Thursday, July 28, 2016

End of Summer Ramblings

I think I speak about Josephine differently than other women speak about their babies.  I don't say, "Josie's first time to the zoo!"  I say, "First time to the zoo, on the outside!"  After all, Lydia went to the goddamn zoo.

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As we were finishing up a run in the Double Bob, we spotted a sign for a garage sale and Ben asked if we could go. Ben hopped on his bike to ride, but Josephine had fallen asleep, so I pushed the double stroller behind him.

A Nosy Lady peered in to look at a sleeping Josie.  "You got another one?" she asked, gesturing to the empty seat.  I pretended not to hear her.  "YOU GOT ANOTHER ONE?" she repeated.

"He was in there earlier," I replied, pointing at Ben.  Answering her question, but not.

"I have Lydia!" Ben shouted in reply.

"This is Lydia?" asked Nosy Lady.

"No!  Josie!" Ben replied, looking at her like she was crazy.

And with that, we left.

I love how Ben simplifies things.  How he acts like Nosy Lady was the crazy one for not realizing he has two sisters.

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The other day, driving in the van, I made a right turn, and Ben shouted, "We just made an L for Lydia!"

The kid can be such a little shit and he can also be so, so awesome.

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When my friend Amanda visited, we watched the video of Lydia's memorial that the awesome Leigh Zeidner put together.  I hadn't watched it in a year and a half, and I barely recognized the girl in it.  Part of me wanted to reach through the screen and hug her and the other part of me wanted to reach through the screen and shake her. 

I realized I have learned a lot since December 2014.  Then, I spoke about Lydie in the past tense, about the relationship I wanted to have with my daughter.

I cringed watching myself say things things like, "Ben would have made a really good big brother."  Now I know that Ben is a really good big brother -- to both his little sisters.

Now I know that death didn't end our relationship.  It doesn't look like I want it to look like, but we still have a relationship.

I am hers, and she is mine, and nothing will ever change that.

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We spent a week at our Lake Huron cottage last week.  It turns out that it's quite difficult to have a 9-month old baby at the beach.  At one point, Justin and I decided to let Josie have-at-it in her eating-of-the-sand since it seemed impossible to keep her from doing so.  But after the fourth fistful, we decided that wasn't a good plan either.  Benjamin loved kayaking, playing in the sand, searching for sea glass, racing rescue trucks, and wrestling with his dad on the newest summer toy, called The Mat. And I even got some Heather-only beach time during kids' naps thanks to my husband.  It always feels good to be up there, away from our normal responsibilities.  We even met with my cousin and her kids and a BLM friend and her rainbow at a kids' park. And beach drinks are nice too - the first summer in three years I could partake.
 





We spent a morning at Lydie's Tree.  My parents both grew up in the farm country surrounding the cottage and most my aunts and uncles still live there.  They pitched in to dedicate a tree to Lydie at the cemetery where so many of my family members are buried, and I love that she has her own place there.  I love getting there in the summer time, picnicking in the grass next to her tree.







But I realized I feel Lydie so much at the cottage, not just at her tree.  I feel her in the waves and the blue-green almost-Caribbean water.  I feel her in the sunsets that paint the horizon pink, as I write her name in the sand.

If I wanted to convince the Heather of December 2014 that my daughter is always with me, the cottage would be a good place to start.

It really felt like a vacation for a family of 5.

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My aunt and uncle visited us at the cottage, and my aunt asked, "Is your cat still alive?"

"Yep," I responded, rolling my eyes.  James.  Jimmie.  Justin's "college roommate," adopted by a friend 15 years ago, and passed between all these guys for several years at a time, Jimmie has spent the last 6 1/2 years with us and it's no secret that I am not his biggest fan.  (In my defense, Jimmie was LOUD and attention-seeking).

I asked my aunt how long cats live, she responded that 15 was pretty old, and I said I should be nicer to him.  Justin said he's noticed he's not eating as much and he should get him to the vet.

Welp, you guessed it.  The next day, we arrived home to find Jimmie dead in the basement.  Ironic, huh?

And really not a nice end to our vacation.

There's no comparison to seeing your dead daughter, but it turns out that seeing your dead cat is kind of shitty too.

And mostly, I feel for my husband, who loves that damn cat, and spent the evening digging a grave for him in our backyard.   Who had to sit down our 3-year-old and talk to him about death again ("Why Jimmie have to die? Jimmie in the stars with Lydie?"). Once the kids were in bed, we tossed a handful of cat food into Jimmie's box, thanked him for being Justin's buddy, and buried him, placing daisies on top of his grave.

Rest in peace, Jimmie.  I'm sorry I wasn't nicer to you.




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Justin and I bought our home over six years ago.  When we offered, we weren't even engaged, though I had a ring on my finger by the closing.  We worked on home improvement projects every weekend until Benjamin was born.  All three of our babies lived here.  Lydie's Garden sits in the backyard.  We love this place.  It's home.

