I am not often at a loss for words, but today… I am. Life these days is… well… a lot. So, instead I bring you a little love. Hold onto it, friends. Xxx
Buckle up, friends. I had discontinued my telling of the Rise and Fall of Luke Inwood because we were handling all that Covid stuff. Spirits were low and I didn’t want to add to it, but… here we are. It’s time.
Speaking of time, I have had a number of parents tell me one of the things they are relishing during this period of Learning at Home is not having to fight every morning with their kiddos about getting up and getting out the door to go to school. Is this maybe one of the biggest battles we face with some of our children? Preach, sister! lol
I feel like you are either a morning person or a night owl from birth, and for kids who are night owls that daily struggle to wake up and get on a bus for school is excruciating. EXCRUTIATING, I say! I have detailed to eternity my daily routine of shaking Luke’s leg and my whole schtick I would go through to eventually get him on the bus. UGH. In those last years, either I was driving him to high school or he was driving himself, but despite our best efforts and intentions… he was ALWAYS late. Curse you, Dunks! Lol.
Now truth be told he usually wasn’t late by much. I don’t do tardy, so when I was his driver he usually slid into the lobby of Wachusett just on the bell or barely after. Minutes. When he was driving himself his number of minutes increased to ten. Consistently. It was like he was just a beat behind. If School started at 7:20, that boy would roll up at 7:30. Every day. But you know what, friends. He was THERE.
Unfortunately, there is no gray and no exceptions to the “You must show up at school on time” rule. If I remember correctly, and I may not, every three times Luke was late, he got a detention. And he was always late. Now let’s just think about this. How many detentions can one child serve? And to what point? And if they don’t serve, they go to Saturday school. No, it is not as glamorous and cool as the scenes you remember from the Breakfast Club, lol. And for our boy Luke… it was another brick in the wall.
I think you have probably come to some conclusions around what Luke looked like in a school environment and I think it is safe to say…. he didn’t look like the usual kid. But our school systems are SO RIGID, we can’t think outside the box and ask, how do we make this work for this child? He’s here, at least. Maybe we let the tardies go? Maybe we say no tardy unless he’s twenty minutes late? Flexibility? Unique cases consideration? Pshhh… That is not the reality of our school systems, friends.
In February of 2015 Luke was DROWNING in tardies and d-halls. DROWNING. When you hate school you can’t sit through classes all day and then be expected to sit through d-hall and then be expected to go to Saturday school on top of all that. John and I were concerned about Luke’s mental state and we wrote an email to the school hoping we could *figure something out*. There was no light at the end of the tunnel for Luke and we were desperate. Rules are rules are rules, Mr. and Mrs. Inwood. Sigh. Thank you for not helping.
The last Saturday in March, two weeks before he would die, Luke had Saturday school. I am sitting in my chair drinking my coffee when I realize the time is getting late and Luke is not going to make it to his d-hall. Because you can also be tardy to Saturday school, friends. They lock the doors and you can’t get in. See you next week, sucker. SO – I am panicked, because I am the MOM and panic is my job. I jump up from my chair, start yelling “LUKE, YOU’RE GONNA BE LATE!” at the top of my lungs and promptly smash my left foot into the hand weight that I had left in my path post-workout. True story. It is one ugly toe now, lol, but it makes me giggle and sigh every time I look down at it. Luke? He didn’t make it.
So here’s what I need you to know: I am a rule follower. Well, my boss will tell you I like rules that work for me, lol. But truly, I am the one you find walking between the lines. I do not suggest that we take individual circumstances into consideration lightly. I like my kids in a row at school, I want homework turned in on time, I want you to raise your hand if you have something to say. I like expected outcomes. Control. But what I have learned- in the years of raising Luke and then losing him – is that life is not a one size fits all experience. Kids have changed, friends. Whether we like it or not, they are more sensitive, more complicated. And we have to respond. Educators are taught to meet a child where they are academically and then work like hell to get them to where we need them to be. Why should it be any different for behavioral and mental health concerns? And I want to be clear, here. This is not a Wachusett thing. This is an everybody thing.
