I'm late as usual in posting this but this topic was chosen for a very special reason that is more emotional than most to discuss. I had to stop multiple times and do something else but it's finally done and pictures are uploaded.
Thank you to everyone who donated supplies to help our schools. If you didn't watch the Facebook Live video, you will notice these pictures don't even quite do it justice. We will post our donation to F.D. Moon Elementary as well when we get to go visit them. Thank you also to everyone who sent me personal notes to share all the ways you were Nice On The 9th in Caleb's honor. We sincerely hope this allows kids a little nourishment in their bodies, paper and pencils in their backpacks, and less time and personal resources being forced out of teachers' humble paychecks. Caleb has some pretty special people spreading love for him. Join us next month on the 9th and stay tuned for a special opportunity for teachers all over the map.
Hi Baby. I love you. Mommy is so worn out she feels like a slug trying to make it through an Ironman. I don’t want to have to work so hard or so slow just to make it a few inches but I know that is what I’m supposed to do for you. However, I realize if I let the sweat and tears win, the salt will dissolve my flesh and leave me silently melting into the ground. I’m not even trying to compete; I just want to cross the finish line for you.
I’m still trying to “be nice,” but there is no way for you to realize how much some people make that ESPECIALLY difficult! I’ve spared you the details from people you know and plenty you don’t who test my patience on a regular basis. Baby Boy, you will figure it out on your own, but if I’m supposed to keep at least part of my brain sane, please go ahead and remove those who don’t deserve a front row to my life or at least send them way up into the balcony (or maybe even into someone else’s balcony).
You are ALWAYS at the top of my mind so luckily for hot heads in traffic with more horsepower than IQ points, I’m more conscious of my reactions. There was one such genius behind me yesterday who decided to honk at me for not turning despite the steady flow of cars that would’ve slammed into me. I didn’t give him the hand gesture or stare down he deserved, but I did say some things to myself that I would’ve done my best not to let you learn. Just as you can’t hear these kinds of words from where you are, neither could the other driver. However, I don’t know if it’s this special moon phase or whatever that I keep hearing about, but please remind everyone 16 and older that a regular green light means you have to wait for people moving in the opposite direction before you get to turn left. Do you remember how I was teaching you the rules of traffic and what each light meant?
Okay, now that that is out of my system I have some other things that have been weighing heavily on my mind and soul. I know I’ve told you this before, but your little fish friends do still come to mind often, “just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…” Mommy is “wimming,” but just like Dory, I forget what I’m doing and lose my way constantly. Maybe you are used to this by now or you just know you really are thought of literally non-stop. Still, I’m sorry it has taken me this long to have enough energy to write to you and tell you about the 9th.
I miss you in a way that makes my heart physically ache for you. I actually thought I might be having a heart attack the other night, but I think it was just a mixture of missing you and our old friend, acid reflux. Remember the way you used to soak Mommy literally from head to toe until we figured out dairy was a “no go” for both of us?
One of your last appointments confirmed you inherited this condition from both of your parents. If I had known you wouldn’t be here much longer, I wouldn’t have made you go through with the visit or drink the thick, potent, concoction you were NOT at all happy to ingest. I wouldn’t even care if you threw up on me now because that would mean you would still be in my arms. However, because you went, and despite only meeting new friends at the clinic one time, you left an impression on every person you met that day. One of the nurses even remembered how joyful and intelligent you were and wrote in the sympathy card recalling how you were showing off for her and singing “rain, rain go away.”
I knew you were and always will be special but it was nice when other people noticed, too. Every single day we had with you brought more joy than I can ever capture with simple, mortal words. I’ve never laughed so hard or smiled so wide as when you threw your toddler arms around my neck and squeezed every bit of love and worry straight out of my heart. I’ve never been loved by anyone the way you gave your sweetest, pure affections to me. I miss every pat on the back and infectious giggle. I tell you all the time but it’s true. I miss every single thing about you, Caleb Lennon. People didn’t even have a choice whether or not to love you. As soon as they saw you, even from afar, it was over. I hope even though people only get to see you from afar now, they still recognize your spirit and fall in love instantaneously even if they never had the privilege of cuddling you in their arms. I want them to still talk about you and to know you are still helping all of us figure out how to be patient and grateful for the people we take for granted.
