Throughout Leo’s school career thus far, I feel like he (and I), are the most prepared heading into this school year. We’ve had several visits to the school leading up to today, where Leo has had the opportunity the explore his new building, his classroom, meet new faces- staff whom he’ll be working with. I’ve been able to meet with his new team on multiple occasions, and discuss at length Leo’s plan, his services, and participate in Leo’s seizure training, along with staff.

Despite still having worries (as I always will), there is a great amount of reassurance sending my boy in, for his first day of 6th grade…My Middle Schooler.

He walked in this morning, at ease…confident, with his head held high.

I am so exceedingly proud.

Early on in my relationship with Andy, I’d marvel at his kindness, compassion, and immense capacity to love. And while so much of his caring nature is just innately a part of who he is, his Dad’s influence has undoubtedly been woven into the man he has become.

“Why do you think I’m the way I am? It’s because of my father,” has become a frequent remark by my husband over the years. And while the traits he’s speaking of most often relate to being on time, or preparedness, the ones that truly stand out to me, measure far beyond those characteristics.

It was evident soon after meeting Andy, just how exceedingly important family was to him, and upon stepping foot into The Whetzel home for the first time, amidst the extraordinary example set by his Dad, it became resoundingly clear why.

I was welcomed with open arms; and Leo, accepted and loved, without hesitation, as if he were their own.

Because to them, he was.

The warm timbre of Granddaddy’s voice, a steadfast familiarity throughout the home, as he doted over his grandchildren, joked with his sons, and stood alongside his wife, whom he adored. The twinkle in his eye, ever-present, especially when surrounded by his family.

Before departing from one of his last visits with us in Maine, Andy’s Dad hugged Eva tightly…

“You’re such a funny, smart little girl,” he said affectionately. “Don’t ever change. I love you.”

A message of unconditional love bestowed upon her, and each one of his grandchildren, his family, and friends, so very precious to him.

And while we all yearn for more time with this amazing man, husband, Dad…Granddaddy…

He has left us with these nuggets of wisdom, intertwined among beautiful memories, remaining constant within our hearts.

Last night, for the first time since his passing, Eva asked to see her Granddaddy. Andy, through his sadness, explained why she couldn’t, in as beautifully, and simply a way as I could imagine. Even as we wondered, if what he’d told her had resonated.

But this morning, while busily scribbling in her coloring book, I heard her sweet voice echoing softly,

“Grandaddy is in my heart. Granddaddy is in my heart…”

I knew it had…And I knew it was true.

In our hearts, always.

Most of the “experts” will attest to the idea that parents shouldn’t be friends with their children…

There are valid arguments for this reasoning, of course; yet, I have been so blessed to have grown up with an amazing friend, confidante, mentor…and yes, firm when she needed to be, incredible Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day to one of my best friends, always ❤️