Johnny and the Girls

Fenton is made up of two parts. I like to call them “Old” Fenton and “New” Fenton. New Fenton is filled with stores and busy streets, all of the commodities we find necessary in this day and age (Walmart, Target, Home Depot, etc.). Downtown Fenton or Old Fenton is the Fenton my husband grew up knowing, filled with small stores and quaint houses. It’s got that nostalgic feeling of the past. Recently, it’s been morphing into the “new” place to be; restaurants and stores are being built everyday. Sidewalks and benches have recently been added and now line the streets. It’s becoming new again. New with charm that is. Everyday you see or hear about something they are adding.

In a lot of ways it’s exciting. So much thought has gone into every single thing that has been built and it truly is an amazing and exciting time for Fenton. On the flip side, there are establishments that have been with Fenton since the beginning. Places that struggle to stay current in an ever changing downtown. In the heart of downtown is Johnny’s Pizzeria. It’s a local bar and restaurant that has been a part of Fenton for over 51 years. When you take a step into this restaurant, it’s like stepping back 50 years in time. You can feel and see the history in every room.

It was originally owned by Delio, an Italian immigrant who came to be just as much a part of Fenton as Fenton itself, and is now ran by his daughter Sandy after his passing. It’s a staple in the community. I never had the pleasure of meeting Delio, but once you meet Sandy, you know what kind of man he was. She is a hardworking, selfless sweetheart who pours her heart into this restaurant and the customers she grew up knowing. There has never been a time I was there that she wasn’t. She takes pride in the legacy her father leaves behind. This is not just a restaurant but a tribute to an ever changing city. It’s claim to fame is definitely pizza and a banquet room used for many parties, including my wedding shower. I didn’t know then that this would become a place of healing for me. A place that holds so many memories close to my heart.

When the five girls I like to call “The Dream Team” started helping me plan last year’s Nash bash, we frequently held our meetings there. It’s a family restaurant and last year it proved to be difficult. Happy families with babies…babies I could barely look at without breaking down. After a few times there, I started handling it better. Thank God for these girls, an empathetic Sandy and good wine. Now it’s one of my favorite places to be. To see me there this year planning yet another birthday party, you would see a different woman than last year. Not the sad, shutoff person I once was.

This year I walk in with Crue in my arms and the girls fight over who gets to hold him first, usually losing out to Sandy. It’s become a second home. Sometimes I feel badly about just how comfortable we have gotten there. We usually walk in obnoxiously loud, pulling tables together to accommodate our group. Pulling Sandy from her duties to discuss all of the things we are excited about with this year’s party. Yet again, Sandy is providing pizza for this year’s bash. If you thank her, she won’t have it. I remember telling her thank you once, and she replied, “My dad would have loved what you are doing in your son’s name. He would have wanted to be a part of it.”

That’s Sandy. I don’t think she does much with this restaurant or in her life for that matter without thinking about what would have made her dad proud. Just last week, I was sitting around the table with the girls, smiling and bouncing Crue on my knee as he reached for a baby at the neighboring table. Eating pizza and drinking wine, laughing as we discussed our lives. New jobs, babies on the way, searching for Mr. right, planning a wedding, raising three girls, buying new homes. I couldn’t help but be thankful.

The walls at Johnny have heard it all. Looking around the room, you know they have heard much more than the gossiping of our small table. We just add to the already prominent history of that building and the people it has served. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It feels like Nash leads me to the places I’m supposed to be. Crue will grow up going to Johnny’s often during his life. One day I’ll tell him why this restaurant has become so important to me. Until then, I’m enjoying every minute of my time there. I’m sure Nash and Delio look down on all of us smiling often. What could make you smile more than wine, pizza, good friends, and two angels?

Sandy and Crue

My world

I could have written a hundred blog entries about these last seven months, describing every high and every low that I have experienced as a grieving mother caring for her new baby…and there have been many highs and lows. In short though, I’ve been too busy living, too busy pouring what’s left of me into being Crue’s mommy. I’ve had to work at it; it hasn’t come naturally like it did with Nash. Not the loving part, that has always been there, but the being motherly part. The part that dresses, feeds, and takes care of your child. I had been going through the motions like a lifeless robot. Feeding him because he needed it, dressing him so he wouldn’t be cold, rocking him so he got the sleep he needed.

With Nash, I found all of these things…fun, nostalgic even. With Crue, they are things I have to do as his mother. At least this is how I felt in the beginning…maybe even a little longer than just in the beginning. I’m not sure when the exact moment was, or if it slowly showed itself naturally over time, but it did happen. These things became fun again. All of the amazing wonders that come with being a mommy are there again.  I find myself smiling as I dress and feed him. Staring at his face as he dreams, and thinking to myself that I am blessed to have this amazing little man in my life. Yes, I said it, blessed. A word that six months ago I would never have put in a sentence that describes my life in anyway. Maybe grateful, or thankful, but never blessed.

Crue has become my whole world. I can’t tell you how many tears and kisses his sweet head has soaked up, and how many giggles and smiles I have gotten in return. I’m a mommy again, and that special connection I had with Nash, I now have with Crue. I was always thankful for the connection I had with Nash. With Crue, there isn’t a word big enough to describe the amount of gratitude I feel to be able to have this kind of connection again. I not only feel bonded to him because he is my son and I love him, but also because he is my son after a great loss. I can’t explain it; he is with me in every private moment I have. Every smile and every tear…every thought of anger and feeling of guilt. He has been beside me through it all. I feel connected to him because of it.

For example, I was looking for his social security card yesterday and thought I may have accidentally placed it with Nash’s papers in his room. I sat Crue down on Nash’s nursery room floor as I sat beside him and went through papers. I found Nash’s burial permit, his death certificate, his birth certificate, his autopsy report, the cards from his funeral…tears poured from my eyes like a faucet. I looked beside me and there was Crue, staring up at me. Every time I sniffled, he would look up from the toy he had. I finally said out loud, “Well buddy, this sucks.” He smiled at me with this huge grin and reached out for me to pick him up. As I scooped him up, he giggled and I smiled through my tears.

