About a Mom

So I got a good night’s rest last night, and I’m feeling a little better. Plus, aside from bedtime (Bun had a meltdown, but it is an exception instead of the rule these days) I didn’t have to give my girls time out yesterday.

It was a good night.

What I wrote yesterday and a lot of what I read that contributed to what I wrote got me thinking. And then I read this, about another mother, and it made me feel even better and left me amazed that someone could write so powerful a tribute to her amazing mom.

It made me think about my own mother on this spectrum of “bad” to Good.

My mom is a great mom. She is a real mom, if you know what I mean. Growing up, she didn’t give me unrealistic expectations of how to have a career and be a loving mom and wife. She wasn’t Super Mom. She was a super mom, and she is one of my heroes, but I never think to myself, “How did my mother do this?”

She just did it. When we were very young, she stayed home while my father (a pharmacist) worked full time and more than full time. Eventually, my mom started back to work (she is also a pharmacist) on a part-time basis — as little as one day a week. When her youngest daughter started first grade, my mom returned to work full time. She and my father were partners in a business. They talked about it a lot. As a matter of fact, I remember as a 12-year-old suddenly exploding at the dinner table: “Can’t you talk about something beside work? I’m so tired of hearing about your nursing homes!” My mother and father exchanged a look. And changed the subject.

Was she a perfect mom? Did she revere us children, put us first in her life? Did she bake cookies and never yell?

I do recall some cookie baking. And some yelling. And the occasional swat to the behind with a wooden spoon. She wasn’t perfect. But she was still great.

Her marriage came first. She and my dad had date nights (I remember disco lessons and bowling league). They were partners, and neither one of them ever chose one of us children over their partnership.

They were loving and stern disciplinarians. We had boundaries; we learned to toe the line. We had mealtimes, and bedtimes, and curfews, and chores. We had structure. It’s something I am striving to provide for my own children.

My mom took care of us. She cooked meals — we ate as a family probably five times a week. She packed lunches, tended to us when we were sick, made sure we had clean clothes, read us bedtime stories (my dad read to us too). She took us to the beach and to the zoo and she made us laugh.

My mom did all the things that to my mind moms were supposed to do. And that includes having a strong, loving partnership with her husband, and pursuing a career. I’m not going to say she made it look easy. I remember frustration and silence in my house; I remember stress and tension. But it never looked so hard that I thought to myself, “There’s no way I can do that.”

My mom provided encouragement, both through her words and actions, and by example. At a time when many women were choosing college to get their MRS degrees, my mother pursued a career instead. She was probably the only woman to graduate from Duquesne School of Pharmacy in 1968. And, yeah, that’s where she met my father, but that’s not why she went. She went because she wanted to work. My parents didn’t get married until they were 25 years old.

My mom didn’t always approve of my choices — whether clothes or boys or the decision to pierce my lip (I was a college graduate by then; she couldn’t stop me). One of my mother’s catch phrases was “that’s not appropriate”. She worried about me, and the decisions I made. But she was always there; she never turned her back on me (we had a close call once; dad intervened).

She danced at my wedding. She was there when Gabriel died. She was there when my daughters were born. She’s still here, and that makes me a lucky woman, daughter, and mom.

She doesn’t interfere in my life, and she doesn’t offer a lot of advice. She says that we were perfect children; she also says she doesn’t remember struggling. I believe her. But she always listens to me, and she always assures me that it will be okay. And I believe her.

Besides, she is a perfect grandmother — or Nonna, as my girls call her.

I wouldn’t want it any other way. I wouldn’t want any other mom. I hope I do it half as well as she does.

Six Years Out: The Memorial

Six years ago today, my husband read this excerpt from Letters to a Young Poet, by Rilke. This is from the fourth letter.

