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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Something Borrowed

This might not make a lot of sense to anyone who hasn't lost a child, but I thought I'd share it anyway.

Over the last couple of summers, I've worn a pair of Cory's shoes down to almost nothing.  Her favorite hoodie is my wrapping of choice in the sub-artic climate of my local Starbucks- whether I'm working on homework,writing on this blog, or making art, I am nearly always covered in her My Chemical Romance concert hoodie, no matter the season.  But that is pretty much all I have worn except for a couple pairs of shoes she'd left downstairs and her precious pearls that they took off her neck at the funeral to hand me.

I've thought about going upstairs a dozen times for a sweater or a dress, but just couldn't do it.  Why not, you ask?  Why keep all that stuff if you're not going to use it?

It's kinda like this:  when I think about Cory's room being maintained intact exactly the way it was the day she died, it provides me one small space in this world where she still is, other than that pretty, but wretched, plot in Bedford Cemetery, where her beautiful monument stands that I never in a million years wanted to design, sketching it out with shaking hands and a heaving chest, the tears falling all over my paper. 

 Do you see the difference?  One place gives me pictures in my head of her walking and talking, putting laundry away with music blaring and her cat at her feet.  The other quickly takes me back to howling at the sky on the eleventh of July as her casket waited to be lowered into the ground.

It makes a certain amount of logical sense that I want her room kept intact until you add in the fact that I can't bear to go in her room.  I spend almost no time in there at all.  It kills me to have so many memory triggers all rounded up in one place.  And it still, ever so faintly, smells like her.  

I remember the day after she died, I drove myself to Summit Pointe like a mad woman, desperate to see Dr. Z, desperate for him to tell me this wan't true or that something could be done.  After he had sat with me for longer than he really had to- the dear, sweet man that he was- he handed me off to a therapist until my sister and mom could get there to pick me up.  It was determined I was not safe to be driving.  

While waiting, this lady suggested that I get into Cory's bed and sleep that night.  I looked at her like she had quite lost her mind.  She explained that the smell of her and being surrounded by her things might bring me comfort.  I was openly horrified.  Disturb her bed, that she had left carefully made?  Be around all of her things, but not have her?  Expect to see her around every corner only to have the image of her lying on the road pop up instead.  No, thank you, lady.  Go peddle that shady advice somewhere else.

So it's pretty much like this:  It brings me immeasurable  comfort knowing her room is there, maintained as it was, even if I can't bear to go in.

Now comes the part about her clothes.  Lately, I've been in this awful dilemma where I sort of want some of her things to wear, but I am scared to death of disturbing the careful time capsule of her bedroom.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know it's stupid.  I know I'm being a big ass baby.  But that's the way I feel.

So then I started thinking, some minor changes have already occurred.  I brought her dolls down from the trunk at the bottom of her bed and put them on the shelves that line my studio.  All of her paintings that we've had framed rest against the walls of her room waiting patiently for the next time I go to speak at a college class about grief or mental illness.  They weren't there before.  And wouldn't she be delighted?

Why does it seem so different to paw through her drawers or rifle through her closet?  I don't know, but it just does.  I've been terrified that if I start moving stuff around, her space will be less hers, she will be less here.  I sometimes still question that she's dead.   And then on the other hand, the less people talk about her, the more that people move on with their own lives, I feel like I need tangible proof that she was here and that I haven't made up this wondrous creature in my head.  She was here.  See, look at all the things she touched!  This was her space.

I talked to a few trusted friends who all said, go up there, get her stuff, and feel close to your girl.  She'd want you to.  These responses were perfectly logical.  But grief isn't logical.  Only another Momma who'd lost their child would recognize my madness.  So I got ahold of another parent I knew who has lost a child and asked her.  She said she wasn't able to fit into her daughter's clothes, but if she could, she'd wear everything.  Okay, then.  Here I go.

I called out to Jake seconds after reading my friend's response.  I explained the mission to him.  Yes, he was willing to help me, but it kills him to go in Cory's room, too, he said.  We approached the doorway with this thought on repeat in my mind I'm a big brave dog...I'm a big brave dog...I'm a big brave dog.  I reached for Jake's hand and he clasped mine tightly.  For a fifteen year old boy who burns with embarrassment if I touch him in anyway in public or even talk to loud, he is unspeakably mature in other situations.  Hand in hand, we started up the stairs, the smell of her already all around us.  Closet first.

