Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Regrets and Treats

Halloween was a special holiday for Tim.  It was his chance to become his favorite television or comic book superhero, such as the Red Power Ranger or Spider-Man.  When he was a baby, it was the costumes that were cute and funny – a puppy-dog, Barney the Purple Dinosaur, or a cowboy.  As he got a bit older, the costumes became a little more elaborate – a vampire, the Grim Reaper, a werewolf, or the character from Slaughterhouse.

In 2009, as he was beginning to tickle his muse of designing his own comic-book hero he based his costume on what the character would wear – red fleece shirt, blue cargo-pants, and military boots.  The character was from a future time or alternate reality, who was a teen and the leader of a combat group that battled zombies who were controlled by demons.  Tim loved Halloween.  He loved the myth and origins of the holiday – from its druid beginnings to the Great Pumpkin disappointing Linus and Sally as they waited for him to appear as they took fortitude in the pumpkin patch.
The week before we took off to one of the local farms in Bucks County to hunt down our perfect pumpkin that would transformed into the Jack O’Lantern – mutilated if I wielded the carving knife to give its face the triangle eyes and jagged toothy smile.  Candles, strobe lights, or glow sticks would be inserted to give the definitive glow.  Tim would pull us along running to the Haunted Barn, the Alien Hunt, or the Corn Maze.  One year, his sister Alaina’s first year, he brought along a friend from school.  The two boys run off to go for a quick ride in the Monster Truck – a converted hearse with a 4x4 engine and transmission and four foot high tires.  Soon Tim discovered the paint ball gun, shooting ghosts and ghoulies cutout targets with orange and yellow paint.

If it was a year my schedule was day-work, or even luckier to be off from work, I would stay home and give out the candy to the trick-or-treaters.  Tim would go off with his mother to return with a king’s ransom in chocolate, taffies, coin, and potato chips or pretzels.  It was special even more if the holiday was on a weekend or if he was off from school the next day – he and I would watch Bela Lugosi as Dracula, laugh and giggle with Peter Boyle singing Putting on the Ritz, and howl as David Naughton changed from an American hitchhiker in England to a flesh tearing werewolf who is haunted by his best friend.

My only regret is the times Tim wanted to go on a haunted hayride or walk through a haunted prison tour or asylum.  Sometimes, work and school schedules or economics interfered.  I watched his face become sullen with disappointment, but then brighten with his own simple plans to collect candy and dress up.  I hated disappointing him.  I know he wanted to have the adventure of going to the Eastern Penitentiary to hunt down a ghost.

This first Halloween without Tim is difficult for me.  I think of him, wondering and imaging what he would be doing this year.  Who would he dress as to emulate or impersonate?  How far would he walk to collect treats; would he go with his mother and sisters, or go off by himself?  Instead I will be bringing treats to set them at his headstone that was just recently laid and tell him how his sisters will be dressing as little witches, how we went pumpkin hunting, and walking through the Haunted Barn without him – all the time missing him being with in the physical world.  This may be a minor holiday as compared to Christmas; but none the less it’s a holiday that was burned into my memory.  It is a holiday that my son looked forward to and planned for over a space of time.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Rabbit Hole

It’s called the Rabbit Hole, this sudden loss of a child and the grief that comes along with it.   Much like Lewis Carroll’s Alice chasing after the White Rabbit and plummeting down to the antechambers that open to the madness of Wonderland; each day is met by the disillusion of reality.  There was no bottle with a note attached reading “Drink Me.”  There was no morsel of cake or scone with a note reading “Eat Me.”  I know.  I woke each morning expecting the nightmare to have been just that – a nightmare.
I prayed each night before I drifted off to sleep and dream of my Tim that I would wake up and find him running down the stairs, dragging his fingertips against the wall evident from the ever-blackening trail of five or four lines.  I half expected to open his bedroom door to find Tim sitting on his bed, computer on his lap as he surfed the internet.  There were days I sat in the backyard as my daughters splashed and played in the pool.  I would look up at his bedroom window, hoping and praying I would hear his laughter.  Each time led to disappointment.  Each time reminded me that reality had been altered.  The thread that held the fabric of my soul’s skein was pulled out and my universe had fallen apart like cheap counterfeit clothing.
Happenstance to what I was now experiencing, Tim had read both of the Alice novels during Spring Break this freshman year.  He was anticipating a new game coming out involving an Alice now grown into womanhood.  He and his sisters watched Disney’s cartoon and movie directed by Tim Burton and starred Johnny Depp.  I had told him that Alice in Wonderland was John Lennon’s favorite book – Tim liked the useless plethora of trivia I possessed.  Once or twice I played Jefferson Airplane’s song with Grace Slick’s contralto voice and her lyrics from the group’s 1967 album Surrealistic Pillow.
Go ask Alice, when she’s two foot small.

