Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Anyway, Andrew saved the Christmas stockings. When I was downsizing back in 2003, I put them in the pile for the yard sale along with most of my old Christmas decorations. Andrew saw them and grabbed them up, saying, "Hey, don't sell those! They are our special stockings Aunt Donna made!"
Okay, I thought, I didn't realize that he was so attached to them. I had been detaching from everything in my life, but that one incident brought me back to the present and I had to consider Andrew's feelings about this stuff. The possessions I kept were narrowed down to my bedroom furniture, clothes, some pictures and knick-knacks the kids had made for me in school, like wooden candlesticks, woven baskets and ceramic pieces and other items that would fit into one bedroom and my 3 X 4 foot rented storage space.
Perhaps that was the thing Andrew couldn't deal with: letting go of the old and forging ahead with a new definition of life. It was hard on all of us, but maybe Andrew most of all. Later, after Bill and I had mad our peace, Andrew still had a hard time being in both of our presence simultaneously. It was uncomfortable for him, probably because he had witnessed both of us struggling with the failed marriage and the resulting pain.
When I hang up the stockings this Christmas, I am hanging up Andrew's right along with the rest. I might even buy him some socks and beef jerky, just like every year. Merry Christmas, my son!
What a challenging year this has been…I don’t think I will miss it when it’s gone.
We lost our beloved Andrew this year. That is the hardest blow of all. We miss him. He was
such a good person, fun to be around, always willing to help, friendly, sincere, an upstanding kind of guy – Bill and I were very proud of our boy. He was his sisters’ best friend in the world. He was the one person everyone wanted to be around. He brought your spirits up. Somehow, trying to bring us all up was too big of a weight for him to carry, and he let go.
As it happens, his departure brought our family closer together again. Somehow through
all the pain and heartache, our family has managed to be a little more understanding, a little more tolerant of one another, and a little more forgiving of our faults and failings. It’s not perfect, but we appreciate how fragile we all are and reach for each other a little more often and freely.
One example is our recent move, Lee’s and Taylor’s and mine. Our landlord decided she had to sell the house we had been renting for the past 3-1/2 years and wanted it vacated in 30 days. That was at the end of October. We scrambled around and found a house to move in to just up the street and one block over and set about packing up. We spent Thanksgiving Day cleaning the cupboards in the new house, and then ate a delicious turkey dinner cooked by Jayne, her boyfriend Tyler, and Rebecca at Bill’s house. The cousins, Russell, Sean and Cody, joined us and we all toasted to Andrew.
On moving day, November 29, who should help us but Bill and Tyler, and Lee’s friend Jeff.
Taylor’s friend Nick helped, too, and T never worked so hard in his life. They got it all done on a Saturday, and Becca came over and helped me clean up on Sunday. Then, since we couldn’t occupy the new house for another week, Bill let us stay at his house for the week. Jayne got the rooms ready for us and she and Tyler made us dinner. We were so grateful for their help during this stressful and exhausting time. We were able to take up residency at the new casa on December 4.
The property managers were great, too. After all, they let us move our belongings into the house a week before we could move in, and then when I presented them with a list of things needing attention, they approved it all except for the window cleaning. No problem, I know someone in the business, and yesterday my brother Michael came and washed them all ‘til they sparkled!
The new home is beginning to feel homey now! I think we are going to be okay here. Now we just have to pray Lee’s job situation will work out…his employer is closing in January unless someone buys it and keeps it going. Otherwise, Lee may be self-employed and working out of the garage…
Lee and I both turned 50 this year; Bill too! My baby Becca turned 25 and Jayney is 29. Taylor is 16 looking at 17...still needs to get his permit and start driving. Hopefully he will get a job soon and start the permit process too! Andrew will forever be 26...
More challenges ahead, but with all of us working together, we will make it!
Merry Christmas, everyone. We love you!
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I am moving this weekend, so I spent my morning cleaning the new kitchen cabinets and light fixtures that somehow got overlooked by the cleaning crew, and we began moving boxes. By 1:00 p.m. we were already exhausted and came back to our home to shower and get ready for dinner. I made a green salad and we headed over the hill to Bill's house...my former home. There are so many memories for me in that house where I raised my children. I smile when I see something that I had left behind that they are using, like some baskets or dishes.
