Matt, Clayton Kershaw, and the #Dodgers

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I finally slept well the last two nights. I wake a little bit, but it’s nothing like the fear and the sadness that I’ve been dealing with the last three months. In fact, it will be three months tomorrow that my nephew is gone.

Last night I got in my car to go take one of my kids somewhere, and the radio station was changed again. The Sam Smith song came on, and I got it…okay Matt. You changed my station again and I’m hearing the song again. My sister Laura put this song in the video for the funeral, and I had never heard it before that day. I hear it all the time now. When I get back in my car later that evening and am driving home, that song is on again. Now, I guess I could say it’s a super popular song and it probably means nothing. Maybe.

I had a few times during the night where I sort of felt warm. Is this menopause I ask myself? Or is it simply that I’m being connected. I get in my car this morning to leave, and I turn on the car radio and again. Stay with me. Will you stay with me? I never knew who Sam Smith was before, but he’s becoming a really good friend of mine.

And suddenly just as I pulled out of my driveway, I had this sense that Matt was there. On my roof or in my trees or something. And he was protecting my children. He gave me like this look that said, “I got it Aunt Linda. I’ll take it from here.”

The sense that Matt was protecting my children came over me like a wash of warm water and I felt in the stream. I felt connected, and I felt at peace.

Tonight, in Dodger Stadium, Clayton Kershaw pitches. If we win tonight, we clinch the division. I think maybe it would be appropriate, since the last conversation I had with Matt was when he texted me about Kershaw’s no-hitter back in June. Six days before he died, my nephew started texting me at 6AM, the day after that game. And he told me that I didn’t believe. He called me a bandwagon aunt because I was starting to believe that our season was over. He told me that I had to believe that they were going to go all the way, and I didn’t. We had just come off a hard early June, and I was thinking that the hated ones would be in first place all the way. And Matt just laughed. He said that he knew they were going all the way to the World Series. And then he died.

It’s maybe one of the most important games of the season for me, and I would give anything to be there.

So. Is it just because Stay With Me is a popular song? Is it just because maybe there was an accident and somebody changed my car channel (for the second time) to this hip-hop dance music that Matt loved? Is it a coincidence that Clayton Kershaw is pitching tonight, almost 3 months to the day of his no-hitter?

Is it a coincidence? Or is it absolutely Matt’s protection?

Tomorrow, it will be three months since my nephew has died. There is definitely a hole in my family, and as my young son said last night, “because we don’t live in LA with the rest of the family it’s sort of like not real.”

So I imagine Matt taking care of my kids, watching over them, treating them like little brothers …just like he did in 2002 when he lived with us. I have never felt such peace. I imagine him with a front row seat tonight in Dodger Stadium watching Kershaw clinch our division. And I imagine him saying “See Aunt Linda? I told you.”

Grief is a constant, and yet today I feel his love.

The last words I said when I spoke at his funeral were “Go Dodgers”. I’d like to think he would approve.

You are my favorite.

You are my favorite home. Better than any house that I’ve ever lived in. The fact that I found you and moved into you in only three days, says that we were made for each other. I pinch myself as I walk through this home, this beautiful bungalow that I’m allowed to take care of while I’m here.

I sit on my back porch in the breeze of the early Fall, and I listen to the train as it slowly winds its way around downtown.

I have decided to let go. I have told Matt that if he wants to come to me, that I will not fight it. I will try not to be afraid. I am hearing the wind chimes just as I say this, and wondering if he knows. And I wonder if he’s happy. And then I decide whether he is or he isn’t, I am happy. Just in this moment of time.

Imagine Lieutenant Dan out on the ocean shaking his fist at God. That was me last night. Resisting. Not wanting it to be real. A 1am phone call to someone I love who picked up in another time zone. To have a true friend like that is such bliss.

And so as I look around…I look at that flower. This Rose. And I practice my new mantra. You are my favorite. You are my favorite tree. You are my favorite rose. You are my favorite group of rocks. You are my favorite Angel. I start to smile, saying this.

So I want you to see. Here’s a snapshot. And. They are all my favorites.

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Summer Lost.

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Tonight is the last night of Summer.  I usually get really excited about Fall.  I love this time of year.  But not this year.

