Thursday, February 26, 2009

February Can Kiss My Ass

February can not end fast enough, god bless the shortness of the calendar this week. A few more days on the calendar with "3's" in front of them would seriously make me homicidal -- more than the thought of tomorrow being 60 degrees, followed by the chance of snow on Monday. The weather certainly doesn't help, but it's the month I need to ditch.

I think, for the most part, I made it through well, thank you. I woke up, dabbed a little "Funeral Parlor" behind my ears, and held my head high. Flowers were purchased, flowers wilted, flowers composted. Candles were lit -- except for one night we just outright forgot. A walk in a stiff wind was had, where Mr. ABF and I contemplated weather and trees and flora. Followed by a warm, comfort lunch where it seemed completely unreal and out of body to think I had given birth two years previously, to the day.

And I just tried to keep the umbrella up during the shitstorm, but damn if it didn't keep blowing inside out.

Sometime during what I loosely call "Maddy's week" my grandmother had a stroke. And I'm not being all cryptic and private here by not revealing what day exactly, it's that -- we don't really know when it happened. It was one of those "Wow, she's really improving on this new drug regimen!" followed by "Wow, this new drug regimen is a bit tough I think," followed by "You know, I think this whole not seeing out of her left eye and confusing evening for morning should probably be followed up on." She is presently in a rehabilitation center and will then be moved into -- what terminology are the cool kids using these days? Managed care facility? Yes, one of them. Her confusion isn't wholesale, so there was some concern about a fight against this move, but she honestly seemed relieved. I'm now wondering how anxious she must have been these last few months, knowing she was responsible for her small apartment and her own well being. I've left much of this situation up to my mother and aunt, not because I don't care but because I think they need to reach consensus between the two of them before I insert myself lest I be seen as taking sides. And because it all came down during a particularly bad week for me. But there's no more escaping it.

I had a mammogram the first week of February, my first (welcome, middle age! Now fuck off!) which was, obviously, given the month, followed by the phone call "We need to redo one set of pictures." They claimed in the phone call this was because "tissue had folded over on itself," but which my brain heard as "Don't freak the fuck out, but something's wrong and we need you back in here." Because seriously, my breasts? Don't fold. They are so small, it would be like trying to fold a postage stamp into some origami swan. But I went back this morning, and lo, apparently when they smush things to the point of breaking, tissue within the breast can indeed fold over on itself. She smashed the breast flat with no folds, set out some china and crystal service to make the point, and I was cleared. But it was an interesting 10 days in between call and test where there was that ol' lingering resignation of medical tests gone horribly wrong and wondering what else my body had in store for me.

(Here is the funny interlude involving me not being remotely impressed with online medical records. Mam place said I needed another "prescription" from my OB for the follow up -- even though a) they were literally prescribing it, due to folding and all, not my OB, and b) it had nada to do with insurance. Huh. So I call up OB's office, finally get a human, who will gladly fax over slip -- but needs to know which breast is the offender. I have no idea. "Wait," OB-nurse-at-office-within-same-hospital-system says, "I WILL LOOK IT UP." Which she did. Left breast. She then lifted her ink pen, wrote a script and tore it off her pad, a tree cried, faxed it to the mam place, who pulled it off the fax, whereby another tree cried. It's not working out like it should, is all I'm sayin'.)

What else. Oh! I finally went to the dentist, on the 17th I believe. For the first time since about Maddy's first trimester. Yeah. Personal care has clearly left the building during this debacle. I must have looked ridiculously depressed, because the dentist was downright cheery explaining that we only had to fix these old fillings that have cracked! And we only need to fill these other two extremely small little problem areas! And your molars are now flat because you clench your jaw! Are you under stress? So here's two options for night guards: One is a lot of money, and the other (nicer, less ugly) one is even more money. But no root canal! No gum disease!

Did I tell you our insurance doesn't cover dental? Someone's getting a night guard for her 40th!

The global economic toilet flush finally prompted us to take a looksie into our money stash (clearly we've been saving our denial for something), and among other heavy sighing, decided a spring vacation is not in the cards this year. And I know, boo fucking hoo, because one of us is still in an employment sector that is hard to kill, and we're not losing our house, and we're eating feta and corn tortillas with our beans tonight, but . . . . I think last year really drove home the point that we need to skip town for some Vitamin D after this particular series of days. That winter combined with death does nothing for our emotional systems and escape is needed. This year, after all this, there will be no escape. Just more of the same, watching the forsythia buds looming, knowing Spring that bitch is right around the corner to mock us with the story of rebirth.

There's more in this February about my older dog suddenly losing bowl control, and spacing my brother's birthday (the 13th, poor kid) for the third year in a row, but I've whined far too much for one post and I have to save your patience for all my "Fuck me, I'm almost 40" posts in the upcoming weeks.

