Hi Baby Boy. I love you. I’ve had so many distractions, but I’m finally getting to write to you instead of just constantly thinking about you and wishing I could tell you all of these things in person. I miss you. I miss my happy baby. I miss your hugs and kisses more than anything. I still send them to you and I hope you feel my love no matter how far you go. The longer time goes by I wonder if that means you are farther and farther “into the light” or somehow farther removed from this world and it makes me even more sad having all this space separating us. You weren’t a baby anymore but you will always be my baby boy, Caleb.
You know how much you love babies? It’s hard for Mommy to explain, but I love you even more than that. I don’t think I ever told you this but that saying, “I love you so much it hurts” is true. I think you only know the kind of love that doesn’t come with any hurt, but I’m telling you, you are the most powerful little boy I’ve ever met. I still find it so shocking how you manage to climb right into hearts so quickly. It reminds me of how you used to get yourself up to your car seat after “2s” all by yourself (but I think you captivate people even faster than that). You never wanted any help as you grunted and pulled yourself from the pavement and floorboard all the way into your seat. When you got yourself twisted and shimmied into position you always gave Mommy one of your trademark smiles that I tell everyone all about. It’s like you were telling me “See Mommy, I did it!”
Baby Boy, I was so proud of you then and I’m forever proud of you now. I hope you are still smiling with your whole face the way you did in the little #HUNK picture where you are cheesing it extra wide. I can’t wait to see that smile with your whole face again one day. One of the things I know for certain and don’t have to wonder about is if you know Daddy and I love you. You made it so easy to love you while you were here and you still do.
We love you and really do think of you non-stop, but every 9th we go a little outside our comfort zone to make sure others get to know you, too. May’s Nice On The 9th was all about honoring people behind the scenes. People who don’t normally receive much appreciation or hear very many “thank yous,” especially trash collectors, maintenance people, and housekeepers. We picked two people in our lives and chose two others who were nominated on your Facebook page.
Mommy started the day in Piedmont surprising Mr. George who picks up trash for the ENTIRE rapidly growing town! That’s right! One truck, one funny guy with a positive attitude, and one helping heart. He is still following his mommy’s advice she gave him as a kid and tries not to take anyone too seriously. His buddy, Christen Askren Hannegan nominated him and this is why: “George is our trash truck driver out in Piedmont. He is a great guy and he does a great job. He walks up to get carts of our elderly or handicapped customers, not because he has to but because that’s who he is. People aren’t always nice to him but he goes above and beyond anyway and takes pride in his work. I nominate George.”
Christen told George that she needed him to come to the office to discuss some emails so he was trying to think about what he could’ve done wrong. Christen assured him he wasn’t in trouble but the man in the yellow, reflective vest and industrial headset was even more surprised when I told him why I came to visit. I explained to him how you would’ve loved to meet him and how your cousin in Chicago loves trash trucks! George told me that if he sees kids out admiring the truck he will stop and let them check it out or wail on the horn. Isn’t that awesome?! Remember when we got to go inside a trash truck at “Touch-a-Truck?” We might have received some disapproving looks and scolding for honking the horn, but you loved it (sorry, not sorry)!
You loved vroom vrooms of all shapes and sizes, but you especially loved opening and closing the hatch on your blue recycling truck and staring at the wheels. No matter how many times I told you that it was a recycling truck, you always called it a “twash twuck.”
While I was there, a man came in with an injured leg and pushing a scooter. He said George pulled his trash barrel in for him and shook his hand. Nice timing. :)
I had a chance to talk to Mr. George for quite a while and I could see him tear up every now and then. I held it together and told him to keep his eyes open for some extra ladybugs. Booger Bear, it would be really awesome if you would send some his way and introduce yourself, too.
Daddy honored the janitor at his work who cleans up after some really yucky situations. DaDa talked to Tyler before, but never knew his name. He made it a point to use your special day to find out. Tyler is an especially quiet, hard-working person who perfectly fit the description of the kind of selfless spirit we wanted to reward. You weren’t old enough to clean the potty, but this is one of the things a janitor does as part of their daily to-do list. It is not a fun job, especially when it’s not even your own potty mess but Tyler makes sure every inch is scrubbed to perfection. Most people like having a clean bathroom to use, but probably don’t think about the people who keep it that way. Daddy made sure to thank Tyler and gave him the bag of goodies for a job well done. We hope Tyler realizes that his work is important and so is he.
