strong they were for me. When I walked into Connor’s room, Tammie was sitting there in a chair next to the bed, I looked at Connor laying in the bed, connected to tubes and machines, I burst into tears. For the next 11 days I sat with Connor, Mark and Tammie in that small room that only seemed to get smaller with every passing day.. I slept in the chair next to his hospital bed praying for a miracle. I remember my eyes burning, knots in my stomach, just trying so hard to fight back tears because I just wanted to be strong for Mark and Tammie, and Connor too. However after 11 days of hoping and praying, on November 17th Tammie held me so tightly and told me Connor would not be waking up, there was too much damage done to his brain. I can’t explain how fast my heart dropped to my stomach. I don’t think I have ever felt so broken and hurt in my life. For weeks after connors passing I felt numb, so numb that I had no more tears to cry, for so long I blamed myself, I thought things like well maybe if I hadn’t asked him to come over that night or maybe if I would have called him. All things that you just don’t know the answer or outcome of.
Somewhere in my heart I know for a fact that god has a greater plan for all of us, even if we can’t see it right now, it’s taken me a while to understand that EVERYTHING happens for a reason, I am a firm believer in that. Although we may not know why right now, we may not understand why such terrible and tragic things happen to such amazing people, I truly know in my heart that there is a reason and god has a greater plan, even when it’s hard to understand. I can not explain how many times I have cried and asked god why, but in my heart I know there is something greater.

For those of you who know me, you know that the last 4 years have been tough, dealing with something that traumatic as a sophomore in high school, at such a young age was extremely hard. But I am not the only one who has lost someone special and I think something that I have learned in the last 4 years is grief is one of those things that doesn’t go away, it’s always there and it never gets easier, but it gets more manageable I guess would be the best way to describe it. I can honestly say that from the state of mind I was in 4 years ago to where I am today is something crazy! I can’t thank my amazing support group I have enough, for the first time in a very long time, I am happy, like genuinely happy, & to all my friends, family and important people in my life, thank you! & I mean that from the bottom of my heart, thank you for helping me better myself everyday and putting a smile on my face, & helping me enjoy this crazy ride called life! ❤️ I know that Connor is up there looking down over us all and I know that he would want nothing more than for me to be happy, continue to live my life and surround myself with people who make me happiest. & I feel like I don’t say thank you enough to Dakota for making me so happy and feel special. It has been a long time of wearing a painted on smile and trying to be happy, but since I met you, this smile is as real as it gets, and I don’t have to try to be happy, because I genuinely am. So thank you❤️ because I’m so incredibly grateful for you!

If you have read this far, thank you. I’m not one for long posts, but today is a little rough for me, and I feel like the least I can do is write down my thoughts once a year on this day, leave some Natty Lite at Connor’s grave stone and only hope he gets to read one & drink the other💙

Love You Forever n Always Connor Powers

This is one remarkable young lady. She spoke at Connor’s funeral, when all I could do was sit in the church and cry. She has no idea how strong she is. Weathering this type of storm, for a young lady her age hasn’t been easy, but she has done it.

We will always consider a member of our family. She is the daughter that Connor sent me and I couldn’t be prouder of her. I know that he is proud of all of us, and super proud of Jordan for following her heart❤️

HS Reunion

Tonight is my 36th high school reunion. Covid screwed up last year at 35, so we are trying again. I have both been looking forward to, and dreading this night for months.

1. This is the first reunion since Connor died. There will be too many people telling me how sorry they are.

2. This is the first reunion after the death of Sharon. She was the life of the party and made everyone feel comfortable.

I have had to rationalize that she will be there in spirit. But spirit doesn’t make you laugh until you cry, it doesn’t always have a joke or a “Sharonism” to put it all in perspective.

I have missed her terribly since the day she passed. Hers was the first funeral I attended since Connor passed. To say it was hard, would be an understatement. Open casket and what seemed like 1,000 ppl in attendance.

As usual the best part was the get together after. A big party that they know you can’t attend. Talking, reminiscing, and of course there was alcohol involved.!!

But tonight will bring it all back in laser focus. No Peerless Jeep at the country club, no wise ass comments, no Sharon buying rounds just because she wants to.

It is all too bittersweet for me to comprehend. There is not a time that I don’t miss her, and tonight will be missing overload.

