Archive for August, 2010


The new plan

August 12, 2010

We aren’t going to Portland, after all.  I have mixed feelings about this – disappointment, relief, worry that we need to make this trip and may never actually bring ourselves to do it.

I’d finally found myself in a place where I was ready to go, where I wanted to go, but I am not the only part of this equation.  N would have gone, for me, if I’d needed to, but he’s not there yet, not in a place where a visit would be helpful or healing.  We put Dot in her stroller several nights ago and walked around and around as we talked about the trip, about Teddy, about missing him, about where we are now, about how sad we are that we didn’t unwrap him and hold his feet after he died.  It was the kind of conversation that we haven’t been able to have much lately, and the kind of conversation I wish we could have more often.  We live together and speak with each other every day, we sleep in the same bed and wake up together each morning, but it’s been a surprisingly long time since we’ve talked. With Dot and work and fantasy baseball and all of the family visits, it’s finally becoming clear to us that we need to engineer more time for real talks, that they don’t just happen.  Now that we’ve admitted this, I think we’re in a better place.

So, no pilgrimage this month, but I still need something to do, a way to mark the 15th and 16th, a ritual, a way to acknowledge Teddy’s existence and how much we loved and love him.  So I copied Angie’s really wonderful idea of random kindness, and I’m going to be asking friends at work and away from work to do some small act of kindness this weekend or next week, to make the world a little brighter.  Tomorrow, I’ll post the following text (or something very like it – it’s still rather drafty) to my fac.ebook page and link to it from twitter.

On August 15, two years ago, my son Teddy was born.  He was an amazingly beautiful little baby.  On August 16, his father and I held him in a hospital garden as he died.  We miss him every day.  Missing him doesn’t mean that our lives are bad, or that we are sad all of the time; we’re not.  We love each other, our daughter, and our friends.  We still laugh and love and go on with our lives, but we know that the world is the poorer for the absence of our son.  Because he would have grown to be funny, kind, brave and loving, and he would have brightened the lives around him.

I want him back, every day.  I can’t have that, but I can try to bring a little brightness to the world.  Not as much as he would have done, but a little.  So this weekend, and next week I will be trying to be extra kind, to do occasional unexpected things to make people smile.  And I’m asking you, if you can, to please do something small to make the world a little brighter for someone around you.

If you’d like ideas, here are a few possibilities:

  • Buy someone you know a coffee or a treat.
  • Buy coffee or a treat for a complete stranger.
  • In the cool of the evening, take a walk by yourself or with someone you love.
  • Forgive someone.
  • Forgive yourself.
  • Give money or time to a cause you believe in.  If you’d like a suggestion, March of Dimes and Ronald McDonald House Charities are two of many good causes that help babies and families.
  • Give someone flowers.
  • Give yourself flowers.
  • Take a minute to admire the small beauties around you – the clouds, or a sunrise, or the flowers you walk past on your way to work.
  • Call or visit someone lonely and talk with them for a while.
  • Tell someone you love that you love them.
  • Plant something.
  • Hug your family.
  • Share a favorite book , story, or poem.
  • Tell someone thank you.

Thank you.

This isn’t easy for me.  I don’t talk much about my son at work; I cringe at making other people uncomfortable or sad, and I’ll be coming out as a grieving parent to several friends who don’t know much about my life two years ago.  But I hope it will be good, and I hope it will help people to take note of the love in their lives and to take time to appreciate good things, to appreciate being able to share good things.  It will help me to do something positive, to try to create a little bit of light.

I’ll be remembering others along with him and wishing the world could be brightened by their presences, too.


Double Agents

August 6, 2010

It’s Dot’s first concert in the park.  Performing is Victor Johnson, very much a local celebrity, and with him is an absolutely brilliant fiddle player who reminds me of how much I wanted to learn to play the fiddle (not the violin, the fiddle) when I was growing up.  The music is lovely – guitar and fiddle and tunes that, even when they are completely new to me are imbued with the sense of the familiar.  There’s a baby mosh pit up in front of the musicians, with children ranging from very tiny to pre-teens, and they’re all spinning and hopping and dancing with the abandon and energy of the very young.

We’ve walked here, pushing our stroller, and Dot is very glad to get out, to be held up to look around the park.  She is so interested in things now, and the noises and bright colors and sounds make her eyes grow wide.  N dances with her, lifting her over his head, moving to the rhythm of the music, and she smiles the beautiful, gummy smile that makes my heart plop right out of my chest and dissolve into adoring goo.  Other parents see us and smile, probably remembering when their own kids were so small.

We are surrounded by parents.  We are part of a large group of parents.  We are part of a large group of people I went out of my way to avoid not too long ago.  And here’s the second strangest thing: we look like we fit in. The strangest thing?  For this moment, surrounded by music and life and good will, we feel like we fit in. We are happy to be here, happy to be a part of this.  The part of my brain that used to look forward to the future suddenly jerks to life and says, next year, she’ll probably want to join the baby mosh pit.

