Thursday, December 31, 2015
Friday, September 20, 2013
What was it like? Were they happy? How did they cope with the hardships life brings?
My great, great, great grandmother Margaret traveled here from Ireland with her husband Malachi, on their honeymoon. The year was 1849. How romantic and adventurous that must have been! Getting married, traveling by boat across the wide ocean to a foreign country to begin a new life. They settled in Wisconsin.
From what I can tell, they couldn’t have had much money. Malachi was a laborer, Margaret a homemaker. I find records of two children, born in 1853 and 1854. Contraception being what it was in the 1850s, it's easy to imagine there were children born before these two who did not make it. But then, maybe they were fortunate and enjoyed the first few years of their marriage together, just the two of them.
It wasn’t long though, before disaster struck the family. Just six years after their son is born, Malachi is dead, and Margaret is committed to an asylum with her two children. As was done back then, the children were sent out to separate families who took them in and put them to work as they grew older, cleaning house and working the land.
Oh, how her heart must have hurt! Margaret spent thirty years (!) in the asylum before passing away in 1890. She is buried in the asylum’s graveyard.
What a sad story these two had. When Malachi and Margaret immigrated to the United States, Ireland was in the midst of the Great Potato Famine. People were starving to death and many left the country in search of a better life. Were they hopeful as the boarded the ship or were they resigned to a life of hardship even before they started?
Where does this hope come from that propels us, that convinces us that our lives can be different?
Life is so hard! Terrible things can happen to anyone, yet we continue to marry and have children. Margaret’s son had nine kids! And one of those children fathered my grandmother…then she had my father…and he had me.
What are we doing? Why do we do it? What is it all for?
Monday, September 16, 2013
Apparently when women ask me if I have other children, I should say….No?
I ran into a new mom-person at preschool the other morning and then again later in the afternoon at my son’s karate class. Because I am a friendly gal, I introduced myself and sat down next to her. We were chatting about all the random things strangers talk about when she asked me the dreaded question; “Do you have any other children?”
I told her yes, my daughter, but she passed away last October. No drama in my voice, no tears in my eyes. I just said it.
Not two seconds later she scooped up her little one and fled the building. As if I had just exposed myself in some obscene way.
Twenty minutes after that she came back and sat at the opposite end of the room from me. When class was over, she carefully avoided eye contact and walked right past me out the door.
I saw her this morning at preschool where she pretended not to see me standing there. Two feet away.
My therapist asks me why I tell anyone at all about Julie.
Since when is having a child a personal and private matter? Am I supposed to lie? Am I being obscene? Am I hysterical? Maybe I should be given some pills and put into a dark room away from other families and their healthy children.
Why do I tell people?
Because Julie counts. Of course she counts. She was a person on this earth who walked and talked and gave hugs. She could dance and sing the itsy, bitsy spider. I loved her. I grew her and birthed her and I MISS HER. I won’t pretend she wasn’t here.
To all of the people I will make uncomfortable in my future, I want to say I am not the Grim Reaper. Death does not follow in my footsteps. I also want to say that it would never ever occur to me to be afraid of other peoples’ sorrows. I have compassion and empathy. If a stranger told me their daughter died, I would look them in the eye and ask them about their child, because I care and I’d want to know.
To that mom who ran away and made me question whether I am allowed to talk about my daughter, I want to say, you are a horrible person. When I see you again, I’m gonna march right up to you and say “hello” just to watch you squirm.
Thursday, September 5, 2013
Now that the first year mark is approaching, I’m thinking they might be right.
When Julie first died, I felt relieved for her, because she wasn’t suffering anymore. It was also shocking, and sad, and I did anything I could to feel better.
I think once the extreme shock wore off, I had ups and downs. The roller coaster everyone talks about. Good days followed by bad days. But all brightened with a hopeful feeling that someday soon, it wouldn’t hurt as much.
These days, I am just down. No roller coaster, no days feeling better. Just down.
Because I know there isn’t anything I can do to make this hurting go away. I have to face it, the future will always be missing my Julie.
I’m ok with this sadness though, I am letting it keep me company. Maybe I will learn something as I wait to see what happens next.
Sunday, August 25, 2013
In a little over a month it will be a year since my Julie died, and man, I am so down.
I see that I have been using all my energies since she died trying to find a way to make everything alright again. The unbearable sadness that I have cannot be wished away, it cannot be exercised into oblivion, drowned out by television shows or craft projects.
Maybe it is time to stop running from it and just let it settle down over me.
I have been letting it settle over me these past few days. My mind constantly flickers back and forth between reality and memories of the hospital.
There is a constant chatter in my mind, going, going, going all day long;
“I better get started on the morning. I will start with the dishes…..hmmmm…remember how you had to hold Julie down while some dumb fresh-out-of-nursing-school boy tried to cath her and she was screaming for you? ….gee, we’re out of milk. I will have to get to the grocery store before I run out of momentum….how about the time I was making Julie drink her Pediasure until she cried “I CANT” and threw up all over the floor….ah yes, a stellar moment in my parenting career…I wonder if all of those jelly beans I ate when I was pregnant caused Julie to get cancer….no. No one knows why Julie got cancer….better not have another baby, because it will have cancer….we will be the one family who’s children all get cancer…..does my son’s stomach look bigger today than yesterday?…..what will I cook for dinner?”
Monday, August 19, 2013
I can’t remember a time in my life when I have been more conflicted than I am now. My heart and my brain have declared an all out war, my soul is caught in the middle, broken and bleeding, prostrate in despair.
I have lost who I am. I don’t know where I am supposed to go, every road seems to lead to more heartache.
A few weeks ago I found out I was pregnant. A week after that, I wasn’t anymore.
When those lines appeared on the test, a terror overtook me, unlike anything I expected to feel and I couldn’t see past it. I was sick with fear. I couldn’t sleep.
When it was over, I felt momentary relief, followed by the dread of having to make this choice again. To try again or not? I cannot decide.
My husband says try again. My brain says try again, that I will regret it if we don’t try again. A baby would bring joy into our lives.
My heart says never again. When Julie died, I lost the bet. This thing no one told me is that when you have a child, you are playing everything you have. I have nothing left to play.
How can I say no to my husband?
What will I do?