Thursday, October 28, 2010

Baseball and the Giants in the World Series...

Oh, Andrew!

I am sitting here in the dark the morning after, on the couch, watching the introductions of Game One of the 2010 MLB World Series which I recorded last night. It's in San Francisco, Andrew...the Giants are in the World Series! I wish you were here to watch it. I recorded it so I could watch it for you.

I just watched the starters being introduced, observing each player's demeanor...the excitement as they waved and smiled, or simply just ran out on the field when their name was called without any fanfare...each one an individual. I thought of you and how you approached every game with excitement and intensity. These teams have reached the series for the first time in many, many years -- Texas Rangers vs. San Francisco Giants.

OMG! The batter has your look...he stares down toward the pitcher's mound and is reining in his focus. He takes a pitch, steps out, swings the bat a few more time. Steps back in, winds up his bat, check swings, holds his stance and then swings on the pitch...foul ball.

The first batter has reached base, and the pitcher looks him back, then throws down to first to make sure he goes back. The batter takes a quick breath before stepping back in. The pitch is a ball and he draws a walk.

Batter number 3, batting left, already has a 2-2 count. He hits a roller up to first and the 2 runners advance to scoring position. Come on Lincecum, don't make it this easy for Texas to get on the board...this is supposed to be a pitching dual.

The pitcher barely looks 18. He is tall and skinny with long, shoulder-length hair. He pitches, and the ball is hit right back at him, deflects off his leg and goes through to the outfield. Texas scores its first run -- Vladdy Guerrero! I bet you have some of his baseball cards.

God, I haven't watched a game all year, but in the first half of the first inning, it all comes rushing back. They all have something of you in them: the pitcher, batter, catcher, the fielders, third base...your spots. David, of course, is at first base, Danny at second....
They walk like you did, they look around the field like you did, adjusting their hats, smoothing their hands on their thighs, wiping off the excess sweat.

Oh geez, the pitcher picks up a short hopper and turns to the runner coming from third, stops him, and sort of chases him back in slow motion--no out and bases are loaded. Oh man, Andrew, you wouldda loved this game!

Finally, a hit to third, force out on the bag and the they have three outs. Time for SF to go to bat!

First batter, Torres, strikes out looking. Next batter, Sanchez, hits the first pitch down the first base line, breaking the bat into splinters. He runs, rounds and keeps on going to get to second, safely as the throw is just a little late. Giants are in scoring position with one out.

The catcher, Posey, is batting third now. Works it to a 2-2 count already. Inside corner ball, full count. Drama now! Pops it up over first base, right in the pocket, but no--second baseman is there and makes the catch and the throw to second and gets the out. No score for the Giants this inning.

Andrew, Andrew, Andrew! I wish you were here!

I am going to record these games and watch this series for you, son. Remember the time we went to San Francisco for that writing conferences when you were at Cuesta? Oh, Andrew, you could have been there at the game now, covering it for one of the newspapers. You would've had credentials, man, and been right there in the thick of it. You would be interviewing players and coaches and writing your fingers off!

Texas just scored again in the top of the second inning--Benji Molina. You remember him, the catcher. Oh boy, they are making a statement. SF better step it up in front of this California crowd. Sacrifice fly and Texas scores a second time...this could be a rout!

I miss you, kiddo! You would have really enjoyed this series.

Giants left one on in the second inning. A bat flew into the stands. A left hit one down the right sideline for a base hit. Full count with 2 outs...Lee strikes out #5 Juan Uribe and leaves a runner on. So goes the bottom of the scoreless second.

Giants get three out to stop the Rangers in the third and go up to bat. Vlad Guerrero gets a line drive to center and is on base in the bottom of the third. Cliff Lee is a hard thrower for Texas and is looking good, but they are hitting him. An error at third and Renteria is on base! Lincecum strikes out, followed by a hit batter and two on base. Giants are coming back! 1-2, 1 out and Sanchez is swinging. Line drive to left and Renteria scores! Giants are on the board. RBI Sanchez! Whoo-hoo! and I mean that with a sigh of relief!

Geez, I wish you were writing this, Andrew, because you would know all those little baseball card facts and could make it so fun and interesting to read with little sidebars and all.

Another base hit and Torres scores to tie it up! Posey hit a liner to center--beautiful! Now Burrell, batting cleanup, is at bat with two on first and third. Oh crap! KO looking...right down the pipe, too! Okay, its #13 Ross's chance to be a hero and put the Giants ahead. It goes to full count...and strike on the outside corner ends this opportunity.

Okay, Lincecum is warming up now...two K's in the top of the fourth already. Texas, where'd your bats go? Making this skinny kid look pretty good now...oooh-oh, spoke too soon. Moreland #18 just got a double to right center. Rangers' pitcher Lee is at pressure here! Is he gonna help himself out? Weak hit, out at first...nope. Go Giants!

This is the stuff of your dreams, Andrew! When were you last in SF stadium? Where were your seats? The boats are all in the water, fishing for baseballs. Gotta love SF!

Oh! Uribe is up again. Fouling off a lotta pitches...hard! They bounce back and hit him in the box. Ouch. Come on, dude, hit one into the water for Andrew! Make it happen. Nope! Lee wins this round...