Jake stood there, talking about school, talking about a movie we'd recently seen, talking about the pets, anything to keep me from breaking down on the spot.  Could he be more sweet?  No, he could not.  Pushing each item past on the rack, I could see her in it and my heart just recoiled as if struck.  I finally chose a dress, laid it reverently  on the rail over her staircase and we moved together, hand in hand further into her room.  There it was...her bed, carefully made, her dresser with trinkets laid out, books on her nightstand...
How has this happened?  She can't be dead.

I stopped looking around because I was feeling the urge to bail and instead approached her dresser.  She had made labels for everything and with a smile, I opened the one that said "Good sweaters".  I pulled one out and brought it to my nose.  Jake kept up a steady banter beside me and his voice got farther away as her faded scent filled my nose.  Before I lost it completely,  I grabbed up another and decided to retreat.

What did I take?

One sweater is a pinkish purple soft cable knit she'd gotten on a trip with church friends to the outlet malls.  She had money to spend and all decisions were her own.  If I remember correctly, she'd been so anxious about her purchases, she had bought this, returned it, and re-bought it before the day was over.  At any rate, she had dubbed it her absolute favorite.  When she wore it with her Christmas pearls, her whole face glowed pink and lovely.  I have a picture of her wearing it.

The other sweater is a soft taupe V-neck that is super long.  She wore it with some raspberry colored corduroy leggings when leggings had first arrived on the scene and she looked so cute I couldn't stand it.  I have a picture of her wearing this too on Christmas Day (her last Christmas Day) with her fox purse held up under her chin and her eyes joyful.

The dress is a navy blue flowered maxi dress from the first summer maxi dresses had come back in style.  I had asked her to borrow once and she had gently said no, invoking our previously agreed upon rule.  If one has a clothing item that makes them feel especially beautiful, one is able to deny loaning rights to the Mommy or the Cory, so as not to lose that any faction of that feeling by seeing it look beautiful on someone else.  Sadly, I do not have a picture of her wearing this one, but I can remember it pretty well.  Her posture was straighter.  Her gait a bit more grown up.  Yes, this dress had made her feel beautiful.

I took them downstairs, smelled them forcefully one last time like snorting something illegal, and reluctantly put them in the washer on gentle cycle.  I went back to my bedroom and sat there, the hot tears running down my cheeks.  I hope I did the right thing.  I hope I didn't screw it up.  Again.

I'm not sure how it will feel to wear these.  I hope I feel her wrapped snugly around me.  One thing I know from the shoes, is that if anyone says they like them, I will have a chance to say her name and that is worth more than I could ever explain.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Siren Call

Sometimes I give myself a lot of grief for not doing better "by now".  Other times, it's painfully obvious why this has been the slow, dark, super twisty path that grief is for everyone- made even slower, darker, and infinitely more bendy by trauma.

Today was one of the days I could see it so clearly:  side A, if Cory had died on the road and the police had knocked on my door and side B, running onto the scene before they got there and seeing her the way that I saw her.

Maybe everyone who knows me and has been reading this blog already knows about these sides and how they affect my behavior and others who have been through these situations.  But I'm not sure I always do.  I'm in the middle of it all the time and that makes it hard to see the distinction or sometimes to even lift my head out of the storm to look around at all. But today, during the course of an outing, it became so clear.

This morning, I was up early on a Saturday, wearing some new leggings and cute booties from last fall.  I was headed to Starbucks to work on my Stats for the Behavioral Sciences and I was feeling GOOD...good, in only the way that walking in a pair of boots with heels can make me feel.  You guys know what I mean...suddenly, you feel another half a foot taller, at least, and there is a swing to your hips that wasn't there before.  I love fall.

So I got all my work done while enjoying a Salted Caramel Mocha and without having my arm half chewed off by my puppy.  I even finished sooner than I expected.  I decided to head over to Kohl's and Target, on the hunt for Jake a couple more hoodies for school.  He is, after all, a fifteen year old boy who hates clothes shopping.  When we shopped for school over the course of the last month, he claimed to need very little in order to be able to leave the tortuous errand of shopping.  Well, the weather has turned cool in the mornings this past week, so guess who suddenly can't live without more hoodies?

