Left Behind

Gold_Chaika_Pocket_Watch_made_in_the_USSRYou have left behind a small bedroom, engulfed by the bulky hospital bed with its folding mattress and steely grey rails.

You have left behind an old red recliner, and I sit in it and remember that the wooden handle no longer works and the deep creak in its rock sounds like the background music to midnight conversations, whispered in the hushed stillness of a sleeping home.

You have left behind a closet full of blue dresses and a red cape, and I never would have known that your favorite color was pink, until you asked for a dress to be buried in and smiled when the rose colored sheath was unfurled from its bag, petals opening in front of a sunset.

You have left a trunk full of love letters and silk scarves and stories I was never old enough to ask you for, so that now I sit and wonder about the woman in the picture, legs propped up on the steps, her skirt sliding up to show off her slender calves.

I have days of work ahead of me, maneuvering the remnants of life from present to memory, and you have left your scent in the sheets, your powder on the bathroom sink, your gold pocket watch on the dresser, and me.

You have left behind me.


This has been a six sentence story. You can find out more about them and this week’s prompt, here.

The River

I don’t remember the way I loved you,
but it is seared in my mind,
that image of you at the edge of the water,
long strands of river algae curled around your legs
and clung like sticky tentacles on the muscle of your calf
water rolled in languid drops down the swell of your breast
dangled teasingly from the arched tip and fell,
a dramatic end to catch the sun’s glint.
I watched my reflection scatter and break in the droplets on your skin.
I think that’s where the problem was.
I think I saw myself too much in us.

© Laura A. Lord 2015

To Watch Him Love

I went through a year of horrendous online dating before I met the man who became my husband. I wasn’t exactly a poster girl for the most eligible bachelorette, but none of my hold-ups were much excuse for the sort of men I met. I was 24 years old and a full time student. I worked part time, lived with my parents, was divorced, and had two children under the age of five. I’m not an unattractive woman, but men weren’t exactly beating down my door to date me. More so, I knew that I needed a companion, not just a boyfriend.

I couldn’t seem to even meet a normal, down to earth man. Things became enough of a joke around the house that my mother would sit up at night and wait for me to get home, collapse on her bed and giggle while sharing all the terrible details of my odd nights out.

There was the man who was allergic to everything. I gave him an innocent kiss after our date, forgetting that I had eaten a piece of chicken, and almost killed him.

Then there was the guy who asked me to hold his belt while in the mall so I wouldn’t get lost.

The man who took the menu out of my hand and ordered food for me like I was three.

The guy who took me to a movie and proceeded to move down to the front row where there was only one open seat to “see better,” leaving me alone.

The man who figured out where I worked and spent an hour walking around the store trying out different women’s lotions before finally admitting he was one of the men I had denied a date request from on an online site.

The guy who took me shopping and then proceeded to tell me how I should dress.

The gentleman who stripped naked in his parent’s living room while I used their restroom.

The dude who attempted to suffocate me on my parent’s couch.

By the time I got around to talking to Mak, I was pretty wary of dates. A whole year of these kinds of dates will do that to a woman. I had a whole safety set-up – complete with emergency friend phone calls lined up and pepper spray.

Mak invited me over for dinner. I had such a good time that I ended up coming home and looking him up on Google and the case search program to see if he had some shady criminal past hiding. There had to be something wrong, considering my past history with online dating. He had a speeding ticket. That was it. Needless to say, I was impressed.

The next morning we had a quick conversation.

“I’m not really interested in playing around,” he said. “I like you. Let’s make this serious.”

If any other man I’d gone on a date with had said that to me I’d have gone running for the hills.

“Okay,” I said.

I don’t know why. I’d hate to chalk it up to some sort of fate thing, but maybe part of me knew he wasn’t a psycho killer. Maybe there was some deeper connection. Maybe I was just really brave.

Within a few weeks he had met my children and included them in our outings.

541497_397525856932511_2036391058_nA few months later was Easter and I was scrawling ‘I love you’ onto an egg and hiding it in the fridge.

“Go get the orange egg out of the fridge,” I told him.

He got up and I heard the fridge door open. After a moment it closed again and he came back to the couch.

Silence.

“Well…” I started.

“Well what?” He asked.

“What did you think?” I asked. It was the first time I’d attempted to tell the man I loved him and he was being completely stubborn about the whole thing.

“It’s cute,” he said.

“And…” I lead him.

“I love you, too,” he said. “You know that.”

By the end of the year he had moved in. We were blessed in our relationship. There hadn’t been many of the big challenging moments. His father passed a few weeks before our wedding, but it was expected, and while we mourned it hadn’t surprised us. Their relationship had been so strained, for so long. It was the first time though that I ever saw him cry – a moment that I think is imprinted in my memory. There is something about seeing a strong man mourn, something heartbreaking and frightening and so real it hurts that one simply doesn’t forget it.

I remember standing by his father’s bed. He sat in a chair across the room from me. I went to him, but he didn’t reach for me. I stepped back – gave him space. I didn’t know how to handle his grief. He took a few moments to himself and I watched him. I watched the years, the pain, the neglect from that relationship wash away. For those few moments there was love.

There hadn’t been many of those bring-you-to-your-knees moments. We didn’t even really fight or argue. We were thankful to have found a companion in one another that shared a similar sense of humor. Laughter got us through any time things seemed to be getting dark.