When Bill and I separated, he initially moved out. Later, when we decided to sell the house and formalize our divorce, he moved back in to the house and has lived there ever since as a renter. Andrew and Becca had been living with me back then, and when it became apparent we weren't going to retain ownership of the house, we tried to freshen it up to sell. Becca and I painted all of the rooms and Andrew started in on the kitchen. He stripped the old cabinets and Becca and I repainted the doors white. Andrew painted all the trim and faceboard a contrasting green color. It all matched with some wallpaper board I had hung in the adjoining dining room several years before. Anyway, when Becca went to college and I moved out, Andrew remained in the house, and I left a lot of things for his use before his dad and aunt and cousins moved in with him. Andrew lived there by himself for a couple of months. I hated to move and leave him there...that was such a depressing time for me. Andrew seemed to take it all in stride back then. How he really felt about it I will never know.
So as we sat down to prepare the feast prepared by my daughters and Tyler and Bill, I was surrounded of memories. The table we sat at had belonged to Rollynn, the nephews' mother, as her furniture was now in the house where my furniture had been. She died about a year and a half ago, and her husband Gary died in 2000. Memorabilia from the nephews' mother and father was all around us in knick-knacks, displays and photos. Andrew's photos were mixed in with theirs in a sort of informal shrine to loved ones we had lost.
I had brought my fiance and future stepson to the gathering, so we were a real mixed bag. A few years ago this gathering would not have been possible. But miraculously through all we have lost, Bill and I have regained a relationship of trust and understanding. We can come together as an extended family and remember our loved ones who are no longer here with us, and celebrate them together.
That is what I am Thankful for on this day.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
They seemed so detached, not together at his bedside, but waiting at home for news, hoping for the best. Now, reality.
I was asked to help with his obituary. I used to write them for the newspaper where I worked about 10 years ago. I've been writing them since for family members and a few friends. So today was fact-finding, verifying name spellings, gathering dates and highlights to remember his life. I got some of his history from his own business website, some more from a website for a band he belonged to. Its always interesting to learn something after they died about someone you have known for years...I didn't know Clay has been playing guitars since he was a young boy.
I got the skeleton of the obituary written, leaving room for more facts or details. They will modify it tonight and search for a suitable photo to publish along with it. Tomorrow I will edit the final draft and send it on to the mortuary.
I really miss Andrew, my proofreader. I hope this one comes out sounding right.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
This is a hard week. First I lost a friend from work who went into the hospital with possible pneumonia and then died from blood clots. He’d had a heart attack about one year ago. Now, at age 57, he was gone. Just like that…gotta deal with it! It has been a very sad week at work, but at least people are posting remembrances on Facebook pages…the sentiments and occasional humor help. He was a good man.
Then I got a text message from my sister about my former brother-in-law, her first husband and the father of her two children. She forwarded a message from his current ex-wife (yes, recently divorced a second time) saying something about trying to take him off the sedation meds, but it not working. He was in a coma. What???
It seems that about a week and a half ago he had surgery for hand numbness and back problems when something went wrong. The carotid artery had been “nicked” during surgery. It was repaired and he went home, only to have it burst open a few days later. By the time the ambulance got there, he was unconscious with major blood loss and was flown to
Oh, geez, that brings it all gushing back…seeing my son, unconscious, in a hospital bed, with machines all hooked up and beeping…talking to him, stroking his hair, trying to determine if he was still with us or if this was all an exercise in futility. Watching my oldest daughter talking to him, begging him to stay with us, to come back. Tape, tubes. Feeling repulsed by the way his left hand was swelling up with fluid. Beep, beep, beep, whoosh…beep, beep, beep, whoosh…all day long, all night long. Sickening sounds.
Bill just stood beside Andrew and held his good hand. Becca sat there, staring blankly. Jayney was taking charge, talking to Andrew the most. I kept thinking, “Goddamnit… goddamnit… goddamnit.” The doctor coming in and giving us a grave prognosis. Something about waiting 24 hours, doing more tests, praying for a miracle. Bill and I watched as he checked Andrew’s eyes, which were totally unresponsive.
