Monday, June 23, 2008

"Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world."

Mary Shelley

This is the time of year I usually breath a sigh of relief. No anniversary dates to get through or be blindsided by - a couple months reprieve.

This week though - that relief has been tempered by sadness on a different front. Last Friday I came home from running errands to find emergency crews and the Crime Scene Investigation van parked in front of one of our neighbors' homes. An elderly couple - their granddaughter had been a playmate of my daughter's before her family moved. This lovely couple who had been termed the "neighborhood grandparents" were now deceased. The circumstances not a pleasant contemplation and a complete shock. The investigators are calling it a murder/suicide - they were both in their mid-70's. Their home within line of site from mine - well kept yard with pretty and colorful flowers I often admired and a cheery welcome sign proudly displayed next to the front door. Things had become just a bit harder for them lately, progression of age wrecking havoc on body and soul and one can surmise that in face of quantity versus quality, quality won out and things just couldn't seem worth it.

Tomorrow my daughter and I will go and pay our respects and offer our condolences to their children and their children's children.

There is sadness and a little guilt. Wishes that friendly waves and brief hellos in passing had maybe been a little longer, a little more interested and concerned and supportive. May have not made one bit of difference, but maybe - just maybe . . .

ETA: The Visitation was rough - very emotional. There was a large show of friends from their church and neighborhood and the family was visibly touched by this as well as made mention of it. Come to find out that the little girl I thought was their granddaughter that my daughter played with, was actually a neighbor as well! They often looked after her after school while her parents worked and I would fetch Jess from their house - thus the assumption. My neighbor's children were not surprised by this at all - seems just about every kid in the neighborhood would find their way to their home and she would bake them cookies . . . :0) Their title of "Neighborhood Grandparents" well earned.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Show & Tell with Mel Sunday

This is a very emotional Show & Tell for me. This first picture is of my paternal grandmother taken in 1950 - the year before her youngest child and daughter was born. Growing up, my siblings and I spent more time with our father's side of the family than our mother's. This was more due to circumstances in which my mother was brought up, location and finances than really anything else - as we are fairly close to our extended family on both sides. My father's side however, we saw frequently - they often visited us where we lived or we lived in the same area. My dad's mom was divorced when my father was 3 - she ended up being sole provider for her 3 small children and her mother moved in with them to tend children while my grandmother worked as a hairdresser. She met and married a widower with a son of his own and eventually they had a child together shortly after this picture was taken. Aside from spending more time with my paternal grandmother, I feel a bit of a bond with her as she outlived both of her daughters and knew too well what losing a child was like. My first semester at college she called me frequently - probably guessing I was homesick and feeling lonely. I loved her for that - she always seemed to know the day I needed to hear a friendly voice the most and the phone would ring and it would be her voice on the other end. My sister and I spent two weeks with her and my dad's stepfather the year before she passed away. My only regret was not playing more Cribbage with her, and I envy my sister all the games she played with her that I did not during that visit. I married the year after her death and began ttc shortly after that. When I began having my miscarriages I began missing her even more - I would have felt comforted hearing her voice on the other end of the phone again.

This next picture is my Aunt Mary Jane and my grandmother's youngest. I think she's beautiful. She usurped my father's place as the baby in the family when he was just entering into his teen years and he adored her anyway. I have only a very few, very fuzzy memories of her as she died when I was a toddler. She took her own life at the age of 19 in 1970 and left behind a wake of devastation that has echoed through the decades ever since. When I was entering my teen years - probably about the same age that my father was when she was born - I began addressing all my diary entries "Dear M.J." As kids, we spent so much time with my other Aunt and Uncle. We loved it when either would come to visit - our Uncle Wayne always popping in unexpectedly, a whirlwind of craziness and fun. For a while we lived in the same city with our Aunt Julie and spent holidays at her home with our cousins - Sledding down the alley behind their house or sleeping on the basement floor in anticipation of Christmas morn. When I named my diary M.J. it was because I missed the spot that I knew my Aunt Mary Jane would have had in our lives. We spent so much time with my dad's family that it seemed only natural that she would have been there too. This was my solution to missing her - so I wrote to her in my journal, telling her all the things I would have wanted to tell her if she were there. In honesty, I don't know entirely why at that time I felt so drawn to her - I guess I just really needed her then.

