Monday, June 30, 2008

Reason # 2,309 to love Liam

We are driving home from a big community sing up in the hills. We are driving through the cornfields and dense forest as dusk falls around us. As we turn towards home, the sky opens up to the west. There are luminous, purple clouds, backlit by a pale pink sky.

My little son says, "Look at the beautiful sunset over the rolling hills."

remember to sing that sentence, and make each word last at least 3 seconds

Look at the beautiful sunset over the rolling hills.

My child will do something, someday, with words. He already understands how to use them to make beauty.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

What's up with my t-shirt

One night, at a bar with a rather large group of women friends and acquaintances, I called Charlotte my dead daughter. I was being sarcastic and crass about it, and the words stung. Someone else was telling a story about a woman who had her tubes tied, was totally against having another child, got pregnant anyway, and named the baby Charlotte. I let out a whoop. I shouted it out. I couldn't help it.
There are these moments, where it just all seems too awful and unfair to be simpering and sympathetic and self-pitying, where the injustice rears its ugly side and rude words come out. I don't like the word dead, and I never use it about my child. It sounds mean to me. Too finished, too over, too done. But here I said it anyway, because I wanted it to sound awful. As it came out, it burned my tongue, seared my lips. I wished I could un-say the words, yet at the same time they matched so nicely with the story of this unwanted Charlotte, who I would lap up in a minute, and take in as my own. (would I, though?)
Another woman, sitting across the table, said, "So is that what's up with your t-shirt?" And yeah, that is what was up with my t-shirt.
A very nice conversation actually ensued, and I appreciated the willingness of "the ladies" to incorporate my trauma into their beer night. It made the evening feel particularly welcoming to me, and I'm not being sarcastic there. The subject might have been raised on a bitter note, but I do always appreciate a chance to talk about my girl.

You know the whole six degrees of separation thing, or sometimes it's two? I have this idea, which is that I am going to post here a list of events, places, etc. that comprise me as a person. If you have anything in common, or you KNOW anyone who has anything in common, please post it as a comment. I think it would be fun to see it turns out that anyone's paths have crossed with mine and we never knew it (or if the people we know's paths have crossed). Meanwhile you will learn a whole lot of random facts about me you probably don't really need to know.

- Grew up in Wellesley MA
-Went to Wellesley schools
- Vacation every summer on Lake Simcoe, Ontario
-Went to Camp Menotomy in Meredith, NH for about 12 years (Girl Scouts! Yeah!)
-Worked at Chesapeake Wildlife Sanctuary in Bowie, Maryland
-Went to Middlebury College (98.5)
-Worked at Lands Sake Farm in Weston, MA
-Did a study Abroad program in 1996 in New Zealand through SIT.
-Worked for Peggy Nelson, sociology professor at Middlebury, helped with book "The Social Economy of Motherhood" (in case you have ever read this, and it's good, if you are a single mom or interested in them. I did most/all interviews)
-Worked at Whitford House Inn in Addison, Vermont (even took it over for a few months with Greg, while the innkeepers were out west for awhile)
-Went to Smith College (2001)
-Worked at the Common School in Amherst MA
- Sisters went to Colby College and Williams College, grad schools at U of Miami and U Mass Medical.
-Parents went to McGill University
- Mom from Montreal. Grandfather worked at Montreal General for 50 years. Grandfather has sweet cottage in Austin Quebec.
-Dad from Toronto and Hamilton ONT. Ended up in states because he was sent by SunLife (the company that unknowingly, with this transfer, changed the entire course of my life)

So there you go. Anything ring a bell? Ever been near any of those places?

Good night. Sleep tight.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A beautiful surprise

Imagine this picture, because I cannot post it: It is a close up of a woman. Her face is glistening with sweat, her hair damp from the efforts of childbirth. She is looking down at her newborn child, who is shielded from the photo by her mother's hands, which are clasping her to her heart. All one can see is the tiny, vernix-covered hand, splayed wide in the surprise of having been born, the bloodied, tiny head, and then the mother's face: the tears, the agony, the sheer joy. She is breaking into newness.

I received this photo in an e-mail announcing the birth of one brand new, beautiful, tiny child somewhere in the Western half of the country. The photo was followed by dozens more of one of the most beautiful, angelic little babies I have ever seen. There was something about this baby. There were photos of the mother, of the father, and of the sister, who was perhaps four. I recognized nobody.

Who were these mysterious people, who had blessed me with the news of their beautiful daughter's birth? They named her two names that mean (approximately) light and little champion. Oh how strong and beautiful. This e-mail came in to me. It seemed to say something. I pored over the list of others CC'd in the e-mail, and came up with nothing. How had this come my way?

The look on the woman's face, I recognized this. I could see something. I read the words again, and my eye caught something else: an allusion to "the world's longest pregnancy". I deduced that this beautiful baby had come from a place of despair. That there was someone else, someone not in the pictures. I ran through all the people I could think of, and came up with nothing.

I replied to the e-mail.

Your baby is amazing and beautiful.Who are you? I don't recognize your name, or anyone else on the forwards... I wonder how on earth I got on your email list. Congratulations.
Birth is an amazing thing, and a live birth a miracle that we should never take for granted.
May your beautiful daughter have a long, happy life

Today, my answer came. This was a woman who, long ago, I had sent an e-mail to after the loss of her newborn son. She was the aunt of my friend, thousands of miles away, and we had briefly connected.

I felt so grateful to her for having included me in her joy, and I wrote back and told her so. I feel fulfilled today, knowing that one more broken heart has been given a chance at new life.

Congratulations, you beautiful family you, all five of you.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Today was one of those incredibly satisfying days where all day long, I felt ecstatic about what I was doing. How often does that happen? I think this is the result of having both of us home. It truly is bliss.

After a beautiful, early morning run, I served blueberry-strawberry pancakes on the porch. Aah. Then Greg got to work on the tree house (he's starting to put up the cedar siding) and the kids and I played. We went on the swings, did some gardening, dug holes in the woods. Then we had a family game of wiffle ball (so fun. And especially sweet since one time Greg wrote a song about Charlotte where he was imagining her with the big red bat, because "the yellow bat is really just for big kids. And a big kid, my girl, you'll never be"... sob. sob. sob. But I digress) We played on bikes and in the sandbox. Aoife had a bare bum all day and used the potty a lot, and also peed a few times, triumphantly yelling, "I'm peeing on my legs!", which I congratulated her for anyway. We had a sweet lunch on the porch and then I headed for my garden.

