Thursday, April 02, 2009

Grief, Candor, and my Shitty Day

I'll have to remember to delete (or at least heavily redact) this post before Alastair is a teenager...

I've felt, over the last few days, that Amanda's cremation wish is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, she saved me thousands of dollars (sounds cheap, but it was very much her way) in funeral costs. All told, with 10 copies of the death certificate, shipping, and "handling", we paid less than a fifth of what some of the more basic funeral services end up costing. No fancy coffin, no concrete sarcophagus, no digging, no overwrought--and overpriced--flower arrangements lining the aisles of some horrible little chapel. And most importantly: no shipping of intact human remains, which I've been told would have cost a small fortune.

But I've lost something, too. There's no grave. No place where I can go every other weekend and just pour my heart out. No way for me to feel like I'm connecting to my wife verbally, even if just for my own sanity. Her parents are keeping the remains, as we had discussed. I couldn't bear to have them in the house (though I do have those of our first cat).

So all that's really left to me is this blog. We read each other's thoughts, sometimes commenting, but more typically generating a phone call or a late night conversation about whatever we'd posted. Some of the more personal elements that I've found myself exploring lately, I've discovered, are my way of telling her what's going on in the house, with Alastair, and with my life.

I haven't really decided yet, but this might slowly transform, at least while the pain is sharpest, into letters to Amanda. Morbid? Perhaps. Public? Absolutely. I won't be wallowing in self-pity or shopping for sympathy, but some of the writing may become a bit more painfully personal. Keep reading and following, if you'd like, and see how we soldier on.

Starting now.

I finally got around to scheduling Alastair's annual check-up. Last year's was within 2 days of his birthday, this year's not quite within 2 months. Oops. But frankly that was always something you took so much joy in: running the day-to-day elements of the house; keeping on top of what Alastair needed. I know it's a stupid excuse, but I could add the fear of germs to that, if you'd like. Heaven knows we couldn't risk him getting sick at the doctor's office and bringing that shit home to you.

But I got it done, because I'm beginning to realize how important regular check-ups are, and because I promised you I'd take care of him. It was my last promise to you, and I intend to damned well keep it. No: I haven't yet scheduled one for myself, but yes: I probably will soon. And no: not with that that ass-hat Hunley, so pray for strength for me while I pretend to try to look for a new doctor.


Alastair is doing very well. His vision tested less than perfect (20/32), but frankly I think he was bored identifying shapes and just started blurting out whatever he felt like. The heart didn't look much like a heart, any way.

He's in the 50 - 75 percentile for height, and the 75 - 90 for weight, which is consistent with prior check-ups, and he's right on track with his vocabulary and cognitive skills. She asked if he dresses himself yet, which surprised me a little. Maybe we should have let him take a more active roll in his own dressing some time ago. He does a good job helping, and is great with his shoes and jackets, but we've got some ground to make up.

The big news of the day, though, was his BM's, or lack thereof. The night he got back from TX was the night of his last significant BM: just shy of two weeks ago. He's been having sharts (shit-farts) regularly, but nothing big and chunky. His belly felt a little hard and distended, too, and Laura remarked that it felt like poo. So she suggested an enema! Oh, joy! And 3 - 4 months of a mild laxative. Apparently it's not too uncommon in kids his age, so we didn't screw him up any more or less than normal, but let me tell you: I was not prepared.

I managed to convince him, without too much trouble, to lay down with his naked booty up in the air, but he was none too thrilled by my insertion of the "pre-lubricated comfortip." He began sobbing while I squeezed the fluid into him, and gave me the most horrified look when I stood him up to sit on the potty. "Daddy! Why did you do that?!?"

But what came next, for the next 90 minutes, was more than I could have imagined. I frankly don't think he could have passed what came out of him any other way. It was a freakin' tree! He sobbed, he shook, and my oh my did he poop. And we read a library worth of children's books (I think he get's an honorary nod in the Cannonball Read for today's effort).

Twice we tried to get off the pot, and both times poop dribbled out of him onto his legs, the floor, the race-track rug in his room, every single changing-pad cover we have, the monkey towel, and his shirt.

At one point I called Leigh, just so he could hear her voice. She listened to his tears and beat a hasty path to our house, but by the time she arrived, it was all over. His poor little butt continued to ooze all evening (and probably will all night, too), but for the most part, he's done.

Apparently if they hold their poop for a while, the muscles that push it out will weaken, and what was coming out was fluid build-up from above that managed to leak its way around his stool. Yum!

Enough about that. Tim came by and cut down that tree. It finally died, and seemed to have kept pace with your decline almost perfectly. I was amaazed when I heard a chainsaw running out there today. It's a little sad to see it gone, even though it had been dying for the last year. Creepy freakin' tree.

I miss you. I love you. And Alastair said today, for the first time, "I miss my mommy." Then he told me to make you get better. Oh, God: if only I could.


