Sunday, April 22, 2012


I am the youngest of four children. I am five years younger than my oldest sibling-my sister Laurie .  My parents were a young, educated couple, and they started out in a very small house in a suburban lake community in Connecticut. I did not have my own room until I was nine years old. I shared a bedroom in increments of six months between my two older sisters, Karen and Laurie. My oldest sister, Laurie was a tomboy. She played sports, liked dirt bikes and wore jeans. Her room was adorned with blue and red paisley wallpaper, corduroy curtains, and red and blue pillows; it was a typical 1970‘s bedroom complete with a baseball glove tossed in the corner. Laurie was and still is to this day a gifted athlete. When I shared a bedroom with her it was during softball season. We discussed playing the sport, and many of her friends coached the softball team I played on. During those six months I aspired to be like Laurie: tough, beautiful, smart and a good softball player. Karen, my other sister and roommate for the second half of a year, was very feminine. Her room was lacy with pinks and purples. The mirrors were engraved with silhouettes of a woman's face and flowers. I like to believe that Karen, now the mother of seven children, had many of her future children's names picked out when she was in the sixth grade. Karen and I talked about boys, clothes and how to be pretty. Today, like then, she is very attractive. Years later she would become an amazing mother. When I enter her front door I am overwhelmed with the calm she imparts within her home. Her children are kind, smart and sensitive. She appears to carry out being a mother so effortlessly; she is so patient, or rather she knows how to disguise her frustrations much better than I do.
My brother, who my sisters and I have over the years referred to as the golden boy, was a quiet kid. He was not very athletically inclined. He was above average in intelligence, but because he was socially awkward, there was concern that he may have a learning disability.  My brother was picked on long before the current vigilance against bullying. This was a horrible thing to watch. He was a rail-thin kid with reddish hair and a large mole on the right of his nose. These features provided ammunition to those who would harass him throughout elementary school and middle school. In one summer, my brother Rob, who we then referred to as Bobby, suddenly put on a weight and shot up nearly a foot and a half. He now stands over six feet. Today he is in excellent physical shape, and is a handsome, successful man with three children. 
Then there was me, bouncing between the influences of both of my sisters.  Today I find that I have a healthy mix of both of them in me. Back then I was always in my own little world, content with simple things and being in the company of my brother and sisters. I was very sentimental, and the historian of the family because I possessed a memory unlike the others. I was also extremely shy. I would be struck with debilitating fear when I had to speak or merely be around others outside of the family. Even today I still have to work through this. Working as a waitress has helped me immensely with my shyness. It has given me a stage where I am required to speak to people, and the more I did, the easier it became. When I was nine years old, however, I had to find other outlets. I played softball at the encouragement of my older sister. In the beginning, I was awful out in left field: picking flowers and daydreaming. I was placed in a fielding position where no young girl would hit the ball. I kept at it and eventually became the pitcher and played first base. The years passed and I found that playing softball helped my self-esteem. I played on the local little league team for over seven years. I discovered my athletic, coordinated side. I had an interest I could share with others, and that in turn made talking with people easier. It would be years later when that athletic, physical part of me would become buried beneath layers of a self-medicating, survivalist persona. As I write this now, I think about how grateful I am that I have rediscovered this part of me.  
As children, Rob and I were often together and linked as “the two little ones.” Yet all four of us were certainly a clan in our own right. We organized family meetings when there was stress in the home. This happened often. We collaborated to determine which one of us would confess about a particular thing, and which one would get in the least amount of trouble. Usually, I would be coerced into this role because I was the youngest child. For a dysfunctional family immersed in alcoholism and codependency, we still managed to maintain a certain level of normalcy for at least the first dozen years of my life. We went on family trips, piling into the back of a Ford super-cab truck with the dog and cat in tow. There was a bench seat in the back and I was always in the middle. I can say that I don't think I sat next to a window in that back seat while being driven until I was a teenager. I vividly recall the smell of that truck on a hot summer day, in route to Vermont or Pennsylvania. The vinyl seats stuck to the back of my legs, and my siblings’ elbows were in my sides. The smell of the dog’s breath filled the air. We were a poor family that made the most out of what we had, so once we arrived to our destination we had each other for entertainment. My mother was extremely resourceful in stretching everything out to accommodate the six of us. She did this when we were vacationing or when we were back home with a glass of orange juice or powdered milk. She would make up holidays and give clever names for her culinary inventions. She made white bread with canned tomato soup poured over the top and called it a blushing bunny. This would transform her dishes into something far more enticing for a young child to eat.
