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My relationship to Silas has been changing. Gathering our friends and family around and planting a tree for him, speaking about him, expressing our loss and grief formally, in front of everyone, it seems to have helped me.
I’m still gut-wrenchingly sad, but there just might be a glimmer of calm worming its way into my soul.
It could just be a defense mechanism, though. Like the speck of sand in an oyster, I’m finding ways to surround and smooth over the rough pain of his absence. I don’t know if this feeling will last, if there is a brutal plunge ahead, or if I am on my way to some sort of peace or acceptance, but I know I am changing. For now, this calm is probably the result of exhausted resignation.
I can’t have him back. He’s gone, that’s it. There are no do-overs or second chances.
I’ve been living with this fact for 8 months now and I’m just completely fucking exhausted by the daily wrestling match between what I want and what I have. So I’m trying to stop that internal battle and simply resign myself to the facts at hand.
Nothing can change what happened to him, to us, to our lives, so I have to find a way to live with it. In the car when I blast music and blast down the highway, I twist and turn these thoughts like hideous alien gems, and I try to discern their facets and depths.
By staring at them long enough, I begin to pass through my sadness, into a realm where sadness is inherent in all the bits and pieces of reality itself, and that makes all the little good things shocking and bright. I have been trying to live in the World I used to know, and every day I’ve been devastated to find myself flattened by tragedy anew with each awful dawn.
But flip it around, and my loss and grief become the unsurprising parts and everything else that is *not* sucktacular is the reward for simply getting up; for allowing love to flow between us we still have each other; for allowing for the possibility that there are still some beautiful sparkles faintly glowing amidst our shattered landscape we still find laughter and music and moments of happiness. That any of that is still possible is what sometimes surprises me most of all.
I change and grow and re-examine myself and my thoughts every single day. I reevaluate what I want and what I need once it becomes clear what I can actually hope to achieve, in any given instance. With life and work I am constantly reworking plans to better fit the changing circumstances and facts at hand.
That I will never have Silas in my arms is something that will never change, though. I will not see him grow. I will never know him as a person, as my son, as a friend and peer in later years.
I can probably fix any screwed up relationship or misunderstanding from any point in my life. I can find the cash to get my car repaired. I can try again at nearly anything I have failed. But I cannot change what happened on September 25, 2008.
He was here and then he was gone and the maelstrom of that event has blown me utterly off course. And that is what he is becoming for me: a force of nature. For me, Silas has become a Law of the World. Like gravity, like light’s speed, like fusion at the core of our nearby star, Silas is immutable, unchanging, unknowable.
I sort of ‘get’ what’s going on in the Sun to create that immense furnace of energy. But I really don’t comprehend it in a true, literal sense. I know what I’ve been told: that hydrogen and helium are combining because of enormous pressure and temperature. Pressure pushes those atoms together and even though they don’t really want to get close, they don’t have a choice. When that non-choice is forced upon them, they are crushed together and break open, and immense quantities of energy are released. I ‘get’ all that, but I don’t know it. I can’t see the atoms combining one by one. It is beyond my ken, just like Silas is now.
So his death sits there in the center of my being, and it just… is. I can’t reason with it. I can’t fix it. No amount of tears or rage or depression can do a thing to dislodge that Absolute Fact and so the only reasonable response I’ve been able to summon is this:
It is up to me to change in order to incorporate this Law of Silas into my life.
Yes, he is our son. Yes, he was a tiny, beautiful perfect little boy. Yes he was the vessel of our hopes and dreams, the Everything we had staked our Everything Else to. And with him gone, the Everything Else came untethered and blew away even before we knew it was happening.
In his death, he has been transformed. He has become a force that acts on my soul and on my heart, but just like the wind, that force never changes. Every day when I relive his birth and death in my mind, it is always the same. But every time I do it, I am changed by increments etched with pain.
The trees planted for him, here in New Haven, up in New Hampshire and everywhere else in the World, it feels perfect and right. Their slow growth and leafy branches are the correct expression of what he has become for me. I can go to his trees and sit under his boughs and listen to wind softly whisper to me in a language I cannot understand with my mind, but it is one I already know in my heart and in my soul.
