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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

365.



Dear Josie,
Last week was strange. 
I would be lying down or grading papers, I'd be walking in the door from work or pouring cereal or filtering the DVR when I would find myself drawn to that room.  Well...to your room, and suddenly, I'd be standing there on the stained hardwood.
And I’d stay there for awhile, marvel at the clutter that has accumulated in your absence.  In this  room that has become a safe haven for your brother’s artwork, paper caterpillars and alphabet worksheets filling the drawers of that dresser.  Your dresser.  A few forgotten Christmas presents lining the baseboards, and in the space where your crib would be, five pair of pointed flats from no fewer shopping trips, begrudgingly enjoyed by a mother in her efforts to rise above. 
After you died, your father painted that room a beautiful “greige”.  He knows I love the color.  He knows it’s what I would have insisted happen before your arrival; however your arrival brought its own shade of neutrality to my perspective.  I didn’t care about anything for the longest time, least of all the color of an empty room.
Looking back, it was an effort.  It was one way he had tried to get me to care.  About something.  About anything, again.   It was his way of telling me that we'd be back.  It was what he had whispered to me as we pulled away from the hospital, after holding you for the last time.
I can’t remember when it began, when I started to care again.  Can’t place the first time I felt the fear return while passing an eighteen wheeler on the highway.   I don't recall when the apathy faded, when I began to feel personally offended once more, while grading Punnett Square practice worksheets.  Cannot pinpoint the day I returned to the grocery store, joined the conversation about dinner preferences and gas prices.  I don't remember when I decided to call that person back.  The first moment I actually wanted to talk.
But I know it has returned.  The caring, in some capacity at least, and for that I am grateful.
Last week was confusing.  Your anniversary?  Your day of celebration?  What?
Do we “celebrate” the actual calendar date when you passed?  The Saturday before?  Should it be the day you were born, one day after you died?  Do I call it your birthday?  Do I order a cake?
It’s the strangest feeling, the “lead-up”.  The anticipation builds, and each day we got closer I would envision myself at that exact moment the year before.  What was I doing?  What was I thinking about?   People say it’s like reliving everything that happened, but I would disagree.  I felt like an observer, monitoring her every move as she indulged in chocolate covered strawberries and cherry sprite.  She lectures on DNA structure, attends the Wednesday meeting after school.  She pays for Day Care, attends her baby shower, drives home encased in pink tissue paper. 
It was like I was walking alongside myself, just watching, waiting for the reveal. Watching that part of me alive for the last time.  And all the while I am here, silently waiting, reaching for her hand. 
We decided to meet at your tree on the 23rd.  We wrote messages on blue index cards and we tied them to balloons, watched them rise above our grieving heads.  I felt a sense of pride then, having survived the year.  Standing tall in the frozen grass, I felt her leave me. That girl I used to be gone once and for all, with the wind and a heavy sigh. 
It was bitterly cold, but there was more sunshine than I expected.
Slowly, I’m getting used to that.

Love,
Mom
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Writers Week

I was honored to read this entry, along with a few more, at the annual Hazelwood West Writers Week today.

Dear Josie,

It has been one year and one day since I held you.  One year and one day since I labored for thirteen and one half hours, since I sweat and bled and cried for you.  You, whom I would deliver on a cold, February morning.  You, eyes forever closed.   It has been one year and one day since you opened mine.  And today, theirs will open too.

Today the students of Hazelwood West will see my pain, how death can seemingly kill for years.  They will know that it broke me.  They will see that I almost died too.

Today they will learn of you, of my beloved, and a voice will reverberate in these walls, but it won't be mine. 

It will be yours.

And you will tell them.  You will tell them that their pain is valid.  Every ounce and every scar, warranted.  Every breath, deserved.  Earned.  Fought for. 

They will remember wounds, deep and invisible.  They will cry for you, for loved ones lost and for love unrequited.  Their hands will shake.  It will erupt from deep within, poisoning as it circulates in a skin that has hidden too much, for too long.  And you will tell them not to be ashamed, invoke the release that shall set them free.  You are standing before them now, taller than this life allows, as you implore them to share.  This pain, this grief that holds them back.  Such a wisdom in your words, your appeal like a song to these ears, as you tell them:  You must declare it, stand tall in its wake.  You must not be ashamed.  As the bone breaks and calcifies, this pain, she manifests, and you must own it.   Like the antidote, it is your right.