We often did things as a family: we played cards and other games, we hiked, and ate dinner together. During mealtime we each had a designated job: one person would husk the corn, someone would cut the lettuce and someone else would set the table. After dinner, we took walks around the neighborhood. Us kids would be in our pajamas. We walked just before dark, together hand in hand. 
Then things slowly began to change. They either changed or they grew more tiresome to those involved because they did not change. Also, I became more conscious of the things around me. My parents fought often. This would always lead to a family meeting among the four children. I would often be the most upset about our parents’ fights. I would write letters to my parents asking them to stop fighting. The letters would be filled with pages and pages of “I love you.” My brother and sisters took care of me, especially in those times. We would stack our hands together, piling eight hands high in a promise that we were in it together. During those days, I am certain that my siblings sheltered me from many things. We were seventies kids with feathered-back hair. We had young parents who were caught up in their world. In some ways, it is not dissimilar to the struggles of young married couples of today, though I do think the contemporary institution of marriage has changed since those days, and I think that divorce has changed as well. 
On one late summer day when I was fifteen, my parents sat us around the table on our deck. My sisters were closing in on graduating from high school and I was beginning high school. My brother was in a new school, and was doing well and making friends.  They presented us with a question I will never forget: “We are getting divorced. Who do you want to live with?” It was a question I refused to hear. It devastated my insides. Yet, even as a young adolescent, it did not come as a surprise. My eyes fixed on a summer fly that had landed on the watermelon we had just eaten for dessert. I welled up with tears. I knew my family as I knew it would never be the same.
My mother informed us that she was moving into a two-bedroom condominium in a nearby town. My father, who had built the house we lived in, would remain there. This was our third house and we referred to as our dream house. We had all helped with the blue prints, helped stain wood every Saturday, and thought we would live there forever. My parents had been married for twenty years, had four children and decided for various reasons to end their marriage. This was not an uncommon thing for married couples in the early eighties: there are many of us who grew up in that time who are products of divorced parents. I believe my parents made the decisions they thought was best. Do I wish that some things were handled with more care? Absolutely; though I do not blame my parents for any of my own poor life choices. On a foggy early morning in fall, a U-Haul truck came to the end of our dirt road, and the reality set in. It would set in motion the anxieties of possession separation, of unwanted tag sales and of the collapse of my family unit. Those stories are for another day. I am writing today about my brother and sisters and about how our four lives once clung together out of love and fear. It was thirty years ago and now I revisit those bonds. Now as I look back and think of the four of us, the relationships we once had, and where we are today, it all takes on new meaning.
After my parents’ divorce, my older sister Laurie stayed with my dad. My father and Laurie always had a close bond, and this would sometimes provoke jealousy in me. My sister Karen moved back with my father after a short stint living with our mother. Karen and Laurie took on the role of  spouse, cooking and cleaning for our father. Eventually, Karen moved out. She moved in with the person who would become her future husband and the father of her seven children. The family house began to deteriorate, as did my relationship with my siblings. Perhaps this would have happened anyway as a natural progression of getting older, of each of us finding our own interests and ways of life, and starting families. Yet I think back to the first wedge put between the four of us, and equate our status to being like eggs in a fragile bird’s nest. We were cared for and sheltered from the world, and then suddenly it was as if some pimply, pig-nosed malevolent child shoved a lit firecracker deep in the midst of the sticks and careful building of our nest. Then, just like that, we were all flying through the air in different directions, free-falling into our individualized self-preservation modes. 
