Triggers

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I live in a house that is over 100 years old.  Closet space apparently wasn’t a top priority in the olden days.  Although, from what I understand, the room that is my bedroom was once the maid’s quarters.  Kind of fitting, I think!  😉  My closet is very small.  T doesn’t even get to use it at all.  He keeps his clothes in another, far-off location.

Tonight I was in the midst of my bi-annual, change of season, clothes swap.  Out with the light summer clothes, and in with the warmer fall and winter wardrobe.  I actually enjoy this.  I sort through everything.  I bag up what I won’t wear again.  T knows a family who is always happy to take our  cast-offs.  Other items are greeted like an old friend.  I love to dig out my ratty gray sweaters each fall.  I love to wear the ugly, old gray sweaters on the weekends, and I have an impressive collection.

This year, I came across something that made me suck in my breath and rock back on my heals.  I was bending over a box, and I had to sit down on the floor.  It was my yellow skirt.  I once loved that skirt.  I purchased it online at J Crew.  It’s soft corduroy, a lovely goldenrod color, and it looks great with my tall black boots.  As much as I loved that skirt, my hand recoiled when I grabbed it out of the box.  I dropped it like it was a white-hot flame.  I almost shoved it into the give-away bag to get it out of my sight.  I haven’t worn it in almost a year.  I can remember every single, excruciating moment of that day, the day I last wore that skirt.  I remember my nervousness, nervousness turned to fear.  I remember the pacing for what seemed like hours.  I remember the phone call I eventually got the nerve up to make.  I remember the disbelief.  I remember the betrayal.  Yes, but all of that is another story.

Tonight, I sat looking at the skirt and remembering.  I held it close to me, and I was grateful that it was tonight and not that night almost a year ago.  Tonight I was safe.  The boys are happily away at school.  The girls, T and I had just finished dinner along with happy conversation.  The girls were doing homework.  T was watching football.  I was cleaning.  Most importantly, I was feeling  calm and content.  At least I had been in those moments before discovering the skirt.

As I held the yellow skirt, I thought of the other things that I hang onto that remind me of other life traumas.  I have the green Peridot earrings that I wore the day baby Adam lost his life.  They are his birthstone, and I had bought them to welcome my new baby.   Sometimes I pick them up, and I remember.  I have the dangly amber earrings that I was wearing on the day of Andrew’s accident.  I put them on each year on that date, April 21.  I wear them as a talisman and a symbol of the victory we had over tragedy.  There are many more things, other things that I have kept for years, all of them with personal meaning.  None of them represent lies and betrayal, though.  Some of these other things represent loss, yes, but they also represent love and great meaning in my life.  I held the skirt, and wondered what to do.  It’s just a skirt, and I like it.  I put it on a hanger and smoothed it out.  I’m keeping it.  It can’t hurt me now, and it represents nothing worth keeping in my life.  It’s just a skirt.

There will be other things in my life that, in the future,  will suddenly, irrevocably become triggers of memory and deep emotion.  I wonder what they will be?

Bird Number Two

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Our mud room is full of stuff once again.  Almost as soon as we loaded all of Luke’s belonging into the car for the trip to Milwaukee, Andrew started hauling his boxes down for the trip to Chicago.  Tomorrow is his last day home.  Of course, he will be back to visit and for holidays, but I wonder if he will ever call this house home again.  No, this won’t be easy, but it is time.  I am excited for him.  I envy him the experience and promise that lies before him.  What a lucky kid!  He is following his dream, and I hope he hangs on tightly to that dream.

I have always known that Andy had a solid purpose on this earth.  I’ve never known what that purpose is.  I still don’t, but that’s not what is important.  Of course, we ALL have a purpose here.  We are all meant to be, but as Andrew’s mother, I have always known that Andrew was meant to be born.  Hard to explain…

Grace Elizabeth was born 12 weeks early.  She was beautiful and perfect, but she was so tiny.  She fought for her life for 17 days until pneumonia entered the picture, and the fight was over.  She was born quickly.  I gave birth to her suddenly and at home.  We weren’t expecting her for weeks.  We weren’t ready, and she wasn’t ready.  None of it made any sense.  What purpose did this fulfill?