These moments happen often. It’s strange to expierence such contrasting emotions within minutes of each other. Before Crue, these moments changed my whole day. They would send me into a tailspin of depression and tears, and the rest of my day was spent in bed. Now I go from looking at autopsy reports to smiling at my beautiful baby boy. Every horrific memory or sad moment I have is immediately followed by baby kisses and hugs and an adoring look from Crue. Its a special bond that only we share. He sees me at my weakest but is too young to see anything other than his mommy who he loves. Too young to see just how broken I am. Too young to know I’m hurting. He just sees me.

No one looks at me that way anymore except Crue. He is the closest thing to healing I have experienced, and I find myself intensely protective of him. He has become the center of my universe; that someone I cannot live without. He is the first to know only the broken me and love me still. He makes my heart feel full and ache less. The pit in my stomach is more tolerable. Most importantly, he gives me hope. Hope that the gray world I now live in will one day know color again. Each day he seems to paint a new shade of light in my dark world. A rainbow? A rainbow he most definitely is. If I follow him, I know he will lead me to that pot of gold.

   

  

  

  

  

  

Extensions of love and grief…

In my opinion, there is nothing worse than losing a child, and I think most people would agree with me. I do, however, feel that there is something to be said for losing a grandchild, niece or nephew. The main reason being that they are the only people who come close to understanding the love you have for your child. Another reason being that it’s not the correct order of things for them, either. I have had people write me that read my blog, grandparents especially, asking me how our parents are doing, and I realize that they need the support as much as we do, and the understanding of others that this a huge loss for them too.

When I previously wrote about Nash’s great grandpa, papa Elmer, I had explained him as a man who had lost that twinkle in his eye after Nash passed. That can be said of everyone in our immediate families. Outsiders may not see it. We all are amazing fakers. We have mastered the art of fake smiles and casual conversations about the unimportant things in life. We can’t, however, fake these things to each other. There is not one of us that can’t see and relate to the grief of the other. There is a phrase in our family now that we call, “Having a bad Nash day”. When we feel like we have been hit by the semi truck of grief, that’s all we need to say to each other.

My father in law is the easiest to read. The reason being that he usually texts me early in the morning to ask how I’m doing. I know this really means, “I’m having a bad day, couldn’t sleep, up all night reliving the past, missing Nash so bad it hurts and I just want to know I’m not alone.” Instead, though, he sums it up to, “I’m having a bad Nash day.” My sister-in-laws, Becca, Caroline, and Tricia just come right out and say, “Today sucks.” Usually through tears. Soon after Nash died, Tricia said something to me I will never forget. She said, “I talk to Nash in my car, that’s where I feel him the most. I smiled and probably looked unmoved by the statement, but as soon as I got to my car I cried. Not the kind of crying you would think though, they were happy tears.

I imagine it’s how she feels when I’m proud of her children. How nice it is to have someone love your children that much. That’s how I felt. I felt a weight off my shoulders, knowing that when I’m not talking to him, someone else is. Someone is always loving and thinking of him. Becca has a Nash bear and I have seen him over at my in-laws’ house before. Becca told me that she talked to her dad on the phone and realized he needed him. Greg told me that for months after Nash died, he had a morning routine of getting up before Peggy and looking at all of Nash pictures and videos. He does this before Peggy gets up because it would make Peggy too sad.

Peggy and Greg love all their grandchildren equally. Nash had  a special spot in their hearts; I think being the only boy. My mother-in-law had me promise when I was pregnant to keep having kids until I had a boy. She said, “I love my girls and they love me, but they have a special bond with their dad; he can do no wrong in their eyes and vice versa.” She said she always felt that connection with Todd. That moms and their boys have that same special bond. When I saw her play with Nash, I saw that same bond with them. My family lives a couple hours away from us and they loved Nash just as much but didn’t see him as often. I’m that way with their kids. I’m always going to catch their next game or see them next time I’m up. They thought they had more time with Nash and I think they wrestle with a lot of guilt for not seeing him more. How were they to know their time would run out so quickly?

In one way, I think our families have it worse than us…I know what you’re thinking, not possible. The reason I say this is because they are dealing with a double loss. The loss of their grandchild and nephew…but also, the loss of the people Todd and I once were. They have all said this to me on many occasions. My mother-in-law said, “I miss Nash so much, and then I see you and Todd so broken and my heart hurts. I try to put myself in their position…thinking of Crue’s future children and how much I know I will love them, and imagining that ever happening to him. Yes, I would miss my grandchild and I would be heartbroken from that loss, but seeing Crue so heartbroken may even be worse.

I think they deal with anger even more than Todd and I. To be blunt, they are pissed off that this happened not only to their grandchild, but also to their child…hell, the whole family for that matter. This has changed the whole dynamic of our family. In some ways, positively; we don’t take anything for granted and appreciate what we have even more….and of course negatively; Todd and I are sad and removed. Every holiday, get together, birthday party, there is a person missing. He will always be included and I’m thankful for that, but he will always be a conversation, a memory, a picture. Not a little boy running around making a mess and telling us all he loves us. I will never hear his Aunt Becca shout  at him while laughing as she chases him to wash his dirty face. I will never see a picture of him and his grandpa and the first deer he gets when hunting. I will never see him playing with his cousins. His Aunt Caroline will never take him out on her boat. His Uncle Michael will never get the chance to have the bond with him that I do with his boys.

Sometimes I think about our future, and how it would be different if Nash was here. I know it changes everything, but I will never know how much. I know the kind of families Todd and I have, and I can imagine the life he had ahead of him. Not only does he not get that, but also we don’t get that. His parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles…we all lost that day. The extensions of love and grief run deep. It’s a domino effect that touches everything and everyone close to us. I heard a quote once that hit me like a ton of bricks. In just a few small words, it describes exactly what I’m trying to convey here………….”There is one thing that changed when you left, everything.” 

