Monday, August 29, 2011

Might as Well Enjoy It: An R Day Giveaway!

I compose most of these posts in my mind while walking my dog. You may have surmised that I have a very strange looking dog. If you read some of that mess about all of my bad parenting, you may be thinking, "No one's dog is that strange looking." But truly, last week another dog who appeared to be a cross between a dachsund and a bloodhound stopped in his tracks and gawked at my dog as if he'd never seen anything so grotesque. Or perhaps he just felt accompanied for the first time in his doggy life...

The vet thinks corgi and lab but I know there's some bull terrier or boxer in there too. He's short and stocky with excellent just-floppy-enough ears that bring to mind a bat in flight. From my perspective on our walks it actually looks more like a bat trying to take flight while holding a 65 lb burrito dipped in chocolate and rolled in magnetized iron filings.

Thanks to our exceedingly wet August, the dog has mosquito bites in his nether regions. I've lost some sleep this week fretting about earthquakes and hurricanes and the 4th anniversary of R's death but, nothing prevents sleep like an itchy dog. Especially an itchy dog who is about 4 inches too long from shoulder to tail and 2 inches too short in the leg to reach his own itchy ass. The unproductive licking! The whining! The scratch of nails on wood floor! If I thought he'd leave, I'd set him free.

And now you're thinking, "I didn't come to this blog to read about itchy dog asses."

This morning the dog attempted to escape his itch. Head-down, ears unfloppy, hunched inward with his front legs moving faster than his hind legs--like many of us in our lowest moments, the dog attempted to outrun his own ass.

The worst parts of ourselves are the hardest to flee, aren't they?

But it gave me an idea. Two ideas, actually. First, I'm going to get some anti-histamines for the dog. Second, and more importantly, I'm going to purge all of the ick of August from this blog with a giveaway.

In honor of R, I'm going to knit something for a randomly selected commenter. If you'd like to participate, just leave a comment below before 11:59 PM EST on August 31 and I'll enter you in the drawing.

The winner can choose from the following: a pair of socks, a hat, a neckwarmer, or a pair of mittens.

Just leave a comment with your preferred choice and preferred color/color combo and I'll throw your name in the hat. If you're feeling more chatty, tell me about your dog or what you're trying to outrun these days.

Don't be shy! Even if you're just stopping by, feel free to join in the fun.

Monday, August 22, 2011

4 Years Later

R's day is Friday but I have to work that day and then we have some houseguests arriving in the evening, so...

I guess that says it all right there. Work and houseguests.

After four years, August 26 has been sucked back into the amorphous blob of ordinary days.

I'd like to think that my co-workers remember her and that my houseguests still care but that would be unrealistic. Even amongst the other members of this club, no one can remember all of the details about someone else's baby--wrong dates, genders, names.

Here, however, there's always respect. There is always understanding.

Your friends and family who haven't lost a baby think that imagining is the same thing as knowing but, it's not. There's nothing theoretical about R's death or the deaths of any of these other babies. This ain't no thrill ride. We aren't standing at the edge of the cliff looking down and wondering how it would feel to fall into space. We aren't clinging to the side, thanking our lucky stars for the near miss and promising to be better people in the future. We have already fallen and are grappling our broken way back up to the top. The brokenness is unappealing. If you've only had to wonder what it feels like, you can still imagine that the experience is at least somewhat beautiful or rewarding. It's better to wonder how it feels than to have someone tell you that it's a neverending festival of suck. Yeah. No one wants to hear that.

This doesn't mean that friendship and hospitality are out of the question but, you know, it takes some concentration and lowered expectations. It requires gaining some comfort with extended, uncomfortable silences. It requires forgiveness.

Forgiving is the gold standard, isn't it? Have you forgiven yourself yet? I'm not sure that I have. It's no small thing, forgiving. I'll likely work at it the rest of my life. But, I know that it's where I'm headed. It has to be. And, if I can forgive myself for letting R die, if I can forgive myself for all of the envy and anger in my heart, I can forgive my friends for forgetting her. I can forgive them for not understanding. I can even forgive them for not trying to understand.

