Sometimes I Say the Wrong Thing

Last weekend I had the pleasure of seeing a couple of former students. Sigh, It makes a teacher happy to see her kiddos grow up and do well. We were creating a sidewalk chalk mural of Welcome Back greetings at school and their siblings still attend B.E.S, so these young ladies came along to help. Once a Kindness Club member, always a Kindness Club member! As I was getting ready to finish up and head back home, I took the opportunity to check in on one of the girls

“How are you feeling about going back in person?” I asked.

“I was okay, but I am started to get worried,” she replied. And then she launched into what sounded like a million concerns she had circling around her brain. Now this young lady has always struggled with anxiety. Her thought process can jump to a worse case scenario in t-minus ten seconds and despite being AWESOME, she believes every negative word her brain tells her. I spent the time we were together in a classroom building her confidence and her strategies to cope with her anxiety. Naturally, I jumped right into these old ways.

*You’re stronger than you think.

*You are an excellent mathematician.

*I know your best friend is in the other class, but there isn’t any mingling anyway so you will make new relationships with the kiddos in your cohort.

*Remember how worried you were about starting middle school? This isn’t any different. One day in and it will feel like business as usual.

And on and on. She listened, but I could tell from her body language and the look on her face, she wasn’t quite convinced. And in hindsight, I realized I didn’t blame her. I had said all the wrong things.

Now don’t get me wrong… what I said to her wasn’t horrible. I was trying to boost her up and remind her of all the things about her that are fantastic and able to help her in this situation. But that wasn’t what she needed from me in that moment. I was trying to cheerlead her and downplay her emotions. UGH!! Classic quickdraw response, but I know better.

What she needed from me in that moment was to let her speak her truth. She needed to get all those fears and worries out of her mind and off her chest without someone, me in this instance, trying to fix those emotions. It is incredibly difficult to bear witness to someone who is in pain, but just listening is such an important help to that individual. How many times have you heard me say it doesn’t matter whether a person’s perspective is your truth? It’s true to them and we have to honor that. When someone shares a vulnerable part of themselves all they want in return is for someone to say… I hear you.

The next thing she needed from me was to make her feel like she wasn’t alone in those feelings and concerns. I should have said, “You know, B, I think we are all a little afraid right now about going back to school…” and maybe talked about my own hesitancy. When we are in the height of anxiety we feel like everyone around us has their act together and that we are the only one freaking out and that is never the case. Raise your hand if your emotions are on high alert going into this school season? Yep, too many of us to count! I missed an opportunity to help her understand that just because she isn’t privy to reading the thoughts of her classmates, doesn’t mean they don’t share her same concerns.

Instead of trying to fix her thought process with my words, I wish I had asked her about other times she had felt this way and how she handled it. Young people need to recognize that life is full of challenges and as hard as it can feel, we have it in us to push through and get to the other side. Nothing teaches this like experience. Maybe it was a soccer game, or a dance recital, or those damn MCAS tests, that she remembers being afraid of, but doing it anyway, and living to tell the tale. This is another one of those reasons why, as parents, we shouldn’t be handling our kiddos challenges. They NEED them to build confidence in their ability to handle a tough situation.

And finally, I wish I had reminded her about the joy. When Life is handing you a shitstorm, so to speak, one of the best strategies you can adopt is to identify the activities that make your heart happy and spend time doing that. This young lady loves to read. And tap dance, lol. She used to tap her whole way down the hallway. I should have told her when she starts to hyperventilate thinking about lockers and math assignments, to give herself an hour of *her* time. Of joy time. When I can’t stop the tears or the terrors or the tenseness of my life… I throw my schedule to the wind and get outside. Walking in the woods, laying with my face to the sun.. or the stars… slows my breathing and lifts the weight off my chest.

So my beautiful girl…. I messed up. Even Mrs. Inwood says the wrong thing every once in a while. But I do know my last words to you were the most important and I hope you remember them and hold them close.

You’ve got this.

I believe in you.

I love you.

Words we should say to each other every day. Together we get through. Xxx

I need you to know

Eric

Once upon a time, in a small kingdom in the countryside, there was a Queen. She had recently been thrust upon the throne after the death of her son, King Luke. King Luke had been a popular ruler and his death had caused the people to turn to his mother for guidance and support. What they didn’t know was behind the closed doors of the palace, the Queen herself was lost without her boy.