I am going to say when we know better we do better. And we damn well know better now, folks. If you are raising your own Luke Inwood, don’t just ask what can be done differently, demand it. #IHaveRegrets. If you are teachers or administrators, don’t be afraid to get out of the box and really, truly consider the needs of these special circumstances kind of kids. There are only ever one or two Luke Inwood kind of kiddos in a grade. They don’t need more discipline. They need help. I dream of a future where we identify each of these kiddos and meet them where they are. You might be only asking to add minutes to a start time, but it might just add moments to a life. #NotOneMore.
A few individuals have crossed my path these past weeks, all of whom are struggling – struggling due to trauma, Covid19, heck, just LIFE. I have offered to help, as one does in these situations, but my services were declined. “I’m fine,” they tell me. “It’s okay.” “I’ll be alright.” And so I go on my way. But I have a nagging feeling in the back of my head, that perhaps this is not the whole truth.
Somewhere along the way we have been taught that it is weak or unacceptable to share our feelings or to ask for help when we need it. The goal is to appear strong and capable. Was I the only one taught that you don’t share your problems or your *dirty laundry* as it used to be called? I am not sure where all this managing on our own, or “faking fine” as I like to call it, has gotten us.
Trying to cope in challenging times makes me think about the people we love who have died from suicide. I spent countless nights wondering why Luke didn’t tell somebody he was hurting and needed help. So many of the things that weigh us down are not easily handled at seventeen. What kind of strategies does a teenager have? WHY didn’t he ask for help? I have been thinking about the doctor in New York who recently passed away, also from suicide. I can only imagine how overwhelmed with her job she was and what it would be like to be surrounded by so much sadness and suffering. I wonder if she told anyone how she was feeling or just carried on until… well, she couldn’t. Xxx
I would like to tell you I have become a master of asking for help when I need it, but folks, it would be a gosh darn lie. And I give help for a living! As a teacher and with Hope Lives Here, lending aid is my business. Accepting it? Not so much. The reality of this smacked me upside the head not so very long ago. Here’s the story.
John and I are away with friends one weekend in early Winter. We love these couples and have created some pretty fantastic memories over the years. On this given evening, we have been out all night eating and drinking and laughing our heads off. After I drive everyone home (’cause someone has to be the voice of reason, lol ) we are back at the ranch, as I like to say, and winding down. My girlfriend and I are sitting on the couch together and we get to talking about Lukester.
“I read every one of your blogs, you know, and well, I can’t believe that I never even knew some of those things were happening; that things were so hard with Luke.”
“I know,” I replied, well aware that I had kept things pretty closed up.
“We have this great group of friends here for you and we love you and yet, you’re an island,” she announced.
Cue the theme music…. –
My friend’s pronouncement didn’t upset me because, well, she wasn’t wrong. Isn’t wrong, as not much has changed. I AM an island. I TRY to share, but it is damn hard, friends. And I think I feel the same emotions everyone else does that doesn’t want to ask for help:
I would rather do it myself.
I don’t want people to know what I am going through.
There is guilt with asking for help.
I don’t want others to think less of me for not being able to handle things.
Should I go on?
I get so upset when I hear about one of my lovelies going through something difficult and I don’t know about it. “What do you mean you lost your job?” or “What do you mean your parents are getting divorced?” or most recently, “What do you mean you just got back from rehab?” I chastise them and remind them I am here for them, but isn’t that the cat calling the kettle black? Of course they’re not talking or asking for help. Why should THEY be any different? We are a society of silent sufferers.
So here’s what I need you to know: Being vulnerable is quite possibly the most challenging of human emotions. It is the purest form of trust and being open. But if we are ever going to forge a generation that leans on one another instead of trying to handle all of life’s predicaments solo dolo, we need to change our mindset and we need to show the kiddos what it looks like. One of my favorite artists, Charlie Mackesy, has a print where a young boy asks his horse, his mentor – “What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?” And the horse replies, “Asked for help.” Brilliant.
So in the spirit of that, I am going to try to be more brave, more vulnerable, in the hopes that it might inspire one young lovely to ask for help when they need it most. My first step has been to try and find a few people that I feel can handle my darkest moments and I am working to be as honest as I can with them. Who will be yours? I also continue to be so grateful, to all of the people who ask me how I am doing… and really listen. Even if I’m not giving them the whole truth, lol. #Faking Fine. Lastly, I want to say thank you for the wake up call, my beautiful bestie. I am STILL an island, but at least now it has a landing pad where my friends can swoop in and save the day. With love, Xxx.