It was a hard day of digging. I dug up about 20 square feet of really tough tall grass, with root masses about 9 inches thick and almost impossible to penetrate with my big shovel. Then I worked on clearing off some of the bedrock up above, which is covered with about a foot of newly formed soil from having been neglected for the past 9 years or so. It was so satisfying. We had a beautiful dinner and a kind of rough and naughty bedtime and then I went back out again and dug more dirt, and spread some mulch, and by the time I finished it was after nine and I could hardly see what I had done. We listened, as we always do in the evenings, to the Red Sox game on the radio. (so far they are winning, yay). In the shower I scrubbed, hard, but ended up having to put in the plug and let the tub fill while I washed my hair, so that my feet could soak and I could sit down and scrub with a brush. Still they look dirty, but the most of the dirt is gone. What a day.


I just finished a book last night that I recommend, called The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar. It tells the story of a poor woman, Bhima, and her upper-middle class mistress, Sera, for whom she has worked for over twenty years. It is a compelling and thought-provoking tale. There were several quotes, as always, that humbled me and made me think of my present, my truth, and I want to share them with you. These are the kinds of words I wonder if I would have simply read right over, had I not lost my daughter. But now they mean something more beautiful, more deep. This first quotation is Bhima as she sits at her adult daughter's side as she is dying of AIDS, contemplating her future without her:

... a mother without children is not a mother at all, and if I am not a mother, then I am nothing. Nothing. I am like sugar dissolved in a glass of water. Or, I am like salt, which disappears when you cook with it. I am salt. Without my children, I cease to exist.

While I disagree that Bhima is technically not a mother, as she most certainly remains in that category for having birthed her children, I do agree and sympathize and completely relate to the feeling of having your very identity pulled from beneath you like an old carpet. When you have sacrificed everything, and in Bhima's case indeed she has, for your children, what is left for you when they are gone? Where is your will to continue? Would I have noticed those words if I had not once been just that, a mother with no child?

And then there is this, spoken to her granddaughter who is afraid that she is bringing up the past unnecessarily:

The past is always present. No such thing as bringing it up. The past is like the skin on your hand-- it was there yesterday and it is here today. It never goes anywhere.

This is what I always say: you don't have to be afraid to "bring up" Charlotte, because she is there. She is always there. She is with me always, I'm always thinking of her somehow. You can't surprise me with her loss, or her absence. I carry her with me always.

So there's another book I recommend. Try it.
So two (the only two?) of the people I would have felt guilty to become pregnant before, are pregnant. Maybe pregnant. When you are me, you are maybe pregnant for, say, maybe 13 or 14 weeks. Then you become definitely pregnant, but you only might get a baby. This lasts until the baby is born crying. Then you have a new baby. I'd like to try this again. Send me your good vibes. Seems like I need them this time around.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

How Small I Can Be

Tonight, after we had rocked a little in the rocking chair, and sang a little, I put Aoife in her little crib, and tucked the blanket around her. Now, her bed is made up like a teeny-tiny bed, with a pillow, and some blankets I tuck around her. It is so cozy, and she always cuddles right in. Tonight she asked if I could get in and snuggle with her.
"No, sweetie, I can't," I told her. "Your bed is too little for grown ups, it's just for kids your size."
Then I reconsidered.

"Actually, I think I could squeeze in there with you."
So I climbed right in.

It was delicious. Curled on my side, I just filled the crib, and she fit perfectly, curled on her side facing me, wrapped in the C of my body. I had my arm around her, scratching her little back, and she gazed at me as I sang to her, her tiny fingers tracing my nose, my lips, and my eyelashes, like a blind person learning the contours of somebody's face. It occurred to me that this was what I had done to her so many times as a newborn- felt her every curve, soaked in each nuance of her being, and she was now doing it to me.

I sang the songs I usually sing while I stand over the crib, "Little Bird, Little Bird, Fly Through my Window", whereby Aoife chooses three birds and I sing about them coming in to buy molasses candy, and this song Hey Motswala/Somagwaza (which I think is Zulu originally -- It's about a wedding and is the reason why my two year old can explain to you that a dowry is a really nice, big present) Only this time we were tucked in together so nicely. After she had learned my face she wrapped her tiny, wiry arm around my neck, squeezed ever so gently, and planted a little, wet kiss on the tip of my nose. I felt so glorious to have this two year old who craved a good cuddle as much as I did.

Finally I kissed her good night and climbed out. I think she felt a little lonely in her bed as I was leaving, and I did feel sad, almost sorry in a tiny way that I had showed her that I could fit in there with her. A new feeling of abandoning her came over me, so I kissed her a few extra times and tiptoed into Liam's room, closing her door behind me.

Liam was in his bed, slightly wired. He took a nap today, which always leaves bedtime with lots of trips downstairs for various reasons. Tonight he was raring to go. The thing I can't capture about Liam, and those of you who actually know him will giggle a little reading this, is the way he talks. Liam must have been Italian in his past life, or have spoken some other language with a drawn out, sing-songy cadence. I cannot for the life of me imagine where he has gotten this lilt from, except that perhaps we read SO much when he was one and I was hugely pregnant and didn't feel like doing much else (there were days when I never had to put a single toy away because we read books all day long) that he picked up on the exaggerated syllables of read-aloud text. Whatever the reason, however, Liam has this beautiful, unique, absolutely adorable way of talking where he draws out certain syllables, and also makes his voice rise and fall at certain places, to give his words an almost musical sound. I can't figure how I could write it here, but I'll try, and if you know him, you'll hear exactly how he said it, and if you don't, you'll have to imagine it.

Me: Good night, Liam.
Liam: At the back of the Pratt museum there is a road that's all gravel. (if you sang this sentence, all the words would be the same note, and then gravel would be a fifth lower and drawn out to last about three times as long as the previous words)

Me: Oh?

Liam: That's where I'm going to drive my titan (Type of huge off-road dump truck). I'm going to drive it back and forth and do huge deliveries of dinosaur bones.

Me: That sounds like a great job. Good night, I love you.

Liam: Good night!

Five minutes later: downstairs to go to the bathroom. I carry him upstairs. I am aware of how big he is becoming, of what work it is for me to heft him up the stairs. His head rests sweetly on my shoulder, his hair is thick and damp on my mouth.