One Two Three for Lincecum in the top of the fifth, now he is batting again--pitcher vs. pitcher...mano vs. mano...fitting. What goes through their minds? Everyone in the dugout is chewing and spitting seeds at warp speed. Weak contact and an out. Lead-off batter Torres is up and get a double-base hit! Two-spot Sanchez is up and hungry! Is this gonna be SF's big inning?

OMG! Huge hit to center and a run scores--Giants take the lead and the fans go crazy! Stat: Freddy Sanchez is the first player in MLB history to have three straight doubles in his first 3 at bats in a World Series. HOT!!! Now Posey's up, but strikes out looking--again. I think he did that last time, or maybe it was his first at-bat...oh well, come on Burrell. Show us why you bat clean up.

3-2 and a pop up! Fighting, fighting with 2 outs...Sanchez is still on second base. Burrell is move, or??? MVP Ross is up. 91 MPH fastball, high. 1-2 count, 2 outs and he hits dead up the center, almost taking off Lee's head in the process. He was still bent over finishing his pitch when the ball whizzed past. Sanchez scores from second and its a 2-run Giants lead!!! Ross is The Man! The celebration begins!!!

Oh geez! Another hit as Huff drives in Burrell. Its 5-2 and Lee is leaving the game. Darn-I liked him! O'Day comes in with his side-arm delivery to face Uribe with two on and two out. High fly ball to left and Uribe shoots one out, clearing the bases! Oh what a great time to be watching baseball! Texas is looking down, coaches making lots of notations.

The shortstop Renteria is up with absolutely no pressure on him. Oops...weird fastball spins in and hits him on the forearm. Now Lincecum again...enjoying this moment in his second at-bat of the inning. Geez, he hits a weak bouncer up the middle that is bobbled by the shortstop and he is on base now. Probably time for a new Texas pitcher? Conference on the mound. Love it!

They let O'Day try for the last out. Torres takes ball two inside, then strikes out. O'Day finishes a rough inning.

Top of the sixth and Rangers are going DOWN! Lincecum is totally confident, pitching hard and determined. The kid is looking invincible with two outs here...I am sure Nolan Ryan, President of the Rangers organization, would have to agree as he looks on, or rather, tries not to look.

Oops. Kinsler walks. Oh wow...Molina just hits and scores a run. How'd that happen on two outs? Reality check. Bullpen is warming up another pitcher, Casilla. Lincecum gets hit again by a line drive and Moreland gets a base hit out of it as Molina advances to third base. Murphy gets an RBI base hit and Giants pull their starting pitcher. It's 8-4 Giants, top of the sixth.

So what's it gonna be, Drew? Is San Fran gonna hang on with their bullpen and pull out Game One? Is Texas gonna come back? Both starters are done for this day.

Andrus is up for the Rangers in the top of their lineup, facing Casilla on the mound. Casilla is throwing in the 96-97 MPH range here. He gets the out and now the Giants get to finish this inning at bat.

Ogando is on the mound for the Rangers, facing Sanchez who is a hitting machine tonight. The ball is hit to right field, but is easily caught for out number one. Ogando, Casilla...hard throwers. You would love to study their mechanics, Drew. I can visualize you practicing in front of the mirror now...

He blows one by Posey for the second out. Burrell is next. Ogando is mixing it up with pitches ranging from 84-97 MPH and gets him swinging at a fastball on the outside corner.

7th inning time! I've got 30 minutes of recorded ball on the DVR, so I hope I got it all! Casilla is facing 3rd baseman Michael Young, who grounds out. Hamilton and Guerro are next up. Fly to centerfor an out followed by a ball hit to the right side scored as an error. Cruz is up with one one and two outs. Can he start a rally for Texas? Not with that fly ball...oh boy! Giants, at bat with six defensive outs to go.

God Bless him...Tony Bennett is singing the National Anthem and "I Left My Heart in San Francisco". Tradition is what really makes baseball great, dontcha think? Willie McCovey, with other retired Giants Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry and Monte Irvin looking on, threw out the ceremonial first pitch of the game. I love it!

On one out, Huff gets a base hit (his 3rd hit of the night!) and Ogando doesn't look happy. Uribe is up, swings and misses on a hit and run as Huff is out at second base. Molina is looking so fine at catcher! He is a shining star for Texas. I know you can appreciate that, Andrew! That play was worth a couple of instant replays with the DVR. Uribe K's to end the seventh.

Six outs to go, Giants! Sergio Romo on the mound--is this the Beard we are to fear? Remember, I haven't watched any games this season... Kinsler at bat, Molina on deck. Base hit by Kinsler, then he turns to go but is tagged out...doofus! Molina is out. Manager Bruce Bochy goes to the mound and pulls Romo...must not be the right beard, after all. Javier Lopez is in...ahh! I remember this name. Two outs, top of the 8th. Moreland grounds out.

Mark Lowe is in for Texas on the pitching mound, facing Renteria, batting 8th in the lineup. Base hit to right, followed by an error to advance him to third base. Not looking good, Rangers! Can you say, put a nail in the coffin?

Oh crud! My recording just ended! I gotta figure out another way to see the end of the game with all the rallies!!!! Turn to ESPN highlights. No, MLB "At Bat" stats: Sanchez (3 runs, 3 RBIs) gets it going in the bottom of the 8th and Giants score 3 runs. Rangers answer back with 3 runs in the top of the 9th but come up short as the Giants take Game One, 11-7. That's a pretty action-packed ballgame!