Ah, Mother’s Day… for those of us who have lost a child or lost a mother… it is no easy day. But this year, I made an intentional choice to focus on what I HAVE instead of what I am missing. And friends, I have a lot.
I like to think about all the people in my life who have loved and nurtured me… like a good mom would…. like my mom did. As the old adage says, it takes a village. I have had teachers, bosses, and friends of the family who have encouraged me, and supported me, and picked me up after hard days. And what about girlfriends? My goodness! My ladies are incredible women who modeled what it is to be strong, and purposeful, and FUN human beings… as well as good mothers themselves. Heck, even my sister mothers me to death (in the very best of ways, lol)! Telling me what to wear or more importantly what not to, cheering me on with my teaching and non-profit, talking me off the proverbial ledge ( You’re alright! she likes to say). All of these important people, right there when I need them, surrounding me with love, accepting me as I am. Isn’t that the definition of a good momma?
I have been blessed with two boys to love. When they were little I slathered them with cookies and kisses and all the attention they would let me give them. I still do with Logan, lol, but at 20 he is a much harder sell. These days my love extends further than just those in the Inwood home. I love my students… UGH! So, SO much. I help them to grow and blossom and understand right and wrong – just like a parent. And we can’t forget my lovelies. Those freaking kids… now young adults… who let me check in on them and joke with them. Who stop by to visit and share a meal. Who let me get on my soapbox or give them much unsolicited advice. lol Are they not my *children*, too? We may not share a last name, but they have my heart forever.
So, on this Mother’s Day, let’s extend our definition of what a momma is. I asked my students this week what makes a good mom and the answers were priceless:
*A mom has to be kind.
*A mom has to be loving.
*A mom has to be fair.
*A mom shouldn’t have favorites.
*A mom should have personality. (I don’t know what this means, but it is HYSTERICAL!)
*Bake, a mom should be able to bake.
Definitely a list I can get behind. 🙂
So here’s what I need you to know: The role of mother is sometimes played by different people over the course of our lifetime. Just because yours is not a relationship of blood , doesn’t make it any less important. We need all our momma figures! May you remember and love on them today. And call, don’t forget to call! Moms, in all their forms, like that stuff. Xxx
Today I was the kickoff speaker for the Walk Out of the Darkness event at Sutton High School. I was incredibly honored to have been asked to share my story with folks who were walking, many of whom had not been touched by suicide themselves. I had never done anything like this before and I really wanted to get it right. I wanted to talk about Luke and yet still convey a message of Hope.
So I wrote my speech and I practiced. And practiced and practiced and practiced. I had two simple goals for the day: I didn’t want to sound *canned* and I didn’t want to cry. I know, I know. You’re thinking, “But Patty, you cry!” And you are not wrong, lol. Still! It was my goal. High school students do not want to see you cry, I kept telling myself. Only problem was every time I went through the words, I was having what I like to call a *moment*.
So what happened, you ask? What do you think? Sigh. I was making my way on the Zoom launch and feeling pretty confident and then… I don’t even know what words did it… but suddenly, I couldn’t speak. I was choked up and needed to gather myself. UGH! So I took a breath and finished off. For about ten minutes after the Zoom call had ended I berated myself a bit. In usual human behavior, I was focusing on what I viewed as the negative part of my experience instead of all of the good.
My woe did not last long because as I rehashed what had just happened.. the laughs at all the right spots, the tears from the listeners at all the right places, I remembered. Being a grieving momma is a sad thing. There are tears. A lot of tears. This…. This is my life.
Today is Bereaved Momma Day. It is a day to recognize all of us moms with children on the other side of the stars. As much as I appreciate the gesture – a day dedicated to grieving moms, the truth is… we don’t need one day. Every day should be bereaved momma day. Whether you have lost your child in utero, at seven, or seventeen, any time you outlive your child you are immediately thrown into the hardest journey one could even imagine. Actually, you can’t imagine it unless you have been there. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
So here’s what I want you to know: For those of you who have befriended a grieving momma, thank you for loving us and supporting us and crying with us. Thank you for sharing stories about our kiddos because we truly love to talk about our child. And if you are a mom missing part of your heart, I am with you. There are no words. Be gentle with yourself, today and every day. Rivers and roads. Xxx