The Wonderfuls

Dear M,

The wonderfuls this week: Butter came home from school Monday, called me at work to tell me how happy he felt. He filled in the details when I got home. He said it was a day like any other day, but for some reason he felt especially optimistic and happy. “Don’t think this is weird Mom, but I think it’s Dad. I think this has something to do with Dad. I haven’t felt this happy since Dad was alive. I think he would be proud of me.” The joy of the everyday, something we couldn’t take for granted anymore, unsure if it would ever come back. Now he has spotted it, that glimmer of light, possibilities returning.

The other wonderful was a text from iMac: “Hey Mom I got an email from the Biology Department asking me if I would like to be an SI.” I replied, “what is an SI?” A student instructor (of course) to facilitate/teach a weekly study group for the Biology I students. Did I tell you he got straight As in his first semester of college? Also he’s a sophomore, due to AP credits, which neither of us realized until Christmas. He has 3 competitors for the SI position, so it might not happen. Nonetheless he is excited.

I would have called you or texted you immediately to share these great parent moments if you were here. Instead I called MK and Sara, my stalwart friends who have seen more of the brutality of our lives than any friend should see and still stayed friends with me. Now off to sleep with my trusty dog Murphy. Studies are coming out weekly about dogs, sleeping better with dogs, living longer with dogs, etc. This week is the two year anniversary of our puppy pick up day, when Murphy was just 8 weeks old and 10 pounds.

All my love,



Christmas Eve Eve

Dear M,

Remembering so many Christmases with you. Our first in 1992. We celebrated on Christmas Eve Eve so I could take the train to Florida the next day to see my parents. I got you a cookbook, the first of many. It was before our two break ups, the very early days. We knew nothing. We went to hear the Messiah at the National Cathedral that year.

Fast forward to 2004, Christmas in Baku Azerbaijan. That crazy leopard print sofa on our second floor where we had the DVD player. The Russian/French/English DVD of the Polar Express purchased on Nizami Street. I met you and Krassi and Natalya for lunch at the Sunset Cafe the day I purchased it.

Imac was 4, Butter 2. Tonight Butter advised us of our schedule, watching Polar Express together tonight and It’s a Wonderful Life tomorrow night. Fourteen years later, the DVD has held up to time. I didn’t multitask. I didn’t jump up to get things done. I left things undone and just sat with our boys, grateful that they still want to watch Polar Express with their Mama. I am thankful for all the magic you brought . You brought it to Christmas, but really to everything. We reminisce often about how you would make an ordinary errand like going to the grocery store, a great adventure.

We went to a Christmas party yesterday. There were plenty of people for me to talk to, new and old. There were several too that knew us well, entered the house, made no eye contact, walked past without so much as a nod. I guess this is what the teens refer to as being ghosted. I am ghosted all the time here, but again it separates the lightweights out for me. My new peer group is 75-80 year old widows, but I don’t know a ton of them. Having a Was-band rather than a husband makes people nervous I suppose.

Tomorrow we will attend the 4 pm service and then our usual Al’s Pizza for Christmas Eve dinner. Sending love. Wish you were here.



New Traditions

Dear M,

Last December Butter and I ran the Festival of Lights 5K. The Christmas theme, luminaries that light the course, and runners decked out in holiday attire were the draw for me. It was my first 5 K ever at 51. I invited iMac but he said he hadn’t trained so he opted out. Soon after imac started running and has kept it up since last December. This year he was ready to run his first 5K. Truth be told he was ready last year but he just didn’t know it. We invited Molly, who is a real runner, having completed both the Boston and NYC marathons this year at age 76. When nephew Shane, age 10, heard about our plan he decided he wanted to come with Molly. Molly designed a training program for him for his very first 5K. Soon we had Shane’s mama/ my sister on board to come as our cheering committee. She was our photographer and cheerleader. She’s a pretty devoted fitness subscriber, but belongs to the church of Peloton, rather than the cult of running.

As you know I barely trained this year due to asthma, chronic sinusitis and sinus surgery, but I did it anyway! I was able to run the first 2 miles without stopping to walk. I did need my inhaler which was in the car, so not really accessible so I walked from the 2 mile mark until the 2.5 mile mark and ran the last half mile. Everyone involved is ready to sign up for next year. This morning we’ll meet up for breakfast and then Molly, Kara and Shane will head back to winter temperatures in Virginia and Maryland.

It was so wonderful to be surrounded by so much joy. We weren’t sure we’d find it again after we lost you, but we are finding our way, cherishing every glimmer of hope and moment of joy.

