The Great Race

1939 LaSalle

In Gumby

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Last Saturday Darcy and I dropped Parker off in Lowell to begin the Great Race, which is a classic/antique automobile road rally that stretches from Maine to Florida.  It is a timed event where you are not allowed cell phones or GPS, just someone that you can trust to navigate and a car that can you from point A to point B.  Parker was part of what I call the ‘pit crew.’  He and another had to travel down the coast with the truck, tools and trailer ‘just in case.’  

At the end of every day the cars are available to be viewed until 8 PM and tons of enthusiasts show up to enjoy the event.  This meant that Parker was up late many a night working on the car.  His buddies George and Andy raced with a 1939 LaSalle.  Anyone that was at our wedding would remember this beauty as she was the car that we left in.  She held her own for the first several nights, but weather and lack of time in the end started to wreak some havoc.  Last night I was texting Parker text and diagrams out of one of his many reference manuals so that he could work on the carbeurator.  

This was the first time that Parker had participated in the Great Race and the first time that he had been away from us for so long a period of time.  By Wednesday, Parker was having a pretty hard time as he watched father and son racing teams and saw little boys playing the cars.  The team was aptly named ‘Benny’s Bunch’ and they wore our shirts, with that beautiful picture of our little dude smiling on the back.  At the end of every day the announcers would say that Benny’s Bunch was racing for a 2 year old boy who loved cars.  That’s the understatement of the year.  Benny was obsessed with cars and was with me at Parker’s shop at least 4-5 times a week, in and out of every vehicle that came through.  

The team was holding their own and doing ok, by mid week they were ranked around the middle of the pack.  Parker started asking Benny for help just around the time that the LaSalle was acting up.  Suddenly, George and Andy’s runs were going smoother and they actually got Aces (I’m not entirely sure what the jargin means, but it’s somewhere along the line of a perfect score) for the day’s times.  The car was smoking and having all sorts of troubles, but they were able to improve upon their times and finished in 24th place overall (out of 100+ entrants), getting 6th place in their class.  It was an emotional week for Parker, but Benny was there, I know he was, there was no place else that kid would rather be.

Last night, for the first time since he passed, Parker dreamed about him.  This had always bugged Parker.  I had dreamed about him within a week and received so much comfort from it.  He held Benny’s hand and all that I can think of is the the sunflower painting.  At today’s finish they announced again about how Benny’s Bunch was racing for a 2 year old that loved cars and a random stranger asked Parker what they were talking about.  So he told her about Benny and turned around to show her his shirt as he started crying.  This woman started crying and just gave Parker the biggest hug.  We have found so much comfort in the love of strangers.  Here was this woman doing for me what I have been dying to do all week and I’m so thankful for her love and support in a time that Parker needed it most.

I never doubt our little guy.  He’s been busy these last few weeks.

 

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My Doodle Bug

Over and over people say to me, ‘I don’t know how you do it.  I don’t know what I would do, how I would go on.  You’re so strong.’  While this is said as a compliment, people need to realize that there’s no choice.  I don’t have the option to not be strong, throw in the towel, I have a 5 year old.  There is a little girl that needs me to still be her mother, to take care of her and love her.

I had two children.  Because one is gone, I don’t have the option to shut down and stop living life because I’m grieving.  I lived through that when my own mom passed and my father couldn’t deal with it.  One of the first things that I promised to myself and Parker was that I wasn’t going to disappear, that Darcy would still have me.  This doesn’t make me strong, this makes me a mom.  

For every person that is doubting what they would do in my situation, you would put your children first, period.  After you have to look your 5 year old in the eye and tell her that her brother has died, believe me that you will do everything in your power to make sure that she feels safe and loved.  You would move heaven and earth to make it ‘better’ for the surviving children.  Even on days when I am on the floor in the kitchen crying, I know that if Darcy needed me in that moment, that she would come first.  This doesn’t make me strong, brave maybe.

We’re lucky that we sent Darcy to Kindegarten when we did, otherwise she would have been with us that Friday.  When that thought crosses my mind, I cringe.  I’m thankful that she was safe at school, happily ensconced in pretend play with friends.  I’m fortunate that we have the most amazing neighbors that came in and took charge of her in what could have been a terrible situation when she got home from school.  These are people that responded before we even had a chance to ask them.

We are lucky we have her.  Without her, I don’t know that I would get out of bed every day and put one foot in front of the other.  She is beautiful, outspoken, courageous and brave.  She is my little doodle bug, as tough as they come.  She saves me everyday.  I’m so lucky to have her in my life and that I get to be her mom.  I spend a lot of time missing Benny, but I also spend a lot of time realizing that I have this amazing person in my life.  She gives me so much hope for the future.  She makes me feel lucky to be a mom.  Love you to pieces my doodle bug!Image

Greg Hill Foundation

Tomorrow Tara and I head down to Foxwoods to be a part of the Greg Hill Foundation’s Celebrity Golf Tournament.  I have no idea what to expect, but I’m so thankful to have Tara by my side for this adventure.  Parker is traveling and it has been a tough couple of nights by myself.

Let me backtrack a little here, because I realize that I have left out a lot of information concerning the Greg Hill Foundation. After the accident occurred, two of our close friends contacted the Greg Hill Foundation which was started by a local DJ to respond to families in need or crisis. Sure, I had heard the on air fundraisers that they held and I remember listening after the Marathon Bombings as they raised a staggering amount of money. I never dreamed that they would be holding a fundraiser for my family.