This is my Aunt Julie. She and I are named for the same lady - her grandmother, my great-grandmother - her mother's mother. She was so vibrant and irrepressible - intelligent and witty. My youngest daughter reminds me so much of her and it brings me joy as I miss my Aunt Julie considerably. As kids - she was our greatest ally. She was tough - but she loved us fiercely and had a way of making you feel like you were her very favorite. This picture was taken not long before she passed away in 1986 at the age of 50. She went in for a hysterectomy and due to a hospital error, was overdosed on Demerol and never came home. My cousin (her only daughter of three children) had just gotten married a couple months before. She never saw her grandchildren. The following year I graduated from high school and that fall my father had brain surgery. I chauffeured my mom and grandmother around while my father was in the hospital. My grandmother had just lost her second daughter and terrified of outliving another child - my mom was a bit of a wreck as well, and I was the glue trying to keep us all together. Those were difficult times; though I hail from sturdy stock - survivors. And yes, now having a date for my own hysterectomy given that is how I lost my Aunt Julie, is a little unsettling.

My father is the last living member of his family - his mother, father and all his siblings have passed away. He is a survivor too. As survivors we have an important role - keeping the memories alive.

For more Show & Tell - see here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Countdown Begins . . .

I am failing horribly at the NCLM thing. I'm about halfway through the list of participating blogs and haven't been back to the list since last week. I've also been remiss in keeping up with the blogs I usually read and feel horribly neglectful of their wonderful authors. Not that I am so certain that they mourn the loss of my comments - particularly my predisposition to ramble! At any rate - I do feel badly about being a slacker commenter. Been rather preoccupied with stuff and life in general, the greater portion of focus being taken by the fact that inevitability now has a date:

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008 at 7:30 am.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Follow-up to Show & Tell with Mel Sunday

I have really enjoyed reading all the responses to my Show & Tell. How wonderful there are so many readers out there who have shared their love of the written word.

Thanks to have who stopped by and shared their stories with me!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Show & Tell With Mel Sunday

This tattered and dog-eared paperback is the first book I ever bought with my own money. I had babysitting money burning a hole in my pocket and when I came across this at a yard sale, I snatched it up. I don't recall how old I was - old enough to be babysitting, young enough that it's been too long to remember exactly.

I've always been an avid reader. By the time I was three I had memorized all the books my mom would read to me and "read" them back to her. By the time I was four, it was no longer from rote recall. By the time I was in the 3rd grade I was reading on a 6th Grade level and my favorite books were Agatha Christie novels - particularly "And Then There Were None". Often I had to provide our local librarian with a note from my mom to check out books from the "Adult Fiction" section. It wasn't because I was trying to check out the lurid steamy stuff (I will admit to a V.C. Andrews or Danielle Steele novel or two) - but because said librarian wasn't quite sure that a nine year old was on the right comprehension level for some of the novels I took home. Eventually she no longer hesitated, asking me "Are you sure this book isn't too old for you honey?" when I would hand the books over and would just open their covers, stamp them with a date two weeks hence and hand them back. I read fast too - devouring thick novels often in just a few hours. Then sitting back and replaying it over in my head with pictures the words conjured up for me for days afterward. If it had words on it - I would read it. The cereal box at the breakfast table. The tiny print on the back of the toothpaste tube. The tags on the mattress. I was the kid staying up late at night under the blankets with a flashlight - reading into the wee hours. I collected Nancy Drew; swooned to the Brownings; shivered at Poe; delighted in Dickinson and the Brontë sisters; solved countless mysteries with Mrs. Marple, Monsieur Poirot and Sherlock Holmes himself. By the time I was in high school it was Stephen King, Piers Anthony and Tom Clancy. Funny how as I matured, my taste in literature became less classical and more contemporary! Though - of all of these books, read and re-read and enjoyed, I never read one as many times as I have read this one battered copy of "Gone With The Wind".

I literally ate the book up - often reading it over more than a couple times a year. Over time from constant reading and re-reading it has morphed into its current state. The back cover and last few pages are actually missing, chunks of paragraphs and sentences torn away from overuse - but I no longer need them, I completely remember how the story goes and how it ends. I use to feel smug when I would watch the theatrical version and know that in the book, Rhett Butler's parting shot was not merely "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." In fact, he doesn't say frankly my dear at all - and his farewell to Scarlett goes on for pages. Page after delicious page of love and disillusionment and finally weariness and resignation. Even after total devastation, our heroine does what she does best - she gathers up her skirts, heads back to Tara and declares to think about it all tomorrow - and you know, you just know she's going to be alright because by now you know she can take care of herself - by hook or by crook and whether or not she gets Rhett back, because that is Scarlett.