It was great to get to watch it with you, Andrew!

Friday, October 22, 2010

One goal down...

I can now say I have been there, done that, and got the T-shirt to prove it!

I completed my 5K Run in the City to Sea event at Shell Beach two weeks ago. I did it! I ran with a huge group of people who mostly passed me up, but I kept moving and finished the race in 42:14 minutes. It wasn't the time I was shooting for, and the course seemed a lot longer than my measured training runs, but Hey! It was my first race, and it won't be the last.

Starting in a large group, I got caught up in the excitement and was going way to fast. I got to the first corner and had to walk, but I worked it out to jogging about 300 yards and walking 100 yards, then repeating. Mile Marker 1 took a long time to get to. I was moving with the middle of the pack...lots of real fast people finished in 15 to 20 minutes, while others took over an hour, so I guess my time was pretty average. That's okay. Luckily there was this one woman who kept passing me, then I would pass her, etc., until we got to the final stretch. At that point, I was resolved to not let one more old lady pass me up -- her approaching footsteps motivated me to keep moving faster and stay ahead. It was fun!

I had to think of Andrew during my run and ask him for inspiration to keep going. He was such a competitor in everything he did, and I wanted some of that strength. I think I got it.

I want to keep moving, so I will run in another event in November. Then I want to enter the Hounds N Hares 5K in March. It is an event I helped organize several years ago and I always wanted to be able to compete in it, so now's my chance. Then I think I have my husband and his friend talked into being a team with me in the SLO Triathalon in July. I will run, Nick can ride a bike and Lee can swim. That will be fun to train for and compete in.

The best part was at my Weight Watcher's weigh-in this week: I lost over a pound! Happy, happy! Thanks, Drew : )

Monday, October 11, 2010

Understanding others in time of loss...

Another young man has taken his life this past week and left his family reeling in grief and shock.

He was the nephew of my former boss, my best friends' cousin, step-brother to my girlfriend and classmate of many people I know. I feel their pain. I know everyone touched by this loss feels intense pain and sorry because they somehow couldn't see it coming or didn't take steps to prevent it from happening. I did go through all those emotions, but I finally concluded that my son just had too much pain to bear, and in sacrificing himself, he released his pain forever and spread it on to all our shoulders to bear for him. We now are the ones bearing the pain and having to deal with that person's issues in the wake.

Its not a desirable outcome as far as those left behind are concerned, but I can see how someone going through unbearable stress or pain or mental illness might have those thoughts and act on them one day. If we are lucky, we channel that pain and put it into a positive light. Just about every hard task I undertake these days is given over to Andrew to help me bear. He was a beautiful, strong and accomplished person who I loved and looked up to, and doing things in honor of him gives me enormous strength and inspiration. I am truly grateful for the time on earth I had to spend with him, and the schedules I had to keep to accommodate his activities -- it was not time wasted.

I do wish I could have been able to solve his dilemma's and make him feel happy and healthy. I am sorry if I ever failed him in any way. But I remember him often, with love.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Facebook (1) | Andrew's photos

Facebook (1) Andrew's photos

Andrew's view of the world around him...

We got a gift this week from Andrew...his photos. My daughters decided to look at the memory card stored in Andrew's camera and found about 300 photos he had taken in the last year of his life.

The photos showed Andrew's work and projects and some of the scenery he so enjoyed being immersed in. He loved to hike and go off-road in his truck, and he skiied and surfed in the ocean nearby. He built things -- home improvement projects, his truck, a dog house, and he worked in his father's plastering business. Andrew was very proud of his patch jobs and his lathing and his straight, flat finished walls.

Looking through the photos, I naturally searched for some clues to what Andrew was thinking. He drove to the highest point he could on Cuesta Ridge and took pictures of all views: North, South, East and West. He went up the coast and took pictures north of Cayucos of the rocks and surf on the beach, showing Morro Rock, Montana de Oro and points north. He took pictures of the setting sun.

He also had pictures of his projects: his truck, the doghouse, a rock wall with the home address etched on it, and he took pictures of the pets at play. I think these dogs and a cat became his trusted companions when he no longer trusts the humans. He didn't read things into what the dogs did and he could say whatever he wanted to them without drawing strange looks back.

The hardest part is that everything looks so normal and, well, beautiful. The pictures are uplifting, not depressing. One wonders what he had been thinking, or if he went seeking peace and serenity and was trying not to think much at all.

My daughter had one of the pictures blown up and pressed on canvas like a painting. She made a place to hang it in the dining room and put up a stenciled saying, something about a miracle. It makes an really stunning display. The coolest part is knowing the point of view was Andrew's.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Getting strength through Andrew

I am always striving to get myself into shape. One thing I would like to accomplish is to run in a marathon, or at least a 5K. This is my 50th year; I will turn 51 in November, so I am feeling the pressure to get myself going on this goal.

So I started jogging at little about a month ago, just short stretches of 1 to 3 minutes at a time. I entered myself in a 5K Run / Walk event that is just 3 weeks away now. I don't really think my body is up for it, so I am taking it really slow. I walk during the major portions of my workouts and keep the jogging part to a minimum. Last week my pace for a 3 mile workout was 51 minutes one day, 48 the next; 16-17 minutes per mile average on the school track. I also mapped out a 3-mile walk around the neighborhood, and there is a boardwalk where I run that says the loop is 1-mile around. I did three loops in 33 minutes today--I don't think I was particularly fast, I just think the loop is less than 1 mile.