He stepped into the role of father as if it were all he’d ever known. It was never a look-at-me exercise, but came naturally. There was a gaping hole in our little family25248_108453875839712_7044406_n and he saw it, stepped into it, and never looked back. It was in the quiet way he made that transition that still never fails to amaze me.

He has a silent strength in him. A code of ethics that can’t be argued or even discussed. They simply are.

Perhaps it’s because of his quiet nature that people find him intimidating. Combining that with the sleeves of tattoos and long dark hair, it’s quite understandable. However, anyone watching him drink tea from a tiny porcelain cup with my daughter would realize how wrong they are.

Four years after that first date and I was talking to my brother in California, planning his trip home to visit.

“When is he coming home?” Mak asked.

“The end of June,” I said.

“Good,” he said. “We’ll get married then.”

Proposal. Date set. End of discussion.

I had a month to get everything planned and ready.

I love you, too. You know that.

After our wedding we decided to have a baby. A few short months later and I was excitedly waving those little pink lines around in the air. We were so excited we told everyone.

We were at his mother’s for a belated Thanksgiving dinner when I started miscarrying. My husband had the kids in the car while I stood white knuckled on the phone with the emergency room and watched my father-in-law toss the kids’ toys into their book bags. Hours and many tests later the doctor gave us the news.

“There’s no heartbeat.”

I’d known when I saw her face. I’d been crying since she came into the room. I looked across the room at my husband. I expected him to get up, to come to me. The doctor left and he still sat there for a few moments. In that space between us I watched him break, hit his emotional knees, mourn, and grieve. I watched him as he cared for himself and then he came to me. He put himself behind and cared for me.

For the following days he held me while I cried and found whatever ways he could to make me smile. We found laughter in the darkest moments. We suffered. We healed.

We spent months talking back and forth about whether or not to try again. The entire process had frightened him so badly. I learned to appreciate what pregnancy can do to a man. It’s a terrifying situation, especially for one who tends to like to be in control of things. There is no control with pregnancy.

He couldn’t see what was happening inside my body.

He couldn’t control what was happening.

He couldn’t stop me from being in pain, from hurting.

All he could do was be there and hope that I would heal.

“I’m not sure we should try again,” Mak said.

We were lying in bed, the lights off and waiting for one or both of us to become too tired to keep talking.

481829_525481010803661_775093643_n“We’ve got a girl and a boy,” he started. “You know? Maybe that’s enough.”

“You don’t want one of your own?” I asked.

“They are my own,” he said.

A few nights later we were repeating this whole thing again. It was like a record skipping, playing backwards, flinging all over the place. I never knew where we’d end up.

“We could try again,” he said.

“We’re not doing anything to stop it from happening,” I answered.

“If it does, it does,” he’d agree.

Three months of this back and forth indecision plagued us.

Finally he said, “I don’t think we should try again.”

“I’m pregnant,” I said.

We collapsed against one another laughing. For weeks we were quiet. We were so careful not to tell people too early. We went to each appointment with our heart in our throats. Every test was a negative, dangerous thing. Every symptom I had was cause to worry. We struggled to find joy.

Mak kept warning me not to get my hopes up.

I kept countering that he needed to not think so negatively.

We flew past each other, both of us on separate ends of our own emotional roller-coasters.

“Are you happy about the baby?” I finally asked him.

“Of course,” he said. “You know that.”

I love you, too. You know that.

I am five months pregnant today. A few weeks ago we went to the doctor and we got to hear the heartbeat. The tiny whomp whomp whomp sound filled the room. I was942205_603602919658136_1585711832_n laid back on the bed watching my husband. He didn’t stand up and come to me. For a few moments, he sat there and smiled. I watched him in this moment of joy and excitement and relief. I watched him take that moment for himself and then he came to me.

He kisses me every morning before he leaves for work. He tells me he loves me before we fall asleep. He doesn’t have to say that he loves me. I know he does. All I need are those few moments, where there is space between us and I have the chance to really see my husband. It is in those moments that I get to watch him love.

She is Raging

Trigger Warning: This post makes reference to miscarriage, loss, pregnancy. 

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I want to sit back and write something witty. I want to grab you on the first line and take you along some story’s path, so we can come out together at the end, holding hands and feeling quite proud of ourselves. I want to have words to give you, sprinkle around your mind like beautiful confetti.

But I don’t have it today.

I’ve got nothing to give.

I think all in all I’ve been handling this well. I mean, by the definition of “well” that everyone around me uses.

“Oh, she’s good.”

“She’s fine.”

“You look well.”

She’s not good. She’s staring at her Facebook and seeing post after post of baby bumps and nurseries and baby showers and count downs and newborn photos. She’s not good, because she’s angry and she’s jealous. It’s not that she isn’t happy for them. It’s not that she doesn’t wish them the best. She just wishes she had what they do. She wants in on that little world again.

She’s not fine. She’s standing in the checkout and people keep opening their mouths.

“How far along are you now?”

“You’re barely even showing.”

“How’s baby doing?”

When are you do?”

And so she has to say that the baby is gone, again and again and again. The words stick in her throat and she’s choking on them, bending over to let them fall out of her mouth with a delicate thud. She’s not fine and she’s sick with speaking of it.

