Thing is, the Peeper sleeps like a mad clog dancer, rolling and kicking; it's not uncommon to go in to his room in the morning and find him turned 180 degrees from where he started the evening before, or crossways, contorted like a yogi. He's a busy little guy, even in his sleep.
So about 2a.m. he kicked me awake. I shuffled into the head, ignored the cats' frantic entreaties and padded downstairs, through Missy's unfinished bedroom and past Mojo's bike and the old dining table being Varathaned in the stairwell to the computer, to read, write and think.
Among the electronic social calls I made was one to a friend who lives in the southcentral U.S. She is where we were about this time last year; her adoption is in sight, she's edging in a little, getting a bit jittery and excited. Nesting. All the mommy things that mommies do. Part of the process she has documented on her blog - it's password protected so I won't link to it. It's been fun and exciting to watch her slowly ramp up out of the hard winters' depression into hope and anticipation. So I expected to enjoy her latest post with unqualified attention as I have recently. It featured a short essay written by a friend of hers about "prosperity consciousness". Not something I was aware of, but the gist is apparently that instead of hoping for something, you actively prepare for the Good Thing you want. As she puts it:
"...it’s not wishing for your Good to show up. It’s not hoping your Good will show up. It’s expectancy…a knowing, if you will. When you ask for something in your life, it’s KNOWING that it is on the way. When I ask for something I want, I always use the phrase ‘this or something better.’"I think that's where I froze in my chair, bottle of water halfway raised, the old, sick feeling seeping out of the place in the back of my head where I keep it when I'm awake, while my busy, gibbering forebrain yammered at it: "No! Goddam it, stop it, go away! Not again, you bastard...!" And I stared at the inert letters, bible black on the white screen and realized that my friend's friend's optimistic hope had triggered, yet again, the little claymore mine that age and sorrow has tripwired into my brain.
Stephen Sondheim wrote "Every day a little death;/In the parlor, in the bed/In the curtians, in the silver/In the buttons, in the bread. Every day a little sting;/In the heart and in the head/Every move and every breath/And you hardly feel a thing/Brings a perfect little death."
I can't think of many better ways that describe the journey from birth to grave: every day we move through a neverending cascade of changes, arrivals and departures, joys and sorrows and the tepid moments between, hoping for the best, fearing the worst, doing the best we can as we see it.
And along the way we enjoy overflowing moments of happiness, moments we hold and try to preserve like flowers pressed in a book, willing the color and joy never to fade.
And other moments hold perfect horror. The sudden weightless step over the abyss; the swooping rising of your guts that signals the end of hope, the swerveless descent towards the inescapable crash below.
The loss of a child is one of those moments.
And it, too, remains pressed between the leaves of your memory. Even long afterwards, when you think you have passed beyond its sight, you turn a humdrum corner, you open an unremarkable door, and there It is. Grinning its blind skull-grin, cozening you forward to peer into that long-closed grave.
"Mmmmmmyeah, remember? There's that little onesie you loved so much. There you are celebrating her first kick. There's the soccer ball you imagined booting around with her. Hurts, doesn't it? Thought so."
The thing is...this isn't something that, for most of us, dominates our lives. It's not the mark of Cain, forever branding and exiling us from other people and other joys. I don't want pity or sorrow. My daughter's death is part of my life, one strand in the colorful weft of my time here on Earth. It's not the loss of my mind, or my sight. It's just a thing, like the big scar on my right thumb where I put my hand through the storm door when I was seven. A scar. Another scar.
What occured to me while writing this (because I'm thinking about the "Decisive Battle" I missed for July, Gettysburg - I'll blog about that this week) was a comment I read about Lee's lieutenant Dick Ewell, whose disappointing performance on the Confederate left drew much criticism at the time as well as afterwards. Said the commentator: "Something appears to have deserted Ewell after the loss of his left leg; some men never really recover their spirit after suffering big wounds."
I realize anew reading "We must never limit the universe." from my friend's blog that what this old grief scar does do IS limit my universe. I'm perfectly functional, but I've taken the big wound. I can't ever again KNOW that something good is on the way. Because it was once and what arrived was pain and loss and sorrow. And nothing I could do - and I once foolishly said that anything that wanted to hurt my family would have to kill me first - was enough to stop the awful emptiness that still exists, a tiny universe of nothing but Dark Matter, in the locked room at the top of the stairs in the back of my head.
So I hope and plan to celebrate my friends new child(ren, I hope). But, as with everything else, as I do I will hold in my heart the tiny, cold, sharp, shard of the old pain that rides behind me through life and holds over my head the derisive crown of lost fatherhood and whispers in my ear the reminder that life, and love, and happiness, are best enjoyed today, now, for like glory they are fleeting...
"If we fall in the race, though we win,
the hoof-slide is scarred on the course.
Though Allah and Earth pardon Sin,
remaineth for ever Remorse."