Jax Remembrance 2015 Details

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I posted this on Facebook but failed to do so here. I just want to make sure everyone is included.

Who: Anyone and everyone
What: 3rd Jax Remembrance
Where: Angel Stadium
When: 6/24/15, 12:35 pm
Why: We’re doing the Angel game thing again, since it worked out so well last year.
How: Let Kristina or I know that you want to go, let us know how many tickets to get.
Cost: $16 per ticket. Click here for payment methods. 

We realize that most people are working. Unfortunately, we don’t get to choose the times of Angel games, or else it’d be a 7:05 pm game. We are aiming to reserve seats in the shade, so we’ll need to get the Angels a head count within the next 7 days.

Thank you for continuing to keep Jax’s memory and spirit alive.

Happy 7th Birthday, Jax

Jax turns 7 today. I just got home from dropping the kids off at preschool, along with dinosaur cupcakes my wife made last night for their classroom. It’s a tradition she’s developed, bringing Jax’s preschool teacher cupcakes on his birthday for her class. Ellie and Gray have the same, awesome teacher.

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On the way home, Warrant’s “Heaven Isn’t Too Far Away” came on the radio. I LOVED it was a kid. I was 12 when it released and I MIGHT of danced to hit at a junior high dance. That part is foggy (too much aspartame). I thought about the lyrics, because anything with heaven in it makes me think of Jax. It’s cheesy as hell. But then “closer to it every day” hits. A moment later, I get this overwhelming feeling on repeat:

“I’ll see you soon, Dad,” Jax tells me. Three times. My eyes swell and the tears run down my poofy cheeks. He’s trying to make me feel better. Assure me that all will be okay. But I just feel more sad because I can’t squeeze him today. It’s his fucking birthday and I can’t hold him or kiss his round cheek. My stomach aches in despair thinking about it. A feeling of hopelessness sweeps over me. I’d really prefer to get drunk and fall asleep until today’s over. But then I think about that dead pigeon.

Actually death is typically a good sign showing us that an end to turmoil or pain is ending. This doesn’t necessarily mean physical death, just a metaphorical death. Perhaps you’re going through heartache of a break-up, perhaps you are struggling to find a job…this dead bird marks the end to your search and struggle. A new beginning is just around the corner.

I think about Jax trying to lift me up. Trying to make me feel better. I need to make today a good day. For my wife, for my kids. For me. I’ll wipe off these tears, jump in the shower and get ready to pick the kids up from preschool. As we did last year, we’ll visit the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, which is where we took Jax on his fourth and final birthday. And then we’re going to meet family at Ruby’s at the train station in Orange, just as we did on his final birthday. And we’ll bring some dinosaur cupcakes and sing to him.

It’s a day to celebrate him, right? Not to lay/lie (I can never get those right) in bed with a belly full of scotch.

I reread my birthday post from last year. Really, most of what I wrote is what I still feel today. So you should go read it. Because it’s really good. And, obviously, there’s no new pictures for me to post of him. And there are good pictures there, so you should go look at them.

And think of him today for us. Talk to him. Send him some positive vibes. Because it’s still his birthday.

And as a guy that sometimes writes once wrote:

My love for you knows no limits. My heart aches beyond comprehension. And my soul longs to be with you again.

Love you,

Dad

Happy Birthday, Jaxson William.

Was That Dead Pigeon a Sign?

Last Thursday a pigeon decided to get super comfy on our porch mat. My wife was leaving to meet a friend for dinner when I heard a shriek. She never shrieks. I ran to the front and she showed me the bird. Our porch light is out and it was dark. She almost stepped on it, which would’ve been messy. We both had an eery feeling, mainly because it was dark. So she left through the garage and I hoped it’d fly away. It never did.

As she left, my wife told me there were two packages left on the porch, as UPS and Fedex often leave. I circled around the house and crept up the front lawn towards the packages that lay/lied/laid three feet from the pigeon. I cursed at myself for not bringing a flash light. I slowly reached for the packages, scooped them up and back peddled the hell out of there. Those Hurley sandals CHOC sent us for reaching a fundraising goal were safe!

