Posts Tagged ‘birthdays’



August 21, 2015

You would have turned seven this past Saturday, Teddy. I’ve been thinking a lot about what seven would have looked like. You would have been getting ready to walk Dot to kindergarten, all big brother protectiveness and silliness and exasperation. You would have been getting ready for second grade.

I don’t know if that’s how it would have been, of course. I don’t know if you would have been wild and energetic, or gentle, or both. I don’t know what your smile would have looked like, what your sense of humor would have been, what color your hair would be at this point, or whether or what your favorite books would be. I’ll never get to know, but I keep dreaming and imagining and almost, almost seeing you out of the corner of my eye.

August has been rough this year. It’s always rough, but your father had a big work project due and spent most of the weekend in the office. I ate a lot of gelato and your little sis watched too much television because I had to hide in the bedroom and cry at various intervals throughout the day. We’re doing okay, but I keep waiting for it not to hurt so much and it always does, and it’s kind of relief when it hurts, you know.

I wish I could know you at seven. I love you even though you’re not here.

Happy birthday.


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.


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.


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.



July 22, 2011

N and I used to go to brunch together almost every weekend when we lived in Chicago.  Possibly because we both really like breakfast but don’t like getting up early, or possibly because our first date was a brunch date and it went really, really well, and now every time we have brunch together some of that lingering first-date glow still manages to find us and put smiles on our faces.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a first date where you think it might go really well but you’re still nervous, and then he orders the Viking Breakfast while you order Swedish pancakes and then he makes fun of himself for ordering the Viking Breakfast (trust me, it deserves both capital letters), which puts you completely at ease. As you sit and talk you realize that you are incredibly comfortable and happy while also noticing that this person sitting across from you is extremely attractive on some sort of deep molecular level that makes you spend too long staring at his mouth because you can’t help thinking how delicious it would be to kiss him.* If you have had that kind of date (Swedish breakfast place optional), then I’m really glad for you. It’s one of those moments in my life that makes me realize how lucky I am, in spite of the unlucky bits of my life.

We haven’t been to brunch together for years, though, which sometimes makes me a little sad and sometimes makes me feel like brunch is part of our happier and more innocent days, now left behind as we enter a grimmer, more adult phase of life. But today, since it’s my birthday** and we couldn’t find a sitter for tonight or the weekend, N took me on a brunch date.  I wore a dress. We laughed and talked and talked and made the baby sitting at the booth next to us laugh, too. And then we picked up cake pops for Dot’s teachers and dropped them off at her daycare. As N drove me back to work, we were still laughing and he remarked that I was in a very good mood and clearly we needed to do brunch more often, and suddenly I realized that he was absolutely right and in more ways than he knew at the time. So I told him, emphatically, that he was absolutely right (something he doesn’t hate hearing), and that we’d better have brunch together again soon.

It seems like everywhere I look someone is pointing out that relationships take work. “Duh,” I respond. “Everyone knows that.” What seems to be less common are people talking about the kind of work you need to do. It often sounds so extreme, or so hard, or – somehow – so onerous that it’s no wonder so many couples (very few of us being stupid) have a hard time doing this “work.” Today I had a glimpse of what it  means for us – connecting, remembering who we are, reclaiming some of that old glow. I don’t need candlelight and dinner and flowers, but I’m only now starting to realize how very much I need some more frequent one-on-one time, some good conversation, some points of connection. It’s powerful and heady stuff to re-realize so strongly that not only do I love N, I really, really like him.

I tell you, brunch. Best birthday present ever.


*I didn’t kiss him (On the first date? What kind of girl would he think I was?), but oh, how I wished I had. I did, however, talk to him on the phone that night and mention that I wished I’d kissed him, which helped to make our second date a very fine one, too.

**How old am I? 37. Again. I mistakenly thought I turned 37 last year. I even blogged about being 37! However, according to accurate math, which was never one of my strong suits even before 2008 when I suddenly felt  I’d aged 30 years all at once, I was only 36. I only realized this last month. So today I’m one year younger than I thought I’d be. My brother is making fun of me, but I’m enjoying 37 not feeling like a big deal, so hurray bad math!



Happy Birthday to the Bathtub Oracle

February 1, 2011
Bathtub oracle, 1.

Bathtub oracle, 1.

At some point in the last two months, Dot began picking up random objects – toys, pieces of paper, shoes (hers and ours) and carrying them into the bathroom. She’ll dangle her chosen object over the edge of the bathtub and sometimes talk to herself a little about it. After some consideration, she may drop whatever she’s holding into the bathtub, or she may take it out, look at it again, and drop it on the bath mat instead.

Bathtub oracle, 2.

Bathtub oracle, 2.

This all means something, even though I don’t know what.

At the end of most days, there are new collections of things in the bathtub. I’m not sure if she’s trying desperately to communicate with us or if this is some baby version of casting runes or speaking the wisdom of the gods (possibly the bathtub god?).

It’s funny and odd and mysterious. I knew, when she was born a year ago that I loved her with big, deep love, but I didn’t know she would be so funny and odd and mysterious.

I didn’t know how scarily smart and mobile she would be, or that she’d enjoy hauling around large objects (the laundry basket, the bath mat), or that I’d love her little toothy smile as much if not more than I loved her little gummy smile. I didn’t know that her baby kisses (open-mouthed and involving usually quite a bit of drool) would make me melt in quite this way.

Bathtub oracle, 4.

Bathtub oracle, 4.

It’s bitter-sweet because I can’t help but wonder what her brother would have been like. If he’d have been this active or if he’d have been more laid-back. If he’d have patted us on the back while giving us hugs, too. I love Teddy, but I’ll never be able to love him this way because I’ll never know him this way, never see him becoming more and more himself with every day and week and month.

But this is your day, Dot. Your day to be amazing, to be a whole year old. I’m so happy you’re here and that I get to know how smart and funny and sweet and mysterious and strong you are.

My froglet, my bumblebee, my little bathtub oracle. There’s a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting waiting for you at home, but I feel like there should be fireworks, too.


Eight months

April 15, 2009


Teddy would have been eight months old today, which probably explains most of my recent downswing in mood.  I’m mostly out of words for now, so here’s another rose photograph from the Rose Test Garden in Portland.