And, not But

Words have always been very important to me. They have meaning. They have power. That fact is the only thing I’ve ever argued with my brother-in-law about. I don’t remember the context, or the words spoken, just that care needs to be taken, because words matter.

(Maybe that’s why I do what I do for a living.)

When Simon died, our world changed. We changed. I changed. I began to see the world very differently. I began to see how different words mattered to me as I am now.

“And” and “but.” Simple little words. Meaningless even. Until they aren’t.

“You lost Simon, but you have Nolan!” No. We lost Simon, AND we have Nolan. One fact doesn’t take away the other. We have a son who we love and cherish. And we have a son who’s eyes we’ll never see and who never took a breath.

“But you can have another one!” True, we hope we can have another child. That doesn’t take away the baby we lost. It doesn’t replace him, and it doesn’t replace the pain of losing him. How about “AND you can have another one.” Sounds a lot better right? It acknowledges the fact that we lost Simon, and (see what I did there?) it doesn’t imply that another baby, if we are lucky enough to have one, will fill the hole in our hearts or make us forget him.

“It’s hard right now, but it will get better.” Even that sentence frustrates me. It might get better, but don’t minimize the now by making it seem like there’s an endpoint to the grief. “It’s hard right now, but” implies something that no one can know, and certainly something no one can promise.

“But” is the end of that portion of the sentence and it always seems to be preceded by the awful truth that we lost our son. Simon colors every part of our lives, and he always will. We can’t, and wouldn’t end a portion of our lives that included him to move on. Especially since the portion of our lives that he is a part of is EVERY portion of our lives.

There is no but. There is only and.

S for Simon

Bath time has always been one of my favorite times with Nolan. He has loved the bath almost his entire life. (For a while, I think we had the water a bit too cold. He didn’t love that.)

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Now, bath time is a time to get clean, and most importantly, a time for Nolan to play, splash, and start his early training as a hydrological engineer.

We have lots of toys in the tub. Probably too many. But one of his favorite ones to play with is the alphabet. Letters that stick to the side of the tub or the wall, and he’s starting to recognize them. He sees the N, “that’s my letter!” He sees the D, “that’s daddy’s letter”, and so on. He is so proud when he gets it right. Almost as proud as I am.

He always gets the S. “That’s Simon’s letter!” He proudly proclaimed tonight. Then came the sweetest phrase I think I’ve ever heard. “When Simon comes home, I give him his letter.” He’s thinking about his little brother. He wants to give to his little brother. He wants to have his little brother.

Naturally, I started bawling. Nolan noticed. “I give you a hug daddy?” He always asks this in the kindest tone of voice imaginable. We hug, then we talk.

I know what I have to tell him. I know I have to reenforce that Simon is never coming home because Simon died. Simon’s body stopped working, he died and he’ll never be coming home.

And then.

Then he says the sentence that kills me. “Why Isaac come home?” We have friends who were due to have their baby just before us. Their Isaac came home. Our Simon did not. And Nolan doesn’t understand.

How am I supposed to help him understand something that his mom and I don’t understand? How do I tell a ridiculously smart 2 and a half year old that his little brother will always be his little brother, but that he’s never coming home.

Seriously, if you have any answers for me, I’d love to hear them. How do I teach the two most concrete yet abstract words in the english language, always and never, to a little boy who was running around wearing a superhero mask and cape, and nothing else, just before bath time tonight?

We still connect at bath time. We get to play, we get to talk, we get to learn. And with questions like the ones he asked tonight, we get to remember Nolan’s little brother, my son. Simon was there with us at bath time tonight, but not in the way I always dreamed and hoped he would be.

The waves will. Not. Stop.

“Dads Grieve Too”

Today has been really hard, and I’m not sure why. I mean, I know why, but I’m not sure what makes today different. But it is.

Maybe it’s because today is a harder than I expected, and maybe it’s because I deserve (or need) to have days that kick my ass like today did, but the fact that today has sucked makes me want to rant a bit about something that has been bothering me for a while.

