Friday, November 30, 2007

Three of us, three of them

I can't remember a time when I didn't know that my Mom lost her first baby. It feels like I've always known, which is probably partly because I'm so old. I can't remember the beginning of a lot of things things. Hell, my head is so full I often can't remember much of yesterday.

But I digress...

I've thought so much about my lost brother or sister over the years. There was a time when I was a child that it preoccupied me endlessly. I decided that the baby was a boy and prayed for him at church and before bed, all the while wondering what life would have been like if there were three children instead of two. Me and two siblings instead of just one. Me with a big sister and a big brother.

Of course I never bothered to try to figure out the logistics of this feat. My Mom became pregnant with my sister just a few months after losing the baby, so clearly Kathy wouldn't be here if that first child was.

But details like that aren't important when you're a kid all caught up in the romance of having a mysterious lost brother. A secret sibling.

I remember being so affected by the tears in my Mother's eyes when she would talk about that long lost child. I was in awe of the strange bond that she shared with him and, truthfully, probably a little jealous. Which is, of course, totally ridiculous. But having never seen my mother cry over me it was jarring to see her express such sorrow and love for a child I'd never known. And would never know.

Her eyes still fill with tears when she talks about him. He would be 42 in May. Forty-two, and yet the pain is still so acute that it brings tears to her eyes.

This is endlessly comforting, even though there is certainly guilt in taking comfort from someone else's pain.

But the thing is, knowing that she still misses her child this deeply makes me think that it's okay that I still cry. That I still mourn. That I still think about my lost babies too. I came to the conclusion that this is the way it's always going to be a long time ago, but my Mother's tears validate it in a way that nothing else can.

And so my brother means that much more to me. Is that much more a part of the fabric of our family in an awful, but also loving and healing way.

He matters. Just like all the little ones do.

In the days and weeks following her miscarriage, my Mom worked on an art project to occupy her mind and soothe her spirit. I didn't know this until that art project found its way into my front garden last week after I coyly finagled its liberation from the back of their garage. Just in time for Christmas.

Knowing its history, particularly with the history of sorrow I now carry in my own heart, makes it even more special to me.

It reminds me of love and family and loss and bonds that are never, ever broken. Not even after 42 years.


Julia said...

Wow, that is a very impressive thing to make, especially while grieving. Knowing its history males it very haunting.

Renae said...

Seriously, I do not know how you have stopped crying. I have not had to live through what you have, but I don't think I'd have been able to get out of bed ever again.

My mom lost 4 babies to miscarriage and one to stillbirth. She will talk about the miscarriages but not the other. And she still cries. It has been close to 40 year for her too.

meg said...

That is a pretty cool art project--it must mean so much to your Mom.

Wow, 42 years. To think that I'll still have tears in my eyes then. Wow, I don't know if that frightens me or gives me comfort? I guess it just makes me realize that it's a long, long life we're going to have and I guess I better get used to this grief thing, because it's not going anywhere.

Ruby said...

What Meg said.

delphi said...

I, too, have a secret older brother. I was so angry at my mother when she told me that there was a baby before me - why didn't she let us keep him? I didn't understand. I think I must have been 5. "Miscarriage" has no meaning to a five year old.

I have always thought of him a lot. I always thought it was a boy, though my mom didn't know. Maybe he is with my boy.

This shared history of loss hasn't been something that has brought any understanding between us, my mom and me. I think only a really good therapist could do that. But I imagine that she actually does understand something of my sorrow and that brings something extra to our relationship that might not be there otherwise.

You mom's art project has such a sweet, joyful look to it. I am so glad it has taken up residence on your front lawn, something of a silent symbol for eternal love.

stat763 said...

I hope your brother is comforting and taking care of your sweet babies. The last time I was at the cemetary visiting our son, there were fresh flowers on the grave of a baby who died in the 1960's. It just brought home the fact that we will be grieving for a long, long time.

Katie said...

People often tell me that I will "get over this miscarriage thing" when I am a mom. And you know what, I don't think that I will. It might change my grief, but I will always miss my angels and wonder about what might have been.

What a beautiful piece of artwork and a lovely tribute, all these years later, to your brother.

Erin said...


niobe said...

Funny and sad that you write this. My mother lost a baby to a late miscarriage when I was in high school. She went on to have another child a few years later and, as far as I know, has never spoken about or thought of that lost baby again.

Angela said...

Wow, that's really cool.

Trish said...

My stepmother was bat-shit crazy, but one thing that I remember about her with softness is the way she would speak about her first baby.
She always thought it was a girl. When went on to have 2 boys (my step-brothers.) But she always spoke of the one she lost with a sadness.

She didn't give me much worth having, but the knowledge that I'll never forget- it's somehow oddly comforting.