Two Things

Hello all.  I’m here!

We’re coming up on Ezra’s birthday tomorrow.  Three years – he’d be three.  The further we get the harder it is to imagine, and yet I never give up imagining it.

I’ve spent much of the past year writing memoir, most of which hasn’t made its way here.  It was too raw, I think.  It’s starting to amass into quite a pile, and I’m not sure what my plan is as far as what to do with it.  Today, in lieu of new words, I’m going to give you last year’s words.  I wrote this as we approached Ezra’s birthday last summer.

****

 

How do you want two things that can’t both be true?

It was a windy August afternoon, the kind where the air hitting your face cools it for a second, but leaves your lips and eyes dry and prickling.  I stood with Lauren in the sun, breathing in that warm wind and the smell of recently mowed grass and cut flowers.  It was my son’s birthday.

We stood together, and I stared at the brass plaque with his name on it.  I hadn’t been to the cemetery since it had been added to the marker, laying claim to the spot where we had laid him with Lauren’s mother.

I knelt with difficulty to place a handful of blue flowers on his grave.  I’d chosen them carefully at the florist that morning.  I’d wanted something small, delicate purple-blue buds for a boy who would always be tiny.  I traced his name with my finger, the letters standing out in shining newness beside his grandmother’s name, embossed almost 24 years earlier.  I had to reach a hand to Lauren to help me up.  I was nearly eight months pregnant.

How do you want two things that can’t both be true?

It was a painfully beautiful day and I stood a few minutes longer, delaying the moment when I would leave my son behind.  Glancing again at his name, Ezra, the name that nearly no one spoke aloud, the name that I had pictured writing in his jackets and shoes for daycare, crayoned onto the bottom corner of unidentifiable drawings.  I was still learning to wrap my mind around the plain fact that the grave marker was it; the last official mark of his existence.  No graduation program, no resume, no wedding announcement.  Nothing.  It still felt at times as though there might be some eleventh hour appeal, even as my daughter squirmed and stretched her feet into my ribs.

How do you want two things that can’t both be true?

Our daughter didn’t have a name yet.  It still felt too soon, although I’d long since stopped being able to see my feet and the doctors said that she was fine.  I told people that we were waiting to meet her first, but in truth, I couldn’t casually try on names the way I had before.  I pictured every name we discussed on a gravestone.  I held my breath through every ultrasound, every back cramp, every time she slept inside me and I was sure her heart had stopped.

I looked at the stone one last time and felt the familiar keening in my chest.  I want my son, I wrote over and over in my journal in those days.  I could never have imagined how much I would miss that baby.  I missed him viscerally, I missed him in my pores.  I oozed wanting, it tumbled out of me every day, everywhere I went.

I wanted my daughter too, so much that I was afraid to look straight at that wanting for fear of going blind.  It was too bright to manage.  Every day that passed was a trickle of hope into a larger pool, but it was an exhausting hope to tread water in.

How do you want two things that can’t both be true?

Nearly another year has passed since that sunny cemetery day.  I have a beautiful, funny, healthy baby daughter, and my son is still dead.

In quiet moments it sneaks up on me.  I want, I want, my heart always says, but I’m not sure anymore how that sentence ends.

I want it all, I want everything, or more accurately, I want everyone.  I want both of my children, never mind the fact that we would never have had the second if the first had lived.  I want to reach back somehow and watch my son draw a breath instead of lying so quietly in my arms.  I want to carry for the rest of my days the memory of my daughter screaming lustily the moment her face touched the air of the outside world.  Loving my daughter feels sometimes like a disloyalty to my firstborn, and pining for him feels like wishing her away.  There’s nothing for it, it’s an impossible puzzle.  I will never peacefully accept the idea of burying my child, and I can never wish that I didn’t have this bright eyed girl who giggles every time someone sneezes.

How do you want two things that can’t both be true?

I let the sun soak into my bare shoulders for a last minute with my hands resting on my swollen belly.  Brother and sister who will never meet, one above the earth and one below.  I finally turned away, not any more ready to leave the cemetery than I had been to leave the hospital empty handed.  We got into our car to drive back to the life we hadn’t expected.  I don’t know how it’s possible to want two things that can’t both be true.  I don’t think I’ll ever know.  I only know that I do want those two things, every single day.

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About tamarainwriting

I'm a queer, married, child and youth counsellor, in Toronto, Ontario. My wife and I had a beautiful stillborn son and we have an amazing one-year-old daughter. It's a complex journey.
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2 Responses to Two Things

  1. Lemon Drop says:

    This is very beautiful writing. Thank you for sharing. I don’t know if happy birthday is the right sentiment but I’ll be thinking of Ezra.

  2. Thank you s much for sharing this…there’s something to be said about writers that write things that make you feel things so so hard. My heart broke when you spoke of your son and was so full again when you describe your daughter. I can only imagine what this must be like constantly for you. Thinking of you and your family today, friend…

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