Happy 8th Birthday, Jax

Jax turns 8 today. I dropped dinosaur cupcakes off with the kids at preschool so Jax’s teacher can celebrate in her class. She just so happens to teach Gray’s class this year, too. In an hour we’ll pick them up and head out to the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles., as we do, and then meet our family at Ruby’s in Orange to celebrate our little man.

This year, I want to share about the day he was born. On January 28 of 2008, I left my job at Aurora Loan Services/Lehman Brothers early after receiving a phone call from my wife saying she being admitted at Long Beach Memorial. At 5 p.m. doctors induced her. Twenty-five hours later, at 6:17 p.m. the next day, I stood behind my wife’s right shoulder, holding a video camera, and watched the doctor hold up our first child.

“HOLY CRAP IT’S A BOY!” I shouted. We didn’t know the sex. Well, my wife did, because it happened upon her at an obstetrician appointment a week before, but I didn’t know that until later. I thought for sure it was a girl. I was pleasantly surprised that it was, indeed, a boy.

Jax was eight pounds, six ounces and 22 inches long. He had no hair. And he was gorgeous.

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But let’s back up a bit. My wife was in labor for 25 hours. Twenty-five! Little man did not want to come out. I slept in a chair at her bed side that only a 4×4 would find comfortable. Nurses kept us awake every couple of hours. We watched so many episodes of Law & Order that, to this day, that trade mark “Dun Dun” sound gives me the willies.

Jax’s big ‘ol head caused some issues at delivery, enough that the doctor had to cut my wife open to make the hole bigger (episiotomy). Then the doctor had to use a vacuum to help suck him out, which left an abrasion on the side Jax’s head. Clearly, this wasn’t an easy delivery.

Once the nurses took Jax to the nursery I joined my friends and some family in the cafeteria to mingle, enjoy the moment, and relax that it was over. But it wasn’t. While I was down in the basement, the doctor had sewn my wife back together and loaded her up on pain medication. She’s very sensitive when it comes to the meds, or the amount of pain makes her sick. Either way, she started to vomit. And it wouldn’t stop. The doctor was gone and our nurse froze. She didn’t know what to do. The vomiting tore my wife’s stitches and she started hemorrhaging.

I ended up at home that night. I took my friend Munky home, as he stayed at the hospital with us and wanted to make sure I got home safely. I have this thing where I tend to doze off if I’m driving for more than 30 minutes and exhausted. It never hit me how serious my wife’s condition was. Or else I would’ve stayed.

She lost enough blood that she had two blood transfusions. She stayed two more nights in the hospital to recover, and then the hospital discharged her and Jax.

Remember that scene at the end of Knocked Up, when Seth Rogen’s character, a new dad, is driving his newborn and baby mama home from the hospital at about 15 miles an hour and backing up a stretch of road, what appears to be Malibu? That was me driving Jax and my wife home from the hospital. I hesitated pressing the gas. My palms sweat. My stomach was sick. I thought that driving over 20 mph was surely going result in my Chrysler 300C smashed in to a concrete overhang on the 710 freeway.

It was the happiest time of our lives. That’s not to say we don’t absolutely love the twins – they’re the reason I’m still alive. But it’s different having the first-born. All of our energy and love and attention was able to go to just him. And he was so wanted.

As I type this I’m watching a video that my wife’s brother made for Jax’s first remembrance (you can watch below). My heart hurts so much. Andddddd shit, now the Ronan song is on. I’m a mess! I just want my little man.

You were our best four years.

CHOC Walk 2015 – Team Iron Jax – Let’s Do This

The CHOC Walk is coming. I feel like a slacker not posting anything earlier. But then I see compared to last year’s post, I’m 19 days early! Which just means we REALLY slacked last year.

As always, the CHOC Walk at Disneyland/California Adventure is on the second Sunday in October, which this year is 10/11/15. And, as always, it starts butt-early in the morning. But you should still totally come!