Geekbride said...

Oh my, poor little guy. I'm so sorry for all this. It must be overwhelming taking over as the only parent to a child who is too young to really grasp what has happened. I'll be keeping you and Alastair in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

Bless your heart.. and yes, delete the post before Alastair is ever old enough to read it. As a parent though, I highly emphasize with the experience.

I think this is a great place to grieve, but I think you could use a private one. Maybe a place that you and 'Manda held dear. Something that is just between the two of you.

Anonymous said...

It is not at all morbid to write her letters.

It is beautiful. And perfect.

Poor little A. You are a good dad.

blackbird said...

Why delete?

I think the letter idea is a good one.

You do what you have to do to get by.

Anonymous said...

God, I love your writing. What a train wreck each day must feel like. A little bit of agony, two teaspoons of guilt for being healthy, a dollop of anger, a heap of loneliness. The weirdest thing to me really was how life just seemed to flow on around me. People still cared about tests, and doctor appointments, and what was for dinner. When this huge, unreal, giant thing had crept in and snatched what was normal in life out from under me. You know? It sucks bigger than anything I can describe, except for maybe drunk drivers almost creaming me into a puddle on the road and knowing you sort of have to start over all again.
I always loved the scene in Fried Green Tomatoes where Sissy covers all the clocks and mirrors when Ruth died. That felt right. Just for a while, everything SHOULD stop. At least long enough to catch your breath.
Having had the benefit (?) of hindsight, I can tell you some mistakes I made. I wanted, in a way, to pretend it had not happened, so I pushed myself into a "normal" life again. But what was once normal for me was no more. The more I tried to "make it work" the more freaked I felt. I started allowing other people to make choices for me , started being afraid that I would appear ungrateful for their help if I disagreed. It has taken me years to unravel decisions I let other people make for me. Be aware of that. Go slow. Don't make any major decisions or agreements with anyone ( especially close family. They always think they know what is best for you) for at least one year. One solid year. Love yourself fiercely, love your baby fiercely, talk and hug and cry together, and be patient. It would be good for the baby to let him be angry, to let him know he does not have to hold things in. In new age mumbo jumbo, constipation is a signal of emotional refusal to letting go of the past. Trying to hold onto things the way they were. Maybe your baby needs a place where he can go to talk to mommy too. I have not a clue how you would explain her ashes being at her parents house. She was a parent. Should she not be with you? Maybe you could tell him that her heart and spirit live with you both, and the ashes are just that...I don't know. But I know he needs to figure out why mommy doesn't come be with him anymore, is not there to hold him. Be direct, be honest, tell him everything. Does he blame himself? Does he blame you? Does he blame mommy? The best way to ask him is to play together. Legos, hot wheels, trucks. As you are playing, just chat. Simple questions. And then really listen to what he has to say. Don't correct him, or negate him. Just repeat everything back and listen. Even little kids will make up stories in their heads if they are confused about something. And they always blame themselves. I am sure your baby will need you to help him understand this was no ones fault. Its a disease that happens, and one day a cure will be found. Maybe the two of you could have your own private ceremony in the backyard to say good bye. A ceremony marks and acknowledges this huge thing that has happened to you. I hate funerals too, but perhaps you could make this something beautiful. Bake a favorite cake, read from favorite books, plant a tree together. Something that joins you together. Your baby needs to know for sure that he still has you. For always. A ceremony marks that in his mind.
Find a place that makes you feel safe. You need a place to go and get your head together, to scream, to cry. I went and sat in my car. I loved my car. It was safety to me. Get a journal and use it. You need to let yourself be mad and afraid. You need to be honest with your son, and tell him as much of the truth about your life as you reasonably can. You can love and honor your wife through stories of her, through art, through just getting up everyday.
I should delete this, maybe I will and maybe I won't. Would I have listened to a total stranger when I was dealing with my own tragedy? Nah. Not at all. I have come through the other side, just thought I would share my own journey with you. Blessings and love to you both always. Just ask your beautiful wife for help every morning when you get up, and thank her when you go to sleep. It worked for me. I asked everything in the universe for help every single second of every single day for a long while there.

Anonymous said...

Poop stories are always good at Sweet 16's and 21st birthdays! Leave the post for posterity (muahahahaha)...

Lisa S said...

Reading your story of NO POOP reminded me of a good friends sons holding his poop....she used this

also grapes work well too....good luck!!!!

Stephanie said...

I am a stranger to you also. So for what it's worth, I think letters are a great idea. I still write them all the time.

I lost my mother when I was 18 - about 12 years ago - and my dad 4 years ago. I have only been to the cemetery once (not counting my dad's funeral). For me, the cemetery is nothing but a pretty place where their names are written on a stone. I have no connection with my parents there. So I write letters. I feel close to them through my letters. I hope it helps you too.