I just recently had Tim’s bedroom door replaced for reasons of another story.  However, Tim had written a quote from Alice in Wonderland as the Cat is directing Alice to the Tea Party.

“'But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat. “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
Tim’s vandalism of the door is minor to the thought that it comes to me as a message that can be conveyed to grieving parents.  I surely don’t want to be in this “club,” or “go among the mad people.”  But I must because I have arrived in Wonderland and as Alice answered to the Caterpillar as to whom she was…

Alice replied shyly, “I-I hardly know sir, just at the present – at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, I think I have changed several times since then.”

I have changed several times since I woke up on May 17, 2011.  Still I have to ask,  “What did the Dormouse say?”

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My Lion Cub (Timothy's Song)

He came to my world with a lion cub's roar
His gentle soul, I am bound to his trust
Protecting him from mistakes and tragedies of my past
an unspoken oath given in the presence of angels

I watch him grow, as I grow older
Magical days are the joy of his life
His words have saved my soul from the evil
as he held my face drying tears for lost brothers in the fires

The common bond of a father and son,
one which no one can break, and defy God to take him from my heart.
he will remain my gentle lion cub, my son, my soul,
even to the day I return to dust


Monday, October 10, 2011

Tears in the Dark, Little Sisters, and a Broken Promise

To write about my Tim as if he were a paragon, I do not wish to convey those are my thoughts.  He was a simple, everyday teenager who came into the world kicking and screaming as most children do when born.  Still he was my son.  I overlook many imperfections as most fathers do when it comes to their children.  He had his moods, his quarks, his fallacies; but despite all these characteristics that make him human – he was of course my son.  As any father and son, we had our arguments, disagreements, disputes, and each set in our ways and beliefs.  No matter what came of those troubles, Tim knew he was loved.

In early October, 2009, Tim was one month into his 8th grade year.  He turned 14 during the summer.  His mother and I were separated; Tim decided to stay with me.  He didn’t want to leave me alone and most of all didn’t want to leave his home.  I tried everything to keep him happy and feeling “normal” with the whirlwind and turmoil of my marital status.  When I picked up his sisters to visit, Tim would help me care for them.  He took care of me after his mother left; it was an experience that matured him beyond his years and changed his outlook on love and trust.

He was due to have his braces removed in a short time after having them applied the previous year just before he was to start the 7th grade and at a new school.  After the braces he hardly smiled.  That August, 2008, I took Tim for an Orthodontist consult and by luck – good or bad – there were a few cancellations.  The orthodontist is named Dr. Klatte. 

Tim teased that it sounded like Klaatu, the name of the alien visitor from the 1951 classic The Day the Earth Stood Still.  The orthodontist was more than happy to use those openings to install the mounts and wire.  Tim was not happy about it.
“Great, now Jack has something new to tease me about.”  Tim said as his once playful grin changed to a grimace of despair.

“Do you mean that little girly boy; the one that looks like Damien from the Omen?”  I asked feeling guilty for my son’s dismay.  Tim was sensitive about how others thought of him.  He was sensitive about his outward projection of himself.

“Yeah.  Him.”

I looked at Tim.  I knew how he felt.  I never had braces, but when I was a kid I faced bullies and teasing.  I was teased about my mom’s divorce, living in a blended family, having pimples – all the things that as adults we don’t think of until we run into a nemesis at a high school reunion.  The only thing I could do was no different from most parents facing a dilemma of their child’s happiness and self-esteem.  I consoled Tim and gave him a different outlook on the situation.

“Tim, the doctor said the braces would be on for only just over fourteen months.  So this is what you can say to Jack: ‘These will be off within a year; you’re going to be a faggot for the rest of your life.’”

Tim laughed.  We drove to seek out a chocolate shake and something that would brighten his day. 

So now October, a year later.  Tim was helping his sister, Alaina, out of her car seat.  Alaina can be tenacious especially for the age of three.  She refused Tim’s assistance.  Each time he tried to unbuckle the straps to the car seat she would hit his hands.  When he finally did she began screaming.  Tim tried very hard to pick her up from the car seat but Alaina continued to wrestle and fidget, flaying her arms and kicking her legs.  I had told Tim several times before that he didn’t know his own strength.  As he was picking his sister up he was actually hurting her.  I know he didn’t mean to hurt her – it wasn’t as if he was a giant oaf like Lenny in Of Mice and Men – but he had the developing muscles of a man, but with the mindset of a boy.  He was gentle by nature.

I have to admit I was having a bad day.  Alaina and Tim fought all day.  Tim would try to help me care for his sister; Alaina wouldn’t allow him to do anything.  I saw the way Tim was holding his sister.  Her screams were so high pitch, the type of shriek that goes down your spine and bounces around your skull.  I told Tim to put his sister down.