Later in the night I showed the kids and snapped a pic and shared it on Facebook and Instagram, as some of you might recall. Before my wife came home I checked the porch and text her to let her know the bird was still there. She came home through the garage and I went to bed with a plan to call animal control in the morning if it was still there.

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It wasn’t still there. The kids and I looked in the morning. I started to turn around and close the door when Gray suggested we look outside further to see if it moved. Makes sense. So I rubbernecked out my front door, looked left, and damnit there’s the bird, face down on my porch. Directly in front of the window to Jax’s room. What the shit. Later in the day I shoveled the carcass in to a trash bag and dropped it in the trash can.

The whole thing is very curious. Now I’m not the most observant when it comes to birds in our neighborhood, but we don’t really see pigeons on our street. And how the hell does a bird find our porch and plant itself inches from our front door step? And then it decides to die right in front of Jax’s room? C’monnnnnnn universe.

My wife Googled it and came across a common theme about the signs/omen of coming across a dead bird.

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A new beginning, a fresh start. We could use those. And from this website:

Dead bird in the yard or on the highway – if you’ve seen a dead bird in the road or perhaps you accidentally hit a bird on the road, this usually feels like a bad sign. Actually death is typically a good sign showing us that an end to turmoil or pain is ending. This doesn’t necessarily mean physical death, just a metaphorical death. Perhaps you’re going through heartache of a break-up, perhaps you are struggling to find a job…this dead bird marks the end to your search and struggle. A new beginning is just around the corner.

An end to turmoil or pain is ending. The end of our search and struggle. I think we can use that. And here I was, thinking the only gift that pigeon left us was white polka dots of crap on our porch.

 

Just Love the Hell Out of Him

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Yesterday, towards the end of work, I came across a post at FanGraphs, the mecca of baseball statistics web site that ultimately led to the birth of TechGraphs, my part-time employer. Written by Managing Editor Dave Cameron, the post asks invites guidance for a first-time father on how to introduce his son to the beautiful game of baseball.

I read it, and just about moved on, when I got an itch. An itch to share my story with my first son. It ended with my face puffy (more so than usual, jerks) and trails of dried tears. Here’s what I wrote.

I raised a naturally left-handed tow-head with bright blue eyes and an even brighter smile. And by naturally left-handed, I mean I didn’t force him to be a lefty, like a lot of other parents in Southern California seem to do. He hit, threw, kicked and wrote with his left hand.

At about 18-months-old we got him a plastic tee, ball and bat – one of those Fisher Price things. Just before turning 2 he moved up to a smaller ball and thinner bat. He’d swing from the living room and run and slide in the kitchen. My wife works nights as a NICU nurse. When she worked, our nights were spent playing baseball inside.

He had a sweet, natural swing. Hitting always came easy for him. Before he turned 3 I pitched to him over hand, so he’d get used to the motion. I was going to make him in to a big leaguer, whether he liked it or not. Fortunately, he liked it. Up until he died. He drowned at 4 1/2-years-old at a neighbor’s pool party. Just a couple of weeks after finishing his first tee-ball season on the Brewers.

I grew up an Angels fan. I lived in Orange County and the friends I wanted to be friends with at my new school liked the Angels. It helped that it was Wally Joyner’s rookie season and the Angels were good. Really good. My boy was growing up an Angels fan. Torii Hunter was his favorite player. He got to see him one last time, four days before he died, when we celebrated his great grandfather’s Father’s Day at Angel Stadium. After the game he peed in the parking lot. As a true baseball fan should experience.

It wasn’t the same watching baseball after he died. I didn’t have my padawan next to me to explain bunt defense to.

He was really good. His favorite position was third base, despite playing with the wrong hand. I’m staring at a note his coach wrote him following the season:

Very solid baseball player with a great looking swing. Always very focused when in the batter’s box and ready to go.

