Thursday, November 20, 2008

Did Daddy ever............?

Hey There-

Arthur turned 5 on Halloween. Anniversaries, especially birthdays, are still difficult for me. Without Bob I have no one to do my "remember when" routine with.

"Remember when I was crawling around the floor in pain and I didn't think I was in labor?"

"Remember when I yelled at the doctor for not believing the nurse when she told him I was ready to push and I went ahead and started pushing anyway?"

I have no one to reminisce with about these momentous occasions and, frankly, no one else cares. No one is truly interested in your birth story except the person you were doing the birthing with, and possibly the person that you birthed.

There is no one on this planet that knows just exactly how I react when some resident attempts to stick an IV in my arm minutes before I am about to push a new life into the world, or when the intake nurse tells me that yes, indeed, that big volcanic like spike on the screen is a contraction and, by the way, we better get you a room since you seem to be at 9 centimeters already.

But I like to remember, so I still try.

On the night before Arthur's birthday we were reading bedtime stories and I started telling him about what his daddy, his brother and his mommy were doing 5 years ago today. I told him all about how Henry was riding his bike so fast on the parkway that I was unable to keep up with him due to my enormous belly. And that Bob wasn't able to keep up with him either due to the fact that he was still recovering from his stem cell transplant. Henry got so far ahead of us that we couldn't see him on the path anymore and had to trust that he was OK.

I told him about how excited his brother was to hold him for the first time in the hospital when he was about one hour old, and I told him about his Aunt Kathy commenting on how long his fingers were when she first held him. Then I told him about the umbilical cord and how it was wrapped around his neck when he was born and that the doctor had to move quickly to cut it off so he could breathe. I explained that his daddy wasn't able to cut his cord like he had been for his brother.

Then, without warning, my lovely "remember when" story turned on me.

When I went to say goodnight to Henry in the other bunk he was crying; "I just don't understand why the doctors couldn't make daddy better" he whimpered.

As I crawled in bed next to him to try and explain the unexplainable Arthur began to wail.

"I just want to see my daddy alive," he kept repeating.

And finally; "Why didn't daddy cut my cord like he did Henry's?"

Now, Arthur doesn't even fully understanding what an umbilical cord is and why it needed to be cut in the first place. The point was that Daddy had done this thing for Henry and not for him.

There have been a lot of these types of questions lately. Did Daddy ever take me on a bike ride, did Daddy ever take me camping, did Daddy hold my hands while I learned to walk, did Daddy ever hang me from the wood molding in the living room and catch me when I let go?

My attempts to explain that he was only 5 months when his daddy died and that he never had the chance to take him on a bike ride or camping does nothing to pacify him. I try to explain that his daddy held him and bounced with him on the big exercise ball until he fell asleep and fed him and read to him and loved him.

None of this information is any consolation at all to Arthur.

Henry will say; "Mommy, remember when Daddy used to take me to the park with the roller slide?" or "Remember when I used to help Daddy make pancakes?" and I will nod, because I remember.

I miss having Bob to remember with.

What Arthur is missing are memories of Bob.

Thanks for checking in-


Saturday, November 15, 2008

How is the book coming?

Hey there,

"How is the book coming?" It is a question I hear frequently.

That is what you get when you tell all your friends and family that you quit your job to write a memoir about your dead husband. Talk about incentive.

I ususally say something lame like; "Well, I keep writing." or "It is going well." Then I launch into some version of my "vision". I talk about self publishing or walking support groups or the use of essential oils with grief or grant applications.

So, how is the book coming? It is going well. The experience thus far has been way more challenging (and rewarding?) than I could have imagined. I grossly underestimated the time it would take to write one chapter (4 months!) and how hard it would be to find that time. Plus, living through all of these dark emotions again has been difficult at times. (and the 5 children.........)

Sometimes I am not sure what is driving me to do this project. There are times I feel placed back in that time and I feel all of the anguish and despair, maybe even more acutely now than I did back then. I am less hardened now, not bracing myself for the next blow. But, this has been an amazing opportunity to see the events of Bob's life and death with clearer vision, in writing, and make some sense out of them.

There are times I feel as if I am observing this woman's life and I ache for her. And there are times I am jealous of her. And there are times I feel so grateful for my life now. And there are times I think "Why does anyone care?"

In the end I feel that this is a story that should be told. I have something to say.

So, "How is the book coming?" you ask.

It is coming along.

Thanks for checking in.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Dense Tissue

Hey there-

I had to get a follow up mamogram this morning.

They called a few days ago to tell me my annual mamogram had some "irregularities" and they needed further investigation. I kind of freaked out.

"You sound concerned," the tech said to me on the phone.

"My first husband died of cancer." I said. Yea, I was concerned.

My mind went immediately to chemo appointments and bald heads and thoughts of life insurance for my orphaned children. I could not think of a single person who had to have this done before.

Within an hour I had several examples of women who had the same experience and they were all fine; shadows or folds or dense tissue. This situation is apparently quite common, women are asked to come back and get tugged and pulled and smashed and radiated all over again, and for what?

"Dense tissue". That was my result. I was very relieved. Mike took the morning off and we celebrated afterwards.

I may have overreacted. Is all of this overkill? I worry that the harsh manipulation of "my girls" will actually do more damage than good. I am not discounting the importance of mamograms, I just believe the less medical intervention the better.

But I feel such pressure to stay well for the boys. I worry that I have become a hypocondriac since Bob died. Diagnosing myself with a hernia, ovarian cancer and colon cancer all in the last few years. None of which have turned out to be anything more than constipation or indigestion or perimenapause. I was never paranoid about my health before, but I also never had constipation or indigestion. ICK!

So, am I paranoid or just getting older? I can't be that old, I do still have "dense" breasts. And I am just not willing to give up red wine yet! Of course, I never drank red wine before Bob died. Not for lack of trying on his part, I am sure he is sifting in his urn over this development, thinking of all the lost opportunities.

I hope everyone doesn't get as anxious about the news of "irregularity" as I did, the anxiety alone can't be good for you. I hope most people don't have a reason to feel so anxious.

The celebration once Mike and I got the "all clear" was almost worth the anxiety though. Silly maybe, but it was a celebration that Bob and I never got to have. It felt a little decadent, such a minor event. I figure it is better to celebrate any victory, even dense tissue, than not have a victory to celebrate.


We Remain Upright

Arthur and I were in the car waiting for Henry to get out of his kindergarten class. The minivans and SUV's were lined up obediently. Henry was ushered out of the building, his eyes toward the ground he nodded imperceptibly to the teacher as she complimented him on his hard work that day.

He got in the car, placed his canvas school bag on the seat next to him, buckled himself up and leaned over to his brother.

"Arthur, when are you going to start using the toilet?" he asked.

"When my daddy gets back," Arthur answered.

"Arthur, Daddy is dead. It makes us all sad. I still cry about it sometimes, but he is on Dog Mountain now. And also in the dining room-in that thing on the shelf-you know. So he isn't coming back, Arthur. But you still have to use the toilet."

Arthur answered simply; "I know, Henry."

Glancing in the rear view mirror I saw their two blonde heads leaning towards each other. Both sets of blue eyes gazed out their own window. Henry sounded as if he had been thinking about the conversation for days and had chosen his words carefully. Just as his dad would have done.

At the time Henry shared this straightforward bit of advice with his younger brother he was six years old. Arthur was three and their dad had been dead almost three years.

Their dad, my husband, died early in the morning on March 29, 2004

This is our story.

Irene McGoldrick