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Sunday, March 20, 2016

On Stopping Stopping.

Dear Josie,

Last week I gave a test over Mitosis.  One of my students entered the room smiling. 

"Ms. LaFata," he declared.  "Watch me ace this test."

"Yeah?"  I said.  "That's great."

Two days later I placed the graded test on his desk.  A 79 percent. 

"Okay then,"  he chuckled.  "Next time.  Just watch me."

I started running recently.  It hasn't been pretty and it isn't remotely enjoyable.  On the first day, I tried for once around the block in our very long and very hilly neighborhood.  I made it halfway before texting a friend. 

"I think I'm dying.  If not, will you kill me?"

She replied.  "Stop stopping."

And so I did.   It took me about an hour, but I jawled (jog slash crawled) the rest of the way home.  And when I made it through the front door I collapsed, and your brother asked if my face was going to explode but I made it.  I stopped stopping. 

This past year I've stopped so many things.    Partial.  Interrupted.  Lesson plans and diet plans and books on nightstands and blinking cursors on pages of words half empty, half willing.  Halfway. 

And I'm not sure why.

I think it's because sometimes I think what's the point.  Because I can run or write or teach or not, and you're still dead and that still hurts.  That still hurts.

But then there's the other part of me that feels this need to finish.  Everything because you can't and because I promised you I would.  That day as I held you I promised you I would try, and no matter the MAGNITUDE of the apathy I can't forget it.   

Yesterday there were flowers beside the highway.  We were driving to the mall and there was a little white cross and daffodils just beyond the shoulder. 

It made me think of an article I once read.  A teenage boy was killed in a car accident and his father was describing the place he died.  Just a patch of grass on the highway, how he'd tend to it weekly.  Drive an hour out of his way to tidy the area of discarded coffee cups and candy bar wrappers.  How it was always loud and busy, but so very silent.  How this place, this five foot block of pavement had become significant to him.  Sacred even.  How it both comforts him and haunts him to be there.  How it hurts to drive away.

And I remember wanting a space like that. To go and to be near you for a time.  To cry all my tears and watch the people pass, and to leave your sacred place better than before.  To gently lay the daffodils and make my way to work.

Only the place you died isn't somewhere I can leave.  There are no shortcuts to escape its confrontation.  I visit this place with every breath.  Every mirror.

I've done my best to hate it for you.  Hate that it killed you.  Hate that it took you from me.  Hate that I never knew and hate that there was no stopping.  Hate that I have to stay here, in this place you died, when you couldn't stay.  Hate that it wouldn't let you. 

But I can't hate it anymore.  I can't hate it with what I eat or don't sleep or can't say.  I can't hate it anymore, because the hate makes it ugly.  So very ugly and because it's hard to hold onto all that hate without growing numb to everything else.  Because it's all I've got.  

So I've started running.  And going to bed earlier and drinking more water.  I've made time to read once a night and I've even tried Yoga a few times.  I'm looking into therapy, and meditation and volunteering, and I'm going to try those things too because I promised you I would.  And because I'd rather leave the flowers. 

MOST days now, I can get two miles without stopping.  I haven't made it to three but that's my goal, by the summer.    

Just watch me.


Friday, March 18, 2016

An Open Letter to The Spring.

Oh.  Hey spring.

Unlike practically everyone in the universe, I'm not all that happy to see you. (gasp!)

Don't get me wrong, you're kind of awesome.  I mean I love all the flowers.  And I actually prefer the rain.  I was born in the spring for sobbing out loud. 

You know who wasn't, though?  My daughter.

She died during winter's death rattle.  She died and you arrived like, the very next day.  Or at least it felt like you did, and I've never forgiven you.

So this is for you, Spring.  Whatever this is, between's over. 

Spring, you're a tease. 

Must you mock me, with all your collaborations?  All of your ginghams and greens and growth?  Try and tempt me.  Go ahead.  I think you're really pretty, but we can't be friends.

All that sun is blinding, you know?  And all that promise..   

You see Spring, your blooms remind me of the one that never was.  Never opened her eyes to see.  Never stretched her beauty to the skies, watched the sun dance it back on black pavement.  Never did.  Never knew.  Never will.

Try as I might I can't welcome you.  Rays through windows onto skin and still, this preference for the cold.  For the heavy layers that warmed her.  Such a failed incubation.  Such a joke.  And you're laughing.  Aren't you, Spring?