I don’t know what Bill was thinking, but I was thinking, “He’s gone. He is not coming back. Why do they make us wait 24 more hours?” I had to force myself to be patient, to not react. Let everyone have time. We all need time. I can’t back-track on time and fix it, I thought, so stay in the present. What was done, was done! Be here for my kids, my ex-husband. I felt I knew, but they didn’t yet…let them all have time to absorb it, accept it. My fiancé was there with me. My family and Bill’s family were gathering, some coming into the Intensive Care Unit to stand vigil with us, some waiting out in the lobby. Some felt they needed to see Andrew; others couldn't bear to look but wanted to support us. At one time there must have been 20 people out there, waiting. I am sure images haunted the ones that did come and look.
This stuff is all going on now with my ex-brother-in-law. His ex-wife is sitting there with him in a hospital, listening to the machines work. My niece and nephew are not there. They don’t really want to see their father like that, all hooked up to machines in a coma. I can’t say that I blame them, yet I worry that maybe they should be there. Is it better, in the long run, to avoid this stuff or to deal with it? I don’t know the answer. I do know that with every day that passes, I remember less of the hospital and more of the boy and man my son was…more of the good stuff. I keep processing it, over and over. I go to the support group, I talk about him, I write down my feelings and let it all hang out. I try to comfort my girls and my ex and my fiancé and his son. I think that is the healthiest way for me to deal with it.
I am going to football games, but it’s hard…I feel him there. It was weird, watching a kickoff. As the kicker measured off his steps and placed the ball, I saw Andrew doing that same task. I took all the steps along with him as I watched his games. He did it so many times, exactly the same way, pacing off the distance, stepping sideways a couple of steps, then pausing. Hand up, running toward the ball and kicking off…okay, that was hard to watch. It was, and it wasn’t. I have to smile about that kind of memory. It’s good. These players don’t even realize they are stepping in my son’s footsteps on that same field…but he is there, enjoying the game. His spirit is there and I hope they glean some inspiration from him.
Monday, October 19, 2009
I enlisted Bill's help in picking up some trees for the room decor at the Santa Margarita Ranch. The event is held in the big barn, the Asistencia as it was named in the Mission days, is the site for the yearly event. The room holds up to 32 tables and we had to put on the table clothes, add centerpieces and decorations, table tents with the sponsors' names, all the tableware, some of which was borrowed and some rented. We started at 9 am and barely finished up by 3 pm with four of us working the entire day. We could only carry 8-10 dinner plates, or cup racks containing 25 cups or glasses at a time. So we made many trips back and forth to collect dishes and set them on the tables. I must have walked 10 miles by the end of the day.
It was so worth it. I got to see 10 people be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Each person gave a speech, some longer than others, but each was truly honored to receive the award. As they spoke about their years playing sports and of the positive influence the coaches had on their lives, I thought of Andrew.
Good role modeling is what I sought for my son through sports. Being part of a team, depending on others and being consistent for the team are the lessons he learned that shaped his character. While Andrew was not the Most Valuable Player of every team he was ever on, he certainly always wanted to be. His desire was huge, and he worked hard at every sport, every season to be the best he could be with the role he was given. The experiences they talked about that night were the experiences Andrew lived through sports, the experiences my daughters had, as well. Expecially when they got to the high school level: they became part of the community which was represented on this night and it made me proud to be a part of it.
I had opened my home up to the football team for pre-game dinners during Andrew's junior and senior years, and I am so glad I did. Several moms helped out and together we would feed 30-40 boys that showed up for the meal. Those boys still remember me and will come up and give me hugs when they see me.
A plaque has been ordered for Andrew to be included on the "Wall of Fame" at the high school. This is possible through the many donations people gave following his death as a memorial remembrance. I hope when people see it and read his name they remember a smiling boy who worked hard and wanted to be the best on the field. A boy who never gave up. Who did the right thing, even when it was hard. I think, in the end, he truly thought he was doing the right thing for himself.
