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Hugs and Heroes

Hi Baby. I love you. I miss you. I still wonder all the time what you are doing, who you are with, and how you must be keeping everyone smiling just hearing your sweetest giggles. I can’t wait to hear them in person again, too. Daddy and I went to a meeting for people who have a hard time hearing (Central Oklahoma Chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America) and they all got to experience your pure joy, listening to you cracking up on the video with PaPa, popping bubble packs. Someday we will also have your memorial ready and we will celebrate with enough air packs for everyone!

It’s already been a busy month and you made many new friends who were nice on the 9th for you! Did you see everyone throwing the frisbees, writing letters, and bringing snacks and toothpaste for all the brave troops?

I know it has taken me an extra-long time to write this specific message, but I’ve been directing my time to another project that needs my focused attention (or as focused as Mommy can be anymore). I also can’t physically stay awake like I used to be able to push my body to do. I’m sorry. The animals are trying to stand guard for me or act as additional weighted security blankets. Smudge still thinks he is a dog just the way you thought you were a big kid. He really is doing his best and I promise you, so am I. A handful of people have also told me they have been praying that I get some rest so maybe it’s a combination of everything blowing in like these terrible hurricanes and rapidly spiraling out of control. I honestly never knew it was even humanly possible to be awake for the number of hours I’ve been, but the other part of my brain says I have to try harder. I still very much have a need to stay ready to spring into action but there is also a desperate biological shutdown overriding everything as well. It’s like a condescending highway patrol officer I met once who walked up to me swaying awkwardly, and with bowed legs. One side of my brain wants to tell that insecure shmuck to hurry up and give me the ticket already so I can be on my merry way, and the other part knows no matter what I say, he’s not going to listen. I wouldn’t have taught you to be this way to yourself, but I can’t help but to keep demanding my body to “Suck it up, buttercup!” I knew eventually this would happen, but I hate that it is not on my own terms. The migraine martinet wildly shakes his baton and demands closed eyes but my unconscious “rest” jolts them open in a panic. Meanwhile time is ticking by, and no matter how many minutes of seconds have passed, there are only losers in this argument

I know I’ve sent you my other thoughts but I am sorry this one had to take a back seat. I really hope the new things I’m doing make a difference for you and for so many like you. I’ve felt a tiny burst of excitement about this project the way confetti erupts from the present when you type, “congratulations” in Facebook. It may only last a few seconds, but that is also a rarity for Mommy. It’s a different kind of celebration that isn’t filled with all the pure “Caleb love beams” you sent straight to my heart as you jumped into my arms. It is more like that guy doing a silent 3-second dance behind an unsuspecting person, and then going straight back to work. I want to have moments like this but they are also always mixed with sadness for all the that could’ve been, and whys of how this could even be my real world. You might be the only one on heaven or Earth who understands me (or maybe a few of the other Myers-Briggs’ “Ns” of the world, too). However, if I can’t turn off my brain, please help me use it in a way that makes some of this a tiny sliver easier for those who have to dig so much deeper just to make it through the days and nights.

There are many other conflicts raging in this world both here in our little section of the globe and across the entire map. Little Boy, you really are teaching people how to set aside some of those differences to spread your love. People tell Daddy and I that we are amazing, but all we are doing is telling them how you saw your world. Help them see past us to really see you. I don’t know how to paint all the pictures of life that you made so effortlessly beautiful, but I DO try to remember this quote when people have strong opinions that are completely opposite of mine. It says, “We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to one another.” It is not known who wrote this but I couldn’t agree more.

So many people who come to your Nice On The 9th events might only have this quote in common. We are not a group of Republicans, Democrats, Independents, people who vote or don’t; men or women; addicts or those less tempted; red, brown, or white; gay, transgendered or straight; Atheist, Christian, Jewish, or Muslim; dripping in riches or starving on the streets. We are just a group of people being nice because a little boy keeps demanding this for us at least once a month. You never knew or cared about any of these subcategories and you never once asked anyone what they did for a living. However, you MIGHT have grown up to be one of those people who wanted to check out your friends’ vroom vrooms, but I have a feeling you would’ve adored the ones that looked more like Mater, and the ones that went as fast as Lightning McQueen. I will try to see my world through your eyes for the rest of my life. There is nothing I wish more than to have been able to actually watch you see all the marvel and wonder through your curious, blue eyes. I absolutely adored seeing you staring at the wheels of all your little vroom vrooms, and I don’t know if I will ever feel like this is not just some strange dimension I’m trapped inside that isn’t really reality. Will a part of me always be in shock because that’s how big the ripples of your love really are? It can’t really be so that this bizarre series of circumstances equate to not having you here. You have to be secretly tucked away somewhere just waiting to come play.