Enter young Eric. Eric and the King had been best friends and had traveled the countryside together on many a joyous adventure. King Luke’s death was unexpected and left Eric a bit untethered in this world. He spent much time at the palace in the days and weeks following, and observing the Queen’s distress, made it his job to take care of her.

When the Queen was having a hard time, no matter the hour, she would text Eric and he would always respond. ALWAYS. The Queen tried to keep these exchanges light, as she didn’t want to add to Eric’s own distress and frankly, the goal was to lighten her own heart, so the humor was a distraction. He would share crazy stories of his times with her son, favorite movies and books, gossip from the Kingdom. Eric was the Queen’s connection to all things “Luke” and being seventeen and it made the Queen feel like she was right there living her son’s life vicariously through Eric. He called her Bro and Dude… most unconventional as she was Queen, but it made her giggle so she allowed it.

After spending that first summer in almost daily contact of some sort, young Eric went off to college. Their correspondence abruptly came to an end and although the Queen wanted to reach out, she knew how important it was for the young man to go forth and learn. She didn’t want him to be stuck in the past with her – she wanted him to move forward. You can imagine her delight when one cold November day, waiting patiently for her carriage to be gassed up, she heard the words “I would recognize that hair anywhere, lol” and it was young Eric! Somehow, seeing one another in person reminded the two of how much they missed the other, and their relationship picked up where it left off. Eric would try to visit the Queen whenever he was in the Kingdom, almost always bringing a sidekick or two. These visits were cherished by the Queen and her husband, the Duke of Barry. They appreciated that the young lads made time for them, especially with Luke being gone.

Eric not only took care of the Queen, but he also adopted Luke’s younger brother, Logan, as his own. Logan adored Eric. They shared a taste for fashion, hair, music, philosophy – all things young gentleman should be aware of, lol. It made the Queen’s heart swell to see Logan and Eric together as she understood the void left by Luke. Eric’s favor grew as he took the young Prince under his wing.

One day, the Queen posted on Social Media that she was having a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” It had been a particularly dastardly day where grief was concerned and upon seeing this message, Eric quickly reached out to the Queen. “What’s wrong?” he wanted to know. Unbeknownst to Eric, the Queen’s sadness had been lifted by their mutual friend, Billy. Billy had a job at that time, tending to the Kingdom, and so he was close by and delivered a most wonderful hug to cure the Queen. Eric, although happy to hear the Queen was better, admitted he was disappointed it wasn’t HIM that helped the Queen in her distress. “I like to be the one to save the day,” he told her. ” I want to be the white knight.” And there it was. It turns out young Eric had created his own quest – to serve and support the Queen, in honor of his lost friend, no matter what the cost. A gallant quest, indeed.

Like all fairytales, this one, too, has a happy ending. The friendship between Eric and the Queen only grew in depth and love over time. They understand one another and accept each other – faults and all. She forgives him when He forgets to use his manners every once in a while.. okay OFTEN, lol. He tolerates it when She nags him about love and life choices. Still, whereas at one time, Eric filled the role of the *missing son*, now he has his own space in the Queen’s heart. He is family of his own right.

Time passed and although Eric moved to the big Kingdom of Boston, he still made the trek back to the countryside when he could. The Duke of Barry dominated Eric’s visits to the castle, (they share a love of ale), but the Queen didn’t mind. That Eric still came to visit and catch up was the most important thing. It was on this last visit that the Queen decided on an act long overdue and a scribed a proclamation.

“On this day, let it be known that for some five years, Eric has been a steadfast protector of the Queen’s heart. For this service and for his unwavering love and support, he has earned the title of knight of the Rutland Round Table. Arise, Sir Eric, and thank you for undertaking such an important quest. You have my thanks. You have my heart.”

And so, Sir Eric took his rightful place in the palace and they all lived happily ever after. THE END.