All I know is, the game is over. It can't be replayed, except in our minds. We can second guess every decision, every act, comment, thought, etc., but we really only had one chance and it is now gone. We gave what we had to give in that moment, and for us, came up short. Andrew will always be with us, but we are lonely without him and the game will never be the same. We miss him, and we don't get a do-over.
So I guess we do what other teams do: regroup. There will be another contest, another opportunity for us to reach out and help someone.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
I am so frustrated, and can relate to how Andrew must have felt during his senior year of high school. I think it was the third game into the football season when he broke his hand. It wasn't bad, but it really hurt if he tried to play. So he sat out a couple of weeks. He could still kick, though, so he did that much. But it caused some problems with him and one of the coaches who didn't think he was tough enough for football. Andrew walked off the field one day and wasn't going back. It was traumatic for him and for all of us. Family, friends, everyone we knew was enjoying watching him play. So I called the head coach and just asked him to talk to Andrew. The next day he went back to practice.
Andrew wanted to do everything on the team, to "be the man", but he couldn't. He didn't get the opportunities he wanted, but he never gave up. He came back and played his heart out, win or lose. Somehow the team managed to get a playoff game, even though they had a losing record. Their prize was to play the number one ranked team - Inglewood. Andrew wrote an essay about that which I posted in this blog. During that game, Andrew broke his leg and was out of sports for the remainder of the year...soccer, baseball, everything.
Still, he was selected and honored as the Most Inspirational player of that football team, and later won a scholarship for his dedication to sports and desire to continue in college. He tried to come back from his injuries and play baseball, but then it just didn't work out. So much of his life and his personality were wrapped around sports, I just wonder if that didn't push him a bit further out of reality. His ego and confidence and overall sense of worth were shattered.
I had hoped that the sportswriting would pull him through it. He poured himself into his articles and wrote every sentence with the sense that it matters to not only the people he was writing about, but to the people reading it: his audience.
I think about that as I compose my essays. This is for me, for Andrew, and for you.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
So yesterday I started to walk and jog, alternating one block at a time along our neighborhood pedestrian pathway. It's about half a mile long, so I went to the end and back. It takes about 15 minutes, not a lot of time in the big scheme of things, and very manageable. That is the kind of exercise program I need: manageable.
I saw a flyer for an Oktoberfest 4-mile run in my town. It's in 3-1/2 weeks. I decided I am going to enter the race, something I have always wanted to do. It's my ultimate fitness goal: to run a marathon, or maybe a half-marathon. So I am just going to get started, here and now.
Andrew was the picture of health. Buff, trim and conscientious of everything he put into his body. That was one reason he could argue against medication, because of the side effects it had on a person's body and organs. He had some vices, like smoking and drinking, but he always tried to moderate them and finally quit the cigarettes and booze. I don't think he had a drink in the last 4 months of his life. He was harping on his dad, trying to get him to quit as well. But that is what went through my mind as I watched him lie there on the hospital bed with all the machines hooked up to him, keeping his blood pumping and the air moving: the picture of health, a perfect specimen. He was really such a beautiful young man.
Anyway, I am going to get fit and ask Andrew's help in getting there. He could do just about anything he wanted to do: he would just focus in and go for it. He rebuilt his truck engine, twice in the last year, overhauled his jet skiis, tiled the bathroom, constructed a gazebo, turned a dead tree stump into a planter and built a stucco dog house with a drain inside for hosing it out. He built furniture out of gnarly old wood, tended the landscaping and spruced up the yard. Andrew always had some projects going. I think if I call on him for inspiration, especially when I am tired and want to quit, he will push me onward. If I run in his memory, I can't let him down, either. My goal is to be strong and fit and contribute something to this world. I want to be there for the rest of my family, whenever they might need me to be.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Nothing is going to bring Andrew back and that is the cold hard fact. I hate that. I don't want him to be gone. I want to feel him and keep his memory going strong. People are laughing at me being so wrapped up in the Farmville game on Facebook, but I am farming and Andrew would have like that. God knows I can grow anything real these days...I forget about stuff. My real tomatoes are all shriveled and dry.
