It has been 6,864 hours since you left this earth. I’ve had so many “firsts” without you and let me tell ya, they are no fun. I try not to draw attention to them, but they always smack me right in the stomach, leaving me feel sucker-punched when I least expect it.
My first “first” was my birthday. You know I always live for my birthdays, and am known to drag them out for a birthday celebration “All About Jen” week. This time my special day crept up on me and I just really wanted to skip it altogether. I just wasn’t feeling too festive. But Kathy surprised me with a birthday celebration weekend to Florida, being the amazing big sis that she is. Dad was fresh out of that double knee replacement surgery that he had been putting off for way too long. He was so excited to see us – we even made it to good ‘ole Bobby’s to celebrate Dad’s recovery and my birthday. It was wonderful, but certainly didn’t feel the same without you. You were everywhere I turned in Vero Beach, which made me feel happy and sad all in one fell swoop.
Next up was Thanksgiving. Everyone gathered at Kath’s house in North Palm, you know, the usual line-up. We couldn’t make it since we were planning to host Christmas with everyone in Charlotte. So we went to our friend’s up in Cleveland. It was perfect and we had a HUGE snow! It was also nice to take a break from my family traditions and enjoy our friends’ new ones. It kind of gave me a slight break from missing you.
Christmas was the biggie. Nothing could prepare me for how sad I was going to feel. Dad drove up (I’m sure with you as his guardian angel directing his sled safely up to Charlotte!) a few days before Christmas. Kathy, Andrew, Kevin, Robin and Caitlyn all came up over the course of the holidays too. We took Dad to the Nutcracker, you would have LOVED this! I wish I had taken you the last time you came up to Charlotte for the holidays! We even wore your fur coats downtown, you never really got a chance to wear those in Florida, did you?! Everyone was in great spirits until Christmas Eve. We all saw it in Dad and I had to sneak away to my closet to get my tears out. Dad was the saddest I have ever seen him. Ansley told me that early on Christmas morning, she came downstairs to see what Santa had brought, and she heard Grandpa sobbing. I knew I had to be the strongest for Dad, even though I just wanted to curl up in a ball and cry myself. We got through the holidays, but we were barely limping across the finish line by the end. I knew I was in bad shape when I made homemade pound cakes back-to-back and I probably ate one of them all by myself!
Another “first” was your birthday, the day before the twins’ birthday on Valentine’s Day – a triple header “first” for me. I powered through it and focused 100% on the twins, they love sharing their birthday with you! The boys are doing great, BTW. Walker finished up his first year of travel gymnastics. Remember you told me I was crazy not to sign him up and constantly asked why I was dragging my feet? Well I finally did, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. He was glowing from ear to ear every time he had a gymnastics meet. He won lots of medals. You would have been so proud, and even prouder to say “I told you so!” Owen is still the lover of all sports. He completed soccer, basketball and football and is turning into quite the athlete. He takes after Randy, and both of them look more and more like him every single day, if you can believe that!
We came to Vero over Spring Break and had the BEST weather we’ve ever had down there. I’m pretty sure you put that order in just for us. The kids went snorkeling off shore for the first time and were naturals. We went on an Alligator Airboat Ride, did the Sebastian Inlet twice, went paddleboarding – basically we were the best tourists ever to hit Vero! The kids are at such a fun age now, they are the best travelers. We plan to take them to the Keys in June for their first official snorkeling vacation. Could you send some dolphins and turtles our way while we’re down there?! One thing that was so comforting to me was to see how well Dad is doing. He had a rough go in the beginning. He was so sad, I could hear it in his voice every time I called or visited. But this time, he seemed really good, you would be so happy. He’s training to be a Hospice Volunteer now, so he can help other men going through similar experiences. So proud of how brave he is to embark on this journey. Oh, and you’ll get a kick out of this. He also claims he is walking over 2 miles a day. I think I’m going to sneak a FitBit on him next time I go – I think he’s fudging his numbers a tad. I’m just giving him a hard time though – he is a man of strength and determination and am so proud with how far he has come.
I’m gearing up for Izzy’s annual ballet recital next weekend. You always loved her recital weekends. Yet another “first” for me, I’m sure. The whole gang is coming up to see her performances – we’re combining the recital with Ansleys’ 8th grade graduation (gulp, I am almost the mother of a high schooler!) and Isabel’s 5th grade graduation. Double gulp because come August, I will add my 3rd school to my carpool line-up. I seriously need a personal driver! You’ll be happy to hear that Ansley survived middle school and she’s doing great. She has grown into quite a beautiful young lady – so much of her reminds me of you. Her skin, her hair, her eyes. Ansley plans to continue with field hockey, I think this is the perfect fit for her. And Isabel is finishing up 5th grade with so many parties, recitals and try-outs. She’ll be trying out for Junior Company at her dance studio. I’ve been waiting for this since she was 3! On top of that, she is trying out for cheerleading, Aunt Kathy will be so proud. As we’ve talked about for years, Isabel IS Aunt Kathy and is following in her footsteps every step of the way!
So my very worst “first” though is right now, Mother’s Day Eve. I poured myself into the 2015 Smarty Mother’s Day Swag Giveaway – you know how much I LOVE giving gifts and this was an amazing distraction. But now I’m sitting here and tomorrow is Mother’s Day and it just hit me. I don’t have my Mom here anymore. I’ve been in a horrible mood all day, and I just figured out why. I thought I could focus on me, since you know, I have a gaggle of kids who can’t wait to give me their homemade gifts tomorrow. But all I keep thinking about is you. And all of my homemade gifts that you saved (I found ALL of them in one of your zillion boxes at Dad’s!). And it just doesn’t feel right. I’m hoping you give me a sign tomorrow – you seem to be into rainbows, so I’m expecting a double rainbow tomorrow from you!
I guess you’re all caught up now, huh? You probably know all of this already, but it feels good to get it in writing. Sometimes I feel like you are all around me, and other times I feel like you are so far away. I guess I’m continuing to adjust to my new life without you. I’m just taking things one day at a time.
Please know that I love you so much and think about you every single day. I’m giving you the biggest hugs ever this Mother’s Day. I’ll be looking for that rainbow tomorrow:-)
P.S. Dad sent me this picture from my First Holy Communion. How cute are we?!