At 4, he was one of the younger boys on the team. But he didn’t play like it. One game, playing the “pitcher” position in tee-ball, a kid lined one back up the middle in to his gut. It looked like it hurt. A lot. He picked the ball up, threw it to first, and then held his abdomen. Coaches went out to check but I stood on the side trying not to make a big deal out of it. He didn’t cry. Though I knew he wanted to. I had seen that face many times. It always ended with tears. But not out on that field. Not in front of all those people.

About the last 5-7 games of the season the league went to coach pitch, where a coach pitches softly to the boys. They get three swings, and if they don’t hit, they move back to the tee. Jax never swung and missed once. He always at least fouled a ball off. After my Dad encouraged him to find his inner Incredible Hulk (he was a huge Marvel fan), the balls started jumping off the bat.

It was a great, great season. That one season of his.

Dave, I just wanted to share my own experience with Jax, my son. Baseball was so special to us as a father and a son. Don’t push it on him, but educate he is willing to be open to. Get him swinging, throwing and catching as early as you can. Make it fun for him. And whatever happens, just know that your time with him is precious. Even when he’s driving you nuts.

Just love the hell out of him.

That’s all we can really do, right?

It’s Okay Not to Be Happy at New Years

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New Years has been a shit time of year for us. Presley, who we lost at 16 weeks gestation, was due 1/1/07. New Years Day had been a thorn prickling the pain that always remained from losing our first baby.

Then Jax died. On 12/31/12, six months after he died, we were both still off of work. We didn’t celebrate. Instead, I brooded and fumed at all the Happy New Years texts that buzzed my phone. I’m pretty sure I wished a violent case of crabs on everyone that included me in their innocent well-wishes. There’s nothing HAPPY about it. It would be the first year without Jax. It was a reminder that two of our babies were in heaven now. Two too many and totally fucked.

New Years last year wasn’t any better. A fog of depression had built up since just after Halloween in 2013. The only two posts I wrote after a 11/1/13 T(GIF) post was this one, and that’s only because it had to be shared. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have heard from me until Jax’s birthday in January. This year, it was a bad mix of post-Christmas blues and the dread of New Year’s approaching. It was a bad, bad week. And again, the Happy New Years wishes rolled in with my brain cranking out automatic replies of “Fuck New Years” to just myself.

I mostly thought maybe my wife and I are just too bitter to hear the word happy, or try to be happy. And with the two losses always coming back to us at this time of year, it’s just too much pain to deal with when surrounded by messages of hope, fresh starts and being happy.

This year I felt more calm. I only received one text message (a group one, so several in it), and like every year, I didn’t respond. But this year, I didn’t wish harm on these peeps. I said or wrote “Happy New Year” to people, but it was mostly to strangers, as it seemed to be the polite thing to say at the moment.

My wife worked, as she did last year, and the twins and I stayed in, got some food, and raised our glasses (theirs punch, mine a beer), said “cheers” and hugged at 9 p.m. They seemed to think it was neat. And, as I mentioned on Face Book, Gray found a new crush in Fergie.

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I put them to bed, then spent a couple of hours releasing angst playing Grand Theft Auto V. The next day we watched the Rose Parade. They changed from one set of pajamas in to another. It was one of those days.

Three days ago my wife shared a post she read over at Rockstar Ronan, the blog created by Maya Thompson, who lost her 3-year-old son to cancer and inspired Taylor Swift’s “Ronan” which is pretty much the anthem for anyone that’s lost a boy toddler. I’ve posted it on the blog, and we included it in the first memorial for Jax.

Thompson wrote:

In this life I live now I don’t have the luxury of saying things like, “I cannot wait to see what 2015 has in store! I just know it is going to be the best year yet!” How do you have the best year yet after the death of your child? I don’t think that you do. I guess I cannot speak for the other bereaved parents who walk beside me, but in my mind the best year yet just does not exist anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I am capable of having really, really, really good days. I have those days a lot, especially with all the happiness that Poppy and your brothers fill me with, but you will never not be missing from my blissful days of always almost perfect. What are my hopes for 2015? That we all stay healthy and don’t die. That I have more smiles than tears. That I get more little signs from you. That your brothers and sister continue to flourish, grow, and be happy.

