Posts Tagged ‘Teddy’

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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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Nightmare

July 10, 2014

Back in graduate school, long before I met N or even thought about parenthood beyond the abstract, I had what I think was a panic attack. That’s the practical, likely name for it. I woke up in bed, certain that someone was sitting on my chest and holding my arms down. I couldn’t breathe or speak or scream, and I intensely wanted to do all of those things. A Chinese-American friend told me later that she thought it was a hungry ghost, and I spent a lot of time thinking of old nightmare stories where the mare doesn’t refer to horse but to a goblin or hag or unspecified supernatural being (usually female) that sits on top of a person and feeds off of their terror.

But I was living in a dark apartment in graduate student housing in a new (to me) city, and was teaching for the first time under the supervision of a mentor who never answered any of my questions or took any interest in my teaching except as a way to get out of teaching himself. So “panic attack” seems to be a good diagnosis. Reasonable, recognized, scientific. I am a logical person, with a fairly skeptical mind, and panic is easier to talk about than supernatural attack. But I’ve never been able to wean myself away from superstition and the belief in things unseen (or I’d be happily atheist right now). I’ll never know if voicing my anxieties kept the nightmare from coming back, or if it was the rowan berries and twigs I tucked into the corners of my windows and over my door.

I used to dream about saving the world. I was Girl Robin Hood, or the person with superpowers who dived into the sea to turn back the darkness and the monsters, or the leader with a plan. I was fierce and powerful and beautiful in my dreams. That nightmare in graduate school made an impression on me not only because of the substance and terror of it, but because it was such an aberration.

I don’t dream as much now, and my dreams have softened. I haven’t saved the world in a long time, though I once gave the god Thor a really great kiss before he went off to die in Ragnarök, and enjoyed the dream-privilege of Neil Gaiman babysitting Dot in his apartment so that I could have time to do some writing. Good stuff, but I sometimes miss being the hero myself. I think that might be a part of me forever lost with Teddy’s death.

Last night I dreamed that I turned my back on Teddy and he died. He was Dot’s age, in my dream – a little boy with short fair hair and some sort of internal injury. And I pulled him out of a bus – or a plane – or something – and held him before laying him on the ground next to a stranger. And Teddy was hallucinating, calling the stranger “Daddy” and talking about what they were going to do tomorrow. I wanted to keep holding him, to stay, but someone told my that Teddy couldn’t be moved, and that we needed to drive others to safety, and I heard a small gasp, then turned around, and he was dead. And then I woke up and he was (of course) still dead, and I cried in a way I haven’t for a long time and then overslept and had to push to get everyone up and out of the house.

It’s warm summer here – I fling the windows open in the evenings and rush to shut them and keep the cool air inside in the mornings. I’m aware, especially so this morning, that the warmth and smells and sounds are pulling me back to those days of hope and desperation before Teddy’s birth and to the dumb, raw grief that followed. Still. Still, I feel this. And this nightmare of last night – I got to hold him again, see him again – but I’d rather have a good old traditional nightmare sitting on my chest or to be hagridden than to dream that I let him go.

I wish I could dream of saving him, just once.

 

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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.

 

 

 

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Somewhere near Ellysium

June 24, 2013

We drove out into the country on Saturday afternoon, out of the limits of this not-large-but-not-small college town, into rolling hills, past two tiny towns, and out to visit friends who live in the country. The hills were green, and the day was beautiful, and getting out of town was somehow relaxing and thrilling and familiar. We’d never been there before, but were welcomed warmly and after showing us their chickens and turkeys, their little boy, who’d clearly been looking forward to this for a while, took us to the garage where he’d charged up a mini four-wheeler for Dot to ride.

He showed her how to ride it, helped her figure out turning, and then they took turns. And then he rode it around while she chased him, peals of laughter streaming behind them in the late afternoon air. And the grown ups went to look at the garden while the kids and the dogs played.

This little boy was just Teddy’s age. Almost five. And my heart cracked open a bit to see how well they played together.

I have plenty of idealistic fantasies of Teddy and Bea playing together. I even love their names together and am sad that I don’t get to say “Teddy and Bea” very often. She has friends to play with at school, but when it comes to constant playmates, she has her daddy and me, and both of us are often distracted by unfortunate necessities like work and the need to make sure we all eat. Besides, grown ups just aren’t the same.

None of my idyllic imaginings matched the happiness I saw on my daughter’s face as she played with this little boy, though. I don’t know quite what to do with that.

Of course, they were new to each other, and novelty is an attraction all on its own, but he was so patient with sharing his toys and showing her around even when she upset him by moving his cars and not doing things the right way. They sat next to each other at dinner, played with the dogs together, ran all over the yard together, crawled into the baby’s crib together, ran up and down the stairs together.The adults sat and listened for the occasional shrieks and laughs, watched the dogs’ trajectories in order to figure out where the kids were.

And for a good deal of this time, I was holding a three-month-old baby, marveling at his tiny fingers and also at the way the old bouncing motions came back to me so easily.

By the end of the evening, when it was dark and the super moon was shining down on us in all its glory, I wanted us to move in with these people.

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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.