Just know that I miss her dearly, and I know I won’t be the only one feeling that way. #sharonisms #HVRHS36yrs #onestepatatime

Paying For It…

Anger is a powerful emotion, it can be both productive and a hindrance, depending on the situation. I am angry at the lady that hit me, she wasn’t paying attention, going well over the speed limit, and was negligent.

I paid for all those things. I paid for them with the destruction of my car. It looked like it had been through a shredder. I paid for them with my bruised and battered body, granted nothing was broken, but the bruises were worse in many ways. I paid for them with the Level 4 Concussion that I sustained, like someone put my brain in a Mason Jar and shook it. My short term memory is shot, my temper is super short, I get overheated super fast. My vision is compromised, and my favorite past-time of reading has been ruined. My whole left side has been compromised, my balance is off, and at times if you saw me walk…you might think I was drunk.

I paid for them with the emotional trauma that set me back years. I was finally to an emotional place, after Connor died, that I could close my eyes and not see his shattered car, and his broken body. In one rear end accident that resulted in 4 roll overs of my car..all that was gone.

I have become a terrible rider, every time someone quickly merges in front of us, or I see an accident. I become a nervous wreck, gasping and grabbing onto the door handle. Panicking about what could happen next. Now remember I am the person that taught 2 teenage boys to drive, I rode with them for most of their “at home driving hours”. And yet now I am afraid of a merging car, that just doesn’t make sense. I am also not cleared to drive very far on my own, so she stole that part of my independence.

This has cemented the belief, that “your life can change in an instant”, and it doesn’t always have to be anything that you did to cause it. I was minding my own business and going to get an Inspection Sticker, Connor was coming home from work. Neither of us did anything wrong. But yet our lives were changed completely. Connor lost his, and we all lost him. My life has been changed drastically, and I don’t know if I will ever get back to where I was.

It Takes Time…

Just a little over 6 months ago my world was literally flipped upside down (4 times) and I haven’t been the same since. Anyone who thinks a concussion is just “getting your bell ring” should walk, or rather try to awkwardly balance in my shoes for a day.

4 weeks ago I went to a specialized TBI Clinic, and what I found out was eye opening, and a little earth shattering. My balance is severely impaired, I couldn’t stand on one foot if you paid me. If I was ever asked to do a field sobriety test..just take my license. I can’t walk heel toe no matter how hard I try😢

Kyle would tell you, Mom you were never the most coordinated person on the planet..remember BLEACHERS!! I can’t navigate them for the life of me, my family always wanted to sit way up high. I always stop about 3 rows up and park my ass right there!

Little by little my eyes are starting to track side to side better, up and down is still a crap shoot. My favorite hobby has always been reading, but for now that is out the window. It gives me an atrocious headache. The TBI Dr told me to take a piece of card stock and cut it so only 2-3 lines come through at a time. The problem is, I read a whole page at once and my brain removes all the unnecessary words, and, if, or, but, the, than, etc. Then if I need them I put a word back in.

I still can’t walk heel toe, nor can I multitask, I have to write everything down, and scatterbrained really doesn’t begin to describe me. I somehow misplaced my “Best Bonus Mom Ever” travel mug in the house yesterday 🤯

I have confidence that I will get better, maybe not 100%, but I will regain the things that are most important to me. As my Uncle Peter Whalen says..”I have faith that there is an ocean, because I have seen the Brook. 🌊🌊

Happiest Season?🎁🎄🎅🏻

When Jordan comes to help💖

Last weekend was a rough one, to say the least. Mark and I put up the Christmas Tree, something that the boys and I normally did. This is the 3rd tree that I have put up without Connor. Jordan came to help one year and Kyle normally helps, but due to the fact that he is working in towns that are considered COVID RED ZONES. He is doing his best to limit his exposure to me, I am high risk due to my asthma and he is doing the right thing, but grr it sucks.

We have an artificial tree, a nice one, but still artificial. I am deathly allergic to real ones. The last time I had a real tree I was a freshman in College, my dad was sure I had “outgrown” the allergy, I spent 90% of the day in the Formal Living room. As far away as possible from the tree. That night my mom took me to the ER, on the way out the door she said to my dad “that tree needs to be gone when we get back”. When we got home, the tree was in the snow bank, with all its lights, tinsel and decorations on it, he listened in his own way, lol.

To make artificial trees look real each branch needs to be arranged and fluffed. It is a time consuming project, that normally ends in laughter and Christmas stories. This year it was Mark and i fluffing, with me telling him how to do it, and him telling me it was fine. Even though there were sections of the tree with huge holes because the branches were matted flat.