I was on a mission.  And, as always, I found about twenty different things that looked exactly like Cory.  Partway through Kohl's, I put in my earbuds and started listening to music to block out how badly those clothing items prompted me to miss my girl.  This worked great for a good half hour until purely by chance, one of the songs that was played at her visitation came on:   "Miserable at Best" by Mayday Parade.  My mood started to slip as if I'd stepped onto a faulty part of the ground in my super cute block heeled black ankle boots.   The first line or so of that song squeezed my heart dry, but never did I feel like a bad mom.  I only yearned for her so powerfully it made me feel a little dizzy.  But I switched the music up and kept on trucking.  Jacob needed hoodies.

I made it through Kohl's and headed onto Target.  There I spotted the absolute coolest Princess Leia slouchy sweatshirt and before I could help it, tears had sprung up in my eyes.  Fuck.  This is hard.  Cory, I miss you SO much.

I ended my little Mommy Without Cory errand running day by venturing over to the mall and into Hot Topic to see if there were any Panic at the Disco hoodies Jake would like.  While there, I came across a Gerard Way shirt she would've literally jumped up and down for and several My Chemical Romance shirts she would've had draped innocently over her arm before I could turn around, batting her gorgeous eyes at me all the while.  What I wouldn't give to have her here so I buy them all for her just to hear her squeal.

But I was still doing good.  I missed her horribly, but I was doing okay.  I was snapping pics of stuff Jake might like and texting back and forth with him.  I was still, in other words, in the present tense.  I walked out of there, still digging my boots and swinging my hips, my shoulders straight, feeling impossibly tall.  I am safe.  I can handle this.

I listened to music the whole way home, looking forward to catching up with Jake, showing him his loot, and going over the movie It that we saw with my mom yesterday.  The sun was shining, it was a perfect 70 degrees out, and it was my day off.  I got my homework done and had decided to grab Subway instead of cooking...I'd had enough grief triggers for the day, thank you very much.

I left Subway with our dinner swinging in a bag around my wrist and some ice cold beverages in my hands.  Life was as good as it could be without Cory...which, by the way, always kind of sucks, but was a good day.

Driving towards home on West Michigan, with The Used blaring, my only thoughts were how much I looked forward to seeing The Used in November with Jacob in Grand Rapids...his first standing room on the floor only concert at an all ages smaller venue and how to squeeze the three new dresses I saw at Target into the budget.  They must be mine.  They must!

When I spotted the flashing lights in my rear view mirror, I was in the middle of mentally matching each dress with the correct color of over the knee boots and dreaming up accessories.

To say, it caught me off guard...not even remotely accurate.   It was like being hit in face with a brick when you, eyes closed and smiling slightly, were expecting a feathery, tentative kiss.

Some responses are automatic.  I pulled over the right, ever the compliant citizen.  But I couldn't stop myself from watching it streak past.

And the sound?

There is not one single trigger I have experienced in the last five years and two months that instantly takes me back to that scene faster and harder than that damn blatting sound a fire engine makes when its en route to an emergency.  Do you know the sound?

I hear it in my dreams all the time.

Today, it seemed to fill the world.  Maybe it's because I was so far away from the scene in my enjoyment of the day.  It was jarring.  It interrupted -no scratch that- it threatened my sense of safety...and the careful management of my grief.  "You think you're okay, huh?  How bout now?", it sneered.

If you were sitting beside me in the car on the side of the road, you could've snapped your fingers right in front of my face and I'm not sure what response you'd have gotten.  Nothing?  A blank stare?  A scream?  A flinch?

What I do know is that the image of that fire engine streaking past combined with the blatting of the horn immediately placed my feet on the pavemenet and my eyes on Cory's body...a kaleidoscope of horrific images, or maybe an old-fashioned projector...legs hanging in her mouth as they turned her over...the rescue workers cutting her shirt, someone screaming, oh, right, that was me...

I could literally feel the heat coming up off the pavement.  I could feel it under my bare knees.  Sitting in the driver's seat of my car, where it was easily 70 degrees, maybe even 68 with the ac going, and my knees encased in the aforementioned motocross leggings, it suddenly felt like a hundred degrees and as if my face was baking.

