Sunday, April 27, 2014

Parts of Me

I have curly hair.  Have my whole life.  There are some baby pictures of me where it was more wavy than curly, but for the most part, I have always been a curly girl.  

Allie had curly hair. Who knows what it would have looked like if it had the chance to grow, but when I held her and touched her, her dark curls were very much present.

Miranda has straight hair.  When she was born it was dark and straight and now it is much lighter, but still straight.  Fresh from the bath or after playing around really hard, sometimes there are some curls at the bottom.  Time will tell what her hair will look like as she grows older.

We were in Costco yesterday and the woman in line ahead of us was commenting on how precious Miranda was and how good she was behaving.  Then she noticed her little ponytail and said, "I wonder if she will grow up to have curly hair like you!"  I just smiled and said, "You never know!"

Because you don't.  I did not want to say that Miranda was adopted so it was highly unlikely that she would have my hair.  And if her hair turns out to be curly, that is certainly not anything she got from me.  That makes me sad.  I want her to have parts of me.

And then I make myself stop thinking like that.  I take a moment to watch the smiles that Miranda brings to others just by being in the same room with them.  I watch the fierce determination on her face when she is trying to take something apart or put something together or try to get into a cabinet that has been child-proofed.  I see her passion and love and energy and excitement and think that some of that had to have come from me.  She has parts of me - you just can't see them.  Or actually, maybe you can. You just have to know HOW to look - not WHERE to look.  

We may not have the same hair...we may not have the same smile...but love has made her a part of me and I could not imagine her ever feeling that she is less a part of me because she did not physically come from my body.  She grew in my heart (and continues to do so each and every day) and I think  - no, I know - that is enough.  It simply has to be!
 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

April 23rd

In the throes of a very hard day yesterday, I was reminded that today would be April 23rd.  And just like that, April 22nd would be behind me.

Yesterday started with a funeral.  So there was no chance of it being happy!  But the service was heartfelt and the love and support that was in that beautiful church was palpable.  Miranda was pretty well behaved and certainly was the cause of several smiles.  I was proud to be there and support my friends and proud to have her by my side.


I could not help but miss Allie.  I know it was just a day on the calendar, but the her absence was more acute yesterday.  I let myself have ONE day where I wondered what it would be like to be parenting a 3 year old. Where I wondered what I would be like if I had not ever experienced her loss.  I let myself look at my c-section scar and my stretch marks and wondered what it would be like to have the child here that caused those physical marks on my body.  The emotional ones are harder to see, I suppose.

364 days a year I do not let myself think like that because there would be no Miranda if Allie was still here.  And that breaks my still delicate heart.

As the day went on, my spirits got better.  Miranda and I had the windows open and allowed the fresh air in. We enjoyed the Spring weather and went outside for a bit.  We both took a little nap.  Then Gary came home with balloons and cupcakes and we had a meaningful balloon release and found ourselves more happy than sad.  For that is my goal - to always be more happy than sad.

April 22, 2011 - in the hospital - totally lost - too deep on grief to know which end was up
April 22, 2012 - home - still lost - beautiful little party and balloon release at our house
April 22, 2013 - home - 3 week old baby in my arms - so tired and overwhelmed that my grief did not have a place
April 22 - 2014 - home - realizing that this is how Allie's birthday will be moving forward. With my husband and our daughter and our memories

I love the cards and notes we got yesterday to commemorate Allie's birthday.  I love my family and friends for never forgetting her.  I love the tulips my mom brought over just because.  I love the smile on Miranda's face when she gets to play with a balloon.  Most of all, I love my life. I really do.  April 21st, April 23rd and yes, especially April 22nd.

Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow,
but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.
-Leo Tolstoy


Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Rose


I heard "The Rose" today.  It was always one of my favorite songs but today, it resonated with me even more.  Especially the last verse:

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long,
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong,
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed that with the sun's love
In the spring becomes the rose. 

The flowers are blooming.  The sun is shining harder and longer.  Spring means life.  Spring means picnics and happiness and fresh air and joy. 

To me, Spring means all of those things.  But it also means another year without Allie.  Spring marks the time of year when we learned she was no longer breathing inside of me.  Spring marks the time when I learned we were never going to hear her laugh or cry.  Spring marks the time when I realized that death is everywhere and for a little bit back in the Spring of 2011, Spring marks a time when I did not care if I lived or died.

So much changes with the passing of time and the changing of the seasons.  The heart heals.  The soul mends.  But the longing remains.

