June 6, 2018-19
Happy Birthday to YOU, Wes. <3
I love you, Wesley.
It isn't how much you smile, though that is wonderful. It isn't how much you learn, how long you can focus on a single problem, how you beg for books to be read to you all the time, how you always want to join me in my cooking, and say "hot!" It isn't all the little things, or even what they add up to. It is more basic, more binary than that.
It is that you are ours.
It is that you are.
That is the miracle.
I have asked for many more years with you, as any parent does. But there is no peak knowledge, no peak capacity to a human. You are fully you, as fully as I am me. The potential you have is only icing on a fully baked cake. Any thought less is sacrilege: you are no less than me, you are as much as me - if anything, you are more (unsullied by disenchantment, by insecurity, by selfishness, so quick to love and believe and trust, as if that was what the world was for).
There is one particular thing I want you to learn: scale. So much knowledge can be summed up in comparisons of scale. One of your favorites books right now poses two questions: “What is smaller than a flea?” and “What is bigger than the sky?” The answer to the first, according to this book for kids, is “A world of things too small to see.” To the second: “The never ever ending sky.” I hope you understand how trite both of those are. There are real answers. In fact, there is one answer to both questions. An overarching, and an underpinning. A first, and a last. A beginning, and an end.
You began one year ago. Now we get to count: 1. If you live average, you’ll have 70-ish more of these. There are a thousand decisions that increase or decrease that number. My great-grandmother lived to be 101. She jogged each day until she was 97. My mother attributes her health to her positive attitude. As miraculous as this longevity is, the goal of life is not more days or more years. It is good days. You have already had so many good days.
You broke your mother, you know. In more ways than one. But the pain let you graft into her in a way too precious for me to covet. Even if I must admire the bond you share at a distance, it is worth it. This year has been the story of you, beginning, but it has also been the story of her, changing chapters. I would pick no better son to hurt her than you, and no more constant warmth, no more ambitious mind to challenge her and nestle into her than you.
You are the miracle.
A tired word for tired people.
Code for uncanny/incredible/can't.
A name for an event I must admit
makes me believe the supernatural exists.
You were born 1 year and 34 minutes ago.
I caught you.
You were a tired word born to tired people.
You stood for the incredible.
You were an event I must admit
made me believe the supernatural exists.
You traipse through the days,
hunkered into my elbow crook.
You while toward time I do not have
and you find it for me.
You careen frequently,
veer on and off my path
at the most inconvenient intervals.
You furl up to say goodnight once a day
like clockwork conjured
from some preimagined rhythm.
You tinge everything with smile,
mull the click of buckles,
find the kilter in the sleep cycle,
and hoodwink me with wink-attempts
You are a fresh take on stale speech.
You stand for the simple.
You are an event I still admit
makes me believe God exists.
“All this time
that came before you
I have adored you,
I didn’t know ’til now.
Like a ripple in the sky
like a quiet tear in time
I see it all in my mind
I see it all now
and I can see your face
somewhere in the place
between born and born again and born again and born again
and I can hear your laughter after
after I go
every time I go, it calls me home
you call me home.“ - Costello
It’s easy to feel like everything has changed, and to focus on how different my life is, how different I am. But a lot about me is the same.
I still spend a good deal of my time analyzing the best way to spend my time. I still have a hard time getting up earlier than 7AM. (Okay, 9AM.) I still find myself thinking critically in the best and worst sense, nearly tirelessly. I still get lost in the facts of a fight, unaware that most of them don’t matter for healing or reconciliation… unaware that healing and reconciliation are the only things that matter. I still hate answering my phone. I still believe in God, and don’t believe in God almost every day. I still worry what will happen if I don’t get a “career” out of life, and I still tend to focus all my very limited energy on my relationships regardless. And I’m still plagued with thoughts that it’s never enough. And I still wish I read more.
In some ways, it’s a relief just to see nearly a paragraph of simple things that haven’t changed. I’m not proud of all of them by any means, but it seems easier most of the time to focus on everything that’s different. So it’s nice to remind myself, not everything.
This whole experience of change has had me thinking about my own mom quite a bit. Mainly, I really love her. I feel as if no matter what she does between now and death, there’s nothing that could change that. But still, I feel almost guilty knowing for the first time that I can’t actually love her like she loves me. I never knew how impossible that was. I always thought we had a mutual bond, and I guess, an equal one. Honestly I don’t know if that thought is interesting or mundane, because part of me can’t believe I ever thought I loved her as much as she loves me, and part of me still wants to argue for the briefest moment that I DO love her as much as she loves me, and then the next moment I know it’s not true.
I had no idea how one-sided the relationship was, and would be, always. And now I do. It’s not that I love my mom less than I love you, Wesley, but rather that it’s impossible for me to love anyone in the way that I love you. Even you couldn’t do it. Am I being cheesy? (Maybe that’s inevitable but we can add that to my earlier list: I still hate being cheesy.)
