Mark and I went to the Camping and RV Show at The Big E Fairgrounds today. There was everything there, from pop-up campers to $250,000 Diesel Pusher Motorhomes and everything in between. We walked up and down the aisles, climbing in and out of ones that interested us. Or ones that were just exciting, and maybe a little different, a color scheme we hadn’t seen before or a different layout.
We quickly ruled out the pop-ups (I need a bathroom), as well as the triangle shaped hybrid travel trailer/pop-up campers. They are way too claustrophobic in my mind.
From the time I met Mark, camping (in a trailer) has been a part of our life. Our summer vacations were spent at the beach, that didn’t change when Kyle and Connor came along. They just became campers too, riding there bikes all over the campground, crabbing with Mark, boogie boarding in the waves, toasting marshmallows in the campfire and staying up way past their bedtimes.
While walking in and out of those trailers today, I swore I could hear him in my ear “Mom, this one isn’t big enough, it doesn’t have bunks. Where are Jordan and I going to sleep? We like the beach too you know!!” More than once I turned around, he wasn’t there, there was no one there, but yet I know what I heard. There will never be a time that I don’t think he is with me, a time that I won’t carry him with me.
Today is 15 months, 15 months since I made the decision that no Mom should ever make. The decision to let him go, because he would never be My Connor again. My silly, crazy, sarcastic, loving young man. It doesn’t mean that a day goes by that I don’t think about him, or miss him.
Off I went to the orthopedist yesterday and to run some errands. Just a typical day off Friday for me. As I was driving down Main Street in Greenfield, my music cranking away I glanced to my right and I felt like my heart stopped. There getting into a little gold car was Autumn. But no it couldn’t be Autumn, I blinked and when I looked again she was in the car. My brain kept saying that wasn’t Autumn, but my eyes were arguing yes it was, we know what we saw!!
The traffic started to move so I kept going and in the lane next to me was his car, that black Mazda 3i Sport, with a young man driving, a young man with a ball cap and sunglasses on. I see his car everywhere, usually with a young man driving and it always makes my heart stop. I always want to tell the driver to get out of Connor’s car.
But this time I just knew, knew that he sent me the sign. That wherever he is, he and Autumn are together. They are ok, they are rocking it up there. It sure doesn’t make it any easier, and by the time I got to the lights at Main and Federal Street the tears were streaming down like a river. Running faster than I could wipe them away, luckily it was a day without makeup. Because it would have all been gone anyway.
I wish I could say that after 15 months the pain was less, but I would be lying if I said so. It is just less acute and I can do a better job of keeping it under control. Then there are times like yesterday where all that goes out the window.
Before I felt comfy publishing this post I reached out to Autumn’s Mom for permission. Permission that was granted, we chatted about our common loss, and about how Autumn really adored Connor and his death hit her hard. Things that I didn’t know, that he was kind and nice to her, when at times others weren’t. It made the tears run all over again, learning that he was the boy I raised. Makes me miss him so much. This pain is like a carnival ride, up and down, twists and turns and parts that take your breath away, coupled with the calm sections just before the drop offs that make your heart and stomach rise up into your chest.
As I’m laying here on the couch being very thankful that this week is over, I’m coming to the realization that it has nothing to do with how hard I worked. Because in all reality I didn’t work that hard at all. I was off Monday, worked Tuesday, was off Wednesday because I had a specialized cortisone shot in my shoulder and then worked Thursday and today.
What made this week so hard, and so long was the emotional turmoil that it consisted of. I realized that my birthday is fast approaching, and it is just another year older. I could care less about that, what is rocking my world is that another year has come and gone and Connor isn’t here. I know deep down that he isn’t coming back, to think anything else would be delusional. I am not ready to be carted off by the guys in the white coats just yet. There are not little green men living under my bed, that I know of anyway.
As Connor’s friend Krystal said the days that were the hardest for her are the holidays they should be there, the birthdays and the big ones like Christmas, Thanksgiving and maybe even Easter. She is right, they are the hardest ones, every day is hard, a cruel reminder that I am going to have to slog through the rest of my days on this earth without him. But these special days are the worst, turning 51 without my 18 year old smiling, silly, sarcastic, blue eyed romantic young man with me. Yup that is a personal version of hell that no mom should ever endure.
For the most part the guilt over Connor’s death has dissipated. I say for the most part, because there are still those days where nothing helps. Where all I want to do is cry, find blame in the situation and stay in bed. I know that isn’t rational, nor does it make any sense. All I do know is how I feel, one moment I feel like everything is ok, and the next moment I am back in November 2017 and my world has imploded in the worst way possible.
