Andrew and Florentina with their father at Christmas in England

Andrew with his Christmas stocking on his lap drinking eggnog

It is two o’clock in the morning; it is Christmas. The presents are wrapped and laid out around the tree.
I am tired and miserable.
I kept busy all day doing as much advance preparation as possible, so that cooking the Christmas meal will be more manageable. Apart from my April-showers-type, sudden bursts of crying, it wasn’t too bad. I mean, It was a bit chaotic all around, none of us were nearly as organized this year as in previous years, but how could we be? One day Andrew was as integral and normal a part of our lives as breathing, the next day we are woken up to be told that he is inexplicably dead, and now… let me see… forty-three days after our world has imploded, it is Christmas!
When Christmas decorations and lights started appearing everywhere, I couldn’t believe it.
What was wrong with everyone in my town, and in downtown Manhattan for that matter? Had they not heard that my son was dead?
From the moment I was told that Andrew was dead, I’ve been dwelling in a strange land.
Now that I am well enough again to get up, take care of myself, the laundry, the family and even venture out, I feel even stranger. Being unable to get up or even keep my eyes open for more than a few minutes at a time when I wasn’t well, seemed more natural, it reflected how I felt, stunned and only barely conscious . I feel no different now, except that with the help of a bunch of pills I am functioning; I am, for all the world, back to business as usual.
Rain or shine, I wear my sunglasses when I’m out, but even that camouflage is not always enough to hide the sudden floods of tears. And here’s the thing, I don’t want to attract attention to myself, I don’t want people at the supermarket to see me crying, and yet when I try to behave like everybody else, I feel like an impostor.
I am not the normal person that the man at the deli counter, or the check out girl assume I am. I am the mother of a seven and half month old baby who died of SIDS; it’d taken fifteen years of blood and tears poured into the Foundation I created in his name to make peace with that. Now, now I am the mother of a perfectly normal- perfectly happy incredibly accomplished Chinese speaking, drop-dead (pardon the pun) gorgeous twenty year old son who killed himself. While nobody was watching, he went up to the 10th floor of Bobst, the library at NYU, climbed over the plexiglass and smash-landed on the atrium’s marble floor below. Granted, he wasn’t the first one to follow that route down, but still.
And yet nobody seems to notice that my son is missing and they go on as normal. And why shouldn’t they go on as normal with their lives, when my family and I are trying our best to do just that?
Take today for instance, we all tried to do what we have always done on Christmas Eve. I, as I mentioned earlier, did all my prepping as I have done ever since I have been cooking for Christmas. Hugh and the children have always dashed around for some last-minute shopping until lunch time on Christmas Eve, and this year was no exception. The only difference is that it takes us all longer to do anything, like when you’ve only had two or three hours sleep and your coordination is not a hundred per cent.
Still, even though the whites have collapsed and we’ve had to crack ten more eggs, the tiramisu’ is made and in the fridge; we refreshed ourself with a cup of tea, and we are ready to go to the movie.
This tradition started in 2001 when the first part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy was released and Andrew and I went to see it. From the moment the movie started, Andrew and I were captivated. I liked most of the characters but my very favorite was the Elf Legolas, Andrew was quite fond of Gimly the dwarf and imitated him perfectly. For three exciting hours we sat there next to each other, glued to the screen. What a disappointment when the movie ended and we knew that we’d have to wait a year for the second installment. That’s how our tradition of going to the cinema on Christmas Eve started, that was then followed by dinner at the Outback.
This year, us minus Andrew, settled on going to see Invictus. We all enjoyed the movie, yet when it ended none of us moved. I was quietly sobbing, yet seeing a day, not far in the future when Andrew’s death would be recognized as the catalyst that ushered in a new dialogue, a new paradigm of understanding about ourselves. It would be the harbinger of a major healing that will take place in our society. I thought of Andrew then, as Invictus too. I saw his death not as a moment of darkness, but as the lighting of a candle. And it fell upon me to keep it burning.
But right now, each of us wrapped in our shared, yet private grief, we sat there until we were the only people left in the theatre.
On our way out we started arguing about where to go for dinner. I didn’t want to go to the Outback because we’d never been there without Andrew. I couldn’t see us sitting there without Andrew making houses out of beer mats while waiting, or tackling a Blooming Onion and cheesy fries without Andrew’s doing his bit to help finish it. And what about the Sydney Sinful Sundae that Andrew and Robert always had for dessert? This huge deliciousity that they managed to demolish every time?
No, I couldn’t bring myself to go this year, but Robert kept insisting.
“It’s a tradition, we’ve always done it, since you and Andrew went to see The Lord of Rings the first time.”
“I can’t do it,” I said.
The last time we went was not long before Andrew died. It was a Saturday in early October, he came home on the train, he was smiling when I picked him up at the station. When we got home he called his friend Eric who happened to be home from college, they played Magic cards while I spent an hour or so emailing my friends the link of this blog about the Law of Attraction. Then we went to the Outback dinner, Robert, Andrew and I. Hugh was in England visiting his mother and Florentina was in the city doing her thing.
But Robert kept insisting that we should not break with tradition.
“Andrew liked traditions,” Robert said.
“Well,” I said. “He’s not here to keep the tradition, is he?”
After much angry discussion, yes it did get angry, we settled on the Cheesecake Factory, but by the time we got there I was in a foul mood. I was like a cat spoiling for a fight, hair standing on end, hissing and spitting.
Every time the waiter smiled and told us to take our time and “chill out” I wanted to slap him and tell him to
STFU, and as a friend of mine recently said, if you don’t know what it means, google it.
“What no dessert?” he said when we asked for the bill.
“No thanks, we need to get home.”
“Oh, where do you guys live?” he asked. In hell I wanted to say, and what about you, Lalaland?
“Sometimes I just want to tell people; shut up, my son is dead,” I told Florentina while waiting for the bill.
“Sometimes I feel like that too,” she said.
For the first time since Andrew died, today we all got stroppy with each other, I was the worst of all.
Now everyone but me is asleep, and I want to finish this piece the way I started the last one;
“twas the night before Christmas, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…” except for the silent sorrow stirring in my heart.
Oh Andrew, why did you leave us? Why was there no one to stop you?
You could have been opening presents with us in a few hours if….
I have not wanted to wish Merry Christmas to anyone, but I want to wish it to you, my Darling;
Merry Christmas Andrew, wherever you are.
I love you!

