Posts Tagged ‘August’

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Melting down

August 10, 2015

Tomorrow, it is supposed to be 100 degrees where I live (Fahrenheit, not Celsius, that is). But I am already melting.

Today I woke up early and got ready to walk in to work. I love my walking mornings. I love working up a sweat and changing clothes and putting on makeup after I get in. I love starting the workday early so it feels like I can get everything on my list done. I love the slightly twisted and admittedly self-righteous thrill of being the first one in the office, the one who opens the doors and turns on the lights. I was ready for a morning like that.

But Dot woke up before I left. And she didn’t want me to leave. Suddenly, even though we’d talked yesterday about her daddy bringing her to school this morning and event though she’d been looking forward to that, she wanted me to bring her to school. And N. wanted to sleep some more.

All right, I said. I’ll take you in.

Then, of course, she didn’t want to get dressed. And then she didn’t want to go to school at all, and then when we were finally happily in the car she started crying about how she didn’t want to grow up (a sentiment with which I totally sympathize) and in an effort to be silly and help cheer her up I started listing off things she could do when she was grown up that she couldn’t do now – eat whatever she wanted for dinner, make art projects with knives and scissors, stay up as late as she wanted, dye her hair purple…

Well, it turns out, my five-year-old has a friend who dyed her hair pink. When she was four. And now Dot is telling me she wants to dye her hair, too, and I’m telling her she can’t until she’s an adult, and she is calling me “Mean Mommy,” and I say the true and terrible thing I should not say: “I wish I hadn’t waited to take you to school.” Now we’re both crying and she tells me that I’ve broken her heart into pieces, and I can’t call the words back, though I want to. I feel like the worst parent ever, like I don’t deserve parenthood at all, and I’m also terrified, like it could be taken away at any moment because I’m so bad at it.

I apologize, and we head into school, and all of a sudden she’s the happiest child on the planet, hugging her friends, chirping “hi!” at her teacher. And the teacher looks at her and says, “Do you have your swimsuit on, Dot?” and I realize in the silence that follows that I’ve misread the calendar and that they’re going swimming today instead of tomorrow, and that I’ve left her suit and towel at home. I run home to get it. N is still sleeping and I contemplate hating him for a moment, but I know all the reasons he’s so tired, and if I could I’d be curled up right with him, so I blow him a kiss and sneak out, run the swim gear to Dot’s school, run to park, run to my office, breathe.

It’s funny and I’m still laughing about it, but it hurts, too. It hurts.

And now people who should have been helping me with the scary web migration project that I ended up doing on my own, like that martyr of self-martyrdom, the Little Red Hen, are asking for changes to the final site that I can’t make, or for changes that they could bloody well make themselves if they’d been paying attention because I gave them administrative access when I thought they were interesting in actually helping with the project. This is not unusual, and usually I smile, laugh, fix things, and coax people along into learning new things, but today it’s all I can do to make fixes and type brief, neutral replies. I want more than anything to curl up and hide from everyone for a while, to just hide and not pretend to be loving or good or competent or to have my shit together because right now my shit is not together.

I keep crying.

I keep missing him.

Memories everywhere, and I love them because they’re all I have of him to love, memories and the world’s most ridiculously tiny urn in my dresser drawer, but they leave me so damned raw, nerve endings exposed, eyes red and giving me away.

Dot’s daycare is closed for the latter half of this week; Teddy’s birthday and death day span the weekend. I am facing five days at home with Dot, five days to bite my tongue and pray that I don’t let me rawness show too much as I try to entertain and play and be a good mommy. A good enough mommy, at least.

I hate you, August.

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The days went by

August 19, 2014

Little one, the days went by. Your days, the days when the entirety of what and who I am is wrung out and I remember so clearly the weight of your body, the stars on the blue blanket the hospital wrapped you in, your pale eyelashes and beautiful, stubborn little face.

The days went by, and I didn’t write here – there was no time and I was trying to put on a happy face for your sister who doesn’t know about you yet, and I had a cold, and we’d just returned from a grueling trip to Chicago, and there was no calm or quiet time. No time to put words, again, to the heartbreak.

But as the days went by I felt each and every break and crack in my patched heart. I felt them throb and stretch as they cried out in grief and told me of each emptiness that should be filled by you. I didn’t write, but I cried behind sunglasses as I chased Dot on her bicycle. I cried as I cooked dinner, and as I frantically washed all of our bedding and vacuumed the bedroom in a fit of paranoia about travel and bedbugs that turned out to be rather silly. I was even grateful, fleetingly and foolishly, that you’ll never be bothered by such things. I looked for you in every flower, gust of wind, and bumblebee. I  spoke your name into the wind and asked her to bring you word of me, but if she did, I didn’t understand the message.