I am struggling with how to celebrate Allie's birthday this year.  I want to celebrate it as much as we just celebrated Miranda's and yet it seems that a small, family ceremony is what would mean the most.  We are going to get balloons to release (this year Miranda can participate!) and I think cake is in order.  I think cake is always in order, truth be told.

But there are no invitations, no goodie bags, no decorations.  Just her dad, her mom and her sister remembering her.  Honoring her memory.  Loving her.

I am sad today.  A good friend of mine lost her mother-in-law this morning.  A vivacious and bubbly woman is no longer here.  She will not get to experience this Spring.  She will not get to see her grandchildren grow.  She is out of the pain that has been all consuming to her, though, and I hope that is some comfort.  And although I only knew this women from weddings and bridal showers and birthday parties, I can tell you that she will be missed by even me.  Someone she probably did not know she ever even had an impact on.

Death forces us to look at life.  What we have.  What we desire.  I have a lot of love.  I desire to be loved in return.  I am fortunate that Allie's death taught me to slow down and remember what matters.

Live.  Love.  Laugh.  And Remember.

..."In the spring becomes the rose"

A butterfly for her sister

Practicing for the balloon release on April 22nd


Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Thousand Days (give or take)

It's hard to believe that Allie's 3rd birthday is just around the corner. 

Three years ago, I am not sure exactly what I was doing right now, but probably washing all the little girl clothes in Dreft, sitting in the glider in the newly painted nursery and counting kicks.  I think I was also finishing the thank you notes from all of my baby showers.

Two years ago, I am not exactly sure what I was doing right now, but probably missing all the little girl things I never got to do, sitting on the bed in the guest room and wondering if we were ever going to be able to turn the room into a nursery again.  I was also busy planning a birthday party for a girl that no one but her dad and I ever met and hoping and praying that she would not be forgotten.

One year ago, I am not exactly sure what I was doing right now, but odds are I was staring at our rainbow miracle and wondering how it was that I could be this happy after being that sad.

Today, right now, I am working on some freelance writing while my daughter sleeps upstairs.  There are no tears.  There is no staring.  There is just life.

Miranda did not replace Allie.  Miranda is not a substitute for Allie.  Miranda is the hope that I thought I lost.

Through my second daughter, I will always remember my first.  I will see all that I missed and I hope I will appreciate it all that much more. 

Out walking
There is no way to not smile when you are around Miranda.  She is truly all that is good in my world.  I just asked Gary this morning, when the 3 of us were out walking on this gorgeous Spring day, if he was happy.  He did not even pause.  "Yes.  I am."  I knew the answer before I asked it.

On our way back from the same walk, we saw a duck swimming in the creek out back.  Allie's Creek.  We stopped, pulled the stroller over it and just stared.  I unconsciously reached for Gary's hand.  "She would have liked that" he said.  We walked the rest of the way in silence.

Allie is in everything I do and everything I am.  I love her and miss her dearly.  I want to a good person and wife and mother and sister and friend for her memory.  I want her to have made me better.  I think she has.

It's been more than a thousand days without her.  Not a day goes by that she is not remembered.  And not a day will.

Miranda HOPE

Monday, April 7, 2014

That's What Friends Are For

I have always been fortunate enough to have good friends.  A good friendship takes a lot of work but if done right, it does not feel like work at all.

When Allie died, I was 3 weeks from my due date.  When Gary made the calls that I was in the hospital, many people jumped to the conclusion that she was born early.  Not that I was about to be induced and that she was to be born still.  The outpouring of love and affection and support that we received was unlike anything I had ever experienced.  And far more than I ever expected.  Call after call, Gary told our friends and family to stay home and call after call was met with,"What hospital?" and "We are on our way".

I never left the room and I allowed very few people up to see me.  Gary was my strength and my rock and he would go report in to everyone with the latest information and come back to tell me that our friends and family had pretty much taken over the whole waiting room of the hospital.  I was not at all surprised.

Many people did not know what to say.  So they just sat there in case we needed them.  They told stories and supported each other and I think created some bonds that are stronger now having lived through such a horror together.

That's what friends do.  That's what friends are for.

When Miranda was born, we could not have people come to the hospital because that time was really M's.  It was her time to say hello and goodbye to the child she carried and delivered and as hard as it was for us, it was just not about us.  Having so many awful memories of the maternity ward and Labor & Delivery in general, I was ok with it just being Gary and me.  I also knew that once the baby was discharged to our care, we would have her forever so it was ok to share her with M those first 2 days.  Hard as hell, but ok.