I don’t want to let go.  I want to hold on to these three months, because I’m afraid I’m going to forget.

Forget his grin, his silly laugh, his teasing.  I’m afraid I’m going to forget that he wasn’t always 33 years old.

I found a post on another site.  I wrote in January of this year that my boy was in trouble.  Asked for prayers.

And I forgot.  Forgot that he reached out then as well.

I walk with a perpetual lump in my throat these days; I’m mute.  I have no more words of advice.  Nothing.  I cannot swallow.

I stand next to my Dad, and I know he’s hurting, and I try to talk, and he grits his teeth and works on my shed.

Because we can’t talk about his grandson, and as much as I want my boys to fill in…they simply cannot.

And should not.

 

I remember last Autumn when I had finally turned a corner, and decided to date, and was starting to enjoy that new venture.

And then I catch my breath, and breathe in sharply, and know that I never stopped loving.

Or whatever it is.  Love?  I don’t know.  But I know I tried.  Dammit.  I tried.

And I was too bereft to care, to join, to love again.

I feel afraid that I’m always going to feel this way.  Have this absence.  This pain that will only go away in time.

Always. Time.

 

I found God in an unusual way.

I made plans.  A lot of plans.  And, He was like Half Dome.  Just standing there. Waiting.  Watching me work it my way.

I planned a trip that I had no business taking.  Not in that way.

I fought and kicked when it didn’t turn out as I hoped.  To lock down my love, as if it was that simple.

I was not fun to be around.

I wanted to scream that my nephew was dead.

And when all my thrashing was done, Half Dome was still there.  Saying come here.  I’m here.  Follow me.

 

This is what I do, and I apologize for nothing.

I learned that I have to grieve as long as I have to grieve, and not one minute earlier.

I want it to be over.  I want to have another Summer.  Like 2011 or was it 2012?  I have a bad memory

And a good forgetter.

 

There’s a mountain lion in my town.  Prowling the creek where I want to run.  Or so they say.

I run infrequently.

I lift weights.  Sometimes.

 

It’s only by feeling that I can walk through all of this.  I want it to go away, and it won’t.

Not until it’s done.

I miss you.  The thought of you.

And, I suppose that’s how it’s going to be, until it’s not.

 

Next year, when all the Summer beach pictures go up, I will remember the Summer I had.

Or lost.  And I will cry again.

Damn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

what you can do right now

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helpless. you didn’t know why she took her life. you didn’t know he was THAT depressed. you wonder what you could have done. there are no answers. when someone has depression, the worst question you can ask is “why?”, as if there is some reason. some explanation. it’s the same logic as asking why you have kidney disease. why. why not. what we know now is that many times it is a medical issue. talk therapy + meds, in short, is most accepted form of treatment. add alcohol + drugs, and you gotta add the 12 steps. or some type of recovery.

so you didn’t know. you’re shocked. you wish she had called you. but she didn’t.

see that post it note? that was sent to me in the mail, along with a book. from one of my favorite twitter friends, tk…and it was sent during a crazy time for me. worried about raising two kids alone. then welfare. then unemployment. and i read the book, and i saw the movie. and i can’t even tell you where the book is now (somewhere in my house)…but this post it note. it made it through the move. i saved it in a special spot, because my friend. she wrote. i love linda! (i think it was attached to jeff bridge’s mouth, because be both loved this movie, soundtrack, etc.) but it was one of the kindest gestures i’ve ever received. it stares at me daily, as it has for all this time. to remind me. i love linda! wow!

so. since the death of robin williams, and because of my job, i’m up close and personal to depression. and this week has been a bitch. because, ya know…if HE could do it. well. then this morning, another of our friends found dead to suicide. and again. the same question.

here’s a smallish list that you can do right now to add some CONNECTION to human beings.

1. call one person who you know and talk to them. turn off your distractions. listen.

2. buy a package of cheap birthday cards, and some stamps. look at your facebook events page. up in the right corner, look at who is having a birthday. see who is having a birthday next week. get their address. send them one of those cards.

3. send a snapchat to someone having a bad day.

4. when your gardener comes, give him a soda or a water. go outside and have a conversation with him.

