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August 2019


When Luke started Grade Nine I suddenly heard a LOT of references to Francesca and Antonia. Now with a first name like PATTY – so plain, so seventies – no offence, Mummy, lol, I thought these were such glamorous, feminine names and I could only imagine the young ladies that went with them. Unfortunately, I never actually got to meet either gal until after Luke passed away, but it was clear that from the start they both definitely had a piece of his heart.

Francesca, aka Fran, came into my world the night of Luke’s wake. This waif, with the longest strawberry blonde hair, was sobbing and being supported, literally held up, by a posse of female friends. When she got to the front of the line she looked at me with these huge eyes and said only two words, “I’m Fran.” And two words was all she needed. Because behind those two words was a history – an on-again, off-again romance with Luke. John and I were both aware of how much Luke had cared about this girl. Not from our son’s lips, well, he did make the odd comment, but mostly from everything we found after Luke’s death – the letters, the pictures, the endless text messages. Back in the day, to hear Luke tell it, he and Fran had an intense relationship. He thought she was beautiful and smart and more than a little crazy. lol Crazy in Luke’s world meant she was difficult and trying to control him and we all know how he felt about being controlled. Oi. I don’t want to speak for her, but Fran tells me that as much as they cared for each other, she and Luke were never on the same page at the same time so the boyfriend and girlfriend stage, as most people would define it, didn’t really happen for them. They spent four years going in and out of each other’s world. In an interesting twist of fate, Luke and Fran came together the weekend before he passed away. How’s that for timing? Sigh. Star-crossed lovers for eternity.

Back at the wake Fran falls into my arms, and as she cries, I hold her tight and run my hand repeatedly down her hair, like a momma soothing her child. I remember well the ache of high school love when it is over and to have an ending like this one, well, let’s just say in that moment, Fran became mine.

And I love this girl. Well, she is a young lady now. 🙂 Fran has been gracious enough to share her Luke Inwood and their relationship with me in all of it’s glorious imperfection. She loved his James Dean looks; she did not like being on the receiving end of his sarcasm. She has the best memories of being on the phone with Luke, talking through the night, and watching the sun come up. These past four years I have come to truly value our friendship. She checks in on my heart regularly. She visits where Luke rests easy and then often comes over to see me ice coffees in hand. She shares her new life with me and isn’t afraid to tell me when she has had too much to drink, lol, – Curse you College! – or is maybe crushing on a new young sir. At a time when many of the kiddos have moved up and on, Fran continues to be a steady presence in mine. I love you, Francesca Cavallo!

So here’s what I need you to know, My sweet Fran: High school came to one hell of an ending for you. I KNOW the weight of what you carry every single day. It is not your fault. It is not your fault. It is not your fault. And even though your relationship with Luke wasn’t what you hoped it would be- even though it’s not a fairytale romance- you had LOVE. And as I have had to come to terms with, just because Luke didn’t love us the way we wanted, it doesn’t mean he didn’t love us as best he could. And he did. Once upon a day, or maybe it was more like in the wee hours of the night. There will always be a part of his heart that belongs only to you.

I have a song that makes me think of each of the kids ( cause that’s how I am, lol) and this is the one that will forever remind me of Luke and Fran. It’s a TSwift song that came out right around the same time Luke passed away and it’s about a couple that go in and out of a relationship. The James Dean reference didn’t hurt. Here’s to young love. Xxx

The Rise and Fall

Hashtag Blessed

I feel like we spend a lot of time thinking about what we don’t have. Things like – I have a car, but I wish I had that Audi my neighbor drives. I have an above ground pool, but it would be so much better to have an inground one like the Goodneys. I live in a Colonial, but just imagine what life would be like if I had a five bedroom mansion on the water like the Nadeaus. I think we are a society that is constantly comparing ourselves and our achievements to what we see in our community and on social media, and in our minds, we always come up short.