The days went by, and I noticed that for the first year on these days since your death, no one called us. No one called to say they remember you, or that they miss you. It’s not surprising – harvest was on, and half of our family was recovering from that rather taxing Chicago wedding (no one mentioned you there, either, except me), and it has been six years after all. Except, well, fuck that. Six years is not a long time, is it? Is it? It doesn’t feel like a long time, especially in August. It feels like I could reach my hand out and touch those days, touch the mother I used to be and the father who watched you with love and devastation in his eyes and the small miracle of you, our firstborn, so nearly perfect and so fatally imperfect.

The days went by and I felt so terribly lonely this year, missing you and wondering why more people didn’t seem to be missing you, and trying to pretend I was fine (how I hate fucking fine!). I wish I lived in a world where I could talk about grief openly without horrifying people. I don’t want to shock or scare, just to acknowledge. You were here and loved and now you are gone and loved, and missed. I wish I could openly miss you without worrying about what people think.

The days went by and I thought about who you might have been at six. I’ll never know, but I imagine you would have welcomed Dot’s current fascination with bathroom humor and would have encouraged her to new heights of fart jokes and silliness. I imagine that you’d be helping her figure out this bike riding thing, that you’d have little patience for my constant reminders to wash your hands. I wonder if I’d be reading you Harry Potter about now. I’d give my life, paradoxical as it seems, to be able to read Harry Potter to you, Teddy.

The days have gone by, and here I am, again, wondering where all this love I have for you goes. I hope it reaches you somehow, somewhere, even though I don’t get to shape it into actions like reading or hugging, even though your ears no longer exist to hear me telling you I love you, and play nicely with your sister, and eat at least three bites of veggies, or no dessert, young man.

I say the words anyway, the same old words: I love you. I miss you. I wish you could have stayed.

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Spoken Word Round-Up

October 24, 2011

This is my post for Angie’s Spoken Word Round-Up, and it should probably be titled something like “Ack! Eek!” I toyed with recording this on my phone while filming the autumn leaves outside my window, which would have been very pretty and possibly less distracting than watching my nervous face, and also would have made me feel all cool and NPR-ish and allowed me to channel Ira Glass, but since you’re getting my voice, you’re getting the rest of me, too. Eighties bangs and all.

Two notes:

  • I’m sorry about the nervous smiling. Bad habit. Working on it.
  • Note: I don’t have eighties bangs every day, but what you see here is the sad result of my last DIY haircut. Be warned!
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August howling

August 17, 2011

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.

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August

August 2, 2011

Oh, my Teddy.

She’s so alive, your sister. So alive and fast and loud and vigorous and thoughtful and funny and here. She grabs every bit of attention in a room for her own, claims us with clutching hands and smiles and, more and more, words.

She spent the weekend running in and out of the wading pool in the yard, saying “Splashing, splashing, splashing” as she splashed away. Today in the car, she said “Hat. Frog,” and then put her hat on her toy frog. I know I’m besotted, but I’m afraid she’s awfully clever, Teddy. I worry sometimes about whether or not we’ll be able to keep up with her clever little brain.

She runs, all the time, and she yells when she runs, which is something of a blessing because it makes it easier to chase her without making wrong turns.

She still wears your Cubs hat. It’s so small that it nearly pops off her head, but your daddy can’t help but to keep putting it on.

It’s August, darling boy. It’s August, and I don’t know how I can be so grateful and so angry all at the same time.

You should be here.

You should be here, damn it.

You should fucking be here fucking, fucking damn it.

Well, I think August will help me progress in my use of profanity.

I cannot let you go, it seems. Do you want me to? I hope not. I hope you stay close, sometimes, even though I cannot feel you around. I like to think of Dot being alone and bored some August afternoon years from now, like to think of her wishing for someone to talk to about the ladybug she found in the flower bed, and then hearing a voice – your voice – saying, “I like ladybugs, too” (though I expect you’d say something much more meaningful and clever, really). And then, out of the ether, out of nowhere, out from behind the wind, you will take her hand and she will take yours, and you’ll spend the summer afternoons together. And maybe I would hear her laughing as I washed dishes or put together dinner and somehow I’d just know your laughter was mixed up in hers. I’d like that.

