So, Guests and Regulars!
Last time, you were left with the question of where loss lives. At risk of sounding like a) a bad folk singer; or b) one of the dread-locked, pot-smoking, wannabe-poet English majors I used to date in college, let me carve out this question more deeply:
Where does loss live, when time moves forward, and the events of the past move further behind (into aforementioned time-tunnel), losing their acute shape and color? Where does it live, if not just beneath your skin where it used to be, palpably in the pit of your stomach like a festering wound, or just on the surface of your frontal lobe, consuming your thoughts? What happens to loss, when you aren't so intertwined with it anymore that it permeates everything you say and do and think?
What happens to your story when you can no longer remember the precise feeling of holding your child, limp and baby-shaped and wrapped in flannel? And when the memory of the events surrounding his death get hazy, the brightness leading up to it, the angst-fill time following it, when it begins to feel like a story being told about somebody else entirely, where does the story go?
Add to that the fact that our culture fails to give us the proper tools for co-existing pleasantly with our losses. What sanctioned spaces are there, really, for acknowledging our losses in a society where dramatic public meltdowns are frowned upon (I can say that was one of said frowners. Public meltdowns: reserved for the loonies at the downtown bus stops at night, and/or Italian descendants from Long Island), and where most people just aren't comfortable approaching such unsavory topics as human death and dying and deadness?
At the supermarket? No. At the dentist's office? No. At a faculty meeting at work? Hell fucking no. At a happy hour with friends? Possibly, within limits, and sufficient booze to lubricate the conversation. But watch out; your friends - even your good ones - don't want to hear you snivel and wallow about the crap that's gone on in your life, and nor would I expect them to (okay, I'm not saying I'm Mother Theresa here. I USED to expect them to, and then realized how unrealistic that expectation was, and have since lowered my expectations. Got it?) Why should they, after all? They've got their own crap to deal with.
Oh, there were times when I was given an official chance to pause and feel. Just, you know, feel miserable on cue, like a trick pony. It happened whenever a fifty-something social worker or a grief counselor sat beside my hospital bed, clipboard in arm, to tell me what I was supposed to feel, when and where and why. Warning me that if I didn't hold the baby, breath in the baby's aura and wallow in his deadness, I would regret it later. Assuring me that I could cry - really, I could - right here and now, and shoving a box of Kleenex toward me. I felt pressured around these people to act in a certain way, as though if I didn't appear sufficiently depressed, one of them might write something incriminating on my permanent record, like "HIGH-RISK FOR MELTING DOWN LATER INTO INCREDIBLE HULK-LIKE SUICIDAL MONSTER."
I have never quite figured out how to live with my losses, side by side, allowing them to take up their rightful space inside my heart, while hanging onto the attitudes and behaviors that I had before they occurred. Usually, these days, I feel pretty much normal. I do my job, which I love. I hang out. I drink. I write. As time goes by, I've felt increasingly disconnected from that day on the calendar, August 19th, 2007, and days before and after that. It becomes dreamlike. I often realize that so much time has passed since I shut myself in the bedroom to bawl, or slipped into a melancholy mood, that I worry I've forgotten about my lost babies, or that I'm inhuman, or that I'm imagining these events.
Which brings me to...duh duh duh duuuuhhhhhh... Rachel Getting Married. Yes, the movie that Kevin and I saw on our recent date, the very film which fueled this blog post.
I won't say I have the golden be-all-and-end-all answer to the question of where loss lives. I'm still looking for it. But there was a point in the middle of this ho-hum movie where it came to the surface, revealing itself in full force, quite unexpectedly.
This might be a bit of a plot spoiler, but oh well: there is a point in the movie where Rachel announces she's pregnant, right in the midst of a huge family argument. It wasn't the pregnancy itself that struck me. It the way this news calmed the entire family instantaneously, stopping their shouting match in its tracks. It was the way her father's face lit up, her sister calmed down, everyone just came together and forgot their troubles, reaching out to rest their hands on Rachel's still-flat belly, attached to it already. In love with it, this baby. The certainty with which everyone talked about "THE BABY" from that point on, brimming with hope and love and excitement. Not hope, but certainty. "Because when the baby comes..."...you know.
It was this random moment, not at all even the point of the movie, that stirred something deep inside me, and - before I could control it - I lost it, silent sobs erupting. Oh, I could go on describing what it was exactly that was upsetting, but there's never a quick and easy explanation. The sudden sense of what I lost, and will never have again: an innocent and exciting pregnancy where everyone is earnestly hopeful and thrilled. The recollection of my parents losing something too when the babies were lost. It wasn't about just me. The memories of certainty and love, all of the feelings leading up to that due date - pouring back into the front of my brain.
The people sitting nearby likely thought I was laughing, but I wasn't. I contained myself, keeping it on the hush hush, sucking back my snot. But my torso was a tightly wound-up ball of horrible, gut wrenching sadness, dry heaving. And I thought to myself:
There it is.
The loss, I mean. It was in there somewhere, I was relieved to discover - it just needed the right trigger to surface. And that's what happened.
Now Kevin is like a sturdy, strong oak tree in our relationship, and I'm like vine of ivy, taking on a whimsical and passionate, sometimes heady view of reality. He was there instantly, as he always is - not just just physically there, but emotionally, too. Right away he understood, and put his arm around my shoulder, pulling me inward toward him, not ushering me out of the theater or making a huge fuss, just waiting for it to pass, this moment. He knew this is now a rarity, moments like this. They come few and far between.
And it did pass, within a few minutes, and I wiped my snot and tears on my sleeve, and we didn't discuss it later. We would have if I'd brought it up, but I felt no need to. What's there left to discuss?
That's the thing with the loss, though, after enough time has passed for it to get boiled down to simplest terms, and folded back into the core of your being. For me, it's gotten to where it doesn't need discussion - it transcends words and explanations and other earthly things. Just a deep, dark, blob of something in the recesses of my mind, coming up for air at the oddest times.
I should name it. Maybe call him Herman or Fred or something.