    
    
    
    
 

161

For some reason, and I’m not sure why, the majority of my memories of Nash are his final month. They are the most vivid in my mind. Not until Crue was born did I remember things from the earlier months, mostly because he would do something  similar to Nash and it would spark a memory. As Crue approaches the age Nash was when he died, my anxiety grows to levels that make it nearly impossible for me to function. One by one, I have brought the toys Nash was loving at this age downstairs for Crue to use – Nash’s car and his saucer. To see him in these things and hearing those familiar tunes they play, is a feeling I can’t explain. On one hand, it’s nice to see him looking so much like his brother, playing with the toys he loved, and on the other hand, it brings back the painful memories of coming home to these empty toys after Nash died. I had locked them away in his nursery, unable to look at them everyday without crying. Now here I am again, bringing them downstairs and seeing Crue smiling and playing in them. We even took Nash’s car to the funeral home, and now it’s back in my kitchen with Crue smiling and driving around. It’s both a good and bad feeling.   I spend every waking second torn between feelings of doom, imagining Crue is going to die and the need to be with him every second for the few days I have left with him and feeling like I need to watch him constantly to try and prevent his death. I look at him sleeping and cry,feeling so overwhelmed at the thought of losing him- like some fictional monster is going to snatch his life from him while he is peacefully sleeping and I need to be awake to protect him. He sleeps through the night now, and I find myself having panick attacks when I wake up and reach for him.  He loves to have the fan on him at night and wear only a diaper to bed, which makes his skin cold to touch and for the few seconds it takes him to breathe I’m reliving a nightmare. I try and give him belly time so he is strong, but can’t stand seeing his face down and watching him squirm as be tries to figure it out. I catch Todd staring at him and I know he is as nervous as me. When we all go to bed, Todd and I usually watch him without talking for ten minutes before we try and fall asleep, and in those ten minutes of silence,  we have never said so much to each other. When Nash was this age, we were at the peak of happiness. He just started really being fun, laughing, and smiling a lot, sleeping through the night. Now that Crue is doing all these things we find ourselves excited again, but fear instantly follows and you can see it on our faces. At least I see it on Todd’s. One day I remember him saying how much fun Crue is and how hard it is to go to work and leave him, then I saw his smile quickly go serious, as he silently stared at Crue and I recognize that look from my own thoughts and feelings. Work is especially tough. I find myself getting there at the last minute possible and running out as early as I can. I can’t concentrate or communicate for that matter. My mind is consumed with Crue, and I find myself angry I have to be away from him for a minute. Everyone tells me how happy I’ll be once he is six months old. In a way I agree, but I know I won’t truly get over this fear until he is one. His first birthday will be more of a celebration for Todd and I than it is for Crue. I also feel a sadness I can’t explain, knowing that Crue will have officially passed his brother in age. No more hand me downs from his big brother. No more of Nash’s things to share. We will be like first time parents again. Everything will be a new experience. Don’t get me wrong, I want him to grow older but it’s very bittersweet. Everything here on out,  every accomplishment is something his brother never got the chance to do and that breaks my heart in ways it has never been broken before. Nash lived 161 days before he left this world for heaven on June 19th. Crue will be 161 days old September 19th. There is an irony in this date, I know. I find myself scared to death. The fear of losing him is something I will deal will all my life, but on that day, it will be at an all time high, and I pray that we get through it with as little fear, anxiety, and tears as possible. Most importantly, I hope we make it out of this month with Crue in our arms and not in a casket. 

   

  

     
 

Aches and pains

I had the typical mommy blues after Nash was born.  A couple of weeks of crying for no reason, feeling down, but nothing like I had after Crue was born. When I found out I was pregnant with Crue, most of my family was prepared, or at least anticipating that I would have some sort of depression after birth. Although I felt disconnected to Crue, the real blues didn’t set in until he was about two months old. I didn’t recognize it as post-partum. I felt no different than I had been feeling the past year. The first thing that alarmed me was how irritable I was. I had a total and complete lack of patience with everyone and everything. If Crue would cry, instead of trying to figure out what was wrong, I felt the need to set him down and go in another room and just breathe. I would say that I tried for about a minute to figure him out, and if I couldn’t, this ball of frustration would accumulate in my gut and I felt like I was going to explode. With Nash, I was more patient. I wanted to figure him out. His cries broke me and pulled at my heart strings. Even if I was frustrated, I tried hard not to show it and always kept a soft voice. With Crue, I wanted to scream at him and shut the door to the room he was in to drown out his cries. I didn’t do that, but boy did I want to. Then I would feel guilty for feeling that way. I could look at him cry and feel nothing. This depressed me to no end. Why was I being like this? He is perfect, what do I have to be sad for? 

I would be angry with Todd for not having psychic abilities. If I was was holding Crue and wanted a drink of water, for some reason I couldn’t put two words together to ask for what I wanted. All the words came out like a jumbled mess. Todd would ask me what I said and I would just scream, “Never mind, I’ll get it myself. To which he would give me an annoyed look and say something sarcastic, which would make me so angry I would proceed to tell him everything he did that day that upset me until I was hiccup crying and saying I wanted a divorce. I didn’t really want one, I said it more for shock value, which I have never been accustomed to doing. I’ve always prided myself on never saying those words unless I meant them, and now here I was saying it every other day just so he knew how truly pissed I was. Sometimes I did think about divorce…one reason being that I hated everyone, including him, and the second reason being because I felt so guilty for the way I was acting. I didn’t feel the need to have a spectator to my everyday meltdowns and manic behavior…seriously, when I am being irrational I know it, but once I’ve committed to it, I’m  loyal.

I would cry about everything. God forbid I couldn’t wrap a spaghetti noodle around my fork. That shit would put me in a total meltdown. All I wanted to do was sleep, but I was so panicked about sleeping when Crue did that I had insomnia. I didn’t want to go anywhere. Todd would tell me that it may feel good to get out, and just the thought of showering exhausted me so much I would need a nap. I was angry that I couldn’t just dwell on everything sucky. I couldn’t grieve at the level I wanted, because now I had a baby to take care of. Crue was crushing my dreams of becoming an alcoholic hermit that stayed at home all day watching TV and eating until I had to be removed by one of those cranes because I could no longer carry my own weight to get out of my house. Damn him for making me take care of myself and damn Todd for……EVERYTHING!!

