Archive for April, 2009

Law & Order: Special Technology Victims Unit

April 29, 2009

Yesterday, a murder was committed in my household. In a moment of fleeting and senseless violence, my beloved companion – let’s call her Hewlett Packard PC Notebook, although I was usually wont to call her Buttercup – was brutally and fatally attacked. The perpetrator? Jasper, who in a fit of baby frustration grabbed her and pummeled her and flung her to the floor, where, with a flicker and a hiss, she died. As an infant, he cannot be held criminally responsible, but he does face at least twenty years of being regularly reminded of that time he killed Mommy’s computer and Mommy had a nervous breakdown.

I am bereft, I am bereft. Also, I am living in the Dark Ages. It’s quiet here. (It’s a Dark Ages with smartphones and wired public libraries, but still. I AM WITHOUT LAPTOP. I might as well be without arms.)

(No, not without arms. WITHOUT AIR. I am trapped in an airless box with only teeny holes and a drinking straw through which to suck oxygen from the outside world. A drinking straw, and not the bendy kind. And its ends are all chewed up and flattened and OH GOD I CANNOT GET AIR.)

(*faints*)

So, my laptop was murdered and I am seriously, seriously limited in my connectivity. Which is, you know, a disaster, because my livelihood depends upon that connectivity and seriously, how is one supposed to make one’s living as a writer in the Internet Age when one is equipped only with a smartphone and a library card? (You try battling teenagers for the Internet-connected computers in the library. They’re jonesing for their MySpace, and they will cut you to get it. Or at least they have that look about them.) And in the meantime, I have articles to write, books to pitch, posts to post, and a brother to look for (I’ve just learned his real name, which gives me something to search for at the precise moment that I am unable to do electronic searching. Wherefore art thou, Google?) And my husband is going tomorrow to have his boy parts snipped and I’m all ambivalent and confused about that and really kinda need to write it out but gah. Am thwarted. Am thwarted and bereft and lost.

(Also can’t read online commentary about Lost.)

(Shoot me now.)

*Also can’t monitor comments, so. This post will have to remain a comment-free cry in the dark.

Needful Things

April 27, 2009

Jasper came into the world with a bang, in a hulksmash explosion of blood and birthmatter and pain. And when they handed him to me – he, as full and round and alert as a baby many times his age – he reached for me and clung and suckled with the same ferocious determination that had propelled him so explosively from my womb.

He clung to me and suckled and grew and grew and grew. I ached, and bled, pummelled and raw from his insistent thirst. I ached and bled, and loved.

I called him Truffler, because at night he would snort and burrow, seeking out my breast with his nose and mouth, never opening his eyes, never waking, just drinking, sucking, snorfling until he had his fill. In the light of day, eyes open, he would use his hands, grabbing and kneading and pinching and gazing up at me, an adorable little beastie, ravenous and innocent and impossibly, impossibly soft, and I would wonder: how can a creature that brings such pain inspire such tenderness? Why do I not push him away?


I could not push him away. I could no more push him away than I could tear through my ribcage and rip out my heart. And so I pulled him to me, time and again, and exulted in the soft curves of his fat baby legs and his rounded baby belly and his plush baby bum, and smiled through the pain and exhaustion and wished, fervently, that this would never end. I pulled him to me and clung to him and drank in his babyness like a draught, knowing, in my gut, that someday, I would miss this, crave this, yearn for this like the parched soul yearns for cool water. And so I drank it in, in big, greedy gulps, matching his thirst with my own.

Even when the exhaustion became unbearable, I resisted pulling away. Even when he started to bite, I resisted pulling away. I tottered and spun from the exhaustion; my breasts bled from his painful nips: still I perservered, determined to preserve this, his babyness, his need for me. Even when it hurt, this need, I clung to it, I clung to it, unwilling – unable? – to let go. That he refused bottles was, in my tired mind, a kind of victory: he would have only me. He wanted only me. His need kept him young; his need kept him mine.

I drank his need like a draught.

