Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Comfy Pants?









I’m wearing the pants I had on when Jack died. They’ve been at the bottom of the closet ever since they were washed sometime after the accident. I’ve already donated to charity the outfit I wore to work that day—a black pencil skirt and new fitted red blouse—because to see them hanging in my closet reminded me of how ignorantly/innocently I waltzed through that day, with no idea how life would change just a few hours later.

I had exchanged my casual summer clothes for professional ones that day and was ready to start the year. I think when you’ve been a teacher or a parent, September, rather than January, signals a year’s beginning. I felt great about where my kids were, literally and figuratively, and experienced the energy burst you get with the turning of a new calendar page. The wild weather of August was, I hoped, winding down, the kids were in school for a full day, and I was ready to roll.

After work I got comfy and pulled on my black stretchy pants, hand me downs from my sister. These were the pants that would run with me as I searched desperately for a glimpse of my son, mere moments after he disappeared.

Even though we never talked about it, Margaret and Tim never wore their clothes from that night again. Margaret’s favorite Snoopy shirt and soccer uniform shorts ended up in a trash can. A kind soccer mom bought her replacement shorts. Tim’s brown suede shoes, covered with mud and tears, sat stinking in a grocery bag in the kitchen for a week before I threw them out. For a few weeks, until I got the energy to pick up another pair of shoes for him, Tim wore bulky hiking boots with his regular clothes to work and to church—a small outward example of how off-kilter we had become on the inside.

Jack was wearing his school uniform at the time of the accident, and had been wearing it for two days straight. You see at bedtime the night before, after our family Clue Game, Jack said he was feeling too lazy to change into a t-shirt and comfy shorts for sleeping. I said, “Why don’t you keep that on, then you’ll already be dressed for school tomorrow?” I thought I was clever and he liked my idea.

It may seem strange that we have so many photos of Jack in the outfit he died in, but that uniform represents more than 6 years of Jack’s life, and we can’t spurn any photos just because of clothing, for every image we have of him is precious now, and so desperately needed.

Although we do not know what happened to the exact clothes he wore that night-- his shirt, his shorts, his shoes, his belt—we have stacks of matching navy blue uniform shirts and khaki shorts in his closet. I do not associate that outfit with his death, but rather his everyday life-- his school friendships, first day of school pictures in the front yard, numerous baskets of laundry, and the last glimpse I had of him, smiling in our driveway.

But today, 5 months in, is the first day I’ve felt like putting on my black pants from that day. I woke up feeling strong, I want to be comfortable, and I don’t think my penguin pj bottoms are all that appropriate for public consumption.

*******

The thing is, shortly after I started typing this, I noticed a stale smell. At first I blamed Margaret, who had been sitting near me. Sniff Sniff Sniff. The smell patrol is on the job. Turns out, that was a false accusation.

I now know the stale smell is my pants. THE pants! This is certainly not what I intended to write today. This post was going to be about wearing the damn pants because not only do they fit, good comfy pants are hard to find, and I have zero energy for shopping. I was going to say that Jack is gone, but I still need to cover “my butt." I mean, if I can drive by the neighbor’s house where the accident happened every time I leave my house, see the bridge multiple times a day, look into the faces of the children who are alive when Jack is dead, well then of course I can wear the stupid pants. Neat, concise ending.

But now that I know these pants carry a dank smell from the rain, mud, panic and fear of that night, and from being left in a pile, probably for days, while Tim and I wandered like zombies, making hasty yet unfathomable decisions, I've decided there will be no neat ending for today. Just a woman who is still feeling sort of brave and who will be throwing these pants away.


P.S. If you are the woman who spotted Jack in the background of photos you took of your son at the Lego store in Feb 2010, please email me at aninchofgray or leave me a comment letting me know how to contact you! I lost your message and would love to have those pictures. Thank you so much!

57 comments:

K A B L O O E Y said...

I'm proud of you, and I appreciate the well-chosen metaphor inherent in putting those stretchy pants back on, but you did it. Now you can throw them out, because if you wear smellypants, it won't be good for your self esteem. It just won't.

Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. said...

I think just putting those pants on was a huge step forward. And although there will be many steps back along the way, each step forward is a good thing. Now it's Ok to throw them out!

mgh said...

