Across The Universe
My paternal grandmother died over ten years ago after a short battle with colon cancer. About a week afterward I was running errands and accidentally locked my car with the keys still in the ignition. I was really upset because it was such a stupid move and I was going to be late for a bridal shower and the locksmith was in no hurry to rescue me. And suddenly I felt incredibly calm and the very strong sense that my grandmother had come to me. Then she left and I felt her rise above me and disappear. I am not the sort of person who normally believes in something like that but it was so real to me. I told my mom about it later and she must have told my dad. His response was not disbelief but rather bewilderment about why his mom didn't also say good bye to him.
I now know how he felt. There have been times when Erika has been going with some very difficult moments with Sammy's health related to his heart defect and has felt people who have passed from this life come to her to comfort her. One of those people is Tom. I am so glad that she has that comfort but I have never felt Tom come to me. In fact he has never seemed farther away than when Keegan is going through a difficult time. I would like to think that he is glad that I am here raising our son. That he would be proud of this sweet beautilful boy. But I would love a sign. Something more than my heart stopping when I see someone who looks likes him for the briefest moment. And even those times have become few and far between.
The other day in counseling Keegan made a heart out of sculpty clay. He told me later he made a heart because that is all that is left of Tom. "Daddy lives on in me, even after I die he will still live on. Even when the sun becomes a red giant and explodes."
With Each Goodbye, You Learn
Today is three years since Tom died. It feels like longer and sometimes it feels like less. The grief is not nearly as heavy and sharp as it was the first year. The year of firsts is the hardest of all. And for a while I thought letting him go would be about the sadness fading as the years go by. But it is not just that. I did not count on the new things that would hurt. Watching our son grow and knowing that Tom is missing it. This summer my brave sweet boy conquered new challenges. And each time he swam without a float, jumped off the dock, rode in the tube behind the boat I caught myself wishing Tom could see. Wishing he could share in the celebration that is in each milestone of raising a child. And as Keegan grows up his relationship with his father changes too. He still has those memories of moments with his father. But he also seems to be seeking something else. He talks about God. Despite the fact that we are not raising him with a formal religion he chooses to believe. He asks about angels. He believes in magic. He wanted to know if I believe in what Buddha believes. That people come back and have many lives. All I can offer him is the space to explore his beliefs and a hazy picture of my faith. And I can offer him the chance to say goodbye.
After I had scattered a third of Tom's ashes in Alaska in May 2007, Keegan and I talked and he asked to be a part of coming to Vermont with me to scatter the last. I knew he meant it but I wanted to wait until he was old enough to remember it later. With the anniversary coming I decided this was the year. This past Friday we took Tom's ashes to Vermont. I asked my mom to come because I felt I needed the extra support. We took Tom to the mountains where he learned to snowboard and where we spent many weekends year round. We also brought Pepper's ashes because she had always loved it there. Keegan showed some anxiety before we left and was worried about being too sad. I told him it was okay to be sad but also be happy we could say goodbye and put his daddy in a place he loved. We had lunch and he swam in the clubhouse pool before we headed over to the gondola. He chose the gondola with the design he liked and loved the ride up. Once at the top we took a hiking path to be up higher and also away from other people. We scattered Pepper first so I could show him how and we would both be ready for Tom. After scattering Pepper I asked if he wanted to find another spot. Keegan assured me that Tom would have wanted to be near Pepper. Keegan scattered Tom's ashes and kept repeating, "Goodbye daddy, goodbye daddy." And the calm and strength I had been hoping for all day was with me through it all. So I was able to be there for Keegan in the moment and not crying. I took pictures of the spot and also of the trail sign so that Keegan can have a reminder and go back if he ever wants to. Then went to the observation deck and had ice cream. And we put quarters in the viewer and took in the beauty of the mountains. Driving home I felt like we spent the day exactly how we should have and it was a truly special thing to have shared with my son.
