Sick Again

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The boy is home from school again today.

He missed three days last week because of a stomach bug and now he has a very annoying cold.

My kid can’t seem to catch a break.

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And neither can we.

He’s a bear when his nose is bothering him.  He wiggles and whines and screams and goes insane.  Same deal.  Different day.  Frequent topic.

It makes us all nuts.

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And there’s no real way to explain to anyone what we go through in our house.

He’s an angel out in the world.  He behaves, he is loving, he handles things.  (Except occasionally at school, but that’s another post.)

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At home though, when it’s just the two of us, or just the three of us, he is a different kid.

He is inconsolable, desperate, angry, sad, very physical, exhausting and exhausted.

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He wakes in the middle of the night, will do nothing to help himself, but is insistent that we are awake and miserable with him.

We rarely get a full night of uninterrupted sleep.

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Our son slams doors, throws toys, twists his body, flails his arms, furrows his brow, screeches, and screams, but he says nothing.

We try desperately to help him, but our efforts generally fail.

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Last night, husband actually got him to take some Motrin.  He was tired and it did help him to fall asleep, but he was up again at 3:45 and back to his routine of misery.

I asked him repeatedly what I could do for him.

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I suggested all of the usual remedies for his bothersome throat and nose and I tried to comfort him.

I offered him a snack, some water, and a hug.

Nothing worked.

At 4:30, I gave up and told him I was going back to bed.

I closed the door to our room, but that made him crazy.

He got louder and louder and finally crashed something into the door.

Husband got up that time.

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This morning has shown more of the same.

The boy is miserable from the cold and he wants everyone to know it and feel it right along with him.  It’s maddening.

He took some more Motrin about an hour ago.  He has eaten a hot dog and even exercised at my urging, but it’s going to be a long day in what already feels like an insanely long week.

Husband is gone for a few hours to catch up with a friend and I will get out for a while when he comes back, but I don’t know how far that will go toward preserving our sanity today.

It’s 12:15 p.m. and I’ve yet to make it out of my pajamas and into the shower.  My hair is dirty and flat.  My skin is colorless.  Honestly, I look like the sick one.

Stress.

We need a babysitter.

I’m starting to forget what my laughter sounds like.

P.S.  The best thing to happen today?  I got out the camera to make a video of his on-going tantrum and suddenly he’s a model – posing, smiling, saying “cheese” for all these photos.

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He’s on the couch, watching a video now.  Maybe I will get a shower after all.

♥♥

A New Chapter

My husband lost his job last week.

We were a one-income family and now we’re a no-income family.

I don’t even know what to write.

I am experiencing great relief and deep panic, all at the same time.

It was once a good job.  And then it wasn’t.

He liked it.  And then he didn’t.

It was comfortable.  And then it was prickly and painful.

It is a great relief to have him home, away from there.  Away from them.

But the future is completely freaking me out.  Not so much because I don’t know what it holds, but because I do.

We have to make money.  Fast.

I haven’t been in the workforce since my son was born, over ten years ago.

That’s not what we anticipated.  It’s not what we planned.  It’s what we did for our very different kid.

I stayed home.  I gained some weight.  I learned how to be a fierce advocate for my son.  And I lost my professional skill set.

You think technology evolves too quickly when you’re right in it.  Try looking the other way for a decade – you won’t even recognize it when you turn back.  I am scared.  And old.

I have also watched my wardrobe transform from business casual to “is-that-stain-somewhere-that-I-can-cover-it-with-a-sweat-jacket-while-I-drive-my-kid-to-school?”

Who will hire me?

I can edit like nobody’s business.  I can write, sort of.  But what about all of those other things people do at jobs these days?

I can learn anything.  I know this.  I am smarter than average, I have a BA, and I work well under pressure.

Will anyone care about that when they see a ten-year gap on my resume?

I can’t type without looking at the keys and I am not bilingual.  Well, I do understand a lot of Spanish.  But I answer it with English.

Where will that get me?

Husband thinks I would be a great office manager.  Anybody know an office that needs some managing?