“…Here, where I am surrounded by an enormous landscape, which the winds move across as they come from the seas, here I feel that there is no one anywhere who can answer for you those questions and feelings which, in their depths, have a life of their own; for even the most articulate people are unable to help, since what words point to is so very delicate, is almost unsayable. But even so, I think that you will not have to remain without a solution if you trust in Things that are like the ones my eyes are now resting upon. If you trust in Nature, in the small Things that hardly anyone sees and that can so suddenly become huge, immeasurable; if you have this love for what is humble and try very simply, as someone who serves, to win the confidence of what seems poor: then everything will become easier for you, more coherent and somehow more reconciling, not in your conscious mind perhaps, which stays behind, astonished, but in your innermost awareness, awakeness, and knowledge. You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. Perhaps you do carry within you the possibility of creating and forming, as an especially blessed and pure way of living; train yourself for that — but take whatever comes, with great trust, and as long as it comes out of your will, out of some need of your innermost self, then take it upon yourself, and don’t hate anything.”

I don’t know how he did it. I could barely stand up. Actually, I don’t think I did stand up. Someone got me a chair.

I held someone’s hand — or someone held mine. It felt like trying to stay above water. DearDR maybe; maybe my dad. I really don’t remember. My milk came in that day, too, at the restaurant afterward. Talk about insult to injury.

A lot of the accounts I read mention cremation for babylost babies. DearDR and I actually had a burial, with the smallest casket ever — we didn’t make any of the arrangements; my ILs did; and we had a picture of Gabriel framed for people to see him as he was after delivery.

I wish I weren’t thinking of this today. I’m so very tired. Since Saturday at 3 a.m., this week has been the longest month of my life. But the girls are restored to health and daycare, so I have to move forward too. My heart’s having a hard time of it. Grieving has taken a back seat to strep and laundry and work. Well, and Pittsburgh Penguins games. It’s not all a burden.

Miss you, little boy. Watch over us. Let us find peace.

Public Service Announcement III: Be Nice to Each Other

Sunday night, for the first time ever in my entire life, I cooked a steak.

It was not for me, but for my husband. (For the record, I still think preparing chicken is the most disgusting thing in the world.) It is part of my strategy for getting DearDR to eat better food and learn portion control. He also had a lovely salad of Italian baby lettuce, strawberries, celery, and carrots. (No cheese, no nuts, not for DearDR for a while.)

See, DearDR needs to lose weight. Also, his triglycerides have to come down (to quote his doctor, they are “exceedingly high”), and quickly. If he can’t get them in line — and keep them in line — through diet and exercise, he’ll have to start taking medication.

DearDR is only 40 years old. And I plan on keeping him around a long time. I’m going to help him be a better eater and lose some weight.

A while back, Heather Armstrong at Dooce was reflecting on whether marriage or child-rearing was more difficult. (For her, the latter.) There are days that for me, the two run neck and neck, but part of that is due, to my discredit, to my poor attitude. A kind of “leave me alone” attitude. There are days that I seriously question whether I am cut out for this wife-and-mother gig I’ve gotten myself into. (Newsflash RPM: Too late!) Some days I just feel my household is out of my control, the budget is out of my control, my children are out of my control, and so-help-me if DearDR asks me to make him a sandwich, I’m going to lose it.

But then I get a good night’s sleep, and my children do something amazing, and my husband makes me laugh, and everything is all right again. A glass of wine and some quiet time at the end of a day do wonders, too.

I was having one of those cranky days last Wednesday (note to RPM: adjust the attitude in time for Lost night), and DearDR and I sniped at each other. And then he got his numbers from the doctor on Friday, and I got some perspective.

Remember a few years ago when those “Tips for a Good Wife” were making the rounds of the Internet? I’m not going to say that those are a good idea or anything (I am feminist, hear me roar), but something can be said for being nice to each other.

When your spouse comes home, stop what you are doing (unless this involves leaving a child undiapered or in danger) and hug and kiss him or her. You may not feel like doing it, I know. Do it anyway.

Pick up the occasional treat for your spouse — you do it for the kids when you’re out and about. Just a little something that says, “I thought of you today.” A book, a DVD, some (inexpensive) flowers, a nice beverage or chocolate. I think we all do this early in our courtships, and then it goes by the wayside, especially as other things take precedence. Bring back the treats! DearDR has given me bookmarks, and I’ve been thrilled to know that I am on his mind.

