Careful the things you say. Children will listen.
“Dear (Little) Adam,
You are my inspiration for this project because my theme of loving and appreciating what you have before it becomes what you had, makes me think of you.”
So are the words that start Coco’s letter describing her school project; a project where she took a pair of her earliest pointe shoes and decorated them based on one of Adam’s art pieces. A tribute to her uncle.
By now, you know me. I never wanted to have kids. Neither did Adam. What was confusing to so many people was the difference between not wanting to have kids and how we felt about kids.
There was a thought that because I didn’t want to have my own children that I didn’t like children. People thought this despite the fact I was actually the greatest day camp counselor ever. Four years with 11-13 year-olds. Kids who trusted me, who I trusted and treated with respect. Kids who grew up to be friends.
I just knew, always, that I didn’t want to “have” them. Call it what you like. Call it selfish, call it ambition. I honestly don’t really care, it was what it was. It is what it is. I’ve never been fond of babies, that’s for sure. Toddlers are tough for me as well. But, man, once they start communicating, I could spend a lot of time with kids.
But the fact is, every moment I live now, every ounce of joy I fight for, is for my nieces. They’re 18 and (almost 15) 14 now. But they were 13 and 9 when Adam died.
“While everyone was grieving your loss because of the impact you made in their lives, I was grieving you didn’t live long long enough to make a real impact in mine. And yet you did.”
Everything I do in my life since Adam’s death, in one way or another, has been for Ava and Colette. When I wanted to die, my sister would mention them, and I stayed the course. All I can do is have joy to let them know that whatever comes their way, it is possible to survive. It’s possible to thrive. There’s always hope.
I don’t regret any of the choices I’ve made in life, at least the choices I made when I had all the information (hindsight sucks). I don’t regret not having children. But as I’ve grown older and wiser, I sometimes regret not having more children in my life to try and be an inspiration to. I want them to see me and see the possibilities. See the worst. See the best.
“I knew you were an amazing artist and uncle, and that you loved Aunt Laura with every fiber of your being. But at just 9 years old, I didn’t fully understand what was happening and why you to had to leave my life so early.”
Ava and Coco are no longer children. But I hope to continue to teach them and inspire them just by my joy. I may never get to spend as much time with them as I have, or that I wish to, but every moment will be the best it can be.
“I chose to recreate your painting on my shoes because it represents both the beauty and the turmoil in my life and our family after you passed away, but also the beauty and turmoil of your life before.”
Every once in a while, someone will still say something like “I don’t want to bring up Adam if it makes you sad.” And I try to remind them that I’ve never forgotten he’s dead; it’s a part of me. But it no longer makes me sad. If you remember even a small piece of him. it’s an honor to him. It’s an honor to me, and an honor to his parents and the rest of his family. It’s an honor to our life together.
I fell in love and married a man with a disease I could not solve, cure, handle, or do anything about. He wasn’t perfect. I wasn’t perfect. But the only anger we ever had with each other was based on fear, fear of a disease we didn’t name for years, fear of a disease we couldn’t comprehend.
“I chose to paint on my pointe shoes because, as you know, dance is and has been one of the biggest parts of my personal identity for as long as I can remember. But family always comes first.”
I was so lucky to be born into a family that loves like we do. A family made of Taylors and Fawcetts and Kuntzes. And then there is my extended family … the Currys, and the friends who have allowed me to be part of their families on holidays and weekends and special occasions.
And to the parents who give me the special privilege of hanging with their children, I’ve forever grateful. Your greatest gift to me is raising your children with love and tolerance. When you let me share in that, I’m so happy. When you can’t hang with me because you are taking care of them, you’ll never know how much I respect that.
Just keep asking me to hang with them, too.
I love you, Coco. I’m learning to understand that we all still process Adam’s death in our own time and our own way. But he adored you. He adored Ava.
We have so little time. So little time. Don’t waste it.