Saturday, February 27, 2010

Three photos

I have a love-hate relationship with photos right now. They bring me great joy and also make me wistful for the days before the Damm Spot.

Here are three that made me smile tonight.

Steve and Cooper, Disneyland, May 2004

Tyra, Katie, Steve and Cooper, Gloucester, Mass., May 2006

Katie and Steve, Frisco, September 2007

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Grief

My column for Briefing today is about the unpredictability of grief.

You can read it here or here:

Grief, like life itself, isn't something you can plan

I'm the kind of person who loves a dependable routine. Schedules, calendars, itineraries and agendas make me happy.

My husband's battle with brain cancer taught me better than any other life lesson that plans are a good foundation – but not a blueprint to what will actually happen. The ongoing grief process after his death is yet another reminder that you can't plan for every moment.

Grief gets in the way of routine. Grief is unpredictable, sometimes even sneaky.

Lots of people talk about how the "firsts" are the hardest – the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, the first birthday without the person you love.

And it's true that those milestones are difficult. I've anticipated and been as emotionally prepared as possible for all of those firsts – and I'm not entirely convinced that the "seconds" and "thirds" won't be just as trying.

What folks don't talk about as often are the unexpected moments of grief that sometimes creep, other times pounce.

Cooper's annual Cub Scout banquet was Friday night. He's completing his third year and is on his way to becoming a Webelo.

Steve was unable to attend the first two Scout banquets – the first year he was too weak from radiation and chemotherapy and the second he was just home from a week in the hospital with pneumonia. Because he was absent before, I didn't expect to be emotional at this year's event.

But then I saw all those daddies lining up with all the Scouts, and I remembered for the hundredth time that day that Cooper has no daddy to stand with him or even a daddy to go home to.

Grief pounced. What I really want and can't have is Steve right there, pinning the Bear pin on Cooper's blue shirt pocket.

The following day was the beginning of the outdoor soccer season. Both Cooper and Katie are playing, and their schedules collide for about half of the games.

Katie's field is on the far east end of the sports complex. Cooper's is on the far west end. About a half-mile lies between the two.

I was able to watch the first half of Katie's game, then I threw my giant mom bag on my shoulder and walked, sometimes jogged to make it in time for most of the second half of Cooper's game. The whole time I was worried that the one I wasn't watching would get hurt and need help or score a goal and look for a proud mom on the sidelines.

Grief crept over me throughout the games. What I really want and can't have is Steve at one game and me at another.

Monday, I consulted with a periodontist about a recent root canal that needs more work. The procedure, scheduled for next week, requires mild sedation and a day of recovery – not a big deal, really.

As the doctor described the procedure, grief pounced. What I really want and can't have is Steve driving me to and from the appointment, and Steve holding my hand as I nap off the sedation and painkillers.

What makes these kinds of sneaky grief bursts bearable? I'm never alone.

We weren't at the Scout banquet alone. Steve's parents and brother were with Katie and me to cheer on Cooper's accomplishment, and the room was filled with friends who are also Scout families.

We weren't at the soccer games alone. Uncle Jim watched all of Katie's game, plus she was encouraged by the family of her best friend (and teammate). Cooper is playing his 10th season on the same soccer team, and every other parent hollers his name with the same enthusiasm I do.

I won't be alone during or after my dental procedure. I have amazing friends who take care of me when necessary – often without me asking.

And I can always count on Steve's spirit being with me – just not the way I'd planned.

Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. E-mail her at tyradamm@gmail.com.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Guest blogger Liz: Run for Steve in March


I know it's still cold out there but some of us have still been running, or at least trying our best!

A few members of the team will be running the Dallas Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon on March 14. We would love to have you join us. There is also a two-person relay if that sounds more appealing to you.

Click here for more information.

Tyra has some extra T-shirts if anyone wants one. They are $7.50 and range from L to XXL. If you are interested, please let her know (e-mail tyradamm@gmail.com). Tyra will also bring them to the benefit on March 8, and you can pick them up then. (Click here for more information on the benefit.)

I want to thank all of you that ran or supported the runners at the Dallas White Rock Marathon. It was a very special event, and I know Tyra, Copper and Katie will never forget the outpouring of love and support they received from everyone that day!

Thanks! -- Liz

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Picture of joy

This photo always makes me smile, even when it makes me cry.

October 2005

Katie continues to talk every day about Daddy and how much she misses him. Last night she told Liz that it makes her sad that Daddy never watched her play soccer or score the only goal of her whole life. Today she told me, as she often does, that she wants Daddy to come back to life.

***

This afternoon I ran into one of Cooper's preschool teachers. Dana took excellent care of Cooper for a year and a half -- until he turned 3. We hadn't seen her in many years. She had no idea that Steve had been diagnosed with cancer or that he had passed away.

When she asked how we all are doing, I had no choice but to tell her.

I never fully understood the phrase "one day at a time" until this whole experience began -- when Steve's symptoms wouldn't go away in fall 2007 and we both worried quietly and together. The planner and organizer in me scoffed at the idea that you could or would ever try to just get through this day before thinking of the next.

I now realize that you can still plan and organize logistics. (Thank goodness, because it's impossible for me to turn that part of my brain off.) But it's a waste of time and energy to worry about how you're going to feel or how you're going to emotionally get through next week.

I could never have anticipated that I would be standing in the middle of Target, with bags hanging off my arms, talking with one of Cooper's former teachers about Steve's illness and death. And even though it's awful to rehash details -- no matter how brief -- I got through it. And I will again.

***

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
(Psalm 118:24)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Steve Damm Fund benefit

You can now buy tickets to the March 8 concert, benefitting the Steve Damm Fund (college fund for Cooper and Katie) and PFamily Arts in Plano.

