“Step out the front door like a ghost into the fog
Where no one notices the contrast of white on white
And in between the moon and you, angels get a better view
Of the crumbling difference between wrong and right
Well, I walk in the air between the rain
Through myself and back again
Where? I don’t know”
– Round Here by Counting Crows
Thirteen years and many miles and gone.
We walked calmly through the house and divided our things. The Cuisenart for the Vitamix. Some large plates, some small. A few cups, my favorite mug. Art from the walls, photographs taken down. Our son’s memorial book. The double frame of our babies in the same position: one asleep resting her head on her arm in my lap, one dead, photographed by a stranger who arranged him by happenstance in the same way on the NICU couch. It’s over.
The truck almost packed, I sat on the couch and cried finally. He come to sit by me, elbows on knees, head in hands. I talked, he sat. I tried to make sense, I apologized. He said, “You know I did this.” And then, “I have to get the truck back.” And he walked in front of me and left.
Vesta played with her friend as I paced, trying to find a place for myself in our home, still full of our years and years of stuff, so little he could take for his new studio. I texted my dad. He texted me back. Searching for the man who never leaves, the man who was also left. Different story, different circumstances, and yet, alone in the homes we created, alone for the first time.
I cried. It rained. It began pouring like it never does in Portland. Huge drops of warm summer rain creating instant puddles. I sat again on our couch and watched it fall and then walked out into it. Like a ghost or a zombie, just called out there, so I went. I stood there like some stupid heroine in a romantic comedy, getting drenched, watching the drops pummel our park, our fence, our pathway. I begged for this rain to cleanse me. To free me. To be some sign from the universe that there will be sunshine. That there is something after this besides more tragedy and heartache. I smirked that he was having to move his things into his own place in the deluge. Some kind of small justice. And I felt free and I felt cleansed and I felt lost and I felt alone, so very, very alone in this world, subject to its elements, subjects to the chaos of this universe, to the curve balls and the right hooks this life throws at us. A few days later my friend would say, “For a white girl in the United States, you have had the worst.” A little perspective, a little truth, a lot of rain.
I walked inside to our nearly empty bedroom: where we loved, where we birthed, where we grieved, where we slept, where we spoke, where we dressed, where we died. The girls were in there and Vesta looked at me, sopping wet in my tunic, sweatshirt and yoga pants, my hair dripping, my shoulders caved, my tears replaced by those from the sky. She looked at me with the most amazing mix of bewilderment, surprise and joy. “Why did you do that, Mommy?!”, she exclaimed. “I don’t know”, I laughed, “I just stood out in the rain.” By then it had let up and not long after I had dried myself off and changed my clothes, piled my sleek hair into a high bun on my head, the rain came again. He was probably driving to return the truck by now and our daughter, with delight and daring, playfully commanded me to go back out there and stand in the rain in my clothes again. I declined, this time. Enough is enough.
It’s over. It’s just beginning. There is warmth and there is renewal. There is deluge and there will inevitably be dryness and drought. There is life after this for she and I. There is more than a mother crying everyday for a year for the baby she lost. More than a mother who is irritable and short and gone. More than this mother who watched her love drive away, again, 11 years after the first time, in a truck full of his stuff, who then stood outside in the pouring rain looking for a sign. There is more than this. There is joy again. There is reconnection. There is knowing and comfort and laughter. There is growing and pain and confusion. There are two homes to negotiate, documents to sign, decisions to be made. There are questions without answers and questions I don’t even remember that I even asked because the answers have become truth.
What will we do without him? How will it be to spend the rest of our lives together and yet apart? What will she want from us? When will her desire to have us all together wane? When will mine? What has happened to the life we planned, for ourselves and for our daughter? The life we ushered her into and now through that had a plan and a path and a way that she wasn’t even aware of? Will this be her truth now? This will be her truth now. There are three sides to every story, to our story: his, mine and hers. It happens everyday. It happens to most families, to most marriages. But just like everything else, it’s different when it’s mine. When it wasn’t what I expected, when it wasn’t what I wanted for her or for me ,for that matter. When I’ll spend endless moments, both day and night, trying to figure it out, trying to make different decisions in the past, scolding myself for bringing her and I to this moment, these circumstances, this sorrow. This amazing bewilderment, streaking itself across her face, betraying her every emotion and thought in that moment. May I always know, may I always see it, may I always have a better explanation than I gave.
They say, make plans and God laughs. God’s sides must hurt by now. This white girl from the United States gives up. Lives in the gray. Lives now in the pieces left after the shatter rather than spaces of brokenness between them. She gathers herself up. Lives in the unknown, the unplanned, the unenvisioned. I hear the people around me talk of their plans, their confidence in their path. and now I laugh and my sides hurt. That will do, until it doesn’t. And then what? And then what will you do? Will you lay more plans? Will I? Will you stand outside with me in the pouring rain and wait for a sign?
I heard a TED talk tonight by a child of holocaust survivors growing up in a community of holocaust survivors and she said there were two kinds of people in her childhood world: those who didn’t die and those who were alive. And, for a second, I saw everyone divided into those two catergories. And I wondered, in which am I? Will I always chose to be alive or will I simply not have died and live close to the Earth, clutching onto the things I hold most dear. And I thought about my husband, out there in the world somewhere tonight, trying to find ways to feel alive, to feel conencted, to feel powerful and here. And I hope he does, in ways he’s never dreamed for himslef. And I hope I do, in all the ways I have.