who knew old navy was a house of horrors?

Written November 15, 2015

I went shopping two days ago with Asher. It seems I’m on a never-ending quest for everyday jeans, since that’s my wardrobe…every day. Dropping Asher off at kindergarten? Jeans. Nannying? Jeans. Coffee with a friend? Errands? Writer’s group? Jeans jeans jeans. We were waiting for work to be finished on our car so we basically killed time running errands in the loaner, not wanting to go all the way home when we’d be called back any time. We went to Krispy Kreme for a special mid-afternoon treat. And then to Old Navy in hopes that the roof would hinge open, and a ray from the heavens would shine onto my perfect jeans that fit like a comfortable glove.

The jeans shopping went fine. There was a decent sale and selection, and I settled on a pair I like. Not heavens-parting-perfect, but good enough. Asher was reasonably cooperative to allow me to get my necessary item picked out and even tried on, so after that chore we had time to browse around the store.

Brian’s latest quest is casual-dressy shirts (is that a thing?) that he can wear out. Out for a date night, out to dinner with friends, out to a friends’ house, maybe even suitable for work. But being in the men’s section was also loaded. Loaded to the brim with memories of picking up things for Kade. Though I hadn’t been to Old Navy all that recently, it’s been a favorite place of mine in all his years of growing up.

We strolled our cart past boxers, socks, PJ bottoms, t-shirts. The basics, as well as the more fun stuff: shirts, flannels (twist a dagger in my heart, they had nice prints of soft and bright flannels! I would have totally looked for his size: Large, XL, or XXL, depending on which magnitude of over-sized he was in to at the time).

I was hit with an almost primitive urge to know what he needed and stock him up. Instantaneously I got a jolt of: Oh my gosh, why has it been so long since I’ve bought these necessities for Kade?! I need to find out what he’s low on! I wanted to call him. “Kade, there’s a great sale at Old Navy. Can you use any shirts? Flannels, or those thermal ones with a few buttons at the top? They have some nice colors right now. How are you doing on socks? Could you use a hoodie? Do you have something warm to wear outside?”

It was an old familiar maternal feeling being triggered that logic didn’t seem to turn off. Being sure he had enough. Socks? Boxers? T-shirts? I felt it. I knew he was gone, and had no need for clothing, and still I felt it. My brain kept going back to it. What does he need? What is he low on?

I could not cry and let loose in Old Navy, so I plastered on a smile, or at least a shopping face. I even played a short game of fast-walking tag because Asher asked me to, he’d been shopping for a long time, and no one else was in that section. But I was feeling sad, so sad. So tangibly, soft flannel, teal-blue thermal crew neck with flecks that would bring out his brown eyes, sad.

No, I couldn’t let loose and cry then, but I am now. Why some things are such triggers and others are not, I can’t figure out. Why some memories are so sensitive and others are not, is a mystery. I now feel less selfish about the clothes that I buy for myself vs. Brian, though. I didn’t put words or logic to it before, but the men’s section is a sad, longing place for me to be. Two days ago it was beyond a wistful place. It was a maternal, primal, compulsion-to-provide-for-my-son place. I knew he didn’t need the clothes, but the hard-wired memories of clothing him all of his life haven’t died. (What’s a word between memory and feeling? More than a memory, and entering into the realm of an emotional, and even physical, feeling. We need to find a word for that.)

Queue the angry part: I swear, I get sick of mourning every last piece of my life with Kade. It’s not a one-time thing. It’s a life-time thing, reliving each tiny piece as it presents itself. They all get re-examined, one by one, as I live my life: each bit that made up the mosaic of our lives together.

shooting star mosaic

Queue the questioning part: The men’s department was another part of that mosaic. Will it ever be done? Will the last piece, one day be placed, and mosaic be finished? I doubt it, because then another will disclose itself in a slightly different way. Two days ago it was boxers and socks at Old Navy. Maybe another day it will be skate shoes at BC Surf and Sport. I sure get tired of the mourning and the remembering and even the honoring.

Queue the wishing part: I wish a trip to Old Navy could be a simple matter of stocking stuffing (Yay, penguin boxers!), or checking boxes off my Christmas list (Gee, Mom, thanks for my thousandth flannel!).


