Thursday, April 19, 2012

Funeral Flowers & Ancestry

Uncle Bob called tonight. He received the note and picture of Connor and Sierra in their Easter outfits. He mentioned that Sierra looked bigger. I had noticed the same thing, but it wasn't until I was writing and thinking about all the fraternal twins in my family that something else came to mind.

Fraternal twins run in my family, the Cornwell side of the family. Doral and Dorothy, Carol and Cary, and Connor and Sierra. Fraternal twins skipped my generation, but we had lots of boys, which is also strange for our family since a plethora of girls tend to be the norm.

The female twin is always dominant in every case, and I could go back generations and find the same thing. It's sort of a family legend Great Grandma Cornwell, the corncob pipe smoking matriarch of the Cornwell clan when I was a child, imparted to me when we would visit.

Doral died at 10 months from a congenital heart defect and pneumonia, the same pneumonia that took his mother, Dad's mother. Cary was born with his brain visible beneath a thin membrane that separated his brain from the outside world; the skull had not completely formed on that side of his head. Cary was mentally retarded and had seizures all his life. Carol was and is quite robust. Connor, my son David Scott's child, died this week from unknown causes. The ME's report was inconclusive, no attributable cause of death -- but they're still testing.

As I was writing about this family legacy, I suddenly realized that the males in fraternal twins in my family do not fare well. Females have been dominant in numbers as well as in fraternal twin births and that has not changed. Is there something in the genes I passed to my son and he passed to Connor that caused his death? Am I the reason he's dead?

These are the things that pass as thoughts right now. I want to find a reason for my grandson's death. I need to find out why or how his young life was cut short. We all want to know why.

All the females in my father's family are dominant and have been dominant for centuries. There is also a legacy of female shamans from our Cherokee heritage, and a few fraternal twins in that ancestry as well. We females are survivors and most of us are and have been gifted.

Until there are answers, all this is conjecture, and bloody-minded conjecture at that. I sit here and wonder why I am still alive and my sweet grandson dead. I will never understand it, especially with so many questions left unanswered, and so I go down dark paths ready to take the stroke that will scythe me down if it comes. It won't bring Connor back nor will it change anything.

I bought flowers for Connor's funeral this evening. As I looked through all the pages of sprays, wreaths, casket covers, and arrangements, the smell of funeral flowers fills my nostrils. Every funeral I have attended in my life comes back to me in vivid memory. The overpowering reek of dying flowers, the clash of perfumes and colognes and after shave, the sights and sounds of grief and pressured laughter as people move farther and farther from the casket, turning their backs, putting objects, people, and distance between themselves and the deceased.

David Scott told me last night that when he went to Mom's funeral he didn't get closer than 3 feet to the casket. "She didn't look like Grandma," he said. I filled the heavy silence with a joke. "Well, then you didn't get your York peppermint patty from Mom's coffin." I could hear his disbelief and shock. Candy from a dead woman, and they were the rest of her candies. She was on a York peppermint patty kick at the time. She always changed her candy obsession, but never gave up the junk food or the candy.

How will he be able to bring himself to get close to Connor's casket? He will have to find the strength somewhere because Sierra and Alanna will be at the funeral. It's the whole point of an open casket. He will have to be strong, to override his fear and pain, and bring them to the casket so they can see Connor and know, at least as far as their 2- and 3-year-old minds can comprehend, the meaning of death and why Connor will never come home. How much will they understand? Whatever it is, we will not shield them and there is no way for anyone to go and buy a Connor that looks as close to the original as possible so Sierra and Alanna won't know the real Connor is dead. Oh, how I wish they did not have to see death and know it so soon.

What I understand is that this family, my family, is hard on males, especially when they are one of a set of twins. What could I have done to prevent his death? What could anyone have done?

I am tilting at spiked windmills knowing that it is a hopeless fight and yet I tilt on, confused, sad, and empty with a Connor-shaped hole in my heart.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It has been 2 days since my grandson Connor died. Time weighs me down and numbs my brain. I can't think. I don't want to think. I don't want anything, except for Connor to be alive, for all of this to be a hoax, a mind warp, an alternate reality, an aberration of this reality, my reality. I want Connor back.

And I want to hear from my son. I'd left messages for 2 days with no response. I was jealous of Beanie because David Scott returned her call and not mine.

Julie's dad called me this morning while I was passed out from lack of sleep and grief. I didn't hear the phone and I'm a light sleeper -- on a normal day. These have not been normal days. Mr. Larkin wanted to know if I had heard from David Scott or Julie. I hadn't. My first thought was they had dived into twin bottles and were on a binge. He was considering calling the police and reporting them as missing. My heart raced and then stopped. I wanted my son to be all right. I cannot lose anyone else.

I called Beanie to ask if she had heard from David again. No. She sent him a text message but he had not returned even that. Two days. No word. What could he be thinking? Where the hell was he and what was he doing? I called David Scott one more time, not even hoping the phone would be turned on this time. I waited for voice mail.


It was David Scott. I should have known what he was doing, what he always does when he's in pain. He was hiding. Not communicating. Curling into an emotional ball around his pain and shutting down.