I have marked off my route on the boardwalk into halves. I walk half the loop and try to jog the second half. I vary the direction I go so sometimes I am walking through the lower, twisting part of the path and jogging along the top, straighter stretch. Then I will walk the straight part and jog the twisty part, which has a long downhill stretch that really helps buoy me along.

Today I walked to the boardwalk, which is about a half-mile from my house, so I was nice and warmed up by the time I reach the walk. I decided to go up the straight part first at a jog. I went about one minute and felt tired, so I walked a few paces for about 15 seconds, then resumed the jogging pace. I repeated this for three minutes until I reached the halfway marker at the highest point on the boardwalk.

Wow! I am tired today, I thought. That's not a good sign! I need to be getting better and stronger.

I turned around and headed back down the straight at a jog, intent on keeping going until I reach the starting point again. After about a minute, I walked a few paces and thought of Andrew. I often think of him when I am on this walk for some reason; I really feel his presence when I am out here looking over the Estuary. So I thought of him and asked him to help me find the strength to do this thing, this running thing.

I resumed my jog and it felt good--I felt energized and made my way down the boardwalk. I noted that my chest did not feel tight and I wasn't out of breath. My legs weren't hurting or tiring so much as I mentally thought about walking again, but I just willed my legs to keep moving at the jogging pace, one step after another. I got to the start point and turned to go down through the twisty path that meandered through the trees, slowing to a brisk walk.

I kept the quick walking pace all the way to the top of the loop at the halfway point, checking my stopwatch for time: 9:30 for the loop. That's a pretty fast pace for me; the loop has to be shorter than one mile. I rested at the top for about one minute, turned, and headed back down the twisty part at a fast jog. I gained momentum as I went along. Because I was feeling strong, I pushed myself to go as fast as was comfortable. Moving through the turns, I was running, actually running! It felt great! Thank you, Andrew, for running along with me, giving me strength! I feel you with me!

I checked my watch and was coming up on two minutes and I was almost to the point where I usually stopped to walk. Just a little farther...then, whoa! Turning a corner, I saw an elderly man who had moved over to the side and was protecting his little doggy from me, the approaching runner!

I screeched to a walk and said a quick "Hi" as I went past them. Since it killed my momentum, I didn't resume the jog...I was almost to my stopping spot. Had I kept the pace I would have reached it in way less time than three minutes; probably more like 2:20. That would have been my fastest time!

I continued a brisk walk all the way along the straight to the high point, then went another time around, finishing three loops in 33 minutes. I felt really good about that pace and the energy I felt while doing it. It had to be Andrew!

Since I was now technically finished with my workout, I had time to sit and rest. There was a little side path that took off the boardwalk at the high point that I had been meaning to explore, so I figured this was as good a time as any since I had no other agenda for the day. I turned down the path, expecting it to end shortly as there was a sign posted about a restoration area for the plants.

However, the trail turned and headed down the hill, deeper into the forest. Cool, I thought, an actual trail without the boardwalk. I liked it! It felt more natural, somehow. Soon the trail came to a ledge above the roadway and followed along for about 50 feet. Then it turned in again, toward some stands of oak. There were steps built into the trail, so I knew it was an established path.

Pretty soon I came to another oak grove and saw an entrance. The trees had grown in a sort of circle, creating sort of a little room underneath the trees. I entered, thinking how magical it all felt. I half expected to see Andrew sitting in there, waiting for me. It was kind of eerie in a non-scary way, because I was really looking around and sort of felt him there.

I have no idea if Andrew had ever been there, but he had lived in Los Osos for a year and explored the area. He liked to hike and bike and often went up to Montana de Oro. One day he told me about going on a run through the scrub brush area leading up to the MDO park. He said he ran for miles, kind of getting lost, but he kept running for a long time. He finally came out by the road and made his way down the hill and back to his house, but he was exhausted.

Anyway, knowing that story, I always feel like he might have been there some time and I sense a connection to him here in the Elfin Forest. I really felt him in that grove. It was cool.

As I often do, I took out my cell phone and used the camera to take several pictures. I upload them to my Facebook photo albums, one of which is about the Elfin Forest. So when I got back to the boardwalk, I sat on a bench and uploaded 20 photos I had just taken of the trail. When I got home and was editing the captions, I came to the ones of the grove and was started to see an image that resembled a human form. Looking closer, its a tree trunk, but the lighting gives it the abstract impression of a form. I think it was Andrew. I think he was with me today, encouraging me and giving me strength to reach my fitness goal.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Day memories...

Memorial Day weekend is over and images I saw and shared brought up so many different thoughts.

I share a lot on Facebook with friends and coworkers and relatives, so on Memorial Day I posted a photo of my parents, whose anniversary had been May 29, and another of my Dad and brother in full Navy uniform as they prepared to attend my brother's retirement ceremony from the Naval Reserves. Others shared pictures of Memorial Day services they had attended, along with some shared images of National ceremonies and such. Through all the sharing, people who knew my Dad and Mom mentioned seeing their headstone as they paid visits to the resting places of their own loved ones at our local town cemetery. Our town had also erected a Veteran's Memorial and many residents bought bricks inscribed with names of their loved ones who served our country in the military. One of my Facebook friends put up some photos of the Memorial Day service held there this last weekend and we were posting comments about seeing each other's families' bricks and so forth.