Jayne has been taking care of Andrew's real garden. She weeds it and cuts things back. It's still growing and producing vegetables. Grandpa Curtis would have liked that too. He always had a vegetable garden. He didn't believe in just watering plants for ornamental reasons...they had to produce something useful.
I noticed that the little flower basket with the purple African violet is blooming pretty well next to my kitchen sink...that is something. My friend Sue sent it to me when she heard about Andrew. The little purple flower is blooming and looking all perky today. Amazing!
I think I will go for a short hike today and see some real trees and grass and birds. I will think of Andrew as I hike; think of how much he would enjoy the view. I'm just going to take him along with me.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Yesterday had been a long day, celebrating a friend's marriage. I helped decorate her wedding cake. I met some more of her family. One of my friend's brothers has four children, and I was talking with her sister-in-law about big families. The sister-in-law remarked how it reflects on a child's upbringing in the way they talk to adults.
"It shows that a child was raised right when they can talk to an adult and engage in the conversation," she said. I instantly thought of Andrew. That was one of his fine qualities: participating in conversations, exchanges, where you knew he was listening to you and actively participating in an exchange of ideas or opinions. He might have a differing opinion, but he would state it respectfully, with thought and care of your feelings. You knew he listened to your opinions, and considered them.
Oh, I miss talking to my son.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
From a classmate—
I have a lot of fond memories with Andrew. I can't tell you how many times I saw him do the right thing when it was the hard thing to do. He was a stand-up guy, and I'll miss him.
A family who knew him through church, sports, school and socializing—
Andrew is remembered as a friend to all in our family. He was a great person to be around. He gave everything he did his best and he accomplished much. Andrew was a respectful, polite and obedient young man. A day has not passed since we learned about his death that we haven’t remembered something he said or did that brings a smile to our face. Andrew made many friends in his short time here and we consider ourselves very fortunate to be someone he touched. Kathleen, Bill, Jayne and Rebecca your son/brother is a very special person.
From a youth coach—
Andrew Ramos. What a kid. What a ball player. When I first coached Andrew in little league I knew he would give 110% all the time. It didn’t matter what position I had him play, he could do it all. He could hit, run, and field with the best.
Andrew was a very intense player and always wanted to do better each game; and he usually did. Andrew was one of the easiest kids to coach. He would listen and then would just go out on the field and do it. Sometimes Andrew would be his worst critic about how he was playing, but that didn’t matter because he would go back out there and try even harder to be the best he could.
I still remember that Ramos smile and that never ending desire to play baseball. Andrew had a real good throwing arm, so I guess I saw a quarterback in him, but that was not be because baseball was his true love.
As Andrew was getting older I would see him from time to time and he always had that big Ramos smile, and would ask: “How’s it going?” As I think about my past coaching career, Andrew always comes to mind because he was easy to coach and I could always count on him to do his best. The thing that I admired most about Andrew was his love of the game. Even though he is no longer with us, his memory will live on and will not be forgotten
Andrew, thanks for the time I got to spend with you.
My entry on the obituary guestbook—
Our loss of Andrew is so devastating and we will miss him in so many ways every day for the rest of our lives. The support we have already received from family, friends, hospital staff, employers, and everyone has been so gratifying and helpful in getting through the first week and I want everyone to know the worst is over...Andrew is safe and protected in the loving company of his grandparents, uncles and aunt who have gone before him.
It is our hope that you will remember Andrew with a smile as you perform a task, offer a service to someone, complete a project or participate in a sport or competition. As Andrew was loving and giving, so shall we endeavor to keep that spirit alive every day.
...so I think I will get up now and go clean the bathrooms and scrub some floors. I will do a thorough job and take pride in my work. That was Andrew's way...
Sunday, September 13, 2009
It took some of the dealings with Andrew to realize that we all need to respect one another. Andrew was the most respectful kid. I was always proud of him and how he showed courtesy to others. Several of his friends have written to me recently and expressed the kindness and courtesy Andrew showed them.