But we've been house-shopping for six months now, which proves to be difficult when your city is the tenth hottest real estate market and you've got a long list of things you want (and things you don't).

We haven't been having any luck at all.

Until yesterday.

A house went on the market and I set up a time to see it with our realtor, wearing my swimsuit there and telling Ben we'd be on our way to the pool in a few minutes.

Except I fell in love with this house.

And when I went back with Justin last evening, he was impressed too.

So we signed our offer after we got the kids in bed last night.

And now I'm freaking out.

I don't know that they will accept it and I will be very bummed if they don't, but every scenario was running through my mind when I couldn't sleep last night.  How could we possibly move in the next month?  How the hell are we going to put our house on the market with two messy kids and a big, shedding dog?  How could we move two weeks before Lydie's Loop?

But mostly, how could we leave this home?

An old friend once called me "a sentimental monkey," and I wonder how many of these emotions tie to Lydie.   This is the only home Lydie's ever known, and though she'll come with us in both the emotional sense and the physical sense, there's something tying me to her here, in this house.  With her garden out back.  This house has been part of both the before and the after and a new house would only be part of the after.


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Speaking of Lydie's Loop, it's coming a long and it is A LOT of work.  We have a new location, in a park within our neighborhood (although apparently it's a possibility we will no longer be living in this neighborhood on October 1st?) so we can use both the pavilion and the running trails. Both my OB and the hospital where all three of my kids were delivered have asked to sponsor the event.  We have AWESOME raffle prizes, including an American Girl, a memory chest made by my uncle, Blue Jackets tickets, and a kids' lemonade stand made by a friend.  Thinking about doing some of those bigger items as a silent auction, because how much money can a raffle really raise?  We still have lots of smaller items for the raffle.  Thoughts??

Justin and I need to map out our course this weekend (put that on the to-do list).  And I really want to start pushing registration soon, because you know, this event is pretty useless without participants.  My thought is that most people aren't thinking ahead to fall yet, so with back-to-school, August will be a good time to amp it up.  Yeah??

Again, here's the Facebook page and the event page.  People can create teams and share it on Facebook to have others support them that way.  We'll put all the baby's names on the t-shirt, and I'm excited to see Lydie's name in print with so many of her good buddies.

So many of you have already signed up, especially for the virtual run, and I am so grateful for your support.

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On Monday, I go back to work.  I'm feeling a bit ready, then feeling guilty for feeling that way.  I'm worried about Josephine, who is in such a mama stage and cries when I walk out of the room.  She also has refused to take a bottle this summer since she has become accustomed to having her mama at her disposal and she's a stubborn girl.  So that is going to be hard for Josephine's tummy and my heart.  And then there's Benjamin who seems excited to go back to school but is pretty terrible about transitions.  Yesterday, he told me, "I am gonna miss you very lot when I go back to school."  I'm going to miss him a very lot too.

You know how they say the days are long and the years are short?  This summer has lasted a million years and I can't believe it's already over.

Checking off our summer bucket list -- visiting The Dad at work

Most summer afternoons, you can find us here.  We've made the most of our time.





Tuesday, July 5, 2016

On Friendships

I've written a lot about my friendships.   Maybe because they've always been so important to me.  I was always very social.  An extrovert, with lots of friends from every facet of my life.  I never let myself lose touch with anyone.

Many of my friends disappeared after Lydie died. Others hung in there at first, and then eventually said something so hurtful that I haven't been able to talk to them since.

(And yes, a few are still hanging in and hanging strong.  Thankfully.)

I have no doubt these women meant well.  That they very much cared about me and about Lydie.  That they did not know what to say, and as time went on, that got harder and harder.

Lately, I've been pushing myself to forgive some of these friends. Like my friend Jenny.  The last time we had spoken was sharing texts about our daughters on the way, specifically how our sons would do with their new sisters.   From the doctor's waiting room, moments before the silent Doppler.  I hadn't heard from her since but I'm pretty sure she was picking that vibe up from me.  I wondered if she might be angry with me because of that.  It wasn't her fault her daughter lived.  So after 18-months with no communication, I reached out to her and she followed up with an email:  
 I read your initial blog post recounting the events of Lydie’s birth over and over again.  It’s no easy read- losing a child is something no parent wants to experience or see.  I felt like by reading it again and again I could somehow absorb some of your pain for you or somehow carry part of the burden (I can’t, I know).  At the very least I wanted to honor your daughter and your loss by bearing witness to your grief and experience.   I still do.

I’ve felt helpless.  Not your intention or responsibility but truly I’ve learned so much about the grieving process from reading your blog.  The biggest thing I’ve taken away from it is how isolating it is. It shades everything you do, your relationships, everything- and it breaks my heart.  My happy, social, confident friend will never be the same person I played soccer with, drank beer with, gossiped with.  But I won’t dishonor your loss by expecting otherwise. 

