Archive for February, 2012


Today’s pick-me-up

February 22, 2012

How did I not know about Frank Turner? This one had me at the very beginning. How can I not love a song with this lyric?

Things didn’t kill me but I don’t feel stronger
Life is short but it feels much longer
When you’ve lost the fight yeah you’ve lost that hunger
To pull yourself through the day

Plus, he’s a beautiful British boy with a guitar on a windswept beach. Plus, there is chair throwing. And undertones of The Pogues.

Plus (and this is a willful and skewed interpretation of the text, I know), I am taking the funny awkwardness of his wet trousers at the end as an ironic commentary on the scene in the Pride and Prejudice movie where Colin Firth jumps into the lake. I know I’m in the minority, but I’ve always hated that scene – not like Mr. Darcy at all, people.


Year of the Dragon

February 20, 2012

I know. And I think they know I know, but they haven’t told me. So maybe they don’t know I know?

I don’t know.

My brother and his wife are going ahead with IVF. My SIL let my mom know not that long ago, and Mom told me, but neither my brother nor my SIL has told me directly, and I feel like it would be intrusive to bring it up with them. I know that it means something, that they’ve gotten to this point, that they are putting their hopes and resources into this means of moving forward with their family building. I know that IVF isn’t, by a long shot, a sure thing. And I know, better than most, that pregnancy isn’t a sure thing, either. If they don’t want to discuss it with many people, that’s completely understandable, and I want to respect that.

My brother called me on February 1, Dot’s birthday, and his voice sounded laden. It sounded as though he had something to say. And I really wanted to hear what he had to say, but Dot was doing a clingy, loud, “only Mommy can read me stories right now” piece of performance art, and after a while he (I think) gave up and said goodbye. And after Mom told me what they were going through right now, I look back and, in retrospect just say, Oh, shit. Because if it were me, and I’d called with a piece of news like that, and I’d been met with the crows and screeches of a cute, loud toddler, I would have backed out of the phone call, too, and probably would have done so much less graciously than my brother did.

I could be wrong, of course. I like to think he was going to tell me, because I like to think we are still that close, that he knows I’d be cheering them on and hoping hard for them and that my fingers would be crossed. But he may have just called for distraction, or there may not have been any more to it than the conveyance of birthday wishes to Dot.

I called last week, but there wasn’t that same sense of a need to talk coming from my brother. I didn’t indulge in any obvious fishing attempts, but I wanted to give him the chance to talk to me if he wanted to. And I don’t think he did. We discussed the weather. We discussed their new grill. There were some pauses that may have been slightly awkward, but not more than slightly. I tell him that I hope this is a good year for him and my SIL, and I think he reads some of what is behind my words, but I’m not sure.

I’m not oblivious to the fact that part of what’s going on here is that I’m sad not to be one of the people they trust with this information, but that’s really not important. This isn’t my story; it’s theirs. This isn’t about me; it’s about them.

I wish there was a way to let them know I’m rooting for them and hoping for them, without letting my hopes for them become one more part of the burden they’re already bearing. I wish there was a way to say “I’m here for you,” without trespassing. I wish there was a way to be there for them more substantially than this hoping from afar.

But it’s their story. I only see bits of it, from the outside. And I’m good at hoping from afar. So here I sit, fingers crossed, hoping hard, with all of my will and heart, that this is their year.

Come on, 2012. Come on, Year of the Dragon. Come on.


Valentine’s Day 2012

February 15, 2012

Dot is playing with my phone. “Music,” she demands. “Music!” I open up a playlist that opens with Kelly Hogan’s version of “Rubber Ducky,” a perennial favorite at our house.

A few minutes later, Joni Mitchell’s voice wafts into the bedroom. I love her voice, the way it lifts and falls, the way it sounds like no one else’s, and I have a love affair with “Case of You,” haunting as a siren song, smoky as a bar room, somehow sacred and secular all at once. I am so glad to be home this evening, to be done with the workday, and I am full of love for my little family today, for N who is healing from his surgery (and who brought me chocolates and wine, as though I were some dewy-eyed thing he still needed to work at courting), for Dot and her funny, generous, ornery, powerful little personality. There are worse things than a day about love and somehow I am giddy with it and this song catches at me and pulls my voice up and out of my body, almost unexpectedly.

“You’re in my blood like ho-oly wiiine…” I warble, beginning to get into the chorus.

“No! Stop!” yells my child, who clearly prefers her music undiluted by parental vocal – I’ll be kind and call them – stylings. “Stop!”

