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The Birthday Brothers

4 Jun

In his kitchen, the ice snaps as he pours a substantial swallow of vodka into a glass and squeezes in an orange. Sipping, he gathers more ice from the freezer, drops it onto a washcloth on the counter, folds it and presses it against his neck, which is stiff. And he smiles.

He sits alone at his kitchen table in the evening cool, taking a moment, organizing his impressions of the day. But after barely a minute, A looks up to see his brothers standing in the doorway. His face falls and he finishes his drink.

“I didn’t think it was so late. The day went too quickly,” he says.

“Yes,” says C, “we felt the same.”

“Please,” says A, “sit. Can I fix you a drink?”

“I wouldn’t mind. Whatever you’re having,” says C.

“I’m not sure I’m old enough,” says B.

A opens a cabinet and grabs two more glasses. “If we are, you are,” he says. He pours drinks for his brothers, refills his own: vodka, ice, orange squeeze. The brothers clink cheers and drink.

“It’s good,” says C.

“I don’t like mine,” says B.

A nods. “Like Daddy,” he says. “I don’t think he liked vodka either.”

“Tell us about your day, Brother,” says C. “What’s with the ice on the neck?”

A reclines and massages his own shoulder. “Oh, my daughter. Today I taught her to drive. She’s 19, but she’s avoided it until now. ‘I’ll never use this, Dad. It’s all autonomous now. It’s not like when you were a kid.’ Anyhow, she’s jumpy on the brake and my neck is paying the price.”

“A daughter!” says C. “What’s her name?”

“Gertrude. ‘Gertie.’ I have a son too. Five years old. He cried when I brushed his teeth too hard.”

C grasps A’s hand and smiles. “Yes, continue! What else?”

“What else. Well, the day was chilly, but in the afternoon, the sun shined and it was hot on my head and on my arms. When I first saw my daughter, she hugged me and my nose and eyes filled with the smell of her shampoo. It was very pleasant. There was a leaf on my car’s windshield before I drove to my job. The color of the leaf was a very deep, dark green. I suppose it made me a little sad. Maybe it seemed as if it belonged back in the tree with its brothers.”

“Yes, maybe,” says C. “What’s something that made you happy?”

“My shoes made a sound as I walked on a stretch of gravel in a parking lot. That made me happy, the crunch-crunch. I think you would love it if you heard it. Also, this morning I drank coffee, which I enjoyed very much. It was sort of bitter. But a good bitter. My coffee had milk in it and that helped. I hope I can have it again next year.”

“Coffee,” says B. “That’s a beverage, I think. A drink.”

A removes the washcloth from his neck and drops the ice into the sink. He fixes his eyes on a slate sky on the other side of the window, light sinking lower. Across the street, a house blinks out of existence along with a lemon tree in the front yard. “Yes, it’s popular with other grown-ups like me. At least I think so. My thoughts on it are already fading, so I’m not sure.”

“And your age?” asks C. “Which birthday is it?”

A thinks. “Oh. Forty-eight? I want to say forty-eight.”

C turns to B and says, “What about you, brother? Which birthday was it for you?”

B beams. “Thirteen. I watched television programs on my tablet. Most of them were funny. I ate breakfast with Mommy and Daddy. Mommy made my favorite: strawberries and French toast.”

A winces. “I miss Mommy.”

“I miss Mommy too,” says C.

“Yes. There was a picnic,” B continues. “The school year is over and there was a picnic to celebrate the start of summer and uh. My, you know, friend. Aron. He told me he had gotten me a birthday present, but he wanted me to open it down on the beach. So we left the group and walked toward the water. Our feet were in the ocean a little bit and Aron started talking about how he liked how brave I am and how I’m not afraid to take chances and then he held my arms with his hands and he kissed me.”

“Was the water cold?” asks A.

“A little. I guess it was cold.”

“Did you like being kissed by Aron? Did it make you happy?” asks C.

“I don’t know. I keep thinking about it. It’s a partly happy and partly nervous thing for me to think about.”

“What are strawberries like?” asks A. “I didn’t have any today.”

“They’re sweet but also a little tart. They’re very red. With sort of seeds on the outside. Mommy slices them.”

At that moment, three vodka oranges with ice disappear from the kitchen table.

“And what about you, Brother?” A says to C. “Which birthday? What happened?”

“Fifty-nine,” says C. “I took a shower this morning, which is when the water comes out of the little holes and there’s soap and it makes you clean.”

“I know showers,” says B, raising a hand.

“I know showers too,” agrees A.

“I rode on a train for awhile,” says C. “It was very fast and didn’t seem to touch the ground. There were screens and lights and a VR harness to keep me occupied in my seat, but mostly I looked out the window. I saw deserts and trees and two different rivers. My wife slept on my shoulder. A thing was on my lap. An urn.”

A and B nod.

“I spent part of the day with both of you and our wives and husband. We walked to the end of a long pier to p-pour ashes into the sea. Thuh-that’s, that’s what grown-ups do sometimes when, hnn, when p-people die and…” C’s throat knots, his face grows hot and tears swell in his eyes. He buries his head in his hands.

A and B exchange looks. The refrigerator disappears.

A says, “Brother?”

“It’s Mommy!” cries C. “Mommy died months ago!”

And the triplet brothers begin to wail. Wracking, spine-shaking sobs as the kitchen sink faucet pops away to nothing, causing tap water to shoot from the plumbing and onto the counter and floor.

“NO!” bawls B. “NOT MOMMY!”

