Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Flu Season

So TJ and I are both healthy, so far (please... everybody knock on wood). But people all around me are dropping like flies to various kinds of viruses. (Or is it "viri"?)

Physically, we're feeling strong. Emotionally... Well... it was a rough day. I finally just got TJ down. It's been such a long time since he's cried like he did tonight, after saying prayers, tucking him in, and cuddling for awhile. He just didn't want me to leave. Finally, I gave him my shirt to cuddle with. "See?" I encouraged him as he dried off his tears, "it even SMELLS like Daddy!" He grinned from behind his paci and looked at me and cuddled the shirt tightly. That seems to have done the trick. He's fast asleep now. (Although, before allowing me to leave his room, holding my shirt tightly to his cheek, he did state that he planned on waking up in the middle of the night and climbing into my bed with me. I told him that would be just fine.)

The day started off that way, too... Only... for Daddy, rather than TJ. I had a heart-to-heart with my mom-in-law last night. She had TJ for the weekend (he was LONG overdue a trip to Gram's house), and was bringing him back to me. We got into a tough conversation about... well... "stuff". She was having a rough day, emotionally-- probably being back in the house, giving TJ back to me, etc... Anyway... we made it through, and were both encouraged by the conversation... But this morning, I guess I had a "hang-over", of sorts, from the exchange. My heart was just heavy. It was a beautiful morning... the snow (even the 4 foot drift at the foot of my driveway) is completely melted now, and it got all the way up over 60F today. The sunrise was gorgeous. TJ was cute and cuddly and thoughtful... Just the kind of morning Leslie would have relished. She would have pulled a lawn chair out of the shed, thrown on a sweatshirt, made coffee, and just soaked in the sunrise on the patio, reading her morning bible passage. I caught myself even feeling sorry for her... I wanted her to be able to enjoy the first hint of spring in the air. As much as winter haunted her, a day like this would bring so much joy...

Of course... I know that she's "in better hands now". I know the sunrise in Heaven today was MUCH better than the one in the west suburbs of Chicago. And I know the coffee there is MUCH better than even the bag of whole-bean organic Acacia light roast I picked up at Caribou last week. (cue: visuals of her euphoric smile and radiant face.) But still... these mornings happen, in spite of what I "know". Call it "grieving", I guess.

Tonight at dinner (I was already reeling-- having just discovered I had lost my beloved Blackberry-- fell off my hip on the walk from my parking space to our dinner restaurant), the day was culminated with quite the insight from TJ. We ate early-- at about 5:00. We tried a new restaurant, near Dana's and my rendezvous point, in Downtown Wheaton. There were several other young families in the place. TJ was telling me about his day with the boys. I had just heard of yet ANOTHER family I know being rather sick with some sort of stomach virus... so it took me awhile to catch up with TJ's thought progression...

We had just gone to the bathroom, and we bumped into another daddy and a boy about TJ's age, who was leaving the men's room just as we were entering. When we returned to our table, and as we continued our Q & A about TJ's day, he asked me a question...

"Why are some boys' mommies not sick?" He asked thoughtfully. I asked him to repeat his question... Dana wasn't sick... Was a mommy of a friend of the boys who he'd played with that day battling a flu bug? He repeated the question.

"Some boys' mommies aren't sick. Why?" He repeated.

"Well..." I tried to help him clarify, "Who's mommy is not sick?" He looked across the dining room of the restaurant.

"That boy's mommy isn't sick." He pointed to the boy we'd almost bumped into in the restroom. He was about TJ's age. The boy's daddy seemed to be about my age. His mother was a cute brunette with well-styled hair, and familiar-looking facial features. They had a one-year-old boy in a high-chair as well...

Suddenly, I saw where TJ's mind was...

"Oh, buddy..." I sympathized gently. "You want to know why your mommy was sick, but that boy's is not?"

He nodded and looked back across the room to the family of four.

"TJ..." I thought for a second. "Your mommy was very special. She had a very special disease. Not many mommies have that kind of sickness. God loved her SO much that He wanted to bring her to Heaven before almost ALL of the other mommies. Very very FEW mommies get sick like your mommy did."