The sun warms my skin and then the breeze blows me cool. The Earth spins, holding me close. Missing my son empties me from within, forcing me to find Everything Else to put back in.
He is light speed. He is fission and fusion. He is the internal combustion that propels me forward through life. He is the love I can still find to share with my wife and my friends and my family all around.
He will never change, and I cannot do anything else.
Last summer I planted my first garden in my backyard. Some veggies fared well: broccoli, tomatoes, collards, string beans, basil. The rest either started and ended quickly (cucumbers), or didn’t grow at all (lettuce, mesculan greens, chard), or were stumpy little orange nubbins (carrots). This year is different. My upstairs neighbors and I decided to do this together. They moved in mid summer so my pathetic first garden was already almost over. This year we are a team.
Mid April we started the the digging, the tilling the plotting and the buying. By the end of April, we had our garden. We all began planting furiously. Seedlings and seeds, marking off spots, planting as much as we could fit. Name a veggie, we planted it. On the other side of the yard, I threw a bunch of seeds someone sent me for a butterfly garden. I want this to be Silas’ special spot so we are going to scatter some of his ashes in there, too.
Every day, my neighbor Michael and I meet in the yard and admire our work. We talk about the new little sprouts, and discuss various recent additions. It’s the highlight of my day. I love going outside my back door, to my own huge backyard, to see what I have growing.
This is because last summer, along with my garden, I also had a baby boy growing within me. When I think about last spring/summer, I think about being pregnant, my garden and laying on the couch watching the Mets (and we all know how that ended). The warm weather keeps reminding me of what I don’t have this spring. I don’t have Silas and I don’t have new life inside me.
What has now happened, is that I can’t stop buying tomato plants and herbs. I am obsessed. I have 8 tomato plants right now, and I’m sure that will not be the end of it. I stand outside my door every day looking for that growth. That new life that I don’t have in my arms, that I don’t have inside me. I need it.
I have nothing to nurture except my plants and my cats (& my husband?) Instead of Silas, it’s Bandha who wakes us at 5:30am (he wants to go outside) and it’s Chumby that sleeps in between us (purring louder than a garbage truck) in one of our arms every single morning.
I’m sure everyone in my life is so over me talking about the cats at this point. The thing is, you all just might have to humor me and pretend to be interested when I tell you how big my tomatoes have gotten. Don’t worry, they don’t spit up.
I’m here alone this morning. Lu and her sister are off at the Farmer’s Market and the odd fog that settled over CT has lifted.
It is so quiet. My queasy stomach and thumping heart are only drowned out by the sound of my fingers on this keyboard.
In the back yard a broom rests against the table, and rocks of all shapes and sizes are slowly drying in the crate I brought back from the piles of earth at the park.
Today at the tree planting, we are going to ask everyone to take a stone and place it over the fresh mulch and turned earth.
Up the street, the tree is upright and halfway planted. We met the landscapers at the park yesterday evening and they prepared the site. The process was surprisingly industrial and forthright. Two trucks pulled up, three guys got out. They unloaded a small backhoe from one truck as the maple tree we selected laid sideways in the other truck.
Under careful control and with powerful action, the backhoe bit into the sparse grass and rocky soil and pulled up dark, fresh dirt. The hole was large but it was excavated fast. It would have been hours for Lu and I to accomplish that same task by hand. Plus, it’s hard to dig when you’re sobbing. So they did it for us, quick and easy.
They gently placed the tree in the deep hole and then covered it partway, leaving piles of dirt and fertilizer nearby for all of us to finish with this afternoon.
As they were placing the tree, Lu and I dug through the fresh piles of earth to pull out rocks and stones. This morning I went back there to make sure the tree was still standing and no night-time passerby had tripped into the half-empty hole. I gathered the rocks we had piled up they day before, placed them in a crate and brought them home.
