Summer is my happy time, we spend weekends at our campground surrounded by our friends. People who have made us feel loved, safe and included right from the first day we arrived. It is easy when we are there, no stress, no bickering, very little worries from the outside world.
But that time is winding down, there are bound to be less beautiful hot pool days. Less nights in the hot tub or around the fire toasting marshmallows and roasting hot dogs on sticks.
As this summertime winds down fall looms closer. November rushes fast on the horizon like a train I don’t want to see. Tomorrow, September 17th will be 22 months. 22 months that Connor has been gone. Some days the pain is just an ache. Kind of like my shoulder from playing nerf football in the pool yesterday. And some days it is a full on knife twist. Today it is a full on knife twist, and I am prepared that tomorrow won’t be much better. The memory of telling that team of doctors to do everything that they could, and it still wasn’t enough is burned into my brain. Missing you comes in waves and today the waves are 15 feet tall, the space between them is short. This whole process sucks. What I wouldn’t give for one more day…
I swear just when I think I have crawled out of the hole of grief, someone dumps a bucket loader of dirt and rocks back on me. Today was one of those days, in spades. It started out as a normal day, just like any other. I got ready for work, headed out the door and glanced at the calendar, and that’s when the first pile of rocks started to fall. It is that week, the week that contains the 17th of the month. The day that Connor formally left this world 21 months ago on Friday of this week. Although in 3 months he will be gone 2 years, 24 whole months, it still seems surreal to me. As if he could walk through the door at any moment.
That I could hear the distinctive sound that his semi-tied Chips made as he came through the front door. Of course after I heard the thumping of the bass that his stereo made as his beloved car came up the road. Those are sounds that I still hear in the recesses of my brain, almost as if I continue to hear them, he will somehow magically reappear.
Unfortunately my day went from bad to worse. I went to go get our company T-Shirts, with the new Connor Strong Logo on the sleeve. There it was in full color. The reminder that my guys will carry with them all year long, the full color reminder that he isn’t coming back.
No matter how hard I tried to turn off my brain, it just wouldn’t stop today. My father in laws house has been sold, Kyle is still trying to sell his powder blue mini van. In my yard sits 2 rally cars that are reminders of PBR-Powers Brothers Racing, and all the times they spent together. Racing and working on those cars together. Competing against each other to see who had the best times, they were always so close.
Then there is the constant reminder that I don’t want, the headstone that sits in Calvary Cemetery, the black granite stone with his name and his beloved baseballs on it. The stone with the short dash that marks the 17 years that he was on this earth. But that dash doesn’t represent how much he lived, loved and was loved. How much fun he had, how strong he was, how smart and ambitious he was. And most of all, how much he is missed.
I crossed one off my Bucket List last weekend!! I went to see Jimmy Buffett and The Coral Reefers in concert. The concert was amazing from “License to Chill” to “Tin cup Chalice” and everything in between, I was a parrot head, and loving every moment of it. Tailgating in The parking lot before hand was almost as good as the concert, just relaxing in my chair, drinks good food and everyone is your friend. I learned things I didn’t know:
Following Jimmy is like the Zydeco version of the Dead.
Some people never go into the venue to watch the concert
They didn’t buy a ticket, they just came to tailgate in the parking lot.😱
Xfinity needs way more Porta-Potty’s in their parking lot.
I can hula hoop for a pudding shot
Looking super relaxed will net you Jell-O Shots from complete strangers
There are still good people in this world
The guy who tripped n spilled his beer all over us. Then bought us: beer, wine and popcorn. Is one of them❤️
U have to hand wash a Vera Bradley wristlet when they smell like stale beer.
Most importantly I learned that Connor would have been in his glory. He would have been dancing in the parking lot, with one of those crazy fin hats on. Legal drinking age or not he wud have been trashed while tailgating and Jordan would have had her hands full trying to keep up with him.
She would have constantly been making him eat, and the two of them would have been laughing hysterically 🤣🤣🤣. He would have been dancing, and singing, and me relaxing would have not happened!! I thought of him a lot Saturday night, when the beer ran down the blanket directly towards me, anytime he spilled something as s kid, it always rolled towards me. There were butterflies in the air, they always remind me of him. There were beach balls being tossed everywhere , if it was a ball he could hit!! He was all about it. In my mind, he was there with me, with a License to Chill.🏄♀️🍹⛱🏖
Yesterday was a tough one. August 1st. It seems now that my life is ruled by dates. Connor’s accident date- the 5th of every month, the day he died, the 17th of every month. His birthday is March 15th, and for the last 2 years we have spent that day away!! I don’t see that changing any time soon, it is just too hard for me to be home, and not have my baby here to celebrate with. Going to see this on his birthday just doesn’t cut it!! Although I always go before we leave and wish him Happy Birthday!!!