Sometimes what we complain about not having is trivial. I spent an evening with the Hope Lives Here Angels Wednesday and photographer, Jean Giguere, was kind enough to capture it on film. When she sent me the gallery this weekend all I could see in every picture was my arms, lol. My big ole farm girl arms. And I thought to myself, I wish I had long, slim arms like that Robyn Foley. HA! I seriously perseverated on this for a solid half hour before I remembered that my arms are my arms and short of causing bodily harm to my good friend, Robyn, I am never going to have her arms. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But you know you have done the same. Whether it’s hair or abs or longer legs, we spend more time contemplating how our bodies could be better than appreciating what we have. Sigh, I am NEVER getting that thirty minutes back. lol

Sometimes our longings are important and need to recognized and reflected upon. A few years back one of the lovelies in my life was going through a difficult time. Not in a trivial way, either – it was more of a “I’m making life choices that could well, end my life” kind of time. So, note to self, this will always get you a visit from Miss Patty. I picked the Young Sir up and we went for a drive. He talked about what was happening in his world and how hard his life had been thus far. And he wasn’t wrong. Knowing his background I agreed that life had thrown him more than his fair share of shit to deal with and as a result he had issues. Unfortunately for him, I , too, was built on “issues”, so the understanding was there, but the pity party was not. We arrived at My destination – Luke’s resting place. Now it was winter so had to park the car and trudge through the snow over to Luke’s headstone. As was my routine, I brushed it off and knelt down to draw a heart in the snow with my glove. “You’re making a point here, aren’t you?” he says. And I was. For what this lovely had forgotten was what he HAD: Breath in his body, possibilities to explore, a future. And a Momma that loved him and would be devastated without him. He had LIFE and he needed a gentle reminder of that. Turns out we all need reminding of what a gift this is every once in a while.

So here’s what I need you to know: The Young Sir from the story above has had a happy ending. He is a master of catchy phrases and my favorite is, “It’s a great time to be alive.” And isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be amazing if we celebrated what we are fortunate to have every day ? There are more countries on our planet than not where mommas struggle to provide their kiddos with basic needs – food, shelter, water. Here we are in North America outfitting our children with cell phones, and fast food, and Coach purses. Maybe we take a small moment to be grateful that we can do that. And what about our health? Until we get a diagnosis that forces us to worry, we often take for granted the beautiful body we live in. Perhaps we change that self talk to I am strong and flexible and these arms are made for hugging, lol. Don’t get me wrong – as a grieving momma I battle daily with the weight of missing and longing and why me’s and why don’t I have’s. But what gets me through, what pushes me forward, what gives me HOPE is focusing on what I have – the love of my family and friends, the support of not one, but two amazing communities, and what my husband says is my best feature… my really big… eyes, lol. Hashtag Blessed.

I need you to know

The Tribe

In a few short weeks Logan will be back to college so John and I decided to host a barbeque this weekend and have some of his friends over. We have listened to Lolo talk all year about these new kids in his life. Interestingly, a good portion of them, including the girlfriend, reside in Braintree of all places. It has been fun putting faces to the names as they have started to make an appearance at our house over the last four months . It has also been a gift to John and I to sit amongst them and listen to them interact. There is always so much laughter and smart conversation. As I watched them all together in the screened-in porch Saturday night I was filled with so much JOY – Logan is just so happy, friends – and I thought to myself, I really, really like all these kids. The more I pondered why I like them so well I realized it was because they are so much like Logan – responsible, intelligent, funny, courteous young adults. Logan has found his tribe.

I think middle school and high school are more challenging for those of us who don’t have a tribe. You know, that group of people you fit in with without TRYING to fit in. Part of it is we often don’t even know who we are in those years. We spend a lot of time adopting different personas and assessing to see what works – some are too constraining, others too over the top, always looking for the one that feels ‘just right’. Add to the mix that we are also attempting to emulate the people we admire and perhaps incorporate some of their character traits and we end up with a less than true version of ourselves. I explain to people that I considered myself quite the chameleon in high school. I went to five different high schools and was a completely different version of myself in each one. I was too afraid to be “me”. Who would possible like Patty Dean just the way I was?

So some of us are lucky and feel good in our skin and have a group of people we can socialize with and be happy around in high school. And some of us don’t. And it’s AGONY. And incredibly lonely. It is difficult to be a group of ONE in a high school of 1000; or in the cafeteria at lunch; or on Instagram with the whole world tracking your unpopularity. But what I know now – what I would tell my younger self if I could – and want to HOLLER from the High School roof top to every teen is –


Because that is the truth. The older we get, the more we attract and find people who are just like us. Part of it is, the older we are, the more we accept and love who we are on the inside. Part of it is the people in the world outside of high school are a lot more diverse and the chances of meeting someone just like you increase. HOLD ON! I say. Here’s our boy, Logan, fresh out of Wachusett mingling and mixing with a whole new crew with common interests and passions. I, myself, didn’t find my tribe till my thirties. Self-love is often a looooong journey lol.

