Dear Mike,

It’s a beautiful morning here in our New Jersey home.  The humidity finally broke and the air is crisp, like a New Hampshire morning.  And, as coincidentally happens every year at this time, your crepe myrtle – the tree planted with your ashes in the soil, nourishing its roots (along with lots of my snot mixed in from sobbing so hard while we planted it) is in full bloom.
We miss you, Smoosher.  

I say “we” because friends always tell me that they have been thinking of you – your laugh, your sense of humor, your face.  They’ve had a dream about you, or recalled a memory of you.  Your absence is so salient when we get together with old friends – and whenever I’m at Comedysportz.  

So… We miss you.

I always say there are several different pieces of the pain I feel over losing you.  One is just missing you.  Just the aching sad feeling that I’ll never get to hold your hand again or see you ref a ComedySportz show.  Never get to see your floppy red hair bounce up and down as you run onstage. Never get to laugh with you about something stupid or watch a new show together on the couch.  It's been eight years and this feeling is the same as it was the day you died.  I am more used to it now, but the emptiness you left is still here.  Still empty.

Another piece of the pain is less about you, though, and more about me.  It’s the trauma of your loss.  Cause, dude, you didn’t just die.  You were on a ride from hell that lasted months.  And the fucked up part is that you don’t even remember this.  That Stupid Fucking Tumor (SFT) prevented you from housing any incoming information in longterm memory, so as far as you were concerned it was March… for months… and months.  But it wasn’t March.  It was April, then May, then June, and then July.  Months of you tied down to beds in the neuro-intensive care unit so you’d stop pulling the lines out of your arms.  Months of you not knowing if you had eaten a meal or taken your meds that day.  Months of you not being able to see, and being emotionally flat because of swelling in the emotional centers of your brain.  

Day after day, I would drop Bax at daycare, train into Jefferson and pray that a miracle had happened overnight and you’d look at me as I entered the room and say, “Smoosher!  I’m all better!  They’re discharging me today!”  But that didn’t happen.  Most times when I entered your room, you barely said anything to me because you didn’t know if I had been there all morning and just left to go use the bathroom.  Fucking short –term memory loss.    

I made the neurosurgeons nuts with my questions – especially early on.. .like April and May cause I just didn’t get it.  When will you be better?  Will you be able to come home?  How will you be able to work with no vision or short term memory?  

 Finally, one particularly humorless surgeon – who I came to like quite a bit – looked me straight in the eye and said, “Mrs. Young. You’re asking the wrong questions.  Right now, we are trying to make sure your husband stays alive through the night.  The rest is irrelevant.”

Point taken.  

The final piece of pain is about Baxter.  I miss you in a whole different way when I think of Bax.  I feel like he has been robbed of his opportunity to know how fucking good, funny and talented you were.  And you were robbed of your opportunity to know him.  To really know him and what an incredible little dude we made.

Bax and Edie this morning.  Bax doesn't know that today is the day you died, but he just happened to wear your ComedySportz wristband to summer camp today. 
So… let me see if I can paint a picture for you of this hilarious, brilliant, red-headed spazz-matazz.  He is becoming a quasi-adolescent before our eyes, I tell you.  He wants to wear certain style shoes and shorts.  He wants his hair a certain way.  Oy.  He is also super bright -  reads like a machine.  He’s always reading.  And he has that book/tv face like you.  I swear he literally cannot see/hear anything else that’s going on when he’s reading or watching tv.  Like nothing else exists.  I could call his name 40 times and he wouldn’t hear me.  Sound familiar?

His piano skills are kicking ass.  This year, he played the Daft Punk song, Get Lucky, in the talent show and at the end, the crowd erupted.  You should have seen his face afterwards.  He took off his homemade “robot head” (aka:  Cardboard box covered in aluminum foil) and was beaming from ear to ear.

He played baseball again this spring.  I think his favorite aspects of baseball are 1) stealing bases  2) eating sunflower seeds and 3) shooting the shit with his teammates in the dugout.   He’s mostly into the “scene” of baseball, you see…

He finds Edie simultaneously hilarious and totally intolerable.  They have the typical brother/sister relationship.  She drives him fucking nuts, then he drives her fucking nuts.  They take turns like this until PJ or I yells, “ENOUGH!!!”  Typical stuff really.

They have a door that connects their two bedrooms and they sleep with that door open.  Sometimes, after lights out, we hear the soft murmurs of their voices engaged in late-night conversation, followed by giggles.  In those moments, I realize that we’ve got it pretty effing good.