I had to put my head down and my flashers on and just wait for it to hands shaking...breathing too fast...not at all like a S.T.A.R....crying without knowing it yet...

The sirens are bad enough. They always bother me.  The flashing lights suck.  They pick at scabs that will never fully heal. At least I know to look out for them.

The hidden triggers though...they are like sharp rocks launched at me while I'm walking by, completely unaware.  If I drive by an animal who has been hit and died on the brings ups all sorts of awful connotations.  If someone in everyday conversation says, "roadkill" or "break your neck"  or "run them over with my car" or "splat on the road", it feels like someone has put my heart in a noose and pushed it off a short ladder.  I can hear and feel the snap, and the rest of my day, however good it has been, is ruined.

But the blatting of a fire engine horn is easily the worst.  It brings it ALL back and in seconds.   I am never prepared for it, even if I've spotted the vehicle first, as I did today.  Somehow, I am never expecting to hear that wretched sound.  Surely, it was bad enough the first time.  What sick universe would replay that shit?

So I pulled myself together and eased my car back onto the road to drive myself the rest of the way home on the road Cory died on. I hate West Michigan. I fucking hate it.

This is where the difference between trauma and not trauma surfaces.

How did I feel in the car, with dinner beside me on the seat, getting ready to greet my boy?

I felt afraid.  I felt worried.  I felt like I was on guard.  About what? Against what?   I don't even know.  My heart was beating too fast and my muscles felt too tight.  My scalp didn't seem to fit my head anymore.  But more than anything?  I felt that heavy sense of self-loathing and the weight of the guilt had instantly put a slump in my shoulders.  I did that to her.  I let her get hurt.  I broke her.  I broke my baby.  I shouldn't have let her walk to the store.  Maybe she wasn't ready.  Stupid, Nick, stupid, stupid, stupid!!!!

Here I am now, a couple of hours later, trying to process it all and gain some control over the free fall I feel in my body and in my mind.  Maybe in a little bit, I'll get my paints out or try on some boots.  It won't fix it, but it might help.  It can't hurt to try.  Just please, no more sirens tonight.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Back To School

Hey Cory...
I've been missing you every day.  Every day, every day, every day, every day...

(deep breath)

It's so hard this time of year, getting all your brother's stuff for school.  I wanna buy you everything...just ALL THE THINGS!  Everywhere I look, there you are.  Dresses and scarves and boots.  I wanna get you a new book bag and two new purses so you don't have to choose. I wanna buy all sorts of  makeup and facial cleansers and just all kinds of stupid crap for you that you don't even need.  I wanna argue with you about the new guy you're dating who is obviously a total dick that you can't stop pursuing because he reminds you of your father.  I want you to tell me that even if that's true, it's your life and your mistakes to make because you are "twenty four years old, for crying out loud, Mom!"  
 I want to feel my heart break in half when you say you're moving out with a friend because it's time.  I want to lose sleep worrying that you'll forget to take your meds or that I'll get a call in the middle of the night from your roommate that you are acting a little strange.  I want you to show up and ask me for some money to last until payday because you haven't quite figured out the budget thing yet.  I want you to text me all the small things and the big things that make up your day. I want to hear you bitch about Econ and wax poetic about art.   I wanna hear your voice.  I just wanna hear your voice.

I'm so sorry, Cory.  I'm so fucking sorry.

All this, said out loud, bent over her grave.  Then I grab her monument around its supposed waist and try to hug it, but it has no give and feels all too reminiscent of the way she felt the last time I touched her.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Nearest Fight Club

It is still alarming to me how I can go from perfectly calm to absolutely enraged so quickly now.  It's like the anger is always there, right below the surface, bubbling like a stew.  I never used to be like this.  With any small stresser, I seem to boil over.   Two places in general are good triggers.  Any guesses?

The cemetery and the grocery store.

My feelings about the cemetery waffle back and forth between sad, depressed, and empty to furious, guilt-ridden, and out of control.

There are days when I miss her so badly, I go to the cemetery despite myself, unsure which feelings will follow, but needing in the worst way to be near her.  Sometimes the feelings set in the moment I've made the turn and I realize it's going to go badly, but at that point, I can't turn the car around.  I would never leave without seeing my girl.  I made it my mission in her life to never show her my back the way so many others did.  I can't do it now, even if she's under a slab of concrete and my back has become taillights.  I will never not show up for her.  That isn't me, Bob.