When I had my first OB appointment, Todd told me to mention it to the doctor. I’m like, “Mention what?” He said, “The possibility of medication for your depression.” Another comment I wanted to kill him for, but at this point he had nothing to lose. I was mad at him for everything. As I sat in the room waiting for the doctor to see me, I thought to myself that it may be a good idea to mention it. As soon as she walked in, she asked how I was doing. As I started to speak, I began crying uncontrollably and barely putting words together in any order that would make sense. Once I had gotten it all out, I stopped abruptly, looked up at her in total embarrassment and smiled. She smiled back. She listed the symptoms of postpartum depression and asked if I had any of them. Irritability, disconnected to baby, overly tired, insomnia, unable to speak clearly, crying for no reason, lack of interest in eating, overeating. I felt like she just described my personality to a T. Seriously, if I was on match.com and had to describe myself, I would list all of those things and maybe add lovable just to round it all out with a good trait to sell myself. I told her I felt this way, but it truly was no different then the depression I was feeling before Crue was born. I didn’t want to rely on medication to get me through it. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t even take Tylenol unless I’m dying. So the thought of taking a medication that I would have to eventually ween off of did not interest me. Plus, it was June. Everything felt worse this month. My doctor smiled and said, “Shelly you have a good head on your shoulders and a good support system. You will know when you need something and I will be here if and when you are ready.”

To this day, I haven’t taken anything. I have improved, for the most part, but am still unsocial and want to be alone most of the time. I’m still very easily frustrated and irritable. I only blame Todd  for 50% of my problems instead of 99%. The best thing that has changed is my connection to Crue. He is my everything and I adore him. He truly makes me feel more like the old me than anything else. I catch myself laughing and smiling with him, and  kissing him nonstop. Sometimes I’m so happy I feel like me again. Even if it’s only for a couple minutes, it gives me hope. Hope that these aches and pains are just growing pains, and that as Crue grows, so will my heart. That hole will always be there, but he fills every part of it that’s left, and in some moments makes it grow even bigger. My rainbow baby, he has saved my life in so many ways. Who needs medicine when you have 18 pounds of pure, innocent, giggly, sweet and slobbery love at your disposal at all times? 

 
  

June 19, 2015

Just typing that title sends chills down my spine. This day last year, Nash died; this day my life was forever changed. This day a part of Todd and I died as well. Thinking back to Nash’s life makes me happy and sad. I was such a different person then. I was never happier. I cannot express that enough. It’s not a dramatization or feeling I think of now when I look back. It was 100% the happiest time in my life. I would tell Todd on a nightly basis how perfect our life was, how good we had it, how lucky we were. I wasn’t one of those people who realized what they had once it was gone. NO! I absolutely knew! I spent every damn day smiling, daydreaming, thanking God…this is not an exaggeration! To be at the peak of happiness and receive a call that someone is doing CPR on your everything, followed by the longest drive to a hospital…only to see my lifeless baby on a gurney…felt like being slammed into concrete from 1000 stories high. I dreaded this day more than any day.

Todd and I had planned a party for close friends and family. We knew we would do this months ago. We couldn’t let the day pass without acknowledging it. Family and friends have helped us through so much, why not lean on them again? However, once the day got closer…I canceled the party. I may have wanted friends and family before on tough days, but so far in June, sad to say, they had felt like a burden, people I had to fake smiles around or explain things to. I didn’t want my friends and family around staring at me…I felt like I had been faking it for a full year, and I just couldn’t do it anymore. This day was all mine to wallow in and wallow was what I planned on doing. Once I canceled, Todd seemed down. I asked him if he was upset and he said he wasn’t, that he understood, but at the same time he felt family would help him, distract him. Over the next couple of days, I thought hard about it. I have been a ridiculous person to be married to this month, hell, this year. I’m moody, agitated, sad, careless…if Todd needed the party, who was I to deny him that after all he had been doing for me? I told Todd that when the day comes, if I want to be alone, I’m locking myself in our room and gave him strict instructions to not let anyone come up to talk to me.

In the beginning of the day, Todd seemed to be right. We were so busy picking up stuff for the party and cleaning the house that I barely had time to think about it.  Then we went to the grocery store, and that’s where I fell apart. The weather was almost identical to the weather this day a year ago, blue skies, warm. As we shopped, I looked at all the people picking up groceries and smiling. Walking down the aisles like it’s just your average day. When we left the house for the store, I looked at the time and it was the same time the sitter said she had laid Nash down for his nap. When we were checking out at the grocery store, I looked again…only an hour into the almost three hour nap she claimed he had. I started to cry. I felt frantic. As I looked at all the smiling people, I thought to myself that this is how it probably was the day he died.  People smiling, shopping even…I wanted to yell at them all that my baby is dying in a house by himself minutes away and you are shopping instead of helping him!! Another hour went by and we were at home. As I watched the time, it killed me to see just how long he was left. It really sank in.

I watched a show once where a person had been killed in eight minutes and the defense attorney said that it was a very short time to suffer. The opposing lawyer, in her closing arguments, made everyone stay silent as she ran a stop watch for eight minutes. It seemed like an eternity! When she was done, she looked at the jury and said, “Do you still think that eight minutes is a short amount of time to suffer?” That is exactly what the day felt like to me, except instead of eight minutes it was hours. What makes it even harder is knowing how many people love Nash now that didn’t even know him until he passed…hundreds, thousands. Many within a ten minute drive from the sitter. Knowing that if any of them knew now what I didn’t then, the sitter would have had thousands of people in her driveway to get him; hell, he wouldn’t have even been there for that matter.

As people started showing up to the party, it did act as a distraction. A fake smile at first, and before long an unforced one. I still found moments to hide and cry and talk to Nash, but for the most part I socialized. Seeing the fifty or so people at our home, close friends and family, made me thankful to have them, blessed even. Once it was dark enough, everyone started handing out lanterns. It was kind of chaotic as people tried to light them and send them off. I had no planned words to say, but I felt the need to say something. Even though I knew everyone there loved Nash, I didn’t want in all the chaos, for people to forget what we were lighting them for. I wanted to say something but felt like I was choking back tears. I had to though. I yelled, “Make sure when you release the lanterns…” I paused to think of what I wanted to say. I wanted to say, remember these are for Nash and the day my baby became an angel. Or, make sure you think of Nash as you release them. All I could choke out was, “Make sure when you release the lanterns…you tell Nash you…love him.” One by one in our front yard on one of the most beautiful nights I’ve seen, my family released their lanterns and I would hear, “We love you Nash” with every release. I held Crue in my arms. I can’t explain how beautiful it was.