After a spray with the hose the stones revealed myriad hues, suddenly cleasned of the dirt that concealed their colors.
I sit here at the edge of calm, steeling myself for the coming maelstrom. I’m glad we are doing this. But I do not know how we will bear it.
Only together can we withstand this sadness, and it is always only just enough to get by. The love and support of our friends and family ensures our strength. When all of together hold Silas in our hearts and minds he feels close, and that is a precious gift we need to move through our days.
Thank you all for your love. We need it.
My post for May is up over at Glow in the Woods. If you have a few moments, please check it out.
On Saturday we are having the memorial for Silas at the park around the corner. Family and friends are coming in for the day, and we are planting a tree in his memory.
Part 1 of this post is how it all looks and feels going into this terrible day. Part 2 will be how I feel after we have completed this necessary but nearly impossible task.
We have had a tumultuous last few weeks, with both birthdays, this thing they call “Mother’s Day” and Silas’ memorial coming up this Saturday. I had those expectations of a really terrible weekend. I spent Friday crying all day. Saturday I was ok–we sold coffee at Fairfield’s Earth Day and seeing all the cute babies being strolled around didn’t bring me to tears. I actually may have been cried out. See it worked! Sunday I only had one major meltdown, but it was a necessary one and one that left me feeling a little lighter.
Our moms decided not to celebrate this year. This made it easier for us, there was no expectation of something we were most likely not capable of performing. Most people in my life were scared. I assume scared of saying or doing the wrong thing, so they just didn’t do anything at all. Some brave friends called and of course all of my family. I got some beautiful texts and emails, and one card from Sarah & one card from Aliza that were wonderful.
One note I wanted to excerpt here was from our friend Tina. She has faced this head on with us, from the very beginning. She has not been scared to email, chat, call or even visit, which she did about a month after Silas died, all the way from SF. This email below was another of the amazing gifts I received this weekend.
This year, it is with a heavy heart that I send out my annual mother’s day email. I debated about whether I should even send it or not. I debated about whether to send it to everyone except my friend Lani, but that just didn’t feel right either. As some of you know, my friend Lani is a mother. She just happened to lose her baby boy, Silas, 10 hours after he was born this past September. We are all reminded at different points in our lives that life is so precious and sometimes tragic and certainly at times uncontrollable . And this past year was one of those years for a lot of people, Lani being one of them.
The reason I think it’s important to continue to send this email out to all of you today is because to me, Lani is an example of exactly why it’s important to celebrate the strong, warm-hearted, vibrant, wise, silly and wonderful women in our lives. Because even when life hands you something so unbelievable, like losing a baby, you continue moving forward. You exhibit strength and courage and bravery in the face of grief and loss or illness, you still care about others well-being and happiness, even if inside you may feel a range of other not-so-pleasant emotions. You can still laugh and find humor and beauty even in the worst of situations. We are all faced with great challenges in our lives, I’m only guessing here but I’m sure that is especially true when raising children, and I know that every person on this email has the ability to handle and rise to those challenges (along with the many joys in life) with grace and love.
I wandered around our apt a bit lost. I started emptying the dishwasher and then had the thought “if Silas were here, I definitely would not be doing this.” I think Chris heard my thoughts because he came into the kitchen and told me to stop, and to relax with him on the couch. Unless this was something I wanted to be doing.
That was the problem. There was nothing I really wanted to be doing. So I didn’t know what to do. That was the moment I stopped and sobbed in his arms. I looked around not knowing what I was “supposed” to do on a day like this day. All the other mothers were getting treated like queens by their children, husbands, other family members.
What about me? I get lost in the shuffle of all this. I also happen to have many friends who have lost their mothers at a young age, what about them? This is the biggest F-You holiday of them all. This post here says it all. Thanks Tash, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
On Saturday we ended up at a street festival after the Earth Day thing and I became the “bitter” Lani. This side of me doesn’t show itself very often. I was making Chris laugh so hard, it was great. We had Thai food from a vendor and shared the dish even though Chris claimed he was too depressed to eat. We both gobbled it up and made a mess of the outdoor table as families with their babies strolled by. I got up from the table and saw our messy scraps there and said to Chris, “I hope some mother has to clean it up!” He started cracking up so hard. But even still I couldn’t freaking help myself and cleaned up anyway.
