Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sorry I haven't written, but know I have been thinking about you constantly.

These are pictures from Sunday when we went sledding at Battery Kemble Park. It is the best sledding in Washington. What was weird was I flew to Los Angeles just a few hours after sledding, so by the evening I was somewhere warm. I just got back this morning, and tomorrow morning I leave for New York.

I've told you that when I travel I have a lot of time to think of you. Now I watch movies of you on my iPod. I also watch a lot of my favorite TV shows which I record on TiVo and movies. I am reading this biography of Walt Disney and watching some of the old cartoons and animated films, like Fantasia, Snow White and Dumbo. I watched Iron Giant on my way to California. I love that movie. "Rock." "Tree." I loved watching with you. Iron Giant isn't a Disney movie, but the deer scene in it is purposely like what happens in Bambi. Do you remember how you got an Iron Giant toy robot at the Make A Wish event at the Willard Hotel.

When I was in the airport waiting for my plane, I ran into a very old friend of mine, Kathy, who grew up across the street from me. We hadn't seen each other in forever. She was on her way to Zurich, Switzerland which is in Europe. Mommy goes to China next month and that is even farther away. I told Kathy about you and you dying, and it was hard not to get emotional. I just did it as fast as I could.

Kathy was really sweet. She told me that for her daughter's birthday everyone came with Teddy Bears for kids in the hospital instead of bringing presents. Isn't that great. I liked seeing her and catching up on old times. I have been in touch with a lot of my high school friends lately, which has been really nice.

I love you.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

We went to St. Michaels for the day. Papa Sy has a saying and it's true,

"Everyone holds hands in St. Michaels."

Whenever you drive or ride through town you always see couples walking along holding hands. That is part of the reason that I like it so much out there.

I was reading one of Nana's magazines and I saw this story below. I remember writing to you about your dentist who keeps sending you birthday cards. I think I have the opposite response. I like getting this kind of stuff 'cause it makes me think about you.

The daddy who wrote this says that it is still "painful." I think I am more like the medical story I posted a few days ago, which says that most people after some time has passed feel "pangs" of "yearning," for loved ones who have died rather than "pain."

I get pangs now and then, and I sometimes get these feelings of "I can't believe you're dead." Most of the time I just think about you without being sad or anything. Just missing you and loving you a lot.

But I do know there will be a lot of sadness around everyone's bar and bat mitzvahs. Hannah is going to do a lot about you at hers, I think there is a "Henry Aliyah"; Ari's, Jake's and Simon's will be tough; the time around your 13th birthday will be especially sad; and Jack's bar mitzvah will be a mix of happy and sad. We had to schedule a date for Jack's and one of the choices they gave us was December 12 -- the day after your death day. We decided against that.

Dear Junk Mailers: Leave My Son Alone

Thirteen years after his death, advertisers still target Jake with offers of tuxedos and snack cakes.

By Gary Wiener

Feb. 19, 2007 issue - When his 18th birthday arrived, my son, Jacob, became awfully popular. The U.S. Navy wanted him. "Before you find your place in the world, maybe you should see it first," it urged. A local menswear shop offered him 50 percent off a tuxedo package for high-school graduation. And a razor company sent him a free razor, hoping, I suppose, to make a lifelong customer out of him. Their only miscalculation was that Jacob didn't shave. Nor was it likely that any of the armed forces would gain Jacob's services. And he certainly wouldn't graduate from high school. Jacob, you see, died in 1993. He was only 7 years old when a cancerous brain tumor stole him from us.

As much as we loved Jacob, that period of our lives is still incredibly painful to remember. Yet, years after his death, letters addressed to Jacob find their way into our mailbox. Early on, I was driven almost to tears by these inducements for our son to attend a ritzy local private school or to sample a particular snack cake. I knew my wife would be devastated by such mail, and I tried to get to the mailbox first so that she would never be affronted by envelopes addressed to her dead first child. Much later, I realized she had been doing the same thing, hastily throwing out mail addressed to Jake so I wouldn't have to endure the epistolary abuse.

I thought I had learned not to take these mailings personally, but in the months surrounding Jake's 18th birthday I had to throw out dozens of letters soliciting my dead son. How galling it was to receive envelopes with bright colors and bold lettering urging him to have professional high-school graduation pictures taken, to consider a particular limousine service for prom night or to make sure not to drink and drive.

I won't dwell here on how wonderful and gifted my Jacob was, how he began to read before his 3rd birthday, how he was doing long division and double-column multiplication in his head when he was 5 years old. When Jacob died, one of our friends simply said, "I thought he would cure cancer." Like many children, Jacob loved the alphabet and numbers. Unlike others, he had a photographic memory and was capable of prodigious cerebral feats at a young age. One of his 4-year-old games was to memorize the license-plate numbers of every car on our street—and we lived on a fairly long street. Jake could see a car coming down the block, and tell you, without hesitation, what number house it was going to pull into. He would then proceed to inform you of what other license plates belonged to cars at that address. He also loved the 50 states, and could rattle them off in alphabetical order. Another of his games was to spell state names such as California—backward. So I can almost imagine him receiving these solicitation letters from all over the country and delighting in the return addresses. But he would have had no interest in their contents.

This direct-mail campaign aimed at my dead son is just one of many trials that the parents of dead children face. I didn't get overly upset when vandals knocked over his gravestone a few years back, nor even when the local TV station made a big story of it and actually showed the toppled stone on the 6 o'clock news. And though I'm not particularly pleased that, according to the Social Security Administration, "Jacob" has been the most common boy's baby name in America each year since 1999—and that every single mention of that word shoves me back to a time when my son, too, was alive—I think I've dealt with that as well.

