Thursday, February 7, 2013
So She Hears Us
I say "is", because "was" doesn't feel good. Or accurate. But this is the first birthday she isn't here to celebrate.
Today feels harder than other days.
My husband disagrees. I'd been watching him closely in recent days, waiting for his grief--always hidden, always unspoken--to break its way to the surface as this day crept closer. In a way, I wanted it to break through. His grief, a hundred million times greater than my own, isn't something we talk about. He prefers it that way; respecting that is the only thing I can do for him. Wanting to help him, to take away some of his pain, isn't possible. Isn't enough. He says today is as hard as all the rest of them. And while I can't understand...I get it.
But still. Today came, and I came downstairs and lit a yarhzeit candle for Laurie. And then I made the coffee and poured milk into sippy cups and made E's lunch, because that's the way grief works--you move around it and with it, feeling guilty and conflicted for putting Sweet N Low in the bottom of a mug like you do every day even though it feels like the world should have stopped.
E came into the kitchen while I was lighting the candle and asked me what it was for. I told her it was Grammy's birthday and explained how the candle would burn for 24 hours while we remembered her.
"Can we sing Happy Birthday, Mommy?" she asked. "Really loud so we know she hears us?"
So we did. We sang 'Happy Birthday' really loud, so Grammy could hear us, and even N joined in, and then E decided to make her a birthday present with a box of markers and an empty milk bottle, and J came down as I was staring at the candle and crying.
I don't want my pain, so insignificant compared to his, to make J's worse. I can never find that balance between being supportive, and giving him the space I know he wants. Mention the candle? Don't mention it? When you are navigating someone else's grief, there are no right answers.
"Why are you crying, Mommy?" E asked, scribbling furiously at the side of the bottle with a "mint green" marker, which we'd decided was Grammy's favorite.
"It's Grammy's birthday today," J told her, letting me dodge the question. For a second, he looked sadder than usual. And then he didn't.
"I know Daddy, we sang to her. And I'm making her this milk bottle for a present."
"Should we have cupcakes tonight to celebrate? I think she'd like that," J said to E. She nodded vigorously, focused on her work.
"Can you pick up the dry cleaning today?" J asked me, his eyes resting on the candle for the briefest of moments.
"Yes," I said.
I meant so much more.
Today is Laurie's birthday, and we are celebrating, and grieving, and remembering...each of us in our own way. If there's one thing I'm learning about grief, it's that when there are no right answers, doing what feels right is the only option we have. So I picked up the dry cleaning, and J went to work, and we're having cupcakes for dinner.
Happy Birthday, Grammy.
We love you and miss you, today and every day.
And we're all going to eat buttercream frosting until our stomachs hurt to prove it.