Love you and miss you,


A Good Night

Dear M,

Yesterday I decided to take matters into my own hands. Before the boys woke up the Mom brigade was on the job. I invited Butter’s best friend Will M over for dinner and a movie at 6. Butter moped around most of the day and then mobilized at about 3 to clean his room. A big clean, more of a purge. Legos, so many Legos. It’s official our Lego years are over. Happy and Sad. The back of the van is now filled with boxed and bagged items for give away. When it was time to pick up pizza from Tony’s I tossed him the keys and said “Why don’t you and Will M go pick up the pizza now?” His face lit up, for a moment he had forgotten that he now has a driver’s license and doesn’t need Mom in the passenger seat anymore.

Imac returned home from a friend’s after he received my text, a photo of the pizza. The three boys settled on a movie, Spike Lee’s latest. Which brings me to a question, where has Spike Lee been these last 20 years? Or is it just that I was busy raising children and watching Disney and Pixar movies? Remember when Do the Right Thing was released?

The sound of three boys eating pizza and chattering about a movie made my heart happy. Almost normal.

I spent the morning online negotiating with a car dealer about a new car for me. Not my forte, but I have a coach, Sara G’s husband. Today I’ll see what the other dealer in town offers, if they too are using what I like to call “New Math.” That’s when you tack $5000 on to the internet price and call it a sale. So creative. Anyway I’m not in a rush because we are keeping your van. It’s vintage. Butter will drive it. It fits an entire sofa and you can close the back with the sofa in it. These fine features have served us well and will continue to do so as we are in the years of moving in and out of college dorms for imac and in another two years, Butter. Cha says hello by the way. I was surprised he was not at the front or back door this morning. He never misses a meal! I sat down at my desk with my coffee to write this letter and I heard a loud thud coming from the garage. That’s how Cha knocks. He hurls himself at the door. Except for my bedroom door, which he reaches under jiggling the door until I wake up. He had spent the night in the garage. Don’t worry, there was a nice basket of dirty laundry waiting to be washed. I am sure he snuggled in. It’s not cold at night yet, unless you consider low 60’s cold.

Love you lots,



Dear M,

We missed you today on our third Thanksgiving without you. You loved Thanksgiving, doing all the menu planning, cooking, shopping exclusively. I made a salad or acted as a sous chef usually. You made the best apple pies in the whole world.

We spent Thanksgiving with MK, Alan, and Miles again. They make it so easy. I did make an apple cranberry pie with a crumb topping and balsamic green beans and a broccoli slaw. We brought Murphy too. She loves a party. This year I didn’t feel numb and dazed. I didn’t spend the whole day in bed. I laughed and enjoyed everyone’s company. We stopped by to see your dear friend Rose and her husband Bill. The boys seemed ok until after dinner then Butter got quiet and withdrawn again. I seem to be in the way and just evidence that you are missing. I am not the favorite parent or The wished for parent at those moments. I am the one who is left. I want to leave, to enjoy my respite from grief, but I can’t. It is my job to stay, knowing that I am not enough, that there is nothing I can do or say that will be received or heard.

I am thankful for how much I loved you. It hurt. I didn’t mean to love you ever, not one little bit. At eighteen and 7 years before we met I planned a life for myself. I would become a veterinarian, I would never marry, I would have a barn with horses and donkeys and a house filled with cats and dogs. I would insulate myself from loving humans. I planned to make my siblings call me Dr. Sweeney. Childhood had been beautiful and sometimes awful. It left me burned, mostly just because I felt too much.

As life unfolded plans changed. I was disorganized. I was depressed before that was really a thing, so I didn’t know what was happening. I had no word for this illness of my spirit. I was highly allergic to animals and that was finally identified by modern medicine as the source of my constant respiratory illness. My grades faltered. I drank too much. I felt too much. I was given this gift of feeling too much that felt like a curse I couldn’t escape. I began my journey of recovery. My grades improved, what a surprise. I found my calling. Still I had not planned on you. I never dreamt of a wedding, or thought about bridesmaids dresses or a husband.

Then almost by accident I fell in love with you. I was scared with you and happy with you and elated with you and suffered with you. Now I have the beautiful gifts you left me imac and Butter. I suffer their sufferings. I show up. I do the next right thing. I hope it’s enough. I hope I can row hard enough to get them through these stormy seas.