Years went by. Karen got married. My brother finished school and bought a house at a very young age. Laurie continued to care for my father, and he cared for her. The house was foreclosed on, leaving my father, and all of us, in a sense, homeless. This would be the first of many times for someone in my family to go homeless. I was at a loss, and grabbing whatever came near for dear life. As the months and years passed, some of the family dynamics between us stayed the same, and some things changed. The one constant over the years were my grandparents. They made us keep up holiday traditions that were sometimes challenging due to the discordant relationship between our parents. I would feel such guilt at family functions. My father would be alone. My mother had started a new relationship. The children were in the middle of it, getting bounced back and forth like Ping-Pong balls.  Recently, I looked through photographs that my grandparents had taken during those years. In those photos I could see evidence of how they had tried to keep us together as a family. They would take a yearly photograph during the summer at the lake house. We would all groan and make one excuse after another to avoid the family photograph. My grandfather always had the newest technology in taking pictures. I remember one of his cameras being the size of a shoebox. I have scoured over those photos in the last few days. I am so grateful to them, and I see now how important keeping tradition is, whether it be a photograph or a Christmas dinner. If they are not kept up, the tradition and all that it supports will cease to exist.
Where are we all now? That is a difficult question to answer. Each of the four children are all forty years and older. We are four people with divergent histories. We share the same parents and share many of the same good and bad traits. We also share the same pain. We came from such closeness. This past Saturday I found myself standing in my deceased grandparents’ home with my three siblings. I am not sure of the last time that the four of us were together in a room alone. It was a peculiar happenstance that we were there, dividing our grandparents’ belongings between the four of us. When my grandmother died, it was the end of any foundation of a family that remained for us. It was ripped apart rather abruptly. When that last thread unraveled, a lifetime of issues and agony beset my grandfather, and then it, in turn, spilled out onto us. Over the years, I have not been the best sister. I have certainly done my own share of causing distance and distrust between us. A friend once pointed out to me that as adults we often recreate the dynamics we had as children. I believe this to be true of my life. My brother has slowly taken on the role of my grandfather. I believe he harbors intense resentment. He has even written people out of his life. On this previous Saturday morning, he was forced to be in that room with his three sisters who shared their lives with him, and who will eventually share in putting our own parents to rest. This connection could not be denied. We had moments of laughter, and shared our collective sharp wit and sarcasm. My sisters and I have all been trying in our own ways to reconnect, to not stay in an angry place, and to accept each other for who we are, and for what our family is now. I know that at times I have felt so far away from family, so lost and bitter to be alone. Now that I have opened up and let my sisters in, things have begun to change and I believe that we each want the same thing. We so quickly forgave our brother without words for the torment and anguish he had caused us. So many things were broken when our grandparents left us. We were left with a mixed feeling of loss and broken promises. I stood there between my brother and sisters feeling the  moment years ago where we were all piling our hands on top of each other. I know that life is full of uncertainties and absurdities. This one family meeting thirty years later offered something to counter those hardships. It gave us this: a one-second-group laugh that contained within it all the hope in the world.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Let it Grow

It was a spring day after a cold New England winter. My grandmother and grandfather had returned to their Connecticut home after months being away in a warmer climate. My grandmother, who we called JJ or J, was busying herself around the house the way she often did. My grandfather was working furiously in his garage, the way he often did. J noticed her favorite flower, the forsythia, was in bloom. She walked down a little path outside of her condominium and took a little sprig off the blooming plant. It was not uncommon to see J with a flower she had stumbled across tucked into her front pocket. Before that spring day it was hard not to think of J when I saw forsythia, and after that day it is impossible not to recall her whenever I see this spring flower. J stepped inside to put her flower on display, and then walked outside again through the back sliding door. She pushed the sliding door open and descended the two concrete steps. They were barely six inches off the ground. J missed a step and lost her balance. She fell and the back of her head struck the top step. She instantly sustained a massive head injury. She picked herself up and walked towards my grandfather in the garage. She spoke to him with blood pouring out of her, over her face and body; telling her husband that she had fallen. My grandfather fell into sheer panic. He immediately called for an ambulance. In the interim minutes before the ambulance’s arrival, my grandmother lost her ability to speak. I do not know what transpired here during those horrific minutes for a couple that had been married for 65 years. I only know that it must have been the most awful thing they both had ever experienced.