When R died, it was almost like a new version of my self was born, a grasping, needy, undisciplined little person. Sound familiar?

How would I want to raise R if she were still here? Would I teach her to be bitter and self-concerned? Would I try to teach her patience and understanding, the discipline of kindness and forgiveness?

It's sort of an invalid question. If she had lived I'd still be skipping down the primrose path, gloriously ignorant of loss and misery. No one, including me, would expect me to learn a damn thing from the experience. But that isn't what happened. She died and took a good share of what I believed to be true with her. For four years I've been working on gathering new truths.

I'll keep it small this week. Small, simple truths for her short life. She's gone and I miss her and I love her.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dispatches from Level 4

A few weeks ago I needed C out of the way while I worked on 4th birthday extravaganza preparations. I decided that she might like to see some video footage of herself as a baby so, I loaded up a DVD, parked her on the couch, and ran upstairs to organize the spare room. Within minutes I heard her crying hysterically.

The trip down the stairs took approximately 2 seconds which, strangely, was enough time to imagine all of the ways she could have maimed herself with common household objects. But, when I got to the living room, she was safe and sound on the couch, right where I'd left her. When I asked her what was wrong she said that she missed being a baby.

As I hugged her and helped her to calm down I shook my head at how different she is from me. I can't remember ever wishing to be a baby. Childhood was about catching up and keeping up with my big brother and my older cohorts. Then I heard the pilot's voice hissing, "She knows. You ruined her babyhood. She doesn't want to remember it. She wants a do-over."

I don't even have a clear enough recollection of C's babyhood to help her relive it. Without any other children to compare I can't say how normal or abnormal it was but, I can tell you that we never experienced that feeling of undiluted joy. The joy was there but it was trapped under an ocean of panic, despair, and soul-numbing terror. Judging from the smiling, laughing mom in the video, I did a reasonable job of damming it up but it took a lot of effort. I had to split my energy between feeling the joy and holding back the everything-other-than-joy.

Those last two posts sound like such a fucking pity-party or maybe one of those celebrations of the ‘bad-mommy’ that seem so common these days. That wasn’t the intent. I have genuine regrets about my parenting and I can’t escape the feeling that C’s been short-changed.

The truth is that I would like a do-over. It doesn’t even need to include a different outcome for R. I’m past that. I just want another chance to focus on C entirely now that I know how to separate the happy from the sad.


When I was younger, I lived in a cinderblock dorm steps from the Atlantic Ocean. At night I’d leave the windows open and listen to the waves as I fell asleep. With enough practice I could picture the size and shape of the breakers and guess the weather conditions based on the volume of the crash.

The great, beating heart of the planet. The soothing sound of certainty. 9.86 m/s/s. The water piles up, hangs in the air for just a moment, and then falls back to Earth. More reliable than clockwork.

I suppose anything could happen in that pause. The water could get stuck. It could shoot up into the sky like a great fountain, causing Newtown and Cavendish to roll over in their graves. But, it doesn’t, does it?

Or maybe it does but hardly anyone sees it.

What if you saw it?

Would you carry-on as if nothing strange had happened?


Sometimes I forget just how close it was for her.

During one of her gymnastics classes earlier in the summer, the other mothers were comparing birth stories featuring ‘tiny’ 6 lb. babies.

These conversations make my entire body clench, sort of like that wabbly feeling you get in your knees if you stand close to the windows in a skyscraper. Are they going to ask me? Will I tell the truth? I hope they ask. I hope they don’t ask. Go ahead, ask me…

She’s in the high-performing track in the class with the other kids who have mastered the basic skills. Given that T is built like an acrobat/spelunker and C is his tiny clone, this is really no surprise but, I still have to fight the urge to cackle maniacally.

She keeps up in school. The OT cleared her of any debilitating motor-skill delays. She has enough attitude to float the entire Pacific fleet. She talks constantly, punctuating her grand schemes with jazz hands, leaps, and twirls. Our conversations are full of magical baby ponies named Rainbow Flower Heart.

