Reese Charlie Tobin

The newest addition to our family, our daughter Reese, arrived March 12th, 2012. She weighed in at 7.1lbs and measured 18.5 inches long. We are happy to welcome a healthy baby to our family. Reese has been sleeping well and eating even better. Danny has been loving and tender with her and has shown no signs of jealousy yet. He tries to be helpful by getting diapers, shaking the formula up, and giving her a pacifier if she starts to cry. Sometimes it’s a little too rough but he’s only 18 months old and doesn’t know his own strength but it’s been encouraging to see him love his little sister so much.

This past week, as expected, has been an extreme ride on an emotional roller coaster. In addition to our new arrival, we had to deal with some scary news. Vanessa had a mole removed from her leg a few weeks ago that turned out to be melanoma. A week ago- less than 48 hours after Vanessa gave birth to Reese- Vanessa had to have Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy surgery to remove more tissue from around the mole and to remove two lymph nodes. We got the news this morning that there were no traces of the cancer spreading. (Suck it, cancer.) Spending the first week of my daughter’s life waiting for results to see if my wife’s skin cancer had spread or not was overwhelming at times. Needless to say, we breathed a huge sigh of relief when we found out Vanessa is all clear.

We are overjoyed to have a new baby while at the same time extremely sad that Reese will never know Charlie. While we both know that this feeling will always be with us, I don’t think either of us expected it to be this intense this past week. We both know and feel that Charlie can never be replaced. However, I do think that we both subconsciously thought that maybe Reese’s birth would help alleviate some of our pain. It hasn’t. Not even a little. It’s actually been magnified because having a baby is an emotionally charged experienced and we’re carrying sad emotions everyday. In addition to being parents to a new baby girl, we’re parents to a dead son. That’s a fact. So every high that we experience will always have our grief attached to it (like that anchor I wrote about in my last post). It could be three, ten, or fifty years from now; we’ll still be grieving Charlie. It’s unfair to both of our living children but this our life. There’s nothing we can do to change it so we’re going to continue to live it how we see fit. That means making both Danno and Reese aware that they had an older brother through stories, pictures, and videos. That means not avoiding our emotions and guilt but talking about them openly with each other and those we trust.

The guilt keeps choking me out. I feel guilty that I subconsciously thought that Reese would be able to ease my pain. It’s unfair of me to saddle her with my grief and think she can carry this for me. I am proud of myself -amazing, I know- that I recognize this and know that I cannot allow myself to think Reese is here to make things better. Can Reese and Dan help me? Absolutely. But I can’t expect them to do the work. I have to carry it and make sure it doesn’t drag them down or make them feel inadequate because they’re not Charlie. I’m going to love them for who they are and not dwell on who they are not. I’m going to try to take this guilt I have and use it as fuel to get back to being the father I know I can be for Dan and Reese.

To my daughter Reese,

I’ve loved you since the moment I laid eyes on you. I promise to be the best father I can be to you. I promise to be here for you whenever you need me. (And probably when you don’t need or want me to be there too.) I promise to love, encourage, support and protect you all of the days of my life.

Love, Dad

Here are some pictures of our daughter Reese:

Here is a picture of Danny, my niece Natalie, Reese, and my nephew Mike. My sister Colleen delivered Mike on February 26th. Danno gently put his arm “around” Natalie when we started taking pictures. He kept it there for the majority of the “photo shoot”. We all got a good laugh. He’s quite the character.

Here’s a picture of Danno and Reese by the brick that was dedicated in Charlie’s honor at the Park Ridge Public Library. It makes me sick to know that Danno and Reese will be brought to places with plaques and bricks that honor their older brother that they’ll never personally know.

