Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Book

Tyler heard this book review on NPR as he was driving home from work the other day.  When he got home he was telling me about it.  He wondered if it was something I'd be interested in reading myself.  And it was.  I ordered it on Amazon as we were still discussing it.  The book came the other day, but I refrained from starting it.  I was saving it for some time when I really needed a book - like a waiting room or a park watching the kids play or something like that.  Yesterday afternoon I decided I might as well read it now.  So I did. It's not a long book.  I read the whole thing last night. 

After reading the reviews I didn't quite know what to expect.  It was called "powerful" and "wildly important" and "an enlarging experience".  On NPR they alluded to it being entertaining and funny.  I'll be honest here - while I read it I wasn't laughing.  After I finished I told Tyler that maybe for people who haven't actually lived it themselves this book is all of those things the reviewers said.  For me, this book was simply true.  Real.  I liked the way the writer was able to express much of what I think and feel.  I liked reading another woman's account of having a stillborn baby who seemed just as much at a loss of what came next as I was.

I can't resist posting just a sampling of excerpts that I really related to.  Here is a passage on missing what you don't have (that could have come out of my journal but instead came from this book): 

"He was a person.  I missed him like a person.  Seeing babies on the the street did not stab me with pain the way I know they stab some grieving women, those who have lost children or simply desperately want to have them.  For me, other babies were other babies.  They weren't who I was missing.  Every now and then a baby could take me by surprise and make me weep...Babies born to mothers who'd been pregnant at the same time as me hurt a little.  I didn't mind hearing about them, but I didn't want to meet them...One new mother enfolded me in a hug and said "Oh, Elizabeth, I am so sorry about your baby" - and I just wanted her to leave, because I didn't want to be a good and decent and functioning human being and ask after her baby.  Even now I have a hard time with the babies born to friends around our baby's birth.  It's not logical, and yet there it is: this one is one month older, this one three weeks younger.  But mostly I just missed my own child."

One of the big issues I continue to struggle with is how we all deal with grief, how we offer comfort to others - or not.  She had this to say about helping others grieve:

"...you need everyone you know after a disaster, becasue there is not one right response.  It's what paralyzes people around the grief-stricken, of course, the idea that there are right things to say and wrong things and it's better to say nothing than something clumsy.  I needed all of it...to know that other people were sad made my baby more real.  As I was going mad from grief, the worst of it was that sometimes I believed I was making it all up.  Here was some proof that I wasn't." 

  I have to stop myself or I'll end up quoting half the book here, so this is the last one:
"After most deaths, I imagine, the awfulness lies in how everything's changed: you no longer recognize the form of your days.  There's a hole.  It's person shaped and it follows you everywhere, to bed, to the dinner table, in the car.  For us what was killing us was how nothing had changed.  We'd been waiting to be transformed, and now here we were, back in our old life."

I'm glad I read this book.  I finally feel like here is a woman who would understand me.  Who would want to understand me.   I'm not quite sure how I would react to this book if I hadn't been through something like it myself...but I feel there is always something valuable about trying to see things from another person's perspective.  (If you're interested, my copy is available for borrowing.)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Not So Jolly

Remember when I told you about the disaster that was visiting Santa at the Ho-Ho-Hoe- Down?  Well, I finally have the picture to show you.  It cracks me up. 

It might be too small to see well, but the icy stare Lily is pulling off is a real classic.  C.T.'s isn't far behind.  Now I know what to threaten them with if they misbehave around Christmas.  "If you do that again I will take you to visit Santa!".  That should stop them in their tracks. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Mystery Man

Today is CT's last day off from school for the "Winter Break" (remember the good old days when we used to call it Christmas Vacation?).  I know - it's weird that he starts back up on a Tuesday...today is a teacher work day, kind of easing those teachers back into the daily grind.  I actually like it that he has today off.  Even though he is kind of crazy and certainly adds an element of chaos to our day I miss him when he's not around. 

Anyway, today we ran a couple of errands.  First we went to the library to return some items that we have had for three weeks - through no fault of our own I might add.  I tried to return them on the day they were due, Dec. 23rd,  only to find a sign on the library door saying the library was closed that day.  That sign was right next to another sign I'd seen last time we were there that proclaimed the library would be closed the 24th through the 27th for Christmas, and then again on Dec. 31st.  Fine.  I tried returning them again on Dec. 28th only to find a new sign saying the library was closed that day as well.  Fine.  I don't mind them being closed for a long holiday - I just wish they would put up one accurate sign before the break starts, or update their voicemail greeting, or post it on the web site, none of which seems to be in their grasp.  Finally, today, they were open again. 

I told the kids that after the library we would run into Dollar General and check out their Christmas clearance items. I have a hard time paying full price for Dollar Store seasonal items and only ever feel good about the price/quality ratio when the goods are marked 75 percent off or more.

When we go to a store like that I usually let each child pick one item that costs no more than a dollar so they were all excited.  The bad part about it is that they take about 45 minutes to choose an item that they will inevitabely forget about or break by the next morning.  After much looking and discussing and reminders by me that it "must cost only $1" they each had something in their little hands and we headed to the check out.  When we got there the cashier said to me "Oh, that man who just left wanted me to give this to you". And she hands me a bag with an "Ultimate Ninja Elite" action figure in it for CT and two "Glamor Girl and Puppy" sets for the girls.  To say the kids were happy about it is an understatement - particularly the boy.  As for me, this is the first time in my life I can recall something like this happening to me.  I've heard stories like it before, of course.  Who hasn't?  But it's never actually happened.  I was really touched that someone would do something like that.  And then I began to worry that my kids looked like underprivileged orphans and I really should have redone their hair before we headed out to do our errands.  Then I remembered that my friend had an experience where strangers paid for her family's dinner at IHOP, and her kids never look like orphans, so I took some comfort in that.  Did my kids each need a new toy today?  No.  But they were super excited to get it - and more than that they got to experience first hand the benefits of kindness from strangers.  I'm sure it is a story we will tell in our family forever.  "Remember the time that man we didn't know bought us each a toy at the store?  Just for no reason?".  As a mother I am so thankful to that man, not just because he bought my children a toy they like, but because he provided an example of thoughtfulness and reaching out to others, an example of how an unexpected kindness can mean a lot.  So thanks, man in the black cowboy hat, for truly making my day.