So here’s what I need you to know: There is no way Eric would tolerate me sharing most of what has transpired between us these past five years. How embarrassing, he would say, lol. And I realized I will never be able to put into words what having Eric in my world means to me. If you see me when I am with him, you know I never stop smiling. If you see me when I talk about him, you know I practically beam. This kid… well, this young man now… has brought me through some incredibly difficult days. He is my friend, my son, my pain in the ass, lol. I love you, Eric. Forever and always. Xxx

I need you to know

Signs

John and I were just discussing the other day how, after Luke passed away, we spent every minute reading and researching about *Heaven* or what happens after you die. I had always believed in a life after this one, but John was a bit more scientific and struggled around the where and the how of changing planes, so to speak. We read a number of books by mediums, books by people who had made successful connections with their loved ones on the other side, and books by people who had near death experiences and could describe what *Heaven* looked like. What we really wanted was to understand how to maintain our connection with our boy who no longer walked on the Planet Earth. And to know that Luke was okay wherever he was. This. SO MUCH.

Signs frequently come up in grief books and talks as validation from a loved one that they are near by and thinking of you. When you first lose someone, I think you look desperately for those signs – a dime on the ground, a cardinal, a feather – these are considered traditional tokens from the other side. I joke about this now, but when Luke first passed away EVERYTHING was a sign, lol. Every song, every bird, every combination of numbers represented my boy trying to send a message to his momma. And that is OKAY. I tell fellow grievers that if it makes your heart feel a little bit better believing that something is a sign, then IT IS. Grief is a personal journey and anything that makes it more tolerable is truth for you. Lukester for me now is a blue jay – Canadian, loud mouthed, pushing his way into the feeder squawking as much as to say – Look at me guys! I am here! I love that kid and I love that darn bird.

I think the signs that catch you by surprise are the most satisfying for the soul. You know the ones you just can’t quite explain, but there it is? John and I have had a number of incredible experiences that have solidified our belief that Luke is still in our lives and messing with us.

It was July 2015. Three months after Luke had passed away and I was eagerly anticipating our upcoming visit with Heather Lee, a local medium. It was like we had scheduled a meeting with Luke and I desperately wanted him to come through and tell me he loved me and he was sorry. (Sidebar – so that didn’t happen. Darn kids. He did come through, however. See my blog, http://pattyinwood.xyz/are-you-there-luke-its-me-merm/ to read about this visit.)

In the week leading up to our appointment, I was making my regular daily treks to the cemetery. On one of these days, I happened to move a plaque, placed by Luke’s grandma by his headstone, to clear away some dead grass and lo and behold, a teeny tiny frog was sitting there. Now, if you know my son’s story you know his gaming handle was…. wait for it, Froggir. Little tiny frog hanging out at the cemetery – coincidence? I believed not. That little frog was there every day for the week or so before we went to see Heather, and every time I saw it, I smiled a little secret smile. I see you son, I would think to myself. It gets better. The day we were going to see Heather, it was a gorgeous summer day and so Logan and John and I headed out to Long Pond for a boat ride. We pulled the boat behind the Durango the few short miles to the water, backed it down the boat ramp, and got ready to jump in. And as I swung my leg over the side, I spotted it. Sitting smack dab in the middle of the boat… was a frog. I know, I know, its a lake, Patty, surely that can happen. But in the history of our adventures on Long Pond, some seven years perhaps, NEVER had a frog come along for the ride. Think what you want, but that it happened on this of all days? Luke. Definitely.

Luke and I have quite a connection over music. He likes to mess with me and throw *his* songs on when I am in the car or listening to music at home or school. I will never forget one particularly hard day I was at B.E.S. I had a student who was giving me a run for my money and to regroup during my prep period, I put on Pandora to relax and refocus while I graded some papers. It was my Dierks Bentley station – country – and about two songs in, See You Again came on. ‘Cause THAT’S country, lol. Oh, Lukester. I had a good cry and felt like my kid was saying, “Hey, you raised ME. This student is a piece of cake, lol.” It helped.

John feels Luke when he sees hawks. My man loves to golf and there is a red-tailed hawk that often shows up when John is on the course at Quail Hollow. It likes to perch on a branch nearby and look at him. John likes to talk to him when he is alone. I love this image. Sigh. <3 Once John was golfing with two of our bestfriends and the hawk literally followed them around the course, flying over them from hole to hole. Tim and TJ noticed the bird and remarked on how odd it was. John didn’t come out and say, uh huh, that’s my boy, because that would sound crazy, lol, but we were both in awe when he shared the story with me later that evening.

