Missing Pieces


In the lucid and surreal manner of dreams, there is no before, but instead it begins with the overwhelming ripping and burning  intensity of the baby crowning. Reaching down with my fingertips, I can feel the downy head leaving my body, a euphoric cocktail poured over the agony of my body tearing apart, forming a gateway for another life.

The little body slides from me, still tethered with the pulsing blue cord and streaked with crimson, and is placed on my chest. A redhead, another son, with new-penny lashes and the faintest veil of copper haloing his soft velvety head. Complete complete complete, my mind swirls, I have been waiting for you!

I wake up with tears on my cheeks and pillow.

Another child was always part of my plan, but life was life and didn’t care much for my plan. Abigail was 4 months old when we lost David to drugs the first time, and in retrospect, I cannot fathom going through what the ensuing years brought with an even younger baby added to the nearly crippling load I carried. And yet… the missing has never gone away.

I thought enough time had passed now. Abby is eleven, Bean and Jeffrey are both in their teens. I have a step-daughter I love who brings me additional delight—my basket is full and I am keenly aware of my own blessings. So why am I still dreaming of that baby?

There was a pregnancy after Jon and I got married four years ago. We were surprised, but incredibly happy, as we braced for starting over with a new caboose. Eight weeks in, I lost that baby, and we both grieved for what would not be. It forced us to really look at our lives and ask ourselves what direction we wished to move. I had to face the fact that the miscarriage was incredibly taxing and stressful on my body and it took me a long time to recover and feel healthy again. Hyperemesis in one’s early thirties was one thing, in the early forties, entirely another. Was it worth the risk?

Jon and I both nearly lost our mothers to complications from later pregnancies and miscarriages. I had to weight the very real needs of our children here with the idea of another who haunted my dreams, and the physical limitation of my body. It was a teary decision for both of us, but we definitively closed the book on that chapter of our lives.

Neither of us regrets it.

And yet, I still dream. I dream of the little redheaded boy I am missing, and that dream is persistent, recurring, and very, very real.  There is nothing I can do about it; the limits of the physical world hemmed us all in.

I’m sorry, baby. I am sorry for time, for addiction, for aging, for the impermanence of open doorways. I am sorry that circumstances made it impossible for me to bring you to our family, regardless of how much I wanted you. I don’t know how these things work. As a matter of reality, I’m not certain of very  many things at all as I get older.  But I am certain that I love you.

Anew 2018

IMG_2128It remains to be seen what 2018 will bring, and if it will be better than last year, but at the moment, I am feeling very (very) cautious stirrings of optimism. I am aware that in even saying that out loud (such as it is) I am opening the door to be knocked on my ass. Today, at this moment, I am willing to risk it. Tomorrow? We shall see.

Several weeks ago, I was the invited guest at a joint book event for The Burning Point and for my friend Rachel Hunt Steenblik’s book Mother Milk. As I was preparing my remarks (on the fly, from the stool in front of a room full of people, as one does.) I realized a stretch of prose actually worked as a poem. It was unexpected.

When the call came
when the letter arrived
when the sunlight finally
fell on your face
the struggle fell away
and you only remembered
the beauty.

It was like childbirth
We brought forth
our future.
Every choice we made
what raw materials
would be in the hands
of tomorrow.

Some days took years
and were times
of transition
where we thought
we might die.

Some years were full
of euphoria
or rushing release.
Most years were
slightly uncomfortable
until we remembered
how to breathe.

So there’s my first poem. It may not be any better than the angsty crap I wrote on my t-shirts in Sharpie at art school when I was 16, but I’m putting it out there anyway.

New Years resolutions haven’t ever been my thing, but I am making a few small(ish) changes and acknowledgements. I stopped writing after I turned in my manuscript for TBP last year. I hear it’s natural after such a cathartic project, but I also realize I need to write like some people need their Diet Coke. I work out my mind, clear the chaos inside, find the northstar, whatever you want to call it, I do it by writing. Not all of my writing is here, and I have a couple of book projects that are still in embryo, but here is where I turn to most faithfully. At this point I doubt anyone is reading, considering blogs have gone the way of the wooly mammoths, but just as when I started and had zero readers, I have never been writing for an audience. I write for my own sanity and center, and sometimes I even do a good job. So we are back to the beginning where perhaps someday my grandchildren will find this interesting. Or not. I do it for me and that’s enough.

I’ve deleted my calendar apps from my phone and computer, and moved to a paper calendar and journal format. I cannot believe how much more productive I feel swapping out this format. There is something about putting pen to paper that transcends a well-designed little icon on my phone. I need that visceral touch. I need to scratch things off my to-do list, and to messily move things around with arrows and boxes and whatever pen color is on hand. It feels good.

I’ve deleted some social media from my devices, too. I know lots of people are doing/have done this. I’m a late adopter? I’ll still use it when I want and when it suits me, but I’m less and less interested in keeping up with a thousand different streams of thought when I can barely keep on top of my own.

Christmas was good. Very low key. We spent the week before in New York City with (most of) the kids. It was free form and completely enjoyable. We didn’t get into any shows, and didn’t really have a master plan, but spent each day just sort of going wherever sounded good. We rode the Staten Island Ferry back and forth, which remains one of Bean’s very favorite parts of NYC. We ate a lot of cheap slices of pizza, and found some good restaurants. I got to meet up with some Manhattan friends for brunch, and we hit the Christmas market in Bryant Park. We caught services at Trinity Church, and spent a whole day at The Met. I rode in my first NYC taxi, and took the subway a bunch. It was a perfect holiday, and we were back home by Christmas Eve.

New Years week found us filled to the rafters with Tennessee and Missouri family. I love having people fill my home. I don’t mind the chaos, the clutter, family everywhere—it makes me happy to be surrounded by people I love.

Now it’s nearly mid-January and the kids are all finally back in school. The winter cyclone of arctic air pretty much shut down the eastern seaboard for the first week of the year—even yesterday we were still in the single digits. We’re not used to that level of cold, and our homes and infrastructure isn’t either. Everything shut down. The trade off is that we get miserable summers where everything molds and the heat index sucks the life out of you; we’re not supposed to get crappy ice vortexes of winter.

Today is my first day all alone since December 15. If you’re an introvert you probably know how I’m feeling at the moment. As much as I love the holidays, I can feel my tank filling as I sit here in the quiet of my office, no tv, no video games, no kids, no ambient sound at all except my little space heater and the dog softly snoring nearby.

Happy New Year.