Sunday, June 28, 2015

July 1999

It was a month after Jacob died. Hannah was six months old. We were spending a hot and humid few days in the Berkshires with our extended family. Jeremy and I took Hannah to the beach to splash around. We were walking her in the stroller back to the house.

We recognized a car that belonged to one of Jeremy's siblings. It may have been a rental.  It was stuffed to the gills with children, parents and stuff. It was a right squeeze-up in there. In this state it reminded me of one of those clown cars you see at the circus. It sped by us. It seemed like they didn't see us. Or maybe they were in a hurry.

We arrived at the house to greet Jeremy's dad who was there by himself. My mother in law was playing tennis. Hannah fell asleep in her stroller. We wheeled her into a quiet room so she could finish her stroller nap.

Jeremy's dad seemed confused. Why aren't you at the pool party? He asked.

Jeremy and I were mystified. What pool party?

My father in law looked annoyed. They didn't tell you about it? We shook our heads. The three of us sat down at the dining room table. Jeremy's dad proceeded to decant pills and vitamins into shot glasses.

After a few minutes he said, they really should have invited you.

Jeremy said that he wasn't sure he wanted to go to a pool party anyway.

The three of us sat quietly for a few more minutes. One of the things I like about most men is that they don't always feel the need to fill in the silence with chatter.

I think I know why they didn't invite us I said. My father in law looked up. We locked eyes. We both looked at Jeremy who was reading the newspaper.

We all went back to what we were doing. The decanting. Jeremy started the crossword puzzle. I continued sitting in the chair and staring vacantly.

After a few more quiet minutes I said, I could be wrong. Maybe I'm reading too much into it.

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Hard Anniversary

Your brother and sister keep me busy in June. Their lives are bold, messy, and in my face. But soon you announce yourself too.

My body acknowledges it first. I feel tired, spacey and wired all at once. If I didn't have a calendar it wouldn't matter. A mom knows what a mom knows.

It’s a hard time, this anniversary of when you died. What a crappy anniversary. There are the days leading up to it and then the actual day. There's no way around the fact that it stinks.

There are things I know and things I don't know.

At two you were very much your own, fully formed person. You'd be that now. The 18-year-old version of that.

You're good natured and adaptable. That thread would remain intact.

You are talkative and social. When you don’t have a word for something, you make it up. You don’t like to interrupt the flow of conversation.

Had you gone to school, I would have had some phone calls. The teacher would start with the positive. Jacob is everyone's friend. Jacob is a people person. But Jacob never stops talking.

We took you to an Early Intervention Evaluation. You charmed everyone there. We all had a great time.

After the evaluation, the team has some concerns. Your social skills were right on target and some were ahead of the game. But you also had some delays.

I bristle a little at one thing. They said that you have a bit more trouble paying attention and staying on task than they like to see. You’re supposed to be putting pegs in holes but you keep looking over at the balls and the squishy climbing toys. They want to keep their eye on that.

I’m puzzled. I don’t like what they are implying. I feel that all two year olds have these issues. In retrospect, I recognize how well I adapt myself to you. Since that time I have been with other two-year-old boys. I think the Early Intervention people saw something that I am able to see with clarity now.

You and your brother always slowed down and became watchful when I read you your favorite books. You'd be a reader now. I think that's safe to say.

Music is important when you're two, and I'm certain it would be a big part of your life now. Your sense of rhythm and ability to dance are exquisite. No one else in our family is like this.

The part I'm not sure about is whether you and your Dad would like and dislike the same music the way Hannah and Dad do, or whether you'd need to purposely differentiate yourself. You've always been strong -minded. Maybe you'd lock horns musically with Dad. Or maybe Dad would change his mind because of you. Your Dad was always a softy around you.

Other moms have kids your age that died and I am a Facebook friend with some of them. They feel bad because their 18 year old is missing prom or some other rite of passage.

You’re a very unique person. People call you a character. This is accurate. Because of this, it's difficult for me to simply plug you into these events then get upset that you can't go. Maybe it's a blessing in disguise that when it comes to things like prom, that feels like maybe yes, maybe no.

Maybe you'd go all out for it. But it's also easy to think about you blowing it off and doing something completely different with your friends. Or maybe you'd go to one of those alternative schools where the prom is quirky and kids wear whatever they want.

I wish I had the opportunity to know for sure because you'd be taking up your share of physical space the way your brother and sister do. I miss who you are.

Jeremy and I take the subway to a memorial service. It is for someone older than you, but still very young. Out of all the things we could be doing, this feels the most right on the day before the hard anniversary of when you died.

I see an excellent mom on the train. Her two-year-old daughter is having a tantrum in her stroller. Mom is attentive but relaxed. She deals with it all matter of fact and with humor. Some parents sitting nearby look on affectionately. I follow suit.

The mom tries a couple of things to no avail. The little girl is doing something I'm personally familiar with, which is arching her back and screaming while constrained in the stroller. Finally she takes the lightweight blanket she's got in the stroller basket. 

The mom puts the blanket over the child. Not in the regular way you might think. She puts it over the entire child. Head and all. The little girl calms down immediately. A minute later the resourceful mom removes the blanket and tucks it around her in a more conventional fashion. The child is calm and sleepy looking.

Mine were like that too, I said. They're teenagers now, I added then I gave her two thumbs up. I include you when I think about toddler tantrums. I think of you as a teenager now even though I don't know exactly what you'd be doing.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Hatchet Job

I wrote something recently. It seemed almost good. I though it needed some fleshing out. That is what I set out to do.

Just as I was ready to add a little color to the piece, I unexpectedly and suddenly did the opposite. I deleted something.

After deleting a little of it, I liked what I saw. So then I cut the rest of the paragraph. I liked that too.

At this point, I’m on a roll.  I went through the writing, paragraph by paragraph. I deleted a little at a time at first. Then I became bold and started eliminating wide swaths of writing. Entire threads went into the trash.

This non-writing was extremely satisfying. This non-writing started to feel like writing.

After getting rid of most of my writing, I looked at what was left. I didn’t miss what was missing. Even though I had acted very spur of the moment, I knew that I did the right thing.

I was so satisfied with this hatchet job. I didn’t add anything back. I didn’t add anything new.

I’d arrived at the crux of it. I experienced happy minimalism.

I don’t know what this means going forward. But I have a feeling it’s leading somewhere.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Best Thing Someone Never Said to Me

I'm at Jacob's memorial service. I just finished eulogizing him. He's two years old.

In order to help me, I think about Jackie Kennedy. I feel I am cut from stronger cloth than most people. And so I am.

There is a reception afterwards. Various people express their condolences.

An older gentleman named Ben approaches Jeremy and me. He is an old friend of my father-in-law's.

He clasps both of my hands in his. He looks into my eyes. He is clearly struggling. He does this for some time without saying anything.

When he finally speaks, this is what he says. There are no words. There are no words he repeats. He doesn't say anything else.

He continues to hold my hands. He keeps eye contact. Thank you, I say.

I will never forget this. I will never forget what he said because it is perfect.