I was working my regular Friday evening shift at the restaurant when I received a call from my mother informing me that J had fallen. My mom was nonchalant and requested that I stop by to check on my grandmother to support my grandfather because I was the closest to the hospital. I expected that my grandmother had a broken hip or needed a few stitches. My mother made this request of me because she lived five hours away.  I left the restaurant with the anticipation of returning shortly before the busy rush. I walked into the emergency room and was approached by the hospital staff almost immediately. They referred to me as the granddaughter. I remember hearing: “the granddaughter is here. Have her come back.” I was led by a nurse that spoke to me quickly. “Where is your mother? Can she come here? You grandmother is seriously hurt. Your grandmother is going to die...” As those words left her mouth, I entered the treatment area. My grandfather was sobbing like a small child. He was coiled up in a chair near my grandmother.  My grandmother was lying still in her hospital bed, but she was awake. Her head was bandaged with blood seeping through. I stood in the doorway. My grandfather stood up and clung to me in fear. He continued to cry.  I looked at my grandmother and I felt like I could not breathe. These were my two pillars; they were the strongest unit I had ever known, and had been my anchors of support for my entire life. I can’t describe in words what J was to me. My grandparents were a constant in my unstable life. I miss my grandmother so intensely at times. I miss her presence, her humor, and her love. I still pick up the phone to call her, especially when I am a feeling lost and alone. I stood there, under that florescent light, looking upon my grandmother and facing the reality of her mortality. I ran outside the room and called the restaurant to speak to my boss. I was in shock. I repeated: “Oh my God, oh my god. This is so bad. I can't do thisThere is blood. She is so bad..." He spoke calmly though my incoherent pleas: “They need you Heather. You are the only one there. Go back in. You have to do this. You can do this. They need you.”
I paced in the parking lot, stalling, trying to shake the image that was just put before me. I went back in. I sat alongside my grandmother, taking her hand in mine. I knew she was uncomfortable with me seeing her like this. My grandfather would not stop talking, and after a while, it became irritating to me. I felt like he was making her life about him. I fought off my own sadness, fear and disbelief as I sat on the edge of the hospital bed. I remember the sensation of feeling her skin. It was the first time I had held her hand since I was a young child. She grabbed my hand tightly and her eyes met mine. She spoke to me only through her touch and in her grandmotherly way. I wore a ring. It was silver with a large oval black stone. She spun it around on my finger and fidgeted with it. She had this habit with fiddling with objects. I carry on this trait of hers to this day.
I spoke calmly and intentionally: “Hi J. I love you so much. You are going to be okay, J. Don't worry about Grandpa. He will be fine.” I told her about my ring: where I bought it, what I did that day, what I was going to do tomorrow, and how long it had been since I had a cigarette. I continued talking, storytelling, attempting to achieve some normalcy for several hours. I was called out of the room by a nurse. She was on the phone with my mother, who had been in some denial. The nurse said to me: “You mom is not hearing me. You need to tell her she needs to come here now. Your grandmother is going to die. There is nothing we can do for her. You need to tell your family to get here as soon as possible.”
 I stayed with J for a number of hours until they admitted her into the hospital. They said it could be a matter of hours or even days before she died, but that her level of consciousness would drastically decrease. The only thing they could do was make her comfortable as possible. One by one my family arrived; each one going through the same grieving. They said the same things to my beloved grandmother: a declaration of their love.  We were all turned inside out, and unfortunately, these terrifying moments ravaged our family for years to come. My grandfather and my mother did not leave my grandmother’s side for five days. They grew weary and lethargic. After the first forty-eight hours of visiting and grieving, J became unconscious. I remember her last moments of consciousness. While the priest from her church read her the last rights, J became noticeably agitated. This led me to believe that J never fully understood how devastating her injuries were. On the fifth night at the hospital, J left us. I entered the dark room to the eerie sound of her breathing heavy. I never thought that the sound of breathing could sound like death. She was in a comatose state. My sisters and I left that evening and stood outside in the hospital parking lot. We stood out in that dark lot, and the wind picked up. We looked towards the eleventh floor, and saw a shadow move across the window of my grandmother’s room. It was our mother. The wind picked up. It was a warm spring wind, and we heard the night birds calling out. The birds grew louder, almost as if they were yelling, and they flew over our heads in a peculiar manner. We knew it was our JJ saying goodbye to her beloved grandchildren. She would refer to us as her chickadees. We stood still in that moment, knowing she was leaving us. We lingered there, hugging each other, longing to reach our mother in that darkened room. The next morning J took her last breath.
