Archive for September, 2010



September 20, 2010

My father called me yesterday afternoon.  I knew, the instant he said my name, what he was going to tell me, that my Grandma had died.
It suddenly flashed before me that my father must have had a similar sudden burst of knowledge when Mom called to tell him about Teddy’s death.

A week ago, she fell and broke her hip, a difficult thing for any elderly person, but for someone whose systems were being kept going by so many medications, a truly scary one.  They took her off of her blood thinners to prepare for surgery, and her lungs struggled, which made her heart struggle, and her kidneys struggled, too.  Finally the decision was made that, instead of trying for surgery, they would manage her pain and take care of her in hospice.
I wasn’t surprised.  I am far too familiar with the importance of lungs, with the domino effect that can take place when any internal system falls.  I wish humans had better fail-safes for our fragile physical components.  I wish I could stop obsessing over lungs and breathing.

She was, so far as I can tell, in good spirits.  She knew what was happening and wasn’t overwhelmed by fear.  My family gathered around her, bringing her fruit smoothies, making her laugh, filling her last days with love.
Is it wrong that I am jealous, on my son’s behalf, of this?  I’d give a lot to know that he had no fear, that he’d found comfort in our touch and voices, in our love.

She had a full, sometimes a too-full (in a prairie gothic sense) life.  She raised five children, was a large part of the lives of eight grandchildren, met five of her great-grandchildren.  She grew up without her own mother, who died when she was two.  She survived rape and pregnancy as a teenager, she survived giving her firstborn up for adoption.  She survived hard years when scraping a living from the farm wasn’t easy.  She made harvest meals and danced and golfed and traveled.  She mourned my grandfather, ten years ago.  She was loving and imperfect and she will be missed.  I miss her now, miss the way she used to call me “E,” miss the glint in her eye when she was winning at cards, miss the stories she told.

I miss her now, and I try not to compare the loss of her to the loss of my son, but it’s hard to do.  The grief doesn’t cut and burn in the same way.  I find that I was bracing for something huge, and this grief is quieter, more peaceful, less vivid.  I will travel home for the funeral and cry there, and I will also smile at the way my daughter cheers the hearts of my family.  And I will come home a bit lonelier, but not shattered or fighting post-traumatic stress, or screaming at the universe.

She died the best death I can imagine – to meet the end of her life after more than 80 full years, with her wits intact, her family around her, with little pain and fear – I’m glad such a thing is still possible.  And when I say glad, I really mean it, which creeps me out a bit.

I am starting to realize that I may see every loss in my life through the lens of Teddy’s loss, if every loss from now on will be an echo of his.  My grief over my grandmother feels pale and watery, somehow.  I feel guilty about not feeling more.  But it’s not watery grief, not really.  I keep reminding myself of this.  It’s just not complicated, f- you-Universe, world-shattering, I-can’t-breathe grief.  I think I’m grateful for that.


Thank you

September 10, 2010

Thanks to all of you who remembered Teddy with me during the week of his birth.  It helps (and sometimes it’s the only thing that does) to know that my little guy is remembered, and I am so grateful to all of you for that.

I’m sitting here in an office that looks like a disaster site, wondering if the Very Important Papers I need are at the bottom of a pile on the floor, or at the bottom of one of the piles on my desk.  I am wearing no makeup and have circles under my eyes that would make me look haunted and interesting if I weren’t, well, let’s face it, too puffy and round a person to pull off haunted and interesting.  I am recovering from a cold so my trash can is overflowing with tissues and none of the cough drops I’ve tried so far seem to be working.  I have spilled coffee and breastmilk (I may, someday, miss pumping milk, but I doubt it – there’s an entire post in this somewhere as I know it’s something I should appreciate more) on my keyboard.

Today I was paid, and roughly 80% of my paycheck went to the people who take care of Dot while I work, so I’ll be making lots of recipes with tuna and beans this week, and we may have to forgo some organic produce.  I’m still wearing maternity pants because my belly sometimes craves the comfort of elastic and I’m too vain to buy non-maternity clothes with elastic waists.  I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in over a month, and I haven’t had a great night’s sleep since November 2009.

From outward appearances, I’m a mess, and so is my life.

But I feel like I may have weathered the storm that, this year, was August.  I poke my head outside my cave and look at the sky, searching for storm clouds, and find only a few that are vaguely threatening.  The air smells like rain instead of like heartache.

I look at a photograph of Teddy’s sweet, stubborn little face and think about how I miss him and about how he was so beautiful – it’s not just my imagination; he really was. It still aches, but instead of the crazy and unpredictable pain that throbbed and stabbed its way through August, this is the old pain again, my familiar, mostly-bearable pain.  I welcome it back, carry it with me through the day.  I stretch my arms out and smile at September.

I love you, Baby.

I think he knows.