Me: Liam, what will I do when I can't carry you anymore?
Liam: You'll just have to love me! You'll have to hug and kiss me a lot.

Me: Of course I will. I'll always love you, and hug and kiss you.

Liam: Mimi? If I decide to get married, will you come to my house?

Me: Of course! I will come to your house every day!
Liam: Some days I'll have to go to work.
Me: You will, but I'll come and make you a nice hot supper so it will be ready when you get home.

Liam: I'll be busy driving my titan, delivering the dinosaur bones. Then I'll come home.

Me: Who do you think you'll marry?
Liam: Phoebe. Or maybe Henry. But there's one problem! Henry and me are both boys!

Me: Well, sometimes boys can marry boys. It's more unusual, but it can happen. But you don't have to decide right now who you'll marry. Right now I'm happy to have you home with me.

Liam: I love you.

I feel so full, I love this boy so much.

Liam has this thing he says, randomly, sometimes: Nobody knows what's happening in our house right now. And I'm aware of this, the isolation of our family, the existentialist moment of OH! I am here, in a beautiful house that I own, and this is my family, and I love them so much. I'm just this little person in the world, and nobody knows what's happening in our house, and all over the place people are tucking their children into bed and feeling this same thing, this undaunting love, this amazing, powerful joy. And somehow I'm just part of this, this little, tiny part of this, but it feels so big to me.

My camera is broken. I feel so sad to not have new pictures to post. Hopefully it will be revived soon.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Another one...

I was curious to go back and revisit some of my other drowning dreams, and found this one which was of interest to me, which took place when Liam was an infant, just after the great Tsunami in southeast asia.

I had great news: Charlotte was found. (Found?! This is, indeed, the opposite of lost) I was going to be allowed to hold her while she slept for three hours each night, after Liam was tucked into bed. I was so relieved. The relief was overwhelming, swamping. You would think, perhaps, from your perspective that I might have been disappointed not to be able to just re-integrate her into my family? No, I was grateful, deeply grateful to have anything with her, that three hours a night would seem like heaven.
So I had her, and I was holding her, she was about 1, and she was robust and warm in my arms, and asleep. I was so happy. The feeling of fullness, which I can reconnect to so easily now, I can't even describe it. I was ecstatic. Content. I could not see her face, but I knew it was her. We were outside on a deck, overhanging a beach. It was beautiful and tropical. I don't know where the rest of my family was, except that they were safe, and I was there with Charlotte, and I felt so proud to have her with me.
Then I saw it: the wave. A huge, momentous, gigantic wave was coming. It was far out in the ocean, but I could tell it would engulf us, and sweep us off our feet in mere moments. I held on to Charlotte with all my might, but realized that with both arms clinging to her, I would not be able to swim. How could I do this? To hold on to her, and both die, I would lose her anyway. To lose her again seemed too much to bear. I would try. The wave approached, and I tucked her under my arm, tightly, and prepared for it to sweep us, and the deck chairs, and the palm brush on the beach, and the deck itself out into the ocean.
The wave came, and I struggled under the water, and felt her release from under my arm, and she was gone.

Gone again, the result of the dream perhaps that it is impossible for me to save the child who is already lost.

Today I leave for 3 days with my family, and Henry's family (see 5/12) to New Hampshire to let our boys romp and our girls dress up in fairy costumes and for us to sit in a hot tub and dig in the sand and enjoy life. I will be back on Wednesday.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Drowning, version 231

It happened again, last night, the dream appeared to me, in its own, new unique form, but the same nonetheless.

In this version, we are standing on a dock. We aren't far from the shore, maybe 15 feet, when suddenly Liam plummets off the side, and disappears beneath the surface of the water.
I jump in after him, and under the water, I can see him descending-- he's falling with the speed of a rock through the water, and the bottom is nowhere in sight. I can't swim fast enough. He is disappearing from me. I am running out of breath.
I wonder, then, if Greg could dive in, and if the force of a dive might propel him deep enough to rescue our son. I am also wondering if it is too late to save Aoife, if she has perhaps fallen in, too. There could still be time to save her.
As I come to the surface I see Greg leap over the edge of the dock, and I clambor out and grab Aoife. When I turn around, Greg is there, and Liam is in his arms.

I love the end of this dream, because they don't always get saved.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Random Accident

I read this post today, on the blog of "Awake" about how her small daughter very nearly walked into the road, in the mere seconds while her attention was elsewhere. The title of the post was "twenty seconds", referring to the amount of time it might have taken for her to walk into the road had her mama not scooped her up.

These are the random things that happen: these moments where the best meaning parents and the best behaved children somehow lapse, and something happens. We all do it, it happens to all of us. Have you ever had a moment where you looked at something on the side of the road, and then had to quickly adjust the wheel? Then realized that it might have been you who caused the fatal crash, had you not turned your head and adjusted at that particular second?

My most haunting moment was when Liam was a baby, almost a toddler, really, and I was folding laundry in his room. He wanted to get in his crib, so I put him in. The side was down, and I thought about putting it up and then said to myself, "No, if I put it up, he'll think I'm locking him in here for bedtime. We'll just keep it casual..." I folded laundry for a while, stacked diapers, and then suddenly I saw him, out of the corner of my eye, he was falling head first out of the crib towards the floor.

His head tucked underneath him, and he did a somersault, and ended up on his back, staring at the ceiling. I don't even think he cried, but I did. The scene replayed over, and over, and over in my head: except this time, his head didn't tuck, and it landed at an awkward angle, and his neck snapped, and it was all my fault. It was a moment when I was paying more attention to laundry, and less to him, and my mistake was the cause of his fall. I had intentionally not put the side of the crib up. The replay happened again, and again, and again. He wasn't even hurt, but I could just imagine the alternative; and it would be all my fault.

I know that because of Charlotte, because of imagining what it would feel like to pile guilt on top of all of the agonizing trauma that I know so intimately, that I try to be more careful with my children. That I am perhaps slightly more hesitant, and concerned. But I also believe so deeply in the blessing of the skinned knee: I want them to be out there, to experience their world, to try things and fail, to learn how their bodies work, to know what is and isn't safe because they've tried it, not because mama said so. I want them to be independent, and to feel independent, and to feel that I trust them. I want this so much.