I am so glad you are feeling brave today :)
We were JUST talking about courage this evening. In a a difficult moment with my littlest one, who isn't so little. But courage is so hard to come by. Even though we have this little inside saying, "Be brave, Love life."
At first she said, "I'm tired".
Then I said, "Do what you know you need to do"
Then there was arguing and crying and excuses. Until finally, she was to exhausted to do anything more than listen.
Finally I said, "I think this is fear talking... I think every day that we don't choose courage, the next day will require more courage."
I have no idea where that came from. Heaven possibly. Because finally something made sense to both of us. And she is agreed that tomorrow, if she can't find the courage herself... she will borrow some of mine.
Anyway... I hope that thought really, really makes sense. And that the courage you found today will make it just a little bit easier to find courage tomorrow.
Lots of, lots of love.

Anonymous said...

I have 2 outfits that I don't wear anymore both outfits are from both times we discovered there was no longer a heartbeat with the babies I was carrying. I am so glad you felt strong enough to do that. Thinking of you always.

Anonymous said...

so very strong...so very inspiring. thank you for sharing what makes you tick because it helps many of us more than you'll ever know! a simple thing like a pair of pants is so much more than a pair of pants. keep on hanging in there and I hope the tolerable days are outweighing the other kind. god bless!

Courtney {a thoughtful place} said...

I remember racing into my house to tear off the outfit I was wearing when I found out my brother was gone. So proud of you for the strength you show in little unexpected ways. There will be many "stinky pants" moments and that's okay. Thank you for sharing. Thinking of you.

Ann Imig said...

This post made me smile. I'm glad you felt good when you wrote it. A new pair of comfy pants is waiting for you out there. I look forward to hearing about them :)

Stimey said...

That is the thing about life. There are no neat endings. But before that, there was brave and comfort. I love you, Anna. I still think about you and Jack every day.

lisa said...

Glad you were feeling strong...and I hope you continue to find new strength and peace as you move forward in your journey...

Kelly R said...

I am so glad you are feeling brave today Anna. Brave enough to wear the pants and brave enough to throw them away. Both actions are extremely brave to me.
Praying for you always
xo

starnes family said...

Anna.....you continue to amaze and inspire people with your courage, your eloquent writing and your candor about such a sensitive, extremely difficult part of life. I'm stronger today because of your blog. And, although I am still so entirely sorry for your loss, I'm glad I found you.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the commenter who said how brave it was to both put the pants on and throw them away—you deserve a new pair of comfy pants. Buy a ridiculous pair from Victoria's Secret that has a stupid logo across the butt or a I-can't-believe-they're-so-expensive but they feel amazing pair from Lululemon. Or, hell, do what I do and "accidentally" steal a pair from the laundromat (wearing 'em now—what happened was they got mixed up with my laundry, but they're velvet-y and comfortable and I kept them) When my mom died, I was wearing a red American Cancer Society volunteer sweatshirt. I thought that it would somehow protect me from the inevitable. I'd worn it the entire weekend that my mom died and even though I was in my mid-twenties, I'd gotten in the gross toddler habit of chewing on the sleeve. I still have the sweatshirt, but I never wear it.

Praying for you, and thank you for your stories, sharing Jack's life and legacy, and your humor. <3,

Another Anna

Lisa said...

I love comfy pants and highly recommend ordering some yoga pants from Victoria's Secret. It may take a minute, but you can find them without stupid things on the butt or obvious logos and soon YOUR butt will be super comfy again.

I don't know you, but thanks for sharing Jack. He sounds like such a great kid, and I won't ever forget him. And you're a good mom. Go get yourself some sweet comfy pants. :)

Suburban Correspondent said...

There is no way I would have put those pants on again. I couldn't even wear the clothes I had an early miscarriage in.

Jen G. said...

Anna,
I must check your blog ten times a day hoping for a new post. I can't tell you how thrilled I am to read that you felt brave today and that you kicked fear's ass and put on the pants. I agree with the others--find a replacement pair you love. Thank you for continuing to share your heart. We are with you every inch of the way...
xo
Jen

The Carens Clan said...

After what you've been through/and are going through, I think we can all say how proud we are of you for lifting each leg to step into the "uncomfortable" comfy pants.... For having the courage to face something linked to such a tragIc day and becoming more powerful by overcoming them. You are going to be okay... Never the same, but God will never leave your side and He is going to see you through until it is your time to be reunited with Jack. I promise to continue to pray for you & your family.

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

Hallelujah for strong days, praying for many more!

Franny said...

I am so glad you were feeling like putting on those pants. This post just rips me apart. More prayers for you and all parents who love and miss their precious children.

Ross said...

Day by day and little by little you will get stronger. Just putting those pants on again is a huge step! Hang in there!

Jana A (@jana0926) said...