"Where the hell have you been?" I yelled.

As angry and worried as I was, I was happy to hear that petulant tone in his voice even as I told him not to yell at me, to moderate his tone.

Julie tried to throw herself off the balcony, to kill herself after having turned on everyone else, blaming them for killing her son. My son responds by hiding like an octopus pulling his tentacles and his amorphous bulk into as small a space as he can find. My daughter-in-law responds by cursing and lashing out at everyone and anyone who comes within her sight.

David Scott has been staying with a close friend, meeting with his sponsor and great grand sponsor (recovering alcoholic), and Julie has been in the hospital in the psych ward on a mandatory 72-hour watch because of her suicide attempt. No one knew what was going on. Now we know.

This has been a trying time for all of us and more so for my son and his wife because it is their child who has died. It doesn't help to know that Connor's cardiologist didn't know of our family history of a congenital heart murmur or that my father's youngest brother, a fraternal twin like Connor and Sierra, died when he was 10 months old of pneumonia complicated by his heart defect.

It may not have been Connor's heart. I still think the autopsy will show an aneurysm that burst while he slept. But it doesn't matter what caused his death. He is gone.

Everyone is blaming himself or herself and casting blame around like a hot potato. No matter what medical science will tell us, it will not assuage our grief. My 2-year-old grandson is dead and nothing, not even medical science, will bring him back. All we have left is questions with no answers and grief and my son and daughter-in-law are not dealing well with them. In spite of their ages, they are not equipped to deal with this. I am much older and, despite my seeming calmness in the face of this tragedy, I am not equipped to deal with this. I know there is a logical reason and I know that there is no reason, at least not a reason my heart or my aching soul will accept.

Death is never easy and I've had a lot of it to deal with this year with Mom dying in January and now Connor. Last year it was my half brother and a close friend. I expect to lose people, to lose family at this stage of my life, and yet I don't expect them to die. It is not logical; it is emotional, and I am very emotional right now. I doubt I will ever be un-emotional where this is concerned.

In the larger context, Dick Clark, the immortal Dick Clark who was hundreds of years old, has died today. In the end, even he was not immune to death's final embrace. So why do I feel like in the end it will be cockroaches, moths, and me left on this planet? I always thought it would be Mom.

Monday, April 16, 2012

It's Monday and I expect bad things to happen. It's Monday.

This morning brought some good news. My tax refund was deposited in my account 3 weeks earlier than expected. With the good comes the bad and this morning it came in the form of a phone call from my son David Scott. I could barely understand him he was crying so hard. His son, Connor James, was found dead this morning.

Connor wasn't in an accident and he didn't do drugs, unless you consider milk a drug. Connor was 2 years old and he was fine last night. This morning he was gone, lost to us and to his twin sister Sierra. She wants to know where Connor is and there are no words to help a 2-year-old understand that her womb companion, her brother is gone.

My son and his wife are devastated and I am thrown back nearly 30 years to the call that came to tell me my sister's son Brandon was dead. Brandon was 3 months old. He died of SIDS. His loss still touches us and his brothers, Ants and Cody, will never forget him even though Brandon was born first.

My son is devastated and wants someone to punish for his son's death. He wants to know where God was when his son was taken and why God allowed this to happen. David Scott wants vengeance.
There is no rhyme or reason to Connor's death. When the autopsy results come back we will know what happened in Connor's final moments, but nothing will ever help us understand why him, why my grandson, why my son's only son, why a child had to die, why Sierra's twin was chosen on this day of all days.

It doesn't help to know that thousands of children died last night and this morning and will die today and tomorrow and all the tomorrows to come. I don't know those children. I feel sad when any child dies, but this is personal. This death devastates my family, not some third world or privileged child anywhere but here.

Yes, I am angry. Yes, I understand that my grandson will never grow up and kiss a girl (or boy), will never go to prom or graduate high high school or college, get a degree, meet someone and marry, have children and grandchildren. All his tomorrows are null and void; they are gone.

Sierra doesn't understand where Connor is. Her days and nights and everything in between have been filled with her twin. What does her 2-year-old mind understand? What will she understand now? She will know a void in her life that can never be filled. Something will always be missing and she may not know what; it will be a Connor-shaped void, a much bigger void than the Connor-shaped void that fills me, my son, his mother, and all the people who knew and loved him, who will miss him now and all the days that follow.

I'm selfish. I want my children to be happy and for their children to be happy grow up and have happy children. Now all I can think about is the Christmas stocking I cross-stitched and finished 2 months ago for Connor. He'll never get to use it. He will never hang it on the mantelpiece every December and take it down Christmas morning filled with little gifts, fruit, nuts, or candy. I can't send it to my son because that is not a pain I want him to feel. He does not need tangible evidence of the future he and his son will never share. No, I'll pack it away and put it on a shelf and I will never look at it even though I will see it for the rest of my life without opening the box and taking it out.

My mother died 3 months ago on Friday 13th. My father died 5 years ago March 1st. In the interim, I have lost aunts, uncles, and close friends.

My grandson, Connor James Woodard, died April 16, 2012.

There are no words.