Tag Archives: boys

Fire, Glass, OH MY GOD

4 Jun

broken_glass

I had a loose mental sketch of this year’s entry. It was going to be called “#braveface” and it was going to be about a new sort of grief (new to us anyway) that we’ve only recently begun to understand and that’s the grief surrounding infertility and miscarriage. Take my word for it: it was going to be a really sensitive and stirring post with fat, salty tears in both the telling and the reading. Boy, were you in for some kind of treat.

But forget all that. I’d rather talk about something that happened a couple of hours ago.

TOT readers will recall that, a year ago, I wrote something to fellow grieving parents who are, like us, trying to figure out how to navigate the unique pain of losing a child or children. I mentioned some of the things we do on June 4. Nothing exotic, but we take time for our boys. We take the day off work. We try to get out of the house. And on the minute of each of their births, we light a candle and say a word or two.

And that happened. We’re blessed to have friends and family who remember three little men who would’ve been four years old today. People are kind and thoughtful with texts, comments, cards and even the occasional gift. “We love you.” “We’re thinking of you and RDO today.” “We remember.”

It genuinely makes the day easier. And in a strange way, I’ve almost begun looking forward to June 4. It’s painful remembering, but it’s also good. It’s a relief. And it fills my heart to hear from people who love us and love children they never got a chance to meet.

Anyhow: a couple of hours ago.

We were doing our thing. Rudyard was born at 6:28 AM, so we lit a candle on our mantle near his urn and said a word or two. Through the years, the mantle has gotten pretty busy with gifts, art and mementos. There’s a lot going on and most of it’s dedicated to the boys, so it makes sense to pick that as our Remembering Place.

7:03. Desmond. We lit a candle, took a moment or two. Oscar wasn’t until 8:40, so after Desmond’s candle, we took some time to do morning things, like brewing tea and replying to a few texts and emails on our phones. My sisters had gone out of their way this year to purchase memorial gifts and we were in the process of thanking them when I discovered our wifi was out. Specifically, our living room wifi extender wasn’t giving a signal.

The wifi extender, I should add, that’s plugged in just above the mantle.

Best thing for that is the old unplug/replug, so, careful as you please, I reached around the artwork, knickknacks, cards, mementos and flaming candles and grabbed the wifi extender. I pulled. It stuck. I worked it back and forth, harder, harder.

If you can see where this is headed, you’re smarter than I was.

One final tug and the extender came flying out of the wall, crashing into our meticulously manicured memorial. The objects of our solemnity flew through the air and exploded onto the ground. Rudyard’s candle burst into a million pieces, with glass, flames and hot wax ricocheting through our living room.

Carey was screaming her head off (they haven’t invented a font big enough):

“OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD!!!!!”

We flew into action, isolating the cat from the scene, sweeping glass, vacuuming rugs, chipping solidified wax from the floor and walls. In the end, we had to move couches and impromptu-redesign the Memorial Area. There was swearing and bickering. At one point, Carey cut her hand. Our Mourning Morning was a mini Roland Emmerich film, a cacophony of injuries and destruction.

We replaced candles and put the room back together in time for Oscar’s moment (whose candle Carey lit, as I can no longer be trusted).

But, you know, as we were in the backyard, beating glass shards from the rug, I told Carey, “I’m glad this happened.”

“What?”

“I’m serious! I am!”

“Well that’s dumb.”

And she’s probably right. But, man, that’s life and that’s grief. You can meticulously plan all you want. You can manufacture all the solemnity in the world, but in the end, you’re gambling against the reality of the chaos curve and you’re going to find that the curve usually wins. Life, grief, whatever you want to call it isn’t as pretty as we’d like it to be. It’s not a Fellini film, it’s a 2nd grade play. The music tends to swell at the wrong time and the actors will likely trip over their costumes, get distracted, flub their lines. Forget all about grace and majesty. Just get through the performance without burning down the stage and call it a win.

Grief sucks. Death is bullshit. Really: it’s a bonafide pile of glistening, sun-kissed bullshit.

