I want a dishwasher.
Because I celebrate the birth of my surviving daughter at exactly the same time that I most regret the death of my other daughter.
I need everything else to be easy sometimes.
We get houseguests in August who are primarily here to celebrate the birth (and continued survival) of C. But they are also here to get caught up with me and T which is fine as long as I don't have to answer any questions.
My August strategy is to keep it light--little soap bubble comments, noncommittal mmm-hmmms and how-about-thats to keep the conversation moving in hopes that it will pass me entirely.
I didn't even mention C's birthday directly here or on FB this year. I haven't decided what to do on the 26th.
Because, for better or worse, I've decided to mostly keep my mouth shut when it comes to R. I had about 100 things to say about her and I've said them. And I've only said them in a semi-anonymous place where everyone is grieving or has experienced grief.
But I get pinned down when I'm washing dishes.
Before I moved into this house, I always thought that dish washing conversations were just a movie plot device to create an intimate, post-meal moment where THINGS would be said, where it would get REAL. For real. For real, we are apparently all conditioned to believe in confiding over a sink full of dirty dishes.
In August I want to get the ketchup residue off the plates and hear what Garrison Keillor has to say and think about exactly nothing and say even less. But I hear myself telling someone who probably has good intentions that she doesn't understand how hard it was for T to watch his baby die and that he's permitted to say that it's a struggle to enjoy C's birthday. And I find myself bending down so that my nose is almost touching the plates in an effort to avoid hearing how amazing we are and how our courage is an inspiring tribute to R. If I lean down far enough perhaps I can sink into the dishwater and participate in this conversation from beneath the suds where the blobs of ketchup bob about enjoying their final moments of existence. Oh, to be a blob of discarded ketchup...
I stayed dry and I mostly bit it back. Here's what I didn't say--
"I neither need nor want unsolicited advice, admiration, or commentary on my chosen method of grieving my dead daughter. But, if you're really into unsolicited advice, I have some for you. There are very few acceptable things that you can say to a grieving mother or father about their dead baby. If you don't want to make the effort to find out what they are, don't hover about near the sink on some sort of emotional fishing expedition. R can be anything to me that I choose. I can cope with her death and this eternal ache and missing any way I want to. I don't really give a fuck about how it makes anyone else feel...other than T...and I'll be goddamned if he has to justify his feelings about R to anyone."
As is my way, I defaulted to silence. I am a viking when it comes to silence. Eventually it got uncomfortable enough that I found myself alone in the kitchen with my dishes and my sponge and my fervent desire for an extremely loud automatic dishwasher.
These dishes need to soak for a few minutes anyway.
I rinse the soap from my hands and wipe them on the hem of my t-shirt.
"I want to show you something."
We go upstairs where I tap on the window that faces the backyard. I have to concentrate to remember the pattern. It's been a while but the window stretches and transforms into a solid door.
My companion is impressed.
"Is this a closet? You're so lucky. Our house doesn't have nearly enough storage."
We step through. There isn't a light in here because I don't really need one. I pick my way around the clutter by memory. Eventually our eyes adjust to the darkness and we can both see the cupboard sitting in the furthest corner of the room.
It's smaller and much fancier than most of the others lining the walls. There's some dust clinging to it but there are also footprints in the dust on the floor and some handprints on the door. I've been been here a few times over the summer.
She tries the door.
"You won't be able to open it."
I touch the pull and the door swings wide releasing a puff of glitter and revealing shelves bursting with photo albums and notebooks. Sparkly headbands and fluffy white stuffed toys tumble onto the floor.
She picks up a photo album and opens it to the first page. There are some photos that look double exposed.
A birthday party.
C's 6th birthday party.
But there are two cakes and two yellow-haired girls missing a total of 6 teeth. Shadowy images of a bounce castle are fading away and being replaced by two little girls holding hands and ice skating.
"What is this?"
"Oh, I thought that C should have the party at one of those inflatable jump places but she wanted to ice skate. The pictures change a little bit to match reality."
"And that's R?"
"What's in these albums over here?" she gestures to a stack of uniformly sized and shaped translucent books.
"Just take a look."
She opens one and sees a double wedding. C's partner has no face but R's looks almost exactly like the boy who took me to the senior prom. I make a note to try again on that one.
We could keep going. There's a whole stack of Christmas photos in here and first days of school and matching Halloween costumes. There are journals that I'd never read anyway because R intended them to be private. There's a sweater that she loves that's just the wrong color on her and a photo of the scar from that time that C bit her. R holds a grudge--just like my mom.
She finds a photo of her son reluctantly posing on our couch. He is 11 and sandwiched between two beaming 4-year-old girls. His cousins adore him. She picks up the picture and smiles.
"Can I have this one?"
I take the picture and place it back on the shelf.
"These are mine. If you want some, you're going to have to make your own."
I have no idea how I'm supposed to feel or what I ought to do with myself 6 years out but I thought I'd put something here for anyone who is still hanging around after the demise of Reader. I hope you are all well.
Happy belated birthday, R and C. I love you the most.
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I've loved reading your blogReplyDelete
I'm on such a different timeline than you... But I connect with all you say. Every. Word.
I would like to say those words too. And once kind of did, and made a world of discomfort between me and the observer. I doubled back and went into a shitload of explainations as to WHY I can feel the way I do, and WHY im allowed to go off in such a manner, that NEEDED no explaination. And in turn, ruined all my justified feelings and noted to myself that next time I'll just 'mmmm-hmmm' and 'sure...' my way through the conversation.
Sometimes I second-guess my decision to remain silent about R among family and friends. It seems like I missed an opportunity to just let it all out back in the beginning and I'm now viewed as some sort of stone-hearted champion of coping rather than a mother who is heartbroken about her dead daughter. You know?
Then again, there's really no end to the crazy things that people say when philosophizing about things that they haven't experienced. So, maybe the mm-hmmm is really the best path...
I've been out of the blog loop since the end of Reader (and I'm always a terrible commenter anyway) but I wanted to congratulate you on the arrival of Theo. He's just beautiful! And, as always, I'm remembering Alexander and wishing that he could be here with you too.
Hi Tracy! My name is Heather and I have a quick question about your blog that I was hoping you could answer! If you could email me at Lifesabanquet1(at)gmail(dot)com that would be great!ReplyDelete
Years pass but I remember. I remember your children - both your children - and I remember your writing about them.ReplyDelete
I still miss hearing what you have to say. You really captured a lot with even a few words.
I keep in touch with Catherine W and the other day, out of the blue, saw your name there - remembering her daughter.
I missed this blog so much in that moment. I've missed it before and will miss it again. But the missing I felt in that moment was so sharp I felt it right between the ribs.
You never pushed yourself forward or tried to draw attention. You wrote effective, memorable, deeply-felt posts - you wrote quietly, if I can say such a thing. But you wrote in a way I've never forgotten and never will.
I'm still sorry R is not here. I still hope C is thriving, and that you are, too --- as much as is possible with R so painfully, always, gone.
I remember. And you are still missed.