I abhor going to the grocery store, any grocery store. Family Fare may be worse, but the others aren't much better.  Trust me, I've tried them all.   It is complete and utter self-loathing every time I set foot on a grocery shopping errand.  Oh sure, NOW you go!  Too fucking lazy to go the day Cory died, but by all means, let's go grab a gallon of milk now that she's dead in the ground.  Good thinking, Nick!
These thoughts are so intrusive, I have resorted to earbuds while grocery shopping to try to distract myself.  If you see me bopping along in the produce section, looking more than a little pissed off...well, yeah, I guess I am a little unwell, but at least I'm coping.  I discontinued my Blue Apron subscription a few months ago as the meat quality had gone down, in my opinion, and the boys weren't feeling the exotic side dishes.  There is no choice now but to grocery shop, so I do.  I hate it.  I absolutely detest it.  By the time I've hit the parking lot, I am feeling like an absolute murderer.  If I've stopped by Family Fare (which I do all too often to because it's nearby), I have to drive right over the stretch of road where she died to get home and it completes the torture in the way only techno-color flashbacks of your child's broken body can.

Pissed off all the time.  Pissed off even when I don't have a particular reason to be or have the slightest  idea why I am.    I read somewhere that guilt is anger turned inward.  I guess I've got it inward, outward, and sideways.

Today I stopped by the store for just a couple of things.  I put my earbuds in and rushed in and out of there like the place was on fire.  But even with those precautionary measures, by the time I got to the car, not even five minutes later, my jaw was clenched, my hands were balled into fists, and I was ready to scream.  I drove past her spot, holding one hand up to block my sight and turned onto my road with my stomach in a knot.  The last steps she ever took...down this road and to what end?  Sent my beautiful girl to her death is what I did.  I don't even deserve to be here, grocery shopping or listening to music or just sitting here being mad.

 Four hours later, and I'm still just seething with anger.  Instead of wandering out into the night to join a Fight Club, I thought I'd write it out instead.  Not sure writing is as satisfying, but at least no one gets hurt.

Here's where I fall back on Lady's mantra:  however you feel is okay.  And hear Dr. Z's voice saying wisely, "Trust the Process."  I found a charm bracelet this past week with this saying on it and could not believe my luck.  Now I can wear it alongside Cory's Pandora bracelet, which contains a charm with the letter "Z" for her beloved doctor.  This man saved her life and mine.  I love him dearly.  If he thought being angry, being furious, actually, was okay as long as I didn't hunt anyone down to kill them, then I'm just going to keep plugging along.  Dr. Z is a very wise man.  Someone who could lead my girl out of the darkness is someone I will take advice from.

So for now, no fight club.  I'm gonna Trust the Process

Friday, August 18, 2017

Take You For a Ride

Have I told you that Jake was taking driver's ed this summer?

He finished this past weekend.  He was so excited and proud of himself that I had to take him directly to Secretary of State when I got out of work Monday afternoon.  Neither of us, to be quite honest, could wait another moment.  Our number when we pulled it off the dispenser in the lobby was 58, they were on, oh...25. (Insert wry smile here).   Typical Secretary of State on a Monday.  We waited in the crowded room for what seemed like forever.   At last, they handed him a rather plain, but official looking, paper with no photo:  his level one license.  He was elated.  Jacob is the most mellow individual ever, so to see him excited...well, there's nothing like it.
In the parking lot of the Secretary of State, we passed the paper back and forth, marveling over it properly and I managed to snap a couple of pics for posterity, which speaks volumes to Jake's excitement because he rarely allows photo ops without some type of bribe.  Suddenly, we realized a small problem.  The last wallet we'd bought him was years old and boasted Buzz Lightyear.  This simply would not do.

 Luckily, Kohl's was just down the road.  We ran in on a mission and walked out about three minutes later with a more appropriate wallet in hand.  Once back in the car, he pulled the tags off and grimaced when he realized he'd have to fold the permit in half in order to get it inside.  He caught himself frowning and chuckled, "You know folding this is killing me, right?"  I laughed.  Jacob has always wanted everything just so.  Back in preschool, he wanted no part of messy play or lunchtime spills.  When he came home, his outfit was just as pristine as it had been when he left.  That hasn't changed a bit.

