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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Like No One's Watching

Dear Josie,

Something scary is happening.

It's getting harder to remember the details.  Your smell.  The shape of your head on my chest.  Was your hair as dark as I have been describing or had I imagined it?  The crease on your forehead fades with each passing day.  The wonderment as I held you, like you were deep in thought when you left me. 

I remember passing you around in the hospital.  I remember the looks on my parents' faces, the helplessness of the doctors, the air in the room.  The whole time it never escaped me, these things that have become all too familiar.  Hello darkness, my old friend.

One night when your uncle was sick I had what I'm pretty sure was a mental breakdown.  Actually, I don't remember much of that either, save for the complete loss of control.  The attempting to sleep in my bed, the waking up in the bathroom.  The screaming into white linen wedding gifts.

I remember the numbness after you were born quite well.  A family member entering to meet you would later tell me of the look on my face.  As others whispered lovingly into my ear, begged me not to hold anything back for their sakes, I was told that my face was that of complete disgust.  This is happening right now.  Can you believe this.

Last week I attended an adorable dance recital.  Your cousin, my beautiful niece, dressed to the nines in bright sequins and lace.  Hundreds of tap shoes and pliees.  Hundreds of smiling parents. I hadn't realized how it would affect me until I felt the cushion of the retractable seat.  Perhaps you wouldn't have been a fan of dancing.  I'll never know.

It's easy to describe how a dance recital would make me sad.  The perfect angels in their proudest moments, the preciously practiced routines.  I could tell you that I missed you fiercely then, but that would be too easy.  I miss you fiercely the moment I open my eyes, feel the wound as I pour the coffee. 

It's the guilt that gets me now.  The taking part in the celebrations of others, quietly accepting and allowing life to carry on in all its sequiny-sequential glory.  I don't feel guilty for being sad, rather,  I'm guilty for the happiness I never thought would come in your absence.

As I held you for the last time I said something I can hardly forgive myself for.  I thought of your brother and of the smiles I would go home to.  I thought of my brother, how his struggle has forever reshaped mine, and I said it aloud.  "I will get through this."  I'm pretty sure it was the shock then, the denial but even still I heard the words echo in that room as your father cried.  Felt them bounce off of heating vents and blood pressure cuffs.  I'm not sure I believed it yet, but I said it just the same.  I realize now I hadn't said it for my benefit.  I was making a promise to you.

As I reveled with the crowd at their innocence, tiny ruffles lead through the dark to center stage I felt it again.  The guilt, manifesting with the lump in my throat.  I fought the urge to run to the safety of the bathroom, fought the smile instead.  My loss palpable in their steps of pink and tulle, I stood and applauded.  And in that moment I was happy, for my niece and her magnificence, for all the parents in the room, for my brother and his wife.   I couldn't believe it.  Genuine happiness without the slightest hint of jealousy.

You teach me when I am most reluctant, cowering and undeserving.  The sinking student in the crowd, lagging behind in melody, but step by ungrateful step I am learning.  Regressing and assessing, using these eyes so selflessly given to appreciate the potential of every moment. 

I may have cried on the drive home, but I had felt it...this progress.  Through the tears there was pride.  I know you'd be proud of her too, this mother who dares to question, this hand in the back row. 

Please don't give up on me, Josephine.  Take my hand with the lead.

I'll do my best to keep count.


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