Charlie’s Room

I remember getting home from the hospital. I walked into his room and collapsed onto his unmade mattress. The darkness of the room blinding; the silence deafening. It felt like something was pulling me from under the bed and through the ground into a gigantic void. I could feel my soul emptying out of me and anchoring to this spot. This spot of my life when everything changed. This spot on his bed where I physically felt the weight of the universe collapsing in on me. Charlie would never sleep in this bed again. His bed was dead. His room was dead. Charlie was dead.

Every night I go into Charlie’s room to say goodnight to my dead son. I get that pit in my stomach and chills up my spine as I cross the threshold into his room without him in it. Death hangs in the air as I say, “I miss you. I love you,” and kiss a piece of fabric that has his picture on it. This is my routine every night. This routine is going to stop within the next three weeks. I’m dreading the halt of this routine more than I did the one year anniversary of his death. One year is just a metric of time. I’m going to hurt forever so one year is just that; one year out of forever.

We had to break down Charlie’s big boy bed and convert it back into a crib. We had to take his clothes out of the dresser to make room for newborn clothes. It felt like I was erasing his existence from our house. It felt like I was packing up Charlie, shoving him into our crawl space and out of my life. It felt like I had to do what I always fear others have already done- move on. When we decided to convert Charlie’s room into a nursery two weekends ago, I started by moving a package of overnight diapers from his closet and into Danny’s closet. I completely broke down. I felt that anchor pulling me back into that void. I couldn’t do it. Vanessa, her sister Jen, and her Mom did it while I was at work later in the week. That so-called “strength” people have told me that I have exhibited the past 13 months was nowhere to be found. I turned into a puddle after moving one box of diapers. Strength? What a bunch of bullshit. It’s more like acting combined with rote responses to give people the illusion that I’m ok.  And the Oscar goes to. . .

Our baby is due in under three weeks. I’m supposed to be thrilled. I’m supposed to be excited. Instead I’m afraid. I fear people will think us having another baby is a statement that we are all better now. That we’ve “finally started to move on.” We are not moving on. We are continuing to live. There’s a big difference. A piece of my soul will always be anchored to that spot of my life when Charlie died. I’m trying to be strong enough to carry it and my family through this life. I fear people will think our new baby will be a replacement for Charlie. No one can ever replace Charlie. Never. I don’t give a shit what anyone thinks about me. . . except for this. I am beyond passionate about making sure people realize that we are not trying to replace Charlie. It’s borderline maniacal. I remember people telling me in those early days, “At least you’re young. You can have more kids.” It took a great deal of restraint for me to not put their heads into the wall. Honestly. I know, or at least hope, that they weren’t insinuating that we could replace Charlie but it still made me angry. I also wanted to tell these people who told me how young I am that we couldn’t have another baby b/c I got a vasectomy three weeks before Charlie died.

When we found out we were pregnant my Mom made me promise that our next child would never know that we weren’t planning on having him/her. But that’s not the right way to look at it. We weren’t planning on Charlie passing away. It’s not like our next child is a mistake. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. I endured a four hour surgery, that was not even guaranteed to work, performed by Dr. Merrill Matschke to reverse the vasectomy. A lot of people have funny stories about riding unicorns over rainbows after awaking from anesthesia. When I awoke from the anesthesia the nurse told me the first thing I said was, “I have to go find Charlie.” She got choked up as she told me that while I was trying to unhook the straps and IV’s attached to me I kept repeating, “No. You don’t understand. I have to go find Charlie.”

I feel guilty about having another baby. I feel guilty about feeling guilty b/c we’re having another baby. Yes, I feel guilty about feeling guilty. It’s a paradox that defines my life. Don’t get me wrong. I am over the moon that we are having another baby. I can’t wait to meet him/her and I can’t wait to love him/her with my whole heart. We both knew immediately after losing Char that we wanted to have another baby not only for us but for Danny as well. We want him to have a sibling and he’s going to have one that will only be 17 months younger than he. We are excited to watch them grow up together but there will always be that undercurrent of sadness knowing their older brother is now watching them from heaven. I am genuinely excited for our new baby but I do still feel guilty. My conflicting emotions have drawn a proverbial line in the sand. It’s a fine line and I have to walk it forever. Hopefully I can get better at walking it.

