Posts Tagged ‘family’

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Seven

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.

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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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Watermelon Welcome

October 3, 2014

Dot’s school had a “watermelon welcome” event for the kids and their families. N was working, but I was there, of course, and she had a great time showing me her many tricks on the climbers and slides while playing with her friends. There were lots of kids there, lots of kids with siblings. Lots of baby brothers and baby sisters. Do you see where this is going?

And I hid behind a tree because now I miss Teddy, who should have been there, teasing his little sister. And I miss the baby who will never be because I’m responsible and reasonably unselfish when it comes to making decisions for my family. I want that baby, whoever he or she might be. And I started crying at the damned watermelon table but didn’t want Dot (or anyone else) to see me.

Someone told me that I should just go ahead and try for another, that money stuff always works itself out. This, from my perspective, is a fairly privileged viewpoint. Of course you work it out and do what you have to do for a baby once that baby exists. Once that baby exists, their existence becomes a priority that other things – your career, your family’s movement toward financial stability, your lack of bankruptcy, your oldest (living) child’s chances of going to college – can be sacrificed to support. But our income is too high to qualify for any sort of assistance, and our debt is too high to allow for much savings or “discretionary income.” We wouldn’t be giving up trips to Hawaii or Friday nights at the steakhouse or gifts of fine jewelry. We already go meatless on more than Mondays, and we drive a small compact (to be paid off this coming summer!). So we’d be giving up Dot’s college fund, my credit rating, possibly my job and income, possibly N’s chances of finishing & defending his diss, possibly (because of stress and money and time) our marriage. It would work out, but the way it worked out would likely hurt people I love and for whom I’m responsible. So the person who told me that can…bite my budget spreadsheet.

I’ve tried not being bitter about this, but I am. I’ll get over it. It’s something I can get over, I think, not like losing Teddy. But it hurts, and I’m fed up with things that hurt. I want a cookie, and a warm cup of tea, and three wishes.

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Miscellany

September 11, 2014

Here’s a tour of the jumbled museum of my brain. It’s a working museum, so things may move as you look around. Also, there are tigers.

Exhibit 1:  I made a budget spreadsheet and N has agreed to fill in his bills and expenses so that we can finally work together on our finances. Like actual grown-ups. I think this is going to be really good. Also, as the daughter of an accountant, I should have done it years ago.

Exhibit 2: On August 23, I will have been married eight years. I’ve been thinking about all the ways in which my life is better for sharing it with N, even when we aren’t especially good at sharing. Eight years might be a long relationship by Hollywood standards, but it’s still a very young relationship in a lot of ways – a grade schooler of a marriage – enthusiastic, learning a lot, making mistakes, growing up a bit more every day. I am looking forward to seeing what our marriage is like when it’s 30 (even though that takes a certain leap of imagination and hope that borders on tempting fate).

Exhibit 3:  I think I need to just write this out: I really want to have another baby. I long for another baby with a longing that’s connected to but not the same thing as my longing to have Teddy back. I really don’t think we can afford another baby, or that it would be a good idea for my family. But I want one anyway. Now that I’m 40, I need to stop telling myself that there is still time. There might be a tiny window of time, but I think, by and large, my decision has been made for me. I don’t know when I’ll make peace with this. I am angry and sad and perhaps not as appreciative of the new babies in my life as I want to be right now. I am trying to keep this from turning into bitterness.

Exhibit 4: Dot has been wanting to sleep in her own bed for the past few nights. For the past few nights, there hasn’t been a baby – okay, a preschooler – in the middle of our bed. Of course, for the past few nights either N or I has been sleeping in her room with her, but I still think it’s progress toward a sleeping arrangement I’ve been looking forward to for a while now.

Exhibit 5: We had our first freeze last night and the maple trees outside my office window are obligingly changing colors. I love this time of year, but everything about it strikes me as strikingly clear, and piercing, and – not merciless, but absolute – in its beauty. The blue of the sky, the sharpness in the air, the hint of frost in the air – it’s the kind of beauty that breaks your heart for loving it. I don’t regret having my heart broken this way, but I sometimes wonder if I’m going to be strong enough to make it to October.

Exhibit 6: I wish there was a class or support group for socially awkward and introverted middle-aged women trying to make friends. When I was growing up my mom and the neighborhood moms all knew each other and had coffee and talked on the phone, but while I’m friendly with several people, I don’t have a community or neighborhood like that. I want one, though, and am going to see what I can do to make it happen.

