Doing the Dishes

When Tera was pregnant with Nolan, we decided we needed to pick jobs. We would both change diapers and we’d rotate who’s turn it was to wake up in the middle of the night, but some jobs (for obvious reasons) were not possible for me to do. So I picked some others that would be all me.

One was dishes.

I’ve never minded washing dishes, and Tera hates it. Easy choice. And a lot of dishes, as it turns out. I did my research on best practices, how often to sterilize the bottles, and weeks before Nolan was born, I started boiling bottles. From that moment on, I washed dishes every night. Sometimes it seemed like I was doing it all night. It was the job I took on, and I did it well.

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Another job that became mine was the emergency runner. We need diapers late at night? I’m on it. Formula won’t last through tomorrow? Got it. A nose sucker at 11pm because Nolan had a cold and wasn’t sleeping? I’ll be back soon. I knew the baby aisles of every grocery store, Target and Walgreens in the metro area. It was another job that was mine, and I did it well. And often.

As Simon’s due date drew nearer, I geared up. I refreshed my memory on bottle sanitization. I made a pact with myself to always have enough gas in the car to get to and from Safeway without having to stop.

I wasn’t “as ready as I can be” like you hear all people say as they are expecting a child. I was just ready.

A few weeks ago, we realized we didn’t need all of the “grass” we had on the counter. We were able to pare down the drying racks and we now have one small rack. Plenty for Nolan’s cups. I put the rest of it in the crawl space.

As I trudged under the house, I sobbed. The grass I was putting away should be full right now. Of freshly washed bottles, and nipples, and pump parts. It should be in high demand, not gathering dust.

A few days ago, we ran out of milk. Nolan needs his milk the moment he wakes up, and we didn’t have a drop. So I made an emergency run. And when I got to Safeway, I was halfway to the building from the parking lot, and I turned around. I went back to my car, and I cried.

I wasn’t making a midnight trip to make sure Simon had diapers. And I would never make that trip.

My jobs, the ones I chose and was so ready for were taken from me. I’m not the all night dishwasher, and I’m not the emergency runner.

I was beyond ready to take on those tasks again and to do absolutely anything and everything I needed to do to care for my son. And now I’m still ready. I’m just not sure what for.

Reaching Out, or Not

I’ve learned a lot about grief since Simon died. Buying an urn for the son you never got to bring home is a nearly impossible task that you have no choice but to do days after losing him. Grief messes with your body’s ability to function physically. When you have a toddler at home, you have no choice but to power on and function anyway. Grief is utterly exhausting.

And grief is isolating.

It keeps you locked up in your home, your bubble. It needs the calm, the peace, the space. And it is scary to invite someone in.

It takes a lot of work, even now, 5 months later, to be around people. At work, I have no choice. I am around people all day, and it is exhausting. To keep up the charade that I am feeling ok. To talk, and listen, and retain what needs to be retained. To be creative, and for me the most difficult thing is to be organized. My brain is a jumble most of the time. Thoughts, fears, should haves and could haves. There’s a lot that demands attention.

I say all of that to say this. Odds are good I’m not calling you. I don’t have the energy and I don’t often have the inclination to sit and chat. Or at least I don’t have that when I am the one picking up the phone. I need your help in that. WE need your help. Your calls, your out of the blue “check-in” texts. Your contact. It’s not that I don’t want or need it, I just can’t typically initiate it.

And another thing.

Tera, and I live in this new world. This world of grief that I wish no one had to live in. But we do. Every damn day. A call or a text looks to us like an acknowledgement that you, too are ready to climb down the hole and join us.

We are (almost) always ready to talk. About how we’re doing, how Nolan is doing, about Simon. But we aren’t going to drag you kicking and screaming into the hole with us.

Imagine if you will. You’re at a family BBQ have a great time, drinking some beers and playing yard games. Your phone rings. It’s me, so naturally you answer, wondering if I need anything or whatever. I start to unload about my terrible day and the awful (or not awful) thing that happened that made me think of Simon and break down.

That’s a pretty shitty thing for me to do right? To mess up your perfectly lovely day to dump all over you? I think it is. Truly.

But if you’re ready to ask me those questions and you really care about the answers, I’d love for you to call, text, etc. I’d love to talk about Simon and how we are all doing.

With anyone that wants to listen.

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.