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Friday, January 1, 2016

Planes, Trains, and Promises.

Dear Josie,

I broke a pinky promise.

Your older brother wanted help building a new LEGO set, and your younger brother was hungry and there were papers to (still) be graded and two loads of laundry to fold, so I told him maybe later, buddy.

"Pinky promise?"

And I did.  And when it was time for bed and the LEGO droid/plane promise of 2015 was all but forgotten, it wasn't forgotten.

"What about my LEGO?"  He sobbed.  "YOU PINKY PROMISED!!!!"

And if it hadn't already been an hour past a normal, healthy bedtime and if I had taken a shower already that day and if I didn't still have laundry to fold and papers to grade, I would have built it right then.  But we didn't.  So I lay next to him for five minutes until he fell asleep and then we built it in the morning instead.

Three nights ago, your little brother slept in his crib overnight for the first time ever.  It was his seven month birthday.

I remember welcoming your older brother five years ago, placing him into that same crib the first night home from the hospital.  I guess when one of your children doesn't make it home, things can change.  Lots of things.

During my first pregnancy I was so happy.  So blissfully unaware.  It was the most amazing time with the most amazing ending, the one that every pregnancy should have.  And sometimes when I get to feeling bitter, I'm grateful that I got  to have that.  I'm grateful that I got to have a pregnancy like that, because not everyone does. And because I'll never have one like that again.

I remember being five months along with him, arriving home from work on a Friday and talking with my (then) roommates about our plans for the weekend.  I remember glancing at my phone, still on silent from work and seeing the seven missed calls.  Before I could dial another one was coming.  It was your father.

"I'm on my way to your house.  Your mom's okay, but something happened."

When we arrived to the hospital everyone was there, all of your aunts and uncles and their spouses and your grandfather.  I remember sitting in the waiting room and someone cracking a joke to lighten the mood, being mid-laugh when the surgeon walked in, a confused look on his face.

"Your mother has suffered a massive heart attack," he said, somberly.  "She is very, very lucky."

Everything changed then.  The room was different.  No longer jovial, no longer something we could ignore.  It became the first place I would ever imagine a world without my mother in it.  Later that night a John Mayer song came on the radio and I started to mouth the words.  I remember thinking that it could have been a very different drive home, and I remember crying.

Three years later there was another call.  Waking me from a dream at 11:19pm.

Your uncle had been found beneath an overpass.  He had sustained severe head trauma and was critically injured and barely clinging to life.  Come quick.

And  I remember there wasn't enough time.   There was not enough time to hastily stuff my pajama pants into my black UGG boots.    No time to brush my hair or kiss your father goodbye.  There was no time to waste on that highway, no time to prepare me for what I was about to see. 

But I remember the pull, in both cases.  I remember the rush.  There was a force pulling me to them, and all I wanted to do was to turn around but there was such a pull that drew me forward that soon I was running.  Running into ERs at midnight so fast that I lost my breath. 

There was no pull with you.  You were gone and it was so immediately final. There was no drive and there was no hope.   No stern doctor's brow to wake me from my denial.  There was nowhere to go and there was nothing to be done.   I called your father and I told him and I heard his heart break over the spaghetti, and when he said he would be there soon all I could think to say was "take your time."  Because there was time.  There was all the time in the world and there was no pull. 

I'm different now.  It sounds absurd to say aloud because of course I'm different now, but I'm just so different now.    I don't like to answer phones anymore. My blood pressure rises whenever I hear a ring, so mine is perpetually on silent.  I'm no longer afraid of hospitals.  I feel a strange comfort when I pass one on the highway and I always blow a mental kiss.   And I'm always kind of  half certain that he's going to leave me too,  your little brother.  Probably in the night when I'm not looking.  Or maybe sometime in the early afternoon when I'm distracted and I let my guard down, like you did.  I'm never quite sure that he's here to stay, and it's really, really hard to live that way.

So three nights ago was big, for me.  It felt like I was letting go, but I was also holding on.  To the ticking in my head that began when you died and won't stop until I do.  To what I told you that morning before we said goodbye.  How I wouldn't let this ruin me.  How I would always keep trying and how I would never, ever give up.  For you, I promise.

And every night when I lay them down and every time that I wave goodbye I will be scared, as they run from me into fields and schools and arms and limousines.  I may be conflicted and unprepared and terrified.

But I will also be keeping a promise.



  1. Nora. I'm with you, as I always am. Just a few minutes ago, I asked Justin, "When do we move her into her own room?" He said it was up to me, and I responded, "I'm not ready yet." I don't know when I will be, but I'm not ready right now.

    When Lydie died, I stopped imagining the future. The future I had imagined was gone, so very painfully, and somehow I made myself stop thinking about it. I still don't think about it. I don't think about Bowie crawling around this summer learning how to swim. I just can't. I can't promise myself those things will happen.

    We'll keep plugging forward one day at a time, I guess. Do we have a choice?

    Hope the holidays were gentle on you.

  2. I'm crying now after reading this post and this first comment. It's so sad that even if life goes "well" from here on out we have to live with this crippling fear forever. xoxo