I started this blog with the primary purpose of recording my grief. I thought there would come a day when the writing would wane, when all that was left to say was said. When all the metaphors had been used, all the social ramifications had been chewed through (or perhaps more accurately, put through a shredder), and we hit some plateau regarding our daughter and our missing.
Today is not that day.
Saturday a.m. I awoke late and somewhat . . . well surprisingly, not hungover per se, but full? Still tired? Friday evening, neighbors invited 10 of us to celebrate their anniversary with a trip to one of the area's top-rated restaurants and even sprung for a bus so no one would have to drive (and thank goodness, because by "Philly area" we're actually talking "practically Delaware"). It was delicious, it was wonderful, and I haven't laughed that hard since . . . well I honestly can't remember the last time I was surrounded by people I considered friends and laughed quite that hard. Probably grad school.
So there I am, weeding with coffee mug in hand, smiling at this great thing that is now my life and thinking I wouldn't eat for at least four more days, when Mr. ABF got a call and walked away looking somewhat grim and serious. Huh. Inside a bit later he approached me and said, "[SIL] had a baby this a.m.; they had to deliver it early due to pre-ecclampsia." I got wide eyed and asked how far along she was, expecting the absolute worst since we hadn't heard boo from or about them in over a year, and was met with a steely, "Nine months. Over 37 weeks. Baby is fine. They never told us she was pregnant."
We sat there and gaped at each other. I kinda understand his (asshole) brother not telling us because dude doesn't talk to us anymore. I actually consider him least to blame in this present mess. Mr. ABF's mother though, was in my house for five days last week and said nothing. She invited over shitloads of relatives who ate at my table and said nothing. Only minutes before getting the serious phone call, Mr. ABF called to confirm a late birthday celebration for Bella at his Dad's, and he said nothing. Let's forget for a moment, the past -- let's give them the benefit of the doubt and say six -- six months of interaction with this family. We found out from a cousin, who apparently sat in stunned silence on the line and said, "I thought you knew."
Within a space of minutes, we realized we had become the social pariahs, the fragile freaks around whom no one can speak freely (apparently), and we felt like utter assholes. Everyone tiptoeing around us now thinking they deserved some fucking medal for not speaking the P-word, but never once considering to simply stop and ask us: How are you guys feeling these days anyway? How are you doing? Never once in this entire two and half years stopping to say, "You know, we still think of Maddy all the time. I know this hasn't been easy." No, they simply assumed through the vast powers of osmosis and probably some bad made-for-television movie swirled with a bit of family drama, that "we couldn't handle it." No one in this entire fucking family could find the stones to start a conversation, "I'm going to tell you something, and I realize it may hurt, and I understand that completely, but I didn't want you not to know . . . "
I suppose the supreme irony here is that my reaction would have been: whatever. Honestly. I'm kinda beyond the pregnancy = jealousy stage, and into the pregnancy = fear stage. I root solidly for my online friends to find two lines in the morning. When my mother said to me about six months ago, "[SIL] is having some infertility issues -- she's wondering if it's ok to talk to you," I leaped at the chance to help her. Know why? She's been one the good ones, one of the best ones. One that's communicated with me from the get go, one that interweaves Maddy into everyday conversation like it's no big deal. I can honestly say I'd be thrilled if anything I told her resulted in a healthy, live baby. Is there a twinge of regret? Sure there is. Honestly though, I'm more put off by the banter than I am the actual news/view, and I'm a big girl and can go entertain myself just fine, thanks, when the conversation veers toward college funds and the best place to get maternity formal wear. Mr. ABF's BIL? We don't even talk to these people. Hearing they were expecting their second would probably draw a lesser reaction from me than finding out a neighbor was.
But. They obviously wouldn't know I've come around to this position (or, that I ever had another position on the subject, frankly) because no one every bothered to talk to us. About anything.
And I realized, as I ran through the vast array of bullshit we've experienced with the IL's since Maddy's death, that Maddy's death was just one big inconvenience to them. It upset travel plans. Holidays would be "too depressing" to spend with us. Memorial services "too wet." The only feedback we've ever received are things like "you're wallowing." And now apparently they can't talk to us either. Poor them, the verbal gymnastics they've had to endure this year.
When we had the blowup with FIL two Decembers ago, our therapist said "I don't recommend cutting off communication with family unless there's abuse involved." To which I responded, "Damn." But we tried to be the bigger people. We sucked it up, we tried to make people comfortable around us for the sake of Bella -- so she could have relationships with people. And now we discover people weren't communicating with us at all -- they were communicating around us, they were communicating in spite of us. And now, frankly, I'm tired of playing fifth grade and am ready to move on to people who take us for what we are: parents of a live child and a dead child who have come a long way in two years. We have such an amazing support and friend system here, it seems a waste to spend time on people who would feel more comfortable if we weren't in the room.
I opted not to go to my FIL's this weekend when it was determined that I would not be able to keep my mouth shut this time. (I even offered to drive a second car in the event I turned tail and walked out the door.) And perhaps, good thing, because FIL was genuinely shocked that we didn't know, and at one point in the afternoon apparently turned to Mr. ABF and said,
"Do you want to talk about it?"
I'm giving him a few points for this, delay notwithstanding. It's nice an old dog can learn new tricks, but a whole lot of crap could've been avoided here if someone in this family had uttered those seven words about, oh, 26 months ago, and then continued to use them every now and again. Also nice I wasn't there, because the "talk" would've been a stream of expletives. They talked, although no consensus was reached: FIL feels badly, but I'm not sure I'm ready to let him off the hook for "I thought you knew." Someone had to step up. Someone had to ask around.
FIL also said, "Here we thought you knew, and we've been walking on eggshells." And this? Made me feel like a big, fat freak. When I told one of my good friends this whole soggy story, her response was "It sounds like they've projected a whole lot of crazy on you." She's absolutely right. (Incidentally and somewhat pertinent to this narrative, this friend is nine months pregnant.) (Hahaha, funny story about how I found about her pregnancy: SHE TOLD ME. I know! ) I feel as if last weekend (and countless times before) I had people into my home, cleaned for them and made them dinner, gave them our good bottles of wine and entertaining conversation . . . . but they were all in on the performance art of the evening. They had a conversation on the way about the entertainment, and unbeknownst to me, it was me. And when they left, I can almost hear them saying to each other walking down the porch stairs, "Dude, you're right! What a fucking freak show! We're back for lunch tomorrow, right?"
I guess we were supposed to find out at Christmas time, when Bella's present arrived "from" another child's name we didn't recognize. I guess in their heads that would hurt less than simply sitting down and telling us. Scratch that, it would hurt THEM less if that's how we found out. Because who wants to sit down and talk to us?
Today's post brought to you by the Cold War Kids : Something is Not Right with Me. How Was I supposed to know?
Crash Into People who're sleeping late into the evening
Reach behind they can hardly find their spines.