Tyler on his 16th birthday

Tyler’s 17th Birthday

Today, October 23, is Tyler’s 17th Birthday. In early August I asked him what he wanted for his birthday. (Early I know but I needed ideas so I could look for sales, duh.) The fun/kid/dreamer part of him wanted to have his Jeep lifted. For a split (and I mean, split) second I thought “Oh, that would be soo cool!” I could even picture him sitting in the driver’s seat of that jacked up little Jeep, looking so proud and grinning from ear to ear. And to be honest, the image I saw in my mind’s eye of him so happy, proud, excited, and feeling like he was on top of the world made me feel awesome. However, Momma Bear wasn’t too far away and I quickly put the kibosh on that idea. ERRRCH! The reality was, he just did not have enough driving experience to make me feel comfortable with him driving a little gray jeep with a wonky center of gravity. I could easily picture him taking a turn too sharp or too fast and flipping. Not a risk I was willing to take.

“Ok, so Tyler, that’s not gonna happen, what else do you want?” He replied with a smile “Soccer jerseys. Two, soccer jerseys.” Let me back up a bit for ya’ll. In the past 2 years or so Tyler has become a HUGE soccer fan. I believe it started with FIFA and the XBox. We could hear him in his room yelling, and screaming and after a few choice words he would come out of his room all mad and angry. Trey and I would say, “Tyler, why are you playing that game if it makes you so mad?” And he would say, “Because it’s fun.” Um? Ok? But the kid was hooked and was watching soccer on TV whenever he could. Me, I have no idea how soccer works. I know there is this dude named Palio, or Playto, or maybe it’s Pede? Pedro? I am almost sure it start’s with a “P”. But the players are mean to each other, and I don’t understand why they aren’t required to wear some sort of head protection, and the refs dangle fancy colored flags in their faces like matadors. And just when you think the game is over they add random minutes that I think they pick out of a hat or somebody’s stinky shoe. It’s crazy, I don’t understand it but he loved it. So anyway, those jersey’s sound reasonable right? Wrong! Those dang things were like $180. A PIECE! (His smile should have clued me in) “Dude, seriously? Do they come with video games? Gatorade coupons? Bobble heads?” He just laughed at me and the conversation just drifted in another direction.

Tyler Fishing
Tyler Fishing while on Vacation

The morning Tyler left for vacation he almost left his fishing rod and quickly ran back into the house to get it. As Jon was trying to put it in the car we quickly discovered that it didn’t come apart so Tyler couldn’t take it. In order to make the ferry ride and getting onto the island as easy as possible things had to be minimal and as compact. So a long fishing rod wouldn’t be the best, nor, the easiest thing to tote around when you need all the arm real estate you can get. Schulyer’s mom graciously offered her pink, glow-in-the-dark, sparkly, light up, bedazzled fishing rod to Tyler. Problem solved!! Now, I am not sure about you but I can flash through 99 scenarios in my head in 1.3 seconds. It’s a gift or mental illness, the jury is still out on that one. But I could just picture Tyler, 6 feet tall with his backwards Red Sox cap, swim trunks, casting a pink, flashing, fishing rod. But then I felt bad for him because if I would have known that fishing rods came apart I would have made sure he had one prior to this trip. Then I wanted to run to Bass Pro but that store was too far, so could I go to Wal-Mart to grab one? Would Wal-Mart even have one? But I knew they had to get on the road so that wouldn’t work. (keeping up with the thought process still?) But really what stopped my mental Nike’s in their tracks was honestly, I knew Tyler really wouldn’t care what kind of rod he used. Truly. The child would not care one bit. The fact that he was with his best friend having fun and hanging out at the beach, on a great vacation with people that he enjoyed being around. THOSE are the things that mattered and meant the most to him. Family and friends. Not what kind of fishing pole he had or even if he caught any fish. Just the fact that he was with people he cared about, he was with his best friend and they were all having a good time. I have a couple of pictures of Tyler sitting by the water and he just looks so peaceful and content. Just happy to watch the water go by and think about whatever. So, I pictured him casting that Swarovski encrusted fishing rod and having that same look of blissful peace and contentment. I gave him a big squeezie squeeze hug, told him I loved him and watched as he rode away.