Prepare a meal for your honey — or simply provide one. Whichever spouse does more meal planning and prep needs a break. Give him/her one. It can be as simple as bringing home a Costco pizza to bake at home, or suggesting the family go out — even Eat ‘n’ Park can be a relief.

Cuddle. Watch a movie together. Spend special time on a regular basis with your significant other. I know for DearDR and me, this is challenging because of the children and our schedules. We are trying to bring it back. (I’m not talking about green beans. I’m talking about intimacy.)

I know this is all common sense stuff, but I also know I lose sight of simple things — over and over again. When DearDR and I married and talked about having kids, I told him I wanted us to remember that we were married first. And then I forgot — or, more likely, I get so frustrated with what I perceive is my bad job on the spousal and/or parenting front, and I want to chuck the whole thing and go away for a week.

Some day, it will be just DearDR and me again. I don’t want us to have to try to reconnect when the kids leave home. I want us to take the little steps we need to take to stay connected. Now and forever.

Couples Quiz

I picked this up over at ClumberKim’s place. It’s standing me in good stead since I’m still in the woods.

What are your middle names?
My middle name, which used to be Marie, is now my “maiden” name. (I hate that term, maiden.) I tend to use it professionally. His middle name is Reed, after his maternal great-grandfather.

How long have you been together?

Our first date was October 1, 1999. We got married September 1, 2001. Coming up on 10 years!

How long did you know each other before you started dating?

We were acquaintances from college, so we probably first met in 1990 or so? We never really hung out, but we knew each other to say hi or have little conversations.

Who asked whom out?

DearDR asked me to have dinner with him. I had to email him about a month later to see if he meant it, though. I didn’t actually give him my phone number the night he asked me — I told him I was in the book. Unfortunately, DearDR didn’t have a current phone book at the time.

How old are each of you?

DearDR is 40; I am 38.

Whose siblings do you see the most?

We see his sister a little more often than my brother, even though we all live in and around Pittsburgh. My sister we usually only see two-three times a year. We live next door to my in-laws. It’s actually pretty even, though, between holidays, birthdays, and random family events.

Which situation is hardest on you as a couple?

Our biggest source of conflict is the household duties. I feel that he doesn’t help out enough; he feels that since he works such long hours (and he does) and makes most of the money, that the household should be my duty. Unfortunately, since I also work and take on the majority of the kid stuff, the state of our house suffers. We both hate it, but until I can hire someone to help me out, it’s the way it’s going to be. It causes a lot of friction, because when he complains, I get very defensive.

Did you go to the same school?

We both went to Duquesne University. Technically speaking, I finished before he did, because I graduated in 1992 (is that right??) with a bachelor’s degree, and he didn’t earn his Ph.D. until 2004, when I was pregnant with Monkey.

Are you from the same home towns?

No. I grew up in Erie and he grew up in Coraopolis.

Who is smarter?

Well, now, that depends. Book smart? School smart? He is, no doubt. But I have more common sense, and a lot more pop culture savvy.

Who is the most sensitive?

He is, hands down. I am clueless.

Where do you eat out most as a couple?

Most often when we’re on our own, we really enjoy Bocktown Beer & Grill.

Where is the furthest the two of you have traveled as a couple?

We went to Italy on our honeymoon — landed in Rome on Sept. 10, 2001.

Who has the craziest exes?

I’m going to go with him. Because, let’s face it, he dated women, and women are crazier.

Who has the worst temper?

He says he does. I asked. I think I get angry more often, but when he gets angry, he gets angrier.

Who does the cooking?

Me, me, me. Unless it’s pancakes and eggs on Sunday.

Who is the neat freak?

Sigh. We both want our house to be much, much neater. I clean more, but he cleans better (when he cleans).

Who is more stubborn?

I am.

Who hogs the bed?

