Sunday, November 30, 2008

On Craig's side of the family there is this weird "gap" that I can't shake every time everyone is together.

One of Craig's brothers has 2 girls, very close in age. They are 8 and 7.

The next child, from another brother is a boy, who is 3.

Then there is our daughter, and another baby, a girl, 9 months younger than her.

Can you see it? Can you see that gap? 2 girls, close in age, sisters even...and playmates. Then there is our daughter, and the newest baby in the family. Bound to grow up and be playmates. Both girls, only 9 months apart.

But, look. Look at the lone boy there. Right in the middle. Age 3. No boys to play with. No one similar in age. But there should be. Curtis should be smack dab in the middle with him. It just makes me sick every time we are together and he is chasing after the older girls, trying to get them to play. Or trying to play with our daughter, who is much too young to be anything but confused by his approaches.

When we announced we were pregnant with Curtis, my mother in law went on and on how wonderful it would be for the two of them to have each other.

That, obviously, didn't happen.

When my sister in law got pregnant with her daughter, my mother in law went on and on about how wonderful it would be for the two girls to have each other.

That did happen.

But that gap, it makes me ache.

On my side, we don't have that gap. My brother has 4 kids, and the youngest would have been about 2 years older than Curtis. So they would have been close and would have played together I am sure... But there isn't that obvious gender and age segregation.

Times like this, where family gatherings happen quite often (heck, on Craig's side they happen a ton normally) it is just hard. It is hard to listen to people say how great it is our daughter has a cousin so close in age. It is hard to watch my nephew play by himself. It is hard not to picture a little blond boy toddling behind him...

It is hard not to be angry and bitter. And angry some more.

I am in an angry place today.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Today we attended my sister in law mom's funeral. I was talking to my brother in law about how I had never been touched by death until we lost Curtis.

I lost my grandpa when I was 3, so I don't remember that. And then....nothing. There was a high shool classmate who died when we were 16 or 17. We had been sort of friends in junior high and drifted apart in high school. I am a bit ashamed to say her death didn't register much on my radar, though I did feel bad about the situation (she had been sick) at the time. There was a pen pal of mine who died in a tragic accident when I was in high school as well. But, once again, I was removed enough from her that the death didn't alter my daily world. And until death changes your day to day exsistance, it is hard to say it effected you on a deep level.

Curtis was my first real taste of how unfair and cruel life can be. He was the first person taken from me. Of course, with Curtis' death came all kinds of things. His delivery. Only ever holding him dead. Other people not realizing how real he was (because he was never real to them).

Curtis' death changed my day to day world. In a way, I am still waiting for things to get back to normal.

Sitting at the funeral today I ached for the people whose day to day lives have been rocked to the core. I know how painful it all is and how they will never be the same. How they will wait and hope for the day where the pain goes away, and it won't. They will learn to live with it, they will learn to live with the new normal, but they will still wish for the day to come that things will be normal again.

I miss him, I miss everything I never had with him. I will continue to wait. Wait to feel whole, wait to get back to normal. Just like the family who lost their mom. They wait. I wait.

For something that will never come. Because death forever changes everything.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

So, I am back. Her birthday is over and it was a huge, and I do mean HUGE success. The days leading up to it, I was teary and sad and happy and overwhelmed. But the day of her birthday and the day of her party I was happy. The end of her party, my mom hugged me and said she was sorry I didn't get to do this for Curtis was the only time I cried that day.

I know some people probably think I went "all out" for her party because of losing Curtis. Which isn't true. I went all out, because that is what I do. I love this kind of stuff. I loved celebrating her birthday. It is such a big deal. It was her first one! I know she won't remember, but pictures will tell her the story, and I will remember. I did it because it was fun for me.

(And all out really isn't that much. Cute, printed invitations, a rented party room -which was only $15 an hour so not expensive- some cute napkins to match her theme, some balloons, pizzas and cupcakes... but to some people this is "all out.")

Sadly, my poor sis-in-law got a phone call during the party that her mom had passed out suddenly and to come quick. She left without a scene and I had no idea that she and my brother in law were even gone until much later. My aches for her, as she lost her mom unexpectedly that day. And I am honored she is my family because she didn't want to cause a scene and trump our long awaited party.

There is a little girl from Minnesota who suffered a traumtic accident in a pool. I won't go into the details, but she fought, hard, for her life and passed away about 9 months later. Her parents have 3 other little girls. I saw an interview with them recently and they said "We will never say we have 3 girls. We have 4. One is just waiting for us." I loved that this was broadcast. I loved that they said this. So often people get uncomfortable when they ask how many kids I have and I say 2. One who passed away who would be two and a half and a daughter who is one. I do not say it to make them uncomfortable. I say it because it makes me comfortable. I cannot live with myself if I do not acknowledge all of my children.

I know I am jumping trains of thought...but I do have a point. By mentioning Curtis the day of her birthday party, my mom with her simple comment included my son. My sister in law, with her quiet leaving of the party let us shine for a moment. That is all I could have asked for that day, our daughter to have the spotlight, and our son remembered. We have two children. Equally loved.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Our Story: Part 17

Spreading his ashes
On August 19th 2006 it was a weekend day and Craig and I were out to lunch. It was a beautiful day and we had no plans.

