Hey Mom, it’s me! How’s it going? I know it’s been a long time since my last letter. But you know, life kinda gets in the way at times, right? Anyway, I thought I’d write to you after all these years, 27 as a matter of fact. Why? Well, for one, I miss you. Truly! I miss everything about you. I miss writing to you. I miss talking with you. I miss laughing hysterically with you in the kitchen or at the dinner table or in the driveway or, well, anywhere, really. I miss your steadfast love, support, and encouragement of our entire family. I miss your smile and welcoming arms with every visit. I miss your laughter. I miss your kindness…
Can you tell it’s been awhile?
I miss seeing you in the stands at every game, tee-ball through college. I miss post-game dinners with you and Dad at Evergreens in Granville. I miss seeing you pull weeds in the yard or planting petunias at the Pool. I miss seeing you instruct kids to swim as well as seeing you blow your whistle at them to stop running. I miss your famous macaroni and cheese with hot dogs casserole. I miss your pear slices sprinkled with paprika on lettuce. I miss your liver and beets (not really). I miss our talks in the basement laundry room. I miss playing board games and card games with you, as well as solving word jumbles and crosswords. I miss reading the paper with you and talking about the news. I miss listening to Marty and Joe with you and cheering on the Big Red Machine. I miss playing tennis with you. I could go on…and often do during quiet moments…like now.
So, why I’m writing? You may or may not know, but this day has been circled on my mental calendar for years. Decades actually. I’ve dread it. I’ve loathed it. I’ve counted the days until today. Now that it’s here, all I can think about is you and how young you were! It didn’t seem fair then and it certainly doesn’t feel fair now. It just doesn’t seem right. It’s a weird feeling…
It snowed, you know, as we drove home from the hospital that night. Oddest thing, too, but beautiful. Dark midnight sky the whole drive, and then out of nowhere…the most beautiful, angelic, snowfall over Green Hills! I remember shivers down my spine as we weaved down the long gravel road and snowflakes gracefully landing upon our windshield. I remember stepping out of the car and watching the snowfall’s soft descent. I remember looking skyward, inhaling deep, and smiling at the beauty. Your beauty! We like to think you had a hand in that snowfall. If you did, thank you! It was magical and much needed on a difficult night.
Today also reminds me of our family, our home, and simpler times of unlocked doors. It reminds me of riding bikes for hours upon gridded streets, swimming at the Pool, and walking to school, K thru 12. It reminds me of sitting in our driveway to watch Fourth of July fireworks. It reminds me of busing tables at IHOP, teaching kids to play baseball, and night-guarding at the Pool. It reminds me of bumper pool at Jeffrey Mansion, rip cords from the high dive, and timeless adventures along Alum Creek. It reminds me of our panel-sided station wagon shared by four drivers, three television channels (a fourth with PBS), and rotary phones. It reminds me of Family Feud at the dinner table, the clean plate club for dessert, and nerf hoop in my room. It reminds me blaring Molly Hatchet or Lynyrd Skynyrd or Boston in my room until you knocked for me to turn it down. It reminds me of hours spent on ballfields, playgrounds, and jungle gyms at Maryland, Montrose, and Cassingham. It reminds me of Ardmore and Stanwood and football cleats on Remington. It reminds me of comforts from Tommy’s, Rubino’s, and Grill ‘N Skillet…
I could go on.
And yet, this day also reminds me of our tough times. It reminds me of seeing your tears with the burial of your youngest son, Doug. It reminds me of your arm around my shoulders mending my broken heart. It reminds me of you offering a pack of lifesavers after losing to Grandview. It reminds me of you calling to share the passing of your father. It also reminds me of you apologizing for having cancer. It reminds me of your faraway look when the end was near.
All of it…forever etched in my mind.
That Christmas night, I remember holding your hand and trying not to cry so you could pass peacefully without worry for your family. I’ll never forget stroking your hair and whispering comforts and pleasant memories to bring even a crinkle of a smile to your face to help you through the pain. I remember you being as strong as you could, though hurting, to face the inevitable. When you were too weak to speak, I remember dipping a hand towel into your all-time favorite drink (Coca-Cola) and placing the towel at your lips so you could taste the flavor. I remember your smile, ever so slight, of appreciation and thanks.
Most unforgettable, I remember you finally letting go. I remember you opening your eyes, exhaling one last time, and then experiencing peace…incredible peace…then stillness. Strange stillness. That moment will stay with me forever. It was tragic, yet beautiful. It was solemn, yet loving. It was life…and, sadly, death. That night sobered me to what is truly important in our world and provided life perspective that has helped to this day.