What I will do is tell you I’m very interested in being friends with Heather 2.0-in whatever capacity she wants
I must have read her email 15 times.  I forwarded it to several baby loss friends, asking "Isn't this amazing?"  (Let's compare it to a friend who told me soon after Lydie died: "I miss you."  Yeah, I miss me too.  But I miss my daughter more.)

I thought about Jenny when I reached out to another friend last week.  I hadn't spoken with her since Lydie's memorial.  She told me she has bought me three different cards but never knew what to write.  For any of you in this position, a simple "thinking of you" or even better, "thinking of your family of five" is always safe.  Then drop it in the mail.

It's a relief that some of my friendships are slowly finding their way back.  Still, I seem to hold different friends to different standards.  There's a few I just can't forgive for their lack of support.  There's a few I just expect more from.

For a while, I thought I would only be able to be friends with other baby loss mamas.  They were the only ones with whom conversation flowed naturally.  I wanted (and still do, most days) to live on an island where the only inhabitants were other people who lost children.  Who didn't inadvertently say things like "it's really hard when you bring your second child home" or "I'd have another if daycare wasn't so expensive."  Innocent comments that make me grimace every time.  

Recently, though, I've been realizing that I can be friends with women who haven't lost children if they can give me the space to talk about Lydie and recognize all three of my children.  Take Erin, whose son is in Ben's class at school.  I just got a note from her that ended, "I just love seeing all your lake pics and especially your memories of Lydie.  Her name in the sand is just beautiful."  I wanted to reach through the screen and kiss her.  Erin didn't even know me until a year ago and yet she gets it.  She just gets it.  I love how she is the one to bring Lydie's name into the conversation.  I'm so grateful for Erin and people like her.

Then I think of others: a friend we met playing kickball and shared a couple beers with.  Who immediately sent a sympathy card.  And who sent another card a month or two later, when the mailbox was back to being filled with only bills.  She simply wrote that months later, she was still thinking of us.  And she wrote Lydie's name. It was a gesture that meant so much.  She's continued to reach out sporadically and was one of the first to sign up for Lydie's Loop.

It's hard for me to understand how someone I might consider an acquaintance responds that way, when someone I was the Maid of Honor for disappears.  What I'm finding is that some people can more naturally empathize.  While they haven't experienced such a earthquaking loss, they aren't afraid to put themselves into my shoes.  They try to imagine it.  And others just cannot wrap their heads around it.

Some people can stay in the trenches with you.  And others can't, like the close friend who told me she could no longer read this blog because it was too painful for her).

And there's some people in between - who respond to coaching.  But even when friends can be coached, the coaching is exhausting.  I can't always anticipate what I'll need when I need it.  I can't always explain why something is a trigger.  I can't always articulate what I'm feeling.

Last week, my friend Amanda flew in from Minnesota for a visit.  We connected last fall after she reached out to me to tell me how much she related to this article I wrote.  We've talked every day since.  Her son is three weeks older than Ben, her daughter Reese was stillborn one day before her scheduled c-section on November 2nd, 2014 (four days before Lydie), and her rainbow son is two weeks younger than Josie.  Besides our very similar families, we both work in student affairs, like to run and eat cookie dough (though not at the same time), and often need vent about our husbands.

A while ago, a coworker asked Amanda if she was doing anything fun this summer.  She replied, "Oh yes, I'm going to Ohio to meet one of my best friends!"  "Where are you meeting?" her coworker asked, thinking she meant meeting up.  But Amanda meant, quite literally, meeting.  We joked that we were catfishing each other, that maybe I'm really a 70-year-old man, and her husband told her if we don't get along, just go to separate rooms and text each other all day long because that's what we do anyway.

Needless to say, we didn't need to do that.

One morning, while Amanda was still asleep, I glanced out the window and noticed the moving truck at my neighbor's house.  She had been one of my closest friends for years, but we drifted apart after Lydie's death.  It wasn't one thing that happened.  It was a compilation of unintentionally hurtful comments.  It was seeing her happy, complete family when I was just trying to get my goddamn mail.  It was how she never, not once brought up Lydia, even though she had expected her son to be best buddies with her just as our older children were best buddies.  It was how she got flustered when I talked about her.

I felt guilty for the relief I felt when I saw that moving truck.

And then Amanda came downstairs, and I handed her coffee, in Lydie's mug, the one that reads, "We all shine on."

It sucks that a lot of friendships have ended, that many old friends haven't been able to be what I need them to be.  Secondary losses.  They hurt.  Not nearly to the extend that Lydie's death hurts, but they still hurt.

But then there's these beautiful friendships that have formed, that I wouldn't have if it weren't for Lydie.


I'm not as social now.  I'd rather be at home in my Fortress of Solitude with my people.  Grief has made me much more introverted.  But I still need a few strong friendships, and I'm grateful to be finding them in ways I wouldn't have predicted.

I just wish Minnesota wasn't so far away!
 
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