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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Grief and Becoming Tapatio: Day 2

Tapatio: Day 2: Riley in unfinished sombrero
As the second anniversary of Riley's death approached in October 2016, I felt the need to take his love of hot sauce and somehow make him part of it. On his bedroom door, I transformed his name into his favorite Green Tabasco. From there, we carted his bedroom door to school and his classmates put their handprints on his door. We then put his bedroom door back in place. So now his Tabasco name and all of those classmates' handprints hang in the upstairs hallway.

On the third anniversary, I transformed Riley's name into a Cholula hot sauce bottle. I replaced the woman on the bottle with Riley's likeness. It was the first time I painted him. It was terrifying because it felt that so much was at stake. It felt like final product would be a direct representation of how much I love him. When it was done, I loved it, although the general consensus was that I had painted a 20-something-year-old version of him. 

And I've started again. This time it's transforming him into a Tapatio hot sauce bottle. This is how he looks on Day 2 -- his 11-year-old likeness in an unfinished sombrero. I wish I'd been documenting the progress of these painting projects from the start. Earlier today, for example, Riley's mouth in this painting was lower. I wasn't sure if I should move it. After talking to his brother and grandmother, I moved it up about a centimeter. And when I stepped back, I couldn't believe how much it looks like him. It was a good decision. I stared into his eyes all afternoon. #HotSauceRiley

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Grief and flipping a switch

My kids; Riley is the green one, obviously.
It’s not like I can flip the switch and stop wanting a baby. I thought it could be that easy; just decide to stop. But it hasn’t been like that at all. Sure, I’ve stopped going to doctor appointments that examine my ovaries and the follicles ripening within. There are no more estrogen pills or progesterone suppositories. I don’t take the CoQ-10; I don’t take the Inositol; I don’t take the Omega-3s; I don’t take the prenatal vitamins. I don’t take the others whose names I’ve forgotten. There are no longer three weekly pill organizers on my dresser packed with my morning, afternoon, and evening pills.

I keep thinking, now I can focus on me. Take the pilates class or learn to play piano. Go on some adventure that I wouldn’t be able to do with a protruding pregnant belly or a new baby. Watch me sleep in on Sunday morning--no one kicking my bladder. Watch me have a glass of wine or three--no reason to stay sober. Listen to me crunch on another cookie--it’s not like eliminating sugar helped my uterus hold any babies.

Sure I like fantasizing about exotic travel and wondering what my husband and I will be doing after our youngest goes off to college in seven years. And I like not being bloated and swollen from the hormones. But it’s not that easy to just stop the yearning. It’s been a complicated dance with grief and desire in the wake of my son dying. This dance must have been nature’s way of ensuring that our species continued thousands of years ago, when most babies likely died. This primal urge to procreate in the face of a child’s death.

Didn’t know we’d been trying to have a baby? Don’t feel left out. It was a carefully kept secret because I couldn’t bear the idea of anyone asking me if it was pregnant yet. I broke my silence about it in the latest issue of Six Hens.

There are still sharps containers in my closet, though, packed with used syringes waiting to be dropped off at the local fire station. There are also the unused syringes, the different sized needles for liquids of different viscosities, depending on whether they were meant for the fat in my belly or the muscle in my ass.

Now that we’re done trying, the desire still lingers quietly. But it’s more like a spiderweb on the on the bookshelf rather than a wasp in my nose. None of it really matters because with a baby or without a baby, Riley is still dead. Every so often, I’ll see him out of the corner of my eye. Like last night, when his brother put on my rectangular glasses. There he was for a second in my camera’s viewfinder. Still just out of reach.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Grief and desire

When my dad died in 2013, I never had this yearning for a new dad. I never wanted my mom to go out and find a new husband so that I could take the edge off of loss by having a new father figure to love, to talk to on my birthday, to be a grandparent to my kids.

But when my 11-year-old son Riley died in 2014, something happened. Desire turned out to be grief's unexpected sidekick. And through this primal desire to have a baby, I hung the tiniest bit of hope. A new baby wouldn't be instead of Riley; it would be because of Riley. I kept telling myself that if I could grow this because-of-Riley baby, a healthy baby, and keep it alive with my body, then somehow that new life would sand down the edges of grief. This enormous, unrelenting grief.

It seems that the universe doesn't give a shit about my plans for a because-of-Riley baby anymore than it cared whether my son lived or died. Because the universe doesn't care about me or you or my son. Nor does the universe think I deserve anything in the wake of my son's death. I wrote about it in the latest issue of Six Hens.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Grief and scars

Rice love
The restaurant was dimly lit, but I could see the top of her scar that sat in the middle of her shirt’s neckline. My eyes went right to it; I wanted to stare. Not because her midline scar was a thing of curiosity, but because it is something I miss seeing on my boy. His scars were part of him in the same way his elbows were pointy and his eyes were blue and his lips were a darker shade red than others because of the low oxygen saturation in his blood. But I didn’t stare. I just wondered about her heart surgery as I ordered the tofu curry. Then I blinked back tears as she walked toward the kitchen.