“Fine, I’ll leave you alone,” she says to me and then turns on her side.

“No!” I reply as I finally put the book down and reach for her.  “No, tell me.  I’m here.  What do you want to talk about?”

“Forget it.  You don’t want to talk about this now.  It can wait,” she finishes, and stays turned.

“Just tell me.  It’s fine.”

“It’s not.  I know you don’t want to talk about it right now.   It’s not a good time.”

“It’s fine,” I reply, again.  “You know you won’t be alright until you tell me so just go ahead.”

“And I know you don’t want to talk about this right now.”

The silence stretches and then she speaks.

We are both right, but she can’t wait.  She never can.  When Lu thinks of something she has to talk about it and it consumes her until she can get it out.  Not me.  I can take a thought or a discussion I need to have and put it in a box until a later time.  And it’s not like it eats me up until then.  I just put it away and ignore the mental itch until what seems like a good time to me.  Sometimes never turns out to be the right time to say certain things.

But both of us are good communicators and we trust each other completely, so it’s fairly easy for us to talk to each other about how we are feeling and try to figure things out.  Still, sometimes I am completely amazed and how differently we deal with the World.

I know that Lu spends every day thinking about how each day would have gone if Silas were here with us.  She thinks about child-care, about diapers, about whether or not we’d be sleeping or if he was going to be a screamer and night owl, keeping us up at all hours.  Her feelings for him and her powerful longing for her child are intertwined with her every waking minute.  She wants to talk about what she is feeling and how things went today, and she often wonders aloud how we would have juggled our lives, our work and our new son.

That is not the case for me.  Silas is a constant thought and constant presence in my life, but in a totally different manner.  I rarely consider how a particular moment would be different if Silas were here.  That happens at times, but mostly it is too painful and impossible to think about.  Instead, I think about where I am and what I am doing even though he is not here. That is a subtle and important difference, to me.  Our lives would be on such a vastly different trajectory that to attempt to insert him into this brutal reality is painfully futile.

Obviously I feel a need to understand and explore how I’m feeling, but it’s not something I can do all the time.  Often, I have to be simply in the moment, dealing with whatever is directly in front of me.  I think it is different for Lu.  I think thinking about Silas is the #1 thing for her and everything else is incidental.  “How does this affect me as a woman that lost a baby, and what would it be like if Silas were here?” is the constant refrain for her.

For me it’s:  “I’m a father whose son died and this is what I have to do, now.”  Work, plans, getting up, seeing friends, going family events, chores, stores, whatever.  Go, go, do it.  Don’t think, just get the things done that really need doing and deal directly with exactly what is going on.  Not the past, not what I think might happen or could happen or should happen, just what is.  Get those things done and put the pain of losing Silas aside for the moment.  Not him, never that.  He’s always there in my mind and soul and heart.  But the pain I can box away when I need to be effective.

The problem is I can’t do that all the time, either.  Whenever I take the path of what-if and should-be I have to burrow and hide.  All those minor things that still need to get done?  Eff that.  Dishes?  Eh.  Bills?  Fuckit.  Head outside and take or hike or maybe go to the movies?  Naw.  Don’t feel like it.  Just gonna sit here and feel lonely and… self-contained.  Friends and family can’t help that much.  Not even Lu can penetrate the pervasive aloneness I feel sometimes.

It is the sensation of my life as an ongoing disaster that just chugs along.  Losing Silas has transformed not only my future, but also my past.  Somehow I have to reconcile all the previous choices in my life to the place where I am right now.  And it’s not even a matter of looking back through everything to decide what I could have done different, but rather the fact that this is the way I’ve led my life and here it is where I’ve arrived.  This.  This disaster is all mine and I’ve got to figure out how to deal with it.

And what do you do in a disaster? You run and then you hide.  You take cover until all the flying pieces stop slicing through the air, the ground stops shaking, the fires are put out.  Then, once the dust settles and the smoke clears, you crawl back into the sunlight and start sorting all the destruction into piles of  “Useful” and “Garbage” and you get to work putting things back together again.

Unfortunately, every time I open my eyes in the morning it’s a brand new disaster to crawl out from under, and it is a harsh and blinding light that burns me in rays of unyielding truth.  I see my life amid the destruction and I am daunted by the sheer mess of it all.  I am staggered by the number of pieces around me, and the way I long for the shapes they used to form.

It is in all this sorting and reconstruction that I see the difference between Lu and I.  I’m rummaging through everything and with a cursory glance tossing it into one pile or another.  Friends that get how fucked up we are: Useful, people that forget that we are fucked: Garbage.  Couch: Useful, Bills: Garbage.  Rock Band: Useful, Traffic: Garbage, and on and on.  Lu, on the other hand, wants to pick up every single piece of her life, our life, Silas’ brief life and all the spaces in between, and examine each and every broken shard.  She wants to dig in up to her elbows and delve deep into the mess and figure out every impossible speck of this giant, catastrophic puzzle that used to be our coherent lives.

Before bed I need to read, relax and shut down every last lingering thought of daily life.  Lu likes to talk and figure things out and dissect her feelings.  Just home from work, sometimes I want to chill, collect myself and shut down a bit.  Lu usually wants to chat, to ask me questions, to tell me about her day, to ask me about mine.  Usually it’s totally fine, but sometimes I’m just stricken mute.  When pix go up online of new babies or toddlers Lu absolutely has to check them out.  I don’t go anywhere near them.  She immerses herself in the emotional stew of her life and the lives of others and I do everything I can to pull myself out of that whirlpool, to wipe both hopes and fears off of me, and to simply tread water, keep my head above the muck and breathe.

The thing of it is, we’re partners in this.  Which means that sometimes when all I want to do is stop thinking, read my book and drift away to sleep what Lu really needs is a back scratch and my arms around her and my ears tuned only to the sound of her voice as she tells me about everything she needs to.  I can do that for her just like she can step back and let me veg when she sees that’s exactly what I need.  We’re good communicators, and this experience has only made us more attuned to one another’s needs, even when the other isn’t sure at all.

Friday Lu had the day off.  She spent it clattering away on her computer for hours.  As evening rolled around and I yelled at her for the fourth or fifth time to stop working and relax I finally had to storm out of the kitchen, grab her by the shoulders, lift her from her chair, march her into the living room and shove her into the couch.  I tossed her favorite blanket on her and she was still laughing when I delivered the glass of wine.

Later on, in bed, I told her everything I was thinking and feeling that day as she read her magazine, and listened to my rambling worries.

“We’ll get through it, Chris,” she said to me.  “Somehow we’ll get through this.”  In her eyes was all the love and care and concern one could ever hope to see in another and it soothed me to stillness.

She flicked off her light and rolled over on her side and drifted off towards sleep.  Silas’ tattoo captured my vision as it always does, and then I burrowed into my book and shut out the World.  I had so much more I wanted to say, but I could save it for tomorrow.

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