Last story. It was my birthday this week. Yep, another year older. Logan and his girlfriend, Cailyn, came out for dinner on Saturday. It was Cailyn’s birthday this week, too! We had elected to order from a local restaurant, Ladd’s, because the boys were in charge of dinner and this was just easier for them, lol. We ordered pizza and I had a hankering for Hawaiian. I love pineapple and don’t often order something that only I will eat, but hey! It was my birthday. We did that newfangled contactless delivery and John and Logan set up all our munchies on the table in the screened-in porch. Only problem was there were three pizzas, but no Hawaiian! Logan and Cailyn had their pepperoni, John had his Dishboy, and my pizza? Turns out the last one was a Buffalo Chix pizza – LUKE’S favorite! HA!!! Still f*cking with you, mom. Especially on your birthday.

So here’s what I need you to know: If you haven’t lost someone you love, you have just read all of my words and thought to yourself – this woman is certifiable! lol And you are allowed. Talk to me when death graces your doorstep. And if you have lost someone you love, you have read my words and know exactly what I am talking about. Trust in YOUR signs, whatever they may be. May they bring peace and lightness and maybe even a little laughter to your heart. Keep’em coming, son. From this world to the next – I love you. Xxx

I need you to know, Things that help

No Chance for Goodbye

I believe one of the hardest things about losing a loved one suddenly is the lack of closure. When you don’t have a chance to say good-bye or tell someone you love them or hold them one last time, it weighs on you. It is like one big regret that you simply can’t get past.

From the moment I understood that Luke was truly gone, I wanted to see him. I wanted to lay my eyes on his seventeen year old face one more time; maybe hold him in my arms and cradle him like when he was a little boy. I asked the poor officer who drove me to the high school, a number of times, when I would be able to see Luke, unaware of what had actually happened at the crash scene. He somehow danced his way around answering that one. It wasn’t until we were all sitting in the conference room at Wachusett that a female officer explained that it wasn’t going to happen – and that I shouldn’t see him – for my own sake. I am grateful for this advice now because I am not sure I would have recovered from seeing Luke after he had been in the fire. My beautiful boy was consumed in the flames, you see, and they needed dental records to confirm his identity for the autopsy. Sigh. I am able to delete this thought out of my mind, most days, at this stage in my grief journey, but I know others who found their loved ones – after heart attacks or suicide – and they have to live with the image of their loved one at the end. To have to process this type of trauma, on top of the feelings of loss, leaves me in awe of those of you doing it.

So here’s what I need you to know: We are not gifted with the knowledge of the day and time of our own passing or of when you might see someone you care about for the last time. Usually. I mean there are those situations where someone has been ill and family and friends have the opportunity to gather and say their final farewell. There is peace in knowing that love has been expressed as someone leaves this world. That someone is closing their eyes and knows full well they were loved.

But that isn’t always the case. So, as we get back into a new school year, and the chaos of mornings and rushing to after school activities is upon us, might I suggest we slow down just one millisecond to see each other off. That we take the time to hug. Say I love you. I think I hug Logan every third step he takes as he makes his way from the kitchen to his car when he visits, lol. I don’t want their to be any doubt in his mind that his mother loves him. She’s a little extra, sure, lol, but she loves him.

So maybe make it a rule! You know how you tell your kids they can’t leave the house till they brush their teeth and put on their deodorant? Add *give parents a hug* onto that list. Especially for those surly teenagers, lol. Take it from this momma, you’ll be glad you did.

I need you to know

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

Writing my blog last week was like saying good-bye to my son a second time. Truthfully, I had put off telling this part of Luke’s *story* because sharing his life with you all has made him seem more *here* than when I am holding him to myself in my heart. It has been incredibly healing to go through this experience and I am beyond appreciative to everyone that has shared their words of support over the two years it took me to get to this place. You have my love. Xxx

PLUS! I knew writing this sh*t would be hard, lol. And therein came the inspiration for this week’s blog. Here’s what happened last Sunday:

John had headed out to golf with a buddy and the time seemed right to pull out my laptop and get the blog done. I often write when John is out of the house because I know how hard it is for him to watch me drag myself back down the emotional path of losing Lukester. When I hurt, it hurts him, too. Sigh. He is a good man.