By putting them on, you jumped a hurdle. By throwing them away, you jumped yet another hurdle. May Jack's light and love wrap around you today ((hugs))

Princess Kate said...

When my father died 8+ years ago, I kept the pants and shirt he was wearing. All my sisters and brother thought I was nuts. The clothes sit in the linen closet all nicely folded and untouched. I'm very protective of them. I think about them all the time. I haven't been able to pull them out because I still don't have the courage or feel brave. God bless you for what you did. It might not seem big right now but it's a huge step in my eyes. Still praying for peace and understanding.

Rach said...

I never again wore the bathing suit I was wearing when we lost Hannah. I'm not sure, but I don't think my husband ever wore his work clothes from that day again. It's too hard. It's funny the things that trigger memories.

What a great thing you were able to bring yourself to put the pants on and wear them. I think it was a milestone you needed to face for your own journey. Now, you've done it, you can toss the pants and be done with it. :o)

I'm glad yesterday was a lighter day full of feeling good.

My prayers for you and your beautiful family continue.

Many hugs,
Rach

Anonymous said...

This was definitely a "move forward" moment. You will never move on just one foot in front of the other in hopes of forward motion.

Masala Chica said...

You always amaze me with your bravery. And now I say you should go put your penguin pajamas back on and throw the stale pants in the trash or give them away. Jack would not want his mommy wearing stale pants, I really don't think.

Sending my love and whatever mojo I think I have your way, today and everyday.

ella said...

I vividly remember that part of the Terrible Night, you desperately wondering if you should rip those pants off in order to move around more freely. I can't imagine the emotions they hold (along with the smell). Whether you decide to keep them or throw them out, this was a step forward. Lots of love to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

i had perfect blue sweat pants i wore every. single. day. until i was assaulted while wearing them. i couldn't wear them and i couldn't throw them out, but i was so sick of them just sitting there. my best friend took them and still (7 years later) keeps them on the floor of her closet. helped a lot not having them here...

Marguerite said...

Just last night I was getting in my PJ's and saw some of my Dad's old comfy clothes that I couldn't throw out when he passed away last year and thought to myself "why am I keeping these", yet at the same time "I can't let them go". I am amazed at your braveness everyday, I bet Jack is so proud of his Mom. Thank you again Anna, for showing us what an amazing mother you are.

Anonymous said...

I think the most beautiful part of your post is...
"today... is the first day I’ve felt like ...."

Fill in the blank... There will be more firsts!

Keep going Anna!
Coach Jess

Kris said...

What a lovely post and I'm glad you are feeling brave today. Putting on those pants and throwing them away are both incredibly brave things to do. My best friend died in an accident almost 18 years ago. I still have the dress her sister gave me hanging in my closet. There is something about clothes, they have a history, they move with us and become part of our lives. Hugs to you.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I've been thinking about the value of pictures and memories from others (just talked about it in a half written post in fact). Those of Jack from someone else's past that seem so small are rare gift. I'm glad that people understand this and are reaching out to you with everything they have.

Lady Jennie said...

Oh drat. I have nothing to say. Except that I send you all my love and my heart aches, even with you being as brave as you are.

And I still pray for you.

Erica said...

There's something profound about him in the picture taken inside the car. A look of great depth. hugs, E.

L said...

Love you. On the hunt for comfy pants. Miss that boy so much my stomach hurts.

Ali said...

Major fist pumping to Coach Jess's comment.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Not fair that a day where you felt some strength within yourself could suddenly be changed by a pair of pants. ((HUGS)) I remember when I heard about Jack's accident and I came over to your blog several times it hit me hard how a post of happy children going to school can be gone in the next moment.

Leslie said...

I hope the person with Jack in her photo contacts you again soon - how wonderful. I hope more people have things like this as well for you.

Your family has always been so filled with humor, I'm sitting here trying to thing of the funny things Jack would say about your smelly pants. That makes me smile. It doesn't help me stop crying for you, stop grabbing tissues and pull it together, but it does make me smile.

I'm so sorry you, Tim and Margaret have to have "brave" days, but I am glad they make an appearance.

Always praying.

Leah C said...

Praying that you continue feeling strong and brave...

LauraBeth said...

Another rainy day. Peace from seeing the host of blue ribbons while I was out an about, many appear to be new... letting you know that Jack is not, will not, be forgotten... nor will you, Tim, and Margaret - you remain in my prayers and my heart.

With love, hugs, and prayers, from the other side of town.

Heidi said...

Definitely time for a new pair of comfy pants...that's what our family calls them too. At the end of the day we like to get into our comfy pants, especially me.