There is still more work to be done in converting Charlie’s room into a nursery that I need to do. Pictures, books, and other items need to be moved b/c Charlie’s room will be our next baby’s room. Charlie’s personalized license plate and his “Best Big Brother” medal will have to come down from his door. This will hurt me the most. He was so proud of the Big Brother medal and what it represented. It has to be done though. The baby deserves his/her own room and spot in our hearts. I will always be anchored to that day when Charlie died. Everytime I walk into that room I will remember how I could physically feel my soul bleeding out of me and pulling me down into a darkness so deep and heavy that I never thought I would rise.

I came across this quote the other day. “There are only two places to go when dropped to rock bottom: You can wallow there forever, asking questions that will never have palatable answers, or you can climb your way out and live.” Part of this climb is changing Charlie’s room into the baby’s room. I’m trying my best to climb my way out b/c I’m not doing it for me. I’m doing it for Vanessa. I’m doing it for Danny. I’m doing it for our new baby on the way. I’m doing it for Charlie. If I was only doing it for me, I probably would’ve given up a long time ago but knowing I’m responsible for three other people keeps me climbing with that anchor on my back. Like I’ve said before, I won’t stop. I can’t stop. I have to do it for them and I can’t let them down. They need me.

I’ve noticed that most of my posts end with this rallying cry but it’s how I truly feel. Whenever I go to or get pulled into that dark place I let myself stay there for a while because I need it. It’s part of my attachment to Charlie. I also know I can’t stay there. I know that it won’t serve me or those I love. It will do the exact opposite. That anchor will pull me under and drown out the happiness and joy in my life. I know that continuing to live and love does not mean I love or miss Charlie any less than I did the day he died. You need to know that although I know these things it does not mean I always feel this way. It’s where the guilt originates and festers inside of me. It’s why I can’t bring myself to move a box of diapers out of Charlie’s room. It’s why I feel guilty about changing Charlie’s room from one that feels dead and infusing it with new life. It’s why I’ll always have these conflicting emotions.

Charlie,

I want you to know that I love you with every fiber of my being and I am sorry. I am sorry that we are continuing to live. I am sorry that we are changing your room into a nursery. I am sorry that you died and I lived.  We are not replacing you.  We are not moving on. I’m going to keep climbing while carrying this anchor of grief until I finally get to see you again.  I love you. I miss you.

– Dad

One Year

The worst year of my life. The fastest year of my life. The longest year of my life.

What scares me about this horrific anniversary is that it’s only the first. Knowing I have to live the rest of my life without Charlie is what breaks me everyday.  Today was not any harder for me than yesterday or last week because I face Charlie’s death every second of everyday.  This isn’t a “sometimes” thing.  The only comfort or peace I’ve been able to accept is that the worst year is over. At least I think it is.  I’ve read that some people felt that the second year was the toughest and I’ve also read that the fifth year is the hardest.  Who knows?  All I know is that grief is as unique as the person carrying it.  Honestly, I can’t imagine ever experiencing the soul numbing pain that consumed every waking second of my life in those early months again. I know that I do feel different now. Not better. Different. One doesn’t get better after the death of their child. We just learn how to better carry our grief. That doesn’t mean there aren’t days where it’s just too much.  The weepy days when the smallest little thing triggers a bout of crying.  The angry days when the smallest little thing sets me off.  These days will forever be a part of who I am.

