July 22, 2011.

It’s hard to even write the date. As a teacher July and August are what we live for to relax and distance ourselves from the mad ness of the previous 10 months. For me you might as well take July off the calendar. I start getting up set in late June knowing that Lee’s birthday is approaching on July 6th which is a difficult day for me . That passes with the help of many people who reach out friends old and new  but then I start dreading this day, July 22 which is the actual date of Lee’s death. I  was at my nephew’s 3rd birthday party out in Commack, Long Island. It was a wonderful party with the twins at that great age. By 4:00 I dropped my Mom back in Queens, I headed home and arrived there at 5:30. I do remember it was raining hard that day but no storms where I was. Once home, I kissed Gene and asked him were Lee was and was told he was playing soccer with his friends. It never occurred to me there was any danger in this. At about 5:45 I was actually startled by what I recall so vividly was the loudest clap of thunder I had ever heard. I looked out the window in shock. I really had never heard anything quite that loud. I don’t recall seeing any lightning. Then there were sirens and then Adam’s call about something happening to Lee. Next the police came to the door and told me that there was an accident and Lee was at Pascack Valley emergency’s room. When I asked if he was ok all the young police officer said was, “Ma’me, I’m not allowed to say” which alarmed me to a certain extent. All I needed to hear was he’ll be ok or something like that. Gene kept assuring me that it was most likely a soccer related injury or possibly a concussion. Gene drove me to the ER while he parked and I wandered in apparantlhy to  an area I should not have been but there was no one to direct me. Many doctors and nurses were surrounding a person they were obviously trying to revive with those paddles. I looked down in horror and recognized those legs and feet as those of Lee’s. I remember thinking-‘Wrong again, Gene. This is not a soccer injury.” I don’t remember what I was thinking but I was whisked away to a small room where Gene finally met me. Of course the rest is history when everyone came in to say they were so sorry but he didn’t make it and did I want to see him??  I shrunk back into a corner of the room in disbelief while the woman security officer looked at me and nodded. “Go see your son” she said. ” Go to him now or  you might regret this later on.” So I listened thinking she had more experience in this. I went to Lee, eyes wide open and cool to the touch. His chest was dark purple. He had a tube from attempted intubation hanging from his mouth which I removed. I still cannot recall what I was thinking. All I could hear was Alice Fagan screaming and screaming and then more screaming.  I stroked Lee’s hair and legs and stayed with him until they told me I had to leave. The reality had not really set in. They asked me who I wanted to call and it was my friend, Jane, but she never answered her phone. I wound up driving over there at midnight to be with her. The next morning I was found at 6:00 am walking to the ER. Gene found me up by  Pascack Brook Park and asked me where I was going at this hour. I told him I needed to go to Lee that he still probably needed him mother around. Gene put me in his car and we went home. The rest is very blurry but gets clearer over time.

Gene ( as many men do) deals with this more on an internal level. He told me he has a “grief meter” and once it reaches a certain point, he shuts down. My Mom as been a great support as have my many friends who are ALWAYS there for me at the drop of a hat. The gym has provided a haven for me to get lost in physical exercise but it is Lee’s friends that provide me the most comfort and greatest unexpected joy. During his life, Lee wanted me to have nothing to do with any of his friends, which I was kind of forced to respect since he didn’t volunteer too much information about them. I did know generally there names and a little about them. In the years following his death, I have gotten closer to many of his friends and gotten to know so many of them on a more personal, more mature level. There is a big difference between 19 and 24 and I always will wonder how Lee would have grown. It is  Jess and Dan and Adam and Mike and Josh and Gary and Kelly, and Amy and Elise and Steve, Jamie , Mike, Dean, Sarah, Jacquie and I’m sure I’ve left a few out but  they have added a dimension to my life I never expected. I marvel at how Lee made such amazingly good choices in his selection of friends. I like to think I had something to do with that but he somehow had the  instinct, presence, insight , wisdom  or whatever it took to choose the most amazing friends.

To all of you : My connections to you in whatever forms they take mean more to me than I am really able to express. I am lifted in your presence and awed by your growth into young adults. I am proud of Lee for choosing all of you and proud and honored that you continue to choose to continue a relationship with me. I am quite sure this might have begun from a “need  to” but has continued to a “get/want to.” Over the past 5 years when we get together, we don’t talk about Lee much any more. Their lives have changed and will continue to do so as they should and I’m blessed they choose to keep me a part of their lives.  They are a living testament to Lee’s life and will always remember him the way I do. I can ask for nothing more than that on this day or any other.

I love you guys.

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As I approach the 5th year of Lee’s passing, I looked over the scrapbook I put together with everyone’s heart poured out. Each and every page has a significance of their own.  I wanted to post a poem written by one of Lee’s AZA friends. I hope he doesn’t mind. I am moved by his words and depth of his feelings. Thank you for this. I know it came straight from the heart.

 

           My Ode to Lee

 

I can’t count the times

Finding the words for you

Lee Weisbrod

My brother, my friend

 

Words cluttered in my mind

It would take a lifetime

Describe how you lived

Explain what you’ve done

for me, for those

 

Taken by whom?

The Almighty? Mother Nature?

