Dear James and Jackson: 3 Months Already!?!

J&J Gap Outfits

Dear James and Jackson:

I cannot believe you’ve been here for three months.  Three months.  It seems like just yesterday and a lifetime ago.  You are both more than twice the size you were when you were born.

James, you eat like you are a linebacker.  Jackson, you try to eat like you are a linebacker, but that pesky acid reflux keeps you from running your brother down.  Regardless of this minor inconvenience, you are both gaining weight appropriately and are happy as can be.  At least I tell myself you are, and you smile and laugh often enough not to convince me otherwise.

This is the holiday time of year.  Hanukkah started the night before Thanksgiving this year.  The Festival Of Lights got kind of lost amid the turkey and cornbread dressing, but we did manage to get this picture.

J&J Hanukkah

Your Grandpa Roy and Nanny Sandy came to visit, and it was great fun!   I have to tell you … no one has a bad time when you’re around.  Your Granny and Grandpa Jim made an excellent Thanksgiving dinner — perhaps you got a taste or two in your bottle.  I have no idea how that all works … I have yet to taste one of your bottles.

You even went to your first Hanukkah party at our friends, the Bialoskys.

The day after Hanukkah ended, KK arrived!  She was here for just over a week and boy did we get a lot done.  And boy does your Mama have to learn how to take more pictures … because I did not get one of you with her this time.

While she was here we went and had this picture made:

J & J with Santa Claus

Everyone says you don’t look happy … but the truth is, you were both perfectly content.  You had never been out of your buckets in a mall before and between the strange fellow with the beard and all the other information to take in — James is looking right at KK with a look of, “Who is this guy?” and Jackson is in deep thought or trying to pass gas.  It’s all a matter of interpretation.

After we took the Santa picture, KK and I took you with us to The Cheesecake Factory where James was fast asleep (until he woke up STARVING) and Jackson was fully awake, flirting with our waitress.  The theory is, had Santa been a bubbly black woman named Renee, there would have been more smiling in the picture — at least for Jackson.

Child, you are going to break hearts.  Your Mama must teach you how to do it gently.  Very gently.

This week amidst all of the other things your Mama does, she found a few spare minutes to get the holiday card ready.  Here is the end result:

Wilcox Holiday Card 2013

Y’all are so damn cute, I can hardly stand it.

Some people might be confused by the Hanukkah shirts and the picture with Santa.

At three months of age, I am not going to get into a big philosophical discussion about religion and how your Mama may or may not interpret the rules. I wrote a little bit about this a few years ago here.

All I will say is I believe our interaction with God is a relationship not a religion.  I believe it is personal.  I believe it is ours and ours alone.  Mine has been nonexistent, overtly religious, spiritual, completely doubting and everything in between.

If I can teach you that having the relationship means — if you’re anything like your Mama — you will have a crisis of faith; perhaps several.  I will have done one of my many jobs as a mother.

All the other rules and regulations are just that — rules and regulations.

As with most things in life, I believe you should learn all said rules and regulations so you can know exactly what you’re breaking; but more importantly I want you to learn and be curious about the history of it all.  I want you to learn Judea-Christian traditions and American traditions.  Everyone has their own interpretation according to how their family did things, as will you.

Hopefully, one day we’ll find a synagogue community that speaks to us.  It’s one of the things I have yet to find since converting to Judaism.  I find it easy to speak to God without a community because that is personal, but the practice of religion — any religion — is difficult without a community in which to practice it.

But more importantly than any of the things just mentioned —  this is what is right for our family today.  Because at the end of the day holidays and traditions are less remembered for their religious meanings and more about bringing family and friends together to eat really good food.

I celebrate Christmas not just because I have an excessive snowman collection (though it would be a pity to let that go).  I celebrate it because it’s a part of me.  To not celebrate it is to deny some of the most beautiful memories in my life.

You will have beautiful memories, too.  I’ll make sure of it — even when I don’t know exactly what I am doing at first … like decorating a Sukkah.




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My Cousin

David Matthew Merrill November 22, 1977 - November 30, 2013

David Matthew Merrill
November 22, 1977 – November 30, 2013

I was not sure if I wanted to write about this, but as I lay restless last night I realized there was no other way to get all the images out of my mind. To somehow make peace with the fact that the aorta was ripped right through the center of two families beginning September 26, 2012 and ending in a motel room on November 30, 2013.

The futures these two families had imagined for themselves were forever altered.  The living are left to deal with the aftermath.

My cousin died yesterday.  I will spare the details here, mainly because I do not know them all for certain, and if you want to know more you can just Google his name.  It’s all out there, and if you live in the Dallas / Ft. Worth area, you have undoubtedly heard the story.

There are several versions to the story, but from where I am sitting they all wreak havoc and end badly, so I choose to focus on the moments that were real; unaltered with substance abuse.  Those moments I had with my cousin I want to remember.