Then he goes into “You are My Sunshine,” and Dot starts to wiggle – she knows this one, you see, from all of the times I’ve sung it to her.  This sweet, sad song is one my grandfather taught all of his children and grandchildren.  After his funeral, we held hands and sang it around his grave.  As the first verse goes into, “Please don’t take my sunshine away,” tears well up in my eyes and even though I should be used to it by now, to the way that a wave of sadness can hit me out of the blue, I’m almost indignant. We’re still dancing; Dot’s still happily kicking and wiggling.  I know what’s coming next and try to brace for it, and then –

The other night, Dear,
As I lay sleeping,
I dreamed I held you in my arms.
When I awoke, Dear,
I was mistaken,
So I hugged my head and I cried.

I look at N, and see the knowledge in his eyes, too.  We look like we belong here, but we’re misfits, marked with grief that can be brought to the surface so easily.  We are achingly aware of our missing almost-two-year-old.  The sunshine and general air of happiness, our joy at being able to do this with our beautiful and vibrantly alive daughter – these are wonderful things, and part of who we are.  But the fact that grief lies just below the surface and can be easily whistled up – that’s part of us, too.

We leave before the concert is completely over.  We’ve enjoyed it, we’ve enjoyed pretending and not-quite-pretending to belong to the throng of families, even though we know we’re double agents and will have to report back to Grief and Wailing headquarters before the summer is over.

I look over my shoulder before we make the turn that will hide the park from view and wonder how many more of us double agents are there.


Time travel

August 2, 2010

August is my season of time travel.

I’m sitting at my desk working away, and all of a sudden I find myself in the rental car, driving to Portland, hoping that my water doesn’t break on the way, scared that the end of my journey with Teddy is almost here, worrying about the amnio that is scheduled for that afternoon.  Then I find myself in the ultrasound room with the technician who performs the ultrasound and another to do the amnio, and Teddy punches the amnio needle (to our surprise) and I think, he’s so strong and wiggly.  He has to be okay.  He’s so strong. And, something about that thought propels me back to where I am.  Here.  More than two years later.  At my desk, trying to work with tears leaking down my face in a pathetic dribble.

Vigor doesn’t get you very far if you can’t breathe.  I hate that fact with every particle of my being, but hating it doesn’t make it less true.

Now I’ve got the tissues out and I’m blowing my nose as discreetly as possible, and this sends me back to that damned recovery room, where I sat in the hospital bed exhausted and still semi-drugged with the hospital tissue box on the bed tray and I couldn’t call friends and family to tell them what happened because as soon as the words started coming out of my mouth it was all real again and the crying made it impossible to speak.  My poor N had to make most of the calls, and my mom made some for me as well.  I don’t know how many of those little tissue boxes I went through, but it was more than two.

My email alert pops up and throws me back into the present, and there are things to be done and figured out.  There are meetings, and I have to pump for Dot, and I’m so suddenly and overwhelmingly grateful for Dot that I want to run home now and hug her and not let her go.  Which she’d never go for, since she’s now army-crawling and being held is fine when she’s tired but when she’s not she likes to go, go, go.  Now that she’s a little older, though, she’ll rest her head on my shoulder when she’s tired.  Every time she does this I have to remind myself not to hold my breath at the sweetness of it.

And now I’m back in that dim and precious little room in the NICU, with Teddy in my arms, his face so perfect and stubborn.  I stare and stare at his face, trying to sear it into my memory, trying to make sure that I never forget the way his eyebrows were barely there at all, or the way his so-soft cheek was dotted with small white spots, like stars, or the fact that he had six blond eyelashes on his right eyelid, or that his nose was just like mine.  N’s hand is on my hand and we look at each other for just a minute and wonder if this can really be us, here, about to let go of the most important thing in the universe.

We did let go.  I don’t know, sometimes, how we found the strength to do it.  I know I haven’t done it completely.  The wail still rises up in my throat, I want you back.

We met with Dot’s teacher, the person who oversees her care at the child care center she’ll be attending at the end of this month, this morning.  We talked about napping and feeding and diaper creme and sunscreen, about what to bring and what to expect.  At the end of our conversation, the teacher mentioned that she has a little boy, and N asked after him.  He’s a September 2008 baby, almost two.

Suddenly I see them together, my blond and tousled Teddy, running around with another almost-two-year old, and we watch indulgently as they laugh with each other, and we help negotiate the sharing of toys.  My brain says, we could have had play dates, and I almost tell this woman I’ve just met, “we could have had play dates,” but I stop the words before they leave my mouth.  I’ll probably tell her, in time, about Dot’s older brother, but not this way, not now, not just because it’s August and I’m jet-lagged from time travel.

Maybe it’s not jet-lag so much as a realization and re-realization that I have to keep moving forward in time, forward without Teddy.  I hate the idea that I’m moving farther away from him.  If I didn’t have a life to live, I’d try to stay in the past.  It’s painful, but it’s as close as I can get to my little guy.  But I do have a life, a life I’m grateful for, a life full of people I love.  I have to let go of some things in order to move on, to be the person who can move in this world with reasonable competence.  I need to let go so I can be the person I need to be for my family, to be a person who can find and take up happiness without feeling guilt or self-recrimination and let them know that my missing Teddy doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong or lacking with them.  Releasing my grip on the past is something I want to do, and something I really hate the idea of doing.

I wish I could give up the time-traveling and instead just split myself in two.  One of me could move forward and adjust to this life, and I could leave one of me there, holding him, frozen in time and never letting go.