Sunday, December 30, 2012

4 years....

This is, and will probably always be, a rough week for me.  Today, four years ago, Melissa went back to Hospice for the final time.  I can't sleep.  I remember this week so well.  Like it was yesterday.  On this  day, she got up and wanted to take a shower.  I wouldn't let her.  I was afraid she would fall in the shower.  Plus she had to have her oxygen...the ONE thing she wanted, and I wouldn't give it to her.  One simple thing.
When I try to close my eyes to sleep, I see her taking her last breath.  I shake my head and try to get that vision OUT of my head.  But it won't go away.

Haven't been on FB in a couple of days, but went there today to Compassionate Friends.  A reminder that I am not alone.  Found this article.  Some people can put into words what I am feeling better than I can.  Ann Hood did just that in this article:


Providence, R.I. -  We are stunned.  We are outraged.  As a nation, we are questioning laws on gun control, questioning how such a thing can happen.  These are all appropriate responses to the tragedy in Newtown, Conn.  But there is a repercussion to all this that will continue long after laws are changed and life, unbelievably, life gets back to normal:  the grief of the parents of the 20 children killed.  How many times have I heard that this is a parent's worst nightmare? As someone who has lived the nightmare of losing a child, I know that the enormous hole left behind remains forever.

My daughter Grace, was not killed by a gun.  She died suddenly at age 5 from a virulent form of strep.  As I stood stunned in a church at her memorial, one of the hardest things I heard someone say was "I'm going to go home and hug my child a little tighter."  Well, good for you, I thought.  I'm going to go home and scream.

What can be said in light of such grief?  What can you do?  The problem is that no on can give the parents what they want most:  their child.  Long after the memorials fade and the casseroles stop coming, that child is still dead, and those parents are still grieving.

I offer here what I have learned about grief in the 10 years since my Gracie died:  I learned that platitudes don't work.  Time doesn't heal.  She is not in a better place.  God does give us more than we can bear sometimes.  I have learned that even in the face of loss, clothes still get dirty and bills still need to get paid.  Friends who laundered our socks and answered our emails, who mowed our lawn and put gas in our cars, helped us - a lot.  The friend who came one afternoon and went through Gracie's backpack, carefully storing her kindergarten workbook and papers, hanging her art on the refrigerator and her raincoat on its hook in the mudroom, had more courage than the ones who told me to call any time.
Some friends sat with me day after day, week after week and, yes, month after month, and let me talk while they listened.   I told the story of Grace's last day over and over, as if by telling it I could make sense of what happened to her, to us.  But there is no sense to be made of such tragedy, and when I realized that, they let me wail and bang my fists and curse.

As time passes, people return to their ordinary lives, while grieving parents no longer have ordinary lives.  They are redefining themselves, and they are at a loss at how to move forward.  There is a woman who still sends me a card on Grace's birthday and every Mother's Day, who sent cards weekly for more than a year, a lifeline to a grieving mother.  The people who even now, a decade later, still say Grace's name, still comment on her quirky style and artistic talents and love of the Beatles, continue to help me through my days, simply by remembering her.  How easy it is to look away from frief, as if it might be contagious, or too frightening to face.  But the Newtown parents have a difficult, lifelong journey through grief ahead of them.  Somehow, the seasons will change, the anniversaries will stack up one after the other.  They will, unbelievably, smile again.  They will make dinner and change jobs and buy clothes and celebrate and travel.  They will go on.  But there will always, always, be this grief, softened and dulled but present every minute of every day.

Do not forget that.  Look them in the eye.  Take them in your arms, and do not let them go.

Ann Hood is a novelist and short-story writer living in Providence, R.I.


So this week, I will lay low.

Have the boys tomorrow, Monday, New Years Eve, overnight, and New Years Day.

Our last New Years Eve with Melissa, we toasted the New Year ~ John and Donny had a beer. We were asleep by 9.  At 10:30, there was a loud crash...Melissa fell.  She got up to go to the bathroom.  Took off her oxygen, got up, and fell by the door.  When the nurse asked her why she didn't call for help, she said "I didn't want to wake anyone up."  She could do it herself.  The "theme of her childhood"...

So "celebrating" a new year just doesn't seem right to me any more.

Not sure how many people knew this, but this was the week that JP was going to be delivered too.  Except he decided to come a couple of months early.

We will get through this week.  The boys will help tomorrow.

Thursday, four years, will come and go just like the last three.  And Saturday we will celebrate her birthday just the way she liked it.  Lunch at China Cottage.  Tradition.  Then we'll go to the girl's basketall game.  She would want to do that if she were here.  And somehow, we'll get through another year without her.

And I hate it.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Saturday, December 22, 2012

December BUSYness

Just the thought of the holidays is, well, UGH.

But I will admit that I did accomplish more than I EVER thought I would EVER again.  I think maybe because I am home and I could choose to sit and reminisce (and cry) all day, every day, or I could keep busy...I chose the latter this year.

Photos for me tell the story (did for Fort too)...

