Thursday, January 9, 2014

Four

Wait, you still have a BLOG, you ask? Well, technically, yes. I am rarely here. Today I am here, as I was four years ago. I cannot promise to be back for awhile. My grief has changed, grown mostly silent, internal. I am no longer constantly compelled to scream at the sky or beat the walls or pull at my hair, although those feelings do surface from time to time.

I ran at the cemetery today. Not because it is her birthday, although that was a bit of a comfort today. mostly because we are digging out of snow-buried streets and the cemetery across the street offers plowed, though slippery, quiet roads. It is often my place to go for reflection, solitude, and exertion. A bucolic few miles plunked down in the middle of the city; maybe it's the loud city that was plunked down around this roundish haven. Maybe that's why the gates are so tall and spiky, to keep the the noisy, gritty outside on the outside.

The road was, indeed, slippery and smooth. In truth, I didn't want to run, despite being housebound this past week. As I carefully made my way past snowy headstones and bare trees, I noticed another set of footprints from a runner who'd been there before me. I kept my eyes on those footprints, telling myself that if that small-footed person had done this, so I could do it, too. It was hard, that lap. Bright sunshine nearly blinding me, my whole body alert for hidden patches of ice. My legs working double-strength to push off the packed snow.

And then I got back to where I started. I could have left the cemetery and gone back home. But I did another lap. This time the tracks I followed were my own. I remembered from my previous steps where the road was hard, how I had to adjust for the uphills and downhills. Where the wind was strong and where I could relax. And that lap was easier.

I am forever grateful to the blogging friends I've made along this journey of grief. Women and men I've never met and, if I am being honest, will likely never see in person. People I've come to know through blogging and other social media outlets. People I feel I know and are part of my closest circle of friends,  to whom I'd love nothing more than give a huge hug. Parents whose babies died before Calla, and helped show me the way through the tangled, dark, foreboding forest that was my grief.

I miss her. I am stunned that it's been four years. That where I could be planning a fourth birthday party, I am instead lighting all together different candles. Four years seems like the blink of an eye in the context of the rest of our lives, but it feels like a million years since I held her tiny, lifeless body; looked at her perfect face. I will never stop wondering how, or why.

E talks about Calla often. Just the other day he asked, "Mom, if my sister was around, where would she sit in the car? How old would she be? How old would I be?" I just keep my game face on and answer as honestly as I can. Sometimes I laugh. "E, YOU'D be the same age, darling. She would be four." I haven't the strength or desire to explain to anyone anymore about the implosion that happened four years ago; I am sure, knowing him, Calla will come up at school and his teacher might shake her head, wondering about E's imagination. We've made several new friends in the past four years, and I just . . . don't lead with that information. In truth I don't know who knows what about Calla. It's all good.

My friends are the best, and our family is wonderful, too. Everyone gives us a little more breathing space today. and that is just lovely. It is not, again, the raw, wailing gash it once was, and those who love us can tell how we've healed. The scar is visible, if only slightly, and it is jagged.

I miss my daughter. I miss who she could have been, where she would fit in our family. I can't believe she is not here, still.

Happy Fourth Birthday, Calla Valentina. We miss you and love you so.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Right Where I Am: Three Years, Five Months and Nine Days

Edited: This post is part of Angie's Right Where I Am project. Check it out.

Right where I am is clearly not here. Last post was almost six months ago and, truthfully, if it wasn't for this project, I'd likely still be silent. I read blog posts and then don't have words beyond "I'm sorry, I understand, I'm here for you." But here I am, here we are. Again.

Almost three and a half years have passed since my second child, our only daughter, Calla Valentina died. Lying in that hospital bed all those days ago, I swore I'd never smile or laugh or eat or breathe again. At the time I thought giving birth to my dead baby was the worst thing I'd ever live through. And it was brutally awful, inhuman, cosmically cruel. What I didn't realize then, and know bone-deep now, is it's the living the rest of my life without that's the hardest part. The nagging twinge of missing that pulls at every single breath.