Daddy met me in Edmond and no introductions are needed for this next recipient, Jeff Freshour or just plain “Jeff” to you. After switching to your new class, Mr. Jeff would wait for you to come to “school” downtown everyday. Right after saying “hi” to Nemo, Jeff would be waiting by the door to get your “fives” and hear your sweet, tiny voice announce, “Hi, Jeff!” You were ALWAYS so excited to see him and so was he. You had recently transitioned to the 2-year-old class on the other side of the building and I wasn’t sure how I would like it after having such wonderful teachers who doted on you in “1s.” I knew it wouldn’t phase you one bit as you had been to several new classes in your life without batting an eye. I was right. You never missed a beat going into another room and being with new friends but Jeff made the new routine easier for ME. I always felt better after seeing him and soon I learned your new teachers adored you, too. They taught you things like how to drink out of a cup without a lid and always commented on your sense of wonder for learning new things.
You loved to learn and I loved watching your various dramatic expressions as you took things in for the first time. I memorized your new teachers’ names but I wouldn’t have known Jeff’s without you. Jeff didn’t work specifically for the daycare, but rather took care of the building maintenance for all of St. Luke’s. We didn’t go to church then and never went to any activities outside of your daycare so it was only in those morning exchanges that I got to know Jeff. Being kind to you and making you feel special was not part of his job requirements but he waited for us every day and always made us smile anyway.
I don’t know if you see all the things he takes care of, but the church and daycare have all kinds of activities going on at each campus and he usually has a hand in helping in some way or the other. There are regular church services, yoga classes, bible studies, birthday parties, luncheons, meetings, service projects, and special events. Jeff works up a sweat moving hundreds of chairs from place-to-place and keeps everything in the building (and some things outside, too) running smoothly. Then he comes back and helps run the Audio-Visual equipment on the weekends, too.
Yes, Jeff is behind many different scenes in a variety of venues. I don’t know what his hours are, but they are definitely not Monday through Friday from 8 to 5. He works until the job is done and then goes home and keeps working on projects there as well.
One project I know he never wanted to have to add to his schedule was your memorial service. Jeff never grumbled when the room where you used to play started running out of chairs as the time to celebrate you grew nearer. He just quietly got a red dolly and kept moving more and more seats into the room. After your service was over he also didn’t complain about having to retrieve some sneaky helium balloons off the ceiling that were probably more than a hundred feet in the air.
After losing you we came back to collect your things from your cubby. There were so many hugs and even more tears. We did our best to make it through seeing your teachers and your classmates but walking through those halls and seeing Jeff was especially crushing. Everyone still loves you there and is devastated but when I look into Jeff’s eyes I also see the heartbreak he holds for you there. I know he misses you, too. I’ve often wondered if he still gives fives to the kids or if losing you has made him a little more guarded.
Jeff may wear the keys to every room of the church on his belt loop, but you never needed a key or any extra chairs to take up residence deep inside his heart. Once again, we did our best to hold it all together but Jeff broke all of us. I told him that I wished I had you with me to give him his surprise and I hope somehow, I still did. Daddy and I gave him some fives and told him how much we love him. Don’t forget to send him some signs sometimes, too, okay? Thank you, Baby Boy.
After redoing what is supposed to be “waterproof” mascara (something I’ve worn since the day of your service, May 6th), Daddy and I headed to Guthrie to meet our last winner, Eduardo Robles at St. Mary Catholic School. Susan Barron nominated him and told us “He’s a friend to all & has worked hard to keep our school together for 20+ years! He’s always smiling, the kids love him & he’s an incredibly hard worker!!!”
We didn’t make the connection that we were visiting a school named after Saint Mary until we typed it into our GPS. Before calling Eduardo to come meet us and despite never knowing anything about your rose stories, Susan also had one of her own. WHAT?!
Susan couldn’t be more correct and we couldn’t have picked a more deserving person. Eduardo does not look even remotely close to his age but I think his positive attitude and being around all the kids keep him young at heart. He was humbled to be receiving any special attention, and like George, he kept telling us what a blessed man he was.
Mommy can’t feel things like she used to but for whatever reason I think her ESP (which stands for Extrasensory Perception and is like a 6th sense about things - something you had firing every second of every day) is getting better. We like to include personal notes in every random act of kindness we do and I just got an overwhelming feeling that Eduardo was a very gentle person. In his note I thanked him for being a gentle soul before I ever met him.