Why do we do the CHOC Walk? Jax passed away at CHOC’s pediatric intensive care unit. The entire staff was so compassionate to us and treated us with so much respect that this is our little way to give back to the hospital and the community in memory of our little hero. I wrote this pretty detailed, gut-wrenching post that explains it more, but we decided not to post it. It’s very personal. But maybe if you beg and plead and raise enough money for us, we (Kristina) can be convinced to post it. Just sayin’.

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What is the CHOC Walk?

The Children’s Hospital of Orange County annually raises funds to support the care, services, research and education that CHOC provides children.  Since its start in 1990, the CHOC Walk in the Park has raised over $24 million, with funds supporting education, research, and adoption and utilization of the latest technologies to advance the health and well-being of children. It’s a 5k walk (crawl) through Disneyland and California Adventure. You do not receive entrance into the parks after the Walk, however, in the past, walkers have the chance to buy discounted tickets on the day of the event.

How to Register

Go here and click on Team Name and  enter Iron Jax as the team name. This pulls up Iron Jax in the search results. Click on the name. At the right of the team page you’ll see the active roster and a “Join Team” button. Click it.

You can sign up as an individual walker (no fee required but you’ll need to raise $65 minimum) or as a sleeping bear, which allows you to raise funds in your name, for Iron Jax, and take part in prizes. But you aren’t able to walk.

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Sponsor a Walker 

If you’d like to simply make a donation as a non-team member, click here. Full disclosure, that takes you to my personal page. Click the “Donate Now” button to proceed. If you want to donate to a specific person on Iron Jax, go to the Iron Jax main page, click on the Walker you want to donate in the name of and go from there. Please keep in mind to walk, a Walker needs to have raised a minimum of $65. Children ages 3 and up are required to be Walkers. Two and under are free.

Iron Jax T-Shirts

We will order t-shirts again depending on the demand. So if you want one, let us know.

Must Read

CHOC created two pages worth reading before the event. Please refer to these pages for any questions that you may have:

Event Information

Frequently Asked Questions

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Prizes

As an incentive, CHOC has laid out a prize structure which is found here.

Thank you for helping us keep Jax’s memory alive. It means so much to our family to give back to the community, and we couldn’t do it without your help.

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UPDATE – Jax Remembrance 2015

The Jax Remembrance is one week away. Here are the details for those attending:

We will meet in the parking lot at 10:30 am. (see image below – same place as last year, ignore those times as this image was from last year). Come hang out, bring some dinner or drinks and whatever else you’d like. The key is, bring your own stuff. I picked this spot as it’s far enough away from most everyone else and easy to spot. It worked out very well last year.  We used cars to block off a safe area for kids to run around, play, hit some balls and others to stroll around and talk without the fear of other cars getting in our way.

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So yeah…that arrow in bottom right, that’s where we’re meeting at 10:30.

We will meet between the two large Angel helmets at the front gate at noon with the goal to walk in together at 12:15 pm. GAME TIME IS 12:35. 

Tickets! Let’s talk about getting your tickets. We will bring them to the stadium with us. If you want to pick them up before hand, let Kristina or I know so that can be arranged. Tickets are $16 each.

Payments! Let’s talk about the Benjamins. If you haven’t paid, you can bring money to the game (check is preferred, otherwise I’ll blow it on beers and Rally Monkeys). If you have PayPal, you can send it to me at austin5377@aol.com. If you want to mail a check and need our address, let me know.

Questions? Let me know.

Thank you so much for this fantastic showing of support. It means more than you’ll ever know.

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.

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.

It Happened Again

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Shattered Faith

Shattered Faith Part II

Shattered Faith Part III

At the risk of sounding like spirit stalkers, we went to another Theresa Caputo live show. It’s our fourth experience. I didn’t write about the third, because nothing happened. She happened to be back at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, the same venue Jax came to us, so we decided to give it another try. You might think we’re nuts. But really, we just want to hear from him as much as we can. If you haven’t read the our previous experiences, click the blue links above. 