 

 

 

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Ugh, and ugh again

January 29, 2014

N has asked me to “unfriend” some of his family members on fac.ebook. He doesn’t have much of a social media presence, but I do, and at one point or another, his family members have friended me as a way of getting more news about him. I know that these friendships are more about N and Dot than they are about me, but I still don’t like having another person, even my best person, try to tell me who I should connect with online. For much of his family, facebo.ok is the only place where they see photographs of Dot, or get news about what she is doing. My mom and I talk every week, but N doesn’t talk to anyone in his family that often and this silly social media connection is the best connection they have.

So why the unfriending? Well, N’s dad invited all of his grandkids (except one, except ours) on a ski weekend in Colorado. I’m sure they had good reasons for not inviting us or talking to us about it. We live farther away than N’s brother and sister; we have turned down invitations to visit in the past; N’s relationship with his father is prickly; Dot had a busy January filled with dentistry and her first ever dance program; N’s never been that interested in skiing (I grew up in MT, so no excuse there); right now we don’t have the financial resources to fly out to CO and stay in a ski resort. So, I’m sure they have their reasons, but I wish they would have invited us anyway.

If they’d invited us anyway, the onus of not being there would be on us. Our decision and our call. And maybe they didn’t want the rejection of a no from us, which would be another understandable reason, I guess, but I wish they’d risked at least a phone call to feel us out. As it is, they’ve really hurt N’s feelings. Not mine so much, but I don’t have the long family history of divorce and step-parents and half-siblings and rejection and denial that he’s had to deal with. I’ve always known my family is right there for me if I need them, that they want me with them at family gatherings and that if I’m not invited it’s because they already know I can’t come because they’ve checked with me. N hasn’t grown up with that surety. For me this was a “your family is weird” moment, but for him it’s a “my family forgets/rejects me (and my child) again” moment.

And now I’m in this weird place where I can either just unfriend the family members (unlikely), or try to engage in further conversation about this. Neither of which I want to do. I could also lie about it, which I know is supposedly a terrible thing to do, and relationships should be based on honesty and [insert another commonplace about honesty here], but I can’t help but wonder if it might not save hurt feelings all around. It’s not just N’s decision, for one thing: it involves my connections and also Dot’s relationship with her grandparents, uncles and cousins. It’s pretty sad to have your best connection with your grandchild be through fa.cebook, but I don’t want to cut that connection without further thought and discussion.

I wish they would have given us a call.

 

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Only

December 30, 2013

“Is she your only?”

“Yes.”

I say yes now. I barely even pause. You’d have to be acquainted with this type of loss to catch that barest flicker of hesitation that comes before my “yes.” I say yes for the other people, really. In my heart the answer is always and forever no, but do I want to be the person who throws child death into a casual conversation with the nice guy who kept my child from diving head-first into the hotel hot tub? Not so much. He’s just being pleasant, and I lie in order to be pleasant back.

I’ve been spending the last few weeks being sad and angry and missing Teddy terribly. I get weepy when I see little boys and I try not to think too much about how much more fun Dot would have at Christmas if there was another kid for her to play with instead of all these adults expecting her to behave like a mini-adult. No one to wake her up early to check out the stockings, no one to giggle with on Christmas Eve as they try to fall asleep.

That’s not quite true, or fair, of course. Her father plays with her and laughs with her and tickles her. Her grandfather turned into a little kid several times during our visit, chasing her around the house, elucidating shrieks the likes of which I’ve never heard before as he jumped and pounced and chased her. I played what felt like endless games of pretend and My Little Pony.

But she’s still the only kid in grown-up land.

It’s so foreign to me. I grew up playing with my little brother, surrounded by siblings. All of my friends had siblings. And I always expected to have two. I never thought that there would be such constraints on time and money and energy, that I’d be on the brink of 40 and still paying of debts from my early twenties, that I’d find mothering my very lively daughter to be so all-consuming. I never thought my first would die.

I still want two, a living two. I stare at my birth control pills every morning before I take one, and I wonder, just a little, what might still be possible.

My brother and his wife waited until Christmas morning to find out the sex of their baby. It was very fun up until the moment I found myself in the kitchen with my mom and she was crying because of the news that they’re having a girl. I know she will love both her granddaughters and that she is happy for my brother and his wife, but I also know, because she has told me, that she wanted “one of each.” A tiny part of me hates her for that, and I am trying to come to terms with it, to terms with being angry with her for wanting a grandson when my son, her grandson, is dead. It’s a perfectly understandable desire for a grandparent, and it is not the most attractive part of my personality or something I want to indulge, that I feel this way.

