Friday, October 28, 2011


It's been nearly four years since we buried Henry. It was too late in the year to install a stone and too much to think about one anyway. He's squeezed in at the edge of a family plot, too close to the road, next to Brian's grandfather. It was important to me that he wasn't alone. We didn't have his name added to the family stone (the wording of the relationship seemed to cumbersome and confusing and besides be planned to get him his own stone).

Last November, we drove up to visit my parents and chose a stone, a rough piece of granite, from the yard of a family friend. Last week, my cousin drove it out to us. Now, we are waiting to find out if we are allowed to have a raised stone for him or if it will have to be a flat one. We need to find out if they can carve the stone. We are still fine tuning what we will say. (Last name above first and middle name? First name and middle initial? Months spelled out or in numerals? Is there room for our names, to say son of Brian and Sara?)

Everything about this process takes time. And energy. It is one of those things I want done, but how I struggle to actually takes the steps to do it. I will be relieved when it is done, when his name is there, when I have a place to put whatever it is I bring to the cemetery. Until it is done, I will become weary every time we try to make it happen. I will feel weary and guilty that it has been this long.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hindsight, or Music and Me as a Mom

Last night, just after midnight, I sat in a steamy bathroom with Kathleen. We read stories until we finished our stack, and then I began to sing to her. I started "One Man Shall Mow My Meadow," a song I like but that she usually doesn't have patience for, but being tired and not feeling 100% right, she snuggled onto my lap and let me sing verse after verse. 

I learned this song when Kathleen was a baby, maybe four months old, from my friend Carol, who hosted an informal music class at her house. Every week we'd go and sit in a circle in her living room and she'd teach us songs and lead us in songs we had already learned. Kathleen was one of several babies in the group made up mostly of slightly older kids. There was a mom I had met at baby group and another I had met at Carol's support group. 

I smiled and sang and changed diapers and gave bottles and and talked to the other moms. I thought I was doing fine. I thought I was comfortable as a mom, not overly worried or sad or nervous. And I suspect for who I was at that time, I was doing great. 

Looking back I see that me so differently. 

Carol is again hosting a music "class" at her house. We went last week for the first one, me and Kathleen and Elizabeth. I smiled and sang and changed diapers and gave bottles and talked to the other moms. And it felt completely different. 

Three years ago, I was still really struggling to figure out how to talk with other moms. To be able to talk about being Kathleen's mom, I needed to talk about being Henry's mom and I was never quite sure how to do that. Even there, even in that house where pictures of a much loved daughter who never took a breath line the walls. Even there where more than one person knew my story. 

I thought I was relaxed, comfortable in my parenting, but I think I was more anxious than I knew, wanting, needing to do it right. Believing very much that everything was different this time around, but too aware of what it really meant if things went wrong. I was defensive about how I gave birth even as I truly believe that the outcome, the healthy living baby is what matters. I was defensive about bottle feeding, even though I truly believe I did the best I could. 

A lot of what I was going through was typical new mom kind of stuff. Even though Henry lived six months, and we were still within that timeframe for Kathleen, I was a brand new mom in so many ways. 

So last week we went back to music, me and Kathleen and Elizabeth. I was relaxed enough that Elizabeth crawled into the other room before I realized she was missing. I handled Kathleen's near meltdown because the toy kitchen she remembered wasn't there. I gratefully accepted a pretzel for the ride home to keep her happy, and I laughed about something as I said my goodbye to Carol and ushered Kathleen out with Elizabeth on my hip. And as I got into the car, I noticed how very different it felt from those days when I buckled Kathleen into the baby seat. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Swing

I'm looking forward to getting rid of the baby swing. It takes up such a big space in our not so big living room. I imagine putting a cozy reading corner in for Kathleen or a real bookcase to replace the milkcrates housing her books right now or some kind of toy storage or . . .

I'm almost ready to ditch it (give it away, put it up in the attic for that tag sale we'll never have). I barely ever put Elizabeth in it. She never took to it the way her brother and sister did. When Kathleen grew too heavy for it, she went from a three hour nap to a twenty minute nap. I swore I wouldn't make that mistake again, so Elizabeth didn't swing much.

I started saying I was almost ready for the swing to go more than a month ago. It's still sitting here beside my chair, though. Now Elizabeth's far too big and too eager to be moving around. The last time I put her in it (a month ago? two?) she grabbed for the mobile pieces that circle around the top, so I took her out.

I thought it was one of the things I would have no trouble getting rid of.

Then I remembered.

December 14, the night we finally brought Henry home from the hospital, we put him in the swing, which he had always loved, and turned it on. His oxygen tubing tap, tap, tapped on the floor in the swing's rhythm. Henry looked at himself in the curvy mirror above him. He seemed to notice the mobile for the first time, not odd as he was six months old, not the three months he had been when he left the swing behind for the hospital.

