Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Best Laid Plans

I stayed in bed until 1p.m. today, it’s Saturday. I’d say I slept until one, but Public Works started digging on the street right outside my window at 8a.m. and the phone rang shortly after, and then the doorbell with my “husband” picking up some things that Jonah needed for the day. When the bell rang again it was the tree service here to spray my sickly elm tree and I finally got up. It’s warm, I love getting up when it’s warm and just throwing on a loose cotton t-shirt dress.

Last night I went to a friends annual summer solstice party. J could only stay until 8, when I needed to drop him at his dad’s and I was sorry for the rest of the night that he couldn’t run around in the dark and the dirt making mischief with the other little wild things. But I stayed, I stayed until two a.m. and I drank to my hearts content having just had my monthly bloodwork, knowing I’d have time to recover before getting tested again and well, every now and then you just gotta let loose. I had fun, I drank, I ate, I talked to people I’d never met before which is something that is hard for me, but I’m determined to get better at, and I played ping pong for the first time in two years and just wasn’t worried about embarrassing myself. And fuck yeah, I won a game against a guy with a killer serve. I came back from a 10 point deficit, and damned if it didn’t feel great. I didn’t care that my feet hurt and I was out of breath, I hung in there. I’m hoping to start going to the Y three times a week instead of two. My free Livestrong membership ends soon, but I feel myself making progress, I accept that my feet won’t get better, but I can certainly improve my stamina, strength, flexibility and range of motion. I was aware that I was pretty much the only one there that wasn't part of a couple, but that's just the way it is, that's just the way it goes, the way it went.

I didn’t go to the studio at all this week, I took a hiatus. I never do that, I’m used to a maddening pace, an almost 18 year long streak of thinking I have to work all the time while being a full time parent. When Griffin was born, I was a stay-at-home mom also billing 30-50 hours a week of graphic design work. That’s insane. It was mindless, catalogue production work usually, so I could do it half asleep, but it helped pay the bills and I got used to working nights and weekends and when he was sleeping and I never really gave up that mentality. I’ve forgotten what leisure is. Since I’m self employed, I couldn’t collect disability while I was sick, so while I didn’t work a lot, it was always on my mind and any spare minute I could get up, I was going to the studio, or doing billing and trying to keep up, keep the business alive and worrying, worrying about the bills.

Usually when the shop closes, I kick into doing shows on the road most weekends, or going to the studio to fill wholesale orders or stock up my consignment accounts. But the last couple of weekends where I didn’t have the kids, I took a break, I kicked back or focused on projects at home, and it felt great. Makes me aware of how distorted my perspective has been on How To Live Life 101. Less worrying, more living is surely a good goal. So last night I went out and didn’t care that I’d be useless today. While eating breakfast I listened to the beginning of the Moth Radio Hour, a {true} storytelling show I love, but rarely get to hear. I was sorry when I was done eating because I wanted to listen to the rest of it, but figured I should go start the laundry and get to my next chair painting project, or back to detoxifying the tall one’s room, and then it occurred to me, I could, in fact, just plain old sit there for 45 more minutes drinking my tea and listening to the radio and so I did. It’s crazy that this is something I just don’t do, don’t allow myself, feel guilty about.

Maybe there was a little divine guidance going on in the background because one of the stories was about a man’s experience with having children, and his life changing devastation and guilt after his second child was stillborn at nine months. He described the silence all around them at the hospital, how nurses wouldn’t look at them, how it had never occurred to him that such a thing could happen and his guilt that it was his fault because, he in fact, had not wanted the child and he surmised that had killed her. Too, too familiar {although I wanted my child, very, very much}, but there is solace and revelation in hearing similar accounts from others. I was taken with how this loss guided his life, was preeminent and was something that was openly talked about among family, and with his older daughter only one year old at the time. How they all referred to the baby by her name, Lauren, how he went to her grave, how she existed in their lives, even though she had died, the consensus was, that she was real. The consensus of the people in my life seems to be that my baby was not real which tangles my emotions further. In the story the older child asked questions about her sister for years which he couldn’t bear to answer and finally when she was about five, she told her father that she had a dream about Lauren and that she said to tell him that “it’s o.k.” and that ended his torment, and he could finally really honor her and move forward in his life.

This affects me so, because my daughter’s birthday is coming around the bend and I feel guilty if I even refer to her by name. I feel like I’m being a drama queen, a burden and that's reinforced by the blank, uncomfortable stares I receive, or the silence on the other end of the phone. She has always seemed real only to me, I suppose because I’m the only one who knew her, I knew her as she gestated, her rhythms, her behaviors and I gave birth to her and held her, and I had so many dreams for her, for us, but in my dysfunctional family it's been frowned upon to mention. I wasn’t allowed to talk about her with her father, he would walk away uncomfortably, or just not respond, he wouldn’t acknowledge her birthday accept to maybe say, I know this is a hard day for you... But what about him? was it a hard day for him? I don’t know, he doesn’t talk about things like that, I was the only one who cried. I just know that when I mention her people get very uncomfortable and then I feel guilty for being self indulgent. It annoys my mother to no end if I mention her, she says “omg aren’t you over that yet, it was a lifetime ago.” And I only mention her near her birthday, because I start to unravel around that time and it took me years to figure out why. I literally didn’t realize that dates and anniversaries are powerful even if they're just another day, that on an unconscious level, it's just not another day. You can try not to think about something, you can pretend to not think about something, but you’re thinking about it without even knowing it. It’s a powerful thing to grow a baby. It’s a terrible thing to hold a dead one in your arms. In the Moth story, the speaker expounded on how is dead daughter was the spitting image of her sister, it was the same with mine. I don’t know why I feel so guilty and selfish acknowledging something that is just plain true. I had a daughter, her name was Claudia Hope Clark, she was born and died on July 3, 1999, she was healthy, fully formed and perfect in every way, except for the fact that her heart had stopped beating sometime during labor, as I slept. Her older brother loved her and just didn’t, couldn’t understand why he never got to see her, he measured my belly and talked to her and came to the doctor with me, just like they say to do, when you’re preparing someone to be a big brother. He begged and cried to go to the hospital and see her, sure that they must have made a mistake. She would be 14 years old in a couple of weeks and she’d be starting high school in the fall. So she and her brother would be in the same school next year and he would look out for her. Everyone would know, don’t mess with Claudia Clark, Griffin is her older brother! Yeah, I think about her every day and I always will. G and I have both always had a special fondness for the girl next door who was a few months old when Claudia died. G has no tolerance for his much younger brother, he had always wanted to be a "big brother" but the window of opportunity slammed shut for him, but he’s always thought of Katie like a little sister, she’s starting high school next year, would have been Claudia’s classmate and no doubt friend, and G and I laughed the other day about how no one better mess with her “damn straight he said, you tell her to come to me.”