But that is my daydreaming, my fantasizing mind. It keeps trying to find ways to hold onto you.

It keeps stumbling over the fact of your death. Your death is an awfully big thing for your poor mother’s mind to get around, little huckleberry. My mind isn’t big enough, or strong enough, or clever enough. My mind, like the rest of me, just wants you back.

I am grateful for every screech, shriek, splash, yell, giggle, snore, and word that your sister makes. Fiercely grateful, fearfully grateful. But it’s so strange – isn’t it? – that it comes so easily to her, this being alive business.  It looks so easy and natural, and even while I revel in that, I can’t help but to think of how hard it was for you for even those few hours. I hate that it was so hard for you to be alive.

In August, I feel so far from acceptance. How could it have been so hard for you? How can you be gone? Why can’t you come back? Why can’t I find you and bring you back?

Three years ago we were in Portland, finally close to the hospital we thought would give you the best chance, finally allowing ourselves to focus on hope. Sometimes I wonder if I got stuck there somehow, stuck hoping for you. I’m too stubborn for my own good, and maybe my stubbornness turned into the kind of hubris that can’t recognize death.

Or, maybe, it’s just August again. August, when the memories are so thick it’s hard to see through them.

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The new plan

August 12, 2010

We aren’t going to Portland, after all.  I have mixed feelings about this – disappointment, relief, worry that we need to make this trip and may never actually bring ourselves to do it.

I’d finally found myself in a place where I was ready to go, where I wanted to go, but I am not the only part of this equation.  N would have gone, for me, if I’d needed to, but he’s not there yet, not in a place where a visit would be helpful or healing.  We put Dot in her stroller several nights ago and walked around and around as we talked about the trip, about Teddy, about missing him, about where we are now, about how sad we are that we didn’t unwrap him and hold his feet after he died.  It was the kind of conversation that we haven’t been able to have much lately, and the kind of conversation I wish we could have more often.  We live together and speak with each other every day, we sleep in the same bed and wake up together each morning, but it’s been a surprisingly long time since we’ve talked. With Dot and work and fantasy baseball and all of the family visits, it’s finally becoming clear to us that we need to engineer more time for real talks, that they don’t just happen.  Now that we’ve admitted this, I think we’re in a better place.

So, no pilgrimage this month, but I still need something to do, a way to mark the 15th and 16th, a ritual, a way to acknowledge Teddy’s existence and how much we loved and love him.  So I copied Angie’s really wonderful idea of random kindness, and I’m going to be asking friends at work and away from work to do some small act of kindness this weekend or next week, to make the world a little brighter.  Tomorrow, I’ll post the following text (or something very like it – it’s still rather drafty) to my fac.ebook page and link to it from twitter.

On August 15, two years ago, my son Teddy was born.  He was an amazingly beautiful little baby.  On August 16, his father and I held him in a hospital garden as he died.  We miss him every day.  Missing him doesn’t mean that our lives are bad, or that we are sad all of the time; we’re not.  We love each other, our daughter, and our friends.  We still laugh and love and go on with our lives, but we know that the world is the poorer for the absence of our son.  Because he would have grown to be funny, kind, brave and loving, and he would have brightened the lives around him.

I want him back, every day.  I can’t have that, but I can try to bring a little brightness to the world.  Not as much as he would have done, but a little.  So this weekend, and next week I will be trying to be extra kind, to do occasional unexpected things to make people smile.  And I’m asking you, if you can, to please do something small to make the world a little brighter for someone around you.

If you’d like ideas, here are a few possibilities:

  • Buy someone you know a coffee or a treat.
  • Buy coffee or a treat for a complete stranger.
  • In the cool of the evening, take a walk by yourself or with someone you love.
  • Forgive someone.
  • Forgive yourself.
  • Give money or time to a cause you believe in.  If you’d like a suggestion, March of Dimes and Ronald McDonald House Charities are two of many good causes that help babies and families.
  • Give someone flowers.
  • Give yourself flowers.
  • Take a minute to admire the small beauties around you – the clouds, or a sunrise, or the flowers you walk past on your way to work.
  • Call or visit someone lonely and talk with them for a while.
  • Tell someone you love that you love them.
  • Plant something.
  • Hug your family.
  • Share a favorite book , story, or poem.
  • Tell someone thank you.

Thank you.