I remembered how I had stood on my parents' bricks as I greeted the people who had attended Andrew's memorial service held there in the park just a year ago. I stood on those bricks and thought of my parents and Andrew and their special bond. I stood on those bricks and prayed for the kind of strength my parents had given us throughout our whole lives.

I went back through my photo albums and reviewed the photos my stepson had taken for me of my Dad's burial service at the cemetery when he died in 2008. We had arranged for a VFW Honor Guard and the Catholic Knights of Columbus Color Guard to serve at the ceremony as my Dad's casket, draped in an American flag, was escorted to the burial site by five of my brothers and a nephew. Words of praise were read, rifles were fired, and the flag was ceremoniously folded and presented to my eldest brother, along with the bullet shells tucked inside. I was filled with awe, admiration and humility for my father and the men who knew him as an officer and comrade. I think all of us (children and grandchildren) saw my Dad in a little different light that day. To us he was our father and a pretty ordinary man, but to his peers he was a hero. We saw my Dad as a good example, a respectable, loving, responsbile person, but I am not sure we saw his heroism. It gave me a new connection with Memorial Day and respect for our military.

Andrew was there at my father's burial with us that day: me, my husband and stepson, my daughters. I have pictures of Andrew with us at the cemetery. I was so glad he was there, because I knew it was difficult for him. He was doing his best to avoid family gatherings and rarely came to any functions anymore, but my Dad was really heroic to Andrew.

My Dad had reached out to Andrew when he was at his lowest and taken him along to some Knights of Columbus meetings, trying to show him the Catholic way of serving God. At that point, Andrew was attending church services and reading the Bible constantly, trying to find some comfort for his feelings and sort out his jumbled view of the world and the family. I wasn't sure if Andrew was really going to fully participate in the Knights' as a member, but I stepped back and hoped, prayed, that he would find some peace and guidance from my Dad. Andrew went to all the meetings with my Dad and drove Dad to some of the out-of-town functions for about 3 months. Then, during a local meeting, Andrew abruptly got up and left. He didn't want to be there anymore. One of the men in attendance was a school principal from Andrew's elementary school, and he made some negative association in his mind and just left and wasn't going back.

My Dad couldn't understand what had happened and tried several times to talk to Andrew, but Andrew just avoided him. I tried to explain to my Dad that Andrew was dealing with some kind of paranoia and he would just do stuff like that, but I think my Dad was really hurt and mystified by the turn of events. I shared all I had been studying about the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia with Dad and hoped he would understand from a more clinical level, which was my Dad's normal way of looking a most things, being a Medical Labortory Technologist and Registered Nurse, but in this instance I think Dad felt more emotional about it. That was a rather ironic twist, I thought, getting an emotional response when a clinical one would have been more beneficial. Dad always gave us the clinical version of most everything in life.

Dad suffered a fall and declined in early 2008. He passed away on Memorial Day of that year. I had stopped by to visit Andrew while on my way up to the hospital to visit my Dad after his fall, and I invited Andrew to go with me. For some reason, he accepted. At this point, I never knew when Andrew would change his mind about something, so I sort of held my breath all the way from the house to the hospital. Andrew sat with Dad and chatted, quite normally, in the hospital for at least 30 minutes. I took a few pictures of the two of them sitting there. It bordered on miraculous, I was thinking, that this visit was even taking place. Thank God!

The insidious part of mental disease, in my opinon, is that judging from those pictures, you would never know Andrew had suffered a psychotic break and was teetering on the edge of something tragic. He looked healthy and wholesome and strong. His conversation was normal and personable.

Another visitor stopped by just then, a member of the Knight's of Columbus. He was a really nice, friendly man, and he recognized Andrew immediately. We exchanged polite greetings, but I could see Andrew was uncomfortable so we said our goodbyes to my Dad and left. By the time we had reached the parking lot, Andrew was in tears. He felt guilty, confused, sad...just a jumble of emotions he could no longer sort out or keep in perspective. He felt like he had dissappointed his grandfather by quitting the Knights', and that he was a failure as a grandson and as a person.

I wished I could have found the magic words to take away Andrew's pain and make everything right once more. I knew it would be his and Dad's last visit. I tried to let him know we loved him no matter what, but Andrew felt judged. Whatever his unseen demons were, they made him feel uncomfortable in his own skin and he just couldn't block it out or make it go away. Andrew knew we loved him, but he just didn't feel worthy of our love for some reason. That was the sadest part of all of it...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Bubble Sighting...

I mentioned something about seeing a bubble in a previous post, but I don't think I ever related that story here in detail.

On my birthday last year, I had plans to meet my girls for lunch. I got up and took a walk down to the Elfin Forest near the Estuary. It was a crisp, clear morning in November. I went along the boardwalk, meandering through the forest path. I was up on the highest part of the walkway when I decided to rest on a bench. I remember looking out across the Estuary toward Morro Bay's marina.

As I was looking out over the water, I suddenly saw a large, shiny bubble moving through one of the canal-type areas in the bay. It was translucent, like a soap bubble, but it appeared to be 10 or more feet in diameter. It was moving toward me a little bit, away from the Marina and towards the open water. I watched, transfixed. For some reason I felt it had something to do with Andrew. He had been in my thoughts all morning.

