Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Giving Back

Giving Back

A long time ago, just a few days before my eighteenth birthday, I had a really bad day.  A terrible day.  The kind of day that makes you take a break from dancing and makes others suggest therapy for you.  The kind of day you still think about twenty years later. 

Some tough months followed that bad day, filled with nightmares and stiff upper lips and when nobody was looking, I screamed at little spiders.  The only advice to which I was amenable was that from my guardian angel; she was the only person who could make me feel better.  That guardian angel was me at some impossibly old age—like thirty.  The old me would comfort the distressed me with fantastic stories of how good things were going to get one day.  Just you wait and see.

The years passed and the screams faded until one day I thought about the distressed me and decided to pay her a visit.  I could see her so clearly, surrounded by eggshells and much shorter than she thought she was.  I told her how great things were going to get: how beautiful Iceland was and how tall she’d feel. 

In the years that followed, I’d go back from time to time and “pay the bank,” as it were.  Italy, San Francisco, a beautiful wedding by the bay.  There were lots of good things to look forward to.  Then one day it seemed like the little girl was now the Iceland girl and didn’t need me anymore.

And then yesterday, my jaw dropped and my shoulders sank and I wept. 

Not for the teenager—she’s fine now.  I wept for the mother of three and her stiff upper lip.  I wept for all the things that didn’t happen but could have.  Autumn 2010 is weeping for Winter 2010.   

January, February, March.  I couldn’t cry then.  There was too much to do.  If I had let myself think for a second about the odds, it would have crippled me.

Ninety-two days of dodging bullets.

Yesterday the nurses and I were discussing one of the bitter moms.

“She’s grieving for her pregnancy,” one of them observes and we all nod, as if pregnancy is a living thing that is separate from Mom and Baby.

The funny thing is, she had a pregnancy.  And she had a healthy (albeit tiny and premature) little girl.  Everything is fine now.  Her pregnancy did what it was supposed to do.  But her grief is real.  All grief is real.

Who am I grieving for?  My boys are so healthy, so chubby.  They are off the charts—literally.  We don’t even think of them as six-months (their adjusted age).  They are actually doing things that nine-month-olds do—their actual age.

It’s like I put my composure on lay-away with one of those “take it home today—pay later” plans that they have for mattresses.  I took home heap-big composure and now yesterday was my first sadness installment. 

I can visit all the islands of “What If.”  I can take on all the fear and worry and hysteria from those ninety-two days because I know how the story ends.  And since it’s a happy one, I can flatten the dimensions of time and space and lend today’s optimism, confidence, and composure to that short little mom in the NICU, the Me of early 2010, ‘cause she could sure use it.  And I’m her only hope.

© 2010 Janine Kovac

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