Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Changes and Revelations


Sometimes, not always, but sometimes I feel that I let him down.  When I got that phone call, I was literally physically passing the hospital to pick him up at his school.  Why do I feel this way?  My answer, to me, is that Tim called out to me to come get him.  My friends, family, priest, and therapist all tell me I should not feel this way...and that to feel this way is normal with any grieving parent.  I get reminded that it’s a loving parent that will die protecting his or her child - I very much subscribe to this belief.  It’s the natural order of life.  Its like the night Timmy was born, instead of buying a baseball mitt or bat and ball, I bought The Lion King - talk about a father's love!  Oh I wailed when Mustafa died to save Simba. 

Tim took my Police Academy Platoon Jacket. I offered to buy him a replica because it was getting ratty...over 12 years old. He said "No Daddy, I like it just as it is...it fits." He told me he loved wearing it. 

A friend of mine commented about pictures of Tim wearing the jacket - Tim felt safe in it.  They didn't know that when Tim was killed that was the very jacket he was wearing.  To me it says, "My dad will protect me.  My dad will save me."

It’s ironic that when I was on Homicide scenes and the parent would show up; wanting to breech the crime scene I knew what to say.  "I am here to help, but I need you to help me by staying back.  I know you're in pain, but if you contaminate the evidence I can't help the detectives find who did this." 

The Friday after Tim was killed, his school had a Mass in his honor. Gi and I sat in the front row of the auditorium, now impromptu chapel.  My partner, Jun and his wife sat with us for support along with Ronnie Sypherd from the FOP.  I complained to Jun all week that I have lost my faith in all things that make me “me.”  The altar was set on the stage, with the Archbishop giving the Mass; the student choir was in the pit area in front of the stage.  Twin projected pictures of Tim were on the two screens on either side of the stage.

During the Mass, one of the girls in the choir began to teeter and collapsed.  The next thing I know, I'm sliding on my knees and caught her before she would hit the hard concrete floor.  To more of my surprise Jun was right next to me.  Some of the female teachers came over, including the school nurse, and unbuttoned the girl's blouse and checked her breathing.  It was too much for the girl - she was a friend of Timmy's.

After the Mass, I was allowed to thank the kids from Tim's high school for thinking of him - for the candle vigils, for the tears, for the simple acts of kindness.  When I went on the stage to the podium to address the kids I could feel their full attention on me.  I saw some wiping their eyes as tears rolled down their cheeks.  I saw some look at me and then the projections of Tim.

When we stepped out a number of Tim's classmates told me about how Tim talked about my job - that sometimes he wished I wasn't a cop, but he was proud of me.  Jun turned to me and said "Don't you ever doubt yourself again.  You saw that girl was about to pass out and you caught her.  Now if you don't understand why you were and are Timmy's hero I'll just have to back hand you."

I don’t know the girl’s name.  I asked several people if she was okay.  It was a hard week on everyone; I realized that it was critically hard on the kids at Archbishop Ryan.  Looking back to that week, if it wasn’t for these kids, I doubt that I would have been able to have made it through the week, the viewing, and eventually the funeral.  I think of the song by David Bowie, Changes…than and Space Oddity Tim had taken an interest to listening.
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're going through

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mid-Winter Slumber

This is a short story I had written last year.  I wrote it three months before my Tim was killed.  I took an experience going to a relative’s house in the middle of the night because someone died.  I modeled the little boy after Timmy.  I forgot all about it, until someone commented on it tonight on Facebook.

Mid-Winter Slumber
by Martin Connors on Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 2:29am

He was sleeping peacefully, dreaming the innocent dreams of a toddler. When his mother woke him, he saw that she was wearing the same clothes as she had when she laid him down and they said the good night prayers. The room was still dark, the only light escaping from the hallway, past the door. His mother pulled back the covers gently shaking his shoulder and arms.

“Wake up buddy. We are going bye-byes.”

His father poked his head in the doorway. He was dressed with his winter coat. His mother lifted him up from the bed and the boy rested his head on her shoulder, wrapping his arms around her neck. She stopped to open the door a little more so she could pass through without bumping the boy or herself into it or the jamb.

“I don’t understand why we have to go. The baby was sleeping and it’s late.”

His father held out the boy’s winter coat, hat, and mittens. “Because she may not last until the morning; she was asking for him.”

Outside the room, against the wall, she stood the boy on a cedar chest. The stained and polished wood was set near the bedroom doors. It always felt strange when he stood in his footed pajamas; but he loved wearing them because he would imagine he was an astronaut or a deep sea explorer. His mother pulled his winter coat on and zipped it up. The knitted cap and mittens went on next.

“Mommy? Build snowmen?”

“No. We are going bye-byes. You’ll be sleeping almost as soon as we have to come back home.”

The boy and his parents left the apartment, out to their car parked on the street. As his mother carried him, he looked up at the sky. “Look stars!”

“Yes baby, stars.” She turned to adjust her stance, shifting the weight of her son to her hip as she opened the car door. As she turned and moved her son, the stars appeared almost kaleidoscopic.

He turned and pointed to another corner of the heavens. “Moon!”

His mother smiled. “Yes it’s the moon. Look at how pretty it is tonight.”