I wonder what it feels like if you aren't like me, if your baby died because of something. Does it make a lick of difference if you have a reason, if it isn't accidental? My intuition tells me that no matter what the cause it feels the same, because dead is dead, and none of it makes sense. But for me, I can never quite work out for myself how it feels that my baby's death was a complete, random accident. It confuses me. Because in a lot of ways, nothing really went wrong, it's just that things were arranged a little funny, and the timing was off. If any number of things had been different, she would have almost certainly been absolutely fine. If I had had a different doctor who didn't let me go so overdue, she would have been fine (this is not to say that I fault my doctors- I can honestly say I probably would have fought them tooth and nail if they had tried to induce me at that point, because I felt so damn natural). If I hadn't told the midwife that my cycle was 32 days and they hadn't changed my due date, I might have been induced in time, or at least had a non-stress test or two. If my labor had started before my water broke. There are so many things. I could go on. Charlotte's death was about as random as a car accident, or a strange fall, or something like that. She was perfect and fine, and then something went wrong, and she drowned in me. Oh, oh, oh. I wish I could have known.

It was an accident I could not prevent. Unpreventable, they say. Was it? I will never know. And so, while I do so desperately want my children to be free, I also want to watch them so closely. It is another paradox, of wanting to both give and experience freedom, but also wanting to reel them in underneath my feet, and to keep them with me forever, and never let them go.
Here they are, in their glory. Beautiful, creative, funny spirits who bring me the most amazing joy every single day. Tonight we went for dinner at some wonderful friends' house who have two joyful girls of their own, slightly older. The adoration factor was astonishing, my children were simply drunk on these girls. Aoife discovered the Disney Princess collection, nonexistent in her playroom of trucks, blocks, trains, art table, and a few dolls. She donned sparkly pink dresses and, best of all, pretend glass slippers. Her eyes were as big as saucers. She could not believe that life could, in fact, get that good.
Meanwhile, Liam discovered a large, yellow, tonka dump truck, similar to many in his collection. He asked if he could borrow it, and was delighted when our hostesses said yes.
The differences between them continue to amaze me. This is one case where I have to admit my mother was right. Boys and girls really do like different things, and it hasn't seemed to matter what I've given them to play with. But that's a conversation for another day...
And tomorrow? Summer vacation begins.
My porch beckons.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Two days left...

Today my economic stimulus check arrived in the mail: har har. I was laughing to myself, this is pretty funny, because when you live on one teachers salary, and lots of other types of incomes, here's what the economic stimulus check means: Oh, yay! This month I won't spend more than I put in the bank! And I realize, with a big sigh, that it is only because of my very planful and careful and fastidious nature, that when we lived on two teachers salaries and were still pretty basic people, I put most of one of our teachers salaries in the bank for 3 years, and used some of that to buy our house, and save the rest for... a rainy day? When gas prices spiked to $4.24 a gallon? I was not sure what the rainy day would be, but seems it is raining now. I would like to say, Thanks, GW, for the cash... but I could actually think of a thing or two that might have "stimulated" the economy more than this check for $1800 that will allow me to maybe contemplate being able to afford to continue to drive my car and heat my home. So, thanks, but also try again.

The whole teacher thing comes to light for real at this time of year: starting in 2 days, my kids will get 10 weeks of two parents at home with them. Ten WEEKS! Is this not worth the pittance we bring home, the "sacrifices" we make to live on this wage? (I put sacrifices in quotes, because I do not believe that the fact that we cannot budget to purchase new clothing, or buy lattes, or go out for dinner more than a few times a semester sacrifices, as these things are all privileges anyhow) So now, my husband being away from the house for most often 12 hours each day comes to fruition: now he gets to stay home. (Yes, although the students do arrive at 7:45 and leave at 2, he gets there at 6 and leaves at 4 or 4:30, because you have to PLAN things for them to do and then GRADE it). This is the beauty of life for us, beginning in 2 days, this time where we will hardly leave the house, and we'll just drink coffee on the porch each morning, and go for runs together, and play the guitar and sing, and then finally, head up north together.

Now this is something that I will talk about a lot here, starting soon, because our annual pilgrimage to my ancestral home is just the absolute basis of my existence here on earth. Every August, for my entire life, as my father, and his father, and his father, and even HIS father did, our family leaves our life behind and moves our life to DeGrassi Point, a beautiful, gorgeous, old, grassy point that juts out into beautiful Lake Simcoe in Ontario. There are old pines, huge oaks, lapping waves, and a family dock that everyone uses, with a little beach covered with toys. All the families there, if they are not related to me (which most of them are) have been there for generations, and the level of comfort there is unparalleled. It is home in the utmost sense: the only place on earth I have always known for what it is, where I can always know what to expect. And so thank god, thank GOD, I married a schoolteacher, and we can all go up there together for four, even five weeks each summer, and just be. Just be.

That is the world's most priceless gift, it is. To just be.
I just wish I could just be, without knowing that someone is missing. It doesn't make me love what I have any less, but it just makes me yearn to be that person who isn't babylost. And I know I will never be her.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

The father of my children is magical.

This is how it all started: we were in an ice rink. We were skating around, perhaps ten of us, all from the same hall in the Middlebury dorm. Greg was appealing to me, his smile was wide, he was generous, and funny, and fair. Never had I thought past that, though. And then, as we glided around, and around, and around, somewhere on the ice a little girl lost her mitten. Greg saw this, the little red mitten, alone on the ice, and he picked it up. He skated (with the kind of grace that only a Canadian hockey player could have) around the ice, his feet crossing and floating beneath him, his eyes scanning, until he saw the bare hand: it was a small girl, seated in a stroller, her mother pushing her.

But my dear, sweet Greg did not just kindly stop the mother, and hand her the mitten, no. He shhusshed to a sudden stop, knelt on the cold, hard, ice, and put that mitten back onto that child's hand. I watched, in awe. He was nineteen. I said it out loud, to myself, to the ice, to the cold, misty air around me: I am going to marry that man.

It worked itself out, seamlessly, it seemed, until the day that this man, this strong, handsome, funny, ever-smiling man, lost his daughter. Our love had been blessed with such good luck since the beginning and then, seven and a half years later, it was put to the test.