I felt the need to diss mothers everywhere, it made me feel good and I was able to laugh (snidely of course) at the fact that I’m really not part of this club yet. A club I so desperately want to be in, yet somehow my membership was revoked just as it was being handed to me. So what better to do to a club that snubs you? Snub back, snide remarks, name calling, lots of f-you’s. It’s fun, you all should try it.
I struggled with destiny upon the ledge
And gasped when defeated he slipped off the edge
Fell in deep yesterday. It was the day after my birthday and I wasn’t ready. Lu and I have birthdays a week apart. It used to be a part of the year we always looked forward to. JazzFest usually brackets our birthdays and we’ve been down there together to enjoy all the music and culture and fun.
This year was different. For the first time in my life, I cried on my birthday. It had nothing to do with age or the day’s events, I just missed Silas.
This should have been my first birthday as a father, but I knew the Should-Have-Been was coming and I saw how tough Lu’s was for her, so I tried as hard as I could take this day as it came and enjoy it was for what it was.
Another successful trip around the Sun for this guy. Although I suppose ‘successful’ is relative. I lived through this year. That’s about it, though. Everything else was a complete fucking disaster. So woooo! Weeeee! Time for another spin.
We had lobsters & oysters for dinner the night before. I woke up late on my personal sun-orbit anniversary and wandered to the couch. Read the paper and dove into a new book from Lu, watched random shit on TV and then Lu made breakfast, with bacon, of course. It was 2pm by then, so I had a beer with my meal. Why the fuck not?
Later on in the afternoon we checked out the Peabody Natural History Museum and then had drinks and dinner at a fantastic restaurant and tap house called Prime 16. Even better, friends met up with us which led to Rock Band shenanigans later on in the evening. Pretty sweet birthday overall.
It was great, except for the dusty, musty desolation of how exactly wrong all of it was. How awful this past year had been for me. How much I missed Silas. All of that became obvious yesterday when my defenses were down and I was worn out from trying to have so much damn fun.
Yesterday I could do nothing. I barely got my job done and then could not even muster up the energy to make myself dinner. All I could do was crawl around on the floor ducking lights and loud noises and hide in a padded corner squirreled into my new book.
I snarled at passersby. I twitched and frothed. I raged within my skin. All for nothing, all for no change in the World, all for spite. Couldn’t help it, though, and so I didn’t bother.
Have you ever driven a car in a depressed fashion? It’s part passive-aggressive, part impatient, part indifferent and all sneering anger. It’s not dangerous because depressed drivers just let the assholes shoot by even if we do shout at them. But it’s not fun. It’s AM news-radio driving. It’s pulling over halfway into the 40min drive to take a depressed nap with talk radio on loud. It’s sad and it’s teary and I can’t fucking believe this is how I roll around sometimes when I can’t handle the fact that Silas isn’t here.
Have you ever depressed-did-the-dishes-and-then-not-make-dinner? Lots of slamming shit around and banging cabinets closed. Lots of pissed-off disgust at not finding the exact thing you want to eat right then. Maybe even some yelling at your wife for nothing that’s her fault. Ugly, unpleasant behaviors that I’m just happy I can limit to every-now-and-then.
I could feel myself clawing at the walls of the hole I was in. I knew what was happening, why, how I was acting out. There wasn’t a thing I could do about it. I needed to get pissed yesterday. I needed to fall into that hole and suffocate in my sadness for a while. I needed to feel the jagged edge of my grief and despair, that rift that separates this part of my life from everything that came before it.
I apologized for being an asshole before bed last night. I drove with clarity and purpose this morning on my way to work. I put this shitass birthday and year behind me but I’m not trying to look too far in the future.
I’ve got tomorrow to deal with and I’m pretty sure I can make it alright. I don’t even care if it rains.