They will see what you have done to me, to this mother.  Your mother.  And they will know of my love for you, how it seeks no limit.  They will sense no hesitation in my tongue, no fear in my words of you. 

And they will rise from their seats, from years behind battle scars and shame, and they will know what this pain can achieve. 

There is an understanding now.  A name in their ears.

A spring in their step and a pulse in their veins that wasn't there before.  I can hear a voice as they leave me, as I heard when you did the same.

But it isn't mine.  It was never mine. 

It is yours.

Love,

Mom





Thursday, February 12, 2015

Wrongdoings.


Dear Josie,

Eight days before you died, a dear friend and co-worker approached me.
During hall duty that morning, he explained how he had seen you in a dream.  I was eight months pregnant at the time. 

In this dream I had shown up to work, my stomach transparent.  Everyone could see you, all tucked away and safe.  In the dream they had counted all your toes and fingers.  They had marveled at your dark hair and all your tiny features, only they couldn't see your eyes.  You hadn't opened them.

I remember smiling at him.  “I’ll let you know soon enough what color they are!” with a chuckle, and then I walked away.

How could I have known I’d never see them?  That I would only learn they were blue weeks later, while reading an autopsy report.

As I held you that morning I thought of this dream, how telling it had been.  The misinterpretation as I had sipped my morning decaf, happily wrangling teenagers from tardy bells. 
I had been so confident that I’d have you, so clear on my controls.  All of the precautions that would surely see you to me.  All the mercury-laden seafood I’d declined, skipping holiday cocktails and migraine medication.   How cruel the world becomes after losing such control, how harsh the realization that it never truly existed. 

That night, nearly one year ago I knew you had gone.  You had only been still a matter of hours, but I knew. 
I have never wanted to be so wrong in my life.  My eyes pleading with every nurse on staff, every fiber in every bone screaming, begging for the correction I would never receive.   

Since your death I have lived a thousand tragedies. 
I see five car pile-ups when your father is ten minutes late.  Kidnappings on playgrounds as children linger in tunnels. 

I plan funerals on a daily basis, hymns and readings and casket colors.  Walking pneumonia is most likely a death sentence.  Growing pains are probably cancer. 
Mothers and brothers and friends are gone in an instant, a solace stolen in the night as quickly as it had once soothed. 

I don’t sleep anymore, waking multiple times to check them all.  Your father and your brother and this baby and the dog.  I float down carpeted stairs at one and four a.m., quite confident one of them has left me.  In the dark, cold gels atop my abdomen as I listen for the absence of that most beautiful sound.  It is never a hunch anymore, it is a certainty.  A conclusion I continually draw from experience.  Death.  Loss.  Perpetually a moment from my realization. 
I am always searching it.  And I am always surprised, a legitimate shock when it eludes me.  Feel their breath on my cheeks and I don’t believe it.
Last fall I saw this baby for the first time.  I have had several ultrasounds since, but the first one was significant. 

Your father met me at the hospital.  The very hospital he had driven to eight months before as I had waited in that bed, a lone heartbeat ringing in my ears.

On this day I was six weeks along, quite carefully prepared for the news I was bound to receive.  How bravely I had entered that room, approached the inevitable.  I remember the immediate understanding when the technician made a face.  The acceptance enveloping me as she cringed at the screen.

“There’s no heartbeat, right?”  Coldly.  Calmly, I had said it so that she didn’t have to.  Your father reached for my hand.

There was a shock in her eyes then, a shock that would quickly shift to mine.  A welcomed sensation I have felt hundreds of times since.

"Oh God!”  she exclaimed with a nervous laughter. “I’m so sorry.  I thought I was going to sneeze.”
She tilted the screen, and I felt the relief that only being mistaken can provide.  The all-consuming, throbbing potential when one allows life to prove them wrong.

“There,” she said, pointing, smiling.
“There’s your heartbeat.”


Love,
Mom