A friend suggested I ramp up my crafting and sell some things on etsy.  I’d like to, and I will, but that’s not going to pay my mortgage.  The Office Manager job won’t do that either.  In the prime of my employment, I was earning less than half of what my husband has been making this year.

I used to work in Human Resources.  Considering our current circumstances, I can’t rule out doing that again, but I felt dirtier in HR than I did as a hotel maid, years ago, cleaning toilets all day.

I am nervous.  If it were just me and my husband, I wouldn’t be.  We can roll with the punches and adjust along the way.  Alone, the two of us would have a ton of flexibility.

But we have an autistic child in the equation.  Our son needs a schedule and a stable home with room for Legos and stuffed animals.  He needs fair warning about things and he needs routine and familiar surroundings.

Yes, I am nervous.

Unfortunately, we may be have to sell our house.  If we can’t find employment, or some other way to keep from depleting every penny of our savings, then we will have to go.

As scary as it is to think of that, we’re going to downsize like there’s no tomorrow under this roof.

Most of my cookbooks are going.  Dressers and chairs and side tables are going.  Old clothes, extra blankets, and toys are going.  Husband’s old band equipment is going.  Big plastic bins of baby clothes are going.  Fabric is going.  Kitchen crap is going.  Two little bikes are going.  CDs, DVDs, magazines and a file cabinet are going.  Maybe even one big, hard-to-manage Christmas tree is going.  And absolutely anything we have been oppressed by, is going.

We have resolved to clear things out – donate, sell, give to friends.  I am calmed by this decision.  I have never before felt so completely, psychologically freed of any commitment to my stuff.

That is one good thing to come from our new reality.

I hope there are other good things on the way.  We are ready for them.  We really are.

♥♥

Kitty Cat Memorial Cactus Garden

My dear friend, Leighann, was in town for a few hours last Wednesday.

We met for lunch and some thrift store browsing in Poway before she headed to the coast for a meeting.

Whenever we get together, Leighann brings me the most amazing, thoughtful gifts.  This time was no exception.

Behold the beautiful Kitty Cat Memorial Cactus Garden:

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She assembled it in a gorgeous glazed blue pot.

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She tucked some sea glass and a tiny kitty between the plants.  (Sorry so blurry – hard to get a clear pic of the kitty’s little face.)

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I love this little garden so much.  It’s a perfect addition to our backyard.

More importantly, it’s a fitting tribute to Rusty and Poupon who spent so much time where this pot now sits.

Thank you, my lovely friend!  You always know exactly what to do.

Just outside our front door, there is small patch of dirt that makes my eye twitch.

This tiny patch was once home to a beautiful, licorice-scented heliotrope plant, but ultimately it proved too small to adequately contain such an aggressive shrub.  The heliotrope had zoomed to dishwasher size, was dropping its little purple flowers all over the path, and was mercilessly grabbing our clothes when we walked to the door.  We had to tear it out.  😦

For the last few years, the dirt patch has been basically empty, save for a handful of river rocks.  It never used to bother me, but now I stand in my driveway every afternoon as I wait for my son to come home on the bus and I just can’t help but stare at that stupid, unfinished, neglected chunk of yard.  😦

It’s a problematic spot – not very deep, limited water, and anything we plant there must be trimmed back from the walkway.  There aren’t many plants that can handle such routine and vigorous pruning.

A few weeks ago, I accidentally broke off a piece from a succulent in the backyard.  Impulsively, I shoved it into the dirt in the patch out front.  I wasn’t expecting any miracles, but the succulent survived and even started to grow.  Encouraged, I did it again with another plant.  That one made it too.

Today, I bought a few more succulents and tucked them next to the others.  I also added a bag of rocks we had sitting on the side yard.

Here is the (almost) finished patch:

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This may not seem like much to accomplish, but my eye has stopped twitching.

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What have you been up to?

♥♥

Holiday Brain Dump

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Bad Mommy

I waited too long to get my son an advent calendar from Trader Joe’s, so now they’re sold out and I feel like a bad mom.