I’m not destroyed, I don’t cry myself to sleep, I don’t feel sorry for myself, I’m not the only one who has experienced loss or sadness, but I am really fucked up and freaky in my belief that I’m not allowed to acknowledge her, that I have to pretend she wasn’t real because no one else met her and because no one else remembers her and I don’t want to burden people, but in doing so, I harbor so much guilt for not honoring her. I wasn’t planning on talking or writing about her, but then I heard that story today and how can I not? She existed, yes, she was a real, unique, human being who due to freak circumstances, didn’t get to live out her life, she was loved, she had a stockpile of pink clothing waiting for her in her room. And yeah, this time of year is hard for me, so anyone with an issue with me, should squelch it between mid June and July 5 or so because this warrior, turns fragile glass. I gut it out every 4th of July because I remember what it was like to come home from the hospital, lactating and with empty arms, having just given birth with everyone around me pretending that I hadn’t just given birth and with fireworks and the sounds of celebrating in the background, I remember it like it was yesterday. Every year it’s one giant agony and my heart is just melting as people start asking, innocuously what are you doing for the 4th? I have kids, I can’t hide, I have to take them to a BBQ or celebration of some sort and pretend I’m having a good time, that everything’s normal, it’s just another day, while focusing my whole body and soul on not bursting into tears. There are details that would make you sob, that would stun you, that I can still hardly believe, unspeakable details because the devil is in the details and people are capable of great love and great callousness, but I keep those to myself. And I finally learned that we all have different limitations, some things are too painful for people to be around, or just paralyzing and we don’t know what to do. Sorry, but all bets are off right now, in the hope that it helps me in some way, I had a daughter, her name was Claudia Hope {seriously, Hope, her name was already picked out} she was beautiful, she looked just like her older brother, but with my dark hair, the happiest day of my life was when I found out I was having a girl. I’m sad we can’t go dress shopping for the prom, or someday her wedding, or do mother/daughter things. While I am overjoyed at watching other people do those things, it comes with great pain as well, it’s not jealousy, or envy, it just is what it is. I wouldn’t trade my boys for all the tea in china, but oh, how I wanted to transcend my relationship with my mother by having a daughter of my own, I think we would have had great fun together. I also know that if she’d lived, there would likely be no Jonah Clark and that would be it’s own travesty. So don’t feel sorry for me, loss makes you appreciate what you have so, so much more, and I got my happy ending, but just so you know, I had a daughter, her name was Claudia, I can think about her without crying except for this one time of year. I had three children, not two, three. I had three pregnancies and three births and not a minute of a day goes by that I don’t think of all three. She was real, I sat in a chapel with her body in a wood box until she was returned to me a bag of ashes. Some are in the ground and some are in a box I never take out in the back of my closet. I had a daughter, her name was Claudia, she is much loved and much remembered even if only by one, because if one person loves you quite that much, it’s enough.

People tell me I'm brave because of how I've dealt with cancer and well, that's a lot of bullshit, I'm not any braver than the next person, I've just heard worse news. "Your baby is dead", is a galaxy worse than "you have cancer." Once you've survived the first, you know you can survive anything. They told me I have cancer, and then I did what I was told to do. I showed up for my appointments, I sucked it up and dealt with it cause I had kids at home to worry about. There is no time for self indulgence or feeling sorry for yourself, when you've got them as your priority. I cried when I first heard the "cancer" word, even though deep down, I already knew, but only that one time, and then I just did what I had to do, I have children to raise, end of story, and it really paled in comparison to the other thing which was a pain so deep, so searing and unrelenting I really do not have the words to describe it. I remember those words like I heard them yesterday, the cancer thing is just a blur, just a utilitarian thing. I used to refer to Claudia dying as "the bad thing" I couldn't even say it and then I thought I wasn't allowed to say it. Well, my sweet baby girl died and cancer can just go fuck itself, I'm a little fed up with bad shit. Just hoping not to hear "you're cancer's back and of course the T word... terminal." That's a bridge I'm hoping not to cross. Hiatus, yes, I need a hiatus from bad shit. I've been writing this for so long it's almost 5:00, I'm a little stunned by that. Not even gonna reread it... hitting "publish"now and then I'm back on hiatus.

1 comment:

  1. That was THE most intense and beautiful piece of writing I've ever experienced...I'm sooo sorry u had 2 endure that agony (and alone at that)...I'm speechless kim! Ur a fucking warrior in a little cotton dress and I'm just sorry chc didn't get the benefit of having u as her mother! I'm now going to drink a GIANT glass of wine. U r my fucking hero! Not even kidding...I'm moved beyond words!