Remembering Joey: What I Loved About My Son

Yesterday was the third crapiversary of our sweet Joey’s death from cancer. Sometimes, I can hardly fathom that he’s been gone that long. And other times, as I look at how his brothers have grown, I know I have to face the fact that time has and will continue to march on without him.

I’ve written a lot of sad, sappy posts about Joey, about missing Joey, about how I hate visiting Joey’s grave. This is not to be one of those posts. We had our annual “Joey Party” yesterday. Getting ready for the party gives me something to do during the day so I won't get too depressed. And it's fun to sit with family, look at pictures, and tell stories about all of the cute and funny things we loved and miss about Joey. So today, I want to share some of them with you.
  • Shooting poop across the room. This happened about a day after I brought Joey home from the hospital. Of course he was a newborn, and - being a new mom - there were some things I just had no idea about. It’s a really funny story that I’m saving for a special time.

  • His big beautiful feet and those toes that curled. Joey had the hugest feet. They were big, blocky, Fred Flintstone feet. He was climbing and walking and running very early, and I know it was because of those feet. When he first started sitting up, he would curl his toes around his toys as he played.

  • His long, light, curly eyelashes. All of our boys have beautiful eyelashes; which, unfortunately, they did not get from me. Joey’s were the most gorgeous. They were long and thick and curled at the ends. Their color perfectly matched his golden hair color. He had great hair, too. When it was a little long, it was thick and wavy. When he started chemo, I knew he would lose his hair; but one of the first questions I asked was if he would lose his eyelashes. He never did, and I spent months lying beside him just memorizing how they curled.

  • Nakedness and hats. Joey was not a big fan of clothes from about 18 months to three years. He was frequently without pants and often without clothes at all. He did really like hats though. To be naked and wearing a hat was Joey’s dream afternoon.

  • Escape artist/terrible hider. Hubby and I were watching t.v. one evening after our one-year olds were in their cribs. All of a sudden, we heard a thump, then little feet running. Out of his room strutted a grinning Joey, who had obviously figured out how to escape from his crib (no doubt using those big feet and those gripping toes). The look on his face was priceless – he was so proud! Despite his stellar escape ability, he was a horrible hider. He would find a good place, and then sit there and giggle. Sometimes, he would even call out to us.

  • Attention hound! This goes with the above. Of course he wanted to be found! He loved being the center of attention!  He would always jump into a picture I was taking of someone else. He wanted to be noticed. My poor mother once drove an hour with us from Manhattan to Long Island with Joey in the backseat calling, “Nam-NA!” (his word for grandma). He didn’t want anything; he just wanted Grandma to turn around and acknowledge that he was there. There was also a time he got us in trouble at a Cheesecake factory, but I’m saving that story, too.

  • Little Mimic. All of my boys have liked to try on my shoes, play with my purses, and were fascinated by my make-up, but was Joey was even more so. He really liked to pretend, and he was so good at it!

  • His love of art, drama, and education. I tend to think that Joey would have been a really good artist someday. We have so many craft supplies that no one uses. That’s because Joey was the only one who liked crafts. When he had show and tell at preschool, instead of just bringing one item, he would find everything in the house that started with the letter of the week. I would never have to help him, either.  And he loved children’s theater. I think he would have been my theater buddy. I still get sad when a show comes to our children’s theater, and no one wants to go with me. I think to myself, Joey would have gone with me.

  • Stripey Kitten and animal rescuing. Sometime along the way, Joey decided he wanted to be an animal rescuer (probably from watching Go Diego, Go!). His godparents gave him a veterinarian kit for Christmas one year, and in it came Stripey Kitten, his constant companion. Every time I see a stripey cat roaming our neighborhood, I think of Joey. And it was all I could do to hold back tears last week when we were at the zoo. They had kids from the ages of 9-12 volunteering at some of the education stations. One of the zookeepers told me it was part of their “Junior Zookeeper” program. How my heart ached, knowing that Joey would be doing that if he were here! I dream sometimes that he would have grown up to be a famous animal conservationist, saving endangered animals around the world.

  • His goofy sense of humor, huge smile, and that infectious laugh. Man, that kid was hilarious! His energy and enthusiasm were matched by no other. He always had an idea, a goofy game, and wanted to be part of the fun. He was almost always smiling the biggest smile you could ever see on a kid.
He pretty much always had this sh*t-eating
grin on his face about everything!

  • The Cobba Kai, Hum Hum Men, and Pink Name Name. Of course every child has words they say in a funny way. These were three of my Joey favorites. They stand for Cowboy, Firemen (not sure how that one came about) and Pink Lemonade. We had Pink Name Name at our Joey party last night. And the Cobba Kai always seemed to ride in the pink Barbie jeep Joey lifted from Grandma's house.

  • His love for his brothers. Joey was probably the best big brother any kid could ask for. He loved playing with, hugging, and helping his brothers. I really miss the example he set of how a big brother should treat his siblings. Lord knows we need it around here these days!
To me, this picture says, "Mess with
my brothers and I will cut you."

  • Those hugs . . .those super tight, wonderful Joey hugs. He didn't discriminate. You could have one if you asked.
Joey and Lil' C

There are so many more traits that made Joey special - his sense of humor, his sense of adventure, his curiosity, his wit. He lost all of this eventually; but special were the days when he was sick, and we would see any of those traits shining through.

I guess one of the few good things about losing someone you love (and this is a stretch here) is that you can picture them exactly how you want to picture them. Oh, I know Joey had his faults. He demanded to be the center of attention, and sometimes his goofiness was simply out of control. Despite loving school, I'm not sure he would have been the best student, and he was pretty shy around kids he didn't know.

I don't know what kind of nine-year-old he would be today. To me, though, he is immortalized as a spunky, funny, energetic, loving, creative five-year-old. And thank goodness, I never have to let that go.

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