Dad did his best to carry onward without you. He grieved and then moved forward as I’m sure you wanted, as I’m sure you two had discussed. He remodeled the Lake Adger home. He fixed the roof and landscaped the yard to keep himself busy. He traveled with his buddy and your old boss, Jerry. He took good care of your mother until she passed five years after you. Dad also remarried and, unfortunately, our family was never the same. Long story, as you may be aware, so I won’t go into it.
Anyway, rest assure today your children are doing well. Scattered to the wind, but doing well. Your oldest is teaching in Maine and nearing retirement – can you believe it?? Your youngest is teaching in Thailand and living the dream – yes, I know you can believe it! Me, well, I’m still in Ohio, but now a caregiver just as we laughed about when I was in 6th Grade. Remember that? Do you remember that professional aptitude test that said I should be a nurse! A Nurse!? Seriously? That clashed with my dreams of being a professional athlete or park ranger or mountain climber! We laughed hysterically that afternoon, as I recall, and then you said “hey, you never know!” Well…guess what? Here I am. After a 22-year career as an environmental geologist, THAT 6th Grade aptitude exercise hit the nail on the head. Going on eleven years now as a caregiver for an awesome young man. Who would’ve thought? Perhaps you?
Kristy and I are doing well and have a lot of fun together! This August we celebrate our 32nd Anniversary and we’ll probably do so per our usual…on the back patio with fun foods and drinks! We’ve become patio experts these days thanks to a little thing called Duchenne (more on that later) and now a pesky virus that has turned the world upside down. Everyone stays home now. Nobody really ventures far. Funny, though, home isolation has been commonplace for us for years, so our lifestyle hasn’t really changed all that much. Being homebound with your best friend keeps things grounded and focused to what matters in life.
Your grandkids are doing well, too. Kaitlyn (who was six months old when you left this world) is as beautiful as ever and…getting married this summer!! Kristy and I are super excited. His name is John and he’s a great guy. A gentlemen and a scholar, as Dad would say. Comes from a loving (and huge) family, too! He loves Kaitlyn dearly and fits seamlessly into our family. The two are fun to see together and we do quite often as they live nearby! Wish you could be at their wedding, though I know you will.
Your grandson, Alex, is doing well, too! You never met him but, as you may know, we adopted him from Romania about seven years after you passed. He’s 21 now! Can you believe it? The kid’s social and loving as ever! Always smiling, laughing, and looking to the bright side of life, though playing with a tough hand dealt to him through no fault of his own. I mean seriously. What the hell!? Perhaps you’ve heard of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Perhaps not. If you haven’t, please seek some answers for me! I know that everyone deals with something, but come on…this disease stinks! When you get a chance, ask the big man why, because I don’t get it. Why does this disease even exist? Why is it needed? It’s relentless. It’s isolating. It’s invasive into everything about life. EVERYTHING! Ugh. Don’t get me started.
Sorry, too late.
Seriously, why is Duchenne even in this world? Why? Is it for perspective, as some have told me? Is it for example? Is it for stark contrasts of life? I don’t get it and I don’t think I ever will. I hear others tell me their belief or understanding as to why. I hear them explain how Duchenne is somehow part of a grand plan or something. Sorry, that’s easy to say, but a tough pill to swallow - especially for the one living with Duchenne…Alex. The disease is simply awful. It robs him of nearly every bodily function. All of ‘em! It’s painful. It’s constant. Worse, it’s unfairly destructive and isolating (physically and socially) to a beautiful young man. Why such cruelty? Why such torture? Why?
I don’t get it.
Nevertheless, Duchenne brings perspective - incredible perspective….just like your passing did. As much as Duchenne robs you of your physical abilities, it builds your emotional strength. As much as Duchenne destroys, it creates unique appreciation for everything around you. As much as Duchenne utterly sucks, it shines light squarely on the fragility, shortness, and beauty of life. It focuses on life meant to be lived, not taken for granted. Life meant to be shared, not squandered. Life meant to be loved, because before you know it…
Well, you understand.
So, anyway. Sorry I’ve rambled in this letter. That wasn’t my intention. My purpose was to say hi and mark the day that’s been seared in my mind for a long time. Today, June 1, 2020, I’ve now lived 57 years and 19 days….one day beyond the length of your awesome and loving life. Today, I am reminded of the preciousness of life. Today, I am reminded to love and stay focused on what’s important. Today, I am reminded of you.
So, thank you, Mom! Thanks for being you! Thanks for your laughter, support and, most of all, your love! I couldn’t be the man, husband, and father I am today without you having been our Mom. My hope is to pass that love and perspective onto my children (and grandchildren someday)…even if by simply sharing a towel dipped in Coke.
Miss you…and love you…more than you may ever know!
P.S. Say hi to Dad for me! Tell him I miss him, too!