Why Me, Why Us??

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??

Quirks and All

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.

How Can You be 22??

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.

Bandaids and Holidays

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.

Crushed Like a Candy Cane

I am supposed to be wrapping presents, but instead I am sitting on the couch with a drink in my hand, The Hallmark Channel on and the express intent of quieting my mind. The drink is good, the movie is charming, but my mind just won’t stop racing. I had a conversation with my best friend Kathy today, she is not only my best friend from college, she is also my person. The one I can go to when the walls come crashing in, and I start to implode. It doesn’t hurt that she is a Licensed Social Worker with The State of Connecticut and is trained in this kind of stuff.

Not only is my heart crushed like a Christmas Candy Cane from the loss of Connor, it is sore from an upcoming hurt that I am steeling myself for. I have uncharacteristically held this one close to the vest, since you all know that this blog and these posts are my salvation and part of my healing process, but I can’t bottle it up anymore.

In October my father in law, Connor and Kyle’s Grampa and Mark’s Dad was diagnosed with metastatic adenocarcinoma. We have ridden this roller coaster for 2 months and now we are headed down to the end of the tracks. Hospice has come in, heavy duty pain meds are on board and things are both changing rapidly yet standing still all at the same time. What I do know is that I am not ready for this, I’m not ready to embrace another loss, and I don’t believe anyone ever is.

There is no blueprint for how to figure this out, we just figure it out as we go, sometimes we fly by the seat of our pants and hope for the best. What I have learned is that being surrounded by ones you love, great family members and fantastic friends can get you through the worst of times.

Unconditional

Last night I had a tearful text conversation with my boss. If you know Steve at all, you know that really isn’t abnormal. He may play the part of the hard-assed boss, but he is one of the kindest, soft hearted and loving people I know.

Not only was Connor my son, he was an employee of S Keyes Electric, Inc. First as a summer employee, then as a co-op employee through FCTS. He loved working for Steve, learned things in the real world that even FCTS Shop Class couldn’t teach him. He honed his work ethic, how to deal with customers and how to correctly do paperwork.

On the other side I think he taught us quite a bit too. He was serious about doing a good job and learning all he could about the trade. But he also had other loves in his life. Baseball, which during the season he would have to leave early for practice and games, and Jordan. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind how much he adored her, he would move heaven and earth for her. What has come to a surprise to me is how much my guys knew that he loved his mom. At the end of each work day, Connor would come into my office, empty my trash, sometimes bring me a soda, fill me in on his plans for the evening. Was he going home, or to Jordan’s, or maybe to Rusty’s to work on his car. Then before he left he would say “gotta go, love you mom.” My response was always “love you to the moon and back Connor, be safe.” He would roll his eyes at me, with the be safe thing and then out the door he would go.

In a lot of ways it was as hard for me to go back to work as it was to stay home surrounded by all his things. At my office he was there too, his time sheets, his paperwork, the “CP ornament” that he made out of copper when he was exploring plumbing that hangs on my wall. He is literally everywhere I turn.

His loss has taught us all that life is full of accidents, both good and bad. Sometimes we get second chances and sometimes we are one and done. Before this I always lived by the motto “there is no such thing as an accident.” It is something that my Dad always drilled into us, there was always something that was done to cause it. But for this I just have to accept the accident and let it be.

When I was in my early 20s I didn’t want children, now I can’t imagine my life without either Kyle or Connor. Children are unconditional love, even when they are being shitheads. They are proof that you can do something right, you can have a positive impact on this world.

I look at Kyle and see the strong, independent, hardworking young man we raised, and think we did good. I just wish that the world was able to experience Connor for more than 17 years, because I’m sure we did good with him too.

Just a Haze

Tonight I met Mark at Genden in Shelburne so we could go to Autumn Walsh’s Wake. I brought us both a change of clothes, and as I was standing in his showroom with my boots on and flats in my hand I asked him “Do these boots look ok, or do I need my flats?” He says “Jill won’t care or notice what you have on your feet. Think about it, do you remember what anyone wore to Connor’s Wake?” He is right, the only reason I remember what I had on is there is a beautiful but heartbreaking picture taken of Mark and I that day. We are standing at The Colrain Community Church watching the balloons that had been released float away. The grief and pain on our faces is heart wrenching, but at the same time you can see the love we have for Connor underneath the pain.

As I looked at everyone in that funeral home tonight and I fount back the crocodile tears. All that kept running through my head was, these kids just went through this a year ago. They are too young to be dealing with this much tragedy and grief. So many of them had the “deer in the headlights” look in their eyes, the look of shock mixed with grief and horror.

I wanted to hug each and every one of them, tell them that it would be ok, and eventually it will be. But that eventually is a while away. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, and these wounds will be fresh, sore, bruised and bloody for quite a while.