“You’re hurting her.  Just put her down.  I’ve told you before about how strong you are.”

“I’m not; she’s just being a pain in the ass.”

“Put her down!”  I yelled at him.  I don’t know why but I suddenly hit him in the face.  I had never hit him in his life.  The most I had ever used to employ any form of corporal punishment was a two-finger tap and a slight clip to the back of his head – but never to cause pain, leave a mark, or draw blood.  I looked down at my hand and saw blood.  Tim stood holding his hands over his mouth.  I wiped the blood from my hand onto my pant leg.  

“Daddy, I’m bleeding.”  I looked at Tim.  A slight trickle of blood smeared off from his lip.  I pulled his lip back.  I saw the wire from his top braces not in line with the rest of the set-up; the mount over his eye-tooth became dislodged where it was cemented.

“Oh Monk, I am so sorry.”

“It’s okay, Daddy.”

“No its not.  Come on lets clean you up and I’ll have to call the Orthodontist to get this fixed.”

That night as Tim slept; I sat on my sofa in the darkness of the living room.  I cried for hurting him.  I was ashamed because it was among the promises I had made him when he was born.  I hated myself that night because I broke not only skin but a promise. 

Klaatu barada nikto

Tim's Red Balloon

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


TIMOTHY OWEN CONNORS Obituary: View TIMOTHY CONNORS's Obituary by Philadelphia Inquirer & Philadelphia Daily News



TIMOTHY OWEN, Born on July 26, 1995 died tragically on May 17, 2011. Beloved son of Georgette Connors (nee Graham) and Martin Connors III. Loving brother of Alaina, Charlotte and Dillon. Also surviving are his dear grand-parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and countless friends. Timmy, a graduate of Our Lady of Port Richmond and a freshman at Archbishop Ryan H.S. had a passion for designing his own comic books and writing stories. He will be remembered for his endless love of family and friends and all things Spiderman. All are invited to share in Timmy's Life Celebration Friday eve. from 6-9 P.M. from JOHN F. GIVNISH OF ACADEMY RD., 10975 Academy Rd., Phila. and Saturday from 8:30 - 10:30 A.M. at Nativity B.V.M. Belgrade St. and Allegheny Ave. followed by his Funeral Mass 11:00 A.M. Interment Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. In lieu of flowers contributions may be made to the Timothy Connors Memorial Scholarship Fund at Archbishop Ryan H. S. To share you fondest memories of Timmy visit

Published in Philadelphia Inquirer & Philadelphia Daily News on May 19, 2011

View the Memorial Website

Writing Tim's Name in the Stars

Just before Tim’s sixth birthday, it was decided to repaint his room.  Gi had seen ideas on shows such as This Old House and the like and thought of doing an outer space theme.  She searched out swatches of paint to find the perfect night sky shade of blue and with a new sewing machine she made curtains with a planet theme.  For days she scraped, spackled holes, and sanded the wall smooth.  Then came the painting of two or three coats; the whole time of the project was a few days to allow the paint to dry and repaint – not mentioning Tim wanting to come in and play with his toys or watch his television.

I found glow-in-dark stars with adhesive backs.  Some of the packages came with planets, comets, and galaxies.  So for a few days, I printed out the maps of the night sky and planned how to arrange the star stickers in positions of the constellations.  I had to decide on the time so that it was somewhat accurate.  I was anal about it.  I didn’t just want random stars thrown on the wall, I wanted something so Tim could look and become familiar and learn.

When the paint was dry and the curtains hung, I set about sticking the stars to the walls.  I decided on midnight Greenwich Mean-time.  I figured it was zero hour for the world on so many different clocks.  It took two days to painstakingly arrange them, from the major constellations that can be recognized with a glance to the ones that needed a squinting of the eyes and discerning the celestial horizon – Orion, Cygnus, Draconis, and so on.
As I finished I noticed I had extra stars and a few extra comets.  Above Tim’s bedroom closet I had a small void where I had planned to place the moon; instead I spelled out Tim’s name.  “Timmy” was formed of the final stars.  I wondered if God took such pleasure when the Universe was formed.

“How do you like that Monk?”

“Why did you do that Daddy?” Tim asked looking at his name.

“So your name is written in the stars.”


“Because I love you and you mean that much to me.  If I could move the real stars, I would write your name so everyone could see.”

We let the lights stay on a bit longer that night, and when we turned them off the room gave the feeling that you were floating above the earth and looking out into space.  Tim loved it.  I felt dizzy and would feel dizzy each time I went into his room when the lights were out or poked my head in when I came home and checked on his slumber.