I wondered if it was some sort of reflection and glanced up at the sky, looking for an airplane, but nothing! I cast my gaze around the bay to see if there were any boats that might be causing a reflection. I didn't see anything that would explain the shiny bubble.

Suddenly the bubble changed shape, shifting into a sort of ribbon-like form. It began "dancing" -- moving like a rythemic dancer twirling ribbons. The lighting changed as the ribbon dipped and soared on top of the water. It reminded me of dolphins frolicking in the surf. Abruptly, the ribbon turned steel gray, then back to shiny silver, kind of like a flock of birds flying in the sky.

It came to me that Andrew was sending me a message: Happy Birthday, Mom! Have a fun day!

After a few minutes, it faded away and was gone. Wistfully, I looked around for it. Why hadn't I tried to take a picture of it with my camera phone, I wondered? After all, that morning I had been taking lots of pictures as I walked through the Elfin Forest for my little photo essays I post on Facebook. But while I was watching the bubble, it hadn't occured to me to record it.

I just accepted that it was Andrew, showing off a bit and wishing me well. That would be something good and positive to share with the girls today. Thanks, Andrew!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Knowing how to grieve...

Some people say I am doing amazingly well, considering how I lost my son to suicide. They think I am handling it okay...

It's a nice compliment, really, but not a great prize, I'm thinking. It's the consolation prize, if anything. But I would rather do it well, the grieving, than do it badly. I have seen plenty of badly done grieving in my time...

I have also seen grieving done well. My parents were my main example. Through their involvement in their church community, they served other in times of grief on a regular basis. They attended funerals regularly, and in their latter years, it seemed like they were attending a funeral at least once a week. Mom always made a potluck dish for the luncheon after the funeral, participated in a prayer chain, and wrote a comforting note in a condolence card for the family. She anguished over each death and truly felt the sorrow of her passing acquaintances. Dad visited widows of his Knights of Columbus men and helped them sift through their grief by taking care of practical matters, like how to collect their insurance. He organized Rosaries and participated in services. He gave them crosses, candles and holy water, icons to facilitate their devotions to their dear departed. They did this sort of thing week-in and week-out ever since I can remember. They visited gravesites. One thing I could take solace in when my parents were buried is that they were surrounded by their friends of more than 40 years from living in the same community.

So I had a bit of an example to follow in grieving. I understood the purpose of a public service, the benefits of private mourning, and felt the freedom to be able to go through it however it benefited me and my family, without worrying so much about protocol. The main thing I wanted to accomplish in the short term was honoring my son, sharing his life with those whom he had formed connections with throughout his life, and facing people head on, accepting their condolences. My ex-husband's method would be to avoid all of it and my daughters would have like to follow suit, but I knew that wasn't the most beneficial way to handle it. I worked out a plan and they agreed to it, then thanked me later. When all the services were done and over with, they had to agree it hadn't been horrible. There had been some nice moments..touching sentiments shared by people who knew and loved our boy.

A year later, I am still grieving, but I do it by remembering my son and enjoying his gifts. I talk about him often. I hope people aren't put off by that, but most seemed to be put at ease about it. I don't want his memory to be awkward and stifled. He was a wonderful person and is worth mentioning from time to time.

Following suit, Bill and the girls are doing things to keep his memory going, also. They are putting in a vegetable garden again this year. Last year Andrew had planted one and they kept it alive through the summer months. We all shared in its bounty and thought of Andrew with all those meals. I could never get much gardening done while the kids were growing up, involved in sports and always on the go. It's real nice to see everyone taking an interest in it now, due to Andrew's interest.

Anyway, I thank my parents for their example and strength in facing death. they showed me the way, and I hope I am showing my family the way in turn...

Friday, April 2, 2010

Hallowed ground...

I ran into my former employers, husband and wife, the other day and we stopped to chat for a few minutes and catch up on the past five years of our lives.

My boss asked me how my children were doing and I told her about the girls graduating from college and their careers. Then she asked me about my son. I hesitated for a second, thinking surely they knew—they must have read it in the newspaper—then just simply told them Andrew had died from suicide last April. From the shocked looks on their faces, they didn’t know, but my boss said, “Oh, I am so sorry. I didn’t know, or I forgot.” I tried to remember if they had sent me a sympathy card or not…I had thought so, but I guess not.

Yes, forgot…it is easy to do when it’s not your family, your loss, I thought, without bitterness. I routinely read the obits and myself would sort of hesitate when encountering people from my hometown, thinking, “Gee, was it her father who just passed away?”

Life is strange, I thought, how we travel on parallel paths, concerned with the events in our own lives, unaware of others until we cross paths once again. I was working for this person when Andrew first began exhibiting signs of paranoia. I asked her advice and took time off of work to take Andrew to some of his appointments with the therapists we were trying out. She knew some of our most intimate details of the struggle at that time. She also had personally experienced the suicide of a family member. But she didn’t know about my son’s death until now. I hoped I hadn’t been too blunt. It just came out the way I have been trying to deal with it—out in the open, directly.