I told Trey as we were going inside “I know one thing we can get for Tyler for his birthday. A new fold up fishing rod!” Woo Hoo. I am so sorry I was not able to get that new rod because in the hospital (and even now)I want that new rod for him SOOOO badly.

His birthday is today, Friday October 23 and TWentz will be 17. I don’t know what the day will be like, but I don’t want it to be overwhelmingly sad. I want to honor and remember him and want to make my heart happy because I know he would like that. So I invite you to do something that truly matters to your heart. Me? I am going to seek out some random acts of kindness tomorrow. What? I am not sure but I hope I will know when the opportunities present themselves. And you can bet I will be looking for those opportunity whenever I can. Picking up something somebody dropped, holding a door, buying a cup of coffee, buying an extra football game ticket for someone at the Godwin/Herm game tomorrow, complementing a random person on something you noticed about them…putting the new roll of toilet paper on the holder… cough cough (Trey) or, simply just a big ole’ honkin’ smile. Pay it forward, Pass it on.

Remember, it’s not about the pink fishing pole, but it’s the time you get to spend fishing, being with the ones that you love and also doing things that make your heart happy.

Happy Hearts and Happy Birthdays


21 thoughts on “Tyler’s 17th Birthday

  1. Reply
    Janie Goldschmidt - October 23, 2015

    Wow- what a wonderful way to start my day. I will be thinking of Tyler and his big ole smile all day today. I am so sorry he isn’t here to receive a new fold up fishing rod or to see the number 17 on a cake. I will be sure to try and do random acts of kindness whenever I can today in honor of your sweet boy. And I will be thinking of you all! And even though my heart breaks when I think of your loss, I will try and have extra smiles on my face today in honor of your kind hearted, cheerful, and smiley guy. And if I had a soccer jersey I would wear it in his honor! Big big hugs and happy thoughts for you all day today. You are amazing!!!!

  2. Reply
    Natalie Reddell - October 23, 2015

    Love him, and you, to pieces. Michelle, you have a gift; you gave a gift; you are a gift. Tyler is soooo proud of his mama. #TeamTyler

  3. Reply
    Juanita Flener Hamlin - October 23, 2015

    funny that you speak of the Random Acts Of Kindness because when the enemy of sadness lurks, I give something away. I enjoy getting to know who Tyler was. A giant of a man in a youthful body. You my dear are a writer. Make that happen? On a larger scale. Let the world know who he was and insight into life as it can be even in the midst of this. xo

  4. Reply
    Heather Woods - October 23, 2015

    Michelle, You are a writer! I didn’t know this about you. Reading your words, your voice comes through so clearly that I feel like I could be sitting right next to you at Cracker Barrel eating biscuits and gravy. And I am so touched by your words. I marvel at their strength, but really I am grateful for their transparency of purpose and love. Thank you for sharing more of Tyler’s stories the rest of us, and thank you for helping us find ways to honor him and your family. He will be on my mind today. You will be on my mind, too. And I already know my day will be better for it.

    1. Reply
      Claudia - October 23, 2015

      Simply beautiful.

  5. Reply
    Annette Hollingsworth - October 23, 2015

    Michelle, you have such a gift for writing. You should write a book. We will be thinking about your whole family today. Tyler was such a great guy. He had a big heart. I am going to do my best to pay it forward in his memory today. Blessings to your family.

  6. Reply
    carissa garabedian - October 23, 2015

    I have been following this story and praying for you all since August. I so admire your strength and ability to share. I am thinking of you all today on Tyler’s birthday and am going to do at least one random act of kindness.

  7. Reply
    Nicole Pontorno - October 23, 2015

    Thank you for sharing your memories of Tyler and reminding us to be thankful for family and friends. Thinking of you and Tyler today. Hugs.

  8. Reply
    Emma Gaccione - October 23, 2015

    Wonderful, poinigiant and overwhelming touching. I will honor Tyler and his sweet mother today.