And what can you do? My sons are gone, but I get to say I met them. So maybe it was under the messiest possible circumstances. Maybe that’s better than not meeting them at all.

Since that’s pretty weak as a wrap-up, here’s one last thing: my wife has, in the past, had the good taste to post music that reminds her of our triplet sons and I think I’d like to do the same before I go. About a year and change ago, I discovered three songs, all covers, that I found myself playing over and over and I realized each one made me happy because each reminded me of one of my boys.


Rudyard’s song is the last thing anyone would expect me to post, but, man, Josh Weathers destroys it. The big, salty tears I promised earlier are all here and when I hear this, I remember my brave boy:


Desmond’s song is the least surprising thing in the world. It’s his namesake and it’s as fun as he would have been. I think, when the Beatles wrote it, this is what they were going for:


Oscar’s song is how I like to think of Oscar: clever, strange, innovative, funny. It’s one of the greatest songs of all time, performed in a way The King never intended:


Today, boys, you would have been 4.

Love you. Miss you.

Best Possible

23 Jul

It’s been nearly a month since I’ve posted, but I’ve thought of my blog and those who read it often. This post isn’t so much an update as a, well, a Something. A couple of weeks after the boys were born and passed, I began writing a short piece without any sort of idea where it was going or who would be likely to read it. Maybe it would be just for me.

Tonight finds me at an open mic night at Seka Coffee House in Long Beach. I’ve been given 5 minutes to do whatever I want with a captive audience and I’ve decided to read what I wrote. Due to time, I’m only doing an excerpt, but the full text is below, if you’re interested.

It’s called Best Possible and it was inspired by my sons.

It’s after sundown. I’m in my car and I’m driving somewhere, only I don’t know exactly where because that’s up to my passenger, who’s giving directions, calling out the turns and the exits, the merges and the yields. I ask him about the destination and he says “trust me” and I’m not altogether sure I do, but I will.

He’s in his 40s, maybe even 50, and his hair’s starting in with the gray, but mostly he’s pretty thin up top. He’s paunchy and pale, with a voice like my father’s, only a little deeper, and a profile like my mother’s, only a little more beaky and it’s been a few days since he’s shaved.

Point of fact, he looks exactly like me. Or anyway, exactly how I’ll look in 10 or 15 years. Truth is, he’s my future self and he’s returned to his past, my present, to tell me to stay on the 710 south.

“How many kids do you have?” he asks me and I tell him he already knows and he says, “humor me, would you?” and I tell him the truth, which is to say I had 3 boys, but now they’re dead.

He shakes his head and winces. “I’m sorry,” he tells me. “You’re one of those. Two of my sons also passed, but the third, Oscar, he made it. He starts high school in the fall.”

The place we arrive, it’s sort of a little studio, the kind where they teach children karate, only it seems to be closed. My passenger, the future me, says, “go ahead in.” I cut the engine, undo my seatbelt and hesitate. Finally, I ask him if he has any, I don’t know, advice or something. He itches his nose and rakes his fingers through his hair the same way I’ve done since I was a toddler and eventually says, “oh, sure. You should exercise more.”

I leave Future Me in the car and head inside. The door’s unlocked and the lights are off, except for a little desk lamp on a tiny, wooden table in the center of the room, between a couple of chairs. In one of them sits Future Me, who I could’ve sworn was in the car just a second ago. He’s slightly older, or maybe younger. Something’s different and it’s hard to put my finger on exactly what, but he’s focused on his paperback copy of The Brothers Karamazov, the one collecting dust at home on my shelf in my office, and if he notices me, he doesn’t say anything.

I sit in the opposite chair and eventually break the tension by telling him I’ve tried to make it through Karamazov three times and I always fail miserably. He looks up and chuckles and says, “this is attempt number five for me and it’s a real climb. Would it kill these people to have a regular conversation once in awhile? Page 170 and I’m ready to murder all three brothers.”

