Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I went for a walk this morning and stopped by R's playground.

And I saw this.

And these were poking through the fence from a neighboring yard so I left them for R and Georgina.

And I thought of this.

And for the first time in a long time I was thankful for random chance.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day 11 or 741

August 25, 2007

They bustle about the tiny room, moving the wires and tubes that now constitute her major biological functions and I feel my body dissolve into static.

There’s information, hushed tones, more information, paperwork, a surprisingly casual atmosphere.

I kiss her little forehead and give an empty assurance that she’ll be ok. She doesn’t turn toward my voice.

The driver stands-up slowly, stretches and yawns. I can't decide if I'm reassured or terrified.

Now they’re gone and I re-enter my body—jerked back to reality by a hand on my shoulder.

“Two years from now, when she’s running around just like any other toddler, you won’t even remember this,” the nurse says and smiles. I stare at her and try unsuccessfully to transport myself to this magical future.


August 25, 2009

I know that I went to work today. I know that I attended one scheduled meeting, two impromptu meetings, and one farewell lunch. I know that I sent out memos, scheduled future meetings, dialed the phone and answered the questions. I know only because my inbox and my calendar tell me so. I can't really remember any of it.

Most things don't even make a dent anymore.

Tomorrow I won't remember what we discussed in the meetings or how I answered the questions or what I agreed to do next. I might remember what I ate at lunch but I probably won't remember what I said.

I'll remember dancing around the living room to showtunes with C.

I'll remember exactly how the sunlight made R's eyelashes sparkle.

I'll remember reading this and thinking, “Maybe that's my problem.”

Friday, August 21, 2009

Looking Back

“I can't know what it's like to feel like my body failed me.”

It sounded so strange spoken right out in the open--opinion converted into fact. He didn't come up with this idea on his own. He was paraphrasing me. But, hearing the words come out of T's mouth, I suddenly realized that they aren't true. I don't feel like my body failed me.

I wish I could blame it on my body—on some physiological quirk beyond my control.

I feel like my judgment failed me.

So pleased was I with the valiant effort I had made to rescue my girls, I paused right in the middle of the tracks to admire my reward. C--feisty enough to defeat a malfunctioning umbilical cord. R--patient and strong—willing to suffer to save her sister. And the tiny diapers and pajamas—I guess the train that smacked into us wasn't as taken with them as I was.

I should have asked for another week. I should have stayed at her bedside for every minute of those twelve days. I should have held her when she took her final unassisted breath. I should have stopped them from cutting her open for that pointless surgery.

My body was perfectly capable.

I didn't think that it would go this way.

I didn't think it could happen to us.

I didn't think.

And now I can't forget.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Looking at it now it's so obvious--the truth that we were too hopeful to see and that the doctors and nurses were to polite to share.

The instinct to test my mettle is irresistible--like putting weight on a sprained ankle or running your tongue over a sore tooth.

So it sits on my desk.

It kills me a little bit every time I look at it but it keeps her alive.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Happy Birthday(s)

I don't even have to look at the photo because the image is burned into the movie screen inside my head. The only picture of my girls together. Moments after birth, bundled up in their comically large hats in the OR, both of them looking a little less than healthy and a little less than happy but still alive by some miracle.

This image was in my head for the weeks I spent willing them to grow and thrive while they were still inside my body and I doubt it will ever leave me.

Today, on the 2nd anniversary of their birth I think of the two of them, linked forever in my mind and my heart.

Today marks two years since we charged up the hill together unaware of the sheer drop waiting at the top.

Today marks two years of trying to hold on and learning to let go.

Happy Birthdays to my precious girls.

Monday, August 10, 2009


I'm going to add this blog to the Glow in the Woods blogroll this week to commemorate C and R's second birthday. This means that someone else (other than me and my ever-supportive spouse) might actually read it...yikes!

A few notes for anyone who may be reading--

1) I'm a grammar disaster. I probably shouldn't even use the word 'grammar' to modify 'disaster' but there you have it. I fling commas and fragments around like confetti and can't figure out the difference between a dependent and independent clause. My inner thoughts and feelings spilled out in electronic form for all to problem. My poor grasp of the English language--shameful. (yes, it is my native tongue)

2) It's been almost two years since R died. My condition, therefore, is downgraded from distraught madwoman to shower-crier. If I had attempted to write about any of the events surrounding C and R's birth in real-time it would have been a train-wreck--piles upon piles of rage and contempt--not helpful for anyone. I'm amazed by folks who have the presence of mind to write thoughtfully as the flames are licking at their heels--amazed.

3) I'm not really like Ms. Mommicked in my everyday life. I come here to vent the less-than-happy thoughts rolling around in my head. Remarkably I've gotten to a place where I think about things other than R's death and C's safety/welfare/mortality during the course of the day. Yesterday I injured my foot while dancing to this. Someday I may progress enough that I'll remember to warm up first.