Today was extremely difficult.  Make no mistake about it.  But everyday is difficult.  We have an amazing support network that has helped us through since day one.  It was humbling and uplifting to see all of the family and friends at church to support us.  The amount of cards, emails, and text messages reminded us that we are not walking this unfathomable journey alone.  The number of visits to this blog today and since I launched it has surprised me.  I struggled to start this blog and I constantly struggle with its continuation.  I was concerned that people would not read it because they wouldn’t want to “go to the pain” of reading about me getting my heart ripped out. I am concerned it not as much about Charlie and his life as it is about my life without him.  I try to balance the two but I’m never satisfied with what I write but that’s just me being tough on myself.  As usual.  I tell Vanessa after every post that it was my last post.  I’ve told my sister Liz I’ve quit this blog countless times.  I’ve written 23 posts since June and after this one I’ll have had over 30,000 visits to my blog.  I realized pretty early on that my writing has helped some other bereaved parents.  Someone who lost a child is reading.  Someone who lost a child is watching the videos.  Someone who lost a child is looking at the pictures.  Someone that loves someone who lost a child is reading,watching, and looking too.  That’s enough for me to keep posting.

It’s been one year since my soul has been obliterated.  Personally, today didn’t bring anymore pain or grief than what I already fight everyday.  I miss Charlie like crazy but I don’t miss him any less today than I did one year ago.  It seems like I haven’t held Charlie in an eternity.  It’s been the longest year of my life.  It feels like yesterday when he died in my arms.  It’s been the fastest year in my life.  I haven’t been with Charlie in a year.  It’s been the worst year of my life.

Below is a video of pictures that my cousin made for us right after Charlie died.  It has his favorite songs dubbed over which means that youtube will eventually take it down.  If you’d like a copy leave a comment and I’ll try to mail you one.  The music kills me.  I remember Char walking around the house with my iPhone singing along to the songs.  He loved what he called, “The Alabama Song,” so much that he knew all of the words of the first two verses.

Charlie’s Last Video

It’s been a slow creep towards Charlie’s Death Day.  We don’t know what to expect other than a lot of tears and pain.  Whenever I go back to watch videos or look at pictures the grief chokes me out as I get closer to the last pictures and videos taken of Charlie.  This is the last video we took of Charlie.

He was watching the movie Open Season.  There was a part in which the deer crashed through a glass door while riding in a shopping cart.  Charlie loved how he yelled, “Hey,” before he went through the glass.  Watching it once was never enough.  He always asked, “Can we do that again?”  Of course we can, Char.    Of course we can.

 

 

Have a Little Faith?

I was reading some of my older posts the other day and I couldn’t stop thinking about the tagline I have below the title of my blog.  Off the Diving Board: A grieving dad’s leap of faith into a life without his son.  A leap of faith?  Faith in what?

In all of my posts, I’ve always written “when Charlie went to heaven” or “Charlie is in heaven.”  I have never written the following sentence.  Charlie is dead.  Maybe I thought that if I didn’t write that sentence it would not be true.  But it is true.  My sweet, engaging, beautiful, and loving son is dead.  He is gone forever.  I have a hard time believing that I will see him again.  The stories about heaven and being reunited with your loved ones, while comforting and idealistic to most, provide zero solace for me lately.  I know I once wrote, and honestly believed, that the best part about today is that I am one day closer to being with Charlie again.  I’m not believing that lately.  All I believe is what I know and all I know is Charlie is dead.

You be forced to make the decision to end life support for your son.  You hold your son when he’s taken off the ventilator and physically feel the life leave his body as it goes limp in your arms.  You go to the funeral home to check to see if your son looks “ok” in the open casket the day before his wake.  (He doesn’t look ok. He looks dead.)  You go to the cemetery to pick out a niche suitable for your son’s ashes.  You walk into his empty bedroom every morning and night.  Actually feel the grief of losing your child- not grandparent, parent, sibling, spouse, or friend- ripping apart your insides and then you can talk to me about heaven and all of it’s promises.  But even then, I’m still not listening.  (I’m not diminishing anyone’s grief over the loss of a loved one.  But if you’re a parent, you know without a shadow of doubt that if you had to choose between your kid or anyone else you would choose your kid to live everytime.)