Neither of us. I do hog the covers, though. When a kid ends up in bed with us, she hogs the bed.

Who wakes up earlier?

Me. Every single day.

Where was your first date?

Kaya in the Strip District. The next night, we went to a Pens game together. The day after that, we ran into each other at a Steelers’ tailgate party. You can see we were meant to be together.

Who is more jealous?

He is. And why shouldn’t he be? I’m hot (hahahahahaha!).

How long did it take to get serious?

I knew in the first month of dating him that we were going to get married. It panicked me a little bit, but I rode it out. Eleven months later, we got engaged. Since my dad reads this blog, I think that’s all I’ll say about that.

Who eats more?

He does. I eat better.

Who does the laundry?

All me, again.

Who’s better with the computer?

Hmm. That’s an interesting question. We each know how to do different things on our respective computers — he’s a PC and I’m a Mac — but all-in-all, he is probably a little more tech savvy.

Who drives when you are together?

Usually he does. This is fine with me. I drive enough as it is. Besides, we’re usually running late, so I can do my makeup in the car.

Lost Hiatus: Have a Happy Post Day

For days in my head, as this cold virus and its attendant nasty cough has kicked my ass, I have been thinking about the post entitled: How Being a Mom Means You Don’t Get Any Sick Days. Especially how this cold virus and its attendant nasty cough utterly defeated me this weekend, and yet I could not collapse into a heap of sleep-deprived, stuffy-head, hacking-up-a-lung achy-ness and pain until Monday, and then again yesterday. (I am pretty sure that going to work and then coming home with the kids would not have kicked my ass so thoroughly Tuesday if I had actually been able to sleep. But that attendant nasty cough had other plans for me, Delsym and hot water with honey and lemon — and possibly a shot of whiskey — be damned, and entertained me endlessly, or, rather, until about 1:30 in the morning.)

But instead, I thought, “No. No. Instead of bitching about it, let’s go around the world and tell people what you love about being a mom.” After these many posts about sorrow, and loss, and the gifts that loss can bring, let’s do something happy.

(Oh, and the Lost post? Due to various and sundry health issues, not all of them wholly my own, Lost theorizing on this here site has been postponed until further notice. Or Sunday, which ever comes first.)

Here are a few things I love about being a mom:

* My girls’ giggles. Monkey has developed an appreciation for slapstick, and nothing makes her giggle harder than animated pratfalls and physical high-jinks. Bun laughs at anything Monkey laughs at, and in turn, tries to get Monkey giggling at her.

* My girls’ love of and appreciation for music. Sometimes, instead of a DVD, they want me to put on the CD and dance around to the tunes. They love singing in the car. They squabble over the portable CD player (note to relatives: a good gift opportunity right there). Sometimes, Monkey will be humming a song, and Bun will recognize it, and start singing along. It blows my mind.

* My girls’ imaginations. Everything is alive, including forks and spoons, and cheddar bunnies. Everything talks and sings and falls and climbs and needs to be tucked in. Pretend naps need snores. Pretend waking ups need dramatic cover-throwing-asides and loud announcements: “I wake up!” Littlest Pet Shoppers (as Monkey calls them now) need names, and need to be brushed and fed, and each one needs its own home inside a plastic Easter egg, which in turn needs to be piled into a basket and carried to bed.

* My girls’ ability to love on each other and (on occasion) share. Their ability to play together, if not for long periods of time, for long enough periods of time. My girls holding hands with each other, and with me, as we walk down the street or in a store.

* My girls’ enthusiasm — for anything. Time for a bath? Yay! cries Bun, throwing both hands in the air. Going to a restaurant for dinner? Yippee, Monkey yells, jumping up and down. Heading to the library? Stupendous! is the girls’ reactions as they scramble for socks and shoes and coats and toys that need to be brought along for the ride. And most of all, for their enthusiasm upon seeing me, upon seeing their father, upon learning that it is Saturday and Mommy doesn’t have to go to work, upon pancakes on Sunday with Daddy.