Speaking of that, maybe that is why you like to send butterflies and  ladybugs to visit. Thank you for the ladybug AND monarch butterfly at the Myriad. I was going to take one last picture of the ladybug being passed around but it flew away and I didn’t see it again.

Right after my ladybug encounter, one of your littlest friends came to give me a hug before he left. I crouched down into a squat and he put his little arms around Mommy’s neck. It was only my second time to ever meet him so I thought he was just going to give me a quick little baby hug or maybe a fist bump as he headed out with his family. Instead, he just stayed there standing there holding on to me. He laid his head of curls on my shoulder and started patting me almost instantly. I could feel his little fingers on my shoulder blades reassuring me that he was happy to be there and perfectly content to send me some extra love. My legs started getting tired so I stood up and held him and hummed a little tune. I couldn’t see his face but his mommy said he was falling asleep and then drooling on my shirt. I didn’t care one little bit about that and neither did he. I just have to wonder if you have been sending people like this to come give Mommy hugs. His mommy told me he doesn’t usually go to people he doesn’t know very well, so I can’t tell if it is just the big kid in me that some kids see or if this was something you devised.

There have been several recent incidences where someone has been there with a hug at just the right time when I needed it most. It is in times like this that it has been impossible to keep my emotions at bay, but with 34 people at the event on Sunday, I did manage for the most part. Still, how did he know? Did you show up to him and tell him to do that? Whew.

Speaking of hugs, I shouldn’t get any further into this story without telling you about what we did this month.

This 9th we chose The Hugs Project, which sends care packages to the military to help them have a few of the necessities and comforts of home. This organization was the first to make cooling ties to send to troops and since then they have sent out over 2 1/2 MILLION of these “hugs”, 800,000 “kisses” (helmet coolers), and more than 3,000 TONS of care package items.

Mommy was never in the military and there are not enough push-ups or drill sergeants yelling in my face that would’ve convinced me to shed the heaping pile of stubbornness in my soul. Yet, I have a deep respect for those who have humbled themselves to accept these challenges and serve their nation above themselves.  

I have views, theories, and beliefs I’ve been taught in my upbringing and many I’ve collected or left behind in my adulthood. I would’ve expected and even encouraged you to explore what you thought was right and challenge me when you thought I was being narrow-minded. That is the beauty of living in a “united” country. We can be vastly different, but unified at the same time.

You were blissfully unaware of this fact, but the United States is not very united at all right now. However, we live in a country that allows free thinking and to agree to disagree. Not everyone in the world is as fortunate, and that might be one of the biggest understatements of the year. People who join the military and get deployed get a rare glimpse of life in another land. Sometimes they get to hand out toys to kids who have nothing. Sometimes they get to make friends with people who look, dress and worship completely different from them but with whom they share common goals.

I can’t even imagine all the people you are meeting or maybe you instantly know and understand everyone where you are. Maybe even passionate disagreements are settled and many surprised people of all kinds of walks of life are gathered peacefully. That is my hope anyway.  

Baby Boy, I wish I could tell you some wonderful story about how everyone here gets along and we never fight but that’s not the kind of world where we live. We are a group of broken people who come from all kinds of different backgrounds, cultures, religions, and beliefs. This makes humanity both a wonderfully interesting place, and also a complex dwelling where we don’t always understand each other’s points of view. Sometimes we don’t speak the same language or have the same customs so even trying to communicate to work out our differences takes major effort. Even with people who we DO share a common language, we still can’t seem to get along!

Sometimes these disagreements turn into bigger events and sometimes this even includes war. This is not a subject we spent much time talking to you about when you were here, but you come from a long line of military and Veterans like Daddy who signed up to serve their country. My Daddy also served in the military and so did Aunt Michelle, Uncle Andy, Aunt Shari, and PaPa. People like them help keep us safe from the bad guys. They raise their right hand and swear to support and defend our nation even if that means sacrificing their life for people they’ve never even met. This is the true definition of bravery.