  9. Reply
    Jennifer Lovings - October 23, 2015

    Pay it forward. Pass it on.

  10. Reply
    Chris Northcott - October 23, 2015

    Thank you for this touching and uplifting and encouraging message. I also have teenage boys who love to fish. I can tell from your humor that you are a fun mom and friend. Tyler is blessed. Know in your heart that you will be with him one day. I wish I could give you a big hug today. Take care.

  11. Reply
    Elise Sandler - October 23, 2015

    Hi Michelle,
    I know you don’t know me and I never had the pleasure of meeting your precious Tyler. However, I have heard your story and read your posts. I sit at my computer reading these and can’t hold back the tears. I have teenage boys and the thought of what you and your family are going through is so unimaginable. Your strength and humor through all of this is amazing! I know they say you never know how much you can handle until you are forced to handle it, but WOW!
    I just thought you should know that not only are you touching the lives of those who know and love you, but there are others like me who have never had the chance to meet you who are just as touched. I will make sure to pay attention today to ways that I can make random acts of kindness! My first stop will be to buy more tissues! Elise

  12. Reply
    Kate Hall - October 23, 2015

    Happily honoring Tyler & God Bless you & your family. Also, I agree-you should write more! This should be a column in the RTD to begin.

  13. Reply
    Peggy Berkeley - October 23, 2015

    I hope your memories, such as this simple one you have generously shared with us, continue to comfort you and give you strength. I will indeed seek out opportunities today to honor Tyler with random acts of kindness. Peace…

  14. Reply
    Stephanie Hazelwood - October 23, 2015

    17 Bright Shiny Stars for Tyler !!!

  15. Reply
    Marlo - October 23, 2015

    I chased a man down today in the Walmart parking lot because he forgot his milk at the checkout stand, does that count? Now I will make cookies for the kids in the play at Godwin and put a sign on them saying that they are for Tyler’s birthday. It is so hard to “celebrate” without the person. I do it every May 29. I usually try to give blood or take a meal to the Ronald McDonald House. You are doing a positive thing by encouraging others to do good in Tyler’s memory. I hope you will hear lots of stories of random acts.

  16. Reply
    Kim Starke - October 23, 2015

    Michelle, you are truly a gifted writer. Unfortunately, I know too well how you are feeling today. Just months before Cole passed, I had already decided that I would surprise him with Beats headphones for Christmas. He would never have asked for such an expensive gift, but I wanted him to have them like the other baseball players did. The bus rides to and from away games were so long and I knew he would enjoy them. Sadly, he never got them. Today, is such a gorgeous day, maybe you can take Tyler’s fishing pole and go wet a line in his honor. Happy 17th Birthday Tyler!

    1. Reply
      Juanita Flener Hamlin - October 24, 2015

      So many things can’t do for them now. My son, Landon, died at 21. Mom won’t make manwich because as a child he could eat up to four sandwiches and dubbed himself memal’s manwich boy. He loved S’mores poptarts and said he knew I loved him because I always bought them for him. I passed them in the grocery store a few months later and had to shove the cart aside and run out of the store. Those are the hard days. Now 14 years later. I can smile and think of what a gift he had been to me and to the world. So many do not know what they missed, when someone passes that they never met. I didn’t know your son or Tyler, but I get it, because you and Michelle did not know my Landon. Be blesssed

  17. Reply
    Beth MInton - October 23, 2015

    God bless you and your family! What a lovely tribute! I too will join in honoring Tyler’s life by random acts of kindness! (I try to do that every day of my life!) I did not have the pleasure of knowing him personally but I feel that I did after hearing so many wonderful things about him! He obviously was loved and raised by great parents!

  18. Reply
    carla - October 23, 2015

    17 MegaMillions VA lottery tickets will be handed out this evening in Tyler’s honor. Although I have no connection to your family – my heart hurts for your loss. I hope these random acts bring you a small sense of peace today. <3

  19. Reply
    Barbara - October 23, 2015

    May all the acts of kindness in honor of Tyler’s birthday fill everyone with HAPPY HEARTS.?

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