When he finally took a bottle – a good thing, I agreed with my husband, a good thing that he be able to get nourishment from someone other than me, a good thing that I could be separated from him for a night, a good thing that he not need me so relentlessly – I recognized the moment as a victory. I could sleep through the night. I could leave him for more than a few hours at a time. I could wear a bra that did not feature clip-up flaps. I could go a day without being bitten. I could reacquaint myself with my body as my own.

I could move – I can move, now – through the day and through the night without experiencing myself as an object of need. This is good. I love it; I celebrate it; I thank the gods for it. But is it wrong to say – even as I recognize that he will outgrow that need, even as I acknowledge that he must outgrow that need, even as I celebrate my freedom from that need – that I still need him, that I am thirsty for his need of me?

Is it wrong that I cling to his babyness like an infant to a breast, that, in moments, I must fight the urge to paw and truffle and cling, to bury my nose in the sweet, soft folds of his neck and whisper, you are mine? Is it wrong that I have moments of wanting to press him to me and wish ourselves back to the first months of his life, when his need was unquenchable, indisputable? Is it wrong that I have moments of wishing that I could freeze time here and keep him as he is, or as he was a few weeks ago, my needful creature? Is it wrong that while I celebrate, quietly, ambivalently, his weaning, I mourn the growth, the movement toward his independence from me that this weaning represents? Is it wrong that I wish, sometimes, that I could keep him like this, a baby, my baby, forever?

This is the way his babyhood ends, not with a bang but a whisper.

Dress Your Family In Tutus And Sparkles

April 24, 2009

Look, I`m not even going to ask you if it`s a form of child exploitation to dress one`s boy-child in a pink tutu and publish it on the Internet, because a) I already know the answer and b) I`m not interested in hearing from anonymous commenters who wish to inform me that u will turn ur boy gay with farry dresses u know! (I much prefer to collect those as e-mails, to keep in my collection with the UR A EXPLOYTER mail that the drunk Baryshnikov video prompted.)

I`ll just say this: I didn`t have a unicorn costume on hand, and he was game for the tutu. So. Judge me if you want. I`ll probably still sleep at night.

Sufficient Unto This Day

April 22, 2009

Last week, I almost quit blogging. Almost.

I wasn`t going to say anything about it. If I had quit, I would have gone totally silently into that good blogless night. There wouldn`t have been a post angsting about whether or not to quit; there wouldn`t have been a post proclaiming some long goodbye. I was just not ever going to post again. Which, I know, is kind of douchey, but still.

I was not going to post again, because the imperative to post was hurting my heart and making me crazy in a week during which I felt, strongly, that I simply could not post, that it would be wrong to post, that it would be wrong, somehow, to even Twitter all the fears and anxieties that I was struggling to contain. I wanted to write, but my preferred forum for writing was closed to me, or so I felt. I ached to write, to write anything, even just 140 characters proclaiming my fear; my fingers twitched, desperate to tap messages into my phone as we circled Emilia’s bed in the hospital, as we fretted and worried and paced. I am so scared, I typed, I am so scared. And then my fingers retracted their message, backspaced, deleted, and I resumed my pacing, my worrying. What could I possibly accomplish, publishing my fear? And how hollow, how terribly, selfishly, hollow to whine vacantly into the void when others were living and sharing darker fears. Realizing darker fears, the worst fears. What would I be doing, to add my own selfish anxieties to that chorus of pain?

No pain is hollow, of course. Seeing my daughter slumped and incoherent, eyes sunken in dark sockets, skin white and hot, was terrifying and horrible and I felt my anxiety in every moment as a strangling hurt, a terrible pressure against my lungs and throat that threatened to cut off my breath. But that was only my hurt, my fear, and although I know that every parent understands how terrible that hurt and how horrible that fear, it was not the time to share it, it was not the time to reach out. It was simply not the time.