From PFamily's Web site:
Don't miss this opportunity of a lifetime to see the Broadway touring cast of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA in concert performing some of their favorite songs and dance numbers from some of your favorite Broadway shows. The audience is invited to come early for the silent auction to bid on selected memorabilia from the show (cast signed posters, cast signed T-shirts, costume pieces and more) as well as meet the cast at the reception after the concert.

Details:
Monday, March 8
6 p.m. silent auction
7 p.m. concert
Reception with cast to follow
$30 person (tax deductible)

Reservations:
972-378-1234
info@pfamilyarts.org

You can read all the details here.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

From the beach to the snow

Aunt Ami came to town last Friday, allowing me a few days to get out of town.

Liz, Holly, Piper, Victoria and I escaped to Palm Beach, leaving at home 14 children in the fine care of daddies, aunts and grandmas. We had a fabulous time together.

Victoria, Holly, Piper, Liz and Tyra

Steve, of course, was never far from my thoughts. I've lost track of the number of trips we took to Florida together. I fell in love with the beach on our first visit there (in Sarasota), and our last vacation together was there (in Palm Beach). When we talked about our far-off retirement, we always imagined we'd spend much of it in Florida.

My view of the Atlantic

One afternoon I sat just feet from the coast and ate for lunch a Steve favorite -- grilled grouper sandwich. And I sobbed. Because I miss Steve so very much and I grieve our unfulfilled dreams and I still have trouble believing that Cooper, Katie and I have our whole lives ahead without him.

My heart is broken -- even while it is incredibly full.

The five of us returned home just before a record snowfall fell in North Texas. On the same day that I was washing swimsuits and putting away sunscreen, I was helping build a snowlady in the front yard and washing snow-soaked clothes!

Cooper and I walked to school Thursday morning. The snow continued for another 15 or so hours. Cooper described how much fun Daddy was having in heaven, throwing so much snow our way.

Early in the snowfall, Katie, Ami and I built this snowlady, which Katie named Mazil (rhymes with Brazil).

Cooper had no school Friday, so we spent much of the morning outside, enjoying an unusual foot of snow.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The dance

Frisco sponsors a Daddy Daughter Dance every February. Early last year, when we realized how quickly Steve's condition was deteriorating, Steve and I decided that he and Katie should attend the dance -- even though she was a year younger than the recommended age.

They were beautiful together.

A few weeks after Steve passed away, Katie informed me that she would be going to the next Daddy Daughter Dance. And that she needed a daddy to take her. And that she'd decided on Uncle Greg, because he's a daddy.

So today Uncle Greg escorted Katie to the dance. They had a big time on their double date with Layne and Katie's best friend Noe. (Special thanks to Aunt Melane and Aunt Ami for their beauty shop skills.)

Katie reports that the dance was "gorgeous and awesome."

Katie is so blessed to have so much love in her life. She has only one Daddy. But she has the support and guidance of many other strong men -- the perfect match for her strong, independent, confident personality.



Friday, February 5, 2010

Katie's song

video

Katie often composes songs about Steve. I was quick enough to capture today's song on my phone.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Save the date: March 8

Last week I received a surprise phone call from David Gaschen -- Frisco dad, Broadway star, all-around nice guy. (You may remember that he recently led Christmas caroling on our front porch.)

He is organizing a benefit for the Steve Damm Fund, which is the designated account for Cooper and Katie's scholarship money.

Details so far
What: Cast members of the touring company for Phantom of the Opera and David will perform songs from Broadway musicals. (Phantom is playing in Dallas in February and March.)
When: Sometime in the evening of Monday, March 8, 2010
Where: PFamily Arts, 4017 Preston Road, Suite 544, Plano, Texas

Half of the proceeds will benefit PFamily Arts; the other half will go to the Steve Damm Fund. (Ticket prices aren't set yet.)

What a fun, fitting event in memory of Steve! He loved to sing, loved to attend musicals, loved to belt out a good Broadway tune in the car or in the kitchen.

I'll share more details on the blog when they're available.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Cooper's big weekend

I tell Cooper and Katie every day that I am proud of them and that Daddy is proud of them. If Steve had been with us in person this weekend, we would have seen him holding his hand over his heart and sighing often with joy and pride.

Saturday morning Cooper joined the rest of his Cub Scout pack for the annual Pinewood Derby. This was his third year to compete. He and I built his car together at a workshop, and I quietly just hoped the car wouldn't place last in every heat. (I wrote about our derby experience for Briefing last month.)

Cooper's car placed third among his rank! That allowed his speedy red car to advance to the finals. The competition there was tough, but we were truly thrilled just to make it that far.


He had very little time between the derby and a Destination Imagination workshop and then an indoor soccer game.

The Dolphins have had a tough indoor season. In fact, they hadn't scored a goal all season -- until Saturday night.

Cooper and his longtime buddies won 12-0!

Cooper was ecstatic over the win. But he couldn't shake a feeling of sadness for the other team. He told me frequently throughout the night that he felt badly for the other players and that he knows how hard it is to lose.

Sunday morning he served as acolyte for the 8:30 worship service. It was his second time ever in the role.

Cooper takes the acolyte job very seriously. He walks slowly and deliberately with the flame. He carries the offering plate to the altar with sincere reverence.

After the service, many folks approached him to compliment his contribution.

Our friend Bob told Cooper that in the 20-plus years he's attended Holy Covenant, he's never seen anyone do such a fine job as acolyte. And that his Daddy must have been smiling from heaven.

Cooper was appreciative and then quick to reply, "Actually, I think Daddy was right here on the front row. Or standing right there by the altar!"

Steve isn't with us in the flesh, but there's no doubt that his spirit and never-ending love surround us daily.