Reflecting on that encounter reminded me of how I feel now when I watch a high school football game. I went to one last October to watch a nephew play. All during the game, as the players set up each play, I would see Andrew. One of his roles was the kicker, and I could feel him taking those steps as I watched these boys, just in the same way I took each step with him when he play on the same field. They had better honor him, I remember thinking to myself, since they are stepping in his footsteps now. Then I thought about how my son had traced the same steps as hundreds of players before him…the field has been there at least 70 years. I wonder how many of the kids currently taking the field think about those that have gone before them.

The same thing goes for the baseball field that he loved to play on at the lake park. When I went to high school, our baseball team held their games there before a new field was built on the school campus. For Andrew, it was the home of Babe Ruth Baseball. He played there for three years in junior high and his freshmen years. Prior to that, he was the ball boy for a semi-pro team made up of high school and junior college-age players who called that field home, so he hung out there a lot. It was hallowed ground to him.

Come to think of it, Andrew’s father had played there in his youth, as well. I wonder if Andrew had ever thought of that when he was playing on the field, especially in the position of catcher, same as his daddy—that he was walking in his father’s footsteps, catching the ball, throwing down to second base, blocking a pitch behind the plate, making a tag as the runner came sliding in. I’m sure he had thought of it—Andrew tried to emulate his dad, and Andrew loved playing on that field.

That is one reason I picked that baseball field as the site of his memorial service. It was a place where his dreams were formed and some of them played out. He experienced some awesome moments there, shared the comraderie of team sports and the excitement of baseball. We watched him play there and struggle to succeed there. He always wanted to be great. I think that, many times, he achieved greatness there.

One thing Andrew had always wanted to do was to hit a home run ball into the lake. He did get some home runs over the fence a couple of times, but I don’t think he ever made it into the water. So at his memorial service I had a pitching machine set up and asked that anyone wanting to take a few swings in Andrew’s memory were welcome to try and hit one into the lake for him.

Several months later I ran into some old friends, the dad who had coached Andrew in baseball and whose son had played baseball and football with Andrew for their whole lives. They had something for me, the dad said. They had gone back to the field a few weeks later and took some swings. Andrew’s buddy had hit one out into the lake for him!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Beautiful scenes...

I took a walk on the beach tonight just before sunset, and it was so beautiful. I take pictures now every time I go walking and share them with my friends. I love the colors and reflections of the sky and water and all the textures in the sand left by the ebb and flow of the tides...

The ocean reminds me of Andrew for some reason. He only lived over here (near the coast at the gateway to Montana de Oro) for a year, but he loved exploring the area as much as I do. He appreciated the art form of the landscapes all around us, just as I do.

Andrew bought me some paints and supplies for Christmas one's time for me to get them out and do something with it.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

He did it for you...

So last week I went and visited my high school English teacher, Mary. We had reunited on Facebook and she asked me to call her. Facebook was a bit too complicated for her 82 years; email works out alright; but she prefers "the telly."

She told me we have a lot in common: namely, she had also lost a child and she could empathize with me on that level. She also wanted to share her story of near-death experiences with me.

I can remember Mary talking about auras one day in high school English class. She was my Honors English teacher and also taught Humanities and the Gifted and Talent program. I wasn’t involved in the latter two classes, but I figured when she spoke on any subject, she was probably knowledgeable in that area. She always spoke with such authority. So when she told us a little story about her aura being seen by someone else who was in touch with that sort of thing, I paid attention. Mary was very intuitive.

Anyway, all these years later, she wanted to share her story with me about death and what it is like. She also wanted to learn a bit more about Facebook, and blogging, something I might be able to help her with. So I went over and had a three-hour visit with her and we swapped stories. I told her about Andrew’s suicide. She reassured me that he had done something courageous, and that he was happy and at peace. She said being dead was not all tragic like people think. It was just … peaceful. I also told her about seeing the “bubble” thing on my last birthday, down by the Estuary, and how I just got a feeling it was Andrew saying “Happy Birthday.”She agreed with me that it was him, showing off a bit and letting me know he was finally happy, too.

Then this week I got another message from Mary. Call me, she said, I have a message for you. It’s from the “other side.”

When I got her on the phone, she was excited. She needed to pass along a message to me from Andrew. She had gotten it the day we visited, actually while we were visiting, but at that time she wasn’t sure if she should tell me or not—I might not be ready to hear it or something. So she had this message, and she could tell me on the phone, or in person, or write it down for me if I preferred…it was up to me. I had time to talk right then, and I said go ahead and tell me.

"While we were talking last week, I got this thought," Mary said, "and it was really strong; that Andrew knew he was going to get worse, not better, and he wanted to spare you from any more anguish."

"What he did was really courageous," she stated, “He did it for you, and the 'You' came through first!”

The “you” was the emphasis. She felt that really strongly.

Andrew died to spare us, like Jesus. Two days after Easter, after fasting for Lent. Yes, he planned it.

I could believe that, because I already felt that he was sparing us all in some way. I think he did it for all of us. His Dad was wearing down and had told me he didn’t know how much longer he could deal with Andrew. When Andrew had bad days, his father was ususally the one who bore the brunt of it. He worried constantly about Andrew and kept tabs on him all the time. He buffered Andrew from the work crew, family members, and anyone else who Andrew became fed up with. Jayne tried to take care of Andrew. Rebecca was gentle, yet fearful. We all depended on Andrew so much and he was so helpful—the good son, the best brother. We were all so scared, and helpless because we couldn’t make Andrew do anything. Denial felt better at that point.