Nowadays I am unable to spend the amount of time reading that I once did when younger. It has been years since I cracked open an Agatha Christie and if someone were to ask me if I thought Heathcliff was a tragic figure, I would probably envision an orange cat before the dark and enigmatic character created by Emily Brontë. While I still read as much as I can - much of the more contemporary literature I read now does not satisfy me near as much as my old friends once did. Every now and then I find a gem - but overall, it just isn't the same as it use to be for me. I cannot recall the last time I read "Gone With The Wind" and it was purely by accident that I came across it while rummaging through our storage. As I held the book once more in my hands this week I wondered why and when I had stopped reading it.

Maybe tomorrow I will sit down and begin reading it again.

After all, tomorrow IS another day . . .

For more Show & Tell - click here

Might As Well Be Walking on the Sun . ..

Next Lupron shot is scheduled for Tuesday. I am beset with constant hot flashes - so much so the last few days I feel like I might spontaneously combust. And while a summer long Lupronfest is not exactly what I am looking forward to (hot flashes in the Missouri heat and humidity? Can we we say parrrr - TAY!) - saying sayonara to the endo pain and mess isn't completely a bad trade-off. We also scheduled an appt for the same time as the injection to discuss THE next step - which is the hysterectomy in the fall. The thought fills me with a sense of relief that perhaps an end to the pain is in sight - but at the same time it feels like another huge crevice has opened up at my feet. My emotions are in a turmoil - a hot swirling whirl of anxiety, sadness, relief, excitement, discouragement and wanting to just get it over with so I can start getting on with it.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Show & Tell with Mel Sunday

Okay - so many of you will probably think this is a cop out! (Or maybe not) I'm going easy route here and show off my new header for S&T (I still think that sounds a little sordid). The awesome and creative Calliope is responsible for the new look around here and on my other blog. (Warning: the link will take you to the other site - bear in mind it is very kid-centric, though the header is worth the click!).

First off - Calliope was FAST! I added my name to the long list of bloggers queuing up for her services and anticipated a wait - she emailed back in less than 24 hours; two days later, the new headers were up. Secondly - Calliope listens to you and gets a sense of you and then comes up with ideas for your new header. Lastly - she is sweet as can be and very patient (especially since I think I was a bit of an email "tweak this and that" pest. She completely nailed the header for my other blog pretty much right off the bat. With this one I struggled a bit. She incorporated all the things I was thinking and mentioned first - color, art, style - but it just wasn't right yet. So, I mentioned one thing to her - just a something that I had forgotten, but then remembered. Years ago in the thick of it all, I wrote a poem called "Handprint on my Heart". That is what I use to call the effect of my losses on me. The poem was cheesy and definitely doesn't show any true literary promise or talent for anything other than the ability to rhyme (I will only post it if you really beg me and then bribe me with lots and lots of chocolate, Mel's fudge or something, I'm really not that much of a poet) but hey, it was for cathartic purposes. A friend had sent me a pendant that depicted this idea for my 6th loss and after emailing those four words to Calliope - "handprint on my heart", I went hunting for the pendant. I was going to scan it and send it to her.

This is the pendant:

As you can see from the header that graces this blog above, this is what Calliope came up with. She sent me a sample header literally as I was attaching the scanned pendant to an email I was sending her. Like I said - she is awesome. She managed to capture the essence of what it was I was looking for, even when I couldn't articulate it completely (or at all) at times - she listened and caught me dead on. I could go on and on about all the things I love about this header - the handprint and heart of course, but also the ripples behind the title and the blurry water color effect, the colors - so much symbolism I see there on a personal level. When I opened that header up the first time - I teared up. The header she created for my other blog caused me to laugh, she captured us so perfectly there as well.

So yes, I'm showing off my Calliope created header art today. About 2 dozen of the visitors counted in my visitor counter are mine - just coming back to look at that header!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

How an Angel Gets His Name

I have written about Zach before; Today though - on his day, I am going to tell you how he got his name.

