Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I Just Wanted My Vagina Book...

For most people there are four seasons. Spring, summer, autumn and winter. I, however, have five seasons to deal with. I like to call it the sorrow season. It begins every Oct 21 and runs until Jan. 5. This time of year has no spectacular display of autumn foliage, nor does it have breathtaking exhibition of wintery whiteness. No, this season is generally accompanied by used and crumpled tissues; empty kleenex boxes; and a big bulbous red nose. (Apparently, there are some seasonal similarities...)

This season of sorrow was hard. Not that I expected jolly laughs and good times. I honestly believed that getting through all the firsts would be the most difficult part of the grieving process; everything after would pale in comparison.

I was wrong. What I neglected to take into account was that through a lot of those so called "firsts", I was still in shock. My son was only dead for two months when I had to face our first Christmas without him. I had barely processed the fact that he was gone, let alone what a lifetime of Christmas seasons without him would mean.

Shock is a grieving mom's best friend. It can numb the sharpest of pains like nothing else.

The only shock I had this year to to insulate my pain was when I touched a shorted out wire on a string of Christmas lights this winter. And it didn't help dull my pain or lessen my memory. It did however, get me to curse like a seasoned sailor who just picked up a cross-dressing tart only to discover....

I wasn't ready for the onslaught of emotions that began bombarding me from the anniversary date until now. I had naively and somewhat stupidly thought that I had done the hard part and survived.

Turns out, the hard part keeps on coming. It never really ends. It's like that annoying pink rabbit banging on that freaking drum to advertise batteries. It just never stops banging away at my heart, at my head.

This year was harder than last year. Last year people made excuses for my shabby appearance, my lack of thoughtful gifts, my inability to articulate an intelligent thought. After all, I was grieving. I had just lost my baby boy. This year, it was as if a spot light was turned on me and people were examining me to see if I survived my year in purgatory. Apparently, I didn't receive a passing grade. This year people expected the T from the past to make a long awaited appearance. They thought that she would come back in fine style, shake off the dust from being trapped in a grieving box for so long and start entertaining the masses. They were disappointed to discover that she no longer exists.

That T, that piece of me is gone. Replaced by a more sober, sadder version of myself. This T no longer cares if the packages are deliciously wrapped and rival Martha Stewart's. This T no longer cares if Fric has a hole in her stocking or if Frac's hair is cut. This T realizes the only value of Christmas is the value you create by being together and appreciating the small moments togetherness creates.

The old T was buried with her son. She no longer exists. It's a hard lesson for those who love me. It's a hard lesson for me. I resent having had to change. I liked myself, who I was before death reached in and snatched the light from my soul.

But I like who I am now too. I have walked a path no person should have to. I have experienced a pain so severe, so debilitating, no human should survive. But I did. I survived, am surviving. I may have a few more earrings and body art to show for it, but I am relatively intact.

I discovered a strength, a resilience I never knew was part of me. And I kept my funny bone, even when my heart was ripped from my body and buried with my Bug.

All in all, this Christmas was good. Hard, but good. I kicked my hubs ass several times around the board games, I watched my children's faces light up with excitement and wonderment and I talked with my Bug through out it all. He was as much a part of this Christmas now as when he was alive. Minus the tube feedings and shitty diapers. There was a bad moment, when my well-meaning mother-in-law gave me my present. To every other adult female in the family she gave various vagina books; Your Vagina and Menopause, Your Vagina and It's Health, How to Be an Effective Leader with a Vagina; I was looking forward to my vagina book. Perhaps I'd get the How to Grieve with a Vagina, or How to Watch What You Say When You Have a Vagina.

Sadly there was no vagina book for me. Instead there were three lovely picture frames. It was a thoughtful gift, but it only served to remind me that while I replace the pictures in two of the frames, one picture frame will be frozen in time, collecting dust. Forever frozen while everyone moves on.

Every one but me.

I don't believe I will every truly move on. Part of me will linger with my boy until the day he is in my arms once more. Part of me doesn't know how to let go, forget a life so beautiful it hurts to remember it. Part of me never wants to.

Because that life, that boy, is part of me, a part of this family I created. It is a part I cherish, love and admire. And death do us part, it still exists. It always will. Some years it may be more dusty, others it may be more vibrant, but every year day it is always present.