We spend a few minutes talking about books we like and books we don’t and he mentions Ayn Rand and I tell him she’s one of Carey’s favorites and he says “who’s Carey?” I’m not sure if he’s joking, but I say, you know, she’s my wife and he closes his eyes and smiles. “Carey, right. From college.”

I’m for mystery as much as the next man (and in this particular case, that’s me too), but I eventually ask him who he is, what this is. He points to a little door in the back of the studio that reads STAFF and says, “you’re going to have to go in there, sooner or later.” Then he hands me a raffle ticket with a number hand-written on it and says, “I’m you. The you that gets you ready.”

I open the door.

The STAFF room is less of a room and more of an indoor arena. Not exactly a stadium, but it’s in the neighborhood. There seems to be a big event going on in the center, on some kind of red platform, complete with concert-style lighting.

Also, the place is, well, packed. Old men, young men, everything in between. Some in outrageous outfits, some in understated suits. A handful seem to be drunk or high and others still are handicapped. But the big thing they all have in common is they all look exactly like me.

“We’re waiting,” says a voice next to me, who turns out to be a very pained-looking, mid-twenties me, propped against a wall, clutching his sides. “You’ll want to get comfortable, most of us have been here awhile.” I ask what we’re waiting for and he says, through gritted teeth, “we’re all waiting for some one-on-one time with the guy on stage. The one in the center.” I ask who’s in the center and he says, “it’s me. You. All of us. But he’s the Best Possible Version.”

I thank him and begin making my way down the aisles. But before I do, I ask him if he’s having kidney stone trouble. “How’d you guess,” he says and I tell him to try a shot of lemon juice each morning. He says, “no kidding?”

Every 10 or 20 minutes, the sound system barks out a number. I take a look at my raffle ticket and it looks like I have a few thousand ahead of me. I do my best to get situated.

Hours turn into days turn into months. I spend a lot of time talking to other me’s, listening to my life story over and over, sometimes with only slight variations from my own experience, sometimes wildly different. Since we all have the same name, we refer to each other by our numbers, which is kind of cool and makes us all feel like Patrick McGoohan.

It’s the old versions of myself, the guys who are 80+, that really flip my shit. They don’t seem in any hurry to convince any of their younger selves of anything and they’re mostly short on words of wisdom. It’s all Que Sera Sera, which is the opposite of the frantic teens and reckless 20s.

I hear stories of me’s that were and others that weren’t and others still that were, but maybe not quite in the way I remember. For example, I attended Samford University, met and married a girl named Molly, and began art directing video games. I also sold my first play when I was 18, which was called Whatever Gets You Through The Night and divided my 20s between trying to get stage shows off the ground in New York and living with my dad in Hartville when money was tight.

I had an affair with a coworker when I was 31, divorced Carey for her, and turned to getting high when that ended in tears. In high school, I was screwing around with Matt Brainard and wound up getting hit by an icicle, which took off my left leg. At 52, I published a book on 15th century Spain that less than 100 people bought and at 25, I lost my life to a drunk driver.

There are a few trending themes. Carey’s in a lot of the stories, the lives, maybe even half of them. Art and writing, in some form or another, are in nearly all of them. I tend to wind up with at least one child. I’m typically either Christian or agnostic, but sometimes Buddhist and in one case, I’m even a Scientologist, if you can believe that.

The only thing I’m consistently sure of, with each story I hear, is that I’m simultaneously inspired and disgusted by what I’m capable of.

Finally, my number’s up.

I head up the stairs to the red platform, head buzzing with all the conversations of recent weeks and months, trying to keep straight which me I am. At the top, on a small, tan couch, sits the Best Possible Version of me. He’s older than I am, significantly older, with silver-crazed eyebrows and leather suspenders. He looks tired. Ready for whatever I have to throw at him, but still tired.

He stands when I approach and shakes my hand. “It’s your time,” he tells me. “What would you like to talk about?”

We sit. I tell him I’ve been thinking about that parable where everybody puts all their problems in a big pile and winds up taking back their own problems for themselves when given the choice. I tell him the story’s bullshit, as I see it. I’ve met a lot of me’s recently and there were quite a few of them whose life I’d choose over mine. I miss my sons. I want a life where I get to see them grow into men.