Exactly a week after the accident, WAAF and the Greg Hill Foundation reached out to their listeners and asked for monetary donations to help my family. They would match the amount raised, up to a certain dollar amount. It was amazing listening to our name, our story on the radio station. One of Parker’s closest friends called to thank Greg and the listeners on our behalf. It was again proof that there are amazing people out there, strangers that were willing to move mountains to make our lives easier. We never asked for any of this, so it was truly humbling to be a part of. A week later, they dropped off a check for us.

In December, the Greg Hill Foundation held their first ever ‘Jingle All the Way 5K.’ It was a perfect opportunity for us to give back to the foundation that had helped us so much. We signed up, and then reached out to our friends, neighbors and family and before we knew it we had pulled together a team of 30+ amazing individuals, ‘Benny’s Bunch.’ It was bitter cold, about 8 degrees, but we walked/run/shivered along in memory of our dude. Darcy walked every single mile and didn’t complain once, she amazed us all. It was an amazing experience and a great way to try to give back to an organization that had done so much for us. The perfect way to pay tribute to Bennett so soon after his death.

In February, we were asked to join fellow beneficiaries in supporting the foundation in their ‘1,350 Days Celebration.’ I never expected to be sharing the stage with Marathon Bombing survivors. Their strength, humility and humor blew me away. That night was probably one of the most amazing nights of my life. We were in a room surrounded by people that had been through the worst possible moments in their life, yet they smiled, and laughed. There was so much love in that room, it reminded me of the 3 Day walk-on steroids! The one word that comes to mind is hope. Hope for the future, watching these people take what life had thrown at them and just do the best that they could with it. There weren’t any victims in that room, only survivors. It was very empowering.

I read my speech and by the end most of the folks in the room were in tears. So many people came up to us and just wanted to hug us and tell us how sorry they were, complete strangers. One of the Marathon bombing survivors wrote us a check to help out. A friend of Greg’s offered his condo in NH for us to use this summer. Again, complete strangers reaching out to offer us a chance to heal. I’m so accustomed to be jaded by life so watching as this whole thing unfolded, I was never so happy to be so wrong. The world is full of beautiful people doing beautiful things. Unfortunately, the news doesn’t cover that aspect, but trust me, it’s so true.

A few members of the Greg Hill Foundation signed up for the marathon and ran this past year as an homage to the survivors. Our friend Erin ran each mile for a different person. She ran mile 2 for Benny. We were waiting on the sidelines in our Benny’s Bunch shirts cheering the GHF team on. The energy of that day was so great and I’m so glad that Darcy again was able to witness someone she doesn’t know doing something amazing for her family. I want for her to grow up and see people as good.

So, onto tomorrow. I’m excited. I’m nervous. I cannot wait to be amongst these people again. To feel that kind of positive energy as everyone works together towards one collective goal-to raise money for people in the future that will need it. The link to the foundation is below should you want additional information or to make a donation. DSC_0103

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http://www.thegreghillfoundation.org/

Parallels

I told my therapist today about what happened with the water main.  She has told both Parker and I time and again that our situation is not normal, that most people don’t get signs like ours, or have these perfectly orchestrated situations.  I agree wholeheartedly, we are truly lucky, blessed even.  She was shocked when I told her about Wednesday night.

She is the one person that truly knows exactly what happened the day of the accident.  Sure, I’ve talked to Parker about it and he was there before the ambulances, but she knows in pretty good detail what happened.  So it was in talking to her today that we realized the parallels between the accident and what happened on November 8th.  I was hoping to sleep tonight, but I suppose getting this off my chest was more important.

Seeing the road bubble up, almost come to life made sense to me.  Watching the pavement split open and fall into the rushing water seemed logical.  The water was washing all physical evidence of that day away for me, it was as if the Earth were cleansing herself.  To look at the large gaping wound that was left I felt as if I was looking within myself.  I was almost sad to see it filled in and covered up.  It was as if the road looked as I have felt since November 8th.

Watching Parker run wildly from the Suburban down Bjorklund brought me back, except this time he wasn’t running to me.  I was no longer the one in need.  Standing on the corner and around our property and the church looking at the road was eerie.  It was so significant, except this time I was on the other side, I was a spectator.  Seeing caution tape around our property again, looking at photos in the news of our house and the church, the street, it brought it all back.  This time we were on the other side.  This wasn’t a catastrophe happening to us.  

Running outside and seeing the street pulsing, it was if it was alive.  I didn’t see anyone else, so I called 911.  I was able to take charge of the situation and inform the authorities.  I was able to try to help (I didn’t really do anything) our neighbor as the water started down his lawn.  When the press descended upon our house again, I was able to kick them off our property.  I might not have been nice about it, but it was what they deserved in my opinion after how they treated us the night my son died.  As minute as these details may seem, I was actually able to do something.  I didn’t feel helpless.  It was almost cathartic.  Here I am thrown into another emergency situation right outside my house, except this time, I wasn’t cast as the victim, I wasn’t helpless.

Looking at the situation again, I realized there was a lot more significance than just the physical damage.  We made it through this event unscathed, even though it felt like we relived several of the same sights and emotions.  I still cannot believe that any of this has truly happened.