Gavin, sitting sweetly on my lap and reading a book, turned his head to look at me and softly said, “Mommy?” using his sweet, drawn out voice that is usually followed by an “I love you.” This time, however, it was followed with, “when I’m a grown up, can I say SH*T?” It was so unexpected, so innocent and so adorable that all I could do was giggle. I hesitated for a second before I answered, “You know what? Yes. When you are grown up, you can say sh*t. I really don’t care. Just don’t overuse it or it will lose its significance. But for now, when you are a little boy, you can’t say that.” Surprisingly, he didn’t argue. He was happy with my answer I guess.
Sometimes I get caught talking to myself or to Ty, and Gavin will say, “HUH?” Then I have to stop myself and explain. I say things like “don’t listen to crazy mommy. I’m just talking to myself.” Probably not the best explanation because this morning over breakfast I heard him say “don’t listen to your crazy Gavin” with a giggle. Oh boy.
I really do spend all day talking to myself and to Ty, who knows what comes flying out of my mouth. I am not healthy. I’m really not. I finally went to the doctor for a physical yesterday after three years and I felt so incredibly heavy while sitting on that table. It was as if I was just beaten down, totally deflated, and that’s the truth! I have taken quite a beating, and I want to get better now even though I know that’s impossible.
The interesting part of this story comes early on at my appointment. The nurse who was taking my basics like height and weight asked me what brought me into the office. If I had any concerns other than getting a basic physical. I told her about the nagging cough I’ve had for over a month, then rattled off a quick “my son passed away three months ago and I am really unhealthy, that’s all.” “I’m sorry” she said, and continued to work through the basics of my exam. Then she asked me, “when did you say he died?” “Three months ago. He was five and he had cancer for a long time.” Isn’t it amazing that this adorable woman went on to tell me that she lost a son in 2006, that she attends an amazing group in Poughkeepsie to help her cope, and she thinks it would really help me. Others have recommended bereavement counseling to me, too, but for some reason I feel that the stars were aligned and I should actually consider looking into it. These wounds will never heal, but I need to learn to live with the pain. As much as I hate the idea of bereavement counseling, I don’t know why – probably because I always imagined it would be pointless because it’s not like anything can make this “better” – I think it was a sign that I need to at least give it a try.
It was an embarrassing discussion once the doctor came in. I explained how I think I am seriously insane. I told the doctor how my mind is spinning and fragmented and I have completely insane thoughts running through my mind all day long. How I talk out loud to my dead son and imagine he is sitting on the couch next to me. I told her that I see him everywhere, and I really think it’s him. Am I nuts? I told her about being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome over a year ago.
Let’s be honest. I probably am totally nuts and I can prove it. I share everything here, so please don’t judge me on what I’m about to disclose. At my lowest, very soon after Ty died, I tried taking Ty’s leftover pain medication to somehow treat my pain. Morphine. Oxycodone. Drugs my four/five year old son never should have been on. I was in SO MUCH PAIN (still am), and I figured maybe that would help. Well, both times I tried I puked my brains out and felt like a huge loser. Lesson learned. Nothing is going to take away this pain, and I deserved to be punished by being so stupid. Messing around with that was a terrible idea, and it only left me more upset over all Ty endured. I still have Gavin and I can't do stupid things like that.
ME: “Please stop climbing all over the countertops, you can fall and hurt yourself. Remember when you fell and hurt your butt last time?”
G: “Yeah. If I fall again, then I’ll need a bandaid.” As he continues jumping and climbing.
“Bandaids don’t fix a broken bone. You would need to go to the hospital.”
“OH! CAN I SEE TY??!”
“Ty doesn’t live at the hospital anymore. Where does Ty live, do you remember what we talked about?”
“In my heart. Because Ty went to the hospital, and went in the rocketship, and then the rocketship taked him up to HEAVEN!!” He’s referring to the hyperbaric oxygen chamber. Gavin came with us a couple of times. Don’t know why he decided that the “rocketship” took Ty to heaven, but I kinda like that :)
As always, he asked again if he could go to heaven. I gave him the same old story. I talked about how Ty was very sick so God let him into heaven early, but we have to wait until we are nice and old.
“Did Ty want to go?”
“Not at first." I said. "He got sick and God asked him if he wanted to go to heaven, and Ty said – ‘No Way! I want to stay here with my brother because I love him so much. I want to FIGHT!’ And he really did, remember? He was so strong. But Ty ended up being so sick for so long, that he finally had to leave so he could feel better and be happy again.”
“He was a fighter!” yelled Gavin, raising one arm in the air. Just when I thought my heart couldn’t possibly grow anymore, a little bit of extra love squeezed its way in when he said that. What a smart, beautiful kid he is.
By the way, his hair has been out of control. Whenever we talk about a haircut, he tells me no. He wants long hair like Thor. LOVE HIM! Ty would be getting SUCH A KICK out of the little boy he is becoming. I hate so much that they can’t grow up together. They were the best of friends.
At dinner, Gavin was talking about Ty again. Made Lou cry, made me smile. I was the last to sit down at the table because I had no appetite so I wasn't eating. When I finally sat at the dinner table, which is round with four chairs, I said “I love my family.” Gavin said. “I love my family, too. Mommy and Daddy and Gavin and Ty and he looked over at the empty chair.” We were all thinking it, but he said it out loud. That Ty should be sitting right there in that chair. There’s not a meal that passes that I am not aware of Ty’s empty chair. We’ve been taking Gavin out to dinner rather frequently, too, and still, every table is set for four. We were never supposed to be this way. A family of three. The empty chair and what it means never, ever escapes us. We eat our dinner, we smile, we pretend we are a happy family, but the truth is right there in front of us every time.
Then Gavin said, “We need another person to sit in that chair for our family, now. I know, who. Maybe God? What does God look like?”
The conversation went on, and I know it all stems from his confusion over what happened with Ty, who and what is this God, and where are they? I wonder if I should consider some sort of sibling therapy for him, too.
Last Gavin/Ty story of the night. Sometime after dinner, Gavin had to go potty. I still have to sit in the bathroom with him when he has to poop, and he always insists on taking off all his clothes. He kept jumping off the potty to run around the house naked yelling “I’m Naked Boy!” until I finally screamed for him to come back or he’ll get a belly ache. He sat down on the potty then and told me he doesn’t want to get a belly ache because then he will get a headache like Ty. “Will I get to see God if I get a headache?” he asked.
Clearly, he’s confused and thinking about his brother all the time. I’m not sure what to do about it. He’s so happy and doing well otherwise, but he says things like that and it just breaks my already broken heart. I wonder if I could be doing a better job trying to explain things in a way that isn’t scary to a three-year-old. We read books. We talk about it all the time. I think he is just at an age where he so wants to understand but he’s still just a little too young to grasp the concept of God and death. My poor little man. I hope I do a good job keeping Ty’s memory alive without overwhelming Gavin the rest of his life. Because I will never stop talking about him. My walls will always be covered with photos of Ty absolutely everywhere. And although I take down and toss out some of Gavin’s artwork on the bulletin board, Ty’s will always remain.
Before I call it a night, I want to share with your our video from sledding today so you don't worry about us too much. We are still getting out there and having fun, I promise. Gavin, Lou and I tried to have a family ride down the hill in front of Aunt Debi’s. Gavin and Lou on the toboggan, me on a round sled holding on behind them. Here’s what happened. Be sure to keep your eye on Gavin, he was so mad! He’s totally fine, of course. You can find it here http://youtu.be/zLG6vJUV-B4