So I’ve been learning about one-sided relationships and why they are the hardest and most interesting in so many ways.
I’ve always loved to make people laugh but never as much as this. Finding new and creative ways to produce that sound literally fuels some of my days. My brother commented that when you really get in a fit of giggles you sound like a squeak box. It sounds like it’d be annoying but it’s pure magic.
If I had to list the 5 hardest things in the last year from least to greatest for you (because you asked, obviously) it would be:
waiting for breastfeeding to get better “with time” and not being able to just make it better by reading a book about it
not being able to give my mind fully to any one thing besides you, for a long stretch of time, because even when I was away from you, there was always something I had to do for you
managing my expectations for other people in my life
recovering from the 3rd degree tear
being and living far away from people that I want you to know and love
Since I had read a lot and spent a lot of time with kids, there’s a lot of things about taking care of one that didn’t shock me. Not in a cocky way, just honestly I’m an over-preparer, and this is how I made money on the side for a good deal of my life.
So, easily one of the most shocking things about raising you this year, Wesley, has been how happy you are. This has shown itself in perfectly developmentally-appropriate ways throughout the year. You were an “early” smiler, and an early giggler, and you did both of those things abundantly, generously, and without much bias for who the recipient was. A few months after crawling, you would wander around the house playing with your toys and then come find me or Evan and place your hands on us, and say in the most cheery tone, “Hiiiiiiiiiiiyyyyyyy”.
Later, when you started to pick up a few words you became obsessed with a little book that states 7 different emotions (each with a picture depicting that emotion through the life of a particular duck and goose). You almost immediately learned the word “happy” from that book. You re-named the book “happy” (to ask us to read it) and would say it before we would turn to that particular page (since it comes towards the end of the book). Sometimes we let you look at it in your crib before bed and you just turn the pages til you come to that spot and say “Happy!” over and over til you slump over in exhaustion.
I was not prepared for you.
I’ve been surprised at how alone I can feel in parenting. I don’t usually feel like I need people to agree with my life choices to feel good about them. And still, people making different choices than me doesn’t make me want to do anything differently than I’ve set out to do it. But I do feel lonely in that sometimes. Occasionally, I just wish I knew other people who were doing it the same way too in whatever particular thing is on my mind that day. I think parenthood is such a community journey, something you get started on and can’t help but look around constantly for someone who is experiencing the same thing right then. (This explains the billions of mom-boards on the internet.) So maybe that’s all I’m lonely for sometimes, more people who are experiencing it the same way I am.
Here are some highlights in no particular order:
When you were about 8 months old, I was holding you and got to watch you very slowly form the word “Maaaa-mmmmaa”. I learned in a short amount of time that this was actually your word for food, but that never diminished the impact of that moment for me because I wouldn’t have cared if you’d said “dirt” honestly, the fulfilled dream was getting to be there the moment you first used a word to communicate something.
The time last summer when you started smiling at Evan and me, and we knew it was for real because you kept on doing it for several minutes. (It felt so silly but I had this strange sense of, “oh look, he likes us!”)
When I heard the song on this post at a Valentines day concert and felt immediately that it captured my experience of you so well.
The first time we went to breakfast together. Per usual, you made friends with everyone there. You also discovered the joy of pancakes. You’re welcome.
The times we came home from vacation, and you leapt out of my arms out of excitement when we walked in the door towards everything familiar to you.
Most days I don’t wonder if I’m a good mom or not. But I do question whether I’m giving you the right amount of attention. Somehow you give me the perfect amount most of the time. You are inquisitive and adventurous, perusing new things on your own. You often come back to check in with me though, to say hi, to request a book, or more recently, to give a snuggle. I hope we are able to keep that balance forever. I’ll try to keep following your lead.
Some days I struggle to be home with you. I worry that it’s not enough for me. I get frustrated when you have bad days and I can’t figure out why and then I start to overthink whether I can do this or not.
I love it every time I hear you say “Daddy.” Your adoration of each other makes me so happy, I often just sit and think about it. It’s better than I imagined it would be.
I don’t think about your labor much, because it was hard and it’s painful even to remember parts of it. I didn’t feel like I knew you the second I met you or had some crazy connection. I’m grateful for every second I’ve had with you, but I don’t really miss that time of our lives. It was necessary, and it had its sweet moments, but I’m glad you’re one, Wesley. Every new morning I’ve woken up to you has honestly been better than the one before. We’re just starting to get to know each other and I find that so exciting.
“I will dig deep
even while you sleep
until I break through
because I love you.
I’ve always loved you.
I will always love you.
And that’s how I break through
that’s how I break through.” - Costello
I think you would’ve really liked him.
In 2006, when you passed away, I counted on my hands the memories I had alone with you that really stood out. They were far outnumbered by your mysteries. I tucked away those gems but wondered how to grieve someone I spent so little time alone with. I mostly felt sad for my dad at the time, whose grief was overwhelming. You were the Grandma that gave me many gifts, and many mysteries.