She looks well. She lost what weight she’d gained and she has more energy. The pregnancy had made her so sick. She looks healthy again. There is color in her cheeks and her hair has regained its bounce. She gets dressed a little more often. She paints her face. She crawls into bed with her husband, aching and needy and everything is back to the way it was and her world has settled into a muted thing, because she is well and so she is waiting. Waiting for her body and his to have that tiny moment of collision that will breathe new life into her womb and it terrifies her.

But she’s raging.

She wakes up and groggy eyed checks her email. Entirely too many messages, but it’s the morning routine. And she sees the words:

You haven’t purchased anything off your baby registry. Sign in now to get everything baby needs! 

So the company attached a coupon to ease the burn behind the idea that she is such a bad mother-to-be, she hasn’t even bought anything off her list. She has no crib, no carseat, no newborn diapers. She has no bouncing chairs, no teething rings, no footed pajamas. She has no formula, no Tylenol, no soft and fleecy blankets.

But she has rage at seeing it.

She has pain that sparks behind her eyes and they’d call them tears, but they burn hot streaks down her face and she thinks she could set the entire world on fire with her emotions overflowing.

She is raging.

And her husband comes home and kisses her on the head. He asks, “What’s wrong?” And she tells him, “Nothing.” 

And she pushes the rage back long enough to kiss him. To make him his breakfast. To prepare herself for getting the children up. It’s a matter of survival now and she can’t be the woman she’s supposed to be with everything snapping apart. She shoves it down, like a pill stuck in her throat. She buries it deep.

Congrats on the new baby! He’s beautiful.

The nursery looks wonderful. You all got a lot of work done.

Good luck at the hospital. You and baby are in my thoughts. 

Look at that bump! Any day now. . .

Click this button to unsubscribe from future BabiesRUs promotions. 

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Herstory Lesson: “You are so brave and quiet I forget you are suffering.” – Ernest Hemingway

Weekly Writing Challenge

I had to do this one.

Because Rarasaur did the prompt and she is awesome.

Because the prompt itself was awesome.

And because I wanted to take a moment and step outside of myself.

So I tossed myself into some fictional woman. Then I threw that woman into a very real place going through very real things that have never really happened in that place.

Did I lose you yet?

Good.

This entire piece is about being lost. It’s dark and dangerous and it came from that part of my mind that even Norman is afraid of.

Enjoy, while I go coax that hairy barbarian out from behind Ellie’s dressing table.

Operation: To the Teeth

The sun is setting on the century and we are armed to the teeth. The lyrics of Ani DiFranco’s gritty music filled my head, setting the theme song for the backdrop that I was coming to know so well. There’s an order to things. A specific set of gradual occurrences that succeed tragedy, grief, destruction, invasion. Yes, it had been an invasion, as difficult as that may be to believe. That was the first occurrence: the doubt.

            We didn’t feel the ground shaking, hear the pat-pat-pat of machine gun fire, or see the rolling tracks of tanks rip the ground to shreds beneath their tread. I was washing dishes at the sink, staring out the small window that overlooked my backyard, a swing-set, the cornfield. My children were playing in the sandbox outside, performing acts of God and moving mountains with little effort or thought to the consequences. My husband was watching TV.

            That’s how we knew it. The electric flashed and the TV shut off. That in itself wasn’t much to be concerned about. Two birds could sit on a wire and knock our electric out. The flash only lasted long enough to knock the dish out briefly and then the TV was back and blaring. A long steady beep screamed from the speakers and I waited for the words, “This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.” Instead, I heard a mechanical voice telling us, the people, to hold for the President of the United States.

            The video feed was not from the Oval Office. There was no comfy leather chair, no stars and stripes to fill the background. There was our President, worry and anger battling for the right to carve lines in his face, to spread from his thin pressed lips and to spiral out from his wide-set eyes.

            Doubt always comes first. No one believes it. The ego kicks in and the first thought is always, “Who would dare?” “Who would do this?” “Why would they want to?” All those questions are followed by the immediate reaction of, “We’ll be fine.” “They’ll call in the military.” “No one can beat us in a fight.”

            This is by far the longest part of the entire affair. The season of doubt washes across the country like a second-coming of the black plague. It eats everyone alive, but takes forever to go away. In its wake, we were left with anger, hatred, and fuel for a fight. The men disappeared. One by one they went off, recruited by their country or simply egging for a fight. Who knew? Who cared? We needed them and they went.

            And now we’re here, and those gradual occurrences are coming at a faster rate. See, once the doubt is gone, once the men have run off to defend their egos, their families, their possessions, their homes, their freedom…everything else falls into place very quickly.

            We’re tossed back into a medieval society, with no electric, no running water, no heat. Our money becomes far more useful as kindling for a fire, or toilet paper. It’s a barter and trade society again and it’s like we’ve been thrown back, back, back. I’ve got the best commodity around. Everyone can take it, but it can’t be stolen. It’s like my own personal Sphinx riddle and it is a tragedy that my daughter carries the same currency.

            Every right women ever fought for is gone. There is no one there to protect them, and so they are victims and protectors all at once. They become prey even as they provide. So we learn our purpose again:

            The men come in broken and we heal them.