Well okay, I felt like a bad mom before I went to Trader Joe’s.

Today, I made my son cry.  And I made my mother cry.

Just for good measure, I asked my husband if there was anything shitty I could say to him too.  Wisely, he offered no suggestions.  😐

The little boy’s upset was related to homework.  Or rather, my upset was related to the homework (and to the accompanying note of parental reprimand from the teacher.)  The little boy’s upset was related to homework and to my reaction.  Big surprise.  Might I just say, AGAIN, that I am baffled by the papers that come home with my son?

Getting him interested in looking at them is a daily nightmare for the two of us.  He is tired when he steps off the school bus.  He wants a snack and then something mindless to amuse himself for the rest of the afternoon.  Homework is painful for my child and painful for me.  We both hate it.

But enough about that.  It’s an old, worn-out problem with no solution.  I work daily not to care what the teacher or anyone else thinks of how we handle it.  Or don’t handle it.

Moving on.

Bad Daughter

I made my mother cry because I reminded her that we weren’t the best of housemates when I returned from college feeling all independent and snappy two decades ago.

I had moved back into the house with her and my dad and she and I argued sometimes.  Who wouldn’t have?  Headstrong twenty-something suddenly sleeping in her old twin bed?  I was unpleasant.

Ultimately, mom and I came to a mutual understanding that I needed to find myself a real job and somewhere else to live.  It was an excellent idea, and I am the better for having done just that, but now mom is worried.  She hadn’t remembered the low points of that summer until I burst her rosy impression over a cheap plate of pancakes at Denny’s this morning.  Sorry, Mom!  😦

So, two for two.  My son cried.  My mom cried.

I cried too, but that came after I had filled my cart at Trader Joe’s and then discovered the item I had come for, the advent calendar, couldn’t be had.  I bought every seasonal chocolate product the store carries.

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And yes, I waited until I was in the car to open the teary flood gates.

Okay, so changing the subject completely…

Husband Update

Husband is mending more each day.  He might even go back to work tomorrow – driving in his own car!  Yippee!  He is still uncomfortable at night and if you watch him for a few minutes you will notice how much he favors his right side, but he’s getting there.  The ribs, the collar bone…they are repairing themselves.

The Mission Inn Festival of Lights

We drove up to Riverside on Thursday to spend one quick night at The Mission Inn.  We sort of owed it to the boy (and ourselves) to do something spontaneous and fun to make up for the Palm Desert accident weekend.  The Mission Inn was the perfect answer.

The Festival of Lights is amazing.  There are animated characters, lighted horse carriage rides, giant nutcrackers, icicle lights, garlands, candles and falling snow too.  There are real reindeer and vendors with gingerbread, roasted nuts and miniature doughnuts available every night during the holidays.  There are Christmas carolers and a roving Santa in the restaurants.

The sleeping rooms are luxurious and full of charm.  The spa products in the bath are rich and fragrant and the windows actually open.  The beds are very comfortable and loaded with extra pillows.  The linens are crispy white and super fresh.  There are big fluffy bathrobes in the closet and the package we got came with a divinely citrus-scented aromatherapy candle.

The hotel itself is a work of art.  There is a rotunda with a spiral staircase.  There are gorgeous plazas and flowered balconies.  There are stained glass windows, catacombs and an amazing clock.  The hotel pool is walk-in warm and landscaped to feel private, even though it is surrounded by sleeping rooms.  Everything is beautiful.  Everything is humbling.  And we didn’t even see it all.  We saw a lot, but we missed far more.  Next time, I think we’ll take a guided tour just for the heck of it.

My favorite thing was the twenty-foot, ornately carved church pew sitting in the hall outside our room.  I told my husband that I would gladly tear up the inside of our house and completely rebuild our decor to accommodate that pew, if only they would let me have it.  Sigh.

