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.



  1. Good luck. Hope everything goes smoothly and N is resting in his shed with his feet up later today. Best to all of you.

  2. Good luck to N. To you. I found myself nodding along through this. Our broken places are different too. I haven’t quite worked out if that makes us stronger or not. With love to you.

  3. “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.” Put a B in there for the N and I could have written this.

    Wishing a smooth surgery and easy recovery and as little stress as possible given everything.

  4. I hope that all goes (has gone?) well. My dh has occasional hernia problems too, so we might also be facing this someday. :p

  5. Lots of love and good health to N, and you. Thinking of you both.

  6. Wishing you the best. Nothing can emphasize the fragility of life like losing a child, and nothing makes me feel more frightened and at sea than the thought of losing my spouse. Wishing N an impeccable surgery and a speedy recovery.

  7. I hope that everything goes smoothly and safely for N and sending you both calmness and steadiness. It must be incredibly difficult, especially because of that cruel similarity.

    I forget about my husband too. That does make me feel very selfish but I think that we simply can’t help having a me-centred perspective because we live inside that ‘me’? Because we just can’t see the world any other way? Or perhaps I’m just trying to wriggle off the hook?

  8. The not talking about it makes it easy to forget. Is he not ok with talking about Teddy at all? Our older son is actually the one who brings up our stillborn daughter the most often.

    Good thoughts for a nice, easy procedure, for all of you.

  9. Luck, lots of luck!

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