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April 2019

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

Most times when you are raising a child and you have a problem, you can keep that problem in the house. No one knows about it, no one can judge you for it, you can resolve it in your own way and in your own time. Every once in a while, however, something happens in the public eye. Remember those tantrums at Toys R Us when your child would scream blue, bloody murder because you wouldn’t buy them those Pokémon cards and it felt like EVERYONE was looking at you and labeling you the world’s worst parent with the world’s worst kid? lol I know I could never get out of the store fast enough so I could hide in my Momvan. This is about one of those times.

It’s Grade Seven and the beginning of another school day. We are at home doing the usual get ready for school things: brushing teeth, making lunches, yelling the countdown for how many minutes before the bus will get there. Logan is still at Glenwood and goes in with me every day which allows him a few more lollygag moments. John and I honestly don’t remember what happened, but obviously something pushed Luke’s buttons and next thing we know he is gone. Like out the door gone and we don’t know where he is gone. I start walking the streets and calling his name like it’s a weird game of hide and go seek. At this point in our neighborhood we have a lot more woods and more places to hide. It’s daylight, obviously, lol, but I can’t see him anywhere. Clearly all those nights of Manhunt were working in his favor. After a while I start to think maybe he decided to walk to school. We live within a mile and a half of Central Tree and the weather was good so it was a possibility. I pack myself up and I head over.

Eric Githmark is one of those principals you dream about. I believe what set him apart was his genuine interest in the well-being and success of his students, his families, and his staff. He loved each and every one of the children in his care and they knew it. He was also funny and relatable. Eric formed relationships and I was grateful for ours on this morning.

I am sure I was a bit distraught when I showed up at the front desk. I asked if Luke had made it in and when the secretary, poor Sue!, informed me he hadn’t, I immediately became emotional and asked to speak to Eric. Eric’s door was always open and he ushered me in to his office. As I spilled my words out about what had transpired that morning, as well as some of the difficulties we had been experiencing with Luke, Eric’s eyes were caring and sympathetic. His demeanor calmed me down and he made a few suggestions/comments about how this might go next. Then he told me, “I’m sorry, Patty, but if Luke isn’t here in an hour, I have to notify the police.” Already in disbelief at being in the principal’s office for the first time, this piece of information floored me. How was this happening to me? And now the police might potentially be involved?

My next stop was home to pick up Logan and take him to school where I then had to inform my principal, my boss, that I was going to be late because I needed to find my son. Tony Gasbarro was another incredible human being and administrator. Tony always believed in family first and my temporary absence didn’t ruffle him at all. I, on the other hand, was mortified. I am your typical high-achieving employee – never late, never sick, always handling my responsibilities and more. But Mr. G understood and sent me on my way.

When I returned to our neighborhood, I decided to make one more round of the cul-de-sacs and the woods. I hollered Luke’s name over and over again. At the same time John was texting Luke to let him know we wanted him to come home, that we weren’t mad, that if he wasn’t home soon the police would be coming. I’m not sure what strategy worked, but next thing I know John is texting me to let me know that Luke was back in the house. There was no big blow up, no extensive conversation, we just piled into the car and took Luke to school. I know Eric had a conversation with Luke about what had happened, but he didn’t get a detention or anything. I know I had a conversation with Tony, but the day pretty much went back to being any other day. What I also know is it was at that exact moment that I realized the cat was out of the bag. Our ability, or inability as the case may be, to handle this challenging side to our boy, was now public knowledge. What had once been a family problem, a private problem, was going to be the topic of conversation at the staff lounge of the schools and at the bus stops around Rutland. The moral of the story is… once something is out, well, you just can’t put it back in a nice neat little package again. And Luke Inwood, problem child, was out.

So here’s what I need you to know: We all have an inflated sense of self. Whether you are ten or thirty, when something goes wrong we feel like the entire world is watching. Tripped over the curb coming out of the mall? Everyone in their car saw that. Dropped spaghetti on your lap during dinner? Everyone at the restaurant and all the servers are looking and now making fun of you. But the truth is we spend 99.9% of our time thinking about OURSELVES. All of us – you, me, the delivery person – are all so self-absorbed we don’t have time to ponder what everyone else is wearing, drinking, eating, planning. We only think about ourselves. Try and remember that the next time you are in an embarrassing situation. And if you DO catch someone in a compromising scenario, or you are witness to a run in between a parent and a challenging child, don’t judge. Be kind. Always. Everyone is doing the best they can. 🙂

I need you to know

Ball is Life

I can’t possibly do this topic justice. To try and sum up Luke’s relationship with basketball in one blog is like trying to get a fourth scoop of ice cream into a cone. It’s possible but not wise. lol So I will record my musings and for those of you out there that played the game with my boy, forgive a mother for too few words.