I need space.
We're moving too fast. 
It's not me, it's you.
Take your things and go. 

"Welcome, Spring!"  and "Spring has sprung!"

Spring break and box springs and springing in the rain.  But what if the rain never stops?

Spring, have you ever watched them die? 

All of your pretty blooms, watched them grow and sway with your soft breezes.  Watched them move beneath your skin, be still your heart.  Too still.

And Spring, do the colors ever slay you?  Make you wish it all gray.  Will you back to bed.  Back to dreams.  Back to her. 

Oh Spring I wish it weren't so.  I wish you shone like before.   I wish I knew you like the others.  I wish you were a friend. 

But Spring, it cannot be.  She left me in the frost. 

Must you? 

Must you pull me from it?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Different Places

Dear Josie,

We've been looking at a lot of houses lately, and it's midnight and I'm thinking.

When you died we uprooted.

We didn't move by choice.  No.  This was a forced relocation. 

There was static on the Doppler and the ground began to shake, and as I tried to memorize the crease on your left cheek I felt it.  The pull from the stage, like hooks in my neck.  Like a fish out of water. 

There was a vacuum, and I was sucked from the comfort of this loving, accepting place into a place that was uncomfortable.  I left a world where hospitals help sick people for a world where babies die in them.  I was moved from a life that was fair to a life that was not, and would never, ever be.  

Suddenly I was somewhere foreign. The move was so immediate and so physical that I swear I heard a door close.  And after the initial shock and denial and the trying to claw my way back,  I looked around and I saw that I was home.  In a house with green formica countertops and hideous lavender wallpaper.  I was at home, in a house I never wanted to live. 

And if I only had to live there I think I'd be fine.  Because the colors never grow on you, but you grow alongside the pain every time you open your eyes.  And because it's safe there, because when I turn around there is someone else.  There is always someone next to me who has to live there too.   

But the thing is I can't ONLY live there, in that house.  I can't stay there every minute of every day.  Eventually I have to venture out, and I have.  It feels good to get out but it's also scary because now, the outside is unfamiliar too. 

Last week at Target, the cashier asked your brother about the baby food. 

"You must have a baby sister or brother at home?!!"

And while my mind was playing catch up he answered. 

"Actually, I have both."

"Lucky you!"  she beamed.

"Well," he looked up.  "They're in different places."

I get stuck on words.  So often. 
Like people who say "could of" when they mean "could have".  Like people who say "was" instead of "is".  You're still sad because she was your daughter. 

I'm in a different place now.   I don't recognize this place.   It isn't overwhelming sadness.  It isn't pure gratitude or acceptance or anything resembling closure.  The words don't sting as much but I hear them.   I can talk about you here, without crying.  I can come and go as I like, and I do but none of it feels familiar.  None of it feels like home.

And it's true what they say, you know?  There's no place like home. 


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Head and The Heart.

Nine months is no year, I know that. 
Nine months is an eternity.

To My Dominic Joseph, on your (9 Month) Birthday-

If there's a head and a heart you are surely the latter.
I couldn't love you more if I tried.  And for awhile, I tried not to. 

You see, before you arrived and my head said you wouldn't
My heart loved you despite being told that it shouldn't.   

That's the thing about hearts.  They don't listen.
And bless them for it.

If there's a head and a heart, you are surely the latter.

Because hearts don't stop when a daughter's does.
Even when you're sure it will. 
And bless them for it. 

If the head is the fear that's preventing the "where"
The heart is the reason the feet make it there.

The head can remind and predict and inscribe
But the heart knows the reason.  The heart is the drive.

If there's a head and a heart, you are surely the latter.

You have saved me in every way a heart can save.
And bless you for it.

For I thought it was fruitless.  I thought it all dead. 
And you came and I heard what the heart knows instead.

That death can move flesh while a love never dies
That life can remove while a hope grows in size.

That the heart is the path to all heads can't amend-
And the heart can release what the head will suspend. 

It's the heart that can silence the mind; stop the talking
It's the heart that looks death in the face and keeps walking. 

My heart, in the oceans you open to see
My heart, in the life that you breathed into me.

You're my heart, my beloved.   Every moment, a joy.

My beautiful rainbow.
My sweet baby boy.