(Does that make you my BIL's wife? I'm not very good at these things.)
I know your husband and mine aren't speaking right now. According to mine, yours would like an apology for not "sharing in the joy" of your child born a few months after Maddy's death. I'm not going to beat a dead horse, but let's just say I don't think an apology is warranted, and I'm gathering by your behavior, you don't think so either.
Let me just say I'm grateful for the way you're handling this. You clearly have no problem either calling or picking up calls from my husband, but feel that yours should deal with his own shit, and I respect that. If the situation was reversed, I'd also expect mine to clean up his own mess because I have plenty of other stuff on my plate as I'm sure you do, what with a 7 month old and all.
I admire and am frankly very jealous of your ability to both remember and do things for others on holidays and birthdays. I understand this is a hard-wired trait on your part, and while I often have the nice fuzzy feeling that I should do something for somebody, it's usually very late when I remember and then I'm too fucking busy to do anything about it. But you clearly keep one of those calendars, and you promptly mail out
I must confess I actually feel a bit guilty about receiving things from you because I can't reciprocate. It's not that I don't like you, and I'm not a big enough person to stretch across the brotherly fracas, but I simply cannot bring myself to buy gifts for your daughter. You see, I should have one about that size right now, too. We should each be aunts of cousins that would cycle through the same grades, us just opting to buy two of an item instead of just one, and so forth. And I can't bear to look at the websites, or even see the glaring numbers "6-12m" burning into my screen. I would call, but I'm deathly afraid of hearing about her. I don't want to know how big she is, what she's doing, if you're sleeping, because it would be like driving a hot poker into my chest. I appreciate you sending Bella candy-filled plastic eggs
Which brings me to my birthday present. Why you feel the need to actually buy things instead of, say, just send cards, is I suppose a lovely character flaw. But I can't help but feel here that you had the best of intentions when you earnestly stepped up to drive, and that the tee-shot shanked hard left directly into the woods. I really do like receiving frames as gifts; they are practical items and I am grateful that you resisted the urge to put a picture of your child in it and left it blank for something from our collection. I know this, of course, as per the sticky that you kindly applied to it, lest I wonder if someone from the postal service had opened my package and ripped off that picture of whatshername in her spring finery sitting on the Easter Bunny's lap to put on their fridge, replacing the empty frame back into the box.
But a frame with the word "FAMILY" written across the top in big letters? Really? If you took, say, five minutes, could you understand that it is impossible given current scientific advancements to photograph my entire metaphysical family? I know, I know, it's just a frame, and the three of us are technically still a "family," and I'm probably being a complete bitch here because you were really nice to buy it and send it and all, but I can't help in my current state of babydeath dementia to view the word family in this particular instance as a loaded term. "Family" with a lightning bolt breaking the word in two, or "Family?" or even putting masking tape over the M and Y (leaving FA_IL_) seems to me more appropriate. You couldn't possibly know this, but I will never view or hear that word the same way again. "Family day," "Family Val-u Pack" and "Family Nite" will forever serve to remind me that my entire family is not, and will never be there with me. I'm sure you see absolutely nothing untorward about placing a photo of the living three of us in there; you, after all, now have the family of three that you've been dreaming of for so long. But my family isn't three big, it's four. One of us died, remember? I haven't as much as photographed my living family for a year because I don't want to remember us from this time, nor do I want to look through the lens and be rewarded with the truth of the matter -- someone is missing from the frame. I suppose it's a bit unfair of me to expect you to know this, or have any idea how hard it is to explain the concept of "family" to Bella, when her sister is no longer of the earthly realm. Did you know her recent cute thing to do is to make up imaginary sisters? Maybe we could photoshop in the cartoon character she keeps referring to as her "sister," or one of her many school chums who she also calls "sister" in the most casual and heartbreaking of conversations?
I know I'm difficult to buy for (apparently, certain etail wishlist notwithstanding), and it's the thought that counts, but what did I want? The only person who asked me about my birthday wishes, with deep sincerity, without that "please tell me you updated your elist already and got rid of those medical books and mother-loses-baby fiction titles" undertone, was Bella. And I felt it was unfair to ask a 3.5 year old for the ability to travel back in time, raise the dead, and grant me the healing powers of Jesus. And frankly, there's really nothing else that I want. So I asked for a card (my cousin suggested next year that I ask for candy too, and that seems like a good idea, if you'd like to plug that into your PDA). I want everything I can't have, and thus I want nothing. And what would mean the most from people this year, and any year, is simply understanding.
You know, Mr. ABF asked in his now-well-honed therapist voice, "So how did this gift make you feel?" And you know what the first word was that flew out of my mouth? "Guilty." As much as the gift-giving instinct is part of your DNA, the Thank-You is part of mine, and I really don't know what to do here with people like you. And yes, there are others, not just you, who try their damnedest to be nice and poignant and appropriate and they end up tripping over both shoes and landing in a pile at my feet while I gasp for air. And I spend a few panicked moments thinking, should I gloss over this and thank this person? I mean, they're trying so hard. Or does that mean they'll think I'll like what they're doing and continue to do this? Should I tell them things like this really make me feel like shit? Wouldn't that just ruin their day and life-purpose? And while these thoughts are churning and the drool is spilling over my open bottom lip, the moment passes, and we're left just waiting for the next horrifically awkward ecounter where I'm forced to check my emotions for the sake of others. Again. Which, frankly, I don't think is wholly incumbent upon me.
I tell you this with trepidation because I know Mother's Day is looming just around the bend there (see it?), and for you this year will be a Sunday full of joy and promise and identity fulfillment. And knowing you and your penchant for sharing your glee with others dear to you, you will likely feel the urge to send me something. It will be thoughtful, and heartfelt, and I already know, it will crush the motherfuckin' life out of me. If you could, please, resist the urge to send me anything, including cards, however carefully annotated.
You try, and believe me, that I appreciate. So it's with deep regret that the ungrateful bitch in me asks you to please, try harder. Or simply don't try at all. Either way spares me from a world of pain and awkwardness that appears to be missing from your emotional atlas.