So I'll shut up now. Ok if I turn the calendar ahead tonight?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Love is Something

Love is something if you give it away
You've got to give it away
Give it away
Love is something if you give it away
You'll end up having more

Love is like a lucky penny
Hold it tight and you won't have any
But, give it away
And you'll have plenty
They'll roll all over the floor


Love is something if you give it away
You've got to give it away
Give it away
Love is something if you give it away
You'll end up having more


I suppose I appreciated the part about tossing away the penny and the image of cold hard cash spilling over my kitchen floor -- accompanied by Bella making a motion with her fist and then her hands, as if to say, "Voila!" Never too early to teach children about the economics of the stimulus package, I say. Bravo. had Geithner gone out with Bella at his side last Tuesday, pasted on a big smile, and begun this song with his arms across his chest? Stock market up.

But the rest?

When Bella came home a week or two ago, singing this at top volume replete with arm motions, I had every intention of marching into her (wonderful, lovely, Oberlin-trained) music teacher and screaming,

What the FUCK are you doing?! What are you teaching my daughter? Don't you realize this is bullshit? No? This is what poets write to make themselves feel better, after their girlfriends have left their nerdy, depressive, introverted asses and they're curled up in their parent's basement, listening to Nirvana with a bottle of cheap whiskey. The idea that you could give it away and get more is a myth. Yeah, yeah, Sting as his tantric, "Free! Free!" can bite my pock-marked ass. I've given that love, more than I've ever known, and you know what I have in turn? Pieces. Splinters of me, wanna see? There is no return flow, no expansion of my heart. If anything, it almost compressed my muscle to the point of shutting down. I gave love away and they absconded with it in the middle of the night, and I ain't seen shit in return.

Please just shut the fuck up about these Keynesian polemics and stick to Wheels on the Bus, or Frere Jacques if you're feeling especially daring. Thank you.


Valentine's Day was the worst day of the six. Beginning in the late afternoon of the 13th, but really coming to a climax circa 7 a.m. the morning of. I've never asked, but I think this was my husband's worst piece of it too. I called him at home with the news, just as he was getting ready to leave, and he once pointed to the exact spot on floor where he was standing when he was holding the phone. He remembers exactly the window he was looking out of, while listening to my voice come in what must have been broken, jumbled monotone heartbreak, and I can imagine the scene, with the wet snow rushing by the window, sideways.

It's horrible to say, but the nadir -- the moment of learning of Maddy's fate, was in it's split second, the most horrific news I've ever received coupled with a twinge of relief. And perhaps that twinge, that she wouldn't have to fight, that there would be an end to this supremely fucked up roller coaster ride, makes the moment that much worse. I remember being unable to think of how to phrase my question to the doctor; the only time I had ever discussed ending a life was in regard to a pet. Too tired to think of another vocabulary, and hoping I didn't sound too much "Dingo Ate My Baby," I managed to cough up something to the effect of when we knew how much interference was too much.

And though I can't remember my exact phrasing of the question, I remember his exact answer, verbatim. I remember his young, exhausted face framed by the ugly, gray sideways sliding storm outside my window. My leaking breasts falling out of my gown, the traffic news on mute casting a blue glow in my room.

"I think we're there now."


I wasn't given a chance to decide whether to love Maddy or not, she was mine, I was hers, and frankly love her was all I could do. I couldn't bathe her, hold her, feed her, touch her. I could only exude love. It was in my mind the supreme example of unrequited love. I got nothing. Two years later, my heart still swells, and floats, and I still get bupkis. Definitely not more. (Geithner, take note.)

It only occurred to me this morning, slow as I am, waking up after a very late night at girl's night out bookclub, glancing at my clock and noting the painfully early hour, that Maddy's heart literally broke on Valentine's Day. And if that isn't some ironic epic fail, I'm not sure what is.

Oh, my mama loves, she loves me
Like she loves me like a rock
she rocks me like the rock of ages
and loves me.

There was a space, between finding out she was suffering from extreme brain damage, and the moment of clarity on Valentine's morning, where I was the saddest I ever was. Only loving. And shortly after this picture was taken, somewhere in the wee hours of Valentine's morning, as I had to succumb to my lids closing, she seized, and her heart stopped. There wouldn't be another picture like this, where you could see her face without a tube shoved down her throat. There wouldn't be another picture where we didn't know what was coming.