            The men come in broken and we feed them.

            The men come in broken and we lie down, spread our legs, and let them break us.

Yes, women have found their place again, but at least we found a system of money that works. So we lose a piece of our soul, but our children are fed. They need to be strong for this world we’re making, breaking.

            I should have done as the others. I should have skirted the cities on my way North. The North has become a beacon of safety, a haven for the lost. I wonder if they’ll have closed the gates by the time we get there. I’ve never seen Niagara. I’ve never seen much of anything. My tiny life in my tiny, rural town was all I had ever known. Finally, after years of staring at the pages of travel magazines, I had the opportunity to see the world around me.

Regardless, I was foolish, but I wanted to see it. I had a postcard shoved in my pocket. I’d grown up surrounded by fields of corn and soybean, by deep rooted forests and gravel drives. I wanted to see buildings that touched the sky, that reached their sturdy fingers up to stroke the underside of the clouds.

            I remember pulling the postcard out and staring at it as we approached. I must have been around the same distance as the person who shot the original photograph. None of it was there. Rockefeller, Chrysler, Trump, Empire. They were all gone. I looked at the crease that was a white bolt of lightning through the middle of my postcard. It touched the top of the World Trade Center and drove right through the middle of the towers. Those had been gone long before today, another tragedy from another time. It seemed a million years ago.

            The purple mountains majesty was blocked by billowing columns of smoke and ash. There were no amber waves of grain, only the charred remains left behind by a foreign army. We never saw it coming and from sea to shining sea lay the remains of capitalism, democracy, America the beautiful.

            I feel a weight shift and briefly, for a moment, I can breathe again. Then there is another weight, and the hair is prickly and sharp as it rubs against my chest. He’s wider and my thighs are crushed down against the cold concrete of a dilapidated Macy’s store. Sweat is beading on his chin and dripping down onto my forehead like some sort of Chinese water torture and I’m floating away again. I’m lying here while men I don’t know are pumping away inside me, pouring their anger, disgust, and hate into me, using me for a moment to feel like maybe they’re in control again. They’re not, and perhaps because I know it, and they know I know it, they push harder and harder every time.

            I have no idea where my husband is. The only men I see are my own countrymen, running and fleeing to the North as quickly as we are. I don’t even know where my President is, or if he even is anymore. I know that I have three more to go before I get a loaf of bread. I know yesterday I earned a scoop of peanut butter that someone had shoved into little baggies. It’s the new drug deal of our century and I keep it shoved inside my bra for safety. I know that tonight my children will eat well and I only have three more to go, or two now. I think this one is done.

            Ani’s words drift through my head and I hear another girl crying nearby. Her tears form the melody to the tune and when a hand smashes my face to the side, holding me to the floor, I sing, “We’re all working together now…to make our lives mercifully brief…”

Weakened

I was asked awhile ago to write for Black Box Warnings. If you aren’t familiar with them, stop trying to look them up…they have since quietly faded out. Over the holidays the site went down, and so while I sit here with my thoughts on the wonderful people that ran that site, and hopes that things will get better for them and they can return soon, I decided to share the post with you from here. I hope you enjoy it, though enjoy might be the wrong word. I hope it let’s you in for a moment. I hope it makes you feel.

That’s what writing it for, right? To make us feel something.

So I wrote about feeling weak. I wrote about the moment when I noticed weakness in others around me.

I learned to cherish weakness, the humanity of that emotion.

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You tell yourself you shouldn’t say anything. It’s too early, and you’ve been here before. This isn’t a new ride for you, but you feel like you’ve been waiting in the line for it forever. Your body’s been craving this thing, this filling. You’ve been striving for it, every ounce of your DNA straining forward, as if it were just out of your reach. But you knew you’d get it, and you did, and now you hold the proof in the little plastic strip in your hand and the plus sign is bright and pink. It practically screams it’s a girl, but it’s too soon to know such things. It’s too early, and you’ve been here before. Besides, they used pink for boys in the past. It could be his son. It could be his boy.

It’s his first anyway. Just because you’ve done it before, doesn’t mean he has. No, he will be excited. He will be nervous and frightened, because he is a good husband, a good man, and a good father to the two mini-clones of his wife that run around the house in the early morning hours with an energy you both envy. He will be proud of you and touch your belly and hold you close for a few moments. He will smile and grab his phone and you won’t even think about it. It’s too early, and you’ve been here before.

His mother is calling you and you know he’s told them. He’s told them all. In his excitement he has leapt onto the digital rooftop and yelled out his news through the Facebook megaphone. You haven’t even been to the doctor yet, but you know, you know. Your body is changing, quickly it seems.

You are older now. Your body has grown soft. Your husband doesn’t complain. He likes the curves and the shape women call womanly, in that snarky tone of theirs. As if any one shape defines a woman. As if this is your definition: your broad hips that are soft on the sides, and the small pudge of a belly that never disappeared after your son had finished pushing the boundaries of your body and leaving the road map of faded white bolts across your skin.

You don’t remember how you told your father the first times. You should remember those sorts of things, but you think hard and cannot. Your father is a silent strength in your world. Words are scarce, but heavy. The memories you hold strongest are the ones where you saw him weakened. It seemed so odd, so out of place. It seemed so fake, that you stood there staring at that man and wondering who he had become, until you realized with a sort of bone-deep fear that he was the same man who held you when you fell apart and there you were, standing there frozen, while they told him his father was dying and you could hear him suck in a breath as if he were inhaling the world. It was a silence so deep before the break that caught in his throat and choked you. It sent you running from the room.