I am looking forward to this season of sorrow coming to an end. After the new year, when the tree is back in storage, the ornaments carefully packed away and the house once more swept clean of Christmas merriment, I might be able to breathe deeply again, without this pain in my chest. I just have to get through New Year's. And his sixth birthday. I will survive. I will cope. I may even grow.

If I don't think too hard of who he would have been if life had worked out just a bit differently.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


I grew up loving the Christmas season. We weren't particularly religious folk; for us, the Christmas pageant was just an opportunity to visit with our friends and snitch as many cookies from the cookie plate as possible.

But my mom did up Christmas the way Martha Stewart can fold a linen napkin. With flare. Every year was a competition within herself to see if she could out do the year before. Could she toss more tinsel on an already over-burdened tree? Could she squeeze in another Santa figurine on the coffee table? Oh look, there is approximately two square inches of space that haven't been decorated. For the entire month of December, no matter what our family faults may be, I was always proud to be a part of this family.

Because we always had the best decorated house in town. Inside and out. And my mom was a firm believer in Christmas baking. Not only did we have the prettiest tree, but an ample amount of freshly baked goodies to consume while we lay in the dark and watch the twinkle of our tannenbaum.

Once I grew up and had kids of my own, it was a mad rush to replicate the memories of my Christmas yore. Boo didn't understand my desire to deck the halls; in his household they had a pathetic little Charlie Brown tree with six ornaments on it and one string of lights, most of which were burnt out. They didn't even have stockings. Gasp! My darling hubs would like to point out that Christmas to them was more than just tinsel and lights. It had religious and family meaning beyond how big the Christmas tree was, or if there was a talking Santa figurine.

Whatever. My house rocked. His didn't.

Eventually, I caught up with my mom. My house is a magical place at Christmas time. I tossed the tinsel in favor of garland, traded in the Santas for some beautiful nativity scenes, but I know how to deck these halls. And my kids love it. And the best part of all was watching the Bug's face light up when the Christmas tree was turned on. He didn't understand the fuss, or the muss. But he knew something was up. And every decoration I had was an opportunity for therapy for him. Touching the tree, feeling the prickles. Holding the smooth, cold glass balls in his small chubby little hands. Tasting the peppermint across his wet lips, from the candy cane I would swipe across his tongue.

All of it was so new and fresh for him, every year. And he loved it. While Fric and Frac pranced with excitement, barely able to contain their giddy glee at the thought of ripping into the presents, Shalebug thoughtfully stared at the twinkling lights, mesmerized by some vision only he could see.

So it became a pleasure to decorate every year. To see if I could outdo myself and my mother. I was building the excitement for Fric and Frac and I was providing an opportunity for Bug to reach out and talk with his angels. Every tupperware box Boo dragged in, bitching and moaning, was full of anticipation and excitement; filled with hope and promise.

It's not the same this year. Not for me, not for Fric and Frac. Sure, they are greedy little kids, anxiously awaiting the arrival of promised goodies for a year of half-assed good behavior. But the twinkle of the tree has lost it's sparkle. The water globes are no longer tiny little worlds of mystery, but just glass balls that no longer get drenched with drooly little fingers. The candy canes are now just candy to be forgotten on the tree, collecting dust. How does a person recapture the spirit of Christmas when the family angel is now on top of the tree, instead of in our arms?

How does a mother put on a happy face, decorate her home, bake her cookies, wrap her gifts, knowing that one of her children won't ever again stare at the glittery glow of her pretty tree?

So I carry on. I push through the throng of crazy Christmas shoppers, ignore the carols being sung on every corner and pretend nothing is wrong.

I bake, and I decorate. I tell silly jokes and I encourage the kids to dream of sugar plums and dancing fairies.

And I will watch the anticipation of the season build it's momentum in their tiny hearts, until they are busting at the seams with excitement on Christmas morning.

I will watch them tear into the paper-wrapped packages, and discard the bows I have lovingly placed on all the presents. I will watch their faces for signs of disappointment or glee when they discover what's inside their parcels.

I will play Christmas music and read the story of the birth of Christ, and try to carry on.

All the while ignoring the empty stocking that remains, mocking me, reminding me of what I lost. And what heaven gained.