But yesterday’s date was August 1st, the date that Sharon Smithwick Koneazny should have turned 52. The date that I should have sent her a smart ass text wishing her Happy Birthday, and then posted something just as crazy on her FacebookWall. The second one I was able to accomplish as well as to leave a meme that was tagged as a #sharonism. A silly, puny or sarcastic, maybe roll your eyes kind of funny thing.
She would post them every day on her wall and I miss seeing them, she made my world a happier place, often on days that all I could see was grey. So now when I’m having those grey days I go back through her wall and find the #sharonism that will make me smile and lift the clouds.
I remember when Sharon and Nancy and I went for drinks one night she hugged me and said. “It just isn’t fair that you didn’t get that second chance with Connor, that it just wasn’t something they could fix Tammie”. I feel the same way, now it isn’t fair that she didn’t get the second chance, that they couldn’t fix it. What I do know is that I will miss you forever. Your laugh, your love, your friendship. Those are things that can never be duplicated. I will hold on to the memories, because they are the life raft that keep me sane in this ocean of insanity of grief.
A good friend is a connection to life-a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world.
I have some amazing friends, some that I have had so long that we aren’t really sure when the friendship started. It’s safe to say “from the sandbox on.” When one of those friends suddenly dies it makes you question everything.
There is so much I will miss about Sharon, so many memories that I have locked up in my head.
The French Class at Salisbury Central. We all “murdered” that poor language. And the poor teacher was so frustrated with all of us, because we spent more time laughing and giggling than actually learning.
7th & 8th Grade Softball with Mr. O’Leary. She was an outstanding player, but a true cut-up on the field. I’m sensing a pattern here😂
St. Mary’s Confirmation Class with Father Forte. How he taught any of us without losing his mind is beyond me? We couldn’t be quiet, we laughed, we poked at each other. We wanted to be outside. And when he let us be outside, we played ball and someone got a softball to the face!!🥎
Skiing at Catamount when she didn’t want to ski the bunny hill so we took her to the top of the mountain. Left her there and she skied down. Met us at the bottom and said “Can we go again?”
Playing HVRHS Field Hockey with her. She was deadly with that stick!
She did my wedding invitations (When she owned TK Enterprises ) Most of the invitation set up was done over the phone/ email while she was on the way to Mississippi/New Orleans. They were absolutely gorgeous 💐🌷🌸
The HVRHS 30th Reunion, at the Canaan Country Club. The laughs, the drinks, the dancing. It was like no time had passed.
She always had a hysterical FB post, she should have done stand up.
When Connor died she and Nancy came to the wake. 2.5 hours from The Northwest Corner, because that is what “Sandbox Friends” do!!
In the past 20 months when I go home to Lime Rock the 3 of us get together, have drinks and just catch up.
It has been said that “They always throw the biggest party that they know you can’t attend”, meaning the get together after the funeral. If that is the case this will be one hell of a party because she deserves it!!! Heaven will be a much funnier place now that they have you, and we have lost the funniest, generous, most loving person and amazing friend.
Yesterday I received a beautiful message. It’s intent was to make me smile. But it caused me to ugly cry instead. This message came from the mother of one of Connor’s best friends. It was part of a paper he had written, talking about Connor, and how they became friends. How baseball brought them together, but then their friendship evolved beyond that. How Connor’s dream (before it was to be an electrician) was to play 2nd base for The Boston Red Sox. How “Sweet Caroline”, was one of his favorite summer songs.
How Connor’s death rocked Adam’s world and made him realize how short and fragile life really is. That he didn’t get to see him play his Senior Baseball Game, or even just say goodbye.
I often think that I am floating on this grief island all alone. That just because he was my son, no one can miss him as much as me. That no one can be as devastated and hurt as I am. When I read things like what was sent to me I remember that isn’t true.
Connor touched so many lives, not just the over 400 people that filed through his wake, and the equally as many that came to the Funeral Service. He touches lives with every blog post I write, with every ball that was thrown at North River Park, and every time those lights are flipped on at the FCTS Football Field. Every time Brad and Jarred pull horses Connor’s memory is there, hitching evener, last time I watched them pull I swore I saw him out of the corner of my eye.
He may have been my son, but he didn’t live or die in a vacuum. He was loved, cherished and missed by all that he encountered.
A simple Facebook interaction between Grieving Moms has brought me to this realization. We are all “Beautifully Broken”. We are all learning how to navigate this new world that we live in.
