blogging from a to z april challenge – a

I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. The goal is to publish one blog post a day for the month of April, except for Sunday, that corresponds with the day’s letter. I participated in 2016. That year I didn’t have a “theme” other than the general theme of my blog, honoring my son and my grief and healing journey. I enjoyed going back and re-reading my posts from the challenge, stoking my Kade memories.

I decided I will choose a theme for the challenge this time, beyond that of my blog. Recently I was given the assignment from my therapist to write about how my recent master’s degree experience has impacted my grief and my continuing bond with Kade. There you have it—my theme.

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A joyful milestone beginning my final, clinical, year of the program

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Kade, Washington Park, Denver, 2010. Kade’s little brother, Asher’s, first outing after being born.

How my Recent Master’s Degree Experience has Impacted my Grief and my Continuing Bond with Kade

A

The word I’ll choose is ambivalent. I don’t believe I ever used this word, or knew its definition, before grad school. It means having two seemingly contrary beliefs, or feelings, at the same time. It’s BIG in counseling, mindfulness, and working toward being able to sit with difficult emotions.

I felt connected to Kade in my program with all I was learning and the program’s heavy self-reflection focus, and also disconnected from him (and my life) because I was so damned busy. I felt as if I remembered him more because I was experiencing class content that pertained to him, and also less because I made less devoted time for things like journaling and going to his memorial stone.

Ambivalent. I’m feeling ambivalent about the A to Z challenge right now. I’m anxious about my decision to participate, and I’m questioning this topic I chose, which is personal and a little abstract. And I’m happy I decided to participate to get me writing again, and to have completed my first entry.

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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!).

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Kade’s 999th flannel

true halloween confessions

I can’t believe I’m sitting here about to post to my blog, after more than three months since my last posting, during NaNoWriMo. That’s National Novel Writing Month. I have pledged to write around 1,667 words per day (about four pages) throughout November. I’m not writing a novel, or story, but working on my Kade writing. Will it be a Kade memoir? Will it be a Jenny memoir? Will it be something else? That remains to be seen. I’m sitting down and doing the writing (the most important part I’m told) and hoping it will reveal itself.

I’m actually meeting my daily goals. Perhaps the idea of posting to my blog during NaNoWriMo is not so outlandish after all, as I’m already doing the writing. Here’s a piece from today, fitting for the Halloween season:

True Halloween Confessions

I’m afraid to delve into writing about the topic of Halloween, as I am about a lot of topics. I think I’m afraid I won’t be able to remember all the Halloweens past. What he dressed up as, at what age. That I won’t be able to summon all the memories. A good mom should be able to bring them to mind, right?

I’m also afraid of the pain. Which is why I haven’t written yet about the day Kade died. Writing about the day he was born conjured tears. The hopes, the dreams, the promises of protection, the absolute falling in love. The ignorance that he would only live to be a teenager. That each day was a ticking clock, and I didn’t know.

Alongside the pain, I’m afraid of the remorse. That I didn’t do more. That we didn’t do more fun activities. That I was a busy single mom. That I missed out. (But if I missed out, who really missed out?) “You want to go trick-or-treating with Grant? Sure, have fun!”

Now that I identified some of my fears and vulnerabilities around writing about Halloween, I’ll dive right in with probably the biggest of my True Halloween Confessions.

I grounded Kade from trick-or-treating WITH HIS BEST FRIEND, BEAU. I could just sink into a hole right now thinking of that most harsh repercussion.

Kade and Beau were…active…at their after-school daycare called Adventure Club. Oh boy, please take this as a lesson not to threaten a consequence that you might have a real problem following through with.

Halloween fell on a school night. Kade had had some trouble at Adventure Club that week. I can barely get my fingers to type the letters to formulate the words: I told him that if he misbehaved that afternoon, he would not be able to go trick-or-treating with Beau that night (I’m sorry Kade, I’m sorry Kade, I’m sorry Kade). I remember approaching the director and hoping with all my might that she had a good report for me.

Nope. There were some poor choices made, I don’t remember what they were, but I do remember that they were topped off with the boys belligerently telling staff, “You can’t tell us what to do. We’re trick-or-treating together no matter what we do here. You can’t do anything about it,” or something along those lines.

I seriously felt like I had no choice. Though it broke my heart (and his—the tears!), I felt that to be a good mom I had to be consistent. I had to follow through. It was awful. I remember the phone call to Beau’s mom. I remember feeling horrible to disappoint not only Kade but his friend.

He and I trick-or-treated at Cherry Hills Church. We tried to make the best of it, but when I look at pictures of Blue Ninja Kade sitting alone on the haystack, I feel nauseous. Those chubby cheeks. Those big light-brown eyes, behind which, the idea of holidays, trick-or-treating, candy, and best friends meant more than we hardened adults cared to understand.

The straight smile of Kade’s senior picture hanging across the kitchen table from me doesn’t look like he’s holding it against me. I only wish he was here, paying me a visit this afternoon, maybe to ransack our post-Halloween candy abundance, so I could say I’m sorry in person. So he could give me a hard time and tell me how emotionally scarred he and Beau remain to this day. And then play-punch me with a silly self-conscious sound effect to show me I was ridiculous for feeling sad about it after all these years. Kade, it’s Halloween-time. Asher is watching a Casper movie for goodness sake. Can’t you at least come and haunt me or something?

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Halloween in Ft. Collins with his friend, Amber. I think he was four years old.

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