12 thoughts on “Invictus

  1. We were thinking of you all yesterday (and today, and every day) and of Tigs … you are all, all five of you, close to our hearts and in our thoughts. I hope Christmas Day had some happier moments – Tigs will have been with you in spirit and would love the fact that you carried on so he can join in in his own way. Love you all … Nx

    • Oh yeah. Florentina gave me a present from Tigs, a calendar with the title “Extreme Ironing” to understand please see Andrew’s dirty laundry post.

  2. None of us know what to do. Well, I can’t speak for everyone else, but I sure as hell don’t know what do to…except to call more often and tell you all that I love you. That’s probably a good idea.

    If Andrew suddenly re-appeared, I’d throttle him! I’d say, “Do you know what your mother has put us all through!” I’d say. “Do you know how lousy, how fucking lousy (am I allowed to swear on this thing?) it has been to watch your mom and dad and sister and little brother go through this? Don’t ever, EVER do this again, and I mean it.”

    That’s stupid, right? But I’d be lying if I denied that ideas like this come into my mind. This wasn’t suppose to happen. None of us were prepared. This wasn’t in the script and worse yet we can’t find the re-wind button and try to do this over again.

    Now we are all stuck trying to make sense of this. Perhaps this is a “guy” thing, but I am trying to make sense of this. It is like trying to assemble some complicated gadget from the store except the instructions are in Chinese and I have this sneaking suspicion that some parts are missing. I want to figure it out, like solving some rubrik’s cube, and then call everyone and say, “I got it! I got it! I figured this out. Whew, that was a hard one, wasn’t it? But now it makes sense.”

    See? That’s as stupid as my other comments. Maybe one of the reasons we are all grumpy about this is that we all feel stupid. Every once in a while I get this inspiration to say something profound or spiritual, thanks goodness I know to STFU lest the entire Williamson-Noble family come after me with pitch forks. Trying to be profound just comes off like being smug, and that is revolting. People who are smug need to be punished in some physical way, don’t you think?

    The first big holiday is suppose to be the worst, so, on the cheery side, you have over 51 weeks before the next Christmas to see if this is true or not.