Brian wanted to get some video footage of Henry in the swing, but before he did, Henry fell asleep. Our footage pans back and forth between our content, sleeping baby in the swing and me telling the story of our homecoming. I am deliriously exhausted and relieved and happy to be home and terrified at the prospect of keeping up with Henry's meds and keeping him healthy and haunted by what we had just endured. My story ends with us all home, getting ready for a busy med schedule, but all doing it together.

Brian focuses the camera once again on Henry, wishes him goodnight and then says More footage to come.

I didn't remember he said that until afterward, when we finally sat down and watched all of our video of Henry.

More footage to come.

And the screen goes blue.

The swing is just some metal and cloth and mechanical bits. And the very last place my baby was okay.

My to-do list f has us putting the bassinet and the swing up in the attic later in the week during Brian's time off. I've made a mental note to remove the batteries from the swing. I'm mentally cataloging space up there wondering where it will go. I'm ready, to get it out of the living room, not quite ready to get rid of it, though.

Someday. For now, I hold onto the swing and hold onto this:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Before the frost

There is a frost/freeze warning on tonight, so between my run and dinner I hustled out to the garden to pick whatever was left.

Now basil and parsley is chopped and in the freezer. Hot peppers are ready for drying. Tomatoes are freezing or waiting for a bit more red to color their cheeks. Chard, mustard greens, and beet greens are in the fridge. Green beans are blanched and in the freezer. Flowers are on the table and the window sill and in my office and between Henry's picture and memory light. Extra sage and parsley are tucked in among the zinnias and dahlias, just because it was there. 

Maybe it won't freeze tonight and we'll eke out a few more nice days. Perhaps I'll pick a bit more parsley tomorrow or find some peppers I left in my haste. Maybe we'll get a handful more green beans (or not . . . I'm getting a bit sick of them). If not tonight, soon. Really, the garden is done, but for the clean up. 

My neighbors have returned from their summer cottage in Maine. The leaves have been coming down for a while now, though they still have a way to go. 
It smells cold and I put on layer after layer. I long for shepherd's pie and butternut squash soup and roasted beets and pork pie with apples. I've switched to red wine (or dark beer or hard cider). 

I'm settling into cozy. 

In 2007, summer lingered into November. The days were strangely warm. The leaves stayed green. I was at the hospital with Henry, and the unseasonal weather was part of the surrealness of my life. It was if summer knew my boy only had one growing season and gave him everything it had. 

I remember bending over my big belly in May, using hand tools to loosen the soil, turning over little sections bit by bit, sprinkling lettuce seeds, setting tomato plants from the farmer's market. 

I don't know what else I planted that year, but I remember thinking that if I could just get some things into the ground, we'd be able to eat something later. I didn't think I'd have much time for our garden. I expected to be too busy with a newborn. I didn't expect doctor's appointments nearly daily or oxygen or surgery. I didn't expect to be living away from home come tomato season. 

Instead of running out to my garden for some greens or a bit of basil, I walked busy streets. I discovered a rose garden in a city park. I watched the leaves stay green and imagined it wasn't really fall. 

I was not listening to the news, so when the weather forecasters said It's going to be a cold one tomorrow and Bundle up I missed the message. I went to bed in summer, got up the next day and dressed in my usual capris and sandals, and started over to Henry's room, only to be greeted by a blast of cold air as the morning shift hurried in in winter coats and hats and mittens. 

The change is not that dramatic this year. Fall has been creeping in with cooler days, mostly, and yellowing and browning leaves. The garden has been slowing down. I'm ready for fall. Still, that it is October surprises me. Weren't Brian and I just outside in a cold rain rototilling the garden? Wasn't Henry's birthday and my careful tending of his garden only yesterday? 
When was it that I hovered over his bed on a strangely warm October day? It seems so near and far. He came to me in the tenderness of spring. I said goodbye to him in the darkness of deep winter. Sunmer was fear and the golden glow of fresh beginnings. Fall was not garden clean up or glorious cool days but fear and hope and hope and hope. I did not see it for the winding down that it was. 

Fall is still woods smoke and crunchy leaves and crisp apples and orange pumpkins, but it is also hand sanitizer and the beep of monitors and cafeteria food and watchful waiting and believing. Fall stirs up this part of my memory, but doesn't drag me down. I still revel in being here at home clearing out the garden, pulling clothes out of the attic, popping casseroles in the oven, planning Halloween costumes, planning hikes and apple picking and baking. Fall is settling down but invigorating too. I'm ready.