Love is something, ain't it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Birth Day, II

One of the reasons I started a blog as opposed to just journaling with a bic and a nice leather-bound book was that I couldn't for the life of me figure out how I was going to address things in a journal. Would it be simply talking to myself? (Yawn) First person, following "Dear Diary"? (So age ten!) Should I narrate through third person? (Good Golly.) I never really liked writing letters or "talking" to Maddy. I do occasionally (see: what we include in the book at the annual candlelight ceremony) because it makes an incredibly difficult situation a bit easier -- especially when two people are involved in the editing. I started blogging because it was easier to write when I thought about someone else reading it, even though I sincerely thought the only people reading my blog for a while were those googling things like "cat liver problems" and oddly getting plopped into my life. (And I hope your cat's feeling better, by the way.)

But days like this I'm just confounded on whom to address. I guess I'm just plain stuck on where to even begin. Even though I know you're all there, days like this I feel as if I'm talking into the wind.


It was such a milestone to reach one year without her, last February. To get out of the way the "well, last year I was pregnant," and "last year now I was going to the hospital" and so on until boom. Like tracking in your own snowy footprints from yesterday, back out to the trash. Now I can safely look back and say "last year I was gritting my teeth" but at least no one died.

But, strangely, the circle kept looping around. There was my birthday, right on the heels of remembering Maddy's death -- now just a harbinger of how dusty my ova really are, and how ludicrous my dream of two children was and is. Mother's Day, where again, I begged people to just leave me the hell alone, and I gardened in silence. Another beach vacation, this time without crying. Fall, holidays, a meager snowfall, and here I am again. Poised to ram my way through an ugly sequence of days, only to start the circle once more.

I'd like to say I've come a long way, or time has indeed healed the wounds. I'm much less angry than I was last year, and I suppose that says something. I suppose I'm more resigned -- to her death, to my feelings of universal betrayal, to the paradigm shift that occurred in my mind's eye about life and hope and wishing.

It dawned on me this week that in truth, I no longer wonder about what it would be like to have her here except in some really ephemeral and brief way. I'm not sitting around today saying to myself, "She'd be two." I've always had a difficult time daydreaming about Maddy and I've never subconsciously dreamed of her save for one memorable nightmare. I did for a few months after she died -- I could see the blurry outline of a little girl, blue eyes, blond/brown hair . . . and then I'd interrupt and point out to myself that she was blind. So that blue eye thing got scratched, and then I'd realize with her enlarged heart she'd be tethered to a machine, and with a liquified nervous system . . . she wouldn't be here at all. And the vision would vanish. To the point where I simply don't envision anymore. She died, she wasn't built to last more than six days, and all my consciousness now accepts that, apparently.

And yet I find myself, still, missing her. Missing her at six days. Missing the shock of hair and the clenched fist and the serene expression that at the time I imagined evolving into something dainty. Missing what my family was supposed to look like. I may have accepted that she could not possibly be here, but someone was intended to, and perhaps never may be. Missing watching my older daughter interact with a younger one. Missing normalcy, communicating without wincing or withholding or tapdancing, discussing children without shuddering. Enjoying myself without always having to share my drink with the Big Elephant at my side. Celebrating birthdays and anniversaries and holidays, not plowing through them. Missing my old body, missing the way I could daydream.

Maddy is frozen, at six days. What kills me is that Bella, somehow, has aged during this mess where I've been a zombie and I've tried to figure out how to walk again. I feel rather tuned into her again, but I lost a year -- at least. She was frozen at two and a half for the longest time. It's only recently, as I explained to her months and years and (gulp) fractions, that it struck me she is four and half. You have no idea how many times I think three. I lost three.

I lost my thirties. I really feel an entire decade has been laid waste by my naive attempt to have a family. It started poorly, there was joy in the middle, and it ended with catastrophe. What I wouldn't give to go back in time, sometime around Bella circa 15 months, and whisper in my ear, "Be content with what you have." Because I was. Completely. But that's a post for next month.

And then we get to today: It's a birthday, for sure, and while I'd like to honor that, you see it's the crux of the problem. It's the tease before the push down the stairs. The sleight of hand that makes me feel euphoric before cackling with laughter and cutting off my air supply. The reminder that beauty and bliss and nirvanna could so quickly be consumed by horror and despair. The cruelty of the moment -- of this day -- still haunts me. This year I'm less inclined to throw a trash can through the window of the universe (probably because I'm tired of lugging the damn thing around), and like I said, I guess that's progress.

I'm trying so hard to just miss her -- not all the peripheral grief that comes with her loss, but today it's difficult. Everything is compressed into a few hours -- if you really want to calculate, it's located in about 20 minutes. 20 minutes of holding a beautiful baby and thinking I had it all, before the first faint, unassuming sign that I was about to lose everything. I'll be honoring the start of those 20 minutes this afternoon, and the subsequent six days of sliding down Mephistophele's rabbit hole. It's the least I can do.

It's not happy, but it's her Birthday. And I love her and miss her terribly.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Calm, meet Storm

Is it really quiet around here lately or is it just me? Seems like everyone is collectively holding his/her breath. Or something. Everyone is waiting -- on tests, on cycles, on information, on time to hurry up and pass the fuck on already, on decisions.