It has gotten easier to bear, this missing. In fact, I go many, many days without shedding a single tear. There was a time when I sincerely believed I'd shrivel into a raisin from all the crying. But I didn't, no matter how much I cried. And then the crying tapered off to once a day, to maybe once every few days, and then somehow I wasn't really crying at all.

She is with me every day, though. The nagging pull of something wrong. Where I physically look for my two boys, where they are in the fray of life, I emotionally look for my daughter. Where is she in my consciousness, as that's the only place she really can be. She's certainly not hiding in the racks of clothes at the store or running around with her friends at the farmers' market.

I occasionally get bitter, though I've learned to shrug off the throwaway comments. Surprisingly, my daughter's death nearly three and a half years ago isn't at the forefront of everyone else's consciousness when they remark on O's "second child" behaviors, or ask if we're done having children after only two. I have a pretty thick coat of armor to deflect those comments, because they're not meant to sting.

There is a little boy at E's preschool who was born shortly after Calla's death. I know this because his mother was a cashier at the co-op and every time I'd go in we'd talk about our soon-to-be born babies--her first, my second. When Calla died I remember asking someone to let this woman know, as though this bit player in my unfolding horror movie would actually need to know this information.

But I see this mother and son occasionally, accompanied by a perfect infant daughter. My life, right over there--the one that wasn't meant to be. I try to be bigger than this, as my life is pretty awesome these days. It still hurts to have it waved under my nose, however unintentionally. Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah.

Things here, though, are otherwise really great. E is finishing preschool, off to Kindergarten in the fall. O will start preschool and I'll have a few hours a week to figure out some way to re-enter the world of gainful employment. I am in the best running shape of my life and am enjoying cooking, baking, living a (mostly) healthy lifestyle. We've gotten to the bottom of C's health issues and he's enjoying running agin, finally. Soccer, dancing, art camp, martial arts, reading, bike riding . . .  the normal stuff of life.

For these things I am so grateful. I can't believe it's been almost three and a half years. Here is my life.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Almost Three

2013 has not been kind to our little household. My boys have been sick, trading germs back and forth, since before Thanksgiving. After rounds of antibiotics, ibuprofen, and days off from school, I'd naively assumed they were out of the woods.

Cut to 4 PM NewYear's Eve, a house full of parents, children, one dog and lots of food. And O getting crankier by the minute. He went to be at 7:30, only to wake up at 11 and stay up until 4. AM. And then get up for good at 5:45.

Two days later, E's sick with the same, only this time he gets a nearly 105 degree fever, sending us to pediatric emergency care on a Saturday night. We were panicky, a banner of "meningitismeningitismeningitis" flashing across our brains.

Not to mention, three years ago on this very same weekend, we were racing in the exact same direction to the hospital just down the block from the emergency care facility, with a similar yet distinctly different chorus ringing in our ears.

I sobbed the entire way there on Saturday, pleading with whatever energy there is in the Universe to please, don't take another one.

Double ear infection and conjuctivitis diagnoses after about an hour. Medicine prescribed, given, sent to bed. Nice and tidy, happy ending so far.

*****

Tomorrow is Calla's birthday. Today is the day we found out she'd died. Three years ago right now I was starting to worry, but still wasn't even starting to freak out. That would come, a few hours to go.  Somehow three years have passed, and yet it still feels like just yesterday. But, that's not entirely true. Somedays it feels like a lifetime ago. And in many ways it was. Three years ago today was the very last day of my former life.

God, I can still hear the noises from that room so clearly; feel the soft, firm grip of the nurse's hand as we watched that terrible sonogram together, her gentle tears and my animal wails. The sheer horror that would ensue over the next twenty four hours, each minute that passed taking another shred of my hope and understanding of my world. How was I to survive that?

I did, though. There were beautiful moments, believe it or not. Holding my perfect, lifeless, beautiful baby girl. Her small weight heavy in my exhausted arms. My whole family, nearly, getting to hold her and bless her with their tears.  C and me, the only two people in the world who understand this particular loss in this particular way.