5. say hello to everyone you pass. everyone.

6. write a note and slip it under your co-worker’s closed door. not in a creepy way, but sort of a joking, fun way.

7. tell someone you work with how they made your day/week.

8. go into your library, and find a book that you’re done with. mail it to someone with a cute card.

9. use the messenger phone app. call someone in your facebook friends list. from the app. it’s got great sound, and then you can’t use the excuse that you didn’t have his number.

10. ask in an open forum. twitter. tumblr. ask if someone is depressed. tell them you’re there right now if they need to talk. just be a human.

i don’t know if it will save their lives, but maybe. maybe your interaction will just let them know you are there.

because some days. i just look at that post it note, and i smile. and that’s something.

i will love you

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I’m not a fan of angels. I mean, I like the concept. That someone is watching over you, and helping God do his work. Or something like that. It’s not the angels I have a problem conceptualizing. It’s their wings. They freak me out. Like, do you just grow wings when you die and fly around the heavens all day? This idea just doesn’t work for me.

I watched a video the other day of stairs going up to heaven, and the angel getting wings and I just had this adverse reaction to it. It’s like I think that Matt isn’t really into that yet. Like at what point do you grow them? You can see the problem.

So. Yoga.

I found a yoga studio when I first moved to Modesto, and I ended up going a few times a week. I loved it. Hot yoga by its mere location…and it was something sorta kitschy and fun, and a break from running while I figured out new routes. Then, when Matt died, I would sob in my classes. At the end, when you are flat and meditating, I would just bawl. The owner of the shop extended my registration due to being out of town 2 times. A lovely studio and people.

You’re to set an intention for every practice. Shortly after his death, I would just numbly stare at the wall with no intention at all, except to get through the hour without becoming a mess.

So, last night, I was thinking about when Matt became a Shellback. There’s an initiation of sorts when you cross the equator, and you have to do all these humiliating sorts of things. Silly fraternity type things. You enter as a pollywog, and leave as a Shellback. You gotta get an olive or a cherry out of a belly button of some big dude acting as King Neptune. With your mouth. You gotta crawl through vomit, these sorts of things.

As I was leaning down to do Warrior 3, a pose I can never do, I heard that word. WARRIOR. And I thought of how my nephew probably had to pull out all of his warrior inner strength to get through that initiation. I felt the strength. I felt him holding me in my pose, and encouraging me to stand strong. I didn’t shake. And each time I got in that position for the rest of the hour, I FELT HIM.

As we held our last meditative position, I saw him in his dress whites. On a ship. Standing strong. I imagined saying to him, “Hey don’t pull any of that angel shit. I just am not seeing it.” And he stood strong. And said, “Aunt Linda, you’re gonna be okay. But, I have to go. I have to.” And he was at peace. And strong. A warrior. A brave man, who I happen to think is gone to soon. But. I’m not in charge of the universe apparently.

He stood on the deck of the ship. It started sailing and I was not happy. Tears were streaming down my face. My yoga teacher rubbed my temples, as she does to all at the end of the practice. I cried right into her fingers. And he smiled. And I said.

I will love you.

Okay, so angels. No. I prefer him to be helping stray animals. To be strong for new people coming in to heaven. To direct others where to go. I imagine he is in charge of finding the right place for newbies to get initiated into the next spiritual journey. But. There will be no wings on this boy.

I see him forever in his dress whites. Standing at honor. And, finally. At peace.

what i forgot to say.

 

I read what I wrote at his funeral.  It was my second draft.  The first draft is somewhere in my office, and I’m sure it’s quite different than what I ended up saying.

I meant to tell you something else.

When he lived with me, he was completely self-supporting.

He got a job.  he saved 2 guys and got a medal in the navy  TWO GUYS!

He relied on no one.

I forgot to tell you that he was most respectful, even as he grumbled about my rules.

I forgot to say that he was a proud man.

And yesterday, I decided that I couldn’t talk about him at night, or in the morning, or at work.  I was freaking myself out.

I had a panic-like attack today.  It wasn’t real, but I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  That the pressures from my job, and weird emails from a bizarre source, and 8 hours of work I tried to cram into 3 made me simply overwhelmed.  I did 3 rounds of meditation in my office.  I signed up for yoga tonight.