Some of us use therapy to navigate, some of us cry until it feels like our eyelashes will fall out, there may be screaming, drinking and even some smoking involved. Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds (Valium, Xanax, etc) are often on board for when it feels like “the walls are caving in”.
But when it comes right down to it, we rely on ourselves, our family and the group of friends that we surround ourselves with. Our tribe, the people we know we can run to when times are tough, they don’t care if our mascara runs when we cry, we talk about our lost child endlessly, or just wanna talk about mundane things so maybe we don’t cry this time.
We are the Beautifully Broken Souls of Franklin County, and most specifically the Hill Towns. We have found each other with this common loss, living in an area so small it may feel like we live in each others pockets. At times that can be a bit claustrophobic, but in times like this, that closeness forges a bond that can’t be found anywhere else. A bond forged by the loss we never wanted, or expected, but it turned us into The Beautifully Broken Sisters of Franklin County💔💔❤️💙
Tuesday I gave out the #3ConnorStrong Memorial Strong Scholarship at FCTS Awards Night for the second time. This year wasn’t as hard, that doesn’t mean it was easy, just not as hard. I rehearsed my speech at least 25 times to keep the tears in check. Wore a black dress with my favorite flip flops so I wouldn’t break my neck in case I had to walk down lots of bleachers to get to the podium. The last thing I wanted to do was slip and fall with a pair of 3″ heels and make a spectacle of myself.
This speech actually had a little bit of body to it, I spoke about Connor, his accident, subsequent death and love of the trade. How this scholarship is paying that love forward. Nate Smith, the young man that got this years scholarship is attending Bunker Hill Community College. In the Eversource Lineman Apprentice Program. I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving to get this years award.
Paying it forward is what makes this whole thing a little easier at this time of year. Making sure Connor’s legacy lives on, I know in my heart those of us who loved him with all of our hearts and souls won’t forget him. I just need to make sure that the rest of the world doesn’t either.
It’s Mother’s Day and it’s raining (or actually snowing at my house in Western Mass). It is actually fitting for how I feel about Mother’s Day now. Mother’s Day used to be a day that I looked forward to, the boys (with help from Mark) would make me breakfast in bed.
Then they would go off and do whatever they wanted and let me do whatever I wanted to do. Whether it was relaxing and reading, one year we took a hike up the Ledges, one year it was nice enough to sit in the sun on the back deck. Regardless it was a day for me to just do what I wanted surrounded by my boys.
To say that things have drastically changed would be an understatement. With Connor gone there is a huge piece of my heart missing, Kyle has done a great job stepping up, last year it was lunch out, this year he made a surprise visit to join me in CT. He brought with him a Fuchsia plant for my mom and a GC for my to go sit in a Hot Tub at East Heaven❤️😊!
Wanting what you can’t have was a foreign concept to me before Connor died. If I wanted it, I worked hard, and attained it, now no matter how hard I work, wish and think. What I want I can’t have. What I want is Connor back, that headstone in Calvary Cemetery to not exist, the events of November 6, 2017 to not have happened. But I can’t have any of those things, instead I will cherish what I have.
A son that loves me, his girlfriend that makes him happy and that makes me happy. A husband that loves me, and I love him. Together we are weathering this grief storm as a strong couple, I have great friends that are there when I need them, whether it is a quick text, or a night out for munchies and drinks. My circle is full, tight and loving.
No matter how many other Grieving Moms you talk to, and how many books you read. Nothing prepares you for the days of deep despair and depression that grips you. The days that I miss Connor so much that everything makes me sad, everything reminds me of him, and the tragedy that changed our lives forever. When the accident happened this sorrow, despair and sadness was an everyday occurrence. I carried a box of Kleenex with me every where I went. I tried to just go to work, and then home. I was honestly afraid that if someone asked me how I was I would fall apart.
I soon learned that I couldn’t control my emotions like I used to. I used to be able to put on the happy face and run into Big Y and grab a head of lettuce. Make small talk with the people in the checkout and be on my way. Those days are long gone, now it is a production, can I put sunglasses on, are there cars in the parking lot I recognize, do I really need the butter, or can I just substitute the olive oil I have at home, why doesn’t Big Y have a damn drive thru?
I wish I could say that I was as strong as I looked, but recently I had to admit that the control I thought I had was as fragile as a spider web. Depression and the treatment for it isn’t dirty words, despite what Tom Cruise or his precious Scientology may believe. Depression is a byproduct of the sadness and grief that results from the loss of our children. It will take time, work and medication to get through this.