Our Story: part 18
The Memorial Walk.
The year we lost Curtis, 2006, I connected with the Missing Grace organization. My first real event was a 5K Walk/Run they do to raise money for this non profit. Over the years, I have gotten to know the founder well, and they were the ones who put me in touch with doctors who got Claudia here. I truly believe without them, we would have lost Claudia as well. That story will be told in the future, but cord issues can and do repeat. Claudia had a cord issue, the same one that took her brother's life.
So, in August of 2006, I found out about this 5K and contacted our friends and family to see if they wanted to participate. Our parents said yes, some of our siblings joined in and agreed to sign up.
I got the crazy idea I was going to make tshirts that said "Team Curtis" on them. On every one's tshirt I would put things like "Curtis' dad" on the front. I found a picture of Curtis to use.
I designed (and I do use that term loosely) the iron transfers. I went to the store and bought a stack of tshirts. I spent on Saturday night carefully printing everything out and ironing the tshirts. Because I am not talented in the ways of iron transfers, they were less than perfect. A few I had to redo (because I accidentally ironed on the words wrong and it said stuff like "Curtis Team" as opposed to "Team Curtis".
I spent hours, ironing each shirt, and crying as I finished each one. Each shirt was a reflection of something I could "do" for Curtis. I could not parent him like normal people parent. There was nothing for me to do for him. So this. This I could do.
I hadn't even told our families I was making these shirts. One day, a few days before the walk, I just got in my car and delivered the shirts. I was practically shaking when I handed them to people.
What if they thought it was stupid? What if they didn't want to wear them? I wondered all of this out loud to Craig. "Oh. They will wear them. They will have no choice." I almost threw them all away. I didn't want my feelings hurt. I didn't want all of my hard work, all of my parenting of Curtis looked at with disdain.
My sister in law held out the shirt I made for her son and gasped "I cannot WAIT to put this on him."
I can still see her face, her expression in my head. Those few words and her genuine joy in receiving that shirt still mean the world to me.
So, on a chilly day in September, we did the 1st walk as Team Curtis. It was a small crowd that year, their first year with the walk and all. I can say that in comparison because the future years have doubled in size each year. We were the only ones to wear team tshirts and therefore, got a lot of attention for them. The foundation even put pictures of our shirts on their advertising for the event for the following year and pictures up on their website.
In fact, in May of 2007, we were at our support group and I said something about Curtis and a couple new to the group said "Curtis? Of Team Curtis? We saw your shirts!"
I think I just got my 15 minutes of fame.
It felt amazing.
And, at the walk in 2007 and 2008, tons of teams made tshirts. But we were the first. We were the original. A lot of people get "fancy" ones made. Professional printing. Beautiful artwork.
Not me. I continue to make new ones for every member of our team each year. It is one of the very few things I can do for Curtis each year. So, I continue to iron (and continue to have to redo) shirts every year. Each year I cry. Each year I step back and take pictures of each shirt. Even though they don't change from year to year, they are just as important to me as they were back then.
At the end of the walk in 2006, we did a balloon release and I buried my head into Craig's shoulder and sobbed. Sobbed that everyone wore their shirts and were proud. Sobbed because I even had to be at an event like this to begin with... and because I missed my baby boy.