We stayed in a hotel in Delaware until we could come home.  It was the middle of the week.  We were a good hour away.  And yet they came. They came to finally celebrate with us.  We had friends come for lunch and friends come for dinner and friends come to drop by just for a little bit to say hello and meet our daughter.  The hotel room was packed with diapers and toys and blankets and clothes and all sorts of things that we brought as we had no idea what we needed!  And in the empty spaces were our friends.  They are always with us, no matter what.

This past Saturday was Miranda's 1st birthday party.  Originally family only, until I realized how many people I hurt by not including them.  They wanted to celebrate our joy...our rainbow.  They wanted to search for the perfect gift for her and get together and watch her eat her first bit of cake. I realized that it was unfair to deny them that and unfair to deny us that!  So we opened up the house and they descended.  And it was wonderful.  There was so much laughter and love and light and it was everything I could have hoped for and then some. 
 



The next day, was a different type of party. It was a farewell to my dad.

He left explicit instructions to not be sad and macabre.  He wanted a celebration of his life and that is what we gave him.  There was a short graveside service which was just wonderful.  The rabbi that led the service did not know my dad and yet he spoke of him like he knew him.  It was a sunny and bright day and Spring was in the air.  Being there felt more like a beginning than and end.

I was told there were 69 people at the cemetery.  If you take into account the my dad's dementia really took a turn for the worse in 2008-2009, that's 5-6 years where many of his friends had not heard from him.  He kind of fell off the grid so to speak.  And yet when they got the call that he had died or when they saw the obit in the paper, the got in their cars and came.  Many caught flights to come pay their respects.  At the end of the day,  my dad's friends were there to help celebrate the man he once was.

There were 55 people at a luncheon in his honor.  Former boy scouts.  Friends from the Army Reserves.  His chiropractor.  Many friends from his antique car club.  People from all walks of his life.

Gary created a big poster with many of his images on it proudly displayed for all to see.  We had opera music playing from a little stereo.  We had his high school year book and some photo albums.  And we had a microphone.


We spoke in "birth order" so I went first.  Just in case no one there knew I was the oldest!  Then each of my brothers spoke.  Each of us highlighted dad in our own unique way.  Then my dad's lover and friend of many many years.  Then we broke for food.  Then a few more friends got up and spoke.  It was poignant and funny and sad and lovely all at the same time.  He would have loved it.  All of those people that came out for him.  For me.  For my brothers. For my family.  It was just beautiful.

At the end of the weekend, I was exhausted.  A day later and I am still exhausted.  But even stronger than my fatigue is the overwhelming feeling of gratitude I have for the people that have stuck my by side through the best of times and the absolute worst of times. To look around my house on Saturday and see all the love and then to look past the grief yesterday and see all the support - well, it was nothing short of amazing.

My friends are my family and my family are my friends.  And I am so damn lucky for both.

"Keep smiling, keep shining
Knowing you can always count on me, for sure
That's what friends are for
For good times and bad times
I'll be on your side forever more
That's what friends are for"

Thursday, April 3, 2014

You take the good, you take the bad...

You take the good, you take the bad,
You take them both and there you have
The facts of life, the facts of life.

You can't read those words and not sing them.  At least not if you are in my general age.  I grew up watching "The Facts of Life" and still know the theme song by heart.

This post is not about great 80's sitcoms, though.  It's about taking the "good" and the "bad".

Saturday is Miranda's 1st birthday party.  We are keeping it pretty small because our house literally cannot hold all the love we have to fill it with!  There will be a rainbow cake and rainbow decorations and little rainbow souvenirs for her cousins and friends to take home.  There will be lots of food and plenty of sounds of kids running around, shrieking about and having a great time.

Sunday is my father's funeral.  It's traditional in Judaism to bury the dead within 48 hours, but my dad was anything but typical.  He did not want a traditional funeral.  He wanted a graveside ceremony and then a big ol' party afterwards.  Attendance is so high now that we are making sure there is a microphone at the restaurant so anyone that wants to speak can be heard.  A microphone.  

And so I am faced with 2 big events in the course of 2 days.  One happy.  One sad.

I remember planning Allie's 1st birthday party.  I was happy to have so much support but sad that she was not here to enjoy it.  I planned food for grown ups and ordered balloons for us to release and it was lovely.  But it was not a child's birthday party.

Miranda's 1st birthday party is totally a child's birthday party. I have spent much of the week trying to get the house ready and that includes trying to find a place for her toys and trying to figure out if we should leave the pack & play up in case a baby needs it (probably) and if I should put the cases of diapers and wipes in the basement so they are not in the way (probably).  I want to make sure there are kid friendly snacks and that there are enough rainbows in this house that the kids think they are in Oz.  Or a place where there are lots of rainbows anyway.