Earlier in the day my wife explained to Gray what we were doing. The twins have watched a few recorded episodes of the Long Island Medium with me before, so he vaguely knows who she is. My wife explained she talks to dead people and asked him if Jax was going to show up that night. Gray paused and looked towards the sky.

“I think he’ll come down,” he said.

He was right.

* * *

Next door to the Saban Theatre is The Hill Bar & Grill, tucked away on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and South Hamilton Drive. It’s a cramped neighborhood bar which I’m sure locals avoid on nights that the theater holds a show. My wife, her mom, my dad, our friend Megan and I grabbed some dinner and I threw back a Maker’s Mark and a couple of Bud Lights before heading over to the venue.

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As we people watched the always interesting Los Angeles population from the lobby of the venue, I felt a sense of calm. We found our seats, which were towards the front left of the theater, on an aisle, but well removed from the front of the stage. I didn’t expect anything to happen tonight. Nothing happened last time, and it was just great luck that Theresa came to us a year ago.

The show began exactly as it had the previous three experiences. While her jokes were the same, she didn’t dawn the disco ball heels this time. I mean, they were still sparkly enough to make Ellie jealous, but at least they were different.

Split the theater in half down the middle. Once Theresa began to let Spirit lead her, she started on the right half of the audience and spent about 45 minutes on that side. That sense of calm still flowed through me, caused by either the booze or something unexplained. At this point I’m just along for a fun night out in L.A. and a show. Theresa’s back faced us.

And then it happened. Again.

“Who here lost a boy that drowned?” she asked.

I looked around the theater as I felt my wife or her mom or Megan, if not all three, raise their hands. No one else in the theater did. It took her a couple of seconds to find us, but she did. My wife stood up and I just sat there like a sack of potatoes. I have no idea why. That calmness still weighed on me.

At this point, I’m just going to reel off what we can remember happening. It may not be in chronological order.

Theresa asked us if he drowned but shouldn’t have. She saw shallow water (this pool’s step extended about 10-15 feet out which he was last seen playing on) and lots of people around (a grandmother played with her grand kid right next to Jax, there were other kids in the pool and lots of adults outside of the pool looking on).

“He tells me knew how to swim,” she said. Jax and the twins were in swim lessons for about a month. It’d make sense that in his 4-year-old mind, he thought he could. But he couldn’t.

She knew I was at the pool that day with him, and asked if I tried to resuscitate him. I explained, no, but I was there when it was happening. She told us he was already gone. To give us peace that know matter which hospital he went to or what could’ve been done, it was already too late. My wife questioned this, and now, doesn’t have to doubt any more. Also, this matches what Theresa told us a year ago, when Jax told her he went in an instant.

She asked if we had a daughter, but then never followed up with that. Later she asked “What’s with the twins?” We told her we had twins. So did Jax show her Ellie or Presley? We lost Presley, my wife’s first pregnancy, at 16 weeks gestation.

As Theresa stood directly in front of us (only one row separated us and the medium), she looked at my wife only and asked if Jax wrote his name, and if she had a tattoo of something he wrote. She pulled up the sleeve of her sweater and revealed her tattoo, which is “Jax” written by him.

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“Do you have a necklace you wear for him?” Theresa asked. My wife pulled out the necklace Children’s Hospital of Orange County gave her after he died. It’s a ceramic heart empty inside. We cremated Jax with the smaller heart that fit inside hers. She’s worn it every day since he died.

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She asked us about the color green. I had no idea how that was relevant. My dad, seated to my right, spoke through a throat of tears. “We got him a dinosaur costume that was green that he loved.” I think this was a way for Jax to speak to my dad.

On Halloween a friend of mine posted charming photos of her son playing in the fields with an orange dinosaur costume. I replied in the comments below.

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On October 20, my mom text me a heads up that Gray was wearing Jax’s dinosaur costume. She didn’t want me to walk in to their house and lose my shit, as we haven’t seen it since Jax wore it.