Jake was excited, but still a little anxious, he said, about driving with me on the actual road.  He asked me to drive the first little bit while he worked up his nerve.  When we got close to our house, I pulled into a parking lot and we switched sides.   I watched him methodically arrange his mirrors, check the fuel level, and look all around him before backing out, smiling to myself all the while.  He is so controlled.  I sometimes wonder if he has a wild bone in his body.  And if he turns out that he does, well, someday, as long as it doesn't land him in jail, I will be delighted to see it.  Cut loose a little, son.  You only live once.

Cautiously, he eased onto the roadway and turned our car in Cory's direction.  A few minutes later, he pulled us into the cemetery.  He stopped carefully beside her on the lane and we got out.
How do I explain the duality of emotions I was feeling?
There was so much pride and excitement for my boy.  There was so much wonder at this new phase in his development.  There was unfamiliar, cautious joy at this juncture of parenting I had never made it to with Cory.  But then, too, there was overwhelming sadness that Cory had been cheated this small pleasure and that I been cheated the chance to experience it with her.
I was thrilled for Jake, but as I have mentioned before, the joy was smaller.  It would have been so much larger had we been driving to Cory's place of work or her apartment...or even just home, bursting in the door so Jake could call her down from her room to "Come see what I got, Cory!"

No, we were here instead.  I watched, reverent and my heart breaking, as Jacob walked up to her monument, centered himself before her, and tugged his brand new wallet out of his back pocket. He never faltered.   He fished the plain paper out, unfolded it carefully, and held it out to the marker in front of him that has come to represent the previously flesh and blood big sister who used to play popguns and eat popsicles with him in the backyard.
His voice was quiet, but genuinely excited, as he said,
"Hi."  He paused here, looking down, waiting, as if for an answer to his greeting.   I looked over at him, noticing again that he is now taller than I am, taller than Cory had been.  I  saw the way he bent his head in her presence, speaking to the ground; shy, but earnest.  His shadow fell across her monument, and in that moment, it struck me that it was a man's shadow now, not a little boy's.
 I nearly burst out crying then.  How could you not?

He said to her monument, with the smallest of smiles, but the pain of missing her painted across his features, "Look what I got, Cory.  I got my license.  And a new wallet to put it in.  I just....I just wish you were here. So I could take you for a ride."

Sunday, August 13, 2017

That Voice

I know the voice that pops up in my thoughts is nothing like the ones that plagued Cory, day after day, night after night.  It doesn't curse at me.  I don't consider it independent of myself.  It doesn't tell me to hurt myself.  But if I'm to tell the truth as I say I would, it's important to share what this voice is like...what it does it changes the course of my thoughts.

I think that right now, after five years, I am finally acting normal enough in most situations that people think I'm okay.
I'm not.
I try really hard, but I'm not.  And if there's anything I learned from Cory, it's that holding it inside saps your strength and puts you at risk.
I'm not okay.  Sometimes it comes out as irrational anger that just spews from my mouth, my pen, my keyboard.  I wish the people I love most could just remember I am never angry at them.  I am angry at the driver, the cops...the possibly exists/probably doesn't God...but mostly, I am angry at myself.

My sister and I were pregnant at the same time when I was carrying Cory.  It was crazy.  She was happily married, steady, in a good place.  I was nineteen, unmarried, and in an abusive relationship.  Regardless of the circumstances, we brought two of the sweetest babies who ever lived into the family.  They were showstoppers at Sunday dinners, toddling around with their smiles.  They went to school together everyday, kindergarten through high school.  They were buds.  He always looked out for her.  And she adored him.

So today when I see where my nephew is...married, working, and a brand new Daddy, it is automatic to go see where Cory the cemetery, under ground, a mother to no one.  My brain, relentlessly begins asking, "Where did you go wrong here, Nick?  What did you DO?"

I take deep breaths like I'm supposed to, like I always told Cory to, but that voice doesn't really go away.  It's always there.  It may quiet down sometimes, but out of nowhere, it can pipe up again, sometimes accusatory, but other times, just honestly curious, "How could you let this happen to her?"