These things you remember, but not how you told him about his granddaughter. The little child he had to wear a mask to see the first time in the hospital. You don’t remember how you told him he would soon have a grandson, but you remember him in the room with you when you delivered. You remember saying, “I can’t do this” and him telling you, “You don’t have a choice.”

It’s that silent strength and you shouldn’t have said anything at all.

But you ran out, your feet scraping on the blacktop, bare in the cold frosty air that seemed to come earlier and earlier every fall. The leaves hadn’t even finished turning and the grass was still green, but there was a chill that seeped inside you and you knew it was too early. He was in his shed working and you said, “I have news” and he said, “You’re pregnant.” Just that, two words, and you both laughed. You smiled and he went back to work, smiling and silent.

You go to the doctor and you see the picture. It’s a peanut in black and grey. It’s a tiny little shape, like a croissant roll wrapped and fluffy. You see shades and a flicker that they point to and say, “Heartbeat”. Such a massive two syllable word. You look at your husband and he’s sitting there frozen, staring at the screen in some kind of wonder. He’s got no words and it’s that silent strength characteristic again and you feel at home and safe, even though it’s early. It’s so early.

You’ve been so sick. You’ve been living in sweatpants and your husband’s big t-shirts. You’ve had to battle with yourself and argue with the image in the mirror to make yourself want to shower, but everything smells bad and all you want to do is curl up and sleep. You are so tired. Your hair is a mess and you haven’t shaved your legs in so long, the husband laughs when he brushes against them. He drags you into the shower. He hands you a razor, like a silent plea to return to the woman he knew before. Something has changed in you, and you know it is different this time. You know it’s early.

His mother has invited you for dinner. It’s a holiday and special, so you shower and shave. He didn’t even have to ask. And you buy a new shirt and wear your new pants, because your body is soft and it’s changing so fast. You do up your make-up and slide in your earrings and your husband stares at this woman and wonders where she has been. You ride to his mother’s with his hand on your thigh, sliding closer and closer while the children are in the back and can’t see what he’s doing, or figure out why you are smiling like that. It’s a rekindling and it’s been so cold. You’ve both needed it for so long.

You’re on the porch later, when dinner is over, the phone clutched in white knuckles. You’ve never seen your father-in-law move so fast. He’s throwing your children’s toys into their bag, while your husband stuffs them in coats, and you are dancing in the cold while your mother-in-law packs turkey in a bag. You don’t even like turkey. And grandma is hugging you and telling you, “You’ll be okay”. Last year you told this woman you loved her, and she said, “You don’t even know me”. You felt sorry for someone who couldn’t accept a little love. Now you are here and you don’t want her to touch you. You don’t want anyone to touch you. You have to protect it and everyone is a danger, because something is wrong, and it’s so early.

If there is something invasive they can do, they do it. You have so many hands on you, inside you, machines that are beeping and blood being drawn. You have a negative blood type, so you have to get a shot. You know this. You know without it, your body will attack the life inside it, like a parasite it is trying to rid itself of. Always so quick to grow, in a body that wants to destroy. You start thinking, what did I do wrong? Why won’t it stop?

This woman, with her short hair comes in and you know, because her poker face is terrible. And she knows it, and blurts it out.

“There’s no heartbeat.”

You know it is real, because your husband can’t move. You are breaking into a million little pieces on their gurney. There is blood on your thighs and that thick, sticky gel on your stomach. There’s an IV in your arm, but it’s hooked up to nothing, and a bruise on your hip that will be there for weeks where they gave you a shot so you wouldn’t kill a baby that was already dead. You’re leaking out and he isn’t moving. Your husband. He’s sitting there and he can’t get up and you know it is real. You know he would come to you, but he’s having his moment. You are seeing him weakened and it frightens you, but you can’t run away and you can’t even go to him, because there isn’t enough of you left to stand up.

You are home and your father walks down the hallway. You’re in the living room, trying to find some channel on the TV that will occupy your children long enough to keep them away so you can save them the fear of seeing their parent snapping apart like a collection of wishbones. Your father, that silent strength. That man of few words. The one who once sucked up the world into his lungs and taught you how to crack. He’s there and he doesn’t touch you. He stands a few feet away and you are very aware that he doesn’t look you in the eye. You are very aware that you have switched places, and he is where you were as a child watching him mourn.

“I’m sorry about the baby.”

White Shoulders

tradewithtonyThis morning my children are dressed in their Christmas best.

They are ready for Sunday School and in all the hectic chaos of such mornings, my son asked for cologne.

So, I ran into the room, apologized to the sleeping bear that is the husband and grabbed his cologne, patting it on my fingers and dabbing the smelly stuff on my son’s pale little neck.

My daughter wanted smelly stuff, too.

My mother went and got perfume and it hit me, the second she lifted the cap on the bottle.

Even over the smell of the Polo on my fingers, I could smell the White Shoulders, tears filled my eyes, and for a moment I skipped back.

*This is a piece from my first book, Wake Up a Woman.