The more time that has elapsed, the more I realize that I’m not alone. I don’t mean my cherished friends. They are always there at a moments notice if I need them via phone, text or FB messenger. I mean the ever growing group of women that have lost children. There are nothing easy about these emotions, they are raw, messy, ugly and full of pitfalls at every corner.
Someday I hope my life won’t be full of all these emotional pitfalls, that I will be able to see a Black Mazda 3i without the big crocodile tears running down my cheeks and making a huge mess of my makeup. That the sound of untied workbooks clunking across the floor won’t cause a lump in my chest that no amount of swallowing will clear.
I have always lived by and taught my children that you reap what you sow. That hard work pays off, education is the brass ring and with a good education and a trade you can go far. That if you are careful and pay attention to your surroundings, then things like this don’t happen. I was dreadfully and woefully wrong, on so many levels. Accidents do happen, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to figure out why me, why us??
Today we went for a walk, Mark and I and Cooper, I wore the new hat that Mark gave me for Christmas, I’m not a gat person, but it does look kind of nice. It was a nice day, not full on winter, but not spring either. It was nice to get out and just enjoy the weather, and each other, no phones no screens, just us.
We didn’t talk about anything important, just that Cooper doesn’t have the energy that she used to (she is 14 after all), how will sugaring season be with the wonky weather we have had. That there is very little snow on January 6th, and what that means? Will we get walloped with snow, or is this all we will get? The current political idiocy going on in the country and the fear that #45 has gripped a significant amount of this country in.
We walked hand in hand, avoiding the puddles and the mud as much as possible. Which meant we zigzagged back and forth across the road, luckily there is no traffic on Thompson Rd.
On the way home, Mark was scuffing his feet, scuffing and clunking the way that Connor used to. I said to him, “pick up your feet, or tie those boots, you sound just like Connor” he said “we are almost home, don’t worry about it.” As he continued to walk, scuffing and clunking, in my mind all I could see and hear was Connor in his Chips. Making that same noise. Scuff, clunk, scuff, clunk. Oh sweet Jesus how I miss him, all the quirks that made him Connor.
Today Kyle turned 22, and running through my head as he was opening his present was “you should be here, standing with your arm around me here, cutting up cracking a cold beer”
Yes, I know he wasn’t drinking age, but it fits, they were brothers. He should be here, watching Kyle open his presents, busting him about something and just generally riding him the way brothers do. There are times that I can go through my day compartmentalizing the grief so it isn’t front and center. The holiday season and Kyle’s Birthday is not one of those days.
Connor should have been here for all of this, Christmas this year, then 4 days later when we laid Grampa to rest after 91 years. He should have been the one celebrating New Years with Jordan and busting me because I didn’t make it to midnight.
My father in law used to tell them that he and his brother never fought, usually when my boys were at each other’s throats. Kyle and Connor never believed it, and I’m not sure I do either, but what I do know it my boys loved each other. In a way that only brothers can, whether it meant keeping secrets from Mom and Dad, or just confiding in each other about things that only brothers can. They shared a bond and a love that brothers have, a bond that is different from the one that I had with Connor and the one I have with Kyle.
It is a bond that Kyle won’t have with anyone else (sorry to any of his great friends). No one will replace his brother, no one will bug him and pester him like Connor did, no one will get under his skin like Connor did, and conversely no one will love him unconditionally like his brother did.
This is my 2nd Christmas without Connor, but in all reality it feels like my first. Last year I was numb, nothing felt real, I was still thinking it was a really bad dream and he would walk through the door at any moment. That his loud car would come into the driveway and his clunky chips would come across the kitchen floor, leaving dirt and mud in their wake. In the words of a 3 year old “when is Scotty gonna stop being dead, so we can play? ” I still wish for all that, but the reality of it is long gone.
This is the second year we are spending Christmas at my parents in Connecticut. Something that we haven’t done since Kyle was under a year old. Christmas was always a huge event at our house, with presents piled so high that you could barely see the tree. Switching up traditions is the way for me to heal, and not to dwell on what should have been and the way things should be.
Sometimes the bandaid of grief holds tight, and other times it gets wet and slides off. Those are the easy times, the times that something catches me off guard and it gets ripped off and it bleeds, those are the worst, because time doesn’t heal all wounds.