Luke always enjoyed basketball when he played Rec for the Town of Rutland in the lower grades. He was tall, which was a help, but he also had a good head for the game and excellent hand-eye coordination. So he did okay. But it was in middle school that basketball became his life. Not only did he play for the school, but the courts uptown were close by, so after school or on half days the kids would wander over and spend their time battling one another, teasing the hell out of one another, and just generally having a good time.

Luke loved everything about the game. He could spend hours alone in the driveway or up at the courts practicing his shot. He was always bummed out if the weather got in his way. He loved watching LeBron on TV and would often debate his merits as the greatest player of all time. LeBron was a God in Luke’s books and I have no doubt he inspired him to be the best he could.

I wish more than anything I could get in Luke’s head and tell you what he thought when he played ball and why he loved it, but I can only give you my vantage point as the *watcher*. Nothing made me happier than observing Luke play a sport he loved. I actually liked his competitive spirit that bordered on obnoxious lol In eighth grade he disclaimed that he would set a new record for scoring for the middle school. Kevin Mailman loved to tease him about this as Luke’s season went up and down till one day after a rough game and a lot of trash talking from Kev, Luke called him out as *being a dick*. This is a story better told by Kevin, lol, but needless to say they both got a firm talking to by Miss Patty about the merits of being kind to one another. Only thirteen year old Luke would have the nerve to speak to an adult this way, lol.

Luke went to the Wachusett Basketball camp at the high school and thoroughly enjoyed playing on the big courts and interacting with new coaches. Luke was named Best Rebounder that summer, a feat repeated by his brother two years later. Taking his game to the next level, Luke tried out for travel teams in the area and was thrilled when he made it. It is one thing to play rec ball, one thing to play for your school, and a whole other thing to try out and be deemed damn fine enough in a group of young athletes that you make a travel team. The practices were tough, the competition fierce, and Luke was definitely intimidated, but driven to do well. It was at one of our first tourneys in Boston that we realized the level of ball being played outside of Rutland. It was also there that Luke realized he wasn’t the tallest kid in the pack lol.

Funny boy strikes again lol

So two more quick things about Luke and basketball. First, Luke ended up in a scenario where the consequence of his actions resulted in us taking him out of travel ball. Trust me, it was a big deal that required a big consequence, but as John and I reflect now we regret this more than any other part of how we raised Luke. Basketball was his life, his identity, his source of joy and we stripped him of it. It makes me cry now thinking about how lost he was at this time in his life because he couldn’t get out and compete on the courts. I am now a huge believer in consequences to match the infraction – not consequences just to punish. Unfortunately, we can’t go back and undo that one so we live with that.

Luke also was unable to play ball for the high school because he didn’t have the grades. I could go on forever about what a loss this was, but ultimately Luke ended up playing rec ball again. God bless the adults in town that decided we needed a new recreation league for high school kids. Luke always had something to say about the quality of players on his team, lol but the obvious enjoyment he received from being out there was priceless. The games didn’t always have the most finesse, but the battle was always fun to watch. Luke just always looked at home, comfortable, confident on the courts. It was his happy place and I am grateful he had this outlet in his life.

We could have done any number of things to remember and celebrate Luke, but The King of the Courts tournament was the most fitting. It has turned into what I lovingly call my most favorite day of the year. About a hundred young men and women come out, whether for fun or for bragging rights lol. It isn’t pretty, it’s totally streetball, but nothing and I mean NOTHING makes me feel closer to Luke than being on that court with those kids on this day.