Kade’s 999th flannel

a little to the right

As I go for a quick workout at the rec center; just another evening; I notice this time it’s light outside. I can see around me as I pull into the lot. It wasn’t the cold, dark, street-lit route to the gym, dimly-lit parking lot surrounded by darkness, and head-down-brisk-walk-to-the-front-door that it was all winter. It’s like my eyes are slowly opening to the world around me, for the first time in a long time.

Hooray for Daylight Saving Time.

Tonight there are pretty pink and white blooms on planned suburban rows of toddler trees. Tonight my blinders are off and I see the big park in back of the rec center, that was always there, when I look a little to the right.

It’s where I used to play softball on my work team for years. Kade came with me, of course, as he was only eight years old when I started my eight-year career at Archstone. On a lucky-for-him night he played with other kids who came with their parents. But most of the time he played catch with Mom, and tossed a football or wrestled around with the guys I worked with: sweet big boys at heart. I don’t remember him complaining about coming along in my single mom years to softball, volleyball, or even book club, when he was little, anyway.

And if I look out even farther, I see another diamond, where he played baseball. I see him taking a huge swing, flashing “RIEFENBERG” across his back. I see his little white baseball pants and dusty black cleats. Big round helmet on a small body. Me hoping to hear the tink of metal bat connecting with ball, and when I did, yelling wildly.


I remember this team picture day morning. Kade had been camping the night before. He was suffering from allergies so badly.


Hooray for Daylight Saving Time?

This is what happens when I look a little to the right. When the blinders come off. Sometimes it’s nice to journey and arrive in the dark. To just get the task done, whether it’s a drive, a workout, an errand, or whatever. Quick and painless. But tonight I can’t stop my eyes from looking a little to the right. And it’s neither quick nor painless.

I not only see the fields from the parking lot with the teeniest of glances to the right, but tonight, from inside the gym as well. It’s still light out. With each short lap, through the floor to ceiling windows, I see the park in the pink light of the setting sun. When I look a little to the right.



my first blog entry!

Words Meme

September 20, 2014

I’m perched on top of a flat boulder with my journal and pen. It’s an achingly beautiful day on top of Mount Lindo.  It’s very warm and the back of my neck could be burning in the sun.  Blue sky, but a teeny hint of fall in the air with some leaves changing.  I’m looking down on Denver.  Through drooping pine boughs I can see the city below, beyond the layer of haze that’s pinkish-grey.  Fire—I think I heard is burning in California.  Mike the groundskeeper just handed me an ice cold bottled water.  I’m as content as a girl writing her first blog at her son’s stone could be.

Over two years since losing Kade, I’m ready to get out my experiences, keep them collected in a special place—like a stack of weathered love letters tied with string—and share them with you.

Maybe you’re a bereaved parent. It helps to know we’re not alone.  I plan to go into great detail reviewing the grief books I read.  With so many to choose from, maybe why I found comfort in some vs. others could help you wade through the choices.  I’ll share links to the resources that were life savers for me.  Retreats, grief centers, conferences, websites, blogs, and books.  I’ll describe how they spoke to me… or why they didn’t.

Maybe you’re not a bereaved parent, but we’re related; maybe you miss Kade or want to know how I’m doing. Maybe we’re friends.  Were co-workers.  Maybe we briefly met, or know a friend of a friend.  Maybe we’ve never met and you stumbled upon my page hoping to find a great vintage shirt!  My stories and those of other parents you see here could give you insight into what our new normal is like.

I want to share my grief experiences with those who “sign up” for that sort of thing. Some of my Facebook posts are raw, and frankly… about death.  I’m not sure every former schoolmate I’ve friended wants to hear about my trips to visit Kade at the cemetery, or my latest griefburst.  Or maybe you do!  This way you can choose, and I can feel freer in my reflections.

Like a lot of bereaved parents I’ve met, I am hungry for any opportunity to get Kade’s name into the world. To remind the world that he lived and his life made a difference.  To carry on his legacy. He Wore Flannel can be my place to keep my tattered, tear-stained, soft-from-unfolding-and-refolding stack of love letters tied with a string.  Pictures, memories, life experiences, and more.  Welcome to He Wore Flannel.  I hope you’ll stop by and see us (Kade and me) often!


My perch



The Halloween bouquet I left him. I picture him getting a kick out of peoples’ reactions when they look close.

Blue bird at Kade's stone 9-20-14

A pretty blue bird visiting his likeness near Kade’s stone

Drive down Mt Lindo

The drive down the mountain. There’s an orange butterfly in the purple flowers.