I thought maybe if I used my left brain, I’d feel better. Engage myself in something totally different. I got our books done a month before you were born, so at least I’d be caught up for a few months of the year. Just like if you were here, they have sat since. Seven months of receipts and statements and bills. I piled every important document, everything that needed saving, precariously on the desk in the dining room.
I don’t know why I thought it would be a distraction. Every year since your sister was born, I do our books about every 4 months, sometimes every 6. It’s a walk back through the year. Remembering that meal, that weekend away, that gift given or received. Money I’m glad we spent, money I wished we saved instead. Why would I think this year would be any different? I piled the papers on the floor in front of me, I opened the banking software, the online statements and it crashed down on me exactly what not a distraction this will be.
I started crying right away, closed the computer and stuffed all the papers back in a bag. But it has to be done. We have spent and over spent and I’ve been out of work so much this year, plus medical bills. We have to look this in the face and make a plan, so I can take that worry off my plate or at least, see it for what it is and make some decisions rather than just fret about dwindling savings and not enough income. Here I have some control, some volition, and I need that sense more than anything really.
And so I start from March 26th, from where I left off. There we are at Home Depot and Target, buying homebirth supplies. Your dad hates shopping and was nervous about the upcoming birth so was reluctant and in a hurry to be done. Click check and hit enter. There I am, waddling into Vesta’s school, to register and pay the deposit for her first year of school. Grateful that she seems to already be comfortable there, for the time this will allow me to have alone with you, while fretting about how I will ever get her to school on time with a little baby in tow. Click check and hit enter. There are Vesta and I, having our last meal at Por Que No? as just the two of us. It was a beautiful day on Mississippi street. We sat at the bar-style table by the open window, Vesta went outside and I fed her through the open window. We laughed and I savored. Click check and hit enter.
And then, I start to see just the dates, April 24, 25, 26 . . . and the entries subside during those days, when you were being born, when we were at the hospital, when your aunts and uncles and grandparents were paying for our meals and whatever it is we needed during that time, I can’t even remember.
And then: $31.05 Kaiser Permanente Pharmacy. Pain meds. And then automatic withdrawls are all that are there: life insurance, car payment, rent, internet and phone, a cashed check I wrote before you died.
And then, we paid for Vietnamese with Grandma and Papa and Nona. And then, we paid for Por Que No? after Grandma had left and Papa and Nona stayed on another week. And then, Mississippi Pizza, to see my favorite kid’s musician for Vesta with Daddy, Nona, Papa, and L and M came, too. It’s only $10 so I’m guessing it was a drink or two. I was so numb and in pain and it was my first time out in the world at a family event. Children and babies and pregnant moms, dark and loud and everyone trying to be normal, or being normal and I, having no idea how to be. Then we are grocery shopping again on our own, getting gas because Daddy has gone back to work, he even went bowling one Sunday. I wonder how I managed? Probably J came over.
And then, May 15th, Metro West Ambulance.
I can’t do it anymore. I cry and cry and cry. Whisked away within minutes. I didn’t even touch you. I just screamed and screamed and the midwives tried to calm me while trying to save you. They asked me to talk to you, so you could hear my voice because that would help you. I knew it would too and I tried and then you were gone.
I decide to organize the papers, instead. Make organized piles of credit card statements, utilities and pay stubs. And once again, why would I think this stack of papers isn’t riddled with you also? I sift through and start to sort. The piles begin to take form. My medical bills, reports and summaries the tallest by far. And yours are there, too, of course. As I organize by date the bills and reports addressed first to Baby Boy Walker, since you weren’t named yet in either ambulance nor at the first hospital. Then, Harvey R Walker, from the NICU, from our insurance, from the state. The pencil scribble of the health record number the kindest woman ever was able to give me so you could be covered retroactively, for only 2 days, by the state and help us that much more financially. The pen scribbled on note paper that I wrote the week after you died while talking to the woman from the grief organization, Child Life, about how to talk to Vesta about your death. Then there is the envelope from your Tio: he mistakenly took your dad’s scribbled paper, his eulogy for you, with him back home. So he sent it. He took care of so much when he was here. He applied for your death certificate and two copies of that are in there too. I cannot read the eulogy. I start but I can’t do it. I begin to unfold the heavy paper: Harvey Richard Walker in three separate boxes under the flourished, official document: Certification of Death. We received your birth and death certificates the same day. I remember the starkness, the truth of the latter as I opened it, looked it over, saw how they try to make beautiful in their beaurocratic way. I must have tucked your birth certificate in the same envelope the day I threw them on the pile. I open it, but not all the way, because I remember. I remember that those bastards stamped a big, red, diagonal “DECEASED” across the bottom of your birth certificate. They couldn’t even give me that. That you were born and that you were here for almost two days. Not even that. So, I just looked at the top half. And I smiled through my tears. Because you were born. There is the letter from Donate Life and a grateful director who was getting all of these donations for Harvey “Superhero” Walker without him being registered. She did some digging and found us and wrote to thank us. The letter from the place that received your corneas. A heartfelt letter that helped my heart knowing you truly were making a difference here. They almost never get corneas so small. It is a rare opportunity for their research and, most importantly, future babies.
I put your papers in chronological order. The only mail you will ever receive, neatly stacked, organized and paper clipped, soon to be filed. 40 hours worth of birth and machines and tests and medical expertise and death. Months and months of statements and bills from all of the institutions that cared for you, from our insurance and the state insurance who paid for most of the care you received. Missing are receipts and bills from your cremation, your service, candles, framing, catering, flowers, because your amazing family and friends took care of all of that. Because we are incredibly, unbelievebly well cared-for. As you, too, would have been.
At some point, I will have to move past May 15th. I’ll have to see our life this year replay itself in the numbers. I’ll have to hear the story again, feel it again, come to know it on yet a deeper level. Come January, I’ll have to talk to the accountant. He’s the last to know. I thought it was my hairdresser but it’s him. He’ll ask about you in an email because he’ll rememeber you were coming at tax time. Last year I hurried us through the tax process so as to have it off my plate before you arrived. He’ll ask and I’ll tell and then I’ll go about the awkward and pragmatic business of getting a child tax credit for you, just once, just this year. Because you were here. Even the IRS, off all things, honors that.
There is nothing, Harvey, no nook or cranny, no dark, hidden corner of our lives that you haven’t touched. You have permeated our finances, our decisions, our whole brains, left and right. Just like if you were here, except the exact opposite, except it’s the worst instead of the best.