Best Possible nods. “What do you want to ask me?” he says.

I tell him I want to know what he did so differently from the rest of us. Was it faith that made him better? Or adversity? Or was he just born with a better soul? How did he avoid all the mistakes the rest of us seem to make?

“I avoided nothing,” he says. “I’ve probably made more bad choices than anyone here. Not just because I’ve had time to make them, but because I’ve been terribly, terribly stupid with my talents and my relationships. If there was something to screw up, I screwed it up. I could tell you my story, but you’ll have to take my word for it: it’s a real heartbreaker.”

I ask him what makes him the Best. Did he cure cancer or something?

“No,” he says, “you need to listen to me, here. I haven’t led a good life and I spend my time choking on regret. But I look around and I see all these versions of myself and I ask every single one the same question: how do you feel about the men assembled here?”

I say I love them.

“Yes,” he says. “So do I. And they all love you, too. They’d do anything for you, because they know you from the inside. Isn’t that the perfect way to feel about someone else?”

I say Yes it is.

“I doubt any reasonable person would call me the best version of anything,” he says, “but I sit up here because one of us has to and I thought it might ease the burden of a life that didn’t turn out how I’d planned. You already know what I’m going to say next, don’t you?”

I nod and say You’re going to offer me your seat.

The old me slings an arm over my shoulder: “Yours if you want it.”

And if this is a dream, here’s where I wake up.

And if this is what it’s like to be dead, here’s where I find out What’s Next.

And if this is just a story, here’s where I clue you in about the sort of story you’ve been taking in.

And no matter what I decide, the numbers will continue to bark from the sound system and the long procession of me will continue up and down the stairs, maybe some staying in the Best seat, others not wanting to bear the weight. The artists, the husbands, the leaders, the abusers, the addicts, the fathers, the heroes, the professionals and the basket cases, everything I ever could have been and ever could be are waiting their turn.

Like Patrick McGoohan, though, I’m not a number. I’m a free man.

And while I may not be the one who decides how my life turns out, how my story goes, I do have a say.

Today I say Continue.

Memorial Video: The Bear Triplets

28 Jun

Below is the video produced for the June 25th, 2011 memorial service for Rudyard, Desmond and Oscar Bear, our triplet sons.

Please be warned: while this video contains a handful of images from their brief lives, it also contains some imagery captured shortly after their passing. If you’re disturbed or offended by this sort of thing, please don’t feel any obligation to watch.

Thanks for celebrating them with us.

Faces

25 Jun

Today was our boys’ memorial, which was shared with a few dear friends and family.  It’s another example of something I’d like to talk more about later, but suffice it to say it was a really tremendous time.  If you were there in person or in spirit, thank you.

It probably hasn’t escaped you that Carey and I have been very precious about sharing photos of the boys.  Only a very few people have seen them and that may change eventually, but to commemorate the day, it seemed a good time to share my drawings of our sons, produced for the memorial.


Rudyard


Desmond


Oscar

Good night and God bless.

The Bear Boys

7 Jun

Our sons are gone, but their spirits remain in our hearts, our home, our heads.  Speaking as a father, I’ve never been prouder of anything than I am of these boys and I’d be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to introduce them.


Rudyard Bear
b. 6:28 am, 6/4/11
1 lb., 1 oz.  /  10-1/2 in.

Rudyard was “Baby A”, whose sac ruptured Tuesday evening.  He fought hard to replenish his fluid over the following few days, but was eventually forced to surrender to the weight of his brothers and the stresses of infection.  We saw him, his heart beating weakly on an ultrasound screen, minutes before his delivery.  By the time he’d completed his journey through the birth canal, he was considered stillborn.

When I was in high school, my favorite poem was If, by Rudyard Kipling and it’s remained so to this day.  It provides what I consider to be perfect instructions for any boy anywhere on the requisites of becoming a man.  At 16, I told friends I’d one day have a son named “Rudyard” and, mostly, they laughed.  But it’s always been a dream of mine and I petitioned my wife, when we discovered our triplets were boys, to set it aside as the name of our oldest.