This is a piece of the grief that gets missed by many: the grief of watching the person you love so much in pain. This was the grief I felt for Greg: the sadness I would feel looking at his long, sad face, watching his tears fall onto his chest and roll quietly down into his belly button where they might collect. I would look at his face and could see this man who desperately wanted this tiny little girl to love: he just wanted to be a dad, and that was all. It hadn't seemed like too much to ask for. It broke my heart.
I still feel this, this strange, detatched sadness, which is reserved for Greg. It takes me back to the day she was born, the day she died. When they told us, when they saw that her heart wasn't beating anymore, and said those words, I just went numb. I stared at the wall, and I didn't know what to do. But Greg did, he did.
He burst into tears, real, hard tears, he wept copiously and continuously, his head bent and buried in my huge, swollen belly. He wrapped his arms around his dream and he cried as I should have, knowing that his dreams of fatherhood would be unfulfilled. I envied him.
When Charlotte was born, he was so tender with her. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen him do: to hold his daughter with his big, strong hands, delicately, with care. He kissed her soft hair, and talked to her in a quiet, new voice that I'd never heard before. This was the father I had been waiting for. This was the piece of Greg I had anticipated all those years earlier when he put the mitten on the baby. Finally, our moment had come, and soon it would be over.
I weep for Greg, still. Sometimes, when I catch him in a moment alone with Aoife, I strangely think of how this would have been him, a girl-dad, hanging out with his daughter, just dad and his girl. I wonder what that would have been like. I wish we could have known.
I am grateful for Greg in so many ways. He is an active, loving father. He is patient, kind, and loyal. He is generous, funny, and always happy, except when he is sad. I am so humbly appreciative to be married to someone who is rarely frustrated and almost never angry. This makes our life so peaceful. He is amazing with the kids. He takes things slow, he introduces them to new things, and is always willing to stop to help. He always makes them feel smart and appreciated.
And on top of that, my Greg is a master carpenter, fabulous chef, he gardens, he paints, carves rocks, builds us fine shaker furniture, and he has never, ever, not even once left the toilet seat up.
Really, who could ask for anything more?
I love you Greg... You are, in my most humble opinion, among the top Dads ever.... and I am so fortunate to be witness to all of this.

Friday, June 13, 2008


My aunt, whose husband had left her several years earlier, told me this once: what it is that you need is to be so patient, and change will happen. I know you can do it.

This was the truth, perhaps the rawest, truest truth that anyone had ever told me about grieving. There isn't really any one trait that a person can posess that can really carry one through grief like patience.

Grief happens to you so slowly, like a single earthworm cultivating, turning over, and fertilizing a whole garden patch alone. It moves through you, first snatching away your whole life, dissolving and reconfiguring everything you used to have, and everything that seemed real and important. It moves in like acid being poured into a plastic cup, first boring holes, then the entire structure melting and falling and recomposing into a caustic, unrecognizable smear on the ground where the cup used to stand.

Felled, you wait for something to happen: but nothing does. Each day you wake up, and it is still there, poking you in the ribs, Remember me? I live in you now. You can't get rid of me.

As nothing is happening anyway, you begin to try to reincorporate, as time goes by, some of the things you used to do. You try to walk the same route into town, to go and buy groceries. But everything looks different. Things speak to you now. The baby aisle in the grocery store. Don't walk down here. There is nothing for you here. The woman you passed on the street with the double carriage. Yes, twin daughters, and I got pregnant by accident. Too bad for you. The person you see crying in her car, waiting at a light. Who did she lose?

Sometimes these voices comfort you, but usually they highlight you-- they separate you from the world you thought you knew, that you are not a part of anymore. It is difficult being alone. After a while, you want to go back.

Like a person looking into a little world inside a glass box, you tap on the walls. Let me in. I want to try this again. But there is no door that you can see. You try to find one, walking the perimeter, looking inside. Sometimes, what you see makes you feel strong and empowered: I can do this, I must try to get back in. But other times, what you see terrifies you, and you want to crawl back into the darkness, and envelop yourself in sadness, and so you wait, patiently, to be ready to look some more.

The truth is there is no door, because in some ways, that world has just been left behind. The old world. The one before.

Then there is a day, first just once, and then, over time, repeatedly, where you become aware that something is happening. That all the time you have spent trying to re-integrate yourself, and falling back, and crying, and feeling left out, and put out, and put upon, and seeing joy but feeling it be unreachable, you have been climbing out of the hold you have been under, that has kept you out. Somehow, you are back. You are doing again. You hear the voices, but you talk back to them in your head, and you keep on going. You begin to realize that you have moved, very distinctly, away from point A, where you could hardly lift your head, and that you are at a new place. It is very far away from where you once were, but it is a place of realness, of functioning, of truth.

Patiently, you have waited. You have wondered. You know there is still work to be done. But you also know that you have been working hard, and that over time, you have accomplished things.

So, the lesson in this is, be patient.

I have a lot to learn from myself in this.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


This really is the crux of it, this dichotomy of who I am.

Last night I spent the evening out, attending the 6th grade graduation of the children I'd taught in kindergarten, first, and second grade. It was an important event for me to attend. I had given my hearts to these children, and they had trusted me with theirs. They had shared my joy through two pregnancies, and my sorrow of one. Their honesty, straightforwardness, and confusion was often my best comfort. I teared up at the ceremony, proud at how smart and strong they had become, these children who I had seen through so much. The evening consisted of an unbelievable potluck supper, the ceremony, cake, and then a contra dance. I enjoyed myself throughly.

When I emerged from the air-conditioned building, on the grounds of Amherst College, the heat engulfed me. The air was sweating, it was dark, and the smells were overpowering. Wet grass, pavement, cars driving by. The lights seeped into the heat of the night, illuminating the path I followed to find my car. I could hear my shoes on the pavement. One set of feet. My body was light, even within the oppressive air that tried to squeeze me from all sides. I breathed in the damp, warm night air. I was alone.
It was a beautiful thing. I was out there, and I was alone in this beautiful, hot night air. I felt like I could do anything I wanted to. I had to think only of myself. What if, perchance, I felt like stopping somewhere on the way home? I could do so. What if I wanted to just sit down on some steps, and feel the sweaty slate of the step soak through the back of my dress, and sit there and watch the night pass me by? I could do that. I felt free. I continued to my car, because this is what I wanted to do, and I was happy, and I smiled to myself.
As I drove away, I thought about how odd this is, that I can now relish my moments of freedom, when it was my greatest wish, and still is, to never be free. My children, in effect, chain me. Regardless of how much I love my chains, this is the truth of it: each move I make in life is made first for them, then for me. I don't eat first, I don't sleep first. I don't do anything for myself, unless their needs are met first. This is how it ought to be, and this is how I like it. When Charlotte died, I hated it that I could do the things that I wasn't "supposed" to be able to do with children. I didn't want to go to movies, or to restaurants, because that wasn't supposed to be possible with my new baby. I had made the conscious choice to put myself last, and I didn't want to be first in line anymore
When Liam was a baby, I didn't even want time to myself. It repulsed me, reminded me of when I had much too much time to myself, and I hated the idea of it. Four years later, I am here in a much more comfortable place, a place where I admit that yes, I am grieving, but I am also human: and sometimes, it feels nice to go first. To eat when I am hungry, to think for a few minutes without first thinking about somebody else. To be out in the hot, night air, and to walk slowly, and to not worry about whether I was moving too fast, or too slowly, or if there was going to be traffic on the way home.

