Monday, May 17, 2010


Last year, at your request, we made you barbecued leg of lamb and pineapple upside down cake for your birthday celebration; and we laughed all night long, stuffed and happy. This year I brought you coffee-from-the-outside to have with your afternoon snack of Digestive cookies in the hospital, your proper celebration - and release - delayed by frustratingly poor internal communication.

But you're still here. You're still here.

And maybe, just maybe, tomorrow you'll be home.

I love you. Happy birthday, dad.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Will wonders never cease?

I spent close to a half an hour snuggling with my brand new nephew yesterday after meeting him for the very first time. Yeah, on Mother's Day.

And I didn't die.

Imagine that.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The haves and have nots

Ahhhhhh. I'm sitting alone in my office with the (finally) cool breeze bringing in the earthy smell of new rain and damp pavement, and it's just so peaceful. If it weren't for the fact that I'm sitting in the office because I have a ton of work still left to do tonight, it would be perfection.

Except for the odd rumble of thunder and the chirp of spring birds, it's quiet. So, so blissfully quiet. I suppose the fact that it's nearly 8:00pm on a weeknight is part of the reason. All the little ones who are usually out in the street playing during the day are, I presume, getting read their bedtimes stories right about now. Snug in their jammies, fresh from the bath.

But it was a little less quiet a few minutes ago. The unmistakable sound of a most excellently delivered tantrum, Oscar-worthy in fact, came pealing in through the open window along with the evening  breeze.

I stood at the screen listening to the fracas - sobs, angry screams, and "daddeeeee, daddeeeee, dadeeeeeeeee!!!" - and breathed a sight of relief as I turned to sit back down at the computer.

I sighed. I sighed because it's not me trying to cope with a 3 year-old who has just copped an, "I don't want to go to bed and you can't make me" attitude. I sighed because tonight my only responsibility, other than getting cat food and picking up My Beloved at the train, is to myself. I sighed because right now it seems easier to be me than them. 

It was a happy sigh. And kind of a relieved one.

And this is a startling turn of events. Easier to be me than them? Huh?!

I don't know if this is some sort of a self defense mechanism at work, or just that magical ability humans have to adapt and accept and push on. But this has been happening quite a bit lately. I just haven't wanted to admit it because it seems, well, wrong. In fact it seems all kinds of wrong to be seeing the silver lining in such a dark and awful sky, doesn't it? I mean seriously, doesn't it??

I've become so accustomed to focusing on the negative - on what's missing -  that it seems wrong to, every once in a while, actually be happy with my life. Just the way it is.

Not that it's wrong to be happy, but wrong to be happy about this.

This can't be right, can it? Is this even allowed?!

I'm not happy that my son is dead and I miscarried his four siblings. But sometimes I'm incredibly happy with the peaceful life we've managed to carve out since, and sometimes that happiness is directly related to the stress I know we don't - and will never have to - endure. Like bedtime tantrums, for example. Hell, any kind of tantrums. And messes too, dirty diapers included.

Of course it goes without saying that I would trade in all my new-found peace to have Thomas back. In a heartbeat. But since that isn't an option, I'm going to try to stop feeling guilty for enjoying the things our live has given us, even if we have them because of what was taken away.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Full up

It seems like my dad is finally, finally, finally on the mend. He's been moved to the hospital's rehab unit and is receiving daily physiotherapy to regain the strength he lost while he was bedridden for nearly three weeks. He's lucid, getting stronger, and looking better each time I see him. Despite the rigors of dialysis on his frail body and the infection that still plagues it, he is fighting hard to get home to his chair in the window.

And I think he's going to make it. Maybe even by his 80th birthday on the 17th.

But still, I walk on eggshells. I'm haunted by the things I saw and heard when we thought he was going to die. I'm haunted by the way he looked and sounded when he didn't know who I was and couldn't stay awake long enough to figure it out. I'm haunted by the mumbled gibberish and the pieces of stories he told that made no sense.

I'm haunted each time I have to go back into the hospital where Thomas died.

I'm no longer quite as afraid of what I might find when I step into his room. But I barely breathe, just the same. I stare at him, willing him to stay alive while I nervously make small talk because I've long ago run out of things to say to a man who can't remember most of the last 8 weeks.

The fact that I have no life is a topic for another blog, but it would be useful if I did. I need more fodder for conversation.

In my eyes, he's like a tiny sheet of gold foil. Precious and fragile. Able to be swept from me by the smallest breeze. Gone in an instant. I hover around him, on full alert, like a parent with a toddler taking its first steps. I think he's going to choke. I think he's going to fall. I think his heart is going to stop, right there in front of me.

I'm trying to be here, present in my own life; a wife to my husband, a support to my friends, a competent writer to my clients, a keeper of house and home. But I'm trying to be there too, with him. With my mom. Doing what I can to help make all this a little easier, if possible.

I need two of me. Maybe three. And I need to sleep through the night and not be plagued by the kind of weird dream I had last night. I need to remember how to relax, decompress, and enjoy moments of peace.

There should be a special store for people who need these sorts of thing. Or, barring that, the universe needs to pony up and start being a little more equitable in its dishing out of random shit.