Then I came home.  Locked my keys in the house.  Again for the millionth time.  My son was at his Dad’s, and I drove to get his keys.  It was a nightmare of sorts.  Missed the yoga class.  Didn’t get to the market for food.  Didn’t clean the house for my boys’ return.

I drove into Ripon, and I was not flooded with missing my home town, but the remembrance that he walked everywhere, and though he would let me drive him to his job in the next town, but mostly, he walked.

And I remembered what I forgot to say then.  That I would come and get you.

Like I told you the last time we talked.  You call me anytime, and I will come and get you.

So.  You must have forgotten what I told you.

And it’s night time.  And I was not supposed to think about him at night.

Yet, I found myself wailing as I got on the freeway.  Where are you?  Why?  Why?  And more not being able to breathe.

And then a bargain for the Dodgers game this weekend.

I write.  This is what I do.

Because somehow it’s a little better just getting the sadness down my arms and through my fingers, and onto this page.

So I.

I will think of something that lasts forever.  Something I can count on.

Someone.

You want it to be God, but he doesn’t hear me like I need him to.  I’m in this abyss alone, it seems.

I see him in my old house at 10 years old when he and his sister sleep in sleeping bags on the floor, she having tea with me,

he scampering around with my dog.

And I can see him as a boy running down that hall.

Those tickets?  Those stupid Kirk Gibson tickets?  He was with me at that game in 1988.

I see him with his baseball glove.   Waiting.

I forgot, I remember, I forget again.  Meanwhile, it’s baseball season.

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(This was an except of a poem I read at his funeral.)

“The Green Fields of the Mind “

by A. Bartlett Giamatti

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. Today, October 2, a Sunday of rain and broken branches and leaf-clogged drains and slick streets, it stopped, and summer was gone.

Of course, there are those who learn after the first few times. They grow out of sports. And there are others who were born with the wisdom to know that nothing lasts. These are the truly tough among us, the ones who can live without illusion, or without even the hope of illusion. I am not that grown-up or up-to-date. I am a simpler creature, tied to more primitive patterns and cycles. I need to think something lasts forever, and it might as well be that state of being that is a game; it might as well be that, in a green field, in the sun.

 

never too much.

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I found it.  Our last picture together.  I wanted more.  More reminders of him.  A selfie.  Our one and only.

I remember when Harley Guy and I got together…how long ago?  2010?  And, I was mad about Twitter, and had never done Facebook.  When I finally got a Facebook account, I posted like I tweeted.  A lot.  And I said to him, “Do I post too much?”  His response was, “There’s never too much.”  I’ve adopted this attitude about social media. Never enough.

Especially now.  I’m almost a month away from the death of my nephew.  Death.  It does not roll off my tongue.  I hate it.  I resist it.  But.  He died.  And, I’m trying to make sense of it. His sweet girlfriend finds me on Facebook.  For the last 24 hours, Matt has come alive for me.  Things I didn’t know about him.  Wonderful messages about his life, his loves and his passions.  She opened up her pictures to me, and I have been more thrilled than I thought I could be.

Because there’s never enough.

I think to myself, well.  You weren’t his mother.  You were only his aunt.  How come you are crying again?  It’s been almost a month.  Can you NOT GET A GRIP??

Then I realize.  I’ve embraced this grief.  I’ve embraced it because I know that to close it down, will be to shut down and lock a piece of my heart away, forever.  Matt was a shooting star that I couldn’t catch.  A Dodger lover.  An animal lover.  Saving lives on the Kitty Hawk.  A father.  My nephew.

As I watched the Dodgers lose tonight, and am currently listening to the 12th inning of the Giants-Phillies game, I went through every picture I have on my computer. Starting in 2006.  55 images.  Matt, his daughter, my parents, my kids.  All of the pictures nestled deep in this slideshow make this boy come alive for me once again.  And for once, tonight, I am not trying to figure out a way I could have inserted myself in the picture… to save him on the night that he died.

There is never enough.  Take all the pictures.  Post them.  Share them.  Because some day, like tonight, you will be grateful that you did.

 

IMG_0113Our last picture together.  2013 Holidays.