Friday, June 28, 2013

Superman: Man of Steel Hope

It's been out for two weeks so it was really about time that I saw it. There was just something about going to see THIS movie though that I knew was going to be extra hard. It was, after all, Superman. And for reasons that I could probably never do justice in a blog post, Superman is special. Joe was my Superman.

The tattoo I got a few months after Joe died.

So I revert for a moment to an old blog post to tell my story about the meaning of Superman. The very first post I wrote...

Written October 13, 2011 2:12pm
Many times over the past year and a half I have told Joe that he is my Superman and I think there is no time that has been more true than these past few weeks. After powering through intense radiation on his spine, he had surgery this past Tuesday to deal with the accumulating fluid in his lung. In the end, more than 2 liters of fluid was drained both through the surgery and using the catheter that was placed. (Imagine, a 2 liter bottle of soda - that's a LOT!) It's no wonder that he is now breathing easier!

In the midst of it all, we celebrated a very HAPPY 1ST BIRTHDAY with our little man and enjoyed all the love and support from family and friends. Domani enjoyed his birthday cupcake on Tuesday although he seemed more interested in eating his party hat (he'll learn)! The time has just gone by so quickly and we are looking forward to celebrating with the whole family this Saturday.

Joe started back with his chemo treatments today after a long hiatus for his radiation. Here's to hoping that this helps him find relief for some of his symptoms and that he is able to fully enjoy the party on Saturday.

Back to the present day and the fact that the man who normally would take me to see the new Superman movie is no longer here with me. Earlier this week, I was in Orlando for work and I met up with Joe's cousin Tony after he got out of work late one night. We found ourselves at Universal CityPlace standing in front of the movie theater and wouldn't you know it...neither of us had seen Man of Steel. And there was an IMAX showing in 40 minutes. OF COURSE that was what we were going to do.

I'm so happy that I saw Man of Steel with him because I needed that connection with Joe when I saw it. When Joe and I went to see Superman Returns in 2006, he was healthy. We had been dating for awhile but we weren't engaged yet. Our world was very different. 

I warned Tony ahead of time that I would almost definitely cry at the movie. And cry I did.

Not just at the obvious connections to Joe and the fact that this was "Superman" without him. But also at the poignant scene in the beginning where Jor-El and Lara say goodbye to their infant son and shed tears over all of the things they will not get to see him do. I know a little something about shedding tears over things a father won't get to see a son do. I feel like I do it almost every day. And then there were the flashbacks towards the end when Clark's mom is talking about him becoming the man his dad always knew he would be and you see the young Clark running around with a cape on his back. Just like my little guy does. Oh how sweet. And bitter.

It was hard and wonderful at the same time. In this movie there is a scene with Lois and Superman where he explains that the "S" on his chest means "hope" on his planet. That line has sat with me ever since. I definitely didn't realize when I was getting my Joe memorial tattoo that I was also permanently marking myself with hope. I like that more than words can say.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Father's Day with the Mets

I made the decision about what to do on Father's Day months ago and the honest truth is that I made it haphazardly without any thought at all. I selected Sunday, June 16 as one of the dates in my Mets ticket pack without even making the connection that it would be Father's Day, but as I look back on today I feel like there was definitely a case of divine intervention in my supposedly random ticket plan selection.

Up until last week I wasn't sure who was going to come with my little guy and me to the game since I assumed most people would be busy with other Father's Day plans. I was preparing myself for the possibility that it would just be the two of us. But sometimes life happens and both of my parents ended up being able to join us for the game. What a blessing that turned out to be!

We cheered like good fans through 8 1/2 innings of uninspiring Mets baseball.  By the time we came to the bottom of the 9th I have to admit that I wasn't feeling like we had much of a chance. The Mets had only 2 wins so far in June. They had plenty of scoring opportunities already in today's game, but couldn't manage to put even a single run across the plate. And then there was the pitiful display of fielding in the 5th inning which has blooper reel written all over it. Nieuwenhuis, who came to bat with two on and  1 out in the bottom of the 9th, hadn't hit a major league homerun since June 23, 2012. He had just been called back up again from AAA. The causes for hope were slim.

Even so, it had been a nice day with my son and my parents. My Dad and I got excited when we saw my tweet which mentioned him up on the Citifield scoreboard. We had a blast watching my little popcorn machine make quick work of his giant box of popcorn. I was even bold enough to tell my Dad that the Mets never lose when I get something up on the big screen. (Surely that was destined to be a jinx!) It had been a fun day and I wanted to remember it. So just before the bottom of the 9th with the Mets down 0-3, I moved over to where my Dad was sitting and posed for this photo. 