It is also not the best part of me that is seethingly angry with my mother for saying “well, maybe they’ll try again,” as she dabbed her eyes, when her reaction to my saying, over a year ago, that we weren’t absolutely sure Dot would be our last baby was profoundly negative and boiled down to “Oh, I don’t think you should do that.”

There’s more going on than this, of course. N was commenting on all of the photos Mom has of my sister-in-law, and I think he was feeling a bit like chopped liver, as the expression goes. But in this case, well, my sister-in-law is the daughter my mother always wanted – professionally pretty, thin, petite, put-together, successful, practical. Not pudgy and introverted with a head stuffed full of fairy tales and contempt for blow-dryers. Not someone who runs off to work with no makeup and who cuts her own bangs over the bathroom sink and works herself into a frazzle at a job that pays okay, but not as much as you’d expect with all the advanced degree requirements. Mom loves me, but I’ve never been the daughter she really wanted. Which is usually okay because she really is a good mom and really does love me, but it gets to me sometimes.

Next Christmas, my brother and his wife are planning on visiting Mom and Dad, with their new baby, who will hopefully arrive healthy and alive and change their lives for the better. We will be there, too, and I think it will be wonderful. I still miss my brother (the one who woke me up early on Christmas morning) every year during the holiday season, and I love the idea of getting to see him as a father at last.

But after that, well, I think the Christmas after that will be just for us, at home, with our own tree and traditions, with no long travels or command performances for Dot at church or at gatherings of the larger family. N will pull out his guitar and we’ll sing carols, just our little family, and I’ll light Teddy’s candle and remember him without worrying that no one else is. I am more than ready for that.

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Frozen

December 3, 2013

We took Dot to see her first in-theater movie over the weekend. Overall, it was a good experience, even though N insisted we sit in the middle of our row, which made things really exciting when Dot “whispered” in her most urgent tone, ” I have to go potty!” and even though much popcorn was spilled, and even though every time I tried to tell her to be quiet (she had a lot to say) she would glare and me and say “SHHHH, Mommy!” AND even though we had to carry her out, kicking and screaming, after the movie was over because she didn’t want to stop running around and playing in the theater.

I like the concept of Disney’s Frozen and it did something wonderful in that the love interest wasn’t the main point of the younger princess’s story, but someone who helped her with her quest. This was something Tangled did, too, and I was glad to see it again, and especially glad to see the way the movie played with the “true love’s kiss” trope (no spoilers, but it was pretty cool). Dot loved the princesses and the songs, I loved the trolls, N loved watching Dot stare, rapt, at the screen and feeding her popcorn (when she was sitting still, which was a lot of the time, but not the whole time).

But I’d forgotten how Disney loves to dispatch parents at the beginning of their movies. Yeesh. It wasn’t nearly as brutal as Nemo, but I wasn’t ready for that part of the movie. (Tarzan is the absolute worst for this, in that the human child’s parents and the baby gorilla are both done away with at the beginning. I haven’t watched that one since college, and may never watch it again just because my heart breaks for the mama gorilla and then I get really mad about being so easily emotionally manipulated by a movie.) It’s a pity Dot didn’t have to use the potty at that particular moment, but she hasn’t asked us questions about it at all so far. She’s just starting to ask us questions about what dead means, but it’s clear to me she doesn’t get that it’s permanent. That’s the hardest thing for me, too, so I’m not surprised.

I’ve been thinking about Teddy a lot lately and I’m sure part of it is the holidays, and part of it is that my brother and his wife are expecting, and part of it is probably just me. And, oh, I miss him. I miss his baby self and I miss knowing who he’d be this year at almost five years old. The missing isn’t the hard part, really. At this point in my life, it’s just part of who I am and what I do. The hard part is feeling like I can’t tell anyone about it. N would be worried, and so would Mom. Friends and coworkers would listen and then wonder when I was going to move on. But this is what it looks like, me moving on. I play with Dot and cook Thanksgiving dinner, and am grateful that my daughter is just about toilet trained; I buy Christmas presents online during Cyber Monday and plan out what kinds of cookies I’m baking this year and try not to forget stocking-stuffers and worry that I won’t be able to find a good gift for N, and I miss my son. I miss him when I’m busy and when I’m not, and this morning when I woke up to the first real snow of the season, it was beautiful and magical and I wanted to cry because he wasn’t here to see it. And that doesn’t make me a tragic figure or someone who can’t laugh at a joke or get stuff done, but it’s always there. I want it to be there, I loved him and love him still and love has to manifest somehow, after all. But I do mind not being able to be open about it without people worrying about me.