Sometimes the ‘ci’ makes the ‘sh’ sound.

There was no one behind the counter at Barnes & Noble, but then a late-teenage girl called to me from the gift section nearby.  “Go ahead and go to #2, and I’ll meet you there!”

 

B&N’s cash registers aren’t numbered, so I used my best deduction skills.  She came behind the counter with a very obvious limp, catering her left side.

 

“Did you find everything you need today, ma’am?”

 

“I sure did.  Thank you.”

 

“You know what I was just thinking about?  I was just thinking about how I can’t wait to take a hot bath tonight.  And I mean, hot.”

 

I smiled and nodded.  I mean, who can’t go for a nice hot bath?  Sure, I’ll roll with this.

 

“I broke my toe this morning, and they gave me a boot to wear, but I just didn’t feel good about wearing just a boot and a sock to work, so I have been in my regular shoes.  But I’ve been leaning my hip way out, so now my back is hurting too, and what I really need is a hot bath.”

 

Yes, I see.  This is what I hear.

 

“I called my sister, and I said, ‘You know what you should get?  You should get bubbles.’  I can’t remember the last time I had a bubble bath.  Whew.  Tonight is my night.”

 

“Sounds like a great plan,” I offer.

 

“I’m sorry.  You’ve just got to love listening to someone talk about nothing.”

 

Well, she wasn’t really talking about nothing.  There was definitely a clear topic.

 

She ran my membership card, because you know I would have one for Barnes & Noble.  And then she looked at my name, and – get this – she said, “Okay, Tricky.  You have a good night.”

 

Tricky. As if Tricia is pronounced Trickya.

 

She’s actually the second person to make this phonetic mistake.  The first one was in the church nursery when I was an infant.  “Trickya is such a lovely baby,” she said to my parents.

 

This story is how I came to be nicknamed ‘Trachea’ for a short stint in my early twenties.

 

It’s Tricia, actually.  Sometimes the ‘ci’ makes the ‘sh’ sound.  Like in ‘special.’

 

Which is what that whole conversation turned out to be: just real special.

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Truly Horrible Things

“Suffering is what happens when truly horrible things happen to us,” Cheryl Strayed wrote in her book, Tiny, Beautiful Things.

Buy it.  Today.  It’s incredible.

Actually, if you don’t like raw, honest writing, and if you have a problem with strong, foul language at the most appropriate times, then don’t buy it.  I warned you.  If she uses language you don’t prefer, then I probably do too.  But sometimes it’s the only word that fits, and it’s the best and most perfect word to use.

I talked with two women this week who have lost babies to miscarriage or stillbirth.  And I know many – too many – more who grieve the tearing wounds of a heartbeat lost in utero, a strangling cord, an abortion that seemed like the only choice, and babies who didn’t live long enough to outgrow a preemie’s onesie.

Sweet L called me.  I haven’t talked to her in ten years, at least.  “Tricia, my baby girl died. Her name was Sarah Grace.  I was 36 weeks.  I don’t know what to do… can you tell me what to do?  What do I do?  What have you learned?”

Oh, darling girl.

These were my frail words to her, as I sat in the car at the grocery store parking lot, listening to her quiet weeping.

She happened.  Your daughter happened.  You know that better than anyone.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you she mattered less.  Don’t let anyone tell you she wasn’t a child because she wasn’t born.  

They may be tempted to say, “At least you’re young, so you can have another baby,” or “It’s good that you already have another child to love.”  One child will never, ever replace another.  People do not replace people.

Grieve well, dear one.  Grieve well.”

I also told her about Tiny Beautiful Things, the book I mentioned above.  I decided to post an excerpt from the book, because these profound words are tucked inside a book you might not get to read, and I can’t risk you missing these words.

If you’ve never had “to get over” something that threatened to swallow you whole in its relentless, gnashing jaws, then go ahead and read something else today.  This isn’t for you.

But if this is for you, then sit with me.  Let’s read together.

***

Dear Sugar,

When I was six and a half months pregnant, I miscarried. Since then, I’ve struggled to get out of bed.

Not a day has gone by when I haven’t thought about who that child would have been. It was a girl. She had a name. Every day I wake up and think, “My daughter would be six months old,” or “My daughter would maybe have started crawling today.” Sometimes all I can think is the word “daughter” over and over and over.

Of course, it seems that everyone around me is having a baby and everywhere I go all i see are babies so I have to force myself to be happy for them and to swallow how empty I feel. The truth is, I don’t feel much of anything anymore and yet everything hurts. Most of the people in my life expect me to be over my sorrow by now. As one person pointed out, “It was only a miscarriage.” So I also feel guilty about being so stuck grieving for a child that never was when I should just walk it off or something.

My friends and family think I’m doing fine, but nothing could be further from the truth. Everything feels like it is more than I can handle. The rational part of me understands that if I don’t pull myself out of this, I’ll do serious damage to myself. I know this, and yet I just don’t care.

My daughter, she had a name. She was loved. I feel like the only one who cares. Then I feel horrible for mourning “just a miscarriage” after nearly a year. I’m stuck.

