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Seven

August 21, 2015

You would have turned seven this past Saturday, Teddy. I’ve been thinking a lot about what seven would have looked like. You would have been getting ready to walk Dot to kindergarten, all big brother protectiveness and silliness and exasperation. You would have been getting ready for second grade.

I don’t know if that’s how it would have been, of course. I don’t know if you would have been wild and energetic, or gentle, or both. I don’t know what your smile would have looked like, what your sense of humor would have been, what color your hair would be at this point, or whether or what your favorite books would be. I’ll never get to know, but I keep dreaming and imagining and almost, almost seeing you out of the corner of my eye.

August has been rough this year. It’s always rough, but your father had a big work project due and spent most of the weekend in the office. I ate a lot of gelato and your little sis watched too much television because I had to hide in the bedroom and cry at various intervals throughout the day. We’re doing okay, but I keep waiting for it not to hurt so much and it always does, and it’s kind of relief when it hurts, you know.

I wish I could know you at seven. I love you even though you’re not here.

Happy birthday.

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Melting down

August 10, 2015

Tomorrow, it is supposed to be 100 degrees where I live (Fahrenheit, not Celsius, that is). But I am already melting.

Today I woke up early and got ready to walk in to work. I love my walking mornings. I love working up a sweat and changing clothes and putting on makeup after I get in. I love starting the workday early so it feels like I can get everything on my list done. I love the slightly twisted and admittedly self-righteous thrill of being the first one in the office, the one who opens the doors and turns on the lights. I was ready for a morning like that.

But Dot woke up before I left. And she didn’t want me to leave. Suddenly, even though we’d talked yesterday about her daddy bringing her to school this morning and event though she’d been looking forward to that, she wanted me to bring her to school. And N. wanted to sleep some more.

All right, I said. I’ll take you in.

Then, of course, she didn’t want to get dressed. And then she didn’t want to go to school at all, and then when we were finally happily in the car she started crying about how she didn’t want to grow up (a sentiment with which I totally sympathize) and in an effort to be silly and help cheer her up I started listing off things she could do when she was grown up that she couldn’t do now – eat whatever she wanted for dinner, make art projects with knives and scissors, stay up as late as she wanted, dye her hair purple…

Well, it turns out, my five-year-old has a friend who dyed her hair pink. When she was four. And now Dot is telling me she wants to dye her hair, too, and I’m telling her she can’t until she’s an adult, and she is calling me “Mean Mommy,” and I say the true and terrible thing I should not say: “I wish I hadn’t waited to take you to school.” Now we’re both crying and she tells me that I’ve broken her heart into pieces, and I can’t call the words back, though I want to. I feel like the worst parent ever, like I don’t deserve parenthood at all, and I’m also terrified, like it could be taken away at any moment because I’m so bad at it.

I apologize, and we head into school, and all of a sudden she’s the happiest child on the planet, hugging her friends, chirping “hi!” at her teacher. And the teacher looks at her and says, “Do you have your swimsuit on, Dot?” and I realize in the silence that follows that I’ve misread the calendar and that they’re going swimming today instead of tomorrow, and that I’ve left her suit and towel at home. I run home to get it. N is still sleeping and I contemplate hating him for a moment, but I know all the reasons he’s so tired, and if I could I’d be curled up right with him, so I blow him a kiss and sneak out, run the swim gear to Dot’s school, run to park, run to my office, breathe.

It’s funny and I’m still laughing about it, but it hurts, too. It hurts.

And now people who should have been helping me with the scary web migration project that I ended up doing on my own, like that martyr of self-martyrdom, the Little Red Hen, are asking for changes to the final site that I can’t make, or for changes that they could bloody well make themselves if they’d been paying attention because I gave them administrative access when I thought they were interesting in actually helping with the project. This is not unusual, and usually I smile, laugh, fix things, and coax people along into learning new things, but today it’s all I can do to make fixes and type brief, neutral replies. I want more than anything to curl up and hide from everyone for a while, to just hide and not pretend to be loving or good or competent or to have my shit together because right now my shit is not together.