White Shoulders

White Shoulders

Have you ever noticed that there are places in this world that at certain times, and this is only every once in a while, time skips? It’s like life is a record player, and in our little record are a few cracks. Oh they are nothing major, and the music still comes through, but at times, just certain times, the needle catches. It pauses there, and the music stops. Then, within seconds, it jumps over the crack and starts anew. Who knows how long those seconds are? I mean, what does time mean to God? An eternity for us is but a blink of the eye to Him.

Of course by this point my grandmother had stopped my explanation of cracks and records skipping. She had one of the sighs, the kind that let me know she was ready to come out of her silence. We were sitting there on that park bench, the kind with the curved metal back, that looks uncomfortable, but you end up melded right into it like you belong with the scrolls and dips and dives. Leaves floated around us in the colors of flaming ash, all reds, oranges and yellows. My Grandmother’s cape was red. Not the red of the leaves, or a sunset over tired skies. No, her cape was the color of a fire engine. As if she should be putting out all those little flames that fell around us, and she could have too. She’d been putting out fires all of my life.

“Now stop this nonsense, and tell me what’s really going on.”

Her voice was one of soft strength, and as she spoke, one small, wrinkled, beautiful hand slipped out from under that cape and grasped mine. I couldn’t just settle for her hand though, and instead I curled myself into her, like I’d done since I was a child. My grandmother was no twig of a woman. She was the kind of woman you hugged and instead of being afraid you might break her, you knew she was the one holding you together. She was comfortable, and as I hugged her the scent of White Shoulders chased away everything else.

It was easier to talk now, so I told her of school and how well it was going. I talked about my professors and how much support they have given me in my writing. I spoke of work and the fun I have with the girls there in our efforts to make everyone fall as much in love with their writer’s voice, as we are. I told her of my children, and how we made gingerbread cookies, even though it wasn’t nearly Christmas yet, simply because the kids wanted to cut out cookie shapes. She laughed at that, and reminded me of her old recipe for cookies, one my mother and I don’t make nearly enough.

“Remember you have to roll them flat. Real flat. You want them really thin. Your mother and you never quite get them thin enough.”

And she was right, we didn’t. My mother and I didn’t come ingrained with that same ever-flowing font of patience that my grandmother had, and is. We’d get that cookie dough as flat as we felt like, even though we could hear her in our mind saying that they weren’t ready yet, and roll them flatter. I started to laugh then, and she laughed along with me, the sound filling the empty silence around us. It rose and fell over us, slowly twinkling out, stuck on the breeze and drifting away.

I sat there on that bench and turned to the empty place beside me. My fingers brushed the dead, brown leaves from the seat. Music played again, sweeping through the trees and shaking everything up at the roots, and the world spun around. I laughed again, loud enough to drown out the music. It was laughter laced with tears, and they fell and darkened the wood where my grandmother had sat.

“I miss you Mommom, so much.”

Perhaps I’ll stay here for a bit. Perhaps I’ll make this my home for a time. What is time anyway? It may only be another breath, another heartbeat, and the needle will catch again, and silence will fill a world scented by White Shoulders.

Out of Sight

I spent the day with my grandmother yesterday, something I am almost embarrassed to say, I never do. It isn’t that I don’t get along with her. This is simply how my family is hardwired. We rarely have much to do with one another unless there is some sort of special occasion. My aunt is the one exception to this, but she tends to give me a weekend break from the monsters every couple of months. She is amazing with my children, and they adore her, so while it feels like some sort of miraculous gift to me, I think it truly means more to them.

Regardless…yesterday was Mommom and I. She needed to go to the doctor, and so I took her. We talked about small little things: Christmas gifts, family, how the kids were doing in school, Dallas in ballet, Dude starting soccer this Spring, etc etc etc. We went and ate at Dairy Queen.

I mean, it really was nothing super special.

She did fine at the doc’s and I took her home.

End of story, right?

Nope. Nope, I got ready to pull out of the parking lot in front of her apartment complex and I see her in the doorway. She stood there alone, arm raised and waved to me.

I was immediately shoved back into my childhood and I knew she wouldn’t leave, wouldn’t budge, wouldn’t stop waving until I had disappeared from sight completely.

I knew this, because this is what she and my grandfather did every single time we came to visit. It was a sort of goodbye tradition. It just happened, every time, and there was nothing short of the cancer that took my Poppop that stopped him in the end from being able to make it down those steps to the back door to wave us off.

Something happens in these moments, these little seconds where we go back and I ended up sitting here thinking about what I actually remembered. I pulled out a box full of stuff I have collected over the years, and there on top were two clip on ties.

I don’t remember him ever wearing these. That wasn’t the sort of man he was, but I did see a picture of him at my parent’s wedding wearing the blue one. My grandmother handed these to me after he died. I never understood why. I had no memories connected to them, but I saved them and made memories for them.

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Poppop has been gone for fourteen years. It doesn’t even seem possible. I have this small box, a little painted thing. Inside are two petals from the flowers at his funeral and this little moth guy. I don’t remember when I found it, but I know it was right around the time he died. I remember finding it on the floor in the kitchen of my grandparent’s house. They had dark floors and this perfect, white moth stood out like a sore thumb.

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I remember the pantry I would play in, like my own private world while my parents and grandparents played cards.