His mother laid him down on the back seat, as he continued looking up at the silvery disk of the moon, pulling a blanket over him and gave a quick kiss to his forehead. The boy felt a slight jolt as his father pulled the car away from the curb. He lay on his back, his eyes fixated on the moon as it hid behind the clouds and trees. He gurgled out “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and drifted off to sleep.

He dreamt he was on a trolley with his grandmother. He could hear the clicked and clacked as the wheels of trolley rolled on the tracks. She smiled at him and pointed to the corner newsstand where she would always buy him a Superman comic-book. They were on the corner and walked to the park. His grandmother would sit him on a bench, hand him a bologna sandwich and a small can of juice that was wrapped in aluminum foil. When he was done she would wipe his face and brush the crumbs from his lap. She stood up and took him by his hand to the newsstand to get the new Superman.

The dream didn’t last long, as the boy was woken again feeling his small body being lifted. He felt the bristle of his father’s chin and smelled his cologne. He felt his father hold in a loving, but firmer manner than his mother. He felt something strange, small patches of wetness on his father’s cheek. He drifted back to sleep.

He woke as his father laid him down on a sofa. He knew the sofa, the feel of the fabric, and the smell of his grandparent’s home. Around him he saw his aunts and uncles, an older cousin walked over to him and he smiled. She stood over him and made faces that made him giggle. “You’re my favorite cousin only because you’re too young to break my toys.”

He giggled again and smiled. He pulled his hands to his eyes and nose and rubbed them.

“The baby’s awake,” she said tapping his mother on her arm.

He rolled over to the edge and slid on the edge of the cushion until his feet touched the carpet. He walked over to his mother as she bent down to remove his jacket. He reached up for his cap, but it was being stuffed into one of the arms of his jacket. His mother turned to put the jacket on the coat post that stood by the front door.

He walked to the upright piano that was set in the far side of living room and pulled himself up on the bench. He loved touching the keys and striking them to hear the off tune notes. A man dressed in all black, except a small white patch at the collar of his shirt, came over to him and tussled his hair. “You are becoming a handsome young man. You certainly do look like your mommy.”

The boy looked at him and smiled, then eased off the bench similarly to how he lowered himself from the sofa. He walked past the dining room table to the three steps that lead to the stairway landing. His mother and father were talking to the man in black, his cousin sat in a chair playing with a small doll with red stringy hair that wore a blue dress with a white apron. His small hands clutched the railing posts as he climbed the stairs. The hall light was off, but a light came from the other end of the hallway.

Once at the top of the stairs, he could smell the scent of his grandmother’s favorite soap and flowers. He walked to the front bedroom and saw her lying in her bed. Her hands folded over her belly. A blanket covered her. The bathroom next to her bedroom was open and the light shone the door and was ambient enough for the boy to see his way.

He walked to his grandmother and climbed onto the bed by the footboard. He crawled quietly and gingerly. He cuddled up to her, pulling her arm away from her belly. His face nestled against her chest. Her hair always looked strange to him when it was down; he was so accustomed to it being tied in a bun. His grandmother was breathing strange, she sounded almost like when his father was asleep and snoring; but it was deeper and not as loud. He thought she was making raspberries and he copied her. He yawned, pulled the blanket up to allow himself to slip in and feel the warmth of her. He nestled closer and heard his grandmother’s snoring become quiet. As he drifted off to sleep, feeling safe, warm, and comfortable, he felt his grandmother shift and a gentle kiss on his forehead.

“I will always love you little man,” she whispered with pauses as she took in a breath.

He was sleeping peacefully, dreaming the innocent dreams of a toddler, when his mother woke him. He felt his mother lifted him up from the bed and the boy rested his head on her shoulder. He could hear her sobbing, and leaned away from her rubbing his eyes. He saw the tears rolling down her cheeks.
He put his finger to his lips. “Shh, you’ll wake mom-mom up.”

His mother began to cry heavier. She held him more tightly and he could feel the heaving of her chest as she cried. “Oh baby, she loved you.”

He looked down to make sure his grandmother was still asleep. He saw she had her hands once again placed over her belly. Her eyes were closed and the blanket pulled back to her chest. He saw that she was smiling as his mother carried him down the hallway to the stairs. The man in black stood at the foot of his grandmother’s bed moving his hand up then down, side to side. A small book was open in his other hand. The boy thought the man may be cold because he was now wearing a purple scarf.

Once in the living room, his aunts and uncles gathered near his mother. His father looked over, and the boy could see that his father’s eyes were red and puffy. “Where was he?”

“He was lying next to your mother.” His mother bounced him gently in her arms. “She must have gone in her sleep. But I think she must have waited for him to be here.” His mother kissed him on his head. She turned and from over his mother’s shoulder he could see himself in the mirror that hung over the piano. He giggled for a moment as he saw his grandmother walk towards him with her arms wide open. He blinked and she was gone. He pushed himself against his mother and looked around the room for her.

“Mom-mom?”

“Oh baby, mom-mom isn’t here.”

“Mom-mom come back.”

His mother pulled him closer and held him tightly. “Oh sweetness, if you only knew how much she loved you.”

“I love you mom-mom. Bye-bye.”