    And, in some morbid way, the idea of Esmeralda saying to a chirpy waitress, “Merry Fucking Christmas, yourself, bitch, just bring us the bill.” …well… I find that satisfying. I am not suggesting you do this, but let’s be honest, we have all felt like that sometime. In the years to come, it would become part of the family legend, “Do you remember that waitress’s face when mom said…” and then there would be hysterical laughter.

    But then, maybe not, it could backfire. The reaction we want would be a “shock and awe, shivering in her boots, nervous terror.” But the waitress could fire back something awful – and I think we all agree that picking a fight with Esmeralda would be a mistake and would only end up with everyone getting indigestion. Or the waitress could burst into tears and then everyone would feel sort-of bad. Or the host could come to the table and say, “Was there something wrong with the burger?”

    Perhaps it’s better to eat at home for a little while longer. That way you can avoid, “Hi, my name is Kathy and I am going to be your waitress. Would you like to hear about our holiday specials?”

    • Oh Mark, Mark, the one and only Mark – And this is the same Mark who says that he doesn’t know what to say?
      Now I feel REALLY bad, you’ve me laugh. I can’t believe this, I’ve laughed! Thank you and please, do keep writing, don’t you ever STFU!

  3. Oh well, how can I top Mark comments? I am thinking I have to call and say something, but what?. Should I say merry Christmas? but I feel bad, because I know there is not merry Christmas for you. Then I think that I should not say any thing, but then what is the purpose of calling if I am not going to say anything? Anyway… If I call or if I don’t call or if I write or if I don’t write, I came to the same conclusion, that the best thing I can do is pray, pray for comfort, acceptance..I pray everyday that God shower all his love and compassion on all of you. I think of Andrew every day, every night and in between. I think of Esmeralda, Hugh, Florentina and Robert as well. Every moment. When I was putting up my Christmas tree, when I decorated the house, when I wrapped the gifts, I can feel the pain, and the sorrow you may feel, then I close my eyes and I pray, and I hold you all of you in my heart.

  4. Now I definitely cannot top Mark’s comments either. But I will echo Maheshi in saying that I’ve thought of you in gobs and gobs of thoughts at a time… especially these days, and especially while watching Sherlock Holmes… reminded me specifically of Hugh and Andrew and their glorious Britishness.

    Esmeralda, I talked to Florentina tonight and she whispered in the phone because the whole house was asleep (and we call each other “Mo”), she said, “Mo, you can’t even imagine what this is like.” I said, “I know, I can’t.”

    But there’s something so bittersweet about reading your blog. It’s bitter and sad for all the obvious reasons. I’m not sure I’d call any of it “sweet” except for your gift of expression and writing – Florentina says we can’t imagine what this is like, and I know I certainly can’t, but I’m glad we can at least read your thoughts and feelings and connect just a teensy bit more. This is actually really helpful to us, your friends, knowing what goes on in the WN’s day-to-day right now, and the bickers and foul moods and hopes and questions and daily tears. I think it gives an extra “umph” to our prayers, so please keep it coming. We are reading.

    I didn’t have to google what STFU meant, I guessed instantly. I could imagine Robert insisting that Andrew liked traditions. And I could imagine your response… I think I even read half of it in “British” in my head, if not some parts out loud. I like the photo of Andrew drinking eggnog (I love eggnog too).

    Love you all.

    • Oh Laura. It’s true, no on can even begin to imagine what this is like. Yet I keep holding on to the thought that there” ll come a day…
      Thank you for the extra “umph” in your prayers. Esmeralda

  5. my arms are wrapped around you Esmeralda… I’m here because I relate and I grieve with you. Kerry passed on Memorial day and I thought…….what the hell, how dare you celebrate summer and picnics and family… you NOT KNOW MY SON IS DEAD?? I stopped wearing my contacts because I could not focus on a world without my son. eventually I was forced out of my house and when I drove, I drove blind…completely out of focus. I lived this way for many months,,,,,6, 9???I can’t remember…. the love and the pain and all that comes with it is right there, at the surface. now, yesterday, always. what pushes me forward is the exact thing that they lost…… HOPE.

    • I just thoughts, all the prayers, all the arms extended to hold one another, are beloved children only gone from sight; together we are forming a net of love.
      With love and appreciation, Esmeralda

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