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muscle memory

February 8, 2018

They call it muscle memory..

mus·cle mem·o·ry
1. the ability to reproduce a particular movement without conscious thought, acquired as a result of frequent repetition of that movement.


Both boys are struggling. Jonathan started first. His teacher came out and spoke to me after school.. He was getting in trouble at home.. Nothing major just acting out. .. and needy. Nothing seems to be enough for him. My first thought was Jennifer.. Because I knew the time was coming. .. But I do not ever want to force grief upon them.. or excuse poor behavior because their sister died. So we looked.. we tried to find other reasons.. and actually thought we had..

..but the behavior continued.

she was going to be the glue that held them together..

Then Nicholas’ teacher asked to speak with me.. Worried about him. He was pulling inward.. not acting like himself..

oh sweet boy

Still. I didn’t want to immediately think it was because of Jennifer. .So we stood in her classroom and talked.. and flippantly I pointed to her Valentines decoration hung up and shared that maybe it was because the anniversary is coming up. That just that day I walked through Target and flipped off the cards and hearts displayed.

“oh. yes.”  she said. “actually he did change the day I put those up.”

I felt a mix of relief that now I knew and utter disappointment that I am still not able to protect my child from cancers destruction. None of them.

And then I knew.. It was time to engage them in conversation about their sister.. Except Jonathan doesn’t want it to be about her. He doesn’t want to talk about missing her.. his body clenches and he pulls his chin up..

ok buddy you make your rules

her tenderness with him.. i wish I was as good for him as she was..

Nicholas.. So full of questions right now. Desperate to talk about her. And to learn more. Driving with just him and Bridgette he questioned me.. Wanting to know every detail of the day we first took her to the hospital. Where was she in the car? Did she get a headache first or throw up first? Where were Jonathan and I? .. He wanted every detail he could pull out of me. .

ok buddy you make your rules

he knew her.. her loved her and he knows that. But I think he gets angry that he struggles to remember her..

He wanted to know why I understood that he was missing Jennifer more than normal.. He wanted to know why he was. So I told him the anniversary (whats that mom?) of the day she died was coming up..

Oh. Do we have to say that?
well no. its what I say some people use other words..
yea I like that.. angelversary. thats right mom.

I abhor that term. Its too cutesy for me. Too nice for such a gut wrenching thing.. But it matters to him and right now his needs can outweigh mine. ..

The struggle continued for my boys.. One wanting, needing to engage in conversations about his sister.. the other.. At times wanting to be around.. to hear the words.. And other times needing to shut it out… until it overtakes him in the nights..

Our girls are noticing too.. talking about Jennifer more as they play. For the first time Bridgette has brought me pictures of her biggest sister.. For the first time she has said her sisters name and told me how much she loves Jennifer. .. and then she watches me.. intently.. Gauging.. reading, learning from my reaction. I have no idea how to do this.. I don’t want to ever make them feel they have to miss her.. and I don’t want them to ever feel they have to hide any of their feelings about their sister from me..

We had a girls date.. I find myself coming up with news ways to say things like I got both my little girls with me.. To not point out she is missing but also to know in my heart I remember her..

So I smiled .. hugged her and as neutral as possible I simply said.. Me too..

It’s hard to parent when I know they are struggling… because I know feeling out of control.. I know overreacting and I know hating the way I feel and behave.. But I also know .. no matter the reason sometimes behavior is simply unacceptable..

It has meant lots of consequences.. talks and forgiveness happening in our 4 walls. .. Coming and going from all directions.

I have repeated the words a lot lately.. “What a good man does. ..” Because that is my only job.. To raise good men and good woman. Before cancer stepping into our lives.. I thought my job was to keep them safe.. But I can’t ever promise my kids that..

Because they know, sometimes people die.. they know sometimes kids die.

After a flare up Nicholas had I felt a bit lost as to what to do.. And he heard me talking to a friend about it.. And that sent him over the edge. .. But he settled.. and we talked. And I said the words I find myself saying so often..

My only job is to raise you to be a good man.. And good men ask for help. So do good woman.. and I needed help…

and good men pump gas!

He asked then for help.. he asked to go back to his “talk dr” .. (and has)

Good men are brave… willing to step into their pain instead of running from it. ..  They get yucky stuff out instead of letting it fester.

And he asked how I did it. ..

Well I write.. I get it out by writing and I am brave by sharing..

except I knew then it wasn’t the truth. .. I knew I hadn’t shared anything I have written in awhile.. .And then I have stopped writing altogether.. I knew as the words came out of me that I wasn’t being brave. .

and i knew then
that you want me to be brave
i could feel it then.. barely and i pushed it..
pushed you away
as i have spent time the last few days..
i feel it even stronger..
feel you
i miss you jennifer lynn
but i HATE missing you
so i have hidden..


missing you
lets me feel you again..

…until there is a cure..

  1. Crystal says:

    It’s so hard to watch our kids go through this. This was a bigger fear for me I think than even my own grief. I was so scared as to how I would support my kids! As kids can do, they seemed to handle it really well……or maybe they handled it too well because mom didn’t. And then when mom got a little stronger, they allowed their own grief to come through. It’s hard because a lot of times it doesn’t “look” like grief. It looks like bad behavior or depression or anger. I’m glad you recognized it, and I hope the teacher is understanding to him through this time……

  2. Karen Zoucha says:


  3. Melissa Filice says:

    Breaks my heart…

  4. Jessica Middleton says:

    Love to you and your sweet family!

  5. Sally says:

    Thank you for being brave!

  6. Leah says:

    Sending love.

  7. Amanda says:

    I have heard several song this week that remind me of you and Jennifer and I sing thrm loudly and then I feel sad for your family and her. I know that my sadness is nothing compared to yours. Im sorry you, Tony, and the kids are going through this. I think about her often even though I never met her. I promise to be active in the fight against this Demon.

  8. Sue gamm says:


  9. JDS says:

    You sharing your pain, your memories, your struggles, your desire to do right by your living children all help me to be a better friend. I met a woman who had two daughters the same age as my daughters. Our daughters were friends and spent time with each other. One day her oldest daughter (who I’d thought up until then was her oldest child) told me that she had a brother who’d died before she was born. Over several years my friend slowly disclosed that her son had died at 2 from leukemia. He should’ve been in the same year as my son. She had an incredibly difficult time when what should have been his graduation in June 2012 came around. I was at a loss. Your blog helps me understand her better. I still don’t know what to say or do, but at least I now know that the pain doesn’t just go away or fade, you simply get better at hiding it.

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