So here’s what I need you to know: When you lose a child you look back often and think about the good things and the hard things. My advice is Try to spend more time focused on the highlights, on what put a smile on your child’s face because it will surely do that for you now. I am grateful Luke had something he loved to do and that we were able to find a way to make it possible for him to play. A ball in his hands and his boys by his side. That was his life right there. May we always remember to keep it so simple. Xxx

The FIrst Days

What’s Not To Love

I know, I know… I am a day late. This damn four year mark really threw me for a loop and I just couldn’t sit down and type. But here I am. This past week I have heard from many of you about how hard it has been to read these last few blogs as you didn’t know just how challenging Luke was at times. I have been reflecting and looking back on life with my boy, as I always do this time of year, and you need to know there is so much more to love about Luke Inwood than anything else. And what better day to share what made him so special than today. Some of his friends have sent their reasons why they loved him, too. Thank you to each and everyone of you for reaching out and sharing your story. Xxx

“We had a 1000 reasons to love Luke. He was a friend when it mattered and when I needed help he was always there. He made me a little tougher, a little funnier, and all of us a little bit better person.” – Justin

I loved how much Luke loved animals. Luke never met a cat or a dog that he couldn’t speak to or convince to curl up and love him. We called him the animal whisperer. Once, when we were visiting my sister in Canada, Luke went to pet their dog and it bit him. Most little kids would have developed a phobia, but Luke just went right on connecting with the creatures of the planet. He was so very gentle. I miss the sound he would make to call ShaNayNay over – she would follow him anywhere.

“He never failed to help a hurting heart out.” – Paige

I loved how much Luke loved to read. It was honestly one of the things I was most proud of. No matter the challenges at school, I knew how much he loved to get into a book. Ha, I remember meeting his English teacher in high school and telling her about how he inhaled books he read so much and she was so shocked! Books were also one of the only ways Luke could distract his brain from his anxiety. Thank goodness for all those viking series! Luke was convinced he was a warrior in another lifetime. lol

“One reason I love Luke was his ungodly drive to always stick to his word. If that man said he was gonna do something, absolutely nothing stood in his way. He would do every possible thing in his power to accomplish that goal regardless of how hard or borderline impossible it was. ” – Camden

I loved how much Luke loved music. Luke was raised listening to all kinds of tunes so there wasn’t really a genre he didn’t like. Once Luke could drive I could always here him coming down the road because his tunes were blaring full blast. Luke was well known for his mix of tunes and I loved the day I stumbled onto his YouTube music channels after he passed away. It is just such an indicator of who he was. Long live the man in black!

“The fact that Luke was able to make ANY situation more light-hearted and funny. It didn’t matter who was fighting, arguing, or mad. One single word from him had everyone laughing out loud.” – Madi

When your parents won’t buy you a pool, you improvise.

I loved Luke’s sense of humor. Luke was a damn funny kid and he was always telling me to chill because I took things too seriously. He was so quick-witted and sarcastic that you really needed your A-game if you wanted to get into it with him. lol I always loved hearing the banter between the boys when they would come over. You weren’t safe from a jab or two in that crowd, but they could all take it as well as they dished it. Luke’s sense of humor is something we hear about often from his friend group, and of course, Tracey always said he was the funniest kid she ever met. Xxx

“HIS SENSE OF HUMOR!! He didn’t hold back when he was jokingly making fun of his friends and it was hilarious. ” – Antonia

I loved how much Luke loved what he loved. Luke was never one of those kids who tried a million and one things trying to figure out who he was or what he was into. Luke had a narrow list of passions and explored each one with all that he had. Whether it was Fantasy Football or little army setups, basketball or gaming, that boy invested his time and his whole heart into his interests. Driven and dedicated are the words that come to my mind.

Middle school Basketball

“The way he ALWAYS went out of his way to make anyone laugh! Luke was the first person to make me laugh no matter what the situation AND if he didn’t he would try his very hardest to.” – Brie

I loved how much Luke loved his friends. Luke may not have been much of a family guy, but he LOVED his friend group. He was loyal and fiercely protective and those kids were the number one reason he went to school. There isn’t a one he wouldn’t have done anything for and it shows in how they remember him now.

“If you seemed upset he cared and he cared a lot. Despite having his shell around him of being the funny sarcastic guy, if one of his friends was upset he cared and he was persistent until you told him the issue or until he could make you laugh. He could also make you so mad and frustrated, but that’s simply because we all loved him. If we didn’t love him the things he would do or say wouldn’t affect us. He was a good friend, a funny friend, the one who would roast you but would also be there for you anytime he could tell something wasn’t right.” – Rylee

I loved how cool Luke was. Have you ever met someone and you instantly get that vibe that they are so cool they really don’t care what you think about them ’cause they are that chill and self-assured? And you instantly try harder to get them to approve of you? Luke was that kid. When he looked at you or said something to give you the impression he didn’t give a shit, he really didn’t give a shit. lol And I was always trying to get that approval. But that’s a story for another day. I am going to give the final word to Austin and if this story doesn’t sum up the complex beautiful being we call Luke Inwood I don’t know what does.

