Ron.

Dear Harvey,

Early this morning, your great-uncle was on the radio. he is your dad’s uncle by marriage and I always loved the dinners we had when they were in town from DC and we lived in San Francisco. I always say, “Hi Ron!” when he makes an appearance and I tell Vesta that he is her dad”s uncle and she says “That guy talking on the radio knows me?!”

He is the political editor of National Public Radio and today was giving somewhat of a summary of this week’s crazy, terrifying, devastating and confusing events. And he said your name, thanks to the hurricane that hit Texas last week. Simultaneously, I thought “I wonder if Ron thought of our Harvey in all of the news reading, sorting, editing that he does everyday” and I felt such a surge of love in my heart to hear a family member say your name, on national news no less and despite that it wasn’t even about you. But we have so little of you on this Earth so I grasp for straws sometimes and love when I reach one, now and then, like this morning.

He is distant to me now but I have seen how much he loves Vesta when he interacts with her and I know how much he would love you if you were here to play with, too. “Harvey”, he said, leaving off the “Hurricane” part and amidst the destruction and chaos and loss of that storm, my small corner of the world got to feel a little deeper, a little more connected, a little more held.

There are small miracles everywhere, son. And you are one. And the way your family, near and far, together and apart, new and old, love you is another.

I love you, buddy.

Mom

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Twins.

Dear Harvey, 

When I was a newly minted massage therapist in San Francisco, my friend called me to book a massage for clients of her’s whose baby had just died. He was a twin and while I remember next to no detail, I do believe he was only weeks old, was mistakenly dropped and was fine and then all the sudden wasn’t and died. 

I wasn’t yet thirty and I drove my table and supplies to their house and hauled it up a million stairs, as one does in San Francisco. I remember the husband sitting on the couch, the living twin being rocked in an infant car seat by his dad’s foot and a second, empty car seat sitting where the living room wall met the hallway.

I went into the bedroom and set my table up. The mom sat at the end of her bed and stared down at nothing. I did my best to match the somber, quiet, heavy tone of the apartment but I imagine I asked the questions I always asked of my clients, none of which would have applied here. I didn’t know this yet but this woman needed me to shut the fuck up and let her lay face down on the table and feel something else for an hour or so. I cringe at the thought that I might have asked them to fill out intake forms, that I might have asked if anything in their body was hurting, was there something they wanted to focus on. 

In a response that was unrelated to whatever my question was, the mom said, without lifting her eyes, “The worst thing has happened.” It was spoken as her truth, one that she didn’t quite believe and was trying out for size but that was ultimately and unforgivingly true nonetheless. A truth she hadn’t caught up to yet but also knew in her bones. I thought inside my head, and by the grace of god or some other small miracle, I didn’t say “well, it’s not the worst thing that could happen. You still have another baby.” (I now endearingly call this the “goldfish mentality”: the “at least you still have your other children” and the “you can always have another baby” comments that essentially equate another human, born from your very body to a flushed, forgotten and replaced goldfish.)

I got in my car after I gave them each a massage and charged them full price (cringe again) and I cried. I cried for them and for their baby and for their baby’s brother. I cried for myself because it was hard to be around them, in their apartment, touching their mourning bodies. I callled my mom and told her all about it and what a hard job it was for me and what a crazy life this is when terrible things like that can happen. And then we talked about other things as I drove across town to my own, as yet, dead-baby free apartment. 

-——————

As far as I can remember, Kira just showed up at our back door and set up her table in our basement and gave us both massages in the early weeks after you died. (She did not ask us to fill out forms or what we might want to focus on in ourbodies or even to pay. She cried with us and talked with us and was quiet with us and gave us 90 minutes or probably more of whatever “respite” is to the newly bereaved parent.) The first time she came,  I remember walking down into the basement and realizing that I was now that mother. I was now that mother. I was the mother who sat at the end of the bed in numbed shock and grief and told a twenty-nothing my truth that I couldn’t even begin comprehend and whose sacredness she certainly couldn’t be trusted with. I hadn’t thought of her in ages but every step I took down those stairs, the table coming into view from behind the angle of the stairwell wall, that whole afternoon she in the Mission district of San Francisco came back to me. I relived it and cringed and hoped I hadn’t made it worse for them and sent a silent message to her through the ether that I had now joined her tribe. As my heavy feet, body heart and mind descended, I thought: how could this be? How could it be me now? Why did I have to learn that the worst has, in fact, happened?

I miss you like crazy,

Mom

Somewhere.

Dear Harvey,

Sometimes I ask parents how old their kids are (because I have come that far in my grief journey) and sometimes they say “he is four”. Inevitably, I stop myself from saying, “My son is four, too!” because, of course, I must quickly follow that with “but he died” and people aren’t used to that. So I say “How nice.” or “What a fun age!” and we smile or chuckle together. Sometimes, I entertain the possibility of talking about you like you are alive. Pretending you didn’t die. How amazing for you to be alive like that, in someone’s mind.

Sometimes I am talking about something your sister is able or allowed to do and I stop myself from saying “But if it was Harvey, that would be a different story.” This impulse feels stranger to me than the first though it occurs to me in exactly the same fashion, easy and natural, unconscious almost. Like somehow I “know” you would be rambunctious or unable to be left alone to entertain yourself or not be as confident in your body as she is. Do I know something about you innately? Those cells of your floating, as they are, in my brain, whispering your secrets to my semi-consciousness. Maybe it is a mother’s wisdom? That inner, intuitive and mysterious connection we have with our children, knowing on some level what they need as individuals, what will work and not for them, how to best tend to them, maybe even the dead ones? Maybe I just imagine you’d be a rascal, energetic, mischevious because that’s how I think of little boys? Maybe it’s just purely nurture: what I have learned, a trick of the mind rather than a gift from it’s deepest recesses.