XC Banquet and almost Thanksgiving

Dear M,

Tonight Butter has driven himself to meet friends at Beach Bowl. The very same Beach Bowl we took Butter and imac to starting when they were 4 and 6. Twelve years. Last night I met Butter after work at the Cross Country(XC) Banquet. The slide show was what got me. All those photos of sweaty, running kids and the memory of getting up at 4:30 in the morning from July until mid-October 5-6 days a week. Seeing the friendships that formed, seeing tiny glimpses of personal struggles made just a little bit easier because of the community that formed. Wishing the season could last just a little longer as I see how much the kids and the coaches mean to each other. You would have definitely cried during the slide show if you were there.

Monday I’ll take Butter to see an Orthopedic specialist about his tricky knee. He wants to try out for Track. He’ll have a few months to get the knee in good shape. It’s not a constant thing and not with every run, but nevertheless it has recurred twice.

So… Thanksgiving this week. I’m working Monday-Wednesday, trying to figure out what to cook. Taking some dishes over to MKs. I think the shaved Brussels sprouts with balsamic and bacon or the balsamic green beans with sliced almonds. Am thinking about an apple pie, but sounds so labor intensive. Your apple pies were AMAZING. I wanted to find some way to bring a little bit of your presence to the dinner. You would have brought a homemade apple pie. I love pie for breakfast. My apple crisp is really good and a whole lot easier than a pie crust from scratch.

This will be our third Thanksgiving without you, hard to believe. I don’t feel the sense of dread I felt the last two years. Hoping I can stay in a positive holding pattern. That’s all my dear.



Veterans Day

Dear M.

I took the day off today because it was a school holiday for Butter. We both started out strong. Murphy and I went for our 3 rd run/walk. Butter got up early and finished his AP World History homework. Later his buddy Will M came by to work on AP Statistics. I fed them lunch and homemade cookies. It was worth it to take the day off just to listen to their banter, and to be home when Butter came back from biking around the neighborhood with Will M.

The Sunday blues arrived around 4, which is late for us, but it’s Monday after all. I cleaned the fridge, paid bills, did 3 loads of laundry and grocery shopped.

Butter came in to say goodnight and “I don’t want to talk about missing him. I just want him to be here”

We’re sending you love from here.



A Fall Day

Dear M,

Murphy and I went out for another run this morning, or run/walk I should say. It’s breezy and in the 60’s finally. Something about getting those last few letters off to you lifted a heavy weight. I’ve been making a gratitude list every morning since October 30th, which was also the first day of my “old year resolution.” I gave up candy for the last 60 days of 2018, not dessert mind you, but candy. There is so much candy at work that it’s easy to accidentally eat a whole meal’s worth of calories in candy without noticing.

I’ve been working on the papers and bills and mail that cascade over my desk and on to the floor. I’ve been avoiding some of it for a very very long time, which I will not say how long because you would admonish me for it. Murphy had enough of bill pay and desk work so now we are yard lounging while I type. I’m in a chair and she is lying in the grass sniffing all the delightful smells the wind brings her. Her trainer came again yesterday and training is coming along, just lots of practice and repetition needed. She is a smarty, smart enough to know what a pushover I am too.

Butter drove to the grocery store today to get bread to go with the crock pot chicken noodle soup I made. First errand he has performed for Mom with the new license. He drove to Dunkin Donuts this morning for breakfast.

I registered Butter, Imac and myself for the Festival of Lights 5 K. I sent a note to your youngest brother Doug, who has had a recent melanoma diagnosis, Stage 0. I just have to think there’s a genetic component what with your cousins Lucy, Nick, and Bobby, you, Doug. I think Donald told me his father had melanoma too. Maybe those numbers just represent the overall increased incidence of melanoma that we are seeing worldwide, maybe not?

Imac is getting his wisdom teeth out over Christmas break and so is his best friend, within just a few days of imac. Imac is about to finish his entire course of Accutane. The difference in the before and after make me feel like the after is photoshop, but it’s not. After wisdom teeth, then braces, also over Christmas break. Butter has graduated from the orthodontist! He still has to wear his retainer at night, but otherwise done.

That’s all for now. The squirrels are mad and chattering about Murphy lounging in this treasure trove of a yard when they have collecting and work to do. The cat contingency of Sam(our neighbor’s cat) and Cha are staking out the front of the house so what’s a squirrel to do.