And I am trying, very very hard, to also tell myself, that it is very very nice to have two such agreeable, self-entertaining, relatively independent children right now. That it is nice to be able to do things like garden, and paint things, and go running. I'm trying to think about how convenient it will be when I don't have to wash so many diapers, and how I am almost all done with sippy cups, and how I can get away with forgetting my bag when I go out, and this is supposed to make it a little easier for me to be okay with the fact that there is no new baby on the horizon, and it's supposed to make me a little more patient, and a little less panicked, and try to make me hold my chin up like a normal person, not like a grieving, slightly manic babylost mama who is pretty sure she is broken and her two living children are some sort of fluke.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Garden

Every night now, after my kidlets are tucked into their sweaty little beds and I've cleaned up the remnants of our dinner and day, I roll out my wheelbarrow and get my shovel and head down to garden "downstairs".

Our yard is divided into two sections: the "up" part and the "down" part.

The up part is where the house is. The house is built on ledge, on one side there is actual ledge exposed, about 12 feet of it separating the up and down yards, and as the actual ledge tapers off it merges into an old, stone wall which supports the upper part of our yard, which is largely cultivated and gardens and lawn and all those swing set and sandbox areas, as well as our house. The tree house is built so that you walk in on the up part, and it overhangs the down part, so when you look down from the tree house, it is about 10 feet down to the ground, which is the down part of our yard.

The down part is down by the road. There is a huge hemlock tree that shades half of it, and there are a half dozen rather large glacial erratics which are super for climbing, and the other half is wild and meadowy. It sometimes looks dreamy in its meadowy state, but other times whilst plowing through the dense, slivery grasses with briars mixed in, slicing your legs and feet, it feels less dreamy.

Since I moved into the house, I have dreamed of turning the down part into my little shangri la of a garden. It has so much potential with the huge rocks, beautiful exposed ledge, shaded areas, and sunny parts. And this year... as I have, for the first time, no newborn (or lack of newborn) and I am not pregnant... I am doing it! It is so satisfying, and I am just loving it. It is a perfect example to me of how you have to just chip away at things, little by little, and eventually you begin to make progress. Every night I have been trying to clear about 10-20 square feet of earth. During the day I separate out perennials from the "up" part and put them into pots and then into the wheelbarrow. Then, when night falls, I bring the plants down and plant them. If the things die, it's no problem, as they were just excess from the "up" gardens anyhow. It feels creative and productive and it makes me exhausted and now, when I drive up to my house, I actually feel like I can see that I have made a dent in it.

While I am gardening, I usually think about Charlotte. I don't know why. I always think about her when I am mowing the lawn, too. I think it is perhaps because I am in an almost meditative state, just plowing through the earth with my hands, my mind is free, other responsibilites have been set aside for this time, this hour to myself while the sun sets, and I use it for her.

Another nice thing about my garden.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

How to Not Go to Bed by Liam R.

8:00 pm.

Footsteps pound in the hallway overhead. The requisite following tap, tap, tap of bare feet down the front stairs, shiny and wooden.

Liam: My bottom is sore.

Me: Oh?

Liam: My bottom is sore because I ate something that I'm allergic to.

Me: What did you eat?

Liam: I ate... actually, it was just something I saw. Something I looked at that I was allergic to.

Me: What did you see?

Liam: (long, long pause). I saw... I saw... It was a little furry kind of mouse that I was allergic to. And it made my bottom sore.

Me: Oh. (suppressed laughter). Why don't I look at it. (look at bum). It looks a little red. Do you want some cream?

Liam: No, I just want some water. Actually some milk.

Me: Okay, but then you have to go to bed. (Get milk)

Liam sits on the couch. His legs are splayed out to the side, he's leaning on a pillow, backlit by the dwindling daylight.

Liam: I think I feel like a cocktail.

Me (turns head, laughs quietly into shoulder in the darkened kitchen)

Liam: Something spoiled my sleep. Something that I can't say. Something spoiled my sleep so I won't be able to sleep anymore.

Me: We're going to bed. I'm going to get you a new lullaby CD. (pulls one out of the cupboard). It's got ladies singing on it. (knowing he's obsessed with singing ladies)

Liam: I only like men's voices.

Me: Come on.

We go up the stairs, slowly, Liam dragging his feet. Go into his room, about 87 degrees. The fan is blowing right on his bed. I load up the CD, lie him in bed. Situate glass of water.

Liam: I didn't eat enough breakfast. I didn't eat enough breakfast and now my belly is aching.

Me: Good night, Liam. I love you.

Walks out door. Stops just outside door, leans head against wall, feeling the coolness of the damp, sweating plaster as the laughter is supressed and disapates, still listening to the son within moaning about his breakfast. Turn and keep walking to the stairs.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Dinner tonight (for Aimee, who needs an extra post)

I remember how Greg and I used to eat, years ago. We both have a passion for food and cooking, and recipes were carefully chosen, prepared together, and eaten with a critical yet appreciative palate. We always ate by candlelight, usually in the dark because it had gotten so late, and we would regale each other with stories of that day's trials, comedies, and events.
Tonight, I returned home from tutoring to find my family seated around our beautiful cherry and maple dining table. The candle was lit, the plates were full. My salad and water were crisp and untouched, and my bowl of the casserole I had prepared in advance was steaming, waiting for me.

Other than that, it was a zoo.

The kids were, as usual, full of beans, love, songs, and jokes. Dinner (and lunch and breakfast) is usually punctuated with singing, and arguing about who is going to sing at what time. So we start with this:
Aoife: I yike to rise when the sun she rises...
Liam: (joins in) Early in the morning....
Aoife: I want to sing a so-yo! I want to sing a so-yo! (this is aoife-ese for solo, in case you are having trouble deciphering)
Liam: (keeps singing) No, it's my solo now, I like to hear them small birds singing...
Aoife: Merrily among their yey-yem
Liam: No! It's my solo now!
Me: Could we maybe do a duet? I'd love to hear a duet....