Eduardo is a petite, soft-spoken man, but perked up when the kids would walk by and say “hi” or refer to him as “Edward.” We heard he is also known for sharing candy and going above and beyond for anyone who needs his help, but we hope he keeps some of his new gifts to enjoy for himself, too.
Eduardo was the perfect ending to visiting all the honorees who work so hard despite not many people knowing or appreciating all the ways that make them special. We explained what the 9th means to us, but our mouths dropped open when Eduardo told us why May 9th was so significant to him. Eduardo explained that his wife died many years ago but May 9th was his wedding day! WOW! Maybe you have met his wife now, too.
I never would have believed all of these little things, and sometimes I still struggle to truly know you had a hand in orchestrating some of these connections. I know it usually takes a little more convincing or a few extra signs, but I hope you will keep being patient with your mommy.
After visiting Eduardo, Daddy and I went to Valliance Bank where we got to see our friend, Bridget Jaime. We already had a whirlwind of emotions all day and apparently, I needed some talk therapy because Mommy was chattering about a thousand words a minute as soon as we saw her. I wasn’t sure if Bridget already filled Debbie (the lady that opened your new account) in on The Caleb Effect so I was cautiously trying to keep my “game face” on before I thought I would have to answer any questions about why we were there and what our foundation is doing. Luckily, Daddy was not as overwhelmed or sleep-deprived as I was, so he took care of most of the business of opening the new account while I caught Bridget up with my flurry of thoughts.
It didn’t take long but when Daddy and I found out Debbie already knew all about you, we told her some of the ways you are making the world a nicer place. I also told her how I’ve known Bridget for over 20 years and how we met while we were both working at camp at Lake Murray in July. The camp was really delipidated with holes in the walls and floorboards, no air-conditioning, and uninvited campers such as Copperheads and scorpions. However, going through this unique experience together also helped create lifelong bonds with all of us who worked as staff.
We don’t wish this the unique and unpleasant situation we have wrestled since May 2nd on anyone, but we love it when people like Bridget embrace your message and continue to show the ways they love all three of us.
I also wanted Debbie to know how special Bridget is so I told her how excited I was just to be invited to Bridget’s little boy’s upcoming birthday party. That’s fairly unusual for us now, so when I read the rest of the details on the event I was absolutely blown away. I know you must remember me writing to you about this, but instead of asking for presents for her baby, she told everyone they could bring a toy to donate to The Caleb Effect! Debbie hadn’t even read the heartfelt message that went with the invitation that made Mommy ugly cry, but this detail sent her over the edge and had her stopping the official paperwork to reach for a Kleenex. I knew right then and there, even with her phone ringing and multi-tasking capabilities that were keeping her on her toes, you had claimed another unsuspecting admirer. (We might as well climb to the top of their tower and put a flag there that says, “Caleb was here!”) We also think she’s going to have fun giving out the dozen vroom vrooms Daddy left for her to distribute to her littlest patrons (those are customers).
Little “Doo-duh” (the way you pronounced dude), the next part of the story changes everything for The Caleb Effect. You never did much of anything on our schedule so it shouldn’t be surprising that this piece of the puzzle didn’t happen on our timetable either.
Last month Mommy “happened” to drop off some vroom vrooms to our friend, Lance for his Alzheimer’s fundraiser project. As I told you, I saw that yellow Hummer on the way there and even got a picture of it but didn’t think more about it until today. Lance asked how The Caleb Effect was coming along and I told him how we had met some incredible people along the way but had experienced a series of setbacks in the path of becoming an official 501(c)(3). We have been planning to take this next step since his news crew showed up at Aunt RoRo’s house 10 months ago, so I suppose it was also fitting that this idea was planted in our heads and also became reality with his assistance, too.
As it turned out, when I was talking to Lance West he told me he might have a friend who could help. Sure enough, a few days after our conversation he put us in touch with her and she sprang into action.
Since we started celebrating Nice On The 9th one year ago, yesterday, we decided it would be the perfect day to make your foundation official. I hope you already know the big news we shared yesterday, but Caleb, you now OFFICIALLY have a non-profit organization!! Yes, Baby Boy, on May 9th, Kelli Masters filed our papers for us and The Caleb Effect became “The Caleb Effect Foundation!!!!!!!!!” Is that awesome or what?! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (I really hope you are clapping for yourself right now.)
