Archive for December, 2012



December 28, 2012

It came out, during our visit home, that my mother secretly baptized Dot when she was only two days old. Which means, the first day Mom visited us, she decided not to consult with us or to discuss any of this with us. Instead, she took a cup of water in the hospital room and did what she “felt in her heart.”

She has apologized and asked for forgiveness, but it was one of her patented “I’m sorry, but really it is all your fault” apologies and it is hard to know what, precisely, she wants forgiveness for since she pretty clearly feels she’s done nothing wrong. I know she acted out of love and an imperfect understanding of the meaning and importance of baptism. I know she meant well. But my struggle with faith has been and still is an earnest one. I don’t take faith lightly. I don’t take baptism lightly. 

The reason all of this came up is that N and I asked Mom about having Dot baptized in Mom and Dad’s church. But our church doesn’t hold with re-baptism and neither do I. And now I will never be a part of my daughter’s. None of the rest of Dot’s family will be a part of that, either. What should have been a communal event was turned into something secret and based in fear. 

And, we have been pretty thoroughly shown that my mother doesn’t respect us as parents.  Which stings, damn it.

I joked with N more than once that I wouldn’t have been surprised if Mom had done this, but I really hoped that she hadn’t. I hoped that she respected me more than that, as a parent, as a person of faith (even of shaky & imperfect faith).

It’s going take time to process this, to know what to do with it. I love my mom, but I may not be able to trust her for a while. And now I find I can’t respect her religious beliefs, either. 


Small lights

December 17, 2012

Last Tuesday, I was walking across campus on my way to the parking lot. It had been a long day but a good one, and the air was tinged with frost. The light was grey and wintry as I made my way down the stairs of a small courtyard, and suddenly I found myself back under that plum tree in the hospital garden, holding my son while he took his last breaths. The fact of his death, four and a half years later, woke up in that chilly afternoon and wrapped its arms around me and I found myself almost knocked off my feet by it. It was  a short walk across campus, just a few minutes. But during those minutes tears fell and the familiar wail rose up in my throat and I was struck anew by the relentless, incomprehensible fact that my beautiful little boy was dead. Still.

Then I shook the tears from my eyes and got into the car, and drove to pick up my living child from day care. And when she ran to give me a hug I realized that I will never be able to hug her enough. I also realized that I am amazingly lucky and that this luckiness comes with the tinge of fear that all of us who’ve lost a child can recognize. Dot is vital and lovely and imaginative and alive. But the world is full of things like cancer and drunk drivers and there are days when I still see death around every corner.

And then, Friday.

I wish I had something profound to say, something that would make sense of the senseless. I am struck, brutally struck, by how easy it seems to be for an individual to bring such deep pain to so many families. It is horrifying that deep love makes us deeply vulnerable and that there are people who use that vulnerability for terrible and selfish ends. It seems like the decks are stacked against us, against anyone who longs for peace and for full and happy lives for the children around us.

My son died from a medical condition for which there is no known cause. I hate that. I don’t understand why it happened or why it had to affect him and rob me and the world of all his gifts and potential. And so many children and babies die from causes we cannot prevent, so many families grieve, so much potential is lost even as we struggle to save it. There’s enough grief out there, an ocean of grief. I do not understand why any human being would bring more pain into the world.

And I do not care why anyone might do that. I think it is palpably evil, but even saying that feels like giving it too much attention. Hurting people is too easy. Spreading hatred and fear is too easy. Anyone can do it. Any sick fuck can pull that off. It doesn’t take talent or dedication or skill. It is the opposite of brave. Loving, showing people where your heart is when you aren’t sure if they’ll embrace you or hurt you, that is bravery. That is what makes a person remarkable. That is what we should strive for and, when we see it, that is what we should remember. I think of the people who laid down their lives for others’ children and of how brave and full of love they must have been in those moments. I am so very grateful to them. I hate that what they had to do was so hard, that they had to give up so much of their own possibilities, that their families wail and ache and cry and will still feel those wails rise up years from now. I hate that. But what they did was amazing. They deserve to be remembered and their actions deserve a response.