“He was your side kick, right?” Theresa asked. “He would follow you around?.” If my dad didn’t believe before, this slammed the door shut on any doubt he had. Because calling Jax my dad’s side kick, or little buddy, is an understatement. They have a very special connection. My dad retired around the time Jax started preschool, and as my wife was on modified bed rest pregnant with the twins, my dad helped pick Jax up from school, take him to speech lessons, hang out at Bass Pro Shop, etc.

Remember that calm thing going on with me. It almost made me feel like a heartless robot. I didn’t shed one tear. I’m a crier. A year ago when Theresa spoke to us (I stood up that time) I sobbed. If anything was going to punch me in the gut and make me spill tears, it would’ve been the side kick thing. But it didn’t. Anywho, back to the show.

Theresa asked my dad if he had something in concrete with Jax’s writing. There’s a stone with his name and hand prints with gems set that stands in my parents’ backyard.

She asked us about angel wings. Three of us had different interpretations, I found, talking after the show. But during the show none of us spoke up.

Two nights before I talked to Jax out loud before I went to sleep. I told him about going to the show, how my dad was going to be there and would love to hear from him, how my wife would love to hear from him, and how he needs to mention something specific that only we’d know, so I know it’s true. I told him to talk about the Angels or Torii Hunter or something. Angel wings. Was this how Theresa knew to mention something about angels?

My dad thought it could be his mom, who died years ago. Earlier, Theresa asked us about the mother figure. My wife’s grandmother passed a few years ago, too, so it could be either one, or both. My dad’s mom had an affinity for angel wings. After she died, my cousin got a tattoo of her face on his inner forearm with angel wings.

My wife thought it could be a wooden angel wing decoration she almost bought online. She flagged it so if it goes on sale again she’d get it. Since we have four souls in heaven (Jax, Presley and two other miscarriages), she wanted it.

Or it could be all three. I don’t know how any of this works.

Theresa asked us about a vacation. We shrugged. That’s what people do, right? They go on vacations. Then she said she saw Disneyland. That’s her image for vacations. I explained we just went to the Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland, and he loved Disneyland and Halloween, so that could be it. Megan reminded my wife about the CHOC Walk, which was just two days before that Halloween event. My wife explained the walk and the reason behind it. He knows about it.

She brought up another memorial. She asked about a balloon release, which we did for the one and two-year anniversaries of his death. She asked about a lantern, which we tried to do for his first remembrance, but found out they were illegal, and a huge pain to do when we illegally tried to send a couple off after the park’s lights shut down and most everyone at the remembrance left.

She also asked about a tree or bench in his honor. A co-worker of mine got us a memorial tree, which we had planted in my wife’s grandpa’s back yard. Apparently Jax wanted to touch on all the ways we remember him.

Theresa talked to us for a shorter time than a year ago. And while skeptics may say she remembered us from before, or found info on my blog, or whatever (it’s crossed my mind, too), she brought up some very specific things she’d never know. The biggest being my dad’s side kick, and their strong bond. And just as a side note, at the last show we went to in Long Beach, Theresa acknowledged speaking to a woman she’s “read” to before. It was clear, looking in to her eyes four feet away from us, she had no recollection.

Theresa moved on to speak with others, and I just sat there, calm as all heck, as if nothing happened. I don’t know what my deal was. But I was still calm. And full of peace. And ready to move on knowing Jax is always with us. I didn’t have this feeling a year ago.

We carpooled back to my parents’ house where my mom watched Gray and a fever-fighting Ellie. My wife and I drove separately, and she drove the kids home in the minivan. Gray was awake, so she told him that Jax did come and talk to us. She asked him if Jax ever came and talked to him. He said no, they just played. She asked if that was when he was a baby or now, that he’s bigger. He said when he was a baby.

“Now his soul just watches over me.”

What 3-year-old talks like that??? We may have our own medium in the family.