I stop, but it’s difficult. It’s hard not to sing along with Joni, hard not to sing this one, even with my undisciplined and shaky voice, my faltering sense of pitch. My mind follows the lyrics and my voice longs to follow –

I remember that time you told me you said
“Love is touching souls”
Surely you touched mine
‘Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time
Oh, you’re in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet
Oh, I could drink a case of you darling
And I would still be on my feet

My first exposure to this song was the movie Truly Madly Deeply, which I love, passionately. The fact that I love that movie so much sometimes makes me wonder, in my more fey moods,  if I’ve been preparing for tragedy my entire life, but I suspect what it really means is something more mundane, like I have a weakness for Alan Rickman’s voice, good acting and screen writing, and the cello (all true).

I used to think I’d never be able to watch that film again. Now I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever be able to watch that film again, or, if I can watch it again, what it will feel like. I know it would be, for me, a cry fest, but a good one or a bad one? Where is the line between wallowing and catharsis? Will I be able to get N to watch it with me some day?

And I wonder, often, if I will ever be able to stop longing for my very own version of this:

I don’t know what that would look like with an infant, but I’m guessing the gasping and sobbing would be, roughly, accurate. That clip, just three minutes, has fat salty tears rolling down my cheeks. I watch it and ache with longing and ponder the possibilities of catharsis.

What a tangle.

But Joni Mitchell makes me think of this film, and of all the bitter and sweet loves in my life. I listen, and love and grief and gratitude burble up into my mouth and I am lucky and longing and old and young and jaded and hopeful and foolish and canny all at the same time. And only the powerful fear of my thwarted two-year-old keeps my broken voice from joining the song.

And it is Valentine’s Day, and I wouldn’t trade my bitter and sweet loves for anything.

Even if one is lost to my grasping arms and one won’t let me sing along to my old favorites.



Not enough

February 10, 2012

Today, I am made of failures.

I’d delineate them for you, but they’re really boring, so I’m just going to hope tomorrow is better and that, somehow, I’ll be able to do everything that needs to be done over the next few weeks.

I hate days like today when I’m tired in my bones but don’t have time to be tired. I hate the days when I’m not enough.






February 8, 2012

Just wanted to thank everyone for their comments and good wishes on my last post – it helps, to know you were thinking of us and wishing us well.

My N is home and doing well. At least as well as a person can be doing when he is sore and slightly dopey from serious meds. Sighs of relief (and appropriate doses of painkillers) all round!



February 6, 2012

I forget, sometimes, how much Teddy’s diagnosis and death affected him.

This isn’t the sort of thing I should ever, ever forget, but I do. I wonder if all brains are so selfish, or if it is just mine that insists on returning to viewing the world through such a very me-centered perspective. I tend to think of myself as an empathetic person, but perhaps what I really am is just self-aware when it comes to my own selfishness. In any case, impossible as it may seem, and impossible as I wish it were, there are days that go by when I don’t see N’s broken places even though I’m constantly aware of my own.

The reminders of his broken places – his avoidance of Teddy’s photographs, his surprise when I mention that I think about and miss Teddy every day, his unwillingness to talk to Dot (or let me talk to Dot) about her brother – these things jar me when they come up. We are broken in different ways; we’ve pasted ourselves back together in such different ways. I’m obsessed with memory and hanging on to every last shadow of my son’s presence, and he, I think, seeks forgetfulness when he can. When he can’t, well, there’s the shed in the back and a sweet grandmotherly woman who lives in the next town over who has a discreet side business in the sale of N’s favorite herbal form of self-medication.

Sometime in December, N started experiencing increasing abdominal pain and shooting pains in his groin. Hernia, came the diagnosis. Inguinal hernia. Common, and commonly treated, and, even though it took forever to get an appointment with the local surgeons and then forever (about a month) to book a surgery time, it is fixable.

But when your son has died from hernia complications, even though that was a very different kind of hernia, something about the word brings all kinds of memories and fears to the fore. Perhaps I should take a visit to N’s shed out back and see if I can ever find that word funny – hernia, hernia, hernia – I type it and write it and say it. I try to make it as commonplace as it seems to be for the nurses we talk to, for the young surgeon who’ll be plying his scope. I hate it all over again, that word, but I can’t laugh at it. Stupid, fucking word. (Stupid, non-fucking word, more accurately. And shouldn’t that be recognized as more of an insult, really?)

I went with N to his pre-op appointment this afternoon. I watched him working to hold it together. I saw his face go stoic and blank as he dealt with the professionally perky nurse. “It will all be fine,” she chirps.