We were having a nice time together in spite of the Mets lackluster performance. And then Marlon Byrd led off the inning with a homerun. The apple went up. My son was on cloud nine. We all were having just a little bit more fun.

Duda walked. Buck came up with a hit. Quintanilla (whose name my son LOVES to say) advanced the runners on a bunt. All of a sudden they were looking like a real major league team. I almost felt bad for being a cranky Mets fan and changing the lyrics in Take Me Out to the Ballgame to "if they don't win, it's the Mets". I remember mouthing something to the effect of "Joe, there is no way this is going to happen, is there...just as Nieuwenhuis was stepping to the plate. 

He took the first pitch for a ball and then wouldn't you know it, he cranked that second pitch firmly out to the Pepsi Porch. The familiar strains of Takin' Care of Business started filling the ballpark and tears just started streaming down my cheeks. I hope my parents don't mind my saying that they both got teary too. This was an emotional day not just because Joe wasn't there, but also because my mom just lost her Dad two weeks ago. This was a sweet and hopeful ending to a day that came with a lot of sadness. (The little guy cried too, but that was because he was shocked at all the noise from the homerun. Once he realized it meant that the Mets won, he was fine.)

Those Mets who in the 5th inning couldn't even seem to manage a simple game of catch thrilled us all with a bottom of the 9th we could smile about all the way home. Or in my case, all the way to the cemetery because after that I definitely needed to have a "chat" with my little guy's Dad. As is the case these days when I go I didn't spend a long time there, but it was long enough to give his brother a few hugs, shed a few tears, and acknowledge how thankful I am for the lessons of hope he has always brought into my life - and that, somehow, even though he is no longer here with us physically, he still brings.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

June 5, 2013 is a Lot of Things

June 5, 2013. National Running Day. My grandfather's funeral. Eighteen months since Joe died.

I've been seeing the buzz about National Running Day all over my Twitter feed and from my Facebook friends for the past few days. Discounts on races. Everyone talking about how long they will be running and who is going to be running with them. Inspiring images.

The only thing that was on my mind with regard to June 5th was the fact that I would be burying my beloved Grandpop on the same day that I was marking 18 months since my Joe died. To be frank, it sucked.

This morning, we said our goodbyes to my grandfather at the same funeral home in the same room where I said my final goodbye to Joe. The VFW had left a red poppy in his casket as a part of their ceremony the evening before which brought up lots of emotions for me as I paid my final respects. Church was tough too - again, it was the same place where we had Joe's funeral service. Also, again it was a beautiful service. My sister Karen and my cousin Suzanne gave beautiful eulogies and I found great comfort in my friend Heather's singing of the 23rd Psalm. We sang Amazing Grace, For All the Saints, and O Beautiful for Spacious Skies. As much as particular elements brought me back to Joe's service, it was uniquely Grandpop and truly moving on its own.

Since Grandpop was to be buried at the cemetery in Kingston, we were able to walk from the church to the cemetery, making for a memorable procession down Main Street. He would have gotten a kick out of it.
Walking from the church to the cemetery.
Once at the cemetery, it was the playing of Taps that affected me the most. It brought me back to my Grandpop Luck's funeral, a time when Joe was still in my life to bring comfort. After the brief service at the Kingston Cemetery, Domani asked me if we were going to the cemetery. It took me a minute to realize that he was talking about the cemetery where his dad is buried. His comment made me realize that perhaps what I needed to do to really find some peace today is to spend some time there.

So, as it turned out, it was running to that cemetery on this National Running Day which in many ways saved me. After the little guy and I had our much needed naps, we went over to my parents house for dinner and I took off for an emotionally-charged run. When I left, I wasn't sure if I would actually make it to the cemetery, but in the end it was 7.5 miles that started at my Grandpa's house, looped to the cemetery and back. It was a healing run that very fittingly ended with the song "Heaven" blasting through my iPhone. I couldn't have planned it better if I had timed out the songs myself.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Goodbye to Grandpop Kady

I had no idea when I wrote this blog post from Brasil that I would be sitting here two weeks later going through all the fresh pain and longing of grief with a new loss. The reality started to unfold as soon as I landed in New York City on the morning of May 20th and reconnected with the world via my cell phone.  There was a text from my Dad which was followed by an email. The news was not good. While I was preparing to depart Brasil the previous afternoon, my Grandpa was being rushed to the hospital and was undergoing lifesaving emergency surgery on his stomach. At age 91, it was risky, but if nothing else my grandfather was a fighter and fight he did. I am so thankful that I landed to news that he had pulled through the surgery ok and not to something more suddenly devastating. It was jarring news for sure, but at least he was alive.