Met some "old" friends from Moraine Meadows...Judy (in the green) was in from Florida.  She retired two years after I started at MM.  Cole only worked there my first two years too.  Debbie is STILL teaching.


I volunteer on Wednesdays at Beavertown, where Melissa & Nick went to elementary school.  My good friend from MM, Rodney, teaches there now.  His class was making ornaments, and he invited Andrew & Max to come in.  He had two of his students working with them.  They had a great time and it was something to keep them busy for awhile!~)


My dad built this "crib" right after he and mom were married. It's a Nativity.  I remember laying in front of it when I was a kid.  Now my grandkids are enjoying it.  Thanks Dad!


 Pop Pop teaching Andrew and Max to play "war".    They both picked up on the game very quickly.  Max soon understood that the King was a good card to have.  When he and Andrew had a "war", instead of turning over the top card, he looked through his pile and said "I think I'll use this one". (fortunately Andrew wasn't looking)...he knew what it would take to get the cards.  Will have to keep him away from the casinos...

Andrew and Max had Dentist I dropped in to help Mere out.  It's amazing how they handle toddlers now.  They have a tv above the chair showing a kids movie...worked wonders to keep them still!  (sunglasses were for the light the dentist uses) Two happy campers!

Had another Moraine Meadows get together yesterday, the first day of break for the teachers.
In this photo, I am with Todd (our custodian at MM) and Roxy, who was our counselor for one year. Her daughter Carrie was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer about a year after Melissa was diagnosed.  She was pregnant too, had her baby, Jacob, who is 6 or 7 now.  Carrie died three days before HER birthday, six months before Melissa.  Roxy and I get together at least one a month, usually at Delco park to walk and talk.  She has been a lifesaver for me, and I hope I for her.  

Me, Carrie, our kindergarten teacher (who was my "neighbor" at MM for probably 15 yrs), and Marge, our secretary for several years.

 Missy, fifth grade teacher now at Oakview, Marie, first grade teacher now at Oakview and Debbie, third grade teacher at Southdale.  BEST staff EVER.

After meeting with my friends from Moraine Meadows last night, I picked up my good friend from high school, Marla.  Her daughter Mikala got us tickets (great tickets by the way!) to the Nutcracker at the Schuster.  It was awesome.  Thanks Mikala and Marla! 
Melissa always wanted to go to the Nutcracker...I don't know why we didn't do it.  One of those things that I regret this time of year...


This is a group of seniors from Dennison University football team at the Breast Cancer Awareness football game. They are all wearing FORT Bracelets.  Player behind #13 is Ted Kuntz.  His dad, George Kuntz had this picture made for us.  He said the officials in the game actually let them wear the bracelets during the game!  Ted was the defensive player of the game!  He also said that all of the players in the picture were All Conference players...pretty impressive.  Thanks George, for remembering and honoring Melissa!

Now I will close with a funny story about Max.  Actually an embarrassing story about me.  A story about me and Max. (Melissa would have posted this the DAY it happened.  I can hear her laughing now...)

He was being really cute on Monday morning.  Good.  Which is kind of unusual for Max.  Really.  I decide to take a couple of pictures while he's being so cute.  Then I put the camera on the landing (going upstairs).

I wasn't feeling well, and although I wouldn't normally talk about the bathroom, but that's the story... I was sitting on the toilet, bent over in pain, and I hear "Pamma."  I look up, and  'FLASH'.  Max took a picture...of me, sitting on the toilet.  Needless to say, the picture was deleted immediately.  So, sorry, no picture to go with THAT story.  (reminds of ANOTHER bathroom story... when Nick was little, maybe 3 or 4) He was at the neighbors house and they asked "how is your mommy"... Nick said "She has CWAMPS.  WEAL bad"....they never forgot that.  Neither did Donny.  We STILL laugh about that)...
Oh, and as for the picture? Donny said it was EVIDENCE that I DO get a break when I have the kids. I just deleted the evidence.  (He heard MANY times how elementary teachers some days never even get a bathroom break. Which is true.)  Ok. I DO get bathroom breaks, but they are always in the bathroom with me.  Just like Bandit.  But that's ANOTHER story.

OH!  and one more thing...we are still following the Fairmont girl's basketball team.  They are having an incredible season.  It's early in the season, but as of today, they are 7~0, ranked 11th in the COUNTRY.  Haven't seen the state rankings yet.

Hope I made you smile today.   I made ME smile remembering those stories.  I need that, especially this time of year...

I'll be back on Christmas day.

Enjoy your families, and take LOTS of pictures.


Love you and miss you EVERY day Melissa!

Saturday, December 8, 2012


It is closing in on Christmas, a time of year I dread.   Amazingly, to me at least, I have been able to accomplish a lot more than I ever thought possible (at least in the last four years).  I have shopped for gifts, wrapped the gifts AND sent Christmas cards.  Couldn't even THINK about doing those things the last three years.
I have thought a lot about getting stockings out.  The last three years just thinking about it brought the tears...thought about getting out the ornaments for the tree.  We do put up a tree, but it's a small tree, bought it our first Christmas without Melissa.  Bought new ornaments and just put up stockings for Andrew & Max.  Mini stockings for everyone else.
I told Donny last night I had no desire to listen to Christmas music either.  He said he felt the same way...

