Friday, September 14, 2012

Perception vs. reality

Back in the spring of 2010, when Thomas had been gone just over five years, I had a meeting with my very first boss about some freelance work he wanted me to do. Actually, it was with one of his underlings, but on my way into the boardroom we popped into his office so I could say hello.

I hadn't seen Ted in years. The last time I'd had any contact with him was just after Thomas died. Immediately after, actually. When I was about 8 months pregnant he'd contacted me about doing some work for him. I naturally expected I'd be having a live baby in a few weeks (and told him so), so I turned it down. Work was the farthest thing from my mind in those heady pre-baby days.

The next time I contacted Ted was to tell him that, as it turned out, I didn't bring Thomas home after all. His response was lovely. Sweet and sympathetic, with a good dose of concern and disbelief mixed in. I remember him saying that after he'd gotten my e-mail, he and his wife sat on the couch together in shock, talking quietly for hours about life and death and tragedies like mine.

So when I stuck my head into his office that spring morning in 2010, I expected him to see the mother of a dead baby. It's all I could think of--that he hadn't seen or heard from me since that horribly unexpected e-mail five years earlier. In fact, I briefly wondered if he was giving me the work out of pity.

The first words out of his mouth? "So, how's motherhood treating you?"

All he'd remembered was that I'd had a child. He'd forgotten that it died. 

He was, of course, horrified when I gently reminded him that motherhood wasn't all that great when all your children were dead. Although I didn't say it exactly that way, of course.

And then I made fun of him for forgetting, because that's what I do. And oh how we laughed.

Okay, we didn't really laugh and my joke probably wasn't all that funny, but I wanted to let him off the gigantic fish hook from which he was dangling as fast as I could.

I think about that day a lot. I should have been upset. I should have been hurt. I should have been desperately angry that he'd forgotten about something so huge that it consumes my life and has changed me forever.

But instead I was relieved. Buoyant, even. Because the fact that he'd forgotten meant that maybe, just maybe, people really do see more than just a bereaved parent when they look at me. Granted, most people don't forget entirely (although my new hairdresser did, asking me again if I had any children at my second appointment after we'd had a very long and thorough conversation about the fact that I don't at my first appointment), but it means that it is possible that I am more than the sum of the sorrows that I carry.

I don't know if Ted remembers any of this. Ha, probably not. But I'm grateful to him just the same for his ability to see and remember me.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Hats Off To Liz!

Huh. I guess I've gone a little quiet here lately. I haven't even made it up to 10 posts yet this year, for heaven's sake! I've started a bunch of 'em, but I can never seem to get them squeezed all the way out of my brain, so they sit in the queue unfinished.

Luckily I have been able to follow through on something...

There's this:

And there's the website that goes with it.

Wait, I didn't design the logo (that's one of My Beloved's awesome creations). I just had the idea and called upon my generous and talented friends (far and wide, as it turns out!) to help me get it up and running.

And it's been kicking it marathon-style ever since. We've been able to donate close to 150 handmade chemo caps and dozens of infant loss items (tiny blankets, burial buntings and hats) to the hospital where my friend Liz was treated - which happens to be the same hospital where Thomas was born and died.

I'm kind of proud of this little handcrafted, grassroots effort. But more than that, I'm unbelievably grateful to the friends and family who have supported it with such a passion.

People are awesome.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Back to school

Thomas would have started grade two this week. On the first day of school, I lay in bed and told him about the day that would have been. The special breakfast I would have cooked, the way we'd have walked to school together, the treat I'd have made him to snack on after school while he told me about all the adventures he'd had as a big boy in grade two.

Then I got up and carried on with my day. I don't remember what I did, I just know it was painfully ordinary.

Back to school pictures, which began popping up on Facebook back in mid August as children of my American friends headed back, reached their agonizing peak this week. The annual assault.

I would have done it too, of course. Thomas all dressed up in his first-day best, smiling at the camera as he headed out the door to grade two. I would have sent the picture to his grandma and his Auntie Kathy. And his bubby and nonno too.

I would have.

Ha. Would.

It was wearying. My last grief-frayed nerve about to snap on Tuesday, when a new friend e-mailed me and asked how I was coping with the onslaught. She barely knows me. We've met once. But she has been a staunch supporter of Thomas' Random Act of Kindness Day since a mutual friend told her about it a few years ago, and she has a rare kind of sensitivity that I'm discovering is like a cooling balm on a sunburn.

A blissful salve on time-worn grief.

It didn't occur to anyone else. And nor should it, really. I'm not the centre of anyone's universe but my own. At seven-years old, my grief is seasoned. And besides, I don't tell people that eleventy-billion milestone pictures coming at me for two solid weeks eventually starts to erode the stitches holding my heart together. So how could anyone have known?

But thank God for that one friend who did think to ask. It's all I needed.

All the bereaved moms I know say the same thing: every once in a while we just want someone to acknowledge our loss. Not all the time and not out of guilt or obligation. But maybe once in a blue moon; just a quiet nod to the ongoing agony of loss that ebbs and flows as life marches on. Especially as life marches on.

Because grief marches in place.