One of the best things about the trip for me was the little gray striped cat who appeared at the pool when we went for a swim.  My own gray baby passed less than a week before.  It was comforting to see a similar little face so clearly interested in my activities.  When my son splashed near, this cat was just as reserved and removed as my Poupon, but when my son wandered away, the cat came a little closer and talked a little more insistently to me.  I wish I’d gone back down to visit with the cat once we were dry and dressed.  Maybe next time.

Before I change the subject yet again, I have to mention Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle’s, the store across the way from our room.  I went in once with my husband and son and immediately I knew that I’d have to return again without them.  When I did, I bought a painted metal bird and a weird little nativity set.

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Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle’s is jam-packed with the most interesting little trinkets, wrapping paper, bath soaps, whimsical tins, garden treasures, dishes, tiny paintings, knick-knacks and Christmas ornaments ever!  The hours aren’t set in stone, but it seemed to me there was someone behind the register most of the day.  It will take you some time to see everything, so be prepared to browse for a while!

Happening Now

The little boy has liberated some empty magazine files from my bedroom and is constructing makeshift body armor with scotch tape.

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The husband is playing computer games and I am dreaming of pajamas, ice cream and a better camera. 😦

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The last remaining cat has finished eating dinner alone in the kitchen.

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And tomorrow our routine starts all over again.

What are you up to?

P.S.  That Santa plaque at the top of the post is something I picked up on clearance in Bazaar Del Mundo a few years ago.  It reminds me to tell you how emotional it was for me when Santa stopped by our dinner table at the Mission Inn Restaurant the other night.  It was the first time our ten-year-old had ever met him.  Because of the many challenges our son faces just getting through a “normal” day, we have never bothered with shopping mall Santas and their incredible lines.  We’ve never been to any event where Santa was a main attraction and even the occasional Santa in front of a store or at an amusement park has always been too removed or surrounded by other children for us to have a meaningful experience.  This time, Santa came to us and asked our son what he wanted for Christmas.  Our sweet little boy told Santa what we already knew…he just wants pencils.  🙂

♥♥

And Then There Was One

My cat died today.

I don’t know what to write.

I’ve been trying for weeks to compose an appropriate goodbye post for the cat we lost in September, and now this.  I am overwhelmed.

I can’t think about either of them without a huge lump in my throat and water in my eyes.

It’s hard to type.

Rusty and Poupon.

My babies.

Dear Rusty,

A few months ago, you walked out into the yard as a seemingly healthy cat.  When you came back inside, you started sneezing and you really never stopped.

You got sick.  Maybe there was cancer growing inside you for years.  We will never know for sure.  All those diagnostic tests, and we never got an answer.

None of the medicine worked.  You couldn’t keep the liquids in your stomach.  The pills made you gag.  The shots had no effect.

You got i.v. fluids and oxygen too, but nothing helped.  You declined quickly.

In mid-September, we took you to the vet to have you euthanized.

It was one of the most difficult decisions we’ve ever made, but your breathing was labored, you had lost four pounds, and your energy was sapped.  It was time and we knew it.

Today, I feel relieved that you aren’t suffering, but watching you in those last few minutes was a heartbreak I can barely stand to think of, much less communicate here.

You were a big cat – tall, muscular, imposing – over sixteen pounds in your prime.  You were once a graceful and merciless hunter, catching birds in our small backyard whenever we let you out for a minute.

As you aged, you were still keen on the low slink through the grass to get a butterfly or lizard, but you generally did a lazy flop in the sun just short of your target.  Too much trouble when there’s a plate of Friskie’s just inside the door, I guess.

We got you and your brother over ten years ago, when I was pregnant with our son.  You were my faithful companion then.  We spent hours together, curled into the corner of our fat blue couch, waiting for the baby.  You seemed to know that I felt sick to my stomach and a little bit sad most of the time.  You fit perfectly in the crook of my arm.

You were such a comfort to me then – more than I was to you those last few weeks, I’m afraid.  I am sorry for that.  You should have had a fat blue couch and a fat blue mama to comfort your weary body around the clock.  I sat with you as much as I could, but life interrupted a lot.