Hilarious Baxter-ism that you’ll appreciate.  Bax told Crazy Susan Murphy the joke about the Insomniac Atheist Dyslexic who was up all night questioning the existence of DOG.  Susan laughed and said, “Do you even know what an Atheist is?”  

“Yeah.  Someone who doesn’t believe in God.”

“Do you believe in God?”

“I don’t know.” He said flippantly.  

So I chime in, “Do you feel like there is some powerful being… something bigger than us who is overseeing things?”


I add, “Do you believe in heaven?”

Baxter says without hesitation, “I believe that when we die our souls go into newborn babies.  They’re recycled.”  

“Really..?” Susan says, amused and surprised.

“Yeah,” he continues. “I think I was probably a plumber.”

Susan laughs, “A plumber? Why a plumber?”

He gestures with his hands, “Everyone wants to believe they were like someone really important, like George Washington or something, but the actual chances of that are quite rare.  So, I think I was probably a plumber.” And with that, he left the room and went on to other things.

So… THAT is our amazing son.

Thank you for giving me that great gift.  He is … well, ok... he drives me bonkers at times…Cause he's a 9 year old boy.  But he is also so loving and funny and good.  

You gave me another gift, too.  You gave me the gift of knowing that you would be totally supportive of my having remarried and moved forward to make a wonderful life for myself.  You didn’t say this explicitly, obviously.  But your pragmatism in how you lived your life tells me that you would be 100% psyched for how I have moved forward.  

You would also be a huge fan of one PJ Gallagher.  The two of you are very different in many ways, but you’re both brilliant, inquisitive, and hilarious.  You would have so much respect for him.  He’s one of those guys about whom you’d say, “He’s good people, that PJ.”  You’d appreciate his loyalty to family and friends and most of all, the importance he places on his roles as husband and father.  The fact that he is so comfortable with my love and grief for you?  Who is like that?  He jokes, “It’s not like I have to worry about him stealing you…”  True.  But I think what enables PJ to be so confident in our love for each other, and simultaneously so comfortable with my expressions of grief for you is his super-stable upbringing.

I remember you telling me about a family that you loved growing up.  You were always over their house.  I think you were friends with their son.  The “Romanos,” maybe?  It seems like you got something from them that was quite meaningful to you.  A feeling of support and love from a large family.  

Honestly, this is what I married.  I fell in love with this empathetic, good man who has this amazing family, Mike.  His mom and dad are funny, kind, giving… so giving.  Theirs was the house that all the friends hung out at.  They were the parents that all the kids loved and talked to.  His family IS the “Romanos.”  His two sisters and two brothers are all fun and friendly and there’s no weird family shit.  They all live close by and get together all the time. His sisters have become two of my closest friends.  They are so much fun I cannot tell you how much you’d love them.  They’re silly and self-deprecating… and gorgeous. And his brothers (who are equally fun and hilarious and who each moved a mile away from us in either direction!) married two more awesome women.  It’s nuts!  

It’s one of those families that you hear about and you’re like… “nah… there’s got to be some shit there.  They can’t really get along that well.”  BUT NO.  Smoosher, as fucked up as it is to say this, I am just so sad that you can’t be here to be friends with PJ and his family.  I recognize that that would throw the universe into a tail-spin and cause all kinds of polygamy issues… but to see you having fun with these amazing people… it would be worth it.

It’s funny, in those moments when Baxter witnesses me expressing sadness or grief for you, he has such an interesting response.  He’ll say that he misses you, too.  He’ll say that it’s not fair that he doesn’t really remember you, but… his immediate inclination is to turn it around into the present.  

“But mom, if that hadn’t happened, we would never have met dad.  We wouldn’t have all my cousins and aunts and uncles.  And mom - we wouldn’t have Edie!  So, good comes from bad.”

He says this almost verbatim each time it comes up.

I see this as the sign of a healthy, emotionally honest, and well-adjusted kid.  After all the shit we’ve been through, how wonderful is that?

And you know what he sounds like to me?  A pragmatist.  Like his dear ol’ Dad… 

We miss you, Mike Young.  Until next year at this time.  I love you.

PS:  ComedySportz has a new branding strategy and a new set of logos and they're sexy!
PPS:  I got tenure and a teaching award.  It’s been a good year. 
PPPS:  I don’t want to stop writing this letter, cause when I do, you’ll be gone again.  But, it’s time to go back to the now and try to anchor myself back in the present.  So… bye, Smoosher.