Last night I dreamed of a fire. I don’t remember everything about the context, but I was outdoors and it seemed to be a fire that sprang up quickly. And it’s hard to say how, but I knew it was a fire covering the whole world.
People were running, shouting “This is it! This is the end!” And a sort of Clint Howard-looking guy pointed to a very specific spot near a tree line that was consumed in flames and said “There! That’s where the fire began, so that’s where it’ll burn out first! It’s our only chance! Go to where the fire began!”
And, listen, I’m the last guy to pull faux-inspirational instruction out of dream logic, but today is a day for trying to make sense out of the senseless, so I guess I’ll follow Clint’s advice.
Today is my boys’ second birthday.
Honest, it was never my intention to turn this blog into an annual affair, but that’s sort of how it worked out. I was interviewed for a documentary project about triplets a couple of months ago and the interviewer asked if I regret writing this blog, what with how things ended and all. I told him no, I really don’t, because it’s the best chronicle I have of what it was like to anticipate them, to meet them and lose them. It’s the piece of my sons that’s still out in the world, meeting new people from time to time and occasionally peeping their heads out on page five of a Google search or wedged between pictures of other babies on a Facebook news feed.
In the early days of grief, I spent a lot of time wondering how Future Me would feel about all of this. Painful as it was, one of my biggest fears was that the pain would go away. It makes sense, I suppose. Pain defined my short time with them and if that disappears, well, does that mean they go away too?
But pain is still there. I have more of a choice than I used to, I guess, about when and how I access it. I’m of an age where my friends tend to be wrapping up their baby-having and are focused more on child-raising and it’s inevitable: there are lots of stories. From potty training to homework trouble, there’s an inexhaustible stream of precious moments and with every story, I’m making choices. Other grieving parents will know what I mean. We make choices about how deep to let it cut us, whether we’ll be happy for you or bitter for us. The thing is, by and large, we want you to have your good life and your beautiful children. For the most part, it makes us glad to see things going well, particularly if you love your kids and you’re doing your best to do right by them. But understand that “happy-for-you” is sometimes a choice and it’s not always a natural one.
Anyhow, that’s a digression. If today’s theme is Going To Where The Fire Began, it’s easy to see that the fire began in our little hospital room.
A year ago today we made the mistake of… eh. We made the choice, put it that way, of visiting the hospital to bring hellos and flowers to some of the staff that had helped us in our darkest time. And I guess it sort of caught us by surprise because, after an absent left turn or two we realized we were standing right outside of our old room.
And like a wrecking ball, it came back, too much, all at once.
I’m guilty of romanticizing our small hours with our boys when the truth is it was the opposite of romantic. It was tears and confusion and hesitation. It was pain and it was awkward fumbling with rushed eulogizing and shaky cell phone pictures, trying to figure out whether or not it was appropriate to wear a smile while posing.
And while the memories I have of our morning with our boys are maybe the most precious memories I have, I feel the need to be honest about it. Truthfully, in those moments, more than anything, I remember wanting it to be over.
I wanted to be anywhere but there, doing anything but that. I’m ashamed and embarrassed to say it because it’s so contrary to the sort of man I want to be, but looking at my wife’s anguish, watching Desmond and Oscar trying to grab air into their little pecan lungs that weren’t quite strong enough… I just wanted the pain to stop. I knew I should be cherishing the time, but instead I wanted to be designing a web site or playing Angry Birds or driving to the grocery store. I wanted to be at my boys’ memorial, remembering this time instead of right there, right then, actually living it.
I wanted no more pain for Carey, no more pain for Rudyard, Desmond or Oscar. No more pain for me.
And now I look back at it and I hate how I remember feeling almost as much as I hate what happened.
Anyhow, that’s what I live with. I wish it were prettier. The fire began in other places too. Our living room where Carey’s water broke. Our room where the doctor gave us the odds. In the bassinet where we said goodbye to them the morning following their birth.
But this year, two years into grief, if I’m grateful for something, it’s that the pain is still there. It hurts because it should hurt. And whatever stupid thing I felt in that little room in those moments, my pain today, right now, reminds me that I love them.
If you’re a reader of this blog and have been waiting a year for an update, thank you for your patience. Particularly if you’ve left a comment or offered love or encouragement to our family over the past couple of years, I can’t tell you what it means to us. Our story is our boys and our boys is our story. Following along with us makes all the difference.