Best,
Stuck

***

Dear Stuck,

I’m so sorry that your baby girl died. So terribly sorry. I can feel your suffering vibrating right through my computer screen. This is to be expected. It is as it should be. Though we live in a time and place and culture that tries to tell us otherwise, suffering is what happens when truly horrible things happen to us.

Don’t listen to those people who suggest you should be “over” your daughter’s death by now. The people who squawk the loudest about such things have almost never had to get over anything. Or at least not anything that was genuinely [*&^%$#@!]-ly life altering. Some of those people believe they’re being helpful by minimizing your pain. Others are scared of the intensity of your loss and so they use their words to push your grief away. Many of those people love you and are worthy of your love, but they are not the people who will be helpful to you when it comes to dealing with the pain of your daughter’s death.

They live on Planet Earth. You live on Planet My Baby Died.

It seems to me that you feel like you’re all alone there. You aren’t. There are women reading this right now who have tears in their eyes. There are women who have spent their days chanting daughter, daughter, daughter or son, son, son silently to themselves. Women who have been privately tormented about the things they did or didn’t do that they fear caused the deaths of their babies. You need to find these women. They’re your tribe.

I know because I’ve lived on a few planets that aren’t Planet Earth myself.

The healing power of even the most microscopic exchange with someone who knows in a flash precisely what you’re talking about because she experienced that thing too cannot be overestimated.

I think you should see a therapist – and I strongly encourage you to call and make an appointment today. A therapist will help you air and examine the complex grief you’re holding so tightly inside of you, and he or she will also help you manage your (probably situational) depression.

This is how you get unstuck, Stuck. You reach. Not so you can walk away from the daughter you loved, but so you can live that life that is yours – the one that includes the sad loss of your daughter, but is not arrested by it. The one that eventually leads you to a place in which you not only grieve her, but you also feel lucky to have had the privilege of loving her. That place of true healing is a fierce place. It’s a giant place. It’s a place of monstrous beauty and endless dark and glimmering light. And you have to work really, really, really hard to get there, but you can do it. You’re a woman who can travel that far.

I know it.

~ Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed

***

If you’re looking for a network of people who understand, there are many communities designed to help you.  Here’s one:  MissFoundation.

Pencils, Not Bananas.

I learned a few things on the soccer field today.

1. A mom should not yell, “Go, lovey!  Go, lovey-love!”  Nope.  She shouldn’t.

2. Socks are the variable in the soccer uniform.  Socks are lucky, and they make the player memorable.  What the enemy intended as an obstacle of dirty laundry, the Lord intended as the new lucky socks.

3. “Kick like a pencil, not like a banana.”  These are soccer terms.  In case you don’t get the correlation immediately, as I may or may not have: pencils are straight; bananas are curved.

4. I will jump from my chair, cheering my head off, when my son makes the goal everyone’s been waiting for.  Hence, I should heretofore keep my iPhone in the cupholder of my folding chair.

photo

Shut Out.  6-0.

If we were keeping score, that is.

Courage and a Baseball

A neighborhood dad knocked on the door on Sunday afternoon. I opened the door to see him standing on the porch, holding a baseball and glove.

“Can Tucker come out to play?”

His son is in college, and neighborhood legend has it that this father and son wore the asphalt with hundreds of hours of throwing footballs, baseballs, curveballs, pop-ups, and grounders.

So he came looking for a boy who might like to toss a few.

When Tuck came back inside about half an hour later, I said, “Tucker, wasn’t that so kind of him, to come and invite you to throw the ball with him?”

“Yes.”

“Did that surprise you? It’s so nice to be invited.”

“No, it didn’t surprise me. I asked him to. I asked him to come over on Sunday, around noon. And bring a baseball.”

Well.

A big thank you to the safe neighborhood dad who can honor a little boy’s courage.

Gae

She hovered next to our table, as if she were at the deli counter, perusing her options, waiting for a chance to speak.

 

I had just opened my little box of McDonald’s Cinnamelts, and my friend – much better behaved in the caloric realm – had just unwrapped her egg white sandwich.

 

The woman leaned in,  “I just heard you tell your friend that you love something?  Well, I wanted to tell you that I just love your hair.”

 

Her voice was so gentle, her skin very thin, sagging like loose panty hose.

 

“Is it natural like that?  Does it just do that?”

 

“It is natural, yes.”

 

She turned to my breakfast date with a look of shared contempt among the straight haired women of the world.  “Well.”

 

I thanked her.  Thanked her again.

 

She told me how she’s trying to grow her hair out, and I loved her confidence.   She spoke as if she were in her early twenties with volumized hair that would grow in long tendrils with the right conditioner and a mere wish upon a star.

 

This side of heaven, her hair will likely be what it is today: thin and wearing.

 

Her name is Gae.  We had a moment, the two of us.

 

She’s from Arkansas.  Moved here five years ago.  She decided she owed herself some new furniture, so that was one good reason to move.

 

I know these things now.