Which invites the question: is it ever the time? This is a rhetorical question, of course, because, yes, yes, there is always a time for expressing and sharing fear or anxiety or sadness or all of these together. If we never shared these experiences, we would not know that they are common, ordinary even. We would not know that pain is something that we all live through. We would not know that it is something that we share. And we would never be able to find community in and through our pain, if we didn`t express it, share it.

But doesn`t sharing the pain, sometimes, just exascerbate it? Doesn’t it become, sometimes, a sort of twisted indulgence, a way of lingering in an ache and prolonging the sensation of hurt, in the same manner as scratching compulsively at an itch, even though it causes us bleed? If I write my hurt, am I expunging it or clinging to it? And if I draw others into my circle of anxiety, does it serve to comfort all of us – by underlining how common the experience – or does it serve to discomfit all of us – by making the experience common, by forcing others to live it, vicariously? Do I want community, or do I want attention? Can these two desires even be distinguished?

My anxiety about writing through my fear last week reduced to these three concerns – that I wanted to write because I wanted to wallow in that fear, that by wallowing, publicly, in my fear I’d be forcing others to experience that fear (in a week when fear and pain were already in too great supply) and that my writing/wallowing might be construed as attention-seeking (look! look! I hurt too! come see my pain!) – and these conspired to shut me down. And so shut down I did: I unplugged my computer and disabled e-mail on my phone and resolved that the only writing that I would do would be with pen and paper and kept entirely private. And then I cried. A lot. Because blogging has, in the worst of times, been a lifeline for me, a way of working through the pain and fear of struggling with depression and with the challenges of motherhood and with the general anxieties and regrets of a life well lived and with the looming spectre of death. And so the thought of abandoning it – of being abandoned by it – was terrifying, gut-wrenching.

And so I decided to not decide. I would simply not write about my pain that week, and hope that I would somehow grow an ability write light-heartedly and humorously so that I might not be so often an agent for spreading dark and gloom across the internets. And then Monday came and Emilia seemed better and so there was something happy to say – Emilia seems better! – and so I opened my computer and said it and the universe didn`t collapse in on itself, so. Baby steps.

I still don`t know how I`ll handle writing about Tanner, whose condition is worsening, and about how I`m going to explain the fact of his inevitable death to Emilia (something that becomes ever more pressing with every question she asks about his disabilities), and about lost siblings and hurt parents and depression and darkness and faith and all those terrible, difficult things that seem to have become my stock in writing trade. I just don`t know. I do know that I will write about them, sooner rather than later, just as I know that I will, someday – later rather than sooner – stop writing this blog. But I`m not going to worry about those things now.

For now, I`m just going to keep writing, and see what happens.

You can tell me, honestly – is there such a thing as oversharing hurt? Do I do it? Do I need – do we all need – to bring less angst and more happy? DOES THE INTERNET NEED MORE UNICORNS? I think maybe.

And Then, There Was Monday

April 20, 2009

Emilia is going to be okay. Last week was full of worry – she was so sick, and in pain, and doctors could only guess that it was something either totally mundane or wholly terrible and all we could do was keep her comfortable and watch and wait to see if the scariest symptoms would worsen or abate – so full of worry and fear and all those bad things and I could not write (I would not, I should not? The distinction became unclear) and all there was to do was wait.

So we waited. And the symptoms abated over the weekend and the light came back into her eyes and so into ours and phew.

Now I just need to give my head and heart a shake and repeat to myself like a mantra: life is good the world is good things are GOOD. And maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to write again.

Flush

April 15, 2009

I wrote this post two days ago, when the world seemed very slightly less dark, and then – as the moon moved directly in front of the sun and blocked its light – decided that I couldn’t post it, because reflecting upon my daughter’s tyrannical approach to love scraped all the wrong nerves on a day without light. But then she got sick, very sick, yesterday and I spent too many hours pacing the hospital floor, gripped with worry, waiting for her to lift her head and say anything, anything at all, anything to show us that she was fine, that she would be fine, and when she finally did lift her head she said this: WHERE IS DADDY I WANT DADDY NOT YOU MOMMY, DADDY.