To be truthful, I didn't start out thinking I would name my miscarried babies. One of the hardest things I struggled with in regards to my losses was how much nothing there was. Sometimes I made it far enough that I had an ultrasound picture or felt a bit of morning sickness. A time or two I developed a bit of belly. Most of the time however, all I had to show for my efforts was a fading positive hpt. (and medical bills) I had no face, no name - no sense of who this little being was to become other than being something my dh and I struggled a bit to create and found ourselves inexplicably missing acutely. After all, how can you miss something or someone you have not known? Many times I heard that it was better for me to lose my babies so early on - rather than later. Somehow, not knowing them at all was supposed to make their loss less painful. In reality though - it was still a tragedy, and one I felt keenly. I did not lose a person I had spent a lifetime culminating memories of or experiences with. I celebrated no birthdays. I didn't decorate a nursery. I didn't teach them how to ride a bike. Fight with them, love them or grow with them. What I did lose was a person I should have had those memories of and experiences with. A person I expected and dreamed and wanted spending a lifetime accruing all those things with and more - and that in and of itself is also a tragedy to be mourned.

The well meant words of those around me often did not comfort me. The only hope I found was in the words of those who had walked a similar path; so I began to seek them out, finding my way to an email support group (SPALS). For the first time I was able to open up completely about my miscarriages and I was met with understanding instead of hollow platitudes. While there I noticed many of the women had given their babies names - even for the little ones who were lost so early on that gender was indeterminate. Had my babies been born still - I would not have hesitated to name them. A baby with a known gender - of course. I had never considered naming any of my miscarried babies and in fact, the one baby we had named at this point (Carena) was named by her older brother in a manner that completely took my breath away. I had just found out the pathology report had determined she had been a genetically normal female. For some reason my doctor never shared this information with me. I discovered it while going over my records that I was going to hand deliver to the specialist I had been referred to. I had a necklace with charms on it for each of my children - living and lost. My son was 5 at the time and only knew that was my "baby" necklace. He knew I had started babies in my tummy and that they didn't grow big enough to live outside my tummy with us. He did not know which charm was for which baby. I had told no one I had found out the baby I had lost in August 1998 had been a girl at this point, not even dh. Finding out she had been a girl was almost like miscarrying her all over again and I was trying to adjust to this new detail. On a particularly low day and in the midst of feeling rather sorry for myself, he came up to me and pointed to my necklace. Out of the several charms there, he picked hers and said "I know that baby. She's a girl and her name is Carena. I played with her before I was born."

Grieving is a highly personal thing. There really isn't any right or wrong way to mourn. There is no rulebook, no guidelines, no process laid out with steps to follow in order from begining to end and then you are healed. We knew no one with the name Carena. A five year old child can be highly imaginative and likes to make up stories - though they tend to focus around places, people and things the author is familiar with, even if the events are rather fanciful. By giving this baby a name, he opened up an avenue I hadn't found yet - another direction to take in my grieving and healing process. Simply - it felt better to have the validation naming that little girl begun and not finished brought. Though, I didn't start naming all my miscarried babies right then and there though. A year or more passed before the others were named. The funny thing is - their names often found me, when I wasn't thinking about them, when I wasn't looking - completely unexpected and unbidden. If I tried to come up with a name, I would always, always draw a complete and utter blank. When I would come across their name, it would just feel right.

I am a fan of Anne Geddes' photography. One day I found myself in a craft store the day they discounted all their small framed prints. Out of the dozens of Anne Geddes prints, I chose two butterflies - feeling drawn to them the most out of all of them. I paid for them and took them home. It wasn't until later when I went to hang them on my wall that I noticed the prints were named. On the back each had a label. One label read "Zac as a butterfly" and the other "Hannah as a butterfly" - and I knew. The significance in finding these two names together was not lost on me. I ended up naming the first baby I lost Zach. The second baby I miscarried became Hannah. I conceived her just several weeks after my first miscarriage. The pregnancy lasted to 12 weeks, the baby stopped developing shortly after 10 weeks - hb found, hb lost. During the entire time I was pregnant with that baby I felt a constant presence. I always felt like there was someone following along after me. I was certain if I turned around fast enough, I would catch sight of this someone. Initially, the first few times I had this experience, I was certain I would turn around and see my firstborn who was a toddler at the time. Each time though, I would turn around and no one would be there - just a something out of the corner of my eye and a feeling, and nothing more. The morning after my d&c, I woke up and that presence was gone and I never felt it again nor had a repeat of the experience ever again in any subsequent pregnancy. Because of this feeling, I always had the two pregnancies linked together and why this post is about him, but also about her. Zach looking after Hannah.