In between all that planning is making sure I have a suit for Sunday.  Making sure I have pantyhose to wear.  Aside from job interviews, funerals are the only time I wear those god-awful things.   I want to write down some notes in case I choose to speak.  I want to make sure to leave enough time to get to the cemetery early to greet people.  I want to make sure to thank my brother-in-law 1,000 times over for watching Miranda so that her day will not be disrupted.  I want to make sure to not be too sad as that is not what my dad would have wanted.

It's enough to make my head spin!  Celebrating the biggest joy while mourning one of the biggest losses.  In a way, I grieved my dad a long time ago.  And heaven knows we have been celebrating Miranda since March 13th of LAST year when we got the call that we were going to be her parents.  But still.  The good and the bad...and taking them all.  It's a lot.  It's life.  It's the facts of my life, anyway!

Officially 1 years old!


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Bitter and The Sweet

I feel like I am living my life in suspended animation right now.  From the minute I got the call that my dad had died, there has not been time to really let it sink in.  We have been running around like crazy with things we had to to like funeral arrangements, a visit with Miranda's birth mother, Miranda's first birthday and everything in between.

We knew it was coming.  We were prepared.  And yet when death comes, it's still a shock no matter how you look at it.  I grieved a long time ago for the man my father was.  I said goodbye to him countless times.  And yet I feel myself so sad right now.  

I look at the father my husband is and I want to weep almost daily.  I look at the father my brother is and I get chills.  My father was not that kind of dad.  And yet he loved us in the best way he knew how.

When my parents got married in 1969, homosexuality was not something anyone really talked about.  There were no TV shows, no role models, nothing.  I believe my dad knew he was gay when he got married but really and honestly loved my mom and wanted to make a family with her.  I think the marriage was a good one for a while.  There have always been funny stories about the early years.  

Three kids in and it was time to make a change.  My dad knew at his core that the wife and kids and house with a yard and dog was not the life for him.  The separation was amicable.

Until my mom met someone.  Then the divorce became bitter.  And it shaped a lot of who I am today.

Years of courts and custody and visitation rights.  Fear of AIDS and HIV just because we were all so ignorant then.  Tears and broken hearts and sleepless night.  Therapy.  More therapy.  

I did not talk to my dad for many years.  He was not the kind of man that I wanted to know.  He was my dad and he had disappointed me beyond measure.  He broke my heart time and time again.

Eventually we found our way back to each other.  I was in college then and had started to let go of some of my anger.  My dad went out of his way to shower me with love and attention and every once and again we would talk about the past.  We finally came to a place where we agreed to disagree and lived in the moment with each other - not the past anymore.

From there we had many good years.  Trips to NYC to see musicals.  He would invite my 2 closest friends up with me and take us to get our nails done and our hair done and show us the best time imaginable.  We took family trips to Amsterdam and England to name a few.  We had holiday dinners and for a few weeks once, we even took a yoga class together.  We got back some of what I lost growing up and it was good.

Then my dad started to get sick.  Years of living the high life and not managing his diabetes.  When the dementia started, none of us even knew it as he hid it so well.  He was also retired by then and primarily living in Manhattan so we did not see each other as much.

By the time I met Gary, my dad's mind was pretty bad.  He knew I was with someone but could never remember his name.  When I was pregnant, he was so happy.  Already in a nursing home by then since we could not take care of him, he always smiled when he saw me and my growing belly.  When Allie died, he somehow managed to get a phone and call me over and over and over. With his diminished mind, he did not know what to say except ask how I was over and over and over.  It was very difficult.

It got worse from there.  By the time we had Miranda, he knew who she was and he seemed to understand that we adopted her, but he did not have the strength to relate to her.  I am just glad he met her a few times.  She was always wonderful when we went to visit him.

And now he is gone.  Leaving behind memories both bitter and sweet.  I do not want to glorify him in death as that is not fair.  He was not a great father.  He did not know what to do with children.  He was so hell bent on figuring out who he was and where his place in this world was that we often got left behind.  What he was, though, was a man who taught me how to laugh.  Taught me how to enjoy the finer things in life.  Taught me to respect myself and put myself first.  Taught me that little girls need their daddy's no matter what.  And taught me that being loved is the best feeling in the world.

I hope my dad is at peace now.  I hope Allie greeted him with love and warmth.  I hope my dad got to see his parents and his sister.  I hope in death he can be who he was not able to be in life.  I hope all the bitter is gone and all that is left is the sweet.


A Year In the Life

One year ago today, I became a bona fide published writer. I was ecstatic to get my first piece published and to share my words and story wi...