We had been planning on taking Curtis' ashes a few hours north to Craig's family cabin but hadn't done it yet. We wanted to be alone up there when we did it. We knew no family was up there that weekend.
"Do you think it is as nice at the cabin as it here?" I asked, fiddling with my napkin.

"Should we go?"

We didn't even discuss what we were going to do. We just knew. We drove home, got the dog, got his urn and a screwdriver to open the bottom of the urn. At the last minute, I grabbed my camera.
The drive up was quiet. Craig kept saying he was trying to think up ways to make the trip up there fun. To make idle chit chat, or something. But it wasn't any of that. It was a somber time. Craig, me, the dog, and an urn full of ashes. I kept fighting tears back at the prospect of what would happen. I would be touching Curtis again. I was going to be opening that urn and had no idea what would greet me under that metal plate.

We got to the cabin around 4pm. It was crystal clear and calm. Bright blue sky with puffy clouds. We walked down to the dock and sat at the end of it, the dog sniffing around, the urn between us.
At this point, we started taking pictures. I took pictures of his urn looking out towards the water:

We took turns posing with the urn. Smiles on our faces. I look at the photos and I do see true smiles. We were not faking it, we were smiling. We took pictures of the beautiful lake, the calm water.
We laid on the end of the dock, set the self timer and took this photo of the 3 of us. (What is funny was the dog was in this photo too, but she wouldn't sit still and I am actually pushing her down so she wouldn't ruin the photo. It was one of the silly moments of the day I will always remember.)

We eventually stopped taking photos and looked at each other. "Should we start?" I asked Craig. He nodded.
I unscrewed the 4 screws holding my son's ashes in and pulled out a clear plastic bag with our last name in black marker across it. I ran my hands over and and gently opened the bag. I reached my hand in and touched the ashes.

When I had thought about ashes in the past, I thought cigarrette ashes. I thought campfire ashes. I wasn't prepared for coarse sand feeling. I wasn't prepared for fragments of bones. I ran the ashes through my hands.

I was touching the only physical remainder of my son.

Intermixed with the ashes was a round, metal circle. I stared at it for awhile, trying to figure out what part of the body it was from. It came to me slowly that it was the snap from his onesie he was wearing in the hospital. The one that said "Thank Heaven for Little Boys." I put it back in the bag when I realized what it was. Up until that point I had secretly wondered if this was really him. But it was. The metal circle from his snap sealed any doubt I had.

There was more ashes than I had expected. We had only been planning on spreading a tiny amount, but we knew we would have enough to take home so we spread a decent amount of them.

Standing at the end of the dock, I looked down to see fishes swimming by. It hit me that I couldn't sprinkle the ashes from the end of the dock because the fish would think they were food. "I don't want the fish to eat Curtis," I tried to joke.
We went to the shoreline instead.

I did the first sprinkle of ashes, then I gave the bag over to Craig. I know you can't see it, but I know where the ashes are in this picture.

After Craig spread some, it was my turn. As the ashes hit the water, Craig took this picture with the light bouncing off of the water...

We both took turns again and all of a sudden I said I had enough, I needed the rest to come home with us. We sat on the shoreline, cried together, and talked to Curtis. We told him how much we missed him, how much we ached for the life he never got to live. We stared at the water for awhile and I told him how sorry I was that I didn't get to bring him home with us. Eventually we packed ourselves and the dog up and made the quiet 3 hour ride home with less ashes than we came with, but left a piece of Curtis at a place that is so special to our family. A place we needed to share with Curtis, on whatever form it took.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

In case you haven't noticed, I am avoiding the Our Story entries.

There is a variety of reasons for it. The main two reasons are as follows...

1) The next entry is about the day we spread his ashes. It is a day that has been shared with very few people. We took pictures and shared those....but the emotions of that day are something only Craig and I know and feel. I have been wanting to write about that day for, well, years. Everytime I start, I get major writer's block and end up writing something like "We spread his ashes. We cried. The End." Not exactly the emotions I want to convey.

2) We are approaching, rapidly, my daughter's 1st birthday. I am so stinkin' happy I have a birthday party to plan. I have given way too much thought to this party (and money. Even though it is just close friends and family I seem to be on a spending spree.). I am thrilled to have a daughter to plan this stuff for, no doubt about that. But, even happiness gets confusing. Had Curtis been born alive and we had been able to have a first birthday party for him I doubt I would have been THIS excited. Sure, it would have been fun, but I am practically bursting about this. So, guilt gets thrown in the mix. I try to convince myself I would have been THIS excited for his birthday, but I know I wouldn't have. I would have taken a first birthday for granted. I mean, when you are 40 weeks pregnant, it is a given you will celebrate a first birthday. But because it is _not_ a given to me anymore I have become THIS excited. (Yeah, I am talking in circles).

So, I have been avoiding my blog. Been avoiding talking about Curtis. Because I just want to focus on the happiness and ignore the guilt and anger and more guilt I feel.

I have a feeling, the night of her birthday party I am going collapse in a mix of utter happiness and sheer grief.