So, what am I doing today?  Well, will start with last night.  I am in the process of moving all our photos from the PC to my new laptop.  I have a flash drive and it's a slow process.  Sitting at the computer I started going through some drawers on a shelf on the desk.  Found an old flash drive and was HOPING that it would be Melissa's...there are a lot of different things, but one thing of Melissa's ~ something she wrote for the beginning of the book SHE was going to write.  I remember her talking about writing it.  I printed it and brought it up and started reading it to Donny.  We were laughing AND crying...OH how I miss her writing.  It is not complete, but it will be the beginning of the book WE will have published.  FUNNY FUNNY FUNNY.  Makes fun of me a lot.  I love that.  And I am embarrassed too.  It is hilarious.

Ok, so after reading that, I am not motivated to do anything around the house.  Could just sit and cry all day.  So I figured if I am going to sit and cry all day, I might as well have something to cry about.  So I got the stockings out of the attic...and I got the ornaments out of the basement...and I'm listening to Christmas music....and I'm crying....

I'm sitting on the floor by our little Christmas tree going through the ornaments...lots of ornaments MADE by Melissa, and lots of ornaments for Melissa (and Nick too of course!)...our little tree is going to fall over.  Found an ornament for JP too.  As I am sitting by the tree going through the ornaments, crying, and listening to Christmas music, the song "All I want for Christmas is You" comes on, and the puzzle goes off......SHE WAS WITH ME!  The whole time.  

So today will be a crying day...but I am making progress.  I am doing things I NEVER thought I'd ever do again.  And I'm pretty sure I'll do them again.  And I'm pretty sure I'll cry EVERY year when I do them.
I will NEVER stop missing her.  There is a heaviness in my chest that is always there.  It must be that hole in my heart....but she lets me know that she is beside me when I need her the most...

I would be remiss if I didn't post pictures of the nephew(s) she loved so much.  I'm pretty sure she's around them too...they talk about her all the time.  I love that.

Took the boys on a field trip to the Fairfield Mall.  They have a little Santa Train that you can ride through the Mall...they loved it.  So did I!

Decided it would be fun to make Christmas cookies with the boys...I was all organized.  Cookies baked, bowls of sprinkles with spoons (didn't trust them with the jars of sprinkles), and two tubs of icing...all out on the table ready to go when they got up from their nap.  I went into the kitchen to get something turned around and Max was eating the sprinkles out of the bowl...I guess he thought that was why I put the spoons in there!  "NO MAX...Ok. I guess these cookies will be for you and nobody else"  Then I turned around to get more spoons came back in and he was eating the ICING out of the tub.  AND it was a full moon that night. Grandparenting is so much more fun than parenting.  You get to send them home after days like these...

Speaking of days like's nice to run into Santa when your out... you can take pictures and tell your grandchildren that you met Santa and he will be calling if they arent' good...Andrew said "why isn't he wearing his clothes?" I told him Santa doesnt' wear his Santa clothes when he goes out to eat...he doesn't want to spill anything on them.  It worked. He believed me. And by the way, Santa DID call.  Twice.  I videotaped it.  Made me want to cry.  Andrew got on the phone and was SO excited...for about five seconds.  Then he started saying "Yes. Yes. Ok Santa." (with a sad face).  Santa asked to talk to Max. Max gets on the phone and says RIGHT AWAY "I LOVE YOU SANTA".
Santa knows our elf's name is TWINKLES.  He mentioned Twinkles is calling him. 
Behavior hasn't changed....
oh well. It's Christmas...

 Took the boys shoe shopping...OMG.  Andrew is worse than a 16 year old girl...or a 60 year old lady...he tried on, no lie, 30 pairs of shoes before he found one he liked.  He has Xtra wide feet. That was part of the problem.  First shoes on Max that lit up suited him.  We all went home happy.

First ornaments I found...

I don't remember who gave this to Melissa, but she got it for her last Christmas. The little angel ornament says "Melissa" and the snowman was for JP.  Has his birthstone on it.

I won't lie.  We do kind of have shrines for Melissa.  (she would be ok with it though.  We put up all her trophies in her room and she said "what is this...a shrine to me?" we laughed and left it up. Still there...) Anyway, the blue hat was hers (LIFE IS GOOD) Last hat she wore.  The sunglasses are hers too. The little wall hanging says "A daughter is a little girl who grows up to be a friend".  That was us. And that is her stocking.  We had those made when they were little.  I hugged it for awhile when I found it...because it's one of the last things SHE touched.


I miss her more every day.  But I am making progress.  Our lives will never be the same without her, but while we are here, we will do the best we can because we have Nick, and Andrew, and Max, and Mere.   I think she is smiling.

Love you Melissa Marie....and miss you EVERY SINGLE DAY.