This year was odd. There was very little of that anticipatory stress and lockjaw. This year I kept forgetting . . . . and then remembering at the oddest times. I'd be going to the bathroom late at night when suddenly, right there on the loo, bam -- tears. Uncontrollable tears. Flashbacks to holding her and being unable to; memories of leaving Children's on a frigid evening with the doors swishing closed behind me knowing I'd never see her again. And I'd cry for a few, and pull myself together and splash water on my face and open the bathroom door and go back to worrying about snow, and more snow, and rearranging schedules, and thinking of activities to occupy a five-year-old. Back to my television program, or the computer, or the dogs. Back to my book, my workout, dinner.
It's not unlike being pregnant. I can go hours -- literally hours -- and not think about it and suddenly realize that the jabbing sensation around my midsection means the baby is moving. And I have to catch my breath and remember that this crazy messed up shit is my life.
Rather out of nowhere -- I think we were discussing what to bake on Snowpocolypse Returns: IceMan vs. SnowZilla (versus this week's Snowpocolypse III: Hell Freezes) -- Bella asked from the backseat,
When is Maddy's birthday?
I want to bake a cake. A cake with a heart on it, since it's so close to Valentine's.
And I'm not remotely, even close to one of those people who bake cakes for their dead children but I realized this is what she needs to do. I need to cry in the bathroom (apparently), and order some flowers for me and Maddy, and light a candle at the time of her birth, and spend some time with my husband who can confirm that we did indeed have a second daughter for the briefest of times and Bella needs to bake and eat a cake. And I need to respect that, and honor that, and recognize that she's got one of the toughest big sister gigs around. If she needs to go crafty with the frosting and consume (more, lord this snowbound week has been awful on the all-around diet) sugar in order to remember and mourn on her terms, than that's what she needs to do.
The flour will come out today.
We had another conversation in the car about a month ago where she asked if we could visit Maddy's grave on her birthday, which of course prompted me to say rather chippily, "She doesn't have a grave. We cremated her. We need to figure out where to put the ashes and maybe you could help us." She was pretty adamant on internment, and while sometimes I concede her point -- it does seem nice to have a set place to visit -- I think I'd rather visit a forest or river or soccer field or sunset. I answered like I do when she asks for something wretchedly horrible for her for dessert before discovering I'm about to give her something drastic for dinner: "We'll see, Love. We'll see."
I have spoken more about Maddy to strangers in the past few months than I have the last three years. Just last week I coughed up my history at the gym to a total stranger (hey, she asked) and tears welled up in her eyes and here she was a NICU nurse. We had a lovely, sane, germane conversation while a few people around us looked down and away, clearly wishing they could sink through the floor. It was one of the first times I realized that others were uncomfortable, and I was truly, remarkably, not.
I'm amazed that three years later I'm still stunned by who remembers, and who does not. I'm still brought to tears of gratitude by my SIL who remembers and sends the sweetest note, and by a distant cousin of Mr. ABF's who gives money to Children's every year on Maddy's birthday, in her memory. I'm still perplexed that the phone sits quietly while certain other family members avoid the phone call and hence the discussion and the memory altogether. You'd think I'd be used to this by now.
I am not angry today. I don't think I'm tired anymore, either. And yet today hurts like hell, the cruelest of days on the calender followed closely and only by Valentine's Day, when her heart stopped and we realized that the roller coaster had screeched to a halt and the worst was indeed here. The anniversary of her death seems quiet in comparison to these two points that still burn.
Mostly really I'm just sad. Sad that it ever happened. Sad for her, sad for her sister, sad for us.
You'd think three years in I'd have a game plan of sorts to get through today, but today is odd -- it's the third snow day this week so Bella is home for the first time on this day, and I realized making waffles this morning it's the first February 12 morning I've spent with her since '06. Three years ago I pulled away in the car in the dark of morning, sobbing, Bella still asleep to be greeted by my parents upon awakening. Sobbing that I missed her, crying because I was worried about how this new child would impact our lives, tears of absolute relief that this hellacious pregnancy would be over by nightfall.
Little did I know.
Today has begun in a crazy normal snow-day kind of way: waffles, video games, monitoring my injured dog (Max appears to have torn something in his leg -- canine orthopedist appointment on tap for next week), getting out my recycling. Mr. ABF's business trip has blessedly been put off until at least tomorrow. The usual walk my husband and I take on this morning is undoubtedly off; the place where we walk is assuredly closed and I'm not sure I want to risk the roads to get there even if it is open. I'm hoping I can navigate the slush in order to pick up some flowers. Tonight I'll mosey off to book club. I don't want her day forgotten just because we're in some abstract kind of schedule and the roads are impassable.
Perhaps the cake is a good idea, after all.
Today however will find me like I always am: sad. It's the day to be that, regardless of where the hours find me, and what they find me doing. Baking a cake, making a snowman, doing yet another load of soggy dirty laundry, walking Max on a leash around my arctic lawn, overseeing neighbor children in front of video games or the craft table, making umpteen servings of cocoa or grilled cheese. Or just staring out the window, remembering that day and how everything I ever imagined today would be went sailing over a ledge pulling me over with it.
I miss and love her so terribly much.