So what happens next is that I replay every thing that happened the day she died and mentally circle the ten different things I could have done differently to change the course of events.  There are so many possibilities, variations... combinations.  Intellectually, I understand that hindsight is everything.  I understand that what I'm doing is madness.  It is warped thinking.  It is pervasive.  It is useless.

But my heart.  My heart understands nothing. Nothing, do you hear me? My stupid heart just sits in my chest, rocking back and forth, helplessly crying out, "I killed my baby!  I killed her!  I killed my baby!"

The guilt swallows me.  It makes it hard to breathe.  It parades her past me in a white lacy dress or hospital johnny with a newborn in the crook of her arm.

Her arm was twisted all the way around.  They didn't even put her in the ambulance.  They cut her shirt open with scissors.  Her lips were blue.  No paddles for her.  There was so much blood.

Cue that voice:  "How could you let that happen to her?  What kind of mother are you, anyway?"

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Calling Me

The pull to the cemetery right now is overpowering.  It's weird because there for awhile I couldn't go at all.  It was just too hard, too painful.  Lately, my car seems to turn in that direction of its own accord.  Even if I had no plans of going there, even if I am empty handed, and most often when my insides are a shaking, jumbled up mess, my hands turn the steering wheel onto the narrow lane.  I always see her, standing tall above the others in her row and in her section.
A friend asked me lately what do I do I talk to her?
Well, sometimes.  But it's awfully depressing to pour your heart out and get no answer.  So sometimes I just sit in the car and cry.  Write.  Draw.  Other times, I bring her flowers, pull the weeds, arrange her little trinkets...a heart breaking substitute for folding her laundry or hectoring her for the thousandth time to straighten up her room.  Sometimes I walk.  I come here with Jake sometimes, but alone most of the time.  Tim visits what?  Once a year?  And only then, when I set it up, like a play date.
Why the many visits just lately?
I guess because I can feel and see everyone passing her by.  Their stories are getting longer and bigger.  Hers was cut short and it's over.  Her story is over and I wasn't ready for it to be.  She wasn't ready for it to be.  Someone told me the other day, that with her mental health issues, perhaps Cory had prayed to be taken out of the situation.  I could feel rage boil up my throat like a tactical missile.  But my affect has become rather flat lately, so I just said, "I think she wanted to be here."
Yeah, she wanted to be here.  Even if it was hard.  Even if she'd gotten a shit deal.  She wanted to be here.  Can't you tell from how hard she tried?  Every day?
Which brings this circle to the same painful closing.  (Get ready, Dr. Z, the four therapists I've seen, and countless friends and family, to cluck your tongue and shake your head.)
I should've gone to the store.  If I'd gone, the lady never would've hit her.  She'd have been safe at home.  And to the people who think God has your days numbered, I say maybe, maybe not...I'm not so sure.  Not so sure there's a God so even less sure there is a giant ledger somewhere with Cory's departing death date on it, stamped in waterproof red ink.
  What I do know for certain is that I could have gone to the store myself instead of letting her walk to the store for the chili powder.  And if I had, she may very well be here. She would be 24 years old.  She would be adding to her story.  Maybe she would be getting ready to be a Little Momma, too.  Who knows?  I will never know because I fucked up.  This knowledge sits in my chest like a rock..a rock with sharp edges that cuts me just a little every time I move.  Any criticism from others, any small mistake I make, changes route with lightening speed to "well, that Nicole Mansfield?  She couldn't even manage to keep her kid alive, so what do you expect?"
That's the voice I hear.  How about that?  I guess I hear voices, too.  I wish I could tell Cory.  She'd be flabbergasted.
I'm not sure what going to the cemetery every day accomplishes.  I don't know if it's helping or hurting.  I just know I feel her getting smaller, fuzzier.  I see it when I pass  her spot on the road and the weeds have taken over.  I see it when I kneel to pull them from around the base of her monument.  Jacob sticks to a few trusted stories and when I trot out others, he often says he can't really remember them.  This kills me.  She must be remembered.  She must be remembered.  She must be remembered.
So whether all these visits lately are a good thing or not, I don't know.  I just know that when I hear her calling, I go to see her.  I couldn't make it to her in time that day on the road.  This is the least I can do.