So, I sat in my fuzzy chair in my girl’s room and finished the final chapter in the Rise and Fall of Luke Inwood. And with my last keystroke, I wailed. I am usually a quiet cryer, but when the whole horrible reality of Luke being dead hits me, it rises up and comes out of me sounding more like a police siren. Alert! Alert! Mother with a broken heart coming through! “You’re okay!” I can hear my sister saying, and I want desperately to make it so.

I am still crying as I put my laptop away on the table, and I decide to try and remove the heaviness of my heart by floating in the pool in the sun. There is nothing more therapeutic for my soul than being in the warmth of the sun with nothing but the chirp of the birds and my own quiet breathing to still my emotions. But to do that, I need to put in my contacts and change, so I head up the stairs to our bathroom.

Standing at the vanity, contact case in hand, I catch myself in the mirror, and the woman staring back at me just looks so forlorn, so tired, that I start to cry again – because that woman is ME after all. “I’m okay,” I keep whispering to myself, gulping for air, ” I’m okay.” It was comical, really, because I am trying so hard to convince myself when all evidence points to the contrary. I am not okay. I have lost a son. I have relived it for all to see and it has dragged out all the old trauma and emotions. Today, after feeling Luke die a second time, I am definitely not okay.

So here’s what I need you to know: Whether today is your Day One or Day 100, you need to know that sometimes your sadness just has to get out – it’s okay to not be okay. Perhaps you haven’t lost a loved one, but the stress of these Covid and quarantine times are getting to you – it’s okay to not be okay. Maybe you are one of my lovelies and you are feeling the pressure of supposed to be having your shit together, when really you don’t –it’s okay to not be okay. I know we don’t want to fall down the rabbit hole in a trail of negative thoughts, but everybody experiences a day or two. I feel like society demands we put on a brave face – keep calm and carry on and all that – and I think all that does is push the pain down. And you know it’s going to pop up when you least expect it, lol. And what about social media? As we struggle to contain our feelings of sadness or being overwhelmed, we feel like less than others, because, hey… all those people on Facebook and Instagram are totally together. Right? UGH. When was the last time you saw a mother’s pain on social media? Never happens.

It’s okay to not be okay. It is not weak to let your emotions show. The important thing is to acknowledge that space – Take a moment, breathe, let the feelings out. Tell someone how you are feeling: A friend, a teacher, a therapist, a helpline, Miss Patty. Connecting and sharing our feelings reminds us we are not alone. I was lucky a few of my besties reached out to me last Sunday.

“I am wrecked,” I told them.

“We love you and we’ve gotchu,” they told me. And it helped. It’s okay to not be okay today… and maybe even tomorrow. Better days are coming. Hold on. Xxx

I need you to know

The Last Day

April 14th, 2015 began like any other day. It was a school day. I was up at 5 am, had my coffee, started all my routines to get ready for work. Went in to Luke’s room at 6:30 and gently shook his leg and told him it was time to rise and shine. There was no rumble of thunder or a voice from above saying – “Remember this…. this is the last time you are ever going to touch your son.” Sigh. If only….

Leaving the house that day is not in my memory. The first days of grief will do that. Luke and I probably go out the door at the same time because we usually did. You will have to forgive me when I say I don’t know how Logan got to school that day. Did I drop him off? Bus? Luke? Probably Luke. No, probably me. John was still fast asleep upstairs in bed. Turns out he will have seen our son for the last time the night before. He hates that his final words to him were nagging him to move his car, but hey, it was a normal father/son kind of interaction. As I said, there are no indicators that this would be it. #WeHaveRegrets

We know Luke had a flurry of activity on his cell phone that morning. We could see from the records who he was texting and what time, but not the actual text content. The kids all say it was the usual kind of stuff. Sometime midmorning, Luke was sitting in class when he was pulled out by an administrator and read the riot act about something. Maybe he was tardy that morning? Wait, maybe he had a run in with the teacher first? I don’t remember anymore and honestly, it really doesn’t matter at this point, does it? But there are witnesses to this exchange and that is how we know it transpired. Luke returns to class pissed off and I am surmising here that the black tunnel that is suicide has started to swirl like dark clouds before the tornado. He asks to use the bathroom and actually heads there because one of the kids we know has a conversation with him. And then he walks himself right out of the high school. The King has left the building.