And my heart leapt, happy to have her back with any measure of her imperious glory.

Which is why I post this now. In gratitude.

*****

I hear the thump-thump-thump of her little feet as she advances down the hallway toward the bathroom. I listen from my cocoon of bubbles as she stops outside the door, hesitating for the briefest moment before turning the handle and opening the door just wide enough to slip through, a wisp in pink flannel pajamas, squinting against the glare of the bathroom light.

Mommy? I have to go poo.

That’s okay, sweetie. Can you manage on your own? I sit up in the tub and offer my hand to steady her. She ignores me. She yanks her pajama bottoms down with one hand and hoists her half-naked self up onto the toilet seat with the other. I slouch back into my bubbles.

She leans forward and rest her elbows on her knees and her chin in her hands, a thinker smaller than Rodin ever imagined. Mommy?

– Yes?

I don’t love you.

– No?

No.

– Not at all?

Not all the time. Only when you do fun things.

– Did we do fun things today?

Yeah.

– Did we do fun things yesterday?

Yeah.

– When do you not love me?

Some of the other time.

– When do you love Daddy?

All of the time.

– And why do you not love me all of the time?

Because I only love you some of the time.

– That hurts my feelings.

Okay. Dramatic sigh. I love you most of the time.

I debate whether or not to press her on this. I know that if I ask for a more fulsome declaration of love, I’ll get one. I also know that she’ll try to extract a price.

I decide that I’m fine with that.

And if you ask me for something tonight – like maybe will I stay in your bedroom with you, and read you an extra story? – and I tell you that I don’t want to, because I’m hurt that you only love me some of the time…?

Then I will tell you that I love you all of the time.

We sit – I in my bath, she on her porcelain throne – and think about this.

We have stop talking now, she says, because I’m going to do my poo.

And she did. While I sat in my rapidly cooling bath, watching the bubbles deflate around me and marveling at my little empress, setting her boundaries, defining her terms. Letting my heart feel its hurt, and then letting it go and watching it swirl down the drain in a little flush of pride.

*****

She’s still very sick. We don’t know what it is. Hopefully, it’s only a virus and we can keep her hydrated until it works its way through. Until then, I sit on edge, waiting for little tyrannical demands, waiting for petty and imperious dismissals, waiting for my little dictator to resume power.

This Dark And Mourning Earth

April 13, 2009

And so God continues to call children back to him, and I – who watch helpless as my sister lives this loss, counting down the years, months, weeks, days, minutes until her son’s heart stops beating and she must make her peace with a last goodbye; I who know nothing of this pain, except from a distance, a distance that does nothing to keep me at a remove from fear – am contemplating faithlessness, am wondering whether faith makes it easier or more difficult to bear such fear, such loss. Does faith offer the possibility of meaning in loss, does it provide relief from the fear? Or does loss in the presence of faith feel like betrayal?

I have not suffered the losses that my friends have suffered, that my sister will suffer. I have not suffered these losses and so I do not know these losses. But I fear them. I fear them with an intensity that makes my hands tremble, that makes my breath draw short. I fear them, and in this fear I feel betrayed by my faith that there is something in this universe that gives our lives meaning. I feel betrayed, because I know, I know, that if I ever face this loss, I will struggle to find meaning and I will fail.

I struggle and fail to find meaning now – I recoil at the very idea that there is some meaning that I should find, that I should seek to make this better, that I should search for the thing that makes this all okay, as if this, any of this, could be made to be okay – and this has nothing to do with me, nothing to do with me at all. And I feel betrayed. By God. By life. By whatever force in the universe is supposed to make these things make sense.

They cannot make sense, of course. If these things made sense – if the world were perfectly comprehensible by reason – then we would have no need for faith, for God. For philosophy, even, although about this last I am not certain. It does not matter, though, because even philosophers quaver in the face of death, Socrates notwithstanding. It does not matter, because even if there were some answer, I am not sure that it would console. There is no consolation for the loss of a child. None.