Once he was up for visitors I made a trip over to the hospital. It happened to be Memorial Day weekend so while Domani and I were out that morning we made a donation to the VFW and picked up a poppy to bring to him. For as long as I can remember, getting a poppy and sharing a moment with the veteran selling them has been a part of my Memorial Day weekend tradition and that is because of my grandfather. It just seemed right to bring him one this weekend and the smile on his face when I showed up with it let me know that I was right. I didn't spend long in the room visiting with him, but it was enough to let him know I love him and to hear the same from him. I was so thankful that I got to do that on what was always a special weekend to him and one where I would always make sure to spend some time with him.
Memorial Day 2010 at the VFW with Grandpa

On Wednesday I found myself once again traveling for work when I got more bad news about Grandpop's condition. I had just arrived in upstate NY for a meeting to hear that he had an episode with his pacemaker, that his nutrition level was low, and that his lungs were filling with fluid. It was already Wednesday evening and from the description of his condition it didn't sound like he had much time left. I made the drive home on Thursday morning with a heavy heart, stopping off in Binghamton, NY for a 5 mile run in a beautiful park there. Running is an outlet for me during times like these and I needed the strength and clear thinking to get me through what I knew would be some tough times ahead. 

It was hot and sunny and the 5 miles did not come easy but there was one moment in particular that lifted my spirit. About halfway through the run I noticed a small pine tree off to the side of the path. It was decorated with flags and other red, white, and blue memorabilia for Memorial Day. It immediately made me think of Grandpop. As I was running by that spot, I was joined by a beautiful yellow butterfly which, thanks to the lyrics from Vetiver's song I Must Be In A Good Place Now, made me think of Joe. I felt a sense of peace and connection - exactly the clarity I was looking for when I set out. When I returned to my car I snapped a photo to remember the beauty of the run.

After my run in Otsiningo Park in Binghamton, NY
That night I was able to go to the hospital after work to visit Grandpop. I could tell that he was having a hard time physically, but his face still lit up as he recognized those of us who were able to come to visit. I put my hand on his shoulder and gave him a kiss on the cheek. His obvious joy at the touch was something I will never forget. I told him that I love him and he told me how much he loved me and how good I was to him. It was a very special moment. Remembering back to when Joe passed and what that moment was like, I then simply wished him peace and told him that he would be ok. Shortly after 8am the next morning I received word that he had died.

As it turned out, at the moment Grandpop passed, Domani was playing with his Matchbox cars on the floor of our kitchen. As I often do, I had asked him where the cars were going and I was overwhelmed when I pieced it all together later that his response had been "heaven".  I am always amazed by how in tune kids can be to these things and how we are often just too caught up to pay attention to the thin veil between heaven and earth. Somehow, Domani was in a special moment even in the midst of his play.

The days since Grandpop's passing have been busy and tough. One of the hardest parts of walking through this loss has been not having Joe there to support me. He was my rock when my Grandmom Kady died and even though we weren't dating at the time he was a special support when my Grandpop Luck passed away the following year. When his Grandma died in 2009, we were both heartbroken but having each other helped us through the grief. From the obituary to the photo boards for the viewing to the pall bearers of which he would have been one, there are constant reminders of Joe being missing from this family equation and it makes the sting just a little harsher. When Domani talks about his "Great Peepaw" being in heaven, it is in the context of being there with his Daddy and that is enough to rip any mother's heart out.

The next few days will be tough. But there are many things for which I am thankful. A friend who would run a 10k with me in 90+ degree heat this morning so I could wrap my head around my emotions. The friends who watched Domani while I did it. Amazing parents who in the midst of their own grief still manage to take care of me. Co-workers who understand that the tasks on my to do list are not the most important things in the world right now. Cousins who will stay up late and laugh over drinks. Sharing wine and a good meal with friends. Wonderful photos of my Grandpa and the memories that go with them.
Thanksgiving at my parents' old house in Hamilton.

August 16, 2010

Veterans Day at Applebees - November 2009