Damn. I miss her so very much. Always, the question remains for my dim little brain, is HOW? And also, WHY? But there never will be answers to those, really. I guess it doesn't matter.  The answer, as always, will be JUST BECAUSE IT IS.

Three years old. She might be getting ready for dancing school. Christmas may have been an even mix of pink and princess alongside the superhero-lego-playmobil insanity. Would she have kept that black curly hair? Who knows, really?

It's been three years, almost, since I held her. How could I have walked out of that room, left her there when it was time to go? She should have come home with us. But it was never to be. We had to leave, and so, I guess, did she. I hate so many things about her death. I do not hate that she was here, was mine, no matter how awful living without her might be.

I love you, baby girl. How I wish so very much you were here with us. I miss you, Calla Valentina.

*****

We are on Day Five of our self-imposed quarantine. The boys are recovering, the marvels of modern medicine kicking in nicely. Tomorrow we will likely go to breakfast, spend the day together as a family, go on and about our day as usual. We will light our candle and the space between then and now  will grow a little wider.

I am grateful for our life. We have so very much and are really, truly, quite happy. The sadness will never leave, and what kind of person would I be if it did?  Being sad is important, so tomorrow we will honor our sadness even more.

Be well. Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Enough

I have no time to write. I have no time for, really, anything right now. With Christmas a week away, I am buried in a self-created pit of cookies, wrapping paper, and Elf shenanigan planning.

And, I say this without the slightest trace of my usual irony, lucky, lucky me.

Like the rest of our country, and some of the rest of the world, I am beyond devastated for the families in Connecticut who are forever changed by, well, you know. I can't bring myself to think of that boy's name--and yes, I mean boy despite his being 20, or however old he was. Those children, those teachers . . . just gone. For no reason other than someone else's personal . . . what? Suffering? Anger? Vendetta? No reason, really. Just because.

And it feels like we, as a collective country/society/world, can do nothing but blame blame blame. It feels necessary to look for an answer, a WHY to follow the WHAT and the HOW. But guess what? There is no WHY. Only a big, fat IS, WAS, DID.

Maybe we should blame the guns. Yes, yes, it was the guns. No wait! It's the access to mental healthcare, the way we treat people with mental illness. No, it was actually his MOTHER'S fault! Yes, the mother, as per usual, right? Oh but wait, maybe it was the video games. Or maybe the movies. Or television. But probably it was the President's fault--no, that's not right. It was God's fault. Nope, got it wrong again, it's because God was "kicked out" of school (my personal favorite--there's that irony!).

It was all of this and none of this (OK, I'm almost positive it wasn't the god-kicked-out-of-school thing--that's shit thinking is just inexcusable). It was a young man who had a weapon and took the lives of 26 people and filled the broken hearts of our country with absolute fear. The end.

And arguing about it? Co-opting the sheer anguish of these grieving families? Disgusting. I get that we all grieve differently, and for some of us clicking on FB links and pictures and sharing vapid messages makes us feel empowered. But really? This is the best we can do?

I've had enough of the pablum that comes along with tragedy. "Light a candle for . . ." "Hug your children . . ." "Wear school colors . . ." Frankly, I've had enough of this type of tragedy to last a thousand lifetimes. Shit, I'm tired of the word "tragedy."

Among the phrases and words that make me want to scream, coincidentally, is tragedy, along with its qualifier "unthinkable." Really? Unthinkable? It wouldn't be nearly as terrifying if you couldn't imagine it, couldn't believe it could happen to your family, your child, your parent, your friend if you truly *couldn't* imagine it.

I'm a jerk, right? I am. I'm really, really sad. None of this bullshit we call "helping" does JACK for these mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents, children, and friends in utter agony right now. My own solution? Forget all that noise, the memes and the FB pages and the pictures of sad candles and the j-man field trip. Send light, and love, directly from my own broken heart to theirs. Say the names of those children and teachers. Honor their memory by emblazoning their faces on my heart, making room for them there with all the others.

