Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Land of a Thousand Flashbacks

Last summer, I was so honored to appear on the Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda to talk about the Muddy Puddles Project.  At the end of our segment, they surprised us with a 3-day trip to Disneyworld.  We were approaching the one year mark in May (when the trip expires) so Lou and I thought it would be a great treat to surprise Gavin with the trip for his birthday (he turns 6 on Wednesday, can you even believe it?).

It was absolutely NO surprise to Lou and I when Gavin was less than impressed with his surprise.  We waited until we were at the airport to tell him where we were going and his reaction was, well, mediocre at best.  He rolled his eyes and told us we were wrong, Disneyworld is not a magical place, because there’s not even any such thing as magic. 

Well, okay then…  Guess that video won’t be going viral! Kathie Lee and Hoda won’t be playing a cute clip of the excited little kid relishing in their generosity!  Nope.  We’ll save that for when he’s older so he can see how much he goaded his parents growing up. 

The last time we were in Disneyworld, it was for Ty’s “Make a Wish” trip in December 2010.  Gavin was 20 months old, Ty was just three, and Mely was very new to our family.  Lou and I knew it might be a difficult trip, but the severity of the flashbacks, even all these years later, was something we just hadn’t anticipated.  As always, we felt so incomplete without Ty and Mely there.

Flashbacks are funny like that.  I might never have remembered eating vanilla ice cream with Ty in my lap right on a particular bench in Universal had I not walked right by it.  I forgot how he held his camera and took pictures while we were on the train at Animal Kingdom until we boarded a similar ride in Disney – then I could remember every detail from that moment.  The red sweatshirt he was wearing, his hood was up to keep his bald head warm, batman blankie was on his lap, he was sitting to my left as I had my arm around him to make sure he was comfortable and safe.  I could hear his little voice in my ear again.  See his little hands gripping his rubber camera.  Feel the little bit of fuzzy hair and hint of dampness on my lips as I kissed his head.  I can’t even hold back the tears writing about it, I must have looked crazy being the only person wiping away sad tears on and off all day at the happiest place on Earth. 

I spent so much time thinking about what it would be like if they were both there, six and seven years old, running around together.  Gavin absolutely LOVED the roller coasters!  The faster, the better.   Some of the simulation rides freaked him out a bit and the Jurassic Park log flume scared him to tears (which Lou and I teased him about endlessly until he did it again and loved it).  He totally appreciated the humor during the Simpsons ride at Universal Studios, which made me so proud :)

I think Ty would be exactly the same as Gavin.  Neither of them would have been impressed with the characters in the parks.  Neither of them ever liked Disney movies or characters in particular… it’s all about the superheroes and of course, Max and Ruby for Ty.  And after such a long winter, the hotel pool was also just as appealing to Gavin as a day in the park. 

We were staying at a new boutique hotel in Orlando that did not have a lot of kids, so it made it even harder to watch Gavin in the pool, so excited if another kid showed up that he could play with.  Lou and I wondered if Gavin was able to sense how mixed up we were between genuinely having tons of fun and being completely slammed with sadness at the same time.  We don’t think he was aware, but maybe subconsciously he knew because he would say “Mommy?  I love you.  Daddy?  I love you” 20 times a day.  He showered us in hugs and kisses for 4 days straight.  It was amazing. 

We are driving home from the airport as I write this.  It's early in the evening and I am just so physically and emotionally spent.  I don't even know how I'm going to find a way to get back into routine tomorrow with work and school.  Post-vacation hangovers are always like that, I guess, but this time it feels worse than ever.  I just have so many emotions to digest and it's simply exhausting.  Gavin is feeling it, too :)

I don’t want my memories of Ty to be so painful, but they always are.  I can’t experience such detailed flashbacks without simultaneously feeling intense longing for him.  I want to jump right back to that place and hold him and talk to him and kiss him and never, ever, ever let him go. 

ice cream break with Ty at Islands of Adventure


  1. Oh Cindy. I know. Every time we go to Disney it's like that.. And Chase loves Disney which makes it so hard. I wish we could both go back so much and never let go. Sending you love as always. Xo

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  3. Thinking of you and your family.

  4. Hi Cindy, I have never commented here before, but I want you to know that Ty, along with Ronan and countless other children have inspired me to go fulfill one of my biggest dreams. That is to go back to school and become an RN ( eventually an APRN) and work in peds oncology. I am a successful photographer here in CT, but medicine has always been a passion of mine as well. Thank you so much for sharing your story and Ty with us all. All my professors and family do not think I will end up in peds because " it is so difficult" but I know I will, If you and all the onco parents out there can deal with loosing a child, I sure as hell can at least be there to try and save a child! Although this road will be a long one for me, I have photos of all my favorite little inspirations on my phone, and when things get tough I look at their perfect little faces and know that in the end it will be worth it because I can help a child like Ty, Ro, and Kayla.

  5. I smiled and shed a tear at this postxx Gavin looks very like Ty in that last picture:) so cutexxx Hugs from Irelandxxx

  6. Thinking and praying for your family. Thank you for your blog. It keeps us all reminded of what is important in this life.

  7. Hi Cindy, when I watched the Today show last year and saw how you were given that trip to Disney World I instantly thought of how that would be a bitter sweet trip for you all. Glad you were able to remember some special moments even though they were hard. Thinking of your family always :) -Emily

  8. Cindy, you never ever let him go. Ever! Remember how much more you were bale to show him after this "last trip".
    How much more you were bale to give him and more memories to create. Gavin is right in the way there is no magic but there are magical moments and they are all your time with Ty and Gavin. This is where magic is.

    Love you baby boy.

  9. Hi is just so full of ups and downs and sometimes moments are that way you know better than anyone. I can't get over that Gavin is almost 6. Time has flown and that too is bittersweet. Hugs to all of you.

  10. This post made me cry. I hate what happened to Ty, hate it, can't stand it, makes me so angry I want to scream. I remember when you guys went to Disney. . .a pool picture I want to say and one with Spiderman? Maybe I am confused. It's just not fair. NOT FAIR! Not fair to Gavin. I can't imagine being in your shoes and to be honest, it is my greatest fear. I don't think you could ever move on? How can you ever be the same? You can't. It is impossible. The fact that you hold it together so well is amazing. The fact that you dedicate your life to help others just shows how selfless you two are. I couldn't do it. I wouldn't care anymore. Sorry to say it, but it is true. It would be too late for my baby. . .how you do it I have no idea. Perhaps it is due to the face that I didn't live it? But still, just the thought, to surround myself day in and day out dedicating my life to help kids with cancer after I lost a child to cancer? I couldn't do it. Don't get me wrong, it is wonderful and amazing. You and Lou are amazing. I just don't have it in me, I know I would never be able to do what you two do. . .

    But. . .that is why I have said on many occasions, if I can be 10% of the mother you are, the woman you are, I will be incredible.

    I will never understand why Ty died, never. It has changed my life, your family, changed my life.

    I think of you guys all the time.