I don’t want empty promises about being reunited in heaven.  I don’t want sympathetic overtures about having an angel look down upon me.  I don’t want quotes from the Bible, reassurances that God has a plan, plays to my ego that He only gives these burdens to those who can carry them, or that He only takes the good ones early.  You say God has a plan, huh?  You obviously like this plan b/c in this plan you still have your kid.  He only gives this burden to those whom can carry it?  You realize that means you’re not strong enough. It means you’re weak.  When people tell me, “I don’t know how you do it,” I get pretty annoyed.  What else can I do?  There’s really only one other option than not living and that’s ending my life.  I’m not going to do that but it doesn’t mean I’m more capable to carry this burden than you or anyone else.  He only takes the good ones early?  According to your illogical declaration that means your kid, and everyone else that is alive, is not good. (Hey, you said it. I didn’t.)  Nothing you can say to me, especially regarding God and heaven, will make Charlie’s death any easier for me to accept.

I’m not angry at God.  I’m not happy with God.  I guess it’s more of an indifference glazed with some disbelief.  I know Charlie is dead. . . I felt him die in my arms.  I don’t know if heaven is real. . . I’ve never been there.  I’ve read many books, including much of the Bible, that claim otherwise but I’m still not believing.  I remember someone telling me, “You will hold Charlie again.”  I cried. Not because I missed Charlie at that moment but b/c I didn’t believe him.  (This isn’t an invitation for anyone to try to convince me otherwise. It’s something I have to work through by myself.)  Immediately following Charlie’s death we went to church every week but the only reason I went was b/c Vanessa wanted to go. We eventually stopped going but I’m not sure why.  I just know Vanessa stopped asking if I wanted to go and I wasn’t about to force the issue b/c I didn’t feel it helped me.  I didn’t feel any closer to God or Charlie at church.  I just replayed Charlie’s funeral mass over and over in my head or I spent most of the time torturing myself by watching other children that were Charlie’s age interact with their parents.  The rest of the time I spent asking God, “Why?”  (I soon realized that I’ll never know why and have completely stopped asking myself that dangerous and unanswerable question.)

My tank is running low on faith but it’s not empty.  I have not found peace through prayer but that doesn’t mean I’ve completely eliminated it from my life.  God has always been a part of my life.  I went to a Catholic elementary and middle school.  I even went to a Jesuit university.  It’s been a while since we’ve gone to church but we’re going on the 23rd, Charlie’s Death Day.  The 12:10pm mass at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago has been dedicated to Charlie.  January 23rd.  Just another Monday to everyone else but not to us. I’ll go to church.  I’ll ask God for forgiveness for all of the bad things I’ve thought about Him, my sins, and my dwindling faith.  I’ll even ask him to take care of Charlie in heaven.  (I said my faith was running low, not completely extinguished.)

When I told Vanessa the other day that I don’t think I believe in heaven she seemed shocked.  After all, it was me in those early days after Charlie died that was reassuring her that he was safe in heaven.  It was me that told her that Jesus personally came to lead Charlie to heaven and that he was never scared or alone.  It was me that promised her that we’d see Charlie again.  And I believed every syllable I uttered to Vanessa.  Now here I am telling her I think it’s all bullshit.  That I don’t believe in heaven and I don’t think I’ll ever see Charlie again.  Vanessa was quick to say that if she doesn’t have faith in God then she’s left with nothing.  No hope of life after death.  No hope of being reunited with Charlie. No hope of achieving even the slightest amount of inner peace.  Vanessa is keeping the faith and helping me hang onto what little shreds I have left.  Honestly, I want to believe.  I want to have faith.  It’s just so hard.  I am not as strong as you think.  I am broken and a lot of my faith has seeped through the cracks.