“No offense,” he says, “But we’ve heard that before.”

Yes. Yes, we have.

Tomorrow morning it will be over, this outpatient operation. I can ply the love of my life with cold packs and pick up his medications and hold his hand and breathe a sigh of relief that he came through it okay. But even though it’s an outpatient procedure, he’s scared.

And even though I’m trying to project calm, to be solid and steady for him, I am too.

Wish us luck. Wish him safely home.


Two-year-old Dot

February 1, 2012

Dearest Dot,

Today, you are two years old. I wanted to write you this letter so that, some day, you can look back and read it and see how amazing you were when you were two. Because, my darling, you take my breath away every day with your amazingness.

Two years ago, we saw you for the first time, held you for the first time. I kissed you and kissed you and breathed in your new-baby smell and laughed in delight at the fierce brightness of your dark and knowing eyes. You were such an intense little person.

You still are, but now that you can run and climb and talk and grab things and laugh and cry, so you have more outlets for your feelings; they aren’t all bottled up in a tiny little bundle, and I think that allows your feelings to diffuse a little.  I get the sense that this is a real relief for you. It’s certainly fun for us to watch you learning and growing and changing. I marvel at how you constantly change while always retaining the character you had when you were just a few days old. You are more you every day.

Right now, you like – Steve Martin’s banjo rendition of King Tut, ice cream “in a spoon,” our cats, playing on the “shaky bridge” at your school playground, bubble baths, Old MacDonald, Rapunzel, broccoli, pretending to work in your office alongside Daddy, drawing “tangles,” apple  sauce-ah, trips to the library, “driving” the kids cart at the grocery store, dancing, pretending to fly, jumping and hopping, reading in our laps and also by yourself, the big blanket on our bed, your snowman and elephant pajamas, looking at photos of your cousins on Mommy’s phone, looking at videos of you and Daddy swimming, climbing the futon, climbing on top of your play table to watch us do dishes, trying to put shoes on by yourself, sitting on the toilet and pretending to go potty, pretending to be a dragon, pretending to be a “little baby,” making “soup” by putting various crackers or veggies into your water cup, and any number from a musical that features “dancing dresses.”

Today, for your birthday, I made a mostly successful attempt at a  pony tail, and you went proudly to school with your pony tail and two barrettes. You picked the barrettes out yourself. They are purple.

Four days ago, you woke up, looked at me, and said, “You should go make some coffee for Daddy.” You were, of course, right about that.

You are fair. You will wait your turn and seem to have a good understanding that waiting your turn is important. You also make sure, almost all the time, that Mommy and Daddy both get equal numbers of kisses and hugs from you when we’re all together.

You say no a lot, my dear one. I think it’s part of being a toddler. You say it with such emphasis that I’m still sometimes amazed that you can’t bend the universe (and us) to your will. That’s probably a good thing in the long run, but I can tell that it’s really frustrating right now. It gets a little better, not being able to shape the universe to your will, and then, some day, it will probably get worse. I hope it doesn’t. I hope that, if it does, we’re here to help you through it.

You’ve started saying “sweet dreams” at night. It’s usually the last thing you say before you fall asleep. And here’s the thing of it, my little love. You really mean it. You really want me and Daddy (and yourself, and, I think, the whole world) to have sweet dreams. It melts my heart every time.

You are asserting your independence. If we try to hug or hold or lift you against your will, you yell, “My own body!” I love that you are already claiming your own space, taking charge of your dear little self. I hope you keep this belief that your body is your own your whole life. I hope you insist on the right to be safe and comfortable.

You are smart, so smart that I worry about our ability to parent you once you figure out a few more things. Last month, when your daddy told you to stop drinking the bathwater, you stopped to consider, then looked at Daddy and said “turn around,” so that you could gulp down some water when he wasn’t looking.

You are fast. If we turn around you can be two-thirds of the way up a staircase, or in another room, or across the park. I hope we can keep up with you!

You are very interested in siblings right now, though you seem to think they should all be named William, even the sisters. I wish I could tell you about your brother Teddy. The day will come when I will. I know that talking about him is really hard for your daddy, but I think you would like to know about your brother and it’s hard for me to keep this secret from you even now, when you’re only two. I think you already have some idea that something is going on there.

We knew we would love you, but we didn’t know how funny and smart and strong and perceptive and fast and sweet and sometimes-exhaustingly brilliant you would be.

It’s such a privilege to be your mom. I’m looking forward to seeing all that you do with two.

Happy birthday, little Dot.