Rudyard was very likely going to wind up being his Dad’s boy.  I’m an oldest son myself and even though we’d planned to keep the boys’ birth order a secret, I suspected I’d always have a very unique and immediate bond with Rudyard.  Shortly after his birth, I held him, told him how proud of him I am, assured him I loved him and later thanked him for selflessly protecting his mother and brothers from the infection that had ravaged him.

Before saying goodbye, I recited the final lines of If to Rudyard.

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!


Desmond Bear
b. 7:03 am, 6/4/11
13.8 oz.  /  10-3/4 in.

Desmond was “Baby B”.  At various moments throughout the pregnancy, Carey would feel the babies kick and the vast majority of the time, it was Desmond she was feeling.  The small handful of times I felt a kick, it was always Desmond.

He was born without any doctor assistance.  In fact, when he came, our doctor wasn’t even in the room.  He emerged healthy and without a mark, perfectly colored, with a head of dark brown hair.  If our boys were Beatles, Desmond would’ve been “The Handsome One”, as he emerged completely free of infection with ideal proportions and features.  He was tall and lean, maybe the strongest of the three.

Carey had picked Desmond’s name for a few different reasons.  TV is filled with lots of sexy/dark/mysterious leading men, but LOST’s Desmond Hume was the sort of animal you don’t see a lot these days in popular entertainment: a true romantic.  We pictured our boy as suave and slick, who ladies would one day fight over.  And speaking of The Beatles, it didn’t hurt that he shared his name with another Desmond, the one from The White Album’s Ob-la-di Ob-la-da, the story of another romantic soul.

But in the time I spent with Desmond, I found myself telling him the most about his third namesake, Desmond Tutu.  “There’s a very silly idea in this world,” I told him, “that it’s best to judge people a certain way or treat people differently because of what they look like or where they came from or who’s in their family.  There are a lot of words for it, but some people call it ‘apartheid’ and Desmond Tutu spent a lot of time telling people that there are better ways to do things, smarter ways to see into a person’s heart.  And that’s what we were hoping you could someday show to others.”

Of the three boys, Desmond stayed with us the longest.  As he did his best to gasp air into his tiny lungs, we assured him we’d continue holding him, that we wouldn’t leave him alone for the rest of his life.  “Be brave, young man,” we said.  “Your parents love you.  We’re proud of you.  Don’t be afraid to let go when you need to.  We’ll be right here.”

Desmond stayed with us for nearly an hour and 30 minutes after his birth.


Oscar Bear
b. 8:40 am, 6/4/11
11 oz.  /  9-3/4 in.

Oscar, “Baby C”, was nearly our miracle baby, who seemed to be staying put in his mom’s womb for over an hour and a half after Desmond’s birth.  Throughout the pregnancy, Rudyard and Desmond would crowd and kick each other, while Oscar always seemed to float high above the melee, opting to let his brothers work out their differences amongst themselves.  He was typically the sleepiest of the three, the “laziest” as Dr. Chao warned us.

Only a few short moments after Desmond’s post-birth passing, the womb around Oscar shrank to the point of breaking his water, inspiring labor.  His was a rough entry, a breech birth, and Dr. Chao told us later that she did her best to reposition him for the cleanest, safest arrival.  He came left-arm-first, causing said arm to dislocate and purple violently.  He was bruised, but clearly whole, the smallest of the group, the runt of litter.

We’d stumbled upon his name only recently.  Carey remarked throughout our naming discussions that she thought Baby C’s moniker should be something fun and rascally.  She more or less plucked “Oscar” out of the blue and it immediately felt right to both of us.  After all, we’d planned on reading the fairy tales of Oscar Wilde to our brood.  I’d portrayed “Oscar” in The Odd Couple in high school and again in college.  And since it was a theater audition that first introduced me to Carey, we thought it appropriate to name him after what’s popularly recognized as acting’s highest honor.

