Window Shopping

I love buying gifts for other people.  Love it.  When I was first working and could buy gifts with my own money, I’d routinely give the gift before the designated event.  My parents would roll their eyes and open their Christmas gifts in November.

When my daughters were old enough to recognize what gifts were they were my favorite people to shop for.  It was double the fun for me – not only did I get to pick out the gift, but I got to experience it with them.

As they got older (read: picky) gift giving was a new mission.  What can I buy for them they won’t automatically dislike because mom gifts are lame? I made a fair amount of good choices.  Also some duds.

Z has always been the easier daughter to shop for.  Books.  Book themed accessories. Outdoors. Nerd stuff.  I liked getting her these items because she was just like me.  All of the things I liked, I could buy for her.

Now I’m just window shopping.

A million words in the books on her list.  A million blades of grass under the new hiking boots.  A million rays of sun for the new sunglasses.

I don’t add anything to my cart.  I’m window shopping.

I want her to be here for these things.  I want to see the joy on her face.  I want to make her book collection grow.  I want to bask in her shine and her new sunglasses. I want so badly to give her my love.  I want to give her everything I am.  I yearn to buy these things and feel the relief in her presents.

Z would have loved that.  Z would have loved that.  Z would have loved that.

Not presents.  Presence.                              Presence.

I will have nothing for her under the tree.  There will be no brown packages with her name.   I look at everything for her through the windows and I move on without.

0 stars.  Would not recommend.





Contact List

Shortly after she passed, my dad told me he took Z out of his favorites in his contacts list on his phone.  I did the same a couple of days later.  Every time I opened my phone I saw her name with the big yellow star next to it.  Up top, where it’s easy to call.

I couldn’t have that.  That big yellow star with her name  knocked the breath out of me.  I have to look at her and her name on my own terms.  When I can prepare myself.

My other mobile phone, the work phone, I used to call her just as often.  Except on that model, instead of designating favorites, it complied the list for me.  Frequent contacts.  She was a frequent contact.  I spent three weeks calling everyone I could from that phone so her name would fall of the list of frequent contacts.

She’s no longer a favorite.  She’s not frequent anymore.

Years ago was the last time I actively took anyone out of my phone contacts.  And when I did, the phone greeted me with the poignant question “Are you sure?”.

Yes.  I was always sure. I’d broken a relationship of one sort or another for reasons here and there, and in the end I was always sure.

I’ve taken her off my favorites and frequents, but she’s still a contact.  No one answers her phone.  I’m not ready to delete her name.  At the same time, it still takes my breath when I have to thumb through the list looking for someone else.  I torture myself.

There is no harm or shame in removing her from my contacts.  None at all.  And probably it would be good for me.  It is painful every-single-time I see her name on my phone and her unanswered texts.  It’s there, just silently, staring back at me.  She’s not going to answer her phone.  She’s not going to answer her phone.  I torture myself.

I could transfer our text history to a device and put it in a box in my closet.  I can save those things to allow for the removal to happen without actually losing all of that digital history.  There are answers for this sort of thing.

Are you sure you want to delete this contact?  Are you sure?  Are you really sure?

I don’t have it in me to answer yes.  I can’t actively delete her.  I’ve already lost her.  I can’t delete her as well.

In the winter I’ll maybe get a new phone.  I’ll passively make the change.  She won’t be deleted, but she won’t be added either.   The new phone won’t have a conversation history or pictures of the past couple of years together. The new phone won’t have the weight this one has.  It won’t have the weight of any of my other phones.

I’ll tuck this phone away with the other phones I’ve moved past.  The ones that hold my pictures of my late husband and what our family looked like then.  I’ve done it before.

I’ve done this before.  I don’t want to change phones anymore.


My empathy for those that struggle with me has certainly changed.  Parents that haven’t lost a child chime in with “I can’t imagine”.  It’s true.  They can’t imagine. I could never have imagined.

Similar to the love that isn’t fully appreciated until it’s been personally experienced.  Growing up, before I had children, I was told that I wouldn’t understand parental love until I’ve held it.  It’s true.  That overwhelming and incurable love isn’t something truly appreciated until it is encountered.

After I’d moved to GR, a co-worker of mine suddenly lost his wife.  He was much older than me.  He’d been married longer.  They had grown children and grandchildren.  We ended up alone for a minute in a tool room and I mentioned I’d lost Joe.  He teared up and asked me how long it would hurt this badly.

I didn’t know.  Our lives were so different.  But I could tell him that eventually he’d find his footing again.  Hopefully, he wouldn’t have that un-moored feeling forever.  But we both understood the unique tragedy we shared.

On Wednesday nights, I go to a parent support group.  We all share in this stupid bond that no one wants to be a part of.

A friend of a friend lost her son a little more than a month ago in a car accident.  I’ve never met her, but I ache for her and her loss.  I just learned that a cousin of mine lost her 17 year old son.  I didn’t know, and now I ache for her too.

We all develop a unique empathy for those in the pain we’ve experienced.