The mail addressed to Jacob has slowed recently, but some still trickle in. As summer approaches, Jacob usually gets a few feelers from temp agencies looking to hire college kids on summer break. Or, ironically, an offer for low-cost life insurance. But that's about it.

I'm not dreading Jacob's 21st birthday, though I can't say I'm looking forward to the offers of credit cards, loans and invitations to try this brand of beer or some highland single-malt Scotch that are sure to find their way into our mailbox.

Where will it end, I wonder. On his 50th birthday, will we receive a solicitation from AARP?

When you are the parent of a dead child, you try, desperately, to keep his memory alive. You beam inside when people tell you that they remember him and that he was a nice boy. But he's been gone a long time, and now those comments are rare. The advertisers, though, will never forget Jacob.

Wiener lives in Pittsford, N.Y.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Yearning most common after loved one's death: study
Wed Feb 21, 2007
By Michael Conlon

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The most common reaction to the death of a loved one from natural causes is not depression as has been thought but rather yearning or pining, a study said on Tuesday.

The study found that the most characteristic feature of bereavement after a death by natural causes "is more about yearning and pining and missing the person -- a hunger for having them come back," said senior author Holly Prigerson, director of Dana-Farber's Center for Psycho-Oncology and Palliative Care Research.

"The focus on depression is misguided," she said in an interview. Yearning "really dominates the psychological picture, (with a feeling) that a part of you is missing and that without this essential piece you won't be happy."

She said the previous belief was that depression dominated bad feelings, but the new study showed that yearning peaks after four months and that depression, which can be a product of that sadness, peaks much later.

The study, which was published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, was written by experts at the Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and elsewhere. It was based on interviews over two years with 233 people who had lost a loved one, most often a spouse, due to death from natural causes.

The study confirmed the overall sequence of the "stage theory" of grief that was popularized by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in the 1960s -- disbelief, yearning, anger, depression and acceptance, researchers said.

"But, equally important, the data provide a benchmark for how grief changes over time," said Prigerson, a bereavement expert.

As a result, she said, those who help treat grief need to focus first on yearning.

The report said sudden deaths to due to trauma or other reasons -- which account for about 6 percent of all U.S. deaths -- may produce higher degrees of disbelief and anger and less acceptance than found in the study.

Regardless of how the data are analyzed, the study concluded, all of the negative responses are in decline by about six months after a loss. If it goes beyond six months the bereaved survivor may have to be referred for treatment.

Monday, February 19, 2007

This weekend was supposed to be our annual ski weekend with the Paneros. But on Saturday morning before we left Joe got sick and threw up. I really didn't want to leave him, but Jack was itching to ski and to spend time with his buddy Liam. So Mom and I agreed that I would take Jack and she would stay home with Joe.

Hugh couldn't make it this weekend either 'cause he had to work. Something very big happened. Hugh's company, where I used to work, merged with the other satellite radio company. But MB, Sophia, Sophia's friend and Liam all made it out to the ski place.

It snowed a lot and was really cold. Over the whole time we were there it barely reached 20 degrees out. The mountain was at a beautiful place called Deep Creek Lake in Western Maryland. Before you were born I went there with a lot of people for Cousin Ron's birthday. That time we all waterskied on the lake. This time we watched people snowmobiling and ice fishing. I don't totally understand ice fishing. I think it is more about sitting alone than it is about catching fish. But that is just a guess.

Jack and Liam took snowboarding lessons. Those two are incredibly tough because it was super-freezing, the wind was blowing and the snow was falling. Jack wasn't totally in love with snowboarding and wanted to get back to skiing.

Today Liam went snowboarding and MB went cross-country skiing. I got to ski with Jack, who is good and definitely enjoyed it more than snowboarding.

It was sad to leave with the weather becoming so nice. The sun finally broke through.

It would have been a lot better if both families were at full-strength, but it was fun anyway and nice to spend time with Jack. We had a good time on the drive home rockin' out to Led Zeppelin, groovin' to the Sugarhill Gang and laughin' along to Bill Cosby.

Jack spends a lot of time watching and reading and listening to funny things. I think he is a lot like me. He loves the Simpsons on TV and reads the comics every morning. It is good that he spends so much time with things that make him smile and laugh. He is always telling me about something funny he read in Calvin and Hobbes, or repeating a joke he heard.

Right now he is devouring a Peanuts collection. Just as Charlie Brown says, "Rats," Jack says "Snap." That is his way of saying "darn it."

They have this neat thing at the ski place. If you are in Fourth Grade, like Jack, you can ski for free all season if you have all A's and B's on your report card. We got Jack's report card the day we left. I wish I had brought it with us. He could have skied for free. Who knew.

Joe is feeling better now, and Mom has plans for all of us to go skiing next weekend. Joe went ice skating for his first-time ever a week ago at Cabin John, and had the best time. He was falling on his butt a lot at first, but then got the hang of it and was doing jumps. I know he'll take to skiing the same way. He is fearless and a great athlete.

You want to know something else about Joe. He likes to draw. He is Mr. Baseball but he is also a bit of an artist. I like that about him. He makes great drawings at school and at home. He asks me to name something -- like an elephant -- and he'll draw a picture of it for me. He drew a lot of valentines for Valentine's Day.

Joe is 5. I kinda remember you being at your peak when you were 5 -- before we left for transplant.

I miss you so much big guy. You never got to ski. Never got to ice skate. I've said this before, but I miss all of the first times you never had.

I love you.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Henry TV!

You gotta look close to see Aunt Abby dancing with you at Tim and Catherine's wedding. I borrowed their wedding video 'cause I knew you'd be on there somewhere.

You are in the lower part of the frame - too bad that your back is turned to the camera. I would love to see you more close up, and more of you in general. You were quite dapper and handsome in your tuxedo. I remember shopping for it with you.