A crumples to the ground, holding his knees to his chest. “MOMMY WAS THE BEST! SHE LOVED US! SHE FOUGHT FOR US!”

The chair beneath C evaporates, sending him sprawling. “THAT’S RIGHT, SHE DID! MOMMY FOUGHT FOR US!”

“OH MOMMY!” wail the brothers.

The cabinets dissolve, smashing the dishes they contained onto the counter. Floor tiles and cutlery, glasses and Tupperware, oven racks and skillets blip away as if they were never there to begin with.

Through tears and snot and saliva bubbles, C rakes his fingers through his hair: “Shuh-shuh-she, shuh-she was so sad. We talked about how sad Mommy was at the end, how she w-wanted to go to Heaven be with D-D-Daddy and she, and she…”

“I DON’T WANT THIS!” cries B. “I WANT ANOTHER DAY WITH MOMMY!”

“Those aren’t the r-rules, though,” says A. “You know the rules.”

“I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING!”

“Maybe say the rules, Brother. It’s best,” croaks A, face wet.

“NO!”

Once a year…’” says C.

“NO!”

The kitchen table and remaining chairs disappear. C and A right themselves and sit cross-legged, joining hands with B and with each other, swallowing sobs. B shakes his head as, more and more, memories of the day blink from his brain. B bows his head and whispers.

“Once a year,
the children too soon gone
are granted a day
to experience a taste
of a life they never lived.”

And bit by bit, item by item, the remainder of the kitchen is uncreated. Dish fragments and glass, sink water and silverware. The oven. The ceiling. The walls and windows. The floor. All vanishes to still and infinite white.

The triplet brothers who shared a womb, fingers interlocked, hang in the center of The Fluidity, The Peace, The AllNow, The Grand Everything.

“Day good,” says B, as best he can. “Pretty and beauty and want more.”

“Miss warm and Mommy. Day good, but miss Mommy,” says A.

“Happy share brothers,” says C. “Happy always with brothers.”

The three drift, soon bodiless. Baby A, Baby B and Baby C, held safe by an umbilical as big as the universe. They travel to where the other children are waiting. And not just children, but grown-ups too. Friends and loved ones and neighbors and strangers and animals and even Mommy. And everything that ever was and ever could be.

There they ruminate and speculate and confer.

And they begin the wait for their next birthday.


 

Dedicated to the fighting Mommies of children too-soon-gone. 

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In which Al drops by to offer a few genuine Tips on Triplets

11 Mar

If you don’t know Al Pollard, you should.  He runs StayAtHomeTripletDad.com and his family is the subject of the legendary Pollard Triplets blog.  He’s administrator for an online Triplet Dad network and he and his wife have lead courses on multiples parenting.  There probably isn’t such a thing as Celebrity Triplet Virtuosity, but if there is, I nominate Al.

Anyhow, sensitive to my nerves and insecurities as a soon-to-be triplet dad, Al reached out with spark and comfort.  He’s offered more than a few helpful words to me via email and his latest message was loaded with too much good material to remain unexploited.

Attendez-vous?

Advice to Parents-To-Be of Multiples
from new Parents of Triplets:

  • While pregnant, follow your doctor’s advice to the letter.  This can add days and even weeks to how long you carry your babies and we all know the longer the better!  That being said, some things are out of our control and sometimes babies are born premature (see “Let go of the guilt” below).
  • If your babies end up in the NICU—don’t wear yourself out spending too much time there.  Use that time to heal and prepare for their homecoming.  Understand that they are in the best of hands and receiving the best of care.  Don’t worry that they won’t know who you are … they do!  Or that you are a bad parent … you are not!
  • Let go of the guilt.  Know that you did and are doing the best that you can.
  • The best thing we did was to spend the first two weeks alone at home with the babies. This gave us time to bond with the babies and to put a system in place that worked for us, our babies, our house and our dog!
  • Blame everything on the Doctors!  People will want to come and visit (some of these will be family and close friends, but others will be people you barely know) … multiples seem to draw a large crowd.  You have to be selfish … think of yourself and the babies first.  Then, blame the doctors when you let them know it will be a few months before you are receiving visitors.
  • Get the babies on a schedule and use some type of system to track feeding and activities (tummy time, baths, walks, skin-to-skin time, etc.)
  • Learn (quickly!) to not let the unimportant things bother you.
  • Don’t feed two babies at a time (propped bottles).  Not only can this be dangerous, but this is your opportunity to spend one-on-one time with each baby.
  • Make sure you finish one baby before you start the next … sometimes, you will feel rushed when feeding one because the other is crying (here is where you need to let go of some of the guilt!), but going back and forth between two babies does not work.  Believe us!  We have tried it.
  • Things will not always go as planned!  Adapt your plan … don’t get upset!
  • Finally, just face it.  Your life is never going to be the same again.But it will be better than you ever imagined possible!

 

Al was also good enough to include a printable spreadsheet that he used to keep track of all the necessaries for kids 1,2 and 3.  Overboard?  I wondered, but Al assured me there’s not only a method behind the madness, but your kids’ health and nutrition could very well depend on your keeping an accurate log of who’s had what and when.

Finally, he sent along a hyper-detailed .doc, outlining to babysitters, family members or any other caregivers how to handle just about every triplet-related situation, from hygiene to feeding to medicine to bottle cleaning. A lot of it is personal and specific to his children, so I won’t post it here, but woof! what a lot to digest.

Thanks, Al, for doing your part to save us from calamity.  Let me know about that tattoo artwork, I surely do owe you one.