Andrew had done his research. He and I had some discussions about his disease in a way he couldn’t really discuss with anyone else…factually. They were delicate discussions, because if you tried to persuade Andrew one way or another, he pulled away. Since he didn’t want to take the medications (he felt they would poison him, or at the least cause too many negative side effects-ironic!), we made a list of foods that would give him the most amino acids as a way to naturally balance his diet and his brain chemistry. The only foods he ate had to have some nutritional value and he ate with purpose. He also quit drinking and smoking in his last six months, so when he died, he was the picture of health.

I recall thinking just that as I viewed him in the hospital bed, all hooked up to monitors...the picture of health.

I really wanted him to have a change of environment, too. For one year between July 2006 and June 2007 he had lived with his sisters, out of his Dad’s house and away from all the extended family, but he had returned to it. There were so many dysfunctions in that household. Nobody there had what you would call a healthy lifestyle, so even trying to be healthy kind of made Andrew a freak.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Life After Death, and other things...

Today was a success!
I visited with my high school English teacher, a warm, funny, witty and incredibly insightful person for whom I have so much respect. It has been over 30 years since I sat in her classroom, yet I can remember things she said to us then as clear as if it were yesterday. She taught us all about life in general, acceptance, imagination, giftedness...and discipline! She demanded that we work hard, pay attention in class, and push ourselves, and we couldn't help but pull through. She was engaging and entertaining all in one. Some days she would get sidetracked and just tell us a story about something...then the bell would ring and we would go on our way. The paper was still due on the due date, however!
We shared some things in common, she told me. I had lost a son; she had lost a daughter, long ago. She also had experienced some near-death scenarios and wanted to share those insights with me. Energy never dies, she explained. Life energy goes on even after the body is dead and decomposed. That is why you can feel your departed love ones, I guess, because their energy still exists all around you.
I know I feel Andrew's energy really strongly, the same way I feel my mother and father's energy from time to time. I can feel when Andrew is with me; so can the girls. It's hard to explain to people, but we feel it. They still keep his bedroom intact at the house, although recently they have made some changes. Becca is using his dresser now, so the clothes inside had to be put away or redistributed. I hope Bill and the boys are using them.
I remember Jayne had tried to keep the room shut for the first month or so after Andrew's death...she could smell his scent in there and wanted to preserve it for as long as possible. When we were over at the house last, the girls and Bill and I sat on his bed and talked, and remembered him. It was comforting, being around Andrew's belongings...his TV, his computer, his books and posters and knick-knacks. He had meticulously organized his personal papers a few months before he left us.
Sitting in his room, surrounded by his things, made it seem like if he walked into the room right now it would be so normal. If we could only just give that energy his body back, and his mind, all intact! If only...
We know we will never be completely without you, Andrew, but we miss seeing you so much. We so look forward to seeing you again someday in the afterlife. Love you!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sharing my Andrew...

I am so excited. I have recently reconnected with my high school English teacher who lives a few miles away from me now. I am going to visit her tomorrow and teach her how to blog. What an honor!

She was always such a special person to me and to all of her students. She was fun, vibrant, engaging, and so very fascinating. She knew something about everything, it seemed. I haven't seen her for over 20 years, the last time when I stopped by her classroom to chat during a school open house. Now we have connected on Facebook, and then I called her to talk. She told me she has written several books and been published and has more projects in the works, but all this new Facebooking and blogging is a bit overwhelming for her, especially at 82 years old. She'd like some lessons. Imagine that, me teaching her something! Who would have ever thought?

She also shared, in our brief conversation from the other day, that she has lost a child and that we have much in common to talk about. I will be so honored to share my son, the writer, with my revered English teacher.

Maybe we will both figure out how to get our blogs out there for the masses to read and respond to our posts. That would be fun, rewarding and motivating. Moving forward, I am!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Andrew is all around us...

Wow! It's been one month since my last might be thinking I've forgotten about this. But the truth is, while getting through the holidays and celebrating Andrew's birthday on January 6, I and the family have been thinking of him almost constantly. I hung up the Christmas stockings and put his in its respective place. Later, I received a Christmas card from his Godmother with a note about Andrew and how much he meant to her. I put it in the stocking and plan to keep it there...forever!

The holidays were hard, but we did our best to keep our chins up and remembered Andrew, sometimes out loud and sometimes silently. Like on the day I was remarried...January 2, 2010. Lee and I have been together for four years and right around Christmas time I said to him, "Look! This is a cool date, 01.02.2010." It's a palindrome, the word meaning "running back again" in Greek. "Why don't we get married then," I said, and Lee instantly agreed.

So we invited our children, Lee's son Taylor and my girls, Jayne and Rebecca, along with my sisters and brothers and inlaws and some close friends and a few of Lee's relatives, to join us on a small sandy beach called Spooner's Cove at Montana de Oro State Park and witness our vows. I didn't say anything to the girls and Lee until later, but we stood on the beach in the exact same spot as where I had taken family portraits with my children six years earlier. For me, it was like Andrew was with us.

Today I took some wedding photos and inserted them into a collage picture frame that already contained those family photos from that earlier photo shoot. The finished product is, as I had anticipated, a seamless transition from that day six years ago to now...Andrew is on the beach with us, smiling and having a good time. Our family group then; our family group now. Same scenery, same sunshine and breaking waves--it's timeless, and we are all together.