It’s just a few hours — you’ll have a lot of fun and it’ll go by before you know it.” Stella had gone to a small co-op nursery school for the previous two years. As a brand-new 5-year-old, Stella was as brave and trusting of the world — and of us — as we could have hoped. But you can never imagine, until it happens to you, what it’s like to witness your child’s suffering.
Co-op, mind you, means that the parents work at school, so John and I were there a lot. She shared a goodbye kiss with her father that morning believing, on faith, that her time at school would be bookended by another kiss at the end of her day. Late that afternoon, John was taken from work to the emergency room of the hospital across the street. As much pain as I was in, trying to wrap my head and heart around my own loss, nothing will ever compare with the absolute despair of experiencing this tragedy through my daughter’s eyes. John and I had an understanding that he was going to be holding my hand for the next twelve or so years when it came to anything school-related. One week after John died, Stella started back at school.
This was worse than being blindsided by a Beatles song. And, thankfully, I had been surrounded by friends and family kind enough to keep any knowledge of press coverage to themselves. I pulled down my Dodgers cap — actually, John’s Dodgers cap that he had given me to hold with his watch and wallet and wedding ring that night in the emergency room. JOHN RITTER’S WINDOW COLLAPSES — maybe it was a concocted story about a window at our house?
My face flushed and my glasses fogged and I had to pull over. As I glanced up at the newsstand, a big, bold headline caught my eye: JOHN RITTER’S WINDOW COLLAPSES. Under the headline was a photo of us from some event. I just sat there on the curb and took in the events of the last week in one bitter gulp and let it move through me. I felt it settle like a flock of birds somewhere around where my heart sat seemingly motionless in my chest, waiting for permission to beat again.
We were gathering food for them when one of the girls announced that her husband had gotten killed in Vietnam and wasn’t coming home. “He’ll be away for a couple years, and then he’ll be back.” I assured them that the baby and I were fine. I think that’s where I was for a long time after John died.
At night, all hell would break loose inside my head. But in the morning, after the initial slap in the face that every new awakening would bring, I would drift into survival mode.Then just when I was sure I would lose my mind: the crashing together and making up and out for lost time. I knew in my heart I wasn’t going to get my way this time. “She was still grieving for John and would frequently break down in tears.“It was extremely hard on her, and Michael provided Amy a shoulder to cry on.