I think this is when Luke decided he was literally and figuratively done with life. To the best of our knowledge, he drove home and wrote a note. His penmanship was shakey and it’s usual level of difficult to decipher. There were three lines. He said he was sorry to us, his family, but that he was tired of being a burden. He mentioned three of his friends by name – a lasting tribute to his boys. He mentioned how he had hated himself for a long time. That was it. No long, drawn out final essay on the meaning of life. No rage about his perceived injustices. No ” I love you”. He left the note and the pen he used to write it on the island. He carefully tucked his wallet and his favorite red ear buds on my side counter. We are guessing he went downstairs, probably to the garage, and smoked. The autopsy report said there was marijuana in his system so we assume it was from that day, but maybe it was the night before. Again, it doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that he climbed into his Altima, sent another text or two, and if I was a betting person, put on a song. Not just any song, but something that was going to get him through this next step. Probably Kid Cudi. Whatever it was, he turned it up loud and took himself down Glenwood, up Main Street, and turned left onto Millbrook. This stretch of road was a favorite of his, Logan told us, because it was windy and he liked to drive it fast. I often wonder if he had planned out this spot in his mind before hand. I often wonder if he drove that first quarter mile, stopped at the top of the hill, and looked out over Rutland one last time. I often wonder if he cried.

It is another quarter mile down the hill, and at the bottom where it curves, just before the stream, there is a grove of trees. The first one is formidable and probably a few hundred years old. Luke accelerated that car as fast as it would go and hit it at top speed. The impact wrapped the Altima around the tree, where it then flipped over and landed between two other trees. Luke was ejected and died instantly. Whether it was the impact of the crash, or hitting a tree himself we will never know. The first witness on the scene said he looked like an angel asleep with his arms over his head. He was gone.

So here’s what I need you to know: Everything one might read about the hereafter tells us that God, the Universe, Source, whatever you believe, pulls your soul out of your body just before the end so you don’t feel any pain. John and I take comfort in knowing that Luke didn’t suffer in the accident. The harsh reality, however, is that he did suffer when he was alive. That is what death by suicide is all about – it’s not someone being selfish; it’s not someone trying to give a big *screw you* to their family. It is an individual suffering SO much emotional pain every single day that the idea of ending their lives looks like a relief. John and I take comfort in that, too. That our sweet boy has finally found some peace. We love you, Lukester. From this world to the next. Xxx

Need help? – Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8355

The Rise and Fall

Baby Steps

I wrote a blog last week; I promise you I did. I worked away on it for the usual two hours on Saturday and as I reread it for maybe the fourth time, I realized something was not sitting right with me, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. So… I let it be. If you write, even something as simple as an email, you know that you sometimes have to step back from the keyboard to get a fresh perspective and make sure, as I like to tell my students, that is says exactly what you want it to say.

Early the next morning, I asked JB if he wouldn’t mind giving it a read. I am not sure I have ever asked for a second opinion before hitting *publish* as I can usually feel in my heart when I have put down the right words for the week. But like I said, something was tugging at me about this blog. John gave it a slow once over and as he finished, I pressed him for his feedback.

“It’s depressing,” he finally said, “You may have felt all that sadness at one time, but that is not who you are now. Five years later, you represent, you know, HOPE.”

And there it was. He was right, but don’t tell him that, lol. The blog was titled, “This is Hard” and it was all about well, how hard going through the grieving process is. Because it is. Truly. It is a darkness and a despair I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But to John’s point, the heaviness of grief is not what I want to focus on as I blog. It is not the core message I believe in and it is not who I am in my heart. It is not why I created my non-profit. I believe in the power of HOPE and LOVE and MOVING FORWARD. Those who know me know that I am an eternal optimist – proud wearer of my rose-tinted glasses! When Luke first died, choosing HOPE was all I had and I hung on like a kitten clinging to the dining room curtains, lol. It is not to say I didn’t have my fair share of tough, emotional days – of course, I did, I had lost a son! But I just wanted each day to be a little lighter, a little less painful. And with the love and support of my family and friends, that’s what happened and I got through. I continue to get through. Baby steps.

