Friday, August 27, 2010

A friend

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with my friend Tricia (who I wrote about here). I was visiting her new home for the first time. When I visited her last in her old home, I was touched to see she had a picture of Henry sitting on a bookcase.

It's the kind of thing that could easily get tucked into a box and not make it out during a move. But there he was. She said that people see the picture and ask if it is her daughter (you know, the oxygen and all), and she tells them it's Henry. And when they ask who Henry is, she tells them he's a friend.

And she is an amazing friend, one I never would have met without Henry, and I'm so glad to know her.

Monday, August 23, 2010

15 minutes

"Here, watch this," Brian said, handing me his iPod.

He had been showing Kathleen a short video of her from earlier this summer when she first learned to go down the little slide in our yard. She watched the first few seconds and then looked up at me and earnestly repeated slide, slide, slide. Then she saw herself go down and said Whee! 

When the clip was over, she poked at the screen, unintentionally starting the 15-minute montage Brian put together of Henry's life.

"Baby!" she said, and Brian told her it was Henry. They watched a few seconds, then he handed it to me.

He was in the NICU when I got it, in my arms, just waking up. I haven't watched any of this footage in a long time. I notice how much his chest moves, how hard he is breathing. Did I notice at the time? Did I get so used to it that it didn't register?

I'm okay until his smile the morning before his surgery. That's when I start to cry.

I watch a solemn me holding his hand a few days after surgery, waiting for him, willing him to wake up. I note the angry gash down his chest. I half-smile through my tears at the cordless dance, when we twirl around the CICU, free of oxygen for the very first time.

I beg him not to pull his NG tube out as he fiddles with it in a later clip and notice that his scar has healed nicely. I smile again as our favorite nurse bends over his stroller to say good-bye to him and another favorite hip checks her out of the way.

And then we are home. Henry is asleep in his swing. Brian pans the camera over to me. I am not listening to the sound, but I know I am telling about our efforts to leave the hospital, being forced to turn around in the storm, stumbling back to the hospital through the snow carrying Henry and his oxygen. I am daunted by the med schedule ahead of us, but so, so glad to be home.

You can see the haunted look in the back of my eyes from what we've been through, but over that the relief. We are home. It is incredibly important to me that we got Henry home, but it is never enough. I see that relief now, see the me who had no idea that within hours everything would come crashing down.

While I watched and cried and felt myself go limp, I was also pretending to laugh as Kathleen tickled my toes. My baby who's here, my baby who's not.

I find myself wondering again, how did we get here?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Just in case

Earlier this week I got together with an old friend. I haven't seen her since I was pregnant with Henry, and then for a while I couldn't talk to her. I don't know why. Every time I tried to call or email her, I got stuck.

It wasn't a case of a friend not being there for me. She sent sent a card at the one month mark. She made donations in is name. She noted that she had never met him and that she would always regret that. There was nothing she had said or done, or not said or not done, but anytime I tried to get in touch, I stopped. Finally I wrote and told her that I didn't know why but I was having a hard time talking to her, but I didn't want to lose our friendship.

Eventually we started again: e-mail, Facebook, . . .  we joked about reviving our Birthday Weekend tradition, which had lasted from 1993, the year we met, until 2006. Some years were more extravagant (month-long cross-country trip, California wineries and spa, a week on the Outer Banks) than others (a weekend of watching bad movies and eating junk food and playing cards), but we kept up the tradition.

We didn't actually revive Birthday Weekend, but we did what we haven't done in over three years: actually get together. We started looking for a date in the spring and ended up picking one in late-August.

She asked if she should she bring the kids or try to get her cousin to babysit. We haven't seen each other in over three years. I know how hard it is to have a conversation with three kids demanding attention. Lunch or dinner, just the two of us, was appealing, but I told her I didn't know what Brian's schedule would be like and we don't have a regular babysitter. I'd have to plan on having Kathleen, so she might as well bring her kids. Besides, I added, you haven't met Kathleen, and I haven't met Charlotte.

I did want to meet her daughter, her second child, and I wanted her to meet mine. But the unfinished part of that sentence was, we should meet each other's kids—just in case.

She never met Henry, will only ever know him from pictures and stories. Most likely I will have years of hearing about Charlotte and seeing pictures as she grows from baby to little girl to young woman, and most likely, she will have years of the same with Kathleen. But you never know. So now I've met Charlotte, and she's met Kathleen. She'll never get to meet my first baby, but I made sure she met my second. I hate thinking this way.

It was a good visit. We talked, with interruptions and distractions, about our garden and her house and my pregnancy and recent health scares in extended family. We fell into that comfortable pattern of good, old friends, despite the long time since we last met, despite babies we had birthed and the one I had buried. It was comfortable and easy, and I hope it isn't three years before we get together again. And I'm glad that the paralysis I had in getting in touch with her for so long didn't choke off a friendship of so many years.

Monday, August 9, 2010


My grandmother turned 95 at the end of June. This past Sunday we had a party for her—family, local friends, her quilt groups, friends she hadn't seen in 25–30 years . . .


I hope I have her genes for longevity and goodgevity. She is still active. She's tired after the big day yesterday, but she wants to get to quilt club tomorrow. She gave up her license late last year when her car died. She knits and quilts and does the Jumble every day. She moves tables and washes high shelves and does other things we tell her she shouldn't do because she might fall or hurt herself.

She is Mom to two children and Nana to eleven grandchildren and Big Nana to eleven great-grandchildren. She has outlived a grandson and a great-grandson.

She is known for her neck-breaking hugs and her cuddly baby blankets and her meatballs. The quilt she made me (the first quilt she ever made) is one of the things I would save in a fire. It is the blanket she knit as my shower gift that I wrapped and held Henry in when he died, that I curled up with every night for the first year and still sometimes hug close when my baby boy feels too far away.

When I was 16 she was terribly old. When I was 26, she was amazingly young, and she stayed that way for a long time. She is slowing down, but she is amazing for 95. She is simply amazing.