He shot me a cautiously hopeful smile.

"You know... Someday... when you have another mommy... Maybe she won't be sick, like most of the other mommies." He smiled at me, so I continued. "Maybe she and I will grow old together, and someday, when you're all grown up, you'll have babies of your own, and they'll call me and your new mommy 'grandma and grandpa'!"

"Noooooo!" He giggled sheepishly.

"YES!" I replied. "TJ, people don't usually get sick like your mommy did. She was very special. But Daddy's not sick, and most mommies aren't sick, either. I'm sorry your mommy got sick the way she did. But she's all better, now, right? And maybe your new Mommy won't be sick, just like that boy's mommy!"

We had some GREAT talks about Jesus on the drive home.

"I love God," he informed me.

"TJ! That makes me SO happy!!! I love God, too!!"

"And if I love God, I can go to Heaven someday, right? You told me that."

I'd forgotten about that conversation... A month or so ago, he'd learned a new word from a cousin... "hate". Well... that's the one word that Daddy "hates". So I jumped all over that one. But in the heat of the argument, TJ (boy, this sounds horrible-- remember, Tyson... he's only 3...) announced that he hated God. It was during a bed-time prayer, and he was not ready to go to bed, so I think he just blurted it out for effect-- to get a reaction from me. Well, he did. I told him it made me very, very sad when he said that. I told him that only people who LOVE God go to heaven... I gave him the 3-year-old version of the "salvation message"-- that Jesus' love for us allows us to love God and be in Heaven with Him someday. And that Mommy loved Jesus with all her heart, and that's why we know she's with God today. I wasn't aware that this particular conversation had left such an impact on his heart, until tonight.

"That's right buddy. Just like Mommy." I answered.

Chalk it up to another "Mommy moment". Call it a "Mommy day", maybe...


The EYE said...

not to jump on one very minor point of another excellent post, but i literally LOLed when i saw that the Blackberry bit it... just Monday night when you dropped it and I made a face and a noise waiting to find out if it made it, you said something along the lines of "I drop this thing all the time", and pointed out that the screen was already on its way out.

the timing just got to me.

Luke said...

I don't think I'm supposed to cry at work, but your journey, and your gift of story telling just wonderfully bring to light the human condition.

I praise God for giving you the grace to be vulnerable to us readers and the gift of expression.

God Bless

Anonymous said...

Hi Tyson,
I’m one of your faithful readers…I’ve been checking in on your blog since last july after a friend told me about you and Leslie and TJ. Though I cannot fathom losing a spouse to cancer nor to the complicated task of single-parenting a 3-4 year old…I do find my soul resonating with your words so often. It is comforting to read your thoughts at the end of a long day as you honestly narrate the difficult feelings of your experience. It is astounding to me the steadiness of your heart as you grieve and celebrate life in all of its complexity. All of that to say, I have a great deal of respect for you even as a total stranger who has a bizarre window into your life. It is an honor to be one of many who find strength and hope in your journey.

I felt compelled to write because in your recent entry I found my heart resonate with TJ’s feelings. To imagine his 4 year old mind trying to make sense of his pain and loss in wanting the familiar comfort of his mommy, not understanding why other little boy’s have their mommies, and wishing so much he could have his mommy sitting next to him in the restaurant. I was thinking about how we teach little ones to share, to not take toys away from other kids, and how for TJ, God is like the mean kid on the playground who took his most comforting and tender mommy away from him. It doesn’t make sense. I don’t pretend to know the first thing about parenting a kid through the ups and downs you are navigating. The ways you love him, are present with him, offer him your own strength and vulnerability, are so powerful—something most kids may never taste. And I hope that he might also be able to feel the freedom to hate God, to wrestle with the incredibly difficult task of trying to figure out why a God who is supposed to love him could feel so selfish and cruel to let his mommy get sick. You have been handed the impossible task of trying to respond to his why questions that have no clear or simple answers. Again, I cannot fathom. And as one who has wrestled later in life with the why’s of my own pain in childhood—it has been freeing to find God’s love survive even the most angry and hateful feelings I might have toward him…knowing that His arms are still outstretched to me, even in my darkest fears and feelings toward Him. That is something no human love can perfectly endure, only a God who created us—bad feelings and all.
I hope I haven’t overstepped my bounds in saying this—it is because of my respect for your process that I write these words… You are an amazing father and TJ is so blessed to have you stumble in the darkness and the light along side him. I suppose it is only in the stumbling that we ever know real love.