Baby Boy, we had lived enough life to experience profound losses (and extremely close potential ones). We really did do our best to take in the little moments and record the time so we could go back and relive the moments together as you grew older. That probably adds to the fact that every second we have to spend without you here is that much more agonizing. Our hearts continue beating even when we wonder how that is even humanly possible after being dealt such a traumatic, horrific blow. We cry with an overflow of love our bodies cannot contain. We know what we are missing not having you here but we also grieve every plan we had already envisioned for you.
You would’ve bid farewell to your friends at daycare this week (Would you have called it “4s?”). I would’ve been sad to leave a place that became so comfortable and fun for you and hugged all your friends and teachers who cared for you so well. I know your teachers would’ve probably given you a tearful departure, too. You would’ve wanted to say goodbye to Nemo one more time, and maybe we would’ve had to linger until every last person received their high five. I would’ve taken you back to visit when we had the chance, but that is not how your story was written. We never knew your last day at “2s” would be your last with all your friends or that we would never get another chance to see you pull out the wooden step all by yourself as you left your fingerprints on the glass and blew Nemo kisses from the other side of the tank. We never would’ve expected to be handed a paper grocery sack with your extra outfits, artwork, and the remnants of your newly emptied cubby after looking into the red faces of your teachers, hugging, sobbing, and holding me upright. Whether you know it or not, we are all still overwhelmed by your mysterious, unexpected departure from this life. There is not a day or night that goes by that I don’t wonder what happened and how I could’ve changed your life from ending.
Caleb Baby, we would’ve emptied your cubby this week, but we would’ve been doing so for a completely different promotion. School starts on Thursday and you would be going to Pre-K with the twins next door who moved in days before we lost you. So many of your friends are starting this brand-new experience and all I want is for you to have it, too. Mommy’s heart is having a very tough time knowing you will never get to go to school. That sentence alone makes Mommy cry. I know how much fun you would’ve had being there. You absolutely LOVED learning and somehow you just knew things Daddy and I never taught you. We got such a kick out of watching you standing and focusing your whole attention on “The Letter Show” (AKA Wheel of Fortune) as you repeated the letters that were guessed. Since you already knew your letters and many other things, maybe you really would’ve been bored as Ms. Shannon predicted for your future as you made your way to “real school.” Even so, you would’ve been perfectly content to “read” to yourself and interact with the group when they needed you. Who knows, maybe you WOULD already be sounding out the words or keeping the teachers on their toes as they thought they could still spell out words they didn’t want the class to understand yet. Whatever you would’ve soaked into that beautiful mind or not, I just know you would’ve had such a ball being around a whole school of new friends.
Would you be sitting a little more still for Mommy so she could give you a fresh, new school haircut or would I have been too frustrated to try and continue to do it on my own as you squirmed as the buzzing got closer to your ears? Would you still let me spike your hair into the most adorable little mohawk and seal it in place with your gel? Would your hair be getting darker like I’ve watched happen recently with some of your friends? What kind of oversized backpack would you have picked to swallow your petite frame? I imagine you would’ve wanted to write your name by yourself on everything that was required to be labeled.
Would you be picky about your outfits or dress yourself in a mismatched hodgepodge (to be clear, I would’ve let you wear whatever you wanted)? What would you insist we had to buy that wasn’t on your list? I have a feeling you would want us to pick up something to bring to your new teacher and they would have to work hard to pretend you aren’t one of their favorites. I also know you would’ve tucked away a few vroom vrooms as the “Hot Wheel Hitchhikers“ became unofficial “Show and Tell” stars.
Would I cry knowing you were growing up so quickly or feel guilty for not spending enough time together? Would we have already moved so you could’ve attended another school district? Would you have known other kids in the neighborhood? There was a back-to-school party at the pool today. We didn’t go (as we haven’t all summer), but would you have mastered “wimming” with the rest of the kids by now? Would we have forgotten you ever called it “wimming” as I got farther and farther behind in making you a baby book? What kinds of books would you want us to read to you now or would you have clung to a few old favorites?