So here’s what you need to know: If you are reading this and you have a child struggling with feeling left out in middle school or high school let them know their time is coming. Talk to them about your own journey to find your friend-family. I know, I know, they aren’t listening to anything their parents say, but it always layers in their somewhere. This is a message the kiddos need to hear from you, from me, from Ellen, lol, from EVERYONE. Your tribe is out there. It might not be middle school. It might not even be high school. But they are out there. You are not alone. They are waiting for YOU. Hold on.

I need you to know

For A Good Time Call

To say Luke was social is an understatement.  Anytime I want to think about Luke at his happiest, I just close my eyes and pull up any of the pictures I have engrained in my brain of Luke and his friends.  He is always smiling in those photos and it isn’t the fake “smile cause I’m taking your picture” smile, but an honest to goodness “life can’t get any better than this” smile.  He freaking loved being with his people.

I know I have remarked before that the only reason Luke kept going to high school was his social life. ?  It’s a darn shame sitting in the cafeteria and holding court all day – chatting up the lads and ladies and laughing at EVERYTHING – wasn’t worthy of class credits. Lol Luke would have graduated with HONORS.

Would love to know what this is all about lol

Apparently, my boy also had a reputation for wandering the halls of Wachusett instead of sitting at his desk.  I had one of Luke’s teachers tell me it always brought a smile to her face when Luke would magically appear at her door, while she was teaching, when he clearly should have been somewhere else and just say, “Hey, what’s going on in here?  What are we learning today?”  Cheeky bugger!  It does this momma’s heart good to think that there were moments in Luke’s high school career that made him happy. 

Starting high school added a whole new level to Luke’s social life.  Suddenly, he didn’t just have the Rutland kids to hang with but all the other 9th graders from the surrounding towns.  I spent every weekend carting his backside to Sterling and Paxton and Holden parties.  I still can’t figure out if somebody’s parents were always out of town or if they were home and just oblivious to the shenanigans, lol, but this kid was like a gosh darn celebrity with all his constant soirees. 

Obviously, I didn’t witness Luke’s partying first-hand, so I reached out to some of the kiddos to see if they had any comments or stories to share.  My gratitude for their honesty lol and for continuing to share their Luke Inwood with me. 

“When I would go to T’s and Luke was there you could just tell he was in his element and just so happy to be around his friends.  I think he got enjoyment from making others happy and knowing they were having fun.” – Toni

“The night was 1000 times better if Luke was there and if he wasn’t there, something about the night was always missing.” – Taylor G.

Brendan, Luke, and Thad

“Luke absolutely ran the pong table with Thad.  Luke was the king of the parties in general, it wasn’t even Thad that would invite me to the party, it was Luke. Lol. It was all his people and he loved it.” – Camden

“One time a bunch of boys were spending the night at T’s and Luke had the idea to go ding dong ditching. None of us were that excited about it so Luke really started selling it and finally persuaded everyone 12 Angry Men style. He got us all hyped up and right as we were leaving to go he said something like the idea was dumb and he decided to take a nap while we all went. Hahahaha. Still… he really knew how to get everyone riled up.” – Billy

“I don’t think anything will ever beat Luke smashing beer cans on a table and making them explode so badly that the stains are still on T’s basement ceiling.” – Brendan

“I’ll never forget that time when I had people over, and Luke came out in the middle of the party wearing a ghillie suit for airsoft.” – Jeff

And finally this story that TWO of the kids sent me:

“One time this girl was having a party at her house and some of the Rutland dudes didn’t get an invite and we were at my house.  Luke and I drove to the party and we went inside and told everyone I was having a party at my house and then everyone ditched the party to come over.  We had been slighted and something had to be done!” – Jeff

Now don’t forget to not judge me here friends. lol We parents do our best when our children are trying to navigate the social scene.  We hope everyone is behaving and making good choices, but hey, we went to high school parties – we know what’s going on.  It is a group of kids pushing limits and boundaries and thinking they are way more adult-like then they are.  Most important is it’s a group of kids getting together to have FUN.  I was not that girl growing up so I wanted my children to have a great group of friends that they could hang out with and make memories.  Mission accomplished!  That Luke Inwood lived LARGE!! And there is nothing, and I mean nothing, that makes me grin like these dang stories.  There is a quote out there that says “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a ride!”  I am confident Luke went sliding in…fast and furious…. Xxx

The FIrst Days