The world is full of fear and hurt, and it is stupidly and infuriatingly easy to make it more so. It makes me want to pull the blankets over my head and hide and cry. But here’s the thing: because the world is dark, and hurt and hatred are all to easy to access, none of us can hide, at least not for long. We need to love and recognize love when we see it. We need to put our energies into creating love and light for others. It seems, sometimes, ridiculously hard to “be the change,” to light even a small candle. It seems, in a shadowed world, to be an often thankless, hopeless task. Which is why it is so important. I am lighting small candles this week, working to be a little more kind, a little more helpful, a little more passionate, a little more present.

In spite of my crisis of faith, I keep coming back to these words from the Book of Common prayer, Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night…

I used to see it as a cry to God to keep us safe. But today I see it as a charge to try to keep each other safe. To be conduits for the good, the divine (not that I know what that is, these days), for hope, for love. Which will always make us vulnerable, but is always worth it.


Lights and dark places

December 5, 2012

I logged in today and realized it’s been two months since I’ve posted. I’m still not sure how that happened, but I suspect it has much to do with work craziness and unpacking craziness (No, we’re not unpacked yet. Please don’t tell me if that is notably abnormal, because I finally hung pictures up on the living room walls and now I just want to pretend that I’m done) and personal family life craziness.

But I miss this space – the writing, but also the reading and commenting. Re-entering feels a bit like the person who shows up at the workplace potluck who didn’t make anything to share. I hope this is an apt analogy in that there’s always plenty of food anyway. I missed you. I promise that next time I’ll bring cinnamon rolls.

I often feel like everything I have left to say is a variation of something I’ve already said. My grief seems to be of the slow-moving and repetitive variety. Or maybe I am slow-moving and repetitive. But I seem to need to keep writing it out, setting it down, trying to see where it all fits together and who I am becoming and looking for answers that probably don’t exist.

Life is mostly good. The new place is good. The dishwasher is lovely. N is battling depression and a resurgence of grief and in many ways really missing the pot, but he hasn’t had any since that day in August, and he’s determined to keep it out of our lives, even though (hello, irony) it is being legalized in our state. We’ve had more time together over the past couple months, and Teddy’s name comes up more often, and that’s a relief to me. I need to talk about him sometimes. I need N to talk about him sometimes.

Last weekend we put up our Christmas tree, and Dot helped me hang the ornaments up. She’s old enough to do that now, which is just amazing and wonderful. I understand nostalgia over the baby days, but I guess that, having missed out on seeing my first child grow into the amazing person he should have been, I am more happy than sad when I realized that my daughter is a little girl now, and that she has opinions on where the felt Wizard of Oz ornaments my Grandma made for me should go. I am shopping and planning on baking and playing holiday music and I have lights up on our porch (which is perfect for Christmas lights) and have planted an amaryllis bulb and am wondering what flavor of ice cream we will make this year and whether it would really mystify my relatives if I wrote our holiday newsletter from the haughty perspective of my old cat. And it’s all lovely, but sometimes it feels like I’m building a protective shell – a shell of evergreen, colored lights, butter and sugar, comfortingly cheesy movies, memories, stories and bustle – around missing Teddy.

It’s not so simple as that. He’s woven into everything, too. But this is the fifth holiday season since his death and I still need to distract myself almost constantly because just sitting with how much I miss him and with the overwhelming fact of his death brings me to a standstill. It still makes me gasp and flail and cry and wonder how it could have happened, that this beautiful little baby never got to smile at Christmas lights. I need to sit with that sometimes, but I can’t do it while I’m actively being the mommy and supporting N and attempting to be a model employee.

I wish I were strong enough to remember fully and fearlessly and to make that remembering beautiful and even joyful. Sometimes I think that that’s the real secret agenda to the frenetic Christmas-elf personality that surfaces during this time of year, that somehow all of the lights and music and preparation is a way to tie loss to hope and joy in a way that my heart will accept.  My mostly unacknowledged Christmas quest. And it is probably impossible.

But I keep trying, hoping that this is valiant instead of hollow.