Monday, April 29, 2013


We planted pansies at Henry's grave yesterday. The water spigot near his stone was broken, so Brian walked the kids halfway across the cemetery to fill the watering can. Brian's voice faded slowly as he pointed out names we know and flags for veterans. Cars zoomed by on the road behind me. Our cemetery is right on the main road, and yet, when I'm there, I feel invisible.

The sun was warm and I just sat in front of Henry's stone before I started clearing dead leaves and digging a hole for the pansies. And I thought, not for the first time, "How is this my life?" I am still stymied sometimes by the fact that I have a child who died. I can't make sense of this stone with his name instead of the smiling face and warm body I once held.

Looking at the pansies, I remembered the basket of these white and yellow flower that appeared in this spot that first spring, when the ground was a scar of raw bare ground, much like our hearts. We didn't know for some time who left them, but I was comforted that somebody besides us came, that somebody remembered, that somebody cared enough to leave a patch of brightness for him, for us. I remember too how deflated I was when they disappeared, how the energy seeped right out of me even as Brian's anger burned brighter and harder. His anger frightened me. I remember but I'm here.

I'm here on this sunny day with the grass growing thickly where the ground was once bare. I'm here with a stone marking what was so long unmarked. I'm here with Brian and my girls moving back toward me, voices gaining as they moments before faded. I am here. Brian is here. My girls are here. And the pansies are here, so when I drive by there is brightness.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Care giver

I was stunned to find out that one of my all time favorite nurses died yesterday.

If I had been asked to pick one person from the whole hospital to provide Henry's care, it would have been her. Not a surgeon who might have saved his life or a specialist who might understand his condition better than anyone else, but Cindy. I would have picked her because she knew him. She knew how he reacted to meds and that when he wasn't doing well that turning him onto his left side was trouble. She knew what he needed medically, but she gave him what he needed as a person, as a baby too. She talked to him while she changed him. She smiled at him with her face and her voice. I was able to take a break when she was on because I knew she was on it.

She took great care of my baby, but she took good care of me too. She answered my questions and helped me talk to the right people when she couldn't. She made sure doctors knew I had been waiting to see them. She knew when I was really scared and talked me through it. On the day Henry was getting discharged from the CICU for the second time during our long stay, I was a mess. It was supposed to be a happy day, a step closer to home, a sign he was getting better, but I knew it meant less support, fear of leaving his room, sleeplessness, and of course the last time we were on the floor he coded after a week or so of me saying "Something's not right." She talked me through that anxiety and helped me formulate a plan. We talked about what I knew and when to worry. In the middle of piles of paperwork to move him down the hall from the care of one unit to the next, she sat down and talked to me until I calmed down.

She was one of the nurses who came out to say goodbye the day we were finally discharged. She left a tearful message on our answering machine when he died. She is very much part of Henry's story, and I am sad she is gone.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Enough: Little by little gardening

It's the time of year when I'm itching to get out into my garden and get stuff planted, even though I know I have more than a month before our "last day of frost." But all those "as soon as the ground can be worked," cold weather veggies? It's time. The past few years, pregnancy and little babies with short attention spans or quick legs moving toward the road and brick steps they can't climb, have made my gardening goals more modest. My dreams are still big, but my expectations are low. I work a small bit of ground at a time, say enough of a patch to do a first planting of lettuce. Little by little, piece by piece, my garden comes together, and most things get in on time, and the things that don't I pick up at the farmer's market.

Right now, I work in the afternoons while Elizabeth naps and Kathleen works on her castle, an intricate stack of bricks and soil and sticks that started last summer when Brian was digging out an old, choked flower bed in preparation for planting hops this year. Her castle has occupied her and one of our neighbor friends for countless afternoons. I'm not crazy about its location between the rhubarb and this year's tomato patch, especially with the ever bigger moat that they dig on one side, but I'm letting it be for now. Kathleen is big enough to work on her castle or on her alligator dam (a pile of sticks between a small stone wall and a downed tree) while I'm in the upper garden. Sometimes she comes to help me, but more often than not, she's quite busy with her own gloves and tools in her own little projects.

So as much as I want to get out there when the sun shines and the temps pop up into the 60s and 70s, I work with the time I have, and sometimes I just sit because that feels good too. It's April 9 and I have lettuce and spinach and arugula and beets in the ground, not to mention more lettuce and broccoli, kale, bok choi, and flowers started in my milk jugs. It's good enough, and maybe just a little bit more.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Green magic

 A cold front blew in today and the blue skies belied the blustery wind. I pushed aside the winter boots and snowpants along with any notion of packing them away. But, there was this:

and this:

This time of year is such a time of hope and promise and waiting. I remember knowing that even in the spring of 2008 when somehow knowing there was hope even if I didn't quite have it was enough.

Today, I have the hope, and I nearly squealed to see those seeds Kathleen and I planted in the old milk jugs starting to turn into broccoli and bok choi and lettuce and marigolds.