Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Blood Gets Thicker

For background information about my grandmother, go here, here, and/or here.

Back in February, on the ride home from the rosary at Brooke’s grandpa’s funeral viewing, my father said, “I had occasion to lie to your grandmother recently.”

He has a tendency to start conversations in amusing and intriguing ways.

He told me that she had asked if I wanted anything of hers, and my father, ever the diplomat, said that I did. She handed him a small box with a large ring: platinum or white gold, covered in diamonds and Burmese rubies. It was a gift from my grandfather on their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, one they spent in Hawai’i. She wrote a short note describing the circumstances around it gifting, and Dad packed it away to bring to me. He had, of course, planned to do it under better circumstances.

The ring is one of those items which is either gorgeous or gaudy, depending on the wearer, the context, and one’s personal opinion. For my birthday, I wore a black silk dress with red flowers on it, and this ring matched perfectly. It worked. When I thanked my grandmother for the $50 check she sent for my birthday, the one with a note instructing me to take Brooke somewhere nice for dinner, I mentioned to her that I had worn the ring. I didn’t hear back. I was pregnant one week later.

Since I got pregnant, I had been concerned about how my father and I would deal with telling my grandmother about my delicate condition, as my father likes to say. I was ready to write a letter to my mother’s dear Aunt K, and it was time to tell her, so I wrote one to my grandmother as well. I was pleasant and granddaughterly, but I was also very clear that this pregnancy is a blessing to me and to Brooke and to the rest of my family, and if she wasn’t going to treat it as such, she could take a hike.

A week later, she called and left a message on our answering machine. “Hi! It’s Grandma! Congratulations! I’ve been busy getting my teeth fixed, so I haven’t had time to get a note in the mail to you. I’m gonna try your dad later this week. Bye!” There was feedback as she hung up the phone. A day later, a note arrived in the mail. She wrote about her new dogs, her zucchini bread baking marathon (32 loaves), and about news around town. She wrote how pleased she thought my mother would be and how excited she was. She addressed the note to Brooke and to me. She also wrote that my aunt had had a cyst removed from her rectum, but that “she is doing fine.”

On the phone with my brother the other night, I reported this bit of news about our aunt. He laughed and told Hope. “Poor Aunt O’Mascara,” I told him, “Having her news about her rectum broadcast everywhere.” Paul then told me how he had been on email with Aunt O’Mascara’s daughter, our cousin Big Hair. Big Hair told him that she had heard of our news through our grandmother and had been confused about how it was possible that Brooke and I were going to be having a baby in February.

“Things are different now,” my grandmother told her, with no commentary about the differences being good or bad. Maybe she is learning. Maybe she really wants to be a part of my life. Maybe it’s not too late.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Nesting, Take I

Last night, I froze the leftover chili, made dough for two loaves of sweet bread (froze one, the other is now rising), made soup stock, and made and froze soup. I'm ready to nest, baby. Bring it on.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Brooke and I celebrate our third wedding anniversary today. We have a lot of changes coming up this year, and I’m looking forward to most of them. I’m not looking forward to working opposite shifts so that we don’t have to pay for childcare, but all of the other stuff, like having a baby and being mommies, should prove to be good.

I don’t know what I would do without her, though. Brooke has been kind enough to massage my hips, sides, and belly with cocoa butter at night. We have no illusions about keeping stretch marks away, but it’s a nice ritual. Then she made me toast last night at midnight – two slices, and not even at the same time – and didn’t whine when I got her up at 7 this morning for my midwife appointment. Together, we heard Ebry’s heart beat. Together, we talked to the midwife about our questions and thoughts. Together, we made appointments for my big ultrasound and my next visit. At my next visit, I’ll be 20 weeks along. That’s halfway there.

I’m 40% done now. Brooke and I have been able to feel my uterus for a few weeks now, but I don’t think I’ve felt the baby move. That’s the next step. I want Brooke to feel the baby more than anything. She says she’s bonding with the kid already, but I think she’s really just bonding with my uterus.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Admiring a man

I spent two hours on the phone with my dad the other night. It was a really good time. We talked about everything from gutters to acupuncture. We enjoyed ourselves so much that I was stunned when I looked up at the clock to find that it was nearly midnight.

I like spending time with my dad. He seems to enjoy spending time with me, too. My friends like him, and he likes them. My dad is easy to get along with, although I would have laughed in your face if you told me that when I was 16. Was it just that I changed, or has my father changed, too? I never used to talk to him on the phone. I spoke with him briefly about financial matters or when he picked up the phone and passed it to my mom. Mom and I would talk all the time.

When I confronted my father with this fact the other night, he told me that with Mom and me in the room, he could barely get a word in the conversation. My brother doesn’t talk as much as I do, but he certainly outpaces my father.

Or maybe it’s just that I’m less interested in what my brother has to say.

My father is a self-described good listener, and there’s no way to dispute that. Despite my mother’s loquacity, she was an excellent listener. It’s a skill I like to think that I picked up from her: the ability to make conversation with a rock and to listen carefully and with purpose. Real listening isn’t just sitting quietly while someone talks. Real listening requires ascribing value to the words someone speaks, whether the speaker knows the importance of her/his words or not.

My dad? He does that. I feel important when I talk to him. He makes my words valuable.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Losing laughter

I’m not happy. I would like all of you, all of my friends and family, and I would even like me to believe that I am happy. I’m calm. I’m capable of dealing with stress when it comes. I’m capable of making decisions that allow me to avoid stress. I’m thrilled that I’m pregnant. I’m thrilled to be embarking on a new chapter in my life, one where I’m going to be a parent.

Brooke mentioned the other day that she hadn’t heard me really laugh in a long time. I had noticed this about myself. Some things are funny, but I most often find myself laughing along with other people because I think I ought to, not because I’m really inspired to laugh. The threat of losing laughter makes me truly and deeply sad. It brought tears to my eyes when Brooke told me how absent my laughter had been. It was not the only thing that had brought tears to my eyes recently, but it was one of a few.

I probably need therapy. I probably need to reduce my dependence on acupuncture’s calming effects. Outward displays of emotion are necessary to relating to other people, to living. I’m not able to show how I’m feeling, and it’s really limiting me. Being calm and content cannot really replace being happy, but I spent a long time striving for calm and content, with happiness so far out of reach, that I feel like I’m in a good place.

I’m on an outcropping of rock, neither on the top of the mountain nor at risk of sliding down. I need to stop smiling at everyone on top as though I’m not so far from where they are.

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