I will never forget the moment we got the call. My husband and I were on our way out of town for a quick getaway. My son Joey had been weighing heavily on my mind all morning. At the time, I didn’t know why. My husband and I were just about to pull off the freeway to get to Disneyland when his cell phone rang. As he listened to the voice on the other side, he said he needed to pull over. Instead of the excitement of seeing the park, I rocked back and forth feverishly in the front seat of our vehicle as I heard my husband on the phone. He was given the horrific task of telling me, his loving wife and the mother to this amazing son, that he was no longer with us. The color drained from his face as he turned to me. With no other way to say it, (this isn’t something we practice throughout our lives, like wedding vows or apologizing on our way home when we know we did wrong) and under the Happiest Place on Earth sign, my husband blurted out the words…”Joey is dead.”
For days, weeks, months and now years, I repeat those words in my head. Not because, by any means, I like to hear them, but because I hope to develop a callus to them one day. It is the same reason I swiftly dismiss the picture his lifeless body in the morgue when it tries to sneak into my thoughts. I hopelessly pray that one day, it becomes a VERY distant memory and I never have to see it again.
So, even though I have these draining and horrible memories, I have never had a physical reminder of that day. I don’t drive by the hospital. I refuse to know where it happened and I never want to know what McDonald’s they had just left. I am not ready for details, yet I know that one day, I will have to face my fears. A few days ago, I had no choice.
A few months back, we decided to take the entire family on a trip to Disneyland. For a while, just the word Disneyland gave me a knot in my stomach. I figured the trip was still a ways out, and maybe after all these months it wouldn’t be too bad. As the trip got closer, though, panic started to sink in. There was more dread than excitement. I debated whether we should take a different exit or maybe I could force myself into a nap until we pulled up to the hotel. No one knew I was feeling like this. I had only shared my feeling with my husband a few days before. He comforted me and told me it would be OK….I did not share his optimism.
One day, right before the trip, he said ” I think it would be great if we took the grand-babies with us in the car! They could watch movies and our car is bigger so they would be more comfortable. “Besides”, he chuckled ‘we’re paying for this trip so we should get the privileged of getting to see their smiles when they see the castle!” Just think how great that will be!” I agreed! What a great idea! At the time, little did I know, that my amazing husband was planning the best distraction…the love of our grandchildren!
So there we went! Off to DISNEYLAND! Plus to add to the thrill of our trip, I put on Disney movies for the grand kids to watch and we all sang, or at least tried to sing, along with the characters, ‘High Ho, High ho!…’ ‘It’s a small world after all’…When you wish upon a star.’ Ares was clapping and kicking his feet and Aubri kept yelling out “Mickey Mouse! Donald Duck! Disneyland!!” Before I knew it, my husband was valeting the car.! The Magic of Disneyland had engulfed us…me..in laughter, excitement and the most magical thing of all…New beginnings.
There was no longer dread under that sign. Thanks to these little grandchildren, the quick thinking of my husband, and my Joey holding my hand, The Happiest Place on Earth, was once again HAPPY.
I got to see Magic through the eyes of my Grand babies.