Oddly quiet.


We didn't circle the day or put Maddy's name on the calendar, but it was sitting there, staring at us, blinking neon and glowing in the dark, and suddenly we were putting stuff down in that square. Mr. ABF's monthly poker game, the second Thursday, it turns out will fall on that night. And if he gets out of the house late for a beer with his male buddies -- on that evening especially -- I say more power to him. We're hosting a fundraiser next month for a neighborhood association, and the organizational reception is . . . also this Thursday. We've been told it's only an hour or so of our time early in the evening, so a nice neighbor is going to come watch Bella as she conducts bath and bedtime. Seeing as Bella runs her own water and dresses herself and brushes her own teeth and otherwise acts as though she's 26, I told her it's not really "babysitting" as much as making sure the dogs don't eat something they shouldn't.

I rationalize, telling myself we'd do these things anyway, even if Maddy were alive. A birthday would be celebrated on the weekend, and she'd be in bed by poker time anyway. Bella would be the most pissed about missing an excuse for a cupcake.

And then in the next breath, who am I kidding, there is no Maddy. And so we book the square and it's all so . . . life goes on . . . that it seems disrespectful somehow, and yet . . . I don't know what I'd do with myself sitting around that night anyway, so it's just as well I'm going four houses down and having a glass of wine. It's not as if I'll miss her any less.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do this Thursday, or any of the days beyond. Keep writing in the squares, I suppose. Keep getting up and putting my feet on the floor. Keep on functioning.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Have you ever been minding your own business, perhaps your guard was up a bit expecting a word-bomb that you knew would turn your stomach, when suddenly someone says something completely irrelevant -- except to you. It's completely, utterly, horribly, relevant. And you didn't realize it until right that second?

I've got a post up on Winceables, today at GITW.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Game Day


Sometime last night, probably in the space between holding court on the complete inanity of challenges and instant replay and -- cream cheese on a ritz, awarding another challenge if you win your first two? When the fuck did pro football turn into Price is Right? and and oh, yeah, between that and wondering why my team couldn't punch in a ball from first and goal . . . in EIGHT tries, I remembered I wrote some despairing post last year as my team wilted in the playoffs. Look, right here, I did. Sad.

And there I was, about to throw up two bowls of chili, two beers, and a car bomb cupcake, suddenly jumping off the couch throwing high fives, tiptoeing through my neighbor's living room.

I'm genetically a Steeler's Fan. My family, both sides, extended, derive from the Pittsburgh region. My father hung on to USX stock (the real macoy printed on paper) even as it plummeted into junk, out of some nostalgia because his father had worked there. I had great grandmothers and aunts who listened to pre-season Pirates games, and in the 80s remembered line-ups from the early 60s. I grew up in a state (ironically, home of the other team in his year's big bowl extravaganza) at a time when there were no other pro sports teams there save for the Suns. (I tell ya, I'm OLD people. Old.) Ergo, Steelers, Pirates, Penguins, and Suns. It makes perfect sense in my head.

My dad taught me about football, and my family about loyalty. As in, you will be kicked out of wills.

Twenty odd years ago on a warm Sunday afternoon in late August, a few days fresh to New York City, I found myself alone in a dorm tv lounge, and flipped through the channels and found . . . pre-season. Steelers/Giants.

"Who's winning?" said a voice from the doorway. "Not the Steelers," I said with a snort. The kid wanted to know why on earth a girl -- er, young woman -- from Arizona was a Steelers fan? And more to the point, why a young woman would be watching football, preseason football, voluntarily? By herself?

Kid was nice. Kid was cute.

Kid became my husband.

In some strange universe, I owe my life as it is, good bad and ugly, to these guys who run around in black and gold tights on Sunday afternoons between September and February. Mr. ABF is an Eagles fan, and for a long time we bought Bella both jerseys and swapped them depending on who was playing when, and who had won the last head-to-head game. I've kinda relinquished the fact that she is growing up here, and the Eagles will be her team. And I'm thrilled it's not only in her neighborhood, but her bloodstream.

I believe far more in luck (and bad luck at that) than fate, and certainly a string of it brought us together, and placed us here, and delivered us (eventually) Bella and then Maddy.

She's never far from my thoughts during all these seemingly shallow and insipid moments. Last year I felt the world was conspiring to make my winter as wretched as possible, reminding me metaphorically in a blown third down call that life can be going along swimmingly and suddenly go all to shit. This year there is the slightest of springs in my step as I stare down the precipice of February. It's all luck, the meeting, the living, the dying, the missed tackles and toes dragging in bounds with mere seconds left. And that will somehow have to carry me through the next few weeks, the crazy that got me here and and will eventually see me through.