* Their boundless love of me and Daddy, and Nonna & Pap-pap, and Bella & Tadone, and for just about everyone, really, and life itself. Their joy of and their wonder at it all.

Tags:
(The first two are other Burgh moms, both of whom I suspect of having a more international outlook on life than I, and the contacts that would go with that. Do not ask me why I have this impression, although one of them is married to a Brit, and the other to a lawyer. The other three I found here.)
ClumberKim
Masquerading as a Normal Person
Playard Mommy (New Zealand)
Overflow… (Cebu — the Philippines. Yes, I had to look it up.)
Missionary Moms (Russia)

What I Am: Reading On-line

A lot of loss and sorrow are traveling around on the Internet this week, and a lot of hard questions are being asked. I don’t have any of the big answers. But in the course of things, I found some questions at Glow in the Woods that I felt I could handle.

Pray if you pray. Think good thoughts if you cannot pray — send good vibes. Walk if you can. Donate if you can. Just be a good friend if nothing else is left to you. Sit in silence for awhile. Hug your children. Hold someone.

1 | Give us a few words you would have used to describe your body, your health or your sense of physical vitality before the experience of babyloss—and a few that you’d use to describe it now.

I used to live through my skin, through my body. I felt very present in my physicality; I trusted my body. I was alive through the tips of my fingers. Losing a baby means losing, especially, the trust, the simple wonder of what a body — a woman’s body, my body — can do. Having other children can help recapture that, but it is not for everyone. My relationship now is different, whether because of age or loss or the need to accede to the demands of other bodies. I’m not entirely sure. I feel as if I live less through my skin, more through my thoughts. Maybe that’s maturity.

2 | What do you do to take care of yourself? Has this changed?

The biggest thing I try to make sure I do is get enough sleep. At times, this is challenging. I eat well. I used to exercise — and I want to start exercising again. I read, and I write, and I try to be by myself for a little bit. None of this has changed. Well, the sleep thing, probably. I used to be able to get by on much less.

3 | Give us one or two words to describe sex or physical intimacy before, and then after the loss of your baby.

Sex with my husband before Gabriel was carefree.
Sex with my husband after Gabriel was fraught. Did I want to be pregnant again? Did my husband want me to be pregnant again? What if our answers are different? Sometimes we cried.
Sex with my husband now is a pleasure, is our own intimacy, doesn’t happen enough. It’s still a little fraught. Will we try one more time?

4 | Has loss and/or grief left a physical mark on you (a scar, a chronic condition, insomnia, a tattoo)?

No. Nothing physical. Not yet. I have a tattoo in mind that I want to get, a series of glyphs to represent the members of my family. Gabriel will be an angel with a trumpet.

5 | Do you medicate or control your emotions with food, wine, altered states, prescriptions? Without judgement, what have you gravitated towards in an effort to heal, and how do you feel about it?

When I feel stressed, I want to smoke cigarettes. I haven’t quite managed to break this addiction, although I do go for long times without cigarettes. In an effort to heal, though, I don’t think I’ve “used” anything. In an effort to heal, I’ve tried to use my words and my voice.

6 | Was physical healing important for you in the first year after your loss? What did/does physical healing entail and how did/do you work towards it? If physicality hasn’t been a priority for you, what do you do that makes you feel stronger or more able to cope?

Is it odd to feel that I didn’t have to physically heal after Gabriel’s birth? Except for stopping my milk. That period after his death was summed up perfectly by the phrase “insult to injury”. But I had a low-trauma — physiologically — vaginal delivery.

Sleeping well and eating well (both challenging as a mother to young children) make me feel stronger and able to cope. The Internet community helps me examine my feelings about Gabriel, and about my girls. Having time to myself for myself gives me strength. Being both physically and emotionally intimate with my husband helps me.

7 | If you could change anything about your body and/or health, what would it be? What would it feel like to be either at peace with your body, or at peace with this babylost state.

