blogging a – z challenge – “z”

Z

Z’s kind of a hard one.

Because his love of animals and trips to the zoo were such big parts of Kade’s childhood, my Z word is zoo. Not terribly creative, but it fits.

I have memories of taking my toddler to the zoo when we lived in Fort Collins, about an hour north of the Denver Zoo. Sometimes we would go with our friends, Mark and Tracy, and Kade’s pal Chloe. Sometimes with another family, Jay and Lucy, and Kade’s buddy Amber. And sometimes with my mom visiting from MI.

The Denver Zoo has special spots in addition to the animals: large metallic animal statues to climb on, an old frontier wagon to get up on and for photo ops, and a place to measure how far you can jump in relation to different animals, like a frog, a hare, and a kangaroo. It was bittersweet to revisit those spots with Asher.

This story is part of Kade Folklore, helped kept alive by my mom: Kade was a good mimic, and would call to the free-roaming peacocks. One time he made his peacock call as we made our way all the way through the parking lot to our car…with a peacock calling back at him, “answering” each call.

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blogging a – z challenge – “y”

Y

Young. Nineteen is so damn young.

I was shopping at a children’s resale clothing store this week. I saw a young big guy who caught my eye. After seeing him a couple times I wondered if I knew him. When I was waiting in line and he was standing nearby, I asked him his name. Tyler. That was how I knew him–he was a friend of Kade’s since elementary school, who I hadn’t seen in a long time.

I braced myself for him to ask how Kade was and what he was up to. I honestly couldn’t remember if he was at Kade’s funeral. But he didn’t ask. He knew. We chatted about where I used to live when he used to come over, that I moved, where he was living, and where he worked. He told me he was “trying to marry” his girlfriend who was with him. We also chatted about Tyler’s adorable little blond toddler there, too.

I was mostly OK in the store. But the closer I got to my car, and the more intensely I wanted to tell Kade who I ran in to, the more not OK I became.

Around the time I pulled out of the parking lot is around the time the tears came. Tyler looked so young. That meant Kade was even younger when his life ended. No cute toddlers for Kade, or “trying to marry” a pretty girl. No cute grandbabies from Kade for me. And no Kade to for me to call and say, “Hey, I ran into Tyler at the store. He looked the same but taller. His little guy, Carson, was really cute. Did you know he had a baby? Do you talk to him? I remember dropping you off at his house, and him coming to ours. What grades would that have been?”

Before walking into the next store, I texted a fellow bereaved mom, and called my mom, instead of calling the person I really wanted to.

“The pleasure of remembering had been taken from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we’d done were less real and important than they had been hours before.”

~ John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

blogging a – z challenge – “x”

X
With the letter X, I can see why this exercise is called a “Challenge.”

I scrolled through a list of X-words online. There are a lot I don’t know the meaning of. And a lot that look Chinese! I’ll be using a word with X in it today.

eXtreme:

The word extreme could suitably describe aspects of Kade. His cuteness. His brightness. His inquisitiveness. His silliness. His inappropriateness. His volume. His thrill-seeking. His risk-taking.

He grew up on skis, and skateboarded. He surpassed my skiing abilities by the time he was a little kid. He was a certified whitewater rafting guide, and I heard he was a good kayaker, though I never got to see him at it (what I wouldn’t give!).

When he got more referral slips sent home than any other kid at his elementary school, I wished he was a more moderate type of a kid. When he fractured his foot skateboarding, I wished he was a more moderate type of a kid. When he admitted to experimenting with drugs at a tender age, I wished he was a more moderate type of a kid.

Kade was extreme. His fun, his trouble, his intellect, his experiences, his life, his legacy of being a good friend. My grief, and my love for him, are extreme, too.

blogging a – z challenge – “w”

W

What to write about?

OK, I’ll write about writing.

Writing is an almost magical way to process Kade’s death. Magical because what I start writing often isn’t what I end up with. Themes emerge only after it is quiet, my brain gets focused, my fingers start clicking or my pen starts scratching, and words populate the page. It amazes me almost every single time.

I write in a journal. It was strongly recommended as a release and way to preserve memories in the early devastation after his death. Journaling really does help. Especially early on, I could feel when I needed it; when I was overdue.

I got the crazy idea to write a book. It was after all the grief reading I did, and memoirs I read. When I attended the Compassionate Friends National Conference in July of 2014, and met memoir authors and partook in writing workshops, it sealed the deal. That’s when I got inspired to find a writer’s group and start a blog: first steps in writing and publishing a book.

My first writer’s group was great. Super kind and encouraging women who met at their college and were working on different projects. But unfortunately, we met less and less frequently and then it fizzled.

A friend of mine I used to work with began a writer’s group to finish her horror novel. Yes, a totally different genre…but is it?