I don’t want this part to be lost, as it struck me the most.

“What are my hopes for 2015?” Thompson wrote. “That we all stay healthy and don’t die.”

It’s true. And really, just almost true. I really don’t care about myself. And my wife’s told me the same about her feelings and her own death. But for our kids? Fuck yes. And the rest of our family.

Thompson’s post brought me peace of mind. I’m bitter and jaded and resentful, but I’m not the only one. And that’s okay.

Maya, you’re not alone. You DO speak for other bereaved parents that walk beside you. And you nailed it. And while it can feel hopeless and empty and bitter, we can walk it together. And not feel so alone.

Christmas Shopping for Jax

Last night we took the twins to Toys “R” Us to pick out Christmas presents for Jax. The first Christmas after Jax died, my wife and I dropped the kids off at my parents and shopped at Target by ourselves. It’s hard buying gifts for your 4-year-old son who isn’t there anymore.

My wife gathered up some treats for the fire station that responded the day Jax died, and she somehow persuaded me to drop them off, alone, along with the toys we picked for Jax to give to Toys for Tots, just before Christmas day. It turned in to me sobbing in front of these two men that probably really didn’t understand why I was there, then walking away feeling lame. I walked in the door and told her I’d never do it again.

Last year we took the kids shopping with us. Which was a pain in the butt, because trying to get 2-year-olds to not think about themselves for a minute is tough. And then I became emotional, tearing up in Target, pissed that I don’t know what 5-year-old Jax would want for Christmas. It tore at me. After shopping, we went to Panera Bread, picked up goodies, and my wife and the kids dropped them off at the fire station, along with the gifts, while I sat in the minivan and avoided that cry fest. She returned with her eyes red, looking drained.

“I told you,” I said, trying to defend my choice to stay in the van.

Now, before I go on, remember this:

On the day of Jax’s viewing, five days after he died, my wife got a voice mail on her cell. Now, before Friday, she’d received many texts and voice messages. Everything worked fine. The voice mail she got was from my phone. Sirens screamed. It was chaotic. I pocket dialed her or didn’t hang up when she didn’t answer. It’s eery that the voice message, recorded Sunday, didn’t land on her phone until Friday, the day of his viewing.

She told me she remembers thinking that it had to be Jax sending her a sign. Since that day my wife’s had a strange relationship with fire trucks. She sees them when she needs them most – to remember that Jax is close by. She saw one drive by our church the day of his funeral service. After a hard commute home, she saw one pull out of our tucked-away residential street. On holidays she finds them driving around town without sirens or an emergency to respond to. The engine that responded when Jax died was number 6. She’s also had a handful of run-ins with engines with number 3 (Jax’s number in tee-ball).

Some people have butterflies follow them, which are supposed to be the spirits of their dead loved ones. Kristina gets fire trucks.

At 12:17 p.m. yesterday, she text me that she’d seen two fire trucks that day. She had taken the kids to the dentist and was bringing home lunch. Then she went to counseling while I watched kids. Exactly one hour later she text me that she saw two more fire trucks on the way to her appointment. One of them was coming out of the back street where we took Jax and the twins to swim lessons. She parks there for counseling. I guess Jax knew we were shopping for him, and wanted us to know he was with us.

It went better this year. For the most part, the kids did a good job shopping for Jax. They picked out good gifts, but did get distracted with their own wants. Gray picked out an Avengers longshot bow. He loves bow-and-arrows, Jax loved the Avengers, and I can totally see Jax blasting Gray in the head while Gray laughed, just happy to be played with by his big brother.

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Ellie picked out a Baymax helmet and rocket hand set, from the movie Big Hero 6. I’m positive Jax would’ve loved the movie, as super heroes enthralled him. And again, he could shoot Gray in the head with it, which I’m positive would make Jax’s day every single time.