The universe is being an ass.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Thanks, random strangers

I was feeling kind of blue last night, and found myself reaching out into the ether for some random stranger comfort. Not because my only sources of support that are connected to me by wires and keyboards, but because sometimes you just need a little random stranger comfort to carry you over the rough patches. There's nothing like knowing you're not alone to keep the crazies at bay. And your shoulders slightly less knotted up. And your jaw less clenched.

So anyway, there I was poking about looking for solace when I stumbled across a chat board for people just like me: childless not by choice.

I didn't stay long - sometimes I worry about indulging the hungry little part of my soul that wants to feed on every scrap of self pity it can find, getting fat and self-satisfied in the process. But I did stay and read for a little while.

Long enough to discover that maybe I've been a little too hard on myself. Just maybe.

I take out my invisible hittin' stick every time I feel even the slightest twinge of jealousy. Every time I feel sorry for myself. Every time I wish I was her instead of me. Every time I feel sorrow before I feel joy.

I'm hittin' myself all. the. time.

As for the ladies on the CNBC board? I didn't see a single stick in the bunch. They were out there, warts and all, talking about the unfairness of a life not chosen. About how much it hurts. About the insensitive things people have said to them. About the people who have not been careful with their still tender hearts. About how they're moving on as best they can with those un-chosen lives.

And I sat there dumbfounded.

Because, from what I read, it sounds like it's okay to feel the way I do. Or, at the very least, it's normal.

It's okay to sit in church and feel a dull ache in my heart when I see family after family after family filling up the pews around me. It's okay to feel lonely when I'm always the only "mother" who doesn't belong. It's okay to wish I was outside with the gaggle of parents and toddlers filling the street on a warm Saturday night. It's okay to feel sad before I feel happy when I hear that a friend or family member is pregnant. It's okay to need to look away when I see a round, baby-filled belly.

It's all, it seems, totally okay.

I know it could simply be a case of a group of like-minded people simply feeling safe enough to voice these thoughts within the confines of their own little board. But the simple fact that there is a board populated by people who feel these sorts of things is very validating, I think.

It's not okay to make people feel uncomfortable or guilty that they have and you don't. It's not okay to be cruel or hurtful out of some misguided sense of cosmic entitlement based on the shitstorms you've faced. But it's okay to hurt, in your own little heart. And it's okay to do what it takes to make that pain hurt a little less whenever you can.

Good to know.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Jam jars on the windowsill

Oh, my heart.

My mom and dad still live in the same house they bought when they were first married; a little bungalow in a now all grown up neighbourhood just west of Toronto. I pass by my old elementary school every time I visit, as well as all the other haunts that make up the geographical landscape of my childhood.

The corner store, my (still) best friend Michelle's old street, my grandma and grandpa's house (which I never fully forgave them for selling since it meant I was no longer the only person I knew who had grandparents living on the very same block, less than two minutes away by foot), the church where I had my first communion, confirmation and grade 8 graduation. They're all still there, every time I come "home".

As I drove past my elementary school yesterday, on the way to the hospital by way of my ancestral home, I happened to catch sight of a tiny clumped-up bunch of kids squatting amidst the dandelions on the boulevard.

Little boys, about Kindergarten age. A whole flock of them, all furiously picking away, their little hands crammed full of the yellow weeds which were, of course, destined for empty jam jars on kitchen windowsills. After kisses and smiles and snuggles of thanks.

Its a right of passage, creating that first glorious dandelion bouquet. I remember doing it myself. And I remember how proud I was when I got the reaction I'd hoped for:  a gasp of pure joy and a hug from my mom, who I would have done anything to please. I remember standing by the sink while she filled a jar with water and lovingly put that scraggly bunch of half dead weeds in the window, as though it was the most beautiful thing she'd ever been given. Maybe even better than the L'Eggs panty hose I gave her every Christmas, complete with the plastic egg container that she'd always give me back to play with.

Truly the gift that gave twice, those L'Eggs.

I've thought about my dandelion-less future before. I think I've even blogged about it. No, this wasn't the first time it had dawned on me that I would never have a jam jar filled with weeds on my own kitchen windowsill. I don't think there there are too many things I'll be missing that haven't already worn a deep groove in my brain, they've crossed it so many times in the last five years. 

But it was the first time I saw a group of boys Thomas' age gathering dandelions. And it took my breath away. I literally gasped, and then did what you'd expect some steroetypical infertile, childless heroin from a bad Hallmark movie to do - I pressed my left hand into my chest above my heart, as if to stop the ache. And I held my breath, my mouth agape as I continued past the school and around the corner to my mom's house.

Loss is a strange sort of claustrophobia. I wanted Thomas back so badly in those first few moments after seeing the dandelion boys that I wanted to crawl out of my skin, scream, tear apart the steel on my car with my bare hands. Do something, anything, to get him back. To see him, touch him, talk to him.

But, of course, there was nothing to be done but pry my hand off my heart, close my mouth and drive on.

And so I did.

I still like dandelions. I still smile at the memory of picking them and marveling at the thought that there were hundreds of them available - as far as the eye could see - all free and all waiting to be collected and given to my mom.

Jam jars on the windowsill.