Tyson Aschliman said...

Wow, "Anon"... thank you for this. Your words are so encouraging.

And NO, you do not overstep any bounds. Your thoughts resonate with the very purpose of this blog... To openly share a faith journey through the very best AND worst that life (or God) has to offer. To wrestle with God is not only "human"... it's Godly. I've made references before to this concept-- that the very word "Israel" (the namesake of "God's chosen people" themselves) means "wrestles with God". (Or also spun, "God struggles, perseveres".) That is to say, only those who God truly wants to KNOW and LOVE are actually "priveleged" enough to be called to WRESTLE with Him. Now, I would argue, that every person, deep in their core, has some of the tough "why" questions and a deep-rooted displeasure or at least disillusionment about God, through which they need to wrestle. This is not something to be hidden from view, but something upon which light should be cast, that we might walk the journey in faith, for and with the encouragement of others... and in so doing, bring even MORE glory to God (as much as we don't like Him, sometimes).

So, right on, my anonymous friend. And read on! And thanks for this.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tyson,
I have followed your story from Leslies journey to here. I have never commented before. I am so very sorry for your loss.

I cannot explain it but through Leslies postings I felt myself becoming very attached to her. Maybe as a Mother. I don't know.

When you first talked of the "800 pound gorllia" my heart sank. I cannot explain why as you deserve every happiness life has to offer.

TJ is so very precious and from your latest postings I was wondering if he is dealing with some sort of "anger" that he does not fully understand how to express to you other than via the melt downs? I think you are handling them in the perfect way. I also wonder if he is "ready" to start hearing about a "new Mommy". At 3, it might be too much for him to understand and especially if he is still trying to deal with his Mommie's passing.

I am not doing a very good job of trying to expalin the overall "feeling" I am getting from your latest postings.

I guess i am just trying to say that I get the feeling that there is a LOT more going on in that little boys head than he is saying.

Also Tyson...I know this is so wrong to say to you on so many levels but I feel the need to say it...I think that I am feeling "jelousy" on behalf of Leslie. Like when you talk about a new Mommie and a new relationship. I think I am feeling this way as I did read every word she wrote and as a Mother I imagine to myself if I were gone and My Hubs and Son were in the same circumstance and my Hubs started talking about a new Mommie and what not.

of course I would want him to be happy but thinking about it HURTS.

Please don't take this as any form of an attack. I think you are an incredible Father and person and I am amazed by your writings and how much you are willing to share so I have been very shy to post my thoughts.

I am just concerned if TJ is at all ready for talk of a new Mommy. I know you already see his fears of abandonement, but in your writings about him of late I am sensing more.....I don't know exactly what other than he is expressing in his actions rather thanm words most likely because he does not have the words??? I don't know.

Much Love

Anonymous said...

Hey Tyson,

I just read the last person's comments and I have to admit that when I saw your posting about a possible new relationship, I felt very sad. I read your blog because I like hearing about you and TJ and it makes me feel like I'm still connected to Leslie. That being said, no matter how any of us readers feel, it's not about us. I think you have been through an ordeal that none of the rest of us can imagine and I know that you give all of your decisions prayerful consideration. I know Leslie would want you to be happy and start again with someone new and I actually think it would be better for TJ to do it sooner than later. Younger children seem to adapt to things much better than older children. But I'm in no position to give you any kind of advise (especially since it wasn't asked for):)
I will say that I just went to a seminar on parenting given by John Rosemond and found it very helpful. He's a Christian parenting expert and his books include The 6 Steps to Raising Happy, Healthy Children, and Parenting by The Book.

With much love,

Sara Blakely

Anonymous said...