I need to get back into shape. That would bring me more into peace with my body, which I still regard very fondly. I think I am at peace with my babylost state. Which is not to say I don’t grieve. I’ve come to accept Gabriel’s loss and the gifts that he brought us. Which is not to say that I’m not still sad, that I don’t cry. That I don’t miss him.

Because I do. I do.

******

Cradle

the eggs our children
our womb their cradle
we hold them from our own
womb time
every potential life

a child lives there
for many of us for some time
if not the whole time
children die there too
our hearts die there

then the body goes on without us
forgets injury
forgets childbirth
bones settle home & we who have lost
wonder
did we have the baby?
did we hold life?

could this faithful body
have betrayed us, our hearts?
no. no.
we do not believe
unless we are sad

Gifts from My Son

A few weeks ago, I was feeling rather blue because a plant that we had gotten when Gabriel died had also died, from neglect. I got quite a long email from my friend N about that post expressing her concern for me (“I just don’t like to think of you as suffering”) and wondering if, in the sadness, if there were positive things to take from our loss. “It is Spring, Lent, soon to be Easter,” she wrote. “A time of rebirth.”

I have thought a lot about that email from my longest-running best friend, and in the wake of two losses from around the interwebs this week, I thought that I would try to capture the idea of the gift that Gabriel was/is. “Every child is a gift,” I have said, and I truly believe that, and even the ones we lose — although it is hard to understand how that loss can be a “gift”.

1. As a little girl, I didn’t dream of getting married and having babies. I don’t even remember playing with dolls. Gabriel is the one who taught me that I did, actually, want to be a mother. I had not given it a lot of thought one way or the other up until I was pregnant with him. It wasn’t even ambivalence on my part. My pregnancy just seemed the evolution of my relationship with my husband, turning our family of two into a family of more.

2. Losing Gabriel meant that my other two pregnancies were more closely monitored. Without that level of scrutiny, the problems that cropped up at the end of my pregnancies with my girls (low amniotic fluid, prematurely aging placenta) would not have been discovered. Interventions would not have been made.

3. Gabriel’s loss has given me a unique perspective as a parent. Sometimes it’s not the greatest feeling in the world, knowing how very fragile life is, how very fragile a heart is. Sometimes it stops my breath, with fear, with love. It’s not a gift I would give you, in other words, but it’s a gift I have.

4. Gabriel’s loss gives me empathy for other parents of lost babies, lost children. When we went to Compassionate Friends, they reached out and supported me and DearDR, gave us a place where our grief was perfectly understood. Their message was, “We’re so sorry you’re here, but we’re so glad you’ve come.”

5. I feel like I have an angel in heaven watching over me, and over DearDR and me, and — especially — watching over my girls. Watching over his little sisters. As much as I would change that if I could, it brings me a deep comfort.

6. It gives me the desire to do something if I can, to help a grieving family or friend. Sometimes you can’t do much — take my word for it. The best things that were provided for me after Gabriel died sound like such small things: food, for example.

After Gabriel’s death, my parents and my sister stayed with my husband and me for a bit, maybe a week. I spent a lot of time sleeping in the first couple of days (daze). At one point, I remember DearDR coming into the bedroom and saying, “Your mother is cleaning the lightbulbs.”

“What?”

“Your mother is standing on the dining room table, dusting the lightbulbs in the chandelier.” He sounded a little outraged.

“Let her go,” I said. “They don’t know what else to do.”

That’s why I’m walking for Maddie. Nothing will bring her — or Gabriel — back, nothing will heal the pain of the empty cradle, the lost child, the hole in the heart. But in the face of that helplessness, I will grasp the thing I can do, which is offer condolence and support.

As N pointed out in her email, “Maybe it is ok to open up a new space in your heart where you can be happy that Gabriel is a very special entity watching over you, over his Dad, and over his sisters… Because, while it was (is!) terribly sad to have lost him and your opportunity to know him on this earth, you can know him in a new way.” I have known him in this new way for awhile, and I’m glad that N’s email gave me a way into sharing it. The sadness is inevitable and accessible. But there are gifts, too, gifts that Gabriel gives.