I keep crying.

I keep missing him.

Memories everywhere, and I love them because they’re all I have of him to love, memories and the world’s most ridiculously tiny urn in my dresser drawer, but they leave me so damned raw, nerve endings exposed, eyes red and giving me away.

Dot’s daycare is closed for the latter half of this week; Teddy’s birthday and death day span the weekend. I am facing five days at home with Dot, five days to bite my tongue and pray that I don’t let me rawness show too much as I try to entertain and play and be a good mommy. A good enough mommy, at least.

I hate you, August.

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The end of the family bed

March 9, 2015

The night after Dot was born, I was holding her, half asleep, and looked down at her face to see her little mouth gaping open, full of blood. It was part dream, part hallucination, and when I jerked fully awake, I could see she was fine. Perfectly fine. No blood, no calamity, just steady breathing and the little open mouth of a newborn baby sleeping on her mama’s chest. Those first few months, I was overwhelmed by love and happiness. I also saw death behind every corner, lurking at the bottom of staircases, in cars, on the other side of the door. What made this worse was that I knew, as most parents who’ve lost children know, how little I could control. I anxiously read parenting books and breathed a sigh of relief every time we passed another month where SIDS tends to be more likely.

It is perhaps fitting, perhaps some sort of lesson the universe is trying to teach me, that Dot was precociously mobile, active, and seems to be completely without fear. From the moment she could roll over, she began exploring the world and I began trying to restrain my protective instincts so that I didn’t instill my own fears into her wee little self. She hit the playgrounds at a run as soon as she was one. She went down the frighteningly tall metal slide at our favorite park before she was two, and wanted to do it again and again. Inside, she climbed the shelves, the table, the counters, the cat tree, and it felt like life was a continuous discussion about “safe choices” for approximately two years.

But there was always bedtime, at the end of each day, when my adventurer would transform into a snuggling and clinging sleepy girl. We’d read stories and then she would fall asleep in the middle of our family bed. We hadn’t intended to have a family bed. Before Dot was born, I thought that people who did that were at best indulgent and at worst, misguided. But both N and I found we needed to be able to reach out and feel her breathing throughout the night, and keeping her in the bed with us felt right.

As anyone who frowns on co-sleeping would probably tell you, this set up a long-term pattern of sleep behavior. Other parents put their kids to bed and then stayed up to talk, catch up, watch a bit of television, finish the dishes. We pretty much all went to bed at once. N and I missed the intimacy of our own bed (not just the sex, but the spooning and snuggling) and being able to have adult bedtimes. Last week, I mentioned that Dot would probably sleep in her own bed if we had the sort of dog that would sleep with her, and I could actually hear N thinking that maybe we should get a dog even though we are no where near ready for dog ownership.

But it is sweet, too, so sweet. I think many people don’t understand that, how lovely it can be to wake up with a small body half-way sprawled over your own, or to hear a sleepy “mama” or “dada” right before she snuggles into you, pulling your arm around her. Hearing her whisper stories at night as she drifts off, listening to her dreams in the morning. Perhaps it is indulgent, but I think we were indulging ourselves more than anyone, and I think we’d earned the right to do that.

Last night, Dot fell asleep in her own bed and slept there all night. It was her idea. She chose a stack of picture books and decided to read them by herself. Then we dimmed the lights and she and I played our “describing game,” where we take turns describing people, things, and animals and then guessing what they are. Then I gave her a hug and kiss and went to sit in the bedroom we used to share, listening anxiously to make sure she was okay. She tossed and turned for a few minutes and mentioned that it was hard, going to sleep. I told her that it had only been a few minutes and that she didn’t need to rush. And then silence descended and when I peeked in she was asleep.

N came home late, curled around me in the bed and whispered, “Wow! Wow.”