Turning off the television, tuning in to their pain and honoring it. Shutting out the distractions and sending them love. This is all that makes sense to me, it is all I would want.

It's all I did want.

Love to you all. xo

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Catching Up

Holy crap, is it really November? And I haven't been here since August? Shoot.

I'm mad at Blogger for being an asshole. I keep trying to comment on posts and my comments get eaten, sent into oblivion. Anyone else? What the hell. So, I guess, if you're reading this and I usually comment on your posts, please know I've been reading, and trying to comment. But maybe what I have to say is deemed too stupid by Blogger, and it's saving face for me.

Life's been, you know, life. Busy. Bumbling. E's in school four days a week, so O and I have some more time, just the two of us. Sleep schedules are erratic, hence little sit-and-think time for me.

But I have been thinking. O turns two in two days. Gosh. Two years. I can't help but remember those last days of panic, worry, fear, anticipation and excitement before he was born. I hardly dared hope he would make it. But oh, he did.

And she didn't. And I wasn't worried about her at all. Now I worry about the two here, all the time.

I think about the rest of forever. Forever missing that little girl I never even knew. I think about those first days after she was born. The earthquake in Haiti. The cold, cold January air. Being wheeled out of a hospital empty handed.

(No, that's not right. I was wheeled out with my maternity clothes and a binder full of good ideas on how to grieve.)

My life is so very different from then, now. That was almost three years ago.

I am getting better at being around almost-three-year-old girls. The pounding in and on my chest has slowed to just a dull thump here and there.

It's the waiting, though, for the inevitable stumbling blocks. This is the thing, I'm learning, about forever. Shit's bound to happen sooner or later. Like, "You're not going for a girl?", "You have boys, they're so much easier than girls," or meeting a girl named Calla--which has happened, but she was the hostess at a restaurant, an older teenager, maybe early 20s. Meeting new people and deciding when, or if, I should explain about our dead baby, what their reaction and departure-time-out-the-door time will be.

The sadness just creeps up and surprises me sometimes. And it surprises me, really, to think that I've gone so many days and nights without crying, when almost three years ago I couldn't imagine the crying could ever stop.

It is a challenge to parent my children sometimes. E is . . . intense. The kind of kid who wakes up before 6, worrying if he'll have to have a try-bite at dinner twelve hours later in the day. He has, as my mother says, one speed--and that is GO, fast. O is way more mellow, but man, that kid can be a hard head. We are currently locked in the epic battle of Hat Wearing--and lo, I will win.

It is a challenge for which I often believe I am ill-equipped. Having a dead baby makes my parenting even more difficult, because lumped in with all the usual patience-reservoir-scraping, the guilt is multiplied to a factor of infinity. But maybe I'm overestimating myself? Maybe the guilt is this heavy for everyone, dead baby or not.  I should be more, I could be more, I should be better. I swore I would be in that hospital bed almost three years ago, and many days I fall so very short.

Somehow this turned into a pity party, and that wasn't my intention. Life has been busy, life has been good. I'll leave you with this. If you see me in the parking lot of Target with my windows up and a little boy in the back seat, head on the steering wheel, you'll know what I'm listening to.





Sunday, August 12, 2012

Poking My Head Out Of My Hiding Spot

I keep starting to write this post, and keep getting stonewalled before I can even get my thoughts out. After being away for so long, my brain feels rusty, the words coming out like water through and old tap. Slow, sluggish, discolored. Hard.

Where to begin when it has been so long? I look at my reader every day, the blog posts piling up, leaving me feeling like a complete jerk.

Hey everyone! Things are going PRI-TTTTTY well over here, so, like, keep on keepin on, mmmm'kay? I'll letcha know when I need you!

It's not like that. I read. And I want to comment, and say, yes, me too, I get it, I'm sorry. I feel like I keep saying the same things over and over.  But it is true. I get it. I am sad, too. I am sorry.

My grandmother died this past week. She was my last grandparent. She was 91. She was funny and crafty and enjoyed so many things in life. She was in pretty good health and outlived almost all of her friends and her husband and several other family members; I almost believed she'd live forever. Magical thinking strikes again. She had a knack for making you feel like you were her favorite, like everything you did was amazing and noteworthy.

