My story of my son's life
My son, Carmelo Jr. was born on January 29, 1988. He was my fourth child. I had a really difficult pregnancy (gaining about 85 pounds!) and an even more difficult delivery (almost bled to death). Carmen was my biggest baby, weighing almost ten pounds.
After the delivery, I remember the nurse brought Carmen over to me and laid him down beside me. All I remember is this tiny little baby cooing and looking up at me. I felt only love and peacefulness.
Three days later, I brought Carmen home with me from the hospital. He was greeted by his three siblings, Alfie (10), Cathy (7) , and John (3).
Carmen was a happy, good-natured baby, but then when he was about a year old and just starting to walk I noticed that he seemed to tire easily. He would just stop and plop himself on the floor. It wasn't for another year though when he finally started to talk that he could tell me that his legs hurt. I took him to the pediatrician who sent us to a rheumatologist who then diagnosed Carmen with juvenile arthritis. I left the doctor's office and cried all the way home and continued to cry about this throughout his childhood as I watched him struggle
with the pain and weakness. He wore special shoes till he was about eight years old.
Fortunately, his arthritis never progressed to the point where he couldn't do what everyone else was doing. He simply rested when he needed to. I carried him when I needed to (which was often) especially when he was too tired to climb the stairs in our house. Oftentimes he was just plain tired and rested on the couch. His hands hurt a lot and he had trouble writing. This became problematic at school. He refused to take the bus for handicapped kids. He didn't want to be treated differently.
Even through all this Carmen strived to be an athlete just like his two older brothers, Al and John.
He played every sport he wanted, but he LOVED football. He grew to be strong....so strong! He lifted weights and ran even though sometimes it hurt him to breathe. He never complained to anyone (except me) that he was tired or that his joints hurts. He never asked to be treated any different from anyone else and he always pushed himself to excel mentally and physically. He had ADHD and struggled to keep his grades up throughout his school years. He was constantly at the principal's office. He dropped out of school in the
12th grade but only with the intention of getting his G.E.D. , which he got. This was the same year his father and I got divorced after 28 years of marriage. I have to say that Carmen did not take the divorce well. I've heard it said that divorce is easier when the kids are older but it wasn't for my family. It broke our family apart and Carmen's world unraveled. He was heartbroken. His foundation was rocked. Fortunately, being such a resilient person helped and he enrolled in college. He was 18. He also struggled with drugs and alcohol (which is a whole separate issue) but somehow managed to maintain his grades in college.
Then a terrible thing happened about four months before his car accident. He was 20 years old. Carmen was home writing a paper for school when he got a call from a friend. He told me he was going to stop over his friend's house and then drive up to school. A few hours later I got a call from the hospital. It was a surgeon telling me he was going to operate on Carmen, that he'd been shot. I dropped the phone and sped to the hospital, parking in from of the ER entrance, bolted up the three flights of stairs to the operating ward, ran down and hallway just as they were wheeling him in for surgery. I ran up to his gurney (he was white as the sheet). I grabbed his had and looked down at him. He smiled. I said, Don't worry, baby. Don't worry about anything. You're going to be okay. I promise."
He said, "I love you, Mum. I'm sorry." I said, "I know. Now don't you worry about anything." I kissed his forehead, and they took him in. He was so relieved I was there. Several hours later he was in recovery. They removed part of his intestine, but he made a full recovery. It seems the "friends" he went to see were messing around with stolen guns and drugs. One of the kids was fooling around with a .22, he didn't know it was loaded and he shot Carmen in the abdomin. The incident is on Youtube. You can click his name to go to the video Carmelo Cacciatore. I remember while he was recuperating I told him that he can never scare me like that again because, I would die if he died. I was so relieved that he was okay.
It was Mother's Day while he was still in the hospital. Carmen wrote this letter for me as a Mother's Day present:
You have always been there for me, from elementary through college.
School hasn't been the only aspect of life that you help me in.
You teach me how to be a strong person mentally and physically.
You are also the first person I try to call when I have a
problem. I guess it's just natural because I know I can tell you
anything. No matter what the problem you will always make time to
help me and give me guidance. I love you more than you know (I just started
crying myself!). I want this letter to let you know that I truly appreciate you
and everything you have done for me. I know the past hew years
have been tough for everyone, and I haven't always done the right things.