Todd always says when he is in our yard that it has a plantation kind of feel to it. An older looking house on almost three acres with fields and trees all around. I feel peaceful out there always. This time though, we stood in the front yard of Nash’s home releasing lanterns, saying, “I love you Nash,” and watching them float to the sky. I held Crue in the middle of the crowd. He had been sleeping and I was thankful for that so I could take in the moment without worrying that he would cry. I looked down at him and was surprised to see his eyes were open as he watched the lanterns float to the sky. The glow covered his face..he watched and watched as they drifted further out. He watched until I could barely even see them, and then he drifted back to sleep. That moment meant so much to me. Looking at Crue and thinking of Nash. I treasure making memories with Crue and this was my favorite so far. Earlier that morning I had written Nash a letter…

June 19th, 2015, marks one year since your passing. So many are worried about your dad and I on this day. To me what hurts the most about June 19th isn’t surprisingly the fact that that is the day you left us. Yes, that hurts more than I can put into words, but what June 19th means to me is that it’s been one year since I’ve held you. One year since I’ve seen that smile. One year since I’ve met your gaze. One year since I last snuggled your warm little body to mine. One year since I’ve heard that adorable laugh. One year down and many more torturous ones ahead. You were my world then and you continue to be my world now. I never in a million years dreamed I would lose one of my children one day. Had I know what this day would be, if I would have had a warning…I would have never left you there baby. It shatters my heart to think of you alone, going through something everyone fears, dying, and knowing you did it alone, without your mommy and daddy. Without anyone. Oh Nash, I wish this would have never happened. I don’t want to be this mother, I don’t want you to be that baby. I want to go back to the time when life was perfect and amazing and you were a part of it. I want you to know that even a year later, I think of you every second. Even though your brother is here, it does not take my thoughts away from you. He has helped me and your daddy in more ways then I can ever explain, and there are moments I look at him and know you sent him to us. A lot of people, myself included, think there are many similarities between the two of you looks wise. What gets me the most though, is that I feel a connection between the two of you. There are times when Crue has these wise beyond his years eyes. When I’m crying, he looks at me in a way I can’t explain, almost like he gets it. He is a part of me, of your daddy, and of you. Even though you are not here physically, you are still very much a member of our family. Not many can say they have two boys, one here and one in heaven watching over all of us. I try each day to look at it as a blessing. It’s hard baby, hard to be here with out you. Hard to keep living in a world that has lost it’s magic. Crue has brought a little of that magic back each day and I feel the need to thank you for that. June 19th……..the end to such a magical life, and the beginning of something magical in its own right. Love you Nash, I’m still here baby, missing you. 

    
    
    
    
    
    
   

Papa Elmer

I remember the first time I met Todd’s grandpa, Elmer. I was at Sportsmans’ Bar where Todd and I met years earlier. We were only friends at the time, and I was used to seeing him and his uncles come up for a drink after hunting. I had grown to love this group of guys. I have seen close families before, but the Schupbach’s have something different, special even. There is nothing fake or forced about their love for each other. There is no sense of obligation to hang out together or do something kind for one another other. They genuinely enjoy each other and will go above and beyond for any member of their family. They are warm and welcoming, and within five minutes of meeting any family member you are instantly in love and jealous of their family dynamic. One of the hardest things about losing Nash was knowing how loved he was and would always be. How lucky he was to be born into such an amazing family.

The day I met Elmer, the guys came up after hunting for their usual beer. Only this time, in walked the cutest older man I have ever seen. He took small steps, what I would call a quick shuffle. He also had the slightest lean to the right as he walked due to his bad back. Other than that, you would never know he was 83 years old. His smile could fill a room. He had this sunny, carefree, tender disposition about him. His eyes were this very light blue color, and with one look you could see right into his kind and gentle soul. He was lovable and warm, and within seconds of talking to him, it was evident where his family got their closeness from – their patriarch. He sat at the bar, having a beer with the guys. Sipping his beer from a small glass, I asked Todd who he was and he looked at me shocked and said, “That’s grandpa Elmer! Everyone knows Grandpa!” They all looked at me stunned. Not just the family, but my local friends as well. It felt almost embarrassing to not know. He had a light about him, and you just wanted to stand in some small fraction of its glow.

I found myself enamored by him. He treated everyone like they were the most special person in the room. I told Todd I was in love and he said, “Get in line.” I asked him to dance and he said, “Only if you play a song I like.” I requested the song “Crazy” by Patsy Klein and grabbed Grandpa by the hand and pulled him to the dance floor. He made me feel instantly loved, and over the years, I have realized he had a way of making everyone feel that way, especially the ladies. Oh, how he loved the ladies, whether it be a granddaughter, niece, friend or daughter. Women were beautiful to him and he did not pretend to hide his love and affection for their beauty. I remember sitting next to him at Christmas with all his granddaughters chatting nearby. He said, “Those are my girls, and not a one of them is ugly.” I could have made a hobby out of watching him watch his family. I have never seen a man more in love with his family, and I have never seen a family more in love with one man.

Grandpa lived in the country by himself and it was a regular thing for his children and grandchildren to brainstorm how to get wood for his stove delivered, food for his pantry or clothes purchased. Whenever he would inquire about one small thing, they all rallied together to get him whatever he needed. He would never dare ask for anything and he never had to.

Although I love to sing, it’s not something I have ever been comfortable doing in front of a lot of people. I’m shy and insecure about it. Todd only knew I could sing because he had overheard me. He asked if I would sing at our wedding and I told him, “No way! Sing in front of hundreds of people?” Half of my family didn’t even know I sang because I would never do it in front of people. I thought about it a lot and I knew if I did, it would make Todd happy, so I practiced whenever I was alone and told the DJ ahead of time that I may or may not sing at our wedding depending on how much liquid courage I had. I felt safe this way. If I didn’t sing, no one would know the difference. If I did, Todd would be pleasantly surprised. Well, I’m proud to say I did it. I sang, “At Last”, by Etta James. I pulled off a surprise my husband still talks about to this day. There was only one person happier than Todd and that was Papa Elmer. He practically ran to the dance floor when I was done and grabbed both my hands with the biggest smile and told me how much he loved that song and how I sang it.

