The strawberries have going berserk in the front yard. The bean plant I unceremoniously ripped from one back yard container garden survived its relocation to the front yard as well and one long reaching vine climbs happily up a shepherd's hook I'd been keeping in my I swear I'm going to do something with that pile for years.
The other day I sat down on my therapist's sofa and told her all about how great I have been feeling lately. She'd canceled our previous session due to a cold and while I'm always happy to have a day back from the clutches of soul jarring therapy, this was the first time ever that I was only grateful. Usually I love having that hour back in my life, plus the time spent commuting and coming down from all that vulnerability, but it comes with a price.
The end of last month was Christopher Robin's due date. Well, the fifth anniversary of Christopher Robin's due date, but you know what I mean. It was an anniversary that popped up on the calendar and I checked in with myself to make sure I was okay.
I was okay.
I mean, I wasn't excited about it or anything, of course, but I was okay. For reals this time. It came and went with me privately acknowledging the gravity of this missing space in my house, and then moving along with all of the fullness in my life.
The floors we have finally found a way to afford were going to be laid on Thursday. One week before Iliana's third birthday. That would give us a week, we cheered, to get ourselves moved in before she blew out her candles.
We would keep our promise of giving our girl a bedroom by the time she turned three.
Had she lived to see it, today would have been my beloved grandmother's ninety-fifth birthday. I wish that ovarian cancer hadn't taken her in the first days of 1993, but I feel so fortunate that it didn't take her any earlier. She was, until long after her last breath, needed.
October is an ocean of pink. Everywhere you look, you can buy affirmations of solidarity to let everyone know that yes, my licensed water bottle proves I am in this fight. Even my beloved Sounders sported their obligatory pink to support breast cancer awareness. A pink ball was used, to further the cause.
I'm sure that was super helpful.
Tomorrow is my brother's birthday. This should be a happy day. A celebration.
But it's also the third anniversary of a day that has left me with the deep scar of trauma. A day of catastrophe, leading to a week of heartbreak that changed not just my life, but my entire person.
Written for the Faces of Loss October Writing Challenge
I don't think that losing Christopher Robin gifted me with any sort of mask that I hadn't already been wearing for years beforehand. In fact, the nearly fourteen months since his loss has been a period in which I have been a slow reveal - a departure from the previous masquerade.
My immediate reaction to the medical crisis of PROM and my son's subsequent stillbirth may not have been preordained, but it certainly did follow an emotional and social trajectory that had been defined in early childhood. It wasn't until months after my son's death that I even began to realize that I was driven by a vague yet deeply rooted sense of propriety, especially where grief and loss, and more generally, emotion were concerned.
I have very early memories of visiting my brother's grave, where he was buried on top of my grandfather. My grandfather's grave had little effect on me; grandparents are old people, and old people are supposed to die. Sure, I wanted a grandpa but I was okay without one too. My brother, though, with only the one date of his stillbirth under his name, was an entirely different story. A baby, small and at the very beginning of life, still and quiet and underneath the grass that we were standing on as we read his headstone.
"I wish Robin didn't die," I'd lament to my mother on the rare occasions that she'd be with us at his grave. (Usually we went with our grandmother.)
"Oh," she'd say dismissively, I imagine in an attempt to be sunny, "but then we wouldn't have had Celine." Later, she'd say my younger brother wouldn't have been born. I'd be quiet and sullen, wishing almost defiantly that we could have all been born, and that I could have had an older brother and and older sister. And a younger brother. But by the time my brother Evans was brought into the picture, I knew well enough to not tell my mother as much for fear of her angry disapproval. Throughout my entire childhood, I thought that she was angry at me for not making the right choice between my siblings; for still wishing Robin to live even though his life could have altered all of ours. I never felt like I would have rather had Robin instead of my sister, but even thinking about him came with it the guilt of it looking like that's what I wanted. And so my brother, like so many lost babies before and since, became a sad phantom of a baby, only discussed on the rarest occasions.
It wasn't until I lost my own son, partly named for his stillborn uncle, that my mother and I began discussing my brother's death. Finally I began to understand the source of her resentment. When my brother was stillborn, she was gassed as a matter of course, and by the time she came to, her son had already been taken away. No one in our family ever saw my brother after his birth. My father opted not to, and dictated that no one else would. A good Catholic girl who had always followed instruction, my mother wasn't really accustomed to having her own opinion, I think. And so there was no argument for her to make. Her husband had decided. And that was that.
Every night we have the same routine. Jonas gets ready for bed, heads upstairs and moments later Ian goes up to tuck him in. Sometimes, I hear them laughing, carrying on far too much far too close to lights out for my liking. Sometimes voices carry through the ceiling with their earnest conversation. Sometimes Ian comes back downstairs straight away. But every night, Ian kisses Jonas on the head, says "Good night, monkey, I love you," and then heads back downstairs to let me know that it's my turn.
I've been singing to Jonas every night for as long as we both can remember. I sang to him when he was still in my womb, and I sang to him through the round windows of his incubator. I soothed him to sleep through his first two special needs years by singing to him a rotation of songs that seemed to work like magic if I sang them in a particular (although changing) order that I don't remember anymore. And now, though my days of singing to him might be drawing to an end, I still go upstairs to my son's bedroom every single night, wrap him in my arms and sing to him the exact same song I've been singing to him since our rotation of songs got whittled down to just the one. I try to change it up sometimes, or even add a song, but Jonas won't have it. He gets a cuddle, maybe a giggle, and then Goodnight, Sweetheart, which comes with three kisses at the very end. Then comes lights out and closing the door, when we call "I love you" to one another. And then, officially, another day is conquered.
The easiest way to keep up with all my posts is to subscribe to my newsletter. I'm not gonna share any of your information, and an unsubscrbe link is included in every email. Thank you for joining!