I remember the little closet that had a slit in it by the fridge, and I could see my Poppop as he played. He always sat in the chair by the fridge.

I remember the brown leather couch that my legs stuck to when it was too hot.

I remember the ash tray, it was a yellowish glass. I don’t remember cigarette butts ever being inside it.

I remember the candy Poppop kept in his pocket when he quit smoking.

I remember a box full of crumpled one dollar bills that they gave my brother and I for Christmas one year.

I remember a huge candy cane full of Hershey kisses we gave him.

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I remember plenty of other things, painful things, but today I am looking around my home and I am seeing the wooden Christmas decorations he made for us and I don’t want to remember the hospital bed, or how he never came out in the shed with us anymore, or that I had to walk down the big hill in the back by myself. I don’t want to remember his garden overgrowing, or their home that I loved so much being sold, or how I saw my dad cry.

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No, today I want to think about when we would climb in the car and look out the window and there they would be. My Poppop and Mommom, in the doorway, arms raised and waving. They wouldn’t move, wouldn’t budge, wouldn’t stop waving until we were out of sight.

Ups and Downs

Today sucked. I mean, in most aspects…it completely sucked.

After a trip to the doctor’s, we found out that the natural route we opted for has not finished and we are not yet over the physical part with the miscarriage.

So…when I believed at least the pain was behind me, I realize it hasn’t even truly begun. It’s like walking around with a time bomb ticking away inside me and having to wait and see.

Will it happen today?

Tonight?

Will the husband be home or will I be alone?

I can’t go to the store. What if it happens while I am there?

Here, let me move that couch. Maybe heavy lifting will get it started tonight?

I should sit down. I don’t want it to start now.

So, it is ups and downs as I feel like Mother Nature is winging me around on her own personal yo-yo. It’s a pathetic Miley Cyrus on the wrecking ball imitation and I needed something to shift this pendulum in a new direction.

The dress. Not me in the dress...but this chic in the dress I now own.

The dress. Not me in the dress…but this chic in the dress I now own.

The dress came in. It looks this good in person. Better even, because it didn’t fit.

I ordered the same size, from the same company that I got my wedding dress back in June.

And this dress was a full size too big. I admit. Part of me was extremely happy to push it back into the plastic bag and prepare to ship it off for an exchange from Amazon. Oh pendulum push.

Mine.

Mine.

And then these came. It was like package heaven here.

And they fit.

And I smiled as I handed them to the husband and told him he could wrap them and stick them under the tree.

Because tomorrow there will be no party for me to go to. I will stay home for the hours, the days, the weeks this may take.

I will bake cookies.

I will wrap presents.

I will cook dinner for my children.

I will pack lunch for my husband.

I will fold laundry and do dishes.

And in a few weeks I will open a package with a kick ass pair of shoes in it and I will wear them for my husband.

And I will love him.

And everything will go up and down, because that’s how it goes.

So, I’ll lift my chin, square my shoulders and give the pendulum a little push with my gold toned stilettos.

I Love You Reason Number Six Thousand Four Seven Eighty Nine Nine

My son has a fascination with numbers. He hasn’t quite figured out how they work yet, but I’m hoping that this inclination towards math continues for him. It’s never been my strong suit, and I dread the years coming when he asks for help with his homework and I realize it is a math I couldn’t pass in college.

Numbers like six thousand four seven eighty nine nine and five two hundred ninety seven five three are the normal way of describing things around my house.

The alligator was ninety eleven thousand pounds old.

I weigh seventy nine two and three years.

It’s two thousand million six ways that way.

So tonight we had this…

Dude:   Can you get a new baby tomorrow?

Me:   No. Not tomorrow. Daddy and I are going to wait for a little bit before we try to make another baby.

Dude:   Like eleven seventy-five bits.

Me:   Like sixty to ninety bits.

Dude:   That’s like next this week.

And since we live in a home where everything always happened “yesterday” and everything is happening “tomorrow”, I realized for him, next week is forever. So I didn’t argue the point, or try to explain days and weeks and months. I didn’t mess with his little realm of reality and the small ‘bits’ of it he gets right now. I’m glad he asks me questions. I’m glad he knows he can.

Maybe he got it from the husband. I have to say, as bad as things got yesterday for me, the husband was his normal, dependable self…though inquisitive, to say the least.

I started having contractions yesterday, so we knew what the doctor referred to as the “big event” (terrible choice of words, doc) was on its way, and we hoped to soon be finished with the physical aspects of this loss so we could go back to dealing with the emotional parts of it.

Before I continue, the husband and I share an amazing quality: we laugh.

We laugh about everything.

We laugh about nothing.

We laugh about inappropriate things.

We laugh to deal with the crap around us.

We laugh to deal with each other.

We laugh when we are angry, or sad, or frustrated.

We laugh when we are in pain.

We laugh, because that’s how we deal and that’s who we are.

So yesterday, while I was curled up in the bed in the middle of increasingly intense contractions, I looked over and saw…basically this:

Once I was done yelling curses into my fluffy pillow, I began to laugh. I had forgotten that this would have been the husband’s first baby…It was the first pregnancy he’d been through.

He’d never seen a woman in labor.