The Spoken Word

Things I wish I had never said within my children’s earshot:

1. “Fine!”

Remember the show “Moonlighting”? Back when Bruce Willis had some hair and was actually funny? Remember how he and Cybil Shepherd, when they were arguing, would end the argument by saying, “Fine!” and then storm off?

That’s “Fine!” in my house.

Fine in my household does not mean, “Yes, dear, that is perfectly all right with me.” Or, “Yes, of course, Monkey, I will get that for you right away.” It has more bite to it. It means things such as, “Okay, great, you go right ahead and do that, don’t say I didn’t warn you” and “All right, already, get off my back!” So when my children say, “Fine!” to me — with the exact same intonation that I use with them and with DearDR, it drives me bugshit. But it’s my fault. We have to find another word for “fine” in the true sense.

2. “You’re pushing it.” This, too, is my fault. And you know what, she is! Anyway, this is Monkey’s defense of choice when I’m asking her to do something she doesn’t want to do, and I get upset. “You’re pushing it.” And like the mature adult I am, I retort, “No, you’re pushing it.”

3. I don’t recall teaching her, “I’ve told you a million times.” That may come from DearDR or maybe school. But that’s what she was saying Wednesday night as she was finally putting on her pajamas: “I’ve told you a million times. You’re pushing it.”

Why is it on Lost night, it seems to take forever for the kids to go to bed?

***********
Two Monkey conversations

While holding her shamrock made at preschool: “Myself, this will guard my gold so the leprechaun doesn’t get it.” To me: “I’m talking to Myself.” I see.

On the way to preschool with DearDR:
Monkey: “The world is so big. I want to go up in a rocket and see the whole thing.”
DDR: “Well, if you study, honey, you can do that.”
M: “I want to take you with me.”

Bun Love

The instant Monkey was born, she had her daddy’s heart. There was no question. Monkey was born with her eyes wide open (you’d be awake, too, after being squeezed like a sausage for three hours), and, DearDR says, looking right at him.

With Bun, it has taken longer for her to assume the mantle of ‘daddy’s girl’.

Part of it was the timing. We had intended to wait another year before even ‘trying’ to get pregnant. Bun was born a year early, and as my husband also says, “It’s the first time a [Our Last Name] was that early for anything.” So DearDR wasn’t quite ready for round two with another girl.

The anxiety that Bun put us through, albeit unintentionally, didn’t help either.

But as of late, Bun has just as much (i.e. all of) her daddy’s heart as Monkey. Don’t get me wrong, of course DearDR has loved Bun from the outset. It’s just that I can see him warming toward her the way he instantly warmed to Monkey.

At times that we are together as family, “divide and conquer” used to mean: I took care of Bun, and DearDR took care of Monkey. But even that is being switched up. He is just as likely to take Bun under his care as Monkey. (Still not crazy about taking them both at the same time, but he’s getting there.)

The way he touches her face when they are together, and the way he lavishes his attention on her… The level and type of the attention that used to be Monkey’s exclusive right has expanded to include Bun. The same exclamations that DearDR used to say to and about Monkey now apply to Bun as well. “I love you so much, Bun.” “She’s so beautiful!” He has even elected to put her to bed instead of Monkey.

I can see that Monkey is a little insecure about her Daddy’s expanding affection. As a result she is turning back toward me. She wants me to bathe her, even when DearDR is available. She wants to help me with dinner on a Saturday night, rather than hanging with Daddy and Bun. This week, with my in-laws out of town, she has asked me to take her to school or to DCL’s. Unfortunately, I leave too early for work to be able to do that. That has been difficult for Monkey to accept.

Heck, Monkey can’t figure out why I get up in the middle of the night to shower and go to work in the first place. I should be able to wait until the sun comes up and take her to school. (I kind of agree with her on that, but such is the bed I have made.)