She was my friend and I miss her, will always miss her. Even though she was old. Even though I knew she would eventually die. Even though.

E has been processing this all week. She was diagnosed with cancer a little over two weeks ago, went immediately into Hospice care and died a week and a half later. So fast, which I think maybe was a blessing to not have to suffer and worry for months, or years. But E has been asking questions:

"So GG is up in the stars? Can we visit her? Did you watch her climb up into the stars? Is she in that box but can't talk?"

And the one question that broke my heart, asked with a fleeting frown and almost tears:

"But who will be your grandma now?"

I feel lucky my boys got to meet her and know her. I feel lucky to have had her in my life.

*******
I have a confession, too. I've been wanting to write about something for awhile but just, I don't know, didn't want to come across as a bitter crone.

No, no, nothing earth-shattering or life-altering.

Right after O was born a new family moved in across the street. We have since become friends with them, and it is just lovely. E and their oldest child are six months apart and play together so well. They were on the same soccer team this spring, even.

And their adorable daughter was born in March of 2010.

I'll let you go ahead and process that math, the permutations of children and possibility and what is and what is not, and what was and what was supposed to be.

And it's cool. I'll admit every so often I'll squint a little more carefully or think a little too hard and it will twist something in my midsection, but mostly it's cool. I'm 100% positive it's because of my youngest, my O. I am not ashamed to admit he has made these living arrangements a billion times more bearable.

But then the neighbors across the street, a different yet equally lovely and kind family, just had their second child. A girl. Born just over two years after their son.

It makes me dizzy, occasionally, to look across the street and think about . . . what, exactly? How we'd be a trio of matching families if my life hadn't taken a complete shit two and a half years ago when Calla died? Because matching families--whoopdeedoo--we have two amazing boys, so, like, whatevs?

Sigh. I just don't know. Maybe I should just crawl back under my rock, stick my head back in the sand and shut up. Be grateful and sad on my own time.

Just wanted to share.




Wednesday, June 27, 2012

In Your Wildest Dreams

Sometimes, even often, beautiful songs become so ubiquitous that we forget what they truly sound like, or have to tell us. I blame lite rock stations. With the overplay of easy listening, adult contemporary, lite sounds--whatever you want to call it--some gorgeous music gets turned to brain mush.

Think of Stevie Wonder. The Beach Boys. Elton John. Amazing songwriters and musicians whose music is harmless enough to play in the office, but still powerful enough to make you stop in your tracks as you ponder the creation of such heartbreaking harmonies and lyrics.

This morning I went for my run with O through the cemetery, and as we rounded a curve we caught up with our deer. And its fawn. They were literally scampering around the well-manicured lawns, chasing each other and playing tag. But then the adult saw me and stopped. So we stopped and just looked, waiting. The fawn was still scampering, darting towards its parent then darting back. The big deer wasn't so sure about us, so we started up again, saying our gentle goodbyes as it watched.

But then a convergence of music and placement and happenstance caught up with me.  Our deer. Right up the hill from Calla's spot. Pushing my big almost-20-month-old boy. Listening to a song that just made sense. A song that I would have been embarrassed to admit I liked in high school, that's how uncool it seemed. It all fit together just right. And as desperately as I'm trying to find the words to capture the beauty and pain and just perfection of that moment, I can't. But maybe if you listen to this relegated-to-lite-rock song you'll hear it.


Granted, not every word of this song applies. "Our bodies felt the morning dew?" Not so much. But. "I wonder if you know, I wonder if you think about me . . . " Magical thinking, yes. Nothing wrong with a little indulgence now and then.

(Just one more song that needs to be redeemed. Maybe it already has been, you know, from Garden State. But some of these songs need to be pulled out of soft-rock hell.)

**Full disclosure: while I do not, regularly, listen to soft-rock, I do like many of the songs on those stations. It's the Celine Dion that kills it for me, truth be told.