I love to have the singing at the table. It gives this jolly air, I love to hear the kids singing together, and I love to encourage their musical sides. It makes me smile every time, even with the arguing about so-yos.

Tonight, we were pretending to be various kinds of dinosaurs to encourage eating:
Liam: I'm a T-rex! (gobbles food, growling)
Aoife: I'm a... I'm a... (having trouble thinking of something else)
Me: Are you an oviraptor? (we're eating eggs)
Aoife: I'm an oviraptor!
Greg: Do you like to eat eggs?
Aoife: I'm a chicken! I'm a chicken and I eat eggs! I'm a yittle chicken! And you're a T-rex! Roar!
I'm a yittle chicken and you're a big chicken! We're chickens?

It's not really the same as the candlelit evenings, is it? The beautiful chaos and loud singing and coercing to eat and trying to squeak just one more bite out of each child before they dismount, headed to look quietly at books or work at the art table until bathtime begins...
But I love it so much. So, so much. And in the meantime? We're all eating together. My kids sing loudly, but they have napkins on their laps, they use silverware, and we do use pleases and thank yous and please-pass-thes. So it's really, truly, civilized dinner at its best.

The Drawers

Underneath my bed, there are two drawers.
They are made of plastic, and they are not beautiful.
They are full of the things that have no place, and that must be kept.
Inside the boxes are a legacy of sorts, the evidence and markers of a time I cannot recall.
Tonight, I went to the boxes. The photo in my pendant had fallen out, and I needed a new one to replace it. What always happens, happened.
I opened the drawer, searching specifically for the photo.
I found it straight away, knowing just where it was among the clutter of cards, notes, notices, newspaper clippings, and extra birth announcements that were never mailed.
I set it aside on the smooth pine floor, brushing aside the stray dust bunnies that emerged with the opening drawer.
I almost closed the drawer, and then didn't.
I began to read.

The drawer I was looking in tonight was, in fact, a drawer I hadn't looked in for some time. At one point, I went through our almost 300 sympathy cards and I sorted out the "good" ones, the ones that really drew me to tears and sucked me right back to that place of merciless agony. Some were from good friends and family, while others were from mere acquaintances or strangers who emerged from the woodwork, knowing we needed their strength, offering words of kindness, support, and love. I read the cards often, mesmerised by the words of those people who could hardly think of what to write, I'm sure.

There were also, however, numerous other cards that were less provocotive: sympathy cards with a pre-printed message that were just signed, short notes from work acquaintances that weren't as meaningful, and tags that had accompanied floral arrangements and deliveries that I couldn't bear to part with. But I hadn't gone in this box, the one with the cards from the less important people. These are what I began to read tonight. It made me so happy to do so. I read the tags, the labels, the cards, and realized that so many people I had completely forgotten about had reached out to us when Charlotte died, not knowing what to do, but knowing they must do something. I read with something close to guilt:
Did you know Sean and Joann sent us flowers, I said to Greg? I wouldn't have known how to answer if you'd asked me if they sent a card.
It warmed my heart again, a second time, to have forgotten completely about these reaches of hope and love, and then to suddenly discover them again, all over again, and feel supported.
I sat for some time, as I always do when I open the drawers, and I went into a kind of trance, flipping from one card to the next, imagining the poor recipients of all this sympathy as if they were someone else's family.
Finally I closed the drawers.
Returned to life.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


The room is dark, and a fan runs in the corner, the soft whoosh of it almost like a heartbeat. There is soft, blue light creeping in at the edges where the blinds don't quite touch the windowframes, and the flannel sheets are soft on my elbows as I lean over my little boy. I combed his hair after his bath tonight, it's thick and shiny and pushed off his soft little forehead as I kiss him, breathe him in. My arms are on either side of his narrow chest, and I kiss him softly on his little lips, because I still can. His little teeth are seed pearls, shiny and perfect in the dim light, his smile such beauty to my eyes.

He is supposed to be asleep, and he's tried all the tricks to keep me in his room tonight. He needs a massage, another story, the lullaby CD turned up, then down. This night, his tricks are working. I cannot get enough of him. I miss him already, as I hear his breathing get deeper and more regular, and see his chest rise and fall before my eyes. It will only be 11 hours at most, but I do, I miss him.

Sleep is a beautiful thing: children disappear from you beneath closed lids, long lashes beautiful and full against their soft pink cheeks. They are there before you, yet they are lost: and then they return.

This brings me joy every time, every day, they return to me. Light swirls of spinning joy as they return, and I knowing that behind one set of lids I once saw my child never did return to me, and this miracle happens at least every day now.
I cannot put words to this beauty.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Rhythm of the day...

Tonight, Grammie and Grandpa are coming, just for the night. They're arriving at 7 PM. It is at times like these that I realize how set our day is, because the thought and energy that goes into figuring out how to do a 7 PM arrival time from Grammie and Grandpa is tremendous.

Like many families, mine is driven by ritual. Every day, pretty much lots of things are the same. Things happen in the same order every day, and then my kids know what to expect, and they also don't question what I'm asking them to do. I have never had a child unwilling to go to bed, because there has never been a question that after dinner, bath, and stories, one gets into bed and goes to sleep. This has always been the way it is, and they just assume this is always how it will be.

The ritual is beauty. It makes my life so utterly simple, not having to plan, or think, or arrange anything. The wake-up till breakfast is all pre-planned, the lunch-nap is all pre-planned, and the dinner-bed is all pre-planned. Best of all, the pre-planning actually schedules in time for me to be myself, to pursue what I want to do (like washing the floor, hanging out diapers :) or maybe sewing a little). I am so bought into the ritual, so tied to it, that I simply cannot imagine that there are people for whom this kind of life would seem rigid, and like work. And it might be, for them, but it's not to me.

To me, the structure, the routine, is simplifying to the extreme. It means that I don't have to prepare the kids for the next stage, because they already know what it is. It means I eliminate struggles and decisions and "choices" because the day just goes how it goes, and nobody really thinks to question it. I can't imagine how I would get my kids away from what they were doing and down for a nap if they didn't just naturally assume that reading was the next step, and they wander to the couch from their lunches, eagerly awaiting the books that they know they will hear. I think they are greatly comforted by this, it gives them, in a strange sense, power, because they know what is going to happen in their day.