So, what's a lousy writer with waning grief issues doing writing a blog?

We have to support each other.

I may not be the most eloquent writer. You may not agree with my opinions. At some point I'll run out of things to say and dust bunnies will collect in my corner of the internets. I may, however, have traveled the same path that you're on right now.

You're not alone--even if you're stuck with a blowhard who can't use a semi-colon properly and lets her precious, surviving child watch frenetic TV programs.

You're not alone.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


She is a super-dense form of matter—a star burst from the center of my body.

I pick her up and toss her around amazed that I can lift something with such impressive gravity.

Her awesome mass bends time--a colicky night feels like a decade but two years pass in a blink.

Her screams and giggles set the planets in motion.

Entire galaxies explode into being on her every breath.

With the laws of physics reduced to rubble at her feet it seems like it would be nothing to reach into some other dimension and retrieve what was lost.

Everything starts as a handful of dust.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Reality, Departures from

Every July, like all good Philadelphians, my family members gather for a week long vacation in Ocean City, New Jersey. We’ve been vacationing “down the shore” for almost a century and my family’s history, both good and bad, is tied up in the place.

My mother still tells stories about the summer she spent in Ocean City between her junior and senior years of college. I celebrated both my first and thirty-first birthdays (and many in between) in rented apartments blocks from the boardwalk. My brother and I played on the beach together as children and got tattoos in a neighboring town as young adults. After his first chemo treatment my Dad scored 7 holes-in-one at Tee Time mini-golf.

I had my first emergency room visit at Shore Memorial Hospital. After the final surgery to scrape all of the cancer cells from his skin, Dad shuffled along the boardwalk and contemplated his foreshortened future. When bedrest precluded my visit two years ago my Mom made the trip for me and returned with a tub of caramel corn to hold back the mounting dread in my hospital room.

When R got sick I chased death away with a vision of her on the beach, chubby and sand-covered—a happy, healthy one-year-old.

In Ocean City, reality is just a vague notion. Old-fashioned candy stores occupy nineteenth century buildings. The boardwalk restores the spring to aging knees during a morning jog. Laughing children fly through the air on ancient carnival rides. Everything is enveloped in the heavenly aroma of fried delicacies and salt air and there is no such thing as a “bikini-body”. It’s paradise…New Jersey-style.

This year marked C’s first visit as a fully-functioning human and I was excited for her initiation into the wonders of the shore. On our first morning I anxiously prepared her for the beach—thick coat of SPF 60+, wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved bathing suit, toys, and all of the requisite equipment. We loaded up the wagon and trekked across the burning sand to a perfect spot near the lifeguard stand. My brother set up the chairs and umbrellas while my mother, sister-in-law, and I wrangled the kids. By the time we were ready to hit the water I was almost as anxious as C and the Dynamic Duo.

Then I turned around and saw them. Chubby, sand-covered twin boys frolicking on a blanket with their beaming grandfather.

The sight of twin toddlers feels more like an exceptionally painful stubbed toe these days than a shotgun blast to the chest. Happy grandfathers barely register anymore. Still, I felt a jolt of envy and anger.

My mind leapt into action, fighting to hold on to my mellow vacation mentality. Within moments the poor parents of these beautiful boys had faced numerous miscarriages prior to the miraculous arrival of their babies. Grandpa became a great uncle, standing in for a father tragically killed in Vietnam and Grandma a victim of early onset Alzheimer’s.

For me this is the most miserable side effect of loss—feeling bad feels good. Some drown their sorrows with alcohol or turn to drugs for relief, I self-medicate with sad stories. Normally the universe (or at least the internet) is happy to oblige with real tragedy. Occasionally I have to cook something up from scratch to get my fix.

Is this behavior normal? Probably. I doubt my little brain has come up with some previously unknown way to grieve. Is it healthy? Probably not but it helps me function. (By the way, the boys escaped unscathed. I haven’t sunk so low that I have to construct calamities for children to float my decrepit ship of hope)

Anxious to get some distance from the poor family being decimated by my overactive imagination I walked C down to the water. I helped her jump over the waves--a time-honored family tradition. We dug in the sand and I showed her how to make a drippy sand castle--just like my Dad taught me so many years before. Gradually my anxiety drifted away, lifted on a warm current of fabricated sympathy and nostalgia and carried out across the water by C’s screams of delight.

Ocean City is the perfect place to escape reality. Developers build high-rise condos on shifting sands. Entire families bathe nearly naked in UV radiation. Diesel-powered carnival rides spew fumes into crowds of children with developing lungs. People chow down on artery clogging funnel-cake and frozen custard for dinner.

But look at them smiling.