Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Winter thoughts: January 21, 2015

Today is Mom's birthday. How should one celebrate the birth of a lost loved one? At lunchtime today, I made a plan: I'll buy flowers after work and lay them on her gravestone tonight.

My work is now done for the day, but the sun has gone down. I don't want to visit a graveyard by myself in the dark. Other than Mom's name in writing, there is nothing about that location that makes me feel close to her.

So instead, I bought myself flowers and I'm writing her a birthday card. With lots of stickers. That's much cheerier, exactly like her.


I don't know which is worse: not being able share celebrations with Mom, or not being able to go to her for comfort when I'm sad. As a kid, I remember a framed proverb a friend wrote in calligraphy for us. It was displayed in our home for years:

Shared joy is twice the joy.
Shared sorrow is half the sorrow.
Recently, there have been many joys and a few heavy sorrows in my life - my instinct to share both accentuate Mom's absence.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Open letter to my brother-in-law upon the birth of his daughter

October 27, 2014

Dear Brandon,

On the afternoon of Eliza’s birthday, as I visited you and your girls in the delivery room, you made a request. You said, “Remind us in six weeks how excited we are right now.” I’m writing this for December 1st, when Eliza will be six weeks old.

I suspect that the six week mark won’t be as trying for you and Olivia as it was with Clive. Way back then, you were brand new parents, blindsided by exhaustion and adjustment. But I’d be happy to remind you of what I observed on October 20th; just a little dose of that happiness will make up for sleep loss.  
  • Eliza’s tiny head, topped with dark, feather-like hair, fit in your hand. You cradled her carefully as she stuck out her strawberry-red tongue and made hungry noises. Her face was completely round: chubby cheeks and barely a chin to be seen. She pursed her lips as if she was expecting all her kisses. The blond fur on her cheeks made her look like a ripe peach. You announced, “She’s so much cuter than Clive when he was born!”
  • You sang Edelweiss to her in the delivery room, completely uninhibited in front of the hospital staff. It seemed especially fitting to hear you sing “blossom of snow may you bloom and grow” as you gently held her in a little blanket-bundle. Olivia and I wiped away tears, but you didn’t even notice. You couldn’t take your eyes off Eliza. Nurse Monica said, “I sang that to all my kids, too! That’s my favorite song.”
  • You cooed “Daughter” with amazement and called her “My baby girl.”
  • You continued to interact with Eliza while the doctor examined her. When he checked her heart beat with a stethoscope you tickled her feet. When he removed her diaper you touched her nose with your nose. I caught myself wanting to look away, a little embarrassed by the public display of affection. It was like seeing teenagers in love, flaunting their mutual fascination. No one else existed but the two of you.
  • The doctor commented, “Her fingers are so long!” You silently held up a hand to show him your fingers. He said, “Well that explains it!” To Eliza he said, “You’re going to be good at baseball or piano.” As if he needed an answer right then you replied wistfully, “Whichever she wants.” You were already defending her individuality at only an hour old.
  • Olivia asked for your help with swaddling; she was out of practice and said you were the pro. She commented to me (out of your earshot) what a difference there was between your reaction to baby #1 and baby #2. “I don’t know if it’s because number two is a girl, or because he knows what he’s doing this time around, but it has been insta-bond!” She grinned.
I know you’ll see photos of yourself holding Eliza that afternoon, but you might not notice what everyone else can see. You are totally smitten. Your posture in every picture reveals that she has your full attention. Your face glows in every shot. The fact that you are clearly exhausted just betrays your happiness – the simultaneous tired eyes and cheek-cramping smile are a dead giveaway.

Fatherhood suits you.

As you learned with Clive, the novelty of a newborn wears off. But after that you have the privilege of getting acquainted with this tiny person every day. In the same way that you loved Eliza before you could see her, the way you were enamored before knowing her temperament, it just gets better as time goes on.

Enjoy your girl, fatigue and all.


Auntie Em

Monday, June 9, 2014

Fellow first borns, relax

I found this note to self dated 9/17/2012. A good reminder; glad I wrote it down.

You’ll always be first born among your siblings, but you are no longer responsible for their welfare. There was a time when you were responsible: when you babysat your brothers and sister you locked all the doors and windows. On family outings, you periodically counted heads just like your parents did. You were afraid of being separated in elevators (seven people is a lot to cross the threshold of automatic sliding doors, especially when four of them are younger than you and might not be paying attention). You come by your hyper vigilance honestly.

But those days are long gone. You get to relax. When family members are in the same room, you don’t have to direct traffic, conduct the orchestra, rally the troops, or rouse the sports fans. You’re all adults now. Nobody’s well-being depends on you except your own. Don’t have hurt feelings about it, enjoy it.