Your cousin Lisa sends you birthday wishes. She writes
“Why is no one sleeping??”
And a birthday wish—“God has you in his arms. We have you in our hearts.”
I need to find the box of pirate paper plates and napkins for tomorrow. They are buried somewhere in the garage, along with all your papers and possessions I am storing. The garage is full, overwhelming. Searching, I find a pile of notes I made, and printouts of things you posted on Facebook, MySpace, your Tweets.
I find something you wrote on April 9, 2009. April. Five months before you died.
Future…new option for me. I realized during my break that I’d been living in anticipation of dying…I’ve thrown out the earlier calculations that I wouldn’t make it past 30, and at my 27th birthday dinner, I proposed a toast to the future. I mentioned how happy we’d all be the day I turn 31…Now there’s a milestone. My friends dread turning 30, when I think my 30s will be the happiest decade of my life….
I am up because Steve and I were playing Scrabble serenaded by the sound of dishes in the washer. The steady syncopated beat and swishing water. We play a relaxed game. Make up our own rules. I do not know why we keep score. Playing Scrabble with Steve is never about the winning. He has fallen asleep in the chair in front of the fire. Stella lays out flat as she can make herself absorbing the warmth of the tile hearth. Sadie sleeps beside me at my desk.
I also find your Beatrix Potter baby book—A Tale of Baby’s Days. I open it and find two ultrasound photos—one taken on October 7, 1981. The second December 28, 1981. Your Certificate of Baptism from Saint Anthony’s Church in Kent, Washington on February 20, 1982. A list of THINGS TO PACK FOR LAMAZE BAG (KEEP WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES). The first thing on the list is Focal Point.
I need that focal point now. Where is it?
In my handwriting I added to the list—extra pillows, wash cloth, footies, Baby Book.
A card that was attached to a bouquet of pink roses from your dad. To the Treasure of our Hearts.
An envelope. 3-16-84. Andrea’s First haircut. I have a few locks of your hair. Something of you. I held that envelope in my hand. Could not open it. For some reason all I can think of is my trip to Poland several years ago. The room of hair at Auschwitz. How I could not move, was paralyzed. The locks of hair brought the magnitude of loss, of the atrocity home to me. I put the envelope down. I cannot open it.
My hospital bracelet. Yours.
The card they had on your bassinet. Date of Birth 12-31-81.
Time: 7:37 a.m.
Weight 7 lbs. 2 oz.
Length 20 inches.
Valley General Hospital Certificate of Birth. This document should be carefully preserved. It is your family’s heirloom record of the facts pertaining to your child’s birth.
Baby’s left footprint. Baby’s right footprint.
Your first smile was on January 29, 1982. 4 weeks old. On March 29 you rolled over from back to front. On May 31 your rolled over front to back.
On April 1, 1981 you laughed out loud for the first time.
On August 7 you got your first tooth. At six months you sat up on your own. At 7 months you crawled. At 11 months you walked alone.
Sometimes I feel you missing me. Or is it just me missing you?
I stop. Close my eyes. Breathe in. Breathe out.
It is you missing me.
You, holding a My Little Pony up to your face in the snow. Smiling a smile as big as Kansas. The caption reads “If I am smiling, you should be smiling too.”
Enough of this.
It must be 32 degrees outside. I hear the hot tub pump come on. I strip. Leave my clothes in a pile by the patio slider, wrap myself in a big beach towel.
Immersing myself in the steaming 100 degree water, I melt. Float in a womb of warmth, feel the breeze brushing my hair, caressing my cheeks.
30 years ago I laid alone in a hospital room at this hour, laboring, waiting to give birth to you.
Focusing on my focal point as contractions seized my body. Breathing in. Breathing out. Resting in between.
7:37 a.m. December 31, 2011. Thirty years have come and gone.
There is no place in your baby book to record your death.
THINGS TO PACK FOR DAUGHTER’S DEATH (KEEP WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES).
Whatever you decide to bring, pack lightly.
The journey is a long one.
Happy Birthday Baby Girl.