This morning she woke at six, and ran into our bed, burrowing right into the middle and telling us how awake she was. I don’t know if this is going to be a pattern yet, but it feels like it’s time, like she’s ready. We’re pouring on the praise. I’m happy and also a bit melancholy – she moves fast, so nighttime is sometimes the only time I get to cuddle with her, to pretend that I’m keeping her warm and safe, to hold on to the part of her that will always be my baby. I’m bad at letting go of things, but I’m putting that longing away, in the back of my mind, so that I can leave more space for the part of me that is just so amazed at how she’s growing up.

Also, wow. Wow.

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Not all gloom

October 7, 2014

My last few posts have been perhaps a bit vent-y and full of whinging. I’m not going to apologize because sometimes a person needs to vent and whinge and this is my space to write about the things I seldom discuss with anyone in real life, but my life is hardly all gray drizzle and sorrows.

So this is a sort of “count your blessings” post even though I am ambivalent about the “count your blessings” type of memes that are currently tumbling around online. I’m not adverse to counting blessings, but always included in this activity seems to be the idea that we should be grateful because others have it worse. This, I’m not comfortable with. Yes, we take many things for granted and witnessing the misfortune of someone else can make us grateful for things we probably should have been grateful for all along, but the purpose of misfortune (if there is one – I’ll leave that to you) isn’t to spur gratitude in others. It might be a silver lining of misfortune, I guess, but that’s as far as I’ll budge. And sometimes it seems like the compare and contrast method of gratitude borders on the exploitative. So, while I’m grateful for my blessings, there are more blessings I’d like. And I’d like it if everyone had access to a nice, reliable base-line of blessings that included general good health, access to food, and assurance of personal safety.

I’m using the word “blessings” a lot even though it’s a problematic word and one that always stirs up all kinds of doubts and questions in my mind. I think that’s because it’s gloriously autumn here and this is the time of year when I feel most connected to the world and as though I am actually being blessed by something huge and benevolent. I’m grateful for autumn, then, for a start. For me September and October are full of beauty and release and relief, and the smell of leaves and the bite in the air make me feel like all will be well. Maybe this only works if you enjoy winter, too?

I’ve been walking to work two days a week for the past six weeks, and it’s so very good for me. I get more done and feel better about what I do. Also, endorphins. Also, it’s propelled me into a health kick that includes giving up my beloved Diet Coke and my regular dates with Ben & Jerry. This may not sound particularly indulgent, but having time – even for walks, and mental space to focus on myself – even for semi-tyrannical dietary changes, feels indulgent.

The hot water tap in the bathroom now works really well, and I’m so grateful to my dad for spending half a day replacing our faucet. I’m grateful that I have parents who drive out to visit and fix things and cook and connect with Dot and who love me unconditionally. I thought that loving unconditionally was just what parents did, but I’ve met some who don’t, or who can’t, and (here I am comparing again) it’s made me realize that my parents are quietly but undeniably amazing.

I am glad that I can make my daughter giggle and that there are still times she likes to cuddle.

I’m glad that I can make my way through a play date for Dot. I am still searching for good friends where I am, but I can carry on a reasonably friendly conversation for at least long enough for Dot to get some play time in with other kids, and for me that’s not nothing. We are having two families we’re thinking of cultivating as friends (sheesh, that sounds calculating!) over for pumpkin carving soon, and I’m hoping at least some of my visions of familial bonding and mulled cider and fun will be realized. It’s hard to go wrong with jack o’ lanterns, after all.

Here’s to a mostly happy October for everyone.

 

 

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Watermelon Welcome

October 3, 2014

Dot’s school had a “watermelon welcome” event for the kids and their families. N was working, but I was there, of course, and she had a great time showing me her many tricks on the climbers and slides while playing with her friends. There were lots of kids there, lots of kids with siblings. Lots of baby brothers and baby sisters. Do you see where this is going?

And I hid behind a tree because now I miss Teddy, who should have been there, teasing his little sister. And I miss the baby who will never be because I’m responsible and reasonably unselfish when it comes to making decisions for my family. I want that baby, whoever he or she might be. And I started crying at the damned watermelon table but didn’t want Dot (or anyone else) to see me.