Life snatched from you

So precious, so quickly

 

Things happen for a reason

But under what justification

Were you taken out of my life?

 

The last time I saw you

Hooters, you just started your diet

Chomping salad

I smiled

Your smile always beat mine

 

If I knew it was a final goodbye

I would not have let go

I’d keep you safe

Safe from what fate offered you

 

Gatherings with those

Those who knew you

I hug them because

They knew Lee

I cry on their shoulder because

They knew Lee Weisbrod

 

I see your death as a message

To all of us who live like gods

Live for the moment

For in a moment,

One’s life can only be a memory, but Lee

Your memory will last forever.

                                         

                                                                           -Scott Schwartz

The quote above sums it up for me.  Lee’s death has left  my alive with a hole so large  that I could almost call me a shell of my former self. Today Lee would have been 24 years old. I got to thinking back 24 years and remembering his birth. It seems like yesterday and it seems like a lifetime ago.  He was born in New York Hospital on a hot, summer day.  I went into labor on the 9th hole at Clearview Golf Course. We rushed to the hospital but I had many hours yet to wait. Twelve hours later, my obstetrician, Dr. Druzin, was threatening to leave me with his associate so he could catch his plane to Israel. He never did and Lee arrived at 6 lbs. 14 ounces.  Mostly I remember them placing him in my arms and my shivering a lot. I was terrified, never really having had much contact with babies or infants. With the help of my Mom, Gene, friends and Mama Sally, I became a fast learner. I went back to work when Lee was three months leaving him in the competent hands of Tete, a Brazilian woman who spoke only Portuguese . Her vocal cords had been removed so she spoke only in raspy sounds which Lee later imitated. I found Tete through the help of my friend, Linda. Tete was gold. She lived in Lee’s room along with our three cats: Lady Flash, Bucks and Tootski. She taught me how to care for Lee and I taught her English at night. At 2 and half Lee wound up with an asthma attack that landed him in the hospital for 5 days hooked up to an IV. It was pathetic. We didn’t even know he had asthma. In the midst of all this, Tete’s Mom passed away in Sao Paola and she returned to Brazil, never to return to the States. Lee never had any memory of her save the pictures I took and I look back at them from time to time with wonderful memories. I have been blessed with 19 years  of happiness beyond my wildest dreams. I gave Lee the roots to grow and the wings to fly and I believe he was on his flight path. It was just not enough time. So, on this day , July 6, it is not a happy birthday but a date of birth which brings me the ambivalent feelings of sweet , happy memories and deep sadness for what might have been.  No more than a few hours pass each day before my thoughts turn to my son. I miss him so very much.

Peace out.

I always used to think of “other people” as writers but I’m beginning to think that anyone and everyone is a writer. A writer is anyone who has something to express. I decided to begin expressing myself through a blog? Why? Because Nicholas Kristoff won’t accept any applications for his trip to Africa unless you can keep a blog. That really  was my initial motivation but the more I thought about it, the more that became a secondary reason. In truth,the time is just right for me – I can feel it.  My heart tells me that  I am at a crossroads between grieving and healing. I suppose that’s why I chose the above quote.  As a college student I recall being engrossed in “The Prophet” by Kahill Gibran but now I turn to him for other a different kind of comfort.

It is totally fitting that I begin my blog today, July 4th, 2011. It is 2 days before what would have been my Lee’s 24th birthday. I start to get depressed in med June knowing that early July is on its way and just as I get through July 6, I start dreading July 22, the date of Lee’s death. On those days, among a few others, I wish I could crawl into a hole and sleep the day away and wake up the next day but that never happens.  I always make a conscious decision to be with people who lift me up on those days – or at least let me lean on them. Usually that turns out to be my friend, Jane, but there are many others in my life who could be that support.

On July 6th, I will write a letter to Lee and place it at the cemetery as I have done for the past 4 years. This will be the 5th year. The cemetery is a strange place. It’s not a place I  ever expected to be spending time but I do. I don’t go as often as I used to because the need is not there.  Odd things bring me to the airport: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, before I take a trip, the first day of summer, spring and fall as well as any big Yankee, Giant, Ranger , Jets or Knicks big win. I place items there that invariably are lost,blown away or taken like key chains, things I bring back from my trips, stuffed Yankee dolls, flowers, pumpkins and even a beer can.  I sit there and wait for a sign. People tell me they get signs from people they have loved who have died. No signs yet but I still hope ( a little.)  One thing I don’t do is go to the cemetery in the winter. I went once and the stone was covered with snow. You couldn’t even see the name WEISBROD on the large stone and his Giants hat in the photograph I placed there just peeked out.  I decided not to go visit in Winter.  When I go, I am always hoping to find something that someone left there but I rarely do. I  always hope one of his friends came and stopped by  and they did in the beginning but life goes on and they have stopped. I felt so good to see someone had come  – it meant he is not forgotten. I know now he is not forgotten even if no one comes to the cemetery. Anyway I will go on Wednesday with my letter and hope this time it brings me a little more peace and maybe some sort of sign. I miss Lee more than I can ever put into words. I miss laughing with him.

Well, that’s it for now.

Peace out.