His ending was not one that would garner much sympathy, but I know he had a family that loved him in spite of himself.  When not many kind words will be written, I want to make sure there is one place that remembers the David Matthew before the drugs.  Before the gun.  Before the chaos.

To me, the story on the internet reads like a bad episode of Homicide: Life On the Street.

How could this be my family?

My desire today is to remember my cousin, not only for myself — but my family; his children.

The meth addict who shot himself in a motel room.  I actually did not know that guy, so there is not much I can say about him.  I did not love him.  In fact, I would go so far as to say I hated that guy and all he had done.  That guy was not anyone I would know or socialize with — and hadn’t since July of 2011.

But that guy in the picture with me on my wedding day (August 12, 2007) — I would hang out with that guy any day of the week.

That guy I loved.  That is the guy I want to remember.

Life is about choices and it’s fair to say my cousin did not make great ones, especially over the past several years.  I’ve always hated drugs, and though I never imagined it could end like this for my family — I knew all too well how their devil-like grip could overtake a person; rendering them unrecognizable to those who loved them.  This was the case with my cousin.

My David Matthew was unrecognizable to me as I scanned the stories on the internet.

He was born two days before Thanksgiving in 1977 and left the world two days after Thanksgiving in 2013.

I remember the day he was born.  I was eight.  I was hoping he would be a girl.  I already had a boy cousin — and being an only child myself — I was ready for a girl.

This was his first Easter.

Terry Merrill Wilcox, David Matthew Merrill and Tommy  Easter 1978

Me, David Matthew and Tommy
Easter 1978

I quickly got over the fact that he was not a girl and fell in love with him.

There were five of us.  Five cousins.  I loved them all like they were my little brothers and sisters because I had none.  I still do, even though distance and life keeps us apart most of the time.

David Matthew Merrill, Terry Merrill Wilcox, Lesley, Tommy and Jenny Lea

Tommy, Me, Lesley, David Matthew and Jenny Lea

The David Matthew I knew was sweet.  He was smart.  He was thoughtful.  He was loving.

He was a great cook.

We both loved Dr. Pepper and milk (not together).

We both loved The Avett Brothers.

We loved to laugh about our family together.

He was freaking hilarious.

Before the drugs, he would call and we would talk for sometimes hours about everything and nothing.  I could always talk to him and always wanted to.  There is a story about our grandfather and a tamale that still makes me laugh out loud when I think about the first time he told it.  He was always making me laugh out loud.  He got that from his father.

I was with him the first time he saw the ocean.  It was in 2010 when we went to San Diego to see TCU play in the Poinsettia Bowl.  They won.

David Matthew Merrill and Terry Merrill Wilcox December 2010

David Matthew and Me
December 2010

After our trip, David had expressed how he loved my husband’s top-siders.  Jonathan bought him a pair and had them mailed to his house.  David wrote the most beautiful thank you note.  I’m glad we still have it.

The sweet guy I loved and remember was in that thank you note.  When I read it I can hear his voice.  I can feel his hug.  I can hear him telling me that he loves me.  He did.

There was a part of him that always wanted to please me.  Always wanted me to be impressed with him.

We went to an Avett Brothers concert at Red Rocks in July of 2011.  The drugs had already crept into his life, so the visit was not a great one, in fact it was awkward.  But he loved the Avett Brothers from that night on.  He could not wait to get home and introduce the band to his wife.  For a brief moment that night, he was there with me.  He went and bought us all food and drinks.  He knew I was irritated with him and he wanted to make it up to me.

The last time I talked to him was over the summer while I was pregnant with the Dumplings.  We talked about the Avett Brothers new album.  There was little else to talk about.  His favorite song off the new album was ironically, Life.

I hope — as everyone in my family wades through this nightmare — we can each look back and find the pieces of David Matthew that were awesome.

There were many pieces of him that were.  Too many to write about here.

Those moments when he was there.  He loved his kids fiercely.  He loved his parents, his grandparents, his sister, his nieces and nephews.  He loved his family.  He wanted to be just like his Uncle Roy.

I want to remember this sweet boy.  The boy and the man I looked forward to hanging out with every time I came home.

David Matthew Merrill and Terry Merrill Wilcox

David Matthew and Me

The little boy I used to love to babysit.

The little boy that hated Santa Claus.

David Matthew Merrill and Terry Merrill Wilcox Christmas 1979

Christmas 1979

Oh, David Matthew.  I love you.  I will miss you.

But I will remember the good times and the sweet moments.

Those are the ones I will carry with me.

Love, Terry

*** UPDATE *** My cousin’s liver was a match for his step-Mom’s sister, Loretta.  This is something good to come out of all of this, as she has been on a liver transplant list for some time.  I am not sure if any of his other organs helped anyone, but I do know his liver helped someone he loved.  David would be happy about that.


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