One of the things mentioned in the parent support group is we hate when new people arrive.  It brings fresh feeling and difficulty that we all feel.  And in that way, I didn’t understand the feelings I would have for another parent of loss until I experienced it myself.  It’s a fresh anguish that kind of makes your own wounds seep a little.

I ache for them.  I share in their pain.  My heart hurts for them.  And their hearts hurt for mine.

So now, on top of all of this new emotion that I’ve been bequeathed related to Z’s passing, I’ve got this entirely new set of emotions I didn’t expect.  I didn’t realize that not only would I grieve for her loss, I’d uniquely grieve for all of the lost children.  I’d share in the pain of everyone that gets stuck in this stupid circumstance.

Does sharing this load help me?  Will it help all of the other mothers? I don’t know.

What I do know is this entire endeavor is shitty.  No one wants to be here.  We all want to give it back.  0 stars. Would not recommend.


Generations of Loss

I’m not sure the decade, probably the 1920’s, my great-grandmother had a daughter Suzanne.  She was living in the south and when the baby was a couple of months old she decided to go to Pennsylvania to visit family and introduce the new small.  The baby passed away while on that visit.  She left on vacation with a child and came back to her home and other children without.

In the mid-80’s, my grandmother (the daughter of the above great-grandmother) lost her son, my uncle, to AIDS.  I don’t remember much.  I remember my mom crying on the couch.  And I remember my grandparents being gone for what seemed like a year preceding his death.  They’d moved in with him to care for him before he passed.

After he passed, and as I was growing up, I don’t remember anything in my grandparent’s demeanor or display that would have given away the grief they lived with for the next 25 years.  And it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I even remembered  my grandparents also lost a child.

My other grandmother had a stillborn daughter.  That fact was never even mentioned until I was born.  It was also around this time her mother (another of my great-grandmothers) mentioned she’d lost a son.  Another quiet fact of life.

All of my grandparents were strong in their own unique ways.  None of them ever crumbled under pressure.  None were delicate or wilting flowers.  They all had robust personalities. And they all lived happy and joyful lives with that loss quietly pushed aside.  After a while, it was so far in the background that I’d forgotten these passings weren’t abstract facts of lives I didn’t know.

I’d totally forgotten they’ve all walked this road.

In my joking mind, I ticked off the things that I’d gotten from each of my grandmothers:

Sausage shaped fingers (check), really thick hair (check), strong personality (check), love of national parks/travel (check), dimples (check), losing a child (check).

My late husband’s step-mother lost her 16 year old daughter in the 80’s.   She rarely talked about Stephanie, but she was there in the background.  We always got together for Stephanie’s birthday.  I was 3 years into these birthday gatherings before I even knew what was going on.  Linda had her family around her, but, again, she struggled silently.  She did tell me one time that it was horrible.  I told her that I couldn’t imagine what it would be like, but I didn’t have much more to say.  I couldn’t relate to her silent suffering.

As it turns out “horrible” is kind of a delicate way to frame it.

So, here I am.  Another woman put into this position.  Living through this as they have all done ahead of me.  I’m not alone.  I’m not alone.  I’m in a tradition of loss.

I would have settled for just sausage fingers.

0 stars.  Would not recommend.



The Label

There are a couple of kinds of traumatic loss (of life) one can experience in life.

If you’ve lost both your parents at an inappropriately early age, you are labeled an orphan.

If you lose your spouse, you are labeled a widow/er.

If you lose a child, you get no label.  There is no word.

Is it because the trauma of losing a child is so great that we can’t name it?  If you’ve lost a pregnancy or infant, your subsequent children are called Rainbow Children, but there again, we’re not naming the loss.  We’re naming the event after the loss.

When I fill out forms, I check the “W” box.  I’m labeled and given sympathy from whomever is looking over my forms.  I get the side-tilt-head-nod because the loss of a spouse is so monumental.  Especially at my age.

The loss I carry with me regarding Z is ticked away to a nothing.  We can’t talk about it.  A stranger looking over my forms will know that I’ve lost Joe.  They will not know that I’ve also lost Z.  They’re both gone, but I only get credit (?) for one.

Still, I go back and forth with my need to talk or not talk about her.  I want to talk about her as much as I can’t bear to talk about her.   I want to look at her pictures with the same verve that I want to hide under my blankets.  Do I really want a label?  Do I really want strangers to know something so intimate about my life?  They already know I am a “W”, do they also need to know about my other loss?  The one that cuts so deep that it doesn’t have a name?

Maybe it’s not named for because of the fear others will be harmed by the same fate?  The universal jinx.

My mom has a friend she’s known for several years and it was only when Z passed that my mom found out this woman has also lost a child.  It doesn’t come up in conversation as readily as other loss intrudes.  It remains under cover.

Am I more likely to mention that I’m a widow because it’s easier (?) or because my other loss doesn’t have a one-word signal?  I don’t know.

It’s unfair this word doesn’t exist.  But I don’t want to talk about it either.

I am relegated to an undefined list.  And I’m not sure if it’s lack of definition keeps me out of conversation I don’t want to be in or not.

As per the rest of this business, 0 stars.  Would not recommend.