“It must’ve been later in the school years because we were both sitting at the back of the bus and despite Luke’s insistence that we belonged there no matter what age, we didn’t really end up owning the seats until we were older. Didn’t stop him from trying every day regardless. Anyway, one day I didn’t talk much and he noticed, and despite how much of an egotistical kid he was, he was stupidly loyal to his friends.

We got off the bus and I would say he suggested basketball but he suggested basketball in the way my mom would suggest that I should do the dishes – that is to say I had no choice in the matter. And for as long as I can remember, Luke would grab the ball, shoot the ball, and talk about his problems. He’d shoot in that ugly-ass motion not even a mother could love and break down his life. But that day he didn’t. He grabbed the shitty and semi-flat black ball and tossed it to me. I obviously proceeded to brick the shot and rather that take it himself as rules dictate, he dished it back. And although I definitely airballed it more than I ever hit iron, I shot and shot and shot. And ranted. I wish I knew what about because I think it would be funny to know what I was so angry about because I know it had to be something so trivial. But it didn’t matter. What did matter was Luke was my friend.

Luke was self- centered. As someone who also is, it’s easy to recognize. But when his friends really needed him, the ego left. It was about being there for his boys, and making sure they were okay. And although the content of the problems may not have mattered, it mattered to him that it bothered a friend. And for that I will always love the kid.” – Austin

Milestones

I Wish

Losing a loved one, especially a child, is full of regret and mine is no exception. You don’t know, of course, when the last day is going to be, and as a result, when you look back after the fact, the “I wish” thoughts can pile up like a week of laundry. I often wish I had a Polaroid picture that had captured what Luke himself deemed “the best four days with the boys in forever”. Luke, unbeknownst to us, had taken himself off Adderall cold turkey the Friday before he passed away. The result was a more open, more relaxed, more joyful Luke Inwood than we had seen in a while. I attribute it to the lack of Adderall, but maybe it was a coming to terms with the actions he knew he was going to take sooner than later and the peace and freedom that came from knowing that the pain was a short term thing. We’ll never know.

So, to mark the week that to me will always be the end, here are a few of my wishes:

I wish I hadn’t tried so hard.  I hear this over and over in my head. 
Don’t try so hard, Mom! Luke used to yell this time and time again.
If you know me, you know I live to be loved lol and I worked hard to
get my children’s approval, as well.  There is nothing more dangerous than a Type A stay at home mom! lol  I wanted a better relationship with Lukester, but the more I asked questions or tried to be part of his life, the more he pushed me away. The harsh reality is that teens need a persona separate from their parents and we need to accept that this is a healthy part of growing up.

I wish I had hugged him more. That last day I went into his room and gently shook his leg to wake him up for school. Moments before that, I looked at him like I always did – you know when you take a second and just see your kids sleeping there, at peace, with that easy look on their faces? And you get that warm feeling in your heart? Because no matter how old they are or how big their bodies get, they are forever your child. I love those moments. Sigh. Awake, Luke always got annoyed when I touched him – whether I rubbed his hair or tried to hug him and he was so prickly I always backed off because he made me feel so bad for it. Now, I wish I had told him it was my right as the momma and he would just have to suffer through it. I have trained Logan better. lol

I wish we had more Forced Family Fun. My good friend, Tracey, introduced me to this term and it’s a keeper. When your children hit the middle school and high school years they feel entitled and no longer want to join you on holiday or participate in birthdays or special occasions. Tracey says Poppycock! Forced Family Fun is the rule of the day and you will be there. End of discussion. Well done, girl! I, on the other hand, let my Luke run the show and if he didn’t want to do something, he didn’t. So our family was seldom a family and it hurt my heart then, and it hurts my heart now thinking on it. Forced Family Fun reminds kiddos that you are a unit and that family is the most important thing. Don’t let it go.

So here’s what I need you to know: If today is your Day One my heart is with you as the *I wishes* pile up and cloud your thinking. You and I both know there isn’t anything we wouldn’t do to get one more day with our sweet child. But we can’t. And for that I am sorry. All we have is those wishes. So know you did your best. Know that you came from a place of love. And anything that stems from a place of love and good intention, well, it can’t possibly be wrong now, can it? Sending you peace. Xxx

I need you to know, Milestones