“Off the Diving Board: A grieving dad’s leap of faith into a life without his son.”  I believed it when I first wrote it six months ago. I even thought it was clever. After all, Charlie loved that diving board and he jumped off without any hesitation b/c he had faith in me being there.  I stand on the edge of a different diving board.  My board is over a vast darkness that represents the void in my soul.  I walk out to the end of that board everyday I wake up. Some days I’m like Charlie. Unafraid and eager to take that leap. Most days I’m scared and paralyzed with the fear of the unknown.  The fear of facing another day without my son.  The fear of not knowing if I’ll ever be with Charlie again.  I need to find the strength to make that leap.  I need to believe I’ll hold Charlie again.  I need to have a little faith.

Merry Christmas Charlie

Dear Charlie,

We miss hearing you remind us that your are a good boy and not on the naughty list like Swiper.

We miss hearing you tell us what you want for Christmas.  Last year you would say, “Thomas Trains, Hungry Hungry Hippos, and presents.  And that’s all I want for Christmas.  Please.”  Always please.

We miss getting the milk and cookies ready for Santa with you.

We miss hearing your mischievous giggle at the top of the stairs when you’re supposed to be in bed.

We miss hearing you talk yourself to sleep.

We miss having you wake us up and hearing you say, “Santa brought us presents!”  Never “me” or “mine”.  Always “us” and “ours”.  You were such a sweet and tender boy.

We miss hearing your say, “Can we open it?” in your raspy and melodic voice after EVERY present you unwrapped.  (I miss your voice so much.)

We miss you so much.  This week has been hard but I want to thank you for our present. On 12/23/11, exactly eleven months after you went to heaven, your Aunt Liz and Uncle Eshoo delivered your cousin.  Natalie Charlie Eshoo came screaming into this world weighing 7lbs and 3oz.  For the first time, I truly feel you’ve sent me a sign and it’s the best present I’ve ever received.

Merry Christmas Charlie.  We miss you.

Here’s a clip from Christmas morning last year.  Charlie’s generous and endearing personality is on full display here.  Instead of feeling full of love and happiness this year, I feel violated and cheated.  He was such a good boy.  It’s so unfair he’s not with us.

That is not my Son

It was a little after 4am in Las Vegas on January 22nd, 2011.  A few of us were sharing laughs about the night we had just experienced and waiting for our room service in the lounge area of our 2500 square foot suite at The Encore.  In the previous 24 hours I had flown in a private jet, got picked up by limos on the tarmac, watched my friend win more money in an hour than I make in a year, and enjoyed VIP bottle service at XS.  It was as if I was living in a dream enjoying a lifestyle well beyond my means.  Then my phone rang and my life changed forever.

(My initial reaction was that of excitement.  I figured Char had awoken a little early and asked Vanessa if he could call me.  I looked at the caller id and see it’s my Mom.  My stomach hit the floor.)

“Mom, why are you calling me?”

“Bry, Charlie is sick.  Vanessa is with him at the hospital.  He’s been having seizures and they can’t get them to stop.  You need to come home.”

I don’t remember too much after hearing those words.  I remember breaking down in the shower.  The brevity of the situation crashing down upon me as I tried to digest what the hell was happening back in Chicago.  I tried to tell my friends to stay and that I’d find a commercial flight home.  They would have none of that.  I was in trouble.  I needed help.  And there was no way a single one of them would let me go it alone.  (I have the best friends a guy could ask for.  And I love all of you.  Thank you for all you’ve done and continue to do.)  I finally got a hold of Vanessa.  I could hear the desperation in her voice.  “He’s coded twice.  They’re giving him a spinal tap.  Please get here as fast as you can.”

We had to stop twice on the way back to refuel.  I was able to get scattered reports from family members about Charlie- none of which had good news or encouraging updates.  Just a bunch of unanswered questions, fear, and tears.  When I finally got to the hospital, Charlie was getting a MRI so I was unable to see him.  They told us to wait up in the PICU and that he’d be up there in a little bit.  I couldn’t wait in the room so I stood by the elevator and waited to see my son.