You're so courageous and brave every day, Anna. Every day.

Anonymous said...

I have thought of you and your family throughout this rainy/snow day. I know exactly what you mean about the clothes - I haven't worn the jeans or top I had on when I last saw my mom alive over a month ago. I can also relate to the bulky boots your husband wore as I walked around in THE most hideous, ridiculous outfits that week my mom passed away. Living in a haze of shock and sadness it's a struggle to just get up let alone put clothes on that match. Here's to finding yourself a new pair of comfy pants and a "new" version of life that is comfy and "fits" well too.

darsden said...

You are so brave and amazing to me!

ann said...

Praying my heart out for you and your family. You and Jack have put God more in my heart and that has a ripple effect, you know? Sending lots of love.

Cathy said...

I love the photos! Not a day goes by that I do not think about Jack, you and your family. Continuing to pray. Hugs.

Meredith Self said...

Lioness. So brave. Each day.

May I have 1 of Jack's shirts? One that is special to you and reminds you of Jack? I'll return it.

Love.

Jessica said...

Oh your posts just make me ache. I'm so proud of you for being able to put those pants on but so sorry for the reasons you can't keep them. I know it must feel like one step forward and ten back some days but that one step forward is so important and took a lot of strength. Just keep hanging onto that until the steps get a bit easier.

Beth said...

Wow, good for you, trying on the comfy pants! For me, they SO would have been gone. I remember your mentioning of those pants so vividly from your post about that terrible day. It speaks of how you are embracing reality, to me.

But yeah, if they stink, toss 'em.

I love my Old Navy yoga pants, which I ordered online. You can get them in long or 3/4 length.

Keep up the good work! :)

Shell Flower said...

Thanks again for sharing your incredibly heartbreaking journey with us. You really have a gift to be able to put these emotions into words and share your loss with others. I'm so glad you had the strength to face "the pants" even if they had to go. That took guts and it's another step forward.

I like what you write about pictures, too. Jack is such a handsome guy, inside and out. You can see that in his smile. Thanks for sharing him with the world.

Anonymous said...

I am envious of the lady who took the picture in the store, she gets to do something for you. We are all sitting here feeling helpless for you and she gets to give you something to help you hold onto Jack, and remember him when he was most happy. Your honesty is amazing, and buh bye pants.

Beth said...

Have you seen "memory bears"? There are many out there, but you can send a piece of clothing that reminds you of a loved one, and they will make you a teddy bear (dog/bunny/etc) out of it. My aunt has a bunny made from one of my grandpa's plaid shirts, and it's in her living room. It reminds me of Grandpa, too, and you can hug it.

helenasc said...

Have no words, but just wanted you to know I was here.

Paula said...

One step forward...two steps back. Praying for you always.

Anonymous said...

I have just been doing some back reading of your blog. Your loss is immeasurable and I am so so sorry. You made and nurtured a wonderful person, and the world was the better for having him in it. xxxxxxxxx

Ellie @ Musing Momma said...

Anna, I've been "lurking" on your blog for a couple of months now and just wanted to say hello and to tell you how very, very sorry I am for your loss. Jack sounds like an amazing kid and my heart - my bones - ache for you and your family. I hope, as all moms do, that I never have to go through something such as this - but your story tells me that, if I did, it is possible to survive somehow. I am so in awe of your strength and your courage and your faith. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us all and the reminder to hug our children a little tighter, a little longer each day because things can just change so fast. You and your family are in my heart and prayers.
http://musing-momma.blogspot.com

Salvimom said...

Dearest Anna,

Ever since I began to read your blog I have known that you have an amazing strength of spirit. You are full of courage, and it WILL continue to get better. By the way, if you give us all your size and a P.O. box, and I'm sure many of us would be happy to send stretchy pants love your way! But in all seriousness, my family and I will continue to uplift yours in prayer, and send positive thoughts, love and hugs your way.

Ury
Seattle, WA

ALI said...

I'm so glad you felt brave enough to make this step...

And I have to admit... I kind of like that they smelled... If you are like me, that added levatity to a difficult day.

PeachPrenni said...

Oh Anna!! I'm proud of you for putting the pants on. That IS something. I hate that you were reminded of everything by that smell. I think it was a smart move to throw them away; you can always get new comfy pants. As always you are in my heart and in my prayers. -Annie P.

Emily Elizabeth Stone said...

I hope you don't mind that I share the link to this post on my Saturday Sampling: http://wp.me/p1DYhN-4B at www.emilyelizabethstone.com to come out tomorrow morning.