Sunday, February 21, 2010


I remember the sound of Estes rockets zipping apart the summer sky. We'd be standing around together, my dad, my brother and sisters and I, my dad kneeling to light the fuse and stepping back. It meant liberation from the earth, power over fire, over gunpowder, over all of us, and all the neighbors who could hear it and looked up to outrace the sound with their eyes and catch a glimpse of the bright needle as it reached its zenith and poppped a tiny plastic parachute. It never occurred to me that we were the only family that did this, and why, not until a few summers later we heard that sound from someone else's lawn, off in the trees, across the endless flat terrain of our subdivision. We searched the sky but couldn't see it. And never found out who else had glued together the tubes and fins and stuffed the little cone with its chute.

My dad was always picking up new hobbies for us to try, rock polishing, glass art, candles, electric trains. Everything was a lesson in how things worked, what they were made of and why they reacted to what you did to them. Why can you cut glass underwater with a scissors? My father knew. He was half a class shy of his masters' in physics. He was nearly finished, out of Loyola in New Orleans, when the money ran out and my parents moved, with me and my baby sister, to Maryland.
(to be continued)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The terrible thing

If I could explain what I feel, I don't know that it would help me at this point. I realize that not-thinking about what this time of year really is, has affected me, hopefully temporarily. I can't think clearly. I forget the most obvious things. I can't tell right from left. Ideas drop out of my head and I'm left standing, grasping for them, in front of my loved ones. They understand. They are patient with me. I am so lucky to have these friends and this family. I know it. Not just the ones who knew me before I lost Jesse, but the ones I only know because I lost Jesse.

I suppose it's possible I would have met these new friends either way, but I wasn't the same person when Jesse was still alive. I didn't have a big hole blasted through me that anyone could look into. I protected myself. Now I can't. I have to find ways to go from that introspective, self-reliant person to one who reaches out to others, who is weak and fragile and open. The terrible thing is that I had to lose Jesse to lose what kept me from the world. That's not to say that Jesse had anything to do with my introversion, far from it. In order to love Jesse I had to change throughout his life. As my firstborn, he was the person who took me from the stupor of my postponed girlhood to full adult parenthood. He made it possible by his existence, for his brother to be born. He made me look at the world, and at myself and take responsibility for my role in it all.

And here I sit, unable to grab a train of thought and ride it, afraid to say what I feel because I know what will come out of me. I already know that what I need is time. And activity. Things I can throw into the abyss until it seals itself. I just want this part to be over. I want to-- I can't say "be myself again" because I've learned that isn't a stable concept. I want to be back on the track I thought I was on, just a few short weeks ago.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The anniversary

Really, it hit me harder last week. I started crying Wednesday at work and couldn't figure out why, till I realized that the next day was the Thursday when we pulled the plug. And for some reason, Thursday morning I felt Jesse's presence all around me. The sense that he would show up if I needed him. That I should already know this. That he's fine. Please understand, that doesn't mean I don't fall to my knees every time I realize I will never see him again. That this isn't some trip he took to another country, from which he will return. He's not just avoiding me, he's gone.

People try to comfort me by saying, well he couldn't have functioned in that body any more so there's no point in wishing he had lived. And what I don't say is, lived? I wish he'd never gotten sick! I spent a lot of last month imagining myself going back in time to early January 2007 and yelling to him to go to the doctor NOW. A week sooner and he might have made it. There's a little thrill to that, as crazy as it is. That somehow my voice can travel back through time and reach him. Not any crazier than thinking he can reach past death to comfort me.

And there's one other thing people say that I hope not to hear again. Last week I was telling an acquaintance about my sister's daughter, how she had been born exactly one month to the day after Jesse died. And the woman said some crap like one dies one is born and goddammit, that's not how it works. One 22 year old doesn't need to fucking die so his cousin can be born. I just smiled and said nothing. Just, don't even think about saying anything like that to anyone you know who has lost someone. Just. Don't.

What made me cry first, last Wednesday, was thinking about his foot. When he was a newborn, baby, we'd make such a fuss about those little feet, that had never touched the ground. And when he died, his foot was what I clung to so he wouldn't feel alone as they pulled the ventilator tubes out of him. Today is the third anniversary of his last heartbeat. I can't know the anniversary of his first. But I can remember like I just took up the stethoscope and heard it a minute ago, that fast flutter of new life in my ears.

I'm trying not to think about what happened. Not sure how it'll work. But I do feel better today than I have for the last three Februaries in a row. So that's something. Just pretend it isn't February.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010