So here’s what I need you to know: If today is your Day One, I am so very sorry. The pain is excruciating. I remember it well. I also remember questioning, every day, how I could possibly ever learn to live a life without my boy in it. But I did. And I know you don’t believe me, but you will, too. Let me be your therapist and I will listen to the aches of your heart as you make your way. Let me be your cheerleader and I will walk beside you and remind you of how far you have come. Getting through grief is like baby steps. And just like your momma stood across the room, while you tottered and fell and tried again, finally crashing into her arms with success – so do I wait for you. Baby steps. You’ve got this. I’ve got you. Xxx

I need you to know

The Most Interesting Man You Know

John, Johnny, JB, Barry… doesn’t matter what you call him… today you call him the Birthday Boy. Happy Birthday, Honey! John and I have been together since we were whippersnappers and didn’t have two nickels to rub together. From the moment I met him I knew he was… well, different, lol, but in the best of ways. What makes John Inwood the most interesting man you know?

Well, for starters, the man loves his hair. And hair products. Which is all the more entertaining now because he doesn’t have any. Hair, I mean, lol. He has had a mullet and highlights and kept both meticulously groomed. With the decision to start shaving his head he turned his efforts to a seriously badass Viking kind of beard. Which also requires its own set of products. Sigh. The man really takes longer to get ready than I do. 🙂

Got Beard?

John has had more happen to him in his life than I thought even possible and he loves to tell the tales. John is a gifted storyteller and he can often be found at the center of a group regaling them with one misadventure after another. Ever given yourself your own stiches? John Inwood has. Smart mouthed a bunch of bikers? He lived to tell the tale. Barely, lol. Ever launched your bass boat into the lake without the plug in it? Yep, did that, too. I keep telling him to write a book so all this stuff doesn’t get forgotten. Maybe one day.

John Inwood is a man of passions. No, not that kind of passion, you naughty reader, you! – the one where you are totally into a hobby/interest and learn everything you can about it. Golf, the stock market, birds, growing a lawn, beer, disc golf, poker, Fantasy Football, you name it. If something piques JB’s curiosity he won’t rest until he has discovered everything about it. And then he puts it into action. You should see our backyard right now. Bird feeders have become a *thing* and we have the most spectacular arrangement hanging like art from the trees. On wires. It’s like Cirque de Soleil with the squirrels some mornings, performing acrobatic stunts to get from one feeder to the next. Sigh. Only John Inwood.

I really could go on and on, but I think the best way to put it is John Inwood is not so much a man as an experience, lol. He has spent 52 years on the planet Earth and it has been my good fortune to bear witness to his shenanigans for more than half of it. If I can keep him away from runaway power washers ( now THAT’S a story and a half!), he just might make it through another 50. HA! Love you, JB. Xxx

The FIrst Days

The Last Weekend

On Friday, April 10th, Luke took himself off the Addy and proceeded to have the most spectacular weekend. He smiled and laughed his way through the next few days, including what is now deemed a legendary party at Thad’s. It turned out that everyone Luke loved somehow was there, but hey, the Universe is tricky that way. My thoughts are… if you’re going to go out… isn’t this the way to do it? What does that quote say? Something to the effect of you want to slide into heaven, totally exhausted yelling, “Holy Sh*t – What a ride!” ? Mission accomplished. It does a momma good to think that Luke’s last weekend was with his friends doing all the things he loved.

When I decided I was going to write about the big party and those four days, I knew it wasn’t for me to tell the story – that it had to come from the lovelies. So I reached out – asking if they had anything suitable for the blog that they wouldn’t mind sharing. And only if they felt like it. I know what it is for me to revisit memories and I would never ask the kids to go there if they didn’t want to.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when all I received was the sound of crickets, lol. Since middle school, Luke and the lads had a motto that you never EVER tell your parents what is really going on in your world, and so it goes. 🙂 I think you will agree with me that this is the way it should be. This larger than life long weekend, this beyond epic gathering, burned into their memories, but shared only between them.

