February 7, 2009

Yesterday I finally did something I’d put off as long as I could.  I left work early and drove out of town to the nearest Social Security Administration office (in a town about 40 minutes away).  I took a folder with the application form, and Teddy’s birth and death certificates.  I waited in line for a long, long time with elderly couples, a single-parent dad with his grinning nine-month old, a few women, and a security guard.

After about an hour, my number was called, and I walked up to the counter to request a social security number for Teddy.  I let the woman on the other side of the counter know right away that I had his birth and death certificates, and when she took the birth certificate and, a few minutes later, asked for his death date, I could see sympathy registering on her face, behind the sort of stern exterior I imagine you need when you work in the SSA office.

Apparently, even for an infant, you need some sort of ID as well as the birth certificate.  I explained that we’d kept his hospital bracelets but that I hadn’t thought to bring them with me.  I could see her trying to figure out what to do – send me home for ID, or put the application through.

She put it through.  After they verify the certificates, Teddy will get his number and they’ll send the card.  A week after his number is issued, she’ll put in notice of his death.  So, sometime in the not-so-distant future, for about a week, he’ll be alive on paper.  That seems so strange to me right now.

I signed the last form and thanked her, and she seemed to have a hard time looking directly at me.  Then, I went back out to my car, locked myself in, and sobbed, sobbed, sobbed.

And yesterday evening, there was vodka.



  1. Oh, Erica, I have been thinking about you, about this moment, since you wrote about it in a post months back. I think I was even telling someone about it the other day, how strange it must be to do what you did. Looking at Tikva’s SS card, filed away with her birth and death certificates, it all just seems surreal. These pieces of paper that prove she existed in the flesh for a few moments. It’s strange reading the cause of death line on the death certificate, thinking of all the things that got in the way of her living a long healthy life. All on paper.

    I’m glad you did it, that it’s over with, that you were able to release some of the tears afterwards, and that the woman at the counter was gracious enough to let things go through easily. Small miracles.

    Thinking of you.

  2. like Gal said, i’m glad you did it…and that it’s over with. and that the woman behind the counter had the grace and decency not to fixate on policy, to give you and Teddy the respect of understanding what you were trying to do.

    i’m also glad there was vodka. vodka is good.

  3. hugs

  4. That is truly weird. Big hugs.

  5. i tagged you for an award….

  6. Amen for vodka.

  7. I wanted to tell you that I am so very sorry for the loss of your son, Teddy. I am sure words don’t really help, but please know you are in my thoughts and prayers today.

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