In our short time with him, we did our best to comfort and swaddle him, which wasn’t easy, as his frame was too tiny and delicate to wrap up properly.  We told him who he was; I explained the proud tradition of Bear Men and how our family’s biggest challenge is usually sitting still and staying quiet.  I described what an “Oscar” is and how to dream big.  “They don’t just give them to actors,” I told him. “Writers, directors, musicians, people who create beautiful things to look at… all sorts of artists can win an Oscar.  Old men have gotten them and even a few little children.  You just have to be very committed to being the best you can be at what you love doing.”

Oscar did his best to breathe in the short time he was with us.  Like his brother before him, we assured him we wouldn’t leave him as long as he was with us.  We told him just how much his parents love him, but he would need to take courage.  “You’ll be back with your brothers very soon, son.  Take care of one another.  Let them know we’ll all be back together again one day.”

I kissed his head and told him, finally: “Oscar, my boy, I promise you.  Our time was short, but I’ll think of you every single day for the rest of my life.”

Oscar stayed with us nearly 40 minutes before going on to join his brothers.


They fought hard, to a man, and I can think of no better tribute to these boys of mine than to do my best to follow their example.

It’s, after all, what they would have wanted.

Epilogue

4 Jun

Dear friends, family and loved ones,

Your encouragement and prayers have kept us buoyed these past 4 days.  Thanks seems inadequate, but we’re eternally, profoundly grateful for your kindness.

Earlier this morning, our three beautiful boys were briefly introduced to the world before going home to be with The Lord.

In the coming days, I hope to say more about these young men and the circumstances of their birth and departure, but please believe me when I say that, if you’re reading this, Carey and I feel overwhelmingly blessed that you’ve chosen to take part in our journey, however sweet, however bitter.

We love you enormously.

Sincerely,

Jeremy Bear
Long Beach, California
June 4, 2011

Won’t you help us clothe our babies?

19 May

If you glance northeast on this page, you’ll see a link to our registry in the sidebar.  A few people have hit us up for it.  Voila!

If you’ve ever had a baby or gotten married, you know the stress.  It’s a gamble: you want to pick out nice stuff, but you don’t want to go overboard.  You realize you’re 100% at the mercy of the kindness of loved ones, but you hate to impose.  You know that no one is as excited/obsessed/freaked out by the idea of your children as you are, but you’re hoping everyone’s teeny bit excited.  At least excited enough to hook you up.

Of course, my lizard brain invents reasons to feel guilty and even the act of posting a baby registry on our blogs feels, for some reason, like a big imposition on the world, as if everyone’s going to feel obligated or something.  I know, I know.

Carey has fretted a great deal over what to choose.  It’s an odd experience picking a style for three people you’ve never met.  Weird stuff occurs to you, like you’re splitting the atom or something:

“What if we only ever had them in little suits and fedoras?  Gangster babies!”

“We could dress them like old people.  Give them each little cardigans.”

“What about a race car bed instead of a crib?  Doesn’t every little boy want a race car bed?”

“We might want to avoid anything with corporate logos on it.  For, I don’t know, some reason.”

Eventually, you veer everything back toward the sensible because, pete’s sake, what’s the matter with you anyway?

As far as the registry itself goes, the geniuses over at Babyli.st have done the Lord’s work and provided a very cool baby registry service, all for free.  Rather than sending people to Target for this, Babies-R-Us for that, Amazon for whatever, it’s all in one handy, centralized location.  And, as is often the case with registries, sometimes you find the exact same thing at another site or out in the real world.  Easy peasy, you just reserve it and do as thou wilt.  A simple idea that everybody should use.  Good on you, Babyli.st.

Also, admittedly, we still have a handful of items to add, but, with Carey’s shower coming up, we had to post it with most of the items we know we’ll need.

We’ve been truly blessed to have such wonderful, selfless people in our lives who are sympathetic to our situation and have offered help in the form of gifts and time.  We really are thankful for anything and everything, from prayers and well wishes to the triplet cribs you had to pick up that extra paper route to pay for.

Sincerely.  Thanks.