When he first started to have episodes, sort of manic days when he would rant about something he had read in the newspaper or something that had happened that didn’t sit right with him, he would withdraw from us. I was trying to figure out what was happening, but it was a confusing time. I was still grieving the loss of my marriage and trying to figure out my path. I was really feeling sorry for myself.
But Bill and I had to be in more frequent contact because something serious was going on with Andrew. He lived at Bill’s house, but sometimes they would argue and he would come over to my apartment. One weekend he moved in. Before dusk on Sunday evening, he moved back out, upset by something I had told him as I tried to counsel him.
Then one day Andrew was locked into a real weird mood where he exhibited a state of paranoia. I can’t remember if Rebecca was there, but Jayne was there with Bill and
She stopped me dead in my tracks with that outburst. Oh my God, how self-centered I was. Oh course, it’s not about me. I am going to be fine. Something is seriously going haywire with Andrew and we need to pull together and figure it out. I needed Bill’s help and support, and he needed mine. This was something we were all going to have to deal with together. Thank you, Jaynie! From that day on, anytime I started feeling sorry for me, I would chastise myself: “It’s not about YOU!” That message was a Godsend, I tell you, and a turning point for me.
The worst realization for me was that, as Bill and I had hurt each other and had separated, all the anger we had expressed toward each other and about other people involved had been internalized by Andrew to the point that he was nervous whenever we were together. “You hate them,” Andrew would tell me later, “so why are you trying to be nice now?”
Words spoken in anger can never be taken back. Not so much the words, actually, but the feelings they produce. Those feelings created a conflict in Andrew that he would never fully resolve. His family had been ripped apart, his safety net cut away. Somehow we had to find a way to mend that net and help him feel safe.
Friday, September 11, 2009
I am forwarding this email on my blog, because it represents the sentiment I try to follow with the experiences I had with Andrew. Most people didn't realize anything was going wrong with Andrew. He was courteous and respectful in his daily encounters with people. I think only the immediate family and some of Bill's work crew were even aware of Andrew's decline. He simply withdrew from society as he dealt with the illness.
I remember going through the 10 days between his death and the memorial service, dealing with details in preparation of the event. I had lots of emotional conversations with people about Andrew, both in person and by phone, and exchanged messages via email. It was a welcome blessing to go and get a manicure and a haircut and not tell any of the people working on me what I was going through. I would go to a restaurant and get waited on, or go to the grocery store and purchase supplies, and thank God that I didn't have to tell any of these people what I thought or felt. It just made me realize that you never know what one is dealing with at any given time. It made me think that I should be gentle with everyone and speak softly and kindly and deal with people respectfully. Anyone and everyone you encounter in a day may have some terrible trama they are dealing with, silently and privately. You just never know. People didn't know about Andrew's pain.
There is a field, with two horses in it.
From a distance, each horse looks like any other horse.
But if you stop your car, or are walking by, you will notice something quite amazing.
Looking into the eyes of one horse will disclose that he is blind. His owner
has chosen not to have him put down, but has made a good home for him.
This alone is amazing.. If you stand nearby and listen, you will hear the sound of a bell. Looking around for the source of the sound,
you will see that it comes from the smaller horse in the field.
Attached to the horse's halter is a small bell.
It lets the blind friend know where the other horse is, so he can follow.
As you stand and watch these two horses,
you'll see that the horse with the bell is always checking on the ,
and that the blind horse will listen for the bell and then slowly walk
to where the other horse is, trusting that he will not be led astray.
When the horse with the bell returns to the shelter of the barn each evening,
it stops occasionally and looks back,
making sure that the blind friend isn't too far behind to hear the bell.
Like the owners of these two horses, God does not throw us away just because
we're not perfect or because we have problems or challenges.
He watches over us and even brings others into our lives to help us when we are in need.
Sometimes we are the blind horse being guided by the little ringing bell
of those whom God places in our lives.
Other times we are the guide horse, helping others to find their way.....
Good friends are like that ... you may not always see them,
but you know they are always there.
Please listen for my bell and I'll listen for yours. And remember ...
be kinder than necessary .... everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
Speak kindly, and
Leave the rest to God !