It was around noon and I was there in the hall outside her room as I had been in the beginning, five day earlier. J finally stopped breathing; the silence was deafening in the air. My grandfather called out for his daughter.  My mother stood outside of the room in the hallway, she asked him for a moment to compose herself before returning. She knew that her mom had moved on. My grandfather became infuriated at the idea of waiting even a minute for my mother and then something snapped in my tenacious grandfather. He had always been a controlling, angry man. I believe that J kept him together, and kept him gracious. They pretended that he was not angry man. She kept him reined in, and in the moment she was gone, he flew out of control. My grandfather tried to instill a sense of responsibility in us; yet his standards were out of reach. He promised us love; yet it was always conditional. He promised forgiveness; yet he always reminded you what you did. J constantly softened the rough edges of my old Italian grandfather. When my mother denied her father in that one moment, he held this against her. He acted rashly, and had no one to keep him in check. He never spoke to his daughter again. 
What transpired over the next three years surprised everyone. We let my grandfather mourn, and assumed that his anger would subside. Instead, he became angrier. He slipped farther away, and saw his family less and less. My grandfather went to the cemetery every day. As I write this, I try to find compassion for him. I believe more than ever that the accident and his sense of loss and pain after it was the worst thing my grandfather had ever experienced. As I have gotten older, I have finally started to see my parents and grandparents as separate human beings. As I have let go of my need for them, I have stopped seeing them through a child’s eye. 
I would call my grandfather, and he would sob uncontrollably over the phone. He would say he wanted to die, but then his tears would quickly turn to venom and he would blame my mother, my sibling and eventually me for his pain, his life, and what we never understood. The last time I spoke to my grandfather was a couple of years before he died. We spoke over the telephone, and I found myself almost immediately defending my mother to him, and asking him to just be my grandfather again. He wanted everyone to agree with him, and to share his anger. I did get angry, but I was not angry with him, I was angry at him. As my voice grew louder, he threatened to write me out of his will. I told him that if that was what he wished, then so be it. I said that his money was not worth the love that I wish he saw I had for him; the love I wished he would return to me. It was not worth the pain he was caused my mother and family. His money would most definitely not bring my grandmother back.
      Months went by, and one by one each of us were shut out, except for those who were strong enough to ignore his rants and rage. We were written out of his will. It had been the proverbial carrot that had been dangled in front of us for through our childhoods. My grandfather had claimed he would always take care of my siblings and me. His anger towards all of us led him to default on those promises. They became false promises. In the end, my grandfather left me nothing monetary-wise in his will; however, he did leave me a dozen things to learn, to grow from and to not be afraid of.
After three years of angry living, seclusion and not moving one thing of my grandmother’s since she had died, my grandfather was diagnosed with stage four terminal lung cancer. He was told he had three to six months to live. We were certain that this would somehow change our ninety-two year old grandfather. When someone is told they are going to die, they have months to make things right, or, at the very least, to make peace with others. They have a chance to give and receive love, and, most importantly, to forgive and be forgiven. None of these things took place. My grandfather continued to isolate himself, except for  continuing contact with my brother who he made the executor of the estate. My grandfather’s possessions not only controlled his life when he was alive, but they dictated his life at the time of his death. My sister took care of my grandfather for a long period of time. I am not sure how she was able to tolerate his conduct. I am certain she did it out of love, and perhaps a little guilt. In the end, my brother was the only person who my grandfather put in charge.Despite the countless hours my sister spent by his side. This may have been a generational thing; my patriarchal grandfather would only want a man to handle his affairs at the end of his life. I went to his home a month before he died. I brought my son along, feeling certain that he would open the door once he saw his then eight year old great-grandson, and his granddaughter. I had phoned him several times, and each time he hung up on me. We knocked on the door and he slowly opened it. The room was dark and damp behind him. His face was sunken, and he clutched the layer clothes around his frail and thin body. He looked into my eyes. I looked at him and said: “Hi Gramp, it’s me and Elijah. We just want to come in and tell you we love you grandpa. Please.” As the words left my mouth, those once sparkling blue eyes I had looked into my entire life looked back at me. They were dull, the whites around them were gray, and the life behind them was dead. He looked coldly at me and said: “Go away.” His voice crackled with anger and bitterness.  He slammed the door in our faces. 