Someone told me that I should just go ahead and try for another, that money stuff always works itself out. This, from my perspective, is a fairly privileged viewpoint. Of course you work it out and do what you have to do for a baby once that baby exists. Once that baby exists, their existence becomes a priority that other things – your career, your family’s movement toward financial stability, your lack of bankruptcy, your oldest (living) child’s chances of going to college – can be sacrificed to support. But our income is too high to qualify for any sort of assistance, and our debt is too high to allow for much savings or “discretionary income.” We wouldn’t be giving up trips to Hawaii or Friday nights at the steakhouse or gifts of fine jewelry. We already go meatless on more than Mondays, and we drive a small compact (to be paid off this coming summer!). So we’d be giving up Dot’s college fund, my credit rating, possibly my job and income, possibly N’s chances of finishing & defending his diss, possibly (because of stress and money and time) our marriage. It would work out, but the way it worked out would likely hurt people I love and for whom I’m responsible. So the person who told me that can…bite my budget spreadsheet.

I’ve tried not being bitter about this, but I am. I’ll get over it. It’s something I can get over, I think, not like losing Teddy. But it hurts, and I’m fed up with things that hurt. I want a cookie, and a warm cup of tea, and three wishes.

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Miscellany

September 11, 2014

Here’s a tour of the jumbled museum of my brain. It’s a working museum, so things may move as you look around. Also, there are tigers.

Exhibit 1:  I made a budget spreadsheet and N has agreed to fill in his bills and expenses so that we can finally work together on our finances. Like actual grown-ups. I think this is going to be really good. Also, as the daughter of an accountant, I should have done it years ago.

Exhibit 2: On August 23, I will have been married eight years. I’ve been thinking about all the ways in which my life is better for sharing it with N, even when we aren’t especially good at sharing. Eight years might be a long relationship by Hollywood standards, but it’s still a very young relationship in a lot of ways – a grade schooler of a marriage – enthusiastic, learning a lot, making mistakes, growing up a bit more every day. I am looking forward to seeing what our marriage is like when it’s 30 (even though that takes a certain leap of imagination and hope that borders on tempting fate).

Exhibit 3:  I think I need to just write this out: I really want to have another baby. I long for another baby with a longing that’s connected to but not the same thing as my longing to have Teddy back. I really don’t think we can afford another baby, or that it would be a good idea for my family. But I want one anyway. Now that I’m 40, I need to stop telling myself that there is still time. There might be a tiny window of time, but I think, by and large, my decision has been made for me. I don’t know when I’ll make peace with this. I am angry and sad and perhaps not as appreciative of the new babies in my life as I want to be right now. I am trying to keep this from turning into bitterness.

Exhibit 4: Dot has been wanting to sleep in her own bed for the past few nights. For the past few nights, there hasn’t been a baby – okay, a preschooler – in the middle of our bed. Of course, for the past few nights either N or I has been sleeping in her room with her, but I still think it’s progress toward a sleeping arrangement I’ve been looking forward to for a while now.

Exhibit 5: We had our first freeze last night and the maple trees outside my office window are obligingly changing colors. I love this time of year, but everything about it strikes me as strikingly clear, and piercing, and – not merciless, but absolute – in its beauty. The blue of the sky, the sharpness in the air, the hint of frost in the air – it’s the kind of beauty that breaks your heart for loving it. I don’t regret having my heart broken this way, but I sometimes wonder if I’m going to be strong enough to make it to October.

Exhibit 6: I wish there was a class or support group for socially awkward and introverted middle-aged women trying to make friends. When I was growing up my mom and the neighborhood moms all knew each other and had coffee and talked on the phone, but while I’m friendly with several people, I don’t have a community or neighborhood like that. I want one, though, and am going to see what I can do to make it happen.

 

 

 

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You seem depressed

September 5, 2014

“You seem depressed,” he tells me.

This isn’t the first time he’s told me this. I think the first time was actually at a time in my life when I was feeling relatively happy and energetic and in control of my life, so I have to wonder – what are the signs of depression he is picking up from me?