Harper had his 1 year checkup today. I scheduled it before he moved into his new classroom so it ended up being right in the middle of lunch/nap. They were able to feed him before I picked him up. He had three vaccinations and the once over. He also had to have a blood draw for lead testing and anemia. That was not so fun. I had already soothed him from the shots and then I had to take him down to the lab. And because he is a baby it took them a while and two sticks to get what they needed. He was not amused. And I had flashbacks to last summer when he was hospitalized with MRSA. Poor kid fell asleep as soon as he was buckled into his car seat. He stayed that way as I carried him back into daycare and put him in his crib. The good news of course is that he is healthy and happy and on the right milestones. He weighs 20lbs 11ounces (which is below average but he has stayed on his curve) and is 30.25 inches long (he was above average but is slowing down). He does not walk yet but pulls to standing and stands for a moment before gently lowering himself to the floor. Talking is mostly the mama, dada and other sounds. He is fast as lightning at a crawl, persistent and into everything. I think we were hoping we would not have to do the full childproof lock down but we definitely will. He thinks the word "no" is quite amusing. He is mostly on milk with a shot of formula at night because we did not want to throw out a can. He took a little time to accept the sippy cup but does fine and we are just keeping the bottle before bed until I am sure he is getting enough in his belly at dinner. He loves cheerios and goldfish and hates having his teeth brushed. He loves the tub and does not mind having water poured over his head. He still favors Jeff in looks but I do see a bit of me in there too. And so far remains the happy laid back sweetpea he has been since birth (not counting teething or illness).
Happy Birthday Gorgeous!
365 days of loving you...
Oh God, Book One
At dinner tonight:
Jeff jumped up to close the windows because we could see rain was coming. Keegan and I started talking about where rain comes from. I was sticking with the Mother Nature story. He states that God has a watering can. This was a surprise because I have had exactly one conversation with him that involved God. Keegan proceeds to tell us all about how God is invisible and how he created everything. Jeff asked him who talks to him about God. He paused and then said, "Everyone else but you two." Keegan told us that God hangs out at cemeteries to keep the people company. And I told Jeff with amusement that it doesn't matter what we do God gets to them all eventually. But Jeff did explain to Keegan that when he grows up he can decide what he wants to believe in. I am still waiting to grow up and figure out what I believe in. Sometimes I do wish I had a nice established religion to fall back on.
I leave for a conference in Miami tomorrow. I thought that as Keegan got older it would be easier to leave for business trips. I was wrong. Hopefully it is just because I haven't traveled as much since Harper was born. Before he could be talked out of tears and he really didn't have a concept of time. But thanks to school he now knows what four days means. And I did the trick where tomorrow doesn't count because it will fly by since that is the first day I will be gone. And Friday doesn't count because that is the day I will be back. He even thinks two days is too long. I know he will be fine because he never has any trouble leaving me. And once I am gone things go well. But I do try to acknowledge some extra anxiety because I am his only living parent and letting me go has got to test his faith every time. And promising him a present doesn't hurt either.
This morning when I dropped him off at school I took a little extra time to visit the chicks with him. They just arrived last week and have grown every day. They are in a pen with a heat lamp but soon they move into the chicken coop the older grades built. I wish we could have chickens at our house but those are limits of living in the city. We will have to get our fix with the school ones.
Four years ago Jeff and I went on our first date. And exactly one year after that he proposed. After the first date he then proceeded to drive three hours each way almost every weekend for the next year and a half to see me. And when I expressed concern about how much he was putting himself out he told me, "I am not going to be lazy in love." Indeed.
I can't believe all of the things that have happened in this short time. And one of the many reasons we celebrate this date as well as our wedding anniversary in October is because it was so important to everything that followed. Obviously everyone remembers their first date but that night really changed our worlds. And that is because it brought hope and the very surprising possibility of true love during a time when neither of us had any reason to believe in either. And that has sustained us through what has been very a challenging past four years and many more hurdles that as a blended family we can anticipate in the future. Over that four years besides the infinite blessings that night has brought to me as an individual it has brought so many more to my family and my life.