She invited me to join her group. And what a group. They’re all fiction writers but welcome this nonfiction memoirist. We meet every week and are currently reviewing the third completed manuscript in the group. It’s stimulating and motivating. Through them I’ve learned of and participated in writing exercises like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month with the challenge of writing 1,067 words per day in the month of November), the Blogging A – Z Challenge, and workshops, conferences, and contests.

My blog is another writing outlet. It’s a place I can share images, and where I can decide exactly how much I want to share. I can keep these pictures and notes together and maybe somebody could even get something out of them one day. And of course, where the world can see Kade’s smiling face.

AmyJohnnyKadeRockiesGame

blogging a – z challenge – “v”

V

Vacation.

I’ll tell you some ways I brought Kade on our family vacation.

We went to Mexico over spring break. It was an incredible family vacation. It was the first one that was just us, that didn’t involve visiting other family.

We’d been really sick with flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia in February. A couple of our friends had recent cancer diagnoses. I was about to embark on a three year grad school program with only one week-long break a year. We made a snap decision to go on a beach vacation in Mexico while we could.

I brought my journal and made sure I stole away to write on the beach, all by myself. It’s so important to make the time to “let it all out.” There is a lot of build-up with big events. Even though a vacation is a good thing, even good things are partly sad things without Kade. He should have been part of our family trip. He never went to another country. He would have dug exploring Mayan ruins. Coral on the beach. Fish in the ocean. He has a friend who lives in Mexico; maybe he would have found a way to visit Fernando.

We scheduled a beach family portrait session. I brought a canvas picture of Kade to include in some of the pictures.

SANTOS-51SANTOS-57

(Although I ran out and need to have more made, and didn’t bring any to Mexico, we leave “Kade stars” in places that we’re particularly thinking of him. They’re wooden stars with “Kade was remembered here” burned onto them.)

We talked about him. I asked Brian if he thought Kade would have liked this, or that. If he would have even come with us, or at 23 years old, might have passed. Brian thought he definitely would have come, which made me happy.

And of course we took the time to write his name in the sand and take pictures–somewhat of a tradition whenever we visit a beach. On mountain hikes, I make his name with sticks and rocks.

It stings when the waves erase his name in the sand.

blogging a – z challenge – “u”

U

This is the week before grad school begins. I wanted to have every aspect of my life in perfect array before it started. My home spring-cleaned, all the boxes on my long to-do list neatly checked, and new efficient home scheduling and organizing systems in place. But…that’s not the case.

I’m feeling unorganized.

Every day my immediate priorities take precedence, and I’m not getting to the long to-do list or spring cleaning. I try…but it’s all I can do to get through my pressing responsibilities like ordering and buying my textbooks, keeping up with my writer’s group (What? I might have to give that up with graduate school? Shhh…I’m sort of in denial about that right now), show up to my part-time nanny job, and, oh yeah, take care of my kid.

Is “it” ever all in place? Are we ever fully on top of it all, and caught up? Or is it continually a process?

I think I’ll just have to continue prioritizing. I’ll have to keep my extra-curricular activities light so that I can devote myself to my large commitment at hand. And keep chipping away at all there is to be chipped away at, when I can. And that’ll just have to be OK.

blogging a – z challenge – “t”

T

A t-word popped into my head immediately, in big outlined letters. Truth.

A phrase that is meaningful to me lately is Speaking my truth. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But it’s sometimes challenging for me. In some instances I like to be the middle man. The peace keeper. To not rock the boat. To not upset anybody. To be liked. To not make things awkward. To not make trouble.

But I’ve found that it doesn’t feel good to do that in some instances. Sometimes peacekeeping is called for, but when it becomes habitual, and I don’t feel as if I’m being true to myself, it’s time to speak my truth. Or at least to practice doing so.

In a situation where I continued “going along” with how things were, time after time, agreeing after agreeing, appeasing after appeasing, nodding after nodding, supporting after supporting…when I felt as if every interaction was rotting my soul, I was given the challenge to speak just one truth in each conversation.

It was actually brilliant. A teeny manageable step toward forming different, healthier habits. That small challenge keeps me cognizant of speaking my truth.

I still find it very hard sometimes…but not impossible. Part of speaking your truth is realizing that others probably won’t like it. Changing the way things have been, and my role from an appeaser, isn’t always welcomed.

But I’m becoming more OK with that. Maybe it’s an over 40 thing. Maybe it’s a life after child loss thing. I’m trying to be more authentic. To be truer to myself even when someone else may not like it. To be more selective with the activities I say Yes to, even if I’m afraid that my saying No will disappoint.

It ain’t easy. I wish it was. I have friends it seems to be really easy for and I wish I were more like them sometimes. But I’m getting there, one little challenge to speak one little truth at a time.