People who know Elmer know that he is a bragger when it comes to his family. If you have a talent, it WILL be exposed! I didn’t realize that by singing at our wedding, I now needed to start getting comfortable singing in public because Elmer was going to make me sing every chance he got, and he did. It was a Friday night ritual to head up to the VFW for the fish fry. In typical Schupbach style, there would always be aunts, uncles, grandchildren, and great grandchildren there. We always had the biggest table, with Elmer at the center, smiling proud. Not only were we all there every Friday, but half the family worked it, cooking in the kitchen. We would joke about how everything we are a part of gets taken over. Anyway, we would follow up dinner by heading to the adjoining clubhouse. It’s an older bar, with dim lighting and pictures of veterans all over the walls. Everyone there knew us by name, yet Elmer introduced us all the time, usually with some sort of description. For example, this is my grandaughter Shelly, the singer. This is my great grandson Nash, my first grandson to carry on the Schupbach name. Whenever he would introduce us you would always see that tender grin and twinkle in his eye.

I’m not sure if the VFW started it, or Grandpa asked, but before long there was karaoke on Fridays as well. Grandpa would stay however long it took for me to build up courage to sing, even if it was midnight. As the years went on though, he grew tired of waiting and would actually put in his requests. I would be sitting there eating and the DJ would say, “Shelly is next, and she will be singing ‘Grandpa’ by the Judd’s”. I would look at Gramps and he would just smile, jump up and say,”I’ll go with you!” I cannot tell you how many times I have sang that song at the VFW with papa Elmer holding my hand. The first time I sang it, everyone was tearing up, including Grandpa. God, I loved that man.

Todd and I didn’t know if Nash was going to be a boy or a girl when we were pregnant. We wanted to be surprised. If it was a boy, it wouldn’t be Elmer’s first grandson, but the first to carry on the Schupbach name. He kept telling me that he didn’t care if it was boy or girl, but he would introduce my belly to everyone at the VFW as his grandson. When I had Nash, there was no denying the love Grandpa had for him. The way they would look at each other was something to see – like they had a secret no one else knew but the two of them. Every chance Grandpa got, he would visit. He has what we call a Papa-Elmer-swing. He has done it with all the grandchildren; it’s a tradition. He would hold them in his hands like a swing and then bend over to swing them between his legs. Poor Grandpa, his namesake just had to be 11 pounds at birth. He had to do his swing though, and as much as we were all nervous, he did it and smiled ear to ear the whole time.

Nash’s death took its toll on Gramps. He told my father- in-law it was the hardest thing he had ever been through, and that is saying something coming from a vet who has also lost his soulmate. He had a hard time not crying when he would see Todd and I. He lost a bit of that twinkle in his eye. Elmer is so well known in Fenton, that when I hear people talk about Nash, they say, Schupbach? That’s got to be Elmer’s grandson.

I remember standing at Nash’s casket crying, and grandpa came up behind me and put his arm around me. He looked at Nash and placed his hand on his forehead and said, “What a guy! What a guy!” Then he looked at me and told me how sorry he was. I told him, “I’m sorry for you Grandpa. You lost your grandson.” He said, “Don’t be sorry for me. I get to see him soon; you have your whole life ahead of you.” When “Nash Day” started happening and people started to do random acts of kindness, someone bought my Grandpa his morning coffee at his usual hot spot, Cafe Aroma. He said that the waitress told him to have a “Nash Day.” He told me this with tears in his eyes, but with that same pride he always had when talking about his children or grandchildren.

Grandpa drove and lived on his own up until a couple days before he left this world for Heaven. The day before he passed, we were leaving the hospital for the night and were telling Grandpa we would see him later. He reached up for Crue’s hand, smiling through his oxygen mask. We had given him a clipboard to write on because the mask made it difficult to understand him. We said we loved him and he wrote on the paper, “Take care and I love you all the most.” That was Elmer, always thinking about his family. His wife had always told the grandchildren and him, “I love you more”. And here he was fighting for his life, using all the energy he could muster to make sure we knew he loved us most. He led a life most would envy. He was a World War II Vet, an artist, an inventor. I could go on and on about his accomplishments and never do him justice. His proudest accomplishments, though, was always his family. He was a loving husband, Dad, Grandpa and Great Grandpa.

He was a family man and in his final moments, he was surrounded by all of them. In a hospital room that was standing room only, all holding him and telling him how much they loved him….he took his final breaths. He leaves behind a legacy none could match, and along with it, many broken hearts. I have never had as much peace as I had the day Papa Elmer died. I have a great comfort knowing he is with Nash. I selfishly was excited for the day they would finally be reunited and Nash would have a familiar face on other side. I’ve heard it said that Heaven is made up of all the things you loved in life. I can’t imagine a Heaven for Grandpa without a grandchild, and now he has one to play with for eternity. One that he can brag about endlessly. People have experiences in life. Their wedding day, birth of their children, loss of loved ones. Some even experience miracles. I’m proud to say, I have experienced the Schupbachs. I have experienced Papa Elmer. God speed Papa Elmer, give Nash a kiss for me. Oh, don’t forget, we love you more!


   
  

June 9th, 2015

On June 8th, 2015, I sat in my room crying most of the day like every other day in June so far. I sat in the Nash nook staring out the window at the bright blue sky and wanted to die. I knew tomorrow I would look at my Timehop and see my baby boy smiling with his five month sticker proudly displayed on his chest…the last sticker he would ever wear. A picture I took that I thought would be one of twelve. Pictures I thought would be displayed at his high school graduation party, not his funeral. I didn’t want to go to work anymore…be married anymore…be a mom. I wanted to selfishly not be anything to anyone. I wanted the world to stop asking so much of me. Everyday normal tasks, for me, were hurdles I had to get through to make it to the next horrible day. This time, the next horrible day to follow was…June 9th.

I picked up my phone and scanned through Facebook. The ninth has become so much more to me than just his birthday. People had made this day special for me again, just special in another way. The first thing that popped in my head is that it was Nash day and a tinge of excitement pierced through me! How cool is that? How cool is it that because of the kindness of others, the day has actually become something entirely different in my brain? Like I have been retaught or reprogrammed to associate the day not with sadness, as most in my situation would do, but with…happiness. Although people continue to post things on his Facebook page, it has slowed down overall, which I knew would eventually happen. It made it even more exciting now when people would post something. As I sat there thinking about everything that has been done for Todd and I, the support we have gotten, the tears began to flow. Grateful does not cover it.