All day yesterday, I couldn’t help but think about how these nominations and surprise visits reminded me of “Pay It 4Ward.” Kelli had seen our story when it aired and spread your love by delivering a big meal to a family who was going through a hard time. She had already seen you, our little mohawk man, and had already spread some of your kindness into the world as well. Normally this would cost a new organization a significant amount of money, but Kelli did all of this out of the kindness of her heart. THANK YOU, KELLI and THANK YOU Lance for continuing to “be nice” and helping us share Caleb with the world!!!! We know “thank you” is not quite adequate, but we are truly grateful to have you in our lives.
I told Kelli how you like to show up with ladybugs and roses to let people know you are watching. When I got the email that everything was filed I saw a little note at the end. It said, “P.S. I have seen so many lady bugs this week!” Wow! You’re quick, Baby Boy and so was Kelli! I found her online and saw not only is she highly qualified as a professor teaching non-profit and sports law, but she’s a beautiful lady on the outside, too. Is that why you keep coming back and bringing her ladybugs? Ha. Oh, my little boy. All the ladies always do love you here on Earth.
Now that we have non-profit status, you will be able to help even more people and spread your love to places we’ve only dreamed of seeing.
May 9th was the one-year anniversary of devoting a whole day to being Nice On The 9th. We pause on the 9th of every month because that is the day we finally got to meet you and kiss your tiny, crying face that had just been evicted from your nice, warm home. It is a celebration of your beautiful life and a way to let your glimmering light reflect off of every painful tear.
May 9th is also a day that is ingrained in our memory because it is a day that almost stole Daddy away from us. Seven years ago, Daddy Ken Toeywas in a terrible, freak accident. He was riding his mountain bike on a trail where he had never been before and went off a bridge. He landed on his head and then onto his back. At the insistence of his friend, he was wearing a brand, new helmet purchased just a few days prior. It ultimately, saved his life. Still, the broken bones included 6 vertebrae, 10 ribs, his sternum, and a shoulder blade (and that doesn’t even include some of the other complications like the collapsed lung or the liter and a half of blood that was drained out of it). The surgeon implanted 13 permanent titanium pieces from his toolbox including 13 screws, 2 rods, and 1 stabilizer bar. He also told Daddy as we headed to the inpatient rehab center that most people with his injuries are either paralyzed or dead. Having Daddy in the Trauma ICU hooked up to all kinds of IVs and tubes was one of the scariest times of our lives but he made it. It’s a completely different situation, but we are still making it one second and minute at a time now, too. It’s not the way we planned to live our lives and there’s not a pain pump dumping medicine into our systems every few minutes but we are still here. Yes, yesterday was a very special day that gives us one more reason to celebrate life.
We had a last-minute kindness kit assembly party at one of Mommy’s favorite places in Oklahoma City, Lake Hefner. Despite only having one day of notice, and 91-degree heat, you had quite a few family and friends stop by. We made 30 kits to give to other people who do a lot of work in the background of life but go unrecognized a majority of the time. Some of your friends came and made sweet notes and colorful pictures to include in the bags, too.
We hope everyone had a wonderful time celebrating this momentous day! We know with this next step in place you and The Caleb Effect FOUNDATION are about to do some really big things! I would also like it to be noted here that Nemo’s best friend, Ellen DeGeneres is going to LOVE you and want everyone to know about you immediately when she hears about you (and I think she is definitely going to hear about you in the near future).
Also, did you see all of those amazing people wearing their new shirts? If not, check out the photos to see your friends!
THANK YOU FOR ALL THE LOVE, SUPPORT, PARTICIPATION, AND SPACE YOU KEEP MAKING IN THE HEARTS OF ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS.
I love you, Baby. I miss you more than I can even explain to you in words, but Mommy is so proud of her little boy. You received half of each of Mommy and Daddy’s DNA, but there were some extra special genes methodically placed in your soul that had nothing to do with either one of us. You are still my gift, my light, and my forever treasure. I love you more.
Sending all my love now and always.
P.S. I've heard from several people this week who told me they read EVERY WORD of these messages to you. 😲 I'm always surprised to hear this so if anyone has made it this far, I'm sure you are thinking of a line from Bon Qui Qui's routine, "DANG, anything else?" If you've made it to the end, feel free to work in a Bon Qui Qui quote in the comments. This should be entertaining. If you don't know who Bon Qui Qui is, we obviously have not spent more than 10 minutes together in real life. Ha! Happy 9th (and 10th and 11th now)!