It's just that sometimes I get sidetracked and lose my path. I believe in my heart
that you and the family are not all mad at me. In the future, after this whole
speal is over, I can't wait to sit down and talk with you. I know
that it has been hard for you through the year, too. Well, not
to cut this short but I could write for days. I just wanted to let you know that
I do LOVE you more than the sky. You have been the best mom a son
could have. This is your day and I owe this to you. You are
truly the greatest friend that I have. If I didn't see you before surgery
I don't know if I would have made it. Thank you, Mom.
Your favorite and most loving son,
P.S. the next 30 days are going to fly by
Because of the shooting, Carmen did not get to walk with his class at the college graduation. He got behind in some of his work and had to get extensions from some of his professors but he did complete the requirements by the end of July. He was supposed to go and pick up his degree, but he hadn't gotten around to it before the car accident. He was like a new person after the shooting. He was so happy and grateful to be alive, looking forward to continuing his college education at a four year university in September. He was going to be a teacher....like me. He was also the bass player in his brother, John's band.
When Carmen was in the hospital he agreed to go to a rehab. I wasn't quite sure what else to do with him at this point and I knew he had a problem. I told him he could either go to rehab or he'd be leaving the hospital on his own with nothing but a paper bag for his belongings. It was such a difficult ultimatum to give him especially considering all that he'd been through already but I knew if he came home without some kind of intervention he be right back doing what he was doing before the shooting. He did really well in rehab and he learned a lot about himself. I just don't know if 30 days was quite enough.
He got out of rehab and the plan was for him to move in with me, where he would have to follow rules about being clean and sober. On the day I picked him up from rehab however, he told me that he just wanted to stop over his father's house for a while. I was reluctant to bring him there. The rules at his father's house were lax and there was always alcohol there and people drinking. He called a few hours later and told me he wasn't going to be staying with me. I didn't see him much that next month and he didn't call me much. This was quite a change, after calling me several times a day while he was in rehab. I was worried sick about him because I wasn't there to supervise him but he was old enough to decide where he wanted to live. This was also the same month that my dad had a heart attack and died. We buried my dad three weeks before Carmen died. Then on August 7, 2008 (my oldest son's 30th birthday) I got a call from my son, John to come to his father's
house. It was 7 pm. John said, "Please come here. Don't talk to anyone." I knew in his voice that something was terribly wrong. I also knew that it had something to do with Carmen. I just knew. I arrived at my ex-husband's house to find lots of police cars and and people in the yard and driveway. I pulled into the driveway and got out of my car. I looked over at my son, Alfie, I said, "Where's Carmen?" He just stood there and shook his head. I asked him again, "Where's your brother?" He started crying and shook his head again, no. The rest of the night is a blur.
Carmen was driving home from work earlier in the day. He was speeding and he hit a tree, precisely at the driver's door. The impact killed him instantly. He was just 20 years old. He was gone.
I went to the scene of the accident a few days later and took some pictures. The impact of the car he was driving flayed the bark off the tree. The tire tracks are there. The sunlight streamed down from above.
The dean at Carmen's college heard about the accident and brought me his degree after the funeral. I am grateful for all the things that Carmen got to do while he was alive: he had a big, loving family; he laughed a lot; he experienced a lot; he struggled just like everyone else but he always rose above his challenges; he had a tremendous number of friends; he had many girlfriends. Carmen was a great support person. He was the absolute love of my life, my baby, now my angel.
I dedicate the rest of my life to my son: every song I write, every relationship I have, and
every breath I take. You never, ever "move on" from losing a child because children are with you whether they are alive or not. I think about Carmen every day, just like I do about my three other children. He was and is and will always be a part of this family.
"I Can't Believe You're Gone" is the first song I wrote for Carmen after he died. The grief and sorrow was so intense that I could not hold back the flood of emotion and the words just began to flow. I started writing about a month after his funeral and then went on and wrote eight songs for him, none with the intention or the knowledge of ever recording them for him. I just wanted to sing to him because I thought that if I sang loud enough he would hear me up in heaven and know how much I loved him. About a year after his passing I happened to hear of a recording studio about an hour from where I lived where they work with musicians to help them create and record their music. I don't play an instrument and thought what a great idea it would be to produce a cd for my son. I called the studio and began recording my songs about a week later. This first CD, written and dedicated to my son, was recorded, mastered, and packaged on what would have been my son's 22nd birthday. I can not describe how difficult it was for me to sing and record these songs for my son, but I also can not describe the incredibly uplifted way I felt when I held the finished product in my hand. These songs are a testament to my love for my son and a remembrance for his life. They are also a vehicle of expression for anyone who has also lost a child or suffered heartbreak (which is every one of us). .