Shale went. Tanner will go. And in the course of only a few short days, Maddie, and now Thalon (“who is that?” Emilia demanded, looking at his picture on my screen. “Just a boy,” I said, fighting the tears. “Just a boy.”) and who knows how many other unknown children of unknown parents, suffering unknown loss, untold betrayal at the hands of gods who, promising love, deliver death and pain. Who knows?

I don’t. And I am lost.

Pitiless, The Mercy Of Time

April 9, 2009

When a family loses a child, we feel it. Whether or not we knew that family, whether or not we knew that child, we feel it. We feel it because the shockwaves of that loss – that loss as felt by the mother, the father, the family, the friends, the community, that loss as felt by the world, because surely the earth itself shudders, a little bit, when one of its flowers is cut too soon – the shockwaves of that loss reach into our very souls, to the furthest corners of our souls where we keep, hidden in the dark, away out of sight, our worst fear. And the shockwaves of that loss – snapping, lashing, electric – light up those dark corners and awaken the beast of our fear and we tremble.

We tremble because we know. Every single one of us has imagined what it would be like to lose a child. Every single one of us has lived and relived this imaginary terror. Each and every one of us has held our children in our arms and felt the warmth of their breath on our neck and had a single, heart-stopping thought: what if? And then we’ve all squeezed our children more tightly and waited until our hearts resumed their beat before letting go, a little sadder, a little older, a lot more grateful for the time that we have.

So when someone runs out of time, when someone is forced to really let go, let go let go let go, we know. And our hearts stop for them, for knowing.

My heart stopped today. I am sadder, older, more grateful, now that it has resumed its beat.

Requiescat in pace, Madeline Alice Spohr. Your home, now, is timelessness.

(Donations to March of Dimes in Maddie’s name can be made here. Online memorial to Maddie is here. If Heather’s – Madeline’s mom – site doesn’t load when you click the link in her name, be patient; the server was overloaded and the site is being moved.)

A Story Not My Own

April 8, 2009

This story that I`ve been telling about my brother – my lost brother – is not my story, not really. It is becoming my story – that is, it is becoming a story that matters to me, a story that involves me, a story that I am driving forward and that is driving me forward and so has become part of me, part of my life, mine – but still. At the end of the day, it is not my story. It is my mother`s story.

She is telling it here.

And it is breaking my heart all over again.

Mondays Are For Zombies

April 6, 2009

It’s Monday, it’s raining and I think that my house might be haunted. It’s either that or the cats are messing with me. Odds are good either way.


Yeah, Monday. What’s there to say that hasn’t already been said a thousand times already by the Boomtown Rats?

1.) So my mother calls me Friday afternoon and says this: “I just sent you another post to publish. You’re going to kill me.”

Me: “Why?”

Her: “Because it’s about that time you brought home a stripper.”

Me: “MOTHER.”

Her: “I had too.”

Me: “He wasn’t really a stripper, and I didn’t really ‘bring him home,’ in the sense that ‘bring home’ implies.”

Her: “He said he was a stripper, and he was in our house.”

Me: “STILL.”

Her: “Wait ’til I tell the story about the first time that you and I talked about hand jobs.”

Me: “MOTHER.”

2.) Traveling around the world isn’t getting me away from my mother and her blog-cum-child-torment-device, but it is providing some amazing insights into just how much mothers around the world have in common. You should join in.

3.) You know that I’m not really all that outraged about my mother’s blog, right? If anything, it’s a boon. There’s no reason for me to write lengthy essays explaining why I’m so messed up when my mother’s out there giving the world a live demonstration.

4.) I have an essay in this book. You should buy it.

5.) I also have an essay in this book. You should buy it, too.

6.) Oh, yeah, and this one too. More than one essay, actually. So maybe buy more than one copy of this one. You know, so that you can fully appreciate the breadth of my talent.

7.) I guess Monday is not all that bad when you wake up and realize that, yes, you are, kind of, a published author and that’s kind of awesome. And odds are that neither the cats nor the ghosts have themselves ever been published. So. They can just suck it.