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Sunday night my wife, her mom and our friend Megan went to another show of Theresa Caputo’s, the Long Island Medium. We hauled out to the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills (oohhhh la la) with seats on the floor this time. Jax came to Theresa again, and this time she saw us stand up and flail our arms for attention. This is our story.
Life’s been busy. I haven’t written anything on this site since November 1. Mostly because I don’t have the energy. Two-and-a-half hours in a car, a new job that requires full brain power and juggling the crazy schedule of a NICU night nurse have worn me down. So I completely forgot that my wife bought tickets for us to see Theresa Caputo again. A friend also going to the show kept reminding me.
As last Monday rolled around, I began to feel anxious. With seats on the floor this time, my expectations and hopes of Jax coming through and Theresa reaching us were sky-high. As the days led up to Sunday, I started talking to Jax. I told him the date, time and place. Described Theresa’s big hair and loving personality. Reminded him this was the same person he connected with last time. But that she couldn’t see us or reach us. I told him that his mom and I wanted to hear from him so badly. I told him he’d have to be strong. He’d have to speak up and be loud so Theresa could hear him.
I also prayed. I asked God, again, if Theresa’s gifts are from Him, that she could see/hear/feel Jax. That whatever Jax is doing for God on the other side, that He’d let Jax use his energy to reach Theresa.
As the weekend approached Sunday was all I could think about. My wife worked. We took the kids to see Santa Saturday night. But it felt like it was all just time filler until Sunday night.
On Sunday morning I got the kids’ breakfast ready and tried to wake up my wife to go to church. I failed. As they chomped on donuts and bananas, I felt anxious. Not a pleasant anxious, but a fearful anxious. What if we just got really lucky last time? What if it wasn’t Jax last time? What if nothing happens? I tried to spin it in my head that it was a night out to see a show. I made sure we had some good pre-show dinner options. And that all of our options had booze. My mind game didn’t work. I just kept hoping, hoping and hoping.
I took the kids to my parents to spend the night and talked to my mom a bit. She was anxious for us. I could see how deeply she just wanted something good to happen for us. I went home with thoughts of football and my dorky fake baseball draft preparation to look forward to. It helped distract me.
Megan met at our house, we got in the car and I forgot to print the tickets. Back on the road for a second time, we met my mother-in-law on the way there, picked her up and headed to Beverly Hills to eat.
We ended up at Rocco’s Italian Kitchen about a mile away from the theater on Wilshire. It scored four stars on Yelp and reviews praised their pizza. The service, though, was horrible.
About halfway through dinner two fire trucks pulled in front of the restaurant. The ladder truck was number 61 and the other was number 261. My wife either looked at me or said something, I don’t exactly remember. But there it was. More fire trucks.
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.
So there we were. A fire truck parked outside Rocco’s window. Right in front of our Camry. With the number six in it. Coincidence or an omen?
While we were eating, Theresa finished the 3 p.m. show. We found out later that Jax talked to her well before our show at 7 p.m. She picked up a boy who drowned. And he told her that his parents would be at the show and that she needed to talk to us. I was likely licking my hot sauce-soaked fingers from the buffalo wings I clutched around that same time. Go me.
We packed our to-go boxes in the Camry and hustled on over to find parking, which isn’t very convenient in the area. With about 20 minutes until show time, Megan and I hit up the tiny bar and grill next to the theater for some shots while my wife and her mom found bathrooms in the theater. The two Miller Lites at Rocco’s didn’t calm me enough. But that large kamikaze shot sure helped.
After waiting for a mom and daughter to get out of the single-toilet men’s restroom, I peed and we found our seats. My wife had butterflies in her stomach. I was calm. The booze washed it away. Or, more likely, God brought me peace. He knew what was going to happen.
Theresa came out on stage. The show was beginning. I’m not positive, since I don’t remember this kind of thing, but she might have worn the same outfit in June when we saw her in Cerritos. I know she was wearing those same disco-ball like high heels. Those are unforgettable. She gave the same spiel and then finally started to talk to Spirit.
“Who has a finger print and ashes with them?” Theresa asked the crowd to start. “This is from a boy.”
My wife, her mom and me instantly stood in unison and waved our arms. But Theresa got stuck with someone closer to her. No one else, at least that I saw, raised their hands. This other person only had a finger print – no ashes. And it was for a girl, not a boy.
My mother-in-law was wearing a necklace with Jax’s finger print, just like the first show. My wife couldn’t connect the ashes, and I quickly said “tattoos” and pointed at my forearm. Both of us had very small portion of his ashes in the ink we were tatted with. Then she really started waiving her arms.
Theresa moved towards us. HOLY SHIT JAX YOU’RE A STUD! YOU DID IT AGAIN! YOU’RE SUCH A FREAKING STUD! That’s all I thought. How in the hell did he pull this off twice? If you don’t recall, he was first at the Cerritos show, but we were too far away for Theresa to see or reach us. We stayed standing and they passed us mics. Two camera men set up on each side of Theresa as she faced us from the aisle.
“You lost your son am I correct?” she asked. “And you lost him suddenly and/or tragically?” We nodded.
Now, I’m not going to get into the play-by-play of what was said. Simply because I don’t want to misquote or anything. The four of us spent the drive home talking about the experience and I tried to take notes. But I will paraphrase what Theresa told us.
Understand that we’re standing this whole time at our seats holding the mics, Theresa’s in the aisle and the entire theater is watching us on the big screen. She told us twice that this is the first time she’s ever started a show in the back of the room.