I want to tell you about another such brave soul. Baby Boy, Mommy and Daddy aren’t the only ones missing someone they love dearly. The Nice On The 9th events are always done in your memory, but we hope you didn’t mind sharing the spotlight and dedicating the event especially to Command Sergeant Major Timothy Allen Bolyard. He gave his life for his country and joined you in the clouds on September 3rd. He had many friends in this life, but on the day he left this world for the next, he was betrayed by people he thought were part of that sacred circle. It also hit home a little harder when I read he was the same age as Daddy.

Mommy never got to meet this man, but he served with someone she knows. His life didn’t last into old age, but just like you, it was chock full of action. I read that CSM Bolyard was deployed (that means he was sent somewhere in order to do his job) seven times, and that he earned six bronze stars. I’ll admit, I had to look up the specifics to see what qualifies someone for this award (Mommy isn’t the best at remembering details learned in American History class in high school). This is what it says: “The Bronze Star Medal is awarded to any person who, after December 6, 1941, while serving in any capacity with the Armed Forces of the United States, distinguishes himself or herself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service, not involving participation in aerial flight.” This courageous man was already deemed a hero multiple times yet he still kept volunteering to go back to dangerous places. Wow.

You were always more of a high-five kind of boy, but I wouldn’t mind if CSM Bolyard teaches you how to look a person in the eye and shake their hand. In fact, I would be honored if you could shake his hand for all of us, okay, Baby? Tell him thank you for living and serving and trying to better the lives of people he never even knew.

Another soldier who received eight boxes from The Hugs Project in one day wrote a note to The Hugs Project and Karen Stark, the Executive Director relayed his story. "His interpreter said, ‘You have a lot of relatives.' And the soldier said, ‘Well, these aren't my family.' The interpreter said, ‘Well, you have lots of friends.' And the soldier replied, ‘I don't know these people.' And the interpreter could not believe. He said, ‘Why are people doing this for you?' And the soldier said, ‘Because we're all Americans."

This is the America for which I believe CSM Bolyard gave his life. He made many dear friends with people from all over the world and became the humble advisor and coach to those who served alongside him. This dutiful American hero was less than 2 months away from retirement when he was promoted to his permanent command post. Please tell him we all salute him and send love to all who will forever keep his memory close.

I never earned a Bronze Star or attained a hero’s status, but I’m certainly grateful for all of those selfless men and women who have. “Thank you for your service” is a nice start but not nearly what is owed. Freedom is truly not free. All I want from my freedom here is for you to be proud of me, Caleb Lennon. I will do my best to earn this every day. I can’t wait to get an extra-long hug from you again and for you to pat me on the back until my legs get tired and I get to stand with you still resting your soft cheeks against mine for eternity.

I’m dreaming of that day. One perfect truly united day.

I love you. I always will.

Love, Mommy


We dedicate this day to you, CSM Bolyard. With deepest appreciation for your life and service.

We dedicate this day to you, CSM Bolyard. With deepest appreciation for your life and service.

This is from a 2nd grader!

This is from a 2nd grader!

All the Veterans received The Caleb Effect dog tags. Thank you! Someone still had his original military ID!!

All the Veterans received The Caleb Effect dog tags. Thank you! Someone still had his original military ID!!

Nice handwriting and he comes up with creative letters!

Nice handwriting and he comes up with creative letters!

We thought Caleb might want to have one balloon back before he stole it anyway. I showed the ladybug that joined us that I had wings for the day as well. Thank you everyone for coming! September was once again our largest Nice On The 9th with 34 people, several visitors and a dozen vroom vrooms sent out into the world. I will post more pictures when I finally get a minute to drop off all the goodies as well! See you next month!!

We thought Caleb might want to have one balloon back before he stole it anyway. I showed the ladybug that joined us that I had wings for the day as well. Thank you everyone for coming! September was once again our largest Nice On The 9th with 34 people, several visitors and a dozen vroom vrooms sent out into the world. I will post more pictures when I finally get a minute to drop off all the goodies as well! See you next month!!