We still get Nash’d on a regular basis. People still continue to honor Nash by doing random acts of kindness. It’s an everyday occurrence to see a random picture of someone on my newsfeed wearing a Nash Day t-shirt and bracelet or to drive behind a car with a Team Nash sticker. On top of that, I cannot tell you how many times I have been stopped by someone in a store, at the doctor’s office, or even just walking by, and been told how much Nash has touched his or her heart. I have received countless letters thanking me for writing about my journey and telling me how attached people feel to my boys. It’s overwhelming, and just when I think it’s going to my head and that people could not possibly be as attached as I think, someone posts a rainbow to my page or a video of their child singing the cowboy song. I think I could write all day, everyday for the rest of my life and not mention all of the amazing things that have happened since Nash has passed. I have sat down to write about the wonder of it all so many times and just stare at the computer wondering where to even start.

To give you just a glimpse into what a day can consist of for me, one day in particular stands out. Crue must have been a month old, and I took him with me to Target for the first time. As we walked in, I heard a high pitched squeal followed by a lady running at me yelling, “Is that Crue?!? Is that the rainbow baby?!?!?” It startled me, and I jumped back and instantly started smiling and laughing as I realized what was happening. To me, this is just bizarre. It amazes me that people have the reaction they do to my boys…but I tell you this, it never gets old. Once the lady had finished gazing adoringly at Crue as he looked at her all serious with his eyebrows furrowed with that puzzled look of his, I continued on through the store. I was looking at toys for my goddaughter Gia’s first birthday, and I felt a lady staring at me. We made eye contact a couple of times and we would both smile and look away. It felt as if she wanted to say something to me, but I thought I was just crazy and was probably feeling that way because of the Crue groupie I had just encountered at the front of the store. As I turned to go down another aisle, she followed and finally approached me. She reached out for my hand and asked if I was Nash’s mommy. The tears rolled as she thanked me for my blog and explained on a personal level how much it has helped her better understand her sister who lost her child. I walked out of the store staring at Crue, thinking how amazing it is that all of this has come out of Nash’s passing. As I put my purchases in the backseat and went to get in the driver’s seat, two teenage girls walked by giggling, shouting, “Have a Nash day!” I stood there like a statue with this dumb wide open mouth look on my face. I scanned the parking lot to see if I was being punk’d.

As I drove off, I couldn’t have been more proud of Nash, of us, of strangers. Now here I sit, weeks later, crying about the 9th. I knew what I had to do. I knew if anything could help, team Nash would. I posted on Facebook, telling people what a hard time I was having this month. How much it would mean to me if this one last time people would change their profile pictures to Nash and pay it forward on the 9th. I think a part of me still needed to know people were out there, that they hadn’t forgotten about Nash. I was desperate for any ounce of encouragement. Like clockwork, people started sharing my post and profile pictures were changed. It’s amazing that I can be sitting at home crying in the Nash nook, write a simple post, and within minutes I’m crying, moved by people as they continue to do anything they can to support us. The next day, my newsfeed filled with pictures of Nash and random acts of kindness. The ninth was my only saving grace the month of June. Everyday of that month leading up to it and the days that followed continued to be extremely painful and heartbreaking…but the ninth…not the ninth…NEVER the 9th…thank you for that. 

    
    
    
 

June

June…my last weeks with Nash. You know how when there is a tsunami or hurricane warning, they advise you to seek higher ground, evacuate, or stock up on non-perishables and find the nearest shelter? That’s what June feels like to me. Only this time I have the warning; I know the storm is coming but have absolutely no idea how to prepare for it or how much damage it will bring. I feel crippled by the amount of depression this month has brought. I feel like I’m reliving his death and the days leading up to it…like if I try hard enough, I can rewind time and change the events of that day…only I don’t know how. Everything like the summer air, green grass, blue skies, things I have always loved about June take me back to this time last year and I want to find the old me and warn me…DON’T TAKE HIM TO THE SITTER!!! CALL IN SICK TO WORK!!! CALL BECCA TO GO PICK HIM UP EARLY!!!

I know I can’t go back though, and the frustration and stress it is causing me is beyond anything I have ever endured. It feels like it’s getting worse. It’s been almost a year, shouldn’t I feel better? Shouldn’t this get easier? I find myself reminiscing about this time last year. How excited I was, like in all the previous months, to put Nash’s monthly sticker on and snap a picture of him to post online…five months old. My poor January baby, he had been cooped up his whole life and it was finally nice enough to take him outside. We found that he enjoyed this more then anything. His first boat ride. His many walks down the country roads near our home with Todd proudly wearing him in a carrier. The soccer games he was toted around to so his aunt Becca could show him off. His many naps in the grass with his daddy…his surprise visits to his aunt Caroline’s house, where Todd would put his car seat on her front porch facing the door, ring the door bell and run, only to watch from feet away as Caroline would open the door to see him and scream and smile. Oh, how I loved this time of year last June…oh, how I HATE it now. It reminds me of how happy we all were. How fun Nash was becoming and how much more we could do with him now that it was finally warm. We had no idea that ten short days after we placed that five month sticker on…he would be tragically taken from us. Every second of June I spent with an aching pit in my stomach. If you could run out of tears…I would have on June 1st.

I found myself hating everyone and everything. People were talking about how nice it was, how it was finally summer. As a hygienist, I do a lot of small talk. The same usual questions. How are you? It sure is nice outside, isn’t it? Planning any vacations this summer? I still asked these questions, only this time I prayed they didn’t answer, and when they did, I wanted to scream. God forbid someone tell me about taking their kids camping or to the water park. I found myself glaring at them and feeling this need to bluntly reply when they asked me if I was enjoying my summer, “As a matter a fact, I am. My child died this time last year and I’m finding it hard to breathe. Hard to get out of bed each day. Hard to pretend I’m not jealous of your life and the time you get to spend with your children. How much I absolutely love hearing about how great your doing. I managed to smile and say the right things though.

Every day felt like a marathon. I would drive down the road and see people grilling, taking their boats on the water, pushing their kids in strollers through town…and to me it might as well have been snowing. I HATED EVERYONE!! I could no longer handle taking the high road or being the person people felt was handling grief so gracefully. I told God every other day how much I hated him. If this is a lesson that I am supposed to learn, screw him for thinking I needed it. If Todd tried to talk to me, I either bit his head off or cried. I found myself driving past the sitter’s road, a road I have not been down since the day I dropped Nash off. I wanted to run through her door, grab hold of her and shake her as hard as I could. I wanted to scream from the top of my lungs how much I hated her. How much my life is ruined because of her ignorance. How I am forever a different person because of her lack of common sense. But mostly I wanted to scream at her that my Nash suffered and lost his life…HIS LIFE!!!!!!!!  I wanted to run upstairs to the room he died in and study every corner of it. Lay where he laid when he died so I could see what he saw as he breathed his last breaths. How crazy is it that my son died in a room I have never been in, never even seen?