She began by telling us that he took responsibility for the way he died. That confused me. She said she felt like this was a preventable accident. Like it shouldn’t have happened. And it’s mysterious how it happened. Which it was. An adult right next to him, adults all around the pool. Very preventable. The guilt weighs on me daily. It’s the cross I carry. How could he take responsibility???
Theresa said it happened in an instance. She saw a snap of a finger. He didn’t suffer.
She said there was a father figure with him. We couldn’t think of anyone. After she moved on from that, my Uncle Tom popped in my head. He’s the only male figure in my life that has passed. He also passed tragically and unexpectedly. Could it be him? She then asked about a motherly figure. Kristina’s grandma died when Jax was 2. That was her. He’s with loved ones.
“He told me he’s making himself bigger,” Theresa said with a smile, as if Jax was so proud to tell her.
She described Jax as so full of energy. Radiant. He’d run up to her and jump in her arms. Those of you that knew Jax could see this. So happy, so much energy. So passionate.
Theresa got on a roll. Is his room untouched? Did we release balloons in his memory? Yep and Yep. Then she asked how we related to the number seven. We told her we didn’t.
“Something about a daughter and the number seven,” Theresa said. Holy crap that’s Presley, our first baby. She passed in July at 16 weeks gestation. She told us he brings this up to let us know that she’s with him.
Theresa asked if I carried Jax after his death. I did. I carried him from the hospital bed to the couch my wife sat on to hold him. And then back again to the bed. She asked if we spent time talking with him before the funeral. And we did. She said nothing was left unsaid. He got all of it.
“Was he buried in casual clothes?” Kind of. “Because he showed me dressed in a suit, then he spun around and was wearing casual clothes.” And she knew that we kept the outfit from his funeral. He was, however, cremated wearing an Iron Man costume.
Jax told Theresa his mom was pretty. Random, eh? In the middle of everything he said that.
Theresa asked if we had a dog. Which, if you know my wife, is laughable. No, we answered. She asked because she sees something being attracted to his room. Something that senses his spirit.
“Those are our other kids,” I answered. Gray is fascinated by his big brother and his room. Sometimes Ellie will join him in knocking on the door, looking underneath the door and asking to go in to his room. Fortunately they don’t open the door themselves. They respect it. But those are our “dogs.” They want inside.
She looked at me. My long-sleeved shirt covered both arms to my wrists ever since we parked the car. For a reason.
“Do you have his face or a picture of him tattooed on you?” I rolled up my right sleeve to show her. I told her I purposely made sure to keep my sleeves down. A little later she asked my wife if she had anything with her that Jax had written. She showed Theresa her small tattoo on her left wrist. It’s a copy of J-A-X in his own writing.
Theresa told me she sees Jax standing behind me, saluting. That’s her symbol that he’s proud. He’s proud that I was his dad. I lost it. Strangers were handing us tissues.
She asked if we took a family portrait before he died. We couldn’t think of anything. Then Megan reminded us of a giant photo in our front room of us at the Angel game. It was taken four days before he died. It was the last family photo taken of the five of us. Gray looks at that photo when he’s missing his mom, or me. And he likes to look at Jax.
She also asked if we’ve taken a family picture lately. Which we did, last Monday. She said he was with us.
Theresa asked if we’re grieving differently. We are. I was at the pool party, she wasn’t. I had control of the situation, she didn’t. Then Theresa asked if one of us felt guilty for not being there. My wife shared she did. She struggles with it a lot.
“But you weren’t supposed to be there,” Theresa told her. She described to us an episode of her show. A mom spent every day with her son. The one day she didn’t, the son drowned and died. When Theresa communicated with the departed son, he said she wasn’t there because she wouldn’t be able to handle it.
Theresa put her finger to her mouth, put her head down and thought for a few seconds. She asked if we’re worried that he’ll be forgotten. My wife and I have discussed this. We both have this fear, but my wife really struggles with this. We want to keep his memory alive. It’s why we do the CHOC Walk. It’s why we’re going to sponsor the Brewers tee-ball Little League team in Corona. And it’s why there’s a plaque hanging in his preschool with a scholarship in his name.
She went on to tell us that our situation was similar. It’s my soul’s burden to live with the fact that I was the one at the pool party that day with Jax. Because I wouldn’t want my wife to have to live with that. And that’s true. But damnit that’s a heavy thing to carry around.
I know this has been jumbled and probably doesn’t read well. I’m just listing shit. I don’t know how else to let you know all that was said. As she moved on from us we sat down. My brain was fried. It was hard to pay attention for the next 115 minutes.
The show ended and the theater emptied out. We stayed near our seats and talked. My wife’s mom and Megan went upstairs to the bathroom and my wife and I stood around the theater lobby. We talked a little. Hugged. Then I started to feel stares and looks. A few people came up to us. One asked to see my wife’s tattoo. Others offered condolences and joy that Theresa found us.
Over 24 hours later I don’t feel closure that I thought I would. I mean, what happened is f’ing awesome. And I’m so grateful and it puts me in awe of Jax. Maybe I’m still wrapping my brain around it. Maybe what I thought would fill the giant hole in my heart only numbs the pain, like everything else I’ve tried.
Or maybe it’s a level of peace built to last. I don’t really ever talk to him. That’s going to change. I know he’s safe. I know he wasn’t scared. I know he’s with us. Maybe that’s the foundation that will build the new me. The me that won’t let grief keep me from becoming the person God intends me to be. The me that can enjoy Gray and Ellie for who they are; they aren’t Jax.
The me that doesn’t sit around waiting to die and see Jax again.