The school year has begun in Goleta. Olivia’s first day at the high school was on Monday and today would have been Rudy’s first day in 3rd grade. It’s a sad day for sure. It’s also ironic because in our first months with Rudy I remember it was impossible to think ahead and make any plans. We really couldn’t look beyond what was right before us in our months in the CTICU/PICU…even once we got Rudy home it was difficult to look too far into the future…taking life “one day at a time” wasn’t a cliche, it was our reality…for years! But that changed a little bit in the last couple of years. We started to make plans and even went on a few trips – once to Hawaii with the grandmas, and then to Tucson last summer and to Florida over Christmas. We were beginning to anticipate and think about a future for Rudy. Knowing that our life would be consumed with college prep when we got home from our summer road trip, I even went school shopping for Rudy in early July. I know that doesn’t seem like a big deal but it demonstrates a level of confidence not always present where Rudy was concerned. When I went to his classroom on the last day of summer school on July 19th, we said goodbye to his teachers and aides fully expecting to see them back in the classroom…today. Rudy died 5 days later…still so difficult to grasp even now four weeks later.
Rudy’s teacher invited me to come to the classroom this morning for a tribute she was going to do with the kids. With the students, teachers and aides from both special ed classrooms, as well as the school nurse, school psychologist and office staff present, Ms. Ochoa shared about Rudy’s passing, reminisced with fun pictures from last year and used video clips of Rudy doing his reading, math etc to demonstrate the fun things the kids will learn this year. It was painful and precious and a sweet way for Rudy’s community at Mountain View to process as, they too, genuinely grieve Rudy’s absence on campus.
I wish it didn’t hurt so much. I’m finding that grief is like drudging through mud with barbed wire debris mixed in…somedays the mud is only waist high and somedays it’s neck high but every day there are painful brushes with the barbed wire. In an effort to figure this grief thing out, I find myself coming at it from different angles…seeing if any one strategy is less painful than another. The fact is…no matter how you slice it, it’s painful and for me facing it head on seems to be the only way to do it. I do things that I know will be hard and commit to things I’d prefer to avoid not because I’m a masochist but because there is an underlying hope that if I confront the pain, relief will come sooner. I’m not sure that’s working out for me in that way but there is the confidence that with each day that passes, we are all a day further along in the healing journey. Rolf, Olivia and I are choosing to go to grief counseling and that starts next week…there is relief knowing it’s on the calendar.
Speaking of healing, we got a dog.
Rolf and I always thought that if something ever happened to Rudy, we would let Olivia get a dog. Although having a dog wouldn’t ever be on my list of “things that heal”, it’s definitely on the top of Olivia’s and the process of adopting Harley from a local shelter happened a ton faster than we anticipated. That along with the fact that “Harley” was #2 on Olivia’s favorite dog name list sure makes it seem like this pairing was meant to be. Harley is active and playful but also very chill most of the day (and rarely barks!). She’s an excellent running partner for Olivia and loves to cuddle too. They are becoming best friends for sure.
Just as Harley moved in, the boys began their preparations for moving out. We all drove Wilson down to APU on Sunday. He was the last in his apartment to arrive so we enjoyed seeing all three of his housemates and catching up a bit before we had to head back to Santa Barbara. Wilson was eager to get back to Azusa and settle in before his classes begin next week. He knows he’ll have bad grief days and already has trusted people close by to talk to and he’s aware of the campus counseling resources if needed. We’re confident he’s in a good place and pray his year is filled with lots of grace and favor AND FUN! (We’re so proud of you Wilson!!!) Go Cougars!!!
Maxo had his last shift at Kyle’s Kitchen today and is nearly packed up for his departure for PLNU on Friday. By all accounts, he too is excited and ready to start this new chapter in his life. (Big breath) Couldn’t be prouder of our Max as well! Go Sea Lions!!
Wilson and Max concluded their summer break together with a fun gig on Saturday night with Mr. Latta (aka Baby Daddy – Rudy’s 2nd grade teacher) down south at a restaurant in Camarillo. Mr. Latta invited the boys to join him and they couldn’t have had more fun! Rolf, Olivia and I drove down to hang out for a set or two and ended up staying until they closed the place. It was a great evening to hang with friends and soak up as much of our boys doing what they love to do as we could. Here’s a little sample:
Our boys love serenading our friend (and SBRM employee) LB every time they are at the office for a special event (because LB just LOVES to be the center of attention)…well, they took advantage of LB being there and embarrassed him by dedicating this number to him. Ha Ha
Warning! Wilson’s choice is a bit explicit but as he says “it’s a song about a cry for help” (and he sang it with confidence with two of his pastors in the room!)…and, oh how I love his confidence!!
The boys got invited back during their holiday breaks from school so we’ll be sure to give more advanced warning for their next appearance (for those close enough to join us). It was too much fun. Thanks Nate for not only including our boys but making them feel pretty special in the process! Talk about chicken soup for the soul.
It may feel like we’re drudging through neck-high mud at times, but we are still on our feet and that feels like a victory in and of itself. Love you dear friends!