Hi Tyson, I'm another one of your anonymous blog readers. I found Leslie's blog when I was diagnosed with cancer last year. As a young woman, I found peace and comfort in reading about her journey. I was devistated when I read that she had passed away. Her story was much worse than mine---it sounds like she fought as hard as she could but the horrible disease finally took hold.

Anyway, I must say I feel like I know you and TJ after reading your blog for so long. I, like some of the other posters, was crushed when I read this post. I believe you need to find happiness and that you and TJ only deserve the best, I guess it just hit home being that I went through the same thing as Leslie. It's scary to be fighting cancer and think how fast I would just be a memory if my health made a turn for the worst.

We don't have any children together but I know it would be even harder for my family to see my husband move on so fast. Not that you have---you know what I mean.

Anyway, I wish you all the best. I just had to get that off my chest. I've told several people about your story and how sad I feel for Leslie and TJ. No one will EVER replace his mommy...and it sounds like he has a lot of "little boy" grieving left to do.

Anonymous said...

jwell, i have to comment about the "moving on in a relationship" issue...the timing cannot be understood by anyone that has not experienced the depths of tyson's loss...tj needs for his daddy to move on in gratitude for Leslie but also with a fortitude to "stablize the ship" mentality.
My children needed me follow the compass without wavering...especially with the opinions of others. tyson will know deep in his gut when it is right even if it is somewhat misunderstood by others...it is with great humility that someone can move on and that is what God's GRACE is all about.

Anonymous said...

tyson - another "anon" poster here... i, too, have followed your blog for so long - and while i understand some of the comments re: your recent post, i have to say that i honestly felt only joy and happiness for you and that sweet little guy. you are a young man and deserve to be happy and that little boy wants/needs a mommy - not that anyone would ever replace his mommy in heaven. i feel it would only be a GOOD thing for him to have a wonderful woman in his life who he adores and who can help him (just like you continue to do, on a daily basis) to get through his grieving and to help him move on with his life. it is so evident from all your comments and stories that you will never let his real mommy become only a distant memory or that anyone will ever replace her in EITHER of your hearts and minds. there is nothing wrong with finding someone else to help both of you through this unimaginable situation that you didn't choose for yourself - and are getting through the best way you know how. by the way, i think you are a wonderful dad - the way you are handling things that he's going through (while going through all of this yourself - on a very different level) is really touching and admirable. i especially like that you don't always pretend that everything's fine when you both know it's been sheer hell for you for the past 16 mos). the fact that you allow him to see you having tough times, talking it over (in ways that a 3 yr old can understand and process) and going through all the grieving process (without hiding it from him) has to be a positive thing in the long run. even at 3 yrs old, he seems to be very aware, very sharp and very sensitive...he knows what he's feeling (maybe not in the way that YOU are going through all of this) and it's so important that he feels secure and confident that you will help him get through it. i really think you are doing a great job, considering what you yourself must be going through. i'm sure there have been times you just want to curl up in a ball for days - or go into a closet and scream at the top of your lungs. you always seem to put your son first and there are many, many people that would not handle this unspeakably difficult situation with such maturity, grace and wisdom. you deserve to be happy and i hope that you and Kate will find true happiness together - for your sake, as well as your son's. i don't think anyone can say that there's a certain amount of time that's "acceptable" after someone passes away. you didn't plan this or even seek it out. no one should begrudge you for being lucky enough to find someone to help you go on living your life - wherever this very new relationship may lead. from the very early posts on your blog, i remember thinking that this is one of the most sensitive, caring, loving people - and he deserves to have someone else to love and to love him. i am truly happy for you and wish you and your son nothing but the best. you are not replacing anyone in your heart - it's evident that you have plenty of room for another right alongside your love for leslie.

take care and thank you so much for sharing your journey with all of us.

Tyson Aschliman said...

Thank you. I humbly confess I needed to hear that. (10:11 and 10:29 anon posts)

My confidence is not shaken, but it's still good to have it affirmed. :) You hit the nail on the head, and I'm thankful for your encouragement today...

Now... for the next post. Enjoy!