Shortly after you died I was given a necklace of yours, which was your name “Myrna” in Arabic (ميرنا). It was given to you by a friend who spoke that language natively and also made jewelry. It’s the only thing I have of yours. This story felt like unlocking some piece of you I didn’t know, the young woman I never met. So I’ve worn it every day since. It encapsulated the warm and intriguing enigma you were to me. It connected a young woman to the fuzzy glimpses I have of shimmering figurines and done up nails and the gifting of my first “big girl” bicycle.
Your house was full of so many things I couldn’t touch and a seemingly infinite amount of things I loved to look at. I only remember staying at your house once, though I asked often. I remember eating at your restaurant with you, and how many people stopped to talk to us. I remember the time you pulled me aside a few weeks after Christmas and said you had forgotten to give me something special. It was a calculator, you said it reminded you of me. A gift and a mystery to me still.
Recently I’ve started to focus on how much I’ve missed out on. I’ve been dreaming about you… weird, awkward dreams where you’re standing in my living room because you never really died, and I’m hugging you and asking where you’ve been all this time. And I wake up crying. How deep an ocean can be hidden inside of us, that we don’t even know what is there. What creatures lurk in our depths, whose names we do not know? Or perhaps her name is grief, but she is the type to submerge herself for years at a time.
I would like to ask you so many things. I want to know about your parents, and what they were like. Now that I have a son, I wish I could sit and ask you a million things about my dad (things only mothers know about sons). I wish I could tell you about my son, and we could compare notes, and you could tell me about your early days as a mother. I wish I could hear what your labors were like. I wish I could know you as a grown woman, and not just as a child, when you were my grandmother. I would ask you if there is a statute of limitation on grief, or if our minds can put it on hold for us until the time where we might actually understand the loss. Is there more to come of this? Will the rest of my life be full of birthdays split with joy and grief?
We are about to celebrate Wesley’s one year birthday. I met Wesley last year, on the anniversary of your passing. He came out with his fist clenched up by his face and no real hair, just blonde fuzz. When they laid him on me for the first time, his little hand reached up and grabbed your name and I smiled;
a gift and a mystery.
Thanks for being the reason for the season! ;)
So fun to watch these two grow up together <3
For the first time, yours and mine are the same
Due June 21st to be the cutest family of all time.
A tree does not know where its seed will take root.
A flower does not decide which bee will bear its fruit.
A mother cannot bring about a vision for her child,
no matter how she bends the truth.
A bird does not trust its sons forever to the nest.
A fox has not the weave with which to keep her daughter dressed.
A mother cannot promise funds or firmness of the future,
but these are not the sources of her rest.
A star will die in chaos without all sense of direction.
A night gives birth to morning but makes no vain prediction.
A mother knows not what tomorrow is,
but still she keeps conviction.
She believes beyond all vacuums,
because of patterns, hopes and hints
that there exists a stronger love
than she could provenance.
We tried pools, lakes, splash pads, and we liked them all. Crazy to think that 1 year ago, I was treading water almost every day trying to encourage you to come out!
Lately you love: riding in carts, exploring with dad, sitting on Grammy’s lap, being read to (What are Duck and Goose Feeling? and when it gets to the Happy page you love to say “happphh”), standing on your tippy toes to see the chickens in the backyard, and watching daddy cook in the kitchen.
Aug 2018/ May 2019
I’ve been trying to write you something and I have one month left until June 6th and the right words aren’t arranging themselves how I would want them to. So I’ll tell you something else.
Today someone I know lost their baby at 36 weeks. Somehow this seems right to tell you, because maybe someday you will feel that this first year of life (and however many you are given after) was owed to you. But it might not have ever happened. That was possible too. However many years you get, and however many I get with you, I hope you’ll know each one was not owed to you. In school they may tell you something else, but this is why it’s important we learn to count things. Because our bodies know they won’t reach infinity on their own, but we do not.
You wouldn’t sleep last night and I’m tired today. The reason you wouldn’t is still a mystery. So much of your existence is wrapped up in these little and grand mysteries. The mystery of why I was given this year with you, and some aren’t given so much. Down to the mystery of why you couldn’t sleep last night. You’ve been teaching me minute by minute how to exist without knowing anything.
If I’m honest, I do wish I could know more.
How to settle a mind that wants conclusions before things have concluded. Conclusion is not owed to me. That you are still breathing and growing and thriving is the opposite of you concluding. Grief is the business of being given conclusions before we are ready for them.
Today I will keep my tired eyes open to you a little wider and a little longer, because today was not owed to us. I’ll wash you, dress you, and sing softly into your ear to help my eternal heart be present in this physical moment. I’ll hold you to myself and quiet any thoughts of the sacrifices I have made for you, and redirect them to how many opportunities I was given to sacrifice for you. What gifts.
And when my thoughts turn to fear, because death makes me fear conclusions will be drawn too early;
I’ll listen to your laugh, and I’ll pray it’s eternal.