I will NEVER forget the moment his bed came out of the elevator.  “That is not my son,” I said to no one in particular but to everyone around me.

The nurses and doctors, most of whom are Vanessa’s friends and colleagues, started sobbing when I said that b/c they knew too.  The lifeless body with empty eyes on that bed was not my Charlie.  It was a body that once hosted the beautiful spirit of my son.  Dr. Belmonte approached me with tears filling his already red and puffy eyes.  I asked him, “If he lives, will it be in a vegetative state?”  Frank –I’m referring to Dr. Belmonte as Frank here b/c it was Frank, not Dr. Belmonte, that answered my question- looked me dead in the eye and answered me as a friend, fellow father, and man.  “Yes.  It is very likely that he will be in a vegetative state.”

I knew it was over the instant I saw Charlie on that bed.  There was never a glimmer of hope for me.  I could tell just by looking at him.  I couldn’t feel the energy or aura that defined Charlie. We sat by his bed all day and night.  Family and friends that were visiting were telling me to hold out hope and that there was still a chance he’d come around but I knew they were either trying to make me feel better, delusional, or both.  The next morning they did more tests on his body.  I remember the doctor pushing so hard on his abdomen that I got angry b/c I thought he was hurting him.  Charlie didn’t flinch.  (I’m told he didn’t flinch when he received the spinal tap either.  This haunts the doctor who performed the spinal tap to this day.)  They did more tests desperately seeking some sort of reaction.  All produced the result I knew they would.  Completely brain dead.  They told us we could keep him on the machines but there was no chance of a recovery.  We had to make a decision no parent should ever have to make.

Charlie officially died the instant we turned off life support on January 23rd, 2011 but in my eyes he was dead before I even got to the hospital the day before.  That was not my son hooked up to those machines.  That was Charlie’s body but that was not my son.  Vanessa and I were allowed as much time as we wanted to be with Charlie.  We stayed with him for hours but it felt like 30 seconds.  We held him.  We read to him. We washed him.  I remember picking him up and holding him with his arms draped around my shoulders and trying to squeeze the life back into him as I uncontrollably sobbed.  I also vividly remember the big bump on the back of his head near his neck.  It’s where his skull cracked from the pressure of his brain exploding.  A while later we finally had to say our goodbye and left the room where I literally felt my son die in our arms.  I have not been the same since.

                            ——————————————————————

That is not my Daddy.

My Daddy isn’t crippled by guilt.  Not a second goes by where he doesn’t beat himself up for not being home the one morning I needed him most.  My Daddy doesn’t get anxious going to work, hanging out with friends and family, or meeting new people.  He never knew what anxiety felt like until January 23, 2011.  Now he can’t walk 10 steps without thinking if the person who just passed him notices the pain in his eyes.  My Daddy isn’t afraid to love deeply and without fear of loss.  He never feared anything.  Now he checks on Danny in the middle of the night to make sure he’s breathing.

Nope.  The man you see hiding behind the shaggy hair, scraggly beard, and sunken eyes is not my Daddy.  He’s a man wounded and forever changed by losing me.  He’s a man that cherishes my memory and agonizes over my spirit and life being trivialized or forgotten.  He’s a man that can’t look at his wife without being absolutely crushed by the fact she had to experience that fateful morning alone.  He’s a man that hates himself with an unforgiving and unquantifiable intensity because he was not there to help me.  Because of this hatred he is sometimes blinded from all of the good still left in his life.  The man you see will never be the man that was my Daddy again. . .  but he’s promised me to try to let his love flow freely and deeply.  It’s going to be extremely difficult but he’s going to will himself to do it.  He can’t give up.  He won’t give up.  He’s going to do it for Vanessa.  He’s going to do it for Danny.  He’s going to do it for my new sibling on the way.  He’s going to do it for me.  THAT is my Daddy and it’s why I love him.

Here is a video of Charlie when he was 20 months.  I miss him so much.