I hear people complain about what their kids are required to bring to school or how they had to shop at multiple stores to find everything. I would buy anything you wanted, go to every store in the city, and pick up 3 of everything your teacher requested if I could bring you back. I think about the teachers as well. Which teacher will never know they are missing out on an entertaining angel that should be in their class? Who will never get to see how excited you became when you saw an orange, school bus squeal to a halt? You would’ve had to wait one more year to actually get to ride them but I can just picture you standing at the window or jumping up and down as you got out of the car from the drop-off lane! They would be so close every day and you would get to wave and smile at them with your whole face!
Yes, this year, the first day of school is going to be a rough one for Mommy and Daddy. It combines everything you love and all the things we will never get to watch you experience. Mommy is so excited for all your friends who are about to start school for the very first time. She hopes you watch over each of them and guide them to be nice and to remember the kids that are sitting by themselves or who need the friendship and love they may not receive anywhere else. I just wish so badly I could be there to watch you go through these milestones, too.
Baby Boy, we can’t have you pose with your new teacher or have a chalkboard announcing your first day of school. We can’t buy number two pencils, 24-count Crayola crayons, or boxes of Kleenex you would need replenished in the first month at Pre-K. I hate these facts more than I can ever express to you. We don’t get to enroll you or buy all the new things on your list, so this 9th we made sure you would be attending elementary, middle, AND high school another way.
What in the world do I mean? Well, I hope you already know, but we picked four schools with a lot of kids who have to make tough decisions this time of year. Some families might be able to buy the paper, pencils, and folders on their supply lists, but this might also mean they have to skip dinner if they buy everything they need for school. Too many teachers give their time, love, and what’s left of their modest paychecks just to have to the necessities (those are things you have to have) for their class.
We know how much you loved to learn so we thought you would want to help as many kids do that as possible. We wish we could have funded every school, but we have some ideas for that still to come. The Shriner’s were gracious enough to let us use their building (thank you, Mike) to collect school supplies and you wouldn’t even believe how full each school’s table became by the end of the night. You had SO MANY generous friends show up to bring things like crayons, index cards, and glue sticks and even more who dropped off bags of goodies early or donated extra funds for this project.
You would not be surprised to know that we were also strategic in buying the limit of each of the best deals from stores around town so our money could stretch a little further. We wanted to buy as many Clorox wipes, notebooks, and wish list items as possible with the funds we had available (Something we definitely would’ve taught you as you got older and started earning your own money).
If you would’ve been bored in Pre-K, now you can participate in the science lab at Del-City High School, too. That’s right. One of the classrooms who will now know you will be Ms. Geary’s. Remember how Ms. Maria’s food coloring experiment at “2s” made your mouth stay open because you couldn’t believe what you were watching? Ms. Geary also coaches track so now you can watch in amazement at the bubbly concoctions that change colors in a glass beaker OR at how fast her girls’ make it around the field!
We’ve delivered all but one school’s supplies but you will have plenty of options to make a difference this year. We hope you show up to Roosevelt Middle School and give the kids confidence to learn how to present themselves for an interview, make lifelong friends, or conquer English. We hope the notes of encouragement for the teachers and kids help inspire kindness as kids begin their formal education at Apollo or F.D. Moon Elementary. Fill their little bellies with snacks and let them know their school is a safe place to be themselves and learn to trust caring adults. Be with them when they feel like no one loves them or understands all their challenges they’ve already had to face in their short lives. Let them know you are there to help guide them even if we never know it was of your doing.
My little Baby Bear Cub, you will never know just how inspiring you really are. Happy 9th just a few days late!
We may be slugging through Thursday and it will probably feel like someone is slugging us over and over, but I hope all that is reflected is the love you’ve shown us how to share and the excitement for learning you realize every child deserves. Keep scooting us along, even if it’s only one millimeter at a time.
Little Boy, you never made it to school but you will always be the wisest person I’ve ever met.
I love you, Sweet Boy.
P.S. Mommy wrote this while being fueled by Veggie Straws and mangoes. It’s not “owenj ice,” but I didn’t think you would mind me settling for the dried variety.