Your brother and Poupon seemed to know you had something scary.  They really wouldn’t get too close to you in the final days.  Just typing that makes me so incredibly sad.  You deserved more from all three of us.  You really did.

I loved you, Rusty.  I hope you are healthy and happy somewhere now.

Dear Poupon,

Today was difficult.  I took you to the vet and got confirmation of what I already knew.  I had to let you go.  I held you for a while and I said goodbye.  I cried and I watched as the doctor administered the overdose of medication that would end your life.

I had no husband or friend beside me this time, but it seemed appropriate that I didn’t.  You were a gracious, independent lady of great strength, and I know I am meant to carry that legacy on your behalf.

I was just thirty when you tumbled into my life.  You were a fluffy, flea-covered kitten, abandoned and crying in a nearby yard.  My neighbor came around with you in her arms and asked us all if we knew where you belonged.  She even posted signs and placed an ad, but no one claimed you.  I was smitten.

For a few years, you played second fiddle to a smart Russian Blue named Shadow.  When she passed away, you moved elegantly into her place.

You were a funny girl, my Fairy Princess.  You used to wait outside the shower door to rub your flyaway fur all over our wet legs when we emerged.  You used to chase things that weren’t there and occasionally, you walked into a room and flopped your Rubenesque figure right upside down with your feet in the air.  You stayed like that for long minutes, daring the boys to come anywhere near you.  And you chortled.

I’ve grown up with you, my friend.  What will I do without the sound of your sweet voice and the clicking of your silly toenails on the tile floor?  You were a ballerina.  A big, fat, beautiful gray ballerina and I will miss you so very much.  I love you, Pou.

 

♥♥

Thankful

The last few days have been kind of nuts.

My husband was in a cycling accident out in Palm Desert last Saturday morning.  He’s going to be fine, but he has two cracked ribs, a broken collar bone and a lung that is, to our great relief, re-inflating on its own after a partial collapse.

He’s upstairs in bed at the moment.  Until yesterday, he had to sleep sitting up.

On our first morning home after the accident, I watched as his head sort of bobbed back and forth, then ultimately smacked into the wall.  I thought the impact would wake him up, but he was exhausted.  He just started snoring, with his head tipped back like that.  I went out and got him one of those half-doughnut travel pillows a few hours later.  I don’t know if it really helps.

Last November, after we took this same trip to the desert, I told my husband that I wanted to do it again in November 2012.  I said I wanted to stay at the same hotel, have him enter the same bike event, take the boy up the mountain tram again…do everything the same…because I loved that trip!  LOVED it!

My husband’s response to me a year ago is really ringing in my head this week.  He said that there was no guarantee the trip would be the same.  He said that anything could happen to make it a totally different experience.   But I was relaxed and happy and I wanted to believe we could sustain those feeling by committing to the same activities a year later.  I was a bit annoyed with him for suggesting otherwise.  And he seemed annoyed with my naive optimism.

Well, here we are a year later, and it turns out husband was right.  It was a totally different experience and somehow, I knew it would be.

Instead of taking our son up the mountain to play in the snow, we dragged him with us to the Emergency Room to play on his iPad.  It was not quite the sparkling repeat my son and I had hoped for.  The little boy made it through four long hours at the hospital, and then he completely melted down.

I had to leave my husband alone in the waiting room while I took the boy outside to self-destruct.  He kicked and screamed and tore things to pieces in the backseat as I stood next to the passenger door, staring in frustration at the hospital entrance.  The entire van rocked with the force of his upset.

I could tell from the sound of my son’s whining voice that he was getting sick – from stress, from fatigue, from hunger for something more than vending machine snacks – from all of it.  That was the worst moment of the weekend for me – trapped in that tortured space between my broken husband and my sorely disappointed, autistic son.  I couldn’t help either one.

Sleep that night was difficult for us all.  I woke up every time husband made a sound or moved oddly, and husband woke up from pain at regular intervals.  His meds worked great.  Until they didn’t.  Those long minutes of waiting until time for the next dose were hard to watch and even harder to experience.  Husband was just really uncomfortable.  And the little boy woke a few times with his usual dry, sniffy nose and his newly sore throat.

