If I were a fictional character, my dislike of August could have been used effectively to foreshadow my son’s death. Unfortunately, I live in the real and random world. I can and do create find many patterns and attempt to create meaning when I look backwards, but if pressed I would have to admit that my feelings about this month were never especially prescient. I just didn’t like the heat, the pre-school anxiety, the feeling of saying farewell to summer before receiving the gifts of autumn that seem to begin arriving in September. August was always hot and sad and stuffy and dusty
I hate this week and I love this week and I need this week, but sometimes what I need from it is just to get through.
Just, again, to get through.
I took Monday and Tuesday off work. I had plans. I was going to run gift cards from the local coffee place over to the local hospital’s birth place, to be given out by staff to families who come in for testing during high-risk pregnancies. I was going to buy locally grown sunflowers and put them at the public desks in my library. I was going to look at Teddy’s things, light his candles, fill the days with memory and intent.
But it was all too hard. N needed the car and the nurse I’ve been talking to about the gift cards wasn’t sure about the coffee place since they encourage pregnant moms to cut back on caffeine “But they have herbal teas and decaf, too,” I wanted to wail back at her, if one can wail in an email. But I didn’t. And when it came down to it, I just couldn’t get myself to walk down and purchase the gift cards, couldn’t make myself go to the birthplace and explain what I was doing. I’ll do it next week, and include a short list of the coffee place’s favorite decaf beverages in with the cards to placate the hospital staff. I think that will work, even though I couldn’t think of it until after Teddy’s days had passed.
I’ll do it next week, but the point is, I didn’t do it when I wanted to. I didn’t get the sunflowers, or look through Teddy’s things, or even send off the donation I send in his name every year at this time.
I took Dot to school. I came back home. I hid in bed with a book. I cried. I took a bath. I put carpet tiles down in our small hallway to protect the wood floor. I cried. I hid in bed with a book again, and again, and again. I huddled inside like a coward and tried to send my mind away from this reality where my baby should be three years old but isn’t.
I was angry at myself for this, but this morning I started thinking that, if a friend had done this instead of me, I would have said, “It’s okay, really. You did what you needed to do.” Today, I tell that to myself and try to believe it.
Three years ago today I tried to understand how I had said goodbye to my baby just a day ago. Today, I sit here, still trying to understand. I can’t help but think I haven’t come very far. But least now I know that the understanding is beyond me, even though I can’t stop trying for it.
I think quite often about acceptance, of what it is and of what people mean when they say they’ve found it. What I think just now is that what I have of acceptance isn’t much, but that I do have this: I can accept that I will keep straining to understand my child’s death even though I know I never will. I know myself this much, now, and I can accept this part of who I am.
Three years and a day ago, I said goodbye to my baby. He was beautiful and perfect except for the fact that he couldn’t breathe. I’ll never stop missing the weight of him in my arms, never stop wondering who he would have grown up to be, never stop loving him and hoping that the love finds him somehow, wherever and whatever he is.
I move on with my life. I smile and mostly mean it. I go to work, take walks, chase after my toddler, talk to my husband about our respective days. But, especially during this week, I am more and more convinced that the way I go on with my life is by allowing part of me to not move on. Part of me just sits on the floor in a dark room in my mind, clutching a small blue blanket with stars on it and howling, I want you back.
And, every so often but especially in August, the part of me who has been moving on joins her and we howl together.
I want you back, Teddy. I love you so. I want you back.