Four years after all of that death, despair, and mayhem, it’s just a normal girl-world and I’m just a normal mom/pony handler/evil pony-capturing wizard.

Normal, except for the constant refrain in my head--how close we came to missing all of this, how quickly it could all end.


I don’t have a good wrap-up for this post. The birthday party was a ton of fun, even the Barbies (and the Barbie pool and the Barbie veterinary clinic and the Barbie pre-school). I just wanted to take a break from ‘August’ and the general feeling of despair that permeates this blog to focus on C, just C, and to celebrate how far she’s come and how happy she makes me.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Trying - Part II

It's happening at the end of our street as we speak. The pond and springhouse are leveled. The barn and house will be disassembled and salvaged rather than bulldozed. But, still, the last of the homestead that spawned my neighborhood will be gone all the same. The deer and the ducks seem unimpressed by the sign touting the arrival of luxury townhomes. Funny. They would probably have a better shot at getting approved for a mortgage than any of the people who will come looking.

I suppose it's easy to look back and think that things used to be simpler. My instinct is to believe that simpler is better but it's probably not true. Once upon a time there was probably a girl who lived in that house and she probably spent her nights listening to the frogs chirping away in the pond and wishing that they could be replaced by the hiss of a highway that would take her away from her dreary life.

The old me, the pre-babies/baby me, seems so superior from this angle. Boy, was she ever high and mighty. She got things done. She went to town council meetings and had opinions about...everything. And what a mother she was going to be!

I was cleaning up my bookmarks folder on our old PC the other day and I came across all of these pages I'd marked before the girls were born. The twin parenting stuff stung a little but, it was the super hippi-fied pages about 'green' baby products and the dangers of disposable diapers that stuck on the jagged edges of my mind. I had such firm ideas about the kind of mother I'd be and I don't think I held to a single one of them.

The contents of that house are sold, baby. The house itself is bulldozed into oblivion. And the absolute impossibility of a return to some alternate version of the past has settled in its place.

I used whatever diapers would stay on her scrawny, little rump. I bought mass-produced toys from mass-produced stores that specialize in mass-produced human-rights violations. I went back to work. I let her eat store-bought baby food.

And it goes on. She's well-versed in Sponge-Bob and the Bieber. On her last day of preschool this year I hit and killed a bird while driving her to McDonald's to celebrate. It bounced across my hood and right up over the roof of the mini-van that we use to transport our family of three. Dead bird. McDonald's. Mini-van.

Things change and we're forced to let go of our expectations. But, with all of the stuff I've let go in the spirit of unburdening myself, I should be able to levitate right up out of this chair. And I might as well seeing as I apparently don't care about much other than getting mine these days.

I look at all of the cheap, plastic crap she's accumulated and I want to tell her how horrible it is. I want to explain that we need to give some stuff up and live with less so that others can have more. But the words can't find my way out of my mouth.

What is it that C doesn't know about horrible things? She's already given up a twin sister, an adequate gestation, a small wedge of the field of vision in her left eye.

Some of her best memories were plowed under before she even saw them.

What can I tell her about sacrifice and acceptance? What impact could a couple of Barbie dolls possibly make on this unholy mess anyway?

Birthdays are supposed to be happy occasions. Dammit.


They say that god says that death shall have no dominion. It sure doesn't feel that way, does it? R's death. My dad's death. T's dad's death. I feel dominated, like I can't ever get a full, deep breath.

According to the Alliance of Tired Bromides (TM), death is supposed to remind us that nothing lasts forever. Except death which, from the perspective of the living, does, in fact, last forever. It doesn't really matter whether you walk or whether you speed along in luxury sedan. This here is a one-way street into the unknown, folks.

But, they're sort of right, aren't they? The end of one set of possibilities necessarily gives birth to another. And,no matter whether you're attached to a plastic toy or an overly rigid set of principles, you're going to have to let go sooner or later.


This Saturday, while the machines remove the last traces of the past from one end of my street, I'll sit at the other swallowing down all of my regret and sadness right along with the Barbies and the cake. There will be games and laughter and a smiling four-year-old. And that's all that really matters for now.