So tonight, the ritual is thrown off- 7 PM is bedtime, usually, given that we eat about 5:30, then go up for Crazy time, bath, and books, which lands the kids in bed around 7. So today, I urged the kids to nap, to which Liam easily complied, knowing that his time with his grandparents depended on the length of his sleep. Aoife, less able to consciously make this choice, talked for an hour and I thought, Well, she might not make it for the visit... but then, by now at 2:30 I realized, I can take advantage of this opportunity for a late nap. So I went up, popped her the boob, and about 2 minutes later she was out like a light.

So tonight, it will be... music class, bath, playtime...then Grammie and Grandpa! Won't it be a treat to stray from the rhythm, as soothing as it is, to get in our one precious evening with Greg's family, en route to a conference in Rhode Island. The kids will be well rested, because in knowing their routine and their needs, I could restructure the day to be sure that they will be fit and happy to hang out with the family. Aahhh... Looking forward to a glass of wine on the porch myself.

Monday, June 2, 2008

What makes me Cry

If you want to know what makes me cry a little, read this. Here it is, in print, my little girl being loved by somebody who wasn't there. When she was born, I never imagined that this could happen. But it has.

My take...

My second baby girl, how I love you

Thanks, Jen and Meg, it was interesting to hear your takes on my weird dream...

To me, the dream symbolized a lot of what these two pointed out: my anxiety about keeping my family safe, the careening, out of control feeling that mothering often takes, and the strangely peaceful and safe landing despite the harrowing voyage.

There was one piece, though, that really stood out to me, and it was Charlotte's empty infant car seat. The symbolism of her missing in the family is obvious enough. But there is another piece. Just recently, my friend Erin asked me: Do you ever dream about Charlotte?
I answered her honestly, and sadly. "I did, I used to. But I don't anymore."

And it's true. In the beginning, I dreamed of her often. The dreams weren't ususally pleasant. She was going in for heart surgery, dying. She was taken from me at birth, was now being raised by another family. Dozens of dreams of her as a one year old, drowning. A few, scant, dreams of me, nursing a tiny infant dressed in yellow, but at the time that those happened, I was pregnant with Liam, and never felt certain whether the child was Charlotte or the baby I was growing at the time.

In all of these dreams, Charlotte was as I imagined her, but she also was what I had known her as: a baby. In many, she was the actual child I held in my arms that May 13th, in others her face was shielded, or I saw only her back.
What, now, do I have to envison her with? I feel left with nothing. As a baby, I felt I knew my daughter, I knew who she was, I could imagine what she would look like crying, nursing, sleeping. And now, I know not what color her hair might be, her eyes, or her build. I have no leads even, save looking at Liam and Aoife and deciding that perhaps Charlotte's hair also would have turned wheat-blonde and her eyes would have been a dark grey blue. Then I imagine those families I know where curls pop out of nowhere, or I look at Greg's amazing light green eyes, veined with lines of tiger orangey brown like a topographical map, and I wonder about Charlotte. She could have those eyes. Maybe she had my dimples. Maybe she would have been small. I don't know.

So I have been more aware, lately, of the fact that I only really know Charlotte as a baby, and I feel saddened that I do feel more distant from her, as my vision of her clouds.

And so, it seemed obvious to me that instead of the empty seat big enough for a five year old girl, there was an empty seat big enough for the tiny infant that I once knew. The little car seat bought just for her, which I eagerly freecycled a few months ago, knowing it would be outdated for my next child and also knowing that it would never be within my power to throw away the car seat. So I heard of a woman taking in foster babies in need of a car seat and I lovingly wiped the dust from the frame and left it on my porch for her to take away, while I was out, so I didn't have to see her drive away with it.
It would be interesting for me if I had more dreams. Whenever one like this comes up, I feel grateful for it, almost as if it's telling me something I didn't already know. Seems I'm sleeping soundly, though, now that my 2 year, 2 month old daughter has finally started to sleep through the night (12 hours!) more often than not. For this, I am grateful. I am ready for a good night's sleep.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


Tonight I'll tell you about the dream I had last night. Then, you analyze it. Try me.

So, I am on a bike. It's a big bike, and it's unlike anything you've ever seen before. I am riding the bike, and then I'm pulling an attachment, (kind of like those tag-along things you see where the child's half-bike attaches under the seat of the adult bike, so they pedal along behind, but really you are pulling them) only in my dream, this tag along is really, really long. And the tag along is pulling a regular baby bike trailer. In the baby trailer is Aoife. Then, on the tag along, is Liam, and in front of him, Greg, and in front of him, the infant car seat we bought for Charlotte, firmly attached in a special little holder like those special strollers where you click the carseat into a frame, and the car seat is empty. (I do realize this part requires no analysis whatsoever). We are trying to ride our bikes home, and I'm going up hill. The hill is long, and it's steep. I am really, really dragging, and I don't know if I can pull the weight of my entire family up the hill to get them home. The weather is beautiful. I am going along a familiar road, and then suddenly things don't look so familiar. I realize the buildings, farm buildings, around me, are all abandoned, more of an old institution than the farm I had thought it was. I am slightly afraid. I decide that we are going to go down the hill to find a restaurant instead (because although I had previously been dreaming I was heading home, now apparently I am going to a restaurant). I start to careen down the hill, being passed by big trucks, there are tall shrubs along the side making it difficult to pull off. I can see there is water at the end of the road (and I probably haven't told you before that all my nightmares are about drowning: Charlotte drowning, other little girls drowning, my other children drowning). We are careening towards the water, and the brakes for some reason aren't working anymore. I try to weave back and forth, using the gravel at the side of the trail to brake me. It starts to work. We land at the beach, and there are large-ish stones on the beach instead of sand, and it stops the bike-contraption. I am relieved beyond description.
Amazingly, there is a restaurant on the beach. We dismount the bike and go inside, settling into a booth. We order our food. Suddenly, a young woman approaches. I am ___, she tells me, and I forget what her name was. I have to introduce myself. I always read your blog. I am the one who posted the comments about __________. Again, I can't remember what she said. She claimed to recognize not me, but Liam and Aoife. I am abashed that I have been recognized. Honored.

Then, in the next room, Aoife awakens. So do I. The dream is over.