     My Grandfather moved in with my Aunt, who was a nurse in a nearby town. She made a temporary hospital room for him in her home. As his death grew closer, my mother and I tried to see him several times. He refused, and on a snowy, freezing, mid-January day, he died. I will always remember the contrast of the two funerals. J’s funeral was on a spring day in April. She had requested the week before her death to have a bagpiper from her church play at her funeral. The bagpiper started amid a long field to the left of her grave site. He slowly marched and played, walking towards the hole in the ground. As she was lowered into the hole, he then veered off and walked off into the distance, the ominous drone of the pipes echoing for several minutes. My grandfather’s burial, it was something else. It was frigid, grey and unsettling. 
I drove home from his funeral, and as I pulled into the frozen driveway, my car literally broke in half; it was as if the car itself embodied all the pain and torment that I was feeling. The front axle made a loud crack. Years earlier, my grandfather had made the observation that I had such bad luck with cars. I would often go to them to ask for help with yet another car repair bill. My grandfather said: “Heather, when we go, our car is yours.” My grandfather gave his car away a few days before he died. 
I have worked hard at sorting through the emotional mess that my grandfather has bestowed upon me. I have tried to forgive him and have resisted the urge to internalize it all the way I do. When I stand in line with my food stamp card, when I drive my undependable car, when I struggle as waitress who can’t afford to go back to school, when I think about all the instability in my life because of how I barely get by, I think of my grandfather. There I am, standing in line at the Stop and Shop grocery store, asking myself: “Why didn't you love me? Why did you trick me? And why the hell could you not see how hard my life is?”
My grandfather’s rejection incited many of my own demons. I do battle with them every day. Unfortunately, my grandfather’s legacy of disenfranchisement has carried over to my brother. He has turned his back to his family, especially to his mother. He keeps his children away from their grandmother. I am uncertain of his motivations, whether he is driven by money or resentment or some other force. I only know that he is a long way from home. I try and step out of the box and see him as something separate: not as my brother, but as some other person who may be in tremendous pain, and, like my grandfather, cannot handle it. 
On the 24th of April, it will be the anniversary of the death of my grandmother. In over four years I have not been to the place where my grandmother died, the place that she called home. It was a place that two of the most important people in my life came to their deaths. Tomorrow, their four grandchildren will re-enter the house. The house has been closed up for over a year. The home that was once full of life and love now sits still in the dark and damp. The four grandchildren were left the contents of this house. We will find pictures of ninety years of life, visions, and memories.  I have such an intense recollection that it sometimes frightens me. My memory sometimes seems to operate separately from me; it is overpowering, and something that I cannot control. I can go back to every sound, smell, sight, and feeling in a split-second from so many moments in my life. This ability will make tomorrow’s visit very hard for me.
I have tried hard to not get smothered by any of the money issues of my grandparents’ estate. I never fought to get money from the estate, to find out about the car or to get “stuff.” It is not who I am, nor do I have the drive for it. I do need to find some closure. I know I need to be stronger than my brother and grandfather. I need to learn to contain my emotions, to not react and not to lash out.  I hope to find something of my grandmother’s that I gave to her, something that I never knew that she held dear. I want to try to reconcile with my grandfather, to continue to learn to forgive him and to let go of both of my grandparents. I want to forgive my brother and accept others people in all of their sadness and the choices they make in their lives.