I don’t know. But I think of you and I imagine you and maybe you are here somewhere, more than just in my mind and heart and brain, more than just the tin of ashes on my closet shelf, what is left of your cells, save the corneas, heart valves and those you left inside me. Maybe you are somewhere. Maybe, as we talked about with the chaplain as we prepared for your funeral, energy just changes shape and you are showing up here in ways we don’t recognize. Or do, but just barely.

I love you, son. I am always here if you ever want to come back.

Love,

Mom

Sister.

Dear Harvey, 

The other day we were driving in the car and Vesta was talking about something she’d done. Referring to herself she ended,” …and that’s a pretty cool thing for a big sister”. And my heart broke. And my heart soared.

She and her best friend have marked this moving in together as the moment that their sisterhood begins. They have been waiting, with excitement and some trepidation, for this new iteration of their family to begin and the physical move into our new home was their threshold.

 Vesta is a foot shorter and six months older than O, so she is technically the “big” sister. Yours and hers. She comes into this identity for herself only with another living child. And the delay of that, because she has been a big sister for 4 years and because you are dead, breaks my heart all over again. And this pronouncement and whatever their whispered, private conversations that brought them to the choosing the day sounded like, caulked that very crack.

Just like so many (all?) circumstances in our lives, she has what I wanted for her but in completely different, un-imagined form. Made even more beautiful and precious for its unplannedness. A sister. Two sisters. A family.

We miss you like crazy. And, of its even possible, love you even more.

Love,

Mom

Home.

Dear Harvey,

The other day, my love leaned against the counter in our new, empty kitchen and I leaned into her and looked up at the empty, forest green space between the tan ceiling and the white cabinets and said out loud “How did my horrible life turn into this?”

It’s a good life and someone is missing.

I miss you.

Love,

Mom

Four.

Dear Harvey,

Now, you are four. Here are four things your mom has been thinking about. 

1. My dad has a friend who has two daughters, each lost a baby. Some time after you died, my dad asked him when his daughters felt better. He said it took about four years until they were anything like themselves again. I scoffed, at whatever point my dad told me this, thinking I would never feel remotely like myself again and certainly not “better”. But here I am. And this anniversary is markedly different. I do feel better and I am a better “me” even. I prefer me now to who I was before you died.

2. I was talking to my best friend in San Francisco and she said, “Wow. After all you’ve been through in the past several years. . . now you are in love and buying a house together. . . Are you happy?”. I scoffed again, “No!” And then I stumbled. “Well, sometimes, I mean, sometimes I’m happy, sometimes I’m sad, sometimes I’m frustrated.” Tripping over myself, “I mean, it’s all relative, right? Compared to where I’ve been I’m happy. I mean, I never thought I’d feel like this again. But, I don’t know . . .we’ve all got somethin, I guess.” I realized after we hung up that I fumbled around while she patiently listened because I’m not trying to be happy anymore. I’m not trying to get somewhere. I’m not trying to find the puzzle pieces of an American life and put them together. I am stumbling and I’m also cobbling. I put things down on the table that don’t really fit and seeing if I might find a way to make them. I’m looking at my pieces in different angles and with new eyes. The path of college, career, home, marriage, children didn’t really work out for me. I don’t have the right pieces for that anymore and, actually never did, when I think of it. I stumbled into love. I found my person by mistake and with exceedingly poor timing. But we’re doing it anyway. We can just about afford this house and it needs work that we’ll eventually do with “car tires and chicken wire” as Ani Difranco croons, with a wing and a prayer. We’re going to cobble together a new little family. Figure out how to stepparent and co-parent and probably fuck it up left and right, like we all do. Or, at least us, interesting ones. But I have great love now. I have rebuilt trust and it has been earned. (Hard earned, poor woman!) And I’m going to go with that. Knowing I have my person with me and we have our girls and the ones that are gone and we have kept going so far and we’ll just keep going. Am I happy? Yes, I’m happy. But I’m also whole now. And that is, at this place in my life, more important.

3. I was texting with your Auntie Jenn yesterday and we were talking about how awesome you are and how much you have changed and influenced us. I was so pleased and content inside myself after the storytelling night I hosted on your anniversary and she and I spoke so broadly and poetically about you, because that’s how far we have come. Somehow, though, as I stood in the kitchen alone but “with” my best friend, I was overcome with longing for you. I texted her, rather desperately, that I wished you were here and that I wished I didn’t have any of the gifts and lessons I’ve received from your death and that I’d trade it all in a hot second to have you back. She wrote back and said she would too in a heart beat. She said she often “thinks about what some alternate universe in which he lives a healthy, long and totally non descript life”. And I felt the truth of that right to my very bones. To the unacknowledged value of a healthy, long and totally non-descript life. We strive to be happy and successful and all the things but looking at the alternative that I have now, this life without you, that sounds like perfection to me. Nothing grand. Nothing special. Just life. Her statement also speaks to your impact on so many of us here, your family and many of my friends and community, who think of you and have been affected by your death and my expression of grief and how lovely it would be to not have any of that and just have a four year old boy instead. But we don’t and we can’t, so the meaning we have made individually and collectively of your life and death and our grief is the experience we now welcomely receive. Or at least receive and do our best with it.

4. I’m buying bunk beds, after all. But not because you are here and we have to squish both kids in one room. I’m buying a new house with my new family and we still don’t need to make any space or plans or  accommodations for you. Still. And always. Somehow, I’m still waiting for the end of this. But there isn’t one. I’ll always notice what I’m not doing for you, how you are not here, and wonder would it would be like if you were. You know, that alternate, non-descript universe.

I love you.

Mom