Lots of Love,


Fall Back, Chutes and Ladders, the NYC marathon and what not

Dear M,

There is an adorable brown dog trying to entice me into a game of fetch as I write this from under the covers in my bed. It’s only 8:26 p.m. but that’s with our new Fall Back time. I just got off the phone with Molly, who at 76, has just run the NYC marathon again, and qualified for next year. Somewhat unfathomable to me. Like you, she has goals and fierce determination. I’ve had some goals from time to time, becoming an RN, becoming a wife and Mom. Briefly becoming a nurse practitioner, but that one was more of a logical next step to prevent boredom, more than a goal. Mostly I’ve spent my life taking care of people. Instead of a long list of degrees and fancy job titles, my bio would say: “She has taken care of some tricky characters.” That would be my Mom and you, both of whom had psyches that required lots of tending and then later ailments that required lots of tending. So now I’m at that point where Butter has a social life, iMac lives on campus and I am asking myself what I want to do. I have no earthly idea because I’ve spent so many years supporting the goals and wishes of other people. The main thing that comes to mind is RETIRE, then I think of myself in a Tiny House with Murphy. Mostly I think of doing nothing, reading, going on walks, crafting, exercising, napping. Those are my goals.

In the game of Chutes and Ladders, otherwise known as life I just landed on a space that says go back 10 spaces in terms of my experience with grief. That happens from time to time. Sometimes there’s a trigger, sometimes not. I think I do actually have enough time on my hands that I would like to find a Grief support group of some kind.

I still don’t like going to the grocery store or church. I see people there that knew you, but not me. That’s not always bad because some of them really knew you, your friends from church and the library. I don’t know why it feels so awful, but it does.

Then with people I know who are still married I don’t really want them to see me either, because it will happen to them someday, but their day is not now. I’m afraid I might accidentally expose them to the awfulness.

Every milestone, every holiday is both wonderful and terrible. Murphy and I ran for the first time post op last weekend and again today. I am still a bit skeptical that I’m going to be able to keep up with 76 year old Molly a month from now in a 5 K. More hopeful now that Murphy and I have gotten in 2 post op runs with no coughing or wheezing!

Butter got his driver’s license yesterday and Murphy turned 2. Imac came over to celebrate and have Tony’s pizza with us. Oh yes I forgot to tell you that we have mostly changed our allegiance from Al’s Pizza to Tony’s pizza. Don’t worry, we’ll still go to Al’s on Christmas Eve after mass though as was our tradition.



You can’t go over it, You can’t go under it, You’ve got to go through it

Dear M,

I am sure you remember that line from our little board book version of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Sure as I don’t know what, a storm of grief, anger, despair, loneliness, boredom and outrage has hit our household of two. It did coincide with our eldest imac, moving on campus. Although just 15 minutes away, a huge void in our daily life.

A chair broke tonight and I am SOOOO excited! Excited because I am kind of tired of junky furniture, yet I’ve always felt obligated to get every last drop out of an item. Bye Chair, good riddance, won’t see ya later! Kind of freeing really.

In other furniture news I got rid of my 30 year old Queen size mattress and box spring that I bought for $300 when I moved into my first post college place. That mattress was ours for awhile later on, then it became Butter’s at some point, when we upgraded to a King. We shook our heads and wondered how on earth did we fit in the Queen, what with you sleeping on the diagonal to keep your feet in the bed. Much easier to sleep on the diagonal in a King. Now I’ve got the whole dang thing to myself. I just keep switching it up as to which side I sleep on. My options would really open up if I got a new bedside clock with the big numbers. I try to sleep close to either of the bedside tables so I can reach my glasses in the night to see what time it is. Every time I wake up, which is like 52 times a night, I think, “Time to get up!!???” Nope. 4 more hours, 3 more hours, 45 minutes. You never wore a watch because you felt like you were tied to checking the time. I am tied to checking the time. So many things occur on a schedule, like work for example.

I’m ready to retire. I never thought I would say that. I’m a little too young for it, but definitely tired enough for it. I’ll look for some kind of a stop gap, like working less hours, but no time soon in my current role. I just need to get through the next 2 hurdles. The first is the sinus surgery. The second is starting running again, which the sinus surgery is designed to help me with. I know they sound unrelated, but currently a run turns into a long coughing spell instead of a run. I suspect these will reduce.

As it turns out I think Johnny Reb was right when he suggested that I needed to take a several month hiatus after you died. A hiatus with a full staff at my disposal would be perfect. It wears on a person. I see it wearing on Butter this fall. It’s hard to watch our child suffer.

Sorry to end on that note my dear, but that’s where we are today.