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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Shock and Awe

Dear Josie,

I had a thought today. 

Driving home from work I wondered how many people were crying right now.  This very minute.  Hunched over steering wheels, veering onto narrow shoulders, blurred stoplights for miles.   Perhaps it's a strange thought, but there is a number.  Some finite answer.  Wouldn't it be nice to always have that.

Last week was your father's surprise 30th birthday party.  We held it at his favorite steakhouse, a place I began to frequent as soon as we started dating.  We would meet there during baseball season, a bite and a beer before the first pitch.  Before we had a care in the world. 

The night was a success.  It was fun.  As perfect as perfect allows anymore.  I wish I could enjoy a good surprise,  can't help but think of my last one. 

A week before you died,  my lovely sisters planned a secret baby shower for me.  Having saved every necessary item after your brother,  I certainly wasn't expecting one, but they knew better.  They knew that I was growing tired and uncomfortable, that I would cherish a day spent celebrating your arrival.  There was a plan that I nearly ruined, calling to cancel a shopping trip last minute, opting for the nap instead.  One of them called me in tears, describing a nasty argument with her husband, how she needed someone to talk to.   I was in the car minutes later.  Your aunt is quite the actress. 

I waited in her driveway for several minutes, honking several times more.  I called her phone repeatedly, lazily, dumbfounded when there was no answer.  When I reached the front door I knocked loudly, eventually throwing it open in a haste, ready to berate my loving sister for making hers, eight months pregnant, hike the stairs to her door. 

I was shocked,to say the least, and a little embarrassed with what I found on the other side. All three of my sisters, my in-laws, my mother...nearly all of my closest girlfriends and their babies, smiling and cheering in unison.  Surprise!

Everyone laughed at how difficult I had been, how many times I honked and called as they had waited, giggling just inside.  We ate, we laughed.  I opened gift after girlie gift.   That night my dreams were filled with pink sundresses and monogrammed onesies, leopard printed booties and dancing ballerinas.  For days, sounds were dulled behind music box tones and ruffled curtains.  I walked on a cloud of the softest tulle, descending rapidly seven days later, losing it all in a silent hospital room.

This time, there were no smiles.  There were no cupcakes, no gingham printed punch bowls.  I searched the room for the well-wishes, the kind hearted guests, but they had gone.  Forever trapped within a memory some sad girl used to know. 

I can't remember exactly when I started to live it, your absence.  Can't recall the moment the shock lifted completely, perhaps it hasn't.   But I can remember the moment I first felt the shift. 

Shortly after your delivery, we needed to change rooms.  I moved my legs to the side of the bed, eyes fixating on the pair of dress socks on my feet.    I had put them on the morning before, waking with the chill and quickly grabbing the softest pair from your father's drawer.  Thinking nothing of them at the time, I had proceeded with my day.  The most uneventful of days, of pregnancies, forever turning eventful hours later.

Gently, the wheelchair pushed me down the hall.   Past the sad faces of the nursing staff, the brightly painted hallways, past rooms of loving people on soft recliners, awaiting their happy surprises.  We took the long way to the elevator, never passing the nursery.

I couldn't bring myself to look up, stared at those socks the entire time.  Like a crazy lady, I memorized the stitching, the faint geometric designs. I don't remember what was said, what floor we made it to.  But in those moments I said goodbye to her, to my surprise.

Over and again, that morning in my head.   Hurriedly she grabs each one, turning to chase the three year old from atop the clothes hamper.  Carefully, she bends to warm them, these feet that carried you.  The blue on the left and the brown on the right.  She leaves the room, never giving a thought to thread counts, looking anywhere but down.

It's enough to drive you crazy, this contrast.

Mismatched argyle and the difference a day can make.


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