So seeing me, having contractions and crying out in pain was not a good moment for him. He was literally pulling the blanket over his head every time a wave rolled around and would only peek over the edge when I got quiet again.

Which meant every time a contraction passed, I would fall onto the bed laughing helplessly at the big, strong man hiding and looking about as helpless as a kitten.

Eventually, the laughter stopped though. The contractions got worse, I was told to go to the E.R., I began hemorrhaging…The husband became less the frightened man and more the man growling in the waiting room every time someone’s name was called besides mine. He became the frightening man in the triage department when he found out there were no beds available for me, and they were going to have to give me morphine in some back room in a chair.

And twenty minutes later I’m in an actual bed, high as a kite, and fighting with the finger/pulse monitor thing they had on me, while he continued to get frustrated with me and say multiple times:

Put your hand down. Leave it alone. Stop it before you break it! Leave it alone!

And I laughed at him.

Because that’s what we do.

And as the night progressed and the doctor gave us a clean bill of health, and I was feeling better, safer, saner…I realized just one more reason to add to that long list of reasons I love the husband.

REASON NUMBER SIX THOUSAND FOUR SEVEN EIGHTY NINE NINE

The husband isn’t afraid to ask me questions. And so when he asked me to explain exactly what had been happening to my body and to the baby, I did. I walked him through the entire process, of what we thought could have happened to the baby, about how the body takes care of these things.

And there’s something almost comforting in that…in the breaking it down. I knew what had happened to my body, and while we’ll never know exactly what happened to our baby, talking it through was like lifting a weight. It let me step back for a second. It let me take the fear out of the situation (and made me wish I’d talked to him before the process had begun). It made me feel closer to him in those moments, when he wasn’t afraid to ask me questions.

And maybe he won’t want to talk about it any more, and that’s okay. I don’t much want to talk about it either. And maybe we’ll both laugh and poke fun at me high on morphine, or his hiding under the blanket technique. Hell, that’s not even a maybe. We will.

Because that’s what we do.

And that’s who we are.

And it’s just reason number six thousand four seven eighty nine nine why I love him.

Heartbeat

heartbeat

We expect so much from our bodies. I mean, if I get sick, I expect my body to do its part in fighting off the germ that’s invaded it. I expect my lungs to suck in and breathe without me consciously thinking about it. I expect my skin to stay in place as long as I’m careful not to peel it off by running into sharp objects or tripping down stairs. I expect my heart to beat.

I expect a heartbeat.

As a woman I expect even more. I expected, as a teenager, that at some point I might actually grow a pair of boobs. I expect that once a month I’ll turn into the poster child for every man’s idea of PMS. I expect these things because of my sex. Because I’m a woman. Because that’s how women are made.

I expect to be a partner in the creation of life. I expect to provide a safe, nurturing environment for that baby to grow. I expect to be capable of carrying a child. Because I’m a woman, and women get pregnant and have babies.

Logic has nothing to do with expectations. Not one damn thing. The fact that there are women who physically will never be able to become pregnant is irrelevant…because at some point they had these same exact expectations. The fact that there are women who have lost every child they carried does not matter here…because they carried the same beliefs and confidence in their body at some point.

We expect from our bodies.

I expect a heartbeat.

And so when our body fails us, and when something deviants from the “plan” we had in mind, it becomes difficult not to blame the machine. Logic takes another back seat. Common sense goes out the window, and you’re left in a hospital gown, in a tiny room that every one keeps using as a storage closet, with your underwear around your ankles and hands all over you as you are poked and prodded and stuck and photographed in the most invasive of ways just so five hours later the doctor can come in and tell you

There’s no heartbeat.

And so they give you shots and lists of things to do and everyone keeps giving you the mantra:

It happened early…there was probably something wrong with the development.

It’s nothing you did.

It’s not your fault.

You can try again.

And I listen to their chorus of logic and common sense as I watch the man, the protector in my life, the one who is always there to fix everything, and I watch as he realizes he can’t fix it and he can’t make it better and he can’t protect me because it’s in my body

And there’s no heartbeat.

I have to watch everything else break around me and everyone keeps asking:

How is she?

How are they doing?

What’d the doctor say?

I can answer that. She’s in pain, physical pain. She’s in the middle of a process that can last for weeks and it hurts. As if the mind needs to be challenged further, the body must prove its endurance to pain. They? They, as in my husband and I? We’re hurt. We’re dodging people and making each other laugh, because that’s what we do. We laugh to cover it up and we mourn when its dark and no one is around to hear us. What’d the doctor say?

There’s no heartbeat.

We expect so much from our bodies, and when it fails us it becomes the traitor. It becomes this thing we are fighting against.We let in a little hope to strengthen our resolve and then battle against something we can’t even begin to understand because logic is gone and hope can be false. It can be cruel. It can show up when the woman refuses to turn to the screen and show you the picture. When she ignores your questions even though you’re lying there naked save for a thin little blanket while she pushes a machine inside you. Hope is there telling you its okay. It’s there when the doctor comes in and she was so friendly before and she thought she saw it. She thought she saw the flutter but she wasn’t sure and she asked for more tests and she sent you to that bitch who wouldn’t answer you questions…and hope was there right up until she said it and you knew it was over.

And you knew the world shifted because he couldn’t even stand up.

And there was no heartbeat.