This isn’t easy for me.  I don’t talk much about my son at work; I cringe at making other people uncomfortable or sad, and I’ll be coming out as a grieving parent to several friends who don’t know much about my life two years ago.  But I hope it will be good, and I hope it will help people to take note of the love in their lives and to take time to appreciate good things, to appreciate being able to share good things.  It will help me to do something positive, to try to create a little bit of light.

I’ll be remembering others along with him and wishing the world could be brightened by their presences, too.

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Time travel

August 2, 2010

August is my season of time travel.

I’m sitting at my desk working away, and all of a sudden I find myself in the rental car, driving to Portland, hoping that my water doesn’t break on the way, scared that the end of my journey with Teddy is almost here, worrying about the amnio that is scheduled for that afternoon.  Then I find myself in the ultrasound room with the technician who performs the ultrasound and another to do the amnio, and Teddy punches the amnio needle (to our surprise) and I think, he’s so strong and wiggly.  He has to be okay.  He’s so strong. And, something about that thought propels me back to where I am.  Here.  More than two years later.  At my desk, trying to work with tears leaking down my face in a pathetic dribble.

Vigor doesn’t get you very far if you can’t breathe.  I hate that fact with every particle of my being, but hating it doesn’t make it less true.

Now I’ve got the tissues out and I’m blowing my nose as discreetly as possible, and this sends me back to that damned recovery room, where I sat in the hospital bed exhausted and still semi-drugged with the hospital tissue box on the bed tray and I couldn’t call friends and family to tell them what happened because as soon as the words started coming out of my mouth it was all real again and the crying made it impossible to speak.  My poor N had to make most of the calls, and my mom made some for me as well.  I don’t know how many of those little tissue boxes I went through, but it was more than two.

My email alert pops up and throws me back into the present, and there are things to be done and figured out.  There are meetings, and I have to pump for Dot, and I’m so suddenly and overwhelmingly grateful for Dot that I want to run home now and hug her and not let her go.  Which she’d never go for, since she’s now army-crawling and being held is fine when she’s tired but when she’s not she likes to go, go, go.  Now that she’s a little older, though, she’ll rest her head on my shoulder when she’s tired.  Every time she does this I have to remind myself not to hold my breath at the sweetness of it.

And now I’m back in that dim and precious little room in the NICU, with Teddy in my arms, his face so perfect and stubborn.  I stare and stare at his face, trying to sear it into my memory, trying to make sure that I never forget the way his eyebrows were barely there at all, or the way his so-soft cheek was dotted with small white spots, like stars, or the fact that he had six blond eyelashes on his right eyelid, or that his nose was just like mine.  N’s hand is on my hand and we look at each other for just a minute and wonder if this can really be us, here, about to let go of the most important thing in the universe.

We did let go.  I don’t know, sometimes, how we found the strength to do it.  I know I haven’t done it completely.  The wail still rises up in my throat, I want you back.

We met with Dot’s teacher, the person who oversees her care at the child care center she’ll be attending at the end of this month, this morning.  We talked about napping and feeding and diaper creme and sunscreen, about what to bring and what to expect.  At the end of our conversation, the teacher mentioned that she has a little boy, and N asked after him.  He’s a September 2008 baby, almost two.

Suddenly I see them together, my blond and tousled Teddy, running around with another almost-two-year old, and we watch indulgently as they laugh with each other, and we help negotiate the sharing of toys.  My brain says, we could have had play dates, and I almost tell this woman I’ve just met, “we could have had play dates,” but I stop the words before they leave my mouth.  I’ll probably tell her, in time, about Dot’s older brother, but not this way, not now, not just because it’s August and I’m jet-lagged from time travel.

Maybe it’s not jet-lag so much as a realization and re-realization that I have to keep moving forward in time, forward without Teddy.  I hate the idea that I’m moving farther away from him.  If I didn’t have a life to live, I’d try to stay in the past.  It’s painful, but it’s as close as I can get to my little guy.  But I do have a life, a life I’m grateful for, a life full of people I love.  I have to let go of some things in order to move on, to be the person who can move in this world with reasonable competence.  I need to let go so I can be the person I need to be for my family, to be a person who can find and take up happiness without feeling guilt or self-recrimination and let them know that my missing Teddy doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong or lacking with them.  Releasing my grip on the past is something I want to do, and something I really hate the idea of doing.

I wish I could give up the time-traveling and instead just split myself in two.  One of me could move forward and adjust to this life, and I could leave one of me there, holding him, frozen in time and never letting go.