When my father and his girlfriend brought these socks back from Disney World for Miriam, she was just a few months old. I couldn’t imagine them ever fitting her. I was still in that newborn exhaustion phase. I was still in the early days of disbelief of finally holding a baby again. My baby. This second child and second chance. As much as we worked towards it and prayed for it, we were still in disbelief that it actually came. We were not first time parents even though there was no visible big brother to teach how to handle his little sister. How fragile she is and how much she will need him to teach her so many things.
I looked at these socks and was instantly terrified she would never grow big enough to fit into these 4T-5T red socks with Minnie Mouse on the frilly cuff. She would disappear. It’s a common fear of parents who have lost a child. A part of the post traumatic stress disorder. A part of how you change forever. Forever. No matter how much time has passed since your child has died, it’s as if a part of you is right back to their last day on earth. Trying to stop time. To stop them from leaving. No matter how they left you.
So I put these socks on five year old Miriam’s feet today as she ate Apple Jacks and watched her video. And it was as if I was right back to her newborn days and weeks and months. And that memory of being afraid of these simple socks came rushing back.
Can I make a confession? I haven’t been doing that well the last few weeks. One thing leads to another…totally unrelated to Noah…and I fall into a rough state. And it’s never truly unrelated to Noah. Because this is hard as hell. And it always goes back to how my core has been shaken. So instead of having a little too much sake or more likely too many clandestine trips to Taco Bell, I reached out with a simple message to some of the moms in this shitty club filled with wonderful people. I simply wrote:
“How are you doing?”
I got answers back of varying degrees. Ranging from “pretty okay” to “not okay at all” and everything in between. And I needed them. I needed to hear the gamut. I needed to be amongst my people. My people who understand first hand. We needed to bounce this insanity back and forth with each other. Our loneliness in a roomful of people. Our fear and anger at judgement…not the judgement of having lost a child whether by accident or illness. But the judgement of how we should be living our lives. The dreaded “but you seem to be doing so well” and the even worse “it’s been a while now, you should be _______?” Fill in the blank.
She sneaks up on you. That crazy bitch that lives inside your head that wants to tell everyone “MY CHILD DIED!!!!” She’s as fragile as she is strong. She’s as crazy as the proverbial loon. But she’s also the most sane person you know. Because she knows what’s real. She has little patience for the bullshit and has a hard time playing by the rules. Because the rules have all been broken in her life.
Barbara Bush has just died as I write this. And as her biography is shown on TV, I stop and gawk at the news. She and George had a daughter, Robin, who died of Leukemia at age three. And all I see now is another mother in my club. I instantly love and revere her. Because she kept living.
But she must’ve had these rough days too. Hearing a child cry or a mother complain about minutiae must’ve set her off into darkness just like me and so many of my fellow club members. Questioning your purpose. Questioning your value. Questioning your sanity.
A very good friend of mine told me early on after Noah’s death, as we turned down invitations to big events and small gatherings alike, that we get a “a pass”. In fact, she firmly told us that we get a pass “for the rest of our lives.” Because that is just how big this is. But the rest of the world doesn’t really believe that. Especially if you appear to be doing so well.
I just want to use that pass when I need it. And I’ve needed it a lot lately. Like a bathroom key on a giant piece of wood at the gas station. It’s not your top choice of where to pee. But when you gotta go, you gotta go.
No one wants us to be better more than we do. And some days we are. And then, there are the dark times. The fear, the anger, the crazy bitches inside our polite and pretty heads.
So thank you to my moms. From near and far. I hear you all and thank you for hearing me. This shorthand we speak is the most tragically beautiful language I’ve ever heard.