Am I depressed? I don’t know. I don’t seem to be a good judge. I am sad about a big work project because it involves cancelling several journals and cancelling journals goes against every librarianly instinct librarians have. I can rage about a governmental and societal system that spends more time talking about supporting education than actually doing it, or about a university system where library budgets are never increased even though the costs of all these online subscriptions rise every year like clockwork, or about the fact that libraries like mine just lay back and take it instead of presenting some sort of unified front that would actually make a difference. But then he looks at me, worried. So rage (even reasonable rage) doesn’t seem to be helping my cause.

I am tired. I’ve been walking into work on alternate mornings, which I love, but it’s a long walk and I have to get up early to get it in. Since I’m pretty out of shape at the moment, both of those things might be making me tired. This is hopefully the kind of tired that comes before having more energy because! exercise! but I think it’s likely passing and not that big of a deal.

I am frustrated. Because he’s still smoking weed like a demented chimney, and while some of the worry is gone now that it’s legal in my state I still hate it when he comes home smelling like a marijuana fire and gives Dot a hug. I want to pull her away from that smell, but he’s her dad so I don’t.

I am also frustrated because he’s her favorite. Mommy’s okay, but Daddy’s really where it’s at. Daddy doesn’t say no. Daddy will always read another story, even at 11:30 at night, but Mommy just wants everyone to go to sleep. Daddy can be convinced to head to Starbucks for a leisurely breakfast in the mornings, but Mommy just worries about being at work on time, at school on time. Mommy plays hundreds of imagining games, but has to stop to do laundry, dishes, cooking. Mommy sometimes says no to invitations to play, which is something Mommy never thought she’d do, but sometimes Mommy is (see above) tired and needs to just sit for a minute, just a minute. Just a quiet minute, please.

I am worried. I am worried because we don’t talk about money or budgets with each other, because he waits until our rent is late to tell me he needs me to pay the rent. Because I can’t pay anything else after I’ve paid for rent and childcare and electricity and groceries and the car payments, and our car insurance is coming due. Because I can’t talk to him about money or he gets sad and turns to self-loathing because he’s not providing me with a castle. Because he doesn’t believe me when I tell him I don’t want a castle; I just want us to have a savings plan so that some day we can have our own house.

I am lonely. We don’t talk much these days, the two of us, which means when we do talk the big things loom bigger. He’s been reaching out – trying to make time during the weekdays to go for walks together and I was enjoying it so much. But now the school year is back in full swing and we haven’t gone for a walk together for a while. If I get at all passionate about current events he looks at me with a sad, concerned gaze and I want to run away. Why can’t I be passionate? What type of emotion can I show without upsetting him? What was I like before when I was the person he could like and enjoy without worrying about? Does being occasionally sad or angry or confused mean that you can’t be a happy person?

I am lonely. My college friends, who are in general my closest friends, all live far away. My friends here are almost all work friends. I hang out with Dot on weekends while he works. I try to catch up on cleaning and shower when he takes Dot out for a movie. I spend a lot of time alone, missing the people who could hear me tell stories and laugh without worrying that I was going to crack.

Am I depressed? I might be. Would this feel different from being overwhelmed by feeling tired, frustrated, worried, and lonely at the same time while holding it together to do my job, take care of my kid, and try to be supportive of someone who really is feeling depressed? I don’t know. I don’t think the amount of overwhelmed I am is actually that uncommon. I do know that not being able to talk about it without N feeling guilty or sad, without him being able to understand that a lot of this will pass, that a lot of it can be fixed if we work on it together, is exacerbating everything. I can laugh about all of this, can feel fairly happy about the prospects of things coming out all right, if I feel like I have a plan, like we have a plan.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m no longer capable of real happiness since Teddy died. I know I’ve changed, irrevocably, and I’ll be carrying this loss, this weight of love and sorrow, for the rest of my life. I don’t think it means I’m depressed; I think it means I’m different. Maybe I’m broken, and what he’s discovering is that he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life with someone who is broken even if she thinks she is mostly okay.

Maybe I shouldn’t post this, but I’m going to anyway.

 

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