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My wife picked out a Flo’s V8 Cafe play set. Cars was Jax’s thing. He knew all the characters, their traits, personalities and constantly played with a race track that my aunt and uncle gave him one year. He’d love it. I love it. I can see him recreating his own Radiator Springs in his room with this.

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I selected a remote control Triceratops that roared and slugged along with glowing eyes. Another obsession of his was dinosaurs. Like the Cars characters, he knew all of their names, and was destined to be a paleontologist. That is, if baseball didn’t work out.

After shopping some more for the kids, somehow unbeknown to them (I love how we bought seven gifts and they had no clue), we drove over to Panera, got the goodies, and dropped them off at the fire station with the toys. The kids got stickers and we were set to leave when my wife looked at me. I just stared back. Then she explained why we did this. The tears rolled. I couldn’t look at the fire men watching us with their pity. Just nodded, watched the door to leave, and waited to scoot out at the right time.

But I’m glad she has the strength to do it. To talk to them, tell them why we’re there. Keep our boy’s memory going.

Merry Christmas, Jax. I hope you love your gifts.

Ellie is a Cat

I don’t remember when it all started. But for at least the last 18 months, Ellie has expressed her love for cats. We aren’t a cat family. At all. I mean, we don’t have any pets. But if we did, it’d be a dog. And my wife would make me sleep outside with it. I’m not ready for that, yet. So we don’t have pets.

If Ellie had her way, we’d have a cat. I asked her how many cats she wants when she moves in to her own place, and she said four – two orange, one white, one black.

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Lately, she’s exhibited more and more cat-like behavior. It’s so incredibly obvious that she was a cat in an earlier life, or the fertility clinic spilled a drop of cat DNA in the Petri dish during the in vitro process. Here’s what I’m talking about.

She climbs everything: Jax wasn’t very daring, and Gray is a bull in a China closet, so we’re not used to this. Ellie is strong and agile with little fear. At 19 months she climbed stacks of hay to reach the top when we were at the pumpkin patch. A couple of months ago I went in to check on her and Gray playing in their room. Their toddler beds make an L shape if you turn that L to the right 45 degrees. She was standing where the two beds touch, as if she was Jimmy Superfly Snuka from the old WWF days. And then jumped, just like Snuka, on to the bed.

Lays like a cat: She likes to perch herself on the back pillow of the couch and lay on her side. Or, she’ll get on your lap, roll over on to her back and stretch out, as if she wants her belly rubbed.

And then she does stuff like this…

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Claws: Just the other day Ellie and Gray were play fighting. Ellie, who only knows 0 or 100 percent (there’s no in between) scratched his face with both hands. It left marks.

She loves tuna: Gray won’t even try the stuff, but Ellie will eat it straight from the can. When I’m prepping a sandwich, she comes over for a bite. No mayo. Just straight tuna. And she asks for it often.

She hisses: When she’s mad she sometimes hisses. Seriously.

On a Saturday about three weeks ago Ellie hit for the cycle with cat-like behavior. I sat on the couch and she laid on my lap and rolled around, stretched out. A little later she found a small ball my wife had out for a craft/project she was working on. It’s smaller than a quarter, light, but not felt. I have no idea what the material is. She was patting it around in her paws, I mean hands, back and forth. LIKE A FUCKING CAT! My wife and I laughed. The cat thing has been an ongoing observance for us, but this ball thing is new.

My mother-in-law was over, and she brought Ellie a Christmas charm bracelet (nothing expensive, 3-year-old appropriate). So later, on this same Saturday, we heard jingling. A few seconds later Ellie came running in to the living room where we were hanging out. She may as well be wearing a collar with a bell on it. As some cats do.

And to wrap it up, all on this same day, mind you, she asked for tuna for lunch and hissed at her brother over a toy. I made a joke about having a tongue like sand paper. And to be honest, I haven’t touched it, so it COULD exist, right?

I haven’t heard her purr yet. But I’m sure it’s in her. I haven’t tried petting under her chin yet.