As for the girls, and who they prefer, it all depends who is at hand. If I am there, and they are not getting their way, they revert to ” I want Daddy!” (Monkey) or “Dada!” (Bun). Of course. I’m sure DearDR gets a lot of calls for “Mama!” in the mornings.


Don’t worry, Monkey. You’re still Number One.
It’s just that Bun is Number One now, too.

Random Thoughts: Funereal*

If my experience is any indication, the Catholic Church has cornered the market on tear-jerking funeral songs. The opening hymn at Uncle P’s Mass on Wednesday was “Here I Am”. And it went downhill from there. “Shepherd Me, O God”, “On Eagles Wings”? Guaranteed to make you cry.

Aunt K had checked on all of us at the final viewing earlier that morning. “No one’s crying, right?” she said, coming up to my mother, father, sister and me. I gave a short laugh. “I’m serious [Childhood Pet Name]. You could crack.”

I come from a family of Irish and Italian stoics, by the way. Show No Emotion is on the family crest. Though it’s okay if you’ve been drinking.

I’m glad I was sitting behind Aunt K at the church, then. My father, mother, sister and I were waterworks central. We were not the only ones. I am glad that people sitting near us had a box of Kleenex.

I had been telling people that Uncle P was very sick for a long time — which was true. Uncle P had been receiving dialysis for about three years, and although he had recovered from prostate cancer a couple of years ago, he wasn’t what you would consider in robust health. He had beaten the odds several times over the years. He was doing okay, until Christmas Eve, when he fell.

So although he was sick for a long time, his death (after surgery for a broken hip) was still quite sudden.

Hence, the emotion at his funeral. It was running higher — in me, too — than I had thought it would.

*****************

The other contributing factor to the height of emotion is the simple fact that as every wedding reminds you of your own wedding, so each funeral reminds you of funerals you have gone to (through) before. The list of the dead goes through your mind. And it can start anywhere.

Uncle P was an uncle, a father, a brother, a husband. We have been here before for Uncle J, Aunt J’s husband (suddenly, of pancreatic cancer), for Uncle K, Aunt M’s husband (slowly, of COPD). Uncle P had buried a baby; so have I; my Uncle JP, my father’s brother, buried his 20-year-old son (suddenly, in a car accident). These ‘babies’ were someone’s grandchild, too, someone’s sibling.

Grief is hard. And it never goes away. It becomes background to the life you live with the living. And then you attend a funeral, you honor the life of another lost one, and the grief moves to the forefront again.

*****************

Funerals also make us aware of our mortality. My mother and father let us know of their plans for when they die — well, their preferences, in any case. It was a little creepy to talk about, but as they don’t plan on dying for another 30 years — right, Mom, Dad? We agreed on 30 years? — it was okay to talk about too.

One of their wishes that struck me a particularly difficult to imagine following through on is their wish that we don’t come ‘visit’ them. “I’m not there,” my dad pointed out. “You will be able to talk to me from anywhere, anytime,” my mother said.

Which brought to mind my annual or semi-annual visits to Gabriel’s gravesite. I know that he is not there. I like to think that Gabriel passed from a world of warmth, love, and darkness to one of warmth, love, and light. That tiny white casket we buried contains nothing more than an earthly shell.

But still, that’s the place I go, at least once a year, to lay white flowers down. To visit; to say, ‘I remember you.’ That’s all, and that’s what I need.

If my parents don’t care about us ‘visiting’ them after they are gone, that is well and good. But I think rituals — such as a funeral mass, a eulogy, a resting place to lay flowers down — those are for the living.

Which is why, if it’s all the same to them, I’ll inter my parents in Hawaii, and visit them there.

******************

…He took my hand. But he was still anxious. “You were wrong to come. You’ll suffer. I’ll look as if I’m dead, and that won’t be true…”
I said nothing.
“You understand. It’s too far. I can’t take this body with me….”
I said nothing.
“But it’ll be like an old abandoned shell. There’s nothing sad about an old shell.”

— The Little Prince, Antione de Saint-Exupery

* adj., of or suitable for a funeral