So instead, today I leave you with a song. No, it is not a song to represent Luke and the boys because I can’t speak to that. It is a song that represents those unforgettable nights. You know the ones….because we have all had them. Where the vibe is just so incredible and you are looking around and thinking how amazing the night is and how happy you are and how people that aren’t there are going to wish they were there. The nights you talk about for the the rest of your life when you get together with your friends or your buddies. I don’t think any of the kids could have possibly known that this was going to be their last with Luke… and one of those nights. Xxx

The Rise and Fall

Who Knew

“You home/awake?”

Now, when my phone goes off at 8:30 am it’s something. I confess I am not a phone person – it doesn’t live in my hand and I don’t check it a million times a day to make sure I am not missing anything going on in the world, lol. When I am home it sits in a basket on the counter in the kitchen. If I hear it ding I will wander over and see what is what. Usually. My close friends and family will tell you that’s probably an almost never, HA! But hey, I am the one telling the story here.

So, as I was saying, I was sitting in my chair in the living room finishing off coffee number two when my phone dings. And then dings again. So I figure something is up and make my way over to the far counter and take a look at my messages. It’s Chris – one of Luke’s oldest and dearest friends.

“Hey Chris! As in you want to chat or you want to come over?” I replied. I am not surprised a young sir wants to visit or talk. As I have written before, many of the lovelies will come over or call me up when they want to hash out something going on in their lives. I don’t tell them anything different than their parents would… I am just not their parents, lol. And therein lies my popularity.

“I’m coming over.”

“Hey there… give me ten minutes. I will meet you out back.” What he doesn’t see is that I am still in my jammies and haven’t brushed my teeth OR put in my contacts and almost no one sees me in glasses these days. Well before I know it, I can hear footsteps clomping up the wood stairs and the screened-in porch door creak open. I quickly throw on a sundress (because what else does one wear to a morning chat session?) and head down to the main level. And there he is. Ruggedly handsome with dark curly hair, bearded up, and wait a minute… yep, smelling distinctly of *eau de Budwieser*, lol.

“Are we hugging?” I ask, although I am not sure I would have taken no for an answer.

“We’re hugging.” Chris gives me a very decent squeeze for a young person. I always say good hugging is a learned art and takes years of experience, but some of us are more gifted huggers, lol. We head out to the upper deck where it is shady and have a seat. Turns out Chris had spent the night with some Rutland friends. There were beers involved and he had crashed in town for the night. Smart move, I am thinking to myself. But hey, this kid has always been smart.

Iced coffee in hand, Chris starts to talk. And hey, this kid has always been a talker, too, so there is no shortage of conversation. We talk about everything under the sun – memories of growing up in Rutland, me being his librarian, a little about Luke, a lot about life, his job, his family. Turns out he didn’t need fixing, he just needed a fix – of us, of the Inwoods. And it was just such a good two or three hours. Honestly, I didn’t notice how much time had passed until I went in to get us all some water; John had joined us at some point. I eventually had to kick him out and send him on his way because I was taking a flourless chocolate cake to a friend’s house that afternoon and that dessert was not going to bake itself. We hugged, of course, amid promises of seeing one another soon. My fingers are still crossed.

What Chris couldn’t possibly have known was I was having a hard week. I look forward to the day when the Fourth of July doesn’t drag my heart down missing Luke and all the memories of the kids during year after year of our amazing small town celebrations. But it wasn’t to be this year. I was low, and truth be told, crying every damn day. Working out and crying, eating salad and crying, watering the flowers and crying. I just couldn’t keep my emotions in check. Even John recognized the direness of the situation and suggested we go up and see Logan – my surefire, feel better solution.

But after Friday morning, I felt better. Chris had come over and reminded me that my boy had one heck of a friend group and you know what I tell myself – if kids this great loved my boy, he must’ve been alright. By sitting in that wicker chair and sharing everything going on in his world, Chris made us feel connected and important and loved; like maintaining our relationship was a big deal to him. It is in those moments that John and I get a glimpse, even if just a small one, of life at 23. Turns out Chris wasn’t the only one needing a fix that Friday. I needed my 23 year old fix, too. Love you, buddy. Xxx

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