I wanted to yell at all my family and friends to quit calling me, texting me, coming over. I didn’t want to see or talk to any of them. The effort it required to even pretend I could be a good friend, sister, daughter at this time was beyond me and I found myself hating all of them for any happy post they posted on Facebook, any smile they would crack. Any laugh i heard. I wanted everyone to feel as badly as I did. I wanted to run away from life and all it’s obligations. Why do I have to go to a family party? Why do I have to make an excuse to ignore everyone I know? Why do I have to take a shower, brush my teeth, comb my hair?  Screw everyone and everything for moving on, for smiling, for even being a little happy. My life is forever altered and I hated that I felt alone in that. I was cynical and angry…and then finally…numb. June, oh how I will forever hate you. 

    
    
 

The power of a smile

There are many similarities between Crue and Nash, and yet they are different in so many ways. I would be lying if I didn’t say I enjoy their similarities. I find comfort in them. One minute they can look like twins and the next they look nothing alike.  They both have pale skin, big eyes, and cheeks for miles. Crue, unlike his brother, is very serious. He usually furrows his eyebrows and looks oh so not entertained by most people.  If you are going to get a smile from him, he is going to make you work for it. Nash, on the other hand, found everything entertaining. He handed out smiles like they were going out of style and handed them out quite regularly since birth.

There were many days I stared at Crue searching for his brother, any glimpse of Nash I could get. I felt awful for it, but I couldn’t stop. Eventually, I stopped searching. It was too painful. I had to come to the realization that Crue is not Nash and I wouldn’t want him to be. The biggest difference between the two, other than temperament, is Crue’s piercing blue eyes. Nash’s were some of the darkest brown eyes you had ever seen. Sometimes when Crue does something so much like his brother that I gasp, he will look at me and those big blue eyes take my breath away. In those moments when I’m so caught off guard by their similarities, I see those blue eyes and they almost seem wrong. Like, they don’t fit.

Some people have told me they were thankful that their rainbow baby was a different gender so they didn’t compare. I get that now. As much as I love Crue, and I do, I sometimes get caught up in comparing the two of them and I find myself being let down by their differences. I can imagine this is pretty normal. You lose a child, of course you want them back. I lost a boy and had another boy right away. Of course I want them to be alike. When they are not, it’s one more reminder that Nash is gone, if that makes sense. It took me a while and a great deal of depression and disconnect from Crue before I started truly loving their differences.

Everything about how I mother them is different. When I was pregnant with Nash, I was so excited. I would talk to my belly, sing to him. I really felt like we were paling around long before he was born. When I was pregnant with Crue, I would forget I was pregnant. There was no singing. I talked to him a few times but it was mainly when I was sad. The same thing after they were born. I would play with Nash every second, talk to him, sing to him, smile at him. With Crue I did all those things, but they felt forced and unnatural. He would fuss and cry and I would get more frustrated than I probably should have. I truly felt he didn’t love me, that we didn’t have that bond. That he could see right through me to all my shortcomings. I was so depressed that I thought strongly about leaving. Todd and Crue would be fine and I could buy some small cabin in the woods and live like a hermit. As time went on, I started interacting with Crue more. I sang him every song I could think of except Nash’s favorite, “Mommas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.” That was Nash’s song. It was hard not to sing it to him because I was so used to singing it to Nash…it felt natural to want to sing it to Crue. I would not let myself though. He needed his own song. Some things are sacred.

I found myself feeling awful about how I felt. People would say, “You probably don’t take anything Crue does for granted. You probably smile when he cries.” I felt terrible because I was feeling the opposite. Frustrated, alone, disconnected, agitated…what the hell was wrong with me? I should be savoring every moment. Instead, I’m dwelling on the past…still crying about what I don’t have and not being thankful for what I do. Crue and I have a lot of alone time together. I started talking to him like I would talk to an adult. I would tell him about my day and how I was feeling. We would discuss everything from what eye shadow I would wear to what store I should buy diapers from. As I talked, he would look at me with that serious look of his and I started loving it.

I remember one day in particular. I had him on my lap facing me, and I started crying. It was a bad day, and I explained to him why it was. He just looked at me all seriously, and I smiled at him. I said, “You look how I feel.” We were like two grumps bumming around. It became my little running joke with him. Sometimes I wonder if I created his seriousness. I was so happy when I was pregnant with Nash, and he was a happy baby. I was depressed and serious with Crue, and he is a serious baby. Either way, I was starting to love his little personality. If I sang a sad song to him, he would push his lower lip out and it would start to quiver. I kept doing it because it was beyond cute. Then I would sing a happy song and he would stop and look at me all seriously.

I’m not quite sure when it started, but Crue started giving me little playful smiles here and there. One day in particular, I started singing every song I could think of to see what would happen. He either cried or did his serious look. I must have felt strong in that moment because without thinking the words just came out of me, “Cowboys ain’t easy to love and they’re harder to hold.” He gave me that sideways mischievous grin like Nash would, and I started to cry happy tears. I continued singing it and he cooed and giggled the whole time. Since that day nothing is off limits. If he likes the same things as his brother, so be it. Isn’t that what I had secretly wanted all along? He smiles now as much as Nash did, if not more. I can not put into words how happy it  has made us to to have that smile in our home again. I’m glad he waited to give me those smiles of his. It gave me time to embrace Crue for all that he is and all that he is not. I had fallen in love with him not for his similarities to his brother, but for his differences. In the end, he shares one major thing with his brother…his smile. I think he waited until I knew I loved him no matter what before he flashed that smile at me. Like he was holding out for the right moment. I can just hear him thinking to himself…”Okay, I’ve made her wait long enough…here is what I got from my brother.” Of all the things he could have gotten, I’m glad it was Nash’s smile. My boys’ smiles could melt the heart of anyone. I know they have melted mine. Who knew there could be such power in something as simple as a smile?