  I will go to the house with my eyes closed, my heart open and my soul in tack. How I will leave I am uncertain. I may be heavy, filled with resentment, or feeling hurt and loss. On my way out, I will walk down the path that my grandmother walked down four years ago. I will pick a sprig of forsythia and I will leave it on my grandfather’s grave.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Awake in the mourning

     I hate driving and have an intense fear of being involved in an automobile accident. Yet I find myself being careless far too often. I take my eyes off the road. I reach for something. I answer the phone. I grab for some change for the drive up-coffee or approaching toll.  In the past several weeks I have read about some awful incidents: a runner was struck down and killed by a texting teenager and another texting and driving incident left a runner in critical condition. What brings me to write this piece is the sudden end of life for a seventeen year-old teenage boy. I did not know this boy; I only know that in the late hours of the evening/early morning a few weeks ago he lost control of his car going down the same hill that I travel up and down every day when I bring my son Elijah to school. The hill is long and steep going up. It winds fast on the way down. I often grow impatient with drivers in either direction as I rush to get to school or to work or to my morning run. That particular spring morning when that teenager died, his vehicle crossed the small four lanes away from the college campus.   I drove up the hill with my ten year old son and we saw the beginning of the memorial. Deep tire tracks crossed the grass median. There was a rusty lamp post adorned with a gathering of teddy bears, flowers and signs. The collection grew with each passing day. Elijah asked me what happened. As I told him about the accident, and gave him a glimpse of the realness of the outside world, I looked in his eyes and imagined him at seventeen. My heart felt so  heavy. I had to catch my breath for my boy, and for the boy that lost his life and for that boy’s mother and father. 
     Sometimes in my life I experience what I can only call a domino affect of both  positive and  negative events.  Later that evening I read of more tragic news and  watched a video clip of someone texting while driving. I made myself watch it. I knew that it was going to be bad. The clip showed an SUV driving into the path of an eighteen-wheeler truck and being obliterated within seconds. Those lives in the vehicle and all the lives that were intertwined with those passengers were changed forever in a split second. I felt a pang that told myself that something had to change. For the next several days I turned my phone off upon entering the car. I remembered what it was like before the days of this constant access. I listened to the radio. I paid more attention in the grocery store, eventually forgetting my phone in the car. I faintly remembered how I would long ago wait until I got home before I even concerned myself with someone or anyone who may be trying to get a hold of me. I felt a longing for the old answering machines that you had to flip the tape over. So often you would hear someone finishing up their message on the machine just as you were opening the door. I recalled the distant memory of having to pull over and use a pay phone. I knew where they all were across town: the ones that sheltered you from the rain, the ones that people could call you back on, and how I would memorize each distinct graffiti mark. I realized how much I am controlled by my present day constant contact. 
Yet nowadays, I am always with my phone, especially when I am away from my son. I run with it. I even keep it with me when I am racing. I am the only person to call in case of emergency with my son. People will ask me why I am running with my phone enclosed in a Ziploc bag in the rain. I carry it for Elijahs comfort. I often ask him: “Do you want mom to run with her phone today?” The most important thing I can give my child is trust. It is something that he has so desperately needed in his first ten years of life. For this reason alone, my phone is always turned on.
In the weeks past, I realized how easy it was to decide to give something up. I look at my life and know how important it is for me to walk away from or rather tear myself away from certain things that have become familiar. This kind of change means leading an intentional life, and it takes work and discipline. There was a brief mention of the boy who died in the local newspaper. There were typical descriptions about how he was a nice kid  and how it was a tragic loss. Every word I read provoked a shriek in my soul. 
The wind picked up for days after that accident and pieces of  notes and flowers blew hard in those March winds. Roses that were wrapped in zebra printed cellophane blew through the air. They passed over the ground near the accident, that corner of earth where this boy traversed in the last moments of his life. I got out of my car and chased the cellophane wrapper, tears welling up in my eyes. I yelled in the wind and to the passing careless drivers. I wished they could stop, that they too could feel what I felt. I saw nothing else about the boy in the following days. Last week the maintenance crew from the local college took down the memorial, leaving only the slightly overgrown tire tracks, and skid marks to the pole. I was angry they took it all down, angry at life and all of it’s tragic uncertainty. I drove by there today with Elijah. The college campus was quiet on this afternoon of Good Friday. I stopped to take a picture of the hill, the light post  and the daffodil from the memorial that was left behind. I held Elijah’s hand tight. I looked to the sky, and I told the boy I was sorry.