A month or so after Grace’s death, I found out that I was pregnant again.  It was Andy.  It was a miracle.  After trying for two years to get pregnant, I was suddenly and unexpectedly going to have another baby.  So soon.  Maybe too soon the doctors said.  It wasn’t an easy pregnancy.  I was grieving.  At the same time, I was excited.  As the difficult milestone of Grace’s due date approached, I was already pregnant.  It was a mind-twisting mix of emotions.  Nine months after Grace’s death, my healthy baby boy was born.

Many times I have wondered if Andrew and Grace passed beside each other on their way from one place to another.  He floated in as she was floating out.  Anyone who has ever held a newborn baby has seen the sweet “involuntary” smiles they make in their sleep.  I have always thought that it was the voice of angels whispering in their ears that are responsible for those smiles.  As my sweet baby Andrew grew, there were times when I wondered at his existence.  If Grace had not been born early, Andrew would never have been conceived.  It would not have been possible if I had carried Grace to term.

Twelve years later, he was almost taken from me.  One of the most powerful moments I ever experienced in my life was on the day of his accident.  Andrew had been wheeled out of surgery.  The doctor had come into the “Special Horrified Family Room” to talk to us.  Andrew was in a coma.  The doctor said things I didn’t understand.  Frontal Lobe Injury/personality changes.  Profuse bleeding.  Orbital fractures.  External Fixator.  Respirator.  Echo cardiogram.  The doctor said that Andrew would probably not live.  If he did live, then he would most likely be profoundly handicapped.

No, I didn’t think I was going to let that happen.  I walked away from it all, my husband, the doctor, the crying grandparents, the friends who had gathered for the death vigil.  I walked away.  I went into the bathroom and stood in a stall behind a closed door.  I was furious.  No-Fucking-Way was my son going to die.  No way was my son going to be damaged.  No-Fucking-Way.  It was unthinkable.  I had lost Grace.  Andrew wasn’t even supposed to be here.  His birth and conception should not have happened….but they did.  No one was going to tell me that at 12 years old it was all over.  No.  For once, thankfully, I was right.  If it was the only time my hard-headed belief was ever right, then that’s OK.

I could write volumes on what came next.  Yes, Andrew’s recovery was a challenge.  It was a struggle and a fight.  Andrew and I fought together.  I pushed.  I advocated.  I demanded.  I made him mad.  I made other people mad.  It was all worth it.  ALL OF IT.

Ten years later, the accident and the fight and work of his recovery is in the distant past.  If you met Andrew, you would see nothing unusual.  If you didn’t know, and no one chose to tell you, you would never know that he was injured so badly that the doctors were ready to give him up for dead.  What would you see if you met Andrew?  You would see a young man who is excited about moving out of his parents’ home to attend his “dream school,” as he calls it.  He is well-spoken and well-read.  He’s a fantastic musician.  He talks a lot.  He has a wonderful sense of humor…just like my Dad.  He is so much like my dad.

I love all of my children with all of my heart.  They are my joy and my life.  But Andrew is something else, too.  I’m not sure if I can explain it sufficiently.  He was born out of my loss.  He brought happiness into my time of grieving.  He saved my life more than once, but that is another story.  Would he be here if not for my determination not to allow him to die?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  That isn’t what is important.

In two days, I will let go.  This time, I will allow him to leave to find his way on his own.  He will find his purpose, and I will be left behind with a smile on my face and a heart full of joy.  I have been honored to have this young man in my life.  I have learned so much in life by being his mother.  Even before his birth, when he was nestled beneath my heart, he brought me joy and a strength that I never knew I could possess.

I am excited to watch as the next chapter of my son’s life unfolds.  This time I am not holding him or holding his hand, but the bond of our hearts remains.