When morning finally arrived, I took the boy for pancakes, so husband could get more rest.

On Saturday, the two of us had gone to the same IHOP, while husband was off for the bike ride.  I felt well rested that morning –  I was energized, refreshed, and excited for our weekend plans.  I had even put on mascara and earrings.

But Sunday, after that night of listening for husband’s breath sounds and worrying about the little boy and the change of plans, it was different.  I had on the same shirt, but it was wrinkled and so was my face.  No make-up.  Bags under my eyes.  Unwashed, barely brushed hair.  I thought about all those differences as I ate the very same pancake breakfast.

When we got back to the hotel, husband was a little more settled into the routine of injury.  He definitely wanted to go home a day early, but he managed to take a shower and concluded he could handle a brief stop at the Children’s Discovery Museum too.  Our son seemed relieved that there would be one fun thing before the long drive home.  All things considered, that little boy handled our broken promises very well.

The next few days are kind of a blur now.  The most depressing of them was also the best of them – three and half hours in another hospital to get a follow-up x-ray.  Ultimately, we were relieved to be told that husband’s lung was looking better, but the hours leading up to that were a swirl of confusion and disbelief.

Everyone there could agree my husband needed to be seen, but no one could decide how to handle the paperwork.  The paperwork!  Really?  I snapped at an E.R. nurse.

I regret that because I have friends who are nurses and I know how hard their jobs are, but I don’t regret expressing my annoyance at the lack of organization and efficiency in our mid-town hospital.  They should have thought about the patient first and the paperwork later.  It still makes me mad.

Now we are a week out from the accident and I do believe my husband is feeling a little bit better.  It is very clear that he won’t be driving anytime soon and that has presented us with a few logistical challenges, but we will figure it out.

Husband’s bruises are large and alarming.  He is still quite vulnerable from the cracked ribs and broken collar bone, and there is an overall lack of comfort that will likely continue for a while, but this could have been so much worse.  He could have died or been left with a traumatic brain injury or some other devastating permanent problem.

Save for a few gouged knuckles and other small scrapes, husband also came away with most of his skin intact.  That’s saying a lot for a cyclist.  Huge, bloody, asphalt-filled abrasions – road rash – are just another part of the sport.  But husband fell straight over and was injured by the impact of the fall more than anything else.  He was spared from too much skin grating slide and that’s no small blessing.

In a few days, some family members will come to our house for turkey and pumpkin pie.  Every adult in attendance has had some kind of accident or major surgery in the last several years (a few of them have had a lot of both), but they’re all going to walk in and sit and talk and think and eat and laugh at our table.  We are all so lucky.  And I am so thankful.

♥♥

Dear Betsy…

I said I wasn’t going to write about you anymore, but I have to say something tonight because I had lunch with your girls and my mind is racing.

I miss you.  I really do.

Today what really overwhelmed me is how much I want my son to know you.

It isn’t fair.  Everything is so hard for him already and he has to make it in a world without you and my dad.

That can’t be right.  It isn’t right.  It hurts me and I hate it.

I can’t stand the image in my head of what would have been.  I don’t want to know how easily my son would have fit into your life.

You would have gathered him in your arms and your heart and kept him safe, just like I try to do.

You would have helped him learn and laugh and love.

I know that as sure as I breathe.  But I don’t want to know it.  I really don’t.

Sometimes, I try to tell myself that we wouldn’t have been friends if you had lived.

I try to tell myself that we were drifting apart.

I try to tell myself that we were not interested in each others’ lives or kids or homes or hobbies or dreams anymore.

But that just isn’t true.

We drifted apart regularly, but we always drifted back.

We fought a lot, but we always made up.

We found each other ridiculous, annoying, rude, uninteresting, boring, petty, maddening…all the time…and then we didn’t.

So I know that picture of what would have been is accurate.

You would have loved my son.  You did love my son.

So I miss you for that, you know?

I miss you because you loved my son.

♥♥