This is how we used to put the top on a 9ft tree

Then came the lights, even though this is a pre-lit tree (with white/clear lights). I also put 8 strands of multi colored LED lights on it as well. I have a system, we start at the bottom, running around the tree evenly. With each layer spread equidistant apart. None of this on an angle shit!! I spent a lot of time re-doing what Mark did.

After the lights came the beads, I gave up tinsel a long time ago. With pets in this house, that eat it..and what goes in must come out. You get the picture🤪🤪. Just like the lights, there is a system for the beads. The long ones get draped along the branches, much like the lights. The short ones get tossed onto the tree, think Mardi Gras and the tree is the people you are tossing the beads to. All of this needs to be artfully done, so it doesn’t look like a toddler did it.

Once that is done, then and only then can we add the ornaments. This year all the fancy breakable ones will stay in a box. Only the un breakable ones make the cut. Jezebel is already chewing on the branches, a good glass ornament..aah I think not.

Not this years tree.. ornaments aren’t up. A tree from previous years

Hold on Help is Coming

Have you ever done something that was terribly hard when you did it, but you knew in the depths of your soul that it was the right thing to do? I have done it twice, the first time 3 years ago when we made the decision to turn off Connor’s machines, and just now when I made the decision to stay home for this holiday season.

That is the way I feel about Thanksgiving this year, we normally spend it in Connecticut with my parents. The last time we didn’t join them for this holiday was the year that Connor died. 2017, as far as I was concerned that Holiday Season could have just disappeared. That year we spent Thanksgiving with Mark’s boss John in Southwick, MA. We had prime rib, and all sorts of great sides. I drank way too much wine, and John introduced me to the cheesiness of Hallmark Christmas Movies.

In the depths of my soul I know that going to CT to spend Thanksgiving with my parents during this worldwide COVID-19 pandemic isn’t smart or safe. My mom suffers from MS, and has for 38 years, my dad has recently been diagnosed with A-Fib, add my asthma to the mix and it isn’t safe for any of us.

Just because I know that this is the right decision doesn’t make it any easier. My parents and my brother are my rock. They have held me up, when my legs were too wobbly to stand on my own. They have given me the confidence that I will make it through this overwhelming loss. That no one walks through this valley of death by themselves.

I know this is the right decision, as hard as it is. It will be the same decision that we make for Christmas. These are holidays, holidays that we usually spend together. But I have learned the value of loss in the past 3 years, and I want the rest of my family to be here for these holidays next year.

So this year we will spend them here in Colrain, and when we get a vaccine and it is safe. We will have a hell of a bash, be it Easter or sometime in the summer.

Bawling in The Parking Lot

Just when I think I have this grief well in hand (yes I should know better, it always bites me.) Something sneaks up and grabs me out of nowhere. Today was one of those days, if it wasn’t songs on the radio. Damn Hardy and their tear provoking songs, followed by Chris Young and Drowning.

As I was driving down Main Street in Greenfield, there was a man getting ready to cross the crosswalk by where Wilson’s used to be. That man could have been Steve’s twin. Navy blue t-shirt, khaki shorts, and eyes glued to his iPhone. My eyes said..That’s Steve!!!, my heart said..OMG!! He is right there..but my brain said NO, that isn’t him..you know it isn’t!!

Then as I pulled into Stop & Shop today my heart nearly stopped. There in the parking lot in front of me was a young man that could have been Connor’s twin. Blue t-shirt, faded jeans, half-tied Chippewa Boots and a Black Fox Hat.

I parked my car, and followed him into the grocery store. Once I stopped to pick up a head of cauliflower, and then looked back up he was gone. Like he was a figment of my imagination to begin with. But I know he wasn’t, I know he existed, I saw him, as plain as day, heard his boots make that unmistakable sound as they clunked on the linoleum floor.

My eyes said..That’s Connor, my heart said..OMG!! He is right there..but my brain said NO, that isn’t him..you know it isn’t!!

I knew that this “phantom” young man wasn’t “my Connor”. Just someone that looked eerily like him, enough so that I thought there was a ghost in Stop & Shop with me.

Some days there are just no explanations for what we see or feel. Just that it hurts, I am not naive enough to think that the pain will ever stop. I just live for the days that I can keep it far enough at bay that I don’t end up bawling in my car in the Stop & Shop Parking Lot. Today was not one of those days, but maybe tomorrow will be.