“Dads grieve too.”

I hear it all the time now. I see it on Instagram posts and Facebook pages are dedicated to the idea. There are books (or at least chapters of books) with that exact title. And on the surface it seems like a good thing to share and make sure people realize.

But here’s where my rant starts, and I apologize if it doesn’t make any damn sense, but quite frankly, this post is for me, not you.

Of course dads grieve too. And for anyone to suggest otherwise is either completely out of touch or completely insensitive. Likely both. The reason I say this is to say that there shouldn’t be a need to tell people that I have a heart and that it is shattered. I shouldn’t need to explain to people who know about Simon why I’m not so smiley or why I’m having a shitty day. Dads grieve too because -NEWSFLASH- dads are parents. Dads are people. Dads like me lost part of themselves.

I firmly believe that no one with an ounce of compassion would ever wonder why a mom who lost her child is sad, crying, grieving, broken. I would never ever question a mother’s pain, and it would be utterly asinine to do so. Hell, no one questions why a mother whale is grieving the loss of her calf. So why don’t dads get that same automatic consideration?

I didn’t carry Simon inside me for nine months. True. But I did carry him in my heart for nine months. From the instant of our embryo transfer, a part of my heart was living outside my body. I did everything everything within my power to make sure he would be happy, healthy and here. Turns out none of that mattered. For nine months, a part of me was growing, thriving, living, I just couldn’t see or feel that part of me aside from the periodic ultrasounds and the nightly kicks (once they were strong enough for me to feel.)

And now, that part of me that was living apart from me is gone.

I never got to know what it was to hold our Simon as he squirmed and wiggled around. I never got the chance to know him, to teach him, or to laugh with him. I lost a part of me.

So dads grieve too, huh?

No shit we do.

The Day After

The day after we said goodbye to Simon was a fog. We cried almost constantly, we knew we needed to be there for each other and for Nolan so we got out of bed and did what we could. We got out of the house and went for a walk to the end of the block and back. It was all we could manage, and we were proud of ourselves for making  it that far.

There have been a lot of days after since then.

The day after we picked up Simon’s ashes. Something we never thought we would have to do, and something no one should have to do for their child. The day after, we were still in the fog and being pummeled by the waves.

The day after our first support group. We were told about the so-called grief-hangover that we should expect. It was real, and it hit hard. It was another day in the fog and while I was glad we went and glad we were beginning to learn we were not alone, I was still unable to see any light.

The day after we decided to honor our son with a bench at a beautiful Denver park. I had a task. A job to accomplish. I had to find out how to do it, what it takes, and I had to get it done. It was a job I wish I didn’t need to take on, and a job that I am so glad I did throw myself into. There was an end result. A perfect bench at a perfect park.

The day after we met with the specialist and confirmed what we already knew. We were scared about what we might hear, what we might learn. The day after, I felt a little stronger and more confident in what happened to our Simon, and at the same time, more confused and unsure of our next steps.

The day after Nolan’s surgery. Relief. A healthy, safe, happy boy. He woke up. He was fine. Our weeks (or months) of worry about the outcome were all for naught. We had our boy at home.

Now today.

The day after our memorial for Simon.

The day I was dreading.

It was a day of utter heartache. A day punctuated by a speech I never thought I’d get through, a song I never thought I’d want to hear again (but I am so grateful I did), people we hadn’t seen in weeks, months, years, even decades coming together to cry with us, laugh with us, and to remember Simon.

It was a day that my grandpa, Simon’s great-grandpa, comforted me and gave me a lifetime of advice without uttering a word.

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It was a day we’ll never forget.

I was dreading yesterday right up until yesterday happened. Then, and now (the day after) I am so glad we did it the way we did, and so glad I gave the speech I never thought I could. Everything we did was for Simon and it showed us how much support we have, and he has. And that support will be there for our family of four, always and always.