Last week was Thanksgiving. This year I was really looking forward to dressing up the boys and heading over to your Great Aunt's house. Sharing my green bean casserole and celebrating and eating and hugging and laughing.
Only none of that happened because your older brother woke with a fever that morning, because he had strep throat.
Although I was disappointed, because instead of eating all the delicious food with our wonderful family (someone brought us leftovers later;) ...and instead of getting the boys loaded up and venturing out to enjoy the surprisingly warm weather on the drive over with the windows cracked, we remained indoors for the entirety of the day. Alone. With ourselves.
While it wasn't my ideal Thanksgiving, all I could think was how it could be worse. How it is worse for someone else. Right now.
It's my current view of most things. I look at them and I say to myself "I've seen worse." Lived worse. Been worse.
Things that used to dissolve me now offer a glimpse of an old skin. So thin and fragile, bending and cracking and responding the smallest of stimuli. And now, now such a glue that holds together. Such a perspective, a ringing in my ears that proves all else obsolete.
I remember sitting at the kitchen table that first day home without you. People sent the nicest gifts, the most delicious deli sandwiches and chocolates and flowers, and I asked your father to pass the mustard because when your baby dies you still have to eat, but I couldn't swallow. Couldn't choke it down. Not yet.
And I was afraid. Of what was to come but also of what everyone would think. I was eight months pregnant when we lost you, all big and protruding and glowing. I wasn't given the choice to hide.
"I'm broken." I said. "Everyone will see that."
And I remember looking at your father, and I remember him saying, Okay.
Recently, I read the most beautiful excerpt. It is from the "Caravan of No Despair" and I cry whenever I read it. It says:
"Even as I rocked on my knees, howling, I detected soft breathing behind the roaring. I leaned in, listened. It was the murmuring of ten million mothers, backward and forward in time and right now, who had lost children. They were lifting me, holding me. They had woven a net of their broken hearts, and they were keeping me safe there. I realized that one day I would take my rightful place as a link in this web, and I would hold my sister-mothers when their children died. For now my only task was to grieve and be cradled in their love."
I see things differently now. A strength in the weakness. A courage in the vulnerability that I couldn't see before but feel now, with each blow.
And so the day kind of dragged on. And your little brother wouldn't fall asleep that night because he was too giggly and your older brother woke up really, really early the next morning because his throat was dry and because he had a bad dream. And that whole weekend it's a miracle my eyes stayed open, but they are.
And I can honestly say that I was most thankful on this very Thanksgiving. More thankful on this one Thanksgiving than on the twenty-nine prior.
This Thanksgiving when I hardly left the couch. This Thanksgiving when I didn't shower or brush my hair, when I stayed in my pajamas until 7 pm. This Thanksgiving when it was in the seventies and we never left the house, when I got spit-up on my new slippers and when I watched the LEGO movie on repeat for seven hours straight.
It was thank you in my head, on this second Thanksgiving without you but with them. All day and forever on this Thanksgiving, louder than the sleep-deprived pounding in my head and more noticeable than the amoxicillin stain on the suede.
Thank you for this. For all the arms that held me then, for the catch in the net and the breath behind the howl. To whoever was there, whoever was listening.
And for these heartbeats that I can touch and chase and soothe, however feverish and whiny.
Really big and really loud and really real.